Drawing Under the Influence
Is it possible for a really great collection of comics to be undermined by its premise? That might not make any sense, so let me try again: this comic collects a bunch of strips that Derek and Brian did for their website when they realized that it had been left without being updated for ages (I can relate). In the interests of getting a bunch of strips up quickly, they decided that Brian would do a number of simple stick figure drawings to keep things regularly updated. But by the time this plan came together they had more or less abandoned the stick figure idea and had come up with a few dozen mostly full color strips, sometimes one page long and sometimes longer. And those are almost universally great! But there’s a large chunk in the middle of this book called The Adventures of Bugman that looks awful and drags the rest of the book down. But (extra but) it’s the only chunk of the book that literally looks like it was drawn under the influence. So if you’re looking for authenticity, go straight to that story! If you’re looking for stories that will get you literally laughing out loud (and getting odd looks because you’re reading it at work, at least if you’re me) then I can highly recommend the rest of the book. Subjects include the origin of the Drunken Cat (and, in hindsight, it’s hilarious that they thought this origin would be an epic tale), recurring strips about the smartest caveman learning that it wasn’t a good time to be all that smart, recurring strips about a maggot giving advice to kids who didn’t understand his ulterior motives, recurring strips of Big Puff and his unwelcome advice about being better people, the tragic tale of peanut butter and jelly, Drunken Cat and his adventures (that rarely end well, although I would think all the booze would help him better tolerate a lady who says “like” all the time), the redshirts finally getting their revenge on Kirk, and a longer story about the importance of air, told in old timey special speak. Like I said, overall it’s pretty damned great, and it’s hard to bitch too much about the sloppiness of one long drunken comic in a book where that is literally in the title. $16.99
Huzzah, a book of (mostly) single panel strips! Yeah, I go back and forth on the concept, but I always like them when they’re funny, and the bulk of these are funny. Sometimes I missed the references (there’s an recurring gag with what the characters of “Doug” are up to today, but I don’t know what that was so the humor was lost on me), but overall this is a really solid bunch of strips. I don’t fully get the mechanics of having a writer and an artist for single panel strips, but then again these were mostly done in bars, so I’m probably overthinking it. Subjects include a recurring gag where a kid eats from a different type of cereal every day (the joke is in the title of the cereal and his reactions), where all those barrels came from in Donkey Kong, a better ending for Lost, the Crest Cavity fighters taking care of some prisoners, recurring strips of the inner monologue of a dumb dog, Hammy Sagar, trying to avoid a nemesis, the descent into madness of a piece of ravioli, the good of a cure of all the diseases after looking at actual people for a bit, Sue Storm as a stripper, and the master plan of Aquaman. And all kinds of other subjects, as this book is packed, but what’s the fun of me spoiling the subjects of strips when they’re mostly only a panel long? I won’t be a party to that madness. This is also in full color, so the strips look great (drunkenness aside), and a number of them have beer rings (I’m assuming) like the dog image you see on the cover. Authentic! But yeah, if you’re a fan of funny things then there’s plenty for you to enjoy in here. $17
Oh, Comics! #20
Hello comics anthology! What sort of mixed bag do you have for me today? Before I get into it I should point out (in case I haven’t already) that I love that title, as it could be taken in so many ways. I prefer to take it as an exclamation of alarm, but am also happy accepting it in the context of some lovable scamp accidentally knocking over a flower vase. The subject of this one is “Air” (which should maybe have been mentioned on the cover somewhere, but in hindsight it’s hard not to think of air when you’re looking at that cover by Max Ink), and stories include a silent tale of an overly inquisitive space ghost (not THE Space Ghost) by Bianca Alu-Marr and Steve Peters, a hilarious parody of the 50’s style alarmist propaganda videos by Derek Baxter and Brian Canini (probably the highlight of the anthology), Pam Bliss proving that she can draw the difference between a husky and a wolf, a gloomy but accurate (and gorgeous) tale of an astronaut trying to fix a satellite and the consequences of it by D. Skite, Canada Keck’s tale of getting on a plane and getting a one-way ticket to anywhere, two short poems/pieces by Matt Levin about the subject matter, Michael M. Carroll’s tale of some issues between the elements of his Accidentals, Bob Corby’s piece on space cops and their search for an illegal passenger, and a Robert Gavila tale from 2004 about giant lizards. I saw the ending of that one coming, but I am also a gigantic dork with way too much knowledge of such things. There are also a couple of Cornelia pieces by Kel Crum and one story by Steven Myers that I didn’t mention because it is not for me. The two lady hero characters are called She-Eagle (seriously) and First Lady, and the whole thing is meant in earnest, and it is just not something that I enjoyed. But hey, to each their own. It’s a nicely varied pile of stories, and there are quite a few of them for that tiny $5 price tag.
Drunken Cat Comics Anniversary
This is a special for the 11 year anniversary of Brian’s assorted comics, and I just have one question: where the hell is the Ruffians story? There are updates for a few of his older comics (otherwise known as “new stories”), but Ruffians, which was far and away his longest series, is nowhere to be found. Boo! Ah well, I can still judge the rest of the book on its merits. Our “host” for this comic is the drunken cat from the name who, if memory serves (and it probably doesn’t), has never really gotten this much face time before. The cat introduces us to the new stories and does make a passing reference to Ruffians, so at least it isn’t completely disregarded. New stories in here include Satan’s high school reunion (in which we catch up with Satan after he was introduced in Brian’s first comic 11 years ago), Fall Back (in which our hero goes back in time to try to recapture his perfect past love) and Big Metal Robots (in which… aw, the title tells you everything you need to know). Satan’s story had more than a few funny bits, the time traveling story managed to be a bit heartbreaking, and the story about robots sure did have robots punching and kicking big monsters. Kind of a waste of time for most of it, but the ending made it all worthwhile. The drunken cat shenanigans were also pretty funny, although that probably would not have been the case if the comic had gone on for much longer. 11 years is a damned long time in small press comics and, even though I haven’t seen much new from the guy in the last few years (which may well be entirely my fault), Brian has managed to amass a decent pile of comics over his time. Here’s to 11 more years, and to his getting back to work on Ruffians. Or, if he’s not going to get back to it, he should at least have the decency to put out a mini comic where all of the characters in that series get taken out in as many gruesome ways as is humanly possible. $4
The Satan Spectacular
The problem with dopey humor is that sometimes it becomes too dopey. The book doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on when the humor falls flat, and that’s what a lot of this book does. Basically it’s an excuse to put Satan in a variety of odd positions (going swimming, clubbing, and telling a story to children). Derek Baxter wrote a couple of the stories, so I can’t put all the blame/credit on Brian this time. Still, there were a few good moments, particularly in the clubbing story. Not that the other two comics were masterpieces of modern literature or anything, but this one was just kind of dull and some of the punchline jokes fell completely flat. Add that to the fact that it’s $2.95 and shoddily put together and you should probably just stay away. Look, check out his other stuff, if you love it, you know where to get this one. The other ones are cheaper though, so it makes more sense to try them first.
The Adventures of Plungerboy #2
More of the same, meaning more of my chuckling to myself at random bits of silliness involving superhero and supervillain parodies. Hey, I didn’t think I would find it funny either, but there you go. I do have to point out, though, that his cover isn’t centered. It’s possible to screw up on the centering once or twice in the actual comic and get away with it, but on the cover? Come on, that’s just plain lazy. Still $1 and, like I said, it made me smile.
The Adventures of Plungerboy #1
This book has a lot of things that I hate about mini comics. Misspellings, invented grammar, poor xeroxing skills with words disappearing off the page with alarming frequency… and I still thought it was kind of funny at times. That says a lot. There’s not much here that exactly sets the world on fire. The story is your typical superhero parody stuff, but Brian has a dopey, simplistic approach to humor and it’s hard not to at least smile at how stupid some of the jokes are. Not sure if that’s what he was going for, but there are some genuine laughs in this too. Check out his website, there are enough samples there for you to find out whether or not you want to send him a few bucks for some comics. These are $1 a piece, and it’s up to #4 according to his site.
Ruffians #7 Now Available! $1.50
Here we go, back to the story we all know and love. Or at least you love it if you’re fond of figuring out what’s going to happen between the gorilla and the bear like I am. Scar’s still in prison, but his briefly “peaceful” existence is coming to an end, as tensions are about to boil over. Various factions are going to go at it, nobody knows who’s going to come out on top or what’s going to happen. Biran does a nice job here bringing things slowly to a boil and then bringing on the mayhem towards the end of the book. It’s well worth a look, as are most of the other issues in this series, and now you have the chance to catch up through this website (if I may toot my own horn for just a moment). $1.50
Ruffians #6 Now Available! $1.50
Aw, dammit! I was having such a good time with this series, really getting into the characters and wondering where this whole thing was heading. Then Brian had to go and put himself in the comic. This has always struck me as a fairly ridiculous thing to do, especially in a case like this where it’s a fictional comic. Sure, Dan Clowes or Chester Brown showing up in a story of theirs isn’t the worst thing in the world, at least in the autobio stuff. But this… blech. This issue starts off with Scar walking up to the front door of the home of Brian Canini. You may be thinking that we get all sorts of answers to the story here, or at least his presence moves the plot along. No and no. Brian does mention the origin of why Scar looks the way he does (he looks like a teddy bear Brian had as a child), but that’s the extent of the useful information we are given here. Unless you’re curious about the life of Brian, as he does go into why he moved out of Ohio, which is fine if that had the slightest bit to do with the actual story. At least there’s a big old prison brawl in the last few pages (after Scar “wakes up” to find himself back there), but it can’t save this issue. At the end of the issue you’re exactly where you were at the end of the last issue, and that’s a hard thing to ignore in an ongoing series like this. Maybe when all is said and done this will have some significance to the storyline and I’ll be proven an idiot (not the first time), but for now I say again, blech. Oh, and don’t think this means I’ve given up on this. Not by a long shot, it’s still a lot of fun and I’m still wondering where this is all headed. This issue by itself just didn’t do a thing for me, that’s all. $1.50
Ruffians #5 Now Available! $1.50
This issue seems to represent a bit of a lull in the series, which I suppose makes sense if you consider the fact that it’s entirely inside the prison, so what exactly can a hitman, bent on revenge, do in there anyway? In this issue Scar wins some cigarettes, gets the crap beat out of him, and meets his “lawyer”, in which we get some hope that he might get out of all this yet. All in all a decent issue, not something that does a whole lot for me on its own, but probably as a piece of a larger whole it’ll make everything run together more smoothly. That’s assuming, of course, that the series is going to keep moving right along. The steady pace of these things coming out has kept me, cynical as I can be about people giving up on their various comic series, hopeful about there being a beginning, middle and end here, as well as a will to keep it all moving. Go Brian go! $1.50
Ruffians #4 Now Available! $1.50
Things just keep getting worse for Scar, as this issue shows him entering prison and immediately picking a fight with one of the most powerful guys in the place. Which I’ve heard is sometimes sound advice if you find yourself stuck in prison, although maybe not the best idea for an unarmed three foot tall bear. There are also a few flashbacks in here, showing us a bit more why Scar cares so much to avenge the death of his friend, and a few new characters get introduced who are already in prison. Hey, the guy’s a hitman, it makes sense for him to already know people in the place. What can I say, I still can’t wait to see what happens in the next issue, and that’s all I can ever ask from a series. $1.50
Ruffians #3 Now Available! $1.50
What, did you really think that fight scene was over with just because it got interrupted? This issue has the best of both worlds, as there’s plenty of mayhem to go around and we get the answers to some burning questions. Like why the hell does Scar wear those giant boxing gloves anyway? Did Malt have something against Black Jack? And who is the woman who comes to his door? OK, one of those questions has no relevance to the larger story, but it’s up to you to figure out which one. Another excellent, fast-paced issue, nothing to complain about here once again. $1.50
Ruffians #2 Now Available! $1.50
OK, I’m offically over my problems with the main character of this story being a three foot tall bear. Watching him getting his ass kicked for the better part of an issue will do that for me, apparently. While the last issue set up the story, this one was all action, with Scar confronting the assassin who killed his friend (a giant gorilla named Malt) and them both shooting and stabbing their way through each other and the issue. Great pace, good fight scene, nothing to complain about here, unless you wanted more character development or something, in which case move along. I just got issue #3 and 4 today, so obviously things are going to move right along from here. And kudos on the choice to drop it down to $1.50 and lose the color cover. Sure, it looks a whole lot better the other way, but this way there’s more of a chance for people to just pick it up and give it a chance. Besides, the eventual collected edition can have a fancy color cover to make up for it…
Ruffians #1 Now Available! $2.95
Oof, look at all those old timey scans down there. If I had all the free time in the world I would rescan all that nonsense, but that’s exceedingly unlikely. I always love getting stuff from people whose work I saw years ago, whether or not I liked the old stuff, because it always does me some good to see that people really do stick with this comics thing through thick and thin. This one is an uneven effort, but it has its moments. This is the story of Scar, an assassin that’s pictured on the cover. Yes, the giant blue bear with the boxing gloves, which is a large part of the problem. He’s portrayed as a hardcore killer who doesn’t blink to torture a man for information about his murdered friend, but… well, just look at him. Terrifying isn’t the first word that comes to mind. The story, if you can ignore the teddy bear aspect, is done really well. Scar finds his friend (another assassin) dead to start the comic, and Brian makes excellent use of flashbacks interspersed with the real time action in a bar, keeping everything moving at a good pace. We learn a bit more of the backstory of his murdered friend, get to see him torturing a guy in a bathroom for information, and get a solid impression of Scar as a tortured soul. The art, though, was the best pleasant surprise of the book. If you look at the other samples they look somewhere between amateurish and so-so, with backgrounds existing only in your mind. This time around there the settings are tremendously detailed, the people look more like actual people and everything is just… bigger. This makes you believe that it’s happening in the real world. Until, that is, you get back to the big teddy bear, which is obviously something I wasn’t able to fully get over. Maybe it gets explained to some satisfaction in later issues, and he did send #2 along with this, so I should have a review for that one up in the coming weeks to help clarify. If you can get past the bear and like a (potentially) good mystery/suspense/action story, it’s well worth a look. $2.95
The Adventures of Plungerboy #4
This is pretty much in the same vein as the other two issues that I read, but it does start with a really great funeral. No, I’m not going to tell you why it’s so great, but trust me on this one. It’s hard not to like a book that has characters named Kitty Cat Man, Lactose Intolerant Man, and Man Man. Granted, you can still find the same lazy grammar and spelling, but what’s more important: funny or technically sound? OK, granted, it should have both of them, but what are you going to do? Most of this issue is about the funeral and a fight scene, but there’s also plenty of background noise about a continuing plot of some kind involving a whole bunch of supervillains and the Mayor sticking up for the superheroes. This is a buck, same as the other issues, and it’s worth checking out. Contact info is somewhere on the page, I’m sure you can find it without too much trouble…