Spider Monkey #1
Why hasn’t the world put Austin English (writer) and Jesse McManus (artist) together before now? Stuff like that always seems so easy in retrospect. I should also point out that this is the first issue of a series, that it came out in 2011 and that it is now the middle of 2014 without another issue in sight. And yes, there is a continuing story, so that’s annoying, but it’s easy enough to take this as a self-contained story. This one starts off with a young boy who is able to talk to animals. The method that he uses to talk to animals is a little hard to explain, so I’m not going to bother, but I’ll just say that it’s a unique solution to the problem. Granted, I didn’t understand why his sister heard him talking to his mouse friend and only heard a series of “meows”, but maybe that’s just how all people/animal conversation sound. His sister has a unique way of connecting with the house whenever she gets home, which should also be seen to be believed, and I realize I’m dangerously close to not fulfilling any sort of useful function as a reviewer here. How about if I point out that Jesse is the perfect artist to show both things: the infestation of black lines from the animal conversations and the way reality seems to bend around Spider’s sister after she completes her route. Anyway, these two live in a strange town of some kind where they can also go see a man who custom makes masks and tells stories in them and of them. It also appears that people can get their heads split open and fix up the wound with tape, which sounds like a cartoon, although in cartoons you can’t see their brains. Mix all this together, throw in a school, some history about a performer who worked in squiggly lines and a performance from the mask maker and you have yourself a comic. It’s all a bit more linear than I made it sound, and I do hope that this isn’t yet another series that never makes it past the first issue (as I do have questions that they seemed to be on their way to answering with future stories), but either way this is well worth your time to seek out. And for $5 for this much comic there’s really no reason not to!
Slug #2 (with Austin English)
More new stuff from Paul and Austin. Speaking of Austin, where’s the new stuff from just him? Am I just not seeing it, or has there been a slowdown of some kind? Don’t make me hold your feet to the fire! Ahem. Anyway, good stuff all around in this, at least more or less. There’s another great overheard conversation, and a depressing story about working and wondering what the point of it all is. The bulk of the book, however, is a collaboration between Paul and Austin, and it’s kind of a mess, frankly, but they started without any clear idea of a story. They just switched drawing panel after panel and actually ended up with something pretty interesting, which is no small feat, although it does start off pretty slowly and awkwardly. Overall another pretty good effort, and it’s only $1 to boot. Contact info up there!
Slug #1 (with Austin English)
This is an assortment of stories from Paul and Austin. Most (if not all, I’m not positive) of Austin’s stories are from old issue of his lovely comic, The Tenth Frame, and I already reviewed that on his page, so why get into it again? Instead I’ll focus on Paul. He’s been a fan of minis for about 8 years and this is his first effort. With that in mind… keep it up! Don’t let anything I or anybody else says dissuade you from making comics. Does this warning mean that I hated it? No, but he could still use some work. His comic about how he reads comics was OK, if a little obvious (although that might just be because that’s how I read comics). The strip with the phone conversation was funny, the one about the zen state was just odd, and the one with the overheard conversation was hilarious. Gee, was I saying that he needed work? I must have seen something in here to make me feel that way, hold on a minute… Well, the one that’s called “Lazy Cartoon #1” was pretty stupid, but it looks like I like his stuff overall. Send him an e-mail, it’s $2.
The Tenth Frame #12
Hm, I seem to have a bit of a Tenth Frame gap in the issue numbers. In the meantime Austin has decided to go with continuing stories, which is great in my book. First up is Parts of Christina’s Heart, a text-heavy piece about a girl reminiscing about her time as a child, but not the usual sappy memories about how great everything was when we were kids. This one is more about staying with friends out of habit rather then affection and overhearing them starting to lose interest in you. Then there’s the tale of Abby getting married when Austin was 6 to a security guard who was also a painter, and the efforts of the family to get him a working studio. Both of these are continuing stories and, on a completely unrelated note, Austin is only 21, so he has plenty of time to really develop into something special, at least based on what I’ve seen of his early work. No pressure or anything. This issue is hand colored, like some of his older issues, and is a pretty good deal at $3, considering all the work he puts into each issue.Contact info is up there and I think I’ve been pretty clear about how much I like his stuff…
The Tenth Frame #9
I don’t know of anybody else who could have pulled off this concept, but Austin managed it. This comic comes with a CD with “In Walked Bud” on it, a Thelonious Monk song. You’re supposed to play it and read along in the comic, and there are boxes with the corresponding time of the song to keep you on the right track. There’s a tremendous amount of work put into this (as you can probably tell by the cover), and every issue is hand-colored, so they’re not cheap at $5. Still, this is a unique comic experience, blending music and pictures almost seamlessly, and I think he did a fantastic job. Oh, and he also made little figures of the band, and he included pegs so you can stand them up while you’re reading the book and listening to the CD. Contact info is above, if you order this you might have to wait a week to let him color an issue, but it’s worth the wait. Seriously. If you’re looking for something new in comics, check this out.
The Tenth Frame #8
This man is redefining minimalism in comics. I’m sure there are people out there who’d disagree with me, and I’m not saying he’s the best thing going out there or anything, I’m just saying that he does more with less than a whole lot of people doing comics today. This book is probably more than 50 pages and you can read it in about 4 minutes, and it only takes that long because you stop to think about things that he’s said along the way. He has a few stories in here. The first is about how he was born, a meandering and vague tale that seems perfect for the subject once you’re done with it. Then there’s one about Charlie Parker, although the music is more implied than shown in this one. You also have kind of a remake of a story from the last issue, “The Story of Adele H”, as well as musings about work, his personal life and more music. There doesn’t seem to be much here at first glance, it takes a few minutes for everything in here to sink in. It’s well worth seeking out and taking a look at, and it’s pretty cheap at $2. Contact info is up there…
The Tenth Frame #7
Oh crap, not another thoughtful, introspective book! For those of you who may be confused, well, obviously I’m joking. Even the worst of the books like this are still about people honestly examining their feelings and their surroundings, and there’s just not enough of that going around in the world. This book absolutely defies scanning, as you can see from the sample I have down there. There are a couple of wordless comics in here. One is about a list of everyday things, with a sad disembodied head floating through the motions of a day. I liked it; it rang true for me. Then there’s another bit about a jazz player and he Austin has a great way of communicating music through comics. Then of course there’s poetry and observations here and there, mostly in the middle of the book, with various pictures, hence “comics”. I liked it. His art has a casual, doodly charm that’s hard to resist. It’s $2 if you’re interested, (plus $1 for shipping, which I haven’t been mentioning on too many pages, but most people would appreciate it, and you already know that, so I’ll stop now). Send money to: 2892 Cesar Chavez San Francisco, CA 94110. Or e-mail him for info, as I think he’s moving soon…
Windy Corner Magazine #3 edited by Austin English Now available! $10
It’s good to be reminded onÂ a regular basis of just how wrong I can be.Â I’ve been bitching lately about the lack of readable contents pages for anthologies and how I just want to know who did which strip.Â This issue starts with a remarkable series of images by Lille Carre and goes seamlessly into a table of contents drawn by Molly Colleen O’Connell.Â There are no page numbers, the actual information is strewn about the page… and I went away from the pages knowing exactly who did what and where.Â Kudos.Â Granted, once you get past those first few pages there are fewer contributors this time around to keep track of, but it’s nice work all the same.Â Austin gets most of the, um, page time in this issue, as well he should.Â First up is part 3 of the Francis story (and I am going to go back and review the first issue soon), which deals this time only with Francis’ mother and her life.Â After this Austin has a couple of short pieces dealing with Austin’s formative years drawing and a trip to the museum between a father and his daughter (mostly dealing with their relationship).Â Sakura Maku is up next with a series of vibrant pieces about a brassiere museum, dying and being turned into a tree and a guy who was briefly married to Janet Jackson.Â In other words, you’ll need to read it for yourself.Â Jason T. Miles then draws a letter to the magazine from Jesse McManus, which is mildly odd because Jesse could certainly draw it himself, but Jason has a unique way of interpreting it.Â Finally there are the text pieces, as Austin talks about Garth Williams (an illustrator who influenced him greatly growing up), Frank Santoro has a review of Garage Band by Gipi (reminding me once again that what I do here is a poor substitute for actual, in-depth reviews), and Vanessa Davis interviews Carol Tyler.Â I’d probably pick up #2 before #3 if I just had $10 to spend, but there’s plenty in both of these issues for all comics fans. Unless you just hate Austin English for some reason, but I don’t see how that would be possible.Â $10
Windy Corner Magazine #2 edited by Austin English Now Available! $10
Why on earth would you put out a magazine like this (as it contains brilliant and vibrant colors throughout) and give it a black and white cover?Â Sorry, I just felt the urge to get my one tiny complaint about this issue out of the way early.Â This is more of an anthology than a traditional magazine, if that makes any difference to any of you.Â There are two pieces here that are full of text, one of which is Austin discussing the art of Lois Lenski at length and the other is an interview between Onsmith (interviewer) and John Hankiewicz (interviewee).Â This interview is absolutely priceless, as who in the comics world would you want to see interviewed more than John?Â OK, it’s possible that there are people you’d rather read about, but John’s work contains so much in every panel and every issue that it was greatly informative to see him break down what he’s doing (or trying to do, in some cases), how he manages to put that level of detail and crosshatching into every panel and how his creative process has evolved through the years.Â Then, of course, there’s the comics.Â This begins on the inside front cover with two short pieces by Mollie Goldstrom (contemplative pieces on the outdoors) and quickly moved to three stories by Austin.Â There’s a trip to the Planetarium as a child and his innocent and wide-eyed reactions, the second part of a series called Francis (and I really should have read the first issue before this), and the memory of a trip to the movies with his parents as a child.Â For anybody who complains about the price of these magazines, and they are a bit steep in these times, the fact that Austin’s work is able to be produced in color because of it is worth the price of admission.Â That still leaves two comics: a piece by Fiona Logusch about the entanglements of relationships and how hard it is to get free and an autobiographical piece by Dylan Williams about his mail relationship with Alex Toth, what he learned from him and Dylan’s own progression as an artist through the years.Â As a whole it’s damned near flawless, assuming you’re a fan of the people mentioned above, and why on earth wouldn’t you be?Â Even if you’re not, picking this up and reading this will make you a fan.Â Don’t take my word for it; a glance around this website will show you work from everybody in this issue, then you can make up your own mind.Â $10
Windy Corner Magazine #1 edited by Austin English Now Available! $10
For the curious: in this series I reviewed #2, then #3, and now finally #1.Â I plan on reviewing future issues out of order as well (if I get more than one of them at a time) just for the hell of it.Â Sure it’s a stupid way to go about it, especially as this issue details exactly what Austin hopes to get out of the artist interviews (he wants artists to interview artists about, um, artsy thing, which makes it especially impressive that all three of them have all been equally accessible to somebody like me, who is decidedly not an artist), and also has the beginning of the story of Francis.Â Austin was also against using punctuation in most of these strips, which has the disquieting effect of making everything seem like a deeply relevant run-on sentence.Â Anyway, stories in here include Francis parts 1-4 (involving losing the money for dinner, Francis finding a suspicious letter in his dad’s coat pocket (and showing it to his mother), buying toys and eking out a living, and Francis selling some of his art), Austin showing us a few of his earliest memories, some painting by Paula Salemme, Austin interviewing Andrice Arp (if the name doesn’t sound familiar, trust me, if you read small press comics you’ll recognize the art), a story of actually learning something in art school by Steve Lafler, and a wordless piece by Richard Hahn, who should really finish the next issue of Lumakick already.Â Unless he’s just working on other stuff that I’ve missed, which is entirely possible.Â I still think #2 is the best of the bunch, but that’s probably just because I’m so biased towards that Onsmith/John Hankiewicz interview.Â Still, there’s not a bad issue here, I just hope the price tag doesn’t scare people off.Â $10
Christina & Charles Now Available! $10
I love a good story that throws you off of any preconceived notions you might have. I mean, obviously this is a story about two people named Christina & Charles, right? And if they’re not together instantly, you know that sooner or later they will be. Well, not so much. Ordinarily this would be a spoiler but Austin sums everything up beautifully on the back page, talking about how even though these two people never met they were really quite similar and could have benefited from knowing each other. The book is broken up more or less into halves, the first half dealing with Christina. It’s like a quiet conversation she’s having almost with herself, talking about a moment with her Mom, trying to fit in with her richer friends in high school, falling in love, and her jealousy of the careless ease with which a group of thirteen year old kids dealt with each other. The second half is about Charlie, told from the perspective of his brother, dealing with their rich fantasy life, watching how their cousin Tim dealt with being completely in love with a faithless woman, and how every girl wanted to be near Charlie in high school. I’ve thought highly of Austin’s stuff for years, and this still blows everything else he has done out of the water. He captures the quiet moments here in ways that would make even the most perceptive comic artists jealous, tells a variety of simple truths that I hadn’t even considered and puts such obvious love into each panel that it’s impossible not to be charmed. He says in the afterward that this is the first book of many and it damned well better be, because it’s people like him that, despite occasional boredom with comics, keep me coming back for more and excited to see new books. And if you’re thinking this isn’t for you because the art turns you off, or isn’t your style… no. It’s absolutely perfect for what he does. This is for anybody who needs a shot in the arm to re-instill their love of comics or just wants a reminder of why they started reading these funny books in the first place. $10
Tea Now Available! $4
You can see the names on the cover, right? I always feel like these reviews are a waste of time, because anybody who reads the site on a regular basis and/or knows mini comics knows that it would be tough for a collection like that to be terrible. So what’s good? The story from Clutch, about a woman going on a first date with a guy she likes and having to break down and tell him that she really doesn’t like tea, Dave Kiersh getting grabby, Dan Zettwoch revealing a secret recipe, and Scott Mills talking about his mom. Nothing particularly bad about this at all, although I think I liked Garlic better. Probably just the subject matter. Oh, and these are both now available, so check them out, or just go to the website if you need more convincing.
I was going to just write the names of the contributors here to try and convince you to get this, but that scan came out nicely, don’t you think? You’ll notice that I really like most of the people on there, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I think this is amazing. I can’t even say that I didn’t like whole stories, just certain panels. People talking to cats in comics is either cute to me or way too cute, and Dave Lasky’s entry fell into the latter category. The rest of his story was good though. The bit by Austin English didn’t do much for me one way or another. Everything else is more than just worth reading, it’s required reading. That’s right, I’m forcing you to buy this. The only thing I’m not sure of is the price… $5 maybe? It’s a pretty big book. Eh, go to the website (down as of 7/22/07) for this (it’s the first in a series of anthologies about food) and e-mail the guy to see how much it costs. You can’t go wrong with this assemblage of talent.