New review today for Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence by Joel Christian Gill. I’m already starting to get in touch with a few artists who have books in the store, so get your orders in now before they disappear! Oh, and in case I haven’t been clear, you’ll need to put whatever you’d like to buy into an email to me. The store is very busted, which is a big reason why I’m shutting it down…
Hey, he put a huge spoiler right in the title! I kid, mostly because this book gets pretty grim at times and thought I should try to get something a little lighthearted into this review. If you’re triggered by bullying, physical and/or sexual abuse or just awful human beings, consider yourself warned. This is his story, and the man is graphically open about everything that happened to him growing up. Things start off with him driving his son home from school, when a realization hits him: he has never had to fight and might not even know how to defend himself. This brings him back to his own awful time growing up, and it starts off with that most implacable type of bully: somebody who just wants to hit you because they’re bigger than you. There’s no reasoning with them, and you can usually only put off the beating for so long. And he was SO young when all this started! From there we see more of his home life (and the way he depicts the sexual abuse, how inevitable it seemed to him at the time, is utterly heartbreaking), and then move on to his second set of bullies. Or his second notable set of bullies; they do seem to be a constant problem. Oh, and let’s not forget the racial slurs. This set of bullies is when he learned to start fighting back, but that was immediately derailed by the news of the death of his father. This naturally upends his life, and leads into a problem that he only really understood in hindsight: his own transformation into a bully. I don’t want to get into the rest of the book, because it’s an incredible story that you should really read for yourselves, but he does gradually realize the pit he’s fallen into with the bullying, and the journey back is far from easy. There’s sabotage along the way, but there are also friends, and he even falls in love. If this is coming across as cheesy, that’s purely due to my failures trying to describe it. It’s riveting, and it’s impossible not to root for him the whole time, even when it’s only hoping for him to come through. There are lots of blurbs from some amazing artists on this book, and for good reason. Check it out! $20
New review for The Sleep Gas/Dull Buzz by Chris Cilla. Or is it the other way around? The slow dismantling of my online store begins this weekend, so get your orders in relatively fast! Who knows, either I’ll get motivated and do this quickly or I’ll be saying the same thing this time next year…
You’ve heard about flip comics, but how about a whole flip graphic novel? Yeah, don’t panic, the only time you have to think about it is in the very middle. Where two stories combine and make the whole thing seem even more surreal than it already had at that point, which was quite a feat. This is a collection of comics that have mostly (but not entirely) been collected in other things, but it was also another case where you’d have a difficult to impossible time to get all of those books, so just enjoy the new stuff, alright? Chris’s comics are damned near indescribable in any kind of linear sense and you’d have to be a dummy to try. Oh hi, here I am, about to do that! Stories in here tend to wander off, or end with explosive vomiting, so I’ll just stick to some of my personal highlights, and you can quietly disagree from the comfort of your home/coffee shop/car at a stoplight. The wordless tale of the murderous toothpaste golem was terrifying and somehow bittersweet, the released killer who accidentally killed his own kid left me with a few questions (that I almost certainly wouldn’t want answered), the inventor of the sleep gas probably got what was coming to him, and the diner conversation that led to the overlapping story was surrealiest thing to ever surreal. Yes, I mean that in a good way. Other than that the madness is best discovered for yourself, without any preconceived notions to push you one way or the other. $20
New review today for My Life in Records #6 by Grant Thomas. How long until I screw up and put “2020” up there for one of these updates?
My Life in Records #6
Warning: as of 1/3/21, I’m getting a “dangerous website” warning about Grant’s website. It worked before, so I’m hoping it’s only temporary and he’ll get it sorted out. Which is a shame, as this is probably his best issue of My Life in Records, but I might be biased because my own experiences reflect his journey into music quite a bit. I was maybe a few years ahead of him, and didn’t have the constant Christian radio station as my only other musical knowledge, but I also had the Theodore sampler CD and can still picture the cover in my head. Just checked the Googles to verify and yep, that’s the one! But enough about me, even though music and lyrics trigger memories, which means that Grant did his job here very well indeed. This one starts off with his gradual sampling of the local alternative station, eventually leading to it being the only thing he listened to. Public Enemy was his first foray into actual rap and was a transformative experience and, as you can probably guess from the cover, he also found his way to Nirvana. Seeing that music transform him was a joyful experience; even a flu going through his camp wasn’t enough to dull his enthusiasm. The book looks amazing (huzzah for full color), and although I’m biased because of my musical overlap, I’d guess it would be a fascinating journey for anybody who loves music. $7.50 (whenever he gets his website working again)
Hey, that terrible year somehow ended! New review today for Why Art? by Eleanor Davis, because I wanted to start off on a high note. I’m taking the weekend off, then after that I’ll start dismantling the online store bit by bit. So last chance for getting everything that’s still listed! After that it’ll all depend on your timing. And if anybody has any ideas on what I should do with any profits from comics made by people who have since passed away, please let me know. I’m leaning towards a lump donation to the CBLDF, because the idea of hunting down next of kin so I can give them $4 in proceeds, dredging up awful memories in the process, seems less than ideal…
See, I had this idea in my head of what this book would be like. Eleanor would list various types of art, how it made different people feel, whether any variation had any more inherent value than another, etc. And it did start off that way, sort of! But at the end of the day she was, as always, far too clever and creative for me to guess what was coming. This is one of those cases where you’re better off knowing little or nothing before reading this, so if you’re familiar with some of her other work and are just here wondering if this one is good too, well, yes. It’s very good, in fact. So, safe in that knowledge, please wander off and buy a copy to see for yourself. If you’re somehow unfamiliar with her work or need a little more convincing, or maybe think that title is too pretentious to give a shot, you’re reading this all wrong. This does start off more or less how I guessed, with her showing a few different types of art, why people utilize them, how they make them feel, etc. That’s simplifying things in a big way, but still: my guess was in the ballpark. As it goes on we meet different artists and their different styles, and eventually see their plans for a show they’re putting on together. Disaster strikes, as a huge storm threatens to destroy the gallery and take the artists out with it, and from here I can’t say much of anything without giving it all away. I’ll just say that the ending completely blew me away, while still being one of those “in hindsight I should have seen this coming” endings. The thing about that type of ending: more often than not, it just means that artist knows exactly what they’re doing and had every aspect of the story so nailed down that there’s no other way things could have gone. I find myself tempted towards nostalgia more and more these days, so maybe I’ll dig up some of her older comics. Or maybe they’re things she prefers stay buried? Eh, I’ll think about it. Either way, this is Eleanor at the top of her game and everybody who has ever asked themselves that title question should give this a shot. $15
New review today for To Know You’re Alive by Dakota McFadzean! Just one more gentle reminder: after the first of the year I’m going to start contacting people who have books in my online store and sending their unsold comics back to them. I’d love to be able to tell them that they sold more books (and give them more money), because I’m going to feel like a real heel with a few people whose books never sold, so buy some comics now! It’s not their fault, the store has always been a disaster, but you know what I mean. Once we hit 2021 I’ll still be taking orders for a bit, but that store will steadily be getting smaller and smaller until it’s gone.
What an absolute roller coaster of a book, and I mean that in the best possible way. This is a collection of Dakota’s stories, a few of which I’ve reviewed here from other books (although I either got an important detail wrong in the Danny story or he changed it slightly for this book). So if you’ve read everything he’s ever done, I guess you might have already seen more than a few of these stories, but believe you me, seeing them all put together, contrasting them all against each other, is worth the price of admission. There are about a dozen stories here in all, and although I’ll try to hit some of the high points, please be aware that I won’t be able to do most of them justice in a review. Which is the way it often is, but you know, sometimes I feel like saying it anyway. His first story accurately captures the easy an uncomplicated magic of childhood, how flying and creating life are the easiest things in the world if you don’t actually try to do them. Then there’s the piece about Danny, which I reviewed before (but I’d swear he’s updated it for this book). He’s new in school, had to leave his previous school and finds it impossible to make friends. Mostly because he’s not trying and is, to all outside appearances, a terrible kid. It’s a testament to Dakota’s skills that it’s impossible not to feel sympathy for him when it’s all said and done. There’s the casual, almost unnoticed horror of Good Find, the escalating dares of The Truck, the terrifying coming to terms of Ghostie, the bragging time travelers of Posthumans, the switch from mundane to deeply unsettling in Debug Mode, and what it might actually be like to be the first person to discover an alien. But wait, there’s more! The two page spread of faux newspaper comic strips has so much goodness that I’m not even going to describe anything about it; once you get this book you’ll be glad to be unspoiled. And somehow, after all this joy, madness, terror and hope, he manages to finish up with a raw and and honest look at parenting his small child, the balancing act of trying to stay a good person while doing so and somehow finding a moment or two for his own life in the midst of it all. Well, A child, anyway. I have no idea if it’s meant to be autobiographical. This is a thoroughly impressive book, and I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough. $20
New review today for Coin-Op Carnival #1 by Ryan Claytor & Nick Baldridge, which is not to be missed if you have any interest in pinball machines, old or new.
Quick, a show of hands: who remembers Ryan from the days of his mini comics with the fuzzy covers? You’d have to be a very long time reader to get that reference, but I was reviewing his comics a decade (longer?) ago, but he hasn’t had many comics out for awhile, what with life and all. So imagine my surprise when I got word about this one! OK, technically, it’s not a comic, more of an interview/review/historical… book? Zine with the highest production values I’ve ever seen? Eh, I’ve never been good with these labels. This is clearly a labor of love from Ryan and Nick, and it’s all about pinball games and old-timey coin-op games. You already know what that means if you’ve ever seen one; generally speaking they were games of skill with intricately designed exteriors. Yes, that’s vague, but try a Google image search and you’ll see what I’m talking about. This one starts off with Ryan and Nick talking about their plans for the book (in one of the two straight up comics), then quickly transitions into their interview with Wayne Neyens. Who’s that? Only a 99 year old man who’s still sharp as the proverbial tack, and one of the most prolific pinball inventors in the world. It’s a wide-ranging interview that covers a lot more than pinball; I’m glad they let the interview wander, because the man has had a fascinating life. From there they have some extensive reviews of Mystic Marvel and Space Pilot, two of those old-timey games I mentioned earlier. Also included is an explanation for the inner workings of these types of games, which was riveting to a dummy like me who has no idea about that kind of thing, and a review for a DVD tour of the Cliff House, which is an extensive museum of these artifacts. The place has an in-house blacksmith to replace broken parts! The only negative thing I have to say is that I wish they explained a few more of the terms, but generally speaking they did a good job with that, and this is clearly geared more towards a person who already has a working knowledge of this stuff and not a tourist like me. If that’s you, you will absolutely love this book, and they plan on putting another one out every two years. If you’re a casual fan like me, I was glued to the page all the way through, which is about as positive a review as I can give. Try it out, why don’t you! $15
New review today for Trolls: 1 Trip 2 Many by Michael Aushenker, which is the second comic this week to involve an ill-advised trip to space. Note: no space travel was involved in my next review.
Trolls: 1 Trip 2 Many
There comes a time in the life of every reviewer that you end up not particularly liking a comic from an artist that you generally like quite a bit. Hey, they can’t all be home runs! And reviews are inherently subjective, and nobody should take one review from one person to mean all that much in the grand scheme of things, etc. So with all those caveats out of the way: this one was only so-so. The thing I like about Michael’s other comics is the madcap insanity of it all, how he can make what would otherwise be mundane situations (and situations that are very much not mundane) into surreal adventures. He’s made me think about a few jobs in a whole new light, while making me laugh out loud more than a few times. That being said, this one just kind of petered out. And it got off to such a strong start! Our heroes, after their previous adventures, are basically legit heroes, and are allowed to slack off at their job with no consequences. But then an expendable crew is needed for a mission to Mars, so they get the call. Great set-up, right? Based on his previous comics I was expecting all kinds of hijinx. This is one of those rare occasions where I’ll have to spoil the ending, so feel free to stop reading this now if you’d rather not know. Pick up some of his other books, you’ll probably love them! Anyway, they crash land, run into an alien, and… wait for death. There are still a few good gags in here after that, but the page layout is exactly the same from then on out, with them all crumpled into a slowly dissolving heap together and chatting. I’m talking no movement outside of an occasional gesture. If he was just looking to demonstrate the awfulness of dying in space, kudos, and maybe it’s my fault for expecting wackiness. But it’s a grim end, oddly punctuated with jokes. Of course, they might not be dead, and however they possibly manage to get away from Mars could make this setup worthwhile. But this one could have been half the length without the reader missing out on a whole lot, which is a shame. He sent along other comics, and I’ll be getting to those shortly, because I strongly suspect (based on his past work) that this was a rare dud from the man. But for now, pass on this and check out some of his previous comics. $4
New review today for Sportsbar, New York Part II by Martin Pohl, which you can tell is very fancy because of the Roman numerals. Also it’s the first of two comics this week that feature unqualified characters being sent into space, and no, I did not plan things that way.
Sportsbar, New York Part II
The saga continues! OK, maybe not a saga, but a story, certainly. Well, probably. I mean, it follows a linear progression of event, more or less, although the ending kind of… eh, you know what? Unless you read it you won’t get it. This time around we spend most of our time with the two rabbits, as they take acid, get away for awhile and then get even further away as they’re sent into space. This evolves (devolves?) into a series of gags about the instruction manual for the ship, which you may or may not find amusing, I don’t know the kind of stuff that makes you laugh. Also included are a few strips about our other characters and their attempts to prevent (or induce) suicide, based on their feelings on irreparable innocence. There’s also a series of probably fake quotes, and another introduction by a fictional CEO who is not the same fictional CEO as the first issue. It’s a pile of weirdness, that’s for sure, but I got a kick out of it. Probably $5 like the last one, but it’s not listed in his store yet for some reason…
Yes, believe it or not, my work with elections can actually be very busy even after everybody else stops paying attention. I’d explain why, but I can see people nodding off from here. New review today for Plastic People #5 by Brian Canini, if all goes well I should be able to get a few reviews up next week.
Some good news for those of you who like their comics in bigger installments: Brian has been selling compendiums of three issues each on his website. So instead of an 8 page installment, you get a 24 page installment and even save a buck! Wow, did that ever sound like a commercial. But hey, I’m enjoying this, and we live in an age of instant gratification, so I get it if reading this story in 8 page bites isn’t enough. Wasn’t there a comic here to review? This time around we see the reaction of the big corporation to the news of the murder of their model. It’s about as awful and soulless as you might expect: they need to be reminded of who this person was, desperately cast around for some reason why it might not be murder (because they thought they had that issue solved decades ago), and of course the best possible way to spin it. It’s gross, but it’s also a thoroughly realistic imagining of how this world would handle a problem like this. Somehow Brian is managing to stay roughly 10 issues ahead of me, as he’s up to #14 as of this review, but there’s only one of me over here! Maybe if that benevolent billionaire ever comes around and hands me a sack of cash I could hire somebody just to review his books… $2
New review today for The Audra Show #5 by Audra Stang! So hey, if you order anything from the store over this holiday gap, I’ll throw in something extra. A few comics, maybe some original artwork I have laying around, something. Maybe that will be the tiniest incentive to convince people to stay home for Thanksgiving? Eh, probably not. Oh, and since I’m selling some non-store small press stuff on eBay, I should probably include that link here. You know, if you were looking for comics by Julie Doucet, Jason Lutes, Chester Brown, Peter Bagge or Adrian Tomine. I’ll be adding more stuff soon probably, it’ll basically be the “hey wait a minute, I already have these books in a collected edition” comics…
The Audra Show #5
It’s all 1988 this time around, with two stories, although the one with Owen takes up most of the book. Yeah, I’m jumping right in; I’m assuming everybody reading this already has the previous 4 issues, correct? It’d be a little odd to just jump in with a review of the fifth one. If not, go ahead and order them from her and then come back to this, otherwise you’ll be more than a bit lost. So anyway, Owen is trying to sell his bioluminescent goldfish to Margaux Delmar, but he doesn’t realize that he has something she values far more: what’s under his shirt. Mind out of the gutter, creeps! I’m talking about that thing that would be a spoiler that I’ve somehow managed to avoid mentioning in reviewing the first four issues, so I’ll keep that policy intact. They take their business to a different location, she tries to seduce him, and that’s all you’re getting out of me on that front. The other, much shorter story is a conversation between Bea and Flower, as one of them just wants to have fun and the other just wants to worry about what might happen when her boyfriend gets back to town. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which is which. Looking at Audra’s website it looks like a few things are happening: she’s working on a collected edition (although I don’t know the number of issues it covers) and she’s going to start selling comic bundles for a reduced price. In other words, it will be much easier to get caught up with the Audraverse very soon so, again, you should probably do that if you haven’t already. $5