I recently mentioned (and probably have several other times as well) that I loved this “job” because it gives me a chance to see comic artists at all stages of their careers, from scribbles with all kinds of typos to the eventual polished version later on. The trouble is that, what with this being mostly a mini comics kind of a website and all, I often lose track of people once they start putting out graphic novels on a regular basis. Not so much if I have a regular source of income, but when I don’t they have a tendency to fade into the background for me. This is all a long-winded way of me saying that Mike was one of the first people to send me review comics back in the day, but I haven’t read any of his new comics for at least five years, and I’m thrilled that he’s one of the people from back in the day who “made it.” I have no clue if he’s making a living off his comics yet, but artistically speaking he seems to have put all the pieces together. I should point out that my copy of this also came with a “142” boy scout badge, which was a neat little thing to throw in here, but I’m not sure if that comes with all the copies. This book is all about a week of summer camp for this troop in 1995. A lot of people are probably going to call this a “coming of age” story, but I think that’s a lazy way to look at it, as most of the characters in here don’t come to any serious realizations at the end of the week or change in any significant way. What this book does do perfectly is capture that moment in time, that late adolescent awkwardness where things are starting to change for some people in your age group, but the changes come at a different pace for different people. In this summer camp we get examples of bullying (that mostly (but not always) stay below causing the victim any actual harm), taking LSD and sitting around a campfire, unconscious homosexual experimenting, communal showers (and a communal toilet), living in a tent for a week, and some of the classes needed for Boy Scout badges. But the main thing on display here is the conversations between these kids, and they’re scary accurate from my memories of the time. A lot of adults try to protect the youngsters from foul language and anything untoward, which naturally leads to kids saying the most vile curse words that they hear whenever they get the chance. There’s also a smaller plot in here about a camp counselor (who’s there with his two sons) and the troubles he has fitting in. What’s the etiquette for sleeping in a tent with another man? What are the exact rules for maintaining discipline while not going over the line, especially when it’s your kids that are getting picked on? There are countless quiet (or loud) moments of conversation in here that I’ll let you discover for yourself, but I’d have to think this book would really hit home with people who went through this process themselves. As for the rest of us, you probably already know if you’re interested in this book, as a tale of summer camp for Boy Scouts either interests you or it doesn’t. But if you’re on the fence it’s well worth giving this thing a shot. $20
Superior Showcase #1
The phrase â€œentertaining superhero anthologyâ€ probably isnâ€™t something youâ€™ve read lately, but thatâ€™s exactly what this is: an entertaining superhero anthology. I wouldnâ€™t have believed it either. There are three stories in this one. First up is Nick Bertozziâ€™s take on an average day in a superhero convenient store and how the staff deals with transients and villains. And he draws costumes that look like actual clothes! Amazing. Next up is Mike Dawsonâ€™s tale of the final adventure of Ace-Face, a guy with giant metal arms, who decides to come out of retirement one last time to deal with a local vigilante, in what is one of the better fight scenes outside of It Lives #1 by Ted May. Last up is Butterfly by John Campbell & Dean Trippi. Itâ€™s a look at the lives of the most under-appreciated of heroes: sidekicks. Throw in the evil Hipster Ghosts as the villains and I have a real hard time picking a favorite out of this bunch, always a good sign for an anthology. Adhouse books has (from the comics Iâ€™ve seen anyway) managed to keep their perfect reputation intact again. Also, if youâ€™re afraid of the superhero comics, donâ€™t worry. Thereâ€™s only a couple of real fight scenes and only one guy flying. They do all, however, spend a lot of time focused on grown men in underwear, so take that however youâ€™d like. $2.95
There’s very little reason for me to write a review after you get a good look at that cover. You either think the idea is morbidly hilarious or you don’t. Well, in case you need any convincing at all, I’ll tell you what’s in here. There’s a woman who has a scalpel in her chest cavity, a man who loses a leg through prolonged incompetence, a small boy who loses his penis at an early age, and more stories about people screwed out of their rightful piles of malpractice money because of all those “anti frivolous lawsuits” bills that the Republicans have been passing for years than you can shake a stick at. That’s a long sentence, take a breath and read over it to make sure it made sense. Good? Good. If I could make a suggestion, I think the next one should be about people who put a variety of things in electrical outlets. Come on, we know the stories are out there! Here’s the talent that I knew: Neil Kleid, Mike Dawson, K. Thor Jensen, and Dave McKenna. Good stuff all around, it’s $3.75, send an e-mail!
Now this is what an SPX anthology should be. I had my problems with it last year when they decided to go with a “theme” format, and I was more than a little leery when I learned that they’d be doing the same thing this year. Well, the theme this year is traveling, and what they’ve done with this book is make a collection, representative of a convention that brings people literally from all over the world, that is the perfect book to read while traveling. It’s genius, and I can’t think of a better thing to read while on the way home from the convention, or just sitting on the bus going to work. While the theme was broad last year, it still required a lot of research and I got the impression that some people just didn’t have that much fun with it. That wasn’t the case at all this year, and I think this might go down as one of the best anthologies of the year while not having any “big” stars in it. There weren’t even that many familiar names to me, and I like to think that I keep up with this sort of thing. No, I’m not going to list them all, as you can go here and read the list for yourself, and find out all about the convention this year. Highlights for me were all over the place, but here are a few: Travis Nichol’s theory about why people make out on school bus trips, Jessica Fink’s tale of being kidnapped by her father, Michael Sivak’s story of being on the road when he learns that his grandfather has had a stroke, Mike Dawson’s Gabagool story “Dirty Banana”, and the haunting story by Ryan Browne about a traveling NBA referee. Almost everything in here was good and they still keep these things insanely cheap ($9.95 for 250 pages or so), there’s just no reason not to get this. The one minor gripe I have is that I wish they would print the artist’s names on the bottom of each page, but a little flipping back and forth won’t kill me. Buy this book!
What’s not to like about this comic? You have the “bounty hunters” on a quest to retrieve the guitar of Ace Frehley, another great rant from Cousin Lenny, fighting, swearing… everything you need. Add that to the fact that these two are putting these out, what, every couple of months or so (how often can you say that about anybody these days?) and I don’t see any reason why they can’t take over the world. Look, these days, any comic that makes me laugh gets my vote (yeah, I’m biased about things actually being good, what can I say). I love the art, the characters are becoming more and more memorable with each issue (and they’re helping their cause a lot in that department by putting these out so quickly), it’s just a great comic. Contact info above, I think I set a new record for parentheses…
Almost Normal Comics and Other Oddities #1
This anthology is huge! 96 pages and only $3.50! OK, now that my gushing is out of the way, how about the book? Here’s a few names: Mike Dawson, Jamie Craw, John Miers, Yul Tolbert and koak, to name a few. The problem with that list is that about half of those folks just put old material in here. Mike Dawson has two stories, but I’d seen them both before. John Mier’s contribution came from Slab #2. If you haven’t read as many mini comics as me, well, then you’ll be happy with those entries. Like any anthology, there are strong points and weak points, although nothing sticks out in my head as particularly awful. What holds this book together though, without a doubt, is the random observations that W.E. throws in. He talks about studies done on recently severed heads, a family of cannibals in the 1400’s, Spring Heel Jack, and even throws in an interview with a midget wrestler. If you’ve already seen all the old stuff in here, there’s still a ton of new material here, especially if you count it in the time it takes you to read. It’s a bargain, it looks great, and it’s informative. I find it odd that he doesn’t want submissions to have any boobies in them when he’s so happy to talk about severed heads, but I’m not here to judge. Contact info is up there, give him a reason to make a #2!
This is the first new comic I’ve seen from Mike in far too long, as he’s working on a graphic novel called Freddie and Me. This is apparently a bridge between the two halves of the book, so maybe the whole thing makes more sense in context. The first half of the comic was tremendous, among the best stuff Mike as ever done. It’s all about memory, self, how other people see the world, and a brief snapshot of growing up as an outsider (literally, as he came here from England around 5th grade). Really fascinating ideas on the concept of existence, how we hold onto the important memories and how this sets us apart from every other form of life. If his graphic novel is based around this, I’m sold. The second part of the mini, however, is a conversation between Freddie Mercury and Brian May about their last album and it’s a jarring transition. Again, it might all make perfect sense in the context of the graphic novel, but as a stand alone mini it seemed sudden. Freddie and Me is about Mike’s life in general and his lifelong obsession with Queen specifically, so I get the need to have Freddie Mercury in there somewhere, but what was the conversation based on? A recorded conversation? Gossip and hearsay? Eh, it’s a minor quibble, as the first half was phenomenally good, I just hope it all makes sense in the big picture. $2 or so, as the comics keep me guessing about pricing these days…
All Dave Comics
This is a collection of Mike’s strips from a college newspaper, and I should mention something for the uninitiated: I don’t like strips. It colors my opinions on reviews, as you might imagine. Even with the strips that I like (This Modern World and K Chronicles, to name a couple) I get annoyed over the obligatory “punchline”. Mike says in the intro that he made this strip intentionally “PG” because everybody else at the college paper was doing shock strips and he just thought that was too easy, so he wanted to do a family strip. It’s funny at times but overall it didn’t do much for me. The bulk of the comic is strips about the main character going back to college at the age of 24 and the wackiness that ensues. Like I said, a few good strips and somebody who wasn’t as biased as me could like this a lot more, but give me Gabagool and Cabaret any day…
Gabagool #6 Now Available! $3
The conclusion to the Hedonism saga! It seems bigger than the other issues too, although it’s entirely possible that I’m making that up. Will any of the guys “get lucky”? Hm, I was going to put a whole list of questions there, but that sure seems like the main one. Oh, and how many dicks are there in this book, anyway? How about boobs? Vaginas? I should probably mention that a fair amount of time is spent at a nude beach. This is the best issue yet, which is saying a lot, and you could probably even figure out what was going on in the rest of the series if you just picked this one up, but why not check out the whole thing? Do you think I’ve been lying to you this whole time about which series are really great? I’m hurt and offended, and now this whole storyline is available through my website, so what’s your excuse? This is all topped off by another great rant from Cousin Lenny who, I’m told by the creators, is a very real person. It’s the perfect funny comic. Contact info is all over this page (which is getting huge, but that’s just because they keep putting out quality comics), check out Mike’s site for more samples!
Gabagool #5 Now Available! $3
There’s one thing about this series that never occurred to me: is Cousin Lenny a real person? I mean, who’s ever seen him? Of course, if you wanted to use that criteria, how does anybody know that I’m a real person? Dude, this is blowing my mind, I’d better get back to the comic. You guys are all reading this series by now, right? Good. That’ll make this easy. This issue picks up with part 2 of the “Hedonism” story, and now everybody is in Jamaica, looking for drugs and women. It never ceases to amaze me how these two can put together an issue where not much of anything happens and still have it be incredibly entertaining. Yes, that really is the only synopsis you get from me for the main part of the book, as you should all be reading this anyway and I don’t want to bore you. The second part, drawn by Tony Consiglio, is all about a mysterious person who’s crapping in the classrooms at school. As for Cousin Lenny, if I said that he was getting soft in the last review, I take it back in this one. He remains one of the consistent highlights in a book that is full of great stuff all the time. Check it out, get the back issues, make these two rich and famous! But not too rich and famous, otherwise they’ll stop putting the goods out on such a regular basis.
Gabagool #4 Now Available! $3
Holy crap! It’s a regular comic! Where the heck did they get the money to publish this? Anyway, more power to them, and it’s a deserved jump, as this series just keeps getting better. I think it’s up to $3 this time, if you were wondering. Chris gets laid off but gets a huge severance check, then hears about a great beach where there’s a lot of action easily had, and hilarity ensues. Or at least it probably does next issue, because it’s “to be continued”. Then there’s a fantastic story about a bunch of the guys sitting around and playing Dungeons and Dragons with the characters saying the lines that the players are saying. Top it all off with another Cousin Lenny rant (although it sounds like he might be going soft. Where’s the rage?) and it’s another solid effort. They seem to be able to keep to a schedule, which is key in comics like this, and they’ve managed to keep it funny every time so far. Check it out, support their self-publishing endeavor.
This stupid scanner, I swear… Anyway, the cover is of the main character and a bunch of animals standing around happily in the sunset. Trust me, it’s funny when you read it. The whole story here is basically a date involving Christopher and a couple of his friends who meet the girl he’s interested and a bunch of her friends in Manhattan. Simple, but a funny story. It’s great to see that they put this out so quickly after #1 too. I don’t know how many #1’s I’ve seen of mini comics in my life, but there have been far fewer #2’s and even less #3’s. Keep up the good work boys, I think you’re onto something. Check out the website too. It looks like Mike is updating on a regular basis, and that’s always a good thing.
Cabaret Comix #2
And here I was starting to think that Mike was working exclusively on Gabagool these days. Don’t get me wrong, I like Gabagool a lot, it’s just that his work on Cabaret is a lot more quiet and reflective. More stories about people and less mayhem and humor. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending completely on your mood. This comic is made up of two main stories and a short one on the back cover. The first is a wordless story about a day in the life of Mike. It’s wordless and it’s the portrayal of a quiet, average day, except for the part when he shoves something up his cat’s butt. Hey, I’m going with it being some kind of legitimate medical procedure, or he’s just created a new level for self-disclosure in autobio. The second is the story of a conversation between Mike and some friends that follows his friend Steve as he attends a protest to hang out with a girl he’s interested in. As far as I’m concerned this guy can do it all. He nails funny stuff in Gabagool and he quietly examines loneliness and the motives of humanity in general in Cabaret. Well worth a buck, contact info is above…
Cabaret Comics #1
I’ve had really good luck with the random comics that people have sent me in the mail so far. I don’t think I ever even exchanged e-mails with this guy and boom, there’s a comic waiting for me in my mailbox yesterday when I get home. And a damned good comic at that. I guess you’d call it a tale of relationships. The book is broken down into two parts. Part one is about a man and his “relationship” with a high school girl and the second part is about this man’s roommate and his sexually adventurous girlfriend. This worked a lot better than I thought it would, frankly. Flipping through the book before I read it, nothing really hit me over the head. I thought it might be an OK book but that would be it. This guy managed to hit me over the head with the goodness in this book and it’s a good thing he did.
You could say that the first part is a little weak, I guess, if you really wanted to nitpick. We get to see nothing of the relationship or how it happened, just what happens when his friend starts making fun of the girl for being in high school. Still, the confrontation and what happens afterwards is great. I really like his way of running the word balloons together and cutting off a lot of what’s said, it adds to the general chaos of some of the conversations. The second part of the book is disturbing as hell. It shows why the second couple showed up at the restaurant at all and why they were in such a big hurry to leave and a lot of it’s wordless. I’m becoming more and more of a fan of that type of comic. It leaves so much more up to the imagination and the skill of the artist, and guys like Mike can certainly pull that off. This one is $3 and it’s a welcome addition to anyone’s collection. Good stuff, and I hope he does more soon.