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 » Sun Aug 05, 2018 10:03 am

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Crackle of the Frost by Lorenzo Mattotti & Jorge Zentner
The arrival of a new Mattotti book prompted me to finally pull this one off the shelf - I think I bought it years ago and just never got around to reading it. Wasn't exactly worth the wait. The art is gorgeous of course, very much in the lush painted style of Mattotti's Fires/Murmur era, the colors are ridiculously beautiful and each panel is a perfectly crafted image. Like all of Mattotti's work it's fun just to leaf through it and admire how good it looks. Zentner's story is not very good at all, though. It's a pretty cliched story of a pathetic dude who flees in fear when his girlfriend decides she wants to have a baby with him, and then spends the rest of the book pining for her as he travels to see her again. Mattotti does his best with the material, and some of the visualizations of internal spaces and emotions are really well done, but he can't overcome the story's tired characterization and ideas.

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Garlandia by Lorenzo Mattotti & Jerry Kramsky
This, on the other hand, is quite good. Mattotti's new book with writer Jerry Kramsky - who he's worked with before - is an epic fantasy about a peaceful land populated with fluffy, spiritual beings living in communion with the land, until a series of misfortunes and mistakes unleash an apocalypse on their lovely homeland. The story's structure is intentionally loose and episodic, a rambling journey as the protagonist, separated from his family, aimlessly wanders the land trying to set things right. It's a bare framework for Mattotti to cut loose with some of his most beautiful drawing ever. It's all black and white pen-and-ink work, similar to Mattotti's one-off comic Chimera, but here done at length, nearly 400 pages of virtuoso drawing. HFC nailed it above with comparisons to Gorey, Seuss, Disney, et al, with a healthy dose of Tove Jansson, whose Moomins inspired this and get a dedication at the front, thrown in as well. It's just gorgeous, consistently impressive - every line is graceful and seemingly effortless, giving the impression of a drawing done quickly but very precisely by an absolute master craftsman. Some of the denser, darker pages, where Mattotti fills nearly every available space with little squiggles of shadow and shading, are especially jaw-dropping and evocative. The story's journey structure encourages constant inventiveness as Mattotti moves from one thing to the next, continually coming up with wild new imagery and new visual ideas on nearly every page. Just a total delight.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Aug 08, 2018 8:48 am

Ah yes I was meaning to mention the Moomins! Although in some ways I think Garlandia suffers a little from the comparison. The art is so beautiful and so creative but Kramsky seems to struggle to match that level of craft. Crucially, I think, it lacks the charm of the other creators mentioned, all of whom seemed capable of work that reflected life in its natural tendencies, melancholic and humourous. Garlandia is a little too stiff to stand on the same level, although I'm not going to blame it for not living up to the classics
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Postby Wombatz » Thu Aug 09, 2018 12:26 pm

ah i'll get this as soon as the budget allows ... Chimera is the only Mattotti i really love ...

between the holidays and too much work, i mostly read random old floppies (Kirby's Kamandi is surprisingly fun), and also

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found cheap copies of the first and third trades of Milligan's Shade so i reread that. of course it's marvelous stuff, the first comes across as a self-conscious instant classic, almost too tightly constructed and always worrying the reader, but such fireworks ... the third much more open to explore the characters and setting, maybe a bit uneven though ... hunting down later issues will be difficult from over here, though. in between those two i made the mistake of going for a change of pace and picking

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Everything Together by Sammy Harkham. I don't know. The first pages are too small to read ... why don't artists just rearrange the panels corto maltese style instead of reducing everything that used to be oversize to a blur in collections ... the rest was constellations of youthful, insecure people, islands unto themselves bumping into each other, suffused with the poetry of life ... it's kind of well done i guess, and very well drawn, but full of tender lies and i've seen stuff like this before.

(btw I also tried a couple of issues of Ditko's Shade, and found it mostly stiff and unreadable. i dig Ditko only when he's abstract and bonkers, e.g. in ROM i actually prefer Buscema for his sense of existential dread except when it gets spacey ... )

and then i got

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The Puritan's Wife by Liam Cobb because of this here board. i absolutely agree with sevenarts on the art, it's amazing how much he tells through something missing from a face, i guess i'm a bit more disappointed that the story offers nothing special, or even specific, no great yarn nor moments of psychological truth (or what Julia Gfrörer would do with this kind of setting). but now i definitely want to read that other book that hfc has read. since i ordered directly from otto press, i snatched a couple of other things that looked interesting:

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Free Tampons on the N.H.S. by Peter Cline. this is a bit of a baffler, sort of chris ware-inspired constructions, in which a woman leaves hackneyed feminist slogans all over the city=grid of the page. as this was done by a man, i've no idea what to think (note the sloppily sewn-together pages, though that's a trademark of the label, not particular to this book) ... but maybe because of the ??? it's definitely got something, and i'm glad to have it. (otto sent me a freebie by the same artist, newspaper-style and in color, but that didn't work for me at all.)

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Post-Treasonable Monuments by Daniel Sparkes. i'm a sucker for this kind of stuff. these look like soft gustons, lots of art-historical nods and maybe a touch of mordillo. very nice.

otto also have Eight-Lane Runaways by Henry McCausland ... but i didn't get those, as they're sort of a formalized and gentrified version of his earlier Sticklands (runners in lanes instead of roamers roaming and building feeble structures in the outside) ... if you can find copies of Sticklands (there are 4 or 5 issues, i was a bit late and only have two), do get them, these are still some of my favorite zines. here's a drawing by McCausland that i have on my desktop because it reminds me of something:

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Postby HotFingersClub » Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:01 am

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Johnny Ryan – A New Low
This is a big, shiny compendium of Beano-esque one page joke strips from Ryan, in a style that's a lot cleaner visually than his stuff on Prison Pit, while still as tasteless as humanly possible in every other respect. I was surprised by how much I liked it. Don't get me wrong, I still didn't exactly enjoy it, but Ryan's work usually lies completely flat for me, and this at least had some absurdist moments that brought a smile to my face. It has an energy and an innovation that Ivan Brunetti's similar stuff completely lacks.

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Alejandro Jodorowsky & Francois Boucq – Moon Face
Not one of Jodorowsky's strongest efforts, although it hits all the beats we expect from him. This one is about a silent, childlike man with no facial features living in an egg-based society under the corrupt and evil rule of an egg-obsessed husband and wife team of despots. There's a semi-regular three mile high tidal wave that crashes down on the city (which can seal itself up like an egg) and Moon Face seems to have some kind of telekinetic control over it as well as other godlike powers. It's approximately as insane as all of Jodorowsky's stuff, and crashes through its story in the same arcless picaresque. Moon Face, silent and benignly smiling, is not super compelling as a protagonist, and Boucq's art, same as on Little Tulip is detailed but not beautiful, and also blatantly racist.

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D.W. – Mountebank
This is a sketchbook, not a story, the whole thing densely filled with these little black marks to create a bewildering array of psychedelic patterns. I don't really know how you're meant to read it, but there is some sort of progression as colour is gradually introduced to phantasmagorical effect near the end of the book.

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Katie Skelly – My Pretty Vampire
Pretty good. Shorter and less complex than Nurse Nurse but I liked it better. Clover is a young vampire, kept under house arrest by a brother with unsavoury intentions until she escapes with the help of a maid. It's an interesting use of the vampire/succubus to examine female power and female desire, how (and by whom) those impulses are controlled, and where they lead. Skelly's work has some of the faux-naivete and unthreatening chills of Richard Sala, but she's putting the format to more interesting use I think.

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Thibault Damour & Mathieu Burniat – Mysteries of the Quantum Universe
Another one of those edutainment explainer comics, this time tackling the thorny issue of quantum physics, and written by an actual quantum physicist. The setup is a little confusing. There's a little guy who seems to basically be Tintin, but his dog gets hit by a meteorite on the moon, and then starts talking to him from beyond the grave, telling him to go to a quantum physics. At the lecture, he falls asleep, and dreams about meeting history's greatest quantum physicists. As a framing device, it almost seems like a red herring. Anyway, once that's done with it's not bad. The subject matter doesn't always respond well to the edutainment process – it's determinedly dry and often pretty difficult to follow, although I think it probably does a good job as an overview if you can stick with it. Meeting all the physicists in a dream also seems like a bit of a cop-out. Luckily, Burniat is on hand with some truly excellent cartooning. It's clearly a hard topic to illustrate effectively, but Burniat does a pretty wonderful job with a dreamscape of depth and substance, and outstanding use of a limited colour palette.
[Note: the page above is a scanlation. The actual version on comixology looks much nicer]
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Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Aug 15, 2018 12:17 pm

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Conor Stechschulte – Generous Bosom
This was really good. On the surface (as of issue 1), it’s a drama, maybe an erotic thriller of sorts, drawn out and lovingly observed with none of the narrative shorthand or ellipsis that books like this often employ. Here, we get to see every moment, even when we might prefer not to, as a man seeks refuge from a storm in a nearby house, only to find a strange and intense relationship inside. The first issue tells a satisfying story, but seems like it might be poised to launch into the weirder territory of Stechschulte’s earlier book The Amateurs. The tension, the strong character work and the interpersonal drama are all simple pleasures, and I like the minor experimental flourishes in Stechschulte’s art, particularly as he practises fading in and out of scenes.

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Chester Brown – Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus
Pretty surprised by how much I enjoyed this, having little to no interest in early Bible stories or the meaning contained therein, but Brown’s style turns the tales into surreal little deadpan cartoons, which served well to highlight the role that sex workers play in these stories, as well as the insane capriciousness and mercuriality of the God character. There are about 100 pages of notes in this book, which I skipped completely, and I’m happy with my decision until someone tells me otherwise.

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Sarah Horrocks – Goro
Good rec guys. This is a classy product. Four issues in and it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on but I’m loving the scratchiness of the whole thing, with all these characters tearing each other’s hair out. Generally I prefer smooth to scratchy in comic art, but Horrocks is clearly super talented, and the texture of it is a really refreshing change of pace. The covers in particular are lush.

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(Spoiler for NSFW)
I also picked up a whole bunch of these German Re:surgo minis that randomly appeared on 4chan. They’re a bit like the Kus! minis but with more of a transgressive sensibility, and usually no narrative. I don’t love them but they’re cool to flick through quickly and see some weird images. No idea why they were scanned, as I imagine half the pleasure is in the object.
So far I’ve read:
Manu Poydenot – A Sunday at the Müller’s
Kate McMorrine – Jodorowsky on Queues
Mathieu Desjardins – McCarthy on the Air
Mike Diana – Needler
Christian Gfeller – Nitnit, Spot the Difference
Favourites have been the Poydenot and the Gfeller.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:49 am

Still pluggin away at the reading pile:

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Michael DeForge – A Western World
Another magnificent collection from one of the best and most consistent cartoonists ever. DeForge's visual style is continuing to evolve in fascinating ways, often dropping that rubbery PVC sheen that he used to employ circa A Body Beneath and finding something more sketchy, impressionistic or abstract. The section above reminded me of Yuichi Yokoyama in the way solid matter and imagined sensation are elided and confused. Harder to explain why his stories speak to me so much, other than that, for all the surrealism, they seem like dispatches from a totally real place, so vividly described and unmistakeable in their details.

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Eric Kostiuk Williams – Babybel Wax Bodysuit
I've only seen this guy's work once before in a Ley Lines mini, but I feel like he has a lot of (indie) star quality. He writes about being a young gay American, embracing his sexuality and the scene from a fairly early age, and expresses the experience in two fairly distinct ways. One is through the standard short autobiographical vignettes, and the other is a kind of interpretative appraisal of pop music and musicians (Britney, Kylie etc) where he lets the music move his pen to create gloopy kaleidoscopes. The two modes are linked by his art style, which has all these drippy, trippy, waxy qualities that you can see on every page. The music sections sometimes fail to land with me – they're so intensely personal to him that they're liable to come across like out-of-context song lyrics to everyone else – but you can see he has huge potential and such a distinct voice already.

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Kazuo Umezu – Cat Eyed Boy
Following or perhaps creating a tradition that Junji Ito would sustain 30 years later, these are essentially anthology horror stories linked by the narration or sometimes participation of the creepy Cat Eyed Boy. Anyone who likes Ito or probably Osamu Tezuka will probably like these a lot as well. Considering their age, there's a lot of unsettling and unexpected imagery in these comics, although characterisation is a little thin and it sometimes has that hectic Tezuka quality which makes it hard to read in larger chunks. Kind of wish I was approaching these issue by issue instead of in 600 page volumes.

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Emil Ferris – My Favourite Thing is Monsters
Oof this is a real heavyweight tome. You can see why it's getting so much crossover buzz. I think modern comics are an essentially cinematic medium with the perpetual misfortune to be reviewed by the literary press, and this book is the novelistic exception that proves the rule. It's dense, internal and allusive, with illustrations that float around the edges, barely intruding. It's the rare comic that would work just fine as an audiobook. That said, it's an amazing achievement. There's so much going on in terms of digressions, thematic variations etc, and the art is just incredible, kind of taking Crumb and running with it to a place of greater depth. Super accomplished and totally successful.

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Emma Rendel – Pentti & Deathgirl
This was a pleasant surprise from a creator who's new to me. It's two stories, each about 50 pages, both filled with bulbous DeForge-esque creatures and landscapes of tight dots and lines. The first story, Pentti, is about two brothers living in a small town, one of whom is barely containing a psychotic repressed homophobia that is starting to leak out at regular intervals. Deathgirl is told through splash pages and interspersed diary entries and concerns a schoolgirl, incredibly lonely and isolated, expressing her naive hopes and concerns via the medium of violence and poison. Both stories are incredibly dark, pretty funny, and gave me strange cringing sensations of dread, comedy and sorrow. Rendel's art does a great job of juxtaposing the ugliness of her characters with lovely splashes of form and colour.
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Aug 30, 2018 12:05 am

Lots of good stuff you're reading there. Really glad you dug Generous Bosom - you picked up on the vibe just right and issue #2 definitely goes deeper into the disturbing undercurrents and gets pretty damn weird. Great book and each dense issue so far has been really surprising in where it goes and what kinds of stories it has to tell.

Love that Deforge story you highlighted, too, that was one I hadn't read before that book (might be unique to the book?) and it blew me away in its quiet sadness and utter beauty.

That Emma Rendel book looks dope as hell.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Aug 30, 2018 2:17 pm

Yeah I'm three issues into Generous Bosom now and it's a real trip

The Emma Rendel book is good and seems really promising, although it looks like she's only put out one book since Pentti & Deathgirl was released in 2009. I'll keep an eye out for it. Happy as always to put P&DG in the dropbox
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Sep 06, 2018 9:25 am

Lots of books this week – I'll split it in two posts

I hope people don't mind me doing all these capsule reviews! I don't want to overwhelm the thread but I've come to find it kind of therapeutic. Hopefully it gives some exposure to a few overlooked books in the process.

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Ines Estrada – Impatience
This was a blast, probably the best thing I picked up at ELCAF. Wombatz and Sevenarts already covered this pretty well and I'm on the same page as those distinguished gentlepeople, especially with the observation that it looks absolutely incredible for something that was self-published. Estrada's art has a fascinating quality of looking very messy at first glance, and then more and more precise and composed as you look closer. All of the stories hit the mark for me, no matter where they fell on the scale from abstract psychedelia to punk memoir. A few of these sections reminded me a lot of Hanselmann, and I think Estrada deserves at least as much fame.

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Jed Alexander – (Mostly) Wordless
Very, very slight, and difficult to know who it's meant to be for. These are short wordless tales of kids doing stuff, with the composition lifted primarily from Sendak but lacking his sense of atmosphere. Some of them seem like exercises in movement, but finish so quickly (often within two or three panels) that no momentum or immersion is created.

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Blutch – Peplum
Loved it. Undoubtedly Blutch's masterpiece. A strange, drifting tale of a wild-eyed Roman itinerant and conman pursuing an obsession with a statue frozen in a block of ice. The mystical, unknowable qualities of this strange quest and its deranged protagonist somehow enhance the myth – how it flows between places and situations with a dreamlike inevitability. Blutch's art is perfect for this, like shadows flickering on the wall of a cave.

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Loic Locatelli-Kournwsky – Persephone
This is a self-contained story from Archaia, a fantasy adventure with a distinct Ghibli flavour. Persephone is a young girl, the adopted daughter of a witch but with no power of her own. Then her utopian surface world is menaced by its underground counterpart, and she seems destined to play some role in the proceedings. Locatelli-Kournwsky's art is probably the main attraction, similar to Tillie Walden's and with a fantastic sense of design, detail and colour. I think it's worth reading anyway, but aside from that the story doesn't deliver many surprises and feels a little cramped in the second half. The underground kingdom isn't given as much narrative space as it needs, and a lot of the character arcs don't seem to resolve. I'm guessing there's a sequel in the works.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Sep 06, 2018 10:08 am

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Bastien Vives – Polina
I liked this a lot. It covers about 15 years in the life of a Russian ballet dancer as she goes to ballet school for the first time, endures her training and then tries to build a life for herself afterwards. Vives is probably best known for A Taste of Chlorine, but this book and Hollywood Jan are a lot better. Given the environment Vives is writing about here, it could have gone much more melodramatic, but Polina is in most ways a sensible, restrained character – actually pretty refreshing to follow a protagonist who's generally much less dramatic than those around her. She's an interesting case of a character with access to her emotions, but she's not dramatic, if you see what I mean. Her teacher Bojinsky (seen above) is the other way round: dramatic without being emotional. It unfolds its brief history in spare, impressionistic scenes. I found it really compelling.

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Jim Woodring – Poochytown
Another fantastic longer story from Woodring, following on from Fran and Congress of the Animals. You probably know what you're getting into by now, but it's still worth getting into it. Manhog plays a big part, which is good, and the art is getting better and better. I think I slightly prefer the shorter Woodring stories – these longer ones make it harder to stay on the train of thought or impose meaning on them. Whether that's a negative thing or not is down to disposition or sometimes just mood.

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Ethan Rilly – Pope Hats
Found the first two issues of this online and will definitely be seeking out more. Each issue contains a chapter of an ongoing story and then some shorter pieces. The ongoing part especially is super absorbing to me, especially the second part where Fran is working in a law firm. The world is fascinating in a low-key way – it's incredibly satisfying to read. The tales of young people and their interpersonal relationships had a bit of a Scott Pilgrim thing going on for me, but it's ultimately much more gentle, and has a suggestion of depth that I'm excited to see explored. There are a bunch of sections where a character will do something that suddenly gives them a whole new dimension, and it's always unexpected and feels completely natural.

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Darryl Cunningham – Psychiatric Tales
This is one of a series of edutainment graphic novels by Cunningham. I previously read his book Supercrash about Ayn Rand and the financial crash, and found it to be a pretty dry offering in a world where everyone was tripping over themselves to make economics fun. I thought Psychiatric Tales might respond better to Cunningham's (narratively and artistically) flat style, since mental illness stories tend towards the outlandish and sensational anyway – even more so as his stated aim is to de-stigmatise, and he has a few years experience as a mental health nurse. Unfortunately, he gets the tone pretty wrong again, trading clunkily between wacky/sad case studies of dementia patients, and long hectoring passages where he shovels the reader with very basic mental health information. Where he includes these sections, the stories quickly become dull. When he omits them, it seems prurient. Either outcome could be avoided if he brought a little personality to his work, but having read a couple of his books now, personality seems not to be his strong suit.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Sep 06, 2018 12:02 pm

Also, question for anyone who's read Poochytown, the blurb on Goodreads says it ends with "one of the most shocking acts ever depicted in the Frank canon." I genuinely can't think which bit they mean? Am I being dense?
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Postby Wombatz » Thu Sep 06, 2018 3:17 pm

HotFingersClub wrote:I hope people don't mind me doing all these capsule reviews! I don't want to overwhelm the thread but I've come to find it kind of therapeutic. Hopefully it gives some exposure to a few overlooked books in the process.

these are, as always, very much appreciated! peplum definitely looks like i should try it (oh how i wish i had a better library)
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Sep 06, 2018 4:06 pm

Oh good! I think you'd like Peplum. I keep meaning to say I love that McCausland image that you posted on this page. It reminds me of something too
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Sep 06, 2018 6:55 pm

Really great reviews as always, and yes, I definitely hope you keep posting them. I haven't had much time to read much myself lately or I'd be contributing more too, but your capsules give me some vicarious comics pleasures in the meantime.

Really glad you dug the Estrada book. She's collecting her minicomic Alienation as a Fantagraphics book next year so hopefully that'll start getting her a wider audience, she for sure deserves it.

Agreed that Peplum is Blutch's masterpiece, nothing else I've read from him even comes close. It's just astonishing how good and lively and atmospheric the drawing is in that book, and the emotional tenor of the story perfectly matches the feverish art. I bet Wombatz would love it too.

I like Pope Hats but I feel like Rilly is a bit generic, like he seems kinda like somebody threw the last 30 years of male indie cartoonists into a computer algorithm and he was the result. He's really good at what he does but that vibe frequently hits me whenever I'm reading his stuff. That said - there's a story in I think Pope Hats #4 that diverged from his main story and was absolutely incredible and one of the best things I read whatever year that came out. So he can for sure hit exactly on the mark at times.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Fri Sep 07, 2018 4:02 am

sevenarts wrote:I like Pope Hats but I feel like Rilly is a bit generic, like he seems kinda like somebody threw the last 30 years of male indie cartoonists into a computer algorithm and he was the result.


Fuck, yeah, I know exactly what you mean. It really is generic. However, I think it's also a saving grace, right? There's nothing particularly distinctive about his stuff, but there's also nothing shitty about it. Like I feel that if you actually did what you describe, and conglomerate 30 years of indie male cartoonists, you'd be including people like Harvey Pekar, Robert Crumb, Joe Matt, Chris Ware, Jeffrey Brown, Chester Brown, Dave Cooper, Noah Van Sciver etc etc etc ad infinitum, and the resultant brew would be so misanthropic and misogynist as to be completely toxic. Rilly doesn't really have that. He's not leading the woke vanguard but he's at least human and humane, and tells an interesting story. He reminded me of Kevin Huizenga in his more down to earth moments.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Sep 11, 2018 7:49 am

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Jim Broadbent & Dix – Dull Margaret
Well this is a real curio. That’s Jim Broadbent the Oscar-winning actor, teaming up with a political cartoonist from The Guardian for a super grimy Riddley Walker-style graphic novel about a witch with learning disabilities. I think she has learning disabilities anyway – it may be that everyone in this book acts the same way, but we don’t really see anyone speaking except Margaret, who spends most of the time mumbling curses to herself. She lives in a floating shack scavenging detritus from the bottom of a gloopy grey sea and rattles along in a grim state of horrifying loneliness until she’s robbed on a trip to town and starts using magic to extract her revenge.

Apparently it’s partly based off the Bruegel painting “Dulle Griet” but it doesn’t retain much of the phantasmagorical quality. Instead, this book has the visual consistency of a bowl of porridge – absolutely everything is grey, lumpy and soggy, with big simple panels and lines. Dix draws facial features like little scalpel marks in wet clay. It’s odd. I can’t say I really enjoyed it but I’m glad Broadbent is pursuing his passions I guess?

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Helge Reumann – Black Medicine
I’ve been very interested in Helge Reumann as a creator since I saw one of his strips in a collection – Kramers Ergot maybe? It looks like he actually has a pretty wide range of styles, but everything I’ve seen from him has involved these large groups of identical, intense-looking men with dark beards and robes, almost always shown in scenes of war, sometimes with each other and sometimes with golems made of hair, crystals or slime. His sequential stuff is usually laid out in rigid, tight grids of small panels, but this (I think) is more of an art book, with each page showing a still tableau. I’d probably prefer more semblance of a narrative, but I really like this book, with its scratchy, densely detailed images of a world in which war is the only thing left. It’s a startling vision and an arresting aesthetic.

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Leela Corman – Queen’s Day
There’s something interesting about these three sparse, deliberately paced stories from Corman, chiefly the mysterious way they interact with each other. For example, the first story, set in olde times, has a young girl rescued from a river by the witch Baba Yaga, who claims she means no harm and offers soup. The scene is left open-ended. Then, in the next story, we’re in modern times, and a woman arrives at her grandma’s house to be offered soup. Ideas or clues or atmospheric components are mirrored from one narrative to another, but seemingly without an attempt at a cohesive theme. Meanwhile, the vividness of Corman’s art and the personal content of her stories is toned down significantly. Leeched of their colour and confessional force, these stories retire rather than grab, and are finished in minutes.

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Josh Simmons – Flayed Corpse and Other Stories
Fuuuck some of these stories really fuck me up. This is Simmons’ second collection of shorts, collecting new work with a bunch of zine and compilation stuff, plus some longer stories like “Twilight of the Bat”. It also brings in a lot of collaborators – mostly rising indie stars like Tara Booth, Patrick Keck etc, to take over the writing and drawing duties. It’s stylistically pretty harmonious though: you could be forgiven for assuming it was one guy experimenting with different styles.

A lot of the stories are even stranger and funnier than those in The Furry Trap, and a lot of them do this nightmarish thing where they seem to end slightly too soon, ignoring any redemption or even a real conclusion, but just ending unexpectedly at the very moment that the (literal or figurative) knife is driven home – the same moment that you’d force yourself to wake in terror. One of my favourite books of 2018 so far.

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Igor Hofbauer – Mister Morgen
This was a great find. Hofbauer is a Croatian artist who I’d never heard of before, but turns out to be exactly my jam. This book is pretty similar to Flayed Corpse in lots of ways actually – a collection of shorter and longer stories with a tone of dark, Lynchian, witch in the carpark style horror. Hofbauer’s stories are more internally consistent though: they seemingly share characters and settings, as well as Hofabuer’s art style, a deep and spooky etching with a limited palette of red, white and black. Similarities to Charles Burns are obvious, and Hofbauer actually doesn’t suffer much in comparison. As in Burns, many of Hofbauer’s characters are deformed in some way, menial freaks trapped in a sort of radioactive soviet noir. Really worth seeking out.

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James Kochalka – Quit Your Job and Other Stories
Kochalka was formative for me in a way. His diary strip American Elf was probably my first real exposure to indie comics, so I have a lot to thank him for. Since that ended, none of his fiction has connected with me in anything like the same way. Dragon Puncher, SuperFuckers, Johnny Boo – all that stuff has the depth of a puddle. In his earlier books though (Quit Your Job, American Elf, Magic Boy and Girflriend) he gave himself centre stage, and it worked. He’s a fascinating character – gratingly whimsical and suffused with a childlike openness and hyperactivity, but also moody and mercurial and in love with the mundane. Half My Little Pony and half Harvey Pekar.

There are essentially only two stories in this book, both I think from about 1997. The first one is pretty standard from early Kochalka – he finds a magic ring in the snow and decides to quit his job at a Chinese restaurant, and then his cat wins a competition to go into space. The second one, “Paradise Sucks”, is more complex, intertwining a retelling of the Adam & Eve myth with a story about the “world’s last artist” living in Pekar-esque squalor and isolation in an old factory. The chunky, childlike art and the unfashionable sense of magic in the world is probably going to be too much for some people, but I think (early) Kochalka is sometimes unfairly overlooked, and in terms of fiction I think this book is probably the best advertisement for his unusual approach.
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Postby Wombatz » Wed Sep 12, 2018 4:01 am

putting the hofbauer on my list! (where the flayed corpse already languishes ... )

i've read mostly old things. like i've reread brubaker's daredevil run, which is trying much too hard. everybody says to matt, come on this is not you, then matt beats them up, or more often beats somebody else up, then he beats himself up for all the wrong reasons. the best arc is the one co-written with rucka, the rest is noir posing which the author has done much better elsewhere (still very readable compared to most other runs, tho). and then i'm 1 1/2 books (from the 3-vol. edition) into morrison's doom patrol, which i've never read before! (i must have mixed it up with the invisibles, which tired me out quickly) and it's very marvelous so far, all this bonkers stuff elegantly told in a traditional manner so the surrealism seldom comes off as forced (except when morrison replaces the dialog with would-be dada sound poetry that's surprisingly clunky). signs are it's losing steam, while the ideas are going strong, he's kind of forgotten about his characters by now ... so probably i'll skip the last volume, but let's see.

anyway, more befitting this thread, i've been reading three out of four volumes of

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Socrates the Half-Dog by Joann Sfar and Christophe Blain. is that even out in english? well, it's like so many books from that circle (trondheim etc): it looks just marvelous, like comics should look, there's a fun premise (going through a mythical world where everything is mixed up, socrates as half dog, half son of zeus, and also the philosopher), but they just jam around with things and you end up with so much fluff (here, clichéd dialog about talking canines and heracles chasing skirts etc.). a bit more ambition wouldn't go amiss. that said, it decidedly amps up the energy levels in the third volume, which has the story of oedipus (see photo above), and suddenly themes start to develop around the relations between everybody involved (but unfortunately you can't just skip the first two, there are too many references to what happened before) ... (also i gave these to my boy, who is interested in ancient myths, without properly vetting them, and there was ulysses giving heracles a blowjob, so at least he got some excitement out of it)

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Soft X-Ray/Mind Hunters by A. Degen. now i wouldn't talk anyone into reading this ... it's an homage to experimental manga, maybe some of the more pop-psychedelic sasaki maki stories, only even more poppish because of the colors, and it quotes lots of trash tropes without going for the titillation (so where's the sense) ... but i really enjoyed it. these are all episodes where basically the same things happen (in mindhunters, two buxom agents stealing a brain and thereby destroying the fantasy world it had created for itself), but as they are silent you need the cast of characters at the beginning of each episode to half-way decipher the action (i'm too lazy to do that so for me it stays pretty abstract). like a silly joke, it becomes better with each telling. (although, and i know this is a nerdy complaint and it's not the first time that i do not endorse koyama press production choices: the paper is very thin, and matte but of plastic-like slickness like certain gloss papers, really hateful to the touch in a book that very much relies on us wanting to touch it.)
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Sep 17, 2018 6:23 am

Nice. I love these little previews you give us of European comics before they (hopefully) get translated. Socrates looks like fun - there's something so satisfying to me about remixing the classics. Probably from growing up reading Marvel and DC, and their endless variations on the same handful of themes
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Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Sep 19, 2018 12:33 pm

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Victor Cayro – Bittersweet Romance
This is one of the craziest looking comics I’ve ever seen. Cayro has a lot of technical skill, and seems to start off with a style that looks a bit like Emil Ferris before burying every inch of the page in a shit ton of jagged colours and lines. It actually reproduces the visual intensity of an acid trip pretty well, but heightens it with the tone of a panic attack. The story seems to be about a sadomasochistic couple where the man is horribly abusing the woman, and it’s totally grim and I guess “savage” or “punk” or whatever to which: yawn. You can kind of see it under the squalls of visual and tonal static. It looks crazy but is otherwise bad and gross imo.

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David B. – Reading the Ruins
This one I quite liked unexpectedly. I started reading David B with Epileptic like most people, and none of his other books ever stuck with me before this one, which is a kind of odd war adventure set in WWI. It brings together some interesting disparate influences in a way which works pretty well, including the plucky adventuring of Tintin, the tortured angles and shadows of German Expressionism and Cubism, and a strong Borges note in the story of a mad inventor creating surrealist weapons and attempting to translate the fundamental language of war.

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K. Thor Jensen – Red Eye, Black Eye
A hefty but repetitive travelogue here, following Jensen as he spends a couple of months on the road, sleeping on sofas around America. There’s a good device here of getting his hosts to relate interesting stories from their recent past, which leads to some fun anecdotes, although Jensen’s flat black panels don’t really bring much to the party, either for the stories or in terms of distinguishing any one area of America from another. Jensen’s character and his resulting book both come off as sullen and kind of a drag.

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Charles Forsman – Revenger and the Fog
Ugh didn’t like this either. Ugly, grim and boring action pastiche from Forsman, who has done such better work almost everywhere else in his career. I will say this at least has a bit more going on than the first volume.

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Jeff Lemire – Roughneck
Never really got on board with Jeff Lemire, either with his creator-owned stuff or his superhero work. It’s always seemed a bit uninspired to me. This is a backwoods thriller about a former ice hockey thug turned generic thug, dealing with his demons and protecting his long-lost sister from her murderous ex. It plods along okay. I think it might be a career best for Lemire’s art. It’s a subtle progression but there’s a bunch of texture and detail in this book. It looks much more vivid and clean than his older books, and the blue and white watercolours work really well.
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Postby Wombatz » Thu Sep 20, 2018 2:34 am

while i agree about lemire to the extent i won't check out this new book, i remember liking the first two essex county volumes very much (ice hockey? maybe this ties in with that?), especially the scratchy style which made them less sentimental, and the beginning of his animal man run, and what i've seen of his moon knight (got the collection on imminent pre-order, talk me out of it quickly if talked out of it i must be).

anyway, my copy of peplum has arrived, so thanks to both of you for making me read this, it's fantastic! (they have his cringe-inducing hollywood book and some other thing at the local library, and i would never have looked at anything else by blutch again.) i must admit i hadn't properly memorized your posts, so after the first pages i thought he would go for the uncanny atmospheres of an ancient world whose customs and psychologies are wondrous strange and yet would tell us something about our own inner make-up if only we could still relate to them ... so i was kind of disappointed for a moment when it became clear how theatrical and meta the whole thing was, the heads talking to some upper loges at strange angles, a couple of references to old master paintings (i'm sure there are half a dozen more), the ganymede figure that's like tadzio from death in venice, plus i've seen blutch mention fellini's satyricon as inspiration ... but then that's so well done, and probably hasn't been done in comics (?), and the uncanny atmospheres of 50/60s existentialism speak to me directly since that was the culture the cooler grown-ups tried to pass down to us, beat up copies of fellini films in the local youth center, and especially the stage plays of jean giraudoux. this is so good, a pity it's kind of a one-off.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Sep 20, 2018 4:33 am

Oh nice! Peplum seems like the closest we've got to Satyricon in comics but I remember watching Satyricon for the first time and thinking how much it reminded me of Jodorowsky's comics

I agree with you about the start of Animal Man although I think Travel Foreman is doing most of the heavy lifting there. Essex County is a'ight; I definitely won't persuade you out of it. I think my favourite books of his were the smaller-scale fantasies like The Nobody and The Underwater Welder
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Postby Wombatz » Thu Sep 20, 2018 5:27 am

actually i mentioned fellini's satyricon only because the artist did ... that film may indeed be closer to the baroque of jodorowsky (whom i don't like in any medium) than to this feeling of a (more lean and gritty) existentialist parable i get from peplum
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Sep 20, 2018 7:48 am

Good stuff as always, guys. I think Cayro used to go by the pseudonym "Bald Eagles" and appeared in an early Kramers issue. I remember that crew hyping him up and I thought he was really boring despite being an obvious technical genius.

Helge Reumann is a much more interesting Kramers vet. I loved his solo piece in the last (?) Kramers with, as you say, all the bearded angry dudes committing violent acts. He is also half of the group Elvis Studio who years ago had this really cool unscannable book called Elvis Road that folded out accordion style into a single massive horizontal scroll, it was a satirical parade just packed with fun and crazy details.

I like Essex County too, and Animal Man before it started to suck (agreed that was largely Foreman), and Lemire's Moon Knight may just be his best superhero work - again the artists do a lot of the heavy lifting but it's quite good overall. I also liked Trillium a lot, he did that for Vertigo I think a few years back. His art is always way better than his writing to me, though.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Sep 20, 2018 7:54 am

I forgot the most important one from last week:

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Ben Hutchings – You Stink & I Don't
This is “Australia's longest running underground humour comic – Hutchings has been doing putting it out since the early nineties without apparently making much of a dent on the international comix scene, but it seriously deserves a bigger audience. There are a few recurring segments and autobiographical bits across these issues, but for the most part it's just a continuous stream of new ideas and fresh jokes, with a better hit rate than just about any other humour comic I can think of aside from Kupperman and some of the golden era of webcomics (Onstad, K.C. Green, A Lesson is Learned). YS&ID is a fair bit more earthy and straightforward than any of those, but damn it made me laugh aloud a lot. Hutchings has that K.C. Green gift for non sequitur, and for drawing faces that function as a punchline in their own right.

I read volume 2, which collects six issues, and you can see his sense of humour quickly becoming more finely tuned and easing off on the antagonistic needling that characterises so many American underground comedy comix, and which pops up a bit in the first half of this volume. It also represents some of the best value I've ever got out of a comic book. Reproduced in black and white and slightly too small, it has a real zine-ish quality, with random ideas, jokes, drawings and snippets of text crowding out almost every page. It took almost as long to read as a prose novel. A lot of care and attention has gone into this, and the results really show on the page.

If you're looking for a more casual introduction to his style, it's probably worth checking out his one shot from a couple of years ago, Iron Bard Ballisto
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Sep 20, 2018 7:56 am

Oh yeah and Revenger stinks. I gave up before that volume but I never got why Foreman was so bad in that while still putting out good work elsewhere.

I always saw it as him trying to copy the success and appeal of Copra and not realizing that he’s not made for that.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Sep 20, 2018 8:15 am

sevenarts wrote:Good stuff as always, guys. I think Cayro used to go by the pseudonym "Bald Eagles" and appeared in an early Kramers issue. I remember that crew hyping him up and I thought he was really boring despite being an obvious technical genius.


Yeah Cayro and Bald Eagles are the same person. I don't know if it's just a coincidence but I feel like I've been talking about a lot of those jagged misogynistic misanthropic "offensive" comics recently (maybe just these Re:surgo minis I've been working through) and they seem to be the part of the artistic landscape that's getting dated most quickly, being replaced by a new wave of more intelligent female creators like Eleanor Davis and Sophia Foster-Dimino. I can't help but wonder who used to enjoy these puerile rage-filled comics so much that we needed so many of them.

I have a sort of coalescing theory about English prose fiction tending towards a shy, retiring, pallid sort of personality, because those are the sorts of people drawn towards prose writing as a pastime. I wonder if something similar could be said about indie comix - some stereotype of angry and alienated little boys scribbling away at the back of the class. Maybe it's just the tastes of people like Gary Groth echoing down the decades.

TW: the preceding text contained aimless generalisations
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Sep 20, 2018 8:20 am

sevenarts wrote:Oh yeah and Revenger stinks. I gave up before that volume but I never got why Foreman was so bad in that while still putting out good work elsewhere.

I always saw it as him trying to copy the success and appeal of Copra and not realizing that he’s not made for that.


Probably true. The second volume especially has a real Suicide Squad vibe but it's depressing and bad
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Sep 23, 2018 4:19 pm

Finally have some new stuff to contribute here.

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Flayed Corpse and Other Stories by Josh Simmons & various
HFC summed this one up nicely. It's another collection of short pieces by Simmons, in the vein of The Furry Trap, but with more of an emphasis on collaborations this time around. As HFC also said, it hardly matters because everyone bends themselves so thoroughly to Simmons' aesthetic that it feels more cohesive and coherent than a lot of true single-creator anthologies. This is pretty great. I wasn't quite as bowled over by most of it as I was by The Furry Trap, maybe because I was familiar with more of this material in advance (a big chunk of it is all the stuff that was in his Oily minis, one of which provides the name for the collection) or maybe just because it's not quite as fresh and therefore startling as the best stuff in the last anthology was - but still, any quibbles aside this is top-notch stuff, disturbing and unsettling in genuine ways. What I like best about Simmons' work, especially in the stories collected here, is the way his deadpan delivery of horror tropes creates this uncertainty about whether he's fulfilling a genre trope or deconstructing it. There's this weird tension in a lot of his work where it seems like he's delivering a straightforward dose of horror, where some particular atrocity seems inevitable, then maybe seems like he's working against expectations and heading elsewhere, so then when he ultimately delivers the horror you were expecting in the first place after all, it somehow winds up being a shock all over again. The story that does this best here IMO is the one about a wandering young man who winds up in a small town where things seem too good to be true - and are. The horror is exactly what it seems to be from the moment the story starts, and yet the effect is chilling, and unsettling, and unforgettable because of how patiently Simmons doles out the beats. Great, creepy book.

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Berserk Vol. 39 by Kentaro Miura
I was pretty obsessed with Berserk a couple years ago and read through the entire run, was absolutely blown away by how intense and wild and horribly beautiful it is. The later volumes slow down a bit and get bogged down in dumb comedy at times, for sure, but maybe because I read it in such a condensed period I still enjoyed it right up till the end. I tried continuing along with the serialized, not-collected-yet chapters online for a bit but the dodgy translations and scans kept me from following along for long. Now here's the latest volume collecting the latest big chunk of this seemingly never-ending epic. The first half of this is not exactly Berserk at its best - some cool lore and amazing imagery (gorgeous double-page spreads galore) as Guts' crew finally arrives at Elf Island, which has been their destination for probably a dozen volumes to date, but the goofy, cutesy chibi comedy takes over way too much here. Thankfully the second half is really cool, featuring a few of Guts' band traveling into the hellish nightmare landscape that is Casca's traumatized mind, trying to piece together her consciousness and root out the long-ago source of her trauma. Things get real bleak and dark, both thematically and in the way Miura's art - now slicker than it used to be with seemingly a lot of digital elements but still quite good - gets really black and gloomy. Far from the best Berserk volume - the later in the saga things go, the more I tend to prefer the chapters dealing with Griffith and/or Rickert rather than Guts and his companions - but still some real good stuff here and actually points the way towards a potentially huge change in the story.

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Mitchum by Blutch
Here I go horning in on Wombatz's territory of writing about things that haven't been translated to English yet. We've talked a bunch about Blutch before and how unfortunate it is that Peplum is seemingly his one masterpiece and nothing else he's done comes close. Well this is... also not quite as good as Peplum but definitely the first other thing I've read from him that seems like it's in the same territory. This was an earlier work from him, predating Peplum, and was one of the first books that brought him some acclaim in the US, at least among underground cartoonists, as untranslated copies were ported over in quantities sufficient to provide a lot of inspiration for the American artists who got ahold of it. And it works so well despite the lack of an official English edition because much of it is silent or near-silent - out of the 5 albums in the collection, only the second one is relatively dialogue-heavy, while the rest mostly move along pretty much without words. This is Blutch again mining American culture from afar, an obvious topic of fascination for him - American movies, American genres, American celebrities. Noir, the Old West, Puritans and Indians, blaxpoitation flicks, road movies. There are hints of stories here, little vignettes that often seem to move with a dreamlike free association the effect of which is enhanced by the lack of dialogue, but mostly this is Blutch at his most abstract and experimental. And goddamn it is beautiful. Anyone who's read Peplum knows what a delight it is to watch Blutch animate his characters - he has such an amazing sense of motion and action, such a knack for communicating through postures and shadings, and here he's working almost entirely in that visual language. The stories are mostly disconnected, characters occasionally recur but there's little throughline, just a sense of nightmare logic running through the whole book, suggesting that it's all the outpouring of a mind steeped in American genre cinema, regurgitating all these tropes and faces - including Robert Mitchum himself, who memorably winds his way all through the 3rd volume, which plays out like a twisted, absurdist nightmare noir and is probably the best, richest material here. The 4th volume, in which a mish-mash of Western and noir action scenes play out in a grid that's mostly obscured by a woman dancing in the foreground, overlaid on the grid, is also dazzling and visually experimental in really exciting ways. There are more than a few hints of the problems Blutch displays elsewhere - a sense of exoticism regarding race and a nasty attitude towards women, both also informed by consuming too many Western movies - but as a whole this is stellar work, by far the best thing I've read by Blutch besides Peplum. It's moody, gorgeous, darkly comic, frequently absurd (the 5th volume is mostly a scribbled, Herriman-esque nightmare about a bear terrified of chickens), and utterly unique. Amazing to me that with all the mediocre Blutch comics that have made it over here, this one somehow never has, but thankfully enough of it is completely legible without any French knowledge to make it worth reading already.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Sep 24, 2018 6:49 am

Hit the nail on the head there about Simmons either fulfilling or deconstructing genre tropes – the uncertainty in that regard is what makes it so unsettling and more satisfying as a horror experience than if he was reliably doing one or the other. The length and rhythm of the stories is also really important for disruption – you never know at what point the shock will come (or if it comes at all) and whether the story will be able to continue afterwards. In that way, it’s the opposite approach from say Junji Ito, where every story is exactly the same length and has the scare on the same page.

Excited for new Berserk. For me it's only Berserk, One Punch Man and Yotsuba that can keep me hanging on for new updates over the course of these decades that manga series take to resolve themselves.

Might be a bit burned out on Blutch for the minute but I'll keep an eye out for Mitchum. It sounds pretty promising
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Sep 24, 2018 7:03 am

I went to my first proper comic convention this weekend with cosplayers and everything – Thought Bubble in Leeds. I was in the area anyway so it was convenient, but I also definitely had a preconception that Thought Bubble is the best convention in the UK. Where did that idea come from? If I had to guess I’d say probably from Al Kennedy on House to Astonish. Seemed like it was very much his scene. Pretty basic, u know. Big queer vibe which was cool, but very little actual interesting comics – I mostly saw a shitload of cuddly Steven Universe knock-offs, and a whole lot of those awful Sherlock Holmes vs Vampires style books with terrible art. Quality control was very low on the agenda.

So mainly it was a disappointment, especially for £18 a ticket. ELCAF was £5 and roughly twenty times better. HOWEVER I did have some quick chats with John Allison, Al Ewing and a rather lonely looking Sarah Horrocks, who was pretty much the only artist in the con doing anything with real bite.

Edit: and a sick ass vegan donor served over hash brown bites. Unorthodox choice but I'm v much in favour
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