But a Dream!
This might be a turn of phrase that I’m not supposed to use as an American, but I’m going for it anyway: this one did my head in. David’s comics can get abstract occasionally, sure. But to do an entire comic on dreams, and to have it end up as… um… dreamy as this one? It’s impressive as hell. Partially that’s because it can be tricky to tell when some of his stories end and the next one begins; he’s not a big fan of a title page indicating the start of a new story, and in this one there aren’t even page numbers to keep you grounded. It’s just stories of dreams, some bound by a loose connection, others not at all. To give you some idea of why this messed with my brain, here’s an example. One of the stories deals with an ape man who’s chasing David. He throws bananas to distract it as they climb up the side of a building, then enters the rocket ship on the roof. The ape man fires his gun at the rocket, which discharges a bullet that’s bigger than the ship. In the next panel David hears a bang, which he determines came from his kitchen. Even though he was in a rocket in the previous panel. That kind of thing happens a lot in this comic. It’s skillfully done, but occasionally unnerving. Usually this is the part where I’d tell you what these stories are about. It’s tradition, so I guess I’ll give it a shot, but be warned: this will make even less sense than usual. Stories in here deal with a giant purple naked man who’s the year 1994, running to catch a show and then dissolving literally into laughter, wordless Star Trek, trying to determine the appropriate height to fly in a dream, being in the room for a Tony Blair interview, the Star Wars actors getting stuck in an Ewok TV show, and having his spaceship overrun by giant naked men. Even that doesn’t do this issue justice, so I’ll just say that if you’ve enjoyed his previous work, you’re bound to love this too. Or possibly be very confused by it, but I think that’ll settle into love.
Hey comics creators! David is back with another gigantic comic full of stories to shame you for your feeble efforts at getting your own books out in a timely fashion. Of course, he does have a small army of talented artists to help him along, so maybe not everybody has that advantage. That’s right, it’s time for another pile of stories, and, as usual, the good ones vastly outnumber the baddies. Based on my subjective opinion, obviously. There’s a lot in here, and I’m going to leave parts of it as a surprise, but highlights for me included his story about getting over Star Wars (not exactly a novel idea at this point, but he told his story well, and his losing interest is more based on all the clues he got over the years about future movies being abandoned by Disney than anything else), Jonathan Swift’s response to a question about where he got his ideas, a day in the life (starting with a night shift job, then trying to get any sleep and finally traveling), coming across a secret comics library at the University of Dundee, a time travel story by a 12 year old David featuring him feeding an entire cow to a tiger, the “lady” that isn’t Betty or Veronica, trying to feel sorry for somebody who got very rich at a young age and who is currently having an existential crisis about it, a lady reporter trying to honestly answer the question of her assignment and running smack into misogyny instead, keeping the reviews of Star Wars Episode 1 under wraps before it came out in the U.K., some acting advice by William Shatner to the new guy, how a puffer fish attracts a mate, and finally the lengthy story of an alien who comes to Earth with a mysterious purpose. Why is he shooting that gun? Does he have our best interests at heart? Does he even care that we’re here? I’ve mentioned his all star team of artists, but the range in this one was really impressive. Flipping through the book it looks like a regular anthology, which I guess it kind of is, except all written by the same guy. Still, it’s a visually impressive mixture, and it’s sure so send anybody who sees it down a few comic lanes that you might not have ventured otherwise. So yeah, check it out, there’s something to love in here for everybody.
To every comics artist out there who worries endlessly about putting out comics on a regular basis, you could do a lot more than emulating David. The bulk of his stories are short, usually only a few pages long. This lets him submit comics for all kinds of anthologies, and every year or so he has more than enough material to put out a book of his own. See how easy it is? Granted, lots of artists only deal with larger stories, but at least having the ability to work on shorter stories would be a nice change of pace for whenever you get stuck on whatever epic you’re working on. So hey, enough of the life advice, how about this comic? The bulk of these 40 (!) stories are written and drawn by David, with about a dozen of them coming from other artists. There’s no central underlying theme, just a big old pile of stories about all sorts of things. OK fine, his “I Live With a Killer” stories (about how his cat brings him pieces of various animals it’s killed) have a connecting theme, but they’re the exception here. Other highlights include the final thoughts of thelast two survivors from a plane crash, our first encounter with aliens, petty space station revenge, the man who’s always falling in love, the story and fate of Dolly the cloned sheep, a story of a missile attack (written by his son I think?), the concept of putting people in concerts who just want to talk for the whole show in their own section, exactly how much of your life you waste on vacuuming, skipping an internet video only to see it on the actual news later, a comic about making a comic that sort of eats itself (drawn by Zu Dominiak), the story a mouse brings back home after nearly being eaten, the robot and the monster, and the inner lives of a couple of flies. That’s what, not even half of the stories here? It’s another pretty fantastic bunch of stories from David, and if you’ve somehow gotten this far in life without seeing his work this is a solid chunk of comics to start with. No price listed, so I’m going to guess the arbitrary number of $10. Contact David and I’m sure he can set you straight…
Zero Sum Bubblegum
My bias is showing again, but I’m always delighted to get another comic from David. Mostly because I know that it’s most likely going to be a collection of short stories, and that it’s damned near a certainty that at least a few of those stories are going to amaze/amuse/befuddle me, and in the best possible way. The other way, in case you were curious, is the “what the hell did I just read and why did I read it?” reaction. Not a problem here! Anyway, this time around subjects include picking your best possible funeral song (which I would have used for the sample image if my scanner was still working), the history of “A Book With Death in the Title” and what happens to the people who read it, an attempted school assembly and the shenanigans going on, tiddlywinks, Bruce the Rat, the fact that nobody is going to keep track of whether or not you give up your seat on the bus for an old lady, trying to finish a comics page vs. trying to comprehend the new mandatory Windows upgrade, sexy Frankensteins, sexy cavemen, scanning for wedding rings on the ride home, that Iron dude in that one suit, having the conviction to play the scrabble words that you’re given, kitten brains vs. lady brains, getting it all out on the deathbed, Princess Leia’s troubles with men, intimidation in the testing room (with Pam Dye), the victory lap (with Paddy Johnston), a lack of comprehension on stamps (with Tim Kelly), the art of engaging in television (with Neil Paterson), looking for that lost thing (with Eileen Budd), taking the lack of a Facebook reply too personally (with Ludi Price), random cruelty on a carnival ride, a dedicated punker, and falling silently through space to your death. Well, not your death specifically, but you know what I mean. Once again this is a really solid collection of stories; that Princess Leia piece should lead off the next movie as far as I’m concerned. How she trusts any men at this point is beyond me. David also has an extensive afterward as usual, so any questions you might have about these stories have most likely been answered (I know they were for me). So yeah, once again you should buy his book. Sure, you could get a few samples for free, but rarely the whole story, and wouldn’t you rather have the whole story? Not to mention the very idea of supporting an artist whose work you enjoy with your money. You still do that, right? Because it’s easy to forget to do it. And it’s roughly $5, assuming I have the exchange rate right in my head, which I almost certainly do not.
RIP to Dump, as David says in the afterward that this is the last issue. But he is starting off another comics series and is going to put out the collected Berserkotron, so if you’re a fan you have nothing to fear. If you’re not a fan, why hello there, allow me to try to convince you that you’re missing out! This is a collection of stories, all written by David, with roughly 2/3 of them illustrated by David too and the other 1/3 illustrated by other artists. The final chapter of Dump and the experimental story “November” take up about half of this hefty comic, but I’ll get to those in a minute. Subjects of other stories include whether or not you give a fuck, the consequences of spying on people at 3am, an excellent closed loop of a nostalgic time travel story, running into the former most popular kid in high school many years after the fact, an orb, whether or not it is good to feel pain, that thing you sense in your room while you’re sleeping, being attracted to a random stranger on tv, the Bum Monster, dreaming of teeth, making a wish, playing the music festivals, the decline of sales of televisions and wishing to be enveloped by another human. That’s all suitably vague and enticing, right? Nothing to alarm anyone with possible spoilers. I thought the Dump story had a damned fine ending to the overall story, but my memory of continuing stories in comics that only come out every few years can be hazy, so who knows? It worked just fine on its own regardless. Finally there’s November, which is a collection of strips from November (duh) that I really wanted to like more than I did. Oh, I liked the content of them just fine; the one about his old cat, the Garfield parodies, being trapped in a car with a farter, how Do The Right Thing is just as relevant now as when it was released, etc. The problem is that all the strips were done in pencil (undoubtedly to make it easier to meet the requirements of a strip a day), which is just plain old uglier in collected form, especially compared against the other stories in the comic. Still, some slight aesthetic problem I have with it is no reason to scare anyone else away, as if you can get past that the actual strips in that section were thoroughly engaging. It’s a fine end to a fine series, and David really might want to consider giving this series the collected treatment too in a few years. In the meantime, enjoy the finale! $5
Does this actually not say “#2” on the cover? No, I guess not. I had a few questions about various things in this one before I started (that cover, the abrupt ending of the Dump story) but David covered all that in his afterward, so never mind. This one starts with the second part (of three) of the “Dump” story, this time focusing on our hero as he gets more and more miserable at work, but he does finally meet somebody he can talk to and commiserate with. I love the little touch of the Garvo-Munchers, little horror shows of eyeballs and tentacles, amidst the generally mundane tone of the rest of the story. I’m looking forward to the finale of this one in the next issue, although he might want to put the whole story in one comic when it’s finished, considering the average attention span in this day and age (myself sadly included in that). The short pieces in here dealt with trying to remember the name of that one actor guy, a bicycle ride with a nice ending, overthinking things at a party, trying to come up with a good argument in favor of voting, coleslaw, appreciating what you have and an informal history of e-mail and the internet. Read that last part and feel old! Or bitter at the youngsters because they’ve always had the answer to every question in the world at their fingertips. The other big story in this one (it’s a pretty hefty comic) is David’s 24 hour comic. He starts with a brief history of the 24 hour comics, mentions how one of the rules is to go into such things without a plan, and ends up with a pretty damned compelling comic. He goes into detail about his own history, how he always wanted to do comics but ended up trying a bunch of different things because he couldn’t see a way for comics to be taken seriously. This is where the internet comes in, as the message board for The Comic’s Journal helped all kinds of people from all over the world (David is in Scotland) come together. 24 hour comics can be a bit of a mess, so it’s always nice to see one put together as well as this, especially considering the conditions involved in making such a thing. Read it and enjoy, as there’s plenty to like in here. Don’t let that innocuous cover scare you off!
What you have here is a quiet love story between two teenagers all the way through the end of their days… or maybe you could go by the cover and figure out that it’s about robots fighting. And honestly, which of those things makes for a better story anyway? This is the second half of the story of Berserkotron, but it’s mostly about the interplay between the two friends who are putting the most work into building the robot and how they seem to be drifting apart, with only the robot to hold them together. Behind that there’s also another student who’s building a better robot, one that’s bound to destroy Berserkotron, and their climactic struggle. David has a handy recap of the past issue here and he goes on at length after the story about why he chose this artistic style, why he wanted to write about robots in general and a few thoughts about his experience making comics. I honestly wish more small press folks did this, as now this is going to be a comic I remember for the story and for the motivations of the person behind it, instead of just another mini that ends up in a pile in my closet. Solid work all around, here’s hoping he has more stories after the thrill of robots fighting is gone… $2
Because I’m going to be raving for the rest of the review, it’s best to get my one complaint out of the way now: how is it that something that’s this well put together doesn’t have any contact info?Â I’m guessing that the website listed above is still David’s main website, as it does have many samples (including stories from this issue), but Berserkotron is prominently featured, not this comic.Â Usually that would be enough to sour me on a book at least a little, but this comic is too awesome to bother with a little thing like that.Â Â There are 10 pieces in this (as I mentioned) gorgeously produced comic.Â Starting things off is a bit of behind the scenes from the first of the new Star Wars movies, as the Jedi council starts calling each other racists for their disdain for humans and their habit of dying a mere 70-100 years after they’re trained.Â It’s funny stuff and David does an excellent job of portraying some of the faces on that panel… except for Yoda.Â That is one brutally ugly Yoda.Â Next up is Delhi Belly, about a young man who travels and comes back to discover he has Crohn’s disease.Â It’s not meant to be funny, but the fact that it was originally included in an anthology of poop humor is funny all by itself.Â Next up is a cautionary tale about pretzel makers and the value of getting your work done first.Â If you ever wondered what was going on in the heads of the being involved in the UFO’s in Space Invaders, the next story will be perfect for you, war crimes and all.Â The longest piece in the book is up next, as David takes the challenge to draw one panel for every hour of the day.Â It’s a fascinating peek into his life, assuming that it’s all autobiographical, as he manages to make a perfectly mundane day amusing.Â Oh, and spoiler alert: that baby is just a shrunken regular sized person.Â Next is a thoroughly random piece for Narrative Corpse, which thrives on randomness, dealing with sea monkeys, a shark and a guided tour.Â Then you have the brilliant piece I sampled below, followed by David’s ideas for what is going on in the head of various models who have posed in classes over the years.Â Next is maybe my favorite piece in the book (and an excellent reason to visit that website, as it’s featured on the main page), as David imagines a conversation between a man trying to find an appropriate comic for his son and discovering that a comic with robots on the cover (which happens to be Berserkotron) is not necessarily something that’s meant for kids.Â Finally we get to the title story, Dump, as we rejoin Bert Ainsley from Berserkotron looking for work.Â Capping all of this comic wonderfulness off is another recap of how these stories came about and where (in some cases) they were originally printed, and a hilarious online discussion about some of the great books in comics and which ones are appropriate for children.Â If Berserkotron left any convincing to be done, this issue has done it: this man is a serious comic talent.Â Once he gets that Yoda down I don’t think anything in the world can stop him.Â Price is 99p, to my American eyes that looks a little like $2 and, as an American, I am naturally too arrogant to double check.