by Kevin Czap
nods to Becky Cloonan for title (and of course the Wu-Tang Clan) – comics rule everything around me.
There’s a lot of ground to cover, so I’ll direct those looking for a preamble to my post last week. Ok cool, let’s get into it.
Magic Bullet #3 — various, ed. by Rafer Roberts: Hey, I’m in this one! Conflict of interests? Well, there’s a whole host of other good work in here, my favorite being Matt Sheean‘s “On the God-Forsaken Plains of Mars!” Really nice, weird drawings, great use of grays, with enough character and story information to get me interested in more. If you live in the DC area you can pick one of these guys up for free somewhere.
Secret Prison #5 — various, ed. by Ian Harker: A lot of really nice stuff in here. Secret Prison, as long as I’ve been reading it, at least, has always been a strong showcase, and the fifth issue continues that trend. My appreciation of Tom Scioli‘s work has been growing at kind of a slow pace, but it seems to be right where it needs to be now to really enjoy the huge story he’s got in here. Plenty of other visual interest on display.
Smoke Signal #10 — various, ed. by Gabe Fowler:Unfortunately, I didn’t like this one as much as I was hoping to. The cover is great with it’s blasphemous celebration of Cracked over Mad, and there are some gems inside, but overall… The Dane Martin strip was probably the highlight for me. Sam Henderson‘s contribution is good and you’ve got Tony Millionaire‘s Maakies, though more a collection of classics than anything new. Michael DeForge has a beautiful two page spread starring the Silver Surfer’s boner, but even this isn’t the best we’ve seen from him (which in itself is pretty damn good. Check out that title lettering!). Overall, I’m sure this is perfect for a lot of people, but I guess for me at this time, Secret Prison does more for me in terms of piquing my interest. Oh yeah, and I always like to see Jesse McManus‘ stuff.
Or Else #5 — Kevin Huizenga: A little old by this point, but I had never read the first part of “Rumbling,” which I read the second installment of as its own mini maybe a year ago (you can read it on What Things Do). Some of this stuff I feel was made better in later work, such as the “100 Most People in America” list, but overall there’s a lot of great, hilarious stuff in here (loved the previews in the back for the next 40 or so issues).
A portrait of myself by L Nichols!!
Math Fiction 3D — various, ed. by Pat Aulisio: Holy smokes, this must be what all the fuss over 3-D is all about. I was a little surprised how impressed I was with this. That Josh Burggraf, man. I only just discovered his work a few weeks ago at PACC, but it feels like since then he’s been blowing up the spot. His drawings have pretty wild, with equal parts Kirby and cartoony abstractness. Here in Math Fiction, the way he utilizes the 3D effect was flipping my lid. So expertly handled, it was like I was looking at layers of cut paper. Aulisio, Harker and Cardini also turn out a great show. Grab this when/if you can. (Also included were some custom 3D “Kevin Specs” – Thanks Pat).
I Will Bite You and other stories — Joseph Lambert: Finally got this book, and Joe drew a really amazing picture in the back for me. One of my favorites.
Ganges #4 — Kevin Huizenga: The long awaited new issue of Ganges! We get the impression that Glenn is finally falling asleep, as narrative bits become jumbled and continue beyond the boundary of the page. Perhaps the closest representation I’ve seen of that moment when you’re efforts to read before bed keep getting interrupted by your nodding off. Whatever sense you’re getting from the text continues to slide out of focus and you keep having to try again. This book is another fine example of how funny Huizenga can be, particularly with the various book covers he shows (“Classic’s Classics… A classic!”). Comics lovers ought to check this out.
Pure Pajamas — Marc Bell: I really love Marc Bell‘s work, but I didn’t have anything in book form, something to stick on the shelf, so I was happy to grab this. Actually it’s probably a good choice, as it’s a collection of shorter work from the past 20 years or so. Nice overview of his genius.
Mome vol. 22 — various, ed. by Eric Reynolds: Late to the Mome party, but at least I’m here for the final scene. Really strong collection in a handsomely designed and produced book. Contains work from a handful of my favorite cartoonists of the moment, including Jim Rugg, Gabrielle Bell, Steve Weissman, Jesse Moynihan, Dash Shaw and Chuck Forsman. The crown jewel comes from Eleanor Davis, her story “Nita Goes Home” is really some of the nicest comics. Painted beautifully with her pitch-perfect colors, Davis’ story tells us of a daughter’s return to the polluted, future city she grew up in from the progressive, organic paradise where she has been working as an artist. Davis does sci-fi right here, using it as a vehicle to tell a human story where the circumstances are set by extending current affairs to their logical conclusion. According to her website, this is the first full comic she’s done in years, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. She’s got a preview on her website you should read, and then get this final volume of Mome as soon as you can to finish it.
Rice Boy — Evan Dahm: Rice Boy is kind of a perfect package conceptually. At first glance, the art is humble, there’s a no-frills quality to the coloring, the drawing is competent. All this belies the ambition and scope this eventual epic has in store. Which fits all so well, of course, because this is the case with our title character, little Rice Boy. A nondescript white thing, Rice Boy is very simple, both in his appearance and in the life he leads. Of course this all changes when he is marked as the prophesied Chosen One and gets swept up in adventure. This book is an early foray into world-building for Evan, an interest he’s continued with his other works Order of Tales and Vattu (of which I’ve only read the latter). There are obvious nods to fantasy novels such as the Lord of the Rings that can be picked up by those an uninitiated as myself, but what I like about Dahm’s work is he’s very conscious of his use of the genre. You’re not likely to find many cliches in this book, any fantasy trope is included only if and when it serves the greater story being told. The result is a timeless story that speaks truthfully. Recommended highly for the story-lovers out there.
SF #1 — Ryan Cecil Smith: This is a very good comic. I love the drawing, the characters (Duke the Duck!), really everything is good. What I like the most is the scene where Ace and Hupa infiltrate Planet D. It starts off focusing on some side business for a page or two before finally leading us to, hey! that big Peter Potamus-look-alike is really Ace in disguise! I really like this roundabout way of entering a scene, and I wish I saw it more often. When I do come across it, I am overjoyed.
“Eat or Be Meatball” — Liz Suburbia: It’s no secret how we all feel about Liz Suburbia‘s work here at the Comix Cube. One of the many benefits of tabling with Liz was the privilege of being one of the first people anywhere to get their hands on her three new mini-comics. I knew they would be good, but when I got the chance to flip through them, I was surprised at how good. “Eat or Be Meatball” left me stunned. I can only really remember feeling like this before when I read Michael DeForge’s Open Country #1 – that perfect blend of drawing, comics grammar, and having such a poignant story to tell. “Eat or Be Meatball” lays out the premise in a flash, Liz and her husband have been convicted of an unforgivable crime and are sentenced to relive their lives from the start. Before we really know what’s happening, we find ourselves back in the late 1980s with Baby Liz, fellow prisoners along with Adult Liz acting as the disembodied narrator. It’s a lot like the final scene of Being John Malkovich, where John Cusack is trapped forever behind the eyes of a child. Liz, however, has direct agency over her reverted state, but in order to not arouse suspicion, she’s helpless in reconnecting with the love of her life. And so she needs to wait, reliving the painful teenage years of an army brat all over again. Everything here is beautiful, and she really is pushing her talents far beyond we’ve ever seen before from her. This was one of the Best in Show books for me, A++.
“The Crusher” — Liz Suburbia: Another one of Liz’s three new minis, this one a touching snapshot of two boxers. I’m pretty sure this one was Darryl’s favorite of the three, and with good reason.
“The Adventures of Hardcore Dan” — Josh PM Frees: One of a handful of minis Josh gave me when I saw him at the show to help supplement my collection of Hardcore Dan stuff. There’s a happy-go-lucky quality to all of these that’s nice – the stories are all set around Frees’ college experience with friend and roommate “Hardcore” Dan Walsh. There are panels where the characters are just smiling at each other. Captures some of the ephemeral magic of starting out in school, being independent for the first time and having a bunch of new friends you can connect with. Plus Hardcore Dan is just a funny character, with his snarls and metal poses.
“Pride” — Liz Suburbia: The third and final of the new Liz Suburbia minis, this one featuring a cosmic call-in show to Liz’s apartment to answer the really big questions. Did I mention that each of these minis has a bunch of extra gags and gorgeous drawings on the interior and back covers? They do.
Grixly #21 — Nate McDonough: I quite like what Nate‘s doing with these, and I think it’s really cool that he does this so frequently. Just putting out these short little minis every so often.
“The Body of Work” — Kevin Huizenga: Collecting the great Cartoonist Polymaths strip (although in black and white here) along with a few others. Always worth getting anything Huizenga puts out.
Bug Boys #1 — Laura Knetzger: This was a really nice find! (And one of a few times when I took advantage of Liz Suburbia having so many fans come by our table). I love the block printed cover, and the interior has a really cute all-ages comic. The name is misspelled as “Butt Boys” on the title page, which causes the two bug characters much dismay. The art is a notch or two above what I was expecting to find – there’s a sense of control over the drawing that you usually don’t run into with books like this. I like it.
Ship of Fools #5 — Emilja Frances: Really nice comic about finding “home.”
“Decorum” — Ed Choy Moorman: A collection of short comics by Moorman, my favorite of which being the one where a couple of sisters innocently find their mother’s dildo while messing around in her room. The scene where mom comes home is played really well.
Pope Hats #2 — Ethan Rilly: Really nice comic in that Jordan Crane, Adrian Tomine vein. The thing is drawn beautifully, of course, but I think what sets it apart for me is the subtle absurdity at the edges. The main story is set in and around a law firm, and so the overly complicated and meaningless dialogue, especially in the beginning, is great. And it’s all played with a straight face, which is key for that kind of humor to work. I liked the follow up stories a little less, maybe because they’re driven more by monologue than character. Either way, Rilly is a new discovery for me, and I’ll have to check out Pope Hats #1 now.
Suspect Device #1 — various, ed. by Josh Bayer, Edwin Vazquez: Here’s another comic that really made an impression on me. Led by the fantastic Josh Bayer (who also has work in Secret Prison, this outrageous collection showcases what some of the more brutal and raw art comickers can do with Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy. The basic format appears to be pick a panel from Nancy and then go nuts for a page or two or three before finally wrapping it up with a final panel from Bushmiller. The results vary but none disappoint. I felt that the best ones, like Tom Hart or Josh Burggraf, were able to focus their visions a bit and work out an actual story. Hart, for example, takes us on a heartrending journey into an apocalyptic wasteland as Sluggo agonizes over the loss of Nancy, the only person who ever cared about him. Dane Martin, Lizz Hickey, Box Brown and Pat Aulisio also turn in appearances.
Grixly #20 — Nate McDonough: More cool stuff.
Sacred Heart sampler — Liz Suburbia: A very cool intro piece for Liz’s Sacred Heart comic, which you really ought to be reading.
“Mia Protasi” — Matt Czap: My brother debuted a book too! This one is all about Zeus and his fetish for hooking up with mortals. There’s a surprise dimension to this kink, but I’ll let people discover that for themselves when they read this.
“Do What You Can” — Jessi Zabarsky: Jessi, Jessi, Jessi. She never fails to leave me in awe of her work. This gorgeous little book is based on a man who spent the majority of his life building an underground home for himself out in California where he grew his own fruit trees. Of course, this story is incidental to what Zabarsky comes up with here, a very quiet and sweet vignette about a lttle bunny person living in her dream home. Heartwarming.
“Pilgrimage” — Jory Griffis: Cute little comic about communication and expectation, ultimately.
“VMM” — Eric Kubli: Eric Kubli draws the cutest got-dammed Mega Man ever. This is a sweet little guy.
“Early” — Joseph Lambert: Another Joe Lambert piece that pits children against celestial bodies. This one features spiders and ice cream! Really love the colors on this, as usual.
“Hot + Cold” — Jen Tong: Speaking of color – Jen Tong is becoming one of my favorite comics artists with her amazingly crafted mini comics. “Hot + Cold” sees the return of the lemon-heads from the phenomenal “rainbow & i” and some of her other work, acting as sort-of astral stand-ins for the boy and girl characters in this story. Color and movement take center stage again in this book which includes a couple of accordion-fold sequences for transformation and wonder. Tong’s work is the kind that you tend to understand internally, the basic narrative sequences are simple enough, however it’s the complex emotional currents underneath, represented by the striking visuals, that are the whole point here. I also just love the handmade quality of her books. On the one hand, I’d love to see her get wider exposure in some mass-produced book or anthology, but on the other hand, there’d be something really special missing from that. Anyway, if you ever have a chance to get any of Jen’s books, don’t pass it up! Best in Show number two.
“Ci Vediamo” — Hazel Newlevant: Best in Show number three. This little book was a total surprise discovery for me, and I’m so glad I happened upon it. Overall, a fairly basic little comic, showing two people passing and catching each others’ eye. The moment depicted is fleeting, but Newlevant introduces slightly transparent pages to add an entire dimension of meaning to the book. Using transparent layers in comics is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and it’s really exciting to see it used so well here. Especially at the end, where Hazel uses the effect to tie in the plant imagery with the main narrative. Really nice work from an SVA student. Quite intrigued by what else she’ll come out with.
Roussimoff #1 — Box Brown: Andre the Giant! Roussimoff tells his life story, and in this installment we follow him from the pastoral countryside of France as a child to his beginnings as a professional wrestler.
“My Every Single Thought” — Corinne Mucha: I had to pass this one up at PACC but lucky me! Corinne was at SPX too! Not only is this whole thing very funny, but I really love the way Mucha draws. Everything is put together with even, scratchy lines, but it never feels busy. The cartooniness of everything works so well, and the cowlick she draws herself with is a great visual marker. Really, I’m out of words to describe how much I like this.
“A Very Helpful Guide to Gaga” — Laurel Leake: I’ll own up to being one of those curmudgeons who refuses to surrender to Lady Gaga, but I will also admit that I think this is a fun comic. Laurel acts as our breathless narrator as she leads us through the fierce whirlwind of symbolism and fabulosity that is Lady Gaga’s video oeuvre. There’s an unapologetic quality to this that I like – sure, it’s all ridiculous and a little confusing, but that doesn’t stop Leake from enjoying the pop phenomenon whole-heartedly. The drawings feel a bit cramped due to the thick sharpie line, but then again it adds to the quick pace.
“Stitching Together” — Ed Choy Moorman: A touching collection of Moorman’s work that centers around Jim Henson’s lasting legacy. Maybe could have used more Harry the Hipster, but then again, what couldn’t?
Diary Comics #2 — Dustin Harbin: It’s interesting to read this in book form, as some segments seem to have been written for this format rather than the original online dailies. Of course, I know Harbin made the strips some time after their listed date, so maybe there was so planning involved? Either way, they benefit from the format. The second issue goes back a couple months before I started reading Dustin’s comics, so it’s cool to read up to where I joined in, adding some context.
“Star Cinema” — Dre Grigoropol: The perils of allowing bums into movie theaters.
“Fun Time Funnies” — Geneva Hodgson: Geneva channels the powers of all the great animators of our youth for this chucklefest. The writing and character acting are spot on for a cartoon show. My favorite gag is early on when Exuberance responds gleefully to what turns out to be a brush-off call to customer service.
“Homegrown Alien” — Joe Davidson: Our neighbor to the left was giving away this mini as a means to hook passers-by into reading his webcomic. It’s a pleasant story about an innocent country man and his innocent country monster. Plus, adventures.
“The Fort” — Josh PM Frees: More Josh Frees stuff from yesteryear. Instead of featuring Hardcore Dan, however, this mini is about another group of friends and the cool hang-out spot that brought them all together. We call those the, uh, salad days.
“The Legend of Hardcore Dan” — Josh PM Frees: Here we go, more Hardcore Dan. Includes dress-your-own Hardcore Dan paper doll. (Also in this image is a Victor’s Lament CD, Josh’s band, which I haven’t listened to yet. Ska!).
Ok, so that’s all of it! As you can see, there are so so so many great comics being made today, and this is only a small portion of everything wonderful available at SPX. And SPX itself is only a small portion of the overall excellence that’s happening in comics. Anyone who’s complaining isn’t paying attention.
Peace guys, see you in Pittsburgh?