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 HotFingersClub » Tue Jul 24, 2018 9:01 am

Yeah I saw that. Well excited mate. I'm interested to see what she does with an actual narrative but I think I'm going to miss the one page jokes and movie reviews ah well
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Jul 26, 2018 7:34 am

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Jerome Charyn & Francois Boucq – Little Tulip
This tells a bonkers story about a criminal sketch artist in Brooklyn with a secret past life as tattoo artist and gang member in a Siberian gulag, with a narrative that jumps back and forth between his boyhood in the gulag and his present-day hunt for a serial killer called Bad Santa. It's alright – if you've ever read Jodorowsky you know pretty much what to expect, in that no one behaves like a human and every plot development is so absurdly melodramatic that the whole thing washes over you in a grand guignol of operatic blood and gross sex. Boucq's art is incredibly accomplished but also grotesque, especially when he's momentarily called upon to draw black people.

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Jon Chandler – John's Worth
Eh, it wasn't for me. I'm down for a Cronenbergian parasite sex fest and I'm kind of intrigued by the story, but this type of art does nothing for me. I will say it's more interesting than Benjamin Marra, whose work it reminded me of.
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Jul 28, 2018 11:35 pm

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All the Answers by Michael Kupperman
A really interesting 180-degree turn from a cartoonist previously known solely for very impersonal, screwball humor strips, mainly in his series Tales Designed To Thrizzle. This is a very personal, autobiographical book, focusing on Kupperman's troubled, distant relationship with his father, an ethics professor, prolific author, and most famously a child radio and TV star as one of the Quiz Kids in the '40s. Joel Kupperman was a famed child math whiz who briefly enthralled the nation with his mental feats, though the experience - which he was pushed into by a domineering stage mother - left him traumatized and maladjusted, seemingly for the entire rest of his life. This is a fascinating read, as Kupperman excavates the hidden details of his father's early life, about which Joel never spoke, and tries to understand a father who always seemed like an unfathomable mystery. The poignancy of the narrative is increased even more since Joel is descending into senility, and in his forgetfulness finally opens up to his son, albeit in a fragmentary way, but far more than he ever had previously. It's really excellent, multi-layered storytelling, dealing with fatherhood, self-identity, Joel's role as wartime propaganda, and the ways in which formative experiences can shape the entirety of a life. Kupperman uses the same deadpan, stiff, basically inexpressive style he's always used for strips about Mark Twain or talking bacon, but it fits surprisingly well for this story about emotional inaccessibility and confused men unsure of how to express what's inside them or connect with those around them in meaningful ways.

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Otherworld Barbara by Moto Hagio
800+ pages of some of the looniest, loopiest sci-fi I've ever read. A young girl witnesses her parents' murder-suicide, eats their hearts, and goes into a coma, where she dreams up an entire other world populated with a loving community of immortal family and friends - a community isolated from a scary futuristic world in which there's been a war against the Martians and the government uses the blood of the immortals to extend the lives of their own people. Meanwhile, the attempts of a "dream pilot" to enter this dream world and awaken the comatose girl trigger all sorts of wild machinations both in her head and in the physical world, and it increasingly becomes less and less clear just what's a dream and what's real. This is bonkers, and so great. It's just a constant fount of off-the-wall ideas, and its plot keeps twisting in weird new directions, perhaps a little bit at the expense of clarity - I quickly lost track of all the clones, and one major character has at least 4 different names and identities - but the page-turning, what-the-hell-will-happen-next quality of the storytelling makes it endlessly compelling. Hagio's art is gorgeous, too, at times sweepingly romantic and pristinely beautiful, at other times tinged with horror and menace, as the story careens between those poles and many others.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Jul 30, 2018 5:35 am

Woah sick, I've never even heard of Otherworld Barbara. Is it online? I guess I'll buy it anyway because it sounds extremely my shit

I'm excited for All the Answers but it's already annoying to me how he seems to be getting much more critical attention for this than for Tales Designed to Thrizzle. Absurdity is important guys
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Jul 30, 2018 6:06 am

I've never seen Barbara online but I've also never really known where to find manga scans online, I assume there's at least scanlations of it floating around but probably not scans of the new Fantagraphics editions.

Even the jacket for the Kupperman book says, apparently without irony, that "this is his first serious book" and I had to roll my eyes at that. I hate the way these "crossover" books from big publishers are positioned and marketed in relation to the rest of comics. None of that is Kupperman's fault though and the book itself is good.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Aug 01, 2018 11:54 am

Some real classic minor scans stuff this week:

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Miss Lasko-Gross – A Mess of Everything
More autobio comix from Lasko-Gross, Escape from “Special” covered the childhood years and this is the teenage stuff. The art seems to be getting a little more accomplished and refined although it’s still a thick, heavy line. It has a weirdly gloomy look, which is not exactly reflected in the tone of the writing, but I think it avoids oppressiveness, just about, through storytelling that’s economical and spacious. I found this a little more interesting than the last volume – there’s nothing unfamiliar about the tales of being alternative in high school, but I did appreciate the lengthy subplot where she deals with her friend’s concealed eating disorder. It was good to see that examined at such length.

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Gilbert Hernandez – Love From the Shadows
This has the most complicated blurb of any book I’ve ever seen, where it tries to situate the book in Gilbert’s chronology. Basically it follows on from Chance in Hell and The Troublemakers and is another adaptation of an imaginary b-movie starring the Fritz character, so a confusing framing sequence is followed by an essentially unrelated story in which a woman’s father dies in a cave, and her brother gets a sex change to try and claim her inheritance. It’s a bit unclear what Gilbert is trying to achieve here, in that it all hangs together just about but also goes in so many directions that it seems like narrative noodling.

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Carole Maurel – Luisa: Now and Then
You know, it’s one of those light time travel stories where an adult meets their past self and learning ensues. It’s YA-orientated, and Mariko Tamaki was involved in some nebulous way. The art’s quite nice but I couldn’t stick with it. Despite the conceit being clear immediately, it takes well over a hundred pages before anyone’s prepared to accept what’s happened and get on with the story. I’m too jaded for that kind of time wasting.

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Akihito Tsukushi – Made in Abyss v1
Apparently people really like the anime that this got turned into. It seems like a cool idea! Maybe more so for a videogame. Basically it’s a fantasy set around a massive mysterious pit full of monsters, treasure and secrets, and a girl and a robot descend to the hidden depths in search of the girl’s mother. Cool, I’m in. Again, it takes a long time to get to the point, with pages that are very dense without communicating much of importance. By the end of this volume, our heroes are only just beginning their quest after what seems like an awful lot of busywork. The art is more of a problem – it’s not bad exactly but it does seem aggressively unsuitable. Tsukushi fills the panels with his little chibi kid characters which to my mind are dumb looking at best, and become grotesque on the occasions when he decides to indulge in a little nudity, rope bondage, omorashi etc :/ It’s not frequent, and it’s not too egregious relative to some manga, but also Fuck That Shit. Then the abyss itself, which is definitely the most interesting part, is hazy and sketchy and squeezed out of the frame by Tsukushi’s compositions. Both of those are problems that would almost be automatically fixed in the transition to anime, so I can see why it’s been doing well.

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Jerry Kramsky & Lorenzo Mattotti – Garlandia
Probably the most interesting book I read this week, this is a long and strange fable about a race of humanoids on a fantastical island, following one of them as he tries to reunite with his newborn and save his people. The art is definitely the main draw here; having only ever seen Mattotti’s rigid futurist style in books like Fires, I was amazed to see him segue into this light, fluid world of graceful curves, equal parts Gorey, Seuss and classic Disney. You’d never guess it was the same guy who did Fires, while at the same time it’s absolutely consistent. Besides the art, it’s light, charming, sometimes scary, heavily allegorical for something or other. I liked it.

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Jean Dufaux & Griffo – Mister Noir
Kind of interminable story about a young girl arriving at a sprawling castle full of misfits and oddballs locked in a power struggle to become king of the tenants by the time the magical landlord makes his next visit. More sexualisation of children in this, and the art is accomplished but kind of unpleasant. You can safely skip it.

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Salva Rubio & Efa – Monet: Itinerant of Light
Nice cartooning and colours from Efa, illustrating a very straightforward and pretty dull biography of Monet in a style reminiscent of Ramon Perez. The page above is from the framing sequence, which is the only scene that plays out dramatically. The rest is just Monet speaking in voiceover as the creators desperately try to hit all the biographical beats in 100 pages. I have no idea if it’s true to life, but Monet as written here is a real grump, most of the book is just him calling people cretins if they don’t like his art.
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Postby sevenarts » Wed Aug 01, 2018 12:54 pm

I'm in the middle of Garlandia as well and really enjoying it. I've been trying to go slow and just savor the art because wow, it's jaw dropping. Very similar to Mattotti's work on his Ignatz line oneshot Chimera, which I'm sure I've talked up multiple times before. As much as I like his color work this is definitely my favorite mode of his and I'm so psyched there's this huge gorgeous book of it now.
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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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