New review today for Don’t Cry Wolfman Chicago by Nate Beaty. And, as usual when I don’t post regular reviews for a bit, I feel like this one is lacking something, so maybe just check out his comics on his website to decide for yourself. As for the rest of the week, I may or may not get a review up tomorrow, then that’s it for the holiday week. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!
Don’t Cry Wolfman Chicago
Clearly all of these comics I’ve talked about over all of these years are all starting to blend together, as I could have sworn I had more of Nate’s comics on this website. But I haven’t talked about anything from him since 2010, and a lot of those dates are even misleading because that’s when I proofread and reposted all the old reviews. Anyway, who cares? I’m assuming regular readers have long since trained themselves to skip over my introductory bullshit to get to the actual meat of what passes as a review from me. This is a collection of (mostly) daily strips from December of 2010 to April of 2014. It comes in chunks, and I have no idea if these were the “best of” as picked by Nathan (they all originally came out on his website) or if those were just the chunks of time when Nate was dedicated/had the time to do the daily strips. Because the vast majority of them are pretty damned funny and/or insightful. Dammit, I gave away the review ending. Ah well. Subjects in here include panic about aging, alarm clock cat, becoming a real adult with boots, exercise, doing stupid shit, a day in the life, a silent but hilarious conversation with a polite motorist while on his bicycle, finding a weird growth in his mouth and then freaking out about it by looking at the internet, getting stuff stuck in his throat (but not choking), and various pillow arrangements for the single man. He also has several strips that have nothing to do with his daily life (like imagining life as a wookie), in case you’re one of those people who hate all autobiographical comics. If that’s the case you should really get over it, as they’re clearly not going anywhere. This is a hilarious and hefty collection of daily strips, so if you’re like me (i.e. one of the few holdouts who still prefers physical comics), then you absolutely won’t regret checking this out. If you’re too poor or cheap to buy this, go to his website to look at what you’re missing, then check under the couch cushions to gather the spare change necessary to buy this.
I was all set with two reviews today to make up for some lost time, but then I got home and realized that I already wrote a review for one of these comics. 14 years in, I guess it was bound to happen eventually. But hey, there’s still a new review for Bangs & Beard Diary by Aaron Whitaker and Melinda Tracy Boyce. Possibly more tomorrow, possibly not until next week. What can I say, my work is still much busier than I would have thought it would be by now.
Bangs & Beard Diary
Yay, a flip book! Since these are so rare, I’ll give a little description: one artist does half of the book and another one does the other half. Simple enough! But in this case it’s flipped around, so all of the strips of one artist are upside down until you turn it over. Don’t worry about having to work for it, as the halves are neatly split up. To give you some idea of how long I’ve been reading comics, the first flip book I remember seeing was with Joe Chiappetta and John Porcellino, and I don’t think Joe has drawn many comics in at least a decade now. Which sucks, as Silly Daddy was a fantastic comic. Kids, know your small press comics history! Anyway, this flip book is unique in that it features two halves of a couple, with roughly half of the diary strips being their different perspectives on events that happened that day. That’s something I don’t remember seeing before and it’s done really well here. Aaron maybe goes for the bigger laughs at the end of his strips, but Melinda’s were more effortlessly funny overall, although that opinion is clearly completely subjective. As are all opinions, so never mind. I would be curious to see more comics in this format, as I know a fair amount of couples have come together because they’re both comics artists. Pick a month and go to town, couples! It’s easy. Oh, and subjects of these strips include reflections on the homeless, going for a walk, accents, accidents, bug bites, insomnia, comfy hair, setting unrealistic reading goals, looking good while working out, having a good soul, and having a short attention span while watching tv. I added that last bit, as apparently it’s normal to watch shows while simultaneously on your laptop, but I’m a cranky old man on the subject, so don’t mind me. Anyway, it’s funny and just kind of neat to see their slightly different perspectives on certain events, and their wholly unique perspectives on the things that only happened to them. $5
Guess what I forgot to do! That’s right, I neglected to mention that it’s election season, which means I’m too swamped at work to post any updates for at least a couple of weeks. Currently working 12 hour shifts including the weekends, so you try to find the free time in that to write about comics. Anyway, I might be able to get at least a few reviews up next week, but it’ll still be quiet this week. But hey, luckily there are 14+ years of archives for you to go through if you get bored, so try that for awhile. Pick out a random comics person or go nuts with the search bar and see what comes up.
Technical difficulties yesterday, but that means there are two reviews today: for Left Empty #1 by Alan King & Jamie Vayda and The Monkey’s Paw by Ryan Holgersen.
I’m a big fan of letting a comic/book/movie/show speak for itself, generally speaking. The creators of that thing are the ones telling the story and I’m just along for the ride. But the internet is just right there all the time, and I was curious about whether or not this was based on a true story, so I peeked. And, sadly, it is. This is the story of the time after Alan’s wife died, apparently quickly and with very little warning. We don’t see that event in this comic, and we only see brief snippets of the events leading up to it in this issue. Mostly what we see is a broken man who is drinking all day every day, with brief glimpses of his dog, doing that thing that dogs do of either lapping up the sadness or the joy that’s going on around them. If you don’t own a dog, trust me, that comment makes sense. Anyway, most of the first 2/3 of the comic are silent, and we see in detail just what a hole Alan has fallen into with this loss. It’s an utterly heartbreaking story, as it’s clear that Alan loved this woman completely and that her loss has shattered him. We get a few more details towards the end of the book, including one specific thing she said to him towards the end that has haunted him ever since. He now seems to have the perspective to realize it was probably just a sentence said that he would have forgotten about years ago if she hadn’t died, but because of that it’s stuck with him ever since. This is also a bit of a change of pace from the true life stories that Jamie usually draws, but the man can handle utter despair with the best of them. It’s a really solid and powerful comic, and I recommend it highly if you can handle a little gloom in your life. OK, a lot of gloom. But it’s good to be reminded on a regular basis of just how temporary everything in life actually is.
The Monkey’s Paw
Sure, there are days when I feel like there’s no point in going on with this rinky dink comics review website, where I have to (out of necessity due to work or real life) vanish for days or even weeks at a time. Sometimes 14+ years of doing this seems like plenty. But then there are days like today, when I get a comic from Ryan, who even mentions in the note that he hasn’t sent me a book in 10 years. And, as long time readers know, there’s nothing like better than checking in with somebody whose work I loved back in the day but haven’t heard from in years. What can I say, it just makes the whole thing worthwhile to know that people are still doing mini comics who were around when (or before) I started. Anyway! I’m assuming that everybody reading this knows the story of the Monkey’s Paw? Maybe not the original short story, but at least the basic concept? If not, here it is: the main character discovers, usually through a mysterious store that disappears as soon as they exit, a monkey’s paw. It usually has three extended fingers, and they give the person three wishes. These wishes almost always go very, very wrong, and the fun in the story at this point is guessing how (or whether) the main character is going to get out of it. Our hero this time has a very simple wish: a new gaming system. I should also point out that the wishes were made by the robot friend of our hero, who may or may not have a soul, to let our hero avoid the consequences of his wishes. Well, that little trick doesn’t work at all, as he gets the gaming system… as a result of a genuinely awful event that I shouldn’t spoil here. I also liked how Ryan skipped the usual bit about the third wish either fixing everything or leaving it irrevocably broken, and left that up to the second wish (and the robot) this time around. It’s a fun comic, and it’s great to see that that cat is still the hero all these years later. Check it out, or you could even check out some of his older comics from my store, which I amazingly still have in stock. What can I say, that store is basically a time capsule at this point…
New review today for In The Crapper by Chris Carlier. Yep, perfect comic title for a Monday.
In The Crapper
Oh, the life of a bathroom attendant. If you’ve ever seen one in real life (or even in a movie), chances are you’ve thought about what life must be like for them, how they ever ended up in such a job. Well, this one doesn’t get into any kind of an origin story, but it does paint a grim picture of what life is like for one fictional bathroom attendant. If you’ve never even heard of such a thing, the cover does a good job of showing the basics. It’s one gentleman, impeccably dressed, who’s on hand to offer towels, mints, and cologne after you finish doing your business. Ladies, is this a thing for you too, or does this only happen in upscale men’s rooms? Just curious. Anyway, the list of rules for our hero is simple, and mostly involve keeping everything stocked and clean. There’s also the frankly inhuman rule preventing him from using that bathroom, instead forcing him to use the employee bathroom. While also never leaving his bathroom unattended. Yeah, it does seem specifically designed to break the guy. Anyway, he puts up with all sorts of indignities throughout the day, only getting through it via his rich (if disturbing) fantasy life. It’s a darkly hilarious book, and if nothing else reading this should guarantee that you leave a tip for the poor guy if you ever see one of these attendants in real life. Their life is hard enough already, the least you could do is throw a few coins onto their tip plate/jar. $5
New reviews today for Snake in the Nose (another from the mini kus pile) by Tommi Musturi and Blink: And Now, This… by Max Ink. Chances of a review tomorrow are roughly 50/50, just in case there’s a single human being out there who sets some kind of schedule by such things. If you do exist, I apologize profusely…
It’s cheating to just cut and paste the synopsis from the back of comics, right? It must be cheating. But the back of this comic is so fantastic, I have to include at least a taste: “Some would call this humour, but that’s a bit doubtful.” Much funnier in context, granted, but I’m trying not to paste the whole thing here, remember? Anyway, this is the story of an asshole. Usually stories have more ambiguity than that, and yeah, this guy does maybe take a step or two towards becoming slightly less awful, but it’s still the story of an asshole. Things start off with a lady (who, granted, looks maybe a bit snooty) enjoying a cocktail by the pool. We see a slow dripping of yellow liquid drop onto her hat, which then becomes a downpour. We then look see the source of the “rain,” in a full page spread of the dick of this guy. Who gleefully yells down at her that she’s lucky that he “didn’t feel like pooping.” From there we see this asshole living his life in his apartment, get sick of all his stuff, dream of various ways he could die, yelling more things at the people below him, and finally have an extensive dream sequence. If you’re into nothing but the highbrowingist of highbrow humor, this one probably isn’t for you. But if you can laugh at an asshole and want a deeper peek into what motivates one of those people, this book is damned near essential.
Two new reviews today, for The Two Primas by Chieko Kobayashi and Smallbug Comics #9 by Charles Brubaker. Probably no reviews tomorrow, then two again on Thursday if all goes well. Yeah, it’s a weird week…
Website (where you can order the comic)
The Two Primas
One day, I would love to learn the origin story for the “action lines” that are in manga comics/anime. You know the ones, always in a scene with something dramatic happening, where suddenly everybody in the panel/on the screen look shocked, but they’re completely static while the lines behind them show… tension? Motion? I know in some of the older cartoons they were used to help portray action while not needing to animate it because of their tiny budgets. I’ve never fully understood it, but by now they’re a completely accepted part of the genre, so I should probably just shut up about it. Anyway, how about this comic? It’s the story of an accepted ballet star taking in an old friend who has had trouble fitting in at other ballet troupes in the past. This seems to be because this other lady got into ballet not because of any love of it, but because she has a rare form of athlete’s foot that is only alleviated while in ballet shoes with her toes pointed downwards. It turns out that this group is in danger of losing their funding, and it’s also revealed that there’s a nefarious plot underway to kill it entirely, which I probably shouldn’t get into here. Chieko admits in the afterward that she made up a lot of ballet stuff, but it all seemed accurate to me. Granted, I also don’t know that much about ballet, so don’t get mad at either one of us if you’re an expert and find this comic to be filled with factual errors. I wish there was a bit more time to flesh out these characters, but other than that it’s a solid enough story, with not a single image of athlete’s foot if that sort of thing grosses you out. $5
Smallbug Comics #9
Aw come on Charles, don’t sell yourself short! Your comics are delightful. Yep, that’s right, I’m starting off the review by talking back to the comic cover. That can’t be a good sign. This time around is another collection of short pieces (almost exclusively focused on cats, meaning I’m on board) and one longer piece. The longer piece started off slow but won me over with the page that I’m using as the sample, even though it may just slightly spoil a bit of the proceedings. Basically the gang is flying low, one of them says maybe they shouldn’t fly so close to chimneys in case the broom catches on fire, which naturally means that the broom catches on fire. This shouldn’t a huge problem, as they can just use magic on any old broom to fly home, but they have unfortunately managed to land in a town of hobos. These are stereotypical old-timey hobos who are basically like Pigpen from the Peanuts comics, not actual real humans who don’t have homes. An important distinction in a funny comic! Anyway, these hobos don’t even understand the concept of cleanliness, so it’s not possible for them to get a broom, but they do hatch a plan to get the inhabitants of the town more naturally interested in cleaning themselves. It goes nowhere, a second (and more morally ambiguous) plan is formed, and that’s about as far as I can dig into it here. It’s a fun story, I will say that. As for the shorter pieces, they deal with cat questions such as what’s in their dreams, what’s their problem with water, where did the nine lives thing come from, why no love for Benjamin Franklin, what’s in that box, and why do you ask for belly rubs even though you clearly don’t want them. All solid questions, and all of interest to cat people such as myself. If you hate cats you’d probably still find them funny, but if you hate cats I can’t really put myself in your shoes, so I don’t know what goes on in that head of yours. It’s another solid comic all around, and still a deal at $2.
New review today for Mindfulness Comics by Jon Drawdoer. Happy weekend everybody!
Is the world too much with you? Do you know that you need to step back and appreciate your life but lack the means to do so? Well, short of ordering every self-help book on the market and hoping for the best, this comic is not a bad place to start. Not that I’m saying that Jon has solved all of the mysteries of the universe and/or the best way to quit craving nicotine, but what he’s doing sure seems to be working for him. To sum up briefly and not at all exactly, Jon has been trying to live the current moment to its fullest at every available opportunity, and this comic is a selection of stories about that process. This time around he was nice enough to put a little symbol (indicated in the intro) at the bottom right corner of the pages once a story is over and, since he is living so much in the moment, it was crucial to understanding exactly when one revelation ended and another was beginning. Stories in here include the simplest way to bring yourself back to your self (and probably the hardest for some people), the insights he gets into himself and others when he’s out running and happens across people who are faster than him, his journey through the “hole” in his sternum and his conversation with his dead father in that hole, and his dedication to always going with the healthy option when possible and his master plan to cut all cravings of nicotine from his life. I can be dismissive of plenty of elements of self-discovery and spirituality, but the methods that Jon is using are what I consider to be doing it right. Make of that what you will, but simple is always better than spending piles of cash that you don’t have on charlatans that are after your money more than your well-being. Give this comic a shot and see for yourself, but it could end up doing you some real good. $5
New review today for Pages to Pages by Lai Tat Tat Wing, another one from the mini kus pile. Speaking of mini kus, I’ve seen very little evidence that you shouldn’t just be buying these as your default setting, as I don’t know of another place where you can get mini comics from artists all over the world on a regular basis and have almost all of them be high quality books. Well, there goes the mystery of my review for today…
Oh silent comics, never stop making me look stupid by trying to describe you. This one is the story of… let me just say right off the bat that it’s wildly open to interpretation, especially if I’m wrong in my own interpretation. That being said! This comic starts off with two people hanging out and reading comics. One of them stops to point out something funny to the other person, they make some jokes with it (and with the malleable nature of their own faces), and then they go on with their day. But one of them (let’s just call him Blue and his friend Pink to avoid at least a little bit of confusion) sees a Kindle or whatever is the current digital method to read comics. He takes this home to pink and shows him some of the features, expecting Pink to be impressed and to recognize this a revolutionary, but Pink isn’t having any of it. He clearly prefers regular old comics and doesn’t see a reason to change. He goes back to his old comics and find that they have been altered, while Blue goes on a rampage after his discovery goes unappreciated. He transforms into what I could only call a giant two-handed monster, which sounds odd, as what’s the big deal about having two hands, but you’ll see if you read it. There’s a confrontation, the obvious one out of the two prevails, and we’re even given a brief moment of hope when one member of the public who’s watching this battle goes back to basics to describe the fight. It’s a thoroughly engaging and entertaining book, and I’ll freely admit to being one of those people who is stubbornly sticking with only reading comics when they’re physical comics, so I have a clear side in this one. Your side, especially if you’re younger, is probably the other side! And there’s room for the both of us, even if your side is slowly but surely pushing my side right into the trash. But we’re only dealing with the here and now, and in regards to that, this is a great comic that you should read.