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.
Only the Lonely
The world has been begging for it, so here it is: an anthology about being lonely, standing in the rain and dealing with the women folk. Oh, and its collective tongue in pretty firmly in cheek for most of it. Andy Terhune has a story about potential love in the bowling alley, Thien Pham has a story called “Gummi Bears Taste Like Loneliness (don’t know what explanation that needs), Joe Sayers has the best line in the book with “I have procured a lobster, please prepare for coitus”, Josh Frankel explodes and has some “journal” stuff, Alixopulos creepily goes through his day and makes fun of the anthology, Tom Neely jerks off and pees a lot, Jesse Reklaw does a wonderful Kochalka, and Fredo misses his nighttime lover. A great parody of all of the many, many, MANY whiny autobio stories out there about losing girlfriends and staring at the rain. Which I usually like quite a bit, but parody is always a good thing. Here’s an e-mail address, it’s $3 and completely worth it.
Really, what can you say about a book that’s prefaced with “annoying stories” right on the cover? Luckily I liked the book anyway, but where do you go from there? The main story in here is another one of those meandering stories I like so much, this one about a peasant family, a self-absorbed reality show, a self-absorbed celebrity, a ninja bionic suicide jockey (with more than a touch of the old hardboiled detective stories to him), and one of the sleazy check-cashing places. How do they all come together to save Christmas? Well, if you don’t get this I guess you’ll never find out (note: this story has nothing to do with Christmas). After that you have a short piece on whether or not you feel weird right now, and another about a day in the life, the whole life and that one good Sonic Youth song. I thought they had one good album (Daydream Nation), but what do I know? $2
Here’s a stand alone comic from Trevor. This one is about the futile effort to try and get anywhere in the small press world, although he might not have meant it as negatively as all that. His character, Mason Rubella, is a cartoonist who’s trying to get the alternative comics convention. Along the way he’s attacked by bees, gets in a plane crash and is gnawed on by buzzards. Oh, and he also meets Foxy Brown. Oh, and did I mention that it’s funny? That usually helps a comic out, or anything else for that matter. It’s $2, and it looks like he has a website for you to check out, so you know what to do…
Three cheers for me getting to see two completely different styles of stories in two different issues of Quagga! Hey, as long as I’m keeping myself amused, right? This is about a couple of young women trying to have a good night of dancing and drinking. This happens after one of the women accidentally OD’s, but her drunk friend comes over and convinces her to go out. What follows is a confused night of drinking, dancing and going to parties, all while the OD’d woman tries to make some sense of her life and what everything means. A wonderful, insightful book, this is a full length story and I recommend it unreservedly. Everybody already knows all about this guy, right? It’s just me who’s coming in a bit late and trying to catch up, right? If not, check out his stuff immediately. Contact info is up there, this is probably $2.
“Odd Tales” indeed. What better way to describe a book with a ton of short stories in it? I’d heard more than a little bit about this guy, so I was thrilled to get his latest at SPX03 and I have to say that I liked most of it. Hey, that’s the nature of putting a bunch of stories in a book. Lots of one page gag strips, which were pretty solid, but the longest story in here was “Venereal Equinox”, a meandering tale about war, power, Halloween and philosophy. I don’t mean “meandering” to be too negative, it just seemed a bit dreamy. Liked the overall message though, not that I’m going to tell you guys or anything. The middle of the book is “Urban Pest Gallery”, a collection of the oddballs who apparently harass Trevor (or does he just prefer “Alixopulos”?) regularly. You can’t go wrong with funny, insightful comics. As for “The Posieville Posse”, I just didn’t get it. There, I said it. Maybe other issues would have helped, maybe my mind was wandering, but it didn’t do much for me. Then there are a few short pieces at the end with random humor and violence, and you end up with a pretty good book. It’s $2, e-mail the man or just go here to get that and most everything else that is good in the world of comics…
Mine Tonight Now Available! $10
If you’re anything like me, tales of the 2004 presidential election can still be a little traumatic. Luckily this story deals only peripherally with that event, instead focusing on the maturation of a young man named Lukas, from his certainty that the world was going to end any minute to deep cynicism, all the way back to a belief that he could possibly make things a little better. The prologue gets most of that out of the way and is crucial to show just why he’s willing to sign up for a fairly ridiculous mission: get 5 million dollars from a front group of a billionaire (with the permission of said billionaire) and pass it along to the Kerry campaign, all while keeping his famous name out of it. This is even harder than it sounds, as all of this money has been cycled through various election front groups and tracking down the actual money is almost impossible. Along the way Lukas finds an old friend named Trevor Alixopulos and gains the trust of the only person left working at the relevant front group, and Trevor (the artist, not the character) throws in a few dream sequences and a “newspaper strip” to keep things humming and give the reader a little more insight into the characters. It’s a wonderfully morally ambiguous tale. Although Lukas knows that his actions will likely have little to no effect on the election, and although he knows that his lack of ruthlessness might well be what keeps the people in charge doing their thing, he’s still trying somewhat hopelessly to make things a little bit better. This is probably the best thing Trevor has done yet (although he has plenty of minis I still haven’t read, so who knows), relevant for our times yet never preachy. $10
The Hot Breath of War Now Available!Â $13
I don’t know if it’s my rapidly approaching senility or my bizarre work schedule, but I would have sworn that I reviewed Mine Tonight 6 months ago, tops.Â Turns out that it was more like 18 months ago.Â An irrelevant detail, unless you’re thinking that I’m some sort of authority at, well, anything.Â This is less a coherent graphic novel than it is a collection of 6 pieces, but they do have elements of war and its aftermath tenuously holding them together.Â First up is We Are Defeated, an at least mildly zany take on war, our national “strategy” of winning hearts and minds, the language barrier and the utter insanity of it all.Â Next is Data Recovery, as a young man who thought that data recovery would be an exciting job gets a jolt of reality, then tries to remember if there’s anyone in the world he cares about.Â There’s A Monkey On My Back follows, telling a story from the perspective of a child about war and how he no longer knows where to run when he’s scared.Â Valadolid 1936 tells a short but fascinating story of prisoners facing a firing squad, and if it’s a true story it’s even more fascinating.Â …And His Breath Is Hot, if you want my opinion (and if you don’t you should have stopped reading ages ago), is the best story in the book.Â It’s all about a young girl who meets a “victorious” solider while going out to bury her mother.Â Their conversation and their collective brutal honesty says all about war that ever needed to be said.Â Finally there’s A Journey In Time, in which three characters with distinctly different goals for the evening meet up by chance, with two of them going home together and one of them getting one step closer to going insane.Â It’s not a spoiler as long as I don’t tell you which one, right?Â Writing all this out, it occurs to me that these pieces are more closely related than I first thought.Â Even the last piece had a disabled bar owner who looked to be struggling to survive.Â It’s easy and understandable to have war fatigue in this country, even if our national media mostly either pretends the wars don’t exist or they try to fluff them up for one political party or the other.Â This works goes around all of that and just tries to quietly tell the story of people involved at various stages of war.Â It’s a damned thoughtful book, and it’s making me rethink my policy of writing a review right after reading a book.Â I get the feeling this one is going to be percolating in me for a while to come… $13