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Dahl, Ken – Welcome to the Dahl House


Microcosm website

Welcome to the Dahl House

You know what the worst thing about mini comics is, hands down?  Not the occasional amateurishness, or basic errors of composition or copying, or how people consciously or unconsciously can lift things from their idols.  It’s the fact that the good stuff is so hard to come by, and if you miss it when it first comes out you’re generally screwed.  Take Ken Dahl, for example.  He snuck under my radar for years until I got a copy of Monsters, and I was completely blown away.  Still, there didn’t seem to be a wide array of old minis that I could pick through to see what else I had done, so I let it go, as this sort of this happens all the time.  Luckily for us all Microcosm publishing exists, and they were nice enough to put out a collection of work from Ken’s old minis and various anthologies.  Somehow there isn’t a bad comic in this collection, and considering the range of time covered in here (at least a decade), that’s astounding.  Things start off with a few strips about an elderly punk trying to get by in the world, and then turns instantly political.  This is odd enough, as very few comics seem to care much about politics or the actual world these days, and this strip deals with a plane trip Ken took on 9/11/02.  It’s a while ago, but us adults in the room can remember the constant fear and paranoia being pumped into the culture.  Ken dealt with heavily armed guards, a creepy speech by the pilot, even the whole cabin getting up and singing the Pledge of Allegiance (seriously).  Next up is a strip that circles back and eats its own tail, as Ken tries to come up with something meaningful for a zine fest, considers making a comic about farts, and finally lands on making a comic about his inability to make a comic.  Eniz (the zine antidote) should be required reading for anybody who makes a mini, as it makes all sorts of important points about making comics, how they’ve been co-opted and all the talented people have fled to the internet (although I like to think a number of them have come back since this strip came out), but why the hell not make them anyway?  Other stories include a guy joining the army (with the recruiting officer being the Sarge from Beetle Bailey, another piece filled with rare political observations), Ken’s mildly-but-not-really homosexual experience as a small child, some time travel hijinx, Ken’s obsession with gorgeous women while knowing that he would never want to speak to them for more then five minutes, a creepy stalker, and the quiet joy of watching Asteroids.  Then there’s all the Gordon Smalls strips (a thinly disguised Ken Dahl?), dealing with such subjects as frozen bananas, peeing in the shower, swinging at night, how falling in love is a waste of time, and his decision to pick up skateboarding again 20 years after his prime.  The cream of the crop of the Gordon Smalls stories is the how to steal food/how to get arrested epic, as Gordon gets put through the prison institution and sees right through it.  I feel like I’m cheating by just describing the stories, as each piece is packed with critical observations of the world at large and the basic “point” of these stories is largely just there to let him rant about the world at large.  There was a pile of quotes about his work at the Microcosm website, and I have to echo one of them: I don’t understand why some people get famous and others as obviously talented as Ken aren’t universally known.  I’m guessing that with this and Monsters both widely available now that is going to change quickly, if it hasn’t already.  And it’s a measly $6 for 122 pages?  I’ve seen minis that are more expensive.  Buy it already!