New review today for King Cat #80 by John Porcellino. Yep, it’s a new King Cat alert!
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
New review today for Finnegans Wake by Nicolas Mahler (based off the James Joyce novel, of course). The second of my recent four mini kus books, as they keep creeping closer and closer to issue #100…
New review today for Tortilla Comix #6 by Jaime Crespo. Any amateur librarians want to take a crack at helping me organize my comics after the pandemic loosened up a bit? Seems unlikely, but oof, what a task that’s going to be…
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
It’s mini kus time again! I’ll most likely be reviewing one of these a week until they’re gone again. New review today for Sufficient Lucidity by Tommi Parrish!
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
New review today for Killer Hats by Grant Thomas, which is already the second comic of his that I’ve reviewed this year. No bigger point to be made there, it just means that man makes a lot of comics.
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
New review today for Sunshine State by John Carvajal. Sorry about the gap in reviews, you know how life can be. My store is still open, barely, so get those comics while you can! I’m still in the process of trying to make sense of about 15 years of financial records when my chief source is old emails and Paypal. It’s exactly as much fun as it sounds!
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
New review today for Faceless Nameless by Ben Cherry. And I’ve finally figured out how to determine exactly what I owe people who originally sent me their comics over a decade ago, but it’s going to take a few weeks to nail it all down, so if you’re been stalling on placing an order, you just got a brief reprieve. Current stock should stay steady until maybe mid-February, after that the comics will start disappearing…
New review today for Weird Beard by Andrew Goldfarb! Speaking of the store closing here, I do have a few of his comics left, if anybody is interested…
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.
New review today for Plastic People #6 by Brian Canini. If you’re still looking to order comics, you may notice that the store is about page smaller than it used to be. And it’ll keep getting smaller, so do your thing and be quick about it! Have I mentioned Book Hunter by Jason Shiga for all the librarians out there? I’ve always been amazed that that didn’t become a cult classic…
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