The Amazing Cynicalman Volume 2
For everybody out there who has ever wanted to start a comic or comic strip but has figured that it was impossible because of their lack of artistic talent, I give you Cynicalman! It’s not a completely fair comparison, granted, as it’s clear that Matt could put more detail into his strips if he wanted. But he’s managed to build up a distinctive cast of characters over the years, and they’re all stick figures. This collection covers roughly 2008-2012, so it’s a fun peek pack into how much everything was effected by the presidential election of ’08 and was compelled to comment on it. Other than that Matt’s strips have stayed apolitical as far as I can tell, and even then he didn’t expressly endorse anyone or any particular viewpoint. But in those glorious days, the entire country understood that George W. Bush had messed up on a colossal scale and that it would take a miracle to put everything back together again. And if you think I’M biased, the dude had a 22% approval rating when he left office. That is tough to do! Anyway, mini rant over. What are these strips about? There’s a league of amateur superheroes that doesn’t seem to do much in the way of saving people (or maybe we only see them in their weekly meetings), Stupid Boy and his hilariously stupid happenings, random coffee shop conversations, various assorted jokes about office life, snow hijinx, Maw and Paw Headbanger (about an older couple whose hearing was destroyed by loud rock music in the 70’s), the artiste Marlene Brando and her efforts to get a film career going (and the reactions of the people to those efforts), and countless strips on the foibles of daily life. This is a nicely rounded collection, never sticking with any character long enough for you to get sick of them. These are also all six panel strips and, as is always the case with such strips, some of them are funnier than others, and your opinion on which is which will vary from person to person. If the idea of jumping right into a collection of Matt’s work alarms you, he has plenty of mini comics from his many years in the medium, so you could always start there. But screw it, go for the collection, that’s what I say. The man has been doing mini comics since the early 90’s at the very least and possibly since the 80’s, support his work and get some laughs in the process! $15
Izzy Challenge #5
This has turned into a weekend of anthology comics here at ye olde Optical Sloth, and these are a couple of good ones to contrast.Â The other comic reviewed was the first issue of the Trubble Club anthology, in case anybody reads this years down the line and wants to compare.Â In this issue, JB recruited people to do a panel each, based on a state, and have the story be about Izzy traveling through all 50 states.Â It had to be all ages stuff, JB sent an image of Izzy along and the artist had to fill in the backgrounds.Â With Trubble Club, well, I’m not entirely sure how they did their stories, but they certainly weren’t all ages (a plus in my book), and they had a whole page to set up a story, not just one panel.Â It’s probably silly to compare the two books, as they’re aiming to do completely different things, and… you know, that’s a good argument, so I will.Â This comic is less about a story than it is about the challenge to have 50 artists represent something from each state, whether or not that something has anything to do with reality.Â Looking at JB’s website I can see that he/she has experimented with the individual panel idea before in different ways, and I’m all for people pushing the boundaries of this “graphic art” idea as far as it can go, so kudos to him/her.Â There’s also a deal up at the moment (through the end of December) where you can get #1-5 of this series for $3.50, which is a good a chance as any to see what other experiments have been going on with the Izzy Challenges.Â So, to sum up, the Izzy Challenge books are a fascinating look into single panels from all over the country (because that’s what they were trying to do) and Trubble Club is a fascinating look into utterly random jam comics that somehow stick to a basic theme (because that’s what THEY were trying to do).Â Can you believe I’m not rich from such utterly random commentary yet?Â Yeah, me too.Â Oh, and as for the list of contributors to this book, check out that website listed above, as I’m not typing 50 names in here.Â Some of the people I know are listed on this page are Jack Turnbull, Isaac Cates, Barry Rodges, Sarah Morean, Joshua Cotter and Matt Feazell, but that’s a very incomplete list.Â $1
Another from the long list of people who should have been up here ages ago. Matt Feazell has been doing minis since the 80’s and his books are some of the best around. Don’t let the stick figures fool you. There’s a lot going on in here, and if you blink you’ll miss if because it all seems so simplistic. This one is a tiny collection of his weekly strip. which is news to me. There’s a certain mindset you have to have to really enjoy these comics. If you like the sample, you’ll love the rest of it. If you don’t, well, go to his website and look at some other stuff. Plenty of samples, you’re bound to find something you enjoy. If this world is a just place, there will come a time when he has a giant book with all kinds of Cynicalman stuff in it. Until then, his site has all kinds of back issues, and for $10 you could have a pretty extensive library. His books are small but cheap, and, more importantly, extremely good. I picked this out of his books kind of at random to review because there really wasn’t anything that much higher or lower than this on the quality scale from the 4 issues I got. It’s all good. You know I have no command of the English language, right?
Junior Librarians #1 (with Jim Mackey)
Well, that was dumb.Â Â Let me explain: I’ve long wanted more Matt Feazell stuff on my site, as I’ve been vastly entertained at his stick figure adventures for years.Â This year at SPACE, once again, I got to his table when I was almost broke and could only afford to get one thing, so I randomly grabbed this one.Â That makes it at least partially my fault, as few people in comics are more prolific than Matt, and I’m sure many other things on that table would have amused me greatly.Â This one, however, did not.Â It’s not a bad story: junior librarians are given a challenge to reshelve a huge pile of books in the correct order.Â Then a hulking bully comes by and kicks the ladder down… and then apparently the ladder disappears, as they are forced to come up with another solution to their problem.Â It’s a mildly cute ending, but that’s what it is, after only three pages: an ending.Â The next two pages name all the characters, an utterly worthless exercise, and the back cover contains original sketches for the characters, which is also at least slightly worthless.Â Unless this all turns into a much bigger series and all of this is important in the long run, which is quite possibly the case.Â And why were two people needed to write/draw this?Â OK, enough bashing of the guy.Â He’s one of the stalwarts of the small press world and I have nothing but good things to say about him as a human being and about the vast majority of his work.Â I just wasn’t impressed with this particular comic.Â $.50