Jep mentions in his intro that he spent a long time talking about “the unspeakable orange twat” after he became president, decided it was making him too sad to continue, and so he went back in time to tell a story from 1999. I’d be curious to see all those strips (I just checked out a few on his website and they’re pretty raw), but this comic deals with his girlfriend and himself (they’ve since married) moving into a place that they were convinced would be their dream apartment. The landlady was eccentric but seemed nice, they had access to a garden, and they loved their place. Naturally, this wouldn’t be much of a comic if things stayed that way throughout, and they very much did not. Their landlady had medical problems and the two of them were young and a bit petty in their attempts to fight back (as Jep freely admits), although it’s tough to say if anything could have salvaged this mess. And to think that the troubles all started because they had set up their bedroom in the “wrong room!” It really did set off a cascade of consequences, despite the fact that the original problem never made any sense. I loved the little peeks we got into the creative process as well, how Jep would ask his wife (in real time, on the comics page) if he had the timeline right, or why they didn’t just leave at this point, or if they really knew all along that the situation was going to blow up or if it was a complete surprise. Some of the events that you would expect to have the most impact just got forgotten completely, but they both distinctly remembered things like how the landlady’s husband dropped the keys every single time he came home. It’s a thoroughly engrossing story, and I can’t recommend this highly enough to anybody who’s had terrible neighbors. Which, I’m guessing, is just about anybody who ever left home. Give it a shot, the guy really is a hell of a writer. $4.58 (hey, that’s the price he has listed on his Etsy page)
Jep’s true name has been revealed! But I’m keeping it a secret, just in case the guy is on the run or something. Hey, he didn’t specify, and if somebody uses a psuedonym that’s always my first guess. This is Jep’s first attempt at a long single comic story, and it’s safe to say that he nails it. This is the tale of his time as an exchange student with a French family when he was 13. The deal was that he spent some time with that family, then the kid of the same age would come spend time with Jep. At first he was thrilled, since he was a quiet kid at school and this gave him a new kind of social cachet. But once he arrived at his new home for the next couple of weeks, it didn’t take long for him to discover that this kid was a total asshole and that they had nothing in common. There were a lot of moments when this comic could have devolved into a cliche, and I’m happy to say that Jep pulled the story away from that direction at every turn. There were the beautiful sisters at his new home (potential sad unrequited love story), the fact that he could have wallowed in misery once he saw exactly what he was in store for with this asshole kid, the whole “fish out of water” thing with him only being able to understand a few words of French… this comic could have turned grim and depressing a number of times, and it would have made complete sense. Instead, Jep recounted his (early for his age) fatalism about the whole thing, how he knew that this was a finite trip and that he should take what he could get from the whole experience. The only moment of genuine panic is when he misses his flight back, and it’s completely earned. His depiction of the kid coming back to stay with him was much shorter, and it’s for a very simple reason: the kid pouted on the couch the whole time. Hard to make much of a story out of that! Even with the language barrier there were still a few poignant moments here, and I’ve spoiled enough already. I’ll just say that the guy knows how to write a compelling comic, and that anybody who had to deal with any kind of exchange student should give this a shot. Or anybody who was ever a confused 13 year old boy. That’s a pretty solid chunk of the population right there…
The True Adventures of Jep Comix #6
The story of Jep falling away from (or escaping, depending on your perspective) continues in this issue! And possibly concludes; Jep seems like he’s running out of steam, but I don’t think he’s completely done with this story yet. The other big story in this issue is his version of an older story he wrote 20 years ago, mostly because he got a new iPad and wanted to use its features for the story. It deals with a man dying in a car wreck, getting to heaven (all messed up, which requires some healing time even in heaven apparently), and getting a chance to get reincarnated and possibly find the woman he still loves, as she survived the crash. It was an interesting story, but the part I was most curious about is where Jep says that the story was headed next. Which I won’t say here just in case it does go there next, even though it sounds like he’s done with it, which would be a shame. But going back to his strips about religion, subjects include getting disowned from his father (he makes it seem like a compromise would be possible, but he’s just not willing to give in), going off to school right after that happened, being broken and depressed at school, finding Richard Bach while looking for a new religion (somebody I’d never heard of), adjusting to life without a family or religion, and the moment when he completely gave up on his idea of becoming a priest. There’s more, and it’s educational to see him express his doubts about the direction of the story and what he wants to say with it on the page, but it’s starting to lead to the story floundering a bit. Maybe the traditional four panel strip format is boxing him in, or maybe it’s just that there is no perfect message to end this story on or life lesson to be learned. There are a number of fascinating pieces to this story so far, but here’s hoping he’s able to tie it all together before it’s all said and done.
That’s Me in the Corner Part One
What, you thought that Jep only had funny stories in him? I don’t know why you would assume that, but we’re dealing with your hypothetical illusions here, and you’re wrong, imaginary construct in my mind. This comic is made up of strips that Jep made weekly (ish) on his website. The idea was that he was going to tell the story of his introduction to religion and how he eventually fell away from it, including the event in particular that pushed him completely away from religion. But as he worked on the story things went off into different directions for him, and his memory proved to be far less certain than he originally thought. There’s a fine line in comics of relying too much on the “inside baseball” vein of comic strip. For those of you who hate all sports allegories, basically that just means that the artist is wallowing in telling stories about how hard it is to tell stories. That can sometimes cause a spiral where no stories get told, but Jep avoids that trap here and ends up making those strips essential to the story that he’s telling. For example, the event that pushes him away (spoilers here if you don’t want to know a thing about this book, which I’d recommend) is his witnessing the molestation of his friend by a priest. But it’s clear that he doesn’t remember exactly what happened, or how long it happened, or what he said to the guy to prevent himself from getting molested initially. The only way Jep could clear this up would be to contact the guy who was potentially molested, but he sees no reason to upend his life just so he (Jep) can get a little piece of mind. Even basic stuff like how many churches they visited before his mom settled on Catholicism proves unreliable, as his brother contradicts bits of his story. It’s a fascinating peek into a mind as it’s deep in the creative process, taking sometimes reluctant detours down unintended paths to tell this story. He was also nice enough to send along the second part of this story, so I get to see how it “ends” soon, as much as the story of his life can end when he’s still alive. This particular part of it, anyway, but he also mentions never being sure how far to dig in these stories. It was a damned great read, and I’m not just saying that because my own religious experience more or less mirrors his own.
The True Adventures of JepComix #5
I’m going to post the letter that came with this as a sample image because it’s perfect and more humans should see it. As for the comic itself, yeah, that was pretty great too. Stories include an overheard conversation at a beach in Cuba (always a good sign when at least one of the overheard parties is drunk), coming up with a motto for keeping your nose clean, debating whether or not “Indian summer” is an offensive term, an adorable page of the way he sees his love (or the fictional character sees his or her love), and Jesus having an honest conversation with is Dad in between stanzas of “Jesus Christ Superstar” on exactly what good it would do for him to get crucified in practical terms. The biggest story in here is about the librarian of the forest, a creature that he gets to follow him and learning things about humans, food, and what guards their food. It also has a fairly ingenious way to steal bread if you’re trying to do that while keeping your hands free, so bread thieves, take note! This is a funny and charming mix of stories, and you’d have to be a real curmudgeon to not at least get a laugh or two out of this. Check it out!
The True Adventures of Jep Comix
Huzzah for mini comics full of random stories! That may seem an odd thing to huzzah about, but I am easily overjoyed. Apparently the name of the author is also Jep, or maybe jep, or maybe JEP, or maybe Mister Jep. Initials? Secret code? His website doesn’t clarify it, but it’s also not like it’s a big deal. Anyway, there are a wide range of stories in this one, and I’ll save the best one for last. Runners-up in this unofficial contest of “best story in comic” deal with the simple joys of playing Altered Beast with a friend at a Dairy Queen (and recalling a question about religion in class that I’ve still never heard a good answer to), being paranoid while walking in a park, filling your basement up with water for better baths (and the humorlessness of Catholics), drawing an odd line at sharing a glass with your significant other, a stranger in a bathroom going by sound to tell you that you have a fake bladder, and learning guitar. And finally, there’s Roger. The story, and also the person, I guess. Jep had a gay couple living next door to him, and he knew them both casually. By “knew” I mean “knew their first names and said hello to on the street.” As far as he was concerned, that was more or less the end of it. Then Jep got married (to his girlfriend) and ran into Roger in a grocery store. Everyone else had been congratulating Jep once he shared the news, but the reaction from Roger was odd. He confessed to having a crush on Jep and asked Jep what he (Roger) was supposed to do now. The two pages that show the thought processes that went through Jep’s head here are priceless, and I’ll say no more about the story so you can discover it all for yourself. I will only add that sometimes there are no good answers, and guilt doesn’t help anybody. Anyway, check it out for yourself, you’ll love it. No idea on the price, as he doesn’t have one listed on the comic or his website (where you can find all kinds of stories for free), but I’ll guess $4.