Just a little note to let everybody know that I’m OK (I know that a pandemic is a bad time to vanish for a few weeks) and the reviews should start up again this week. My 20 and 1/2 year old cat Sassafrasquatch died a couple of weeks ago and, well, that stopped any motivation I had to write about comics. I tried a few times, but nothing came out. For anybody who’s been reading this website for all or most of its run, if you’re doing the math in your head, the 20 year anniversary of this site is coming up in August. That means that Sassafrasquatch was around for all of it, and I cannot count the number of times I’ve had to stop mid-review because she demanded to be picked up, or to be fed, or just that I stop doing anything other than pay attention to her. I’m trying to think of a way to eulogize her, as I sit here and wait for her ashes to be delivered (and I have no idea what I’m going to do with those), and I don’t know where to begin, and every time I try I start tearing up. She’s been one of very, very few constants in my life since my early 20’s, and now she’s gone. So yes, the comics reviews will start again, because I need all the distractions I can get. But if you notice that things are especially dour around here, at least now you’ll know that there’s a good reason for it.
This book is one of the rare ones that is actually bigger than my scanner, so there’s actually a bit more to that cover around the edges. Just in case anybody was curious where that creek ends, I guess? Anyway, this is a collection of odds and ends covering roughly 20 years of Anders’ career and, once again with this sort of book, believe you me: no matter how much you sought out his work over the years, you don’t have all of the strips in here. They cover too wide of a range, and they come from some really obscure sources. Outside of that magnificent title, what’s in here? Stories include bookend strips asking “Why does graphic storytelling matter?” (with two very different answers, and also no answers at all), a graphic representation of how the choices you make ripple out to effect everything else, a gigantic and mesmerizing double page spread that I’ll leave entirely to the reader, a series of sketchbook pages dealing with a whitewater rafting trip (and, naturally, all the philosophical and mundane questions that came up), a sketch of some famous comic characters (that I didn’t recognize until his notes at the end of the book), Superman chatting with Dan Clowes, his redrawn page from an old issue of Fantastic Four (with his own dialogue), the inside of a head as the cosmos, his jam with Gabrielle Bell (they went back and forth in his sketchbook), his experiences with covid (and the death of George Floyd), and his interpretation of all of history, including the stuff that hasn’t happened yet. There’s also an insert of a holiday price list, and while this is one of those things I want to mostly leave to the reader as well, here’s one question: how much would you pay for the ability to walk through walls? Read this to find the answer! As always with Anders’ work, my saying “this part of the comic is about this thing!” barely scratches the surface of what he’s trying to do. The section where he details all of history (including some pretty specific details about his own life for that section) could be a comic all by itself, and his suggestion for a covid game to play with yourself could also be a mini, let alone the rest of the strip that dealt with everything else going on at the time. This guy is one of the best around, and he’s still making comics as of 2021, which is a damned good thing in this bleak mess of a world. $20
New review today for In Your Next Life You Will Be Together With All Of Your Friends by Anders Nilsen. I also finally got around to getting the mammoth collected edition of his Big Questions series, so I’ll probably be rambling about that soon as well. It’s Andersmania!
Hey, did this website change fonts on me? Eh, I kind of like this one, so it’s fine. Always keep in mind that, despite almost 20 years running this site, I’m the technical equivalent of the people in post apocalyptic movies that stumble across a running power plant. As long as things keep humming, I’m fine. Any sudden changes, look out. Oh, and a new review today for Man Made Lake by Aidan Koch, which was sadly the last of the mini kus books. But don’t fret! Their website already has 4 new books available, so it’s only a matter of time before I get my grubby little paws on them…
This one was a bit of a roller coaster, but it ended up asking some pretty profound questions. Roughly the first half of the comic is a wordless series of images, first of a person in various poses before transitioning to images of a fish. From there the images join together and we see the person talking in a therapy session. This is yet another comic from mini kus where I’m reluctant to say too much about it, as we’re already halfway through the comic at this point, but hey, I can throw some generalities your way, right? It asks questions about the onset of awareness, and the relative meaning of the time before and after that awakening. It also leaves as an open question the idea that we can ever return to that previous innocence/time of harmony, all while poking a bit of fun at the transactional nature of therapy sessions themselves. There are also a lot of pretty colors if I’m starting to lose you a bit. Seriously, it’s another fascinating journey through the mind in a mini kus book. One of these days I’ll tally up the percentage of “good/bad” minis from these folks, but I’m going to guess right now that it’s about 90/10, maybe even more. In other words, if you just randomly buy a comic from these folks, you have a solid shot of hitting a winner. But hey, before you go random, you already know this one is a good one… $7
New review today for Becoming Horses by Disa Wallander, which was a book that made me very happy. Um, spoilers?
So I couldn’t believe it, but I checked: this is Disa’s first book. She did put out a mini kus book a few years back, which was amazing, but most people who put out books that are this thoroughly impressive have been doing it for awhile. In fact, I’m probably going to get carried away and hit you with an avalanche of superlatives, so let me be clear and concise at the outset: this is the best graphic novel I’ve read this year (2021), maybe in several years. It’s the type of book that I’d like to leave on my coffee table (when humans can interact with each other in person again) just so I can judge people on their reaction to it. This is the story, in the sense that it’s a story at all, of a young girl who’s wandering around and suddenly finds herself on a quest. But it’s not a quest, as there’s no goal; it’s a journey of discovery and curiosity. Disa tells this story through mixed media, having her characters interact with various other pieces of art and crystals. It also has a fight in the middle of it that leaves both participants satisfied, and a giant eats the characters but feels nothing after doing so. Oh sorry, I was going to try to avoid talking too much about the book. It’s essentially an ongoing conversation about art, and exploration, and horses, and what stops us from becoming horses. But there’s no pretension involved, and no sense that any answers gained are necessarily THE answers. But they might work for you! Or you, in the back. Every stop along the way is fascinating, and hilarious, and sometimes contemplative enough to stop me in my tracks. If you’re a creative type at all (and let’s be honest, if you’re reading this you probably make mini comics too) then this book is required reading. I’ll make this guarantee (backed by nothing): anybody who reads this book is going to be changed. Maybe not hugely, but it’ll be there. You also might become a horse, or at least try to. If you’re lucky enough to have an amazing library system near you, get it from there if you don’t believe me. That’s what I did, but now I’m going to buy my own copy because everybody should have one. Check it out already, or I’ll keep saying nice things about it! $22.95
New review for the penultimate (for now) comic from the mini kus pile: Pirate & Parrot by Lukas Weidinger.
Seriously, who writes the blurbs on the backs of these mini kus books? Is it the artist every time, or do they have one genius who writes each of them? What the heck, I’ll just post the synopsis: “The pirate stands for desire. The parrot stands for opportunity. The fish stands for hope. What do you stand for?” And, when the comic is done, it even all makes sense! This is a funny and disturbing comic, but mostly just funny. A pirate and his parrot are on shore leave, and the first priority for the pirate is to find a brothel. He doesn’t have any money, but he does have a plan for how he can make this work. This leaves the parrot all by himself, and while he’s waiting a fish escapes a net and flops onto the pier. The fish wants to be put into a bucket, which confuses the parrot, as the ocean is right there. The ocean is currently uninhabitable, to do a spill of… you know what, I’d better stop right there. Each of these characters makes choices after this, and each of them has to pay for those choices in their own ways. It may be an odd thing to notice, but this book also makes excellent use of colors, maybe the best I’ve seen in a mini kus book (and that’s saying something). That parrot alone is mesmerizing, and you can see what’s happening to that pirate’s shirt in the sample image. Yep, it’s another winner from the mini kus pile! $7
New review today for King Cat #80 by John Porcellino. Yep, it’s a new King Cat alert!
King Cat #80
It’s a new King Cat! I’m still tempted to just leave that up as the review for one of these comics. What more needs to be said? I was curious to see how John was weathering the pandemic; I had the hunch that he’d be more OK than most, as it would leave him ample time to observe nature and spend quiet time contemplating. I don’t know all of the details of his current life by any stretch, but the mentions of the pandemic that he did put in here made me think I was at least close to accurate in my guess. He also put something new in here (unless my memory is garbage and he’s done this before; always a possibility): four pages of his dreams. Not comics about his dreams, and not long paragraphs or pages of the same dream where you lose all interest, but quick sentences of short paragraphs of his dreams. And they are an absolute delight, so you’ll get no further details from me. Other stories in this edition deal with his recent marriage (if congratulations can be appropriately given in a review, then congrats!), quiet morning walks, an absolutely heartbreaking obituary of his dog (that he can’t even bring himself to draw because he’s still in too much pain over a year later), the story of how they found their new dog, various observations on nature and the varmints he’s seen, a few letters, another top 40 list (that’s actually almost 40 this time), and his time birdfeeding during the quarantine and his routine. He also got me to laugh out loud with the final panel of his strip about going to bed with cold feet, so kudos on that. Look, it’s still King Cat, it’s still consistently amazing in a number of ways, and you should still give it a shot, even and especially if you’ve never read an issue before. Why not start with #80? $5
Full disclosure time: I’ve never been able to get into the work of James Joyce. I liked A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man quite a bit when I read it in college, but couldn’t tell you a thing about it now, and everything else I’ve tried has flown right over my head. Still, here’s Nicolas, putting together a (sort of) interpretation of his most notoriously difficult book, and I was very much intrigued. Maybe this, finally, would help me see what all the fuss was about! And… nope, sorry. It’s most likely an impossible task. If you’re already a fan of Joyce and are curious to see what an adaptation comprised of the most “comprehensible phrases in the book” (from the blurb on the back cover) looks like, you’d probably get a lot out of this comic. If you’re a skeptic like me? Eh, maybe; I don’t know who you are. But I had the sense, way back when I first tried to read Finnegans Wake, that it was less a book than a trick, a test by Joyce to see how much nonsense he could get away with. “Maybe I should give that book another shot” is something I say quite often, but I still can’t see myself saying it about this one. Maybe when I’m 60? Sure, why not. Oh, and if you’re looking for a recap of the comic: I have little to no idea what’s happening in here. On certain pages the ideas and dialogue would briefly become coherent, only for something that happened on the next page to cause me to lose any idea of what I was reading. Like I said, if you already enjoy Joyce, you’d probably love this. $7
New review today for Finnegans Wake by Nicolas Mahler (based off the James Joyce novel, of course). The second of my recent four mini kus books, as they keep creeping closer and closer to issue #100…
New review today for Tortilla Comix #6 by Jaime Crespo. Any amateur librarians want to take a crack at helping me organize my comics after the pandemic loosened up a bit? Seems unlikely, but oof, what a task that’s going to be…
Tortilla Comix #6
Jaime opens this comic up with some introspection, trying to figure out why he still makes comics. It’s not like there’s a lot of money in it, and he doesn’t think he’s well-known (I’d argue that the people in comics who know quality work know him, but I’ll grant him his point; you could probably put all of those people into a college hockey rink with room to spare). He doesn’t exactly answer his question, outside of not knowing what else to do. Good work can be its own reward? Hoo boy, does that ever sound trite. Eh, I’m not the right person to ask. I’m coming up on 20 years of running this website, and my best answer to why I keep it up is “habit.” At least he’s making some amazing art, on this end all I do is point at comics and say “hey look, there’s some amazing art!” Wow did I ever get off track with this ramble. You’re probably curious about the comic part of his comic book. There are a few stories in here, mostly about his days as a kid or a punk rocker. First up is an engaging story about the evolution of punk during his time with all kinds of bands which evolved into a tale of how music was chosen while on the road with his last band (and how open-minded that band was to some new types of music). Then there’s the thoughtful tale of how he’d play around outside after dark with his friend and what he would do when he was by himself in an empty, sleeping town. Finally there’s the saga of how he tried to get the triple album by The Clash. Oh youngsters, this was in a time without the internet, and he didn’t own a car, and it was getting dangerously close to closing time and pouring down rain. Did he succeed? No spoilers here. I mean, sure, even if he failed I doubt that he never tried again, but… just read it for yourself. Finally there’s a short piece about his mother, with a real gut punch of an ending. It’s another thoroughly entertaining comic from a guy that I hope keeps making comics until his fingers fall off, but I’m selfish like that. Buy his comics! If everybody reading this bought a copy he would be… well, not rich, exactly. But he could get a nice dinner probably! $5
It’s mini kus time again! I’ll most likely be reviewing one of these a week until they’re gone again. New review today for Sufficient Lucidity by Tommi Parrish!
I had high hopes for this one right off the bat, as the famous mini kus synopses on the back of their books (famous to me, anyway) didn’t disappoint: “It’s easy for you to say this place isn’t beautiful.” Usually they go on a bit longer than that, but that right there is a masterpiece. The actual comic didn’t disappoint, as it’s the story of a man who’s (in theory) trying to get his cat back, but what we’re actually witnessing is something resembling rock bottom for the guy. He’s trying to get his cat back from his ex, but they’ve already moved on and are with somebody else. And he’s been missing for months, so it’s a little odd and/or presumptuous to try to get his cat back at this point. Anyway, there’s a scuffle, it’s left to the reader to imagine most of the fallout, and finally we catch up with our “hero” after he moves out of the state after that whole debacle. The second half of the book is a conversation with his ex about his life choices, why he left the state and how he’s doing now. And a few other things, but what am I supposed to do here, tell you the whole story? Anybody who’s ever been on or seen a drunken mess at the end of their rope can relate to this one, and if you’re somehow avoided both of those things in your life, feel free to cringe vicariously. $7
New review today for Killer Hats by Grant Thomas, which is already the second comic of his that I’ve reviewed this year. No bigger point to be made there, it just means that man makes a lot of comics.
OK, I’ll fess up: I’m a little disappointed that this isn’t just a collection of images of hats from the Gilded Age. I mean, it’s a tiny mini comic, it’s not like Grant could fit a meaningful and educational story in here! It turns out he can, and there’s only a couple of hats in here outside of the cover. Luckily Google image search exists, so go nuts with it if you’re curious (I just did and was not disappointed). This is actually the story of the beginnings of wildlife preservation in Florida. Around the turn of the century a few humans finally came to the realization that wildlife wasn’t infinite, and maybe steps should be taken to preserve it. Maybe I’m not being fair, maybe it was more than a few humans. It’s possible! Anyway, birds were being hunted (due to their colorful feathers) to the point that they migrated out of the area, and a law was passed banning said hunting. The law was also toothless, so the preservationists basically had to set up the equivalent of a Gofundme account to pay the first game warden. This was right around 1900, so really not that long ago at all in the grand scheme of things. The new game warden pushed back where he could, but he was pushing back against armed idiots, and that usually only ends one way. It’s a thoroughly engaging story in a tiny package. I do think maybe a bonus hats section would have been nice, but it’s still a great comic without it. $1
New review today for Sunshine State by John Carvajal. Sorry about the gap in reviews, you know how life can be. My store is still open, barely, so get those comics while you can! I’m still in the process of trying to make sense of about 15 years of financial records when my chief source is old emails and Paypal. It’s exactly as much fun as it sounds!