Posts Tagged Neil Fitzpatrick
Has the internet and social media ruined auto-bio comics, or have they just made it impossible for anybody to be completely honest in them? Please present your argument in the form of a 300 word essay… oh right, I was just asking a rhetorical question to start this review. This is Neil’s post-breakup therapy, done in the form of a comic. And no, I am not a dick for pointing that out, as he makes it pretty clear in the intro/outro. But what got me wondering about that opening question was the fact that everything he said in here was incredibly vague or general. Sure, he knows what he’s talking about, and his ex knows what he’s talking about, and some friends of both of them do too. The rest of us get to see that he got dumped by somebody who completely broke his heart, for reasons that he doesn’t think are fair, and that if he did tell everybody what she really did then her reputation would probably be ruined. Which is most likely the answer to my question right there, as he doesn’t want to ruin her life. Maybe I’m just spoiled because I read the original Peepshow strips by Joe Matt again recently, and his honesty is so relentless that it’s shocking when compared to more modern comics. Of course, that was back in the late 80’s, where the only people reading his strip were the ones who actively went out and bought Drawn & Quarterly (back when that was the name of a bimonthly (?) anthology series), and it’s not like that particular relationship of his ended well, in large part because he said too much about their relationship. I seem to have looped back around into understanding exactly why Neil did these strips without giving away any of the really sordid details. Oh, and those giant black eyeballs of his? MUCH creepier when placed on a recognizably human face. Anyway, if you’ve been involved in a breakup where you felt like you were the wronged party, you’re going to relate to plenty of these strips, and you’re going to fill in some of the details with bits of your own life where appropriate. If you’re the type of person who has only ever broken up with other people, maybe you should read this to see some of the damage you’ve done in your life, you monster you. $4
Jerry’s Journal #2
How much of this comic is autobiographical anyway? There’s no way to know, and Neil makes fun of that fact in his brief epilogue. But the fact remains that Neil got his heart broken while he was making this comic, and the second half (and then some) deals purely with “Jerry” trying to come to terms with it. This comic is a series of one page strips, dealing mostly with life, trying to get some meaning out of it and the horror of dealing with a breakup. It’s pretty clear where this breakup happens, as things get grim in a hurry. Still, plenty of that stuff will look familiar to other people who have had their hearts broken, or everyone. Unless you’re one of those assholes who only breaks hearts, in which case shame on you, aren’t you aware of the trail of devastation you leave in your wake? Those looks aren’t going to last forever, you know. Anyway, there are still plenty of genuinely funny moments, as Neil is a master of that sort of thing. But this one also gets a bit more “real” than past issues of Neil’s comics. Or not, as Neil has always been about finding some meaning in the universe, and what’s more real than that? If you like his stuff I can’t see why you wouldn’t like this one, and if you’re not familiar with his stuff, where have you been these last 10 years or so? The man’s a comic producing machine and you should be reading his stuff. $5
Have you been enjoying Neil’s comics over the years but always thought that maybe they should be just a hair sloppier? Then Jerry’s Journal is for you! Neil finally bought a sketchbook, you see, after being against them for years because he always thought he needed structure in his work. The end result is a pretty damned funny comic, with panel lines and the occasional character image (almost always Jerry, as it’s all about him) that are a shade less than as universally perfect as the rest of his books. The comic itself, as the title implies, is all about Jerry and his constant, apathetic quest to find some meaning and/or summarize the high points in his life. Subjects include the important things in his life, the inevitable (and at least partially welcome) end to it, being alone, thinking too much, ways to get away from life, thinking about giving the world another chance, the unfortunate biological imperative to stay alive, and reflecting back on his life. Those are from the first half of it anyway, the rest is yours to discover. These are all one page strips, and it’s always a good sign when I have a hard time picking a sample image from a comic like this because so many of them made me chuckle. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these strips are fairly dark, but would you really be reading small press comics if you didn’t have at least a slightly dark sense of humor? That’s what I thought. Seeing as how Neil is already one of the most prolific artists in comics, if he really takes to this sketchbook stuff we should expect to see a few dozen new books by him every year, which sounds good to me (if possibly fatal for the artist himself). And really, a good chunk of the small press artists out there wish they could be as neat as Neil’s “sloppy” sketchbook stuff. $5
What if the quest for meaning was itself meaningless? And what if Neil decided to draw the whole thing? Chances are that this isn’t anywhere near what Neil was going for with this comic, but that’s what I’m taking out of it, dammit. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen one of his comics (for you whippersnappers out there, Neil has several issues of his “Neil Jam” series that have been coming out for many years now), and it’s clear that his art has tightened up a bit, and it’s not like it was terrible to begin with. The people characters look more like people, and even the Tots seem somehow streamlined. Which makes no sense, as they look like tiny animated teeth and it’s hard to streamline that design much, but that’s what this old defective brain of mine is telling me. So what’s this comic about? The description on the inside front cover sums it up pretty well: “The totality of existence… and beyond!” You get a sense of where things are headed when Neil steps out from behind the curtain to introduce the book (in comic form, not a written introduction) and gets into a discussion with god about who is more responsible for the comic, Neil or god. It’s pretty much impossible to argue with his conclusion either, so score one for Neil. Other stories include a magical moment between Willis and Ona (see past issues of Neil Jam if you’re having trouble with the character names, which he also kindly lists on the inside back cover), differences of opinion on what constitutes a magic bird or fish, god deciding to share his burden with his creations just for a moment, not being bound by expectations, who might be watching you, and finally a literal search for meaning. And hovering over all of these stories is the constant presence of Neil and god, popping up here and there to keep various characters on their toes. And the eyes. It’s not possible to talk about one of Neil’s comics without referring to those black, soul-stealing eyes of all of the characters. They’re mitigated a bit this time around by the smiles on some of the faces and general upbeat nature of much of the comic, but those eyes can get to you if you’re not careful. I defy anybody to read all of the Neil Jam comics in a row, then go outside and talk to real people. Those eyes will follow you. Um, I got off on a tangent there. I’ve been a fan of Neil’s for many years now and am thrilled to see him getting published, as to me that’s one more small step towards him becoming rich and successful at his comics, which means he’ll devote more time to them, which means those solid black eyes will slowly take over the world. Hey, we all have our own quest for meaning, you know… $5
Well, it’s a benefit book for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which is about as worthy a cause as you’re likely to find in the comics world, so I don’t want to say too much bad about it. The problem is that it pretty much sucked. All of the names that I bought this for just put in some old strips. I don’t know if that’s what everybody but I’d have to guess that that was the case. Greg Vondruska, Neil Fitzpatrick, Stan Yan, Dave Law, Barrett Lombardo, Kistof Spacey & Sal Cipriano, Chris Staggs & Marc Deering and Jose Mochove had stories of varying degrees of interest in the book (actually, I thought the Jose Mochove stuff was the highlight of the book, so check out his site). As for everything else, I either thought it was stupid or mediocre. One man’s opinion, granted, but there it is. If you want to give the CBLDF money, just go their website and make a donation. It might look like I put a lot of names up in the “OK” pile, but I was being generous and some of the other stuff was really bad. It’s cheap at $4.95, but that’s the best thing I can say about it. Stay away, Joe.
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!
There are some reviews that just write themselves. Look, I’ll give you the part of the lineup (that way part of it is still a mystery!) for the anthology, OK? Neil Fitzpatrick, Souther Salazar, Josh Simmons, Paul Hornschemeier, Marc Bell, Dylan Williams, and Scott Mills. The idea here is that everybody picks up after everybody else, in whatever manner they see fit. For example, Dylan Williams has a short story about a man in a bar, complaining about music, until he sees “Me and My Demon Speeder are Gonna Win This Race” written on the bathroom wall. Marc Bell picks up right there, with a character that only Marc Bell could draw, in a race, on something that looks like a demon speeder. Some of the transitions are smooth, some of them aren’t, but this book is a tremendous experiment regardless. Yes, I know it’s been done before, but this book is $10 and hefty, so it’s nice to see it being done on a larger scale. My only beef is that the pages aren’t marked, so it’s hard at times to tell what artist is drawing certain pages. Still, a minor thing, and something that could probably be remedied with a trip around my website, looking at samples from everybody in it, if only I wasn’t so damned lazy. Here’s hoping the contact info above is correct, it’s the only address I have…
Happy Town Vs. Neil Jam
If you have “vs.” right in the title, doesn’t that mean that there has to be some sort of an epic battle in the book? Maybe I’ve just read too many superhero comics when I was a kid, but having a “vs.” in the title just screams out for mayhem. Not so much with the mayhem here, as it’s mostly about the some of the main characters from either creator (Justin Madson with Happy Town And Neil Fitzpatrick from Neil Jam) trying either to spend some alone time with the girlfriend or just getting away from it all. It turns into a giant web of deceit and lies, and proves once again that the best thing might not be getting what you want. I thought it was a fun little book, but only essential if you were already big fans of both books, for the sheer “gee whiz” factor of seeing these worlds crammed together. If you’ve never heard of one or both of these series, please remove yourself from your cave and check them out, as they’re both consistently wonderful. Then come back to check this out so you can see what it’s like when they’re all in one place. Contact info is around here somewhere, Justin Madson has a page on this website if you want to learn more about the man, and this one is oh, let’s say $3.
Neil Jam Invasion
I hate to say it, as I was very prepared to gush about this book, but… well, it’s boring. The main story, anyway, I found to be dull. It was OK, and maybe I’m being too simple here, but where’s the violence? It’s funny when Willis says things like “Time for some man medicine” before kicking his friend (which actually happens later in this book, just not in the main story). It’s funny when random characters are thrown in and hijinx ensue. Maybe it’s the fact that a story that probably could have fit in a mini got expanded to 68 pages, I don’t know. Listen, if you wonder about my opinions about Neil, check out any of the other reviews on this page. I think he’s a “rising star”, as they say, and I think he has big things ahead of him. He’s doing a daily strip on his website that’s pretty great, from what I’ve seen, and the rest of this book is good too. The main story is about Willis running into another female (!) and her friend Swifty, a talking bee. The whole thing is about him trying a little to interact with the new female, then learning that she’s going to kidnap his friend. In the back there are tributes from Justin Madson and Tony Brandl. It’s always neat to see someone’s work adapted by somebody else, and these are worth looking at. Get some of the minis or check out the daily strip, but the bulk of this book is kind of dull.
Neil Jam abc’s
OK, this one you can skip if you really want to. I liked it and thought it was a good idea, but there’s no story at all. Still worth it in my book for his version of various comic and video game characters, but $2 is maybe too steep. Scroll up to the top to see where you send your money, but I’ll link his e-mail address again just in case.
Neil Jam #15
It’s odd to me how the issues focusing on the “lesser” characters seem so much more… well, “coherent” is too strong a word, but they seem to have a little more flow than the other issues. Whether or not that’s a good thing is entirely up to you, as a lot of the charm of Neil Jam is seeing all the random characters interact with one another. Still, there were two main stories going on in this issue and, while they did meet other random characters along the way, the drive of the issue was clear. There’s a new ghost in town who’s going around asking people if it’s OK that he haunts them, and there’s Fenwin and the reactions he’s getting from everybody else. As usual, Neil nails it, as it was hilarious to watch that ghost learn what it’s supposed to be doing, and the sheer terror Fenwin inspires by being different (in a world of oddities) is a wonderful thing. There are also a few pages at the end of the “regular” issue dealing with all the main characters, just in case you were starting to miss them after almost two full issues with the new and/or rarely used characters. Oh, and have I ever mentioned that the insides of the front and back covers of these issues invariably have famous characters from all sorts of places with giant black Neil Jam eyes? You get your money’s worth with these issues, that’s for sure, and you have the extra added benefit of being haunted by those huge black eyes for days. What’s not to love? $2
Neil Jam #14
Finally, some quality time with the lesser characters of Neil Jam. This issue and #15 are both dedicated to the characters we may not see quite enough of, and with this issue Neil Jam has officially taken over the planet. The stories in this issue are longer than your typical pieces as well, with Caroline (the talking carrot) taking the bulk of the issue to grow a new friend, as she’d really rather not be seen with Cotton, the rabbit who’s in love with her. Cotton gets a new outfit to cheer himself up, then kicks a Tot into somebody’s face (not sure of the name, he looks like the anti-Willis), which has the desired effect. Other highlights among many include Bat Jam (in which “Batman” runs away from beauty), the Sleep Sheep’s ongoing quest to sleep with Willis, and the introduction of Fenwin, Caroline’s new friend. Well, as Neil Jam has officially taken over the planet with this issue the man doesn’t need any words of encouragement from me, but this has remained a delightfully disturbing book for years and years, so kudos to the guy for that. And for giving the fans what they want, namely more time with the odd characters that we don’t see nearly enough of. $2
Neil Jam #13
Ah SPACE, land of the new Neil Jams. Three new ones this time around, so expect to see a few more updates in the coming weeks. My only regret is that I forgot to go back and get that color print of Neil Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Sigh, maybe next year. This issue introduces the Tots, although I’d swear I’ve seen them in these pages before. Jerry continues his efforts to fly (this time with a clear sign from above), Ona and Willis keep their “romance” going, a rabbit falls in love with a giant carrot, and King Tot has his revenge for all the little tots. As always with the Neil Jam books, it’ll take me a few minutes to stop seeing everything in the world with those giant black eyes, and that’s a good thing in my book. $2
Neil Jam #12
Why isn’t Neil Jam a weekly strip in alternative (do they still even use that word?) newspapers? Seriously, he has an established cast of characters, those giant black eyes make everything adorable as hell (or unbelievably creepy, depending on your point of view), and he seems to be able to put these things out on a regular basis. Either I’m just missing it where I live or there’s a giant untapped market waiting to be filled with Neil Jams. This comic is more of the same from Neil, which is a wonderful thing indeed. There’s the increasingly creepy Sleep Sheep, kicking the bird, a ghost that isn’t scary, a mean dinosaur, and being a loser (by Justin Madson). About the only complaint I have about Neil Jam is that some of the punch lines aren’t funny, but isn’t that true of punch lines by nature? You’re only hurting yourself if you don’t read these, you know…
Neil Jam #11
Looks like Neil has mostly gone back to doing the issues himself (see the review for the last issue if you’re lost), which is fine by me. I do think he should keep up with the idea of Neil Jam as a franchise done by other people though. Maybe Neil Jam Jam, a “spinoff”? Anyway, this is another solid issue. The cast of characters seems to be expanding all the time. In here you have the eternal struggle of Willis trying to impress Ona, the other eternal struggle of Jerry trying to get up the nerve to fly, a very insistent little guy called Sleep Sheep, an insulted vegetable, Willis as pimp, a giant adorable bunny-like creature, and another Neil Jam story by Justin Madson. Oh, and a wonderfully fantastic back page featuring versions of Neil from various artists, the best one far and away Kurt Wolfgang’s theory of just what’s behind those giant eyes see. Look, you all know by now that Neil Jam is required reading for decent people everywhere, right? Good. There’s more than enough to convince the stray newcomer out there to check out this issue as their first, but the rest of you should already know all about this comic by now…
Neil Jam #10
Man, check out that cover! His stuff is looking better and better all the time, or maybe it’s just the fact that I have a new scanner now and it all just looks better. Regardless, it had been far too long since I had read an issue of Neil Jam and I was happy to see some new stuff at SPACE this year (2005). He’s working on making Neil Jam a franchise, so a lot of this issue was done by other people. He still has the website going strong with his strips, so if you absolutely have to see more of Neil’s work you can always go there (it’s linked on this page, don’t worry, you can find it), but I liked having a variety of hands interpreting this world. Neil does the first few stories, which were a dream about a duplicate, a tribute to the Peanuts comic strip and a Nintendo Jam, where he’s obviously played way too much of Super Mario Bros. 2 and couldn’t get it out of his head, so onto paper it went. Still, a cute little story. Then you have Justin Madson (who does Happy Town) giving his spin on the Neil Jam universe, as one of his main characters end up there in a dream and hilarity ensues! Finally there’s a story by Jesse McManus, whose silent take on things makes the whole world seem a whole lot creepier somehow. Good stuff all around, a ton of variety, not really much to complain about here. Let’s say $3, contact info is around here somewhere…
Neil Jam #9
The ninth issue of Neil Jam was split up into three minis. One is talking shit about Batman, one is all about kicking and has a great last panel (not to give anything away), and one is about dinosaurs bugging people. $3, and have I mentioned yet that these are all incredible? The only thing I can think of that it reminds me of even a little would be Steven by Doug Allen, but I’m not sure what my reasoning is behind that.
Neil Jam #8
A huge issue with super Willis and regular Willis competing for the affection of Ona. I can seewhy they’d be fighting, as Ona appears to be the only female in the world of Neil. $2.50
Neil Jam #7
A great silent issue and it’s the first time you get to see Willis as a superhero. You really don’t need words with those huge eyes… $2
Neil Jam #5
A “talking” guitar who falls in love! A cute rabbit who gets kicked around! Robot! Bird! Giant black eyes! You know, I was going to review every issue, breaking down the finer points, but then I realized that pictures from this incredible series will convince you more than I ever could. You’d think that kicking cute creatures around would get old, but you’d be wrong. I was thinking that this wasn’t one of the better ones and then I remembered the guitar. Pretty much all the stuff I got at SPACE (this and everything after it up to #9) is worth getting. $2