“Muting” Pictures With Pure CSS

I’ve been somewhat wary about posting some of the images from some of the more extreme Fantagraphics comics I’ve written about (I’m thinking of you, Grit Bath).  Not everybody appreciates being flashed images of bitten-off ears or penises while scrolling down a blog.

On the other hand, I want to represent these comics honestly, so I thought it might be nice to “hide” images from more sensitive readers without making a big deal about it.  That is, I wanted them still to be accessible without the reader having to go to a new page, and I wanted to make this possible without adding a lot of redundant HTML to the articles.


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The solution is pure CSS: I only have to add the “redact” class to the <a> link that surrounds the image.  It took me several hours of googling around to put all the pieces together, but the end result looks quite “d’oh, that’s simple”.  All the other solutions I found involved adding <div>s around and <p>s inside, which is yucky.

I’ve put the solution on Github for people interested in adapting it to their own needs.

FF1993: Grit Bath

Grit Bath #1-3 by Renée French.

Renée French always felt to me like a part of a mini-movement within alternative comics that upped the body horror stakes beyond what was, perhaps, reasonable. I’m thinking of artists like Al Colombia and Dave Cooper, that all mix childish whimsy with horrible, horrible squishy horror. They’re all sort of children of Jim Woodring, perhaps, but off the curb.

French uses this elaborate pointillist drawing technique with a shifting, restless camera. Things are often askew and weird. And somehow the humour makes it even more creepy.

French appeared in most of the major anthologies in the 90s, and usually provided the most shocking piece in anything she appeared in. Grit Bath, though, takes things to another, unhinged level.

Since this is a family oriented blog (I’m not saying what family, though), I’m not including examples of the really, er, offensive stuff, but the main serial in these three issues involves a lot of bitten-off body parts and attempts to sow them back together again.

It’s not all over-the-top gruesome stuff, though. Isn’t this touching?

I’ve read most of her books, and they’re all pretty disturbing.

The mixture of children/sex/horror/humour stuff in Grit Bath, though, is icky on a level that I’m not comfortable with now, at least. I don’t remember being this repulsed when I read her work back then, but, on the other hand, I bought the first two issues just now (and fortunately Borderlinx didn’t inspect the comics closely (although weirdly it took two months for DHL to get the comics to me, while the rest of the batch arrived in two days))… I found myself skimming the narration in the first story, because it just seemed to gruesome to my oh-so-sensitive sensibilities.

The readers react in issue two.

The third issue, which I did have back then, seems to pull way, way back from the extremity of the first two issues. Sure, it’s still gruesome, but it’s also kind of sweet, and is more like I remember French’ comics being. Reading these three issues now, it almost feels like the first two issues are a dare: How far can she take this approach to comics?

The third issue is much milder, and includes some other artists, too. We see Gene Fama above with a pretty inconsequential gag. The third issue feels a bit like a grab bag of bits…

And then we end the issue with the classic Fantagraphics way of saying that the book is cancelled: By having the phrases “next issue” and “to be continued” scattered around.

French continues to publish comics, and the most recent one was Baby Bjornstrand, which I haven’t read. But I’ve ordered it now. She has shifted to a softer all-pencil art style now.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF2006: Swamp Preacher

Swamp Preacher #1 by David Sandlin.

Sandlin is an artist who’s only done a handful of comics, I think. He’s had a few pieces in Blab, I seem to recall.

This magazine sized book is strikingly printed in burgundy and green (and no black ink), giving the pages a muddy, swampy look very apposite for the story.

Which is basically a preacher/salesman ranting away, telling his life story. Sandlin mostly illustrates his outlandish story as he is telling it, but there’s these smaller, saner panels scattered around that hints at a less incredible upbringing. It’s a simple trick, but the effect is really unnerving here, somehow.

Googling Sandlin a bit now, I see that he was born in Ireland, but his parents moved to Alabama when he was a child. That is, perhaps, reflected in this book…

I don’t know whether Sandlin planned on making any further issues of Swamp Preacher, but he seems to be saying so here. Of course, that could be Sandlin just having a laugh.

Sandlin won a Guggenheim a couple of years ago, and is still doing artwork today, but he seems to have stopped publishing comics.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1990: Amazons

Amazons by Frank Stack.

Frank Stack is a first-generation underground artist: His first underground comic was published in 1962 (The Adventures of Jesus), but he hasn’t published that many books. Amazons is one of his rare 80s/90s solo floppies, and I don’t know whether it’s an original work, or whether it’s a collection of pieces serialised in an anthology somewhere.

Stack writes a three-page introduction where he explain his interest in the Amazon myth (or history, depending on who you ask).

The Greek soldiers sound more realistic here than in any other depiction I’ve seen.

Lots of action.

Stack’s artwork is clearly identifiable as being underground, and his cross-hatching technique is a wonder to behold. He uses all these different line weights, from solid to extremely thick, in varying densities, all parallel on the same object, but changing direction from object to object. Some people who shade with hatching to this extent often end up with grey-looking pages with little variation in intensity, but Stack’s pages are very, very readable.

He’s not that serious about all the fighting, though, and the soldiers often veer off onto semantic tangents.

As an introduction to the final chapter, we see the artist himself (probably) being challenged by a friend as to whether Amazons existed or not. I love that drawing of the artist.

Stack has continued to publish books sporadically after Amazons. His most famous one is probably Our Cancer Year, written by Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner. Fantagraphics finally published a collection of various Stack works (many published under the name Foolbert Sturgeon) as Foolbert Funnies: Histories and Other Fictions last year.

Hm… Have I forgotten to buy that? I can’t recall… Oh, it’s over there in the ever-growing “to be read” pile. When I’ve finished this blog series, I should be able to make a dent in it, I hope…

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1993: Sleepy/Whotnot

Whotnot #1-4, Sleepy: The Early Daze by Jeremy Eaton.

Eaton is probably most well-known for his alternative weekly strip “A Sleepyhead Tale” from the late 80s/early 90s. Fantagraphics released a handful of collections of that series, but only one of them are in floppy format, so I get to skip the rest for this blog series! Haha! (I’ve got them here somewhere, though.)

Sleepy: The Early Daze collects some early strips. They’re all basically like this: It’s a retelling of a dream that doesn’t really … seem convincingly dream-like. It veers a bit into Zippy territory, I think. Which is fine.

Whotnot has the look of a Mad Magazine homage, and it seems to attempt to adhere to that template for the first issue. So you have the cultural critique…

… and a parody of all those “aren’t things weird in Japan, huh?” articles every written. It’s amusing.

The last half of most of the issues are taken up by a serialisation of a story called “Americaville”. I assumed that it was going to be a straight-up parody of Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron from Eightball… and I’m still not sure that it isn’t. But it could also be an earnest attempt at doing something along the same lines, really.

It’s a somewhat abstract story.

Eaton’s imagination is prodigious: Here we have a guy that was born with only half his body selling split-level homes.

But is it funny?

I guess it is, but I’m writing this three days after that most disastrous US elections ever, and my mirth doesn’t seem to want to be stirred by this stuff. It’s probably just me.

And some of Eaton’s satirical subjects are a bit tired. Even if they’re inventively done.

Uh-oh. When Fantagraphics starts offering subscriptions to a series, there’s a pretty good chance it’ll be cancelled soon. I don’t have statistical data to back that up, but this is a post fact world, right?

The readers weigh in.

The fourth issue is quite different from the first three issues. There’s mostly page after page of this kind of stuff. I kinda suspect that Eaton lost interest in the project, because it seems a bit slap-dash, both graphically and humour wise.

Eaton promises to continue the Americaville series. Which is a good way to say “this is the last issue”.

Eaton seems to be doing mostly paintings these days.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

WFC Canada: Whole New Thing


And this film sort of marks the end of my randomnly-aquired films for this project (at the 25% mark, even). Up until (and including this one) I’ve just been visiting video stores, looking at films and going “huh! this is from a country that lacks coverage!” and then buying it without any consideration for the actual film.

(Oh, and I visited the web sites of Criterion and Second Run and so on and did the same.)

But from now on out, it’s going to be more “I need , so I google ‘best film from ‘ and then buy one that looks nice. So there may be more odd films now, I guess…

Oh, this film? It’s a small budget indie film that’s kinda awkward. There’s a certain charm, but it’s also kinda creepy.

It turns out to be a kinda sweet film, but watching it, it really looked like they were going for the typical direction these films go, and that’s REALLY CREEPY.

It would have helped if they’d made it clear that at the start that this was a creep-free zone.

On the other hand, it’s Canadian, so perhaps they took that for granted.

Whole New Thing. Amnon Buchbinder. 2005. Canada.

The Canadian

  • 2 parts Canadian whiskey
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • simple syrup
  • Angostura bitters

Shake with ice and streain into a glass.

I had originally meant to do the Caesar cocktail (which is like a Bloody Mary but with Clamato Juice), but went to several stores here in Oslo today, and for some reason none of them carry “clamato”. Perhaps because… IT SOUNDS DISGUSTING?!?!?

So I went with this fake-sounding Canadian cocktail instead.

This post is part of the World of Films and Cocktails series. Explore the map.