Posts Tagged Max Clotfelter
You can file this review under “you kids today,” if you like to know that type of thing right away. What I mean by that is that there are two people out there that everybody else attempting autobiographical stories should be compared to: Harvey Pekar and Dennis Eichhorn. Sure, Harvey had a movie made about him, meaning that even casual comics folk may know the name, but Dennis, for reasons that baffle me, has never gotten that kind of attention. They also wrote completely different types of stories, as Harvey was all about daily life, the mundane bits mixed in with insights about the human condition. But Dennis, man, Dennis has lived a hell of a life, and he’s chock full of fascinating and/or hilarious stories to tell. Dating back to his Real Stuff series in the 90’s he’s had nothing but the top comics artists in the field helping him out. Back then it was both of the Hernandez Bros, Chester Brown, Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge, I think even Robert Crumb… basically anybody you can think of from that era. So, since this is a collection of (mostly but not entirely) new stories, he brought in some of the best artists working today. The stories in here are all over the place and from various portions of his life; if I had any complaint it’s that I sometimes wished for context as to what age he was or when exactly the story happened (although he did usually give a ballpark estimate). Stories include his very first writing gig interviewing a terrible local band (with Ivan Brunetti), his first night as a taxi driver and how he learned to trust prostitutes (with Max Clotfelter), a fantastic prank on Mormons/a shitty neighbor (with Dame Darcy), a very surreal medical experience with Fox News blaring in the background that also involved him finding out that Harvey Pekar had died (with RL Crabb), finding out that the Coast Guard is not legally bound in any way in regards to searching boats (with Colin Upton), and sifting for gold with a (literally) crazy friend. There are other solid stories in this collection too, but it’s best to leave some things a surprise, right? I checked a bit online and somehow there doesn’t seem to be a definitive collection of his earlier series, so maybe Fantagraphics or Top Shelf should get on that, legal mumbo-jumbo permitting? That’s a pile of really great stories with some of the best artists in the world that are somehow still out of print. Regardless, this is plenty worth checking out all on its own, and if you stumble across any old issues or Real Stuff (or, if you’re old enough, Real Smut), pick that sucker up too. $10
Has the theme of falling on your face/ass/other ever been the subject of a comics anthology before? I can’t think of one, but it’s such a natural fit. This naturally made me think of various falls in my life, and I kept coming back to one what wasn’t really a fall and also wasn’t me. I was walking with a couple of friends on an icy road years ago. One of these friends is 6’6”, and my other friend and I noticed him start to slide. This is one of those moments when time slows down, but after the fact we would both swear that he had fallen far enough backwards for the back of his head to slide on the ground, but he somehow more or less kept his balance and never did completely fall. Not sure even today if that’s a good story or a “you had to be there” story, but it’s notable that I still remember it maybe 15 years later. Anyway! The point of that story is that it’s impossible to read this comic without thinking of pratfalls you know and love, and Rob has assembled quite a talented bunch here to tell their stories. There’s Carrie McNinch’s story of getting her thumb slammed in the door (and her mother driving away with said thumb stuck in the door), Becky Hawkins and her amazing collection of bruises and cuts (not the mention her ridiculously unlucky landing spot), Aron Nels Steinke almost knocking his eye out, Tessa Brunton’s spectacular rolling fall, John Porcellino’s skateboarding mess, Jason Viola’s trip to Russia and the impression he must have left with some of those people, Noah Van Sciver and his preventative precautions taken to prevent ever being hurt again, Cara Bean’s skiing “mishap”, MariNaomi’s bowling injury (yes, it is possible), the cat of Gabrielle Gamboa taking her eyebrow, Tony Breed getting away with one, Max Clotfelter getting seriously punched, and the causes of Rob Kirby’s various scars from waiting tables. With a list of talent like that I doubt that I have to do much convincing, so just do yourself a favor and pick this up. Then, if you haven’t already, work your way back through the older comics of these folks. You deserve it! $5
On Your Marks #1
Oh, what a crank I am. I get a pretty damned great anthology filled with small press people living in Seattle who could use a little more exposure and I can’t help thinking that I would have liked it better with a clear indication of which artists did which pages. They’re even all listed on the inside front cover, but they’re inside of a drawing, which makes some of them tough to make out. Does this take away from the quality of the content? Not one bit, no, as it’s not like it’s impossible to figure out who did certain pages with a little bit of work. Eh, I blame it on the general tone of the holiday season. All this Christmas music everywhere just bugs me. And if you ever needed more proof that I am in fact a total curmudgeon, there you have it. Anyway! This is a collection of mostly one page strips, done by all kinds of people that you either already know about or should be ashamed of yourself because you’ve never heard of them. Stories include Ben Horak having the comic he made when he was 6 read by adults (with a perfect final panel), Tom Van Deusen’s creepy piece about a head growing out of a roof and what happens when it’s removed, Bobby Madness and the sacrifice he made for the environment, Kelly Froh’s traumatic moment on an aimless afternoon, Pat Keck and his dungeon Gremlins, Aarow Mew and the result of his “spider” bite, Julia Gfrorer’s tale of a creepy ouija board experience, Rick Altergott and Pat Moriarty’s story of what cats think is going on with their litter boxes, Marc Palm’s Flannelwolf and Frankcan, Robyn Jordan’s worries about what she’ll be like in 10 years after she has kids, David Lasky’s questions about what you would do if you were a superhero, and Max Clotfelter’s mistaken assumption involving getting his older brother involved in protecting him. Like I said, it’s a damned solid anthology, full of ridiculously talented people. Maybe next time they’ll put page numbers on the pages to lessen my crankiness, or maybe it’s something I need to work on on my own and I’m sharing too much here… $4
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
Alex Jones True Adventures #1
Ah, Alex Jones. I’m going to happily assume that this comic is supposed to be about the Alex Jones of radio/various conspiracy theories fame and not just a random Alex Jones, mostly because this comic would serve as an excellent origin story for the guy. Scratch that, Alex has a microphone and a tape recorder on the first page, so obviously it’s him. Anyway! This comic reads like a bizarro lament to my opinion that too few comics deal with modern political events or figures. This one has a bundle of political figures show up, and if any of them ever somehow heard of this comic I’d have to imagine that they wouldn’t be too happy about it. Buy hey, fuck ’em. This starts off with Alex on his personal tour of Bohemian Grove, the “play area for the elites,” and his confrontation with a “dandy sex toy” who seems to have stolen Jughead’s crown. From there he witnesses all kinds of horrors involving Geraldo Rivera, Herman Cain, Hilary Clinton and Bernie Madoff that I probably shouldn’t get into because of the dreaded spoilers. I will say that the ending with _____ (I’ll leave it as a surprise) in his “liberty copter” was brilliant, even if the person in question is a goldbug loon in real life. It’s a nice little piece of cathartic madness all wrapped up in eight pages. Normally I’d also complain about the lack of any contact info in this comic, but considering the subject matter I can see why Tom might want to make this a little tougher to find than most of his comics. That being the case there’s no price, but a buck or two should probably cover it.
For what it’s worth (and it shouldn’t be all that much, as everybody gets an opinion), I approve of Max’s recent shift into double page spreads of his art, or silent work in general. Sure, I bitch about silent comics at times, but not THESE comics. And yes, that’s supposed to make total sense. In past issues of his comics we would get the occasional glimpse of the oozing, seething horrors that populate his art, but in the last few issues I’ve seen we get to see these monstrosities in better detail. In this issue we get two double page spreads, both on the inside front cover and the centerfold of the book. Is it still called a centerfold if it doesn’t involve a naked man or woman? Let’s just say that it does. The center image is the more powerful of the two, mostly because it’s uninterrupted. Is the gelatinous pile of tumors holding a speared child of the cowering, weeping creature backed up against a tree? Why is the man (if it is indeed a man under all those clothes, but it least it has a manlike shape) holding a gun up to that cowering creature? And are all the creatures of the forest on its side, or have they merely been backed into the same corner? I probably should have put that image as the sample just so all that made sense, but trust me, you’ll be glad that you discovered it for yourself. Other bits in here that are generally more examples of linear storytelling include Max’s memories of meeting Mr. T. as a child (and how he’s confronted with the reality of that meeting as an adult), begging for food at a flea market, seeing a guy jerking off on a bus, and ending up getting way too many eyedrops when taking drugs. There are also more than a few silent pages or short stories that defy conventional explanation, and as a whole comic it’s pretty damned impressive. My only confusion is that I remember Andros as being an anthology, but it’s from a long time ago (way, way back in the fuzzy days of the 90’s), and who can remember that far back anyway? $2
Alligator Milk #1
Now that is one hell of a cover. Anybody looking at it is either going to be compelled to pick this up or run screaming in the opposite direction. The cowards will miss a thoroughly entertaining show while the rest of us will almost certainly have at least one of Max’s hauntingly extravagant drawings pop up in our dreams. On the first page this is called FEMA Camp 2012, which is based on the fever dreams of professional carnival barker and gold shiller Glenn Beck, so it’s instantly fertile ground for some extra insanity. Two guys are in line, trying to decide what they should wish for (the reader is not immediately told what this is all about), when one of them gets too happy at the prospect of a sandwich and gets admonished by a guard. The smiling persists, so the admonishment gets much worse, leaving only one of the guys to try and make it to the end of the line. As for what’s waiting for him at the end of the line, I’ll refer you to the title and leave it at that. I will say that it’s impossible not to love that last page but will offer no further hints. That would be a perfectly fine mini comic for a measly dollar, but that’s not all that’s in here. In the middle of the book the action stops to show two larger illustrations. One of them covers two pages of the story (we even get a “continued on third page following” warning like in old comic books) and the other images folds out from the center pages. The smaller drawing (and keep in mind that describing these drawings without you seeing them is a bit of a hopeless task) has two monstrosities that are tentatively trying to tongue kiss each other while clinging to a ceiling and towing along a bucket of horribleness respectively, while the larger drawing will take your breath away. It shows a man (ish) dragging along an incredibly heavy burden of melted bits of all sorts of creatures (or at least they seem mildly melted to me, and again I must point out the pointlessness of describing something that is almost certainly is its own unique thing) while another man, his dog and a snake creature all look on. At first I thought that this large picture was showing what happened to the people in that camp, now I’m not so sure and think they may just be two images that are completely disconnected from the main story. Either way, if you’re a fan of Max’s work they’re not to be missed. $1
Crikey, it’s been years since I’ve seen one of Max’s comics. Well, at least I think it’s been years, as I’ve found that website time does not necessarily correspond exactly to actual time. Good to see that Max is still loving drawing the representatives of the lowest rungs on the societal ladder, and you’ll be happy to know that any preconceptions you might have from that title are completely and totally wrong. This is the story of an amorphous blob of a man and his young son. Well, that and the fantastically creepy way that the older man hugs his son. The older man tells his son to look after “Maw” and goes away for 20 years. When he returns he discovers that “Maw” has either died or gone missing in his absence, so they both go to a local bar to… find her? Exact revenge? Share a drink to her memory? I’m pretty sure it’s not the last one, but other than that I’m not sure. Maw is never seen in this comic, so it’s all up to your imagination as to what happened to her/exactly what she is. It’s a great finale either way, with the final line explaining the point of the title. If you knew what it was you’d be laughing too, but you probably still need to buy the comic and I’m not going to ruin it for you. Max was nice enough to send along a few other recent minis, so he should be up here a few more times in the coming weeks. The man has been putting out quality comics for years (if memory serves, which it probably doesn’t, he was one of the first people to send me some minis for review when I started this thing up 10+ years ago) and he just keeps chugging along. No price, but e-mail the man and you could probably get a copy for a buck or two.
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!
Random anthologies are a sampling of parts of America. OK, maybe they’re not anything that profound, but I’m starting to think that certain parts of the country have clearly defined differences in taste and humor. I’ll be sure to let you know when I write my 50 page thesis on the subject, but for now you’re probably curious about what’s in the actual comic. Most of it is by the editor, Max Clotfelter, and I’m becoming torn on the guy. I reviewed a book of his yesterday that I liked quite a bit, but his stories in here seem mostly aimless and, well, pointless. Not that I’m sure what the point of most comic stories should be, exactly. His first piece is about a wise owl (just once I’d love to see a stupid owl) basically giving a lecture to a giant rat suffering from a hangover. Looks like he spent some time researching this and it’s a great short piece. Then there’s “Under Your Blanket”, a piece that seems to have a point and/or a coherent story at first, then it just doesn’t. Or it just loses me, it’s open to interpretation. There’s a few more, the best being “What’s Happening”, a two-pager about various unimportant moments across history. This was a great idea and could have easily been expanded. Other pieces didn’t stand out as much, although all of his stuff looks great. Like I said yesterday, the man has some artistic talent, there’s no doubt about that. Other contributors to this book are Aaron Mew, who has a neat little silent piece about love beyond the grave; Cathy Hannah, who I think has the strongest pieces in the book (short diatribes about real-life stuff, which are always my favorite; Rich Stevens & Josh Carl Evens, with a creepy Snow White story; F. Enciso with a lovely story about the eternal struggle against roaches, and Andy Rappe with a story about mange. Altogether a pretty strong anthology, although all anthologies have their highs and lows. Still, it’s worth checking out for a couple of bucks, send Max an e-mail to order…
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
That’s what’s been missing from this page: an endearing love story between two hobos. Sadly, this isn’t it. The cover may fool you, granted, but this one starts out with Joy leaving her life with Cliff, as she’s sick of huffing gas, getting drunk and eating garbage, so she wants to move on to bigger and better things. Cliff is heartbroken and briefly attempts minimally cleaning up his act, but gets frustrated and ends up back in the city, making out with another random hobo. At least there’s a happy ending, as Cliff finds the things in life that he truly values. It’s 64 pages and a measly buck, so there’s good fun to be had by all hobo loving people of the world.
The Cumplete Warlock Volume One
I’ve often seen the work of various artists and wondered what their earlier work was like, what kind of creative background they came from. There are, of course, times when that information is better left to the imagination. Max made these comics in junior high and high school, so this is lacking the lavish detail that’s in his other minis. And, as he was only a wee lad, most of the writing skills aren’t evident either. These are one page joke strips, where the joke always ends with somebody (usually a family member) getting beaten/stabbed/raped to a bloody pulp. If I was in junior high or high school, these would be hilarious. As I sit here now as one of them there adults, meh. It was funny and shocking for a little while, then the shocking wore off, followed by the funny. I would recommend just about everything else from Max on this page, if you have a strong stomach and an open mind. There are more volumes to come, so it still has a chance to pick up, but as this is all stuff that was done years ago, I kind of doubt it. Can’t beat the price anyway: $1
Aren’t I the guy who’s always asking for people to focus on longer stories and avoid the short pieces? Well, that usually lasts just as long as it takes for me to find a good comic with short pieces, and that’s how I’d describe this one. Apparently at least a few of these stories have been in various anthologies, so it’s all new to me. In here you have stories about white trash, a crack whore, a magic banjo, sex with a sleeping husband in bed, a naked dumpster detective, a bashed snake, hobo slop, a demanding microwave, drunken fighting, bogarting that joint, feetloaf, and roadkill. There’s so much more to it than that, with a lot of his stories, as very few people use more sheer imagination in their strips. In the writing, sure, but mostly I’m talking about the amount of content in each of his panels. Even the strips that didn’t do much for me were strips that I could appreciate because he was trying something vastly different from the strip that came before it. He used the rat with the magic banjo more than once when that was probably a one-strip gag, but other than that I don’t have much to complain about here. Good stuff all around, plenty of stuff to discover even if you have seen a few of these in anthologies, contact info is up there, $2!
Shore Leave Showcase #1
You know what’s a great idea for a comic? An ongoing three panel strip showcasing the lives of a couple of violent, racist skinheads. OK, maybe I wouldn’t have thought it was the best idea either, but after reading this I’m convinced. This is all about a couple of skinheads as they deal with a hippy dad, try to satisfy Odin, and, of course, drinking and fighting. It’s a lot funnier than it might sound, and I had a real hard time coming up with only one sample, but it’s too small for me to give too much away. It’s “to be continued”, so there’s more, which is a good thing, and I can’t imagine this is much more than a buck or two. Oh, there’s also an unrelated second half to this, which is completely indescribable. Don’t you hate it when people say that and then go on and on trying to describe it? Me too. Website!
Snake Meat #2
Picture the most vile and disgusting thing you can in your brain right now. Seriously, go ahead and do it. Chances are really good that whatever you have in there, Max has something worse than that in these sketchbook pages. And I’m not talking about a horrible act, just a horrible thing. He manages to find the inherent ugliness behind almost everything in these sketches of his. It seems like there are a few more regular strips in here than the last issue of Snake Meat to go along with all of this sketchbook pages, so I sampled one page of each to give you a better idea of what you’re getting here. I do love to look at these sketchbook pages, even if it does hurt my soul at times to do it, but I’m yearning for the day when he puts out another regular, story-based comic, as all it takes is one look at the samples on this page to see that the man has a serious gift for the funny. Contact info is scattered around here, this one is $2…
Snake Meat #1
So how exactly are you supposed to review a sketchbook again? Never have figured that out… Well, I like Max’s art a lot, if that tells you anything. And, as this is a book of him drawing, I’d have to call that a recommendation. There are a few bits of actual story here, but mostly it’s just a series of unconnected pictures. The pictures are mostly solid though, not much in the way of half-finished sketches, so the book looks great. If you only read comics with a coherent story in them, the last two pages are fantastic. The rest of it’s all over the place or, as Max puts it in the disclaimer, “Yet another half-assed zine consisting of nothing more than sketches I’ve scribbled on typing paper over the past four months”. That’s a whole lot harsher than I would have put it, but I guess it’s technically accurate. $1, contact info is up there, check it out!
I very much want to point out the brilliant ending to this comic, but doing so would ruin it, so I’m not sure what to go on about here. The story? OK, sure. It’s the tale of a young man who finally has enough at his crappy fast food job and quits, which causes his girlfriend to throw him out of his house. This leads to his decision to become a bum and enjoy a carefree, living-out-of-dumpsters lifestyle, which of course ends up being more complicated than he might have thought. The art’s good too, there are wonderfully detailed panels all over the place. I don’t think crosshatching has ever made a book look bad, and that’s true here. Don’t know how long he’s been doing comics but this has a really professional feel to it, so kudos if he’s just started or something (or even if he’s been going awhile, obviously, but especially if he’s just starting and is already this talented). E-mail the man to make sure but I’m guessing that this is a couple of bucks. Anything else would reveal too much, but I will say this in a last-ditch attempt to get you to check it out: he draws a mean retard.
Stewbrew #3 (half Max, half Kelly Froh)
Ah, television. Good luck finding an American from the ages of five to forty five who can’t relate to memories of television. Max and Kelly team up here to do one page stories (Kelly on the left side and Max on the right) detailing their previous, constant television watching, how patterns change over the years and what television taught them, often due to the fact that in a lot of crucial areas they didn’t learn a whole lot from their parents. There are embarrassing stories a’plenty here, with Max talking about his first time masturbating (without really knowing what he was doing but I’ll leave out the gory details until you see the comic), being forced to play sports instead of watching tv, wanting to learn the theme song from MASH, being too attached to children’s programming, finally getting his own personal space to watch tv, going into tv withdrawal at camp, a hilarious (in hindsight) couple of injuries resulting in a Vietnam flashback dream, finally relating to his Dad because of Beavis and Butthead, watching porn with his Mom taking a bath in the next room, and a detailed listing of his high school tv watching routine. Kelly has her fair share of embarrassing stories as well, involving her first “boyfriend”, running away from home when the tv is taken away, a living warning against doing drugs, being really creeped out by the “sent to hell” episode of Fantasy Island, four tv people who made her feel funny “down there”, Showtime porn, and her late night viewing habits. Another solid effort from these two, and unless you grew up Amish, I’m sure you can relate to damn near everything in here. $3
Stewbrew #2: Coot’s Day
Just to make sure this is perfectly clear: this mini, along with “Meet Erin” by Kelly Froh, come bundled together as Stewbrew #2 for a measly $3. So now that the technicalities have been established, how’s the comic? Well, it’s based on a day in the life of a man named Cooter, so how on earth could it be bad? And yes, there is a real man named Cooter, unless Max is lying shamelessly in his intro. We get to see Cooter wake up, watch high school girls, get high, get drunk, watch Star Wars, smoke, and everything in between that makes up his day. It’s a very quick read, as it’s mostly wordless except for the caption at the top of each panel, but it’s funny and gorgeous, which are two things that are pretty much necessary for a good comic. The second half of this should be up tomorrow (4/3/07), so you can decide if it’s worth your $3, but this is certainly a good start.