New review today for Our Mother by Luke Howard. Also if you’re reading this on the day that I’m posting it and happen to live in or near Columbus, Garry Trudeau is in town for that comic convention I mentioned earlier in the week. Yes, THE Garry Trudeau. And if you miss him today, not to worry, as Raina Telgemeier and Charles Burns (and so, so many others) are here for the rest of the weekend.
Quick show of hands, who suffers from some form of clinical depression? All the technology at our disposal and nobody seems any closer at being able to fix any of that for a sustained period of time. This comic is the story of Luke’s mother and her history of depression… sort of. Things start off with a darkly hilarious bit about her parents meeting a mysterious figure in an alley and trying to come up with the best way to make their daughter’s life miserable. They settle on making it so that she doesn’t even want to eat food any more, and from there we get to see the incredibly awkward explanation given by Luke’s father (while his mother is slumped insensate on the couch) about why he’s leaving them. Still, a comic purely about her depression would be unspeakably, well, depressing, so Luke mixes it up with a science fiction story about giant robots in the future who are looking for living humans to care for, the humans who are seemingly invisible to them, and the fruitless nature of them trying to change anything. We also get peeks into Luke trying to give his mother any kind of happiness or relief, a quest to find and use a mysterious portal, the attempted training of an ape and finally the actual history of her depression and the efforts she’s made to get over it. The ending sort of petered out about, but since Luke actually incorporated that fact into the story I think he gets a pass on it. Plus we get to see a farting hotdog, which I did not think I would be doing when I woke up this morning. If you have any history of depression or know anybody who does (which should cover the entire population at this point), there’s a lot to love in here. And who knows, maybe you’ll even find something in here to help you or your loved one. If not, at least you get 20 minutes or so away from the harsh realities of the world, and isn’t that more or less priceless? $9
New review today for the collected Ohio Is For Sale by Jon Allen. What, you haven’t read the series up until now. Boy, are you in for a treat.
Three cheers for Alternative Comics for putting out books like this for the last, what, 20 years? I’ve been doing this for 15 years and they had already been around awhile when I started. If it wasn’t for them collections like this probably wouldn’t exist, and the world would be a poorer place for it. I already reviewed the first couple of issues in this series (this volume collects #1-5), and I loved them just as much this time around. It’s a little easier to see the quiet desperation of the characters when the story is put in one place like this, although I don’t think any of the characters (and possibly even Jon) would agree with that description. The overall ennui is such a part of their lives that they mostly don’t even notice it anymore, and they do every stupid thing they can to distract themselves from it. Go back and read the reviews of the first two issues for those reviews; the third issue has one of the roommates (Trevor) being incredibly sick from a cold or something and just wanting an icy treat, but having two other roommates who are too self-absorbed to notice. Their nights end up intersecting in a fairly gross and hilarious way. The fourth issue deals with another one of the roommates (Patrick) deciding to just drive in one direction and hope of the best, and his “adventures” along the way. It’s the most overtly introspective of the bunch, but it still has funny bits like the conversation with the maimed deer that I used for the sample image. Finally there’s Leonard’s sister coming over for a visit, but she ends up inviting her boyfriend. Who ends up inviting a bunch of his friends, meaning there ends up being a party that nobody who lives there really wanted. This issue also ties up a lot of the dangling threads from past issues in such a casual way that anybody who didn’t already realize that Jon was a damned good writer would figure it out by the end of the book. These comics are also filled with little asides that I have no interest in spoiling, and the pacing is masterful throughout. Oh, and he’s clearly using a real map of Ohio in that fourth issue, if anybody cares to follow his route who lives here. This is a pretty great book all around, and if you missed the regular issues I’d recommend this collection to anybody. I do miss not seeing the covers to the remaining three issues, as the covers to the first two were fantastic, but maybe he can put them all in some future fancy hardcover collection. Oh, and the series is still ongoing, meaning there really should be more to come. $20
I am very much trying to avoid these long breaks between reviews, but life and work are both cuckoo bananas right now, which doesn’t leave much time for me rambling about comics. But there is a big old convention in Columbus this weekend with all kinds of great people attending, so in theory I should have a lot more comics to talk about in the near future. Assuming I can get away from my job long enough to go, that is. Anyway, new review today for A Witch Named Koko #3 by Charles Brubaker.
A Witch Named Koko #3
It’s the further adventures of Koko and friends! This time around they try to go camping (which, as with all instances of actually trying to actually go camping, ends up going poorly), gather up some ingredients for potions, and use said ingredients to turn into animals. If I told you what sort of animal then that would ruin the surprise, so I’ll leave that up to you. And for a brief second in here I could have sworn that I saw a Bart Simpson body double, but I must have been mistaken. Charles is basically making comics faster than I can review them these days, so if you’re a fan of the madcap tomfoolery of his characters than you have plenty to choose from at the moment. $2
New review today for Teaching Comics Volume One by Alex Nall. I’m posting this before the debate, but Trump looked really stupid, didn’t he? And he said about a dozen things that should disqualify him from being considered human, let alone a viable presidential candidate, right? I’m really going out on a limb here, I know.
Teaching Comics Volume One
Have you ever been a teacher, or wanted to be one? Or have you ever just wondered what their life was like? Or maybe do you just like entertaining comics? If any of these things apply to you, maybe you should give this one a shot. This covers roughly six months in the life of Alex as a teacher (I think; not all of the strips were dated), and it’s all over the place. I don’t mean that as a criticism, it’s just that between this and some other conversations I’ve had recently I get the impression that the life of a teacher is basically spent in a constant state of low level panic at the thought of losing their job, while still secretly hoping deep down that something happens to prevent them from ever needing to teach again. While ALSO being genuinely rewarded by the rare moments of creativity and inspiration from the students, and driven to hopelessness by the conditions in the school/classroom and the general apathy of the students most of the time. Like I said, there’s a lot going on here, and Alex does a fantastic job of conveying that on the page without ever getting preachy or morbid about the whole thing. Subjects include his being in charge of the iPods for the school, managing to inspire a few kids to draw about their favorite wrestlers or music, how the look and sounds of a school can be the same as when he was a kid but somehow vastly different, being baffled by the elimination of recess, wondering if he’s doing any good, getting his drawing class cancelled and taking over teaching disabled and special needs kids, meeting a new girl, and a number of the various interactions he’s had with his kids. He clearly had a wealth of material to work with here, and the story of the kid lining him up, bowling him over and then declaring him his soul mate was one of the funniest things I’ve read in ages. So yeah, this is very much worth a look. $20
Yes, sporadic reviews probably will be the norm through the end of this year, as the upcoming election slowly eats me alive. Sorry about that. New review today for Cassie Chadwick: Queen of Cleveland by Caitlin Cass.
Cassie Chadwick: Queen of Cleveland
I haven’t even gotten a chance to review Caitlin’s last comic yet after my old scanner blew up, and she’s already done with another one. Feel shame, slow comics artists! This is the story of Cassie Chadwick, a lady who figured out pretty quickly the easiest way to gets lots of money: by fooling rich people into thinking that she already had money. It was ingenious, even if it didn’t work out too well for her in the long run. Is it getting into spoilers if I say how it turned out for her? She’s been dead for over 100 years. Then again, I didn’t know how it all turned out until I read this comic, so I’ll leave it a mystery for you. Anyway, she married a few rich people (one at a time), conned a few others, did a little time in prison and then figured out that the world runs on gossip. So she very carefully arranged to be seen leaving the house of Andrew Carnegie, one of the more famous rich people at the time, told one person that she was his illegitimate daughter and then let the socialites do the work for her. Something like this would be a little trickier to pull off now with the internet around, but I’ll bet it’s still possible. This is another solid, informative and thoroughly entertaining comic by Caitlin, who is basically a one woman crash course in the history of the strange and disaffected in American history. So have you heard the rumor that I’m the illegitimate son of Bill Gates?
New review today for Flying Sausage Academy #1 by Rob Jackson, happy birthday Kathie!
New review today for Forever and Everything by Kyle Bravo, and I am back to doing weird future reviews as I get busy at work with elections stuff again.
Forever and Everything
I do very much love it when artists don’t get offended by a past criticism of mine. It doesn’t happen often; the most common reaction when I get a response to something critical I’ve said is thanks, that at the very least maybe I’ve made them think about things in a different way. And sure, sometimes people get mad, as it’s not like I’m going to be right in every thing that I think, and there are even times when I’m having a shitty day and I say something awful in a review as a result. Very rarely, and I’ve gotten better at that over the years, but I am only human. Anyway, long and pointless intro short, I mentioned in the review of Kyle’s last comic that his early drawings “looked like garbage.” Instead of taking this personally, or even giving up because one guy on the internet said something bad about an aspect of his comic, Kyle thought it was funny and even mentioned it in his intro. To be clear, the rest of my review mentioned how much better the book got as he went along, and that sloppiness was an inherent danger of daily diary strips… eh, that’s why I keep an archive here. Read it yourself for the whole story. My point being: artists, never take critics all that seriously. Me, I’m just in it for the free comics. So how about this comic? Kyle has decided to keep going with his strips, but instead of continuing to do them daily (with a small child that’s a dicey proposition anyway) now he just draws them when possible and “as funny or interesting things occur.” That right there should be the motto of all daily diary artists, but then I guess that would take the “daily” out of the equation. Kyle also makes the interesting choice to really maximize space, as strips fill out each page, with them being continued on the next page until they stop. Meaning a strip can be four panels and done or 12 panels and done; once that happens he puts up a title card to signify the start of the next strip to move you along. Environmentalists, shouldn’t you have figured this out years ago? Think of all the paper just this one guy is saving. Subjects in here include the ongoing development of Jamie, having chickens, not having chickens, making a mural, injuring himself, being away from the family, the personal woe of headaches, accidentally getting a faux hawk, and jury duty. It’s some pretty solid storytelling, but the only complaint I have is that after ten minutes of looking around online I’m still not sure where exactly people can buy a copy of this book. The only thing I’ve seen is an Etsy listing that has this for 69.93 SEK, which sounds totally made up. That should always be easy to find for anybody looking for your name. But hey, send the guy an email, that should do the trick too.
New review today for Libby’s Dad by Eleanor Davis. Maybe I can do reviews every other day and keep that consistent? Sure, let’s work with that theory and see what happens.
So the thing about kids is that it’s easy for them to be assholes. Which isn’t a judgment; assholes make the world go around. But when there’s a rumor about the father of a girl in a group of friends, and when said father holds a slumber party for this group at his house (a new house from the ongoing divorce that comes with a pool), that rumor is going to get talked about eventually. Things start off with five girls at this pool party, but a sixth member of the group is missing. It turns out that this girl is missing because the mother of this girl heard about the rumor too, and she didn’t to take any chances. The rumor? That Libby’s father, during an argument in the divorce proceedings, threatened to shoot Libby’s mother. There were no independent witnesses to this comment, and the story came from Libby’s mother, but nobody knew quite what to believe, especially teenage girls with no frame of reference. The girls manage to have fun anyway (well, Libby seems a bit withdrawn), until one of them accidentally knocks over a bottle of nail polish and realizes that they’re going to have to get Libby’s father to help. And who knows what his reaction will be? This is another gorgeous comic from Eleanor and she does some amazing things in this full color format. Artists don’t always get credit for utilizing colors well, but they should and she does. I was going to say that she should stick to color comics from now on, but then I went back through some of her older reviews on this website and she does amazing work in black and white too, so never mind. It seems to be the whole “making comics” thing that she’s good at. So yeah, it’s well worth a look. $8
New review today for She’s Not Into Poetry by Tom Hart, which is a collection of all of his early mini comics. So yes, you now live in a world where this exists. Congratulations, you’ve made it!
Do you ever feel like you’ve wished something into existence? Well, that’s this graphic novel. I’ve been hoping for a collection of all of Tom’s early mini comics basically since a few of them went out of print in the 90’s, and here they are. All the titles are in the tags and sure, I have copies of about 2/3 of them, but that’s still 1/3 that I previously had no access to. And since I have some of the original comics, that means that I have 20 year old belly lint by Tom Hart, because he taped that to two of his minis. Um, yay? Does that mean I can clone him once the technology is perfected? I have to think through the ethical implications of that responsibility. Oh, am I not talking about the comics yet? How about this: these comics were a solid chunk of the reason why I fell in love with small press comics, and the fact that these had mostly disappeared down the memory hole in the early 00’s was a solid chunk of the reason why I started a small press comics review site where books like these could all be lumped together. So yeah, you could say that the guy influenced my life just a bit. Oh, here’s one valid question I could answer with this review: do these comics hold up as more than nostalgia? Yes. Yes, they do. Want specifics? Wodaabe Comics is the earliest (and rawest) and it still made me laugh several times. Love Looks Left, if there is any justice in this world, is being taught in all these various cartoonists schools as the perfect mini comic. Maria mixes some casual background horror with a quiet day with the ducks with an obsessed stalker seemlessly. New Hat and Ramadan are both basically prequel comics for Hutch Owens, even though I’m pretty sure Hutch Owens was done at roughly the same time. Vital supplementary comics, the both of them. This comic does make me miss the days when I could occasionally come across a new Tom Hart mini comic in Quimby’s or Chicago Comics, and it looks like those days are gone for good. But it does fill me with hope to know that a guy with this brain is helping to teach the next generation of cartoonists. Just in case you are the only person on earth who has every single comic here, this volume does contain a new introduction, afterward, and a list of his favorite things/influences/people, then and now. $14.95
Sorry about the sudden absence, but all is right with the world: I have a working scanner again. Now if I could just figure out how to use it… eh, who has time to read the instructions. New review today for Magic Whistle 3.0 #1 by Sam Henderson and a few other artists. In theory reviews should now be back to normal, at least until the upcoming election removes me from humanity entirely for a few months. But the next week or so should still be good!
We can all agree that the world would be a better place with more Magic Whistle in it, but Sam Henderson is just one man with other demands on his attention. What’s the solution to this problem? Bring in more funny artists! That’s the general idea with this latest version of Magic Whistle, and it’s a fantastic idea that works splendidly in this first issue. Sam does his thing better than most funny people so you know going in that that’s going to be good (check the handy chart to see what gum is called in your state; Ohio is “Pennsylvania asparagus”). But what about the newbies? Well, to start with, I think they’re all oldbies (i.e. people who have been making comics for years now), so no worries on that front either. John Brodowski (if you’re a regular around here that should be a familiar name) has a series of strips involving Sid and Sid (basically a carnival barker and a mute ghoul, although it’s probably best not to know for sure exactly what they are) spreading knowledge and horror wherever they go. Manuel Gomez Burns picks apart the traditional gag comic, spending a lot of time with the character in the last panel who always plops over in horror/outrage/hilarity and exactly what might make this character tick outside of the frame. Leah Wishnia devises the ingredients necessary to create the perfect spitball and show the devastating effects of such an object. Jesse McManus’s comic might require some knowledge of older Magic Whistle strips (mostly the ones where the bear and the human exchange body parts with each other with joy and hilarity), but he injects some unsettling realism into that hypothetical situation. Finally there’s Ansis Purins, another familiar name to regulars around here, with an oddly sweet tale of brothers with little in common who go out to plant a tree. And because it’s Ansis, some version of zombres are of course involved. Here’s hoping that increasing the pool of funny means more Magic Whistles in the world, because we’re all going to need something to laugh about over the next few months, he said, injecting a slight political note into an otherwise non-partisan review. Don’t vote Trump, you dummies. But do buy this comic, because it’s funny. $5.99