Izzy Challenge #5
This has turned into a weekend of anthology comics here at ye olde Optical Sloth, and these are a couple of good ones to contrast.Â The other comic reviewed was the first issue of the Trubble Club anthology, in case anybody reads this years down the line and wants to compare.Â In this issue, JB recruited people to do a panel each, based on a state, and have the story be about Izzy traveling through all 50 states.Â It had to be all ages stuff, JB sent an image of Izzy along and the artist had to fill in the backgrounds.Â With Trubble Club, well, I’m not entirely sure how they did their stories, but they certainly weren’t all ages (a plus in my book), and they had a whole page to set up a story, not just one panel.Â It’s probably silly to compare the two books, as they’re aiming to do completely different things, and… you know, that’s a good argument, so I will.Â This comic is less about a story than it is about the challenge to have 50 artists represent something from each state, whether or not that something has anything to do with reality.Â Looking at JB’s website I can see that he/she has experimented with the individual panel idea before in different ways, and I’m all for people pushing the boundaries of this “graphic art” idea as far as it can go, so kudos to him/her.Â There’s also a deal up at the moment (through the end of December) where you can get #1-5 of this series for $3.50, which is a good a chance as any to see what other experiments have been going on with the Izzy Challenges.Â So, to sum up, the Izzy Challenge books are a fascinating look into single panels from all over the country (because that’s what they were trying to do) and Trubble Club is a fascinating look into utterly random jam comics that somehow stick to a basic theme (because that’s what THEY were trying to do).Â Can you believe I’m not rich from such utterly random commentary yet?Â Yeah, me too.Â Oh, and as for the list of contributors to this book, check out that website listed above, as I’m not typing 50 names in here.Â Some of the people I know are listed on this page are Jack Turnbull, Isaac Cates, Barry Rodges, Sarah Morean, Joshua Cotter and Matt Feazell, but that’s a very incomplete list.Â $1
Approximately 1/5 of “The Iwerks Commemorative Dinner”
If I’m remembering correctly that title is to be taken literally, and this is in fact about 1/5 of a much larger work that Barry has planned. If not, well, that’s what you get for listening to me in the first place. This is done as one page strips all loosely connected together. No idea if this was done first for a newspaper or online somewhere, but if not it should have been, as these work well as single pieces and I was just starting to get a feel for how they all fit together when the damned comic is over. That’s the nature of a preview, I suppose. It’s all about a… um, “man” at a table, waiting for this dinner to start, fantasizing about those two creatures on the cover doing a variety of odd things and having conversations. Eventually barriers get broken and the creatures hop in and out of the real world, but none of this leaves the structure of being a series of one page installments, at least not yet. I’m intrigued, I have to say. It looks from this preview like Barry is heading in a different direction here, as he experiments with different panel structures and this whole “graphic novel” concept in general. Keep an eye out for the whole book of this, I have high hopes. Oh, and this is another part of Shiot Crock #11, for those of you keeping score out there…
Is this his first graphic novel? Taken is sort of a graphic novel but in 6 parts, so I guess this one would have to qualify. Or at least “graphic novella”, I don’t know the proper terminology for something that’s only $4.95 but hefty by Barry Rodges standards. Here’s the simplest explanation for this one that I can come up with: imagine what would happen if a dark part of Jim Woodring’s brain decided to attack a loving old couple as depicted by Barry. This is an average couple, having average conversations and walking on clouds and playing with… things, like any average couple. Suddenly the wife is attacked by a writhing, silent mass, and from then on it’s out to get them. Never says a word, and there’s never any indication exactly why it has it in for these two, which is what makes it even creepier. That cover is just gorgeous and you have to love that moustache. Great stuff this time out, but you can’t buy this one at the online store, you’ll have to go send him an e-mail if you’re interested…
Two Stoopid Stories Now Available! $2
With a title like that, how much can you possibly criticize this? He’s right, these are two stupid stories. The first is a hazy, indistinct tale of two creatures in the clouds having a brief conversation. Yeah, there’s a bit more to it, but why ruin it? The second story is about a caterpillar and a robot wandering around until the caterpillar eats something it shouldn’t, causing a creature that intensely desires meat to pop out and grow some teats of its own. Yes, it really does make just as much sense as it seems. Luckily, Barry nailed down the ability to tell stories that make little or no sense and keep them funny years ago, so I’d have to say that this is another success. Maybe I don’t like it as much as some of his other books, but from what I’ve been able to tell so far you really can’t go wrong with any of his stuff. Contact info is up there, this is also available in the online store if you’re interested…
Quondam Now Available! $4
No way! No way in hell can I break this down into any kind of logical sense. Usually there’s at least something from the real world for his books to ground me, ever so slightly, in reality. That’s not the case here at all. Still, this is why they pay me the big bucks, so let me try to make some sense of this. There are these two, um, creatures, you see, and they meet each other and become instant “friends”. I put that in quotes for a reason, but let me build up to it, OK? On their travels they meet another odd creature who seems to want to start a fight, so an epic struggle ensues. The two original monsters get a bit mixed up, forming a giant superbeast… oh screw it, I don’t want to give away the ending, even if it does imply that the original two monsters were a bit more than friends. This is all assuming that I was right to begin with in my interpretation of the story, which might be hoping for a bit much. There aren’t many people who entertain me more these days than Barry Rodges because I have absolutely no idea what to expect from him, he has yet to disappoint, and he seems to crank these things out. This is $4, which is a bit steep (except it’s all in color), so do me a favor: if you’re curious about the guy, I have plenty of books that are only $1 or $2 in my online store, so check out a couple of the cheapies. Then, once you get what it is I see in the guy, maybe you’ll want to spend a bit more cash. That’s my theory anyway, but it’s a free country, so do what you’d like. Contact info is up there…
The Sidewalk Now Available! $3
There’s this one episode of Samurai Jack where Jack is walking along a high, rickety bridge that take him days to cross, but there’s only room for one person at a time. Along the way he meets a large man playing bagpipes, and one of them has to get out of the way for the other one to pass. Well, neither one of them wants to give ground, so an epic battle ensues. That pretty well describes this comic, except for the “epic battle” part. Two creatures are walking along a moving sidewalk and there’s not room for them to pass each other. They try a number of things to get around each other, and that’s mostly the comic. I think Barry is a visual genius, or pretty close to it, and I love the fact that his artistic style is simple enough that he can crank out the comics. That and the fact that he’s smart enough to keep coming up with entertaining stories goes a long way. See, non-prolific people? See how easy it is? OK, maybe not really. Let’s say it’s $3 and contact info is around here somewhere…
Two Blobs Waiting For the Bus Now Available! $2
You might be able to assume, from that title, that this is nothing more than an easy-to-draw exercise which puts another book from Barry on the “shelf” with little to no effort. And, you know, you may be right .I don’t know how much effort he puts into each individual issue, and it’s certainly not like this is the most intricate thing in the world, but who cares? It’s a funny comic, and the world could always use a few more of those. This is about two blobs, as you might have guessed, waiting at a bus stop. One blob is his way to the circus, the other is waiting to get to work, where he is very good at collating. Tragedy strikes, and there’s a surprise twist ending, so don’t miss it! I may be lying or I may not. This is, um, let’s say $3, contact info is all over the page, and I’m liking his stuff more and more every time I see it. Read his stuff and be amazed!
Beak Now Available! $2
Visually, I think the only way you could describe this would be as all out war against words of any kind. The sample will show you a little bit of what I mean. The concept is simple: one of the creatures involved here gets a shiny new beak but refuses to say where it got it. The comic is spent with the other creatures trying to convince said beaked creature to give up the secret. In the meantime, word balloons are smashed without thought or mercy, just for the sake of conveying a sense of mayhem. A quick read, but good stuff nonetheless. Let’s say it’s $3, contact info is up there! Oh, and everything else he has is available here, in case that wasn’t perfectly clear already…
Taken Now Available! $5
Here’s a wordless four part story from Barry about worship and mass hysteria. At least a little bit, anyway. There’s a little man who takes it upon himself to throw away the local item of worship, and the rest of the series is spent with said little man trying to “talk” sense into the locals and the locals trying to agree on something else to worship. I liked this one a whole bunch, even if it did only take me a few minutes to read. Hey, that’s just the nature of the wordless comic beast. In case you can’t tell what’s going on (it’s hard to pick just one sample from any wordless comic), in the sample the locals have just discovered that their sacred item is gone and they know who took it. Good stuff all around. Check it out!
Debacle #6 Now Available! $1
Just sat down to write this review when I realized that I didn’t remember much about the comic. No bad impression, no good impression, just indifference. No drugs involved either, I guess it just didn’t do much for me one way or another. It’s a short book and the main story in here is the character on the cover trying to find some pancakes. Not much there, although I did like the art. The rest of the book is mostly a series of one page strips about such topics as incorrectly wearing bunny ears, black people as wacky comedy foils, cereal (it made no sense at all, seriously), and some pick-up lines. The parts that did the most for me were the surreal pages, like the one with a mirror and fire hydrant having a conversation, or the one with a wildly writhing man getting attacked by bees. A lot of the comedy stuff looks like it was taken from the Sam Henderson school of drawing, which is fine, but he left the funny out in most cases. This is probably $2 or $3 (what is it with nobody putting a price on their books these days?), and kudos to him for at least doing six issues of a series. He has some work to do sure, but there is potential here. E-mail!
I think this may be the first thing I’ve seen from Barry that was just plain bad.Â Don’t get me wrong, it still had a moment or two, but this is the first issue of the Debacle pile that I wouldn’t recommend getting all by itself.Â As part of the 6 issue set, well, fine.Â There’s one big story this issue that wanders all over the place.Â A young man is bored, so he’s given robot seeds.Â His seeds, however, are defective, as the robot that springs up sees hats everywhere.Â The lack of actual hats causes an explosion, which leads to a fight, which leads to more wandering around.Â The story, meandering though it may be, wasn’t the problem.Â The art was terrible.Â Barry does occasionally walk the minimalist line, but this time around it looked for the entire issue like he was rushing to get someplace he’d rather be.Â Good chunks of the text still had pencil outlines underneath them, there’s never much of a background besides clouds, and the linework on damned near everything looked like he did this while riding a very bumpy train.Â The recurring joke still almost makes this worth a look but, like I said, as part of the set.Â Get this all by itself and you’ll probably be disappointed. $1
Just picked one of these randomly to review (as Barry sent me all six issues to sell on the site), but I liked this one. Three stories here. The first is about a very, vary random story about a flying horse named Happy Horse Waxy. He flies around, captures a mouse, and… well, I don’t want to give away the ending or anything, not like it made any logical sense that I could see. Then you have the story I sampled, so no more needs to be said of that, assuming you can read the sample (how’s that new scanner working out for you guys anyway? Better or worse than the old one? Let me know!). Finally you have a story about a man who gets a robot that can do literally anything he asks it to do. Interesting story, my only problem was that there were way too many panels at times (the cover is the exact size of the comic, in case you were wondering). It added to the chaos of the story, sure, but it’s too tiny of a book for that many panels, unless you’re Shane Simmons or something. Obscure comics reference! Hah! Oh, at least I amuse myself. Contact info is down there, these books are pretty random but they also have a lot of different stories in them, and Barry isn’t afraid at all to radically change his artistic style throughout the series. Worth a look, especially with the cheap price…
Of all the six issues of Debacle, this one most closely lives up to the title.Â What I’m trying to say is that it’s a mess.Â Fine, it being a Barry Rodges work and all, there are some good points.Â Those would be Nonpedal (a short story about kids making fun of a boy with stumps for feet) and the strip about how great winter is because everybody wears socks.Â Fonetik Funnees, however, has officially worn me down.Â Â The strip about the three-eyed boy with a stick for a body being abducted by aliens was mildly intriguing, but Barry got tired of it towards the end and stopped it abruptly.Â Ditto for the story about the man who wakes up as a bunny rabbit and has to challenge Death to a game to become human.Â The rest of it was just sort of present, not doing much for me one way or the other.Â Â It has to be pointed out that feel more than a little bit ridiculous for criticizing the man for work that is 8 years old when he’s done far better comics since, but hey, as they’re still available to buy, I do have an obligation to be honest about it, right?Â There’s plenty of other stuff on this page that is well worth your time, including other issues of this series, and this issue isn’t bad enough to “ruin” your purchase of the whole set.Â I just wouldn’t pick it up all by itself and hope to get an accurate representation of what this man is capable of.Â $1
It’s been “time capsule” month around the old Sloth, as I’m killing time until SPACE by filling in holes in the online store.Â It turns out that this has been a good thing, as there are plenty more holes than I thought when I started all this.Â Barry sent this collection of books along probably in 2005 (it’s 2009 now, future readers), and I only managed to review two books in this series?Â Shameful.Â There are three comics in this one, and two of them, if I were a lazier man, could be summed up with “I don’t get it”.Â First up is Pencil & Me, the story of a pencil and an, um, round-headed thing, as they decide to dress up and pretend to be beating each other up in various places.Â They do this until a bystander gets the drop on them and teaches them a valuable lesson.Â I’m telling the whole story here (or at least most of it) because things breaks down a bit after that.Â Fonetik Funnees is just what it sounds like, a strip told phonetically, and I hate to admit this but I JUST got the punchline as I looked at it again.Â OK, it’s funny, and it was amusing to see everything spelled out phonetically for a one page strip.Â Any longer than that and I probably would have gotten a headache.Â Last up is Gunter and Tad, as we follow two creatures shopping and using what seems like random words in odd places to carry on their conversation.Â I like to think I know a variety of big words, but Barry stumped me on this one.Â I’m probably just missing this point, and that certainly wouldn’t be the first time.Â So all in all this issue is just OK.Â Lucky for Barry and the rest of the comics reading world that he got significantly better after this, as you can tell from checking out reviews for his other, more recent work.Â This whole series is still worth checking out if you like his stuff, but if you just need an introduction you might want to start further down the page and work your way up.Â $1
It’s way past time that I finish filling in the holes on this page, so #1 finally gets a review.Â Yes, I am aware that I’m the only person who even notices these sorts of things.Â This issue is, as you might have imagined, pretty raw.Â You can see some of Barry’s unique skills, but he clearly hadn’t put it all together yet.Â First up is a conversation between two armless things, but if I say anything about it I ruin the punchline.Â Which makes no sense, but hey, I’m firmly against ruining things whenever possible.Â Next up is floss, a story about two lonely musicians and what they can do when they get together.Â From here it gets downright autobiographical, as Barry describes a man who always makes fun of his (Barry’s) beard and then has the sampled strip about Renee French.Â A bit dated at this point, but he’s probably still right.Â Finally there’s a short two page strip with a very large head and a very tiny gun, of which I will say no more.Â Like I’ve said, his best stuff is yet to come at this stage, but there are still enough nuggets in these minis to make them worth checking out.Â $1