If you’re a Cartoon Network nerd and you’re thinking that the name “Toby Jones” sure seems familiar, congratulations, you are correct! He’s worked on Regular Show for a few years and has dabbled in several other projects. He also put out a comic recently, obviously. I can’t find anywhere online to buy it, but if you’re curious there are a lot of ways to contact the guy and he must have an answer. The concept of the comic was simple enough: he had recently converted several old tapes from his childhood years and was going to watch one each night, making a comic out of his reactions and thoughts on those tapes. He was only able to make it through seven tapes so far (spoiler alert, I guess), but it was a rich variety of material. He cringes at any of his attempts to mimic Tom Green, goes over what was happening on certain days of taping and guesses at possible moods, watches several early attempts at animation (or claymation) and is occasionally mildly impressed with the craftsmanship, but rarely impressed with the content. Impressed with the craftsmanship while also grading on a curve, obviously; good animation for an early high school kid isn’t exactly good animation for Cartoon Network. He even finds a few things that are genuinely funny, much to his own surprise. If you’re the type of person who saves all of this sort of thing from their childhood and are wondering if it’s worth the time to dig through it, this comic provides a possible answer. I’d say they’re at least worth a cursory glance, even though I say that as a guy who has several notebooks worth or writings from high school and college that I haven’t seen in decades, so maybe I’m not the best guy to ask. Still, if you can find a copy of this, it’s fascinating at times and a real peek into both the early creative process and how that process can be seen by the adult version of that person.
Arthur Turnkey Part 1
Aren’t there any comic companies out there who are willing to give Toby Jones a pile of money to make some comics? There should be, and they’ll be sorry when they miss out when one of the big companies snatches him up. I should mention that Alex Horab is listed in the credits too, but he’s listed second, which generally indicates that he’s the artist, but this art is clearly Toby’s. So maybe Alex was the writer? Ah well, it’s only fuddy-duddies like me who care about such things these days. This story starts off with our hero getting punched in the stomach by a bully at school. We also learn that he’s in love with a fellow seventh grade student named Holly Hoyt, and he feebly tries a few times to talk to her. While chasing her down he’s distracted and almost run down in the street, at which point he sneezes, and everything changes. He ends up in a strange world where problems are solved in a gladiatorial arena, a conflict is had, and Arthur finds himself back in his original world. But now that he knows this other place exists he clearly has to learn more about it, which is more or less what happens in the rest of the book. With more than a few surprises, obviously, but I have no interest in telling you every little thing about this book. And I do have to say, in case it wasn’t clear already, that I love everything about this book. Arthur’s indecision with Holly (followed by his failures when he does get decisive), the dozens of post-it notes around Arthur’s house that take the place of his absent parents, the fight in the arena, the eventual explanation for this strange world and sheer inventiveness of how he got there, all are either nicely done or brilliant. And a clear direction for the second issue! Support this man, dammit! $6
Memory Foam II
Huzzah for Roman numerals!Â Here’s hoping Toby sticks with it long enough to get to the Roman numerals that confuse people, as why not bring that back?Â A little bit of history never hurt anybody.Â That page I sampled below hit home with me, and probably with most of you if you stop to think about it: motorcycles.Â While all people who ride them are clearly not assholes, it does seem to attract some of the scum of the earth.Â For example, there’s some asshole who drives down my busy street every morning between 2:30 and 3:00 a.m., revving his damned engine at the stop light and most likely waking everybody up who doesn’t have some form of a white noise machine going.Â If I could string up piano wire across the road and be guaranteed to just take out him or her, I believe the world would instantly be a better place.Â Toby does me one better in his story by “inventing” a device that makes all motorcycles self-destruct once their noise output gets over a certain level.Â His comic self was gripped with remorse, but the headlines on the newspaper the next day were priceless: “Countless Jerks Dead:”, “World Better Place”, and “God: ‘Great Job Toby'””.Â As with many things, I thought South Park handled motorcycle riders best, and seeing as how they have every episode up at their website for free, you can see for yourself if you’re so inclined.Â If you’re going to defend the assholes that rev their motors at every stop light, I’m sorry, but you just don’t have a case.Â As for the rest of the comic, it was a pile of great stuff.Â There’s Toby wondering what’s going to happen to him in the long run, getting a job at a donut factory (and yes, it’s about as bad as it sounds), trying to make time for all his creative endeavours, standing on principle and not eating a piece of stuffed crust pizza (I agree with his crying girlfriend on that one), phrases he’d love to never hear again, dreaming all day, reading online reviews about himself, not saying “you too” when people say “have a nice day”, and how his younger self would view his older self.Â For what it’s worth the guy worries too much, as he clearly has a boatload of talent, seems to have a fantastic girlfriend and, despite being broke, has enough free time to work on things like this comic, and he’s only 22.Â The pessimist would say it’s all downhill from there, the optimist would say things are only going to get better, but screw it, enjoy what you have now.Â And that is my philosophical thought for the day, the first of a one-part series… $3
Memory Foam #1
What an f’ed up nose.Â Sorry, I shouldn’t start off with something so meaningless to the quality of the book, but it’s just sitting there.Â These are autobiographical stories from about a year of Toby’s life (7/08-8/09), dealing with all sorts of things, so if you’re a hater of all thing autobiographical you should wander off somewhere else.Â As for me, I’m always up for some angst. Stories include Toby wondering if he has always been this much of a hermit or it’s more of a recent thing (and using the lyrics of Frank Black’s “Hang On To Your Ego” to illustrate his point at the end was brilliant), the desire to kill a mouse versus everybody else thinking it’s barbaric, a series of short strips dealing with the sickness and death of the mother of his girlfriend (and his own ineffectiveness in dealing with it; I love how this subject was dealt with using a series of three panel strips, which are generally reserved for “jokey” topics), how his master plan to hide in dorkiness in college to get girls was ruined when he met a girl who was equally dorky, handwriting analysis, a hilarious primer on how to deal with “your” Toby model, his top 10 video games (and getting a fancy new PSP just so he could mod it to play old games), dessert over job hunting, and trying to find a decent job but ending up (briefly) with the notorious Kirby salespeople. So let me just get my autobio checklist over here… it’s insightful, funny, revealing, and it looks much better than you might suspect from that cover.Â Yep, I’d say it’s a winner.Â Toby was also nice enough to send along the most recent issue (there are only 2 so far), and I look forward to seeing if he kept it up with the second issue or became a totally unreadable hack.Â No, I can’t remember the last time that happened either, but it’s best to keep an eye out for these things…
Good Minnesotan #4
I’m inÂ a bit of a pickle here.Â You see, the Good Minnesotans responsible for putting this anthology together sent a collection of minis that make up GM #4, all bundled up in a lovely slipcase.Â However, they recently had a successful fundraiser that will let them print this whole pile of comics in (what I believe to be) one volume.Â So my righteous rant about how silly it is to put a table of contents with page listings when there are no page numbers in the comics can’t go anywhere because they will probably have that problem fixed in the final edition.Â That’s fine, there’s no reason to focus on the negative with a pile ofÂ stories like this anyway.Â It will also make my selection of a sample image from each of the 5 minis seems a little excessive (and guys, if this is too many for you let me know and I’ll take most of them down), but I’m trying to give a flavor for the whole thing here.Â I was also going to break this down into five sections, one for each mini, but as they aren’t numbered in any way I’m just going to go with my usual clumpy review.Â Tales in here include some creepy microscopic organisms by Justin Skarhus, The Poo Lagoon by Lupi (sadly, it seems to be a true story), is it a caraway seed or a rat turd by Sarah Julius (I think), Nic Breutzman as a child watching his neighborhood being built and marveling at the quiet at the end of the day, Kevin Cannon’s recap of the men who tried to be the first to reach the North (and South) Pole, a pile of creepy and moody photographs by Buck Sutter, planting mama with the onions by Anna Bongiovanni, Renny Kissling’s silent tale of an alien being tortured,Meghan Hogan’s adventures of crocheted animals, Martha Iserman with the adventures of her stuffed parrot-beaked puffer fish, and some food thievery by Raighne Hogan.Â There is one mini that stands alone as a complete story, by both Justin Skarlus and Raighne Hogan (each taking half the book) about a terminator-ish creature that doesn’t seem to have much of an ability to stick with one target, but that’s probably because I’m imposing that idea onto that character.Â It’s a bizarre pile of transporting vaginas, submachine guns, brain-eating and quiet contemplation.Â You’d love it!Â So, at the end of the day, I don’t know what the final version of this comic is going to look like.Â I hope they can keep the front and back cover of the slipcase, and I hope they manage to number the pages to go along with their table of contents, and I hope it’s clear that I’m not even commenting on about 1/3 of the stories in this to leave some surprises for you people.Â If you’ve seen the past issues of this series you know that “Good Minnesotan” is a mark of quality, and they didn’t disappoint this time around.
Good Minnesotan #3
These people just keep improving the design scheme of these anthologies. This one can go right on your bookshelf, what with the spine and all.Â If they keep this up #4 is going to have one of those gold-embossed covers that the big companies were using for a few years back when I cared about such things.Â How about the contents?Â I’d say this is their strongest issue yet, or at least certainly their most consistent.Â Not a bad story in the bunch.Â I should note that all these stories have brief bios of the creators before the stories as well as contact info and your best place to get all that is either through their website or by buying the book, as I’m far too lazy to list all that stuff here.Â Noah Harmon has a piece about a squid trying to communicate an idea, Toby Jones details his ethical and practical struggle with mice, Madeline Queripel sums up a courtship in one page, Meghan Hogan has the start of a graphic novel about great horned owls (and she might want to avoid dark text against a dark background, but other than that it was fascinating), Justin Skarhus & Raighne Hogan tell the tale of a day of vari0us inescapable sexcapades, Ed Moorman details a year of firsts in one night, Abigail Mullen wants a small house, Anna Bonguivanni eats a baby (and wins the prize for the most gorgeous artwork in the book), Reynold Kissling helps demonstrate why even starting a relationship is so difficult, and Danno Klonowski has a stream of true nonsense from the local crazy person.Â I left two stories out, mostly because they could have been comics in their own right.Â John & Luke Holden spell out an utterly directionless life just about as well as I’ve ever seen, as a total lump of a man loses his last job and wanders around trying to barely not be homeless, and Nicholas Breutzman shows us the ongoing war between desperate meth addicts and people who live in secluded homes.Â This is the best work yet from pretty much everybody listed (that I’ve seen anyway, as a few of them have some pretty extensive credits listed before this book) and it does an excellent job of keeping the reader engaged for its 100+ pages.Â Send them some money and/or start thinking about beginning one of these anthologies in your own neck of the woods, why don’t you? $12
Ghost Comics (edited by Ed Choy Moorman)
Sometimes I make these reviews overly complicated, and I probably will with this one too, so I wanted to sum it up simply: this is a collection of different takes on ghost stories from some of the best small press cartoonists around.Â Ta-da!Â What more do you need to know?Â There are all kinds of highlights to choose from, and somehow there’s not a stinker in the bunch.Â That’s a rare thing with anthologies, but Ed has put together quite a cast here.Â Things start off strong with Hob’s tale of a dinosaur ghost witnessing everything that follows its death and the eventual destruction of the earth.Â From there Jeffrey Brown talks about making a fool of himself to a member of a band he likes, Corinne Mucha implies that the “ghosts” in her dorm were really just an excuse to get people to sleep together for protection, Maris Wicks goes into detail about the creepy and non-creepy aspects of living with a ghost as a kid, Madleine Queripel relates the reality of trying to scatter ashes, Toby Jones (professional boyfriend) goes into how useless he is when confronted with death, Lucy Knisley visits an old school she attended briefly and is shocked by the sheer number of ghosts still around, Allison Cole finds a practical way to rid herself of ghosts, Evan Palmer tells the tale of a knight misguidedly trying to win love, and Jessica McLeod warns of the dangers of ghost tomatoes.Â Then there’s my favorite (among many “favorite”) story: Kevin Cannon’s tale of all the major landmarks of the world joining together into a Voltron-like creation to fight evil, how one member of that band is destroyedÂ and, as a ghost, sees a plot to destroy the world.Â Any more detail than that would ruin it, but trust me, it’s a purely awesome thing.Â If that still hasn’t convinced you, here’s everybody else involved: Ed Choy Moorman (duh), Aidan Koch, Mike Lowery, Sean Lynch, Sarah Morean, Jillian Schroeder, Zak Sally, Abby Mullen, Eileen Shaughnessy, Tuesday Bassen, Sarah Louise Wahrhaftig, Jenny Tondera, John Hankiewicz, Will Dinski, Mark Scott, Monica Anderson, Warren Craghead III and John Porcellino.Â Topping off that pile of talent is the fact that this is a benefit anthology, with proceeds going to the RS Eden, which started off as a chemical dependency center and evolved into helping community members at need in all sorts of areas.Â So it’s for a good cause, it’s packed with talent and it’s only $10.Â Sounds like a no-brainer to me.Â $10