So there I was, reading the introduction for this book, where M.D. (I’m assuming he wrote the intro; it’s unsigned) talks about how this book is sui generis, how there’s never been anything quite like it produced. And, unlike my usual habits, I even read the back of the book first, which also made similarly bold claims. Well, I’m a crusty old reviewer who’s seen it all! I dare this book to impress me, much less make good on such a lofty claim! Well… yeah, they were right. Completely, utterly right. Any long time reader of this website will know that I often turn my nose up at “illustrated poems,” and poetry in general just isn’t my thing. So when this book was described as a “pastiche introduction to the conventions of poetry,” that it would yield “new rhythms and rhymes and give the poetry of the verbatim original a new dimension,” well, you could probably see my skepticism from space. But Tom (sorry if I outed him and he’s officially going by “T.” now) illustrated it, and he’s always solid, so what the heck, I’d give it a shot. And honestly, it completely blew me away. Maybe one other way to describe this is as a medley of lines from various poems, all expertly mashed together and made into something entirely new with T. Motley’s images. It’s rare for me to go back through a book right after I read it, but I did that here, flipping through pages with a general “how did they DO that” bemusement for the juxtaposition of the words and images. Understand also that some words became images, or maybe it’s the reverse, and that level of ingenuity delighted me. There was also an extensive listing of the various poets included in the back, with biographies that were actually fun and witty, often including some of their lesser known poems with that information. I’m always happy to be proven wrong, and I was wrong to be skeptical here. This book is a delight, and if you have any interest at all in poetry it’s essential reading. If you’re like me and don’t have much of an interest in poetry, give it a shot anyway! You may come away from it with a new appreciation for poetry, or at the very least what can happen when two people who clearly love the genre put their heads together and come up with something completely new. $20
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.
Froggy’s Problem Now Available! $.75
Depression with work and life and general seems to be the unofficial theme of the week here, or at least it is as of Tuesday. This is the story of Froggy, a depressed creature who doesn’t understand why he’s sad. He has a great life, a job he loves, and he even gets to dance, as he is a jaunty frog. So why so sad? This tiny mini mostly deals with the basics of Froggy’s day to day life, and ends up (spoiler alert!) leaving the question of his depression up the reader. I think it’s fairly obvious but, as I probably do a lot, it’s probably just projection. I should also point out that my scanner tends to make green things a little too yellow, as this one looks green to me, but not so much on the computer. Anyway, this is a solid mini, and cheap enough that it’s impossible to find anything to bitch about. $.75
True Fiction #6 Now Available! $3
Comic strips! That idea can either terrify me or elate me, depending on who’s involved with it. Some of them are formulaic wastes of time (like everything in the paper except Boondocks, at least around here), and some of them at least try to expand the artform, challenging the readers here and there. Luckily this falls into the latter category. And the thing about strips like this is that sometimes the artist will try too hard, leaving a jumbled strip or two as a result, but as long as they keep pushing the boundaries and trying to come up with new things, it’s worth the trip for me. This is a book of strips of varying shapes and sizes, and I came out of it generally liking the whole thing. Individual strips might not have done it for me (like the silly Green Arrow strip), but overall this is worth a look. Topics include Hector on the Farm (which has more silly genital jokes on one page than I had previously thought possible, when I thought of it at all), backwards aliens, sneezing, dreaming, nudity, a butt on the loose, a devil dog, heaven and hell, an ethnically diverse buffet, quadriplegics, dumb food jokes, and the future. $3
True Fiction #5 Now Available! $3
This was part of a neat idea for a 24 hour comic: 11 people got together in a comic store, sat down and started at the same time to finish 24 hour comics. Two of the people didn’t finish, everybody else came out of it with a comic. Tom’s was the story of a model for an art class, trying to remember poems that she needed to know for her poetry final the next day. Most of the book is just poems and her body floating around or going over the things that she’s thinking about, with brief bits of reality thrown in. It’s a bit too self-referential for my tastes, because if you know that he’s doing a 24 hour book he does all kinds of little inside jokes about it, but it’s not a bad little story overall. And he mentions in the afterward that the art gets stronger as he goes because he felt really rushed at the beginning, and it’s obvious in the final product. Not the best of his books and not the best of the 24 hour books that I’ve seen, but it’s far from awful and has a naked woman wandering around for most of the issue, so I suppose you could do a lot worse. $3, contact info is up there…
True Fiction #3 Now Available! $1.50
Now this is what a tiny mini comic should be. You can quibble over the content, sure, but what you have here is a comic that’s full of a wide variety of stories that’s heavy on text, which, for me at least, is usually a sign of more bang for your buck. In here you have the life of a tiny mouse, a fable about a trusting cow, a trip to the moon, shape shifting around a naked woman, neglect beyond the grave, misery and dogshit. Yeah, that mostly sums it up. Tom was kind enough to send me a bunch of comics, so there will be a lot more of his books up here in the coming weeks, and so far that looks like a really good thing to me. Here’s an e-mail address just in case the one up there isn’t working, and at $1.50 this is well worth a look.
True Fiction #2 Now Available! $1.50
With something this short you have time for a visceral reaction and that’s pretty much it, and I liked this one a lot. It’s the tale of a princess who’s shipwrecked on an island with a man who she completely ignores. Funny stuff, if a bit pricey at $2 (hey, it’s tiny), and definitely worth checking out. I just found the Squid Works website, and there are all kinds of comics there. Looks like Tom has done all kinds of comics, so I should be able to tell you a lot more about the guy if I ever get any money that doesn’t go right to rent or food again any time soon. I didn’t see this on the Squid Works page, but e-mail the guy and the see if he has any laying around.
True Fiction #1 Now Available! $1.00
Here’s an interesting early effort from Tom. This is all about a guy who, while sitting at a coffee shop, has his nose fall off. He soon discovers that his nose is actively trying to escape, then also finds out that similar things are happening to other people around him. That’s all I’m giving away because it’s only 6 pages long, but it’s a neat little story. Too expensive for how small it is, sure, but that happens. If you like his stuff and already have some of the other issues this is worth a look, otherwise I’d say to start with one of the meatier issues (#3 is my personal favorite) and work your way back if you’re so inclined. $1.50, contact info is down there…
Neptoons Now Available! $2
This book is one short barely contained doodle. Granted, it’s called a doodle comic right there on the cover, so it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. This is about a… creature of some kind telling a story to other creatures, all silent but with word balloons filled with images. The man in the story sees a shining object on top of a hill and seeks to attain it, which would have disastrous consequences. It’s a nice little story, but the highlight here is how busy the art is. The center spread, where the man in the story first sees a throng of creatures, all talking amongst themselves, has to be seen to be believed. I’m still not sure what the vast majority of them are talking about, as a lot of the images in the word balloons flew right over my head, but the images alone are worth the price of admission. If you’re picked up any of the other damned near countless minis Tom has put out over the year, this is an excellent companion piece, as you’re rarely going to see such unbridled creativity from anybody as you see from him here.
Let Me Out Of Here Now Available! $1.00
A lunatic singing a song about wanting to get out of the nuthouse. With a good part of the rest of the inmates eventually forming his backing choir. What more can you ask from a mini? There’s also the remarkable fact that this was made in 1987, at which time I believe the most interesting thing I was reading in terms of comics was Secret Wars II. There, that should establish some street cred. As for the comic, there’s not a whole lot to say. Tom draws an excellent crazy person, he manages to throw in enough disturbing visuals to keep essentially an illustrated poem interesting and funny, and it’s cheap as could be. Worth a look, like the vast majority of the rest of the stuff on this page.
The Drawing Stick Now Available! $1.00
Hey, they were making silent mini comics way back in 1985! Kids, if you weren’t born yet, ask your parents. This shows pretty clearly that Tom has been putting out quality books for over 20 years, although the poor guy probably had to take a few breaks in there to pay the bills and such. This is the silent story of a young man, a drawing stick and a cast of characters that all try to cheer up a sad young woman. This drawing stick can make anything, at least briefly, and yet nothing seems to be working. More than that and the whole thing is ruined, as this is a tiny thing, but it’s cute with a great punchline, and what more can you ask for out of comics?
Damn Weird #23 Now Available! $.75
Is it cheating for the purposes of a review to just say that the title is accurate and leave it at that? Probably so. The setup for this is that we should throw off the shackles of linear time and space and take a trip to the state of grace. There, I’ve “spoiled” about a third of this tiny thing. This folds into a giant four page spread where the artist takes you to the places he’s just promised with a seemingly random series of images and dialogue, although it’s possible that I’m just not enlightened enough to get it. There’s plenty of well, weird stuff in here though, if that’s what you’re going for, which is probably the case if you’ve seen the title and the sample images.
Comic Book Artists I Have Seen Now Available! $.50
This is exactly what it looks like from the sample: a collection of sketches of comic book artists alongside their characters. Unfortunately, as I pick samples for stuff in the store before I read them (usually, anyway), I missed the highlight: the back cover. On this page Tom details how to draw a comic book artist and, as I don’t want to ruin the whole thing considering this is a tiny thing, I’ll just say that you always start by drawing a shmoo. And if you don’t know what that is, I have all the faith in the world in your googling abilities. It’s a shortie but cheap, worth a look if you enjoy making fun of comic book artists, and really, who doesn’t?
All the Trees are Pink Now Available! $.50
Here’s Tom’s adaptation of excerpts from Rod McKuen poems, which of course means I didn’t like it… what’s that?Â I enjoyed it immensely?Â A mini comic with nothing but excerpts from poems?Â How about that.Â Frankly, it reads like parts of one big poem, although I’ll take Tom’s word for it that it’s excerpts from different poems.Â It starts with a poem dedicated to Bernadette Peters (kids, use the Google, or just rent The Jerk, which would also give you a chance to see Steve Martin when he was actually funny), and the whole thing seems like it could be about her.Â Humble, self-effacing, and utterly readable, if there were more poets like this maybe I’d have more of an appreciation of poetry.Â Tom has a series of relatively minimalistic images, which is fine as the star of the show here is the poetry anyway.Â Well worth a look, and I’m still mildly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.
Aline the Alien/Wonder World flip book (with Lonnie Allen) Now Available! $3.50
When does a book get too experimental?Â I’d previously thought just about never, but now I’m having my doubts.Â This is a flip book where both creators play with the panel structure of comics, smash through the fourth wall and talk to the readers, and generally smash many conventions of making a comic.Â All well and good, I say, but throwing in time travel too may have just made my brain explode.Â I’ll put it this way: in both stories there’s a repeated page, front and back.Â Due to the nature of the stories I’m not entirely sure if that’s a printing error (if so, shame on them for not being extra careful with stories this complex) or just them making a statement about comics.Â So how about the comics?Â Tom’s half deals with Aline the Alien, and things get off to an excellent start with a good old fashioned pie fight.Â Then Aline starts to notice the panel boxing her in, the author is introduced, the guy who does the text boxes ponders his existence, and things end with a spectacular two page spread of Aline being trapped in a time bubble, panels and word balloons all over the place.Â Lonnie’s half smashes through the fourth wall and deals with time travel, facing the fact of their two-dimensionality, and becoming real.Â If I gave the impression here that this wasn’t a fun book, well, sorry, as it is a blast to watch these two play around with comic concepts.Â That doubled page just threw me completely off, as organized chaos like this really needs to be free of errors like that.Â Unless it was a commentary on the printing process that I missed…
Clean Now Available! $.75
Everybody needs to know what to do to get in the good graces of Jesus, so this book serves as a helpful guide. It’s part of a larger book written by Rikki Ducornet called The One Marvelous Thing, and it has a delightful checklist at the end of all the things you have to do to get to heaven. Jesus, it turns out, is quite the jokester and cleanliness really is next to godliness. Rikki takes a few choice Bible quotes and made it damned near impossible to sample only one page, as how could I ignore the table of Holy Lightning of all the naked people eating but not fornicating? Good clean fun for those of us who distrust religion more than a little bit, maybe a bit much for the pious.
Es Brillig War Now Available! $1.00
Have you recently been asking yourself the question, “Why aren’t there more mini comics entirely in German?” If so, you’re in luck. This is an unreviewable comic from Tom, with a bit of text by Robert Scott (after Lewis Carroll, and no, I’m not entirely sure what that means either) made into a comic. As all the text is in another language, I can’t help at all on that aspect of the story. I can still see the art though, so why don’t I make something up to make it seem like I understood what was going on? Let’s see, there are creepy worms, a flower, a big old tyrant, a fantastical device, an armed struggle, and… aw, I can’t go on. I have no idea what was happening here. If you like your comics baffling, I can’t recommend this one highly enough. If you prefer being able to read your comics, might I suggest something else from this page? $1