by Kevin Czap
Christmas is OVER, here’s the stuff you could have gotten.
Bug Boys #2 – #4, Laura Knetzger — The first issue of Bug Boys was one of the pleasant surprises of SPX for me – a zine-style, all-ages comic that was really cute, clever and unique. I happened to recognize Knetzger walking around at BCGF and she hooked me up with the next three issues, which see the Boys continuing their adventures. Each zine is self-contained, but together they contribute to the larger image of the World of Bugs. One of the more interesting aspects is how the bugs co-exist with other beings, especially humans. In the first adventure, when Rhino B. and Stag B. are captured as pets, the first time we see human beings, they appear as amorphous, monstrous shapes, as seen from the bugs’ perspective. In the next issue, we learn that bug literature is actually our (humans’) cultural classics, translated and adapted to bug culture by covert insect agents. This discovery introduces the concept of the potential of the bugs living among a host of other cultures and ecosystems. I think this is an important lesson to be imparting on any younger readers who may find this work, and Knetzger handles it extremely well, letting Rhino and Stag feel it out for themselves rather than having any authority spell it out for them. I’ve had varying mileage with all-ages kinds of comics, but Bug Boys is one of the better examples I’ve come across. It’s silly and fun and, more importantly, respectful of the reader, whatever age they may be. It’s also nice to see the art, which was already notable in the first issue, get more refined over time. The fourth issue shows a very clean and economic line that keeps the pages balanced despite the minimal use of solid blacks.
untitled, Derik Badman — Badman‘s newest print comic is a really beautiful study of human environments, and by extension the (unseen) human characters and actions that inhabit them. The comic is split in half between the past and the present – the former represented by a series of location shots taken from old noir films like The Big Sleep and Kiss Me Deadly, while the latter is taken from Badman’s own home, presumably. Each panel is silent, but of course, taken all together, the images decode whatever narrative they serve as evidence for. Not to say that it’s entirely about what’s not shown. There’s a pleasure in observing the scenery for what it is, each frame drawing attention to that which exists all around us. “Backgrounds,” as they’re tellingly referred to as, are often given short shrift by cartoonists (implicating myself here, of course). This work serves as a testament to how much power environments can have on their own, both narratively and poetically. It doesn’t surprise me that Badman also has an interest in abstract comics, because if we expand the preceding idea, it includes any image at all. It’s not abstracted figures that make up comics, but the sequenced image at its most basic. But that’s probably an argument for another day. Really enjoyed this.
“Beautiful Monster” and 80 Gun, Darryl Ayo — Conflict of interests!! Ok, so it’s weird to talk about your co-blogger’s work on the blog you share, right? But since I said I’d talk about everything I got at BCGF, I guess it can’t be avoided. We have here some fairly recent and some fairly old work by Mr. Ayo. One of the things I appreciate about Darryl’s comics is how much he cares about food. “Beautiful Monster,” and Little Garden comic, is about a group of friends getting together to share a meal. Even though he’s dealing with winged and horned creatures, Ayo’s strips are full of real human activity in a way that avoids the quotidian dullness of a certain strain of “serious” comics. And while 80 Gun is nearly ten years old, and the work of a much younger artist, it’s interesting to see the seeds for some of Ayo’s more interesting ideas taking root.
Complex #2, Chris Kuzma — Intense! Kuzma draws some gorgeous gorgeous cartoons and can lay out a mean page. A lot of gross-out and violent stuff involving cute Carl-Barksy characters. We’re in the middle of this three-parter, and I’m a bit speechless in anticipation of the grand finale. I was very excited by the Alex Schubert backup strip – he’s an interesting artist who’s been growing on my radar lately.
Black Mass #6, Patrick Kyle — I’ve been enamored by Patrick Kyle‘s abstracted illustrations and images for a while, but hadn’t really read any strictly-comics by him, so I wanted to change that. The cover to this cover is really spectacular. The drawing, the visual texture of the ink, the off-register printing… even the off-whiteness of the white. In contrast to the beautiful simplicity of the cover, the interior is a writhing force of cartoon energy. It’s apparent that there’s a larger story being told that I’m just entering into past the middle, but Kyle is clear enough that the important parts I’m able to piece together on my own. What this is is some kind of idiosyncratic punk-rock Dragon Ball Z ish (seriously, the influence couldn’t be more explicit than the Cell-style tail that sucks up and absorbs the hero characters). The punk-off that kicks off the issue is awesome. This is fun, outrageous, meta (halfway though, Kyle shows himself drawing the punk-off and gets jealous of all the fun everyone else is having, and abandons his drawing to go join them) and weird. I can think of a lot of folks who would be totally into this as well as a few who would find it not their cup of tea. It’s interesting to note the stylistic similarities with Chris Kuzma, who is also a part of Wowee Zonk along with Kyle and Ginette LaPalme (who has more of her own thing). Whereas Kuzma’s drawings tend more closely to traditional cartooning, Kyle’s go off into the wilderness of geometric abstraction, at times depicting characters in hieroglyphic profile. I’d be interested in seeing something like this in full color – Kyle is no stranger to the art side of art comics, and I love how he handles flat blocks of color.