Bangs & Beard Diary
Yay, a flip book! Since these are so rare, I’ll give a little description: one artist does half of the book and another one does the other half. Simple enough! But in this case it’s flipped around, so all of the strips of one artist are upside down until you turn it over. Don’t worry about having to work for it, as the halves are neatly split up. To give you some idea of how long I’ve been reading comics, the first flip book I remember seeing was with Joe Chiappetta and John Porcellino, and I don’t think Joe has drawn many comics in at least a decade now. Which sucks, as Silly Daddy was a fantastic comic. Kids, know your small press comics history! Anyway, this flip book is unique in that it features two halves of a couple, with roughly half of the diary strips being their different perspectives on events that happened that day. That’s something I don’t remember seeing before and it’s done really well here. Aaron maybe goes for the bigger laughs at the end of his strips, but Melinda’s were more effortlessly funny overall, although that opinion is clearly completely subjective. As are all opinions, so never mind. I would be curious to see more comics in this format, as I know a fair amount of couples have come together because they’re both comics artists. Pick a month and go to town, couples! It’s easy. Oh, and subjects of these strips include reflections on the homeless, going for a walk, accents, accidents, bug bites, insomnia, comfy hair, setting unrealistic reading goals, looking good while working out, having a good soul, and having a short attention span while watching tv. I added that last bit, as apparently it’s normal to watch shows while simultaneously on your laptop, but I’m a cranky old man on the subject, so don’t mind me. Anyway, it’s funny and just kind of neat to see their slightly different perspectives on certain events, and their wholly unique perspectives on the things that only happened to them. $5
Rough House #2
It feels like it’s been months since I’ve reviewed an anthology, but I think we all know the basic rules by now. Somewhere between 25% and 90% (very rarely 100%) of the book is going to be somewhere between entertaining and incredible, while a few bits aren’t going to do much for me. The great thing about anthologies is that the percentage that moves you is going to vary from person to person, and on that account this is an incredibly balanced book. Portions of this book are also in color, so if you’ve ever wondered what it would look like if the Pink Panther puked all over a bus stop, wonder no more! Granted, you probably never thought of that before I mentioned it, but you’re definitely thinking about it now. 17 artists contributed stories (or the cover) here, and as usual I’ll mention a few of them that I really enjoyed while leaving the rest of them as surprises for when you eventually read them. This doesn’t mean that I hate or love the stories that I omitted. My thoughts are usually somewhere between those two extremes, which is why I’m not talking about those stories, but it’s also possible that I’m just not thinking about them while writing this review and will comically slap myself on the forehead for forgetting a story after posting this review. Just another unsolicited peek into my reviewing “process”! Stories in here include a swamp thing going into a night club by Nicolas Mahler, Kayle E’s take on whether or not to leave the house, James the Stanton with the aforementioned Puke Banter episode, Melinda Trace Boyce and some memorable nights from her time on the late shift at a diner, Mack White’s story of a fraudulent prophet from Roman times (and this story is from 1997, so you may have seen it before), Doug Pollard’s horrific tale of a monkey who eats too much and his unfortunate cellmate, Connor Shea on the literal war between two big pizza chains, Gillian Rhodes piece on a frog who just wants a job (or a cheeseburger), and Colin Zelinski’s take on the myth involving Leda and Zeus (complete with an overly graphic ending). That’s over half of the artists in here and I thoroughly enjoyed those stories, so that’s already a pretty decent ratio. My wish for all anthologies to have the names of the artists (and the page numbers) on the top or bottom of every page has still not come true everywhere, but the table of contents and the layout at least make it easy enough to figure out who did what. This is well worth a look, and pretty hefty (and colorful) for that $15 price tag.
You should have a pretty easy time knowing whether or not you’d be inclined to like this book from the title alone, and I’m happy to tell you that the contents more than live up to it. Emi has been doing mini comics on this theme for a few years now, and she took her chance to edit this anthology and ran with it, doing a really fantastic job of picking out/accepting these stories. I should say up front that I have no patience for those stupid “ghost hunting” shows with the shaky cams and the loud noises and won’t believe that aliens have visited us until I see solid proof (which is not the same thing as declaring that no other life exists in the universe), but overall this isn’t that type of book. These are all, as Emi says in the introduction, unsolved mysteries, so the reader doesn’t get the satisfaction of getting the story neatly tied up in a bow by the end. Instead you’re left wondering what the hell happened for these 32 stories. If you’re a naturally curious person and/or at all interested in the weird and bizarre then you’ve probably already stopped reading this and ordered a copy. For those of who are too polite to quit reading in the middle of the review (and it’s OK if you do, I’ll never know), subjects include a mysterious gelatinous goo that rained down on a town, the monster with 21 faces, an unexplained shower of meat from the sky, an arcade game that quickly came and went in 1981 under mysterious circumstances, a tumor that was bigger than the carrier, Gef (of which I will say no more but this may have been the most intriguing tale in the book), that weird hum in the air that some people can hear all the time, the Nain Rouge and his continuing destruction of Detroit, the money pit of Oak Island (which some bored billionaire should look into), creepy kids with black eyes trying to enter homes, the Leatherman and theories of who he might have been, unsolved murders at a campsite, the former Prime Minister of Australia vanishing while swimming, the missing body of Addie Mae Collins, why 9 campers in Siberia ran from the safety of their tent (sometimes barefoot) and why they never went back to it, two bodies and their lead masks, Rasputin (an oldie but a goodie), Frederick Valentich and the UFO that seemed to by toying with him, D.B. Cooper and his disappearance (it’s an ever funnier story to anybody who watched Justified this season), a bridge where 600 dogs have committed suicide, the Axeman, and a serious skeleton in the closet of Orson Welles (possibly). DC comics used to do a series of “Big Books” on various subjects, and after seeing this I’d suggest that they start it up again and put Emi in charge. Not every story was perfect, granted, but good luck not having several of these stories haunt your dreams. Also good luck on not taking to the internet to learn more about them, as I already know how I’m spending the rest of my afternoon. And look at that pile of talent in the tags section! Why would you possibly need any more convincing to check this out? $12
The Melinderly #1
Beware the promise of a quarterly publication schedule! I say this not to you fellow readers, as you already know this all too well. “D & Q” stands for “Drawn & Quarterly” publishing, which was named that because, you guessed it, they had plans to put all of their books out on a quarterly basis. A few of them managed to come close to this (remember when Joe Matt’s “Peepshow” was published on a fairly regular basis? It did happen), but I’m guessing that that’s why they eventually shortened it to just the initials. Not that they have anything to do with Melinda’s book. I like seeing this from artists, really I do, but frankly I’ll be impressed if even #2 is published on that schedule. It just seems like an impossible task for the vast majority of comics out there. But enough about a publishing schedule that nobody is going to remember a few issues from now, what about the comic? It’s in full color, and gorgeous color at that, and that combined with her art makes for a damned pretty comic. Stories in here include the rules for a drinking game (that I’d never heard of), a night out at a bar after said drinking game, the history of gifts that she’s received from her mom over the years (both good, bad and wildly inappropriate), finally breaking down and going for pure comfort in her home wardrobe, and a nervous, dramatic night of Melinda and a couple of friends posting wheatpaste art around deserted parts of Portland late one night. There’s also the first part of a story called Lustwander, written by Aaron Whitaker (of “The City Troll” fame), which deals with a young woman who comes home to a letter from a secret admirer (which cheers her up instantly) and walks inside to deal with the reality of a boyfriend who seems to take her completely for granted. There’s more to come, but I’m intrigued, and it’s always a good idea to have at least one continuing story if your goal is to put out a quarterly book. Just don’t forget to make every installment end with either an explosion or a ticking bomb and your audience will be hooked! Yes, that kind of thinking is one of many reasons why I don’t make comics myself. Anyway, this is a damned fine comic and I’m intrigued to see where she goes from here. No idea on the price, but she’s offering subscriptions for $40 a year, meaning this is $10? It’s gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t know if the world is ready for a $10 mini comic. I have, of course, been wrong before…