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The Elements of Rough #1
Finally, it’s the secret origin story of Max! OK, sure, he’s done autobiographical comics before. But Max had a simple conceit for this one: to answer all of the people who are constantly asking him why his comics have to be “so rough.” Since I’ve literally had friends come by, see his comics and ask me variations of the same question, he’s clearly not exaggerating how often he gets asked this question. The answer is a little more simple than you might have guessed: because he’s been surrounded by a colorful cast of characters his entire life. His father was quick to make friends with weirdos and slow to kick people out who were just looking to drink for a few days, leading Max to a childhood with his parents bailing friends out of jail, regular drinking and driving by all concerned, and running into an inmate that Max knew as he was cleaning a local library in his prison uniform. The nexus for all sorts of craziness ended up being a seedy liquor store that Max’s father owned, leading to even more colorful characters. Eh, “colorful” might imply “wacky” or “harmless,” and a few of these characters seem perfectly capable of doing harm. It’s an interesting story and it explains a few things, but Max promises that things get even weirder in the next issue, so there’s that to look forward to. If you’re a fan of his work it’s pretty much mandatory to get this comic, and if you’ve never read his stuff this is as good an introduction and anything. So basically you should buy this one either way, with the only exception being if you’re a terrible person who hates comics and only reads these reviews to torture yourself about all the unregulated art going on in the world. Hey, if it can be imagined, somebody on the internet is doing it…
Short reviewing week because of holiday stuff, but the new review today is for The Fifty Flip Experiment #21 by Dan Hill.
The Fifty Flip Experiment
Now that is one old timey website. Granted, given my lack of skills is designing (or even maintaining) a website, I shouldn’t be making comments, but there’s some real Geocities-like flashing graphics on that link above. Click it and see! Anyway, it’s been a few years since I’ve seen a comic from Dan, and each time I review an issue I come away from it feeling like I’ve failed to convey just how unique and bizarre it was. Maybe I’m referring to the man, but I’m definitely referring to the experience of reading the comics, complete with the introduction this time around. He mentions in his intro that he put the it in the front of the comic because it was more important to him that the words be on the first page “so that the book looks like a comic book… I take it on faith that things that look like comic books will, given enough time, more or less actually become comic books.” Welcome to the world according to Dan Hill! If you’re alarmed by that #21 on the cover and feel like you’ll never catch up on the story, don’t fret, this issue stands all by itself. Dan explains the real story in his intro, but on a surface level this is the story of a time traveler in a spacesuit who wreaks havoc and death on what appears to be a peaceful alien race who play Jenga as a mating ritual. His sidekick only communicates by little lines of paper that come out of her head and, as there’s rarely time to read them in the heat of battle, he usually reads them while putting together the mission in his head, trying to figure out where the comments belong and what they refer to. Naturally there’s also a final battle with a big boss and something ends up getting thrown into the sun. Once again I feel like I failed to give an accurate summation of this comic, but maybe it’s just impossible. Reading a Dan Hill comic is a singular experience, and everybody should try it at least once. If you’re cheap he has a lot of samples up on his website, possibly even full comics. $5
If you’re a Cartoon Network nerd and you’re thinking that the name “Toby Jones” sure seems familiar, congratulations, you are correct! He’s worked on Regular Show for a few years and has dabbled in several other projects. He also put out a comic recently, obviously. I can’t find anywhere online to buy it, but if you’re curious there are a lot of ways to contact the guy and he must have an answer. The concept of the comic was simple enough: he had recently converted several old tapes from his childhood years and was going to watch one each night, making a comic out of his reactions and thoughts on those tapes. He was only able to make it through seven tapes so far (spoiler alert, I guess), but it was a rich variety of material. He cringes at any of his attempts to mimic Tom Green, goes over what was happening on certain days of taping and guesses at possible moods, watches several early attempts at animation (or claymation) and is occasionally mildly impressed with the craftsmanship, but rarely impressed with the content. Impressed with the craftsmanship while also grading on a curve, obviously; good animation for an early high school kid isn’t exactly good animation for Cartoon Network. He even finds a few things that are genuinely funny, much to his own surprise. If you’re the type of person who saves all of this sort of thing from their childhood and are wondering if it’s worth the time to dig through it, this comic provides a possible answer. I’d say they’re at least worth a cursory glance, even though I say that as a guy who has several notebooks worth or writings from high school and college that I haven’t seen in decades, so maybe I’m not the best guy to ask. Still, if you can find a copy of this, it’s fascinating at times and a real peek into both the early creative process and how that process can be seen by the adult version of that person.
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