Don’t Cry Wolfman Chicago
Clearly all of these comics I’ve talked about over all of these years are all starting to blend together, as I could have sworn I had more of Nate’s comics on this website. But I haven’t talked about anything from him since 2010, and a lot of those dates are even misleading because that’s when I proofread and reposted all the old reviews. Anyway, who cares? I’m assuming regular readers have long since trained themselves to skip over my introductory bullshit to get to the actual meat of what passes as a review from me. This is a collection of (mostly) daily strips from December of 2010 to April of 2014. It comes in chunks, and I have no idea if these were the “best of” as picked by Nathan (they all originally came out on his website) or if those were just the chunks of time when Nate was dedicated/had the time to do the daily strips. Because the vast majority of them are pretty damned funny and/or insightful. Dammit, I gave away the review ending. Ah well. Subjects in here include panic about aging, alarm clock cat, becoming a real adult with boots, exercise, doing stupid shit, a day in the life, a silent but hilarious conversation with a polite motorist while on his bicycle, finding a weird growth in his mouth and then freaking out about it by looking at the internet, getting stuff stuck in his throat (but not choking), and various pillow arrangements for the single man. He also has several strips that have nothing to do with his daily life (like imagining life as a wookie), in case you’re one of those people who hate all autobiographical comics. If that’s the case you should really get over it, as they’re clearly not going anywhere. This is a hilarious and hefty collection of daily strips, so if you’re like me (i.e. one of the few holdouts who still prefers physical comics), then you absolutely won’t regret checking this out. If you’re too poor or cheap to buy this, go to his website to look at what you’re missing, then check under the couch cushions to gather the spare change necessary to buy this.
I’ve been hoping to catch something else from Nate now that Brainfag is dead and gone, and the man was nice enough to send along a copy of his latest.Â If you’re not a regular reader of the site I highly recommend going back and reading my reviews for his various Brainfag books.Â Not that I said anything particularly penetrating or insightful, but that collected edition is something every comic fan with any taste should own.Â So how about this one?Â Was his talent connected only to the title of his last comic?Â Um, no, of course not.Â What a stupid thing to think.Â There are two stories this time around, the first dealing with all sorts of embarrassing moments from early puberty.Â There’s the formerly complicated setup and take down process involved with watching porn back in the day (kids, us old folk often tell you to appreciate things that we didn’t have growing up, but internet porn would have led to an entirely different generation), a drunken party filled with kids in high school, his recent ex and the fact that every guy in town seemingly wanted to get with her now that she was single, and a delightfully awkward depiction of some “hot” sex with his ex.Â The second part of the comic is the wordless tale of a dream, half-dream, or possibly just the weirdest night of Nate’s life.Â He climbs up a gigantic tree, but as he goes too high a branch cracks and he’s lucky to land on his little makeshift treehouse instead of what looks like at least 50 feet down to the ground.Â He then proceeds to cautiously go down his rope ladder, but it hasn’t been secured properly and this also collapses on his, leading to a lengthy and painful crash to the ground.Â Here’s where things shift a little, as he stumbles into a dark house and is desperately trying to get away from a shadowy creature.Â Then a white bear shows up…Â on second thought, you can interpret all this for yourself.Â I have my own theories, but I’ve also been known to take things too literally and that’s clearly not what he’s going for with this story.Â Overall it’s a solid mini with a healthy balance of past humiliation combined with a widely open to interpretation silent piece.Â $4
The good folks at Microcosm Publishing were nice enough to send me a half dozen graphic novels, and I lucked out in the fact that all 6 of them were things that I either was looking for anyway or would have been looking for if I knew they existed.Â Take this one, for example.Â I had only read two issues of Brainfag, loved them both (although #5 more than #6, according to my ancient reviews) and then never heard another peep.Â It’s not that the guy stopped working, as he kept up an impressive pace and even kept most of his older issues up for free online, so it’s not like I had any good excuse for missing his later work.Â Still, miss it I did, and it’s a real treat to get everything in one place.Â The format of the book is essentially Nate walking us through his life, what his comics were about at the time and what they show him now.Â Things start off with bits from Brainfag #1 (mostly just ad parodies, some funny, some not so much), then it skips forward to Brainfag #5.Â Why?Â According to Nate, it’s simple: #2-4 sucked.Â They’ve all up for free at his website and I plan on going there and testing that theory, as artists are notoriously hard on themselves from time to time.Â Anyway, he reprints #5 and #6, which I reviewed down below, so I won’t go into too much more detail.Â I should note though that I have the same problem: I think my earlier reviews are mostly garbage, but here they sit, for all to see for all time (or at least until I eventually die and/or give up the website), and it’s not like I’m going to rewrite everything, and it’s not like they’d be guaranteed to be much better if I did, so let’s just move on already.Â Anyway, he moves on to Brainfag #7… wait, that’s #8.Â What happened to #7?Â Hm.Â OK, he moves on to #8, in which he starts doing a diary comic that is miles above most of that genre.Â Why?Â He doesn’t confine himself to a strict panel structure, so when he has more to say he spreads it out a bit and when he doesn’t have much to say there’s no sense of obligation to fill in space.Â And he’s right, this was a tremendous artistic leap forward, as he asks important philosophical questions while being utterly ruthless in his self-criticism.Â The art may have suffered a bit, but it’s a constantly evolving thing throughout the issue anyway and I don’t think he’s fully settled on a style even now.Â #9 is the best example of this, as he tries several different ways to draw himself and the things around him.Â It was a fascinating discussion for me, possibly because I read so many of these damned things and always wonder about the thought processes behind evolving styles.Â It might have been a bit annoying and self-indulgent to somebody who just picked up that one issue, but that would have been their loss.Â #10 is more of this sort of thing, but he does settle (mostly) on a style and instead works on finding his place in the world.Â Finally there’s a good chunk of short pieces, unrelated at times but that work themselves seamlessly into the larger book.Â If you’ve followed Nate’s work throughout the years there’s probably still something in here you haven’t seen, and if you never bought an issue of Brainfag before this is a compelling display of the personal and professional evolution of someone with something genuinely original to say, which is a rarity in this day and age.Â All that and it’s a measly $9, and it’s even on sale (as of this writing) for an even measlier $8!
Pinstriped Bloodbath (edited by Jeff)
What a great idea for an anthology.Â Take various artists, let them use gangsters from Chicago in the 20’s-30’s (or some modern day take on it) and put the whole thing together.Â That suit on the cover folds out as you open the comic, and that little flower in the lapel is apparently different for the different stores stocking it.Â So fine, the packaging is gorgeous, what about the comic?Â There’s a fine collection of talent assembled, and they all have their unique takes on the stories.Â Bernie McGovern has a heartbreaking and gory take on the last moments of Baby Face Nelson, Neil Brideau has a quiet conversation between gangsters as one of them tries to crack a safe, Nate Beaty has a silent take on the constant violence and the practice of soaking of blood from the murder scenes as a macabre souvenir, Rickey Gonzalez shows the last moments of Dillinger (or is it?), Neil Fitzpatrick proves that he can’t draw regular human eyeballs and tells the tale of the gangster killed by a horse (and the gangster’s revenge on said horse), Sam Sharpe retells a conversation he had with his at least mildly demented mother about keeping his “gangster” name, Jeff Zwirek has what appears to be a soundly researched piece about the Thompson submachine gun, and Jeremy Tinder closes with instructions on how to make bathtub gin.Â Throw in a couple of illustrations by Ivan Brunetti and Joshua Cotter and voila!Â You have one ridiculously entertaining anthology.Â You could practically make a series out of all the gangster stories from that time period, but Jeff probably already rounded up most of the high points.Â If you’re at all a fan of this sort of thing it’s essential that you pick this up.Â If you’re at all squeamish, however, things do get a little bloody, because how else could you tell these stories?Â No price, let’s spin the mystery price wheel… $6!
Part of the problem of reading so many comics (right, like that’s anything to complain about) is that I have a really hard time remembering who did what sometimes. I knew Nathan Beaty’s name was familiar, but I didn’t realize that it was the same guy who did that incredible comic about relationships (look up there for the other review). That being said, it’s a good thing I didn’t remember that when I read this two-part issue, as I would have been expecting something totally different. I’m not sure what to make of this, which is a cop-out from a reviewer, I know, but there it is. Both parts of this story are wordless, and they’re basically moods (as Nathan says on the back) more than stories. The first part is just pictures of a town, with a man on a bike going about his day. The second is about underwater love, with kissing and mermaids and such. It was over and gone before I knew it, but the fact that the underwater bit was in my dream last night must mean something, right? An interesting concept, but I liked #5 better. Contact info is up there, it’s probably a buck or two…
You know, what I really needed because of my forced absence from SPX was one really great comic. Lo and behold, here it is. This is the story of a relationship with warts and all. Beginning, middle, end, false restarts, and final end (?), this feels more real than most of these types of tales that I’ve read. Maybe it’s because my girlfriend just moved five hours away and I’m hyper-sensitive to the question of “What do we do now?”, who knows? All I know is that there’s a lot of truth in this fantastic little book and, if that’s not enough to convince you, his website has pretty much every issue of his comic and some other stuff he’s done online, so you can read it all for yourself and make your own opinion. It was therapy for me, plain and simple, and a wonderfully honest tale of how relationships don’t ever seem to end neatly. I liked the constant zipatone once I got used to it too. He also draws a mean cat, if anybody but me is fascinated by the cats of different artists. This one was $5 and actually distributed by Top Shelf, so it’s good to see that the rest of the comics world is getting wind of him too. Don’t worry, his other issues are cheaper and you can read them all for free if you want to anyway…