Update for 10/2/17

Want to hear a great example of “white people problems?” Cartoon Crossroads Columbus was this weekend, and A. right before the con I noticed a late bank fee, which meant that I had approximately $0 dollars to spend on a con I’d been looking forwards to for months and B. even though I went anyway, I somehow managed to miss an entire room, as I realized much too late that there were about a half dozen people I was hoping to see again/meet that I missed entirely. I did have a few really great conversations, and I did get (very few) review comics, but oof, that was a lethal mix of terrible timing and a missed opportunity for me. Anyway, Jon Mastanuono (formerly Jon Drawdoer) was apparently at the con, and even though I missed him he was nice enough to mail me his recent comic a few weeks ago. So there’s a new review today for The Guest House by Jon Mastanuono, hope to see you next year Jon!

Mastantuono, Jon – The Guest House

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The Guest House

Hey, it looks like Jon has started using his real name on his comics (he went by Jon Drawdoer before, or maybe he still does sometimes?). I’d know that for sure if I met him at Cartoon Crossroads Columbus this year, but I’m pretty sure I missed a whole room of artists, and it’s certainly not like I’ve been stewing in a quiet rage about that ever since, heavens no! But as Jon makes clear at the start of this comic, it’s best to let everything in, to sit with the good things and the bad, to let them affect you and change you. So I can’t change missing out on him this year, but next year I can keep a better mental guest list in my head and realize BEFORE I leave the building and the con is over that I missed several people that I wanted to see. And hey look, now we’re finally talking about the comic mostly! Jon starts things off by talking about his personal philosophy, how it has gotten him through some tough times, and even if he didn’t come out of those times as exactly the same person as he was before, he could see the value of the changes and make peace with the losses. I’ve talked about this before in my reviews of his other comics, but this is an excellent way to live, and what I try (although not always successfully) to do myself. Even Jon can’t do it all himself, as he goes to a gay support group to help get himself through some issues. It’s there that he hears the story of Trent, a man who fashioned an entire identity for himself and stuck with it far longer than he ever thought he could. Jon also tells his own story at therapy (about being the third in a married couple for three years, how it ended and what he regrets), with all of this eventually leading to Jon asking Trent out. I’m making this sound like a linear, straight ahead story with some messages, but it’s so much more than that. There’s so much more insight on these pages than I know how to convey in a review, nor do I think it’s really my place to do so. Anybody who has doubts about themselves and how they handle the world could do a whole lot worse than to read one of Jon’s comics on the subject. I’m not going to say that Jon has figured everything out, but he’s a lot closer to doing so than most, and I’ve gotten something meaningful out of each of his comics that I’ve read so far. $8

Update for 9/27/17

New review today for The Once Great Auk by Caitlin Cass. Everybody have their travel plans all set for Cartoon Crossroads Columbus this weekend?

Cass, Caitlin – The Once Great Auk

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The Once Great Auk

Want to get depressed about humanity? One easy way to do it is to learn in detail about how an animal was hunted completely to extinction. Granted, these days there are some basic protections and people actively fighting back against that sort of thing from happening, but back in the 1800’s, boy howdy were people stupid about it. The Great Auk would have been fiercely protected today too, that much is obvious. It’s goofy, harmless and adorable, which would get the letter writing/political campaigns really going. They were roughly three feet tall, couldn’t fly and could barely walk (Caitlin doesn’t state this explicitly but I got the impression that it was named for the noise it made as it was stumbling around). These Auks didn’t have any defenses against humanity and never really had a chance against them. I won’t ruin the depressing tale of how the last few Great Auks in the world died, but I will marvel once again that humanity has managed to survive this long, seemingly in spite of our best efforts. This is a grim story, but hey, where else are you going to be able to see Great Auks doing their thing? And who knows, maybe if enough people read stories like this we really will collectively learn from our mistakes and stop doing stupid shit all the time. A guy can dream… $3

Update for 9/25/17

New review today for Let Some Word That Is Yours Be Heard by Alex Nall. Keep the memory of Mr. Rogers alive!

Nall, Alex – Let Some Word That Is Heard Be Yours

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Let Some Word That Is Heard Be Yours

Do kids still know about Mr. Rogers? I don’t think that was addressed in Alex’s latest installment of “Teaching Comics,” but I’m curious. He passed away in 2003, and the final episode was in 2001. Meaning that people who are turning 18, unless reruns are still airing somewhere, might have no clue who this guy was. I’m going to assume that somebody somewhere is still showing reruns, mostly because I don’t like to think of a world with no connection to Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood. Anyway, isn’t there a comic here that I should be talking about? This starts off with a new school year and Alex being increasingly beaten down by his students and his job. We also see the perspective of his partner Keri, and to a lesser extent a teacher friend in Italy. Keri is having an even rougher time with students and seems to be constantly on the verge of giving up entirely. Both of them have nightmares about class, and the only place that Alex gets refuge when he can’t sleep is by watching old episodes of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. If it is completely unfamiliar to you, there really was nothing else like it: his kindness and decency shone through, and it seems universally agreed upon even today when people tell their stories of working with him. I didn’t know most of his history so it was fascinating to watch it unfold here, from his earliest days trying to get a show together to stories from other people who worked for him. He wasn’t perfect, at least not in modern terms; he had a cast member who came out to him as gay in the 70’s and Mr. Rogers asked him to keep it to himself, as he didn’t think audiences were ready for such a thing yet. That sounds bad today, and it’s possible that if he had taken a step to support it back then that things could have turned out differently. It’s easy to say that in 2017! A far more likely possibility is that he would have gotten banned from television. Nobody knows for sure, and nobody ever will. This book is worth checking out for the history lesson alone, but wait, there’s more! Alex getting through to the kids in his class is a constant struggle, and it’s frankly baffling and impressive to me that he has the strength to keep trying. It’s not all losses, as things end on a pretty great note (finally getting through to a pretty big troublemaker), but I can see why he takes refuge in the calming glow of Mr. Rogers. I’m thoroughly enjoying this series and hope that Alex has the strength to continue for years to come. That being said, if the final volume of this series is titled “That’s All I Can Stand And I Can’t Stand No More!”, I’ll completely understand. No price listed yet, but contact Alex through his website, he’ll be able to get you a copy…

Update for 9/21/17

New review for The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins. Oh hey, is everybody planning on going to Cartoon Crossroads Columbus next weekend? You should, because all kinds of great people are going to be there…

Collins, Stephen – The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

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The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

If there is any justice left in the world (and that’s debatable, based on recent historical events (it’s 2017 right now, future readers)), The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil will still be read and remembered decades from now as one of the best children’s books of all time. It’s also not necessarily for children, or at least it’s certainly not exclusively for children. It’s been ages since a book charmed me this completely, and I say that as somebody who has read some damned good graphic novels recently. But every part of this, from Stephen’s innovative use of panels and dialogue, to his willingness to let giant inky blackness speak for itself, to the reactions of civilians as things spiral out of control, is just about perfect. This is the story of a man who is in Here. This book also has a fantastic map: there’s Here, The Sea, The Edge of the Sea, and There. Our hero lives in Here, and it’s the only place he’s ever known. Everything is ordered, everything is neat, and everybody knows exactly what’s expected of them. Oh, and everybody is terrified of There. Our hero is hairless except for his eyebrows and one stray hair on his face that can’t be shaved down or plucked without immediately growing back. He works, along with lots of other people in Here, at a giant corporation, doing something with charts that he’s not completely sure means anything at all. But he likes his life, his time spent sketching people while listening to one Bangles song over and over again. Until one day, the charts at his job all look different, and he’s forced to give a presentation on why that’s the case. On that day, something snaps in our hero, and his beard starts to grow. Quickly, violently, and completely out of control. I want to leave as much as possible of what’s left for the reader to discover, because this was a joy throughout, but the cascading effects on the rest of the citizens of Here was expertly done. Buy this book, share it with friends, have them do the same. This deserves to be seen as widely as possible. $20

Update for 9/19/17

New review today for Goliath by Tom Gauld, which should be a familiar name to anybody who’s been around this website since the aughts.

Gauld, Tom – Goliath

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Goliath

Goliath! That’s bound to conjure a mental image in your mind, probably complete with the idea of him being a raving, unstoppable beast. I mean, you don’t have to be religious at all to know the story of Goliath and how David took him down with a simple sling. But when you get right down to it, the Bible doesn’t have much to say about the temperament of Goliath, or how he spent his days. That gives Tom a lot of room to play with, and he takes full advantage of it here. The Goliath of this story is in the Philistine army, sure, but he prefers admin work to anything to do with war. He’s just trying to live as simple a life as he can under the circumstances, which is that the two armies are at an impasse. So somebody in the Philistine hierarchy comes up with the idea of a champion vs. champion battle to settle the war, and Goliath sure looks like anybody’s idea of a champion. It takes some arm twisting, but they eventually talk him into it, mostly because he agrees that anybody from the opposing army who sees him will be so terrified that they’ll surrender without a fight. The bulk of the back half of the book is Goliath (and his shield bearer) issuing his challenge and waiting to see if anybody will take him up on it that day. Everybody knows what’s coming, but Tom manages to make that ending funny and sad all at once. And then very quickly gross, but I’ll leave that bit a surprise for anybody who doesn’t remember the gory details of the end of the battle. Check it out, gain a new perspective on one of the oldest battles of the world! That’s almost certainly fake, but still… $16.95

Update for 9/8/17

New review today for Night Door by Patrick Kyle, the last of the current batch of mini kus comics. Has anybody ever tried to sit down and read all 58 of these in a single sitting? I wonder how the human mind would handle the strain…

Kyle, Patrick – Night Door

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Night Door

Have you ever read a comic that oozes? I seriously don’t know a better way to describe this one. From the start it feels like shapes are barely staying solid, that they’re constantly on the verge of blowing apart. Not a violent blowing apart like an explosion, more like a strong gust of wind that blows through a smoke cloud. Oh hi, I’m supposed to give an informed opinion about this book now, right? Well, it’s the story of a… dog man? Who is looking for a night door (OK, that I just know because of the title). This dog man finds what seems to be the entrance, or at least an entrance. But inside it’s all dark, and it drags the dog man down, although he doesn’t seem to mind that much. And just when it seems like he’s on the verge of finding something out, a new character is introduced. Is he friend or foe? Benevolent, malevolent or indifferent? Read the comic to find out, because I’m not going to tell you. $4

Update for 9/6/17

New review today for Ivy Lee: Founder of Public Relations by Caitlin Cass, another in her Great Moments in Western Civilization series.

Cass, Caitlin – Ivy Lee: Founder of Public Relations

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Ivy Lee: Founder of Public Relations

Quick, who out there knows that the Rockefeller name used to be dogshit, in terms or general public opinion? That probably comes as a shock to most of you, as these days “Rockefeller” is mostly synonymous with “ridiculously rich.” Well, that’s mostly because one man was hired to improve his image back in the early 1900’s, and that man was very good at his job. The world would be a better place if he had never existed, or if people with his “skill set” had never come into contact with modern society, but here we are, stuck living in this world. Caitlin takes us through a (brief but dense) history of his work, how he used the son to help convince striking miners that the Rockefellers had their best interests at heart. Well, “striking” is maybe too tame a word, as the workers were in a full blown guerilla war after most of their wives and children died in a fire. Anyway, the younger Rockefeller got them to stand down, which led to a lot of them getting killed through poor safety regulations. Yep, American history is rough. Ivy’s history after this incident is complex, as he managed to introduce the Red Cross to the public, but he was also accused of making propaganda for the Nazi’s. Caitlin has a knack for making minor historical characters fascinating, and she continues that trend here. $3

Update for 9/4/17

New review today for Wag Rag #1, edited by Rick Bradford at Poopsheet and featuring various artists. It’s the first of an ongoing series of monthly comics from Poopsheet, so get in on the ground floor!

Bradford, Rick (Poopsheet Foundation, editor, with various artists) – Wag Rag #1

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Wag Rag #1

For you comics whippersnappers out there, Poopsheet has been an ongoing online comics library for over a decade now, and if you ever want to buy a pile of mini comics, that should be the first place you stop. Rick Bradford (the head honcho over there) has started up a monthly comics service, meaning every month he publishes another comic (or two, like this month) and they’re delivered to your door. There’s a $5 monthly fee, and he’s using the proceeds to continue working on a mammoth online mini comic and fanzine database, which is a damned worthy cause. So now that all the specifics are out of the way, how about the comic itself? It’s a short anthology and the stories deal with misunderstanding Shakespeare (Roger Langridge), taking us all on a psychodelic journey (Caesar Meadows), and a brief saga about assault and card playing. Sort of, anyway. It’s an eclectic mix, and a solid start for this project. For what it’s worth, I’m all for this idea. Paying a monthly fee to help support a giant comics database like that is itself a ridiculously worthy cause, and you get monthly comics out of it to boot! What’s not to like? $5 (monthly, I assume you can buy these individually as well)

Update for 8/24/17

New review today for Eviction by Evangelos Androutsopoulos, which may be the most combined letters I’ve had in an author’s name. Anybody want to dig through the archives to make sure?

Androutsopoulos, Evangelos – Eviction

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Eviction

The nature of reality seems to be a recurring theme in the current batch of mini kus books (they usually send them to me four at a time). Last time it was a lost dog and how it was perceived, this time around it’s a story that was told to a young man about a camp of refugees. He doesn’t know what to believe about the story, which deals with a man from the area who goes to see what’s happening in the camp. He learns the stories of the refugees, details some of the hardships they have to deal with, and goes over the story of the one night when things got violent. Still, it was a calm enough place overall, and the man telling the story was a native, so he could come and go as he pleased. He doesn’t know how the story ends, as he was out of the camp when it got shut down, which is what leads our hero to check out the camp himself. That’s when he sees something, but what am I leaving for you to discover if I tell you what it was? $6

Update for 8/22/17

New review today for A Friend by Andres Magan. Free time is short this week, which means it’s time to break out the mini kus books!

Magan, Andres – A Friend

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A Friend

Who’s a good boy! This one is about a man and his dog. Or a man and his lost dog, to be more precise. Or a man, his lost dog, perception and reality, to be even more precise. Things start off with our hero asking an authority figure for help in finding his dog, and he gives the man a description to help. Once our hero makes his way back to his apartment, his sense of reality fray, and we see concern from various members of his family along with a happy reunion. Or is it? This comic will take you around in circles, and I’m still not completely sure on what was and wasn’t real, but the sentiment was fascinating. We do see our pets as family members, and we’re often willing to refer to them as such without concern that we might be thought of as crazy people by the rest of the world. Still, leave the phrase “he’s my best friend” out there to hang while talking about your dog. No friendly nod from the person you’re talking to, no quick assent and a comment about their pet, just let the awkwardness of that sentiment hang in the air. That awkwardness is this comic, and it’s delightful. $6