There is one benefit to my sticking to mostly self-published mini comics and things of that nature instead of also reviewing a whole bunch of Fantagraphics/Drawn and Quarterly stuff: I get to read the series when they come out in collected editions, removing the ambivalence that can come with reading one issue of an epic series. In this case Zak put out the first three issues with Fantagraphics, then hand-made each copy of this collected edition on a machine that contains all sorts of numbers that I won’t even pretend to understand. So if you like the personal touch in your books, it’s hard to get more personal than that. As for the book itself, it feels like cheating when two of the quotes on the back cover call this a revelation, but, well, this book is a revelation. The closest thing I can compare it to is being in one of those old timey scuba suits, the kind which were designed for walking along the ocean floor, while examining the effects from an oil spill. The sea creatures that you expected were there, but damaged and corrupted, and there were also several creatures that you were expecting, that seemed to be perfectly normal until you get right up next to them and see the sores. Utterly hopeless with a sense of inevitable fatalism and just a dash of a higher purpose that might fix a thing or two, maybe that’s what I’m getting at. Anyway, things start off with Sammy sitting around his house. He just wants to be left alone, but a strange voice above him tells him that he has to answer his door, as this is “the start of something.” Sammy resists, but finally answers the door to see a duck who’s too drunk (and broke) to buy booze. From there Sammy runs into another friend who’s in a coma and a creepy-as-hell skeleton kid who delights into scaring the shit out of people for what appears to be no good reason. From there we get a few drunk characters (and another one of them seems to be in the direct control of that voice from on high, although we never learn if it is the same voice or a different voice), a bar that’s made out of a hollowed out baby (although the baby doesn’t seem to mind, unless it was just frozen in that pose; either way it’s horrible to think about for too long), a moustache that seems to be the key to something, some poison that is imminently going to start spewing out, and a nail in the forehead. And a sasquatch-like creature. And a butterfly. Once again I’m stuck not giving too much away, as this needs to be seen by all folks who like these funny pictures on paper. You may want to have a large glass of booze on hand, but I wouldn’t recommend drinking too much before reading it. Wouldn’t want too much of this stuff to get into a drunken, vulnerable mind… $18
This is going to be a bit tricky, so bear with me. There are plenty of people out there doing mini comics who are just great. I’ll read their books, really like what they’ve done, and go on from there. I won’t, however, think that they should necessarily be published by Top Shelf or anybody like that, at least not yet. I liken it to hockey, mostly because I’m a hockey freak. Some players can be great, but they need to be in the minors, developing their game so that they’ll be better players for years to come. Granted, it’s a lot more glamorous to be playing with the stars, but it could damage their careers irreparably if they just jump to the big leagues and are expected to play at the same level. This might be way off base because there are plenty of people who are doing minis and will be perfectly content to stay in that format for the rest of their lives, but I’ve always seen them as kind of a training ground leading up to eventually being published. Like I said, a lot of people would disagree with me, and I still like minis as a whole better than the published books for the sheer heart involved in making them alone, but there you go. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah. Zak Sally. I don’t know how long he’s been doing this although, if I had to guess, I wouldn’t say it was very long. He doesn’t need any seasoning, he doesn’t have any training that he needs before he gets published, unless he hides it really well. The man is damned good at making comics and should already be rich.
There are three stories in this one. The first part is about a man, after winning a contest, seeing a movie that he considers a masterpiece about Hell. That’s all you get out of me, because I’m not ruining anything here. The second story is about the imprisonment of Fyodor Dostoevsky, which was fascinating to me because I’ve read all his books but have never read about this part of life, and it was done incredibly well. Granted, he said that he let Fyodor speak for himself whenever possible, but it still takes a skilled hand to show what he was going through during this time. The last story is a dream from Zak himself, involving him watching a man go through a life-changing experience, and what happens after. Again, amazing. The art reminds me a tiny bit of Jason Lutes, but more raw. It’s probably just the format. Listen, since I’ve started this site I’ve probably run across a dozen new people or so that I’ve been blown away by. I’m always waiting to be impressed, and I often am, by the stuff I receive, but I’m rarely just completely floored to the point where I can’t wait to see anything and everything else the creator has done. These stories all showed a professionalism, a poise, that’s rarely displayed in the published comics, let alone minis. I shouldn’t keep calling this a mini though, as it was obviously published by somebody, but it still feels like a mini, which is what makes it so incredible. It’s $4, and seriously, if you order it and don’t like it, let me know and I’ll send you the $4 to cover it along with a plea for you to never read comics again. Send money to La Mano P.O. Box 2472 Olympia, WA 98507
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