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 jca » Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:26 pm

i loved 'Emily Carroll – When I Arrived at the Castle' so much. the black and red is beautiful
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Postby sevenarts » Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:54 pm

Yea that book rules, I love the use of color so much. Carroll is always very good but that’s my favorite of hers by some distance.
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Oct 14, 2019 11:27 pm

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Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden
Here's another gorgeous, chunky, super-polished book from Walden, just a couple years after her massive memoir Spinning. And it's pretty cool, this melancholy magical realist story of 2 women running away from their problems on a road trip through West Texas. As usual, Walden's drawing and use of color are sublime, creating this intense, sad nighttime atmosphere, everything draped in shadow and deep purple/blue hues, occasionally punctuated by bursts of sunset orange. The atmosphere makes the book, particularly the subtle way that what starts as a pretty straightforward slice of life piece gradually slips into surreal horror, with the shadows coming alive and menacing forms seeming to melt out of the darkness. Some really stunning imagery throughout, and the book's horror is especially effective because of the way it dovetails with its themes of abuse. Sadly she doesn't quite stick the landing IMO - when the supernatural elements start to become a little too literal as metaphors towards the end, it's pretty clunky. So definitely not her best work but still very much worth a read for fans.

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Happiness #5 edited by Leah Wishnia
Wishnia's dormant anthology returns for a lavish new edition on Perfectly Acceptable, trading in the rough monochrome of previous installments for gorgeous risograph color. I wasn't really a fan of previous issues - Happiness always seemed to suffer from the typical anthology problem of being dominated by slight, forgettable, but often cool-looking little slices - and this new one feels very much of a piece with its predecessors despite the drastic upscaling of the production values. That's probably a good thing for those who like the mag - it's kept its identity for sure - but IMO Wishnia doesn't really get the best out of her contributors. There's a lot of stuff here that has a good look or does some interesting things but isn't really notable beyond that. Most of the pieces are in a vaguely narrative vein, but few actually have memorable narratives. Even favorites like Anya Davidson don't do their best work here. There were a few new-to-me names I'd like to see more of, like Kendra Yee and Juli Majer, and the Carlos Gonzalez story was very fun as always, but there was nothing here that felt truly essential.

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Grayworld / Dimensional Flats by Tetsunori Tawaraya
As HFC covered a little while back, Tawaraya's main deal in these Hollow Press comics - printing in silver ink on pure black paper - is definitely a gimmick, but it's admittedly a pretty damn cool one. It gives a certain unique metal edge to Tawaraya's Brinkmann-esque high-school-notebook-margin monster doodles. There's not much here in terms of substance - the broken-English narratives are barebones, and the stabs at humor are frankly embarassing - but it really does look amazing. His figures are patiently detailed in their grotesquerie, so there's plenty to soak in on every page. I wish there was more to it, it's distinctly lacking in the atmosphere and sense of purpose lurking within Brinkmann's superficially similar aesthetic, but Tawaraya still gets a long way on pure style points.

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Stunt by Michael DeForge
The complete formal opposite of the massive Leaving Richard's Valley from earlier this year, this new book is a slim and tiny, oddly shaped misfit - just a couple inches tall with widescreen pages, the better to stretch and squeeze the malleable bodies of its body-obsessed characters. It's another real good DeForge comic, a brutal portrait of a stuntman who engages in a Charlie Kaufman-esque body double routine with an actor, gradually performing more and more of the actor's life for him. DeForge's rubbery, semi-liquid figures seem to melt and squirm across the long pages, their bodies contorting and folding up to fit within these constricting frames. Though deceptively simple on its surface, there's some real gut-punch power lurking here, as the book's study of celebrity and body image leads to intense fantasies of self-annihilation.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Oct 15, 2019 3:38 am

Cool stuff. That Stuntman comic is rly good I agree. I've found it has a surprising amount of staying power, even compared to his other stuff.

They've just released a collection of Tawaraya stuff, which seems frankly unnecessary. I love having Dimensional Flats on my shelves as a sample of his work, but have little interest in picking up anything else he's done. Not a creator with a huge amount of range, but his one trick is very distinctive

Fiending for that Walden
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Postby sevenarts » Tue Oct 15, 2019 6:49 am

Yea I think I expected that DeForge book to be a minor little diversion but it's actually one of the most emotionally affecting things he's done. Very surprisingly intense.
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Postby sevenarts » Tue Oct 15, 2019 6:50 am

Might as well spam this here too:

https://forums.hipinion.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=131222

Thought it'd be fun to do a best comics of the 2010s list with voting and compile a master list for the board.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Oct 17, 2019 6:25 am

A big bunch of comics bananas for you this week

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Neil Gaiman & Rafael Albuquerque – A Study in Emerald
Gaiman has reached the point in his life where, driven by hormonal changes he barely comprehends, he must begin to compulsively combine elements of the Lovecraft mythos with various other pulp literature tropes. In his case, it's a play on the Sherlock Holmes story “A Study in Scarlet”, previously published as a prose story which won Gaiman the Hugo award, and here adapted by Gaiman and illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, who brings a lot of that fun American Vampire energy and makes it very stylish looking. I think this is one of Gaiman's stronger works in recent years. The Lovecraft stuff is almost beside the point, but gives the book an interesting creepy flavour, and the way he subverts the tropes and expectations that the reader is bringing to the story (at least in my case) is pretty clever. There's a fun extra layer of commentary on the monarchy and Holmes's position as a consulting detective here. It's ultimately disposable but pretty entertaining while you're in the thick of it.


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Nina Bunjevac – Fatherland
In a similar vein to Thi Bui's The Best We Could Do and many others, this is a family history of displacement and the personal ramifications of politics, told fairly straight, although the context is (probably unfairly) more obscure than the Vietnam war. Bunjevac's father was a hardcore Serbian nationalist who had been forced to migrate to Canada at the end of WWII, but still ended up joining a terrorist group that planned to bomb Yugoslavian missions in Canada and the US. Bunjevac's mother, fearing for the family's stability due to her husband's drinking, domestic violence and terrorist affiliations, took two of her three kids and fled back to join her own parents in Yugoslavia. I don't think Bunjevac has been entirely successful with her framing of the story, which might explain why it didn't pick up as much attention as Bui's book. The story hops timeframes a lot between the three generations, and isn't always easy to follow. Likewise the politics would probably have benefited from some more streamlining for uninformed readers. I don't mean to make it sound impenetrable but it's often a bit of a slog, and even though it's a long book you don't come out of it with much sense of character or place, leading you to wonder what took up all those pages.


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Lando – Four Reptiles of the Apocalypse
A wordless story of a Zoidberg-lookin wanderer undergoing a hallucinatory experience in the desert, during which he is tortured by the titular reptiles. Lando is a London-based artist who set up a comics studio with Tsemberlidis, based on a very similar but very distinctive aesthetic which combines Moebius with 70s school textbooks and a nasty fungal infection. You can really see the Moebius influence in this book, particularly if you've read his more abstract solo stuff like 40 Days in the Desert, but Lando's line is much rougher and more sketchy here. It's a different look to his usual precise but crumbling line, but gives the book a nice loose energetic feeling that's lacking from his other stuff.


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Brecht Evens – The Wrong Place
We don't talk about him much but I'm personally never disappointed with a Brecht Evens book. You could argue he trades in that arty Euro style that some people find off-putting, but I find a lot of heart in his work, and his sense of colour and crowds is magnificent – most of his books revolve around parties and nightlife, and he captures that sense of kaleidoscopic possibility better than anyone. This is one of his earlier books, and doesn't quite feel like a fully-rounded story, but it's visually gorgeous and creates an affecting portrait of a good-natured guy living on the margins of his own life, in the shadow of his charismatic friend. The first half of the book perhaps lays it on a bit thick, as little grey Gary hosts an unsuccessful party at his flat, where all the attendees are clearly just hoping to meet his friend Robbie. The second part, where Gary goes to Robbie's nightclub and is reluctantly swept up in the social whirl, works a lot better, and gets to the heart of what must be a pretty universal feeling: sitting on the sidelines and wondering how some people seem to find life so easy. People itt should definitely check out Evens if you liked Manuele Fior, as he's working in a very similar vein and is probably more consistent and beautiful.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Oct 17, 2019 6:27 am

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T. Edward Bak – Island of Memory
Quite a nice first issue of a projected series, Wild Man, which tells the story of the naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, who journeyed with the Second Kamchatka Expedition, bringing the Russians to Siberia and Alaska in the 18th century. It's an interesting story, perhaps a little light on information, which might have been fixed if Bak had got around to finishing the series. Sadly I don't think a second volume was ever released. It's a shame because this book has a lot of potential – the art has a pleasing, heavy quality that reminded me of Isabel Greenberg, and works similarly well for conjuring a deep, folkloric atmosphere – a history that's almost lost in the shadows. I also liked how there's usually only one panel per page, so the story is presented as still tableaux where you follow the dialogue around the scene.


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James Stokoe – Grunt
A lovely collection of illustrations, covers and unpublished comics from one of comics' most distinctive visionaries – this book really gets to the heart of Stokoe's appeal and shows just how far he's come in the last ten years or so. The comics material is mostly on the older side, little stories from back in the Wonton Soup days, and it's good fun to look at that stuff with its much simpler, more chunky aesthetic, side by side with the mind-boggling poster images from more recent years, where the detail piles up so much that it's almost hard to take in. It also brought to light – and I can't believe I never noticed this before – how he keeps coming back to the military and tales of oafish footsoldiers, whether he's doing high fantasy with Orc Stain or working on the Aliens franchise. Grunt is aptly named because that's pretty much exclusively who he's writing about. It does mean Sobek is more of a departure than I'd first noticed, though. Anyway, Stokoe is a god and this book really whets the appetite for a longer piece.


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Laura Lannes – John, Dear
In a Retrofit mini from last year, Lannes is playing with similar shapes to Emily Carroll and has good cover quotes from Julia Gfrorer, Carta Monir and Sophia Foster-Dimino, but isn't quite ready to sit at that table. This is an allegorical horror story about a woman trapped in an abusive relationship, slowly becoming isolated from the outside world. Literally and metaphorically, the woman is hollowed out from within, developing a rash of holes all over her body. It's a fairly basic conceit which Lannes dutifully sees through to its conclusion without throwing in any curveballs, although it does have a decent spook factor. She uses a similar presentational style to Carroll, and the concept is very much something that Carroll might think of before going back to the drawing board a couple of times, but Lannes' art has a more restrained, sepulchral tone, with its heavy darkness and indistinct shapes. Better suited to horror in some ways


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Tom Gauld – Mooncop
A typically deadpan scifi story from Gauld, who's fairly well known in the UK as a whimsical broadsheet newspaper cartoonist. This is the story of a policeman stuck in a dead-end stationing on the moon, which after its early promise is rapidly becoming a backwater and emptying out of people. Mooncop encounters no crime on the moon, and drives expressionlessly between the various small shops, catching up with the ever-dwindling local residents. There's something kind of sweet about it, and it resonates with low-key feelings of abandonment and boredom, but like most of Gauld's work there's not a lot of complexity.


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I've also flicked through some of Captain Clyde, which was Grant Morrison's first longform comics work after getting a couple of one-off stories into a local anthology. It was published by a little Glaswegian paper the Govan Press for a few years starting in 1979, both written and drawn by Morrison before he gave up the illustration side of the craft. Unfortunately the only remaining copies are such poor quality as to sometimes be illegible, but it's still some interesting juvenilia. Morrison's art is a lot better than I was expecting – definitely nothing spectacular but pretty decent compositions and figurework, using a lot of heavy blacks – I can see a strong Carlos Ezquerra influence in the faces and costume design, and there are interesting similarities to Steve Yeowell as well. You can see why Morrison might have been drawn to collaborate with Yeowell as often as he did.

In terms of subject matter, the parts I read seem to be moving in a similar direction to Clyde's counterpoint Captain Britain, both in terms of that character's origins under Chris Claremont and the interdimensional detours he would take later with Alan Moore. Clyde is an ordinary bloke on the dole chosen to be a mystical defender by a Roma-like figure, and a lot of the early material juxtaposes those operatic superhero tropes with Clyde's very grounded personality. I noticed a good few moments early on that would seem to ring out prophetically through the rest of Morrison's canon: Clyde complaining that his supervillain “talks like someone from a comic – it's really embarrassing” and – in only the sixth instalment – deciding he's going to hang up the tights because he accidentally killed a sewer monster and doesn't think he can live with himself. Captain Clyde isn't a masterpiece or anything, but it's incredible how Morrison's addition of some radical empathy and a naturalistic voice made him such a strong writer straight out of the gate. The majority of his contemporaries and a huge amount of modern writers still haven't caught up to the perspective he was demonstrating from the very beginning.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Oct 17, 2019 11:16 am

Oops, forgot one

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Mathieu Burniat - Trap
I don't blame you if it doesn't stick in your mind, but I've posted about Burniat a couple of times before in this thread, as the artist on Thibault Damour's Mysteries of the Quantum Universe and writer/artist of Dodin-Bouffant, Gourmet Extraordinaire. He's a really talented cartoonist, always bringing some extra shine to his projects, but I don't think he's found a hit yet. That includes his most recent book, a wordless story of a man and his dog set in some kind of prehistoric/postapocalyptic world. The man is getting by using his (possibly imagined) ability to take on the traits of various animals by wearing their skins, until he's sucked into a quest involving a sneaky druid, beautiful maiden and fearsome beast. It's a good looking book but unlikely to stick with you
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Oct 17, 2019 7:53 pm

Good stuff as always! I should really get some Lando books, I've enjoyed anthology appearances from him but never read a full book.

I thought John, Dear was good - its low-key horror mingled with a story of emotional abuse is pretty potent - but I definitely see a lot more potential in her, she could do a lot more. Her short in Mirror Mirror II blew me away, and I've liked other shorts from her, I think she'll have a really stunning longer book in her sooner than later.
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Oct 20, 2019 9:37 pm

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Outside With the Cuties by Mariana Pita
As recommended by HFC, a cool collection of this Portuguese artist's brilliantly colored comics, which are whimsical and deliberately childlike in their presentation but often infused with more melancholy emotions beneath the surface. A very unique talent to be sure. The book's bilingual nature sometimes makes it a little difficult to get the most out of the stories, especially the ones that are all in Portuguese with a page of English translations coming at the end - having to flip back and forth to read takes away some from the immediacy of the art. Maybe because of that or maybe just because they're sketchier and have less color, I find a lot of the "improvised zines" in the center of the book pretty underwhelming, but the more fleshed out material tends to be great. The best story here by some distance was the one I'd read already, the short about a couple riding tree limbs through the air, which was reprinted in NOW earlier this year. Just a beautiful, mysterious short, totally perfect. Thankfully there's lots of other good ones too. My other favorites are 1) the frankly bonkers story about an old man and his dog touring a near-empty garden and then the man convinces the dog to commit suicide; 2) the deceptively simple piece about a woman who lives by the beach but pretends she's in the desert.

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Gates of Plasma by Carlos Gonzalez
Gonzalez is one of the most distinctive, underrated voices in modern comics, and this wild book is the best thing I've read from him and probably the best introduction to his utterly bizarre sensibility. Across 300+ pages, this book careens through a feverish B-movie narrative, packed with psychic bugs, hallucinatory drug experiences, mad genetic experiments, secretive cults performing plays to come into contact with an alien race, and so on. It has this warped internal logic to it, a definite propulsive narrative at its core, but it moves by way of flashbacks, narrated stories, hallucinations, and dreams, often nested within one another, so that the narrative keeps branching and breaking apart - a guy dreams he's telling a story, and in the story he has a hallucination, and in the hallucination he realizes he's actually reliving a memory of his own past, and so on through all these winding detours. Gonzalez's deliberately rough, spartan style adds to the skewed sense of reality. His thin lines delineate these crude characters who often completely disintegrate into their abstract surroundings - a human form is not that clearly distinguished, in Gonzalez's style, from a weird blob or stain on a nearby wall. It's hard to describe what's so appealing about all this, especially the absurd humor of it - I often found myself laughing out loud, then wondering how exactly I'd explain to someone just *what* I was laughing at. But it's unmistakeably compelling, with a Cronenbergian approach to body horror and bodily transformation, that is to say a profound belief that a visceral, often gross process of transcending physical reality can be an ecstatic escape from the numbing boredom and violence of "ordinary" society.

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The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis
New Davis that's obviously very personal for her: in the dedication she notes that she's expecting a baby within a few months, and then the whole story works out the very familiar parental anxiety about bringing a child into a completely fucked-up and politically hostile world. It's about a woman trying to get pregnant with her slacker boyfriend while attending political rallies, and caring for a senile old woman as her only modest source of income. Davis' drawing is, as always, completely on point - this is gorgeous, and sensual, she has such a way with bodies and motion and expression that makes for some great subtle characterization. Sadly I'm not so sure how I feel about the narrative, it's all a little weird - set in this imagined slight future where Mark Zuckerberg is president, and the U.S. is unleashing chemical weapons on foreign countries, and increasingly draconian laws are cracking down on protestors. It's all so obviously based on the present political moment that I wonder why that bit of cutesy future what-if-ism is even necessary - I just find it kind of distracting and it adds a layer of distance that dulls the power of the book as socio-political commentary. I think of the moments in You & A Bike & A Road that touch on current U.S. politics and those are so searingly direct that this comes across as surprisingly pale in comparison. Still lots here to admire for Davis fans, especially in the interpersonal dynamics and how they play out through her drawing, but she's done much better.

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Perfect Example by John Porcellino
This was Porcellino's first real stab at a graphic novel format after a decade+ of minicomics. It collects a long story that ran across a couple issues of King-Cat plus a few shorter pieces, all of them set in the spring of 1986 when he was 17, and arranges them into a poignant novella about being young, depressed, and socially uneasy. As usual, Porcellino's less-is-more approach to the art is deceptively simple, with a really strong sense of composition and a sense that every line is carefully placed. It's also some of his strongest autobiographical writing, grappling with his youthful sense that he's lagging behind - he's baffled as friends and would-be girlfriends experiment with drugs and drinking, has no idea what he wants to do after graduating high school, and generally struggles with depression and an inability to relate to those around him.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:45 am

That's an interesting writeup of Carlos Gonzalez. I've come across a few minis that he's done online, and found the combination of incoherent narrative and rough art kind of impenetrable, but they're much easier to disregard when they're just 20 page oddities with no context. It would be interesting to take another run at his stuff

Shame about the Davis. I don't know if your review is colouring my preconceptions already, but that scene you posted seems like a bit of a cliche for a writer of her talents. It reminds me of a much better page of hers I have hanging up in my bedroom
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I guess I'll reserve judgement until I read it for myself

Glad you liked the Pita book. I agree the minicomics are the least exciting stories in that collection but I think they're cool anyway and I'm glad they were included. I think they contribute to the lovely handmade zine-ish quality of the book, which is a valuable quality to emphasise in Pita's work
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Postby Wombatz » Thu Oct 24, 2019 10:22 am

couple of things that fell into my hands when i opened a shoebox for the best of 2010s thread:

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Spherical Sticklands by Henry McCausland ... i thought i'd reread this and tease hfc a little about how much better this series is than the chris warified layout despotism and faceless holiday camp collectivism of the 8 lane runaways. this one actually isn't better ... it's more relaxed, the vibe a tad more anarchic (spot the guy with the swastika on his sweater (huh?)), but the fact that there's no point to the story makes it about less than its descendant's full-blown formalism. i also have

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Nocturnal Sticklands ... now this is the real thing! we get a proper individual and follow her through some awesome, very lightly drawn drawings with lots of artful moire and incredible blacks, then we meet the mastermind of all the formalism and he's super boring ... so it's a perfect little mini and sort of a key to the man's work at the same time. i also picked out

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Arbitraire by Leo Quivreux ... yes, that's bluish paper, and at first i thought the cover was discolored already but it's a slow gradation from orange to a bluish red. what struck me is that some of the pages (see above) relate to the early panter/pettibon aesthetic (that includes copying newspaper images etc) we lately had, only with different glitches. too many french words for me to seriously grade it, but looks seriously good. lastly,

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i have the first two volumes of Scaffolds by Graham and Eisenhower (whoever they are). now i wish this were in french! so great to look at though and in its structure of moving collectivized figures chit-chatting through gridlike graphic structures very much related to the 8 lane again.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Fri Oct 25, 2019 4:36 am

Going absolutely hog wild over that post right now. The McCausland pages look gorgeous - are those minis available to buy or read in any format? A quick google returns almost nothing. I obviously disagree about his work (what little I've realistically seen of it) having a boring core but definitely one of the things I like most about it is a soothing or calming quality which I paradoxically find very absorbing, like getting high and watching bugs toil in the grass

Always got a similar feeling from Scaffold, which is also one of my absolute favourites from the last decade. Your post reminded me that there have been other issues released since #1 which I am now going to track down
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Postby Wombatz » Fri Oct 25, 2019 6:44 am

these were editions of 40, so you'd need a lot of luck ... i only got 2 out of 4 some months after the fact ... let's canvas for a reprint.

not the core, the mccausland figure in the comic is boring to the protagonist, a very nice meta moment ... but ... after the sticklands he posted single drawings, nature but also architecture, and they had a dark obsessiveness that i wanted so much to find in a comic from him, sadly he never did that. (he has done a catalog of nature paintings recently, but they're also very polite.)

(this somehow reminds me of nathaniel walpole, who was likewise super good around that time, then posted some amazing drawings, but never really went in that direction ... we lose most of them to graphic design sooner or later anyway. here's a walpole drawing i saved, the switches between registers/different kinds of lines are wild:

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)
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Postby sevenarts » Fri Oct 25, 2019 7:42 am

Those Nocturnal Sticklands pages look amazing, shame that's ungettable. Also really love that Walpole drawing, such a wild mashup of different drawing styles - I'm going nuts over those weeping manga eyes in the middle surrounded by all those different types of lines. Would love to see a comic in that style(s).

Scaffold is great. I have the book format that I think collects #1-3 - was there ever more?
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Postby sevenarts » Fri Oct 25, 2019 11:11 pm

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SUV by Helge Reumann
You pretty much know what to expect with Reumann's work at this point if you've ever encountered it before, he's possibly one of the most single-minded auteurs in comics. This new collection is more of the same in a lot of ways - a lengthy silent journey through an industrial wasteland populated solely by scowling militants and violent little mutant creatures - but it's also probably the ideal concentrated dose of Reumann's unique vision. It feels like the best, purest distillation of his obsessions to date, page after page of intense conflict and absurd situations. It's brutal, violent, and frequently ugly, a portrait of a world in which mortars and sniper rifles are as routine sights as grocery stores or office buildings. It's the grounding of all this violence in Reumann's lovingly realized prosaic settings - rolling hills, bland office parks, abandoned factories, folksy wood cabins - that creates the unsettling quality of his work. This book is also the clearest evidence since his Elvis Studio days of his wicked sense of humor, there's a real absurdist bent running through a lot of this. At one point, one of his signature angry bearded men visits a taco place, then unwraps his meal only to find the enormous pile of meat has been shaped into a screaming baby, swaddled in the taco wrapper, and he immediately shoots it in anger. The "gags" are often as sharp-edged and jagged as Reumann's thick, angry lines, but that vicious humor, along with the greater-than-usual sense of momentum in the loose narrative, makes this one of his very best works yet.


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Journal by Julie Delporte
Delporte's first book was a journal/diary comic covering a year in which she went through a painful breakup and struggled to stabilize her depression and pursue her artistic ambitions. It's an interesting debut, not too dissimilar in style from her later works - mostly very spare pages with hand-written text weaving around her drawings, with a constant sense of experimentation with color and medium. This is definitely a less polished work, which is most noticeable in its lack of a clear driving force; while this year's essayistic masterpiece This Woman's Work has a meandering structure, there's always a real sense of purpose behind the detours and anecdotes. This is more of a pure diary, which makes it very achingly personal at times, but also means there's a lot of repetition and a slack structure. Delporte's influences are also very much front and center: she repeatedly namechecks Julie Doucet, Ingmar Bergman, Lars Von Trier, none of which are especially surprising given the melancholy tone of her work. Despite feeling very much like the work of a developing artist, there's lots to like here in Delporte's naked psychological self-dissection. Worth a look for fans but otherwise just check out This Woman's Work instead.
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Postby Wombatz » Tue Oct 29, 2019 11:56 am

sevenarts wrote:Image
Vision part 2 by Julia Gfrorer
This was originally advertised as a 2-parter but rather than wrapping up the narrative this one expands it, and it's now apparently an ongoing. Fine by me, this is top-notch Gfrorer, dripping with menace, submerged sadness, and a venomous edge. So simple on its face, these relatively straightforward scenes delivered in a tight 9-panel grid - there's none of the overt sexuality of the first issue, and the supernatural takes a backseat too - but Gfrorer makes every scene seethe and crackle. Even the heroine's visit to an eye doctor at the end becomes this tense, rich moment, especially the way he bends back her head to examine and pierce her eye, sensually exposing her neck. Gfrorer's minis are always great but this seems to be the first time she's doled out a longer work in this way and it's really exciting so far.

this finally arrived here too and for the first half i thought nice but maybe a bit tame and happy as a period piece, but indeed that visit to the eye doctor as a quasi rape scene was super spooky (especially since in my family we all get cataracts :-) ) ... and now the field of visions/ghosts within and behind mirrors is wide open ... can't wait to see where she takes this.
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Postby Wombatz » Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:42 pm

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beautiful paintings sadly apropos of harsh events from thread favorite ines estrada

http://blog.inechi.com/2019/11/2019.html
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Postby sevenarts » Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:01 pm

Wow yeah :( Her site has said for some time now that she had a bad accident but not details, that’s horrible. The paintings are actually so beautiful I’m having a hard time squaring them with the trauma they arose from.
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Postby Wombatz » Thu Nov 07, 2019 6:55 am

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because it's on my top 20 for the 2010s and been some time, i reread blacklung by chris wright. and yeah it will remain there. at the beginning it feels a bit like trondheim/sfar/etc.'s donjon for grown-ups, abstracted furries in a historical setting, only the violence more real and the prose a more mock-ancient purple ... but by the end you breathe along with this strange logic of slaughter and religion (there's no point of comparison, but somehow i had to think of herzog's aguirre, which also follows it's own fantasy psychology yet manages to (seem to) tell you more about being in a group of marauders under the spell of violence than any attempt at a more sober/less anachronistic reckoning could) ... what's wright up to these days, btw?

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managed to score a couple of early issues of o'neil/cowan's the question, so i reread the start of the series (in my top ten of all-time runs ... is there a thread for that yet?). storywise, the concentration of clichés (especially in the 2nd issue, where an electra-rip-off books our hero into a quick zen martial arts training offered by a post vietnam hippie sage in a wheel chair) would hardly be bearable if one paused to think of it, but it's hard to pause and think because this has such mad energy from the start. the art is still a bit congested (cowan's first big gig, he's learning quickly), but many trademarks of the visual storytelling (including the silent action scenes, see above from issue 1) are already in place.

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then i read issue 22 to 24 for comparison, and oh my, what rhythm and drive! this is such masterful storytelling ... and really sad to think that outside of a few roughly contemporary issues of green arrow, this early work would remain cowan's best (or am i missing something?) ...

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i also got the new asterix for my boys. well, you needn't, it's mostly a rehash of stuff from classic issues, no great jokes, but some entertainment to be got from generational conflicts (when you're reading it with your kids). clearly the creators are held on a very short leash by whoever owns the brand, and that's not helping things.

(edit: shortly after, i see that chris wright's in the forthcoming now ... his preview page does nothing for me though)
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Postby sevenarts » Fri Nov 08, 2019 10:08 pm

The Question, huh? Cool book even though that much O'Neil ponderousness is a lot to take.


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Bradley of Him by Connor Willumsen
Willumsen's new book continues in the vein of his masterpiece Anti-Gone or his contribution to the last Kramers - jaw-dropping cartooning chops presented within a loose, free-flowing framework, often without panel borders, or otherwise allowing for odd zig-zag reading orders that amble unpredictably across the page. It's this incredible technical feat that somehow doesn't feel like one, that feels loose and spontaneous even though the virtuosity is obvious in every line. This new book is maybe his most idiosyncratic work yet. It features Bradley Cooper (maybe?) getting a bit too deeply into an athlete persona after playing Lance Armstrong, and taking off on a rambling odyssey through the desert around Las Vegas, narrating an alternately fawning and confrontational letter to Robert DeNiro as he runs. It shares with Anti-Gone a distinctive voice - there's such a hypnotic cadence to the frequently baffling conversations that the hero engages in, and Willumsen's dialogue is so well crafted that I can hear how the characters must sound. It's a frankly bizarre book, and I don't quite know what to make of it as a whole, but it's deeply fascinating. Themes of celebrity, fame, privilege, and class percolate throughout all these absurdist vignettes, and in its oddball way it's a pretty scathing and accurate portrait of the current cultural landscape. But that's almost beside the point when compared to the pure strength of Willumsen's cartooning and how well he crafts a scene. It's a book I've kept returning to after reading it, flipping it open to any random spot and enjoying a hilarious conversation or marveling at the contorted body language of the physical comedy bits.

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Rain by Mary M. & Bryan Talbot
The Talbots' new book, like many of their previous collaborations, is a meticulously researched work of polemicism lightly wrapped in a fictional framework, though here it's focused on the modern day rather than being a period piece. Unlike Sally Heathcote, their book about the suffragette movement, the polemicism all but completely overwhelms the fiction here. There's not really much of a story, as they simply follow two young women who are involved with a local environmentalist movement on the moors of northern England. The book's strident messages about the urgency of dealing with climate change and other environmental disasters are important, but I'm afraid it's not too interesting as a story, mostly consisting of rather stiff, dry conversations about environmental facts, with just the lightest hint of a lesbian romance story at the fringes. Bryan's lush, beautifully painted art is the highlight, lovingly capturing the rainy English moors and the local wildlife. There's so much obvious affection for this land and this scenery, and the art most clearly communicates the love of nature that's driving the book's ideas. As propaganda goes this is more artful and big-hearted than most, but, well, even propaganda I agree with is kinda boring I guess.
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Postby Wombatz » Fri Nov 15, 2019 3:59 am

sevenarts wrote:Image
Bradley of Him by Connor Willumsen
Willumsen's new book continues in the vein of his masterpiece Anti-Gone or his contribution to the last Kramers - jaw-dropping cartooning chops presented within a loose, free-flowing framework, often without panel borders, or otherwise allowing for odd zig-zag reading orders that amble unpredictably across the page. It's this incredible technical feat that somehow doesn't feel like one, that feels loose and spontaneous even though the virtuosity is obvious in every line. This new book is maybe his most idiosyncratic work yet. It features Bradley Cooper (maybe?) getting a bit too deeply into an athlete persona after playing Lance Armstrong, and taking off on a rambling odyssey through the desert around Las Vegas, narrating an alternately fawning and confrontational letter to Robert DeNiro as he runs. It shares with Anti-Gone a distinctive voice - there's such a hypnotic cadence to the frequently baffling conversations that the hero engages in, and Willumsen's dialogue is so well crafted that I can hear how the characters must sound. It's a frankly bizarre book, and I don't quite know what to make of it as a whole, but it's deeply fascinating. Themes of celebrity, fame, privilege, and class percolate throughout all these absurdist vignettes, and in its oddball way it's a pretty scathing and accurate portrait of the current cultural landscape. But that's almost beside the point when compared to the pure strength of Willumsen's cartooning and how well he crafts a scene. It's a book I've kept returning to after reading it, flipping it open to any random spot and enjoying a hilarious conversation or marveling at the contorted body language of the physical comedy bits.

darn, second again (btw, new brinkman and jacobs alert at hollow press, maybe i can beat you to those :) ) anyway, totally agreed on the uniqueness of his style, so free he can go from 50 panels a page to a single drawing without losing the flow, balancing objective narrative and floating headspace between banal everyday comedy and dehydration hallucination ... incredibly beautiful pages especially during the running in the desert sequences and some really uncomfortable mindfuckery and yet ... i don't know, i don't think it holds together. starting with the inner monologue, which i found super boring to read because, well, there are enough film satires on that kind of consciousness thing that sound similar, and even if it's a satire of that satire here, it's still nothing more than empty blather (and a lot of it), which then trails off during the course of the book and in the end does not seem to really have done anything. i should say i'm not into satire, and willumsen never goes straight for it, but with all the celebrity, oscars, vegas, gambling and prizes, running addicts, film quotes, product advertisements, etc., some sort of meta on social satire (always switching into mild surrealism before committing itself) is the only red thread i can see ... i know it's silly to hold possibilities offered by an artist's prowess against him, especially as he maybe exactly needs these familiar scenes and motifs at the core of his work to free him up to do the amazing formalist stuff, but contrary to anti-gone i find no deeper core ... he does not choose to build a world here, and the strongest scene show how immersive that would have been (actually, while stylistically dissimilar, maybe he's moving closer to a deforgian approach here? (i haven't read stunt yet))
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Postby sevenarts » Fri Nov 15, 2019 7:55 am

I saw the new Jacobs the other day, already on its way to me :D

Interesting thoughts on Bradley. At first, I kinda felt like you, that the book was formally dazzling but hard to figure out what it all added up to. I still don't think it's as strong as Anti-Gone which was a total masterpiece of course. But as I kept reading I got more and more immersed in its weird rhythms, and when I finished I flipped right back to the beginning and skimmed through again, and it's just so damn strong moment to moment, page to page, that it won me over a lot. Yeah, what it has to say about celebrity and identity and privilege can be found elsewhere, but its strength is in how it encodes those ideas in this astonishing formal storytelling and in the joy of its individual scenes and drawings. I disagree that it doesn't build a world, I think the specificity of it is one of its greatest assets, this sense of being completely in this dude's consciousness and very particular way of looking at the world.
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Nov 17, 2019 9:59 pm

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My Dog Ivy by Gabrielle Bell
New small collection of Bell's diary comics from a single month, during which time she dog- and cat-sat for her friend (and publisher) Tom Kaczynski. It's a typically charming, low-key set of autobio stories, interspersing weird dreams and goofy fantasies - like imaginging switching places with the dog, curling up on the floor while the dog draws at the desk - in with the quotidian stuff of going for walks, struggling with deadlines, and having nervous breakdowns. There's really not much here, and the overall tone is very familiar, but Bell's ratty, nervous lines and knack for wry understatement make this a small pleasure as always.

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Houses of the Holy by Caitlin Skaalrud
Skaalrud is a pretty distinctive comics talent, mining this surreal psychological/poetic sensibility where there's definite forward momentum but the story is entirely abstracted, and the relationship between words and images is often hazy. The story, such as it is, proceeds in a series of bizarre vignettes, often full page images or two panels per page at most, with minimal text appearing as captions beneath each image. Skaalrud's stark black and white images have a definite heft and sense of the concrete, which works interestingly against the often mystical nature of what's being depicted - tarot, magical symbols, all sorts of bizarre arcane rites and sacrifices. It's some kind of psychic journey, literalizing and visualizing battles with inner demons along the way. I have to admit, though I quite liked Skaalrud's short comic in a similar vein, the whimsically titled How To Make Comics, when expanded to feature length like this I found myself adrift and bored way too often. It reminds me a bit of Hans Rickheit but with less of a sense of architecture and space behind all the psychological symbols. It's just a bit much, this constant assault of symbols without context.

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Grip Part 2 by Lale Westvind
Obviously, this is amazing. I don't even know what to say about Westvind anymore, she blows me away. This second volume continues the first's fascination with women's labor, working with their hands, though here it comes across as a creation myth, a tribute to creativity's power, and an expression of deep yearning for community. For much of the book, a solitary woman works with her hands on her own environment, molding her surroundings to her whims, vibrating with energy and color as she transforms her world into vaguely humanoid dance partners and companions, or creates dozens of pulsing, twisted sculptures that look like abstracted piles of shaking limbs. This is stunningly beautiful stuff, the color just explodes off the page and Westvind's drawings all have so much life and vitality to them. She's just the best.

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Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
Pretty much agreed with HFC on this one. Aesthetically, I think the art on this is really boring, but it has such a unique perspective and has some real strong storytelling and ideas. It's a very educational book, but it's always educational through the lens of the personal, so rather than feeling like a dry textbook it's a potent story even as it's obviously seeking to educate and help people learn about non-binary identities. I'll even admit that Kobabe's clear, simple art is a big part of the book's admirable clarity and directness. These are not simple concepts to communicate, and e does a fantastic job of getting across both how it feels to gradually come to an understanding of one's own gender identity, and why it's important to foster greater understanding and respect for these states of mind in the larger culture.
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Postby Wombatz » Mon Dec 02, 2019 5:49 am

sevenarts wrote:Re: Santoro, "mannered" is probably fair, he's a very self-conscious formalist, but there's also a lot of emotion and poetics behind everything he does. Given your distaste for autobio, maybe hold off on the new one ...

thank you for the warning! but german amazon had a blip and suddenly a few titles i had on the watchlist came at a quarter of their price and i got myself books on the art ensemble and sound art, omnibusses of kamandi and the death and return of superman, and the two in this post:

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so, pittsburgh by frank santoro. i love the colors, the layouts, the way figures are pasted into the scenes which evoke time and memories, the distressed sandwich paper look. but yea autobio. i suppose the problem with autobio comics (as opposed to prose) is there is no pure interior perspective. so either we watch the i do shallow things while thinking deeply, or the i posing too much, or, the case here, the supporting figure that's also the author has too privileged a position. of course santoro is smart and acknowledges that ("is this for your book?" one of the figures asks him), but the narrow perspective never lets any character breathe. it doesn't help that santoro mostly draws faces on the generic side. and a shockingly bad dog (see above; which reminded me of the badly drawn bird in lemire's essex county ... why don't they look up how nature put the darn thing together?) so i'm thinking (scuze me if this gets too esoteric) that the drawings are great comics, but they're not great art ... the cityscapes are constructed from cubes along vanishing lines, nothing here looks seen, studied or remembered, and happily caught on paper, no interest in textures or psychology, the quick scribbles are merely a look ... so i guess for me he's lacking the proper art chops to fully realize his concept (damn this sounds awfully square) ... (btw, it's interesting that hockney (who clearly has inspired some of the art here) also drew scenes from memory, and that skewered the perspective and put a focus on certain details, while santoro's art is very clean and methodical at heart). still happy to have this. i'm also happy to finally have

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kramers 10. which has some truly great work but all the more reminds me why anthologies are frustrating. fantastic extended pieces by c.f. (much better than the recent book with the edges missing), helge reumann, lale westvind, connor willumsen ... vs. shockingly bad pages by e.g. john pham (wait, wasn't he much better?), rick altergott, david amram, archer prewitt, friberg & larsen, aisha franz ... and all manner in between. altergott, johnny ryan, and some other moments also remind you that the supposed golden age of indie comics was dick jokes (ryan is so tired at this point, about as edgy as joan cornella, and yeah here's another comic i have to hide from my kids). interesting curatorial choice to feature shary flenniken (whom i didn't really know) directly after him, but while her 70s trots and bonnie strips are fun and somewhat gender- if not genre-subversive dick jokes, in the end the effect was a bit apologist. i have a mild urge to tear this book up and keep just the best parts, but essential anyway.
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Postby zamboni » Mon Dec 02, 2019 6:26 am

ha i know carlos nice dude
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Dec 02, 2019 7:51 am

I quite like that Santoro dog

Are there any new creators of note in Kramers 10? I feel like the main value of those anthologies is in introducing fresh stuff, but it sounds like most of the best stuff there is from the people we know pretty well already

Agree with you about Johnny and Joan. I wonder who the genuinely edgy creators are these a days? Or what edginess even entails? I feel like Hanselmann kind of counts in his darker moments (Werewolf Jones and Sons putting razorblades on the waterslides). Maybe Tom Van Deusen as well? I didn't love the one mini I read of his (Eat Eat Eat) but I know sevenarts rates him

I have finally found time to read a handful of comics so I will get back in the saddle of my reviewing horse later this week
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Postby Wombatz » Mon Dec 02, 2019 9:41 am

HotFingersClub wrote:I quite like that Santoro dog

ha, i'm sure nobody else worries about stuff like this, but it's a good example: it's a nice comics dog, but then you turn the page and get the exact same drawing of maybe a dog with a turtleish rear end pasted in again, mirror-flipped and colored a little differently ... and then the affectations of the scratchy line that can't be bothered (twice) start to feel very contrived.

HotFingersClub wrote:Are there any new creators of note in Kramers 10? I feel like the main value of those anthologies is in introducing fresh stuff, but it sounds like most of the best stuff there is from the people we know pretty well already

nope, no exciting discoveries to be made ... the nice thing here is the big size and that many contributions are 10 to 12 pages and really do something interesting with that space from a storytelling point of view ...
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Dec 02, 2019 9:48 am

Kramers 10 definitely skews towards familiar names. I did discover Jason Murphy from there, and like Wombatz, Shary Flenniken was pretty new to me, though of course far from an actual new creator. I thought where it excelled as an anthology was in creating a strong context for all this great work from very different creators. Contrasting Ryan and Flenniken is probably the most obvious example but it really felt to me like there was this intentional dialogue across alt-comics history, intentionally pulling in some older forms of indie comics and presenting them alongside today’s avant-garde. Very interesting to me, and most of the inclusions were at least worth looking at - and many were downright amazing - which is pretty rare for an anthology.

I don’t think being edgy or shocking has much currency any more. It’s kinda all been done. I think the edgiest work now, like Hanselmann as you mention, goes more for gut wrenching emotion rather than pure shock. So I’d say like Hanselmann, Ines Estrada, Heather Benjamin, etc. - stuff where it’s not just shock for its own sake but in service of something deeper.

Like I just think Van Deusen is hilarious - he’s not too edgy at all.
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