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Hill, Dan – The 50 Flip Experiment #19

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The 50 Flip Experiment #19

I wonder sometimes how many people are still here from the early days of this website (it goes back to 2001, in case you were curious). I wonder that today because I started reviewing this series way back in 2003 (or was it 2004?), and here it is, 2017, and a new issue is available. And, remarkably, it’s only gotten weirder over the years, and I obviously mean that only in the best possible sense. Things start off here with three naked people who are stuck on a lifeboat. One of the naked people has what appears to be a brain in a jar on her head, another is asking the other people on the boat to imagine that he’s a bear, and the second woman is getting her hair brushed by an invisible force while also wearing what appears to be chickens on her head. And that right there is the first panel, to give you some idea of what you’re in for. Our heroes chat about their predicament, they seem to free themselves… and then we’re moving on to the next story. Yes, I left out the bit about them possibly being time travelers, I have to leave some mystery for you to uncover. From there we get a group of students who are at the beach for their last summer together. Also a seabeast. And hot dogs in a fanny pack. And the Queen. And the fact that whoever touches the dead Queen first becomes the next Queen. This is a delightful array of philosophy, nihilism, hijinx and beach horniness. If you can’t imagine how all those things could possibly go together, well boy howdy are you in for a treat! $6

Hill, Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #15

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The Fifty Flip Experiment #15

Dan has been doing this comic for 15 issues now (obviously, and huzzah) and he’s clearly getting tired of this one particular view of reality. This time around he’s mixing it up even more, throwing himself in a few times (and not obnoxiously; Dave Sim, take note), and generally treating the stories and panels as his playground. And why not? I’d say he’s been doing this long enough to have earned it. The very first strip with a drunken Pinocchio talking to Gepetto (I’m not giving away the punchline) should have been your first clue, as it’s always a good sign when the opening strip is fucking with you. From there we get a single page image of an attacking helicopter, Darth Vader getting blown/cut with an axe, somebody fleeing from a burning building, a giraffe, and a viking holding a bong. Next is the strip I sampled below, and from there it’s best if you peel the layers of this particular onion yourself. Subjects in some of these stories include funnies about Diogenes, a funny (in a New Yorker-ish kind of way) joke about slavery, pirate humor, a night at Perkin’s (this one may only make sense to people who live in Champaign, unless that place is a chain of some kind), creepy Dan and a woman trapped in her bed, the soul destroying powers of TGI Friday’s, and happily ever after. Dan seems to be taking more time between comics these days (no human could keep up the pace he was on when he started), but if the result is books like this then I’m all for it. Not that I hated his older comics by any stretch, but I’m all for packing as many layers in as possible. $4

Hill, Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #3

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A different website

The Fifty Flip Experiment #3

Ah, a comic from back when this comic was funny. For those of you who are sarcasm-challenged, well, the comic is STILL funny (as of #14 anyway), but wow was the format different back when this issue came out. By the time Dan got to #14 the stories were getting longer and the art was getting better, but it’s hard to compare to an issue like this in terms of sheer content. This is mostly a series of comic strips, usually four to a page, along with some single page strips. As a result of all that content I’ll just briefly mention what you could find in the first half of the book: mistaken unicorn identity, screaming dad, some unfortunate third world care packages, the moral superiority of jogging, stupid Simba, the secret of Abraham Lincoln’s hat, medical experiments on slaves (in an odd change of pace for an otherwise jovial book), fucking crows, streamlining the mate selection process, “fake” wrestling, and a suicidal tackle box. And that’s just chunks of the first half! If you’ve never heard of Dan Hill and want to see what exactly he’s capable of, chances are that you’re going to want to start with one of his more recent work comics and work your way back. If you’re already a fan, or if you’re obsessed with getting value for your comics dollar, it’s hard to go wrong with this one. As for those websites, the first one is Dan’s official website (as far as I know), but it’s not working at the moment. The second one lists several of Dan’s old comics, including many of them from this issue, but that’s not working at the moment either. Too bad, but here’s hoping it’s just a temporary thing. If I remember correctly these were generally $2, although maybe the earlier ones were cheaper.

Hill, Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #14

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The Fifty Flip Experiment #14

Oh copying problems, you are the bane of the existence of mini comics. I’ll get to the content in a minute, but the fact that roughly half of the pages in here have dark copy lines either partially or mostly covering the pages is more than a bit annoying. Dan printed up a hundred of these things and I’m guessing he didn’t want to bother with the trouble and expense of copying a new bunch, which makes sense when you think how much the average mini comic producer makes (hint: breaking even is often a welcome surprise).  Still, it’s a mess, and it detracts from a few stories.  Ah well, at least this time around he upped the total of naked women considerably. Stories in here include baby as bomb, hobo wisdom, David Lynch making a Hostess snack cake commercial  (that I would have loved to sample if the pages weren’t such a mess), the fact that deaf people are essentially always in a sensory deprivation tank and thus are constantly tripping balls, Spoons for Hands Man gradually running out of steam as Dan clearly loses interest, the location of a tumor, a strip that flew right over my head (at least one guaranteed per issue!), is the cat really in the box, and why Shamu doesn’t sleep. Oh, and the inevitable disappointment of the symphony. Dan also had an interesting introduction about comedy in general, and I’m completely on board with finding fewer and fewer genuinely funny comedians out there.  A CD is also included that contains over an hour of something or other, but I popped it in, lasted a few minutes and then started searching around it. Didn’t find anything that really held my interest, but there could very well be nuggets of genius on it somewhere, my attention span is simply too short to try and find it. He says it’ll be less of a gap between issues this time around (this one came out about a year after #13), and here’s hoping he sticks to it.  He’s gradually carving out his own niche, so it would be nice if enough people manage to notice before he inevitably runs away from comics and turns to drink.  $1

Hill, Dan – The Fifty-Flip Experiment #11

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The Fifty-Flip Experiment #11

In case you’re curious, yes, the back cover does show the end result from the pose depicted on the front cover.  No, I am not going to show it to you.  Buy the damned book!  Although at the moment Dan’s website appears to be down, and this has also followed a prolonged period of inactivity for the man, so the signs are ominous.  Still, I heard it from the man himself that he will put out another issue, so that’s settled, and I’m sure the site will be up and humming again soon, along with all of humanity learning to love each other.  In “I have to complain at least a little bit” news, the unerased pencil lines are fewer this time around, but the copy smudges and dark spots more than make up for it.  Nothing to be done about it now, so  on to the content!  Stories in here include a running fake newscast gag (involving the horrors of kids reading “e-texts” that are meant for adults and a commercial for a slinky de-tangler), sorting out some angst, the dangers of Garden State addiction, getting a body mod for the kermit face, and a series of strips with the same punchline that somehow got funnier each time, leading up to a grotesquery of funny.   And here’s a fun fact for your Optical Sloth trivia game: I bought a bookcase off Craigslist from Dan Hill.  If you live in town and find something he’s willing to sell, he may even drive it to your house.  I’m mentioning this to point out what a swell guy he is and that maybe you should buy his comics.  Just as soon as he gets his website up and running again…

Hill, Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #13

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The Fifty Flip Experiment #13

You can tell it’s going to be a great comic when you’re already laughing at the introduction.  Of course, I was laughing more at my own level of cynicism than anything else, as Dan apologized for being three weeks late with this issue.  Three weeks!  That’s a man who’s dedicated to putting his bi-monthly comic out on a bi-monthly basis.  Does anybody remember why Drawn & Quarterly was named Drawn & Quarterly?  Hint: it has to do with putting comics of a series out on a quarterly basis.  I think they kept to that for maybe the first year or so, or at least tried to, before abandoning all pretense of that being the case.  Of course, according to Dan’s website this is the last issue he’s put out (in September 2009), so maybe regularly putting out comics got to him.  So how about the comic?  It seems… fluffier than usual, like he was trying to burn up page space by dragging stories out for pages that could have ended far sooner.  Not that they’re actively bad stories, but I can see why the man maybe took a break after this one.  The first half of the comic is a story about an alien coming to earth, something that felt more like a movie of the week than anything else, but he did manage to spice things up a bit, and the fact that schmaltz can be funny helped him out a bit.  Other stories include a mildly pointless piece about lounging in space, a shortie about a psychiatrist with a good punchline, Spoons for Handsman eats too many Rolos (hey wait a minute, how did he open all those Rolos with spoons for hands?) and a meandering piece about the national conspiracy to hide any evidence of queefs.  Kids, ask your parents.  On second thought just use the internet, as asking your parents would be the most uncomfortable conversation of your life.  Overall there’s still good to be found here, but if he is taking a break from his grueling schedule (and in the context of small press comics I mean that sincerely), I hope he’s working on tightening his game up a bit.  That and deciding that it’s OK not to have at least one page per comic where you can still see the unerased pencil lines…  $2

Hill, Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #1

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The Fifty Flip Experiment #1

It seems like only yesterday (because it was) when I was wishing for a complete collection of John Porcellino’s early, long since out-of-print issues of King Cat.  Today I grabbed the first issue of a series I’ve really come to enjoy to see what it was like in the early days, and man, it’s not pretty.  It looks like he pulled every halfway funny piece out of his sketchbook, no matter how old it was, and threw in a few strips where he seems to have drastically improved his drawing skills, with the end result being a mish mash of nonsense.  He still managed to put together a few funny strips, and I loved his little asides during the strips about how he wasted space on certain strips, but overall this was a timely reminder that it’s often best to go with the later work when trying to form an opinion about something.  If this was the only issue of this series I’d have a significantly more negative reaction to it than I do knowing he got a lot better as he went on, but it would take a real fan of this series/artist to get a whole lot out of this issue.  Stories in here include an astronaut with his co-pilot/blow-up doll, poor table manners, being tortured by sasquatch, a few tales of spoons for hands man (with varying degrees of artistic proficiency, as I think one of these was drawn with magic marker), an awful care package, I Miss Shel Silverstein, pick which contestant has scorpions under his skin, bat erections, new stilts, action hero Jesus, fat man trying to get back in shape, and a number of things that don’t make even a tiny bit of sense but are still somehow at least mildly amusing.  That’s the one thing that keeps this from being a total stinker: the fact that it’s so strange that it’s usually at least a little bit funny.  Still, I’d go with one of the later issues if you just wanted to check out his stuff.  Just sayin’… $1

Hill, Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #10

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The Fifty Flip Experiment #10

There’s a lot to be said for simple consistency, the continued ability to put out funny, interesting comics on a regular basis.  Dan, at the very least, has that down.  He managed to put out one of these every 2 months for a couple of years there, no small feat in the mini comic community.  This issue was done a little over a year ago and it looks like he’s only put out three issues since, which means that he slipped up a little bit.  Or you could look at it another way: how many small press people do you know that managed to put out three issues of anything in the last year?  It’s a much smaller list than it should be.  On to the comic, as I sure can meander off topic.  This starts off with a pretty funny text piece based on This American Life, Ira Glass and David Sedaris.  Well, I thought it was funny; your mileage may vary based on your familiarity with those people and/or that show.  The comics end up dealing with utter randomness, including the shortest friendship ever, a married couple completing each others’ sentences, some hyper-literary nonsense that has to be read to be believed (I tried summing it up but it’s impossible), apology lines, a unicorn who thinks we need a strong Israel, and Spoons For Hands Man crapping all over everything.  There’s also the chunkiest part of the comic in the middle, and it’s all about a zombie waking up his dinosaur steed, shooting an alcoholic owl and running over Hunter S. Thompson.  All of that only scratches the surface of the nonsensical hilarity of the comic, and it’s only nonsensical for the parts I didn’t understand, but they probably had a deeper significance that flew right over my head.  These random piles of funny have really grown on my over the last couple of years, you should think about getting a few of these so you can see where I’m coming from.  $2

Hill, Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #9

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The Fifty Flip Experiment #9

Damn, and this one got off to such a good start.  This comic starts off with a funny strip (sampled, you can make up your own minds), then a mildly funny strip about the nature of art and pretension, then things went off the rails.  See, if you’re going to have one long story in a comic that’s usually about short funny pieces, it really has to be able to hold your attention, and this one just went on and on and on… and even promises that it’ll be continued in the next issue!  Blech.  What’s so awful?  It’s really not that bad of an idea for a strip, and you can tell the theme for the cover.  Things start with it being a parody of an infomercial, with everybody over-excited to be drinking tears and wondering where they come from.   Then it goes on to give rejected criers, uses for the tears and a reaction from an art snob.  Unless he’s planning on making this into a continuing story and somehow manages to make it funny and interesting again after running it into the ground, it’s safe to say I’m skipping #10.  Not that the whole issue is a wash, there are still four single page strips after the long piece, but it’s not enough to save the comic.  Check out some of the other issues for some genuine funny, but unless your sense of humor is entirely different from mine (that’s entirely possible), skip this one.  $2

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Hill, Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #6

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The Fifty Flip Experiment #6

Here’s a note for aspiring cartoonists everywhere: if the character on your cover can touch the inside of his wrist with his index finger, you might still need a little work drawing hands.  I’m crapping on this to start the review because there’s plenty here to like, so why not get the bad stuff out of the way first?  Dan is doing a bimonthly comic (he’s up to #9), is engaging the local comics community of Champaign-Urbana Illinois to help out with various panels and gags, and has an excellent sense of humor.  The trouble is that it’s absurdist humor, and that sort of thing takes some work before a person is going to get it down.  He lists Tim & Eric as an influence and they’re damned near brilliant, so that’s a good place to start, but this issue is uneven at best.  Future issues look more coherent (he samples 2/3 of every issue on his website), which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your perspective.  I tend to subscribe to the Picasso theory of comics: learn everything there is to learn, then feel free to fuck around with the concepts.  So, by that theory, if later issues are more coherent, once he gets the hang of that he’ll have a better grasp of the absurd.  So what’s in the actual comic?  There’s the man on the cover getting into a philosophical discussion with a hobo, an anime joke (I think) that is lost on me, a hilarious bit with snakes getting their own parachutes, how to interpret a sneeze, the inspired mundaneness of Yelena, a philosophical discussion in an asylum, dead Zorro, the memory of elephants, clown sex, air guitar and a hill of beans.  Some of the pages are sideways (these are the ones that always seem to be “too busy” and look fainter than the others for some reason) and some of the jokes go nowhere at all, but the funny bits still make this worthwhile for a buck, and for the sake of supporting someone who seems committed to sticking to a schedule.  Good behavior like that should be rewarded.  Oh, and an early contender for the non-existent “title of the year” category would have to go to “Slice of Life Strips are Very Lazy”.  $1

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Hill, Dan – The Fifty Flip Experiment #7

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The Fifty Flip Experiment #7

Dan passes a crucial test with this issue: is it better than the last one?  In every way, and it’s not like the last issue was awful.  Of course, it is possible to pass that test too often and become like Dan Clowes.  Dan kept making every issue of Eightball better and better for years until eventually he lost the ability to make comics, as he eventually reached a critical mass of awesomeness.  As long as this Dan can avoid that, he should be fine.  Stories in this issue include the tale of Albrecht Durer (and Dan gets bonus points both for using the umlaut and for saying that Albrecht can use them every time they’re printed in his name “like a periscope from hell”), a studious and curious boy who’s also mildly homicidal, a young man who tunes out the cartoon villain who’s come to kill him, Neat Pete looking for cash, an unfortunate usage of a blender, a bad babysitter, the sternum and the awful, awful pun.  It made me chuckle more than a few times, what more can you ask for?  $2 (or $1 if you get it from Dan’s hands).

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