It’s time for a peek behind the curtain here at Optical Sloth headquarters! Bernie sometimes sends his tiny comics to me in regular old, smallish envelopes. Sometimes, or at least one time, said envelope slides down a crack into a strange nether realm, only to reappear after I have moved into a new apartment at least a year later. Just in case anybody out there keeps up with all of this in real time and wonders why #16 is getting reviewed after #17-19. Anyway, the impetus behind this particular volume was Bernie asking the internet the following question: “how do I deal with an existential crisis?” He scatters a few answers here and there, but I’m not going to give away the answer, as Bernie does uncover the basic secret of our existence, but you know how I hate spoilers. As always, the text epilogue in the back is invaluable, and you should really be reading these, even if you have to go back in time to March 2013 (when this came out) to do so. $1
Uh-oh, it can’t be a good sign if Bernie is combining issues, and that turns out to be true after reading this one. See, Bernie has been living his life and working on his other series (An Army of Lovers Will Be Beaten, and shame on you if you don’t know about it), which leads to this comic having what he calls “an incredible lack of focus.” Still, you clearly haven’t been reading his stuff if you think that this means that the comic is worthless. Things start off strong with Gank, a man who exists for “snapping people out of their complacency.” I should mention that these quotes are all from his afterward, which is always worth the price of admission in these minis all by itself. He gets in the face of an obnoxious guy on his cell phone (do I still have to say “cell phone”? Can’t that just be the default assumption for “phone” at this point?), finds a joint in the mop bucket in a store bathroom, and then the strip falls apart. We start to see Bernie’s notes at the tops of the pages and the story disintegrates, complete with blotchy ink spots on the final page. The #19 part of this is even more discombobulated, as it’s only two pages of wondering where his summer went, complete with the same notes along the top margin. It’s still an interesting book, for the peek into his creative process and the afterward where he goes into detail, but probably not the best book to start with if you’re a new reader. Then again, if you’re a new reader of anything and you’re starting with #18, that’s kind of on you. $1
That’s right, the cover show the Karate Kid in space. No, the comic does not build a complicated story explaining how he got into space, but is instead a dreamy comic about letting your mind expand, pondering your existence and trying not to overthink things. Can you relate to that? Sure you can. Bernie is still using this comic to experiment with whatever is most in his thoughts in any given month, but promises in his afterward to get back to more conventional narratives in future issues. For this one you get to spend a little time thinking about the big questions in the world, or at least the best way to go about not thinking about those questions. Three cheers for him keeping this up, and how he finds the time between this and his other projects I’ll never know. But he is making some of you slackers who only put out one book every few years look bad. Are you going to stand for that? Better get to work on your next three projects to show him that you can do it too…
Bernie is on a serious roll lately with his comics. Hell, maybe with the rest of his life too, but I have no way of knowing about that. But he’s putting these DemonDust books out just about monthly, still working on his ridiculously impressive “An Army of Lovers Will Be Beaten” series, AND building a universe for another mini comic series that he’s starting up. Most comics creators would be content with keeping just one of those things going, and Bernie is out there making the rest of you look bad. The only way to make up that ground is to get to work on a series or two yourselves, other comics artists! Anyway, this issue deals with the troubles inherent in trying to create a comic by staring at a blank piece of paper and hoping for inspiration. This leads to a piece of paper that is able to breathe and talk, although seemingly only to ape whatever somebody near it is saying. We see the process by which this paper is made, reflect on the mantra of the paper, and finally get a character revolt about the content of the story. Bernie always ends these books with a text piece on the state of his life/projects/month, just in case you insist that a mini comic that looks this good that still manages to come out monthly is not enough for you. It’s another solid issue, but if you insist on a continuing story I’d recommend his other series. I haven’t read his new one, “The Cosmouse,” but his other series should be read by all humans and you know what? I’m going to recommend his new series without even seeing it. Eventually it’s possible to recognize when somebody just does good work, and I think Bernie has more than crossed that bar.
You know what just about everybody who makes comics should do? Put out little 8 page niblets like this. Make your own theme, do your own thing, but just doing something on a regular basis would do wonders for some of the artists who only put out graphic novels or gigantic mini comics. Just a suggestion, and it has nothing to do with the contents of this comic, but hey, I occasionally like to make helpful suggestions/meddle. This one starts off with a very brief recap of the state of the world (it’s election time) and features a man with a pumpkin head and an elf using various over-the-counter drugs to get themselves ready to go for an evening of playing video games. See, I say it like that and it seems overly simplistic. You also have the ethics of a man with a pumpkin for a head having a friend who is looking to buy a pumpkin and carve it for a decoration, some traveling, some conversation, and the inevitable result of all of those drugs. It’s all capped off by an afterward on the state of life in general at the moment of his producing this comic, and a tidbit or two about the making of it. It’s funny, bizarre, and has a nice starter list of drugs that you can buy anywhere (although I have no idea of their effects, as they’re all new to me/possibly made up for comedic purposes). So check it out. In fact, why not just buy a stack of these? Like I said, they’re short, so that makes the most sense. $2
Did I black out and miss a few years of Bernie’s comics? Nope, I just checked the review from his last book and it’s from August 30th of this year. Still, here he is with #11 of the series that supposedly comes after that book. Baffling! Well, whatever he’s doing, it’s working. Normally I’d be at least mildly annoyed that I was only seeing #11 of a series, but this issue is perfectly self-contained.Which doesn’t tell me much about the rest of the series either way, but I’m trusting where this guy is coming from. This comic is all about picking new characters to star in the series, as “writing your self as a protagonist in comics can be a little nerve-racking for an introverted procrastinator” (said by the ambulatory brain from the last issue). We get to meet a wide range of characters, some from other series (who knew that “An Army of Lovers Will Be Beaten” was up to seven issues? Everybody but me? Damn) and some that seem to have come right from his imagination. Or other sources that I couldn’t identify. It’s a damned funny book, which is something that has been missing from most of Bernie’s previous comics, so if you’re just looking for a good cry you may want to go back to some of his previous work. For the rest of you, when exactly is funny ever bad? It’s a good starting point for people who are new to this series, so you could either go with this issue or take a risk and start from the beginning. Based on everything I’ve seen from the man I’d be pretty shocked if the early issues of this series were terrible. $2