Quick, think of the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you. Now imagine yourself writing and drawing a comic story about it. That right there should make you cringe, which means you’re in luck, as that’s what this anthology is all about! This book has right around 30 small press artists, some new and some who have been around for awhile, who are willing to share some shameful incident from their past. I don’t think anything in here will get anybody put in jail, but it’s hard not to cringe while reading some of these. I’m not going to review every story because there are so damned many of them (and for a measly $8!), but the highlights include Shaenon K. Garrity wetting herself while out with a group of other cartoonists (including a big name guy, but I won’t spoil the surprise; I particularly loved the way she ended her strip), Sam Spina’s unfortunate method for drinking a rum shot when he met the Bacardi girls, Adam Pasion’s particularly gruesome retelling of an incident involving a finger in the eye, Geoff Vasile dodging a bullet (not literally), Chad Essley and his series of embarrassing moments (hard to top the one where he volunteered to breakdance at school on stage), Fred Noland’s theories on some crayons he used to own, Chad Woody and his racist former roommate, Box Brown and his former habit of eating light bulbs (it’s not quite as life-threatening as it sounds), Stephen Notley and his experience of being “that guy” at a comic convention (you know the one, the guy who gets up to ask a rambling and pointless question and has no idea how to get out of it once he gets started), and Sam Henderson’s experiences with having seizures while surrounded by strangers. It’s a damned fine mix of stories, and at a ridiculously cheap price. Save yourself the embarrassment of not owing this anthology of embarrassment! Ugh, I feel dirty for saying that. I’ll let myself out… $8
Reich #6 Now Available! $4
Things are getting a little tense with this issue (covering 1933-1937), as Wilhelm and his family struggle to get away from Germany without being recognized.Â Oh sorry, I just jumped in there, assuming that anybody reading this would be familiar with the past 5 issues of this series.Â Why else would you read a review for #6?Â Anyway, while the Nazis might not know enough about the good doctor to recognize him in person, they were well aware of his work (as depicted by a crowd of them burning his book) and it was a harrowing journey for him and his family to find relative safety.Â Still, it’s not like the whole issue is a chase scene, as we also see Wilhelm talking about sex to his daughter (age 12), learn about his early time spent in brothels (and his unfortunate habit of trying to “save” the prostitutes), get his father to a place that could theoretically help with his “galloping consumption”, and hear about the death of Sigmund Freud.Â I’ve so far managed to avoid the temptation to look the man up on the internet and find out how it all ends (even knowing the brief “spoilers” Elijah gave away in the intro to the first issue), but it’s been tough.Â Here’s hoping you’re all reading along and giving this guy as much money as possible, he’s one of the many artists out there who should have complete freedom to do whatever the hell he feels like.Â $4
Reich #5 Now Available! $4
Ho-hum, another excellent issue.Â OK, maybe I’m not actually bored by excellence (as you can tell if you notice the short amount of time between updates to this page), but I’m running out of superlatives over here.Â In this issue Wilhelm basically lets his marriage dissolve (as would make perfect sense if you read about his general theories on this sort of thing in past issues), gives Freud a thorough listing of what he’d like to accomplish with his sex education (and oh, what a better world we’d have if we’d listened to him back in the 30’s), and chats with some colleagues at a bar.Â Oh, and Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany.Â There’s a cliff-hanger for you!Â Wilhelm has to decide whether to stay and fight or leave, and this is all on top of the Communist party (who he had allied with) essentially disowning him for his views.Â Sadly, very few places are as progressive with his views on sexuality as he was even now, 80 years later.Â If you’re not already reading this series, pick it up already.Â I don’t know how I can convince you.Â You read comics, or you wouldn’t be at this website.Â You prefer the good ones, or you wouldn’t be digging through the piles of small press stuff available here.Â Here it is!Â One of the good ones you’ve been looking for!Â And yes, I would be saying that if I wasn’t selling it.Â Buy it from the Sparkplug site for all I care, but it deserves a huge audience.Â $4
Reich #4 Now Available! $4
I can see that it’s been just about a year since I updated this page, but Elijah has clearly been working the whole time, putting out three new issues.Â In the world of small press comics, that’s an avalanche of issues, and it remains one of the most fascinating series out there.Â In this issue we learn that Wilhelm’s mother cheated when he was a young boy (and we see how his father would alternately nurse her back to health after her suicide attempts and beat her when she was healthy enough to take it), we start to see some of the political unrest of the time with a huge protest and a massacre by the police, and of course we get more conversation about Wilhelm’s theories of sexuality and how to become “genitally healthy”.Â Elijah does take one liberty in this issue, as Wilhelm gets involved in a confrontation on the street between a one-armed beggar and the police (that never, theoretically, happened), but it helps frame the riots later in the issue.Â This series has the potential to be mentioned in the same sentences as some of the greats of the genre if Elijah keeps this up, as this is the sort of thing you could show anyone and have them get instantly engrossed.Â It’s really not to be missed.Â $4
Reich #3 Now Available! $3
OK fine, we’re at the third issue of this remarkable series about Wilhelm Reich (a mystery to me before I started reading this), but what on earth was he like as a child? What led him to his obsessive research into sexuality? This issue takes care of all that, as we get to see Wilhelm’s early years. It details his first observations of sex (with the household servants and among the animals on his farm), his first literature on the subject, and, of course, his first time. Which, of course, led to many other times, but he seemed to have a local cook who was a willing, constant partner. Elijah mentions in the footnotes after the story that at least a few things are his best guess, and the fact that Wilhelm said that he lost his virginity at eleven and a half can’t be proven or disproven. As such, it’s hard to say how much of this is sheer conjecture, but everything up until this point has been thoroughly documented, so even if Elijah is taking some liberties I trust that he knows his subject well enough to do so. It’s series like this that are the reasons they keep giving out awards for these funny books year after year, and three incredible issues is always enough to have me convinced that it’s going to stay that way. I really can’t recommend this enough.
Reich #2 Now Available! $3
Shall I start with a complaint? Why not, as I thoroughly enjoyed the second issue of this series and that’s boring. Books that look this good shouldn’t have spelling errors. It’s something I’ve said many times about many books, but this whole thing is as professional as it gets. The packaging, art, writing, literary references, everything is top notch, and when that’s the case the little things can mean a whole lot. Still, it’s fixed easily enough when it eventually gets turned around into a graphic novel, so no harm done in the long run, I guess. As for the issue, like I said, I loved it. Reich gets fleshed out even more, we get to see an interaction with his therapist, his early years with his first child, his dealings with his colleagues and another meeting with Freud. It’s a fascinating story, expertly told, so what’s to complain about? Besides the tiny thing I already mentioned, that is… $3
Reich #1 Now Available! $3
Quick, a show of hands: who’s Wilhelm Reich? If you don’t know (and I didn’t), well, this is an excellent way to get to know the man. He lived in the early part of the last century, was a contemporary of Freud, had a lot of revolutionary ideas about sexuality and apparently ended up either killed or jailed by the American government. Hey, not to spoil it or anything, but that’s told right in the intro to the first issue, and spoilers are kind of impossible for this sort of thing with the Google around. You damned kids! This issue details Wilhelm’s life-altering sexual experience, his attempts to woo a young woman, a conversation with Freud and even has the decency to end on a cliffhanger. The mini of this has apparently been floating around since 1995, so plenty of people are probably already familiar with this work, but if this is the same artwork it’s been polished to a healthy sheen. The writing is crisp and leaves you wanting to know what’s happening in conversations after the panel ends, which is pretty much all you can ask for in a historical biography. An excellent, fascinating work, with all sorts of notations in the back and a list of references if you want to read up yourself. And yes, the comparisons to Chester Brown’s Louis Riel are inevitable, but from this one issue it seems clear that they’re both making their own distinct mark on this underused side of independent comics.