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Eichhorn, Dennis P. & Various Artists – Extra Good Stuff

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Extra Good Stuff

You can file this review under “you kids today,” if you like to know that type of thing right away. What I mean by that is that there are two people out there that everybody else attempting autobiographical stories should be compared to: Harvey Pekar and Dennis Eichhorn. Sure, Harvey had a movie made about him, meaning that even casual comics folk may know the name, but Dennis, for reasons that baffle me, has never gotten that kind of attention. They also wrote completely different types of stories, as Harvey was all about daily life, the mundane bits mixed in with insights about the human condition. But Dennis, man, Dennis has lived a hell of a life, and he’s chock full of fascinating and/or hilarious stories to tell. Dating back to his Real Stuff series in the 90’s he’s had nothing but the top comics artists in the field helping him out. Back then it was both of the Hernandez Bros, Chester Brown, Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge, I think even Robert Crumb… basically anybody you can think of from that era. So, since this is a collection of (mostly but not entirely) new stories, he brought in some of the best artists working today. The stories in here are all over the place and from various portions of his life; if I had any complaint it’s that I sometimes wished for context as to what age he was or when exactly the story happened (although he did usually give a ballpark estimate). Stories include his very first writing gig interviewing a terrible local band (with Ivan Brunetti), his first night as a taxi driver and how he learned to trust prostitutes (with Max Clotfelter), a fantastic prank on Mormons/a shitty neighbor (with Dame Darcy), a very surreal medical experience with Fox News blaring in the background that also involved him finding out that Harvey Pekar had died (with RL Crabb), finding out that the Coast Guard is not legally bound in any way in regards to searching boats (with Colin Upton), and sifting for gold with a (literally) crazy friend. There are other solid stories in this collection too, but it’s best to leave some things a surprise, right? I checked a bit online and somehow there doesn’t seem to be a definitive collection of his earlier series, so maybe Fantagraphics or Top Shelf should get on that, legal mumbo-jumbo permitting? That’s a pile of really great stories with some of the best artists in the world that are somehow still out of print. Regardless, this is plenty worth checking out all on its own, and if you stumble across any old issues or Real Stuff (or, if you’re old enough, Real Smut), pick that sucker up too. $10

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Upton, Colin – You’re Young It’s Dark Your Bladder’s Full

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You’re Young It’s Dark Your Bladder’s Full

I have failed you.  Everybody who comes here thinking this is any kind of a comprehensive resource for small press comics, I made a big mistake: Colin Upton didn’t get a page on this site until 1/25/10.  Considering that he was a favorite of mine back in the day, that’s shameful.  I remember looking for him online when I started this website and couldn’t find a trace, but I still should have checked again at some point in the future, as he has a website now (although it looks a little thin on free samples) and it appears that all of the minis I got ages ago are still available, and still available for the same price (60 minis for $25).  Sorry, I should take that out of parentheses and add some exclamation points.  60 minis for $25!!!  That’s some bang for your buck right there.  He has a wide variety of minis (that will be popping up here more often now that I know he’s still out there), and some more recent material that I hope to be picking up soon.  The theme of this mini should be obvious from that fantastic title: a young boy wakes up, alone in the dark, having to pee.  He takes all his stuffed animals with him to prevent what lives in his closet from killing them and slowly makes his way to the bathroom when tragedy strikes: one of the stuffed animals falls down the dark basement stairs.  What follows is (when thought of from the point of view of a small child) a terrifying descent, with an even more horrifying ending.  Good stuff, and boy am I looking forward to digging through all his minis again.  It’s a little tricky to find his personal info on his website, but it’s located under the “news” section and includes a phone number which I didn’t want to post here because it’s not MY phone number, and I wasn’t sure how readily available he wanted that information.  $.40, or $25 for a set of 60 minis.

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Upton, Colin – Self-Portrait Comic #1

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Self-Portrait Comic #1

Colin was always a master at packing all kinds of information into a tiny comic, and this one is no exception.  This is, as you may have guessed from the title, a self-portrait, literally (on the back cover) and figuratively.  He starts off with a lengthy fact sheet on the inside cover (all text), detailing his age (in 1988), weight, hair, work history (admirably, to me at least, only a paper route when he was a kid), volunteer work, medical history, awards, schooling, disabilities, and plenty of other stuff… all before you even get to the comic.  Once you’re inside any page of this would have made a great sample, as he starts by trying to clear up the apparently common misconception of him as a hippy, goes on to say the many things he loves about Vancouver, his hope that the perception of comics as just “kid’s stuff” will change over time (the jury is still out on that one), some other personal interests and his very frank discussion of his nervous anger and how he keeps a lid on it in public.  I don’t mean to give the impression that he doesn’t make comics any more, as it sure seems like he does, but it also seems like he’s one of the few comic authors who has managed to keep the bulk of his older work still in print.  As I have been harping on quite a bit here lately, I wish that happened more often, but when it does, it should be rewarded.  You know, with money.  I’m a fan, clearly, but these are incredibly cheap and you could do a whole lot worse than to just order the lot of these and see what you like.  $.40 or $25 for a set of 60 minis.

Upton, Colin – Famous Bus Rides #1

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Famous Bus Rides #1

If you’re thinking “wow, three reviews on Colin with three different titles?  That’s a wide range of stuff!!”, I haven’t even scratched the surface yet.  Keep in mind that he still (as far as I can tell) has a set of 60 minis available for $25, and that deals with at least 12 series, probably more, and the bulk of those have more than one issue.  He’s a man with interests all over the place, although they often do follow roughly the same track, like this one.  Readers of the review for the last issue will probably have a sense for what kind of a guy Colin is (or was back in the day), so the fact that he rides the bus should come as no surprise.  So why not make some comics out of the experience?  This, like most of his minis, is a short book (8 pages), with full page spreads.  In this issue he shows a Sikh woman (who he chose to sit next to out of the hope of avoiding trouble, as he seems to often ride the bus late at night, but wonders about how she saw him), a group of three drunks (or possibly just jerks), the possibility of dealing with a drunk puking, a drooling sleeping man (who he was oddly charmed by, probably just in relation to the other nonsense he saw on the bus), a fender bender and a man who started cursing out loud for no good reason.  It’s a quicker read than some of his more packed comics, but it’s still funny, so what more do you want?  Again, individual issues still seem to be $.40, the set of 60 is $25.

Upton, Colin – Life of a Cartoon Artiste #1

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Life of a Cartoon Artiste #1

A weekly (or possibly daily, it’s been years and it’s hard to tell now) strip that’s actually funny?  I’m reminded more and more of why I liked Colin so much before all his stuff ended up in a box and untouched for years: the man has range.  I can count the number of funny weekly strips on one hand (Strip Joint, K Chronicles, This Modern World, Troubletown… probably forgetting a few), but Colin found a funny formula and stuck with it.  That man on the right of the cover is the artiste, someone who relentlessly pushes himself in the pursuit of art as a concept and will not settle for anything but the very best.  The man on the left of the cover is an artist, but someone who realizes that compromises are occasionally necessary and doesn’t mind the very thought of “funny” being the main goal of a comic.  The strips in here cover some familiar territory for any of you artists out there who have ever tried to sell a weekly or daily strip, or have just found yourself in awkward conversations with family and friends about the nature of your profession.  Strips in here include explaining to a doofus what it means to be a cartoonist, living with his work being funny, trying to find a way to be meaningful in the genre, the value of other art forms, “real art”, actual examples of open mike poets, getting his work censored, being a Canadian artist and falling in with the stereotypes, selling out, lambasting comic conventions (and then realizing that that’s his fan base), buying indie comics as an investment, and getting his strip dropped.   Only 56 of his minis to go!  Or I could just wise up and buy some of his new stuff…