By Darryl Ayo
Welcome back to Freestyle Friday. I’m going to talk about a handful of comics. Are you ready? Let’s go:
I’m into patterns and I’m into bodily functions. The above page by Joe Lambert features a giant bear vomiting a neighborhood. I love that. I love that the bear swallows houses whole and then vomits them back up just as whole. I like the way the buildings are preserved in their normal shapes and constructions, just twisted sideways and upside down as they’re being projected forth. It’s a very childlike way of depicting the scenario which deepens the story’s overall dreamy quality. Violence with no consequence. Bodily function without the factor of “change” that is supposed to accompany such a thing. This is wonderful and I like it.
From Make: Comics about an intimate act (Summer, 2010)
Here is a tiny excerpt from Gabrielle Bell‘s San Diego Diary, July 2011, the third in a series of finely-produced minicomics from Uncivilized Books. I love how densely packed this panel is. Only three figures, but we see the three surrounded by the seemingly endless rows of merchandise and repeating shapes. It’s almost enough to beat you down until you feel as though you’re in the basket-girl’s place, just wanting to go home.
Oh, Gabrielle and I are neighbors. I was crossing the street a couple of weeks ago and saw a long-haired lady in the corner of my eye. sure enough it was this here lady, we chatted about comics after making sure we didn’t get hit by cars. I like Gabrielle, we both draw from similar influences for our art (Julie Doucet) but have run in opposite directions with it.
From The Bad-Ventures of Bobo Backslack by Jon Chad, 2009.
I bought this vile comic from Mr. Chad after he performed an inking demo in Brooklyn in February 2010. I know what month it was without a thought because I was suffering from shingles and that’s not a thing that a person soon forgets. This is a comic about a luckless loser who gets bullied by bigger guys and has trouble talking to girls. That sounds horrible, except the entire comic is driven by the character Bobo Backslack projectile-vomiting magical alphabet soup on people. It’s fucking disgusting. This is so gross, you’ll feel sick to your stomach while reading it. Highly recommended, five stars.
This is one of the many gorgeous, fantastic, beautiful pages to come from the North American, manga influenced pornography indie comics anthology called The Thickness. This story has guns and fight scenes and a jazz band and then cartoonist Jonny Negron remembers that it was supposed to be a porno comic and then BAM: there’s dicks too.
I’m not sure but I believe that this is the only comic that I own of Jonny Negron’s work. Of course, being active online, I’ve seen lots and lots of his work recently. He’s nothing short of a sensation. Negron is part of a wave of indie cartoonists who fully channel 1980s seinen manga and wield it like it was theirs to begin with. And to be perfectly honest, it IS ours. People in their late twenties, early thirties are just as likely to have grown up with 1980s seinen manga as superhero comics. It’s a rich creative source.
Speaking of 1980s manga, we have Ryan Cecil Smith who loved the stuff so much that he moved to Japan. He’s still there, doing minicomics and catapulting them across the ocean into North America. The excerpt above is from his recent (2011?) minicomic S.F. which has already spawned one spin-off, SF: Supplementary File. Ryan Cecil Smith is also known for his horror manga adaption Two Eyes of the Beautiful, which is currently on its second issue.
The first thing that anybody will notice with Smith’s comics is the craftsmanship. Every material that he uses stands out. From the newsprint that he uses for his pages (rather than printer paper which is most common for minicomics), to the tinted ink on some of his covers to the copious use of traditional dot-pattern screentones. Smith’s first impression never fails to stop me right in my tracks. His comics are just a pleasure to hold, let alone behold.
Apart from the craftsmanship on display, Smith’s comics are frantic, zany murdery adventures. They’re exciting and bloody, just the way you undoubtedly like it.
Red She-Hulk is brimming with rage in The Incredible Hulks #633. Writer Greg Pak and Penciler Paul Pelletier tell a story of Hulk (Normal Green Hulk) being whisked away into a…Well
Look here, a sexy lady came out of a giant mouth in the sky on a carpet made of tongue which whisked the Hulk away to her sex palace. This comic book gets the Ayo seal of approval for Crazy Shit. This is the reason that I read superhero comics. For crazy shit. More crazy shit, from all of you, that is your homework.
This month, in The Mighty Thor #4, Loki the god of mischief brings presents to frightening women dressed in rags. The comic is writen by Matt Fraction and drawn by Oliver Coipel. I enjoy Coipel’s work, it reminds one of Stuart Immonen.
In this issue, Thor fights a little-known character called “The Silver Surfer,” while Odin the All-Father engages in psychic warfare with Galactus the Devourer of Worlds.
The part of Galactus in this scene is played by three purple direwolves.
I like the use of black as a graphic element in this panel. X-Men: Schism #1, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Carlos Pacheco. The story of this comic is as follows: Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men and ruler of the sovereign nation “Utopia” goes to an arms conference with his one-man security team, Wolverine to discuss Sentinel disarmament. I actually fucks with this. Aaron has a good sense of forward propulsion in storytelling as well as clearly delineating individual character priorities. The comic is mostly from Wolverine’s vantage point, but there’s a lot of terrific insight into Cyclops’ character. And there’s this panel:
Unfortunately, as these things go, we know the ending of this story before it starts (the X-Men break up, natch) but Aaron might be the best writer that they have access to for such a thing. He hits character notes very clearly and makes a foregone conclusion kind of story a pleasure to read by focusing on highlighting the arc of each player on this chessboard.
But that was the first issue, the second issue is out. Same Marvel Comics, but this one was drawn by Frank Cho. Turns out that each issue of Schism will be drawn by a different artist. No problem for me, actually. I usually don’t roll like that, but I can enjoy this miniseries for what it is.
It was a good idea for Aaron to resurrect Quentin Quire for the purpose of Jerkass-Mutant-Catalyst in this story. Quire is just about the stupidest villain in recent X-Men history and its his inability to appreciate the larger implications of his actions that make him the perfect throwaway character to instigate a large-scale war. And poor Wolverine, overextended superhero. Helping to lie to one of his bosses in order to cover the ass of another of his bosses. You’re too old for this “trusted lieutenant” schtick, man!
One thing that takes me out of the story is the following scene where several high-profile X-Men go to a PR event in San Francisco. It makes no sense for Magneto (who is currently a “good guy”) to be among this delegation. This is a guy who has personally killed
hundreds thousands of people during his tenure as a villain. It’s preposterous. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty suspect that the X-Men conveniently forgot that Magneto is a mass murderer. Oh well. Comic books.
And some other guy made out of ice. Ouch.
Comic books are battling their own worst instincts and I continue buying them despite my own best instincts. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t-win. I’m happy that I took the time to focus on a few scattered notes that I do like. I can see a pattern in my interests, I wonder if it is apparent to people outside of myself.
Michael DeForge is one of the most exciting cartoonists to come out in the last handful of years. He keeps beating us around the head and shoulders with mind-bending work and if that wasn’t enough, he quietly put out the first minicomic in a series called Open Country (Spring, 2011), depicted above. This comic is about telepathic artists and…well, just LOOK AT IT. I love stories about artists, I love stories about psychics, telepaths and psychokinetics. This is my favorite outing by DeForge and I’m patiently waiting for the next installment. BUT YOU ALREADY KNEW THAT, DIDN’T YOU
A page from my favorite minicomic ever: Artichoke Tales #3 by Megan Kelso. Released in 2002. I bought this from Megan in March of 2005. I know because she signed it to me with the date. Written documents are important because my memory retention is shit. Written documents are important because my memory retention is shit. I’ve always enjoyed Kelso’s clear cartooning, straightforward depiction of actions and subtle special effects. For instance, look closely at the top-right corner of this page. There’s a tiny sun outside of the panel border to indicate the outdoor light source. Kelso wasn’t a heavy comics reader before she became a cartoonist and a lot of her solutions to storytelling problems are idiosyncratic. Like creatures from Australia, Kelso’s cartooning evolved on its own and in relative isolation. Also, check out her various solutions for depicting music in comics. The example in this issue is as follows:
Dark Horse Presents put out their 100th issue in 1995, so the celebrated by making it five issues. That’s right, five different number 100s. So confusing numbering isn’t solely the domain of DC and Marvel Comics. One of the strips in this issue is a collaborative work between Paul Pope and Jeff Smith. It’s actually not collaborative in the normal way. Pope did his strip and Smith ran a smaller strip underneath some of the pages. AnyANYway, a lot of you out there are Paul Pope fans so here’s a panel from one of his older comics, “Pan-Fried Girl Episode 67: The Tax Auditor.”
What do I have to say about Chris Claremont and Alan Davis’ 1980s run on Excalibur? The British X-Men team that formed when the main X-Men were thought dead. What do I have to say about this, one of the most perfect superhero comics? What do I have to say to get you to put the goddamn CRAP you are reading down and read a GOOD fucking comic book?
What do I have to do?
What do I have to SAY?
DON’T MAKE ME BEG!
There’s no talking to you
This comic is pretty dang charming. A winning combination of unabashed fantasy comics with swashbuckling swords, spells and sorcery–and Marvel superheroes. These issues are filled with story, fights, interpersonal relationships, HUMOR and nothing drags on. I finished reading one of the issues and told a friend of mine that if that issue were written today, it would be a six-issue miniseries. I don’t have all of the issues–and that’s part of the magic. A kid in 1988 could pick up an issue, not find the next one, but still be perfectly okay when they found a future issue. This is episodic storytelling at its best.
I want to draw attention to a very important aspect to this run: inker Paul Neary. Alan Davis’ work doesn’t get better than it appears in 1980s Excalibur, at least from what I have seen. His later work is infected with this scratchy, hatch-laden gnarly and over muscled texture that I dislike. His draftsmanship doesn’t falter, but I suspect that Mr. Neary has a lot to do with giving Davis this gorgeous and polished smoothness.
They don’t make comic books like they used to. You just want to shove an issue of this into [NAME REDACTED]‘s face and tell him to do his job right.
Oh look what came out this week at comic shops, it’s Xombi #5 by John Rozum and Frazer Irving. The world isn’t half-bad when you look at it this way: