New review today for Apartment Number Three by Pascal Girard, which should help give you a whole new perspective on that one creepy neighbor. You know the one I’m talking about…
Are you looking for a comic that will take a little bit of awkwardness and keep right on going with it until you’re no longer sure of the hero/villain of the piece! Then do I have a comic for you! Eh, maybe it’s not fair to declare either of these people as a villain or a hero, that’s for you to decide. Things start off with a young woman coming home with some groceries. She notices her downstairs neighbor staring at her out the window as she gets home and calls a friend about it, and it’s obviously something that happens on a regular basis. The guy never leaves the house and creeps her out in general, so she decides to do a bit of research to find out about him. She discovers that he’s a cartoonist who hasn’t published anything for several years, but quickly runs into a wall in her research when the landlady refuses to offer any information. She then manages to get her hands on his apartment keys, leaving only the slight problem of being unable to break into his place because he never leaves. This is when the awkwardness and the tension really gets going. Things end on a real _____ note (I don’t want to give away the ending by saying what kind of note), with some real ambiguity about who is or isn’t doing the right thing. It’s certainly engrossing, with all kinds of open-ended questions about boundaries (real and imagined) between neighbors. $5
New review today for The Heap by Caitlin Cass, which should help make you think twice about any gigantic piles of assorted trash that you may see in your neighborhood.
So here’s a question: is this a fantastic allegory for this specific moment in time, or a fantastic allegory for the modern era in general? Opinions differ, I imagine. The cover does a great job of explaining the concept, so I’d recommend clicking on it to see, but basically a group of people decide to lie in an apathetic pile of the ground, doing nothing at all. They have different reasons for doing so, but various levels of apathy and giving up on the world are the main culprits. This is odd but not of great concern to the county at large, this being America and all. The heap gets almost subconsciously organized, but still not towards any goal or reason for being. Finally an outside group decides to step in and help, and this is when things really start taking a turn. That’s all you get out of me, but Caitlin’s stuff is always worth a look; this comic doesn’t do a thing to disprove that notion. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been inspired to start an immobile mass of humanity to see what comes of it… $4
New review today for Wag Rag #2, the second of the monthly mini comics that Poopsheet started up a few months back. It also came with a review zine for several other minis, and it’s been ages since I saw a printed review zine. Give them your money so that they keep doing this subscription service!
Poopsheet, a gentle piece of advice for your monthly mini comic service: put a clearly visible link to it on your main page somewhere! I eventually had to back out of your site and try again through Google to get the link, and that’s only because I knew it existed, which most people don’t yet because it’s a new (and great) idea. Unless there is a link that I just missed because I’m a dummy, but if that’s the case other dummies might want to read comics too, so make it idiot proof! That’s enough time on my teeny tiny soapbox today, how’s the monthly comic this time around? It’s a collection of strips from various artists, with stories dealing with Caesar Meadows showing various ways to start a strip, Roger Langridge showing four types of panels that always work, Billy McKay discovering what lives inside of his electric razor, and Hal Mundane getting into an argument with himself and losing. This was the monthly comic for October (it’s the start of December as I write this, meaning I’m a bit behind), but there is a new comic out for October, so here’s hoping that this is all still going well for Poopsheet. If you do appreciate the idea of a monthly mini comic service, I’m thinking that subscribing yourself would be a damned fine way to show that support… $5 (monthly)
New review today for Ask a Cat Digest #4 by Charles Brubaker, and no, I also don’t know when it started being called a digest!
Ask a Cat Digest #4
Aspiring cartoonists, you could learn some lessons about productivity from Charles. The man puts out a ridiculous amount of mini comics (I should point out that I don’t review every single book he sends me because if I did this website would be all about his comics; yes, he really is that productive). And hey, it’s another collection of his cat strips. Questions this time around deal with why the cat doesn’t use a laptop to answer questions, the concept of a cat cafe, what cats do when there’s a blackout, what they think of snakes, how they deal with it when their owner gets sick, what they do all night when people are sleeping, and their opinion on coupons. It’s another solid collection of strips, and by now you know the drill, right? If you like cats and/or hypothetical cats answering questions, it’s worth a look! $2
New review today for His Last Comic by Noah Van Sciver, which is also sadly the last of the current batch of mini kus books. Happy weekend everybody!
For those of you who are literal by nature, don’t fret! This isn’t actually Noah’s last comic. Or maybe it is and he just never told anybody; guess we’ll have to wait and see on that one, huh? This is also a mini kus book, in case that wasn’t obvious from the tiny blurb on the cover. Things start off with a fictional comic book artist who’s vowing that the current comic he’s making is the last one he’ll do, as nobody appreciates his work and he feels like he’s already wasted 20 years on this endeavor. Don’t be fooled, as this is not a Noah stand-in. This guy thinks the early days of Image comics, with things like Wildcats, Spawn and Youngblood were the cream of their crop, was the pinnacle as far as comics go. He’s spent his career trying to emulate those artists and is constantly baffled when regular people in his orbit don’t recognize his greatness. But along comes a witch in a magic potion shop to give him a potion labeled “desire.” He’s supposed to use this on himself to have the best month of his life, but in a fit of annoyance he pitches the potion into the ink machine at the printer for his comic. So this does lead to him finally being recognized, but once he sees why he’s being recognized he has to take a trip back to the witch to get everything sorted out. I’ll say no more, as there’s plenty more goodness to be had here, but any fans of Noah’s work already know that the man can basically do no wrong. Buy his books, if you’re not already doing so! This is mostly just a public service announcement to let you know that he’s put out a new book under a different publisher here, so don’t let it slip by you… $6
Are 24 hour comics still a regular thing out in the comics world? Seems like I’m seeing fewer of them now then I was maybe 10 years ago. Which makes it entirely possible that I’m just missing them but they’re still going like gangbusters out in the artistic world. I ask this question because hey look, it’s a 24 hour comic! For the uninitiated, they’re exactly what they sound like: an artist starts a comic and finishes it within 24 hours. Sometimes they have no idea what they’re going to draw, sometimes they know exactly what they’re doing to do, and sometimes their intentions land somewhere in the middle. Jaime did this about 7 years ag0 but lost the artwork and then forgot all about it (he goes over the story on the inside front cover if you’re curious), but now it can be yours! It’s basically the story of Jaime discovering a love for punk music as a kid (this would be late 70’s/early 80’s), starting up a band with friends and the troubles associated with being taken seriously/being allowed to play in different venues when most of the band was still in high school. A pretty clear sense of “right idea/wrong time” also shines through here, as it sounds like the local punk scene really flourished only after they gave up the band. Um, spoiler alert, I guess. It’s a fun story, and as always with 24 hour comics you can also pick through the artwork and try to pinpoint the moments when the artist was wearing down. Eh, who am I kidding, the man’s a pro. This is well worth a look for anybody in a band, thinking about starting a band or just somebody who’s feeling like they’ve left popular culture behind. So anybody reading this, I imagine. And this last message is just for Jaime, because I know I’ll forget to email him back about his potentially moving to Columbus: I can’t help you with the cold weather and lack of oceans, but I have had some damned good Mexican food in this town. Granted, this is coming from a pasty white guy who never even had proper Mexican food until he moved out of small town Illinois, but there are some solid options to be had here. $4
I should have known better than to expect to write a regular week of reviews during the holiday, but here I am, back for a proper regular week. New review today for Daughter by Aidan Koch, another comic by those rascally mini kus folks!
There’s an awful lot of information packed into this comic, and it’s almost entirely up to you to figure it all out. We start off by seeing some of the pictures drawn and painted by a young woman (the aforementioned “daughter”), lovely but innocuous images. To my eyes, anyway; to her father the images she’s making are baffling and seem to annoy him on a personal level. As the story unfolds we see that the family is part of a group of people who are on this planet, but that the images she’s drawing are not on this planet, meaning she’s had no way to ever see them for herself. Her answer for where she sees these images are unsatisfactory to her father, and the story continues with us seeing more of their drab life here, suffused as it is with the weight of their importance in the universe as the last of the humans, people who were chosen for this assignment. Still, art and color is a part of her life, even if the people around her can’t appreciate it. Am I starting to write like one of the synopsis on the back of these mini kus books? It’s possible, though unintentional. There’s a lot to dig into here, so give it a look! $6
New review today for Jonah 2017 by Tomasz Niewiadomski, another from the mini kus pile. That’s it for next week, in theory things should be calmer next week, barring a recount of some kind…
For a minute there I thought this was going to be another one of those wordless minis that left me more or less baffled, but then the talking started to bail me out. What can I say, it’s tricky to depict time travel without words. Um, spoilers. On the first page alone there’s a man in a fish, a talking octopus (who is talking about robots), five skulls, a talking crab (who is talking about an hourglass), a robot (standing next to the hourglass), and a robot in a different location next to a grandfather clock. That’s your introduction to this world, and in a lot of ways it would probably be better for you if that’s all you knew about this story. So if that’s all the convincing you need, get yourself to an online ordering station, you’re done here. For the rest of you, from there we see an elaborate tunnel structure (that may or may not be alive), a winged cat lady and a strange box that gets dumped into the ocean. Another man goes looking for the box (while also looking for types of fish for a menu, apparently), goes through a time portal of some kind and starts seeing stuff that’s even stranger. Yeah, that’s all you get for this one. I could go on, but I’m looking out for you here, OK? Surprises are hard enough to come by in this world, why ruin one that is as delightful as this? $6
So about two weeks ago I meant to put up a note here, mentioning the upcoming election, saying how I’d be too busy to post updates but that all would be back to normal soon. In other words, that’s why I haven’t been around. This will be another busy week so there’s only time for a couple of new reviews, but luckily mini kus came to the rescue with some new books. New review today for Share the Love by Paula Bulling & Nina Hoffmann!
New review for The Complete Strange Growths 1991-1997 by Jenny Zervakis. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy, won’t you?
Website (to buy the book)
Look, I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and usually have no trouble starting to ramble about any comic. With this, I hardly know where to begin. This collection reprints the first 13 issues of her comic in their entirety, meaning that even the comic recommendations are included, so it was a heavily nostalgic trip to read through. Some of the names listed there are still making comics, but most of them have vanished. Are they still drawing occasionally? Have they moved on completely? Do they even think about their old comics, and if so are they proud of that time or ashamed? But all that has nothing to do with Jenny’s remarkable book, so I shouldn’t dwell on it. Jenny was one of the pioneers of the self published mini comics movement of the 90’s; for whatever reason her comics were rarely in the comics shops I went to back in the day, so I only ended up with a few scattered issues of this series. After reading this collection it’s clear that I was missing out, and that I should have spent more effort back in the day tracking these down. Like I said, this collects the first 13 issues, has a new introduction by John Porcellino, a new interview with Jenny and Rob Clough, and several of her scattered strips from anthologies. In other words, it is as complete a volume of the works of Jenny Zervakis as we’re likely to get, and I can only hope that this leads to more collections like this in the future (complete Silly Daddy, here we come!). When it comes to reviewing this as a comic, well… this is where I get stumped. It’s wholly original, it evolves as it goes on (I was going to mention some of the rougher poetry of the earlier issues, but Jenny talks about that herself eventually), but most of the earlier strips are still pretty great. Sometimes she’ll tell stories about her family (I do wonder what eventually happened with her brother), sometimes about her life in the city, or going out to clubs and increasingly feeling like the oldest person there, or observations of what she sees around her or stories she’s heard. And the dream stories! Very few people do dream stories better than Jenny. It’s easy for them to feel self-indulgent or pointless, but a few of these are going to haunt my own dreams. That image of her rolling up the side of the wall and how her sister had a similar dream… brrr. There are also a few longer text pieces in the style of Jeff Zenick (another person who could use a complete collection of their work), quiet moments seen and imagined, a few stressful times, and various animal adventures. There’s no ongoing narrative thread, but this still felt like the story of her life, even if she was more private than a lot of the artists of the time. It works remarkably well as a complete book even though it’s made up of disconnected pieces, is what I’m trying to say. If you’ve never heard of Jenny and have any interest in small press comics, you are in for a real treat. If you already know her work, I seriously doubt that you managed to find every issue of this series when it was coming out, and even if you did, there’s no way you also caught all her stories in anthologies. And if you DID manage to do all that, there’s still a brand new interview with her. I get the impression (based on pure speculation) that John and Spit and a Half are looking at this as a test case, to see if there’s interest in publishing other books like this. Meaning that there’s every reason for you to give this a shot and none to pass it up. It really is a remarkable achievement and I hope that everybody reading this tries it for themselves. $20