Alternative/independent comics thread

The primary forum for general discussion of Hipinion.com

Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Nov 16, 2017 8:45 am

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Thi Bui - The Best We Could Do
This is not the sort of book that would normally catch my eye, but I'm glad it did. Thi Bui tells the story of her own childhood in California as a child of immigrants, and then delves back into family history, watching the very different ways her parents grew up in Vietnam and started having babies as the war reached its crescendo and they were forced to flee for Malaysia. The story is told straightforwardly, and doesn't get into the politics beyond how they affect things on the ground level, which makes sense as her family were in some senses on the losing side. The art also is simple, done with spare, shaky brushstrokes and a monochrome colour palette. It's just a fascinating, unusual story, told with great empathy, which really brings to light the subtle effects of trauma and dislocation.
4/5

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Etienne Davodeau - The Cross-Eyed Mutt
Part of "The Louvre Collection", a weird initiative that asks comics creators to produce work based on the museum. They've had some proper big dogs on this: Jiro Taniguchi, Enki Bilal, Nicolas de Crecy, and David Prudhomme, whose Cruising the Louvre I reviewed upthread. Davodeau's book is the story of a Louvre security guard who meets his new girlfriend's somewhat oafish family for the first time. On hearing that he works in the Louvre, they task him with finding a space in the museum for a family heirloom: the great-great-grandfather's painting of a cross-eyed dog. This is a very pleasant French drama, low key and low stakes, similar to Davodeau's previous book The Initiates. Halfway through it takes a weird turn into secret societies, which is a confusing development, but remains a sweet and relaxing book to spend time with and, I have to admit, it's pretty interesting to see these artists work with the Louvre as a setting. They really pay attention to individual pieces, and it lends each book an interesting subtext about how art interacts with modernity.
3/5

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James Tynion IV & Jeremy Rock - The Eighth Seal
One of the random bits of flotsam from the 0-day threads. The President's wife keeps hallucinating that she's turning into a demon, and it turns out she's probably right, and also that the President's Chief of Staff is the head of an ancient doomsday cult that's somehow controlling her. As usual from Tynion, it all feels distinctly cheap and shoddy, even though that's usually a quality I'd associate with art rather than writing. Jeremy Rock does well with the monster bits (the page above is probably the best page in the book), and seems to have a Gene Ha/Jacen Burrows influence. At other times, the oval office looks like a windowless cell, and the figurework seems amateurish. Also, it just ends with a cliffhanger right as things are kicking off, despite giving all appearances of being a complete story. Real hack work.
1/5
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:10 am

Aw I'm glad that Ulli Lust book is good. Today is the Last Day was a masterpiece. I'll keep an eye out for that, and the new DeForge.

Already excited about year end lists
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Nov 19, 2017 11:12 am

Tynion is so lame. I doubt he'd be getting anywhere if he wasn't a Scott Snyder coattail-rider. That Thi Bui book seems to be getting lots of hype, I'll have to dl that soon.

The Ulli Lust book isn't as good as Last Day but her art might be even better in it. This was very cool but I do hope she returns to writing her own stuff next book because Last Day really was a masterpiece.
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:58 pm

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I'm Not Here by GG
Quiet, minimalist, subtly surreal little book by a cartoonist who has mostly published her work online previously. Very designy and digital-looking, mostly evincing linework in favor of solid areas of white, black, and gray. The story concerns an aimless young woman who, dissatisfied with her life and especially with her family, slips into another woman's apartment and, thus, into her identity. The dialogue is minimal, and confined to brisk captions placed under the images, and the overall effect is contemplative and melancholy. Not bad, but definitely the kind of book that's mainly affecting in the moment but seems to slip away ephemerally pretty quick.

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Expansion by Matt Sheean & Malachi Ward
Collecting Sheean and Ward's first collaborative series, which they self-published back in 2010-2012. Pretty rough in all respects, and as they note themselves in the intro, you can see them getting comfortable with their collaborative drawing process over the course of the book. Like most of their work, both together and individually, it's high-concept sci-fi, here about civilizations with very different values sparring over access to a primitive tribe on which they can impress their ideas and their religion. There's not much to it, the characters are generic, and the plot leans heavily on the savagery of its tribal caricatures, who are the least developed figures in a cast of undeveloped types. It's an early work and I get why it was collected now in the wake of the well-deserved acclaim they got for Ancestor, but wow this does not hold up well at all.

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I Am Not Okay With This by Charles Forsman
Great new book from one of indie comics' best chroniclers of teenage rage and confusion. Here, a gangly Olive Oyl type struggles with the death of her dad, her still-nascent sexual identity, and the darkness festering inside of her, manifested as a psychic ability to inflict pain on others. Forsman's drawing is at its most cartoony, with a rubbery good humor that creates some sublime tension between his awkward, long-limbed main character and the uncomfortably intense teenage emotions threatening to overwhelm her. Reminds me at times of Tom Neely's The Blot in the way it uses cartoon iconography to such potent emotional and psychological effect. This is often quietly funny but the overall effect is this steady ratcheting-up of horror and sadness, all welling up from within, until the gut-punch of the final act. Fantastic stuff.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Nov 20, 2017 10:07 am

Oh nice. Did not know to expect new Forsman. I'm glad he's moving away from Revenger. That project seemed like a real dead end.

I don't really follow the comics press or anything but I'm a little surprised The Best We Could Do is getting hype. I liked it a lot, but it has a kind of drab/square quality - perhaps just because the art is very simple and it strikes this earnest tone... I don't see the stylistic verve of similar works like Persepolis
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Postby Wombatz » Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:38 pm

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Old Ground by Noel Freibert. it's really good. there's two dead kids on an old graveyard talking from under their stones, in a kind of waiting for godot situation, trying to remember stuff while getting pissed on by ghost dogs etc. then there's a two-man wrecking crew wanting to plow the whole graveyard under ... they have some really clunky lines regarding their capitalist motivations, though, which is the worst part of the story ... but it soon picks up again ... Freibert's art can go from seriously deskilled to wild and evocative from one panel to the next, depending on if the heavy black dots he uses organize themselves into shadows, action, or useless ballast. it also goes from almost abstract to very cartoony, so it's great fun trying to make sense out of some of the pages ... i'd be really happy with this except

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i already had the self-published zine of the first part, and this looked so much better. first because the blacks were much blacker (no surprise there ... though the bland paper of the book doesn't help (you can't see any of this on my sorry snapshots, i'm afraid)). but also the aspect ratio of the pages was changed for the book, so now they have a really slim and uncomfortable side margin and too much space at the top and bottom. while the zine was perfect. Koyoma Press have such high production values e.g. for the Jacobs titles that this is really disappointing.

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Exhaustion Hook #1 by Rob Churm. he's from glasgow, probably not so well known, though he once had a zine out by the boutique publisher Nieves. usually he does more drawings than comics, so this is an interesting development, a bit like a pretend anthology, with different stories, though they can break off at any panel, and sometimes i just gave up on trying to decipher lots of spidery handwriting, which merely speaks punk surrealism anyway ... so the chief reason to get this is the drawings. again these go from intentionally deskilled to pretty as a picture, to both at the same time. here's another spread i love:

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Postby Conetoaster » Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:47 am

Rob Churm does a lot of the experimental music gig posters up in glasgow and I love seeing his work about town. Will have to try and grab a copy of that from good press. He also plays in the gummy stumps and was in park attack, both no-wave fall-esque punk.

Have you read any of Malcy Duffs comics:

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Great weirdo scottish surrealism.
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Postby Wombatz » Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:24 am

Conetoaster wrote:Rob Churm does a lot of the experimental music gig posters up in glasgow and I love seeing his work about town. Will have to try and grab a copy of that from good press. He also plays in the gummy stumps and was in park attack, both no-wave fall-esque punk.

Have you read any of Malcy Duffs comics:

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Great weirdo scottish surrealism.


ooh, i love Malcy's work! he's the greatest.

(and yes, i get this side of things from good press, it's wonderful that they exist ... distribution of zines is pretty dismal in europe, for u.s. stuff there's only fatbottom in barcelona as far as i know, and except for a few artists who are kinder than others to their overseas audience, ordering directly from over the pond is just too pricey.)
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Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:14 am

Big post

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Mike Mignola & Warwick Johnson-Cadwell – Mr. Higgins Comes Home
This is Mignola working in a goofy, childlike vein, in the story of two stock vampire hunters and a suicidal werewolf getting stuck in vampire HQ. Johnson-Cadwell’s art has a much looser, more cartoony feel than we usually see in the Mignolaverse – I like it a lot but the colouring doesn’t lend it much atmosphere. I think that factor, combined with an unusually slight and lighthearted narrative, makes it seem weightless and unmemorable. I'd guess it would make a good kid's introduction to Mignola, although that werewolf really talks a lot about killing himself.
2/5

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Derf Backderf – My Friend Dahmer
An autobiographical novel about growing up in the 70s with the teenager who would eventually become one of America’s worst serial killers. Derf kind of narrates this through a collective consciousness of him and his friends – it’s frequently difficult to tell which one Derf actually is, while Dahmer is always the centre of attention. His weird, stretched-out plasticine figurework is pretty effective, and gives a veneer of creepiness to the whole book. Dread hangs over it, but the narration hits a sensationalist beat. Derf speculates wildly and gruesomely about Dahmer’s interior life, but the subject ultimately kept himself at too much of a distance for the book to claim any real deep insight.
3/5

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Luke Howard – Our Mother
An unexpected masterpiece from Retrofit. This is also autobiographical, but under several veils, about growing up with a profoundly depressed single parent. In a short space, Howard weaves together a collection of imagined narratives which illuminate the real-life situation from all sides, incredibly effectively. And it really feels woven rather than simply collaged – the stories all developing different tones and thoughts but directly influencing each other subtextually. It hits that perfect note between being funny, weird and incredibly sad all at once, especially the strand with the gorilla. Stands with the best of Michael DeForge’s work.
5/5

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Mathilde Ramadier & Anais Depommier – Sartre
Don’t have much to say about this one. I only have a basic knowledge of Sartre, and I feel like I somehow didn’t learn much from this biography. It reads like annotations to the story of a life – difficult to orient myself or get invested at all. The art reminded me of Jeremy Baum.
2/5

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Chester Brown – The Playboy
Yet more autobiography, this time filtered through the lens of teenage Chester’s love/hate relationship with Playboy and masturbation. I liked it, but he ostentatiously steers clear of engaging with anything other than his chosen subject. His mother’s death, for example, is tossed off as an aside while he’s scrabbling in the mud for scraps of soft porn, in a way that can only be intentional. I’m lucky enough not have that same Catholic guilt, but it was soothing to recognise variations on those behaviour patterns in my teenage self.
3/5

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Andrea Pazienza – Zanardi
Virtuosic talent put to dubious use. Pazienza was an Italian artist who produced about seven years of these comics before dying of a heroin overdose in the 80s. Zanardi is a truly amoral and reprehensible junkie, and the stories follow him as he abuses and fucks over everyone around him, receiving no comeuppance. It’s like Hanselmann but it’s not funny, the art is spectacular, and all the characters are intentionally evil rather than just fucked up. The art though… redeems it ever so slightly. He shifts styles almost constantly, from Hagar the Horrible to Joe Sacco to Milo Manara and back again in the course of a single page. It’s dazzling, but not fun at all to read.
2/5

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Jean-David Morvan & Huang-Jia Wei – Zaya
A pretty fun sci-fi action thriller with beautiful (if occasionally confusing) art by Wei. A legendary assassin is brought out of retirement for a final job, but returns to her home planet to find that no one remembers her. It doesn’t deliver any huge payoff, but it does actually become more fun and readable as it progresses, which makes a nice change.
3/5
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Postby Wombatz » Thu Nov 23, 2017 6:23 am

HotFingersClub wrote:Mike Mignola & Warwick Johnson-Cadwell – Mr. Higgins Comes Home
This is Mignola working in a goofy, childlike vein, in the story of two stock vampire hunters and a suicidal werewolf getting stuck in vampire HQ. Johnson-Cadwell’s art has a much looser, more cartoony feel than we usually see in the Mignolaverse – I like it a lot but the colouring doesn’t lend it much atmosphere. I think that factor, combined with an unusually slight and lighthearted narrative, makes it seem weightless and unmemorable. I'd guess it would make a good kid's introduction to Mignola, although that werewolf really talks a lot about killing himself.
2/5

yes this was underwhelming, i thought it almost entered Richard Sala territory, who does this kind of weightless and unmemorable much better ...
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Postby William Patrick Corgan » Thu Nov 23, 2017 6:37 am

bookmarking this. i'm happy to see independent artists supported in this thread
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Postby goofjan grievens » Fri Nov 24, 2017 12:43 pm

any independent publishers have black friday/cyber monday bundle deals?
plz if u get a chanse put some flowrs on algernons grave kthxbye
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Postby sevenarts » Fri Nov 24, 2017 12:52 pm

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Epoxy #1-5 by John Pham
Pham strikes me as a real cartoonist's cartoonist, an artist beloved by his peers who hasn't really gotten much wider love. His main self-published series started in 2000 and took a long break between the 3rd & 4th issues. Having delved into these 5 issues now I find him interesting but ultimately kinda unsatisfying as a storyteller. The earlier Epoxy issues were straightforward one-man anthology deals, with Pham focusing on crisply rendered genre tales: an Astro Boy-inspired robot, a noirish boxer, and a standoffish genius kid and her friends. With the third issue, he focused solely on the robot storyline, expanding it into various spinoff strips in a long, squarebound book-length "issue" - it's here that he really starts experimenting with the form, densely packing his pages and turning the layouts on their sides for stretches of it, all of it with a really clean, attractive manga-inspired style. All this stuff is pretty good, but despite the formal precision and the obvious skill Pham has a cartoonist, I don't really connect with his stories or characters very much, there doesn't seem to be the depth that would elevate this stuff to be more than just well-executed but generic (in both senses of the word). After a long break for other projects, Epoxy returned, with issues 4-5 being quite different. In these 2 issues, he experiments with binding smaller mini-comics inside of larger magazine-size ones, creating this unique hybrid where each story is nested at smaller size inside of another one. Again, it's formally very inventive, and since Pham self-publishes he designed and constructed everything to do with this form himself, in addition to writing and drawing it all. Again, too, the content isn't nearly as exciting. The larger stories in both of these issues are ultra-minimalist sci-fi pieces about a spaceship crash-landing on a wasteland planet: the art throughout has an icy, eerily empty beauty to it but really, barely anything actually happens. The smaller comics concern Pham's cartoony heroines J & K, and these stories are probably his best work as he explores the cavalier nihilism and cruelty of these cartoony young girls. It's odd though to read such a concentrated burst of skilled, formally inventive, tonally varied cartooning and come away from it feeling so little.

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The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
As mentioned above, this is getting a decent amount of acclaim and will probably show up on a lot of year-end lists, especially from non-comics publications who always latch onto this kind of topical memoir. It's a good book, written and drawn over a long period of time as a mix of academic treatise and personal/familial research project. Bui wrestles with her family and her past, delving into the life stories of her now-separated mom and dad as they married and started a family in Vietnam and, eventually, fled the country in the wake of the Communist North's victory in the country's civil war. The structure is really interesting, constantly dealing with national and global events at a very personal level, focusing on the impact within her own family, and the way that her former country's history has shaped who her parents are and thus who she is as well. It's constantly a very engaging read, doing an excellent job of creating compelling characters out of Bui's whole family even as it concerns itself with larger thematic threads like motherhood, traditionalism vs. modernity, the choices women often make between family and ambition, and the immigrant's complicated relationship to notions of country and history. As HFC alludes to above, the style is pretty basic. Bui's brushwork is nice and there are times when she cuts loose and really crafts a beautiful image -- I'm thinking especially of some of the stormy seascapes she draws during her family's escape from Vietnam towards the end -- but most of it is pretty functional and laid out with an eye more towards clarity and presentation of the text than to really dazzling with the images. That's fine but as good as this is its unexciting visuals do hold it back from being truly great.

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My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Vol. 1 by Emil Ferris
Another book getting lots of hype, VERY deservedly if you ask me. Wow this is really something. Ferris' first GN is crafted to resemble a young girl's sketch journal in a lined notebook, and it is a real beauty to behold: boldly stylized, incredibly fluid in its layouts and experiments with form, with a visual virtuosity that encompasses everything from EC horror cover parodies to meticulously cross-hatched recreations of fine art to hallucinatory dream sequences. Set in the late '60s, it's the story of a girl who imagines herself as a monster, with monstrosity serving as a metaphor for various forms of difference in a restrictive, conformist culture: race, ethnicity, Jewish identity, queer identity, poverty. The narrative is dense and twisting, with various noirish mysteries and historical thriller subplots weaving through the quotidian threads of life in a poor Chicago neighborhood. For large stretches of it, it delves into the memories of a woman who was a prostitute in pre-Nazi Germany and whose horrific experiences during WW2 echo forward into the present narrative. The book is sprawling, kind of all-over-the-place even, but it's very scattered structure is a big part of its appeal. This is just amazing in every way, a rich and exhaustive reading experience that's constantly jetting off in new directions -- visually, narratively, thematically -- and yet manages to stitch it all together into this nearly overwhelming whole that's even better than the sum of its parts. Fantastic book, and the promise of it being an incomplete story with more to come just makes me even more excited by it.
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Postby sevenarts » Fri Nov 24, 2017 12:53 pm

goofjan grievens wrote:any independent publishers have black friday/cyber monday bundle deals?


Fantagraphics always does something for Cyber Monday iirc.
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Nov 27, 2017 2:27 pm

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Twilight of the Bat by Josh Simmons & Patrick Keck
Sequel to Simmons' last bootleg Batman comic, this one drawn by Keck. Really darkly funny and enjoyable. What's neat about Simmons' Batman comics is that he doesn't really distort the underlying ideas of the source character very much at all, just pushes the premise into dark, discomfiting territory that's still a plausible end point for the characters. Here, Bats and Joke Man wander the post-apocalyptic wasteland together, seemingly the only living people left in the ruins of G---- City. Keck draws it this time but his style is broadly similar to Simmons' own art so it's pretty seamless.

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Blammo #6-9 by Noah Van Sciver
Van Sciver seems like a real throwback cartoonist, and knowingly so. His ongoing one-man anthology series is intentionally reminiscent of the '90s hey-day of alt/indie comics when series like this were the calling card of pretty much every cartoonist worth knowing. The content, too, seems more than a little retro, and not really in a great way: Van Sciver has this persona as a schlubby, put-upon, perpetually broke, angry and dismal indie cartoonist dude that's all too familiar from countless other comics in this general vein, and it quickly gets grating. He's even noticeably grumpy about the success of other cartoonists, taking shots at various recognizable modern scenes, if not individual artists, and griping about how many comics these days are either cutesy/cartoony or abstract/avant-garde. Throw in more than a couple strips about mopey guys whose girlfriends left them and the whole thing is pretty resolutely unappealing. There's still some good stuff in the mix, like a handful of darkly funny strips about some unlucky chickens who wind up in Hell, and a pretty good introspective autobio strip in #9. Van Sciver is undeniably talented as an artist and can work in a large variety of modes and styles, but for me his storytelling and ideas about comics frequently leave me cold.

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Impatience by Ines Estrada
Another book from one of my recent favorites, a self-published collection of a bunch of Estrada's minicomics, zines, and online strips. Really varied, fun, and fascinating. Estrada's punky, vibrant drawings of hairy, horny, inquisitive girls and psychedelic, interdimensional oddities are always a blast to look at, while her stories explore sexuality, class, technology, and dreams with huge doses of wit and humor. While her GN Lapsos provides more of a polished, coherent read, this book's sprawl and messiness is probably truer to her overall aesthetic and a better introduction to all the different things she can do.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Nov 28, 2017 5:04 am

Woah that Twilight of the Bat is the sequel I never knew I needed.

Your Ines Estrada advocacy is starting to penetrate my thick skull. That's a a great spread you posted. I'll start keeping an eye out for her. The Emil Ferris book looks super fine
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Postby Wombatz » Tue Nov 28, 2017 7:29 am

i didn't get very far into Monsters, maybe i should retry, but what put me off was that i didn't find the sketchbook conceit very convincing. there is nothing spontaneous about these pages. the narrator's voice likewise is more auctorial than personal/confessional. so it all seemed a bit fake ... also all the monsters and cross-hatchings put me in a Sendak frame of mind, and i expected more fun ...
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Postby sevenarts » Tue Nov 28, 2017 11:18 pm

Wombatz wrote:i didn't get very far into Monsters, maybe i should retry, but what put me off was that i didn't find the sketchbook conceit very convincing. there is nothing spontaneous about these pages. the narrator's voice likewise is more auctorial than personal/confessional. so it all seemed a bit fake ... also all the monsters and cross-hatchings put me in a Sendak frame of mind, and i expected more fun ...


I don't think it was meant to be a realistic conceit necessarily. It's VERY stylized and elaborate. I like that it approaches this very emotionally intense story through so much artifice and density, rather than the usual approach with material like this of stripping things down and getting more, as you say, confessional. It's very deliberate, I think, that it avoids that tone and instead seeks to continually pursue its themes through a complex maze of allusions and visual gimmicks. The narrator is a young girl who doesn't really understand most of what's going on around her, including her own developing identities, and for me it was really effective that the book kept cloaking all this complex, often powerful stuff in layers of artistry and visual metaphor.
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Postby William Patrick Corgan » Wed Nov 29, 2017 5:15 am

the eight seal looks tight
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Postby Wombatz » Wed Nov 29, 2017 6:03 am

sevenarts wrote:I don't think it was meant to be a realistic conceit necessarily. It's VERY stylized and elaborate. I like that it approaches this very emotionally intense story through so much artifice and density, rather than the usual approach with material like this of stripping things down and getting more, as you say, confessional. It's very deliberate, I think, that it avoids that tone and instead seeks to continually pursue its themes through a complex maze of allusions and visual gimmicks. The narrator is a young girl who doesn't really understand most of what's going on around her, including her own developing identities, and for me it was really effective that the book kept cloaking all this complex, often powerful stuff in layers of artistry and visual metaphor.

now i kind of wish i'd put more effort in (though in the end i just wasn't smitten). anyway i'm busy reading through this here monster edition:

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i'm not sure why there are so few good german comics, but this fully deserves the treatment: the collected Didi & Stulle by Fil. it makes no sense to tell you much about the book, since it wouldn't translate outside of germany. or probably outside of berlin (i'm not from berlin, but my wife speaks the language, so i have the ear for it). it's the funnies, a bit retro in influence and the proletarian outlook, lots of running gags and eclectic patter stolen from different contexts, but along the way it goes some wild places and there's nothing like it. the strips originally came out in a city magazine, one page every other week, starting in the mid-90s. they look something like this:

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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Nov 30, 2017 4:49 am

Can you offer us a quick explanation of what's happening on those pages? It looks rad
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Postby Wombatz » Thu Nov 30, 2017 5:42 am

let's see ... previously they had radical head piercings (which basically meant a pirate's hook and a screwdriver respectively for a head), but that proved inconvenient and now everybody does it ... so they're in a clonery having their heads grown back. first their heads are confused and then they can't stop growing more and more of them ... until they become so intelligent they even stop speaking in a berlin dialect ... here's the next spread:

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it just strikes me their roles are very much laurel and hardy ... (the funniest moment so far was a few pages on when didi overdoses on half a globule of homeopathic medicine (you should never take that little) ... i've already read some of the later volumes in uncollected form, but never all of it ... unfortunately Fil has stopped making comics and now writes humorous autobiographic novels (which are totally unnecessary but probably earn him more money) while continuing as a somewhat awkward stand-up comedian. we do have one or two other fun cartoonists, but none have nearly the same scope.)
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Nov 30, 2017 7:27 am

I read a lot of stuff that I wasn't keen on this week :(

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Guy Delisle - A User's Guide to Neglectful Parenting
Perfectly acceptable light comedy vignettes about parenting. Very flimsy compared to his travelogues. The page above is one of the most dense in the whole book; you could probably read all 200 pages in under 5 minutes.
2/5

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Blutch - So Long, Silver Screen
I don't have a great deal to add to this, although I didn't like it as much as sevenarts I think. The essays on film seem personal, true, but almost to the level of esoterica. His attitude to women and their depiction is complicated but ultimately not that interesting. I don't know why it seems impossible for some guys to desire women without also hating them.
2/5

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Jeff Nicholson - Through the Habitrails
This is some kind of early 90s cult classic I gather; a surrealist workplace existential horror strip that originally ran in Nicholson's underground comix series. It's not bad; there are a few stories that find a good device, like the protagonist submerging his head in a jar of beer that he wears to work, and run with it a little way. The depressed and sedate tone makes it hard to muster much enthusiasm for. Probably the best thing I read this week and I still barely finished it.
2/5

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Miriam Libicki - Toward a Hot Jew
This is a series of watercolour graphic essays about Jewish culture, touching on art, Israel, comics and the cultural depiction of Jews as sexual and romantic bodies. The essay on how Jewish self-examination ushered in the autobio comix boom in the 80s was of interest, but otherwise it often felt like a chore. Like the page above, it's often very dense and pretty dry, with not much going on that's of visual interest, besides the horrific way Libicki draws eyes.
2/5

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Tim Hensley - Wally Gropius
This was the only book this week that was fully vexing. It's notionally a satire on Trumplike millionaire children done in this really frustrating style full of wordplay that doesn't go anywhere and ideas that don't satisfactorily express themselves. It reads weirdly like someone using a neural network to generate irony, which kind of makes sense if you think about the way he draws, in extensive homage to old comic strips like Little Lulu and Popeye. It's like a bird that mimics human ideas. I really liked Hensley's Sir Alfred No. 3 from last year, and now I feel like I should go back and compare to see why this one missed the mark so hard.
1/5
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Nov 30, 2017 7:30 am

Wombatz wrote:let's see ... previously they had radical head piercings (which basically meant a pirate's hook and a screwdriver respectively for a head), but that proved inconvenient and now everybody does it ... so they're in a clonery having their heads grown back. first their heads are confused and then they can't stop growing more and more of them ... until they become so intelligent they even stop speaking in a berlin dialect ...


Good to know
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Postby Wombatz » Thu Nov 30, 2017 1:16 pm

HotFingersClub wrote:Jeff Nicholson - Through the Habitrails
This is some kind of early 90s cult classic I gather; a surrealist workplace existential horror strip that originally ran in Nicholson's underground comix series. It's not bad; there are a few stories that find a good device, like the protagonist submerging his head in a jar of beer that he wears to work, and run with it a little way. The depressed and sedate tone makes it hard to muster much enthusiasm for. Probably the best thing I read this week and I still barely finished it.
2/5

i think this one's pretty great! whatever that says about my depressive tendencies, relationship with alcohol, or work experiences, i can totally relate to the vibe. the only quibble i have is that while the new edition happily gets rid of the tortured cat lover side plot, nicholson has added a new conclusion that all but ruins the whole thing.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Nov 30, 2017 1:28 pm

I can easily imagine the fault is mine. It wasn't a good week for paying sustained attention to anything.

I relate to it a lot as well, feeling that way about a workplace. I've even done a bit of writing along similar lines. Difficult to explain why it felt like a slog, although I feel like it's significant that Nicholson writes these comics like illustrated short stories - I noticed that it didn't so much play scenes out on the page as summarise and digest them. There were a few stories which I felt would almost be stronger without the visuals.
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Postby Wombatz » Sun Dec 03, 2017 1:26 pm

here's one i was very disappointed with, Uzumaki by Junji Ito:

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yes, this page is kind of wonderful, as are many others, but the book just doesn't go anywhere, it always seems to begin anew, a bit like old ec horror comics anthologies, an episode might set up something quite interesting, but in the end there's just another spiral, boo! i didn't manage to get through it to the end, so maybe i missed the point, but it sure is no Drifting Classroom. so instead i started reading Hellsing by Kota Hirano ...

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... and somewhat to my surprise it's not just huge trashy fun (protestant vampire hunter agency vs. mass-produced letztes batallion of nazi vampires), but has way more subtext than Uzumaki, both in its meta jokes and in its attitude toward violence (and the art on the splatter pages is especially great verging toward abstraction).
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Dec 03, 2017 10:48 pm

That Uzumaki page is basically seared into my brain. Whatever else Ito's work is, he has an incredible eye for horrifying images - images that don't just look disturbing but actually feel viscerally uncomfortable.

My favorite Ito story/image is that one short about the people who find holes in a mountainside shaped exactly like them and are compelled to squeeze through.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Dec 04, 2017 8:08 am

I love Ito and I think Uzumaki is a masterpiece. It does have that anthology feel you talk about, which makes the escalation feel weird. He uses the same characters in most stories, so it starts to feel unbelievable when they encounter these awful horrors firsthand and then in the next story they're acting pretty much unscathed.

However, what starts off feeling like a repetitive cycle eventually starts deepening and taking on weight as the town slips down the spiral. It never becomes like a complex saga but the motif took on an elemental power to me as the horror keeps on intensifying cyclically in a way that seems inescapable. Also, it definitely does go somewhere! Like, in a narrative sense. It kicks in late, but there is an overarching story of sorts.

Gyo is probably his second major work, and iirc that escalates in a more traditional way, where it doesn’t reset at the end of every chapter. It’s been a little while since he really got me good, but generally I’m a devotee. He has such a direct line to this well of images that just deeply freak me out, like nothing else I’ve seen on the page.

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Postby Wombatz » Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:38 am

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