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Barnes, E.J. – Caroline’s Catalog



Caroline’s Catalog

Have you ever had one of those days when you realize that you don’t know as much about the universe as you thought you did? Or, rather, how the important bits of the universe were discovered? This comic is all about Caroline Herschel, who worked with her brother for years in the early 1800’s to discover and catalog comets, nebulas (nebulae?) and star formations where the people involved didn’t yet know what they were looking at. Her brother was an earlier tinkerer with different types of telescopes, constantly looking for better ways to view the stars and get a closer look at things that were very far away. A lot of those old telescopes look frankly ludicrous in modern times, but really it’s more the outside covering than anything else. Giant telescopes are still alive and well today, after all. Anyway, Caroline ends up helping her brother quite a bit, with their research almost becoming interchangeable over the years, and this book details the ways in which she was and was not recognized for her work. Frankly, I was expecting her plight to be worse, as it’s not like the early 1800’s were a particularly enlightened time in regards to women being recognized for their scientific achievements. She did get some slight recognition (nowhere close to the amount that her brother got, but there didn’t seem to be a systemic effort to take her achievements away) and had a comfortable life with the money she made doing this work. Oh, and her brother discovered Uranus. Maybe I should have led with that. This is a fascinating story to anybody who’s interested in the stars and how humans got really good at cataloging them and other celestial objects, told in a relatable way from the perspective of an older woman (she’s depicted as 82 here) who has had time to contemplate her life and work. Which isn’t a shock, as E.J. has been doing great work for years now, but it’s very much worth checking out. $3


Barnes, E.J. – Blaster Al Ackerman’s Tales of the Ling Master #3


Blaster Al Ackerman’s Tales of the Ling Master #3

That “#3 of 3” on the cover worries me. This can’t be the end of the Blaster Al Ackerman tales, can it? There must be more of them out there, or new ones on the way?  Frankly, this is a series that is just begging for treatment in an anthology, with a number of different comics writers and artists doing their own take on the character if nothing else.  As for the comic, E.J. warned me that this one was a little more “out there” than most, which is a tall order in this series, but she wasn’t wrong.  It’s often difficult to review these things without giving too much away, and these stories take that up a notch, but I’ll give it a shot.  Stories include a fable about a little boy who teased apples and his eventual meeting with an apple golem, another fable about a canary, a headache and a cigar on a plane, a professional “geek” (the circus kind, not the Bill Gates kind) trying to find out the truth about squid people, and one called “The Blue Catfish.” I don’t want to say a single thing about that one, but due to reviewer obligations I will say that it involves head shrinking, the concept of soul transportation and one of those stores that appear out of nowhere and vanish after you leave.  It’s difficult to detail the demented brilliance of these stories, but if you can’t get behind a guy wearing a stained pillowcase as a hood doling out advice at $5 a pop, often in parable form, and generally when there’s at least some veracity to the utterly bizarre questions being posed, I don’t know how to convince you.  If you like your comics genuinely different, there are three of these readily available that you should pick up as soon as possible. I’m hoping we can turn it into a cultural phenomena and realize my (five minute old) dream of an anthology with various takes on this character and/or the author.  Make it happen America!  $3

Barnes, E.J. – Blaster Al Ackerman’s Tales of the Ling Master #2


Blaster Al Ackerman’s Tales of the Ling Master #2

I seem to have found another character that will always cause me to enjoy a comic: a very large living burrito that is set on revenge.  Of course, as I’ll almost certainly never see that in another comic, it is a tough theory to prove.  This is another collection of stories adapted from the tales of Blaster Al Ackerman, and once again it is a pile of thoroughly unique and bizarre tales.  First up is The White Bat, in which a neighbor of the Ling Master (and please see older reviews for the story on that guy, or just read the comics) calls for help, as he’s being prevented from leaving his apartment or going to the fridge by what he thinks is a giant, man-shaped bat.  The Ling Master, as always, puzzles out the possible solution to the problem, but not quite in time to prevent a murder.  I’ll leave the identity of the murderer a secret, if that’s OK with you.  The second story is called “I, The Stallion”, which I reviewed many years ago as a stand-alone mini. A man tries to convince a friend to break his arm, as he believes the only way to bring some magic back to the world is through being able to kiss his own elbow, and such a thing can’t be done without the arm being broken.  Finally there’s “Miss Mantis”, in which a paranoid man seeks to get away from his bank and a female teller that he sees as secretly being a giant malicious mantis.  The Ling Master, as always, is there to help/feed paranoia (depending on your perspective), and gives the man the advice to burn his large collection of dried turkey sphincters in a public place and to hump the firemen when they come to put it out.  This works like a charm… at least briefly.  Once again, I absolutely love the ambiguity in these stories.  Is the Ling Master a crank, preying on irrational fears for money?  Or does he actually offer useful information to people in their time of need (for money)? I have my theory, but yours may differ.  Regardless, these are required reading for anybody who needs their entertainment just a little bit odd.  $3

Barnes, E.J. – Blaster Al Ackerman’s Tales of the Ling Master #1


Blaster Al Ackerman’s Tales of the Ling Master #1

I’m going with the full title here, mostly because I think the fact that these comics are based on the stories of Al Ackerman should be prominently featured.  E.J. got permission from Blaster to adapt the Ling Master stories as comics, and the result is this utterly unique collection of stories.  Well, this and the following two issues, but I’ll get to them in good time.  I reviewed The Bread Doll Fancier a few years back when it was a preview issue, but if memory serves (which it often doesn’t), then this is first description of what exactly a Ling Master is, both from the origin of the phrase from Ackerman (inadvertently snipping a logo the wrong way and coming up with “Ling Tales”) and the definition of a Ling Master.  The first story of the book deals with exactly this, as it describes a man who puts a pillowcase with one eyehole cut out of it on his face at midnight every day, so he’s ready for “mystic Ling action”.  His brother had been kidnapped by Vug-Randolphs (large, sentient black beetles) , and his mother had signed up with the “dreaded Araby society” when he was 8.  Our hero also varies all his activities to avoid being tracked, and it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that maybe he’s just completely crazy.  Next up is The Bread Doll Fancier, a profoundly creepy tale in which the Ling Master either ends up being a hero or ends up feeding the delusions of a man who was already pretty crazed.  Finally there’s Ask Ling, as the Ling Master answers questions from his fans in the mail (as long as they remember to send the five dollars), this time focusing on the malady of sneezing every time they had a mouthful of carrots.  The story then goes to the case of a young boy who was expelled from the dinner table because of this habit but soon learned to associate even mildly salacious programming on television with uncontrollable sneezing, leading him to a very sad end.  I would still love to see the source material for some of this, but these are undeniably inventive and completely original stories.  I love the ambiguity of the Ling Master himself and the fact that he’s unquestionably held out to the world as an expert on everything.  It’s definitely worth a look, and if the next two issues are as good as this one (something I have no reason to doubt), then I’d say this whole series is worth picking up.  $3

Barnes, E.J. – Birds of the Baltic


Birds of the Baltic

Color! Sorry, it always amazes me when people are able to get the money together to put out a color book, especially one as gorgeous as this one. It’s a travelogue, basically, with an emphasis towards keeping an eye out for birds of the region. E.J. and her husband (?) Brian went to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia more or less on a whim and this was what came from their travels. It’s gorgeous, like I said, and tells of a bunch of little stops and people along the way, not just the birds in case you were thinking it might end up being dull. Which, if you hate birds, I suppose it still might be, but why on earth would you hate birds? Weirdo. $3.95

Barnes, E.J. – Arithmetic on the Frontier


Arithmetic on the Frontier

And now for something completely different from EJ, as she adapts a poem from Rudyard Kipling about war. It’s a shortie, granted, but the fact that there are two full pages dedicated to historical asides and information about the author (and EJ) makes this informative and entertaining, as my personal knowledge of Rudyard Kipling is limited, to say the least. Good stuff again, and this one a much more somber book than her humor books, obviously. Contact info is up there, I’d say this is $1.

Barnes, E.J. – Tales of the Ling Master #1


Tales of the Ling Master #1

Apparently EJ is putting a bunch of these minis together into a collected book of the work of “Blaster” Al Ackerman. Also, I guessed incorrectly, as EJ is a she and not a he. Whoops! Not the first mistake I’ve ever made and it certainly won’t be the last. Anyway, this particular volume (and I, Stallion is also included in that list of Al Ackerman stories, in case I didn’t make that clear) is about a man who’s obsessed with bread dolls and eventually decides to make one of the size and shape of a young boy. He decides to show his friend, the reclusive detective known as The Ling Master, once he discovers signs of life coming from the doll, and that’s when the Vug-Randolphs get involved. Honestly, I’m fascinated with Al Ackerman now, and that’s not meant to take anything away from EJ, who does a fantastic job of interpreting his stories. Or at least it looks like she does to me, as it’s hard to tell without reading the short stories. Still, the comics are completely original, which is never a bad thing, and there’s more to come in this same vein, which is also not a bad thing. It’s only $1, so it’s worth the risk to check out, at least I think it is. Contact info is up there, send her an e-mail!

Barnes, E.J. – I, Stallion


I, Stallion!

Hey, where’s the cover? Actually, I think it’s a great idea to start a book like that, especially one as tiny as this. Between this and the sample I’m giving you 1/4 of the book, so I hope she doesn’t mind. This is a story about two guys talking at a bar. One of them wants his other friend to break his arm so that he can kiss his elbow, thereby bringing some magic back to the world. It was too short to get much more than a surface impression of what the guy was capable of, but I liked what I saw. The bit at the end with the narrator talking to himself was brilliant. Anyway, like I said, I’m intrigued. Send her an e-mail to get a copy of this, as it can’t be more than $1, and see what else she has floating around.