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 » Wed Jun 26, 2019 9:14 pm

Nice! I really like Foodboy too. Gast is probably her masterpiece but stuff like Foodboy or her early series Way Out Strips is fantastic as well, very moody and enigmatic, there's this ineffable tone to her work that I also associate with Chris Reynolds (she's much less wordy though!).

Haven't read that Moore book but I've read some of the shorts over the years - I remember his collaboration with Beyer (originally from Raw iirc) being lots of fun.
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Postby sevenarts » Fri Jun 28, 2019 12:00 am

Even more random stuff...

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She's Not Into Poetry by Tom Hart
Hart's 90s minicomics seem to be revered by a lot of his fellow cartoonists, but I can't say I'm fully onboard after checking out this collection. Hart's style is stripped down and simple so it's all about the rhythms, and he's definitely good at that: a lot of this feels like stills from animation storyboards, just beat beat beat solid cartooning fundamentals done in a quick sketchy style that's all about conveying some motion and expressions without stopping to polish anything up. There's some charm here, little evocative moments and sharp bits of dialogue, but a lot of it feels pretty thin beyond the basic appeal of the brisk style. And then there's the absolutely tiresome zine dedicated to a prose story about Hart taking a bus trip where he flirts and obsesses over all the women on the trip. The charm evaporates pretty quickly there.

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Lost In the Fun Zone by Leif Goldberg
Never my favorite Fort Thunder/Kramers cartoonist. And although important at the time - his group Forcefield were the ones who brought that scene to the attention of the modern art world - over time Goldberg hasn't held up nearly as well as peers like C.F., Chippendale, or Brinkman. Still, I've had some fun with issues of National Waste at times, but this newer graphic novel (his first) doesn't have anything new to say in this by-now familiar genre. A couple of cats wander at random, with scenes changing unpredictably. In the horizontal format, three-quarters of the page tracks their adventure while the other quarter is a margin for semi-random words scribbled alongside the images. It all feels like a throwback in the worst way, very boring.

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Gnatrat oneshots by Mark Martin
I first encountered Martin doing painfully lame and unfunny funny animal comics alongside Jim Woodring's early Frank efforts. Here he is a few years earlier doing painfully lame and unfunny pastiches of Frank Miller's Dark Knight and other superhero touchstones of the mid-80s, starring a geriatric billionaire rat who fights crime. Miller's originals are way funnier playing it straight than this supposed parody ever is. Really, really bleak stuff, especially when it dips into homophobia for its gags.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by various
Like many others I grew up on the Turtles without ever knowing they were a comic first, only learning about the origins much later. I figured I'd finally check out some of this legendary book that in many ways launched the whole black-and-white indie boom of the 80s and early 90s. What's striking to me about it is how scattershot it all is. I was expecting the foundations for the later cartoons' mythology but it's barely there - Shredder dies in the first issue (but does come back eventually), other villains make brief appearances, and nods to continuity or consistency are only sporadic. The creators, Eastman and Laird, likely overwhelmed by their sudden baffling level of success and distracted by TV and movie efforts, peter out as writer/artists quickly enough, increasingly delegating everything to others. The original Eastman/Laird stuff is appealing in its raw, amateurish way, these blasts of pure genre energy steeped in samurai manga and the era's dark, gritty superhero landmarks. Once they hand over the reins many issues are unsurprisingly terrible, but it also leaves room for some pretty damn weird stuff to happen. While the TV-ified Turtles were colonizing kids' minds everywhere, Rick Veitch was doing a moody, deeply weird three-issue horror piece about a radioactive leech who poses as a cop, then followed it up with an even wilder single issue about a set of 50s hot rod-inspired mutant speed-demons rampaging on an endless freeway in an alternate dimension. Richard Corben (!!!) stops by for a time travel yarn in which the Turtles blithely stomp backwards through history, eventually killing off humanity's prehistoric ancestors. Mark Martin, who I hate just about everywhere else (see above) does some totally bonkers issues where the Turtles get blown up and have their minds transplanted into goofy robots, while various time travel hijinks keep rewriting reality - real fun for 2 issues until the third crosses over with Gnatrat and it becomes a slog. Best of all, Michael Zulli contributes a jaw-droppingly gorgeous (seriously, holy shit) trilogy in which the Turtles are re-imagined as nearly mindless beasts conjured by a rat sorceror to battle his human foe the Shredder. The rich, pulpy stuff like this sits side-by-side with some staggeringly dumb comics by Eastman/Laird's hangers-on, and that crew seems to fully take over after Zulli's last issue so I stopped there. Still, this was a way odder and more interesting set of comics than I would have thought.

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Tales of Woodsman Pete by Lilli Carre
A set of short stories, many one-pagers, about a solitary woodsman and Paul Bunyan. Some charming moments, a few nice lightly surreal gags, a couple of chuckles, but wow this is a puff of nothing. There's so many damn indie comics like this. I remember her first book The Lagoon being way more substantial.

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Watergate Sue by Megan Kelso
Somehow missed out on this serial from 2007, back when the NYT Magazine experimented with having a bunch of indie cartoonists serialize graphic novellas a page per week. Kelso's always been a favorite, especially for her short stories, and this one's effect creeped up on me in her familiar subtle way. Like all of her work, it's quiet, disarmingly direct in its approach, relating a cross-generational tale: as Nixon winds towards impeachment, a woman reluctantly endures a pregnancy she didn't want, while decades later her daughter prepares for her own baby. Kelso's thin, delicate linework and pale colors make everything look cozily domestic, but there's so many intense emotions buried under that surface. Read between the lines and there's a poignant throughline about a woman's fervent desire to engage intellectually and politically with the world, even as she's getting pulled inexorably further away from her ideals and her dreams into domesticity, an expanding family, and the petty dramas of the neighborhood. Kelso has a real gentle touch with potentially melodramatic material, letting her themes slowly take shape more in what's unsaid than in the actual surface text. I hear she's working on a collection of new short stories now, it'll be exciting to see her return to comics someday.
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Postby Wombatz » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:38 am

sevenarts wrote:Image
Tales of Woodsman Pete by Lilli Carre
A set of short stories, many one-pagers, about a solitary woodsman and Paul Bunyan. Some charming moments, a few nice lightly surreal gags, a couple of chuckles, but wow this is a puff of nothing ...

darn i really dug this when it came out (admittedly, very early on my way back into comics, so i would have had nothing to compare it against) ... more than the lagoon actually, which, while it looked more interesting on first view, seemed to stay on more familiar territory ... i should revisit. if i post nothing about it here over the next couple of weeks then i silently agree.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Fri Jun 28, 2019 3:42 am

That Turtles stuff looks crazy - I think I'd enjoy reading some of the weirder highlights (Zulli especially) but I don't really want to go through the whole series. Can you recommend the good issues so I can dig em out?
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Postby sevenarts » Fri Jun 28, 2019 7:02 am

Yea, highlights is the way to go. I'm a completist by nature but even I stopped at #36, didn't look like anything in the 20+ issues past that would be too interesting.

The Zulli issues are the clear best, that's #31, 35-36.

Jan Strnad/Richard Corben do #33 (also the only one I read that was in color, which is wild).

Rick Veitch's fun Bloodsucker trilogy is in #24-26, and the hot rod issue is #30.

And I actually did enjoy the first 2 parts of Mark Martin's trilogy in #16, 22-23. It gets real dumb in the third issue but those first 2 are so nuts.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Fri Jun 28, 2019 7:35 am

Thanks mate I'll see if I can find them
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Postby Wombatz » Sat Jun 29, 2019 6:02 am

looks like there's a trade collecting all the zulli stuff (soul's winter), but it's colored so i guess the art is ruined
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Postby Melville » Sat Jun 29, 2019 7:54 am

Unlike sevenarts, I was obsessed with the turtles as a kid but never liked the cartoons. So my opinions might be colored by nostalgia, but that warning aside, I still think some of the "in continuity" TMNT issues are worth reading, specifically a couple of three-issue storylines:

Leonardo one-shot, followed by issues 10 and 11 of the main series. The basis of the first movie. Cheesy for sure, but some nice pacing and fight scenes, and it's the first time the characters really have discernible personalities. Although Eastman & Laird's art is really crude in the first few issues of the series, by these issues I'd argue the storytelling/pacing/layouts are actually rock solid, even if the draftsmanship remains a bit crude. You can get all three issues collected in a colored version titled "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Book IV"; I think the coloring actually improves the art considerably.

"Return to New York" (issues 19-21). Essentially the sequel to the story above. A much darker, more violent, and weirder ending to the movie's storyline. Lots of fight scenes connected by a story that feels almost abstract. Shredder is made out of worms. I'm not a fan of Lawson's pencils, but Eastman's layouts save it.

Also, issue 14 is a fun noir pastiche written and drawn by Eastman. And I remember liking issue 6, where the turtles fight triceratops men on an alien planet. Though the art is still pretty crude in that one.

All that said, I agree that Zulli's issues are the clear highlight. I've been meaning to read Zulli's Puma Blues.
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Jun 29, 2019 8:09 am

I certainly wouldn't steer anyone away from reading the core Eastman/Laird issues you lay out - they're pretty fun comics, pretty basic in their craft and content a lot of the time but certainly not bad. I'm more drawn to the oddball, unexpected stuff they brought in from other artists like Zulli later but the core stories are appealing too.

I want to read Puma Blues too - I've been interested in it for a while but funny enough the TMNT have bumped it closer to the top of my list. Looks like the style is basically exactly the same as his Turtles issues.
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Jun 30, 2019 1:02 am

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Dirty Plotte: The Complete Julie Doucet
By the time I first discovered Julie Doucet's comics in the early 2000s, she had just wrapped up her own time with the medium. I didn't realize that then, and Doucet's comics were huge for me, and very much fit in my mind with the other stuff I was discovering and reading, largely from the same 80s/90s zine/indie culture that spawned her work: Clowes, Ware, Chester Brown, Fleener, the Hernandez brothers, Charles Burns, etc. Catching up on all that stuff, that kind of canon of alt comics that was all being packaged up for the burgeoning bookstore market right as I was getting into it, was what first got me heavily into comics and has driven my love for the form ever since.

Re-reading Doucet's work now, in this absolutely gorgeous D&Q collection, I feel that same energy and excitement all over again, and even more maybe, I feel like now I appreciate more deeply just how unique and idiosyncratic these comics are, how much they stand apart even from their closest peers. Doucet's drawing is unforgettable - so lively, so packed with weird details. Every panel feels absolutely overloaded, like every inch has been crammed with something worth looking at. Her cartoon avatar spends much of her time indoors, in cramped and filthy apartments, and Doucet lovingly draws all the clutter, all the unwashed laundry or dishes, sometimes even infusing the inanimate objects around her with life, letting the panel overflow with little talking coffee cups. What's amazing is that for all the detail, all the density, Doucet's work seldom feels labored over - even though it's obvious that it's a lot of work and at times she *does* struggle over her creations. There's such naturalness to her idiosyncratic style, an unforced quality that just seems to flow out of everything she does, from the charmingly askew way she draws herself to the way she manages to infuse a French accent into her English words on the page.

D&Q have collected her whole comics body of work in a two-volume slipcase, jam-packed with a decade-plus worth of comics: the 12 issues of Dirty Plotte D&Q put out between 1991-1998, plus earlier minicomic work, anthology and unpublished pieces, and her final comic, the graphic novella The Madame Paul Affair. It's almost overwhelming to have it all brought together like this, so much amazing vital work on every page. The early work especially is still so bracing - completely unpredictable, startling, funny as hell and eerily dark by turns, it's also, even now, difficult to grapple with just because it's so unlike anything else. Doucet does have parallels in Crumb and the undergrounds (though she herself cites French cartoonists like Nicole Claveloux instead), and like a lot of her 80s/90s peers she places her own avatar at the center of her work, but in many ways she also subverts these touchstones. For one thing, Doucet's work is often shocking but is seldom *about* the shock - she's too matter-of-fact to be a true provocateur like Crumb. For another, though she stars in most of her stories, it's hard to call a lot of it proper autobiography - it's a stream of surreal dreams, violent fantasy outbursts, a long serial in which Doucet is a sidekick to a cast of profane talking cats.

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It is, however, all deeply personal, and at its core is an intense exploration of being a woman. In one of the early anthology pieces included in the 2nd volume here, the lack of a tampon as her period starts causes Doucet to turn into a Godzilla-like monster stomping across the city, streaming rivers of blood onto the streets until she rips the roof off a drugstore to get some relief. DP #6 contains some of Doucet's most infamous strips, in which she imagines herself as a man in several different ways, embodying the man as the two extremes of violent sexual aggressor and romantic ideal, but also playfully fantasizing about goofy uses for her new penis in between. This work is always playful, but that quality is juxtaposed with body horror, and righteous feminist rage, and the shy, quiet sadness that sometmes creeps in.

Later stories, like "My New York Diary" (serialized in DP#10-12 to close out the series) and "The Madame Paul Affair," are closer to conventional autobiography but Doucet's unique perspective remains pronounced. These are stories, in part, about feeling trapped in terrible relationships with loser guys, though they strike very different tones. "My New York Diary" gradually becomes darker and darker and more oppressive - though it starts with Doucet's usual carefree charm and she never lets her matter-of-fact demeanor slip much, the atmosphere gets more and more claustrophobic as her relationship descends into emotional abuse. In "Madame Paul," the bad boyfriend is allowed to just recede into the background, slipping into irrelevance as Doucet befriends a quirky older woman and then plays Nancy Drew with another female friend when the woman disappears.

I feel like I've gone on a while now and still not quite nailed what exactly makes Doucet's work so special, but so be it. She's hard to pin down. This stuff is to me some of the most exciting and original comics ever made.
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Postby Wombatz » Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:47 am

Wombatz wrote:
sevenarts wrote:Image
Tales of Woodsman Pete by Lilli Carre
A set of short stories, many one-pagers, about a solitary woodsman and Paul Bunyan. Some charming moments, a few nice lightly surreal gags, a couple of chuckles, but wow this is a puff of nothing ...

darn i really dug this when it came out (admittedly, very early on my way back into comics, so i would have had nothing to compare it against) ... more than the lagoon actually, which, while it looked more interesting on first view, seemed to stay on more familiar territory ... i should revisit. if i post nothing about it here over the next couple of weeks then i silently agree.

so yeah, this doesn't amount to much. i had completely forgotten the paul bunyan stories ... actually before he appears this sets out as something quite focused, with pete as a backwoods colonialist offering even some political potential, but as soon as giant bunyan and his ox, babe appear, (and despite there's a similar theme of conquering nature in those pages,) it's down to the mildly whimsical. (thumbing through carré's other two books, i also can't recapture my old enthusiasm)
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Jul 01, 2019 5:02 am

Really interesting Doucet writeup - for me she's always been one of those creators who seemed kind of forbidding because of the volume and the visual density of her work. I still don't know if I'm ready for the "complete" Dirty Plotte but the way you describe her art is interesting. Looking at the panels above, it's like there's very little distinction between background and foreground - that kind of old-fashioned look with lots of stuff happening on the same plane is hard to get a handle on for me. Maybe I'll sample a few issues at random
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Jul 01, 2019 8:10 am

Hope you do check out a few issues and check back in. Her work is so lively and ... I hesitate to exactly say “fun” since it can get pretty dark at times, but yea it’s mostly very fun... that I would never think of it as forbidding. She definitely has a flat style as you say, in that there’s no foreground/background distinction, which seems very purposeful to her storytelling approach - everything in her panels is worth looking at, and environments are as important as the characters.

I think all 12 issues of DP are scanned and readily available. Check out 1, 6, and something from the 10-12 block to get a sense of her different styles/interests. Her art was more or less fully formed by the time the series started, so it doesn’t change much, but she’s so restless that she varies her storytelling quite a bit over the run.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Jul 04, 2019 9:15 am

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Sam Bosma – Fantasy Sports 3: The Green King
The third in Bosma's ongoing series in which each oversized issue combines the goofy fantasy heroics of Adventure Time with a new sporting pursuit. This issue: golf! The heroes Wiz and Mug are continuing their story, and I'm sure there's continuity or some kind of quest here but the books take so long to come out that I always lose track. This time Mug's been thrown in jail for some reason while Wiz has to beat a monstrous cursed king on his own golf course in order to free the town. These books aren't going to break anyone's brains after we've seen so much good animation in this vein recently, but they're very solid examples of the type: charming, creative and neatly told, with beautiful cartooning and colours from Bosma.


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Joe Matt – The Poor Bastard
Joe Matt's kind of an also-ran from the 90s who maybe got a bit of disproportionate prominence because he does the kind of stuff Gary Groth really likes, and he was always hanging around with Chester Brown and Seth. Brown and Seth though, whatever you may think of them, have a few more strings to their respective bows in terms of experimental tendencies or a unique aesthetic. Joe Matt's thing is that he's a gross piece of shit – cowardly, manipulative and creepy – but at least he's honest about it. It's tempting to watch him stalking young women behind his girlfriend's back and say that the 90s in indie comix were a different time, which they were, but Matt was never charming or funny even back then.


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Andy Poyiadgi – Lost Property
A tranquil, low-key fantasy published by Nobrow, set in a timeless English realm of tea shops and postmen, like a magic realist Postman Pat. In a premise which I think every daydreamer comes up with at some point early on in their careers, Poyiadgi's story follows a guy who discovers a lost property office containing all the things he's ever lost. It develops a little beyond that, but not much. Most of the appeal is in the calm, picturesque quality of the art, but it's not enough to sustain even this little book.


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Tom Toye – Entering a Room Full of People
A very loosely-structured crawl through a house full of monsters and corpses from Tom Toye, with a masked figure prowling from room to room and murdering things in great squalls of pencils. The art reminded me of Jon Chandler, and it kind of works on that level if you're into this kind of noise rock energy
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Jul 04, 2019 10:00 am

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Cathy Malkasian – Eartha
I love a bit of Cathy Malkasian – a classical but unique voice in comics. Her strongest influence is probably classic era Disney, which you can see in the design of her rolling hills and beautiful urban environments, and in her characters: mostly stubby old men and round women with kind faces. What she leaves out is the heroes and heroines – her leads are always naive roly poly innocents, bouncing through gentle quests. In this book, it's Eartha, biggest and strongest girl in a village of old codgers, setting off on a mission to find out what happened to the apparation-like dreams that used to sprout out of the soil on their way to somewhere better. Malkasian is a special creator and this book has a lot of class, but for me it's not quite on the same level as her two Percy Gloom books. Most of that has to do with her treatment of the symbolism in this particular fantasy world – so heavy-handed it's almost completely literal, yet still confusing to keep track of. Beautiful art but not the best place to start.


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Gary Panter – Eyesore
Probably not worth reviewing because it's just a set of weird drawings from early on in Panter's career, but I'm just posting this to say that Panter is starting to work for me in this context. It's not narrative, so much more digestible than his Jimbo stuff, but there's really something special and weird that comes through when you look at a bunch of his compositions back to back. You can tell he's got some kind perspective that isn't found in his imitators.


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Bryan Talbot – Grandville Force Majeure
Another entry in Talbot's anthropomorphic steampunk series, and as well-executed as it undoubtedly is, I'm making peace with the fact that I'm not interested in this direction. This one's a good entry in the franchise: you've got warring gangs, imposters, a scary new arch-enemy and a new entry in the evergreen Dinosaur With Smoking Jacket subgenre. I can't remember if he actually wears the smoking jacket on camera but he still counts because of his personality. Anyway it's all good and Talbot's weird thick line makes especially disturbing work of his gang of cockney crustaceans, but I find myself struggling to stay invested.


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Maia Kobabe – Gender Queer
This was an unexpected treat in lots of ways. I don't usually love a straightforward memoir, and the art going in was not exciting to me (and to be honest remains pretty unexciting to this day), but I read this with my girlfriend on a four hour Ryanair flight and we both learned a lot in a way that felt genuinely helpful and enriching. Kobabe describes the experience of growing up genderqueer with a great deal of patience, clarity and skill. E's especially good at the internal processes, able to clearly verbalise private sensations that on some level are unimaginable for anyone who hasn't gone through that themselves. In formal terms it's not doing anything out of the ordinary, but the goal here is clarity and understanding, and Kobabe does a really good job of bringing eir experiences to light while using the memoir elements elevate it beyond a purely educational tone.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Jul 04, 2019 10:40 am

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Andrew Rae – Moonhead and the Music Machine
Another Nobrow book I picked up on the cheap. I'd flipped through this book a few times and been excited about the crisp art and colours, and that simple striking visual of the boy with a moon for a head. On actually reading: it's not bad, but definitely slipped a few notches in my estimations. Like the Malkasian and Poyiadgi books from up the page, its language of visual metaphor is really a bit too simple to be satisfying: Moonhead is a sensitive and creative schoolboy, and the moon is there to symbolise that he's a little bit different and he likes to daydream, at which point his moon will fly off for some lovely double-page spreads in space or under the sea. The images are attractive but you're not really left with much thinking room as Moonhead discovers the power of creativity, the value of his true friends, and the fact that the music was inside him all along. Might be a good gift for the YA in your life.


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Erin Nations – Gumballs
This made an interesting comparison with Maia Kobabe's Gender Queer from earlier in the week, seeing how a trans man approaches what in some ways is a pretty similar experience of dysphoria and finding his feet with a changing body. Gumballs is more of a diary strip than a complete memoir, and the different format sheds an interesting light on the experience. While gender is still very much at the centre of Nations' approach, he takes it one day at a time, drilling into individual moments more than Kobabe, who is providing a cohesive thesis. He also deploys an interesting device, using the avatar of a queer schoolkid Tobias to tell stories outside Nations' own experience, but touching on many of the other challenges of growing up queer. It didn't exactly blow me away, and it's not as interesting as Kobabe's book, but it's a fun diary comic with an interesting perspective.


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Patrick McEown – Hair Shirt
Like Moonhead, this was a book I'd been waiting to get hold of for some time, and I was similarly a bit disappointed. McEown's story is like the dark side of Scott Pilgrim in many ways. A young slacker in a world populated entirely by his peers starts a relationship with a girl that plays out mostly over house parties and gigs, and find themselves stalked by the manifestation of their complicated pasts. Even the art is very similar, although McEown employs a lot more shadows, scratches and distortions. I don't think the resemblance is cynical though, and maybe not even intentional. McEown's tone is very different: gloomy, defeated, full of complicated relationships and not at all funny – it's definitely its own thing. Unfortunately that thing is not super interesting. You wade through a lot of exposition and sniping to reach the end, and the direction it goes is not the freshest.


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Lale Westvind – Grip
Finally, a book which very much lived up to the hype: the miraculous first edition printing of Lale Westvind's new series, an explosion of power and invention on every page. The way I look at it is as an exploration of energy in all its forms, the depiction of the transference of energy in every state: Westvind challenges herself to generate new ways of seeing motion, electricity, heat and motivation, her heroines exploding and reconstituting the world around in shocking displays of form. Really running out of steam here, and not much more I can think to say right now, but this is stellar work and points to a bright future for Westvind and the medium.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Jul 04, 2019 10:42 am

Shout out also to my girlfriend, not generally a comics reader, who read both volumes of Maus this week and was super excited to talk about it when I came home. That really made me happy and reminded me just what an incredible piece of work that book really is
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Jul 04, 2019 4:00 pm

Wow, so much good stuff there. I am very much into noise rock energy so that Tom Toye looks good to me.

Speaking of, glad you're coming around to Panter. He's one of these cartoonists where I love pretty much any drawing he does, so his sketchbook work is nearly as vital as his comics. His big lavish Picturebox collection, a slipcase with one volume of his paintings and one volume of sketchbooks, is one of my favorite books because it just allows you to submerge in his visual language for page after page.

Hell yea to Grip as well. Her best book yet, I can't wait for a second volume.

We agree on Joe Matt for sure. Chester Brown and Seth kinda seem like creepy assholes too but there's much more to their work IMO. I read some Joe Matt back when I was first getting into indie comics because back then he still had some residual hype, and thought it was lame even then, but he seems to have fallen majorly out of favor these days.

I like Grandville a lot but I read Force Majeure after I'd already reviewed the first 4 volumes and it was kind of a letdown in comparison - much more straightforward genre plotting and much less of the weird undercurrents and conspiracy theory vibe that appealed to me in the earlier books.

I do remember liking Hair Shirt a lot though. It has some pretty familiar elements but the art and atmosphere of it go a long way for me to making it feel fresher. McEown's moody, scratchy shadows are just really appealing to me.
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Postby Wombatz » Fri Jul 05, 2019 1:54 am

HotFingersClub wrote:Probably not worth reviewing because it's just a set of weird drawings from early on in Panter's career, but I'm just posting this to say that Panter is starting to work for me in this context. It's not narrative, so much more digestible than his Jimbo stuff, but there's really something special and weird that comes through when you look at a bunch of his compositions back to back. You can tell he's got some kind perspective that isn't found in his imitators.

ooh, this looks great, did you score a proper copy or do you have a scan (in which case, cough, cough, i'd be interested)?

i'm not quite as happy with that picturebox collection, but that's partly because of how it's made, with the pictures sequenced somewhat didactically, 80s paintings looking quasi computer colored, and the sketchbooks crammed into the fold of a coffee table book at facsimile size, which is a funny idea but kills the pages (but don't mind me, as working on art books is my day job, i'm geekily useless on this kind of thing).

here's another wonderful eyesore page google coughs up:

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Postby tonybricker » Fri Jul 05, 2019 2:06 am

I can vouch that the Zulli TMNT issues are awesome. I was a little too old to have been obsessed with TMNT but somehow I was smart enough to recognize that these issues were freat when I came across them in dollar bins in my teens. The thing that has stuck with me about them is how mindless the turtles are, they are basically vengeance golems, a million miles away from pizza and skating. It has mystic vibes nearly on par with Elektra:Assassin, which is the highest compliment I can give in that regard
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Postby HotFingersClub » Fri Jul 05, 2019 8:05 am

Wombatz wrote:ooh, this looks great, did you score a proper copy or do you have a scan (in which case, cough, cough, i'd be interested)?


Now in the Comics folder in the box :)
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Postby Wombatz » Fri Jul 05, 2019 8:49 am

hey thank you ... i'm afraid i don't know how that works and am not on full member status yet ... but it made me search harder and i found a rip. looks amazing! (i always seem to think panter is not served best by extensive collections). will report back after full perusal ...
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Jul 06, 2019 12:16 am

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Into the Black/A Garden by the Sea by Cicy Reay & Benji Goldsmith
A pair of riso comics from UK-based Black Lodge Press. Into the Black is by Reay & Goldsmith, no indication how they divide up the work. It's an abstract sci-fi piece, its narrative not especially clear beyond an apocalyptic vibe. Not much to it in the end, but there's some nice imagery, I particularly like the pages crammed with lots of small, dark panels.

More recent is A Garden by the Sea, by Reay on his own. This is a set of comics dedicated to Derek Jarman, with a small quote from Jarman's diaries on the lefthand page and then a page of comics inspired by the quote on the right. It's really well done, with Reay striking a nice balance between illustrating some of the key imagery - and there are some really choice images, Jarman being a great visual writer - and evoking the general mood and idea of the text. It's all in blue riso with judicious dots of red. As in the previous book, the cartooning is very clear and clean, simple almost, but the rhythm is where it excels, the way the page is broken down into all these little panels, each one a seemingly simple image on its own but adding up to a very evocative whole. Those not coming to this with a love of Jarman's work may not get as much out of it as I did but it's definitely quite strong and easily transcends what could have been a simple fanzine project.

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Squeak the Mouse by Massimo Mattioli
An infamous pair of books by this Italian cartoonist, the inspiration for the Simpson's Itchy & Scratchy, combining old cat-and-mouse animation with the sleaziest 70s exploitation/slasher B-movies. The result is this grotesque, joyously nasty parody, a gory tits-and-dismemberment shlock-fest delivered with a cheery smile throughout - like Al Columbia with more colors but less self-awareness. A cat chases and eventually kills a mouse, but the mouse returns in increasingly degraded forms, like one of those immortal movie serial killers who's always back for the sequel, and begins ruthlessly killing any cat he can find, working his way towards revenge on the one who did him in. I'm not sure it has a point, and Mattioli seems to delight too much in the questionable conventions of the horror he's satirizing, particularly in terms of attitudes towards women. But if you can look past that - a tall order for sure at times - there's a pure formalist delight and ingenuity in the art, in the way its 12-panel grids move, in the unrelenting rhythms of its horrifying gags, that makes it hard to dismiss.

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Superwest by Massimo Mattioli
More Mattioli, this one a bit more free-form, satirizing American superheroes this time, with a cavalier "hero" who always seems to jump into action a bit too late and whose solutions are often as bad as the problem. The main appeal here is the color: Mattioli uses blocks of bright primary colors but applies them unevenly, leaving large swaths of many panels in black and white, and others half-covered in a solid blue rectangle or a splash of red. Again, the content alternates between ghoulishly funny and genuinely horrifying, but it looks consistently amazing, using color and its absence to abstract and play havoc with the storytelling.

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Over Easy by Mimi Pond
I mistakenly read the sequel to this, The Customer Is Always Wrong, first, without realizing it was a sequel, and it was pretty solidly enjoyable. This is a good brisk read too, covering the first half of Pond's tenure as a waitress at a diner seemingly populated entirely with memorable oddball characters. I think this suffers a bit in comparison to the sequel, though also earns some benefit of the doubt from having read it in reverse order. The second book eventually punctures some of Pond's literary mythologizing of these characters by going to some darker, sadder places, giving that book a bit of an edge that this one is lacking. She's in full-on mythologizing mode here, as she herself would probably admit: portraying herself as a naive art-school dropout who's looking at everything through the lens of fiction and drama, seeing all the people around her, and maybe even herself, as playing roles in a story. It's still fun: she's a sharp writer and observer and her breezy cartooning adds to the rich characterization. But without the second book's somewhat richer shadings, it basically just adds up to a fun time in the company of some interesting people.

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Map of My Heart by John Porcellino
Nice collection of most of King-Cat #51-61, spanning 1996-2002. An active time in Porcellino's life: in the first issue here he announces he's gotten married and is moving, in between he gets badly ill, gets divorced, then in the last issue he's getting married (to someone new) and moving again. The turmoil, and the depression/anxiety/sorrow, are obvious, though even as his life seems to be repeatedly turning upside-down, Porcellino's comics remain mostly quiet, still, and gently observational. I like that Porcellino's zines always feel like real fragments of his life - text pieces, letters, dreams, memories, music he's listening to, walks he's taken recently - so this format, collecting basically the full contents of these issues cover to cover, is perfect for his work. (All that's left out are the pieces collected elsewhere for various reasons, like the stories that made up his Perfect Example GN.) Lots of good stuff here, notably a pair of evocative stories about his childhood. There are also plenty of Porcellino's short, poetic pieces, pithy little odes to nature or emotionally resonant moments captured with a few precise words and a handful of simple lines. Porcellino's art is so basic that it's amazing that it works so well, but it does. Only occasionally does it betray him - the otherwise excellent issue-length "Forgiveness," about his boyhood guilt over hurting animals, contains a couple of baffling pages where the simplicity of the art actually obscures what's even happening. Elsewhere, though, there's something so amazing about the way he can let a few lines stand in for a landscape and it somehow looks *beautiful* and haunting.

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Coober Skeber #2: Marvel Benefit Issue by various
Famed late 90s anthology in which a bunch of indie creators take on a then-bankrupt Marvel. Feels like there was a long-ass time where so much of alt/indie comics was a response to the superhero mainstream; so many chips on shoulders about not being part of the Big Two. I'm glad we've moved on past that for the most part nowadays. Most of this is as bad and forgettable as any random mediocre superhero comic. A few pieces stand out. I usually don't care at all for James Kochalka but his "Hulk fights rain" comic is justifiably the most famous few pages here, so good and concise and funny that Marvel even got him to redraw it and publish it with them proper. Brian Ralph's wordless Silver Surfer/Man-Thing story is the only other piece that seems like it could work as a "real" superhero comic - not much narrative but Ralph has serious action chops and his drawings have the appropriate Kirbyesque sense of drama. Meanwhile guys like Brinkman and Chippendale (and they're all guys here too, another sign of the 90s) do their usual thing with only the slightest concession to the genre, which is probably why their contributions work too. Brinkman's goofy/menacing vision of Warlock from New Mutants is great. Everything else is pretty lame - Ron Rege is notable for writing a Spider-Man whinier than even the whiniest Spider-Man book Marvel itself ever put out.

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Taboo by various
Steve Bissette's late 80s/early 90s horror anthology, most famous for serializing From Hell, as well as Lost Girls and Jeff Nicholson's Through the Habitrails. The magazine as a whole is pretty overshadowed by From Hell - what comic could stand up to being the other content in a book that regularly printed new 40-page installments of one of comics' best works? It also struggled frequently with censorship and sales, especially as stories serialized here started getting collected elsewhere, making the actual issues seem less necessary. So I'm not sure how much rep this book has now beyond its handful of famous works, but it seems like something quite special to me even beyond those pieces. The book's focus and aesthetic vision is really impressive, even as it covers a tremendous amount of ground - it's all unified by the idea of exploring horror through multiple lenses, bringing together post-EC traditional horror with more modern underground and 80s alternative influences.

Lots of good stuff here. Charles Burns is represented by some early work, including a forerunner to Black Hole and an experiment with photo comics (!). Tim Lucas' "Throat Sprockets" is an intense examination of obsessive fetishization, with a third chapter, drawn by David Lloyd, that's especially harrowing and memorable (even though it cuts off pretty abruptly. Eddie Campbell has a few pages about a real Australian unsolved murder, taking a tone that's at once mournful and darkly comic. In the 1st issue, Bill Wray draws a really rich psychological short by Alan Moore, about a morbidly alluring game show where the "winners" spin a wheel to pick their method of death. Jodorowsky and Moebius' "Eyes of the Cat," which patiently builds to a bleak punchline, gets translated and reprinted. Richard Sala, Greg Capullo, Michael Zulli, Phil Hester, Al Columbia, and Charles Vess all show up here, showcasing the range of aesthetics that fit within these overstuffed pages.

Of course plenty of stuff doesn't work, especially a lot of the more undergound-influenced pieces, with S. Clay Wilson's vile, misogynistic street scenes being the worst offender. Some of that attitude unfortunately shows up in "Habitrails" too. I had remembered the blistering corporate satire from when I read the GN long ago, and that material is still as effective as ever on re-read, claustrophobic and depressing, but I'd forgotten how many of the stories were about the narrator's dating woes, and those do not hold up well at all. I also found my eyes glazing over for every Rick Grimes story - an obscure artist, now unGoogleable thanks to Walking Dead, he's in every issue of this thing for some reason and his work, while undeniably very unique, is also completely unreadable. Eventually, after 7 issues, Taboo folded, plagued by censorship and low sales; it returned at Kitchen Sink Press in 1995 for 2 more issues that have less of an overriding vision and simply collect a bunch of material orphaned by the series' cancellation. Even with all its problems, this is a magazine with big chunks of From Hell and Lost Girls, both of which are great, and a ton of inventive, creepy, memorable horror shorts crammed into every issue. Well worth a look even now.

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Wizzywig by Ed Piskor
Piskor's first GN as writer/artist is a pretty solid debut, an entertaining fictional account of a young geek who, at the dawn of the Internet Age, half-accidentally gets a reputation as the most feared hacker in the nation. It's interesting to see that Piskor's storytelling style in this fictional story is similar to his later documentary comics - as in Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design there's obviously a ton of research behind this, and the story flows at a brisk clip, with an emphasis on plot over internality. It juggles a lot of big ideas - about media hysteria, the regulation of technology, popular misunderstandings of science and computers, and the ways in which captialism and corporations interact with and drive the law to maintain their control. Unlike in his later works, Piskor's storytelling is a bit of a rough fit for this material, making it tough to get too close to the main character. Piskor is obviously way more interested in exploring all the nuances of the weird 90s culture around computers and the fledgling Internet. Pretty fun and engaging anyway.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Sat Jul 06, 2019 4:30 am

Great reviews. I don't tend to bother with the old anthology titles despite the wealth of interesting material (for me it's just a way of keeping my reading list to a somewhat manageable level) so it's really fun to see you go back and explore them.

Interesting points about Wizzywig as well. I remember thinking something similar about how the central character remains so distant even after so much time spent in his company, and in retrospect it makes a lot of sense given Piskor's penchant for documentary and chronology. Wizzywig is a good book but he's clearly found his voice now to a much greater degree
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:47 pm

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Perfect Discipline and Unbending Loyalty by Tommi Parrish
Deceptively simple but emotionally intense story about a young woman visiting her mother to help her cope with a medical procedure. Parrish's combination of stylized, cartoony, elongated figures and naturalistic dialogue always works really well for me. Here, mother and daughter utterly talk past each other, the mother regurgitating rather traditional ideas about relationships and men and women, while the daughter's ideas about gendered pronouns and alternative forms of relationships seem to go completely unheard. As usual with Perfectly Acceptable Press' books, this is a very nice package, with a tiny book insert stapled into the center, containing a ragged collage that serves as the unconscious parallel to everything left unsaid in the central conversation.

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Lowlife by Ed Brubaker
Easy to forget now that before he wrote a ton of Batman comics and became the mainstream noir go-to guy, Brubaker was part of the 90s autobio indie wave - as a writer/artist, too. Safe to say that if he'd stuck to this path, he'd be pretty thoroughly forgotten now. This 5-issue series is a pretty basic take on familiar tropes, portraying this asshole (himself) who obsesses over women, drinks and does lots of drugs, and gets caught up in some pretty dumb crime schemes. Brubaker's art is fine but totally unexciting. The most notable thing about the series, which is at least half just because of who he later became, is how neatly it draws a line between noir tropes and the lonely indie cartoonist autobio schtick. Never really dawned on me before how much resemblance there is between the dismal self-portrayals of these male cartoonists and the typical doomed noir protagonist.

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An Accidental Death by Ed Brubaker & Eric Shanower
Another 90s Brubaker book, this one a single issue collecting a Dark Horse Presents serial. Brubaker quickly realized his strength wasn't in the art so he just writes now, and this also shifts further towards the crime fiction that's obviously his true interest. Still not good, it's a very basic geeky guy/unrequited love tale. Shanower's detailed, heavily shaded art is a step up from Brubaker himself but still on the boring side. The only thing differentiating this is the setting - both Brubaker and Shanower are from military families and spent parts of their boyhoods at the Guantanamo Bay military base. This story takes place there, and there's a welcome specificity to the way the story is grounded in that setting, especially in Shanower's art.

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The Fall by Ed Brubaker & Jason Lutes
Basically completing the progression of early Brubaker towards his more recognizable noir aesthetic. Another oneshot, drawn by Jason Lutes, and it's a pretty satisfying little crime/murder thriller. Lutes' clean, clear cartooning and expressive faces are perfect for this barebones tale of an old unsolved murder suddenly getting stirred up. Nothing too fancy, but the characterization is sharp and there's a real sense of long-buried sadness lurking within the story as this old crime gets dredged up.

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Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O'Connell
New YA book from First Second, who are very good at packaging up this kind of thing. Valero-O'Connell's art is gorgeous, first off, I really admired her Shortbox sci-fi comic she did a few years ago so it's nice to see her getting some well-deserved mainstream attention. She doesn't get to stretch out much visually here but wow is this a pretty comic. Other than that, though, it's fairly straightforward, the story of an unhealthy teen romance, which happens to be a lesbian teen romance, a girl in love with a selfish girl who's no good for her. The very fact of it being a gay story where being gay is a little bit taken for granted, rather than being the whole point of the narrative, is pretty refreshing. Tamaki's writing is often stiff and unnatural, but I'm also just not the intended audience for this. I bet lots of teen girls could get a lot out of it.

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Upgrade Soul by Ezra Claytan Daniels
This got a bunch of buzz last year, very much deserved as it turns out. Just an incredibly smart, emotional, densely written sci-fi epic, about an elderly couple who undergo an experimental procedure to restore their bodies to youth and vigor, which of course goes horribly wrong in a very bizarre way. Daniels patiently builds this intense, weighty narrative that's overstuffed with big ideas and heavy themes - aging, mortality, disability, the nature of identity, memory, the way our minds form the self - but gives equal attention to writing strong, resonant characters. Daniels' art is relatively straightforward in comparison. His layouts are direct and simple, and the slightly washed out color palette remains consistent throughout, which is slightly to its detriment - nothing ever really jumps out visually. Daniels excels with the character designs though, from the lumpy, uncanny-looking potato people to the heavily lined faces of his older characters, the look of his characters adds to how memorable they are. This is just great start to finish, at times sadly sweet, at others absolutely harrowing in how quickly it can descend into total blackness. Reminds me quite a bit of 2 of my other favorite sci-fi comics of recent years, Nod Away and Ancestor, and though it can't hold up to either in terms of visual ideas, it still stands well beside them in other respects.

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Everywhere Antennas by Julie Delporte
Interesting short book about a woman who retreats from her ordinary life as she becomes convinced that radioactive waves are causing her headaches. This kind of story is usually depicted as someone "going crazy" in popular media, but Delporte plays it straight and sympathetically, and the result is this poignant, gently sad study of loneliness and isolation amidst the buzz of modern life. The book reads like a series of illustrated diary snippets, all done in Delporte's soft, rich colored pencil tones. Her drawing and color sensibility are beautiful, and the way she treats the words, also done in colored pencils in a delicate script, weaves the text and images together seamlessly.

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This Woman's Work by Julie Delporte
And now this, her new book this year, is a real masterpiece, such a strong progression of Delporte's style in the 5 years that passed in between. This started as a biography of Moomin creator Tove Jansson, with Delporte visiting Finland to research and see places Jansson lived or stayed. Those trips are documented here, as the book becomes this meta project about its own creation, and about the thoughts and ideas surrounding Delporte's fascination with Jansson. It's part diary, part loosely flowing essay about being a woman artist, about being a woman in a world governed by male history, male perspectives, male art - about being a woman in general.

And it's totally remarkable. Delporte's style hasn't changed much superficially but her drawing has gotten stronger, more assured, without sacrificing any of the rough edges that made it so appealing in the first place. It's a very handmade aesthetic - tape and hand-cut edges are evident on the pages where Delporte pasted together pieces drawn separately, or where she uses these collage methods to add texture to her images. It's all so personal - her handwriting is on every page, and at times she includes actual pages from her sketchbooks, scanned in directly so that it can be seen as a book within the book. There's real power to what she's after here, to the way the aims of her essay - staking a place for a woman as a self-sufficient creative personality - dovetail with the overflowing creativity of the work itself. Delporte's essayistic style seems ambling, but that's deceptive - her ideas are clear, and the way she flows from one precisely stated image to the next has an elegant rhythm to it. She writes about women artists - painters, musicians, cartoonists, filmmakers - and brings their art into her own. She writes about her experience of sexual abuse from a slightly older cousin as a child, and the way her family completely silenced and ignored that memory. She writes about her obviously conflicted feelings about having a child of her own - the desire to have a daughter warring with her knowledge of how much of the burden will fall on her compared to the potential child's father. It's a beautiful, intense, deeply inspiring book - one where I can flip to any page and find a perfect gorgeous image and some provocative, tersely stated ideas in Delporte's signature script.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:56 am

Ah very exciting. I'll have that Parrish, Delporte and Daniels please. Upgrade Soul has actually been on my pile for almost a year already.

I read all those early Brubaker books back when his stuff was really exciting me. For me, in the end, he didn't reward completionism, and I found his noir/cape mashups more interesting than the straight crime stuff*. You can still imagine from those early works how his serious, restrained style was a good USP in a medium that was (and is) predominately oriented around bombast


*ymmv as almost everyone disagrees with me on this point
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Postby Wombatz » Tue Jul 09, 2019 6:24 am

if noir/cape mashups means sleeper/incognito, then i wholeheartedly agree, these are amazing. if you're referring to e.g. daredevil, i've recently reread his run but got no joy out of it, it seemed really forced, too many conflicting clichés piled on top of each other, matt suffering merely for the sake of genre.

woman's work will be a perfect xmas present for my woman in that secretly it's for myself but doesn't look like that at all.

anyway, while i can't get too excited about a pdf even of a splendid mini,

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eyesore made me remember that i've started on diverse panter titles with palpable excitement, but he usually wears me down at some point, probably because my inner american is not strong enough. that and some of the drawings seemed to stray into pettibon territory, so i got out this

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pettibon zine from nieves from some years ago, where the zine approach makes for a much more interesting narrative compared to the same stuff in catalogs ... but ultimately it's half-assed, since while the illustrations are in b/w they're on a grayish tone, still treated like proper artworks not comics. i finally have the homo americanus book on its way to me, which reprints pettibon's own zines, so let's see how this works.

more importantly, i got

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crossing the empty quarter, the story collection by carol swain. this gets better and better. i suspected reading a collection of small stuff after foodboy might dilute the atmosphere, and i guess i should space out reading her other two books a little not to grow too accustomed to the sparse facial expressions ... but this is such impressive storytelling, really rich and varied within her usual deadpan. (there's only one dud, a topical story about voting in florida in 2000.) some of it real short stories on a couple of pages (following the get in late move out early approach), some poignant impressions of being vaguely countercultural youth in a pagan country (should i mention i spent two miserable trimesters in aberystwyth ... where i saw cornershop when they were still a punk band easily upstaged by the local act) ... these comics are so so good!
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Postby sevenarts » Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:39 pm

I like Sleeper and Catwoman and Gotham Central a lot, but Criminal is Brubaker’s best work for me. He and Phillips are just so good at that pure old school noir vibe that I can’t resist. It’s all the old cliches but done with such economy and elegance and sad beauty that it’s newly exciting (for me anyway).

I had assumed, maybe wrongly, that that Swain collection mostly just collected her Way Out Strips series but now I wonder if it’s actually stuff I haven’t read. I love her short comics too, she’s so good at evoking this powerful mood in just a couple of pages. Hmmm maybe I have more Swain to read after all!
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Postby Wombatz » Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:28 am

sevenarts wrote:I had assumed, maybe wrongly, that that Swain collection mostly just collected her Way Out Strips series but now I wonder if it’s actually stuff I haven’t read. I love her short comics too, she’s so good at evoking this powerful mood in just a couple of pages. Hmmm maybe I have more Swain to read after all!

according to the table of contents, a bit less than half of these are way out strips ... anyway you can get it real cheap and if you don't know em you need this for the 45 color pages alone
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Postby sevenarts » Wed Jul 10, 2019 5:26 pm

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Kramers Ergot #10 edited by Sammy Harkham
The thing that has always set Kramers apart as an anthology, even beyond its at-times revolutionary avant-gardism and the caliber of its contributors, is the clear, precise vision that Harkham brings to every issue as the editor. There has never, since KE#4, been a sense that a new installment is just another anthology. Harkham's editorship isn't didactic, and issues of KE don't exactly have an agenda, but it always seems that there's such mindfulness behind every decision, every inclusion, in every aspect of the book's construction. That's certainly the case with this year's new volume, which once again assembles a top-tier roster of artists for a collection that seems especially conscious of and interested in comics' long history.

KE is always an eclectic book - KE #8 infamously set its suite of brooding, horror-tinged pieces against garish reprints of "Wicked Wanda" from Penthouse - but this issue has an especially broad range, and its different modes and eras seem to be in dialogue with one another. Early on, Robert Crumb and David Collier appear, seemingly as avatars of earlier forms of independent comics, with Crumb selecting a 1990 pantomime sketchbook strip that's pointedly apropos for the current political climate. A page later, Jason Murphy does his own modern pantomime, a series of abstracted blobby shapes stretching and dancing, like an old color Sunday page that's been warped and melted until the forms are only vaguely recognizable. Elsewhere, an actual "Gasoline Alley" Sunday stands opposite a pair of bleak, apocalyptic Helge Reumann panels, Blutch does a cover version of a Moebius page, Kim Deitch builds a new story around an old undergound jam comic he drew with the late Spain Rodriguez, and a bit of typical Johnny Ryan juvenilia is cheekily followed by Shary Flenniken's 70s National Lampoon strips, which take a shockingly cavalier attitude to sex and abuse with a much different perspective and intent from Ryan. There's a sense of old and new speaking to each other, drawing parallels and contrasts between different artists, creating this lively conversation that stretches from the golden age of newspaper comics to the undergounds to the 90s indie boom to the modern avant-garde.

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There's also just a shitload of amazing comics in this. C.F. does what's easily the most jaw-dropping comic I've ever seen from him, these swirls of paint and digital color that just overload the huge page. Similarly, Lale Westvind outdoes her horror story from KE#9 with an even more visually daring, terrifying/beautiful piece about a monstrous shark woman. Harkham's own "Blood of the Virgin" - in color, a standalone chapter separate from the story he's been serializing in Crickets - shows off his rock-solid cartooning and storytelling, using a traditional cartoonist's mastery of visual language to tell a story that's by turns quietly funny and mysteriously melancholy. Steven Weissman does an eerie, inexplicable Old West tale in which the cutesy simplicity of the drawings belies the menace hidden between the lines. Connor Willumsen weaves an intricate, unsettling story about inept terrorists across page after stark white page, with no panels as in his other recent comics, just these funny, rubbery cartoons running and sweating and plotting against the backdrop of all that blank space.

Indeed, for such a packed anthology, there's very little here that doesn't work. Some shorter contributions don't really land for me, and Harkham includes a few familiar names (Ron Rege, Marc Bell) who I dislike but won't quibble with too much - they're clearly doing their own thing, it's just not a thing that's ever connected to me whenever I've seen their work. For the most part, though, this is fantastic, with an even stronger voice and vision to it than the still-great KE#9. This may even be the best overall issue of the anthology sinces its heyday with KE#4-5.
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