As if Carrie wasn’t already the hardest working woman in comics (go ahead, challenge me on that one; she’s also one of the hardest working artists in comic period), now she’s doing comics with excerpts from various non-fiction books that she’s read and enjoyed. As the cover says, there are seven books covered in here, 6 of them being two pages long and the last one being only one page. Which is a shame, as it’s the one I was most interested in (Kim Gordon’s “Girl in a Band), but I digress. Other excerpts deal with addiction and the benefits/cost of calling for help when you know it’ll get you in trouble (but might end up with a dead friend if you don’t), having a buddy in a strange country and the social status that comes with the “right” kind of ramen, the odd dichotomy of the Ramones playing at a historical location, meeting Sid Vicious on the street and ending up in a band with his friend, the hilarious moralizing that apparently goes on at the Playboy mansion when one of the ladies turns out to have done hardcore porn in her past instead of just getting naked and/or having sex with a 70+ year old creep who’s incapable of wearing pants, how the Hollywood (which was originally Hollywoodland, just in case you needed that for a trivia question) sign first got up that hill and the awful lights that initially came with it, and Kim Gordon starting to talk about why she produced Hole’s first album and what she thought of Courtney Love. None of these excerpts were enough to give you a sense of the overall story, but that’s why they’re just excerpts. I’m curious to read at least three of these books now, and the existence of this comic makes me wonder why I don’t use the amazing local library system for more than graphic novels. Time to change that, and now I have solid list of non-fiction books to start with.
You Don’t Get There From Here #36
Ten years! That’s how long Carrie has been doing daily diary strips as of this comic. Which covers December of 2014 to March of 2015, so technically it’s more like 12 years that she’s been doing daily diary strips by now. Assuming that she didn’t take an extended break somewhere, as her website has images of her of the cover of #38 recently. But I think Carrie has a solid track record of doing this by now. If you have no idea what this is, shame on you a little bit, but it’s exactly what is sounds like: Carrie does mostly three panel strips detailing notable events from her day. At this point in her life she’s getting annoying hot flashes, dealing with a father with Alzheimer’s, babysitting the child of a friend (pictured on the cover, and clearly one of the great joys of Carrie’s life) and dealing with the sudden kidney problems of one of her cats. Her father seems to be what’s mostly on her mind, although her mother refuses all offers of help and Carrie isn’t dealing with it on a daily basis. Still, she has plenty of memories of her father when he was in his right mind, and they don’t seem to be all that happy, which complicates the recent illness even further. She also loves her cats dearly, and I can certainly relate to trying to research and figure out the best possible diet for a cat while also panicking about possibly making the wrong choice. It’s another solid issue from Carrie, and I’d say that 36 issues (plus however many other comics based on other subjects) makes for a pattern by now, wouldn’t you? She has a new book out with strips about various nonfiction books that she’s read that looks interesting, but you could pick just about any comic that she has available randomly and be in for a treat.
You Don’t Get There From Here #35
Hey daily diary comics artists, you think you have it rough? You think it’s tough to stick to a daily drawing schedule? Well, Carrie sprained BOTH of her wrists and still didn’t miss a day. Good luck topping that! Granted, for all I know she went back and finished the strips when she was healed, but I didn’t get that impression while reading the book. She did sometimes go more minimal with her images, but only slightly, and not missing a beat after having that happen is incredibly impressive. If you have no idea what this series is you have some serious catching up to do, as very few small press comics outside of King Cat can boast about getting up to 35 issues in a series. Basically these are diary strips about Carrie, and she’s a master of the format and could teach some young cartoonists a few things. A lot of her strips are regular three panel stories, but when she goes on vacation or has a lot to talk about she seamlessly switches over to using between a few and several pages to cover the events of that day. She even puts the date and the concept of the comic at the start of each issue (this one covers October-December of 2014), so anybody who does stumble across this will know quickly what they’re picking up. Subjects in here include spending time with her cats, babysitting the kids of her friends (I think; the danger of missing a few issues of a daily diary comic is that some of the specifics fly out of my head), taking a trip to Oaxaca (and then reading the Steve Lafler comic set in that area), and dealing with menopause (mostly the hot/cold flashes and what she calls her “menopause belly”). It’s a great comic by a great artist, and if you have any sense you’re already following her series. If not, now’s your chance to get caught up! You can buy most of her books through Spit and a Half (from John Porcellino) or she has plenty of samples up at her website.
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.
Damn, now that’s how you put together a fantastic anthology. The stories in here are of various lengths, but it gets going with a 20 page story by Eric Orner dealing with his coming to terms with his sexuality, dating a woman in college, having a right wing nut of a father and generally not having much of a source to educate himself about being gay. The social progress this country has gone through in the last five years on this front has been staggering (it’s like the majority of the country realized all at once that they were being homophobic assholes and all decided to stop and pretend like it never happened), but it’s stories like Eric’s that remind the youngsters that there were very few options when you were growing up gay in the 70’s and 80’s. The closet was a lifesaver back in those days. Anyway, I’m rambling, and I haven’t even gotten to the other 32 (!) creators in here. Highlights include (and I don’t think there’s a single actively bad story in here, for the record) Annie Murphy’s story about her elderly closeted relatives and wondering what their lives were like, Marinaomi’s first time being an awkward threesome, Ed Nuce and the rules of survival at death metal shows, Dylan Edwards and his childhood friend who referred to his Transformers toys with headlights in robot form as women to try to even out the gender imbalance, Justin Hall’s story about dating a man with (unbeknownst to him) serious mental issues while Justin just thought the guy was trying to work out his life, Jennifer Camper’s hardboiled detective story, Terrance Griep’s most painful wrestling injury, Edie Fake’s hilarious two pages of jokes told by somebody trying to pay to get into a sex show, Steve MacIsaac’s coming face to face with his childhood bully and the unlikely way the conversation ended up going, Andy Hartzell’s story of Pvt. Manning (in his own words) talking about his potential gender reassignment surgery on top of trying to come to terms with his conscience about all of the awful things he knew that the U.S. was doing around the world, Carrie McNinch’s first summer love, and Sasha Steinberg’s triumphant tale of a drag queen buying panty hose. That’s right, I somehow didn’t mention Howard Cruse (who’s been at this for decades and who at least partially started gay comics in general), Craig Bostick, L. Nichols or Rob Kirby, all favorites of mine. So that should tell you the level of quality you’re going to be getting here, right? Oh, and since I’ve been cranky about it in past anthologies, I should mention that Rob does everything right in editing this thing. Creator names at the top of every page? Brilliant! Check it out and enjoy, but set aside an afternoon for it, as this here is a hefty pile of stories. $29.99
Has the theme of falling on your face/ass/other ever been the subject of a comics anthology before? I can’t think of one, but it’s such a natural fit. This naturally made me think of various falls in my life, and I kept coming back to one what wasn’t really a fall and also wasn’t me. I was walking with a couple of friends on an icy road years ago. One of these friends is 6’6”, and my other friend and I noticed him start to slide. This is one of those moments when time slows down, but after the fact we would both swear that he had fallen far enough backwards for the back of his head to slide on the ground, but he somehow more or less kept his balance and never did completely fall. Not sure even today if that’s a good story or a “you had to be there” story, but it’s notable that I still remember it maybe 15 years later. Anyway! The point of that story is that it’s impossible to read this comic without thinking of pratfalls you know and love, and Rob has assembled quite a talented bunch here to tell their stories. There’s Carrie McNinch’s story of getting her thumb slammed in the door (and her mother driving away with said thumb stuck in the door), Becky Hawkins and her amazing collection of bruises and cuts (not the mention her ridiculously unlucky landing spot), Aron Nels Steinke almost knocking his eye out, Tessa Brunton’s spectacular rolling fall, John Porcellino’s skateboarding mess, Jason Viola’s trip to Russia and the impression he must have left with some of those people, Noah Van Sciver and his preventative precautions taken to prevent ever being hurt again, Cara Bean’s skiing “mishap”, MariNaomi’s bowling injury (yes, it is possible), the cat of Gabrielle Gamboa taking her eyebrow, Tony Breed getting away with one, Max Clotfelter getting seriously punched, and the causes of Rob Kirby’s various scars from waiting tables. With a list of talent like that I doubt that I have to do much convincing, so just do yourself a favor and pick this up. Then, if you haven’t already, work your way back through the older comics of these folks. You deserve it! $5
Comic conventions! Maybe you’re one of the people who only go to conventions to buy comics and don’t create them yourself, but have you ever wondered about life on the other side of the table? Not really? Well, you really should try putting yourself in their shoes for a few minutes. This anthology has all kinds of stories from conventions, good and bad, from some of the champions of small press comics (if the industry had formal champions, which they should maybe think about doing). Stories in here include Max Clotfelter’s first time working a table when he was a kid, Cara Bean and Sara Carson’s long road to a triumphant show, Kelly Froh’s two worst shows (I hope), Carrie McNinch’s problem with shyness, Rob Kirby’s mostly bad day (but with plenty of good things in it, like the progressive redneck parents), Mark Campos’ ingenious trick to selling original art, Aron Nels Steinke dealing with a friend getting a tv deal while having a slow day himself (along with dealing with an annoying kid), Gabrielle Gamboa’s hilariously illustrated conversations among cartoonists, Justin Hall’s description of finally getting the sale after talking a guy into it for 20 minutes, Tony Breed dealing with putting a book together and the reality of the show, Matt Moses and Jeff Worby narrowly avoiding a beating/murder, Zine Crush trying to get a copy of their zine to the object of their crush without being obvious about it, Rick Worley learning the truth about Dash Shaw, Jason Martin showing the good and the bad and John Porcellino showing us the weather paradox at cons. Oh, and a bonus piece by Kelly Froh (I’m almost positive) showing us the moment at a con when her spirit leaves her body. I’ve seen plenty of comics about convention horror stories in my years of reviewing these things, so I was a little nervous about a whole anthology on the subject, but that was silly of me. This whole thing is full of goodness, and should probably be handed out to obvious first-timers as they walk into cons as a public service. $4
Society is breaking down! Cats living with dogs! Cats being turned into helicopters! And an anthology named “Three” is publishing more than three stories in an issue! Granted, only one of those examples is a real cause for concern, but I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which one. This issue contains four longer stories and a couple of one page pieces. Well, the first page is just nine images for nine different artists, so that’s more of an author bio page without words than a story. The first story is “Love Lust Lost” by Ed Luce, depicting three different silent adventures based on the three names in the title. Oh, and it’s also about those three guys on the cover, so take a moment and decide in your head which character goes with which story. The answer may surprise you! Next up is a story by Matt Runkle and Janelle Hessig in which they manage to get right up next to the stage for a Dolly Parton concert. They went in awed by her existence and managed to leave with even more respect for the lady. From here we go to the type of story that never, ever works: the comics jam. In this case nine artists take turns doing three panel strips, with the condition being that something bad has to happen on each last panel. I’m far too lazy to go through this strip by strip, but check out those tags below to see the people who participated. Oddly enough, for once this type of thing worked beautifully. Sure, it veered off the narrative tracks here and there, but the next person in line always pulled it together. Shit got real when the Peanuts gang also got involved, leaving my favorite strip of the bunch a tie between Howard Cruse (with Charlie Brown finally getting to kick something) and Ellen Forney (with the best final panel in a pile of great final panels). Marian Runk steps in for a one page story about the birds in her yard and her concern for them before we finally get to pretty much the entire second half of the book, “Fly Like an Eagle” by Carrie McNinch. I’ve been reading her comics for years but have never seen more than a passing reference to her “origin story.” Turns out that she was kicked out of her school while in ninth grade and forced to go to a private religious school. She starts off surprising herself by picking up a couple of friends easily (basically because they both also got busted for drugs in their old school), but that kind of thing can be especially volatile in those early years. The rest of the story deals with her gradual acceptance that she is never going to like boys “that way” (including her attempt to use a hilariously wrong library book for help in learning exactly what she was), her progression through various kinds of drugs and finally a damned sweet ending. Once again this anthology is doing pretty much everything right, and this time around you even get more stories. Which you’d damn well better, as this is $.25 more expensive than the last issue. Calamity! $6.50
Veggie Dog Saturn Special
I do love the collaborative comic. There aren’t too many of them, what with so many people scrambling just to put out their own comics on any semblance of a schedule, but they’re pretty much always a ton of fun. This is a collection of stories that are written by Jason (except for the story that was written by Brian John Mitchell and illustrated by Jason) and drawn by the people that you’ll see listed in the “tags” section, or I’ll get to them as I continue rambling on about the book. Pretty much all of them have other comics listed on this site if you get curious about them, and they’re all very much worth you getting curious about if you’ve never heard of them. Things start off with a story illustrated by Kurt Dinse about a gigantic bully from grade school who would steal bits of food off all the trays of kids who didn’t eat quickly and how that affected him in later life. Well, it’s told by a very old man, so I’m guessing maybe some of these aren’t literally true. That part was a little vague in the introduction. Hey, as long as the story is entertaining, who cares, right? Next up is the story of a house party (illustrated by Jason Martin) where the bands show up and the author steps in to play a little guitar. PB Kain is next with the shame of depositing large chunks of money to the bank on a regular basis and how he’s sure that the tellers think he’s a drug dealer (when he actually works at a comic store). Chris Hoium has a story about a brief conversation of the worst things that people had done to their grandma, Carrie McNinch illustrates a piece on the dangers of having too much store credit at a tattoo parlor, Joe Grunenwald remembers a friendly neighbor who would show projected cartoons when he was a kid, and Eric Shonborn shows what happens when pranks involving a label maker go horribly wrong. There’s also the piece illustrated by Jason Young and written by Brian John Mitchell, dealing with an implausible vomit configuration that I couldn’t help but sample below. It’s a pile of fun, in other words, and if you’re a comic artist/writer out there who would like to do something like this yourself, Jason does mention in the introduction that literally every person he asked to be in this said “yes,” so maybe your hypothetical project wouldn’t be as hard to get off the ground as you may think. $3
You Don’t Get There From Here #5
First off, sorry if I screwed up the images from the last review. I simply can’t see recent images when I’m editing these pages (anybody reading this familiar enough with WordPress to help me out on that one?) so… sorry. Carrie is back to the daily diary format with this issue, three panels per day, except for a longer nostalgic piece at the end about taking trips with her family when she was younger. At the very least, this issue helped clarify for me exactly what I don’t like about his format. After reading this and most of her other books in this format (and they are dense, dense things, plan on about an hour per comic if you pick one of these little things up), I still don’t know a lot of the fundamental details of her life. Is she seeing someone, and how on earth does she pay for anything, as she doesn’t appear to have a job? You could say that these things are none of my business, and you’d probably be right, but she spills so many intimate details on such a regular basis that these feel like vital parts of her story. For example, she often talks about overwhelming feelings of loneliness, of lacking any purpose at all. Is there somebody there with her, helping her through this, other than her friends? Occasionally a female friend is mentioned, and she talks about housemates, but most of the details there are left to the imagination. Anyway, it’s another solid issue, all my complaining notwithstanding. This covers almost a three month period, from June to September of last year (2007), in which Carrie deals with cancer in her friends, injuring her foot, jury duty, depression, and the loss of her favorite trail. You’re not going to find more bang for your buck anywhere, as $2 buys you a thickly packed little mini. I do worry about her though, which is odd considering that I don’t often feel that way after reading other intimate comics, so here’s hoping she settles into some sort of happy pattern with her life, even if it ends up making her comics less interesting…
You Don’t Get There From Here #3
Huzzah, my favorite kind of diary strip: a travel diary! In this issue Carrie talks all about her trip to Rome and Venice, and she seems to take great care in showing actual buildings from the area. She does a really amazing job at conveying these places (check out the sample if you’re curious) but by the end of it I was wishing for bigger panels. Oh well, always something to complain about. This issue encompasses about a week, from packing and facing obviously angry cats (about the fact that she’s leaving, something a lot of cats seem to sense, and they can lay on the guilt) to walking around Rome to recovering from the whole thing after getting back home. She picked up a cold over there, which killed her sense of smell and taste for a few days, but she still saw plenty of sights and managed to eat many different pizzas and drink many different espressos. As is often the case with these travel diaries, I came away significantly better informed about an odd area of the world and more than a little bit jealous. If I ever get over to Rome I plan on taking this issue with me, as Carrie goes into detail about a lot of great places to eat and drink. $2
You Don’t Get There From Here #2
The good news with this issue is that, on a personal level, Carrie seems to be doing better with life, although not so much in a “and she lived happily ever after” sense, as nothing in life is that simple. She’s essentially come to terms with the fact that she does drink on occasion and that she is getting older and, with that, is picking up a few new health concerns. The bad news, at least for me, is that she seems to have settled on doing comics in a daily diary format. It’s a format I loved for a while and something that has gradually worn on me through the years. Why? Good question. Part of it is the fact that almost everybody who does these things (or practically anybody on the planet) just doesn’t have enough going on in their lives to keep these things interesting. Remember that day a few weeks ago when you didn’t do much past check your e-mail and then veg out on the couch watching TV? Well, try writing a three panel comic strip about that day. There’s also the fact that every time something gets dug into with any kind of insight, the strip is over before things really get interesting. Carrie does her best to overcome that, as her strips are remarkably wordy for such a small setting. She also manages to put detailed backgrounds in all over the place, so kudos to her for that, as a fair amount of the daily folks have a tendency to let that slide on occasion. So essentially what I’m saying is that Carrie here has managed to make the best possible comic with a format that I like less and less all the time. Chances are it’s just me, so everybody else will love it. I just liked her longer stories. Even when they were only a page long she could pack more relevant content in there than anybody else. $2
The Assassin and the Whiner #15
I have mixed feelings about this one, but probably not for the reasons you might think. I enjoyed it thoroughly, as I do pretty much all of her comics that I’ve seen. And I haven’t seen a new issue in a while (this is the first new one in three years), so it was more than a welcome sight. My problem is that this issue is all about her complete descent into drinking and depression, and I know this was probably therapeutic for her to write, but I feel like such a voyeur. I know, I know, that’s half the point of these auto-bio comics, but when it’s gotten to the point where she can’t even bring herself to say hello to an old acquaintance because she feels that she just has NOTHING at all to say about her life for the past couple of years… So, this is something of an “enter at your own risk” comic. It still looks great (but possibly with fewer backgrounds than past issues), and she still has a substantial gift of conveying emotions and telling a good story. It’s just more than a little heartbreaking. $1
The Assassin and the Whiner #14
These just keep getting better every time. This one is from a few years ago too, so I still don’t know if she’s still putting these out, but it’s worth seeking out the older issues regardless. This one is about her complete loss of sexual desire, her constant struggle with alcoholism, her first crush and her newly saggy boobs. Hey, I wouldn’t mention it if she didn’t. Everything in here is told with her style of complete candor and, as always, is worth much more than the buck that she charges. This is auto-bio at its finest, contact info is above if you still haven’t read any of these (shame on you!) so you can send her some money.
The Assassin and the Whiner #12
The thing about reading this comic is that Carrie doesn’t pull any punches at all. I was reading things that felt like they should only be told to her closest friends, and it’s incredibly brave to put everything out there for the world (or at least the tiny part of it that reads comics) to see. In this issue she sinks much deeper into depression over the breakup with her girlfriend and starts drinking again. People who have read this book for a while know that she fought a long battle with alcoholism, so this is a pretty sad step back. It’s weird reading this, knowing that it’s 3 years old. I’ve said it before, sure, but if and when one of these jobs comes through I’m going to send her some money and check out her latest comics. Assuming that she still has some copies around, this should come as a revelation to anybody who’s ever been in a breakup that happened because the connection just wasn’t there for both people.
The Assassin and the Whiner #10
One of the first things I noticed upon opening this mini was all the solid blacks, and I’m a big fan of the solid blacks. And the occasional page with tiny panels, which always looks even smaller in the mini format. That’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing; it depends entirely on what’s being said (and how legible it is as some people have a real problem with that). It does feed into my misguided notion of getting more story on the page though. As for the comic itself, well, I loved it. It’s all auto-bio stuff and, when it’s done well, that’s pretty much my favorite kind of comic. This is done really well. This issue is all about moving out to Maryland to live with her girlfriend and the changes that she has to make. She’d never walked around in snow before this! There’s just a wonderful sense of playfulness and joy that permeates this book. She has a deal at the back of the book where you could buy #1-9 for only $6 (or $1 per issue) and I’d say get the whole bunch of them if you still can. This was put out a couple of years ago though so you might want to e-mail her and check to see what she still has available.
You Don’t Get There From Here Goes Goes To Oaxaca
As someone who doesn’t get to travel nearly as much as I’d like, IÂ love these diary/travel comics.Â It’s a great chance to learn about odd places from people who share a lot of my sensibilities, meaning that if I ever do manage to make it out of this stupid country I’d have some solid ideas on what to do.Â In this issue Carrie visits some friends in Oaxaca, explores the city in great detail, and even runs into Peter Kuper, as he apparently lives in the area.Â Along the way Carrie samples some of the best chocolates in the world, discovers that Doritos made outside this country are significantly more edible than the stuff we have here, gets a horrible stomach flu bug, sees all kinds of local art, samples all kinds of local cuisines (although can’t bring herself to eat insects), and just generally does a thorough job of exploring the area.Â It’s impossible to review books like this and do them any justice; if you’re remotely interested in the area covered or in the artist involved you’re likely to be curious enough to check them out on your own.Â For whatever it’s worth Carrie has been a favorite of mine for years, so I’m predisposed to like her stuff.Â Still, it’s an excellent, informative issue, and it’s even light on the introspective side that seems to bug some people who hate auto-bio stuff.Â Check it out, then go visit the place and see if this was helpful.Â $2
Another day, another random mish-mash of an anthology. I really had high hopes for this one too. It’s edited by Peter Conrad and here are just some of the names in it (don’t you hate it when people do that? You know that they’re always leaving off the lesser-known people for no good reason): Sam Henderson, Neil Fitzpatrick, Jesse Reklaw, Keith Knight, Carrie McNinch, James Kochalka, John Hankiewicz, David Lasky and Ted Rall. It’s an OK book, but very few things stand out when you get done reading it. The Sam Henderson and James Kochalka stories weren’t even funny, and those are usually a sure thing. Keith Knight, John Hankiewicz, Neil Fitzpatrick and Ted Rall were the highlights for me. Everything else was somewhere between pretty good and unremarkable. It’s cheap at $7.95 and you can’t beat that lineup, but… eh.
The Assassin and the Whiner #11
I was starting to wonder if I would ever find any more of these issues. This is a few years old, granted, but I think she’s still working. This is one of the single most depressing comics I’ve read. She moved to Maryland to be with the woman she loved, only to find out that that woman didn’t really want to be with her most of the time. She gave up everything she knew and this issue is about her dealing with that fact and trying to accept that things just weren’t going to work out, no matter how much she might have liked to believe otherwise. Not that it’s all sad, as there are a few random strips that have nothing to do with her relationship. There’s one about her finding out that an old classmate is a porno star, one about her feelings on porn, a couple with her just walking around town thinking and her trying to adjust to living in cold weather for the first time in her life. Every single one of these that I’ve seen has been a treat and this one was no exception. E-mail the woman and get as many of these as you can, which should be a lot considering that she only charges $1…