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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!
You know, after doing this for almost 20 years you’d think I’d have a better sense by now of the best point in a review to address some nitpicks when I mostly love the book in question. Ah well, I’m bound to figure this stuff out sooner or later, right? Anyway, overall there’s a whole lot to like about this book. It’s the tale of a young Colombian kid who’s going through some big changes in his life, told over the course of a single year. It starts in the summer, with our hero being completely directionless in life, up to and including not being sure if he even wants to live any more. The fall has him gain said clear direction in his life, but it puts him in direct conflict with his parents. Winter has his being forced to face up to his previous choices and the consequences of his lifestyle, and they were some doozies. Finally summer shows him making some further changes, even leaving things off on a hopeful note. That’s as vague as I could make things, otherwise known as my best attempt to avoid spoilers. The dialogue is genuine and heartfelt, the characters each had distinctive voices by the end, and the occasional dreaminess of the artwork perfectly suited the action. That being said, I did have a few questions/comments. I get why he chose the four season structure (it really nailed down a timeline), but I don’t think it was necessary. The changes this kid went through are more like what other people in similar circumstances would go through over the course of several years, to the point where I actually double checked after it was over that it really was supposed to be set in a single year. Let that sucker breathe, is what I’m saying. His choice to leave the dialogue with the parents in Spanish was bold, and an excellent chance for me to test my Spanish skills (both better than I expected and not good enough to follow everything), but the effect is that it leaves some conversations behind. Generally you could get enough information through context clues (this being a visual medium and all), but that climactic final conversation was 80% (or so) lost on me. John seems relatively new to comics (his first book in his store is from 2015, which is not to say that I’m not completely wrong and he had been making minis for a decade before that), but this book is showing off some serious skills. And, as always, I’m some crank on the internet, so all nitpicks should be read with that knowledge in mind. Check it out, it’s well worth a look. $20
New review today for Pisser! by John Stammis, and please see the previous update for news on the closing store, as I don’t have it in me today to repeat all that.
Website (Instagram, anyway)
What, has everybody stopped putting out proper websites and gone to purely Instagram/emails? What’s that you say? Everybody stopped making websites several years ago, and I’m probably shouting into the void on my review website? Ok, that’s grim. Fair, but grim. This is a collection of mostly short strips, and more than a few of them can be found on John’s Instagram page. Or at least parts of them can, if you’re good with just a taste. You can’t order his comics through that page, but I did include his email address up there, so just use that. He didn’t include a price, so I’ll take a guess. Hm, nice heft to the book. Taller than the usual mini, maybe a little thicker too. I’m guessing… $6! If anybody orders a book from the man, get back to me and tell me how close I was. How about that comic? As is always the case with a collection of strips, some were funnier than others, and some of these were more than a little disturbing. So if you’re looking for Garfield level yuks, his comic probably isn’t the place to go. But neither is literally anything else I’ve ever reviewed over almost 20 years, so you’re really in the wrong place. This is always a dicey way to describe strips, but subjects include a ghost hunter who gets a response, a brief encounter with a laughing priest, whether or not it’s all worth it, an explorer who took a real risk, Eric, quality masonry, the services provided by a young priest, the creation of a younger brother, the academic life of Columbus, and traffic control. There’s also a longer strip about an abduction/robbery that goes wrong, but I’m not going to talk about that one. I liked the vast majority of the strips in this one, so yes, I think that means that it’s worth checking out.
Website (where you can buy his comic)
Sometimes I see these wordless minis where I could sum it up in a sentence (or even less occasionally), and sometimes there’s a whole lot more to be said about them. On those occasions, it also feels like saying all of those things would replace the need to read the comic, and I’d just be telling you everything in it. This here comic is an example of the second case, where I have a lot to say but desperately don’t want to give too much away. So here I go, walking out onto that tightrope! If you just want my quick opinion, yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it, so get yourself a copy. If you need more, what can you determine from that cover? There’s a man in a smiling mask, surrounded by people who are smiling without masks, and that man isn’t smiling at all. But the people who are “genuinely” smiling… well, don’t they look more than a little terrified? This is the story of a man who grows up surrounded by these forced smiles and tries to make his way in the world. Will he ever fit in? Will he ever find anyone else like him? That’s all you’re going to get out of me, so read it yourself to find out. $5
New review today for Faceless Nameless by Ben Cherry. And I’ve finally figured out how to determine exactly what I owe people who originally sent me their comics over a decade ago, but it’s going to take a few weeks to nail it all down, so if you’re been stalling on placing an order, you just got a brief reprieve. Current stock should stay steady until maybe mid-February, after that the comics will start disappearing…
New review today for Weird Beard by Andrew Goldfarb! Speaking of the store closing here, I do have a few of his comics left, if anybody is interested…
To anybody who’s been reading this website for several years: look, it’s Andrew Goldfarb! I got this mini in the mail along with several other unaffiliated minis, and it took some digging to find out where anybody could get a copy. It’s bundled with a zine (that was not included) by D. Blake Werts that also includes an interview with Andrew. If you’re wondering (like I was) what the man is up to, well, he’s doing great! Illustrator at Mad Magazine, musician, still making comics. I do wonder how many of those 1,000 Sorrows (from his Ogner Stump books) he ended up illustrating, but the internet is not helpful on that front. Am I supposed to be talking about this comic? Well, it’s a real shortie. The hero of the story is a sentient beard who is looking for a home. He flies around, eventually finds one, and causes a few problems for the newly bearded unfortunate soul. It’s funny, it’s weird, it’s delightfully Goldfarbian. Looks like it’s time to check out what he’s been up to recently. No price listed, but a few bucks (sent to the person in the title link, or maybe Andrew through his website) should do it.
New review today for Plastic People #6 by Brian Canini. If you’re still looking to order comics, you may notice that the store is about page smaller than it used to be. And it’ll keep getting smaller, so do your thing and be quick about it! Have I mentioned Book Hunter by Jason Shiga for all the librarians out there? I’ve always been amazed that that didn’t become a cult classic…
Would it be cheating if I started reviewing these issues two at a time. It feels like cheating. But what would I be cheating, exactly? Ah, the deep questions that go on in the mind of a reviewer who’s several issues behind of a series that comes out faster than I can review. In this issue we see a few folks waiting outside to get into a club, and while they’re waiting we get a few more bits of insight into what’s going on in this beauty-obsessed world. It’s all so that they can have a fun night out dancing, while a few interpersonal dramas play out along the way. We get a definite sense of the importance of plastic surgeons in this world and, as you can see by the sample image, nudists. That seems like that something that’ll pop up again in the future, but we just get a few hints this time around. It’s another solid issue, and there are relatively cheap ways for you to get caught up on Brian’s website if you’re so inclined. Meanwhile, I might check in with the comics elders to see about that double reviewing thing… $2
New review today for Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence by Joel Christian Gill. I’m already starting to get in touch with a few artists who have books in the store, so get your orders in now before they disappear! Oh, and in case I haven’t been clear, you’ll need to put whatever you’d like to buy into an email to me. The store is very busted, which is a big reason why I’m shutting it down…
Hey, he put a huge spoiler right in the title! I kid, mostly because this book gets pretty grim at times and thought I should try to get something a little lighthearted into this review. If you’re triggered by bullying, physical and/or sexual abuse or just awful human beings, consider yourself warned. This is his story, and the man is graphically open about everything that happened to him growing up. Things start off with him driving his son home from school, when a realization hits him: he has never had to fight and might not even know how to defend himself. This brings him back to his own awful time growing up, and it starts off with that most implacable type of bully: somebody who just wants to hit you because they’re bigger than you. There’s no reasoning with them, and you can usually only put off the beating for so long. And he was SO young when all this started! From there we see more of his home life (and the way he depicts the sexual abuse, how inevitable it seemed to him at the time, is utterly heartbreaking), and then move on to his second set of bullies. Or his second notable set of bullies; they do seem to be a constant problem. Oh, and let’s not forget the racial slurs. This set of bullies is when he learned to start fighting back, but that was immediately derailed by the news of the death of his father. This naturally upends his life, and leads into a problem that he only really understood in hindsight: his own transformation into a bully. I don’t want to get into the rest of the book, because it’s an incredible story that you should really read for yourselves, but he does gradually realize the pit he’s fallen into with the bullying, and the journey back is far from easy. There’s sabotage along the way, but there are also friends, and he even falls in love. If this is coming across as cheesy, that’s purely due to my failures trying to describe it. It’s riveting, and it’s impossible not to root for him the whole time, even when it’s only hoping for him to come through. There are lots of blurbs from some amazing artists on this book, and for good reason. Check it out! $20
New review for The Sleep Gas/Dull Buzz by Chris Cilla. Or is it the other way around? The slow dismantling of my online store begins this weekend, so get your orders in relatively fast! Who knows, either I’ll get motivated and do this quickly or I’ll be saying the same thing this time next year…
You’ve heard about flip comics, but how about a whole flip graphic novel? Yeah, don’t panic, the only time you have to think about it is in the very middle. Where two stories combine and make the whole thing seem even more surreal than it already had at that point, which was quite a feat. This is a collection of comics that have mostly (but not entirely) been collected in other things, but it was also another case where you’d have a difficult to impossible time to get all of those books, so just enjoy the new stuff, alright? Chris’s comics are damned near indescribable in any kind of linear sense and you’d have to be a dummy to try. Oh hi, here I am, about to do that! Stories in here tend to wander off, or end with explosive vomiting, so I’ll just stick to some of my personal highlights, and you can quietly disagree from the comfort of your home/coffee shop/car at a stoplight. The wordless tale of the murderous toothpaste golem was terrifying and somehow bittersweet, the released killer who accidentally killed his own kid left me with a few questions (that I almost certainly wouldn’t want answered), the inventor of the sleep gas probably got what was coming to him, and the diner conversation that led to the overlapping story was surrealiest thing to ever surreal. Yes, I mean that in a good way. Other than that the madness is best discovered for yourself, without any preconceived notions to push you one way or the other. $20
New review today for My Life in Records #6 by Grant Thomas. How long until I screw up and put “2020” up there for one of these updates?
My Life in Records #6
Warning: as of 1/3/21, I’m getting a “dangerous website” warning about Grant’s website. It worked before, so I’m hoping it’s only temporary and he’ll get it sorted out. Which is a shame, as this is probably his best issue of My Life in Records, but I might be biased because my own experiences reflect his journey into music quite a bit. I was maybe a few years ahead of him, and didn’t have the constant Christian radio station as my only other musical knowledge, but I also had the Theodore sampler CD and can still picture the cover in my head. Just checked the Googles to verify and yep, that’s the one! But enough about me, even though music and lyrics trigger memories, which means that Grant did his job here very well indeed. This one starts off with his gradual sampling of the local alternative station, eventually leading to it being the only thing he listened to. Public Enemy was his first foray into actual rap and was a transformative experience and, as you can probably guess from the cover, he also found his way to Nirvana. Seeing that music transform him was a joyful experience; even a flu going through his camp wasn’t enough to dull his enthusiasm. The book looks amazing (huzzah for full color), and although I’m biased because of my musical overlap, I’d guess it would be a fascinating journey for anybody who loves music. $7.50 (whenever he gets his website working again)
Hey, that terrible year somehow ended! New review today for Why Art? by Eleanor Davis, because I wanted to start off on a high note. I’m taking the weekend off, then after that I’ll start dismantling the online store bit by bit. So last chance for getting everything that’s still listed! After that it’ll all depend on your timing. And if anybody has any ideas on what I should do with any profits from comics made by people who have since passed away, please let me know. I’m leaning towards a lump donation to the CBLDF, because the idea of hunting down next of kin so I can give them $4 in proceeds, dredging up awful memories in the process, seems less than ideal…
See, I had this idea in my head of what this book would be like. Eleanor would list various types of art, how it made different people feel, whether any variation had any more inherent value than another, etc. And it did start off that way, sort of! But at the end of the day she was, as always, far too clever and creative for me to guess what was coming. This is one of those cases where you’re better off knowing little or nothing before reading this, so if you’re familiar with some of her other work and are just here wondering if this one is good too, well, yes. It’s very good, in fact. So, safe in that knowledge, please wander off and buy a copy to see for yourself. If you’re somehow unfamiliar with her work or need a little more convincing, or maybe think that title is too pretentious to give a shot, you’re reading this all wrong. This does start off more or less how I guessed, with her showing a few different types of art, why people utilize them, how they make them feel, etc. That’s simplifying things in a big way, but still: my guess was in the ballpark. As it goes on we meet different artists and their different styles, and eventually see their plans for a show they’re putting on together. Disaster strikes, as a huge storm threatens to destroy the gallery and take the artists out with it, and from here I can’t say much of anything without giving it all away. I’ll just say that the ending completely blew me away, while still being one of those “in hindsight I should have seen this coming” endings. The thing about that type of ending: more often than not, it just means that artist knows exactly what they’re doing and had every aspect of the story so nailed down that there’s no other way things could have gone. I find myself tempted towards nostalgia more and more these days, so maybe I’ll dig up some of her older comics. Or maybe they’re things she prefers stay buried? Eh, I’ll think about it. Either way, this is Eleanor at the top of her game and everybody who has ever asked themselves that title question should give this a shot. $15
New review today for To Know You’re Alive by Dakota McFadzean! Just one more gentle reminder: after the first of the year I’m going to start contacting people who have books in my online store and sending their unsold comics back to them. I’d love to be able to tell them that they sold more books (and give them more money), because I’m going to feel like a real heel with a few people whose books never sold, so buy some comics now! It’s not their fault, the store has always been a disaster, but you know what I mean. Once we hit 2021 I’ll still be taking orders for a bit, but that store will steadily be getting smaller and smaller until it’s gone.