Category Archives: Reviews
Nibble #9: Meet Fish Boy!
That, Aquaman, I tell you, he gets no respect. This isn’t actually about Aquaman, of course, it’s about Fish Boy, who has little to nothing to do with Aquaman, other than being maybe just a little bit of a parody of the guy. Fish Boy can breathe underwater, and no matter how long he stays underwater, his skin never gets pruney. And… well, that’s about it as far as super powers go. He’s not respected by his peers, he’s not feared by his enemies (if he even has enemies), and he has no luck with the ladies. Or lady, anyway. This is a short comic from Tom, but he manages to include several funny “facts” and there’s more than enough room for poor old Fish Boy to take a metaphorical beating. He even has a fun King Cat parody cover towards the back, which fits better than you may have guessed. It’s an enjoyable romp and it’s a measly $.50, what more could you ask for?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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)