Bishop, Eli – Nine Faces of Nothing

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Nine Faces of Nothing

Eli mentions right on the cover that these are depression comics, but since it’s late September of 2020 as I write this and all kinds of people are depressed for all kinds of new reasons, these comics can be a bit, you know, depressing. Obvious disclaimer out of the way, there’s some really masterful storytelling going on here. There are nine pieces, mostly touching on aspects of depression (one of them is an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story, but his reasoning for why it was included in here was compelling). He touches on the devastation going on in his brain sometimes when trying to keep up a polite smile around people, the danger of letting your true feelings out around other people, living with a voice in his head that’s always telling him how he’s going to die, trying to pinpoint the last moment he was really happy, his brief periods of being catatonic and trying to figure out why it was happening (and how to stop it if possible), and how he was once thinking of self harm and happened upon the perfect means to do it (but he wisely wouldn’t say what it was) before eventually having his job move away from that location. Now, I’m not saying that the reader should take all of these things literally, that every moment of Eli’s life is plagued by every one of these thoughts. They’re stories, and it’s possible if not probable that I’m misinterpreting a message or two. But these stories are devastatingly accurate depictions of what can go through your mind while depressed, or very suddenly while you’re thinking you’re not depressed at all. Knowing you’re not alone in your darkest thoughts is one of the best ways to manage depression, so if you’re feeling that way at all I can’t recommend this book highly enough. $10

Update for 9/22/20

Sorry again, but chances are this will be a rough few months on the update front because of my job at the Board of Elections, so please bear with me. New review today for Banal Complications (the last of the current mini kus books) by Marc Bell! Oh, and bear with me for an announcement about the online store here below. If you have no interest, carry on!

LAST CHANCE FOR THE ONLINE STORE!!!

My online store is busted. Anybody who has tried to use it knows this already, but please know that I know that too. Since the store is basically a time capsule at this point, I’ve decided to shut it down at the end of the year, at which point I’ll be paying everybody whose books have sold (be prepared for some disappointment, artists!) and sending back whatever books didn’t sell, if they still want them. Meaning that if there’s anything that anybody would like to buy, you have a little over 3 months to do it. As the store is busted, you can’t just click and have it add them up, you’ll have to copy and paste them all into an email and send them to me. But on the bright side, there are some real gems in there, things that are just about impossible to find now. I mean, I still have two copies of Bogus Dead left, one of my all time favorites, just to name one example. So! I’ll be mailing stuff out weekly (all I can manage at the moment), and I’ll try to check the stock once or twice a week to give people a chance to substitute other books if they want. Contact info on the sidebar is good, so please use that. Oh, and I’m also selling other stuff not in the store (like all my Hate by Peter Bagge books; I’ll be getting the fancy hardcover edition when it comes out so they’ll be superfluous), so if you’re curious about that stuff just ask, otherwise it’s going onto eBay. Thanks everybody!

Bell, Marc – Banal Complications

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Banal Complications

I’ve been reading Marc’s comics since the start of this website (before, even) and I’ve never seen one quite like this one. This is exactly what the title implies: a series of banal complications, told about 2/3 in text form. But wait, don’t run away yet! The rest of it is still his inimitable artwork, and the cast of characters alone in these stories is worth the price of admission. Unless you don’t want to read about characters that includes “Pudding Horror” and “Nuclear Sidewalk” (among many others), I guess, but the names alone make up for any banality. This is the story of Chop Salad, who has to travel to New York for six months to pick up some artwork, among other things. He has to sort out his apartment, get a subletter, try to maintain his current tax bracket, navigate roommates, and every other activity and consideration that goes into taking a long trip. It’s oddly riveting, but I guess it’s possible that Marc is just one of those people who can do no wrong in my book. If you’re on the fence, I didn’t even reveal the names of characters that made me laugh out loud, because why would I spoil those? This is well worth a look, and even if the story somehow loses you, gaze upon the art and just try to take in all the details. Gaze! $7

Update for 9/8/20

New review today for Little Circle and the Wishing Fairy by Samantha Ann Peartree (actually Andrew Davis). Everybody have a good holiday weekend? Anybody dumb enough to have indoor holiday parties without masks? If so, please send me as much money as you can before you go into the hospital. I promise to spend all the money on comics…

Davis, Andrew – Little Circle and the Wishing Fairy

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Little Circle and the Wishing Fairy

So I got a bunch of mini comics in the mail over the weekend, and it looks like most of them have little to no contact info. Which is going to be a shame if they’re all as funny as this one, but we’ll see as I go I guess! This is actually from a fairly lengthy series called Samantha Comics; I’m guessing Samantha Ann Peartree is actually not a real child that Andrew gets his ideas from. But since his former website is now just a site for boner pills (which is the fate for all abandoned websites, sadly), I’m just going to assume that he’s making all this up himself. This one is all about a child named Little Circle, and all she wants in the world is to look at circles and ideally for everything to also be a circle. She’s wishing out loud one day, which calls the attention of a fairy who’s just a gigantic asshole fairy. LC (Little Circle; I’m not going to type it out every time) thinks she’s getting her wish granted but is turned into a fruit bat. She tries to make the best of it and make friends with other bats, this goes poorly and she decides to take another crack at the fairy. LC is turned into something else, and it’s starting to seem like she’s never going to get back to being herself. But… what if she gets turned into something she likes even better? There are also a couple of short strips at the end, and it’s a thoroughly engaging comic with some funny bits, which is all you can ask for, right? At least his storeenvy.com site is still up (as of September 2020), so you can still get this for $2 if you’re curious. If not, the man has made quite a few other comics, so give one a try!

Update for 9/4/20

New review today for Mount a Rescue by David Robertson and a gaggle or artists. Or is it a murder of artists? Happy weekend everybody! Enjoy if you’re in one of the countries where it’s OK to leave the house!

Robertson, David (and Various Artists) – Mount a Rescue

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Mount a Rescue

Thanks a lot for confirming that I need new glasses David! The afterward/credits was officially too small for me to read with glasses on. Which reminds me of a favorite story from this collection, where he compares his reactions to Homer Simpson over the years (when he was much younger than Homer, about his age and actually older than Homer; had the same thought myself recently). This is another collection of stories written by David, about 2/3 (purely a guess) with other artists and the rest he drew himself. This one opens up with a great story about his appreciation of Blade Runner, both the movie, the book, the comics adaptation (which I somehow missed) and of course the score. He goes over the various versions that have come out over the years; he’s also the first person I know of who actually liked the version where Harrison Ford narrated bits of it. If you love the movie too this is fantastic, if you don’t or haven’t seen it this will probably convince you to give it a fresh look. Ah, but what version? Other stories include a caller who claims to have proof of the existence of god, a diary of a day in his life broken up into hourly segments, a story of the discovery of a deep sea diver (in his afterward he mentions his confusion of the end of Planet of the Apes as a child, having no idea what the Statue of Liberty was), tea bags vs. tea leaves, Luke dealing with some conflicting advice from Yoda, trying to relate at an office party, performing your comics out loud, sleep apnea, people complaining about older or younger generations, a butter prank that was killed too soon, a revolt against beauty cream, feelings of hatred long after you forget the reason for the hatred, asking to borrow a kilt, how so many previous heroes have ended up problematic now, and how Mr. T’s fear of planes kept him from going to space like all the other members of the A-team. And even more stories, but aren’t surprises fun? As always, very few people pack as much into a comic as David, with a variety of art styles, which will lead you to even more comics people that you like. Check it out!

Update for 9/2/20

New review today for Egle and the Snake by Joana Estrela, one more from the mini kus pile. In other news, I’m doing a Chester Brown reread at the moment because hey, why not? But I’ve noticed that somehow I ended up with Louis Riel #1-9 out of a 10 issue series. Anybody have a line on how I could get a copy of the 10th issue? Drawn and Quarterly, sadly, doesn’t have it in stock, and the internet is greatly confused when I search for individual issues…

Estrela, Joana – Egle and the Snake

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Egle and the Snake

Hooray, a mini kus book where I don’t have to dance around pretending like I know what I’m talking about! I love those too, don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of room for the abstract in my life! This comic was inspired by a Lithuanian folk tale, and there are definitely elements that feel… folky? Is that a thing? Eh, never mind. Things start off with Egle taking a dip in the lake, but when she gets out there’s a snake on her clothes. She politely asks the snake to move, and the two strike up a conversation. The snake seems to have a creepy state of mind about the whole thing (Egle is a high school student), but he’s just vague enough about his intentions that Egle is left confused and even the reader has enough room to have doubts. He seems to be stalling her, even inventing (or not I guess) friends of his that are going to be showing up soon. Finally he offers her a ride home, and that’s where his intentions get a bit less ambiguous, but hey, no spoilers, right? It’s an engaging story with more than a hint of menace, and yet another winner from the mini kus pile. $7

Update for 8/31/20

New review today for Across the Diner by Brian Canini. Hey, I’d review your comics as often as I reviewed his if you put out a dozen or so books a year too, you know…

Canini, Brian – Across the Diner

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Across the Diner

How many hours of the day does Brian spend drawing? I’m honestly curious. This is a stand-alone mini, as opposed to one of the series he’s also producing on a regular basis, and it depicts a conversation almost every one of us has had in our heads at one point: should we go over and say hello to that attractive person? In this case we start off with Emily, who’s just been stood up on a date but seems to be taking it in stride, as she plans to get some food anyway and head out. Before this happens a woman walks into the diner who absolutely captivates our hero: she instantly imagines a future with this lady, how they’d probably be compatible but different enough to be able to learn a lot from each other, etc. There’s only one problem: should she go over and introduce herself? It’s the eternal struggle in situations like these, and Brian does a great of portraying all the pros and cons that go through your mind at a moment like that. This one is well worth a look, and I defy anybody to read this mini without relating to at least one thought that goes through her head before it’s all said and done. $1.99

Update for 8/26/20

New review today for Crime at Babel by Martins Zutis, another one of my week of mini kus reviews that could really just be a series of question marks. Oh, and I should mention this somewhere: August is the anniversary of Optical Sloth, and this makes it 19 years. 19! Here’s hoping that what I lack in quality I make up for in sheer longevity. And yes, I do have some plans for the 20th anniversary, provided we all live that long. Will those plans come to pass? I don’t have the greatest track record with such things, but maybe!

Zutis, Martins – Crime at Babel

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Crime at Babel

I have a confession to make: I don’t speak emoji. Sure, if I get a text with an emoji, I can make sense of it. Two in a row, yeah, probably. Three in a row? Getting dicey. Four in a row or more? Chances are I’ll be calling you for a translation. Why am I mentioning that here? Well, take a gander at that sample image below (most of the book is two page spreads, so I used one of those). Now, want to see me make a fool of myself? Here’s my best guess for what’s being said. First bubble: An explosion? Somebody ran off with a book? What time? Second bubble: A detective is coming by at noon. He is sad about the explosion, and thinks the book may have fallen down a hole or died. And… scene. See? I’m going to be no help at all here. Or maybe I nailed it? I’m guessing it’s the first option. Anyway, the back of the book calls this “a visual riddle, or rather a sudoku in comic form”. I’d have all kinds of trouble with a straightforward story being told in this fashion, but a riddle? For the second time this week, I’ll be leaving this mini kus book by my nightstand, hoping that if I pick it up after waking at odd hours I’ll be able to work my way through the mystery. Or maybe I’ll just ask a younger friend or two who are fluent in emojis what exactly is happening here. The possibilities are two! Oh, and one other thing I got from the back: somebody stole a book from the library and somebody killed a detective. Two mysteries! $7

Update for 8/24/20

Ach, sorry, work is really picking up (get your voting plan ready now!) and real life has been a mess too, leaving not much time or energy for talking about comics. So I decided to come back and make it a short mini kus week, but the two I picked basically defy description, so enjoy (?) my attempts at reviews. New one today for Violent Delights by Hetamoe!

Hetamoe – Violent Delights

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Violent Delights

This is another one of those times where I’m tempted to just post the synopsis on the back of the comic and call it a day, but I shall resist! Instead I’ll make a fool out of myself trying to make sense of this thing that I’m still trying to put together in my head an hour after reading it. This is an examination of Romeo and Juliet, at least on a macro level. It’s really more of an examination of various quotes from the play, how they bring up imagery of popular culture and/or violence, combined with literary criticism and a call to raise the alarm about how many benchmarks of the ongoing climate crisis we’ve already passed. See? You try writing a review about something with that many layers, and oh by the way I’m leaving out several layers. It’s rare for a comic to feel this… homemade? Raw? Half-formed? No, those are all wrong. Images feel like they’re about to burst through the page at times, sometimes detritus is on pages and feels like it should be a 3D experience; I did find myself touching a page or two to confirm that they were flat. Yes, even though my brain was aware that this was a comic book. This is one of those things that’s going to stay on my nightstand for a few days so I can see what else I can pick up from it, but for review purposes I’ll just say that this was an utterly unique experience, and for people who are curious about how Shakespeare relates to the modern day, pick this up and you’ll find some example. $7

Update for 8/6/20

New review for Not My Small Diary #18 edited by Delaine Derry Green, and featuring every small press comics person that you like. Go ahead, check the list, see if I’m wrong!

Derry Green, Delaine (editor) – Not My Small Diary #18: The Pet Issue

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Not My Small Diary #18: The Pet Issue

I’m probably going to be rambling about this for awhile, so strap in, but there are only two facts to consider in whether or not you want to give this a shot. 1. Take a look at that list of tags under the review. If you can look at that list of names and not want to buy this immediately, the only other thing I have to say is 2. It’s only $8. And it’s roughly 150 pages. So now that you’ve placed your order with Spit and a Half, what exactly do you have to look forward to? Well, I should have been more honest about one thing before you placed your order: this one is occasionally rough to get through, especially if you have older pets that are noticeably slowing down. Like, for example, me, with a 19 and a half year old cat who mostly sleeps these days and is losing her most adorable habits one by one. Don’t get me started, I’m perfectly content here in the land of denial. So are you in for a giant comic full of stories of pets dying? No, nothing so grim as all that. There are all sorts of types of pet stories in here. There’s Ben Snakepit with the heartwrenching tale of Buster (who died trying to get back to his house after his family had to give the dog up), Mark Campos with his cat’s reaction when she finally got the freedom she seemed to want, Cara Bean’s story of a dog that was found in the wilderness and how it became a constant traveling companion, MariNaomi and the angriest chameleon I’ve ever heard of, Ayun Halliday and the snake who was born again, Andrew Goldfarb and the guinea pig who could keep time to his music, Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz and how her rats eventually got along with her boyfriend’s cats, and T. Motley with his recollection of what mice sound like when they’re utterly defeated by a cat and sobbing. And that’s not even the first half of the book, which leaves you plenty of surprises. It really is impressive how is covers so much ground. Some of these people were indifferent to pets and eventually warmed up to them, some stayed indifferent, some used pets as a jumping off point for the larger story they wanted to tell, or told the story of their first pets. And, of course, there were the people who told the stories of how their pets died. That was the part where I had to take a few breaks while reading this to pet my cat, because sure, I can see the writing on the wall there, but she’s still here now, and I intend to enjoy that right up to the point where she’s no longer enjoying life. Now if only there was a manual of some sort to tell me exactly when that was… Anyway! It’s not about me or my great cat. This is a thoroughly enoyable book, somehow both something an animal lover would find a lot to relate to and a book that’s sometimes hard to take with the deaths and all. Still, I’d just like to repeat: that list of talented artists and that price. Give it a shot, if you haven’t already! $8

Update for 8/4/20

New review today for (extra) Ordinary by Roberts Rurans, another from the mini kus pile!

Rurans, Roberts – (extra) Ordinary

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(extra) Ordinary

This is one of those mini kus offerings where the concept is so simple (and the execution so thoroughly engaging) that there probably isn’t going to be a whole lot for me to say about it. This is the story of a woman who’s bored at home. First she notices a vase with flowers in it and convinces herself it’s an elephant, then it’s on to a fork with two cherries dangling from it that looks like a strongman, and then onto a carrot that looks suspiciously like a guy breathing fire. It spirals from there, with several ordinary objects in her house being transformed into things that are significantly more exciting than what she was actually seeing, until all of these things join together to put on one hell of a show. It’s delightfully charming; the deceptively simple art and colors draw you right in. If you can read this and have no reaction I don’t know what to tell you, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Another one in the win column for the mini kus crowd! $7

Update for 7/31/20

New review for another from the mini kus pile, Chapter Two by Keren Katz. Happy weekend everybody!