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 » Fri Oct 05, 2018 7:37 am

Wombatz wrote:just started on hofbauer's morgen (hfc's recommendation iirc) and it's great so far! splendid mix of dark 1920s city myths and woodcut aesthetic and a strong contemporary local vibe ... more after the holidays ...


I've grabbed that Hofbauer book as well, looking forward to checking it out. Def looks like another great HFC rec.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Fri Oct 05, 2018 6:01 pm

Neat
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Postby HotFingersClub » Fri Oct 05, 2018 7:01 pm

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Tom Scioli – Final Frontier
I got nothing against Tom Scioli but it does seem a bit of a shame that he's devoted his life to doing a jug band Jack Kirby, and this book is not a great argument for Scioli as an artist in his own right. Basically he's just done re-skin of a few classic Fantastic Four issues – Reed and Sue are getting married and Galactus is coming to town for the first time. The twist here is that this FF analogue are also the world's greatest rock band. This information features in a small way in the first issue before Scioli pretty much forgets about it. It's very undercooked. Scioli's art is not at its best although the character designs are pretty fun. This is no Copra.

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Janwillem van de Wetering & Paul Kirchner – Murder by Remote Control
Another curio, this one from back in 1986. I've never heard it mentioned before but maybe I've not been paying attention. This is a psychedelic murder mystery set in a gated community surrounding a lake, written by a Dutch crime writer and illustrated by Kirchner, who's probably most famous for the surrealist formalist classic The Bus. It's similar to Twin Peaks in a lot of ways, with a strait-laced, slightly inhuman detective methodically interviewing a small cast of eccentrics one by one. These interviews almost always result in a rambling monologue, at which point Kirchner's stiff, almost educational artwork inevitably explodes into flat grey kaleidoscopes like the one you see above. It's very odd – doesn't really go anywhere or say anything very much as far as I can tell, but it's fun to look at.

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Marc-Antoine Mathieu – Sens
Speaking of Kirchner, this is kind of similar to The Bus. In a series of about 230 full-page silent drawings, a man wanders through a generally featureless landscape. It's an excuse to play constantly with perspectives and shapes, or rather one shape: the arrow, which appears over and over again in endless tricks and variations, guiding the man onwards. It takes about five minutes max to read but it's good!

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Tyler Landry – Shit and Piss
It feels like Tyler Landry is perhaps not okay. Shit and Piss is set in a nightmarish processing plant for shit and piss, the only remnant of a ruined civilisation, inhabited solely by disgusting mindless beasts. The book is narrated by the plant's custodian – a screaming skull on a small plinth. Pretty much the entire book is horrible shit-golems ripping each other to shreds while the skull soliloquises about genocide, degradation and decay over the top. I thought at first that a plot was going to emerge as the book follows a senseless meat creature around for a bit, but that strand is quickly dropped and it's revealed to be more a series of grotesque tone poems. I'm not assuming anything about Landry because I know art doesn't work like that, but this reads like Prison Pit as written by someone on the verge of suicide. It's probably a hard book to really love but I liked it quite a bit.

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Matt Fraction & Albert Monteys – Solid State
Fraction scripts this from a “concept” by some guy called Jonathan Coulton, and it's pretty decent, although in actual fact bears the closest resemblance to the Universe! series that Monteys writes and draws for Panelsyndicate. It's a familiar but kind of twisty little sci-fi story about a guy building a wall on some kind of foreign planet. His space suit gets broken so he can't eat his mood-altering pills anymore, and that sends him down a rabbit hole of self-knowledge and conspiracies, all that good stuff. The story works just fine, but the main draw is Monteys' beautiful cartooning. Clean, shapely, incredibly detailed yet expressive. He's lowkey one of my favourite artists I think.

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Dilraj Mann – Dalston Monsterzz
A big, colourful, straightforward book from Mann, about teen gangs and evil corporations set in a version of London where big, colourful monsters roam the streets. It goes to most of the obvious places without wasting much time in between the predictable story beats. I think the monsters could have been cut out altogether if they weren't so visually interesting. The stylised art in general is a lot of fun, although weirdly it looks better here on the screen than it does in my oversized hardback copy. I think the format they've chosen for print unexpectedly highlights the lack of detail and texture rather than enhancing the art particularly.
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Postby wildarms » Fri Oct 05, 2018 7:16 pm

anybody have all-time horror / spooky recommendations?
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Postby sevenarts » Fri Oct 05, 2018 11:27 pm

Probably overly obvious but Junji Ito (Uzumaki, Gyo, tons of short stories) and Kazuo Umezu (Drifting Classroom) are total classics of horror manga.

I also really like Emily Carroll (read this now!), Josh Simmons, Julia Gfrorer, Alan Moore's Providence, and Jamie Delano's Hellblazer.
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Postby Wombatz » Sat Oct 06, 2018 5:46 am

HotFingersClub wrote:Image
Janwillem van de Wetering & Paul Kirchner – Murder by Remote Control
Another curio, this one from back in 1986. I've never heard it mentioned before but maybe I've not been paying attention. This is a psychedelic murder mystery set in a gated community surrounding a lake, written by a Dutch crime writer and illustrated by Kirchner, who's probably most famous for the surrealist formalist classic The Bus. It's similar to Twin Peaks in a lot of ways, with a strait-laced, slightly inhuman detective methodically interviewing a small cast of eccentrics one by one. These interviews almost always result in a rambling monologue, at which point Kirchner's stiff, almost educational artwork inevitably explodes into flat grey kaleidoscopes like the one you see above. It's very odd – doesn't really go anywhere or say anything very much as far as I can tell, but it's fun to look at.

i read that earlier this year but had totally forgotten what i thought about it (a similar kind of friendly lukewarm, it seems): "Kirchner himself has said he was very disappointed by de Wetering's contributions who more or less just filled the speech bubbles with exposition and descriptions of what's being shown in the pictures anyway, and indeed this never really takes off despite the plane theme (also the more psychedelic pages would need color to do that, they tend to fall apart), on the other hand, the flat dialog saves it from Steve Aylett territory ... on the whole, still kind of interesting. nice ending."

i tried shit and piss but gave up on it when it became clear it was going nowhere ... not gonna wallow in the shit and piss for the sake of it (and there seem to be quite a lot of comics makers who simply aestheticize their youthful transgressiveness as their art develops without ever questioning their subject matter ... (so maybe the author is the happiest guy on earth (not enough dick jokes for that tho))).

re horror i especially second the drifting classroom and delano hellblazer (both in my inner pantheon), and maybe add that for me morrison's best (sustained) work in the last decade might fall under that umbrella, nameless and annihilator.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Sat Oct 06, 2018 6:14 am

Oh yeah I remember that post now! Mainly I was focused on how gratified I felt that you also apparently don't like Steve Aylett. That's interesting about de Wetering's input as well.

Funnily enough I never thought of Shit and Piss as being juvenile or youthful, although it's clearly transgressive. It felt surprisingly heavy and real to me, given how insane it is. I could very easily believe that Landry is happy. Sometimes excreting stuff like this is a good way to make the body feel good. We've all been there!
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Postby HotFingersClub » Sat Oct 06, 2018 6:26 am

I second all those horror recs esp Junji Ito, Nameless and Emily Carroll.

Would also add the classic Black Hole by Charles Burns and, once you're done with Junji Ito, Masaaki Nakayama's Fuan No Tane AKA Cause for Concern is also pretty spooky

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Postby sevenarts » Sat Oct 06, 2018 8:02 am

Can't believe I forgot Nameless, that's an amazing one and so totally destabilizing in the way it approaches horror. Black Hole is great too. And those Cause for Concern pages look amazing, haven't heard of that one before, I'm shamefully limited in the manga I've read.

That Kirchner page looks so good, it's funny to square that with you guys being so ambivalent about the book as a whole.
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Oct 06, 2018 8:58 am

Speaking of Junji Ito...
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Postby HotFingersClub » Sat Oct 06, 2018 10:11 am

Gunshow did one too

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Postby sevenarts » Mon Oct 08, 2018 5:24 pm

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Tomie by Junji Ito
The horror and Junji Ito talk put me in the mood for this. I've read some of these stories many years ago but never the whole epic, which Dark Horse has kindly collected into a massive omnibus of all 3 volumes. It's great stuff, pretty much on a level with Uzumaki and Gyo to me. It's so incredibly creepy and well-crafted, and even reading it in this format, with 700+ pages of fairly similar stories crammed into a single book, it never really loses its capacity to startle and amuse and sicken because Ito's imagination - especially his visual imagination - never really stops thinking of grotesque new twists on the basic idea. It helps that that basic idea is really resonant and effective on multiple levels. Tomie is a beautiful young woman who's actually an unkillable monstrosity of undefined origins. She has a potent effect on men, turning them into lustful obsessives who can't get her out of their minds, ultimately driving them to psychopathic acts of brutality and violence. Tomie essentially embodies the cliche of the gold digger, the shallow beautiful woman who manipulates and uses men, but Ito twists and tweaks the concept so that Tomie is both the villain and the victim, a constantly mutating horror whose singular power and curse is that she makes men want to rip her to pieces. Maybe it's just the sheer volume of the stories here or maybe the concept does gradually morph over time but as the book goes on I find myself more and more rooting for Tomie, cheering her on as she utterly destroys the pathetic men who abandon their wives and families for her. Tomie is evil but the world around her seems just as evil, and usually is corrupt before she even arrives. Ito frequently pushes the story to absurdist extremes - there's a hilarious and unsettling story that follows 2 slacker dopes as they try to turn Tomie's mutilated remains into sake - and his drawing just gets better and better as he continually delivers new disturbing imagery.

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The Goddess of War by Lauren Weinstein
Figured I'd check this out finally in advance of her new Frontier issue. A pretty cool oversized Picturebox comic from some years back, supposedly the first volume of a serial though it was never followed up. This is Weinstein having fun with a wild fantasy concept that allows her to channel pulp genre conventions as well diverge often into history lessons and political commentary. It follows a hard-drinking Valkyrie who becomes the 20th Century's embodiment of war, and soon gets sick of her role, reminiscing about the good old days rather than doing her part to push humanity to the brink of the destruction they seem to be barreling towards. Pretty fun and funny, and then a big chunk of it is given over to a pulpy, dramatic recounting of the story of the Apache chief Cochise and his battles against the US army. Weinstein's loose cartooning is top-notch and perfectly suited to the freewheeling tone here.

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Frontier #17: Mother's Walk by Lauren Weinstein
Excellent new comic about birth and motherhood, as HFC wrote about recently. Weinstein focuses on all the details of giving birth to her second child, flush from the experience and focused on remembering and documenting as much of what happened as she possibly can. It's a pretty remarkable piece of work, alternating between crisply realistic illustrations and more abstract, sketchy sections that seek to capture the feeling of the experience in wavery lines and dense bursts of near-hallucinatory imagery. It's intimate, deeply personal, full of Weinstein's characteristic wit and humor, and very beautiful.

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John, Dear by Laura Lannes
A spare, minimalist little book that uses a bare minimum of images and words to relate a harrowing tale of emotional abuse and manipulation in a relationship. Lannes' gloomy grays and blacks shroud this grim story in shadow, as a woman gets involved with a man who makes her feel like shit, and retreats from the world as he makes her feel worse and worse about herself, all under the guise of "love." Lannes draws beautifully, and the images she includes here are darkly beautiful, but she intentionally restrains her imagery, frequently stripping away the images altogether in favor of black panels with laconic texts. The effect is stark and horrifying and affecting. More good, challenging work from one of comics' best documenters of abuse and dysfunction.

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I Love You by Sara Lautman
I got this as part of this year's Retrofit bundle, can't really recommend it at all. A slim collection of gag strips about tattoos, political figures, and observational vignettes. It all has a vague sketchbook quality to it, which is fine but it's just not very funny or interestingly drawn or... much of anything really. Some of the "street scene" stuff towards the end looks like New Yorker cartoons missing their captions.

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The Prince by Liam Cobb
I adored this. Cobb's loose "adaptation" of the Frog Prince fairy tale is actually a vicious, satirical, deadpan hilarious fable that feels like Chantal Akerman doing an episode of Mad Men. Cobb's precise stylishness gives the tale an icy sheen that makes it all the more startling when it takes abrupt left turns into absurdist humor, abstracted cityscapes, outlandish visual excess, and outright horror. Great book, kind of melding the more narrative impulses of recent Cobb books like The Puritan's Wife with the more formalist sensibility of the Conditioner/Shampoo/Lather trilogy.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:22 am

Excellent. You're making me really want to go back and re-read Tomie again. Out of his three epics, it's definitely the one I've gone back to the least - I think perhaps it's an even darker, more nihilistic world than we usually see from Ito, because of those terrible craven men who Tomie attracts to herself like flies to rotting meat. Uzumaki and Gyo, for all the extreme horror, are generally driven by wide-eyed innocents struggling for survival, so it's at least clear who you're rooting for.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:22 am

Can't wait to get to The Prince
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Postby sevenarts » Tue Oct 09, 2018 7:38 am

HotFingersClub wrote: I think perhaps it's an even darker, more nihilistic world than we usually see from Ito, because of those terrible craven men who Tomie attracts to herself like flies to rotting meat. Uzumaki and Gyo, for all the extreme horror, are generally driven by wide-eyed innocents struggling for survival, so it's at least clear who you're rooting for.


Yeah, this is what I found interesting about it, especially when it's all gathered in this giant collection. I feel like it starts out a bit as "oh Tomie is destroying the lives of these innocents," which would feed into a more misogynist reading of the book, and there are other stories here and there that also frame it that way but for most of the book it's more complex than that. Ito often writes about supernatural-seeming obsession but what's interesting here is that it's not clear if the obsession of these men actually is supernaturally driven or if they're just weak-willed guys driven to extremes by their lust. There are, after all, at least 2 stories here about guys who manage to resist Tomie - one who's so ugly that he's spent his whole life seeing through surface beauty and so is unswayed, and another who's devoted to the memory of his dead girlfriend who, at least in memory, is perfect and widely beloved by everyone she met. That last one is telling, I think. There's never a story about a guy so in love with a living woman that he can resist Tomie, but this guy who essentially has his own perfect object of obsession already isn't interested in acquiring another one.
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Postby Melville » Tue Oct 09, 2018 7:50 pm

wildarms wrote:anybody have all-time horror / spooky recommendations?

Stuff I haven't seen mentioned yet:

Al Columbia
Shintaro Kago's short story "Holes" (also called "Punctures")
From Hell
Bernie Wrightson's "Jenifer" and "The Black Cat"
Mignola's Aliens: Salvation
Bits of Hellboy and BPRD
Mattotti's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (maybe not horrory enough though)
The first volume of Brubaker and Phillips' Fatale
Afterlife with Archie is pretty awesome

Black Hole and Emily Carroll are also great.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Oct 10, 2018 8:54 am

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C. S. Baker & Shaky Kane – Last Driver
This is a bad story given a slight sheen by the art of Shaky Kane, who isn’t my favourite artist in the world but at least has a distinctive and invigorating style, somewhere between Geof Darrow and Mike Allred, although not as polished as either. It’s like an action movie pastiche or something about a big guy with mullet and sunglasses fighting monsters and local warlords. Basically Mad Max with a couple of little kaiju thrown in. Very boring and bland.

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Rob Cham – Light
Cham illustrates a silent story, one panel per page, about a little Bone-lookin’ blob guy with a sword who’s tracking down some magical gems in a huge network of caves. It’s mostly a showcase for the light effects that Cham uses in his art. Each page is essentially dark, but lit beautifully by the glowing gems, which cast patterns on the walls of the caves and the faces of the monsters that live down there. Ultimately it’s pretty thin.

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Gary Panter – Songy of Paradise
Even though I’m still reading on a computer screen rather than the oversized hardbacks recommended by sevenarts, I enjoyed this quite a bit. It’s definitely my favourite Panter experience so far. The art is bigger and clearer for one thing, which is a great way to appreciate the huge amount of detail and the obsessive patterns. I’m also (slightly) more familiar with the source text. I didn’t find there was a huge amount to grab onto that felt relevant to me, but I loved the density of the art and the symbolism, and they hypnotic compositions. It’s definitely the work of a true original.

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Cecil Castellucci & Jose Pimienta – Soupy Leaves Home
Castellucci is the writer of Shade the Changing Girl/Woman at DC, which was an early hit for me before my interest kind of tailed off, but I thought I owed it to her to check out this GN. Sadly, it’s really lacking the little weirdo spark that made Shade worth following. It’s the story of a young girl in depression era America, escaping an abusive family by disguising herself as a boy and starting a new life as a hobo, accompanied by a wise old hobo mentor. I got about halfway through before admitting to myself that I had no interest in it at all, and that the repeated scenes of the hobo mentor teaching the girl about the power of imagination were really getting on my nerves. Pimienta’s art is fine but kind of wobbly and cheap looking – not really bringing much to the party.

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Fabian Rangel Jr. & Alexis Ziritt – Space Riders
Maybe this is better suited to the other thread. I think that’s where I heard it being hyped originally. I thought it was broadly fine. Similar to what Tom Scioli is doing but with less winking and more macho bullshit. The characters and the plotting here are not very fun, but luckily Ziritt’s art is lots of fun if you like this kind of thing. Lots of crazy colours and mad designs of spaceships and dead gods. Similar to what you get out of Philippe Druillet but more pulpy I suppose.

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Josh Tierney & Various Artists – Spera: Ascension of the Starless
This is the next phase in Tierney’s fantasy saga about two princesses on the run from an evil queen. The format is still the same. Tierney writes, and everything is designed by Afu Chan, but each issue is drawn by a different artist, some of whom were familiar to me (Giannis Milonogiannis and Jakub Rebelka) and most of whom were not. While the styles differ a lot between issues (nowhere near Flayed Corpse levels of integration), the standard in general is super high, really hard to pick any favourites. Everyone brings something new, and by the end of each issue you’re fully adapted and wishing they would stay. Previously I’ve found this series’ YA action/adventure stylings to be a bit insubstantial, but this volume sees the stakes heightened considerably as the aimless wandering draws to a close and the Starless Queen finally starts to catch up to the team and to the world of Spera as a whole. Tierney’s penchant for digressions and fresh starts might make it hard to sustain the momentum but for the moment it feels more engaging.
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Postby sevenarts » Wed Oct 10, 2018 7:40 pm

Glad you're slowly warming to Panter. Songy was a blast and, you're right, for sure way easier to grab ahold of than something like Jimbo In Purgatory. I love the way Panter mashes up classic texts, pop art, cartoon iconography, all these visual and textual cliches delivered in this frenzied but beautifully arranged style. Pure joy to me.

Also glad you beat me to Soupy - I was curious even though Shade had lost its luster by the end.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:22 am

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Nick Drnaso – Sabrina
Just as an addendum to this week's reading, I spent a couple of hours last night and this morning with Nick Drnaso's Sabrina after seeing it hyped to the heavens here (Sevenarts), there (Booker shortlisted) and everywhere (everywhere). There's certainly a lot of power in this story, and I felt I received some of those elements in a stronger way than I did others. What seeped through most to me was the horror and the inhumanity – the unsparing and repetitive quality of grief in response to the endless and meaningless violence that we sometimes feel surrounded by. Ted, the character closest to the book's tragedy, is thrown into the same state with clockwork regularity: screaming in the night, shut inside his friend's featureless house, unable to even dress himself. As things seem to progress around him, he stays right where he is for hundreds of pages. I'm lucky enough to have someone in my life who would provoke the same reaction in me if the same thing happened to her, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. Drnaso doesn't let you stop thinking about it. The gross inhumanity of the media, the culture of mistrust and false flags – those feelings are incredibly intense in this book and very scary.

It interested me that Sevenarts said it captured his feeling of living in America. I think I still feel insulated from this stuff somehow; the book doesn't reflect my own experience (not that it necessarily should). Partly it just depicts a world that feels like nowhere I've ever lived (although I could readily believe Colorado looks like that), but also in the UK it seems like there's less of that insane paranoiac branch of the right wing that starts clustering around Calvin in this book, or at least it's less visible. That's maybe the thing that holds this book back from transcendence for me. Despite everything, I don't feel as scared or as isolated as Drnaso seems to be telling me I am. It's a really bold choice to have his characters all look so blank, like people from the in-flight safety brochure. I wondered if maybe it was supposed to promote projection of emotion, but for me it creates a huge distancing effect that maybe allows the twists of the knife, unadorned and un-emphasised by acting, to hit home without feeling melodramatic. Whatever works for you I guess. Sevenarts is right that it's remarkable. I don't know if I'd join Zadie Smith in calling it a masterpiece though. For all the incredible work it does in evoking that affectless feeling of loneliness, at times it felt too narrow or predetermined to quite connect.
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:23 pm

Interesting thoughts on Sabrina. That's a book that hit me very powerfully and its aftereffects have really lingered with me. I think part of what you're alluding to in your more conflicted reactions to it is that it may resonate most powerfully and most directly to those living within, and with, the culture it depicts. A lot of what's in the book is, I think, pretty universal - not only the depiction of grief but certainly the vision of the media and the Internet it presents - but I do feel that it's a very American book, very specific to a culture in which gun violence is shrugged off and met with vociferous lobbying for still more guns, a culture in which shrill right-wing paranoia is increasingly not at the fringes but shouting in the ears of those inhabiting our centers of power. As powerful as the depiction of Teddy's very personal grief is here, the creeping, discomfiting feelings elicited by the uncaring, antagonistic milieu in which Teddy grieves is just as intense to me. And if that world isn't recognizable to you, or seems exaggerated, well... more proof that I need to move. :(

I see the book as trying to cut through the seemingly monolithic, and multi-sourced, society-wide lack of empathy that's permeating the world around Teddy. Like his first book, Sabrina is about people who have difficulty connecting, and I don't think Drnaso wants his characters to be too easy to connect to. They have very specific, developed personalities and lives and experiences, but there's a blankness about them that, as you say, creates some distance, some difficulty in truly connecting on a totally visceral level. I think that's important since Drnaso's stories all deal with such potent emotions. It'd be easy to tilt into melodrama like you say, or simply to allow the reader to get swept up in the emotion of the fiction, to read this book as a visceral tearjerker. To me, the themes of Drnaso's work would be compromised if his books so easily encouraged identification. That we can't always understand other people is a big part of the point. The remoteness, the slight stiffness and blankness and awkward pauses, and the fact that we as readers never really get into anyone's head at all, prevents the experience from being too smooth.
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Postby sevenarts » Fri Oct 12, 2018 7:54 am

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Coyote Doggirl by Lisa Hanawalt
Hanawalt's first actual narrative graphic novel, rather than a collection of single-page jokes and gags like her other books. Very enjoyable for sure. I've always liked her but the format she works in normally isn't one I'm big on - she's just so damn entertaining that she makes it great - so it's a treat for me to see her stretch out like this. No question this isn't as funny as her other works, there's just not the density of one-gag-after-another unrelenting humor, but I don't think it's even trying for that. Instead, Hanawalt slows down to tell an Old West tale of vengeance, but skewed by her own sensibility, languid and off-kilter, packed with quiet moments for the characters to exchange fashion tips and bawdy jokes. Her art has never looked better, particularly the vibrant watercolor hues that are perfectly suited to all these wide-open vistas - the page where the villains are introduced, framed as shadows against a bloody orange sunset, is jaw-dropping. The book is full of moments like this where Hanawalt plays it semi-straight, mining the Western genre for visual splendor and dramatic templates even as she elsewhere subverts and undermines the genre's conventions - particularly in terms of gender. Real good stuff.

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Dementia 21 by Shintaro Kago
This new Fantagraphics (!) Kago collection showcases a side of the infamous manga artist I hadn't seen before. This is a thick volume about a home health aide named Yukie whose jealous rival tries to ruin Yukie's career by sending her to care for notoriously troublesome old people. Kago, surprisingly, seems to treat that melodrama straightforwardly... for maybe 10 pages. After that, things swiftly escalate into ever-wackier territory, as Yukie finds herself caring for the elderly in increasingly surreal scenarios. A denture AI becomes self-aware, and self-replicating. Towers of sad single-room bunks for abandoned old folks become the site of an alternative society with its own governments and wars. An aging superhero is revitalized when he plays the long game to give his old foes bed sores. A psychic with dementia starts exploding the people around her into sprays of viscera as she forgets about them. As in all of Kago's work, just under the absurdity is a very pointed but unspoken commentary about the cruelty of human society, here especially aimed at the treatment of the elderly, government bureaucracy, and humanity's capacity for war and violence. The comic's absurdity and loopy laughs are expected, but the poignancy and melancholy that Kago frequently wrings out of these ridiculous situations are what separate him as a truly unique, and uniquely unsettling, artist. It strikes me that Fanta chose very wisely here: this is maybe the most accessible introduction to Kago imaginable, maybe without the dazzling formal hijinks of his very best work but also pretty light on the more prurient material that can make him a tough sell for Western audiences.

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Make Me A Woman by Vanessa Davis
A collection of charming, lively little diary comics and short stories, alternating between very polished, structured pieces (often in bright, beautiful color) and sketchier fragments of diary comics that illustrate a moment or a thought. Not my usual kind of thing but Davis is a fun cartoonist and she has a low-key knack for condensing a story or an idea into a very economical few images, arranged into free-flowing rhythms on her very fluid pages.
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Oct 14, 2018 11:59 pm

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On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Walden's beloved space adventure webcomic finally gets a physical edition, and I finally read it. It's utterly beautiful, of course. She's such a phenomenal artist, every page of this looks amazing. I love the minimalist color work, using a small palette of flat colors to tremendous effect. It's a really charming and engrossing book, following a group of women who fly a fish-shaped spaceship from one construction job to the next, reconstructing abandoned old buildings on lonely, seemingly uninhabited planets. The pacing is mostly languid, and the sci-fi/fantasy elements mostly serve as a backdrop to the sweet, melancholy, romantic, at times melodramatic story of young love that's actually at the core of this tale. Memory and nostalgia play big roles, as Walden switches back and forth between the present and the remembered past, purposefully subverting forward momentum in favor of reminiscences and gentle present-tense hangout scenes. Things do eventually build to a fevered climax that totally leans into, and pays off, the book's more melodramatic threads, but ultimately what I love best are the quieter moments. I also love the book's implicitly utopian, communitarian vision of a vast, weird outer space populated entirely by women, where lesbian love is the unquestioned norm, jobs are strange and creative and adventurous, and ancient otherworldly beings can be found in out-of-the-way nooks.

I will say, as a side note, I get why First Second has been publishing Walden in these bookstore-friendly "I look just like a 'real' novel" formats, and I expect she does very well in that kind of market, but as someone who thinks the physical form of a comic is generally pretty important to its effect, I miss the larger scale of The End of Summer for this book. The smaller scale worked perfectly for Spinning but this one I think would've benefitted from something grander especially for the moments when Walden indulges her architectural interests with images of crumbling old buildings perched on alien landscapes, or the wild, nearly abstract deep space vistas she frequently draws here. It all looks amazing but I can't help but wish I could really sink into some of these images more.

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The Worst by Molly Mendoza
HFC covered this one well a while back. Good Short Box mini from last year, a real nasty little piece of work about a disintegrating friendship between two girls on a high school swim team. The books proceeds mostly through gossipy narration about the girls from others, and further abstracts the story with images of fish and sharks, giving a violent, unsettling edge to a story entirely about biting words. Quite good.

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Your Mother's Fox by Niv Sekar
Another Short Box mini, from earlier this year, and like pretty much everything I've seen from them this is interesting, aesthetically vibrant, and feels like it's been selected by someone with a real eye for cool comics. This is a poignant, polemical modern fable about a young woman riding across the US on her mother's magical talking fox. In spite of the fantastical premise, the story is grounded and focused on mundane details, and Sekar's drawing is simple but attractive, with especially nice use of color. Sekar's story is pointedly political but just ambiguous enough to avoid being preachy, instead serving as a bittersweet metaphor for the American immigrant experience in a modern US that's devaluing and looking with suspicion at those who attempt to bring their foreign cultures and experiences to these shores.

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Fashion Forecasts by Yumi Sakugawa
Mostly not a comic, this is instead a collection of drawings that Sakugawa posted online, collected in a zine, and displayed as part of an art show. Her drawings are lively, but her imaginings of a future fashion that's multicultural and sensitive to history and context are more interesting as theory than as actual art. I only got this because it was part of this year's Retrofit bundle, and this doesn't add up to much for me, sadly.

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All the Sad Songs by Summer Pierre
Another Retrofit flop. Imagine making a painfully earnest comic, in 2018, about how much you love mixtapes and how, wow, music has totally been the soundtrack of your life.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Oct 15, 2018 6:57 am

Haha yeah I read that Summer Pierre book as well; didn't even bother posting about it - it just seemed pointless from the very first page.

Very excited about Coyote Doggirl and Dementia 21. Do you listen to Lisa Hanawalt's podcast Baby Geniuses? It's probably my fave 'cast right now. It's extremely Hanawaltian but has nothing to do with comics.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Oct 15, 2018 7:04 am

I loved the world of On a Sunbeam. It's so beautifully designed and conceived, with such a perfectly negligible amount of attention paid to the mechanics of the spectacle - my favourite dreams are a lot like this. Walden's knowledge of architecture pays off hugely again, just like in The End of Summer. I'd love to see her design explorable spaces of some kind.

I recently read Joanna Russ's seventies feminist sci-fi novel The Female Man and was really struck by the similarities of OAS to Russ's world of Whileaway
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Oct 20, 2018 11:01 pm

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The Agency by Katie Skelly
Collecting the erotic spy comics Skelly originally published as webcomics on Slutist.com, and put out in her own minis as well. Sleek, stylish, sexy, goofy, and economical, these are not comics likely to win over those skeptical about Skelly, but for confirmed fans like me this is a ton of fun. I had a lot of these stories already in minis but they're still a dirty great time, and even here, in these rather single-minded porn comics, there are hints of deeper, darker emotions, especially in the Sarah Horrocks-written "Agent 73," about a mad scientist whose experiments keep creating variants on the same woman, each time getting further and further away from her original object of obsession. And then there's the one where Spider-Man goes down on a spy chick, so, you know, there's something for everyone here.

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My Solo Exchange Diary Vol. 1 by Kabi Nagata
The sequel to her first manga, My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, continues Nagata's unfettered look at her own isolated existence, her struggles to break free of the control and disapproval of her conservative parents, and her gradual process of self-improvement. It's probably unfair of me, but perhaps because it is a sequel, and the first book led up so cathartically to a moment of genuine breakthrough, the first half of this feels a bit like it's retreading ground she's already covered. But she soon won me over again with the sheer charm of her drawing and the confessional, but never maudlin, direct quality of her writing. Her work remains incredibly brave in the way she seems to totally lay bare her every thought, dramatizing and visualizing the internal struggles of someone struggling with repression, guilt, depression, and the pressures of societal expectations.

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Fluorescent Mud by Eli Howey
Interesting, eerily beautiful new graphic novel from an artist who's new to me. Gorgeous, luminescent painted colors dominate an abstracted, very internal study of disassociation and depression. Howey's mix of gouache and watercolor painting with very clearly defined cartooning and linework gives the book a very unique vibe. The colors are vibrant, almost glowing, but have a distinctly minor-key palette - the whole book looks like it's bathed in bright moonlight, washed in pale blues and greens and purples, this washed-out nighttime quality. It has a very loose story to it, but mostly it's concerned with internality, with the workings of the mind, the way the intellect and emotions can work on one's vision of oneself and of the world. Real good.

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Brat by Michael DeForge
HFC covered this well already. Having read it now, I feel where he's coming from - this is undoubtedly not DeForge's best work - but I'm not sure it matters because, DeForge being one of the best cartoonists around, this is still really, really great. So do I damn him for not always turning out books on the jaw-dropping level of Ant Colony or Big Kids? Or do I just appreciate that this is a fantastic, entertaining, probing, intellectually curious piece of work on its own merits? I definitely don't agree that this is less visually experimental than usual, it's just pushing in different directions. A lot of this feels very animation-like: lots of structured grids with minimalist backgrounds so that DeForge can study the figures in motion, playing with their loose limbs and exploring his familiar theme of using bodily transformation to express inner states. These characters, especially the main character Ms. D, are often twisting into new shapes in their rage or despair - at one point she dries up into a cluster of fragile, wavery little lines on a pure white backdrop. There are also a lot of what I think of as singular DeForgian moments, where seeming absurdity leads unexpectedly into something much deeper. The key moment of that sort here is the one where a two-year-old's monologue about shitting on the floor leads into an exploration of the disconnection between parents and children, this gulf of misunderstanding and antipathy all radiating out across the years from a mound of toddler crap. The other best moment to me is a 6-panel page of Ms. D's assistant honing her own skills at acting out by eating the food meant for a wake. Her mouth deforms and eventually takes up her entire face, this enormous black hole with a tiny red tongue sticking out the bottom, but what makes the page so amazing is that it's DeForge's warping of traditional cartooning vocabulary, just tweaking the language until it becomes something absurd and grotesque. I think it's one of my favorite pages that he's done, and the book is packed with moments like this. This may be minor DeForge but that makes it still a pretty major book.

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Space Academy 123 by Mickey Zacchilli
A series of one-page gag strips about a futuristic school. It's charming and Zacchilli's sketchy post-Fort Thunder drawing is fun to look at, but it's extreeeeemely slight. Also for gag strips these are mostly just faintly amusing, at best. This just isn't anywhere near as good or funny or packed with character and detail as her minicomic series RAV, and the page-turning, propulsive adventure narrative of that book served her style much better than the more constricting one-page format she's working in here. Very disappointing.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Oct 22, 2018 5:28 am

Exciting! I didn't know MLEWL had a sequel and I hadn't heard about Fluorescent Mud - both look great.

I'm having a slow few weeks while I actually do real work at work instead of reading comics. The only things I've read recently are JLA: Created Equal and the next volume of Spera: Ascension of the Starless, neither of which merit image posts in this illustrious thread

I'm excited for the year end lists as well. I feel like 2018 has been unusually strong for new comics

Lastly, that page is an excellent pull from Brat, and one that hadn't registered with me on my first read. Maybe it's not accurate to say it's less formally experimental than his other pieces, but also I guess that once the book's over, you're usually just left with impressions of the whole unless anything like the page above jumps out, and what stayed with me were the repetition and the grids rather than the interspersed body-morphing sections. Still a great book though, as you say.
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Oct 22, 2018 2:40 pm

Interesting, I’ve been kind of feeling like this is a bit less of an exciting year for comics. I usually try not to think like that - there’s good stuff every year, and yadda yadda - and a lot of it may just be me having way less time than usual to fully engage but I definitely feel like in terms of sheer volume and variety of truly top-level stuff there’s less than usual on my list.
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Postby Wombatz » Mon Oct 22, 2018 4:32 pm

i guess i like less stuff than the both of you anyway, but i did spend a large part of this year's comics budget on old floppies (it's still a golden age, as golden ages go)
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Oct 22, 2018 7:06 pm

I mean the best thing I read this year was a collection of Chris Reynolds comics from 20+ years ago that I'd mostly read before, so yea, the old days really were the best days. ;)
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Oct 23, 2018 10:15 am

Really got to read that Chris Reynolds book.

tbqh, most of the stuff on my draft 20 belongs more to the other thread than this one, but there have been v strong releases from a number of my faves, and it feels like plenty left to catch up with

I will grant u that I've not had many brand new creators making a big splash in my comics consciousness
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