Alternative/independent comics thread

Health insurance rip off lying FDA big bankers buying
Fake computer crashes dining
Cloning while they're multiplying
Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson
Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson
You're all fakes
Run to your mansions
Come around
We'll kick your ass in

Postby sevenarts » Tue Oct 23, 2018 2:25 pm

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Shit and Piss by Tyler Landry
This has been on my list ever since some of the Comic Books Are Burning in Hell guys exalted it, and HFC's recent writeup pushed it to the top of the pile. This is bleak, nasty stuff, very simple but also quite potent in its effect, at least for me. Prison Pit is a good point of reference, but without the dark humor or Ryan's penchant for trolly, willfully offensive baiting - a better reference point would be Ryan's darker, more singlemindedly cruel story from Kramers Ergot #8, or indeed the weird, grimy KE8 as a whole. Wombatz is perhaps not wrong to call this juvenile - Landry's points about humanity's, ahem, shittiness are painfully obvious - but what elevates it to me is the precision and intensity of the style. Landry's control of the 9-panel grid is really impressive, and I love the different ways he breaks up the page, sometimes opting for semi-traditional "action" sequences, at other times speaking in a purely visual language that's more symbolic, elusive, and even grimly poetic. There's a jagged rhythm to this, to the way its pages are structured, that makes it pretty irresistable to me even if it means wallowing in literal shit for its entire length.

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Vile #1-2 by Tyler Landry
Some just slightly older Landry comics where it's possible to see his foundation in more straightforward genre comics. These are each economical old-school genre tales, very simple and direct. Vile #1 especially is a sci-fi morality tale with some gimmicky horror flourishes, and reads like a stripped-down take on an old EC book. Vile #2 is simpler, moodier, better drawn, and just plain better with an eerie vibe that never lets up or explains too much. Neither's great but #2 at least is an enjoyable quick read.

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Perfect Hair by Tommi Parrish
A truly fascinating set of short, enigmatic, experimental comics. Parrish's style is really interesting and unique to me. They use multiple different drawing styles and media to create this incredible effect of zooming in and out of different layers of reality, honing in on a moment in great detail and then pulling back, blurring and abstracting the image to convey a more distanced, coldly analytical perspective. These multiple layers of symbol and artifice make the book's examinations of sex, gender, and love feel really fresh and exciting. Parrish's characters are often distanced and blobby, their faces simple fleshy circles, standing in for concepts and archetypes - which only makes it all the more startling and effective when Parrish hones in on a face, expressive and individualized, marked with raw emotion and vulnerability. Their painting is gorgeous, the figures are really distinctive and full of character, and there's so much to unpack here in terms of the ideas and emotions conveyed in Parrish's generally brief but deceptively complex little stories. Great stuff.

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The Lie and How We Told It by Tommi Parrish
Parrish's second major work and first proper graphic novel, this one is a single narrative but retains the experimental visual sensibility and openness to multiple forms of representation, as befits an artist whose work is so intimately concerned with themes of identity and self-representation as well. The narrative here is straightforward, as a pair of old friends meet by chance after many years apart, and spend an awkward, somewhat painful night catching up and realizing that they don't connect anymore. But Parrish's mix of naturalistic dialogue with gorgeous painted imagery and expressive, gestural cartooning help build this character study into a densely layered and affecting chronicle of repression, self-identity, masculinity, and the ways in which people's projections of themselves conflict with their actual inner lives. It's utterly engrossing both as a story and as a formalist exploration of these ideas. Parrish is a real talent and one of the best new artists I've read this year - glad I'm finally getting around to them thanks to galactagogue's prodding.
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Postby Wombatz » Wed Oct 24, 2018 4:58 pm

so i finally finished

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Mister Morgen by Igor Hofbauer ... the break not caused by flagging enthusiasm but by a short holiday, then when i returned to it some kind of zombie virus broke out after a few pages so it took me a moment to get back in the mood. and yet, what a marvelous book, the mix of an art style that references old graphics and very acute topicality with strong political overtones reminding me a bit of johannes stahl, whom i've mentioned somewhere upstream, though stahl goes for a more punkish memeishness, while hofbauer builds a dense nightmarish world full of derelicts, socialist state surveillance gone senseless, noplaces, drug stupor, disease, and sometimes the leftovers of an old-world decadence as a saving grace ... very heavy, strong, and meaningful. great.

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The Prince by Liam Cobb. well, it's good, and kind of self-consciously inventive in a harmless way. it didn't move me, but i guess it's not supposed to, with its wilfully clichéd motifs and situations like frogs, husbands that deserve their dinner ready, and wannabe-abusive neighbors, all of which are subverted in vintage postmodern fashion or, more interestingly, dissolved into structures. so it's good, but i see he's dropping his next book in a minute and i wonder if it would be better if cobb took a little time out instead to think about something to say. [edit: *]

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Survive 300,00,00 1 by Pat Aulisio. i love this. forget the story, it's one of those post-apocalyptic picaresque things we've all read dozens of. it's not as, erm, philosophical as his Bowman, but it's got more colors, mauve psychedelics over a scratchy, throwaway line that still suggests lots of depth and detail and love for drawing. my kind of eye candy.

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St. Swithin's Day by Grant Morrison and Paul Grist. somewhat curious, the lowest-key morrison ever? i'm not a huge fan of grist but here he provides the right kind of indie feel for this slight story of a "neurotic boy outsider" (that's what his forehead says at one point) who dreams of his one anarchic moment to get some sense into his life. written with real heart, no irony involved. i liked it a lot.

also, though it probably doesn't belong here, i got myself

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Amphigorey Also because it was cheap ... and first thought it was a misbuy because you probably have to get the landscape original format with a single picture per spread for a proper appreciation ... but actually it works better for me this way, with the quicker flow and less weight on each page. more like comics.

[*] "The comic takes on the highs and lows of the jet-setting lifestyle of a Michelin reviewer, or to be more specific, the Michelin Man. 'The Michelin Man works well as a protagonist, as I can project any ideas onto his vacant face,' Liam says. 'His constant smile is an odd contrast to some of the misadventures I create for him, but overall, I admire his optimism. When I first thought of him travelling the world, tasting exquisite food, I could already imagine the final comic.'"
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Oct 25, 2018 5:10 am

Wombatz wrote:[*] "The comic takes on the highs and lows of the jet-setting lifestyle of a Michelin reviewer, or to be more specific, the Michelin Man. 'The Michelin Man works well as a protagonist, as I can project any ideas onto his vacant face,' Liam says. 'His constant smile is an odd contrast to some of the misadventures I create for him, but overall, I admire his optimism. When I first thought of him travelling the world, tasting exquisite food, I could already imagine the final comic.'"


Haha I dunno that sounds like a pretty good idea to me

Glad you liked Mister Morgen!
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Postby Wombatz » Thu Oct 25, 2018 5:38 am

HotFingersClub wrote:that sounds like a pretty good idea to me

yay boutique comics!
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Oct 25, 2018 7:44 am

I was more pumped that Breakdown is finally putting out the Yuichi Yokoyama book they've been promising but obviously I already preordered that frankly goofy-sounding Cobb book too. Can't wait!
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Postby HotFingersClub » Fri Oct 26, 2018 8:36 am

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Nie Jun – My Beijing
This is a collection of four very light tales from the Chinese artist Nie Jun, mostly following a little girl and her kindly grandfather through gentle magic realist situations of transcendence. It's too gentle and saccharine to be of any real interest but Jun's painted art is genuinely beautiful. Might make a good gift for an anxious tween.

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Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips – My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies
Brubaker/Phillips are definitely not alt/indie but this thread is where I'm doing capsules so... As much as I love Sleeper and other of their earlier work, I have to admit their Criminal series, with a few exceptions, has never really done it for me. Like Darwyn Cooke's Parker books, it just doesn't seem real, or like any sort of real representation of criminal activity. Cooke is so stylised that it doesn't matter, but neither Brubaker nor Phillips is at Cooke's level. The Criminal series goes through motions of suspense, action and betrayal while never adding that little extra twist that might bring it all to life (except in The Last of the Innocents – that was kind of clever). Anyway this book is a standalone GN about a girl in a rehab centre going on the run with a fellow addict. Even more than usual, I couldn't invest. The protagonist just seems cobbled together from random traits; she looks like a cheerleader and acts like she's in a teen movie, and then she's an expert lock picker and talks constantly about what I can only imagine is Brubaker's record collection – she certainly seems pretty fucking far from a junkie. The boyfriend has nothing to him whatsoever. I don't see the appeal.

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Sarah Lippett – Stan and Nan
Also not great. Lippett's book is divided into two sections. The first is a kitchen table interview with her grandmother about her grandfather, and the second part covers the grandmother's funeral, with different family members chipping in to share memories. The similarities with Raymond Briggs' extraordinary Ethel and Ernest are impossible to ignore, but this reads like a middle-school creative writing project rather than any kind of summoning or evocation. Her small panels and doodly figures are fine, and its intentions are good. You could imagine the Lippett family being really pleased with it.

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Tillie Walden – Spinning
Ah mama mia, bellissimo, finally a work of real quality. Tillie Walden's memoir zeroes in on her years as a talented young figure skater and synchronised skater, but encompasses SO much more than that – coming out, being bullied, first love, first friendship, the discovery of art etc etc, all carried with the lightest touch and the most perfect clarity. Although it's a lot less fantastical than her other major works, it's fascinating to see the ways her aesthetic intersects reality and fantasy. For me it makes perfect sense that, having spent her childhood getting up at 4am to be driven to the ice rink in the dark, she would produce stories like On a Sunbeam and The End of Summer, where her characters live in these huge ornate structures, one pane of glass away from the freezing void. Her grasp on female relationships is perfect: the closeness, the passion, the pulling away. She has the sensitivity of a great novelist. There were parts of this book that felt like a needle of ice to the heart, and I love it as well for not being the story of an Olympic skater – it's the story of someone who wasn't happy and who walked away, and there's incredible nobility in that.
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Postby sevenarts » Fri Oct 26, 2018 11:47 am

HotFingersClub wrote:You could imagine the Lippett family being really pleased with it.


LOL devastating. Love that.

I actually think Criminal is some of the strongest Brubaker/Phillips work, particularly Last of the Innocent and the 2 magazine-format specials they did in the last ~5 years. I never got the sense that they were striving for truly realistic crime fiction of any sort, anymore than they were in Sleeper - their stuff always functions on the level of pulp, much like Cooke's crime fiction adaptations for that matter. There's an emotional, frankly melodramatic quality to this stuff that works really well for me at least, where even though the stories proceed more or less realistically on a narrative level there's something heightened in the subtext, a sense of staged dramatic ironies and iconic character types playing out their determined roles, in the fashion of say, old Hollywood noirs. You'd never hold a noir to the standard of representing "real criminal activity" - I don't think - so holding Brubaker/Phillips to that standard is IMO pinning them to something they don't really aspire towards. They're more interested in the classic noir tragic arcs, in stories that feel pre-determined but still make it worthwhile, aesthetically, to follow the latest antihero's plunge into obvious doom. Your mileage may obviously vary with that kind of thing but I find much of their work really satisfying and usually find that there's more than enough to enliven the familiar noir tropes they're deploying.

That said, I also read this latest GN recently and was pretty disappointed in it too. The art is fantastic, I love the blown-out, very bright colors they use for much of it (by Phillips' son Jake), but it's undoubtedly slight. I also didn't get much out of their recently finished series Kill Or Be Killed so maybe I'm just getting tired of their thing or maybe they're really starting to fade after all these years working similar territory. I don't know but though this still had its minor pleasures for me it's definitely one of their weakest collaborations.

Really glad you dug Spinning, that was definitely something special and Walden continues to amaze me with basically everything she does. Just a real master cartoonist and storyteller.
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Postby Wombatz » Fri Oct 26, 2018 4:02 pm

for me it all would have worked (she's not supposed to be a hardened heroin addict but a girl into drugs, and the ending was kind of satisfying as for herself she made the right choice even if she had to betray someone, so the nice summery colors made sense) ... except for that cringe-inducing record collection thing. yes we all like some of that stuff. oh how i wish my (drug free because too little) kids would like some of that stuff. vic chesnutt and billie holiday and hunky dory best of all. totally amazing what genius in full flight can do to a record. barf.
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Oct 29, 2018 11:13 pm

Finally getting into Bryan Talbot...

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The Adventures of Luther Arkwright
Talbot's first big work, originally serialized in the UK. It's very much of a piece with other 80s British b&w comics in a lot of ways, fitting in neatly with the British Invasion crew who would soon take over American superhero books, though Talbot himself, aside from the occasional art job, never seemed too interested in that whole scene, or maybe he just wasn't as amenable to the contours of American comics as some of his peers. To be sure, though this kind of is a superhero adventure it's a very strange and difficult one. It is remarkably dense, its multi-dimensional narrative deliberately jumbled and scrambled, often with little to orient the reader in quite what's going on. Talbot's pages are dense, dark, often wordy, packed with historical allusions, large blocks of newsprint text, imagery arranged into hallucinatory collages. Typical 80s UK comic preoccupations abound: Cromwell, fascism, sci-fi, sex as a mystical focal point. Eventually the story's shape becomes clearer and the climactic issues are action-packed showcases, primarily, for Talbot's masterful formalist command of time and space. Issue #7 takes place entirely in the moments immediately preceding a series of climaxes, and Talbot stretches time, holding these moments for page after page, elongating the suspense and honing in on the details of these frozen seconds right before everything comes to a head. Great stuff, as is the bloody, slightly melancholy catharsis of the following issue, in which Talbot continues to slow time, focusing almost unbearably on very specific moments of violence and revenge. And then the final issue provides some data dumps, abruptly explaining large chunks of the story in a few text-heavy pages. I feel like there had to be some more middle ground between dizzyingly impenetrable and overly expository, but this remains a fascinating book, even if large parts of it I find way easier to admire than to fully enjoy.

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The Tale of One Bad Rat
Basically as far as it's possible to get from the Arkwright saga. For this rather stripped-down tale of a young woman fleeing years of abuse and setting off on her own path, struggling to heal and find a place for herself, Talbot cleans up his style tremendously. None of the verbal or visual density of Arkwright here, this moves with the directness and poetry of a child's storybook - like the Peter Rabbit books of Beatrix Potter, whose work informs and inspires Talbot's work here a great deal. Talbot's clean, thick-lined art is beautiful, as are the mostly pastoral colors, especially in the second half of the book as Helen, the young runaway, reaches the English countryside that Potter so loved. This is beautifully drawn and constructed, extremely moving, and obviously well-researched, with much sensitivity and compassion around the psychology of dealing with trauma and abuse. It's a quiet masterpiece, its initial melancholy and depression gradually giving way to well-earned recovery, acceptance, and learning.

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Heart of Empire
Here's Talbot's sequel to the first Arkwright cycle, but done in a clearer, much less dizzying style. Unlike the first story, which leapt wildly among parallel dimensions and followed several overlapping but distinct narrative threads, this sequel is mainly set in a single reality. It deals with the aftermath of the first book's revolution in one alternate reality, in which a Cromwellian Puritan dictatorship was overthrown in favor of a royalist monarchy. Years later, that government too has descended into corruption and repression, led by a psychic vampire queen who's intent on enslaving the entire world. In addition to being a viscerally thrilling sci-fi/fantasy adventure yarn, the book is Talbot's raw, satirical portrait of Britain's history as an exploitative empire. The book seethes with a savage wit that's bitterly funny as often as it is deeply sad - where the first Arkwright was certainly packed with harrowing depictions of the world's many dysfunctions, here Talbot's satire has curdled, turned even nastier and funnier, served very well by the clarity and precision of the grotesque caricatures he uses to capture his villains. Talbot's art just keeps getting better - this is even more gorgeous than One Bad Rat, with a similar thick-lined style but with much more detail, fully capturing the gaudy excesses of a rotting empire. By turns jaw-droppingly dark and startlingly, grossly funny, this is a really unique and fantastic book. Though it doesn't have the formal pyrotechnics or daring of the original Arkwright, I wound up loving this one in a way I couldn't really do with the much chillier, more cerebral first story.

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Grandville
I don't see much discussion of this, Talbot's 5-volume steampunk alternate history talking animal epic, which on the one hand I understand, because look at how I just described it, but on the other hand these comics are freaking amazing. All the absurdity and vicious satire of the Arkwright books is here, married to an absolutely rock-solid genre foundation of pulpy murder mysteries. Talbot's world-building is phenomenal, crafting this elaborate alternate history in which Britain is only recently independent from a world-spanning French empire, in a world where talking animals of all species proliferate and only humans are considered a lower caste, enslaved and mocked as "doughfaces." The first book sets the template, as a Sherlock Holmes-like badger inspector is called in to solve a murder, accompanied by his Watson-like rat assistant. This mystery, like the ones in later books, winds up leading into much darker and stranger territory than expected, ultimately exposing corruption and wild conspiracy theories at the highest levels of politics and religion. Each book delves into parodies and allegories for real-world conspiracies, both actual and imagined - 9/11 truthers, secretive cults, the capitalist funding of abstract expressionism as an aesthetic weapon against socialists. These books are very satisfying as elaborate, action-packed intrigues, but neither their well-done procedural mechanics nor the cutesy animal characters can obscure the darkness at the core of these stories. Talbot's whimsical animal creations routinely do horrible violence to one another - even the hero, always so convinced of his own rightness, is often shockingly brutal and stumbles into commiting atrocities of his own. But it's the larger violence of society - government oppression, the suppression and genocide of minority groups, the demonization of outsiders, the exploitation of working classes by the super-rich - that's always the real horror behind these mysteries. Though Talbot's determined inspector always takes his fists and his guns right to the highest seats of power in pursuit of answers, and the villains often get a bloody ending, the larger structures never change, and new evils simply step in to fill the gaps.


And bonus non-Talbot content:

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Survive 300,000,000 Vol. 1 by Pat Aulisio
I've read a few Aulisio books now and I think I'm just never going to have Wombatz's enthusiasm for him. This is fine, as sketchy post-Fort Thunder, post-apocalyptic wandering stories go, but it's just not very exciting to me. Aulisio's art is fun to look at, with his ragged figures wandering through busy landscapes of rubble and strange machinery, nauseating colors slathered over everything to fully capture the feel of the futuristic wasteland. But at least for me it never rises above that level of "fun," there's not enough there in either art or story to make it really interesting or stand out from the countless other books pretty much exactly like this.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:21 am

Oh man, thank you for those Talbot write-ups. So much fun to see you tackling his stuff for the first time. He's a unique creator and often overlooked. Heart of Empire is one of my personal favourites too, although I definitely didn't like the Grandville series as much as you seem to.

If this is all the Talbot you've read, though, you're still missing some of his best works imo. I think Alice in Sunderland is his opus, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes is really good. There's also the (possibly very obscure) Teknophage series from the 90s about an immortal psychic dinosaur in a smoking jacket, ruling all he surveys from his gigantic mobile fortress. Working from a concept by Neil Gaiman, initially written by Rick Veitch and illustrated by Talbot, then later written by Talbot as well. It's been at least eight years since I read it but I remember being really surprised at how enjoyable it was.

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Postby Wombatz » Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:30 am

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:)
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Postby sevenarts » Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:48 am

HotFingersClub wrote:an immortal psychic dinosaur in a smoking jacket


Image :shock:

Thanks for the further recs, Teknophage looks wild and I'd definitely like to read the books he's done with his wife. I did read Alice back when it came out and liked it a lot but somehow never followed up with his other work. Talbot does seem pretty overlooked and taken for granted these days, despite a really impressive body of work. I guess he's pretty tough to pin down and summarize given the breadth that this stuff covers.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Oct 30, 2018 10:46 am

Woah is that Devil Dinosaur? Must be some kind of homage surely

Or maybe dinosaurs in smoking jackets are just one of those intrinsic collective unconscious human ideas that we all have access to from the moment of the first stirrings of thought
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Postby sevenarts » Tue Oct 30, 2018 11:05 am

Yeah, Devil Dinosaur from Warren Ellis’ Nextwave. Obviously an homage to Gaiman/Talbot. I always loved that moment and now knowing it’s an homage to Teknophage makes me want to go grab that immediately.

Nextwave has nothing to do with this thread generally but it’s really really fun and anyone with any affection for superheroes should read it.
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Postby Wombatz » Tue Oct 30, 2018 11:48 am

sevenarts wrote:Nextwave is really really fun

those double splash pages!

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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Oct 30, 2018 5:56 pm

I have actually read Nextwave a few times and for some reason forgot DD was in it.

One of the best pages of the 21st century:
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Postby sevenarts » Tue Oct 30, 2018 8:44 pm

HotFingersClub wrote:I have actually read Nextwave a few times and for some reason forgot DD was in it.


That's apparently because you'd already read Teknophage and were just like "oh another dinosaur in a smoking jacket, ho hum. Doesn't anyone have any new ideas?"
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Postby Wombatz » Wed Oct 31, 2018 4:21 am

it's not exactly a smoking jacket, but here's a cartoon from 1830, like the day after we learned about dinos

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Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Oct 31, 2018 4:32 am

That's the last time I get owned by Professor Ichthyosaurus
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Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Oct 31, 2018 12:59 pm

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Michael DeForge – Acrobat
This is a series that DeForge is apparently releasing on his Patreon in short, newspaper strip instalments. I just found it on 4chan but I’m definitely going to sign up to the Patreon now, particularly because this seems to be unfinished. In a presentational sense it has the hallmarks of minor DeForge but I think it’s really excellent. It tells the melancholy tale of a circus performer and stuntman, firstly as his brother is devoured by a lion, and then as he becomes a body double for a reclusive celebrity. The colours on this are absolutely extraordinary, and the melting psychedelic formalism is some of the most compelling I’ve seen from DeForge this year (it’s a crowded field alright), only enhanced by some new experiments in pencil shading. I particularly loved the liquid motif of the acrobat working out, pouring sweat to the extent that he seems to be dissolving, thinking about the time he slit his wrists and threatened to become liquid in another way. Fascinating stuff as always.

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Eric Kostiuk Williams – Our Wretched Town Hall
This was part of Retrofit’s 2018 bundle, a new collection from the gloopy and unique Williams, again mostly working with pop music and gay clublife. His art and compositional sense are as trippy as ever, and there are a couple of really good stories in here, including a particularly Deforgian one in which a waiter turns the body of his abuser into a hit restaurant. What it lacks is much of a sense of focus. Things seem to skip, stutter and end prematurely to the extent that I’m still not sure Retrofit didn’t fuck up my PDF. Williams also includes a bunch of ephemera and filler in the form of random band posters and pinups, not doing much to dispel the sense of this book as an odds and ends collection.

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Charles Glaubitz – Starseeds
This is Glaubitz’s Fantagraphics release from last year, riding at the back of the science fiction cosmology bandwagon being led by Brandon Graham and Jesse Moynihan. It’s a fantastic looking book, mostly silent, using a limited palette of black, white and yellow. The pages explode with energy and detail – Glaubitz’s textures run the gamut between Prison Pit and Mesmo Delivery. However, it doesn’t really go anywhere. You get the sense pretty quickly that Glaubitz is in it as a drawing exercise – the plot is just about finding the shortest route to the next laser beam.

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David Small – Stitches
So this is a bit of a misery memoir, but fair play it is an interesting one. The deep repression in Small’s family led to a lot of very strange and troubling situations over his adolescence, and he certainly communicates well the bleakness, his sense of his own fragility and what it was like to grow up without love. And it’s just about crazy enough that it’s not horribly depressing. He doesn’t really manage to penetrate the mysteries of either of his parents here – only in the backmatter is he really reaching towards understanding rather than condemnation, although condemnation is certainly warranted. His cartooning is mostly sketchy and simple, scratched out on bare white pages in a way that communicates a lot of pain and anger. In the moments where he can escape depictions of his family, he does some lovely compositional stuff around escaping into a world of cartoons. It's not been a great week's reading for me but I think this one is worth checking out.

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Wilbert van der Steen – Sun
Not my favourite from Europe Comics. This is a 50s melodrama set in a family of wealthy coffee roasters, following the illegitimate son of the callous heiress. The story of the innocent boy being rescued from his evil mother by his low-status father is not interesting and frankly pretty misogynistic. All the men here are kindly and benign, struggling to preserve their innocence from their harpyish women. Like you wouldn't think from the page above that the author is firmly on the side of the father in this scene. Blech.

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Benjamin Reiss – Super Tokyoland
This is a looong autobiog comic about Reiss’s six years as a Frenchman living in Japan, alternately working at an international school and being a mangaka’s assistant. It really packs in the detail but never quite takes flight. We spend all our time with Reiss but he remains a bit of a cipher, and doesn’t seem to have a great deal of self-awareness about essentially stalking a girl to Japan. The ground level view of Tokyo is sometimes very interesting, especially during the sections where he’s working as a background artist for some (actually pretty significant) mangakas, but those sections for me were re-treading ground covered very ably in Bakuman. Reiss’s art is a slightly uncomfortable mixture of styles: he gives his own avatar an appealing cartoony design but the rest of the book is both more detailed and a lot uglier – I guess you can see the parallels in some manga, although it doesn’t mesh well with his loose cartooning. Definitely doesn’t help that Top Shelf have given the whole thing a patina of mud, either.

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Pat Aulisio – Survive 300,000,000
Already covered well by the Wombatz and Sevenarts. I knocked off both volumes of this over my lunchbreak today and it was basically fine for me also, although personally I don’t think it quite hit the level of fun. Something a little below fun. Kind of a melange of a whole bunch of scifi/apocalypse images plugged into a very basic action story. These kind of books are not really my thing, and this is certainly an example of one of these kind of books. I did like the colours though, and all the weird effects Aulisio layers on top of his psychic explosions.
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Nov 03, 2018 7:36 pm

A real hodge-podge this time...

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Now #4 by various
We've talked before about how this anthology is not exactly living up to its mission statement of delivering a big modernist statement. Every issue has had good stuff but overwhelmed by all the filler and fluff. This issue feels particularly weak, though. Basically there are only 2 really worthwhile stories. Tommi Parrish does a great one where the top 2/3 of the page is a gorgeous painted comic about a couple having an awkward, half-antagonistic conversation on a hot, uncomfortable morning, while the bottom 1/3 of the page is a line of black-and-white strips where one of the partners discusses their eventual breakup. And Matthias Lehmann does a very Josh Simmons-esque few pages about a grandmother relishing her brief moments with her grandson in an otherwise very lonely life - it's deeply sad but also eerie and unsettling in very ambiguous ways. The rest of the book doesn't have a lot to hold onto. Many of the artists have interesting aesthetics and visual approaches - I liked looking at Rebecca Kirby, Maria Medem, Brian Blomerth, J.C. Menu's very classical cartooning chops, a few others - but the bulk of the stories feel like fragments and the few that don't still aren't very substantial. I feel like Eric Reynolds has to have the taste to know he's not really publishing vital, best-of-the-medium work here despite the need to hype it as cutting edge.

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Helter Skelter by Kyoko Okazaki
Cult classic one-volume manga about a supermodel who's been subjected to extreme body-altering plastic surgery, replacing virtually her entire body and identity. The main character, Liliko, torments and manipulates everyone around her, even as she herself is used by an exploitative manager who's already starting to replace her with a younger, fresher girl. This is absolutely bonkers on a story level - Liliko subjects her pliant assistant to psychosexual torture and forces her to throw acid in the faces of her rivals, while the shoddy experiments of the cosmetic clinic that made Liliko so beautiful lead to unsettling body horror moments throughout. And yet in the midst of all the manic lunacy, this is also a deeply sad and fucked-up look at celebrity culture and the obsession with beauty that drives it. Okazaki's very unique style - much more raw and loose than most manga - also adds to the book's effect. Her art, with its ragged lines and tendency to drop out detail - the characters are often quite literally faceless, their heads either cut off by the panel borders or else drawn as blank ovals without features - lends an incredible intensity to every moment and every snatch of cutting dialogue. With its emphasis on dangerous femininity and characters who are both victims and villains, this seems an obvious inspiration for modern cartoonists like Sarah Horrocks and Katie Skelly, and I was utterly unsurprised to quickly find an appreciation of it by Horrocks. Very much recommended, this is phenomenal.

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Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley
I remember a while ago HFC absolutely hated this, and I thought maybe I was just mis-remembering my enjoyment of it in MOME from many years ago, but no, this is still a total delight. I find it difficult to verbalize quite why this is so good but the combination of Hensley's polished, formally perfect cartooning with dadaist dialogue that's almost, but not quite, coherent as gag strip humor creates this incredible sensation that I don't think I've ever experienced in another artist. It's like looking at a humor book while drunk, squinting at the words and trying to figure out why they don't make sense, why everything seems so funny even though on a logical level at least 75% of what the characters are saying is total absurdist nonsense. It's a pure formalist work, pulling apart the guts of the classic gag cartoon, abstracting its content, and riffing on that skeletal foundation. Hensley has made an avant-garde abstract comic that looks and feels, superficially, like a John Stanley teen joke book, or maybe like a satire of that aesthetic, but actually functions in much more mysterious territory. Brilliant, twisted stuff.

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Strawberries by Mia Schwartz
Random little minicomic from a few years ago about a young woman who discovers strawberries growing in her vagina. Schwartz deals with the premise very matter-of-factly, in a cutesy manga-inspired style, making it alternately kinda creepy body horror, a psychological reaction to the crappy relationships in her life, and very funny. Short but pretty fun and memorable.

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In Pieces by Marion Fayolle
A set of little gag strips, each a page or a few pages at most, and each following the same very precise structure, with smallish figures at a distance going through a set of motions, very animation-like, that deal with metaphors for relationships, identity, and the body. The visual metaphors all tend to be very obvious - like the one about a divorce where the couple splits all their possessions in half, including their kid - and it's frequently kind of groan-inducing. Fayolle's playful progressions of these metaphorical actions are enjoyable enough to look at, and she does occasionally come up with ways to tweak the obviousness of the ideas - the divorce one ends with a pretty funny image where the divorced mom meets a divorced dad and they combine their respective half-kids into a new composite family - but mostly this is very forgettable.

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Girl In Dior by Annie Goetzinger
Gorgeously drawn French comic about the last 10 years of Christian Dior's life. The fictional framework for the story is extremely flimsy - a young woman gets drawn to Dior first as a reporter, then as a model, then meets a literal prince and gets married - but Goetzinger barely pays it any attention. This is a narrative only nominally, Goetzinger seems way more engaged in the mechanics and processes of the fashion world, providing a full view of Dior's process, from the design stage through to finished dresses and fashion shows. Her fashion drawings are frankly stunning, obviously meticulously referenced but never stiff in the way so much heavily referenced drawing is - Goetzinger's work is vibrant and alive, her fabrics seem to move and rumple and flow gracefully and naturally, and her figures are lively as well. The book is definitely missing something to make it more than just an art showcase. Goetzinger makes some nods towards the meaning of Dior's work in its context, the pursuit of beauty and extravagance as a response to the deprivation and horror of WW2, and includes a brief scene of this flighty, self-contained fashion world coming into contact with the actual working class of the time. But she never goes far enough with the themes that seem buried within this material, and the end result is breath-taking to look at but never totally takes off as a whole.
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Postby Wombatz » Sun Nov 04, 2018 6:11 am

putting helter skelter on my list, definitely looks like something i would enjoy. apropos of mangas that sarah horrocks likes, have any of you looked into devilman yet?

i'd love to cast a vote on the wally gropius book, but i'm undecided. it absolutely lifts my mood to look at a page, but reading through a whole book of that is thoroughly depressing. i'd much prefer if they weren't collected but instead i'd find them in my muesli on random mornings one page at a time.
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Nov 04, 2018 9:01 am

That’s funny, I didn’t know there was a Horrocks connection there too but Devilman was the next thing I started reading. So far it’s been pretty oddly paced - the first volume is basically 200 pages of exposition - but i can see the appeal. Seems like a much rougher, shittier Berserk, the influence it must have had on Miura is obvious.

I’ve been craving more manga lately, maybe I’ll start a new thread for this stuff soon.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Nov 05, 2018 7:16 am

Your Gropius writeup is very persuasive and makes me feel like a normie but I stand by my hatred

I love that panel from Strawberries. Would make an excellent avatar for someone with the right brand
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Nov 10, 2018 5:29 pm

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Elfquest - finale by Wendy & Richard Pini
I previously wrote about this long-running series here and here. Now here's the final stretch. When I left off, it was the late '90s and the anthology version of the Elfquest ongoing - with multiple creative teams doing short stories in each issue focused on different subsets of the huge elf cast - had just petered out. For the next few years, there was very little new material, and then the Pinis briefly settled at DC for a new graphic novel and miniseries. Thankfully, they'd left behind the mixed bag of other creators to whom they'd delegated a lot of the writing and drawing in the second half of the '90s, and they were back to the core of the husband/wife duo writing, and Wendy drawing everything. Unfortunately, Wendy had discovered digital art, and the result is definitely lacking in much of the charm of her earlier work. The graphic novel is a pretty basic thing, clearly meant to serve as an intro/summing-up for a presumably wider audience now that they were at one of the Big Two. The follow-up series also seems like a transitional work, cleaning up the chronology and consolidating various threads after years in which the Pinis had been a little distanced from direct control over their creations. Both would be fine though if the art, and even more the garish digital coloring, weren't so bad. For a series where so much of its appeal was once that it was reliably beautiful, it's heartbreaking to see it look so ugly.

After this mercifully brief tenure at DC, it was many years before the Pinis returned for the long-promised Final Quest, a 24-issue series wrapping up the entire epic, bringing back nearly every character ever, alive and dead, and delivering one last massive adventure story. Wendy had gotten better with drawing digitally in the intervening years, and better technology means the colors aren't as stomach-turning anymore, but there's still unmistakeably something that's been lost here. Drawn digitally, Wendy's elves often seem a little stiff, their faces not quite as expressive in the past, and the lush shading and detailing of her more physical art isn't quite recaptured here either. At its worst, her panels now look like crowded compositions of stiff action figures milling about, in a way that earlier books, with an equally sprawling cast, seldom did. Comparing this to something like "Dreamtime," with its gorgeous ink washes and flowing layouts, is just sad. The story, too, frequently takes some very odd and unsatisfying detours, and introduces some frankly bizarre twists. At its best, though, this Final Quest does have some cool action/adventure beats, and provides a welcome return of the joyous utopianism that always sat at the core of the series. It can be seen as cheesy, and it often is, but there's also real emotion and real pleasure in the way the Pinis depict this inclusive, free-thinking society of love-filled beings.


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Mox Nox by Joan Cornella
A short collection of grotesque, cheerfully offensive gag one-pagers by this Catalonian cartoonist. Cornella's approach to gag cartoons seems pretty unique - a bit like the sensibility of, say, Johnny Ryan or Ivan Brunetti, but Cornella's brightly painted colors and habit of having his characters grin widely as they commit their offhanded atrocities makes his comics tougher to pin down, more unsettling than the typical modern "offensive" gag strip. Most of his wordless pages have 6 panels and his jokes follow a regular rhythm of progressively unveiling more of the punchline with each new panel, subtly altering what the joke is going to be as he goes until the eventual inevitable gut punch. A lot of these are pretty funny, and a few of them actually hit really hard since the frequent brutality and violence of his strips leads to some very dark, uncomfortable places. But it's also all very mean-spirited and frequently in questionable taste, and even in a slim collection of under 60 pages the aesthetic quickly started to wear on me, with fewer and fewer laughs coming as the collection goes along. One of the gags even seems to be mocking transgender people and left a very bad taste in my mouth. Interesting, but ultimately more troubling than actually good.

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Jessica Farm Vol. 1-2 by Josh Simmons
Simmons' ongoing series where he draws a page a month and publishes the results in 96-page chunks every 8 years. The formalist context of its construction lends this book a rambling, discursive quality, especially in the first volume, which reads pretty similarly to one of Simmons' short story collections except with some connections stitched between different surreal incidents and a common protagonist carrying through the whole thing. It's great stuff, a dark, menacing version of Alice In Wonderland with a young woman seemingly following her imagination into the hidden corners and bizarre spaces of her home, hiding from an abusive father by spending time with fanciful friends and, at times, stumbling into more threatening situations. Simmons makes little attempt, in the first volume, to hide the stitches - pages have drastically different tones and styles from one another, sometimes bright and playful, sometimes with tons of moody cross-hatching creating a slow-burn horror vibe. In the second volume, a real forward-driving narrative starts to take over, and it becomes this incredibly intense Prison Pit-esque ultra-violent showdown with a swarm of horrific monsters, arguably outdoing Ryan at his own game. I really love this.
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Postby Wombatz » Thu Nov 15, 2018 4:55 am

yea, i really love jessica farm too. and cornella is the pits (johnny ryan for the social media masses).

woohoo! hollow press are bringing back teratoid heights!!! and multiforce ... and in time for christmas! (you'll all probably already have those, but i don't and there's like extra pins for those who preorder now :rixx: )
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Nov 15, 2018 12:31 pm

I saw that news as well. I have the Picturebox and Highwater versions of those, but this is exciting for anyone who missed out, especially for the European folks. Both are total classics.

Hollow Press is so weird, they release some very cool stuff (Jesse Jacobs, Shintaro Kago) in lavish editions but then so much of their release schedule and marketing look like they’re aimed at people who love Avatar comics but wish the aesthetic was a little artier.
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Postby sevenarts » Fri Nov 16, 2018 1:09 am

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Girl Town by Carolyn Nowak
A very nice collection of a few of Nowak's minis and short stories, showcasing her warm, charming, very heartfelt comics about female friendships, messy break-ups, and half-buried feelings of desire or inadequacy. Nowak's cartooning is this cool mix of flowing, graceful curves and spiky, angular edges, which is a good match for the tone of her stories as well. Her work always looks so inviting, just on the edge of cutesy, but there's such genuine emotion roiling just below the surface - melancholy, aching, sometimes angry - that it can't be read so simply. "Diana's Electric Tongue," a slice-of-life sci-fi piece about a young woman recovering from a break-up and a traumatizing accident by buying an "escort" robot, is a perfect case in point: it's funny and unabashedly goofy, but Nowak pays such careful attention to the inner lives of her characters that this silly robot sex comic is also a miniature epic of longing, frustration, and self-discovery. Nowak is also talented enough to let her themes develop naturally, and much of the book's power is housed in silent closeups of a blushing, wide-eyed face, eyes alight with thoughts and realizations that go unspoken but deeply felt nonetheless. Of the pieces included here, only the shortest - a fun enough piece on the poignancy of media, of the kind that Jillian Tamaki and Sophia Foster-Dimino do so well - feels like a bit of a failed experiment. Everything else is an utter delight.

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Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China by Guy Delisle
The first of what would turn out to be a pretty long series of single-country travel books by this Canadian-French cartoonist. Not, in my opinion, an especially auspicious start. Delisle's cartooning is appealing and proficient, but also very simple, and his style here is to directly relate a number of anecdotes and moments from his stay in a small Chinese city, just to the north of Hong Kong, while overseeing the work of subcontractors for a French animation company. Fine, but the problem is that, as Delisle himself even admits in the book, his stay was pretty boring, he didn't see much or meet many people, and he doesn't really have a strong historical or political perspective to apply to what he does experience. What's left is a whole lot of aimless anecdotes and some pretty heavy exoticism - I often got the sense Delisle was seizing on any somewhat odd behavior or sight as an opportunity to half-mockingly call out how different this culture he's surrounded by is. This is basically a slightly more mobile version of all those beloved American indie comics about schlubby white dudes hanging out in their rooms doing nothing.

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Pyongyang: A Journey In North Korea by Guy Delisle
Delisle's second travel book is significantly better despite following the exact same template. Once again he's in an Asian city, pretty restricted in his movement and experiences, while working in animation. But the focus is pretty different - it's obvious that the sheer novelty of being in North Korea, so rare for a Westerner, drives the book to much more interesting places, and makes the narrative hang together a lot better. A lot of the appeal here, for sure, is just getting a firsthand view of what's it like to be in the country, to talk to the seemingly brainwashed guides and translators who shuffle Delisle around from one bizarre tourist site to another, and to see all the symbols of this infamously restrictive dictatorship and its mandated worship of the country's rulers. With that focus to build the book around, Delisle's no-nonsense approach becomes a lot more engaging. It's no wonder D&Q picked this as the first Delisle book to translate over the earlier Shenzhen.

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7 Miles A Second by David Wojnarowicz & James Romberger
Enthralling, unforgettable memoir written towards the end of his life by Wojnarowicz, a gay artist who'd lived a rough life as a homeless hustler, and who ultimately died of AIDS. It's a slim book, first published by Vertigo of all things in the mid-90s, that gathers anecdotes and scenes from several phases of Wojnarowicz's life, coming together as a powerful composite portrait of life on the fringes in Reagan's America. Romberger's art is raw and gritty, but there's also a hallucinatory, psychedelic quality to the book, reflected in the surreal visions Wojnarowicz conjures, and also in the brilliant watercolors of Marguerite van Cook. Over its course, the book shifts from intimate, often sad tales of street life as a young hustler to a searing, polemical second half in which the dying artist delivers vibrant, angry monologues on the political and religious forces conspiring to erase and suppress gay voices and gay lives. The art too becomes darker, more allegorical, in sympathy with the author's poetic rage.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Fri Nov 16, 2018 12:23 pm

7 Miles is a classic. Glad you liked it

I have a couple of IRL comic friends who hold a lot of contempt for Delisle, mainly for the touristy points of view that he propagates from such interesting locations. Is this Delisle kick going to lead towards Hostage eventually? I got nothing against his travelogues but I feel like he's definitely getting at a deeper emotional truth with that book

Sorry for no reviews recently. Will start posting again when work calms down a bit
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