Hey kids, or anybody who has started reading comics in the last few years? Are you interested in the history of mini comics, why they’re such a source of passion for so many people? Well, maybe not in numbers, but in level of interest and dedication in following certain artists? Your answer is this volume. If you have no interest in the history, away with you! This one can be for the old timers. This is a collection of the best of the “Not My Small Diary” anthology, and if you read small press comics in the 90’s and 00’s, you will recognize plenty of these names. In fact, good luck not getting lost in a Google hole or trying to figure out what so many of these people are up to these days. Notable names include (but are not limited to) Jeff Zenick, Dan Zettwoch, Patrick Dean, Raina Telgemeier, Jesse Reklaw, Carrie McNinch, Sam Spina, Roberta Gregory, Kurt Wolfgang… you know what, there are just too damned many names, and they’re all in the tags, so check that part out. If any of those names made you say “hey, I wonder what they’re up to these days” then this book is for you. These are mostly snippets of stories, but they’re all complete by themselves. Sometimes the stories follow a theme, like notable dates or moments in their lives, but really they’re all over the place. If it seems like I’m avoiding getting into specifics, that is entirely the case. If you were around for all these artists when they first started, you’re going to get lost in this instantly. If not, this is an excellent way for you to figure out what the big deal was about these people all along. I guess it’s possible that it’s the nostalgia talking and that people might not connect to these stories now, but screw that. These are tales of human weakness (and occasionally triumph), and those stories are universal and timeless. Most of the original issues of this series are out of print, so this is your best option all around. The book itself is $7.50 if you see Delaine at a convention, but if not $10 should be enough to cover the shipping, and I really can’t recommend this enough. It’s rare for any anthology not to have a weak story or two, but these are all golden.
Quick, think of the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you. Now imagine yourself writing and drawing a comic story about it. That right there should make you cringe, which means you’re in luck, as that’s what this anthology is all about! This book has right around 30 small press artists, some new and some who have been around for awhile, who are willing to share some shameful incident from their past. I don’t think anything in here will get anybody put in jail, but it’s hard not to cringe while reading some of these. I’m not going to review every story because there are so damned many of them (and for a measly $8!), but the highlights include Shaenon K. Garrity wetting herself while out with a group of other cartoonists (including a big name guy, but I won’t spoil the surprise; I particularly loved the way she ended her strip), Sam Spina’s unfortunate method for drinking a rum shot when he met the Bacardi girls, Adam Pasion’s particularly gruesome retelling of an incident involving a finger in the eye, Geoff Vasile dodging a bullet (not literally), Chad Essley and his series of embarrassing moments (hard to top the one where he volunteered to breakdance at school on stage), Fred Noland’s theories on some crayons he used to own, Chad Woody and his racist former roommate, Box Brown and his former habit of eating light bulbs (it’s not quite as life-threatening as it sounds), Stephen Notley and his experience of being “that guy” at a comic convention (you know the one, the guy who gets up to ask a rambling and pointless question and has no idea how to get out of it once he gets started), and Sam Henderson’s experiences with having seizures while surrounded by strangers. It’s a damned fine mix of stories, and at a ridiculously cheap price. Save yourself the embarrassment of not owing this anthology of embarrassment! Ugh, I feel dirty for saying that. I’ll let myself out… $8
Here’s an anthology that has a monster in every story, real of implied. Pedro Boyd has a story about a dragon versus a pumpkin (I’ll bet you know who wins, too), Brian Canny and Toby Craig have one about some policemen who are out to get people who claim to have lost artifacts from famous artists, Peter Conrad has one about an existential zombie, Jim Rugg adapts the story of Jonah and the whale, Dalton Webb finds his inner demon, Todd Webb may or may not have a monster under his bed, and Tom Williams is dating Godzilla at goth karaoke. A pretty varied collection, mostly from people I’ve heard of, and you (mostly) can’t go wrong with monsters. It’s only $6, check out Toby’s website to order it.
The Bridge Project
Just so it’s clear, as of 10/07/09 that website is still “under construction”.Â Well, it does lead to a fair amount of samples from Matt and other places to learn about this book, so it’s better than most “under construction” websites, and this book is new enough that it might really be under construction.Â I’ve just become jaded from seeing that warning on countless websites only to have the construction never start.Â Anyway, how about the book?Â This is an anthology with a unique goal: team up on cartoonist living in Portland with one living in San Francisco, let them do their thing and see what comes out of it.Â Some of these stories just have one person drawing, some of them mix both artists in, but the mildly surprising thing is how well all of this works.Â Collaborations can be a tricky business, but Matt seems to have found the magic formula.Â This did take a couple of years to put together, so I guess technically he did have time to work some bugs out.Â Stories in here include The Forlorn Hope (by Shannon O’Leary & Ryan Alexander-Tanner, dealing with the infamous Donner party), The “The Bridge Project” Project (by Peter Conrad, the only solo piece in the book due to Peter’s partner crapping out on him), Nerd Prom (by Carolyn Main & Jesse Baggs about cartoonists in relationships getting along a little too well at a convention), Shanghooked (by Graham Annable & Scott Campbell), Lost Intersection (by Matt Leunig & Seamus Heffernan, the heart of the book), Jumpers (by Sina Grace & Susan Tardif, about a long distance relationship disintegrating), Future Jerks (by Jonathan Hill & Calvin Wong about, um, vegan jerks in the future), Dark Matter (by Tom Lechner & John Isaacson, dealing with an especially creepy invasion), The MVPs (by Josh Frankel & Greg Means, it’s about star basketball players yearning to make comics), and The Doppelganger (by Tessa Brunton & Vanessa Grunton, it’s all about the various evil twins we have all over the place.Â All that and there’s still room for a couple of short pieces by Rina Ayuyang & Erika Moen (an untitled piece about trying to fit in in Portland), Mari Naomi & Rachel Mendez (Inga and the Whales, a heartbreaking tale (almost certainly an urban legend) about a whale thanking its rescuers), and David Chelsea & Two Fine Chaps (that’s really what they’re called, it deals with David’s uncle having a stroke).Â It’s packed, is what I’m trying to say, and there’s really not a weak piece in the bunch.Â Graham Annable is always worth the price of admission to me and his piece on the sea serpent was brilliant, there were some damned useful tips in The Doppelganger (if you ever run into yours, that is), Peter Conrad was far too nice in not naming the slacker that promised him a script for months, and the center of the book by Matt & Seamus, dealing with a few people and their relationships over the years, was a perfect place to do some artist swapping.Â So now that I’ve mentioned how great the content was, I at least have to mention the layout.Â No table of contents, but that was made up for by the inclusion on the bottom of every page of the artists.Â Â It seems to be the norm not to mention that on the page in anthologies, and it bugs me every time it’s not included, so kudos to Matt for that.Â It’s an impressive achievement, here’s hoping this didn’t scare him off editing anthologies altogether and he can keep this concept going with other cities.Â And did I mention this is a measly $9.95?
And this behemoth of a page just keeps getting bigger and bigger. One of these days I’ll pare it down, etc. etc. excuses excuses. So, once again, you can see that cover, right? You already read the first two issues of this series and chances are that you’ve been waiting for more for quite a while, and here it is! A few of the artists involved: Stan Yan, Josh Frankel, Lonnie Allen, Peter S. Conrad, Fredo, Jenny Gonzalez, Kate Allen, Adam Suerte, and Dave McKenna, among many others. What sorts of tragedies at sea are they talking about exactly? You have snapping sea turtles, a giant eel, various shark attacks, a whale trying to jump over a boat, horrible storms, and at least one swordfish living up to its name. Great fun to be had here as always, although I was less than impressed with the stories that were told in poetry form. I’m here for the mayhem dammit, not iambic pentameter! $4.50, please keep buying these so they keep making them, next up is “Mauled by Machines”… Website
Almost Normal Comics and Other Oddities #2
Here’s another great anthology from W.E., with stories about making minis to impress a girl, snail wrestling, jazz pianos, adventurers getting an amulet, spying on regular people, not flying, controlling women and making money doing it, a man crashing a beauty contest, a stripper, fish, being abducted by North Korea, the good old days, a whiner, and trying to balance finding a job and finding a girlfriend. That enough for you? No? Well, I left out the parts from W.E., including the real story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, an ancient talking box and an interview with Trent Haaga. Actually, that’s my only real complaint of the book: not enough W.E.! Those little one page stories make the book and there should be at least ten of them per anthology. Am I asking too much? Maybe. That’s what I’m here for! Here’s a list of the talent: Patrick Findlay, Alejandro Alvarez, Matt Levin, Ron LeBrasseur, Adrian Velazco, Phil McAndrew, Buck Weiss, Shannon Gretzon, Jeff T. Kane, Kel Crum, Peter Conrad, David Recine, Simon Mackie, Herve Largeaud, Yul Tolbert, and Anthony Hon. You can find plenty of those people on this page if you’re curious about this book, but seriously, it’s worth the price of admission to find out what really happened to those seven dwarfs, and there’s not really a weak story in the bunch, which is all you can ever ask out of an anthology. It’s $5.50 but it’s huge, contact info is up there!
Another day, another random mish-mash of an anthology. I really had high hopes for this one too. It’s edited by Peter Conrad and here are just some of the names in it (don’t you hate it when people do that? You know that they’re always leaving off the lesser-known people for no good reason): Sam Henderson, Neil Fitzpatrick, Jesse Reklaw, Keith Knight, Carrie McNinch, James Kochalka, John Hankiewicz, David Lasky and Ted Rall. It’s an OK book, but very few things stand out when you get done reading it. The Sam Henderson and James Kochalka stories weren’t even funny, and those are usually a sure thing. Keith Knight, John Hankiewicz, Neil Fitzpatrick and Ted Rall were the highlights for me. Everything else was somewhere between pretty good and unremarkable. It’s cheap at $7.95 and you can’t beat that lineup, but… eh.
Peter is another guy who is focusing a lot more on his daily web strip than mini comics these days (I’m also reviewing Neil Fitzpatrick), so it’s rare to see something from him. He says in this that this is a bunch of comics that he had laying around the house (which may or may not be true; you kind of have to read it to know what I mean), so let’s take a look. The first story is a minimalist piece about a man obsessing over a former girlfriend. I thought it was the strongest piece in the book. “Oh, The Joys” was an OK, if slightly confusing, story about Peter bickering with his wife over their new house. I liked the story about sledding a lot too, and the other story, Circulation, was good, but I had one problem with it: the setup. It’s basically a story about a guy Peter used to work with, but he sets it up by walking up to a guy at a library circulation (which makes sense if you read the story), saying “excuse me”, and launching into a long speech about this guy. It just didn’t strike me as something that happens in real life, at least not without the circulation guy running for cover at some point. Just a minor thing, but it bugged me. A solid issue overall, and it looks like the strip is funny a lot of the time too. This is $2, the site is linked up there…
Attempted Not Known #7
Peter is taking a new direction with this one and I think it’s great. He’s been funny throughout the ones that I’ve read, and the easiest funny stories are the shorter ones, so this one is a bunch of shorter pieces. It’s not all funny, as he addresses 9/11 in a couple of comics, but this is mostly a funny book. You can find his contact info elsewhere on this page, but if I had to pick my favorite from all these I think it would have to be this one. Check it out if you haven’t read any of these books, it’s only $1, you cheap bastards.
I think all these free comics are spoiling me. Greg Vondruska sent this one to me with a few of his own, and I got a pile of stuff from Ben Steckler that day too. What that means, basically, is that I’m going to have to order a few more books from this man because I only got about 12 pages worth of stuff, and it wasn’t my favorite thing in the world. So then why would I buy more stuff? A few reasons. John Hankiewicz draws the story on the back and I’ve been following his stuff around like a little puppy dog these days. Peter has a story in the next issue of Tepid too, so that automatically makes me curious. And anybody in general who is liked by that many people is worth a few chances in my book. What didn’t I like about it? Wasn’t too fond of the single panel gag comics, or the “Your House” strip about things that go on when you’re not looking. I liked the first story (about a superhero who falls in love with a girl who loves indie comics), if it was a bit predictable. The dream stuff is a great idea and there’s been a real lack of quality dream comics lately. Overall, a mix of good and so-so stuff. Like I said, it’s hard to get a real feel for the guy in 12 pages… which is why the website was such a help. All kinds of samples there, so go figure out for yourself what you think of this guy, My opinion of him went up dramatically after I saw samples of other stuff that he had done, that’s for sure. It confirmed for me that the good stuff I saw in this issue is what he usually does. It looks like the other issues are a bit more coherent than this one too. Anyway, e-mail him or send him money (although I really think you should check out the samples on his page first): P.O. Box 64522 Sunnyvale, CA 94088-4522.
Attempted Not Known #5
Hey, how can you go wrong with a half naked anime looking girl right there on the cover? Turns out that she has nothing to do with anime and I was just fooled, or maybe it says something about me that I even thought she had anything to do with anime, I don’t know. Anyway, the main story in this one is called Breakfast Cereal Morning, a surreal story that reminds me of John Hankiewicz. Good stuff, although I have to say that I’d like to see what he could do if he stuck with a story for on entire issue. That might not make much sense when you stop to think that my favorite stories of his are the short dream strips, but I think he might have the ability to pull off a great longer story. We’ll see one of these days, I guess. Also included are a few of the dream strips, a fantastic Notes From the Field and a story that has the best title ever: It’s Not Easy Being Pants. If I had to complain about one thing in these last two issues it would definitely be the format. I know this is probably the cheapest way to print these, but they feel kind of like harsh toilet paper. You should all send him money so he doesn’t have to print on this stuff anymore. The fact that he’s somebody that you should all be watching anyway should help to make that decision a little bit easier, right?
Attempted Not Known #4
Another good issue. He wraps up his messy (but still interesting) untitled story from the last issue and throws in a few pages of other strips. My main problem with these is that they’re so short. I know, that’s a lot to ask from a mini but it seems tough to come away from an issue with a comprehensive idea of what you just saw, if that makes any sense. Anyway, a couple of Weird Real Dreams are in this as well as the story of a couple of people lucking into a really cheap apartment and what they did with the piles of Nazi memorabilia they found laying around. It’s starting to become clear to me why another comics creator sent me the books of this guy because they thought he wasn’t getting enough exposure though, I can tell you that much.
Peter was kind enough to send me some of his other issues so I could get a better view of what he was all about. Maybe the first review (for #6) came across as negative, I’m not sure. I meant it as more “eh” than negative, but getting these has really impressed me. This one has a rambling story about a man losing his job and smoking pot and a bunch of smaller pieces. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the first story, it just didn’t go anywhere. He discontinued it after the next issue anyway, so he knew that it wasn’t going anywhere too. The shorter pieces are great. The Weird Real Dreams segments are almost always great (and at least always interesting), as are the American Encounters. I’d love to hear how he got his book into Tower Records. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but that’s a hell of a lot of exposure and I wonder who happened across his book. Overall a good read, and it’s starting to look like I was right about his earlier books being more together than #6.