Prince, Liz – Look Back and Laugh
Please don’t ask me to explain my opinion on daily diary comic strips, because it turns out that I have no idea. I thought that I was over the format entirely, but here Liz is with a book of 366 strips from 2016 (it was a leap year Top Shelf Comix, fix your totals!), and I was delighted and amused throughout. Delighted at least in part because of the saga of her cats (they’re in the sample strip because, even though other strips might have been funnier, I love the way she draws cat so very much that I couldn’t pass it up), but there’s a whole lot to like here. She avoids the major pitfalls of the diary strips, where the creator would run out of things to say and then do a strip about how they had nothing to say. She maybe did that once or twice here, but even then she’d have something insightful to say about the reasons behind the lack of a story, or some other fact to keep things moving. Subjects in this collection include Liz getting engaged and then married (in as low-key a fashion as I’ve seen; it didn’t even take up the entire strip for either day), the ongoing struggle between her cats Dracula and Wolfman, buying a house and all that comes with it, making a big move, and keeping all of her various projects on track while doing daily strips. And, obviously, a whole lot more, but you probably already figured that out from the whole “366 strips” thing. As I said, this is from 2016, but as of early June 2019, it looks like she’s still going with the strips. I can’t read them all because you need to donate through Patreon to do it, but I can think of very few people more worthy than her to support with your comic monies. Hell, I’m probably going to end up getting one myself, mostly because the suspense of whether or not Dracula and Wolfman ever got along is going to bug me until I learn the answer. So yeah, it’s another amazing book from Liz. Buy it, make her rich! Or at least financially solvent… $19.99
Derry Green, Delaine (editor) – The Portable Not My Small Diary
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.
Prince, Liz – Tomboy
Last year I wrote a review for the sample chapter of this book, and my only complaint was that it wasn’t longer. And yes, I did acknowledge that that was a stupid complaint to have for a sample chapter. This time around the whole book is here, and it is exactly as fantastic as I had figured. That’s right, at this point I just automatically assume that any comic of Liz’s is going to be fantastic. A high standard to live up, but she hasn’t had any trouble with it yet. This one starts out at the beginning, with Liz in the middle of a crying fit because she was told to try on a dress when she was 4. As she points out, she wasn’t big on throwing fits back in those days… unless she was told to do/try something girlie. From there we get the story of her life, of her trying to fit in while also not fully understanding why she should have to try, of her learning that lots of boys who you think are your friends are actually trying to date you, and of the almost casual bullying that would be a part of her daily life for the vast majority of her time in school. But she also met more than a few great people along the way, people who could steer her in the right direction and make her understand that there wasn’t a thing wrong with her. I do wonder how Liz would have turned out if she hadn’t met the older lady who put out a regular zine, as that was how she got her “training” in comics, but it sure seems like she was set up to be awesome from a very early age. If you’re a lady who had issues like these growing up, I have to imagine that this is going to bring back some serious memories. If you’re just a regular old former (and, let’s be honest, current) misfit like me who never quite fit in any particular clique growing up, you’re still going to see lots to remind you of school days. And I have to admit that the way she got out of wearing dresses to mass was genius. My trick was a clip-on tie (strictly forbidden) for mass day, then lying brazenly about it whenever I was called out by a teacher. Good thing none of them ever gave it a tug. Hey look, there’s me reminiscing about high school days! See, I told you this book would bring up some old memories. It’s a damned fine book, and even the epilogue was a thing of beauty. Read it and enjoy, unless you were the magical person who was completely fine with every aspect of your growing up. I doubt that such people even exist. $15.99
Prince, Liz – Alone Forever
I reviewed Get Over It by Corinne Mucha just a couple of weeks ago, and if I ran the world these two books would be sold as a set. Corinne’s book goes point by point through an excruciating breakup, her denial after the fact and multiple aborted attempts to get back together. Alone Forever, on the other hand, is all about Liz living the single life, crushing on guys here and there but basically being OK with being single. Mostly. It’s complicated. These are strips taken from her website, so there isn’t a straight storyline (although it’s not like it’s difficult to follow), but the theme remains the same. Liz hangs out with friends, goes to see bands, crushes on various guys (with beards; that seems to be a requirement), has ill-advised attempts to go out with wingmen, notices that she seems to be wearing the same clothes as most of her crushes, and details a series of OKCupid dates that mostly go horribly wrong. OK, they all go horribly wrong in one way or another, but that doesn’t seem to be an odd result from using that site. I’m in serious danger of just spilling all of the beans on all of the various strips, but I have to mention that I love how her cats will not let her wallow in self-pity. My cat is a notorious asshole (to other humans and only occasionally to me), but she will not stand for any sort of crying either. See, all you monsters who hate cats? Dogs love you all the time, while cats love you the most when you really need it. She also included fake Valentine’s Day candy messages on the inside covers, and you should really take a few minutes to read them. This is a pretty damned great collection of strips, and I can’t recommend it enough for any other single people out there. Couples, butt out. You’re happy enough already. $9.95
Prince, Liz – Tomboy (sample chapter)
Tomboy (sample chapter)
Is it kosher for me to admit that my only problem with this comic is that it’s only a sample chapter of a much larger graphic novel, when the entire purpose of said comic is to serve as a teaser for the larger book (that is coming out in September)? No? Eh, I didn’t think so either. Still, when my only complaint about a comic is that I very much wanted to see more of it, it should be pretty clear that I had no real complaints at all. This whole thing is going to be a memoir of the early years of Liz Prince, as she tries to figure out how to navigate the world as something other than the typical girly-girl but still not quite a tomboy. This comic in particular starts off with her time on the baseball team when she was 10 and how her image of where she thought she should fit in did not coincide at all with where her coach thought she should play. In her mind she was a skilled pitcher, striking out everyone she faced, while her coach was perfectly content to stick her in right field and hope that no balls were hit in her direction. The rest of the comic deals with her time at a Girl Scout camp and the horrible things it taught her about how girls interacted with and talked about each other. She learned that girls could be made fun of regarding their bodies, even though it’s not like she chose her body. She also learned the horrors of swimming in a tee shirt, although she tells that lesson much better than I ever could, so maybe you should read all about that for yourself. I’d advise you to wait until the entire book comes out (she says September 2nd, so it should be somewhere around there), and you can use the link for her website to find out exactly how to do that. I think this means that the sample comic works as well as it could, as I can’t wait to see the whole thing and strongly advise the rest of you to check it out when it’s released. If you’re already a fan of her work you don’t need any reminding of that fact, but if you haven’t read any of her other comics this looks like a good introduction to her work. After all, what’s a better introduction to the work of an artist than the story of their childhood?
Prince, Liz – Delayed Replays
Hey look, it’s a collected edition of her series from a few years back! I reviewed the first issue of this series a little while back and I mostly stand by it: damned adorable at times, but marred by some sloppy line work in the early days. Well, “marred” is too strong a word, as the early work for most people is going to be far from perfect. Anyway, this is 111 pages of these strips, so if you liked them in smaller doses, you’ll love them here! Subjects include cat conversations (her with her cat, not cats with each other, as that would be crazy), boys and their shenanigans, her with her friends (including one that looks like her doppelganger), fudgesicles, and various other observances that fit in three panels. There is also a distinct lack of comics about the difficulties of making comics, which is a nice change in a diary strip. You get quite a bit of comic here for $7, but if you were smarter you would have taken advantage of Top Shelf’s recent sale to get it for $3. But you weren’t, so those extra $4 are your punishment for a lack of planning on the right time to buy a pile of comics. $7
Various Anthologies – Paper Cuts Machine
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!
Prince, Liz – Delayed Replays #1
Delayed Replays #1
Who out there loves the diary strips? Oh come on, most of the people who read this site do, as I talk about them on a fairly regular basis. Well, here’s another one, full of all sorts of cuteness (although a bit too cute at times) and observations about things. Sorry, “things” is a bit of a cop-out, but it never gets too deep here, so I think “things” is an OK way to describe it. What kind of things? Snow, her cat, her boyfriend, boogers, farting, video games, boredom, and frog feet. Among other things, but it’s a quick read, so why spoil it? The art is adorable, if maybe a little too sloppy at times, or maybe I’m just becoming a curmudgeon and I can’t stand sloppiness. You damned kids! Still, a good book overall, and she has something coming out from Top Shelf next month, which should be a good chance to get a whole bunch of these strips, if I’m guessing correctly… $3