Pretending You’re Not Crazy
Let’s hear it for depression! Just think of how boring comics would be if the writers were happy all the time. Granted, as a human being you’d rather be happy than sad, but… nope, you’d just rather be happy than sad. This is a series of mostly one or two page strips detailing his descent into depression, hoping that he has hit bottom and his pharmaceutically assisted climb back up. Ryan seems to think that taking anti-depressants is essentially “losing,” as he can’t find his happiness on his own, but I disagree. Take your happiness where you can find it in this life, provided that you aren’t hurting anybody else. Ta-da! All depression is hereby solved! Subjects in here include realizing that he wasn’t really wishing for death, an epically scatterbrained week, some wisdom on playing “the game,” trying to come to terms with depression without drugs, feeling buried under various forms of media, getting buried in “shoulds,” finding the enemy and realizing that he was out of options, trying to work out a system to get a handle on his life, his “quarter-life crisis” (which he says can happen in your 30’s which, mathematically, makes very little sense), trying to blend in with the regular adults at work, and trying to make anti-depressants funny. You can probably still read some of these up at his website if you’d like more samples, but basically this is a thoughtful, engaging series of strips from somebody who is trying to figure out the same thing as the rest of us: how to live a good and happy life. Or at least a happy life.
Rebecca and the Super Heroes
Warning: no super heroes appear in this comic. Well, I guess one does at the end, sort of. This is the story of Rebecca, Ryan’s girlfriend, and her introduction to Ryan’s world of comics. A very brief introduction, as this comic only has five single page stories, but maybe a larger edition is in the works? Anyway, stories in here include Rebecca’s similarities to Kal-El, the practical limitations of properly filling out a Wonder Woman costume, the joys of not having to get into dumb comic book arguments, and Rebecca’s first experience with watching an episode of the old Hulk tv show. Which, really, is not the best “gateway show” to get the ladies interested in geekery. My opinion is that you can’t go wrong with Buffy, and sure, I know that there aren’t any super heroes in that technically, but it lets the uninitiated know that such an idea can be compelling and rewarding for adults. This is a tiny comic, like I said, so there’s not a whole lot more to say about it. It’s an interesting subject, and Ryan could maybe have enough material to make a full size comic or maybe even a graphic novel out of this. It’s worth checking out, and is another welcome addition to this giant box of mini comics. Oh, and Ryan is going through something of a crisis in comic form on his website (new strips on Wednesdays and Sundays!), and going through the back strips has already taken up a good chunk of my morning. Just sayin’…
Big Funny #1
Oh sure, I could shrink that image down and make this page nice and pretty. I choose not to because this comic is so vast that you need some visual representation, and it also serves as a handy explanation for why there are no samples from individual strips: this thing is too damned big for it. This is a collection of newspaper-style comics, done in a newspaper-style format, with one notable exception: these are actually funny. Kudos to these people (who are, it should be mentioned, mostly from Minnesota, or at least the planners seem to be) for being the first to send me a comic in a poster tube, or whatever those things are really called. There’s a huge variety of strips in here, from parodies of early newspaper strips to “where are they now” versions of those strips to what appears to be honest homages to those strips. Then there are a very few autobio strips, some gag strips (again, which are almost all funny), and one particularly memorable example of breaking the fourth wall.Â Contributors include (but are not limited to, as this is 48 pages) Ryan Dow, Henry Chamberlain, Paul Fricke, Kevin McCarthy, D.C. McNamara, David Sandberg, Steve Mason, Stephanie Mannheim and Jenny Schmid, to pick a few names randomly. Leaving aside the comics for just a second, I also enjoyed the actual newspaper articles, such as the one where they discussed who exactly killed the print medium, and they also did a great job with the classified ads in the back. Highlights include (but are in no way limited to) Jesse Gillespie’s Little Emo in Slumbaland, Daniel Olson’s circular strip Hey Rube, Kevin Cannon’s Army Men (the second comic I’ve read today to mention an ankylosaurus), Kirk Anderson’s Banana Republic (about keeping torture light), Andy Singer’s strip about wealth redistribution called Middle Management, Madeline Queripel’s brilliant strip about how the old serials would just use the last panel of the previous strip as the first panel of the new strip to keep readers caught up, Kevin McCarthy’s creepy funnies (apparently breaking the rules of good taste for the strip, but it was worth it), and a good old fashioned donnybrook by Lonny Unitus. I put a “#1” next to the title more because I’d like to see more of these than anything else. It’s a remarkable achievement, and if anybody is going to be in Minneapolis on August 7th you should click that website for details on picking up a copy. If you get one there, it’s a measly $5 for this beast. If not you’ll have to pay for shipping, which just about doubles the price, but this thing is utterly unique in the comics world and worth the expense. I’m old enough to remember pulling the funnies out of the Sunday paper, spreading them out on the ground, laying down to read them and have them actually be funny. Of course, it’s possible I only thought they were funny because I was a kid, but thanks to them for giving me a good reason to relive that experience. I didn’t even know I was missing it. $5
Hey look, it’s my first review from SPACE 2009… done while SPACE is still going on!Â Not that that’s going to do you a lot of good if you read this, say, 4 hours from now, but if you’re reading this RIGHT NOW and live in Columbus, you should probably head on over there.Â And as for recommendations, yes, you should check this one.Â This is a 24 hour (not mentioned in the comic, but Ryan mentioned it at the show) dealing with the relationship between a teddy bear and a kitty.Â The kitty in almost unbearably adorable, the teddy bear has been seeing a doll on the side and was talked into murdering the kitty.Â However, as any good student of Tales From the Crypt knows, these sorts of things never end well.Â In fact, they usually end with the zombified remains of the wrongly murdered party getting their revenge in bloody fashion.Â Well, there’s not a whole lot of blood in the average teddy bear, but you get the idea.Â The comic is a blast, it’s an idea that was executed damned near perfectly.Â It couldn’t have been easy to portray a teddy bear going through some serious emotional turmoil before and after the murder, but Ryan nails it here.Â This comic is also up for free on his website, so there’s no need to take my word for it.Â No price but let’s say $2, and this one is well worth seeking out.Â Oh, and the biggest concern for the 24 hour books is usually “how bad is the artwork?”, but there are no problems on that front either.Â The characters are meant to be a bit simple, so you barely notice the speedy drawing.Â $2
L’il Buddha Loves You
I absolutely love the adorable, round and happy Buddha on the cover right above the disclaimer that this might not suitable for kids.Â I don’t know why but it just tickles me.Â This is a collection of Buddha strips that Ryan has apparently done for his website over the years, so the story doesn’t exactly follow a straight line.Â Then again, what good are straight lines in the quest for enlightenment?Â L’il Buddha gently cajoles Ryan (I’m assuming it’s him in these comics and not a nameless lead character) into meditating more often, gets Ryan to admit to an embarrassing personal story (which is smartly interrupted from our perspective by an ad for Tofu Buddha Dogs), makes jokes that fly right over Ryan’s head, transforms briefly into a business executive, helps Ryan feel OK with a general lack of direction (while advising him to strive for more), and explains how Ryan’s problems with women stem from him not wanting to admit to growing up.Â Of course, if this isn’t about Ryan then this review is damned near slander, but it’s still a good story even with a nameless main character.Â If you’re looking to understand Buddhism this doesn’t exactly dig deep, but there’s plenty of wisdom in this little package.Â It’s funny, smart and even informative.Â You could do a whole lot worse than this, and it’s one more thing that tells me that I should have picked up his graphic novel when I had the chance.Â Sigh, maybe next year.Â No price, but let’s say $2.