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
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We'll kick your ass in

Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:01 am

Hmm I always thought The Interview predated 5KKMPS but apparently it's the other way around. Even though I like both books that seems like a promising trajectory
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Postby Wombatz » Fri Jan 25, 2019 2:42 am

he already has another one out (plus a collection of stories), and while i must admit i haven't read it because HERE BE SPOILERS at first glance it's fully back in arthouse comics mode ... it's called the orsay variations, and i think i hate stuff about art being a special realm for all the good in mankind even more than stuff about life being inherently poetic ... you may have no such prejudices, still i'm afraid the promise of the trajectory you mention is not fulfilled :|

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Postby sevenarts » Fri Jan 25, 2019 6:42 am

I'm not going to pre-judge more Fior - haven't read that short story book or the new GN yet but The Interview was definitely a promising step from the already just-plain-beautiful first book.

Glad you liked Lovers Only HFC. That was where I first saw Foster-Dimino's work and I have so much affection for her story there, such a bittersweet little snapshot. The second issue was good too, trading out Johnson for a great Carta Monir story. Johnson's never really blown me away but she's definitely solid and talented, her book Gorgeous was pretty good and worth a look if you want more of her.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Jan 31, 2019 8:49 am

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Tommi Parrish – The Lie and How We Told It
This was very good in a promising debut kind of a way. A small, slow story, told beat by beat, of two old friends running into each other after drifting out of touch for many years, and going for a drink, reflecting on what's changed and what's stayed the same. The round, simple figures and textures reminded me of lots of current alt-comix babes: Nick Drnaso, Eleanor Davis, Tara Booth etc. but Parrish's painted colours are quite striking and beautiful, and I like the way their character's blank faces sometimes bug out in extreme emotive displays. I think for me it took the decompression a little far – I felt like there wasn't a huge amount of ground covered in 100+ pages, but I'm definitely excited to see what Parrish does next.

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Jesse Jacobs – Crawl Space
I've been jonesing for this ever since it came out two years ago, just waiting for it to get cheap enough to justify. Those rainbow candycane stripes are catnip to me. I've always loved Jacobs' hyper-stylised, hyper-detailed precise hallucinations, but just felt each time that the story didn't quite take flight in the same way, and although I think this is his best book, it suffers from the same problem in a way that Jacobs has actually managed to turn to his advantage. It opens with two kids who have discovered a portal to a rainbow dimension in a basement washer/dryer setup, and from the initial vibe of mind-expanding exploration, things gradually get slightly too intense as the kids go deeper into the new world, and other less responsible people start to find out about the portal. What I thought I wanted from this was a blitzkrieg of insane visuals and concepts, so was initially disappointed that Jacobs was tethering his story to a familiar structure and more prosaic concerns, but actually I think it kind of works, and is much more effective than the cosmic opera of By This Shall You Know Him. For me it's an obvious but great analogy to my early experiences in the world of psychedelics – I definitely relate to the stuff about wanting to explore strange new territories, the compulsion to share it with your friends and the disappointment when your good intentions are subverted by the drive to get fucked up and fuck shit up. As always with Jacobs there's the slight feeling that it's not quite as smart as you want it to be – the sections where he explains his system of alternate dimensions are weirdly prosaic – but it doesn't matter because this is good and beautiful and true.

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Sarah Horrocks – The Bacchae
On the other hand here's something way too smart for me: the first issue of Horrocks' adaptation of Euripedes' tragedy, picked up last year at Thought Bubble. It's again pretty decompressed – we only get a couple of scenes in this first issue, but I felt like I could follow it more easily than expected in the dialogue scenes, this despite Horrocks' abstract visuals that mostly disregard sequential image flow and flood you with a montage of zooms in and out of bodies and landscapes. There's definite momentum here, maybe imparted from the source text: characters' motivations seem strong and clear despite and there's an ominous sense to the way the presence of Dionysus and his new religion hang over the city, with flashes of light seen against the sky at night. It's definitely Horrocks's best-looking book yet, the Sienkiewiczian scratchiness of Goro has been smoothed out and enriched by deeply alien coloured paints and costume design. I also like how Horrocks is up on her soapbox about how more people should read Andrea Pazienza – one of the main characters here is incongruously “played” by Zanardi in an act of pure homage, and looking back I can really see the poisonous influence of Zanardi on Goro especially. This was my favourite Horrocks yet.

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Liam Cobb – The Inspector
:D :D :D
As expected I think you guys need to let your hair down a little and start appreciating the adventures of the Michelin Man because this fuckin rules and I definitely would have put it near the top of my 2018 list if I had read it in time. It's hilarious, with gorgeous colours, architecture and fake haute cuisine dishes, and there are thrills and suspense at the end. I literally don't understand what more you could want out of a comic. I was 100% delighted throughout, five bloody stars.
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:37 pm

That's quite a cool batch of comics, and great reviews as ever. I definitely saw that Parrish book as way more than a promising debut - while you're right that not much necessarily "happens" I feel like Parrish's formalist bent makes it so much deeper and richer than it would have been otherwise - something about the way they play with different textures and styles and subtle shifts in the look of things makes this hit hard far beyond its surface story would suggest.

I liked Bacchae too, Horrocks in color is always amazing and the framework here makes this way more actually legible than The Leopard was. Still think Goro is her best to date, and I'm excited for the conclusion - she just released a 60-page final issue.

And The Inspector IS a joy, don't get me wrong. I guess I'm just not sure what to make of Cobb as a whole anymore since he works in so many different modes and sometimes seems deadly serious, other times like he's just playing a joke on everyone.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:31 am

With the Parrish my issue - minimal as it was - wasn't exactly that not much happens; I have no problem with books like that. It was more that the formalism and the psychological territory covered didn't quite justify the length of the story - it felt slightly light on content for a full length GN and while I enjoyed the read I don't think it really hit me where it hurts. Nothing wrong with that though! I'm definitely not expecting a debut book to hit the highs of someone like Kevin Huizenga and I'm really psyched to see Parrish's next move
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:31 am

Cobb contains multitudes
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Postby Wombatz » Wed Feb 06, 2019 5:06 am

regarding the parrish i guess i'm between you two. for me it's not too long, else there wouldn't be space for the awkwardness central to the story, and there's indeed lots of great detail in form and expression to ponder during slow passages ... but it has kind of a young-adultish feel, where the difficulties of coping with life and coming to terms with yourself become their own thing entirely (separate from the everyday experience of life (if that makes sense)). although the book reads heartfelt, it's truths are generic rather than specific (not that i'd necessarily want that, i mostly hate autobio comics), and e.g. the dude's character (saying insensitive stuff and halfheartedly retracting, stressing he's not really gay but finding his own minor or mostly repressed gaynesses much more riveting than his friend's more existential grapples) does border on cliché ... as do the rows of suburban houses in the b/w inserts ... probably i'm just a bit old for this book, but it'll be exiting to see where parrish takes it from here.
Last edited by Wombatz on Wed Feb 06, 2019 5:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Wombatz » Wed Feb 06, 2019 5:07 am

oh and i read hankiewicz' asthma, and for a few pages was very happy as it seemed to have the freedom that education kind of lacked ... but it wore me down quickly. talking of formalism, here's a specimen, i found it hard to really read all the words because they were just like gestures in a more ponderous medium. the wordless pages are great, though ... still, this raised my appreciation for education by a good notch, just the right way for him to go (it's a pity i can't get the new n for nadelman zine because shipping costs, it looks good).
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Feb 07, 2019 7:45 am

Shame you didn't like Asthma but thanks for pointing out the new Hankiewicz mini :D
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Feb 07, 2019 7:46 am

Also, whooooooaa new James Stokoe comic coming in the next Short Box batch. Amazing.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Feb 07, 2019 8:01 am

Okay, damn, I'm back on board. Who am I to say no to Stokoe
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Feb 07, 2019 8:10 am

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John Kerschbaum – Petey & Pussy
I feel like Fantagraphics should have a sub-imprint for this sort of thing. The books that they're best known for are often on the more sensitive, arthouse end of the spectrum, or stuff that challenges the medium in some way, but they also have this side-line in books like this that appeal to a very specific Fantagraphics sense of humour. I associate it strongly but perhaps incorrectly with Gary Groth and it has a strong misanthropic, juvenile-but-old-fashioned, “caustic” streak. Very salty and leathery and to my mind very dated. Simon Hanselmann kind of carries the torch for it a little bit but he's much more surprising where this stuff seems extremely well-trodden. Anyway this specific book falls exactly in that wheelhouse, hence the ramble. It's a looong book about a cat and a dog with human heads getting into mean-spirited hijinks and drinking a lot. Most of the humour comes from the Brian Griffin quadrant of wouldn't it be funny if animals did human things, which I guess sometimes it is, but smoking and drinking are probably the least funny things you can make an animal do. This is the rare Fantagraphics book that's destined straight for the bargain bin.


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Emma Rendel – The Vicar Woman
This is more interesting, Emma Rendel's followup to Pentti & Deathgirl which I enjoyed in this thread a few months ago. This is a more significant project, but still a pretty light read due to the huge size of Rendel's drawings, where each panel is either one or two pages, and still struggle to frame her bulky figures and eccentric compositions. The story is another psychodrama, but this time seen from the outside as a new vicar arrives on a remote island to find the residents frantic for religion, building a huge new cathedral for their tiny parish, packing out her services hours in advance and hounding her at every moment. Aside from the slightly incongruous touch of building the replica Basilica, it progresses in kind of a familiar way – aside from the fact that they all have weird heads I would say it's a fairly traditional haunted remote community, and the book generally lacks the intensity of Pentti & Deathgirl, but then it's also a little funnier. I like the way the community goofily and transparently tries to cover up their mysterious secret; more like a sitcom than a ghost story. Rendel's art is still fun with its distinctive shallow, almost hieroglyphic compositions, although less precise than in her earlier work which made clever use of colour and strange angles. From my brief image search, it looks a lot sharper and nicer on the screen than on the page. Anyway, definitely a fun read and worth checking out if you see it on sale.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Feb 07, 2019 8:13 am

Does it bother anyone that my images are sometimes of wildly differing sizes? I'm boarding on a small laptop and the images fit the screen size but maybe it looks like a horrendous mess to everyone else?
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Feb 09, 2019 10:08 am

LOL I bought that Kerschbaum book in one of Fanta's bargain sales for a few bucks and it's sat on my shelf unread ever since.

And the images always look fine on my monitor. The board's pretty good about auto-resizing things actually.
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Feb 09, 2019 10:39 am

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Concrete by Paul Chadwick
Here's a series that, in an era with frankly much less going on in comics, used to be routinely counted as one of the "serious" alternatives, a smarter and more artistically satisfying genre book. No one seems to talk about it much in those terms anymore - comics is packed with smart genre books these days, and Chadwick's alien cyborg rock brute hasn't really stood the test of time to take a place alongside other genre greats of its era. It's easy to see why, too, though it certainly has its charms. Reading it now is kind of a quaint experience - it's so earnest, so awkward and odd. It's one of those books where you can really feel that the artist is hyper-aware of not fitting into the time's mold, for better or worse - Chadwick is very consciously striving for profundity and seriousness, and it often shows. Even so it's often enjoyable. Concrete is a kinda nerdy guy, a political speechwriter, who gets kidnapped by aliens while on a camping trip, and gets his brain transplanted into a giant rock-covered body. He returns to society, gets hooked up with a government scientist and a cover story about being a government-created cyborg, and becomes a weird kind of celebrity. The best thing about the series is how thoroughly it tweaks expectations - this big bruiser almost never gets in a fight or has conventional action storylines. Instead, he explores the world, thinks, writes about his adventures - climbs Everest, becomes a stunt coordinator on a movie set, gets involved in environmental causes. The book has a real love for nature, and Chadwick's super-clean style makes everything look gorgeous - it's at its best when it's most meditative, this kind of absurd, quiet, melancholy comic about the beauty of the world, and the horror of man's treatment of nature, all centered around this brooding intellectual stuck in a clumsy but powerful body.

The Everest and movie storylines early on are highlights, focusing on this weird hybrid trying to find a place in the world, memorably exploring the theme of a man trying to make the best of what life has thrown at him and enjoy the experiences that can be uniquely his. Later stories get a little weird, sometimes for the better - the miniseries in which Concrete gets involved with a radical environmental group is extremely preachy but actually often smartly engages with the environmental issues it's highlighting - but more often it's just uncomfortable. There's a miniseries in which Concrete's assistant is kidnapped by a Bonnie and Clyde-esque duo and though Chadwick clearly just wanted to do a noir piece it's a really poor fit. Even worse is "The Human Dilemma," which cannot be called anything but deeply strange - Concrete and the beautiful scientist assigned to him finally have a sexual connection, of sorts, then Concrete becomes the spokesman for a population control group recruiting young couples to sterilize, and then Concrete himself becomes pregnant. It's really bizarre, discomfiting, kinda angry and misanthropic at its core, and also happened to be the last major Concrete story so it's quite a place to end.

Anyway, as unsatisfying as a lot of this is, I'm glad I read this. It's a touchstone of comics even if no one quite remembers that it is - a relic of an earlier period in the artform's development.
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Postby sevenarts » Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:13 am

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Parker by Darwyn Cooke
Somehow took me this long to get around to these even though I knew damn well they'd be right up my alley. Basically 4 books worth of Cooke cutting loose on classic noir and heist genre atmosphere, in the style of "Selina's Big Score" but here based on the real deal raw source material in the form of the Donald Westlake Parker novels. Goddamn this stuff is good - brutally economical, fast-paced but not exactly action-packed. They're books about mood, about waiting and expectation, more than the inevitably fast, brutal bursts of violence that punctuate all those moody languours. Westlake's Parker is a typical square-jawed, taciturn anti-hero, a crook with a rigid but not too moral code of ethics, characterized mostly by his stubbornness, his misanthropy, and his flippantly nasty attitude towards women. Cooke seems to stick pretty close to the script but it's the beauty of the art, of the way he draws this world and these people, that makes these books so memorable - the elegance and beauty of Cooke's drawings are jaw-dropping, his women seem to pulse with vitality and sex appeal, his shadow-draped settings never fail to be striking and dramatic. And it's precisely because of all that rich visual context that the sporadic violence in the book, and the brutish protagonist's ease with violent acts, can feel so horrifying. Still, this is no deconstruction - Cooke unapologetically loves the source material and the era it conjures, and his clear affection for the noir tone is obvious on every page. My favorite was probably The Score just because I'm such a sucker for the heist genre and this is just such an amazingly executed, tightly plotted heist epic that it's basically the ultimate heist yarn - a dozen crooks carefully plotting every detail of robbing an entire town, only to have it spectacularly blow apart. The first 3 books are all pretty amazing though, and the 4th (Slayground) is "merely" a minor pleasure with the same gorgeous art.

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Vows by Julia Balthazar
In a pretty cool project, Laura Lannes is going to be translating 4 Brazilian minicomics into English and publishing them this year, and here's the first, from a cartoonist whose work has never been available in the US before. It's an interesting little book, comprised of a series of ambiguous scenes and fragments seemingly taken from a family reunion. All the characters are blobby silhouettes and the fragmentary dialogue suggests various stories and arcs but never quite coheres into a full narrative. The effect is appropriately fuzzy and hazy, like listening in on chatter at a party but never getting the full context for any comment. A short quick read and I can't say it blew me away but I'm really glad Lannes is doing this and I'm looking forward to seeing what else is in store.

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Conan Turtlepack's Day Out by Valentine Gallardo
A Short Box mini from a couple years ago. A charming little narrative about a day at the beach and the interactions between some friends. Not much to it, honestly, but it's breezy and there's something low-key appealing about Gallardo's figures and faces, which are kinda simple and cartoony but have a lot of character in their simple lines. I especially like this one beefy, dopey, oval-headed frat-bro dude with his Hanna Barbera face and odd little tuft of faux-punk hair.

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Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia
One of the straight-up best things I've read in a while now, this is fantastic and, as HFC pointed out a while back, really sadly overlooked. Suburbia takes as her starting point the clean lines and clear blacks of Jaime Hernandez, as well as his sweaty punk teen milieu, but she's never held back by her obvious influence. This sprawling punk epic features a large cast of spiky-haired, ratty teens living in a seemingly post-apocalyptic town, abandoned by all the adults. They play shows, throw parties, mill about at school seemingly out of habit, flirt and fuck, and occasionally, without explanation, murder one another and leave the corpses strewn around the increasingly destroyed landscape. Suburbia masterfully weaves the various tones and moods of her work together, letting this overarching dread linger in the background and only sporadically burst to the fore, while much of the rest of the book is funny, goofy, heartfelt, and steeped in all the typical overheated teenage emotions. Her characters are so well rendered, both stylistically and in the way she writes them, that they frequently feel totally real. The dialogue is unrelentingly sharp, and Suburbia is one of those artists where it's a total joy to watch her characters even just hang out for a few pages, doing nothing much besides being themselves. I will say I'm still thinking through the ending and my instinct is I could've done without it, and might've liked it better if a lot of the background mysteries had been left as such - but it's a pretty minor complaint about an all-around stellar book. I loved this so much I immediately ordered all the other Suburbia stuff I could find, including her new annual comic "Egg Cream." Excited to follow her from here for sure.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Feb 12, 2019 1:08 pm

Fuck yeah Sacred Heart, that book rules. I had similar uncertainties about the ending but in the end it didn't affect my enjoyment of the ride as a whole, and I kind of appreciate that she had a stab at making a much more twisty turny and tightly-plotted book than the genre really demanded of her. It's bolder in a way, to nail it down like that

I'll also say, if unanswered questions are your bag, it's doubly important to check out Wet Moon ASAP
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