New review for Losers Weepers #3 by J.T. Yost, and I’m still doing that fundraiser to get me to England for a comic convention in October. It’s been less than a week and I’m already sick of begging people for money. How does NPR put up with this sort of thing?
Losers Weepers #3
It’s been a few years since I reviewed an issue of this series, so it’s best if I catch everybody up on the “rules” for it. J.T. finds letters or journals (or his friends find them) and he, without any context of what they were really about, turns them into comics. And a fine job he does with them too! The stories in this one come from a flyer, a letter and a cryptic phrase. That last one is the only one that feels like it was shoved into this story, as it doesn’t have much to do with the overall theme, but it also serves as a coda to the story so there’s no harm done. The flyer was an advertisement to learn Spanish with a few ridiculous typos/spelling errors that should make anybody thinking about calling the guy think twice. For that portion of the story we see our hero getting copies of his flyer and dealing with the copy shop employees. From there he finds out that his mother is in jail and needs bailing out, and when he goes to ask his girlfriend if he can borrow some money he finds a letter to her from a man in the same jail. This letter is the real highlight of the comic, as the prisoner is losing his mind more than a little bit and wonders why this lady hasn’t talked to him since he went to jail. As this letter was addressed to his girlfriend, this sends our hero into a bit of a rage and he goes out in that mood. As is often the case, that’s when he happens to run into a cop. J.T. still types the letters into the appendix in the back in case you have trouble with the handwriting (although this around I didn’t need it), so no worries if you have trouble with certain types of handwriting. It’s another solid issue, and I continue to be amazed at how he ties such disparate letters together into a coherent and compelling story. $5
New review today for Kumayama Mountain, 1993 by Graeme McNee. Also the fundraiser to send me to a convention in England in October is still going strong, by which I mean that you can still be the first person to donate if you hurry! I did make it clear that if I get some money but not enough to go then I’m just going to spend what I do get on comics, right? So that they’ll be reviewed here? Circle of internet life and all that.
Kumayama Mountain, 1993
OK, I’ll admit it: I wandered around the internet for a bit after reading this to find out if the story was true. I couldn’t find anything, which is either my fault for not looking hard enough or this is a fictional book with a very specific title and premise. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! This one starts off with a blurb mentioning three children who disappeared in a forest in 1993. A group of kids are on a field trip and are told to stick to the park, as there are bears in the woods. Most of the kids don’t believe this, but there’s enough doubt about the story to keep them out of the woods, which was probably the point of the story in the first place. A few of the kids trade some bits of their lunches, one of the kids angrily doesn’t want the treats that are being shared, and he storms off into the forest. Two other kids decide that the risk of them getting blamed for losing this kid is worse than the risk of them getting eaten by bears, so they wander off into the forest to find him. From there we get some tense and creepy scenes (including something loud creeping through the shadows), and that’s as far as I can go while still avoiding spoilers. I liked the simplistic way that Graeme drew the kids, and his lingering on the creepier areas in the woods really helped bring home the unease the kids were feeling as they got further and further away from the camp. It’s a really solid story so maybe you should give it a try!
New review today for Smallbug Comics #6 by Charles Brubaker. Also I’m doing a fundraiser through the end of next month at gofundme, hoping for enough cash to get me over to England for a convention in October. I have no idea how such things are supposed to go, but it’s off to a slow start, maybe because I started a fundraiser in the summer, when everybody has free time and no money to spare. Yep, a master businessman, that’s me!
Smallbug Comics #6
This issue is just plain fun. Is that too simplistic for a review? Eh, probably, but it’s true. This comic has about half a dozen “Dear Cat” strips (which is exactly what it sounds like: hypothetical questions answered by a hypothetical cat) and a longer story involving one of the characters getting her glasses broken and needing a new pair. That sounds like one of the duller possible setups for a story, but this is a land of magic and magical equipment, so every pair of glasses has its own unique abilities, happily played up for their comedic effect. There’s magnifying glasses, marketing executive glasses, glass for minotaurs, and several others that I’ll leave a surprise. That last pair of glasses was hilarious and I’m left wishing such a thing existed in the real world. As for the cat questions, they deal with subjects like why cats need the same door opened several times a day, what they have in common with dogs, why they can be jerks, and why they sit on the keyboards of laptops. If Charles has enough cat questions I really liked this format (roughly 2/3 one big story and the other 1/3 cat questions), and he was even nice enough to put a little bonus strip on the back cover. Like I said at the top, this comic is a pile of fun, and you should check it out if you are favor of such a thing. $2
Well, it’s finally happened: I have joined the ranks of people on the internet asking for money. I’m using GoFundMe and am trying to raise enough cash to get me to the Lakes International Comics Art Festival in Kendal, England in the middle of October. I lay out the whole reasoning behind this at the link, but basically I’ve always wanted to go to an international comics festival and have been informed by a few people who send me comics from the U.K. that this is one of their better small press comic conventions. So please, if you enjoy this site, or if you appreciate discovering new and random comics through me, could you help me out? If it’s at all possible for you, that is, as I know that some people don’t have the extra cash to help out with things like this. But I don’t have a social media presence (and I’m certainly not going to start one purely for a fundraiser), so any help you can give me in getting the word out would be greatly appreciated, and that doesn’t cost anything. I’ll have to buy a plane ticket and find lodgings by roughly the end of July, and if I don’t end up anywhere near my goal then I will spend whatever money I do get on comics for review anyway. Thanks for your time, and back to the regular reviews on Monday.
New review today for Irene #4 by various artists, and I just noticed that if you buy two volumes of this anthology at their website that you get $5 off the cover price. Not a bad deal!
As far as I can tell there’s no editor listed for this anthology (unless I’m supposed to assume that Amy Lockhart is the editor because she’s the first person named on the credits page?), but whoever put this thing together deserves a medal for having Ben Juers do single page strips in between the other stories. They never fail to be at least amusing, and most of them are hilarious, which is a welcome break from some of the stories in here. They can get a bit depressing which, as some of them are based on real life, is the way things actually happened, so it’s hard to complain about it. But between those comics, the true life stories and the more abstract pieces, this is a damned well-rounded collection. As always, I’m not going to go through and review every bit of this anthology, as that’s half the fun for people who are going to be reading this for themselves. But I will mention my favorite bits! Emi Gennis starts things off with the story of Lake Nyos in Cameroon and what happened there in 1986. Over a million tons of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere around the lake, which led to only six inhabitants of the nearby town waking up the next day, unsure if the world had ended. On the other end of the spectrum, Andy Warner has one of the best opening page brawls that I’ve ever seen in a comic, and follows through with a wordless tale about a band against some “bad guys.” James K. Hindle has a thoughtful piece about a young boy, a young girl he meets, a fire in the town and how it all comes together. Laura Terry’s story starts off where it ends, and we slowly come to meet and understand the “dark” being she keeps seeing that won’t leave her alone. Mazen Kerbaj lets us in on the secret thoughts of boats, Jackie Roche tells the story (that I’d never heard) of where Lincoln was taken after he was shot but before he died, Georgia Webber refers to her recently losing her ability to speak and how much social media has meant to her since then, and things wrap up with Jan Berger’s piece on awakenings, seeing what’s real and how to save the world. I’m leaving a bunch of stuff out, as this is over 150 pages and, as is usually the case in anthologies, there were a few stories/pages that didn’t do a whole lot for me. But the good vastly outweighed the not-so-good (I won’t even call them “bad”), and there’s plenty in here to recommend it to people. $15
New review today for My Life in Records: Hell’s Bells by Grant Thomas. Grant also has a sale going on through his website at the moment for 30% off, but it’s only through the end of the month. So if you’d like to catch up on his comics, the next week would be the perfect time to do it!
My Life in Records: Hell’s Bells
Have you ever wondered just how many people started listening to rock/rap/metal music purely because they were told by their church that they shouldn’t listen to it? The thought has crossed my mind more than a few times, and Grant documents his experience with it in this issue. His brother had saved up and bought a radio alarm clock (they were kids, remember, and such a thing was rare in those days), and after experimenting with waking up to classical music (and realizing that it was only putting him back to sleep), he switched over to the Jesus station. Grant would sometimes listen outside of his room, and then later he’d listen with his brother, which was where he first heard about the evils of rap music. Which, hilariously, he learned about because the station played a 2 Live Crew song (kids, ask your parents) and they couldn’t even make out the words through all the bleeps. Of course this would make a kid curious about that kind of music! Stupid Jesus station. Anyway, he also started hearing about the evil types of music in Sunday school, and it eventually sunk into him that he LIKED this type of music. The rest of the comic has him dealing with that (a bit, anyway). There’s also a short story at the beginning dealing with his early days in the school band and the monotony of having to practice while still not making much headway in advancing in the band. It’s another solid issue showing Grant’s musical development and his gradually powering through despite growing up in a pretty religious household. $7.50
New review today for Past Coasts by Jon Drawdoer, who has kind of the perfect name for an artist.
I’m going to break the rules and cut and paste a definition here to start the review, as I looked this up myself after reading this comic just to be sure that I had it right:
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
For those of you who are annoyed and confused by my educating you, don’t worry, it is all relevant to the comic. But it sounds like a great way to live, right? Anyway, there are three main parts to this comic, that I will address is a random order because I feel like it. First up is an hour of Jon’s life and all the thoughts that pass through his head, as he documents everything on a notepad while he’s thinking about/it’s happening. It was more fascinating than I would have guessed, and now I think that everybody should give it a shot. Of course, it would require an attention span, and the number of people I know who still have one is dwindling, but I still think people should give it a try and write about their experiences. Next up is a science fiction story dealing with a breathing ship, the wonderful visual effects of having your thoughts outside of your own head and the random, revealing things that are in there, and finally learning not to guess what a loved one is thinking but instead to just ask them about it. Finally there’s a piece at the end about thoughts, putting everything in boxes (and whether or not that’s isolating), your thoughts bringing you to a moment but then not leaving you alone when you reach that moment, and the letdown involved in everything going according to plan. It’s a damned thoughtful pile of stories, and my brain is currently split into thirds as I digest the various portions of this comic. Check it out if you’re a fan of thinking! $5
New review today for Cringe: An Anthology of Embarrassment by various artists and published by Birdcage Bottom Books. Happy weekend everybody!
Quick, think of the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you. Now imagine yourself writing and drawing a comic story about it. That right there should make you cringe, which means you’re in luck, as that’s what this anthology is all about! This book has right around 30 small press artists, some new and some who have been around for awhile, who are willing to share some shameful incident from their past. I don’t think anything in here will get anybody put in jail, but it’s hard not to cringe while reading some of these. I’m not going to review every story because there are so damned many of them (and for a measly $8!), but the highlights include Shaenon K. Garrity wetting herself while out with a group of other cartoonists (including a big name guy, but I won’t spoil the surprise; I particularly loved the way she ended her strip), Sam Spina’s unfortunate method for drinking a rum shot when he met the Bacardi girls, Adam Pasion’s particularly gruesome retelling of an incident involving a finger in the eye, Geoff Vasile dodging a bullet (not literally), Chad Essley and his series of embarrassing moments (hard to top the one where he volunteered to breakdance at school on stage), Fred Noland’s theories on some crayons he used to own, Chad Woody and his racist former roommate, Box Brown and his former habit of eating light bulbs (it’s not quite as life-threatening as it sounds), Stephen Notley and his experience of being “that guy” at a comic convention (you know the one, the guy who gets up to ask a rambling and pointless question and has no idea how to get out of it once he gets started), and Sam Henderson’s experiences with having seizures while surrounded by strangers. It’s a damned fine mix of stories, and at a ridiculously cheap price. Save yourself the embarrassment of not owing this anthology of embarrassment! Ugh, I feel dirty for saying that. I’ll let myself out… $8
New review for Against the American Dream by Matt Reints, which is mostly about Dusty Rhodes and not some long political comic against America.
Against the American Dream
Most of the time I’m just fine with artists going from story to story without holding the hands of the reading audience. More often than not we can tell when the story changes so, you know, do your thing! However, sometimes comics like this happen, where the story bounces all over the place, and in those cases slowing things down a bit is not a bad idea. A lot of this is me guessing, but I’ll try to walk you through this. The comic is, overall, a collection of wrestlers and a wrestling manager talking trash about (the recently deceased) Dusty Rhodes. I know this because I recognize Jim Cornette, one of the more famous former wrestling managers. But I’ll bet that lots of other people don’t know that, and he’s not identified anywhere by name. There are also quotes from three other wrestlers, and my best guesses for those are “Superstar” Billy Graham, Mr. Fuji (manager, I think, but maybe he wrestled too?) and… some other guy. You could have a table of contents on one of the inside covers, or you could list who they are in the same panel, but it’s mean to not identify them anywhere, and bad storytelling. Other stories interspersed with these speeches include three explorers who try to go to Area 51 (but the story peters out before we learn what happened, if anything), a dreamy piece on wishing for a better life, and photos of Lake Street in Minneapolis. That last one baffled me, as it didn’t seem to have much of a point, but it’s also entirely possible that I just missed it. Overall this comic was kind of a mess, which is a shame, as a comic based on people trash talking Dusty Rhodes had all kinds of potential. Luckily Dusty Rhodes had famous feuds that lasted years, so there could always be other issues with this basic idea.
New review today for BFF by Marie Jacotey, which I believe is the last of the mini kus comics. For now, anyway!
I should mention that there’s a technical glitch in this comic before I get started on the actual contents. About a third of the way through the comic a page repeats (the same page that appeared two pages previously). It really throws off the rhythm of the book, especially considering the fact that there are flashbacks and asides that make things hard enough to keep track of. I worked through it and ended up quite enjoying the comic, but if such things are a deal-breaker, you have been warned. Anyway! This is the story of two friends and the woman that gets between them. Rob comes over to visit his friend Stan one morning, and Stan can’t help but show off his latest conquest to Rob. Rob, horrified, recognizes the woman as Amy, who was basically “the one that got away” for him. They had never officially gotten together but he still thinks about her and is still obviously hung up on her, but he does the good friend thing and tells Stan that he should keep seeing her if they like each other. Still, he has to get out of there after Amy gets up and sees him, which leads to Amy following him out the door, and that’s as far as I go because of obvious spoilers. I completely loved how their important, dramatic conversation was interrupted by two young ladies on the bus and their conversation, as it’s always nice to be reminded that the universe doesn’t think that the events of your life are enough to stop things from being ridiculous. Sometimes the cursive writing was a bit hard to read, but overall it was a gorgeous book with a compelling story.