OK, that’ll do it for the nostalgia tour. Back to regular reviews next week, meaning sporadic and based on free time. But I did put in an order for a new scanner, so that shouldn’t be a problem for much longer. I’m pretty sure that 15 years makes me something like 100 in internet years, but it has been a lot of fun much more often than not, and I know that I helped at least a few people out along the way. As for how much longer I’ll keep doing this? How about this: at the exact moment when I’m not excited to see what comics are in the random package I just got from Kiev, or Ireland, or Brooklyn, or Chicago, or Denver, or where-the-hell-ever. It’s clear to me that I make a poor proper adult, so that time probably won’t come for several years yet. Now if only I could find the time to fix all the typos from the old articles, update all the contact info, put the review dates back to their original dates, fix the online store, replenish the stock in said store with books that’s weren’t all from the aughts, start interviewing comics creators again… Which reminds me, if there’s an eccentic millionaire out there who wants access to all the old mini comics in the world, get in touch! I’d quit my day job in a second. Thanks for reading everybody!
OK fine, so there are a LOT more of these than I was anticipating. It’s a pleasant surprise. And that’s without me including people who have been doing this for 15+ years while I’ve only reviewed one or two of their books, or people whose books I’ve never reviewed because I frankly didn’t feel worthy to do it. Los Bros Hernandez, Dan Clowes, Eddie Campbell, Chris Ware, all of those people have shaped my views on comics to an immeasurable degree. But smarter than people than me can talk about them in any kind of critical detail.
PANEL Anthologies (Columbus Ohio convention books)
Quite a lot of flashbacks are hitting me as I dig through the archives; even a surface dig of this many reviews is bound to do that. What happened to all these artists who released a half dozen books over the course of a few years and then vanished? Are they happy and fulfilled now? Are they still drawing but just no longer releasing comics? What about Tony Consiglio, who was a favorite of mine for years (and who had the best rebuttal to Dave Sim’s speech at SPACE 2004 that was humanly possible)? Drop me a line is you’re somehow reading this, sent me comics to reviews many years ago and are still reading about comics while not making them. I do wonder sometimes
Emi Gennis (I don’t think she’s actually been around that long but I’m cheating on this one)
Turns out that there are way more artists who have been working for 15+ years than I thought, so this might actually take more than a week to get through them. If you’re wondering why the dates on the reviews don’t seem to indicate that this website is in fact 15 years old, blame that on an update in 2010 when I tried to fix a bunch of links/typos/misc problems. I was told that it would keep the original review dates, that didn’t happen, and since it would take months to go back and figure out the actual publication dates (if it was possible at all), I left it alone.
The actual date when I started this website has been lost to time and a few different hard drive crashes, but I know that it was in August of 2001, and I know that I had 100 reviews written when I put the website online. I wanted it to look like it had come out of nowhere, which it more or less did. This week I thought I’d post links here to some of the people (and companies) that have been making or releasing comics since at least 2001. I’ll probably get some of these wrong, as there’s no historical database for comics artist (right?), but at least it’ll be close.
Due to my busted scanner (I’m hoping to get a new one this week or next week, I just bought way too much furniture when I moved and am very broke at the moment) I’m not going to to review the new comic from Caitlin Cass yet. It’s about R.R. Whitehead, is another in her “Great Moments of Western Civilization” series and is so new that it’s not even on her website yet, but you should go there anyway and ask her if you can buy a copy. But I didn’t want to talk about it without any images attached, so the reviews is on hold. I did want to throw in some news (assuming anybody reads this far on the non-review posts): this month marks the 15th anniversary of Optical Sloth. Balloons, all the balloons! So I had a request to anybody who has been making comics for a very long time, like for example 15 years or longer (especially if I’ve already reviewed some of your books): send me the latest thing you did! I’d like to do a very tiny retrospective of some of the comic artists I’ve reviewed over the years, and having your most recent books would be most helpful. Or if that doesn’t work out (since this is ridiculously late notice to be throwing this out there), I’ll at least go through the reviews over this month and see for myself who I’ve been covering the longest and post links to their stuff. Oh, and there will also be another artistic improvement to the site soon, but that’s still top secret for now.
New review today for Slump by Bryan G. Brown. Since I’m mostly writing reviews on the weekends now, I don’t know the current news, but I’m guessing that today Trump is going to… insult Mother Teresa somehow. Well, people of the future? Did I guess correctly?
(Images were taken from Bryan’s website due to my still-busted scanner)
After spending the last few years reading Bryan’s tales of becoming an MMA fighter, I had a pretty clear guess on what a comic of his called “Slump” would be all about. And, as is usually the case when I make guesses like this, I was completely wrong. This is the story of the death of Bryan’s mother and how he coped with it. The answer, which should be obvious to anybody with human emotions: not well. He was guilty about perceived faults along the way, about not taking her earlier illness seriously enough, and about not spending enough time with her. And he makes a very important point in here, which is why I used the sample image that I did. The “five stages of grief” that everybody talks about are always discussed like they’re linear, that once you get through the last one that you’re free and clear. But anybody who has lived through the death of a close family member knows that any one of those stages can come up again at almost any time. Bryan, for instance, spent weeks reaching for his phone to call his mother about some mundane aspect of his life or a question he had for her, only to realize all over again that this just wasn’t possible any longer. This is a heartbreaking book, but it’s also hopeful, and it doesn’t take any shortcuts to get there. Time helps, a little, and so does input from family and friends. I could see this being a very helpful book for somebody who is struggling with their own grief. And, if nothing else, you could always buy his comic about monsters fighting each other to go along with this one. Two very different ways of dealing with grief, but any relief is good relief, right?
New review today for A Witch Named Koko #2 by Charles Brubaker. I still have to dig through my old comics to see what reviews I missed entirely the first time around, but in the meantime there are openings for reviews if you want to send your comics my way. Basically no waiting! Outside of my finding time to review them, that is…
A Witch Named Koko #2
Sorry once again for the lack of sample images, but Charles’ website has you covered if you’re curious. You can also see sample images on past reviews of his comics, but you already knew that. This issue is mostly all about getting to a train station and taking a train ride, so naturally you’re going to get a scene where a damsel in distress is tied to some train tracks. Charles had an innovative solution for getting her free with the least amount of fuss, I’ll give him that. I’ll also be honest here and admit that I didn’t really get the ending, as it seemed like things just petered out after the train got it their destination, but maybe I missed something. There were a few funny bits to this one, as always, but overall it felt more scattered that most issues. Still worth taking a look, but there are funnier issues of his out there to check out. His pace is ridiculous, so when I say that there are other issues out there, I mean that there are lots of other issues out there. Go on, check out his website, see if I’m wrong… $2
New review today for a new issue of King Cat, #76! By John Porcellino, of course. And just in case anybody in the world reads only this page and not the review, John has set up a Patreon page. You really should give him some money!
King Cat #76
IMAGES WERE TAKEN FROM JOHN’S WEBSITE DUE TO MY BROKEN SCANNER. Sorry about the shouting, but I wanted to make that perfectly clear. In the future there will probably be some way to ID him just through the picture of his hand, which is one of the many reasons I don’t want it to look like I’m trying to pull one over on the guy. That and my 20+ years of the utmost respect for his work. OK, maybe it’s mostly that one. Anyway, look everybody, it’s a new issue of King Cat! I always feel like I should end the reviews there, because what else do you need to know, but that would be cheating. This comes out at a time after when John was dealing with a few serious health issues and had to cancel a few conventions to give himself a chance to heal up a bit. Fun trivia fact for just about nobody: if John had gone to SPACE this year, I would have been his table neighbor, as I was there registering voters for the local Board of Elections. Which would have been a ton of fun on my end, but I’ll take him getting healthy and making comics for another few decades over that any time. Going along with his mood and troubles, this issue is maybe even more contemplative than most, which is saying a lot. Subjects include sketching while waiting for car repairs, seeing an old couple eating from his car, memories of his old and constantly freezing apartment, and several short pieces that are his trademark illustrated poems. There are also quite a few letters, with several familiar names checking in (just in case you’ve been reading comics for as long as I have and wonder what people like Jeff Zenick, Ariel Bordeaux and Jenny Zervakis are up to). He also got a few responses to his Maisie tribute issue in #75, so if you thought you had no more tears left after reading that one, trust me, you’ll find a few more after reading some of these letters. I just reminded my 15 year old cat that she’s immortal, so I’ll stay in denial about that one for as long as is humanly possible. So yeah, obviously you should get this issue. You should get every issue of King Cat. That’s clear by now, right? If nothing else comes from 15 years of this website, I hope that sticks. John is also hurting a bit for money and has set up a Patreon page to try to help with his monthly expenses. Looks like he’s up to 224 people as of this writing, so why not help him out? You can even think of it selfishly if that helps, as if you donate over $6 a month that gets you physical copies of any comics/zines he makes. Help the guy out! Screw giving him just enough to get by every month, we should try to make him filthy rich. $5
New review today for Once Upon a Time in Morningside by Sean Michael Wilson & Hanna Stromberg. And it turns out that Big Ugly Robot (the publishers of this and many other amazing comics) is now offering six month subscriptions of their books, or a six month chunk of comics from last fall for an affordable $30. I’m not the boss of you, obviously, but I think the best way to experience their books is in bundles, so what better way to do it?
How much would you get out of returning to your childhood home 25 years after you left? Or did you ever leave? Let’s assume for the sake of this theoretical conversation that you did. What would pop back into your mind when you returned? This comic deals with Sean going back to his childhood home (I assume it’s Sean, as it’s described as being “his most intimate book so far,” but I don’t know whether or not every single thing in here really happened to him) and immediately getting looked at suspiciously because he lingered too long outside of his childhood home (the new owner seems like the suspicious sort). From there Sean goes to a quiet place and lets his mind wander, where he remembers about a half dozen things that happened to/around him as a kid. Nothing terribly traumatic, just little snippets of his life that stuck with him over the years. There’s his chance encounter with a kid from the local boy’s home, coming across a pretty great hut in the woods and smashing it to bits (and what came from that), being so proud of building a small brick wall and the reaction of his grandfather, scaring himself with a friend in the woods after watching a movie about Bigfoot (I think?) and the consequences of running face first into barbed wire, getting an unfortunate present at their fort and how little it did to ruin their day, and trying to hang with the big kids on a rope swing. Each of these tales is punctuated by his current thoughts about it, what he learned from it and questions about whatever happened to the other kids in the story, whether or not any of them still thought about that day. There’s also a pretty great outro that ties the whole story together, but I’ll leave that one a complete mystery. Hanna does a fantastic job conveying subtle emotions, meaning that Sean doesn’t have to write a point into the ground when Hanna can show the same point without a word. I’m curious to see more from both of them now, and this is yet another amazing comic from the Big Ugly Robot people. $6.50
New review today for Elbis and the Orphan Daughter of Time by Mulele Jarvis. I have to say, it’s a little eerie writing these updates in the past. Who’s to say what’s happened this week? Eh, probably not all that much. Still, right now the possibilities are endless…
Note: all images have been taken from the Big Ugly Robot website due to my broken scanner. Please buy some of their comics to alleviate my guilt. Also because they have a ridiculously impressive record of publishing quality comics, so you could literally just blindly buy a few comics and be in for a treat. I’m a dummy so I started reading this book backwards (or forwards to America readers; at least you can see how I made that mistake), so I saw the dedication of this book before I started the story. It’s dedicated to suicidal people, both the ones who recovered and the ones who went through with it. Mulele himself was suicidal for years, and he’s clearly speaking from experience in here. Also connected to that story is the cat pictured on the cover, how it has been reincarnated and the human that it’s supposed to be helping. Along the way we get to see snippets of its former life, what it loved and how it managed to save its humans from a house fire. Personally, I’d be thrilled to see an entire comic dedicated to the philosophical discussion that the dead cats had in between lives, but I’m a weirdo like that. This is a heartfelt and moving comic, and we should all be so lucky as to have a reincarnated cat watching over us at our lowest moments. Or hell, maybe those of us with cats already do. I’ve always had the impression that my cat would start eating my face about three minutes after I died, but then again she is awfully comforting for those low moments. Anyway, if you’ve ever had any dark moments where suicide seemed like a genuine possibility, for one thing ALWAYS give it some time (there’s no taking back suicide), and this comic may genuinely do you some good. #6
New review today for Tortilla #4 by Jaime Crespo. Yes, my work schedule is still bring figured out, but I remembered that one thing that I always forget with this website: I can schedule reviews to post whenever I want. So I get to write the reviews on the weekends, and you get to read them during the week to get a break from work. Everybody wins!
See, here’s where my lack of a working scanner really hurts the review: Jaime doesn’t have a working website. So no free samples to be had there to help you make up your mind. Then again, how much convincing do you really need? Jaime has been making quality comics for 25ish years and he has a new issue out! What more do you need to know? And yes, it would be cheating if I bailed on the review right there. Jaime has had a rough few years (which accounts for the delay between issues), but he hasn’t lost a step with his comics skills. This one has four stories, and the subjects include observational evidence that the worst drivers all own gold cars (which is not something I’ve ever noticed, but it’s certainly going to be on my mind while driving from now on), an especially obnoxious local drunk who eventually motivates the town to pool their resources to get a one-way ticket to get him out of town (and what happens next), Jaime’s efforts (as a child) to help a friend sell some candy bars so they’d be free to play and their chance encounter of a celebrity, and Jaime’s history of skateboarding and surfing. Oh, and in regards to that celebrity, I’m not going to spoil it, but there story is set in the 70’s, so let your imagination run wild in your guesses. Jaime is also still working on a big old graphic novel that I can’t wait to see, and he’ll even be in Columbus for Sol-Con from October 13-16th (2016, in case you’re reading this in the future). That lineup of guests is ridiculously stacked, so come to Columbus for the show! In the meantime, buy this comic. You know that lack of a sample image is driving you nuts, and there’s only one way to learn what celebrity he ran into in the 70’s… $4
Two new reviews today, for You Don’t Get There From Here #36 by Carrie McNinch and Sinaloa Cowboys by Robert Hendricks. Yes, I do still need to figure out a better schedule so that I’m actually reviewing comics during the week. Still trying to adjust to the new work schedule/life in general combo. The job itself seems to be going swimmingly, thanks for asking!
Huh, I can honestly say that I never thought I’d put “Bruce Springsteen” into the tags for any review. This is Robert’s adaptation of one of his songs, and he does take care to credit Bruce every step of the way in here. I’m assuming Bruce would be fine with something like this? I can’t see why not, but it’s not like I know the guy. This song is the story of two immigrant brothers who worked on farms for awhile before being given a chance to work with meth. They couldn’t pass up the money, but inevitably an accident happened that changed everything. Should I be worried about spoilers in a comic based on a song from 1995? Almost certainly not, but the habit is too ingrained in me to stop now. Robert also includes a history of the song, where it lands in Bruce’s discography and the inspiration for it. In other words, if you’ve ever had questions about this song specifically, or just how Bruce gets inspired in general, chances are that you’ll learn something from reading this. If you have no interest in either of those things, I guess you could still get something out of this as another cautionary tale about not cooking meth. Oh, and apologies to Robert for straight up lifting these images from his website, but my scanner is still broken, and aren’t reviews better with images? $4