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
I think I’ve finally found a good word to describe Meatcake: hodge-podge. OK, maybe that’s two words, but that’s the word this comic brings to mind for me. Every issue I’ve read has had a mix of all kinds of different stories, yet it’s only the size of a regular comic and I’ve never gotten the feeling that I was missing out on something by the stories being so short. I wouldn’t mind seeing a full-length story from Dame, sure, but I like the short stuff she’s doing now just fine. So what’s this comic about? Vampires, dolls, wolves, Sept. 11, absinthe, haunted houses, sex, witches, eggs, and Rapunzel. Go ahead, try to fit more stuff into another comic. Not recommended for people who like reading long stories, but anybody who doesn’t mind their mind wandering around a bit should love this. Any chance of a collection of some kind, Fantagraphics?
Have you ever gone through some old comics, come across something you loved back when you got it and are surprised to see that that’s the only issue you bought? Well, join the club. I remember getting this one for the Alan Moore story, but it’s probably the weakest thing in the issue, and it’s a pretty damned good story. I know I didn’t see this one on the shelves ever, but I certainly sought out stuff that was harder to find than this. Whatever, put it right up there towards the top of the list of stuff I’ll get as soon as humanly possible. So, what about the comic? Well, the story written by Alan Moore is all about Wellington, a little orphaned girl, and what happens throughout her life. He fits with Dame better than anybody, except maybe Eddie Campbell. Then there’s a story about two friends who rob a couple of graves for cool party dresses and the consequences of their actions. Throw in a couple of shorties and a ballad from 1600’s England and you have one great comic. I guess I can’t say for sure that all of her stuff is this good, but I’ve always liked her work in anthologies and I could honestly lose myself in her art even if she couldn’t write herself out of a paper bag. Not sure how she’d find herself in a paper bag, exactly, but she doesn’t have to worry about it as she’s much too good of a writer to ever find herself in that predicament. One of the things that amazes me when people write me is that they spend so much time on this site when I link the websites of everybody that I can. Now those are some pages. Here’s the Dame Darcy page, and good luck not getting lost there for a while. Pardon the first scan, but it’s such an incredible page that I figured it was worth the eye strain.