Aw, I’ve finally reached the last of these Window comics. Dammit. There, I guess I just gave away the direction of this review, for the people who haven’t read my reviews of the first 13 issues of this series and weren’t sure which way I was going to go. This issue has a few different stories in it, and I’d swear that the text size got much bigger this time around, for whatever that’s worth. First up is the sample below, mostly because it reminded me of a friend of mine back in the day doing the same thing to vegetarian friends, and he got the exact same reaction (“this is the best veggie burger I’ve ever had!”) while pulling the same trick. But hey, that’s just a one page piece. The first big story deals with Dave teaching another class, this time in a summer camp where students were with him for several hours a day for two weeks. He talks about the kid who got bullied (and how, even though he was a perfectly nice kid, it made sense that other kids were bullying him because he was so damned polite all the time), how the one kid who was too young for the class had an impossible time trying to fit in, and the time that a staple got into some candy and whether or not it was a malicious act. That’s roughly the first half of the book, and I’m going to be as vague as possible for the rest of it to try and keep some surprises for you readers lucky enough to find copies of this series. There are two other stories about the professor who was thinking of giving his kid back after his wife left the country and the mystery of the thrown shoe, then this series sadly comes to a close. Well, unless he’s planning on making more, but he seems to have moved onto other things, which I probably should have reviewed before this series. Oops. In a perfect world this series would be collected into one volume and then given to all teachers around the country, so any publishers out there with a few extra bucks lying around should make it so.
These Window comics just seem to keep hiding themselves in the morass that is my desk. The last few issues in this series (which I last reviewed six months ago) were just found alongside my desk, having fallen there who knows how long ago. Just a little peek into the “professional” set-up I have around here for reviewing comics, and one more reminder for you to nudge me a bit if it’s been a few months and I still haven’t reviewed your comic. Chances are that they’re buried under something or have fallen off my desk entirely. So! It’s the second-to-last issue of Window, and it’s another damned good one. I used the story on the inside front cover as a sample, mostly because anybody who’s lived in a big city has either heard or participated in a conversation something like this one. Up to and including the moment at the end when the people on the street lose interest and the person on their balcony/window/roof continues shouting for a bit until it finally sinks in that their audience is gone. Next up is the meat of the comic, a story about a man remembering his time during the Vietnam war. He was just a local kid at the time, and didn’t know how to handle the casual nature with which dead people were just left lying around. He also detailed several encounters with grenades, claymores, traps and other things that, in hindsight, probably should have killed him. Instead he just played with them with his friends and lucked out in the fact that all of the explosives he found were either duds or he didn’t hit them in just the right way to make them go off. Next there’s a story (told by Dave’s brother or father (?)) of a therapy session between Carl Lapp and a patient who was losing weight rapidly and her various excuses as to why she wouldn’t eat certain meals. Finally there’s a long and fairly heartbreaking story on the back cover of an overheard conversation of a woman on a train talking about her aging cat and how she can’t get it to poop in a litterbox, and how the cat conquers all her efforts to nudge her back in the right direction. Who else is going to put a 20 panel story on the back cover for your amusement? Appreciate that level of dedication when you find it, folks. Anyway, one more issue to go, and I still think that somebody, anybody, should be putting out a collected edition of his work. This is that rare combination of fantastic art along with stories about sections of society that will be priceless to any future historians. No price, because they’re mostly not in print, but ask Dave about them, maybe he still has a few lying around…
For any imaginary reader out there who’s a fan of Dave’s work but hates all that times he spends detailing the most fascinating parts of his teaching experience, you’re in luck! This issue of Window wanders outside of the school and into a strange and rewarding place. It starts and ends with sketches from both Dave waiting for a bus sketching people and Dave sketching trees. Then there are the two stories in between, the first of which is called “Other Things” and should be seen by more people than is possible with this book currently out of print (Secret Acres, Top Shelf, whoever, publish a collected edition of this comic already!). It tells the story of (probably) Dave and a friend after death, with everything hazy, imaginary or undefined. Entertainment and food and based on their imaginings, as nothing is real in this limbo world, and Dave repeatedly regrets never having any of “those things” (floating ethereal babies). There’s no beginning or end, just the two of them wandering around and commenting on the events as they happen, but you’re given the impression that anything that does happen is temporary. Oh, and everybody is a walking skeleton, with skeleton dogs wandering the streets. It’s a fantastic story and I hope it at least made it into an anthology somewhere along the line. The second story is solid too, as it’s back in the real world with a few kids who find caterpillars and decide to capture them to watch for what happens next. That event doesn’t go down like you would think, but good luck not having least a small childhood flashback while reading it. Only two more issues to go in this series and everybody reading this should bug a small press publisher to get a collected edition together. Think of it as your good deed for the day, for which you may be rewarded with the existence of a truly remarkable book.
Dave changes things up a bit in this issue by making the entire thing about one story. That cover page sums it up pretty well, as one of the bigger girls at Dave’s school tries to get a Tamagotchi from a smaller girl and her friend. The smaller girls make it clear that the device isn’t with them at school, things escalate for the poor girl on the cover (things get even worse than that for her), and somebody in authority is finally called in. I was a little annoyed at the lack of resolution until I realized that bullies and beatings like this rarely got satisfying resolutions when I was in school either. Teachers would get both sides of the story, one of those sides would be completely fabricated, and the frazzled teacher would have too much going on to make an accurate call, so they would usually split the difference. Dave wasn’t physically present in this issue, so I’m left wondering how he pieced this together. Did he get the accounts of the girls involved? Bits and pieces from various teachers who observed certain parts of this exchange? Either way it does an excellent job of summing up the chances these kids have of getting things decided fairly. It’s probably best to get them used to such disappointments at an early age, he says pessimistically. These books remain hard to find, but if you can’t they’re generally only a buck of two, so be on the lookout.
Stupid Window comics! It’s all their fault for constantly getting buried in the perpetual mound of comics on my desk. For anybody who hasn’t read any of the previous nine reviews (and go ahead, that’s why I keep the archive easily accessible), Window mostly deals with Dave’s life as an art teacher in an inner city school. Things start off with a beating in the hallway, as Dave tries to figure out what to do about it (the beaters are two giant teens who are bigger than he is). He’s not the only one wondering what to do, but the beating takes its course and the scene moves to a game of jump rope outside. The jump rope game, as Dave says, “really is a sweet scene,” but it gets a little uglier when the giant teens join in. Other stories include a confrontation about a hat, the “reason” behind the beating at the start of the comic, and another one of the giant teens taking a real interest in art. Much as I hate to ever give away the endings to these things, I have to at least mention that Dave’s befuddlement when confronted with a very casual signal for a fist bump was a thing of beauty. I don’t know if Dave has the resources/contacts necessary to put this Window series out in any kind of collected form, but the world would be a better place if such a thing existed. I think they would be handy teaching aids, not to mention a compelling collection of stories for regular old readers. As far as I know these things are still mostly out of print, but if I ever get my rental thing off the ground… ah, who am I kidding. I’d need some kind of a grant to get that thing started or I need to suddenly become wealthy, two things that seem distinctly unlikely. Anyway, hunt these comics down if you can.
I’m not sure if Dave ever bothers with any sort of a theme on an issue by issue basis, but if so this would have to be the “unfortunate touching/yelling” issue. No, nothing is remotely inappropriate, but it does rise to the level of icky on occasion. The main piece deals with a group of kids who go to Dave’s art class in a, well, shithole. Possible literally, as he has to plug up some drains to deal with some of the more offensive odors. He teaches them a few tricks, has his heart broken by a kid that only says “hot dog” and draws in repetitive scribbles (although he probably gets his heart broken on a semi-regular basis, what with all the teaching he did for low income students), and meets up with a remarkably clingy kid who has no clue about where she should be grabbing on the guy to get his attention. This story sums up why I’ve been enjoying these issues so much, as we see some of the only happy moments of these kids’ lives, but it’s very clear that a lot of them are just horribly damaged. Not that Dave hits us in the face with this information, but bags under the eyes of a kid and some dirty clothes go a long way to making that point. Other stories include a conversation with a guy whose two front teeth are worth $1,000, the shape of his Mom’s teeth and what that means for his own future, an incident from Dave’s childhood and a story simply called “penis.” This one is hysterically funny and I’m not going to say another thing about it, other than to reiterate that it was a harmlessly funny story and that Dave is a saint among men for many, many reasons. Well, at least in regards to his treatment of children, and that’s supposed to tell a lot about a guy, right? $1 or 2, check with the man for details.
Dave mentioned in a letter with a recent batch of review comics that his Window series had never gotten reviews on an issue by issue basis before, which is nothing short of baffling to me. Are there really that few small press comics review sites out there? Did reviewers think that talking about a few issues of this series was enough? Dave is a fairly well known name in this little section of comics, so I have no easy answer to that one. More for me, I guess. Dave’s eye for revealing and uncomfortable conversations with his students continues with this issue, as the first half of the comic deals with Dave talking to a student about his venus flytrap and why the kid’s dad is on disability. Most of the second half is also a delight as it’s all close-up pictures of various insects and their nests and/or hatching places as he takes a group of kids out to a field. The silent story baffled me a bit, as I know it has something to do with a shower and separate rooms, but maybe it’s been too long since I read past issues for it to make a whole lot of sense at the moment. Maybe you can puzzle it out better than me, but either way this comic is worth getting for the two longer pieces, otherwise known as the bulk of the book. I’m still looking forward to each “new” issue of this series, which is all you can ever ask for from the world of mini comics.
This mound o’ comics on my desk completely buried my pile of Window comics, so if you were keeping up with my sort of regular updates to that old series, my apologies for the delay.Â #5 was another solid entry in the series (I’m starting to detect a pattern here) and yes, you should probably get it if you can find a copy or if this stupid, stupid rental idea of mine ever gets off the ground.Â Stories include trying to avoid a wide range of beggars at a bus terminal, another odd tale about Dave’s time teaching children, a big fish in a little aquarium, and a typical night in that turns ugly.Â That last one is what really stuck out from me in this issue, as Dave lived high up in an apartment building and had a friend come in saying that he saw fire trucks and cop cars coming in.Â They hear loud noises, check over the balcony and see a body covered up far below under a pink sheet.Â They watch awhile, change their mind and go watch a movie, and spend a good chunk of time going back and forth before realizing that they won’t be able to concentrate until this is resolved.Â The really strange part of it was hit other neighbors pointing a laser pointer at the scene or a flashlight.Â It was just a spectacle to those people, but really there’s not a whole lot else to be done at that point.Â Just a haunting and mildly depressing story about human nature. As always buy a copy and enjoy it if you can find one, and if not maybe try bribing somebody at one of the bigger small press companies to put all these back in print.Â $2ish
One subject that isn’t touched a whole lot in most mini comics is small children.Â As they’re mostly made by people in their 20’s, this isn’t shocking, but I’ve really appreciated Dave’s stories of teaching and dealing with little kids.Â It’s a perspective that I don’t get too often, and why read all these thousands of mini comics if I don’t get the occasional change of perspective?Â The first story of this mini deals with three sisters (nicknamed pork leg, chicken leg and beef leg) and the youngest wants to go outside and play.Â The oldest asks Dave what to do when a boy looks down her shirt when she bends over, but Dave didn’t seem to have a ready answer (I know I don’t).Â The youngest goes out and comes quickly back in, crying.Â Dave finally gets out of her the fact that an older boy was pulling her hair, but it turns out the older boy fell on his head at an early age and has trouble properly interacting with the rest of the world.Â It’s a quietly effective that shows the lack of pat answers to kids, and once again makes me happy that I’m not a teacher.Â Other stories in here include a dream of a tiger, an actual tiger (plush), and Dave’s dinner with a Vietnamese (?) family.Â This dinner is more than a little awkward, as Dave has to break up an uncomfortable argument or two and has that socially awkward moment when he’s offered a tray of cookies and notices a cockroach crawling on one of them.Â Is it condescending to consider Window a grown-up mini comic?Â So many other offerings are at various stages of arrested adolescence, and there’s not a trace of that in these books.Â As far as I know these are still hard to come by, and I am still planning on making these available once I start renting comics.Â If you want to read these (and you really should). check back around in the coming months for your chance, OK?
Dreams seem to be falling out favor as a comic book subject, and that’s a shame.Â The stories in this comics really show up the unrealistic realism involved in dreams, and while you could say that phrase makes no sense, I contend that it DOES make sense in the context of a dream, so there!Â Dreams in here include a piece about a spider that slowly turns into a man/monster, breaking a dream tornado by letting his hand pass through it, and Lydia (his wife?) dreaming about a practically eternal hug with Dave’s dad that made perfect and innocent sense in the context of the dream world.Â Stories that involve “real life” include Dave’s brother passing up “tornado in a tube” because his students were too young to make it work, a quiet day of searching the house and yard for spiders, and Dave’s glimpse into the other world that is the lives of his students and deals with the moment when it is clear to him that he can only help them out a certain amount, and that amount is often not going to be enough.Â I’m excited to get this rental project off the ground so you guys can start reading Dave’s books for yourselves.Â The popular culture has a notoriously short memory, and the comic culture sadly isn’t a whole lot better, but these books should be read by the comic readers and makers of today as well.Â You aspiring artists could learn something…Â $1
What’s your general behavior towards bums?Â Or is “homeless people” the preferred term?Â Drifters?Â Vagrants?Â Whatever the word is, anybody who has spent any amount of time working or living in a big city has developed some sort of strategy by now.Â Do you give them your spare change?Â Stare straight ahead and ignore them completely, no matter what they say or do?Â Take them on a case by case basis, so that you end up only giving money to the most needy/most accomplished con artists?Â I was always a sucker for them when I worked in downtown Columbus, or at least often a sucker.Â I’m bringing all this up because the first story in this installment of Window is a detailed account of a time that Dave was accosted on the street by a homeless man.Â He had some warning, as he could hear and see the guy yelling at other people as they passed him, but Dave hoped to scoot past him.Â No such luck, and the man is soon following Dave on his way to work, yelling and cursing the whole way, but all while telling a story that makes him at least a little sympathetic.Â Dave finally decides to give him $5 (as by this point the guy has already had his arm around Dave a few times and Dave is getting a little freaked out by the whole thing), but the guy still doesn’t get the hint and ends up following Dave all the way to the train station.Â He even gives Dave his number and asks Dave to call him sometime, which saves Dave the embarrassment of having to come up with a fake name and address of his own.Â The other story in this deals with Dave trying to get the names of a couple of new students down and being unable to understand what one of the small kids is getting at when she just has to go to the bathroom.Â Don’t worry, I didn’t spoil the whole thing, there are still plenty of nuggets in here for you to uncover when you rent it from my comic rental store in the future, or if you manage to find it for sale somewhere.Â As always it’s well worth a look, and he does seem to have a knack for excellent closing panels…
There have been several moments in my reviewing “career” of the past nine years when I’ve said, after getting a certain comic or pile of comics in the mail or reading something nice that somebody I really admire said about me that I’d be perfectly content at that moment if the internet exploded and I never posted again.Â Dave sending me his entire run of Window comics (14 issues!) is one of those moments.Â The great news for those of you reading this is that Dave also gave his OK for me to use his comics in the rental program I’m (slowly, laboriously) putting together, so you’ll be able to see all these for yourself and make up your own mind.Â As this is the first issue of his series I was afraid it would go the way of most first issues of series that later became great: shows clear promise, but not all that good by itself.Â Nope.Â There are two short pieces in here, and I thoroughly enjoyed them both.Â The first one deals with a walk through a graveyard with a few of his friends, discussing old superstitions and remarking on all the graveyard oddities along the way.Â It’s hard to sum up waltzing through a graveyard with friends and have a story relate the magnitude of the unease you feel in such situations, but he nailed it.Â The second story deals with a group of school children (that Dave seems to be teaching) who come across a dead baby squirrel outside their classroom.Â They also see the mother squirrel nervously watching the situation and all have their theories on what to do about the situation.Â They’re both genuinely sweet, understated stories, exactly the kind of thing that got me reading these little books of scribbles in the first place.Â Well, that and the kind of funnies that Sam Henderson and Sean Bieri make.Â I’m not sure if these are available to buy any more, but if they are I’d say it’d be around a buck or two.Â If they’re not available and if you’re patient, you can always rent them from me once the rental service is up and running…
I probably should have checked here before ordering another random issue of this series, but this is looks to be self-contained, so no continuity issues here. This is all about Dave sitting through a fire alarm at the school where he teaches and watching a fight that seems to alternate between serious and joking around. He seems amazed by the lack of willingness of the people around to do anything to stop this fight, and there’s an especially disgusting finale to the whole thing. There’s also a tiny story at the end about why people don’t seem to mind if there are racial epithats on the walls. Anyway, it looks gorgeous and it’s an interesting mini. This seems to be one of those comics where you could do a lot worse than read a bunch of them in a row, which is somewhere on my to-do list along with reading every comic in the world… $2
This is the trouble with picking only the latest issue of a series when you’re picking out stuff on the indispensible USS Catastrophe site. Chances were pretty good that I wouldn’t be entirely sure what was going on. This is an autobiographical strip, or at least it appears that way, about Dave going through an old journal, having a conversation with a couple of kids about angels and a man getting his head smashed on the steet, Dora (one of said kids) getting teased and harrassed at an art center, and a conversation Dave had with a student in his art class. Unless I read that last part wrong and he’s not an art teacher at all. It doesn’t matter. This is as honest and heartfelt a comic as I’ve seen in a while, and another one of those where I feel the need to go back and catch up with what I’ve been missing here, and there’s no greater compliment to a book. Oh, and he seems to be friends with Chester Brown, which can never be a bad thing. If you like the autobio stuff as much as me, this is something that you’re not going to want to miss. $2