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Derry Green, Delaine (editor) – The Portable Not My Small Diary

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The Portable Not My Small Diary

Hey kids, or anybody who has started reading comics in the last few years? Are you interested in the history of mini comics, why they’re such a source of passion for so many people? Well, maybe not in numbers, but in level of interest and dedication in following certain artists? Your answer is this volume. If you have no interest in the history, away with you! This one can be for the old timers. This is a collection of the best of the “Not My Small Diary” anthology, and if you read small press comics in the 90’s and 00’s, you will recognize plenty of these names. In fact, good luck not getting lost in a Google hole or trying to figure out what so many of these people are up to these days. Notable names include (but are not limited to) Jeff Zenick, Dan Zettwoch, Patrick Dean, Raina Telgemeier, Jesse Reklaw, Carrie McNinch, Sam Spina, Roberta Gregory, Kurt Wolfgang… you know what, there are just too damned many names, and they’re all in the tags, so check that part out. If any of those names made you say “hey, I wonder what they’re up to these days” then this book is for you. These are mostly snippets of stories, but they’re all complete by themselves. Sometimes the stories follow a theme, like notable dates or moments in their lives, but really they’re all over the place. If it seems like I’m avoiding getting into specifics, that is entirely the case. If you were around for all these artists when they first started, you’re going to get lost in this instantly. If not, this is an excellent way for you to figure out what the big deal was about these people all along. I guess it’s possible that it’s the nostalgia talking and that people might not connect to these stories now, but screw that. These are tales of human weakness (and occasionally triumph), and those stories are universal and timeless. Most of the original issues of this series are out of print, so this is your best option all around. The book itself is $7.50 if you see Delaine at a convention, but if not $10 should be enough to cover the shipping, and I really can’t recommend this enough. It’s rare for any anthology not to have a weak story or two, but these are all golden.

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Pasion, Adam – Poseur

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Poseur

Oh high school, will you ever run out of story subjects? Granted, it is a rich area for telling all kinds of stories, as so much of what seemed so crucial back then looks rightfully ridiculous and overwrought with the benefit of hindsight. The cover ends up being a solid indication of what to expect here (with the evolution of a student), but there’s a lot more to unpack here. Things start off with a young boyfriend and girlfriend going through the records of her Dad and opening up her boyfriend to bands he hasn’t heard before. Jethro Tull comes up, which naturally leads to them deciding to try weed, but they make a pact that they can only try it for the first time together. Boyfriend “knows a guy” (he works at a fast food place), so he makes the arrangement to get some weed. As anybody who has ever bought weed knows, it’s pretty much impossible to get out of that transaction without smoking yourself, so boyfriend ends up in the awkward position of giving a speech in Spanish class while high. This is immediately obvious to everybody in the room, which wouldn’t necessarily be so bad, but his girlfriend is outside his classroom and notices the same thing. This leads to a talk that remains awkward throughout your life, but especially so in high school: the breakup. I’ve probably already said too much, but that’s what I do here. Other subjects include latching onto various personas in an effort to find out who you really are, getting called out on the superficiality of those positions, and learning a valuable lesson about stereotyping a guy based on his record collection. There’s a lot of recognize here from your own high school days, unless you were that mythical creature who always knew exactly who you were (“I was listening to Fugazi when I was 10!”). Check it out, travel back to those awkward/exhilarating/excruciating days. $5

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Various Artists – Cringe

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Cringe

Quick, think of the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you. Now imagine yourself writing and drawing a comic story about it. That right there should make you cringe, which means you’re in luck, as that’s what this anthology is all about! This book has right around 30 small press artists, some new and some who have been around for awhile, who are willing to share some shameful incident from their past. I don’t think anything in here will get anybody put in jail, but it’s hard not to cringe while reading some of these. I’m not going to review every story because there are so damned many of them (and for a measly $8!), but the highlights include Shaenon K. Garrity wetting herself while out with a group of other cartoonists (including a big name guy, but I won’t spoil the surprise; I particularly loved the way she ended her strip), Sam Spina’s unfortunate method for drinking a rum shot when he met the Bacardi girls, Adam Pasion’s particularly gruesome retelling of an incident involving a finger in the eye, Geoff Vasile dodging a bullet (not literally), Chad Essley and his series of embarrassing moments (hard to top the one where he volunteered to breakdance at school on stage), Fred Noland’s theories on some crayons he used to own, Chad Woody and his racist former roommate, Box Brown and his former habit of eating light bulbs (it’s not quite as life-threatening as it sounds), Stephen Notley and his experience of being “that guy” at a comic convention (you know the one, the guy who gets up to ask a rambling and pointless question and has no idea how to get out of it once he gets started), and Sam Henderson’s experiences with having seizures while surrounded by strangers. It’s a damned fine mix of stories, and at a ridiculously cheap price. Save yourself the embarrassment of not owing this anthology of embarrassment! Ugh, I feel dirty for saying that. I’ll let myself out… $8

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Pasion, Adam – Crawdads

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Crawdads

Who loves teenage angst? Everybody, that’s who! Well, maybe everybody outside of
parents of teenagers, as they’re sick of dealing with it. And angsty teenagers
themselves, who are convinced that their angst is the one true angst and that nobody
has ever suffered as much as they have. Well, if you’re not in one of those groups,
you’ll probably thoroughly enjoy this comic. This is the story of a 16 year old boy
who gets talked into taking a family trip, complaining all the way. Also along on
this trip are the father (who is annoyed with the boy but gets the whole teenage
thing), the mom (who is also annoyed and much less forgiving) and his younger sister
(who is trying to emulate him out of a clear desire to keep him around for as long
as she can). The bulk of the comic is the conversations between various members of
this group, but the highlight comes from the title, as the two kids notice some
crawdads in the lake and decide to catch one. They end up catching two and, because
of the book our hero is reading at the time, he thinks they might be delicious. So
they cook them up, probably in about the most humane way that they could
(considering that they didn’t know what they were doing), and discover that they are
delicious. But this is when the mom catches them, and instead of joining in in this
moment of family bonding, things take a very different turn. There are lots of cute
and/or insightful little moments in here, and there’s a good chance that this could
even serve as a bit of an instructional guide if you are a parent of a teenager, or
somebody who will soon be a teenager. Either way, there’s a lot to like here for
just about anybody.

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Various International Anthologies – Blackguard #2

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Blackguard #3

The crime issue! If you’ve read past issues of this anthology and think that this is a subject that this crew could handle very well, you were absolutely correct. My only complaint is that almost the first half of the book is dedicated to a letters page and comics and zine reviews. Not that I hate such things, but sometimes it gets in the way of the actual comics, and I’m speaking from my own personal and cranky bias about getting zines and comics all jumbled up. As for the comics themselves, it’s hard not to find plenty to love. When things start off with a color strip about Nazi superzombie monkey sleeper agents (by Ryan Vella), you know you’ve reading a book with tons of potential. Well I do anyway, it’s entirely possible that such a thing would turn you off immediately, in which case I’d recommend leaving this review now. It’s OK, there are plenty of other comics to read about on this site and not a single one of them has a Nazi superzombie monkey sleeper agent to bother you. Strips include an actual serial killer and the Hamburglar discussing royalties (by “Glenno,” which may or may not refer to Glenn Smith), Adam Pasion (or his story stand-in) lighting an empty pool on fire as kids, Stratu with a brother killing his sister after a stupid argument, scribbling a penis on a “Walk” sign (by Bize), Chris Mikul with the profoundly strange story of Kenneth Neu, Shaun Craike with his crisis of conscience after his only attempted theft, Neale Blandon with the story of the property theft of Mickey Mouse, Anton Emdin with the angriest man on earth and Dexter Cockburn (with one of the few stories of his without visible sexual organs) with the story of the murder of a young girl and the enigmatic diary entry detailing the deed. There are also two text pieces by Damian McDonald and Henry L. Racicot, both of which are well worth reading. As I already gave away in the intro, this comic is well worth picking up. I only mentioned about half of the stories to leave you with a lot of surprises, and even if you think that comic and zine reviews are wasted space (and, even though I pointed them out, I did notice a few comics I should probably check out, making me a bit of a moron for even mentioning that in a negative light) there are still more than enough comics here to make this worth the $5.