by Kevin Czap
The bottom of the pile! Wow, that’s a lot of comics. Ok, onward.
Pope Hats #1, Ethan Rilly — Pretty interesting reading this after the second issue, the few years in between really making themselves known. Even with the ghost in this one, the story is missing the bizarre charm and absurdity that I liked so much in #2. Thinking about this review makes me feel a little sad, because I know that I can’t give Pope Hats #1 a fair shake. I like it just fine, but because of my reading order, I can’t help but see it as a pilot episode to a much better series. Rilly has a good sense of humor, and this issue has some great lines (“…listen, I’m gonna puke in a Boston accent…”). Ultimately, as a reader I’m doomed by hindsight. This guy has a lot of charm but, as they say, It Gets Better.
Zegas #1, Michel Fiffe — L reviewed this at length, and it was her take that convinced me to pick it up for myself. I really like the way this comic is constructed – the cartooning, the colors, the layouts. In the main story, I find myself much less interested in the sitcom-y work scene – the stuff with the food truck vendor resonates much more. The back up strips are great, especially the weird abstracted “Super vs Landlord” in the back and the drugs-gone-wrong “Plum.” Excited to see how this develops (I think they’re raising funds for the second issue right now). Link
Raw Power, Josh Bayer — Retrofit gets real! Well, they’ve always been real, but I’m just excited to get to Josh Bayer‘s King Size wrecking ball of a comic. Since stumbling over Bayer’s work in Secret Prison #4, he’s been a big blip on my radar of exciting shit, and thankfully his output has been consistently strong since then. So here we have Raw Power, a frenetic Dark Knight Returns riff centered around the CIA’s efforts to extinguish punk rock. Bayer opens up by paraphrasing Jello Biafra and Raymond Pettibon outlining an initiative by the Carter administration intended to undermine punk’s influence on youth culture. It then cuts to the incognito “Cat Man,” a masked vigilante who has a righteous hatred of rats, punks and the homeless. All this is tied to the powerful G. Gordon Liddy who is the called in to be the architect of the anti-punk campaign. The title of this comic describes the contents perfectly – Bayer’s art and storytelling are blunt forces that are funny and unsettling in turn.
I’m interested in how Bayer mashes up various sources to his ends, a stew of 80s comics, early west-coast punk and radical politics. Cat Man is an incrimination of Batman’s ultra-conservative bent, easily used as a tool in Liddy’s punk war (however indirectly – the character is inspired by the ficticious Liddy’s manifesto Wish Power). Liddy himself is a fascist given over to the occult forces of Raw Power (I loved the touch where Liddy declares Harvey Milk his arch-nemesis). About three fourths of the way through, the comic segues into an adaptation of an issue from the somewhat obscure New Universe title DP7. It’s fascinating by itself, but the way it adds to the overall comic is really great. Bayer seems less concerned with telling a straight comic book story, and is instead crafting a work of punk art. You get the sense that this is but one issue in a longer series, but on second reflection you realize, while that may be the case, it is complete on its own. This is a personal work that draws much of its strength from Bayer’s particular worldview. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
Hope Mountain Vol. 3, ed. by Mike Turzanski and Peter Lazarski — “Patterns!” Collection of full tabloid pages of visceral illustration and some comics. Hard to pick out the ones I like without listing the whole thing, practically, but I’ll say it’s got work from the likes of Pat Aulisio, Kat Fajardo, Leah Wishnia and the two editors. Not sure where these are distributed, but if you see one around pick it up for yourself.
Les 48 Heures de la Bande Dessinée de Montreal 2011, ed. by Vincent Giard — I was so excited to get this, the product of the annual gathering in Montreal. As I’ve said often enough before, I consider Montreal to be a hotbed for exceptionally exciting work and I hope to take part in the 48 Heures at some point in the future. The idea of the event is to gather a bunch of comics types who work together to put together and print this periodical by the end. So what we get is a lot of collaborative pages from the hands of Vincent Giard, Julie Delporte, Blaise Larmee, Connor Willumsen, David Turgeon, Pascal Girard, Sophie Yanow, Singeon, Matt Forsythe, Jimmy Beaulieu and more. A majority of the text is in French, but overall there seems to be a lefty political air to it, which you know, that’s a pretty cool thing. When I flip through the big newsprint pages, I can’t help but feel some of the teeming energy of the event between my fingers. That might be a romantic idealization – I’m sure there were hours of quiet, boring work – but as far as a comic goes, imparting that kind of feeling on a reader is nothing to sneeze at.
Smoke Signal #11, ed. by Gabe Fowler — I feel like, in general, Smoke Signal isn’t really my thing. There’s stuff in here I like: the Julie Delporte page (which also appears in her “You Will Always Be My Cat”), the John Porcellino page, Tony Millionaire, my first interaction with Travis Millard‘s work, the Tim Hensley “Hitchcock” funnies. Overall, there’s this flat feeling that tells me that this isn’t so much my bag. That’s totally fine though! This whole BCGF experience has been helpful in me learning more about how my tastes operate – seeing what kinds of comics resonate with me more than others. This is of course one of the benefits of a diverse diet, you get a better idea of what you really respond to.
[Philadelphia] City Paper, “The Comics Issue,” Dec 1 – Dec 7, ed. by Art Baxter — It’s cool that Philly’s city paper does a comics issue, but it still feels kind of ghettoized, the comics limited to four pages of the rag. Ideally, this would have been teeming with comics spread through out, with a feature story of the local comics scene (they say there’s more content on the website, but c’mahn). Of the comics here, nothing really makes a huge impression. Nice to see folks like Jo Jo Sherrow and Carolyn Belefski (who isn’t even from Philadelphia!).
And that’s it! Thanks for reading comics with me, y’all.
Images by (in order of appearance) Ethan Rilly, Michel Fiffe, Josh Bayer, Peter Lazarski, Julien Catanié and Sophie Yanow, Travis Millard, Riley Luce, Carolyn Belefski and M. Jacob Alvarez