Posts Tagged Kelly Froh
Comic conventions! Maybe you’re one of the people who only go to conventions to buy comics and don’t create them yourself, but have you ever wondered about life on the other side of the table? Not really? Well, you really should try putting yourself in their shoes for a few minutes. This anthology has all kinds of stories from conventions, good and bad, from some of the champions of small press comics (if the industry had formal champions, which they should maybe think about doing). Stories in here include Max Clotfelter’s first time working a table when he was a kid, Cara Bean and Sara Carson’s long road to a triumphant show, Kelly Froh’s two worst shows (I hope), Carrie McNinch’s problem with shyness, Rob Kirby’s mostly bad day (but with plenty of good things in it, like the progressive redneck parents), Mark Campos’ ingenious trick to selling original art, Aron Nels Steinke dealing with a friend getting a tv deal while having a slow day himself (along with dealing with an annoying kid), Gabrielle Gamboa’s hilariously illustrated conversations among cartoonists, Justin Hall’s description of finally getting the sale after talking a guy into it for 20 minutes, Tony Breed dealing with putting a book together and the reality of the show, Matt Moses and Jeff Worby narrowly avoiding a beating/murder, Zine Crush trying to get a copy of their zine to the object of their crush without being obvious about it, Rick Worley learning the truth about Dash Shaw, Jason Martin showing the good and the bad and John Porcellino showing us the weather paradox at cons. Oh, and a bonus piece by Kelly Froh (I’m almost positive) showing us the moment at a con when her spirit leaves her body. I’ve seen plenty of comics about convention horror stories in my years of reviewing these things, so I was a little nervous about a whole anthology on the subject, but that was silly of me. This whole thing is full of goodness, and should probably be handed out to obvious first-timers as they walk into cons as a public service. $4
Ah, to live in a world where the talented small press comics people had all the resources in the world at their disposal. I’m generally a fan of Kelly’s covers anyway (mostly because the combination of the title and her often fantastic title got me wanting to read the book immediately, which is kind of the point of a cover), but in this case she got a friend from art school to design the book for her (his name is Manfred Naescher if you wanted to look him up) and he designed a really gorgeous book. Crikey, do I need to get my parenthetical asides under control. Anyway, this comic is basically a listing of some of the more interesting seniors that Kelly has met working in retirement centers and their various personalities. It’s not as dense as some of her more personal comics, but there’s still plenty in here to love. That sample below was my favorite, but there’s lots to choose from, and I always love it when there’s coloring in small press comics that’s done this well. A low bar to clear, you would think, but it’s surprising how many people either rush that aspect or screw it up. With her experience in this field I’d say maybe it’s time for a new generation of Duplex Planet, what with David Greenberger not doing the comics any more (unless I somehow missed any new stuff completely since around the year 2000). Kelly clearly has some stories to tell in this field, and there’s always a place in the world for some forgotten wisdom from people who have seen it all. Or, you know, just guys with half a moustache. $4
Hey, Slither! It’s been ages. For people who don’t follow the website or Kelly’s work, that’s not to say that she’s been slacking for years, that after starting Slither 8-10 years ago (at a pure guess) she’s just been coasting. She’s done plenty of other mini comics, and at least a few of them that referred to this period in her life. Anyway, this one is all about her last year of art school in Vancouver and her falling in love with her current boyfriend (it always feels stupid to call somebody that when they’re over 30, but I’ve never been able to come up with a good alternative either. “Significant other” is just odd). The introduction mentions that she intended to finish this in 2006, so I guess you could call it late, but it fits right in with the other issues of Slither. Stories include her little section of Vancouver (and how her friends and everything that mattered was within walking distance), her awful experiences with her printmaking teacher, her boyfriend coming to visit and that developing into a situation where he was soon moving in, various activities around town, spending time in Georgia, her bad movie club (wasn’t Larry Drake, the “mentally challenged” character from L.A Law, in The Dentist too?), mice in her apartment, and finally graduation. It’s another solid mix of short pieces that leads up to her life during that years and, as always, I think you should buy it. What can I say, I remain biased towards the good stuff. Oh, and one more thing as a general reminder to people who send review comics: if I don’t review your comic within a few months of you sending it (depends entirely on how much of a backlog I have to get through), then that means either it got lost in the mail or it got lost here. Mounds of mini comics are not a good organizing system, but maybe the second decade of this site is when I’ll finally get that shit organized. For everybody who doesn’t send me review comics, please disregard that entirely and just buy her comic already. $2
Two Days Away From Staring at Birds From a Park Bench
Would somebody send me a crappy mini comic? I’m getting tired of all these great minis. Well, not really, but variety is the life of spice and all that. From the title I was thinking that this was going to be a comic about aging, but no, it’s all about Kelly losing her job and trying to find another one. There’s her initial reaction to losing it (laughing out loud, as the man firing her was apparently a moron), sitting around at work during the transition period with nothing to do, and her entirely too honestÂ spiel at a family reunion. Then the unemployment really kicks in and Kelly starts finding it hard to bother getting up in the morning. There’s also the reactions of friends and family, Kelly’s ongoing freakout about the lack of employment (that even she was surprised by), and the utter lack of a response from all her applications. More than anything this comic demonstrated how pretty much all of us are hanging on by a thread that could be taken away on a whim from somebody that we’ll never meet. Creepy, huh? Things do take a hopeful turn towards the end, more or less, but then she includes a block of text on the back cover talking about how unemployed people aren’t even counted in the statistics after they stop looking for work (like me!) and how long it’s going to take, even under ideal conditions, to get it all back to “normal.” It takes skills to make this funny and insightful instead of just depressing, but she managed it. No price that I can find, but I’m going with $2.
I’ve found over the years of reading these books with funny pictures in them that there are two kinds of “collections of random stuff not collected in a single comic before” type of comics. One is the rushed mess of a comic, often half-filled with sloppy sketches, that was clearly done with the intention of having another (or one) book available at a convention. Then there’s the good kind, the kind that is full of stuff that just happened to be in different anthologies and sure, it probably doesn’t go together in any kind of logical sense, but who cares? Good comics are the goal here, not comics that tie together. This book fits that second description, as Kelly put a bunch of solid stories in here. Doesn’t Kelly know that you’re supposed to half-ass it for anthologies? Stories include a damned sweet piece about her Dad, an old boyfriend’s surprise party and how he was hit on all night by a male friend, cramming in a lunch break, “Accidental Adventures in S & M” (worth the price of admission all by itself), a page of small observances from her day, an early experience with live music (and not knowing a mildly famous guy by sight), and her odd crush on an older professor. There are a couple of pages that are portraits of various people, and not one of them was filler in any way. Once again I have nothing but praise for one of her comics. Sorry to disappoint the people out there who live for savagely negative reviews, but most of those folk left here years ago. $2
The Former Roommates of Gary Jones
Unless you’re that mythical creature who was lucky enough to live with friends and family in perfect harmony before getting married and living happily ever after with another person, chances are you’ve had some problems with roommates over your life.Â I’ve lost friends because of roommate drama, as have pretty much everybody else I know, and I still think that I able to avoid the worst of the possibilities of roommate drama before deciding years ago that I was going to just live by myself from then on (outside of getting married or moving in with somebody for something other than a financial reason, that is), and it’s suited me just fine.Â This brief history lesson into my personal life was brought about because of this comic, as Kelly asked an old roommate of hers (who she describes as the perfect roommate for being able to put up with just about anything and still call the offender a friend) to make a list of all his old roommates since moving to Seattle in 1992.Â What came out of it was a fascinating cast of characters, all briefly described on a single page with their likeness.Â Maybe this will be worse than your experience with roommates and it might (sadly) be better, but people described in here include a mooch (there always has to be at least one), a man who didn’t care about world news but got constant updates on his phone for sports teams scoring (and his conservative wife), a pot smoking USA basher, a perfectly groomed hipster who never left the house, a nut cracker collector (also a deadbeat), a constant liar, a gay Mormon, a kid who smelled like greasy hamburgers, a horticulturist on steroids, and a confused hooker.Â He even briefly describes his experience with Kelly, but they’ve stayed friends and the only remotely bad thing he had to say about her was that she “dated an obviously gay man”.Â There are a couple of other winners in here, but you get the idea, and the fact that there are surprises left means you might recognize an old roommate in the unlisted pile.Â It’s odd for nostalgia, good for a cautionary tale, and also good to gawk at the many wonders of how human behavior changes when forced to live with strangers.Â $2
Sadist Science Teacher
If you’ve ever thought while reading a comic “This is nice and all, but I wonder why this artist didn’t pick a career as a bio-chemical engineer instead”, Kelly gives an excellent rundown of why she was scared off of science early on.Â This little mini depicts a true lunatic of a teacher from her seventh grade, a man who started picking on her on the first day of class or, as she puts it, “before I’d actually done anything wrong”.Â Slapping his ruler on her desk to scare her, putting her in a dark tiny room next to the classroom for punishment, having no concept of personal space, writing “do science!” on her hand and then making her scrub it off in front of the class, this guy didn’t seem to do much of anything that would qualify as teaching.Â Unless his goal was to teach a young Kelly about the nature of assholes in the world and to avoid such folks whenever possible, in which case he did an excellent job.Â Everybody who went to school can relate to somebody like this guy, or (I hope) at least a lesser version of him.Â For every truly inspirational teacher I had there were probably a dozen who were just holding down a paycheck or seemed to actually loathe the students, and this comic is an excellent story about one of the latter.Â The only way it could have been better is if the guy had gotten some sort of comeuppance at the end, but the real world, sadly, rarely works that way.Â And yes, for the curious, this still means that I’ve liked all of Kelly’s comics that I’ve seen.Â What can I say?Â She has the comic skills.Â $.50
Norman: Tales From Amazon #1
Kelly spent 6 months working as a contract worker for Amazon.com, and this is the first of what she calls “hopefully many” comics about her time there.Â She thought it would be cool to work for Amazon but found out differently, and here’s hoping we hear more about the customer service end in one of these minis.Â I know my experience with them has been fairly miserable, at least when they get an order wrong (which, in all fairness, has been only rarely).Â Â Anyway, this comic is the story of Norman, a guy she worked with who was a stoner and a recovering drunk who played a lot of video games.Â They didn’t seem to have much interaction, but Norman was set off one day by the security guard talking on his cell phone (which was against the rules, but the poor guy was supposed to just “look alert” for his eight hour shift with no distractions).Â A brief argument ensued, a firing and a transfer occurred, and the rest of the comic deals with Kelly being forced to testify about the incident and a near-miss years later when she almost ran into the guy (working, ironically enough, as a security guard) at an art museum.Â This is a tiny thing but, as it’s told in her style of almost being a letter home (i.e. she’s never afraid to unleash potentially embarrassing details and also does an admirable job of preemptively answering any questions you might have after reading), these tiny minis of hers feel more like a meal than the average $.50 mini.Â Usually minis that cheap are strictly for cons or are tiny wordless tales, the few tiny ones from her have been a bargain along with being a great read at any price.Â In case you’re currently broke and want some bang for very little buck, this is an excellent place to start.Â $.50
Paper Cuts Machine
Wow, that cover is tremendously hard to see in a scan. This is an anthology of autobiographical comics, which automatically means that I like it, so I’ll try to be a bit more critical this time. There are a couple of great stories by Max Clotfelter, one about almost getting killed in grade school and one about the average events of a week. Every embarrassing detail is exposed here, which is always fun. Then there’s a story from Liz Prince about who’s stinkier, which is a short but fun strip. Aarow Mew just sort of wanders around aimlessly, and I can’t tell you why it bugged me here and not in the other strips, but there you go. Kelly Froh has a great story about a crush on an art school teacher, Rob Schultz has a one pager about wackiness in Iraq (maybe not the funniest subject matter in the world) and Kaz Strzepek has a story about trying to make out with his girlfriend back when he still lived with his parents. Max probably had the best looking art in here, with Kaz a close second, if you’re going to by that standard, even though it’s usually not a tremendously important criteria in autobio. The important thing is that everything in here is engaging and interesting (except maybe for Aaron’s story, but that’s a question of taste). I’m going out on a limb and saying it’s $2, check out the website!
Slither #6 Now Available! $1
Kelly takes care of one of the worst problems with autobio comics right away here, as she has plenty of interesting things to write about. A fair amount of comics like this are just plain dull, and that is never an issue with this one. This covers the summer of 2005 and as such it’s a remarkably focused book, sticking to a pretty strict timeline. It starts off with an awkward date with an internet friend (portrayed as one silent page of panels) and keeps right on going from there into living with her parents again (at age 31, briefly), trying to find a summer job, her dealings with the people at her pizza place job, saying goodbye to everybody, taking a trip to Seattle and finally ending up back in Vancouver. She uses all sorts of different techniques here, sometimes going with silent stories following text pieces, sometimes going with the more traditional comics with text (although no word balloons, maintaining an unintentional website theme for the day), and occasionally even going with photographs. It’s a great layout for a book and even ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, even though I have some idea how it turns out, as this was about the summer of 2005, after all. And all that for a measly buck!
Slither #5 Now Available! $2
I suppose I should pick one issue out of all these Slithers and recommend it to anybody who wants to get a good example of Kelly’s work. And that would be… this one! It’s odd, because this is the least “comic-y” of all her issues, as the bulk of this issue is a text description of her second semester at art school in Baltimore. Luckily for the reader, Kelly is equally capable of excellent writing as she is at the pretty pictures. Things are broken down into seemingly minute detail, but it never manages to get dull. She tries to adjust to a new city while having no money and few friends, starts counting all the time she’s wasting waiting for the perpetually late bus, walks the usual tightrope of trying to keep peace with a roommate, and starts a phone relationship with somebody she met online. This relationship seems to be the thing that takes the most out of her, as this guy lives across the country and their phone conversations pretty much have to occur at (for her) 3 in the morning. As usual, Kelly doesn’t disappoint with the effortless honesty in describing how things went with the guy, even including a free insert comic detailing how their eventual meeting turned out. It’s rare that you can curl up with a mini comic, but on this rainy March day this was a damned welcome way to spend a chunk of the afternoon. In my continued war against chronological order, this is the last issue of the Slither pile reviewed, and I have to honestly say that you could pick any issue out of this pile and still see what she’s capable of. A bit of a rarity, especially considering how first issues are generally just hints of what’s to come. She did improve over the course of the issues, granted, but there’s plenty to love all the way through. $2
Slither #4 (art by Chris Warren & Aaron Mew) Now Available! $1
Checking over that last review I can see that Kelly promised depravity this time around, and she delivers! Or at least she delivers if you consider talking about sex like an adult talking to other adults “depravity”. This issue covers a time span (I believe) through 2004, dealing with such things as traveling, dealing with her family for a wedding, visiting all sorts of friends, trying to imagine how she could ever fit in in New York, the sheer delight of kicking an asshole in a movie theater as he walks by, and Warren. Warren was her love interest (is there a more modern term for that I could use? “Love interest” makes me feel downright prim and proper) at the time, and Kelly honestly goes through how they got together, how she resisted at first but eventually got won over, how Warren lost interest once he saw that he had achieved his conquest, and how she let the whole thing die. The thing I love most about Kelly’s descriptions of her relationships is the absolute lack of any self pity. She tells a story about Warren telling her a pretty cruel thing, but it’s very clearly told because it’s an integral part of the story, not out of some desire to get sympathy from the reader. Self-indulgent auto-bio cartoonists, take note. The issue wraps up with the reader matching outfits to their respective cities, and a listing of the various types of people who ride buses, and I think I’ve seen all of them except the overtly paranoid guy. Another excellent issue, and anybody who doesn’t take a few minutes (and a few dollars) to get a stack of her comics is only hurting themselves.
Slither #3 Now Available! $1
It’s the second year of Kelly’s time at art school, and this issue goes through the horrors involved, or at least the highlights. Maybe “horrors” is too strong a word, maybe “uselessness” or “inanity” would be a better word. Essentially she’s there trying to learn, improve her craft, get a little sense of art history, that sort of thing, and what she gets are egocentric teachers: one who wants to do her work for her, one who has a creepy alter ego, and one who is so in love with the sound of his own voice that the class is lucky to get any useful information at all. She goes through the rest of her year in this issue as well, telling us all about nights out, a sexy wedding, an art show, her intimidating pilates class, an awkward night on stage with a comedian, a date with a filmmaker, and some things she will both have and never have, given her debt and imagined status in life, I suppose. It’s all wrapped up with a few pages of looks people cultivate to find a soul mate, and good luck not finding something to laugh at there. Another solid issue, although you have to forgive me if I’m a little more excited for the next issue, as she promises depravity inside. Yes, it’s Monday and I’m already looking for more depravity… $1
Slither #2 Now Available! $1
So who wants to read the sometimes painful process of living with your parents out in the middle of nowhere (Wisconsin) while pushing 30? Kelly has yet to disappoint with one of her minis and this one is no exception. This issue tells the tale of the time with her parents, with flashbacks thrown in occasionally to illustrate who exactly these people are and their meaning in her life. She also goes through a failed romance over her time in Wisconsin with an old friend who just happens to be married. Most of the book is dedicated to this time in her life, with the last few pages telling a morality tale about how maybe it’s not so bad to be trapped in corporate life after all. Another engrossing issue, if it wasn’t for my personal policy of reviewing stuff from people sporadically instead of all in a row (to give more theoretical readers a chance to see their name on the front page) I would have torn through all five issues already. $1
Slither #1 Now Available! $1
And here I thought these Slithers were going to be something of a straight line in the life of Kelly. Turns out that there are plenty of surprises still to come in issues 2-5, as #6 (the one reviewed first, for anybody who’s reading this, not looking inside my head and is a bit confused) appears to come directly after #1, at least chronologically. This issue details Kelly’s return to college after about ten years away, her living with two stoners (never, ever rent a house unseen), trying to make friends in Vancouver, a spider with a vendetta, and a few throwaway pages at the end with senior pictures. It’s always tough to say, when checking out the early work of somebody you like, whether that work is going to be painful, watching them learn as they go. Kelly has the storytelling figured out right off the bat (although the art does get better as she goes) and I’m really looking forward to filling in the blanks in this series in the coming weeks. $1
The Cheapest S.O.B.’s Now Available! $1
I’d have a hard time listing all the reasons I still read comics, a general sense of masochism having to be one of them, or at least it feels like that on days or weeks when there’s nothing good to be read. But then there are times like this, when I read something that I’ve never seen in a comic: a woman tearing her still-living grandparents to pieces for being unbelievably cheap. Kelly makes it clear in her intro that she’s gone through stages of calling them frugal or thrifty, but that it’s simply impossible to give them any more credit at this point, and then she proceeds to thoroughly document why she’s right. And boy, they do not come out looking good in here. I sampled the most disgusting example of their cheapness, but she also throws in the fact that they reuse Christmas cards, steal vegetables from community gardens, dig through dumpsters instead of going to thrift stores, read old papers discarded from a retirement home, and attend cancer survivor picnics just for the free food. Like it or not, there’s probably at least something in here for everybody to relate to about some relative or another. I loved it, but maybe that’s because all my grandparents are dead and I had no guilt about laughing through this. Some of you more sensitive souls might have a harder time. $1
Stewbrew #2: Meet Erin
Again, to make this all perfectly clear: Meet Erin is half of a collected two parts called Stewbrew #2, the second half being Coot’s Day by Max Clotfelter, and the whole thing is available from Max for $3. That being said, if Kelly and Max ever decided to combine these two real people into some sort of a fictionalized “date”, well, I would have to think that hilarity would ensue, even if the two would never speak in real life. This one is all about Erin, a woman that Kelly met while working in retail, and the sheer ridiculousness she brought to every day. From a fakey accent to reading Ann Coulter in public to seemingly everything she said, the woman was more than interesting enough to warrant a mini comic. We also get to see her briefly as an actual human, a sobering moment, but one which doesn’t last long. Great stuff, I have to say I like this even better than the other half of Stewbrew, mostly for the sheer level of dirt we get in this one. $3
The Five Year Itch of Dorothy Barry
People have occasionally asked me over the years how I pick what I’m going to review on any given day, and it’s a simple formula: I keep a literal pile of comics, with the ones sent in the mail at the top (as they get precedence over the ones I buy), and sort of reach in and grab a random one. In the case of this comic, I’ve been moving all week, have no idea where much of anything is (and my “pile” is scattered through various boxes), but this comic fell out of a pile of old bills, and voila! Internet magic! This is the story of a resident at an assisted-living home where Kelly works, with the names changed to protect everybody, who flips out every five years, invariably causing her to get kicked out of wherever she’s living at the time. Kelly paints a great picture of the chaos that comes over the whole establishment as Dorothy starts to think that she’s actually the one in charge of everything, ending with a black eye for an employee and cops getting involved. Great stuff from Kelly as always, and my advice to her, which I’m sure she already knows: there are probably plenty of stories to be had from that job. I worked for a few years as a night watchman at a home for… is “mentally challenged” the right word now? Anyway, while there are lots of dull days, the ones that aren’t dull are certainly memorable. No price, but let’s say $2.
I’ve Been Forced To Get To Know You
Nobody, but nobody captures the awkwardness of dating as well as Kelly does.Â She manages to make it hilarious and insightful while not being afraid to show to throw in any awkward truths about herself.Â This is an older mini, and it’s clear that her technical abilities have grown by leaps and bounds since this came out.Â Still, it’s impossible not to love this little thing.Â Kelly, after a long time being single, watches a lot of tv and ends up identifying with Drew Carey and hopes to find a boyfriend in that mold.Â She briefly meets a guy on New Year’s Eve, has what she thinks is a “moment” with him, but he ends up leaving with his friends before midnight.Â She admirably decides not to let it go and puts one of those “I saw you” ads in the local paper.Â He sees it and they eventually get together for a date… and that’s where the real awkwardness begins.Â The only thing they really end up having in common is their mutual interest in making art, which ends up making the night much longer than it otherwise would have been.Â Things eventually get mildly heated, they end up back at her place, and I’m about to tell you the whole story here, and nobody likes that.Â Let’s just say it’s not as salacious as I’m making it out to be.Â I’m hopelessly biased towards Kelly’s comics at this point, so of course I’m going to love this one.Â If you have to have your comics with excellent technical proficiency, maybe you should start with some of the later Slithers and then work your way back to this.Â If you like heartfelt awkwardness in all forms, it’s hard to go wrong here.Â $1
Be honest now: how many of you have taken the time to get to know the real stories of your relatives?Â I have various assorted stories for different relatives, but I have only rarely gotten the real “whole story”.Â Â The Debbie mentioned on the cover is Kelly’s aunt, and Kelly takes the time to question where the current version of the woman came from and gives us the story in lovely mini comic format.Â Debbie is, at present, essentially a stunt double for her mom: same basic attitude, same interests, and they talk on the phone every day.Â Back in the day, however, she ran with a gang (well, the small town version of a gang from 40 years ago or so) and hung out with a local scumbag until her parents sent her away to the National Guard.Â That’s right, that was her punishment.Â Still, where a lot of people would take that punishment as a hint to never come back or to make their own way in the world, she chose to return to her hometown, marry one of the losers from the local gang and have a couple of kids.Â She also got a job cleaning (alongside her mom) and has settled into a quiet, uneventful life.Â It’s the personal family bits in here that make this special though, as Kelly gets inside information from family members to make this a more complete portrait.Â It’s not going to come as a shock to any regular readers that I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but it really is fascinating.Â I can even see Kelly still being able to enjoy family dinners after this, as things never get TOO personal, although I can see that being a subjective judgment.Â Â Check it out, then go down the rest of this huge page and think about sending her a chunk of change so she’ll send you a pile of comics.Â No price, so… $2?