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 Wombatz » Tue Jul 16, 2019 6:30 am

Wombatz wrote: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.

to wrap this up before i go on holiday: this is by far the best pettibon book i've seen, there's hardly any text, just a few disposable quotes from the artist on each work phase and a couple of footnotes to the history from the curator. mainly it's like 600plus pages of illustrations, treated equally as drawings without distracting respect for the original dimensions of each work, so you can read them conveniently ... so many striking words and images (though, as mentioned, the perspective can be too american for me to fully enjoy). more closely pertaining to this thread, it also reprints the complete captive chains from 78, pettibon's only comics zine ... and it's pretty great! first it contains a loose collection of vignettes called city kids

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which is maybe a bit like a totally self-estranged spain, very good and neurotic, then there's a shorter baseball player sells his soul to the devil story (also good, not at all as hackneyed as it sounds), then some single drawings and more experimental pages

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despite the violence in some of the pages, his tone is far removed from the cliché/misogynist gender battles one kind of expects from this era of indie comics ... highly recommended.

i also went on one of my infrequent visits to the comics shop and saw these two

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now over here there are titles that look like this again, retro boutique aesthetic, but these are from the 80s, from a dutch publisher with atrocious german translations, 30 pages each, one color, super cute stuff. the one the story of a little boy who loves to paint and

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is imprisoned by a critic to ghost paint and, passing off the paintings as his own, launch his career as an artist ... stylistically this harkens back to children's books from the 50s ... the other a story of motor espionage

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and revenge for the vietnam war ... both maybe nothing to phone home about ... but on the other hand well drawn and designed and absolutely mood-lifting entertainment
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Postby goofjan » Tue Jul 16, 2019 10:39 am

plz if u get a chanse put some flowrs on algernons grave kthxbye
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Postby sevenarts » Tue Jul 16, 2019 5:17 pm

That Pettibon book looks so cool. Didn't even realize he did any proper comics but I always love seeing his images.

Dupuy and Berberian have been translated a bunch by D&Q, which makes sense since their (most famous?) series Monsieur Jean is such a prototypical slice-of-life/autobio-type comic that it fits in pretty comfortably with a lot of 90s North American indies. Always a very low-key charming read too, it's fun to see that type of material done with like a clean, big-nose Euro style.

I love Allred AND Bowie but I'm afraid a straight-up bio comic like that is going to be boring no matter who's drawing it. Maybe I'll be surprised...
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Jul 18, 2019 12:31 am

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Inner City Romance by Guy Colwell
An interesting 70s undergound series collected by Fantagraphics. Colwell comes from a painting background, and has done comics only sporadically, which might explain why this has such a unique feel compared to other undergrounds. Its 5 issues are all quite distinct from one another, too, with varying degrees of success, but even in the parts that don't work so well it's obvious that Colwell is experimenting and pushing at the boundaries of this form he's dabbling in, with interesting effects. All of these stories are concerned with urban life - race, poverty, prison (Colwell himself spent time for resisting the Vietnam draft), sexuality, drugs, the police, the government. The best issues are probably the last 2. Issue #4 focuses on a tenement where the corrupt city government has installed wheelchair ramps - not to improve conditions but cynically so they can meet some bare minimum requirements and shove even more helpless, poor people into conditions that are otherwise intolerable. It's especially notable for the pages where Colwell slows down time to focus on a poor kid skateboarding and falling to his death, breaking down the action panel by panel and eventually getting near-abstract in visualizing the kid's inner life as he approaches his end. The final issue, which is a series of short stories showing multiple forms of sex - from banal drug-infused hookup to horrifying assault to utopian expression of freedom - is also quite good, especially in the way Colwell varies his style with each story's tone. Not everything here is so great: issue #2, a "musical" about a benefit concert where all the dialogue is sung in verse, is pretty corny in a way quite familiar from other counterculture artifacts, though even there Colwell seems to have more of an edge than most similar works. More generally, some of the racial material is uncomfortable, not necessarily in a good way. Colwell undoubtedly has his heart in the right place but there's something jarring about some of his depictions of black people, particularly the exaggerated dialects he writes for them. (Funny enough, he also beat Kanye West to the "free at last" sex joke by a few decades.) Colwell seems to take pride in the fact that his comics have made some people think he was actually black, but that too seems a little... off. Still, despite its problems this is fascinating work, and Colwell's fluid, realistic, only slightly cartoony art is well-suited to these gritty, socially provocative stories.

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Knife Crime by Simon Hanselmann
New Megg & Mogg mini, continuing the absolute curdling of Hanselmann's aesthetic into something brutal and bitter. I find the laughs increasingly stick in my throat while reading his newer books, and though I maybe miss the over-the-top good times of earlier Megg & Mogg, I think he's getting at something incredibly raw and real in comics like this. This powerfully captures a disintegrating relationship, the awkward silences and depressing empty times. It's still funny, still has the nasty edge of all his comics, and the just plain absurd moments, but the weird visualizations of depression and aimlessness - like Megg standing in an empty room, imitating a clock with her arms and intoning "tick" - are taking over. Really excited for/dreading Bad Gateway.

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Passage by Tessa Brunton
Somewhat randomly picked up this old Sparkplug book, apparently Brunton's first published comic, and really enjoyed it. Reminds me of Debbie Drechsler, though (at least for most of its length) a lot lighter, this quirky coming-of-age autobio piece about the author remembering her parents' oddball family traditions, and especially a goofy, embarassing "manhood ceremony" they planned for her older brother. Very charming, genuinely funny, and when some darker undercurrents do burble up it's handled very well. What's most impressive is how it spends most of its length playing its situations for absurd comedy, only to pull the rug out with some deeper introspection at the end, and it makes the shift without ever seeming gimmicky.

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ROM by Josh Bayer
Bayer does a cover version of a Bill Mantlo/Sal Buscema ROM comic. An interesting exercise - I haven't read the original but based on the actual panels he reprints here, it seems like Bayer stays pretty faithful to the plot, while loosening up the art considerably into this murky style focused on mark-making rather than clarity. Pretty enjoyable, especially when Bayer follows it up with a short story about a kid who reads these old Marvel comics, gets scolded by his mom, and gets mocked by other kids. That epilogue, as well as the post-script about the tragic accident that left ROM writer Mantlo comatose and brain damaged, provides the emotional context for Bayer's experimentation with this material.

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Raw Power #1-2 by Josh Bayer
In contrast, I feel like this has stronger art than Bayer's ROM but is basically unreadable in every other respect. As pure mark-making it's pretty cool to just look at, like a looser, sloppier version of Blutch's inky noir comics. But the story - which skips around a lot but mostly involves a caricatured uber-conservative version of G. Gordon Liddy and a Batman-like antihero who dresses as a cat and beats up punk rockers - is really incoherent and the writing is such a chore to read. It's also pretty mean-spirited, at times homophobic, and gorily violent to no real effect. Terrible.

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How to Make Comics by Caitlin Skaalrud
Not an actual how-to, but a series of wry meditations and faux-advice on the subject of fitting art into a life of romantic entanglements and deadening low-pay jobs. Skaalrud arranges a series of striking full-page images, alternately realistic and fanciful, to create this amusing, thought-provoking piece on the self-imposed demands of the artist's life. Very good use of disjunctions between word and image.

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Acorns & Pebbles / Cats In Service by Megan Kelso
I had thought Kelso basically stopped doing comics after Artichoke Tales so I was happy to find out recently that she'd done a couple of minis in the years since, and that they're still easily bought. The former has one real story, "The Golden Lasso," which is an elliptical story about coming of age, laced with ambiguity and possible menace in the things left unsaid between panels/moments. The rest of the mini is some paintings and doodles. The real treat it turns out is Cats In Service, which sounds absolutely ridiculous in concept, but like so many of Kelso's stories has this surprising depth and nuance to it. Kelso's cartooning is so clean and clear, it's always tempting to think she's a "simple" cartoonist, but there's nothing straightforward about the way she lets this absurd scenario play out and keep accumulating emotional significance that's hard to actually describe or pin down. It's what I've always loved in her work - the tension between the clarity and elegance of her cartooning, and the ambiguous web of feelings and ideas conjured up from beneath the surface.

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Disorder #1 by Erika Price
I've read some good comics lately but this is the pick of this batch, a new mini put out by Carta Monir's Diskette Press, apparently collecting a webcomic. This is remarkable stuff, an intense, inky black descent into psychological/physiological horror, expressing feelings of disgust and destruction regarding the body. Alternating between wordless sections and stream-of-consciousness abstract poetic texts, this is constantly inventive and frightening and powerful, a scream of anguish in every jagged form. Parts recall Mat Brinkmann and, I dunno, Tool music videos, but the overall aesthetic and atmosphere is uniquely Price's.

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Sound of Snow Falling / 270° by Maggie Umber
A pair of books about owls from one of the heads of 2D Cloud. The first is a silent narrative following an owl couple throughout a season as they nest, breed, hunt, and hatch their young ones. In feel it's like a nature documentary with the narration turned off, and it's totally beautiful. Umber's painted images tend towards dull, dark hues, with subtle shadings of color within the darkness. It's a nighttime book, a book of shadowy forms flitting through the dark. Her storytelling is rock-solid despite the silence and the impassive protagonists. A very calming book, as well as an interesting experiment in crafting narratives from nature. The second book is looser and in some ways more experimental - it's a mixed media collage of images and text - but in others way more traditional. Basically a set of owl facts in dry text, accompanied by some very expressive imagery of owls and nature. Not bad but nowhere near as engaging and poetic as its predecessor.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Jul 18, 2019 7:48 am

Lots of cool stuff there. I'm very excited for new Hanselmann, and Sound of Snow Falling looks like a treat. I'm also well into the new trend of alternative artists working in dialogue with the older genre-based stuff (see Josh Simmons, Michel Fiffe, lots of other stuff). Of course that re/interpretation is something that comics have been doing for decades already, but I feel like the bootleg approach is freeing the style from old conventions and yielding some really interesting material
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Jul 18, 2019 7:54 am

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Sara Lautman – I Love You
This is a Retrofit bundle book from last year I think, briefly touched on by sevenarts in this thread, but it's really too insubstantial for me to add anything interesting. The collection starts off kind of promising, with an interesting riff on an old Far Side panel, examining its meaning to the author and the value of absurdity to those around her, but it's not quite coherent in its own right, and what follows is mainly forgettable noodling and diary comics without a huge amount to say. The cartooning isn't bad, combining a rough Gary Larson style comedic touch with some of the poison of Warren Craghead, but again it's not enough to make the book stick out in any particular way.


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Peter Kuper – Give it Up! / Kafkaesque
Kuper has been publishing short Kafka adaptations in various anthologies since at least the early 90s, collecting them first in 1995 as Give it Up! and then last year released an expanded version under the name Kafkaesque, which is the one I read. Although I haven't read all these stories in their original prose format, I don't believe Kuper is innovating a huge amount in terms of how he presents them. In setting and tone, they stick pretty faithfully to Kafka's purposefully generic, vaguely central European early 20th century milieu. What he does do well though, is boil the spirit and the narrative of each piece down into just a few pages of shadowy woodcuts and well-chosen expositionary lines, really preserving the existential menace of Kafka's worldview. Some of the strips are clearly showcases, like the classic ones about the execution machine and the guy waiting to see the law, while others like the one above are a little more scratchy, but all of them work pretty consistently. Frankly, I sometimes wondered if Kafka's stories were just so good that it would be almost impossible to get them wrong as long as you were reasonably faithful to the source, but I do think Kuper is making a lot of careful (if not necessarily exciting) choices here, and his art is pretty perfectly matched to what he's trying to achieve. I enjoyed it a lot.


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Frederic Brremaud & Federico Bertolucci – Love: The Dinosaur
Speaking of nature documentaries with the narration turned off, this is the fourth book in a series by Breemaud and Bertolucci, each of which picks a different animal and follows it on its wordless journey, during which it encounters no humans, just tangles with other animals, hunts, tries to survive – that kind of thing. The Dinosaur follows in the series after the Tiger, the Fox and the Lion, and is probably equal to the first volume as the best so far. Bertolucci's lush, expressive cartooning has always been the main draw, and he's definitely on good form here. These are long books, and there are only so many wordless stories that you can tell about an animal in its natural environment, so the books tend to feel a little repetitive, but setting it in a whole other time period does a small amount to ameliorate that. I'm not exactly recommending it but it's not bad.


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Tom McHenry – Noncanon: Let's Talk About Our Fears Via Comics
I put Tom McHenry's infuriating and innovative Cloud at the top of my list last year, so naturally I've been motivated to go back and investigate his back-catalogue a bit, starting with his ongoing webcomic Noncanon and the books he has available on Gumroad. This book, one of the Gumroad ones, is a collection of early Noncanon strips, focusing mainly on the conversations of an unnamed bunch of pigeons with a handful of other stuff thrown in, including one panel drawings of Goku and Archie and a few unrelated strips. There's nothing in here as innovative as Cloud but I had a good time being back in McHenry's clamorous thoughtspace. The biggest touchstone here is probably the more philosophical side of Peanuts, with all of those timeless neuroses given a millennial sheen and voiced by a flock of indistinguishable pigeons. The cyclical conversations and endless forensic navel-gazing could probably become a bit heavy after a while, even though I genuinely love the comedy in these interactions, but in a bite-sized collection like this it doesn't seem too much. Having surveyed a few of the more recent Noncanon strips, it definitely seems like he would go on to refine his art and approach, up to and past the point of creating Cloud.


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Daniel Locke with David Blandy – Out of Nothing
Finally this week, another beautiful Nobrow book that half-bewitched me purely on the production values. Seriously, the paper stock on these things is so fucking chunky and the colours are so good, you see panels on the internet and it looks like a completely different (altogether less prestigious) product. The production credits are weirdly nebulous on this thing, but I think it's predominately Locke's work on both the writing and the art, with Blandy assisting in some way that isn't quite clear to me. The story is not exactly a story, but a condensed history and future of the planet, focusing on the evolution of ideas and science, and told through the appearances of an ageless blue-skinned girl who observes and occasionally participates in the growth of humanity. It's an odd, extremely ambitious concept, lofty in tone and reading a bit like Borges but seemingly targeted at young adults. For me, that set off a bit of a dissonance between the cosmic way it treats its own ideas and the rather basic factual information that it's all hanging off. The use of the blue girl to work a narrative into the book is also pretty simple, and doesn't pay off in any satisfying way. In its defence though, it does look gorgeous almost in spite of its flat, stylised illustration, and I could see it playing well as an introduction to the history of science.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:27 am

PS Wombatz I hope you have a nice time on holiday. Where ya going?
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Postby Wombatz » Fri Jul 19, 2019 4:31 pm

(just a friend's summer house in the nearest middle of nowhere)
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Postby vivian darko » Sun Jul 21, 2019 11:05 pm

i saw some posts about this already but dominique goblet's pretending is lying has made me the most excited i've been about the form in ages

just really really really great
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Postby Mandingo » Sun Jul 21, 2019 11:36 pm

on the kuper tip/literary adaptations

outside of like city of glass, ito's frankenstein and MAYBE the eclipse hobbit adaption i can't think of many literary adaptions that work as comics. like maybe the gaiman adaptions but i kinda don't count those for whatever reason.
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Postby Mandingo » Sun Jul 21, 2019 11:37 pm

i guess just lemme know if any adaptations exist that are as good as city of glass. which is like a way better comic than it is a novel imo
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Jul 21, 2019 11:46 pm

vivian darko wrote:i saw some posts about this already but dominique goblet's pretending is lying has made me the most excited i've been about the form in ages

just really really really great


Yea this book is incredible. I've said it before but she's got a very unique approach here, it's not quite like anything else even though she's working in what is basically one of the most familiar comic genres.


Re: comics literary adaptations, it's probably stretching the idea a bit but Blutch's Peplum is the one that leaps to mind as a stellar example of an adaptation, one where it becomes a unique work of art in its own right. Most literary adaptations fail because they're too respectful, too awed by the idea of adapting a "real" book to remember to make it actually interesting as a comic.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Jul 22, 2019 6:02 am

Mandingo wrote:i guess just lemme know if any adaptations exist that are as good as city of glass. which is like a way better comic than it is a novel imo


Does this count?

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Probably not huh
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Jul 22, 2019 6:11 am

Kevin Huizenga's Curses has a good adaptation of Italo Calvino's version of The Feathered Ogre

It's been a while since I read it but I remember this being really good:

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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Jul 22, 2019 6:35 am

I guess those are all interpretations of ancient tales rather than the kind of adaptations you're talking about. Peter Milligan's The Prisoner might be closer to the mark
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Jul 25, 2019 9:07 pm

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Secret Prison #8 by Lale Westvind / Jon Chandler / Tom Toye / Anya Davidson / Pat Aulisio / Lane Milburn
A nice big newsprint anthology most notable for a big installment of Westvindian women, laboring and grinning and cheerfully competing as they construct a giant robot. With its bigger size and bold chunky lines in black and white, this presents a different aesthetic take on the kinds of themes Westvind is exploring in Grip. As Wombatz suggested, well worth tracking down just for that. I also enjoyed the Chandler piece, which looks like a set of disconnected sketchbook drawings with a menacing text built around them, and Davidson's clever reframing, in the context of modern politics, of a myth's villainess as a native inhabitant suffering an invasion and defending her land.

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Sexy Guns by Helge Reumann
All of Reumann's comics from the last few years seem like excerpts from some tremendous larger work. This large-format collection jams his worldview into four-panel daily-strip-style slices, but the basics are the same: angry men with beards, angry women with sniper rifles, landscapes with mysteriously ominous abstract forms hovering above them, bursts of violence and horror. A set of these strips also appeared in KE#9 though this has way more, and that's good because the feeling of accumulation seems like a big part of the point. It's just such a distinctive vision, all these wordless comics with these glowering people doing horrible things for inexplicable reasons. The daily strip format is especially interesting here, because these comics seem to adhere to the form in subtle ways without actually having recognizable punchlines or really being funny at all. Even so, there's an obvious gag strip rhythm to the way the panels follow one another in each strip, which creates some fascinating tension with the horrifying content.

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Kingdom by Jon McNaught
HFC covered this well. It's a phenomenal mood piece. McNaught's clean, iconic art and understated colors are well-served by his greatest gift, a masterful use of dense, varying grids - most of the time there's anywhere from 24 to 35 little postage stamp panels per page, all without ever sacrificing clarity. Each panel is a carefully observed detail adding to the sense of time passing, or snapshotting the easily missed ephemera that together amass into a powerful sense of physical space. McNaught's moment-to-moment storytelling is exceptional, and a lot of pages simply follow a gaze around a space, lighting on different objects or angles. I'm not quite as convinced by the "story about nothing" quality of the whole thing, which follows a family on vacation as the girl gets dragged along on family visits with her mother, while the boy listlessly ambles towards puberty off on his own. It's all a little generic rather than specific, in terms of character and ideas - the book is so specific about its atmosphere and its trappings but kind of neglects to infuse any of that personality into the everyfamily people wandering through those lovingly hued surroundings.

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Eighty-Six #1 by Jason T. Miles
As Wombatz alluded to a while back, this seems to be the best Miles comic; I've never really connected with his work elsewhere but this one is pretty fun. The drawing especially: reminds me a bit of Dash Shaw with all the goofy, weirdly proportioned faces, but with more of a Gary Panterish raw edge to it. Very fun to look through. But then it's yet another meta-comic about how hyper-masculine superhero comics are homoerotic and misogynistic, and who needs another thing like this? Miles doesn't bring anything new to that particular well-travelled road, but at least it's stylish.

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Barack Hussein Obama / Looking For America's Dog by Steven Weissman
I wish I'd read this pair of books collecting Weissman's strips about Obama before the Trump election - now it all just seems like an odd relic of a previous era. It's a series of 4-panel gag strips starring Obama, his family, Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, etc. - or, really, fictional characters bearing their names and touches of their popular media personae. The style is rough and raw, with lots of obvious cut-and-paste and a lot of variety in the cartooning, which adds to the surreal tone of Weissman's non-sequitur-laced storytelling. It's often a lot of fun - like actual out-loud chuckles at just how outlandish it can get - although it gets pretty mean-spirited at times regarding Hillary, who always seems to bring out the worst in male humorists. The best stuff is in the second volume, which has more of an edge to it, turning a worldwide manhunt for Bo, the missing presidential dog, into a tragicomic tour of Obama-era America's foreign policy horrors. And if nothing else, this is all a pretty potent reminder of how much things have changed in a few years - it's impossible to imagine Weissman taking this kind of approach to the current political landscape, because nothing he comes up with here (demons, the president becoming a giant bird, Malia's clairvoyance) is quite bonkers enough to exceed reality anymore.

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Ablatio Penis / An Honest Performance / Trying Not To Notice by Will Dinski
Three little books from 2D Cloud. Dinski's very much in the straightforward observational storytelling mode, focused on lonely or unlikeable male protagonists, that used to be *the* mode of indie comics and probably still is for a lot of people. He's not bad at it, though the best of these books is the earliest, Ablatio Penis, which follows a polished Republican politician who harbors an unusual secret about his body and his sexuality. It's very direct, with relatively simple cartooning in lots of tiny panels, but the story twists in some unexpected ways and the characters have some surprising complexity. His art gets more interesting in the later books but it doesn't feel like either has as clear or as unique a point to them. An Honest Performance is a little throwaway mini focusing on a miserable violinist whose wife or girlfriend has left him - Dinski's lines infuse a lot of angry, nervous energy into his cartoony figures, but there's not much else there. Finally, Trying Not To Notice is his longest work to date, and initially seems like a big step forward. There's lots to like in the quirky, asymmetrical cartooning, the way all his faces seem out of balance, and in the detailed character studies, with each chapter following a different person in the orbit of an accountant-turned-standup-comic. It's interesting, but the last chapter makes a gimmicky stab at profundity that's not too well-supported by what came before, and the whole thing winds up not adding up to much.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Jul 29, 2019 10:23 am

Excellent. Some of my absolute favourites represented in that post (McNaught, Reumann, Westvind). Good call about McNaught’s mastery of panel layout in particular, although I can’t agree about the family lacking personality. I mean you’re right, there definitely aren’t any strong characters there, but I think McNaught is using the same subtle shading of those characters that allows him to conjure mood so precisely. They come across kind of basic in some ways but actually I know a ton of people exactly like that. Those characters are simple and banal in a way that I actually found kind of beautiful. The lack of depth is almost illusory – that book is the absolute epitome of show don’t tell.

The exception there for me is Steve Weissman, who I could never get on board with. I think BHO is his best book in that it has a little of the dimensionality and energy that his other stuff is lacking. Those books that he does where it’s like Charlie Brown meets the Munsters – those things present well but are a chore to read.
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Jul 29, 2019 2:53 pm

I pretty much agree about old Weissman comics. But he’s had really great comics in the last 2 issues of Kramers Ergot, my favorite kind of comic where it has this off-kilter, dark vibe and creates some very difficult-to-resolve feelings. So I was inspired to give him another chance, and these Obama books are interesting but don’t quite get there either. I guess Sammy Harkham just gets the best out of him. Would love to see him do a dark period piece GN in the vein of those stories at some point.
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Postby sevenarts » Tue Jul 30, 2019 11:57 pm

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Windowpane by Joe Kessler
I wasn't sure if I should pick this up because it wasn't clear to me if it was just reprints of issues #3-4 with a little new material. Thankfully, I gave in and it's actually more than half new stuff, dominated by a pair of lengthy new stories in Kessler's signature hallucinatory, vibrant color. In the first story, Kessler uses a child's eye perspective to heighten the ordinary into a mysterious, often terrifying world, as a pair of children spy on their neighbors and see weird, disturbing things. Very haunting, especially the ending sequence with the little girl wandering through an empty, quiet night. The second story is a wild fantasy in which a man runs afoul of a wizard. Really interesting to see Kessler try his hand at more of a straight-up genre piece, especially the bits when it turns to horror. And of course issues #3-4 are still fantastic, with #4 especially being the best thing Kessler's ever done. This is a pretty essential collection IMO, both a great intro to one of the best, most inventive artists in comics today, and a rewarding new work for longtime fans.

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In Fox's Forest by Guy Colwell
A late-period fable from this underground creator, who's only sporadically dipped into comics during a long career as a painter. This is a story about a fox living a life of freedom and bliss in the forest until one day he's captured by humans and subjected to a series of humiliations he can't hope to understand. Colwell's distinctive, pattering dialogue is steeped in 60s/70s counterculture cadences, and grapples in a very direct, powerful manner with the themes of freedom, control, self-respect, and identity that weave through this work. It's pretty remarkable because it could so easily dip into cheeseball hippie-isms but it never really does - it remains bracing, sincere, and quite moving. Colwell's sharp, realistic drawings, just cartoony enough to impart a lot of personality into his animal figures, add to the sense that this is a special little book. Sad as it is to say I feel like this is exactly the kind of book Mary Fleener tried to make with Billie the Bee and didn't quite nail.

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Talk Dirty To Me by Luke Howard
A slim novella about a shy, aimless woman who briefly takes a job as a phone sex operator. It's a frank, empathetic portrait of fantasy, sexuality, shame, and the sadness of being unable to break free of one's own limits and boundaries as a person. Howard's plain, lumpy heroine is drawn with great affection and expressiveness, and there's tremendous humor in subtleties of expression and body language on nearly every page. And as funny as it is, there's also this deep melancholy behind it all. Really good stuff - if it's a touch less personal and potent than Howard's Our Mother, it makes up for it with its rich veins of kinky humor. Where'd he go? Looks like nearly all his comics were from 2016.

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Blind by Evan M. Cohen
Cool new riso-printed minicomic from Perfectly Acceptable, whose books are always beautiful (but pricy!). This is a silent, meditative miniature on the subject of transformation and creativity. It's deceptively simple: a figure in a yellow robe undergoes a series of transformations, becoming a drawing then bursting back to life then dissolving into crayon streaks again and back. The whole book is in shades of yellow, green, and red, and it's just gorgeous and playful. There's something really fascinating in the way Cohen methodically steps through each phase of these subtle shifts from human figure to sun to bird and back, with gradations in the degree to which he calls attention to the artifice along the way.

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Our Wretched Town Hall by Eric Kostiuk Williams
A collection of short stories from a very distinctive creator. Very gay, very funny, and beautifully drawn, this book is bursting with energy on every page. Williams' rubbery, psychedelic drawings and coloring are unmistakeable as anyone else - his figures look like 60s poster art cohered into a 3D form to walk around and dance and contort. Really vibrant and fun, especially when he's at his nastiest: mocking a straight couple who are making out so strenuously at an otherwise very gay show that they turn giant and stumble obliviously across a city like horny Godzillas, or a hilariously gross fantasy about turning an exploitative ex into food for a "locally sourced" restaurant. Elsewhere there's much more positivity and an obvious love of community, as well as some pointedly personal shorts, laced with anxiety about growing old and losing relevance. Very varied collection, a good intro.

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Theth by Josh Bayer
The best thing I've read from Bayer by far, this picks up on the kid introduced at the end of his ROM "cover," a lonely comic nerd who's continually harassed at home and school and hides behind a spacesuit-like costume like one of his comic book idols. As in all of Bayer's work, the drawing is positively ferocious, just bursting with energy and passion, a perfect aesthetic to express the worldview of this kind of isolated kid. This is set in the early 80s, just after the death of John Lennon, and though it memorably captures the vibe of the era, it's starkly anti-nostalgic, a stiff chaser to the loving childhood remembrances of Bayer's ROM transcriptions. Bayer's scratchy accumulations of lines instead sketch out this lonely, harsh world where all the tormenting figures in this kid's life take on the proportions of comic book monsters - starting with his scowling, square-headed, vaguely Hulk-like stepmother - and where the simple trek to the drug store to surreptitiously peek at comics becomes a journey through a wasted apocalyptic landscape. Bitterly funny and utterly heartbreaking, this is fantastic and leaves me amazed that the same creator who made the nigh-unreadable Raw Power or those trashy All Time Comics things could be capable of something so smart and heartfelt too.

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From Lone Mountain by John Porcellino
I started regularly buying new King-Cat minis with #68, and it so happens that this compact collection gathers up the full contents, letters and top 40 lists and all, from #62-68, catching me up nicely. I feel like I say the same thing about every Porcellino book I read, and this is no exception: so nice to be let into his world for a bit, to observe the little mundane moments sketched out in a page or two, and to languish in the occasional longer stories or suites that draw out a particular experience in greater detail. There's just such elegance and grace to Porcellino's simple lines, and in the way he seems to be so fully open to the smallest sensations and the most seemingly forgettable experiences. It's calming, and really beautiful. This collection notably has the quietly moving #64, drawn after his father's death and packed with loving reminiscences, as well as the fun, scattershot #65, a collection of stories about traveling to different places across the country.
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Postby Wombatz » Wed Jul 31, 2019 2:09 am

wow, so much great stuff to catch up with here!
sevenarts wrote:Theth by Josh Bayer
The best thing I've read from Bayer by far, this picks up on the kid introduced at the end of his ROM "cover," a lonely comic nerd who's continually harassed at home and school and hides behind a spacesuit-like costume like one of his comic book idols. As in all of Bayer's work, the drawing is positively ferocious, just bursting with energy and passion, a perfect aesthetic to express the worldview of this kind of isolated kid. This is set in the early 80s, just after the death of John Lennon, and though it memorably captures the vibe of the era, it's starkly anti-nostalgic, a stiff chaser to the loving childhood remembrances of Bayer's ROM transcriptions. Bayer's scratchy accumulations of lines instead sketch out this lonely, harsh world where all the tormenting figures in this kid's life take on the proportions of comic book monsters - starting with his scowling, square-headed, vaguely Hulk-like stepmother - and where the simple trek to the drug store to surreptitiously peek at comics becomes a journey through a wasted apocalyptic landscape. Bitterly funny and utterly heartbreaking, this is fantastic and leaves me amazed that the same creator who made the nigh-unreadable Raw Power or those trashy All Time Comics things could be capable of something so smart and heartfelt too.

i'm a huge fan of bayer's solo comics ... he's a totally unique draftsman and can get expressions out of the human body like a proper old master drawing ... but then between reading a comic and staring at its pages, i'm more of a staring at the pages guy, and anyway leftist revulsion with the way of the world is enough of a plot for me :-) ... still yeah theth is absolutely incredible along with the two rom cover versions (sadly i lack mr. incompleto, which is therefore named after myself). i seem to remember some of the punkishly stapled minis are also quite strong, if i can find them i'll let the thread know ... indeed i hope he's getting serious money for the all time comics, because like you i find it hard to believe such lukewarm homage to something that was much more fun originally can come from the same guy who loves rom spaceknight so mightily ... though there is a light at the end of the tunnel, he's again posting incredible pages for a new solo work on instagram ...
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Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Jul 31, 2019 4:00 am

Those all look so exciting! I'll for sure try and find the Howard, Cohen and Bayer. I didn't realise there was new stuff in the Windowpane collection either - that makes it essential for me. I'd like to be a Kessler completist if at all possible. Kostiuk Williams is a really exciting voice in comics right now, and so technically skilled. I'd love for him to do a longer narrative piece
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Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Jul 31, 2019 4:00 am

(sadly i lack mr. incompleto, which is therefore named after myself)


:lol:
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Postby HotFingersClub » Sat Aug 03, 2019 7:14 am

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Frances Castle – Sherwin's Cottage / Mackworth / Old Father Thames
I met Frances Castle at ELCAF earlier this year and discovered that she not only runs one of my favourite record labels http://www.claypipemusic.co.uk/ but also creates all of their extremely beautiful album art. For real, those album covers are some of my favourite ever, perfectly capturing a timeless English twilight that's so evocative of the music. I think she has a real genius for it. I picked up a little pack of minis that she was selling as well, and they're sweet if a little insubstantial. Sherwin's Cottage and Mackworth are both historical investigations on different sites, straddling past and present as most of Castle's work seems to. It's pretty stuff and has that same timeless appeal as her paintings, but she's dialled back on the detail and texture to fit the form, and the atmosphere seems kind of lacking in comparison. Old Father Thames is slightly different: fully fictional – a gentle ghost story set in present-day London. For this piece she uses a restricted dusky palette and incorporates the folktale element more fully into the story, and for my money it works better.


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Liam Cobb – The Puritan's Wife
Not my favourite Cobb but it's still kind of amazing in the context of his whole body of work, just how many tones and modes he can work in with essentially not much stylistic variation. I find myself impressed with the breadth of his imagination even when individual stories don't quite pay off. This story of a puritan village succumbing to the hysteria of the witch-hunt doesn't offer much new in terms of where the story goes, but there's an interesting tension here in the way Cobb's fragile line, indistinct faces and especially the dialogue boxes interact with the period setting. It's like peeling the lid off a sanitised text adventure game and seeing the terror underneath. There's something heartbreaking about the way the family are accused under this broken system where evidence doesn't matter, and all they have to defend themselves with is the same clutch of bible stories and hearsay. It might not be an entirely novel angle, but I think Cobb is doing good work in coaxing it out.


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Ben Katchor – The Cardboard Valise
Katchor is a seriously interesting and good artist who seems to somehow sidestep most of the indie comix coverage. Maybe he's too old or too establishment? Like Chris Reynolds he was ploughing a strange fabulist furrow when autobiog was really the dominant mode. He also gets his cartoons in the New Yorker and was the only cartoonist to be awarded the Macarthur grant, both of which could potentially hurt his cred.

I think he's a genius, and such a unique artistic voice that explaining his comics can be really difficult. To me there are no obvious comparisons or precedents for his work. The Cardboard Valise follows a crisscrossing cast of whimsical old men across Fluxion City, which stands in for New York, and two holiday destinations, one of which is a crumbling dictatorship and the other is a tropical island with a culture based primarily around public toilets and only eating canned food.

The structure is fascinating – there's just enough collision of ideas and plot elements that it seems like it's all part of a grand plan, but completely evasive in terms of continuity and message. There's no really coherent narrative, more just a series of monologues in which characters discourse on their impractical life philosophies or elements of a culture which is almost recognisable but twisted out of shape: a culture in which the last bite of a sandwich is carried around between forefinger and thumb all day as a gesturing aid, or in which the most popular children's toy is a plastic tube that replicates the process of peristalsis. Written down, it sounds like it could be grating, but there's actually something deeply soothing about it. Katchor's scratchy grey art and dumpy figures exist in a time just out of reach, and portray the slightly unimaginable things that middle-aged men must have done for fun when our parents were children.

I suppose if there's anything tying Katchor's work together, it's probably that sense of distancing the reader from familiar banalities. A good example here is the material surrounding Tensint Island, the location where Katchor turns public toilets and canned soup into exotic tourist attractions – it produces a fascinating sense of being an alien visitor in your own culture. It's a dense book, taking me longer to finish than some novels, but by the end you're completely immersed in this strange world and totally entertained by the wry leaps of imagination and confusing comic scenarios.


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Fred Morris & Dominic Linton – Peter the Plane
Linton and Morris create comics together as King Louie's Lab, and the division of labour is unclear. I found this mini at ELCAF and was intrigued by the art style, which resembled a wobblier version of the aforementioned Liam Cobb. Tonally as well, it turns out to be similar to Cobb in his wackier moments. This is the story of a group of sentient planes who are larking about in the sky until Peter decides to see if he can fly underwater and find Atlantis. Weirdly he has some success before his (apparently fairly realistic) mechanisms jam and he sinks to the bottom of a trench. It's an odd little book, perfect throwaway idea for a goofy one-off, and plenty of fun while it lasts. There's also something interesting/creepy about a living plane being crushed at the bottom of the ocean by weird deep sea fish.


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Tetsunori Tawaraya – Dimensional Flats
Completely bonkers-looking book printed in metallic silver ink on black paper, originally created on scratchboard by Tawaraya, a Japanese noiserock/punk artist. The artistic technique and printing choice makes it pop like nothing else – needle thin lines burning on the darkness of the page like the whole book's made of electricity. Tawaraya is clearly leaning into it, with every line jagged and buzzing like Johnny Ryan with a million volts running through him. The story involves some kind of weird demon doctor, already living in a bizarre hellworld, being transported to a second bizarre hellworld through an extra-dimensional infection contracted by one of his patients. Visuals aside, it's actually kind of sweet and cheerful, with the cast working together like an episode of Power Rangers or something. You'll mostly be getting it for the art though, which is totally fair enough.
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Aug 03, 2019 7:57 pm

Interesting stuff. I'm totally agreed on that Cobb book - the story is nothing special but he does such cool stuff with it anyway. I always look forward to seeing where he heads next.

Great Katchor writeup, and a welcome reminder to read more of his work. I loved the Julius Knipl books but haven't really read much else by him. He's definitely tough to pin down and describe, which might be another reason why he doesn't get the love he deserves - his aesthetic and concerns are just so specific to him and only him. He seems to come from an older aesthetic in many ways - he has a kinship with newspaper daily strips, Will Eisner, Jules Feiffer - but his stories read in this subtle absurdist way that's the furthest thing from old-fashioned.

That Tawaraya book looks gorgeous, wow.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:23 am

If you liked Julius Knipl, this is very much more of the same. I suppose the key difference is that The Cardboard Valise expands his scope outside of New York, bringing that same strange aesthetic to other places and countries without actually altering the content all that much. It's like tourism as imagined by someone who's never left Coney Island
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Postby HotFingersClub » Sun Aug 04, 2019 6:09 am

Bonus!

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Mariana Pita – Outside with the Cuties
This is a hardback collection of the zines of Mariana Pita, an artist who doesn't seem to have made much inroads outside of Portugal. I'm really glad she's been given the hardback treatment though because this is a fantastic collection and really rewards the extravagant reproduction, which does everything it can to bring out Pita's intense colours and even transfers the smaller format issues in 1:1 size as a kind of miniature insert in the centre of the book. Pita's art is really something – she has the handcrafted scattergun approach of someone like Tara Booth, but unlike Booth it's extremely appealing, with cute little wide-eyed characters that betray an unexpected manga influence and this scratchy intimate feel. At points you could almost be convinced that she's an amateur draughtsperson with an eye for colour, but then she knocks you on your ass with a composition of extraordinary detail or kineticism.

Disa Wallander on the back says Pita's stories progress like “one of those dreams where everything is normal and completely surreal at the same time,” which is very true without quite doing them justice. One of the early highlights is a story of a couple at the beach, one of whom has overdressed and is being teased by the other. From that mundane (but beautifully observed) starting point, the couple set off home but are diverted by what has apparently always been their next goal: to put on scout uniforms found in the trunk of a tree, climb the tree and ride the severed branches around in the sky like broomsticks. It's an incredible moment, as the story quickly but subtly shifts from low-key neuroticism to this joyful leap of fantasy, represented as bright blurred figures drawing contrail doodles in the sky. The story “Appointment at 3pm” is just as brilliant in a totally different way, following a placid little avatar who decides to walk as slowly as physically possible to a doctor's appointment on the other side of the road. There's such self-assurance and belief in the value of pleasing yourself in that story, it's weirdly empowering. Do check this book out if you get the chance – it was a delightful surprise to me and a really clear statement from an artist who deserves a lot more coverage.
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Aug 04, 2019 8:53 am

Ah cool. That beach/broomstick story was in the last issue of NOW (which was the best issue yet by some distance) and I was impressed. Really unique stuff, I didn't realize there was a full collection.
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Aug 04, 2019 11:39 pm

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The Performance, Dull. / ":(" by Jason Murphy
Two minis by this interesting artist who does quasi-abstract comics where shapes and squiggles enact approximations of human motion. The former is more on the abstract side, with a set of squiggly lines suggesting a playful dance while dispassionate captions scroll by underneath, perhaps the audience's reactions to this odd performance. The latter mini has a clearer humanoid figure at its core, though its face is missing or perhaps just stretched out and distorted to blend into its torso. It's also more recognizable in the feelings it evokes - horror, violence, and discomfort from the Al Columbia-like way it juxtaposes those feelings with cartoon iconography. Both are intriguing little studies of form, motion, and the ways in which art can abstract and de-personalize the human form while retaining a connection to humanity itself.

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Expelling My Truth by Tom Van Deusen
New collection of nasty, funny comics from this purveyor of fake autobio comics, in which he portrays himself as the vilest of creatures, oblivious and self-centered in the extreme. This brief work isn't as meaty as some of his longer books, but there's some real fun stuff here, and the punchlines to each story are on point - especially the kicker to the story where he smokes space weed with Eddie Vedder and an alien drug dealer. For my money though the best bits in his work are the painfully awkward, hilarious moments that don't seem to even have a punchline, like the early scene where he accosts a random woman on the bus and asks if he can hold her baby, grinning toothily at her the whole time.

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BTTM FDRS by Ezra Claytan Daniels & Ben Passmore
Two great creators come together for a vicious, polemical sci-fi/horror satire about gentrification. A struggling art school student, supported by her parents while she tries to make it as a fashion designer, moves back to the poor, mostly black neighborhood that her own family moved away from many years ago, and stumbles into an increasingly horrific scenario. As expected from Daniels' last book Upgrade Soul, this is rich, heady stuff, complex and densely layered with sociopolitical and emotional resonance. Though Daniels is credited as writer and Passmore as artist, the latter's influence is apparent as well, in the looser, funnier vibe and rambling atmosphere. It's a remarkably varied book, at times viciously funny and even vengeful - certain scenes read like a cathartic outpouring against corrupt systems and the corrupt individuals perpetuating them - but it's also deeply empathetic, politically smart and not the least bit squeamish about having its characters debate its central themes in the nakedest terms. And when it turns to straight-up horror it nails that too, with some gruesome and genuinely unsettling horror set pieces. Passmore's distinctive characters are fun to watch, and he does fascinating things with the colors, using a psychedelic stew of solid color blocks that at times alternate rhythmically between panels - an interesting choice for a book so concerned with color and race. Best of all, these varied tones and ideas feed into one another in ultimately rewarding ways, which makes the book more than the sum of its parts - even its disturbing body horror, which could otherwise have felt like a mere genre framework for the rest of its concerns, feeds back into the larger themes of the work in the potent final act. Great stuff, a highlight of the year so far.

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Yours by Margot Ferrick
Stretching the form of comics, Ferrick's work consists mostly of lovingly rendered text, carefully placed and often lettered with graphical flourishes growing out of the curves of the words themselves. It's fascinating in that there's rarely much actual drawing, and yet it's visually evocative all the same. This book is mostly a set of gushing love letters, filled with repetitive, obsessive language as the author works out her feelings for the addressees - lovers? exes? crushes? - across page after page. It's pretty interesting, though I might be turning into Wombatz because the book design kept bothering me - it's a lot of double-page spreads with lots of visual information centered in the middle, but the book does nothing to account for that so important bits often get lost in the gutters. That kind of stuff doesn't often bother me to distraction but it really felt like it detracted in this case.

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How I Tried To Be A Good Person by Ulli Lust
Long-awaited translation of Lust's sequel to her first memoir, Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life. Like her first book, this is beautifully drawn, unflinchingly honest, and often emotionally bracing. It's also a bit more grounded, with a slightly older Ulli in her early twenties, her punky wanderlust exhausted, now settled in Vienna trying to find her break as an artist. In the meantime, she visits with her son, who lives in the country with his grandparents, and juggles two men: Georg, a smart and sensitive fellow artist with whom she doesn't connect sexually, and Kim, a Nigerian immigrant with whom she doesn't share much in common but connects with passionately in bed. The constrained settings mean that the visceral excitement and anything-can-happen energy of her first book aren't quite here, but instead there's a patient, richly detailed study of these intertwining relationships. She seems to have an almost-objective perspective on her own life, treating the events and characters even-handedly, including an openness to her own missteps and blind spots. There's a lot here, in the psychological and emotional study of what it means to want - and get - different things from different people, as well as the racial, cultural, and political implications of her interracial romance with a man whose place in her country is unsteady and uncertain. But it's her drawing that really gets me, so joyous and lively. Like the plot, her drawing seems a little more orderly many years later, her own avatar is less scratchy and more firmly defined, as though her visual form solidifies with age. Best of all is all the explicit, lovingly drawn sex - although things do eventually sour and get ugly in this love triangle, there's real idealism and joy in Lust's portrayal of her sex with Kim. Sweaty, funny, intense, exhausting, and absolutely beautiful, sex has rarely looked so good in a comic.
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Postby Wombatz » Mon Aug 05, 2019 2:43 am

haha, as long as you're enjoying a good autobio comic you're definitely not turning into me :rixx:

sevenarts wrote:Image
The Performance, Dull. / ":(" by Jason Murphy
Two minis by this interesting artist who does quasi-abstract comics where shapes and squiggles enact approximations of human motion. The former is more on the abstract side, with a set of squiggly lines suggesting a playful dance while dispassionate captions scroll by underneath, perhaps the audience's reactions to this odd performance. The latter mini has a clearer humanoid figure at its core, though its face is missing or perhaps just stretched out and distorted to blend into its torso. It's also more recognizable in the feelings it evokes - horror, violence, and discomfort from the Al Columbia-like way it juxtaposes those feelings with cartoon iconography. Both are intriguing little studies of form, motion, and the ways in which art can abstract and de-personalize the human form while retaining a connection to humanity itself.


i have quite a number of his minis (though not those two), and often (like you suggest) these small things, filled with controlled doodle exercises of ellipsoidical figures dancing themselves apart plus little asides that anchor them in a psychological reality, are very rich and strangely satisfying. i stopped following at some point because he seemed to be always in the same groove, in a curiously old-fashioned italian 60s aesthetic (as if valerio adami had drawn la linea) plus some odd art-historical quotes thrown in ... but now i find myself wanting these two also ... (and i notice i haven't received any of his all-too-frequent newsletters in some time, and he seems to have packed up his digital store ... )

(p.s.: after some googling i must say he developed his style much more than i gave him credit for)
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Aug 05, 2019 4:19 am

Some good lookin' stuff there. I didn't realise there was a second volume of Lust - very exciting

I haven't liked any of the Van Deusen work I've seen before but that page made me lol

Picked up a few exciting minis from Gosh over the weekend including Sobek and the first two issues of what looks like a truly crazy one man anthology series by Tommi Musturi
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