Pinstriped Bloodbath (edited by Jeff)
What a great idea for an anthology.Â Take various artists, let them use gangsters from Chicago in the 20’s-30’s (or some modern day take on it) and put the whole thing together.Â That suit on the cover folds out as you open the comic, and that little flower in the lapel is apparently different for the different stores stocking it.Â So fine, the packaging is gorgeous, what about the comic?Â There’s a fine collection of talent assembled, and they all have their unique takes on the stories.Â Bernie McGovern has a heartbreaking and gory take on the last moments of Baby Face Nelson, Neil Brideau has a quiet conversation between gangsters as one of them tries to crack a safe, Nate Beaty has a silent take on the constant violence and the practice of soaking of blood from the murder scenes as a macabre souvenir, Rickey Gonzalez shows the last moments of Dillinger (or is it?), Neil Fitzpatrick proves that he can’t draw regular human eyeballs and tells the tale of the gangster killed by a horse (and the gangster’s revenge on said horse), Sam Sharpe retells a conversation he had with his at least mildly demented mother about keeping his “gangster” name, Jeff Zwirek has what appears to be a soundly researched piece about the Thompson submachine gun, and Jeremy Tinder closes with instructions on how to make bathtub gin.Â Throw in a couple of illustrations by Ivan Brunetti and Joshua Cotter and voila!Â You have one ridiculously entertaining anthology.Â You could practically make a series out of all the gangster stories from that time period, but Jeff probably already rounded up most of the high points.Â If you’re at all a fan of this sort of thing it’s essential that you pick this up.Â If you’re at all squeamish, however, things do get a little bloody, because how else could you tell these stories?Â No price, let’s spin the mystery price wheel… $6!
Burning Building Comix #1
What a fabulous idea for a comic. Jeff is building a story about a burning apartment building from the ground up, literally. He instructs the reader to follow along the bottom portion of the pages, then come back to the start when finished and read the upper part of the story. The bottom half details (and this is all wordless) a man trying to commit suicide who knocks over his candles in his mad flailings. This makes him realize that he’ll be found dead, hanging and charred, and the rest of his story is his mad attempt to get down from the noose and get the fire in the house under control, using the holiest item available to help himself out. Above that you have the story of a sleeping older woman and her dog. The dog senses problems long before the old woman does and is desperately trying to get her attention and save them both. I should point out that, in every way, this is the most gorgeous comic that Jeff has done. He’s not messing around with those production values, and I’ve never seen the art look better. He also plans on having future issues deal with the other floors of the building, eventually linking the whole thing together. Maybe somebody else has already done something similar and maybe they haven’t, but it’s a great idea and he’s off to a solid start. Oh, and he’s hard at work on Black Star #4 (as of 3/21/07), for all of you who are as curious as I am… $3
Burning Building Comix #2
Is it OK that I’m already thinking ahead for when this series makes as much sense going up and down as it does now going left to right? Not that I’m taking anything away from the individual issues, as this is another great one, but I’m really looking forward to laying them all out (however many there are, I’m guessing 3-5 when it’s done) and reading them every which way. Like the first issue, there are two stories here, the first covering the bottom portion of the book and the second covering the top half. The bottom story deals with a very fat man who discovers that his apartment is on fire… and then finds that he can’t fit out his front door. Hilarity, of course, ensues. The top portion of the comic deals with a woman who finds out that she is having her baby right as she finds out that her apartment is on fire. Her husband (boyfriend, friend, whatever) comes over, things start to look bad for the both of them, and then things improve due to one of the best tension relievers I’ve seen in a comic. I shall say no more about it. Here’s hoping that this series is the one that lets Jeff get some of the recognition he deserves, few people work harder at this relatively thankless business than he does. $3
Burning Building Comix #3
Things are really taking shape with this series, and it looks like my guess of 3-5 issues may be about right. Jeff sent me #4 along with this (which I flipped through, making my “review one comic from one person at a time” pledge very difficult to keep) and I’m guessing that the next issue will be the last. Unless this particular apartment building has more than ten floors? Not that I’m in any rush for this series to be over, it’s an absolute blast, but I am starting to wonder how the story is going to stay as coherent being read up and down (when done) as it is now being read side to side. This issue, as always, has two stories. First up is the tale of a young man coming home from school, smoking a little pot and discovering that his apartment is on fire. Panic sets in, a supersoaker is finally useful in a practical way… but maybe a fire isn’t the worst thing in the world after all. The story above that one involves an alcoholic man and his alcoholic wife, the latter of whom is having some serious trouble telling what’s real and what’s a hallucination. Also, Jeff gets extra points for making mutual spousal abuse funny again. After that peek at the next issue it probably won’t be long until I get another review up here, but honestly, if you’re looking for a completely new comics experience, Jeff has really hit on something here. $3
Burning Building Comix #4
OK, now this is REALLY taking shape here, as opposed to last time when they were sort of taking shape. It’s becoming more and more obvious the tone this story is going to take when read up and down after the whole thing is done. Apparently that’s not going to be with this issue, but it’s impossible to say exactly when that will be. The “how to read this” box on the inside cover only indicates four issues, but it’s not like that means anything. Two more tales in this one, as is the case in this series. The bottom story is of an aspiring satanist who finally gets some “results” with his incantation to make fire, although no help at all in the department of Satan making him a girlfriend or giving him the ability to fly. Above that is the story of an apparently accident-prone young man who has a near death experience after he knocks his plasma screen on top of himself. It’s the first real bit of the story of this building that takes place outside the building, at least metaphysically speaking. In any case, there are officially enough issues of this series out that you can start reading them up and down just to see where it’s headed. Go ahead, it’s allowed. $3
Burning Building Comix #5
Hey look everybody, it’s the top of the building!Â I take this to mean that this is the last issue of the series (although a hint on the inside for those of us who are a bit dense would be nice) and, as I have no idea where are least 2 of these issues are at the moment, I’m not going to do the “read the whole thing up and down” experiment just yet.Â Jeff did send another tiny mini with this, so when I review that one in a few weeks or months I’ll take the time to throw a few thoughts up here as to how the whole thing came together, as I am a bit fascinated to see how he did.Â This issue, of all things, has a love story.Â The bottom story deals with a young man who was treated as a doormat by his girlfriend until he eventually came home to find her cheating on him.Â The upper story is about a young woman who throws her boyfriend out over her love of the Bible.Â The two met at a party, locked eyes across the room, and have apparently been waiting for the chance to show their love for the other one ever since.Â As such, this one holds together as a stand-alone issue more than the other ones, as we can actually see them racing back and forth from apartment to apartment.Â Oh, and a note for those of you who are close to as dense as I am: the panels with the thick black borders are flashback panels, not Jeff losing his mind with the story, like I thought the first time I read the lower story.Â Then the dim metaphorical flashbulb lit up over my head, I read it again, and all was well with the comic.Â Another solid issue, I still can’t believe that he managed to finish everything off on such a happy note, and I can’t wait to see how the whole thing holds up being read top to bottom.Â I think he may have hit on an impressive new achievement here, but even if I’m overestimating it’s an impressive little mini series all by itself.Â $3
Jack Rabbit Maverick Dick Now Available! $2
Ah, I love the random submissions. Doesn’t matter if they’re good or not, it’s just nice to open something up and not have the slightest preconceived notion of what I’m about to read. This one is pretty good, even if I really don’t like the name. The first two thirds or so of the book read like a frantic cartoon. All the little sounds and things were done perfectly to mimic fluid motion. Granted, that’s not the thing that a lot of comics are necessarily going for, but it’s nice when it’s done right. It trailed off a little at the end, but that has a lot to do with the story. The story so far is that Jack woke up with a bra on his head and no idea how he had spent the previous night. Throw in an angry boss, an enigmatic (so far) partner, a prostitute girlfriend and her pimp, and that gives you some idea of the book. I liked it, well worth a couple of bucks to check out. Write to him for a copy at 5209 2nd Floor W. Montrose Chicago, IL 60641. Or e-mail him and bug him to do more, whatever floats your boat…
Jack Rabbit Maverick Dick #2 Now Available! $2
Sorry about that cover scan. It’s supposed to be yellow, my scanner just couldn’t handle it for some reason. It’s starting to look like I need a new one… Anyway, I like this book. It’s official. More mayhem, including a great car chase (and those are hard to come by), and the plot thickens. That turtle and his dog are hilarious too. The stuff that happens with them isn’t necessarily as funny as the anticipation of watching the commemorative plate with a sundae balanced on top of it while the dog is all hopped up on caffeine. This is definitely worth a look. Check further down for his website, that way you can check out more samples.
Jack Rabbit #3 Now Available! $2
Hooray for a website! Due to my total lack of memory I have no idea when the last issue came out (I’m guessing around six months), but the art in this one has improved by leaps and bounds. Not that the other issues looked crappy or anything, this one just looks a lot more solid. No awkward anatomical impossibilities or anything like that. The story continues here, obviously, and three cheers for the synopsis at the start of the comic of the last two issues. There’s a whole lot going on here, which would probably be easier to follow if there was more of a regular publishing schedule, but what are you going to do? The humor was cut down quite a bit this issue, with it primarily focusing on Jack’s depression and his “shaking down” his prostitute girlfriend for information without letting his partner know that they know each other. Another solid issue, definitely worth checking out.
Jack Rabbit #4 Now Available! $1
Here’s another one of those series that I really need to read all in a row. Of course, Jeff did get married recently, so he certainly has a good excuse for being a bit late. This one is mostly a sting operation (and the synopsis at the start is essential) along with some scenes on the tour bus of Jezuz Diablo. If you’re reading the series you know who he is, if you’re not reading the series then why are you reading a review for #4? Shame on you! Anyway, this is another good issue. I’m looking forward to the graphic novel (if such a thing is even remotely possible economically for Jeff) so I can pick up on all the little things he’s doing for the sake of the story. Contact info is up there, all of these are available here if you’re interested in getting caught up!
Jack Rabbit #5 Now Available! $1
Well, here it is, the last issue of Jack Rabbit, due to (as Jeff calls it) “popular disinterest”. Well, that sucks, but it also happens quite a bit in this business. So how’s the last issue? Are all the storylines wrapped up? Does that dog ever get his revenge on that turtle? No and no. Jack has a long, revealing conversation with his brother and gets slashed and beaten up, and tries to have a conversation with Sandy. A lot is revealed in this last issue, granted, but a lot is also left up in the air. Is that for other stories in other places, or just so it can be left permanently open-ended? Who knows? I’d prefer some sort of giant explosion or alien invasion on the last page, but then, I’m also a very lazy storyteller. Here’s hoping that he goes on to bigger and better things, as there’s some serious comic talent here. Contact info is up there, get yer issues now before they become collectors items! Hey, it could happen…
Black Star #1
Â I’ve seen a lot of really pathetic losers in comics in my day, and this one just might take the cake. I don’t think I’ve ever read the tale of somebody who is this completely pathetic. Fanny pack and all… Anyway, it’s too short for me to say for sure, but it’s depressing. $.75, tiny book, and it continues to reinforce the idea in my head that this Jeff Zwirek guy might have something to say with these comics. Contact info is above, and don’t forget to check out the website about Jack Rabbit…
Black Star #2 Now Available! $2
This issue is, by a wide margin, the best thing that Jeff has done. I don’t want to crap all over his other books (he does that plenty in this one), as I thought they were fun comics, if maybe not a grand literary acheivement. This one puts all the feelings I had about him having better stories in him and crams them all in one hefty book. The first story in here is about comics, their incestuous nature, getting past the superheroes and trying to find meaning in it all. It’s obviously influenced more than a little bit by Hicksville but, as that’s probably the best comic ever done ON comics, there are worse things in the world to look to for inspiration. That story alone, especially for anybody out there who wonders why they even keep buying comics when so many of them are so similar (even in the independent scene), is required reading, worth the price of admission right there. Then he goes on to a story about a Supergroup of musicians made up of Bono, Mick Jagger, the angel of Elvis, zombie Kurt Cobain and the Jedi ghost of John Lennon, who get together to rid the world of venereal diseases before another Supergroup threatens to destroy what they’ve done… but it’s left as a cliffhanger, so I’ve already probably said too much. Next is a story of a group of messiahs born when Mary, after visiting a fertility clinic, gives birth to 5 babies, all of whom are the son of god. The last story in here is called Saddle Shoes and it’s about chasing a girl, but obviously there’s much deeper meaning here and a lot more going on, but I’ll leave the analyzing to other, more qualified folks. But wait, there’s more! After all the stories are done, there’s an interview with Jeffrey Brown, and if you don’t know who he is, shame is too weak of an emotion for you to be feeling right now. All this, I should also mention, is a measly $2. RIP Jack Rabbit, we hardly knew ye. But if the death of that comic means that he’s going to move on to books like this one, good riddance!
Black Star #3
God bless Jeff Zwirek. Or whichever deity you’d like to use, I think the whole idea is a bit silly, but whatever gets you by. You see, Jeff was carving out a little niche for himself just fine. It was a tiny niche, granted, having Jack Rabbit, but he could have done it for 5 or 10 more years easy, finally giving up the whole comics thing as stupid down the road. Instead he has chosen to challenge every piece of conventional wisdom about making comics in an effort to improve himself and his work, and I think it’s resulted in his best stuff to date. OK fine, he still uses panels and does regular comic things, but it’s the idea that there has to be more out there that has me so intrigued. Plenty of artists trapped in their self-made niches could learn something from this. In here you have a continuation of the main story of the last issue, where he categorizes everybody who sells comics at small press conventions and manages to alienate everybody. Then you have a group of Presidents who have come back to take all the money with their faces out of circulation (worth it for having George Washington say “balls” alone) and a heartwarming and lovely tale about Punk Rock Prep School. Buy his comics, won’t you? I’m afraid he’s going to get to the end of this story about why he’s still doing comics and decide to chuck the whole thing, which would be a lousy thing to have happen. $2
Black Star #4
Jeff’s personal journey to find out What It All Means continues in this issue, as he takes a walk with Peter to learn the value of art. Is it still art if nobody sees it? Peter also points out the demoralizing fact that it’s possible to understand and appreciate good comics without necessarily being able to produce them yourself. My earlier suspicions about Hicksville being an influence here are confirmed, which is probably more than I should say, but you’re going to buy this anyway, right? At some point in the future some rich comics fan has to put together an actual Hicksville, even if it’s just a library. What a wonderful place that would be. Also in this issue is the story of Jenny, a young woman starting a new office job who doesn’t even have the “comfort” of being shielded by a cubicle. It’s short compared to the meat of the comic, but it’s a wonderfully sad little story about trying to fit in at an office when you don’t know the new rules. Anybody who’s been following the main story knows that this is well worth picking up, as I think it’s one of the more fascinating ongoing stories in the last couple of years in comics. Now all he has to do is wrap things up by giving satisfactory answers to all the questions he’s posing about meaning, art, commerce and when it’s OK to quit and everything will be dandy. Nothing complicated about any of that, right? $2
Yet Another SPX 2005 Reject Mini
Why did they reject this one again? I don’t get it. Is it too personal? Christ knows nobody in the world likes comics that are too personal. Oh, maybe I’m not supposed to understand it. What is it, you ask? A tiny thing, it has Jeff literally locked in a room, trying desperately to improve his comic skills by drawing his future. I loved it (the ending is probably for the best as well), but then I don’t make the anthology. Consider this an appetizer for the new Black Star he also sent me, which should be up in a week or so, and if it’s anywhere near as good as #2 we’re all in for a treat…
The Office: The Original and American Series
Spoiler alert! This isn’t an actual comic! Well, it is a comic if you define it as drawn images on paper that have been folded and stapled with love (allegedly), but there’s no story here, it’s just a chance for Jeff to test out his interpretations of the characters from these two wonderful, wonderful series, and the real reason I bothered to put this up on the site. Just in case anybody out there hasn’t seen the original British version (or has somehow managed to miss the new version on NBC): it really as funny as people say and it’s more than worth checking out. For those of you who have seen both of the series, I present for you as a sample the characters of Dwight and Gareth.
The Cast of 24: Season 4
Again with a review of a comic that isn’t really a comic (sort of), mostly just so I can say out that loud that I’m really looking forward to the next issue of Black Star, whenever that might come out. As for the series 24, I lliked it a whole bunch when it first came out and then have liked it less and less each year, although I have to admit that things got off to a great start last year. Mostly because Jack still being alive (and having the energy to get through another 12 hours without resting after being brutally tortured and still manage to kill another bunch of well-rested villains) is just ridiculous at this point. That and I really get tired of them saying “now” all the time to build tension. Seriously, watch a DVD of any season, make a drinking game out of it. See if you’re still conscious after an episode. I’ll leave you with a sample of my favorite character, and another plea for Jeff to get to work on Black Star #4, unless I just missed it, in which case please get to work on Black Star #5…
Cast of 2008 Beijing Olympics
Who watched the Olympics this year? It’s never been my thing, but if you did or if you were maybe interested in seeing a partial listing of who won what medal, accompanied with Jeff’s version of their face, this is the comic for you!Â Mostly this is just an excuse to get everybody reading this to give Burning Building Comix (reviewed up at the top of the page) another look, as why didn’t you already give it a close look?Â It’s only quite possibly the best thing Jeff has done, with the probable exception of Black Star.Â Still, if you’re a huge fan of the Olympics, you should pick up a copy of this when you order all his older stuff that you’ve missed.Â From him, probably, as I don’t have most of his best stuff available here, but I do have his early work.Â No price on this, but let’s say $2.