Update for 8/6/20

New review for Not My Small Diary #18 edited by Delaine Derry Green, and featuring every small press comics person that you like. Go ahead, check the list, see if I’m wrong!

Derry Green, Delaine (editor) – Not My Small Diary #18: The Pet Issue

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Not My Small Diary #18: The Pet Issue

I’m probably going to be rambling about this for awhile, so strap in, but there are only two facts to consider in whether or not you want to give this a shot. 1. Take a look at that list of tags under the review. If you can look at that list of names and not want to buy this immediately, the only other thing I have to say is 2. It’s only $8. And it’s roughly 150 pages. So now that you’ve placed your order with Spit and a Half, what exactly do you have to look forward to? Well, I should have been more honest about one thing before you placed your order: this one is occasionally rough to get through, especially if you have older pets that are noticeably slowing down. Like, for example, me, with a 19 and a half year old cat who mostly sleeps these days and is losing her most adorable habits one by one. Don’t get me started, I’m perfectly content here in the land of denial. So are you in for a giant comic full of stories of pets dying? No, nothing so grim as all that. There are all sorts of types of pet stories in here. There’s Ben Snakepit with the heartwrenching tale of Buster (who died trying to get back to his house after his family had to give the dog up), Mark Campos with his cat’s reaction when she finally got the freedom she seemed to want, Cara Bean’s story of a dog that was found in the wilderness and how it became a constant traveling companion, MariNaomi and the angriest chameleon I’ve ever heard of, Ayun Halliday and the snake who was born again, Andrew Goldfarb and the guinea pig who could keep time to his music, Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz and how her rats eventually got along with her boyfriend’s cats, and T. Motley with his recollection of what mice sound like when they’re utterly defeated by a cat and sobbing. And that’s not even the first half of the book, which leaves you plenty of surprises. It really is impressive how is covers so much ground. Some of these people were indifferent to pets and eventually warmed up to them, some stayed indifferent, some used pets as a jumping off point for the larger story they wanted to tell, or told the story of their first pets. And, of course, there were the people who told the stories of how their pets died. That was the part where I had to take a few breaks while reading this to pet my cat, because sure, I can see the writing on the wall there, but she’s still here now, and I intend to enjoy that right up to the point where she’s no longer enjoying life. Now if only there was a manual of some sort to tell me exactly when that was… Anyway! It’s not about me or my great cat. This is a thoroughly enoyable book, somehow both something an animal lover would find a lot to relate to and a book that’s sometimes hard to take with the deaths and all. Still, I’d just like to repeat: that list of talented artists and that price. Give it a shot, if you haven’t already! $8

Update for 8/4/20

New review today for (extra) Ordinary by Roberts Rurans, another from the mini kus pile!

Rurans, Roberts – (extra) Ordinary

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(extra) Ordinary

This is one of those mini kus offerings where the concept is so simple (and the execution so thoroughly engaging) that there probably isn’t going to be a whole lot for me to say about it. This is the story of a woman who’s bored at home. First she notices a vase with flowers in it and convinces herself it’s an elephant, then it’s on to a fork with two cherries dangling from it that looks like a strongman, and then onto a carrot that looks suspiciously like a guy breathing fire. It spirals from there, with several ordinary objects in her house being transformed into things that are significantly more exciting than what she was actually seeing, until all of these things join together to put on one hell of a show. It’s delightfully charming; the deceptively simple art and colors draw you right in. If you can read this and have no reaction I don’t know what to tell you, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Another one in the win column for the mini kus crowd! $7

Update for 7/31/20

New review for another from the mini kus pile, Chapter Two by Keren Katz. Happy weekend everybody!

Katz, Keren – Chapter Two

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Chapter Two

These mini kus books can be over in a flash, or they can linger in the mind like this one does. Which isn’t to say that the wordless ones have no value; quite the contrary. But there’s so much going on in this particular mini that it feels more like a graphic novel condensed down into a mini, which is a high compliment in my book. Wow, if this is anybody’s first review here, so long! Sorry about all the talk of the minutae of comics. So what’s the comic about? It’s about Ada moving into the Clock Tower Inn. To encourage the guests to get to know each other, they’re all part of a month long Secret Santa game. To anybody who’s ever taken part in this tradition, the idea of a month of gifts must seem daunting, and our hero quickly proves that to be the case. Ada is assigned Adam, who offers her the clue of his favorite book that she can use when it comes to gift ideas. The problem is that she can’t even look at the book without falling instantly asleep, which forces her to resort to her own ideas (and skills) for gifts. An entire hotel of people exchanging gifts quickly leads to chaos and a lack of space for said gifts, and the whole desire to get the best gifts and stay ahead of the crowd eventually leads to a tragedy, with the perfect line to end things. Yeah, you’ll have to read that part for yourself. Keren’s two previous books showed me that she’s somebody to watch out for in comics, and this mini shows that she can handle this format just as well as the big books. Get in on the ground floor before she gets incredibly famous and ditches the small press comics! $7

Update for 7/29/20

New review today for Blirps #2 by Brian Canini, who is maybe putting out more comics than anybody these days? Maybe.

Canini, Brian – Blirps #2

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Blirps #2

Do you mean to tell me that Brian has yet another series out there? Yep, he sure does. Feel shame, comics artists who are only putting out one series at a time! This is a series of four panel strips meaning, as always, that some are going to be funnier than others to me, and that humor is subjective anyway, so what do I know. Each starts with something like a mantra from the main character, as he repeats whatever is bothering him in that strip. The one sampled shows the dangers of getting lost on the internet, despite your best intentions. Other subjects include fitting in, patience, blinking, trying to not be a jerk on a date, pretending to be rich, convincing the bully that you’re tough too, and avoiding panic. Plus a couple of others I’m not mentioning, because who doesn’t like a surprise or two? Anyway, this is a mostly funny book, which is all you can ask for out of four panel strips like these. It’s also very cheap at $2, so why not give it a try? Or just send him $20 and ask for a grab bag; the guy has a vast back catalog at this point. Send him money and ask him to surprise you!

Update for 7/27/20

New review for King Cat #74 by John Porcellino, the issue that somehow got away. No longer!

Porcellino, John – King Cat #74

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King Cat #74

So I noticed recently that I never got around to reviewing King Cat #74 (it’s July 2020 right now, this book came out in 2013). How does this happen? Who knows? And is it worth it for me to remind the readers that this book came out in 2013? Eh, if it reminds anybody to get caught up on their King Cats, it’s worth it. This one actually recounts his life at the time in a three page essay, which is rare for these books, so the whole story of his move from a small, grim town in Illinois to just over the border in Wisconsin is in here. Later it’s also one of the comic stories, but with something he didn’t mention in the essay: they found a bat soon after he moved in, and since it was too cold to release it into the wild, they had to quickly come up with a plan to save it. Other stuff in here includes several short poems of his thoughts while lying in bed, a series of pictures of local bridges, letters, his top 40 list (as I’ve said, it’s from a different time, and actually reminded me of a few more books that I missed), and an obituary for his girlfriend’s dog. The main story highlight for me was his tale of how he gave up on deodorant nearly 20 years earlier (at the behest of his 1994 girlfriend who thought it caused Alzheimer’s) and lived his life without it until one fateful day. He had no time to shower, had to spend the day at a convention where he was working closely with people, and his usual methods to control the smell weren’t working. As somebody who’s run into John at several cons now I can honestly say that I never thought he stunk, for whatever tiny bit that’s worth. Bottom line is that this is another issue of King Cat and, as such, well worth picking up. And now I can rest easy knowing that I’ve had at least something to say on King Cat #61-79, with several other odds and ends included… $4

Update for 7/23/20

New review for Hero by Harukichi. This concludes a rather short mini kus week, but don’t you fret: they sent me 8 comics this time around, and I only got around to 2 this week. Meaning lots more mini kus to come!

Harukichi – Hero

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Hero

How many times can DJ Cat Gosshie save the day? However many times you’ve guessed, it’s probably going to be more. He (or she) is a hero! Things start off with Gosshie selling his LP’s on the street; we are shown early on that he is a fair street merchant, stopping someone from accidentally paying him too much money for an LP. Next is an impossible traffic jam after an accident. What can DJ Gosshie do, how can he help? Well, different LP’s have different colors, and those colors can be used to help direct traffic. From here all this cat wants to do is to take a nice peaceful nap while listening to his music, but then a woman and her baby come along to screw that up. Can he solve this problem as well? Well, yeah. Spoilers! There are two more calamities yet to come, one of which the cat is well equipped to solve on his own, and the other which involves, well, water. And everybody knows water is not a thing that cats like. So how does he solve that one? Obviously you’ll have to read this to find out! I’m hopelessly biased towards almost all comics that involve cats as heroes (there are more than you’d think!), so I’m not the most objective voice here, but this one was a blast all the way through. Quick on his feet, willing to help everyone regardless of personal opinion, while still managing to maintain that certain catness all the way through. Give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed. $7

Update for 7/21/20

It’s mini kus week! A short one, granted, but so are the mini kus books. New review today for The Book Fight by Chihoi!

Chihoi – The Book Fight

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The Book Fight

What would happen if a bunch of different types of books got into a fight to see which one was the best? Would they eventually join together or tear each other apart? Granted, the idea of this eternal struggle probably hasn’t taken up too much of your time, but this should answer all your questions regardless. This is a unique and more than occasionally ridiculous book (I say both in the best possible way); even a lot of the dialogue is done in a rhyming, sing-songy way. So who are the contenders? Things start off with a list of 4 challengers on the first page: zines, comics, photo books and pop-ups. Things start off with a beating, as zines tries to convince comics that they can both get along, and indeed that they can be better together, but comics doesn’t want to hear it. The photo book takes the stage, followed soon after by the more crowd pleasing images of the pop-up book. Finally there’s one more contender that threatens to take the crown from all of them, but hey, I might as well leave one to your imagination. Have you guessed the type? I was fascinated by this from start to finish, but I am a weirdo who’s been running a review website of comics (and occasionally zines and things in between) for almost 20 years now, so my opinion is undoubtedly skewed. If you’re a weirdo like me you’ll love this book, and if you’re not, reading this book may well transform you into exactly that type of weirdo. You’ve been warned! $7

Update for 7/7/20

New review today for XTC69 by Jessica Campbell, and to anybody reading this who needs to hear it, put your mask on, dummy!

Campbell, Jessica – XTC69

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XTC69

Oh my god, that final image! So unprofessional of me (an unpaid amateur), and how gauche! To start a review talking about the final image! Heavens, however will my fainting couch stand the strain? OK fine, I’ll start at the beginning. This is the story of three astronauts who are on the search for dudes to mate with to help restart their species. They’re human, more or less, so they’re looking for human males, and I already don’t know how much of this I should give away. See, technically they had all willed themselves to be female, and they could also will themselves to be male… but it’s considered unthinkable to even ask anyone to pick a gender that they don’t want. So they wind up on earth, a place with no life signs, but they’ve made it that far and decide to explore. They come across a stasis pod, which contains one Jessica Campbell. Yep, we’re going there! The author is in the comic. Not only that, but “Jessica Campbell” is the name given to the fiercest warrior of that world, while the Jessica that was found doesn’t seem to have much experience in fighting (I make this assumption based on her inability to get out of a pit with the rest of the crew and am referring to the fictional Jessica of the comic; Jessica the real person might be an MMA fighter for all I know). The rest of the book is them all getting to know each other a bit, finding another planet that does seem to have life signs on it, and finally meeting the people that they were looking for all along. And oh, that final image! I don’t break out the “never before in the history of comics” phrase very often, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say never before in the history of comics has that ended a comic. Her “Hot or Not” book about old artists was a revelation to me, so that’s still my favorite, but this is a damned fine comic too, well worth a look. She seems to be sold out at her website, but luckily John Porcellino at Spit and a Half still has copies as of early July 2020! $12

Update for 7/3/20

New review today for The Marchenoir Library by A. Degen. Happy weekend/holiday, y’all! Don’t do anything stupid just because you want to get drunk and hang out with friends and/or family!

Degen, A. – The Marchenoir Library

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The Marchenoir Library

This is one of those books where there’s no chance at all that my words could ever do it justice, so if you’re one of those people who just take my word on comics recommendations (do people like that exist?), just go ahead and buy this already. If you hate it, never trust me again! There, easy. For the rest of of you, this comic doesn’t have a conventional narrative, and it’s amazing. The conceit is that this is a catalog of books available with the Marchenoir character. Every other page has the title of an imagined book, and opposite of that page is a wordless full page spread depicting some of the hypothetical action in that book. I picked the two samples more or less at random; there’s actually less going on here than there are in most of these two page stories. Even so, one look at that second page should give you some idea of how much detail A. put into each of these images. We see the trail that the villain left behind, we see our heroes trying to track him down (along with what each of them is using), and we get a peek into his home or office. All of these stories come after 8 pages of introductions to the various heroes and villains that populate this world, and I could have happily used any of those pages for samples, as the amount of information he’s able to pack into a paragraph or two combined with an image is stunning. Normally this is the point where I’d say something like “some of these stories are better than others” but really, they’re all pretty damned amazing. The fact that I got lost flipping through this book once again just now really proves that point; it really is just that engrossing. Which, again, is odd for a book with little to no narrative flow. But oh, that cast of characters! I’d buy a full book with any of these characters and any of those titles, sight unseen, after reading this. Check it out, there’s very little chance that you’ll be disappointed. $20

Update for 7/1/20

New review today for The True Adventures of Jepcomix #8 by Jep, and let me just admit here that I don’t love that title. There, I said it!

Jep – The True Adventures of Jepcomix #8

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The True Adventures of Jepcomix #8

Jep mentions in his intro that he spent a long time talking about “the unspeakable orange twat” after he became president, decided it was making him too sad to continue, and so he went back in time to tell a story from 1999. I’d be curious to see all those strips (I just checked out a few on his website and they’re pretty raw), but this comic deals with his girlfriend and himself (they’ve since married) moving into a place that they were convinced would be their dream apartment. The landlady was eccentric but seemed nice, they had access to a garden, and they loved their place. Naturally, this wouldn’t be much of a comic if things stayed that way throughout, and they very much did not. Their landlady had medical problems and the two of them were young and a bit petty in their attempts to fight back (as Jep freely admits), although it’s tough to say if anything could have salvaged this mess. And to think that the troubles all started because they had set up their bedroom in the “wrong room!” It really did set off a cascade of consequences, despite the fact that the original problem never made any sense. I loved the little peeks we got into the creative process as well, how Jep would ask his wife (in real time, on the comics page) if he had the timeline right, or why they didn’t just leave at this point, or if they really knew all along that the situation was going to blow up or if it was a complete surprise. Some of the events that you would expect to have the most impact just got forgotten completely, but they both distinctly remembered things like how the landlady’s husband dropped the keys every single time he came home. It’s a thoroughly engrossing story, and I can’t recommend this highly enough to anybody who’s had terrible neighbors. Which, I’m guessing, is just about anybody who ever left home. Give it a shot, the guy really is a hell of a writer. $4.58 (hey, that’s the price he has listed on his Etsy page)