FF1990: Har Har Comics

Har Har Comics #1-2 by Mike Kazaleh.

After Captain Jack was cancelled, Fantagraphics gave Kazaleh another go with this very short-lived series: One issue in 1990, and another in 1992. (The indicia in the latter issue lists it as being published “bi-annually”, which I guess is right in some jurisdictions.)

The two issues mostly consist of short gag pieces, but there are also some longer stories, like this one about anthropomorphic pets. It’s consistently amusing, and sometimes quite funny.

But the main charm of it all is Kazaleh’s irresistible cartooning. It’s just so lively and perfect. I’ll read anything he does just because I want to look at these drawings.

Some of the stories are touching, too, like this one about Hyper Al’s birthday.

On the other hand, not all the gags really fire on all cylinders. But that’s fine.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1990: Fission Chicken

Fission Chicken #1-4 by JP Morgan and Kyle Rothweiler.

Fission Chicken ran in Critters for most of that magazine’s run. I think I mentioned in that blog article that I wasn’t much fond of Fission Chicken when I read it in Critters as a teenager, so I didn’t buy this series when it came out. But re-reading those Critters issues now made me realise just how funny this stuff is, so I’ve now bought the Fission Chicken solo run.

And it’s super-silly and thoroughly amusing.

If this type of thing isn’t your type of thing, then it’s not your type of thing. But it is mine, and I laughed quite a few times while reading this series. It doesn’t really develop much during its very short run, but it’s consistently amusing (when it isn’t hilarious). Morgan found his voice during the Critters run, and he’s going with it.

The backup feature in the series is Duck “Bill” Platypus by Kyle Rothweiler. His drawing has a nice organic thing going on, and his storylines consist of piling insanity upon stupidity until the whole thing resolves itself in the end. It’s a bit exhausting to read, but if you’re in the mood, it works.

Fission Chicken gives a critique of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels. And there’s nothing organic about Morgan’s artwork.

And after four short issues it’s over (due to bad sales). Too bad there wasn’t a market for this kind of humour back in the early 90s.

Fantagraphics indicia is almost never humorous, but this has some wry touches.

Hey! Let’s say that’s a reference to Tuxedomoon, and here’s the song where that lyric is from:

Morgan continued publishing Fission Chicken sporadically during the 90s via Shanda and Mu. After that, Fission Chicken was published online until 2010 when Morgan died. No collected edition seem to have been published.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1989: Grootlore

Grootlore #1-2
Grootlore volume 2 #1-3

By Peter Gullerud.

I’ve always known that Kim Thompson was the one of the two Fantagraphics owners who’s into anthropomorphics, but I wasn’t aware that it was so clear-cut: Anything funny-animal (Critters) or European(ish) (Sinner) is edited by Kim Thompson, and anything sci-fi-ish (Threat) or art (Flash Marks) is edited by Gary Groth.

Since this book is edited by Thompson, and the author isn’t European (despite the name), it’s anthropomorphic.

The first Grootlore series opens with a two-pager that explain the origins of the series (that Gullerud is an animator who’s doing this to relax).

The first series consists of strips (printed sideways) in a very traditional one-joke-per-strip format. The humour is a bit sitcom-ish. If you found those two jokes funny, there’s 37 more pages of it in this two-issue mini-series.

The second series is in a traditional comic book format, and is not joke-driven. Instead it’s about our heroes trying to save a rain forest from being destroyed.

Lots of oddly shaped panels with strangely big speech balloons with strangely large lettering.

There’s also a lack of differentiation visually between … well, anything. At a glance it’s often difficult to pick out the characters from the background, and everything seems to have the same greyness level. Even the text can be hard to pick out at times. My eyes were skidding around on the pages a lot.

Gullerud doesn’t seem to have published many comics after this, but is still an active artist.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1989: Teaser and the Blacksmith

Teaser and the Blacksmith by Timothy H. Glass.

This is a very strange comic book by a New Zealander called Timothy H. Glass. I don’t know whether that’s his real name: I could well understand it if whoever created this would want to do so under a pseudonym.

It seems to genuinely be from Australia or New Zealand, though, based on the sometimes barely comprehensible patter. It’s about the god Pan taking possession of that boy’s penis (it can sing and it’s pretty large), and I think owning this comic book may well be illegal in most jurisdictions. (I hope buying this book for this article series didn’t land me in any registries.)

But here’s a non-illegal page. I think it’s the only time I’ve seen adding arrows between panels make reading even more confusing that it normally would be, since the progression the arrows give is the one you would otherwise have read it, anyway.

It’s a pretty confused and confusing book. The artwork has a certain Howard Cruse-like charm, but the story-lines in the book are just… weird. And not in a good way.

To conclude: Ermn?

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1989: Fox Comics

Fox Comics Special
Fox Comics #24-27

Edited by David Vodicka.

The first twenty-three issues of Fox Comics were published in Australia, but they apparently wanted to get wider distribution by publishing through Fantagraphics. And that worked: Just see, I bought those issues.

I’ve been trying to find the Aussie-only issues over the years, and here’s the total result:

Yes, a grand total of three issues, but the editorial in the first Fantagraphics issue (which reprints stuff from the previous issues) helps explain why:

Yikes. If the first dozen issues had a print run of 200, the chances of me ever getting to read them seems pretty slim. The subsequent issues seem conceivable, though, even if they never seem to pop up on Ebay, in my experience. (Although searching for them there is pretty tricky, since there’s an American old published also called Fox Comics…)

Anyway, the editorial explains frankly about what the Australian comics scene was like in the 80s.

I re-read the three non-Fantagraphics issues I had, and it seemed like the magazine had taken a journey from being all funny all the time to try to also feature more ambitious and serious work. Lazarus Dobelsky and Ian Eddy’s work is in the former camp, but being funny isn’t all bad either, eh?

Dave Hodson’s oblique framing reminds me a lot of Rick Geary’s early work. The drawing styles are very different, but still there’s a similar eerie effect. It works very well.

But perhaps the most distinctive stylist here is Chloe Brookes-Kenworthy. In her strip in Fox Comics #13 she’s using traditional panel borders with gutters between the panels, but in her work in all the Fantagraphics issues, she drops the gutters, and later she also drops the panel borders themselves, just using obsessively different hatching in each panel to separate the panels.

Combined with sometimes ambiguous text (never dialogue) floating over the images, it gives it all a non-premediated feeling, like we’re connecting directly to her. It’s a very strange and pleasant reading experience.

And it’s not all Australians, either. Here’s an excerpt by New Zealanders Kupe and Dylan Horrocks, but there’s also a solid British contingent in all the issues (Eddie Campbell, Glenn Dakin, Ed Pinsent).

There’s only one continuing serial story here, and it’s The Tattooed Man by Dave Hodson and Greg Gates. It’s a fantasy, sort of, centred around a carnival. It’s not completed by the time the magazine is cancelled, but it looks very pretty.

Neale Blanden’s pieces are, perhaps, well-observed, but are they funny? Perhaps loathing of this kind has to be processed a bit more before being committed to the page to really work. I think.

By issue twenty-four, most of the pieces are of the “serious” kind, and the mix really works. Trevs Phoenix… that name seems familiar… Oh, he’s done a number of mainstream comics.

Another Chloe Brookes-Kenworthy page, now without panel borders. Nice, eh?

Chris Reynolds (of Mauretania fame) and Rian Hughes. Which reminds me: I really have to lay my hands on all the issues of Mauretania. It’s not only the wonderful Monitor series by Reynolds (mostly reprinted by now), but also pieces by Carol Swain that I don’t think have appeared anywhere else.

Ooh! There’s a solo comic. Gotta have! Oops. That cover looks really familiar… Yup, I’ve already got that somewhere here.

So many of the pieces in Fox Comics are about unhappy childhoods. You get the feeling that growing up as a wimpy boy in Australia may be even more harrowing than elsewhere…

Or perhaps they’re just more sensitive. (Panel by Tim Richie and Kupe.)

And, of course, there’s the Neale Blanden approach to the issue. Which I kinda like.

Dean Gorrisen’s childhood traumas are very tangible (and it’s an effective piece).

Meanwhile, Glenn Dakin is traumatised by Haley Campbell eating all his food. Also note that Fantagraphics decided to print this issue on what I assume to be tracing paper: You not only see clearly what’s on the other side of the page, but also get a good impression of the next four pages.

In issue twenty-seven the editor announces that Fox Comics is being cancelled, but that there will be one more issue. That didn’t happen, but it sounds like a fun topic.

And as a way to finish this article, here’s a Glenn Dakin Krazy Kat homage. It sometimes seems like half of alternative comics artists have been inspired by Herriman.

After this magazine was cancelled, all the featured Brits went on publishing elsewhere, but I have no idea what happened to most of the Australian artists. I’ve visited Australia a couple of times the past few years, and I’ve visited comics shops. And while there seems to be a number of people producing comics now, I can’t recall many of the Fox Comics contributors showing up in my comics haul from Canberra or Melbourne.

In particular, googling now I can’t find any further published works by Chloe Brookes-Kenworthy, which is disappointing.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1988: Christmas with Superswine

Christmas with Superswine by Gary Fields.

This is rather weird. It sounds like a special edition of a running series, but Superswine wasn’t published as its own series until three years later. But perhaps the point was just to publish something seasonal.

The indicia says that it was published in February, which sounds typical for Fantagraphics around this time. I don’t think any Critters Christmas issues, for instance, were published before March the following year.

The main story is a take-off on the Clement C. Moore Xmas thingie….

… and it’s… er… that’s a pretty representative gag. The rest of the issue is also Xmas themed:


Gary Fields was the guy who did Enigma Funnies in the Threat magazine that was cancelled around this time.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1988: Flash Marks

Flash Marks by Carel Moiseiwitsch.

This is a collection of short pieces that have previously appeared in various anthologies in the 80s. It is, unfortunately, the only major collection of her work, and it isn’t very major. I mean, it’s bigly excellent, as the vernacular goes, but it’s just 32 pages. Magazine size, though.

The stories are short and angry and to the point. The artwork isn’t quite like anything else: It’s a kind of neo-expressionism, I guess, and I think you could see parallels to artists like Caro and Sue Coe, but it seems to come from a different place.

It’s more Picasso than Gary Panter. Here’s she’s illustrating a CIA handbook for rebels, and it just packs such an emotional punch.

She seems to be using scratch-board for some of these drawings, but not all of them…

Here she draws Dennis P. Eichhorn getting a blow job, so I would guess this has been reprinted from a Real Stuff issue.

She hasn’t published much after this collection, I think, and was most recently spotted in 2009.

Somebody should publish a proper retrospective. There must be more of her work floating around than is here. I seem to remember stumbling onto more of her jwork than is featured here.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.