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Bravo, Kyle – Forever and Everything

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Forever and Everything

I do very much love it when artists don’t get offended by a past criticism of mine. It doesn’t happen often; the most common reaction when I get a response to something critical I’ve said is thanks, that at the very least maybe I’ve made them think about things in a different way. And sure, sometimes people get mad, as it’s not like I’m going to be right in every thing that I think, and there are even times when I’m having a shitty day and I say something awful in a review as a result. Very rarely, and I’ve gotten better at that over the years, but I am only human. Anyway, long and pointless intro short, I mentioned in the review of Kyle’s last comic that his early drawings “looked like garbage.” Instead of taking this personally, or even giving up because one guy on the internet said something bad about an aspect of his comic, Kyle thought it was funny and even mentioned it in his intro. To be clear, the rest of my review mentioned how much better the book got as he went along, and that sloppiness was an inherent danger of daily diary strips… eh, that’s why I keep an archive here. Read it yourself for the whole story. My point being: artists, never take critics all that seriously. Me, I’m just in it for the free comics. So how about this comic? Kyle has decided to keep going with his strips, but instead of continuing to do them daily (with a small child that’s a dicey proposition anyway) now he just draws them when possible and “as funny or interesting things occur.” That right there should be the motto of all daily diary artists, but then I guess that would take the “daily” out of the equation. Kyle also makes the interesting choice to really maximize space, as strips fill out each page, with them being continued on the next page until they stop. Meaning a strip can be four panels and done or 12 panels and done; once that happens he puts up a title card to signify the start of the next strip to move you along. Environmentalists, shouldn’t you have figured this out years ago? Think of all the paper just this one guy is saving. Subjects in here include the ongoing development of Jamie, having chickens, not having chickens, making a mural, injuring himself, being away from the family, the personal woe of headaches, accidentally getting a faux hawk, and jury duty. It’s some pretty solid storytelling, but the only complaint I have is that after ten minutes of looking around online I’m still not sure where exactly people can buy a copy of this book. The only thing I’ve seen is an Etsy listing that has this for 69.93 SEK, which sounds totally made up. That should always be easy to find for anybody looking for your name. But hey, send the guy an email, that should do the trick too.

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Bravo, Kyle – Making Jamie

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Making Jamie

Man, talk about a comic that takes you on a journey. Or me, anyway; I have no idea what journey you’ll have on reading this book. I should point out that I’m single and childless, meaning that a book full of diary strips detailing a pregnancy and the early days of a baby wasn’t something that I was really looking forward to reading. Those negative thoughts were confirmed by the early strips which, frankly, looked like garbage. Lousy images, text that spilled all over the place, they were just a mess. An obvious hazard of doing a daily strip, where quantity always wins out over quality, but I almost stopped reading this about a dozen pages in. And yet, by the time it was all said and done, I’ll really glad I stuck with it. The art improved, for one thing. It was a gradual change, but it was also obvious that Kyle was taking more time on it, and that gradual improvement of the quality continued all the way through the end of the strip. I would have understood if it hadn’t, as I expected it to stop altogether once the baby was born, but instead it kept getting better all the way up to the end. Oh right, I should give you a synopsis of the book that I’m reviewing. Kyle and his wife Jenny are about halfway through her pregnancy when this book starts up. We see lots of different happenings, their uncertainties about what they’re in for, picking out a baby name (although naming the book after the baby took a bit of the drama out of those strips), planning out future work obligations, finding a doctor, etc. Then the baby is born, and we get to see roughly a month of life with a new baby. Kyle even wraps it up with a six page afterward, detailing why he did the comic, how he got into comics at all, and what he has planned now, if anything. He even mentions that he read American Elf (the daily strip by James Kochalka) AFTER he finished his series, which is kind of hilarious. I go back and forth on the value of daily strips all the time, as is evidenced by even a quick search through the archives here of my reviews of other daily strip collections. Sometimes they seem to go on for years past when they make any sense, sometimes I never see the point of them to begin with, and sometimes they’re perfect little sections of time with a fascinating story to tell. I wasn’t expecting this book to fall into the latter category, but it completely won me over by the end. And if you’re having a kid or planning to have a kid, I have to imagine there’s plenty for you to learn from this book. And if Kyle is stuck on a comics project to start next, he could always tell the story of how he became religious in his mid 30’s. That was a throwaway fact from a few strips, but it’s the kind of thing that always makes me curious. $10

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Derry Green, Delaine (editor) – The Portable Not My Small Diary

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The Portable Not My Small Diary

Hey kids, or anybody who has started reading comics in the last few years? Are you interested in the history of mini comics, why they’re such a source of passion for so many people? Well, maybe not in numbers, but in level of interest and dedication in following certain artists? Your answer is this volume. If you have no interest in the history, away with you! This one can be for the old timers. This is a collection of the best of the “Not My Small Diary” anthology, and if you read small press comics in the 90’s and 00’s, you will recognize plenty of these names. In fact, good luck not getting lost in a Google hole or trying to figure out what so many of these people are up to these days. Notable names include (but are not limited to) Jeff Zenick, Dan Zettwoch, Patrick Dean, Raina Telgemeier, Jesse Reklaw, Carrie McNinch, Sam Spina, Roberta Gregory, Kurt Wolfgang… you know what, there are just too damned many names, and they’re all in the tags, so check that part out. If any of those names made you say “hey, I wonder what they’re up to these days” then this book is for you. These are mostly snippets of stories, but they’re all complete by themselves. Sometimes the stories follow a theme, like notable dates or moments in their lives, but really they’re all over the place. If it seems like I’m avoiding getting into specifics, that is entirely the case. If you were around for all these artists when they first started, you’re going to get lost in this instantly. If not, this is an excellent way for you to figure out what the big deal was about these people all along. I guess it’s possible that it’s the nostalgia talking and that people might not connect to these stories now, but screw that. These are tales of human weakness (and occasionally triumph), and those stories are universal and timeless. Most of the original issues of this series are out of print, so this is your best option all around. The book itself is $7.50 if you see Delaine at a convention, but if not $10 should be enough to cover the shipping, and I really can’t recommend this enough. It’s rare for any anthology not to have a weak story or two, but these are all golden.

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