I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: I wouldn’t be reading independent/small press comics if it wasn’t for Adrian Tomine. I’d given up on Marvel books, the mini comics I found weren’t really grabbing me, and then I found Optic Nerve. Then he joined up with Drawn and Quarterly, took a more serious turn with his stories (at a time when I wanted more humor), so I drifted away. Recently I went back through his work, appreciated how amazing those stories really were (mostly, nothing out there is perfect), and how they got better every time out, and I regretted losing track of him. Why I am mentioning all this? Because this book is a hilarious, cringe-inducing list of a number of times fans, other artists and people on the street were thoughtless, rude, or just plain awful to him. He mentions that most of his interactions have been positive, sure, but stories like these are bound to make an impression. This is another one of those cases were I don’t even want to say what the stories are about, so if you’d like to go into this completely unspoiled (and you should, it’s his best work, and that’s really saying something), so long! Go about your merry way. If you’re still on the fence, you’ve clearly never read his work, but sure, I’ll give you some hints. Stories in here include his unfortunate and more than mildly racist first interaction with one of his favorite artists, the lecture he got on his “triumphant” first big convention with D & Q about selling out, the time when he was starstruck on having Frank Miller have to read his name for an award nomination (and how quickly he was deflated), giving an interview over dinner while new to IBS, giving a talk at his daughter’s class and how it was received, giving a “reading” of his work at a library, happening to sit next to a couple critically talking about his work over dinner, and several more stories. At the end of the book he goes into the story of the personal event in his life that inspired him to make this collection, but there’s no way I’m spoiling that. Like I said, this is his best work, but I read Shortcomings, Killing and Dying and Scenes From an Impending Marriage recently too, and they’re all absolutely fantastic. If you’ve lost track of this guy over the years like me, you’re really missing out if you don’t catch up with his work. $29.95
Optic Nerve #9
Wow, this page is so old that it’s blue! See, if I really knew much about maintaining this website I’d be able to change that back to what it’s supposed to be without much trouble. Anyway, you can read above about how much Adrian has (at least partly) been responsible for my getting into independent comics in the first place, so I won’t go on about that again. And this story is the first of three parts, so I can’t go on about his infamous inability to end stories in a satisfying manner. Basically all I’m doing here is alerting anybody reading this who didn’t already know any better that he has a new book out, as it’s been 2 years since the last one. He says that there’s a big collection of various and unpublished stuff coming out this year, and he says that he’ll get the next issue out much quicker, but I don’t know, that’s what these people always say when they’re really late all the time. That’s one thing I honestly miss from my days of reading all the Marvel crap: the anticipation. You really can’t build anticipation for Adrian’s latest work, or Seth’s, or Joe Matt (good lord, especially Joe Matt) because you have no idea when they’re coming out. Granted, it’s always a nice surprise to see something new from one of these guys, but I miss the anticipation of knowing when something new was coming out and being able to plan around it. Cerebus was great for that, before it got completely self-indulgent and ridiculous at the end, although in fairness I still haven’t managed to read the last 30 issues or so. Where was I? Oh yeah. This comic is about a relationship that’s in trouble, on both sides, and the reactions on both sides. Couldn’t have been more simplistic if I tried, and you have to know there’s more to it than that, but I’m not going to talk anybody into liking Adrian Tomine at this point. Either you like him or you don’t, and I think this particular story has the potential to be really great. It’s $3.95, click on the title and forgive my unrelated ranting…
Sleepwalk: And Other Stories
His regular series has been kind of hit or miss. Some of the stories are fantastic (the one with the twins in particular), and some of them are just OK. Still, there are enough good stories in here to make it worth getting.
Until I get around to reviewing these, if ever, maybe you’re curious about where the phrase “to fly off the handle” comes from. From A Hog on Ice and Other Curious Expressions:
This Americanism first got into print about a hundred years ago, meaning, as it does today, to lose one’s self-control suddenly, or, as in popular parlance, to lose one’s head. The latter was the literal meaning, for the allusion was to the head or blade of a woodsman’s ax, which, if loose upon the helve, was likely to fly off dangerously at a tangent anywhere along the swing of the ax. John Neal seems to have been the first to record the forerunner of the present expression, for the earlier usage was just “off the handle”. Neal, a novelist from Portland, Maine, visited England when he was thirty, and while there published, in 1825, the novel, Brother Jonathon; or the New Englanders. In this, speaking of a surprise attack upon an Indian village, one of his characters says, “How they pulled foot when they seed us commin’. Most off the handle, some o’ the tribe, I guess.”
32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini Comics
This was the first mini comic I ever bought, at the suggestion of a lovely comic shop worker in Frankfort, IL. I know, there aren’t too many of those, but it’s a good thing that there was one there because she opened me up to a whole new world. Since I became a mini comic freak after reading these, it’s probably a safe bet to say that these are some of my favorite stories of all time. His allergy to peanut butter still makes me laugh every time I think of it, and there are just a lot of great, insightful little gems in here. Oh, and I sold my run of his mini comics on eBay recently for something like $80 in a fit of extreme poorness (strangely enough, I have another set somehow), so thank you, Adrian Tomine!