The Best Comics of 2017

Geez! December again.

Anyway, I thought that this had been a pretty weak year for comics, but look at how many comics ended up in my “hm; that was pretty interesting” lil bookcaselet. And as an innovation this year:

I also found room for comics that has a larger form factor! So much innovation.

Let’s have a look at the comics.

Purgatory (A Reject’s History) by Casanova Nobody Frankenstein (F.U. Press)

This little book was published by F.U. Press, which is Fantagraphics’ imprint for books that they want even fewer people than usual to know about being published. (I think that sentence makes perfect sense, at least after reading it three times.)

It’s about a black nerd growing up, and the pages are all like this. It’s apparently either a real notebook where the handwritten pages on the left have typeset versions of the text behind them glued over them (my sentences make all the sense today), and the right side is a drawing, mostly illustrating the situation being describe in the text on the left hand side.

And it’s awesome. I love the scratchy weird perspectives in the artwork, and it’s an engrossing life being told.

Face by Rosario Villajos (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)

This is a very original work about identity and… stuff…

Villajos uses a number of approaches throughout the book, from traditional panel layouts to more free-flowing “sample” based pages, and (or course) those “pictures of conversations from cell phone” pages that everybody has to use these days (see: lawn; get off; whippersnapper). And it feels insightful and interesting: It’s about blending in (or not) and the psychological effects thereof (here expressed physically).

Strange Growths by Jenny Zervakis (Spit and a Half)

Zervakis self-published these comics between 1991 and 1997, and Spit and a Half finally made good on their plan to collect them.

And it’s probably the perfect time: It feels like people are more ready to read comics like this again. Intensely personal and with a scratchy but conventional art style.

It’s a book mostly of small anecdotes. Most are funny, but there are pages like this that really make me shudder.

The horror!

Some Girls by Meg O’Shea (Minicomic of the Month Club)

Hey! A mini! I read quite a few, but not that many make much of an impression.

But this wistful Australian booklet about childhood crushes is just so sweet. So sweeeet. And lovely artwork, of course.

Drone by Simon Hanselmann (2d cloud)

Hey! Another mini! How did that happen…

Everybody knows and loves Hanselmann, of course, and this mini isn’t a radical departure from his, er, bigger work. Our Heroes take drugs and start a band. Or something. The usual. But there’s just something about this format that just clicks. These antics in these teensy panels on these tiny pages…

Or perhaps I just need different drugs.

Collecting Sticks by Joe Decie (Jonathan Cape)

I’ve loved Decie’s work since I first laid eyes on it a few years ago. It’s so quiet.

It’s like if Carol Swain was doing autobiography about raising a kid instead of strange post-apocalyptic bikers.

OK, that didn’t make any sense whatsoever, but I see a kind of kinship between the silence in Swain’s work and the quietude of Decie’s comics.

This is probably Decie’s strongest work to date, and it’s about the family going camping. Cute things ensue. Impeccably drawn in this line-and-wash style.

Love it to bits.  You do have to wonder whether the son is getting embarrassed by these books, though.

Touching Me, Touching You by Leonie Brialey (Minicomic of the Month Club)

Hey! Yet another mini! This is the last one, though. I think.

This is a very wispy work indeed. It’s a kind of silent rumination that leaves a pleasant echo.

And! It’s the only comic I have that includes a bag of seeds. That’s gotta count for something.

Mirror Mirror II edited by Sean T. Collins and Julia Gförer (2d cloud)

This is a very dark book. I mean, it’s very black. Even when you look at it sideways:

Now that’s dark!

Anyway, I think it was billed as a horror anthology, but it’s more a… sadness anthology.

Hey! Carol Swain! I mentioned her earlier up there. Weird.

The mood throughout the book is sombre. It’s mostly narrative pieces with the odd abstract work thrown in here and there. It’s not uniformly brilliant, but everybody’s not Carol Swain, unfortunately.

I was really happy to see Dame Darcy make an appearance, because you don’t see a lot of her these days.

Sound of Snow Falling by Maggie Umber (2d cloud)

Looks like 2d cloud is winning this year?

Anyway, this is a wordless book about some owls bringing up a chick (owllet?) and it’s absolutely spellbinding. The artwork obviously makes heavy use of photo reference, but it’s avoids the normal pitfalls of that technique (stilted, un-comicsey panels) and becomes pure comics.

That Umber’s artwork is so beautiful or that the tale being told is so moving doesn’t hurt a bit. And the book itself is a very nice object, as is the norm with 2d cloud books.

*round of applause*

Yours by Sarah Ferrick (2d cloud)

OK, I should just rename this blog post “Books by 2d cloud (and some other stuff)”, I guess.

This book pushes the “is this a comic?” thing way out there, but…

YES!

And it’s about sex and stuff. Can’t have too many books like that.

It’s a text based book, I guess. I mean, reading it it feels like the impetus for this book might have been a text, and then Ferrick illustrated it according to how each section of the text demanded. So there are some ecstatic parts, and there are some more orderly bits.

It’s a really engrossing reading experience.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? vol 12 by Fumi Yoshinaga (Vertical)

I think I may have included a volume of this series on every “best of” blog post, but it’s still best.

I’ve even found myself contemplating trying to make some of these dishes. I know that I probably won’t, because there’s like a gazillion ingredients I can’t easily get here, but still.

Anyway, this book is another 150 pages of slice-of-life (with cooking) non-drama. There’s some character development going on, but it’s all very slow and not very stressful.

Except when Shiro finds some really cheap burdock in the supermarket, of course.

She and Her Cat by Makato Shinkai and Tsubasa Yamaguchi (Vertical)

This one has an interesting storytelling conceit.

It’s a story told through the eyes of a cat. Sort of. We only witness the things the cat can see. The cat doesn’t really understand what’s going on, but the reader can partake in the work-related drama the titular “She” is going through by listening in.

It sounds awful and gimmickey, and the author cheats a bit here and there, but it mostly really works.

It’s quite a moving story.

Alone by Chabouté (Gallery 13)

I was super skeptical about this book: A heavy, portentous tome that had apparently won All The Awards in France. “Uh-oh,” I thought, “get ready for some schmaltz.”

And it is. Schmaltz, I mean. But is that such a bad thing? Can’t you have good schmaltz? Can’t you?

It’s about a hideously deformed guy (!) who lives alone (!) in a lighthouse (!!) and his only entertainment is looking up words at random in a dictionary (!!!) and then imagining what must be going on (!1!!one!!1).

Yes, I know. But the artwork is so deliciously Comès-like and the story flows so easily that I just had to give up my cynicism and just go with the flow.

It’s pretty moving.

Morton: A Cross-Country Rail Journey by David Collier (Conundrum Press)

I’ve really liked Collier’s work ever since the early 90s, but this may be his best work yet.

It’s about him and his family taking a cross-country rail journey. And the country in question is Canada, so it’s a long journey. The book purports to be autobiographical and totally true, but I think some bits may have been slightly adjusted for increased fun and interest.

Like here when he takes a poop in ex-publisher Chris Olivero’s back yard.

But we also get to learn a lot about the places the Colliers are traveling through. And amazingly enough, Collier manages to make all those facts interesting. His R. Crumb-like organic artwork helps a lot with keeping the interest up.

And the book also answers the question “why did Collier leave Drawn & Quarterly for the much smaller Conundrum press?” (raised by (inter)national treasure Kim O’Connor in a comment thread somewhere that I can’t find now) question: Because he was dumped by Drawn & Quarterly.

Venice by Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)

This book has a simple premise: The protagonist finds some old photos of Venice left by his father, and he goes there to revisit the places his parents must have visited.

The pages are wide drawings of Venice, large and small, with the protagonist walking, semi-smiling and kinda stiffly, thinking about his parents and about Venice.

It’s a very soothing kind of mystery book. There’s tension: Will he discover some secrets about his parents? Will he just walk around a lot?

It’s very pretty.

Paywall by Joseph P. Kelly (Landfill Editions)

This is the kind of work that would have been called a dystopia a few years ago, and is now just seems like a realistic conjecture of how our near future is going to be like.

You know: pay-for-work contracts and corporations setting up modern company towns.

The artwork is so sharp you can cut yourself, and it’s the most depressing book you can read this year, so go ahead.

The only criticism I have is that the ending seems both rushed and, well, completely bat-shit stupid. So stop reading about eight pages before the end, even if that makes it all the more depressing.

Easy Rider by Jaakko Pallasvuo (Landfill Editions)

This isn’t as good as Pallasvuo’s Pure Shores from 2015, but then again, what is?

It’s a much more abstract book. You get the feeling that Pallasvuo has lost his interest in narrative, but there’s still quite a lot going on story-wise.

The artwork has similarly grown more amorphous.

It’s an interesting reading experience.

Iceland by Yuichi Yokoyama (Retrofit/Big Planet)

And speaking of abstract experiences, Yuichi Yokoyama is moving in the opposite direction. While his previous books were all propulsion and movement, this time we get a sort of plot.

I don’t want to use the expression “dream logic” but now I did anyway and it’s too late and I can’t go back nyah nyah.

It’s fabulous.

It’s a very loud book.

DODODODO BAKBAKBAK

Park Bench by Chabouté (Gallery 13)

What?! Another book by Chabouté? In 2017? Also big enough to stun several cows? Yes, looks like the American publisher is catching up on the publishing schedule.

This time, the concept induces even further eyeball rolling: It’s a wordless book about a park bench and the people (and animals) that interact with them. We follow a large group of characters through the years and see how they change. And all while they’re sitting on or standing around that bench.

Here’s one: An elderly couple who return, again and again, to share some kind of cake or candy on that bench in the cutest way possible.

Can you guess how their story ends? Can you? I bet you can. I bet you everybody who saw these two pages went “oh, no; surely he’s not going to pull that one”. But he is.

OOPS! SPOILERS IN PREVIOUS PARAGRAPH.

But, again, like with Alone, I can’t resist. This is high level melodrama; like Douglas Sirk distilled and printed on paper.

I laughed (out loud); I cried (silently) and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Fred the Clown: The Iron Duchess by Roger Langridge (Fantagraphics)

Langridge has been doing comics for quite a while now, but I didn’t really become aware of him until last year. And he’s hilarious, which makes this a timely (for me) new book.

And I wasn’t disappointed. (Well, I was disappointed that it was a wordless book, because Langridge is also good at them verbal funnies.) Langridge’s artwork is razor sharp. I understand why they chose this paper stock, because it makes his sharp lines really stand out, but the shinyness of the covered stock is just unpleasant.

Anyway! It’s a wild and weird adventure where Fred (the Clown) and his trusty pig companion (here joined by a horse) have to rescue a girl from being married off to her evil butler (for reasons that were never made clear).

As you can guess, hijinx ensue, but there’s also an emotional component to this story that I didn’t see coming. I teared up a bit at the end.

Great fun. *sniffle*

Present by Leslie Stein (Drawn & Quarterly)

This is a collection of shorter pieces that Stein has published, er, elsewhere. (Vice, perhaps?) I enjoy her longer work, too, but these shorter bits are just more… better…

And look at that holey cover.

The stories she tells are always amusing and interesting, but it’s just fascinating to gaze at these pages. She manages to make everything nice and clear while drawing in this super-minimal way. (Well, the colours aren’t minimal, but you get my drift.)

Non 1 edited by Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics)

When Reynolds ended his previous anthology Mome, a whole world cried out in horror, because there wasn’t anywhere else to get shorter work out on a regular basis.

He’s finally pulled himself together and started a new one, and… It’s kinda good. I hate the paper, but I guess it keeps the package reasonably priced.

There’s a lot of good work here, but I can’t really see any identity to the anthology yet: It just feels like I’ve tripped and fallen into a stack of unrelated submissions.

The alternative history (above) by Malachi Ward & Matt Sheean is thrilling to read in a way that I thought no alternative history told through captions could be: Just the way that it hints at things not being talked about explicitly.

But what’s the relation to Eleanor Davis’s brilliant exploration of intimacy, either thematically, tonally, art-wise or … anything?

So it’s a good anthology, but it’s no Mome yet.

Anna & Froga by Anouk Ricard (Drawn & Quarterly)

This is a collection of (if I’m reading the indicia right) four book originally published in French. It’s ostensibly a children’s book, but it reminds me a lot of Simon Hanselmann’s Megg & Mogg saga: It’s about a group of people with apparently no jobs who just hang out, eat and do pranks (often to each other).

And just like in Megg & Mogg, there’s one asshole weisenheimer who usually gets his comeuppance.

But one thing Hanselmann doesn’t do is this story structure: The plot apparently ends there…

… but then on the next spread we get another beat, drawn in this more storybook-like style.

It’s fun.

Byrjing edited by Anja Dahle Øverbye and Ingrid Flognfeldt Brubaker (Blokk Forlag)

Finally something Norwegian.

This is a new Norwegian anthology, and the name means “start”, which is a promising title for a new publisher. And not only that, but I think this is the best Norwegian anthology ever published. By far.

You’ve got these great abstract pieces (Ina Marie Winter Åshaug)…

These intense psychodramas (Marianne Engedal)…

And these complex puzzle pieces (Kay Arne Kirkebø). And a lot more. But it’s still, somehow, cohesive. And not a single bad strip between them.

A remarkable achievement. But they’ve published nothing since this one, which was released last winter, so outlook bad.

Alack Sinner by José Muñoz and Carlos Sampayo (IDW)

Man, I never thought I’d finally see the day when somebody would release a copy of Alack Sinner in a language I can read. Ever since Raw printed a short story back in the early 80s, I just adored the artwork and the mood.

But! It’s released by IDW. Will they screw up anything like they did with the cover design for the Corto Maltese series?

Not at first glance; no. The cover’s OK, although that logo looks a bit weird. And it’s not printed on shiny paper (it’s kinda off-white newsprintey which suits the material perfectly), and it’s pleasant to hold, even though it’s 400 pages.

400 pages of Alack Sinner! *heart attack*

So everything is hunky dory? No, of course they had to do at least one stupid thing, which is to print the stories in “internal chronology” order, which means that the first story in the book is this late work drawn in this expressive style…

… before we go to this early tight-ass “American” style…

… before ricocheting back to where we were, almost.

WHY!

Oh, well.

The stories themselves are wonderful. And, most exciting of all:

1! There’s going to be another volume! Another 400 pages!

*another heart attack*

Education by John Hankiewicz (F.U. Press)

Did I do the joke about F.U. Press being Fantagraphics even-less-publicising-than-the-zero-publicising-they-do- for-their-main-line? I did? Well then, never mind, but that’s the reason you won’t find this book on any of the other “best of 2017” lists. Because I think there’s (at most) seven people that’s aware of its existence.

It’s brilliant. There’s just so much going on here, what with nobody being on panel while they’re talking, everybody’s moving around as if they’re dancing, people taking turns wearing the same clothes, people repeating the actions of other people…

It’s like every page demands that you sit and interpret all the symbology (like did I just imagine the sexual references?), but it’s also a breezy read. And funny. And pretty.

The Ladies-in-Waiting by Santiago Gracía and Javier Olivares (Fantagraphics)

While the UN sanctioned international moratorium on comics biographies of famous artists (vaguely drawn in the style of these artists) went into effect late 2017 after 47 people working for a book distributor were crushed under a three thousand ton avalanche of these books, this one was slipped through anyway.

Because despite this spread…

… it’s a pretty good book. It’s got a nice flow, and the subject here is just interesting. And the creators find ways of changing things up by using a variety of styles so that you don’t have to endure them aping the same famous artist for 160 pages.

And it’s fun.

Tongues by Anders Brekhus Nilsen (self published?)

My copy came with this “zine” which has sketches for the characters in the main book:

Nice. But the main book is teh awsum:

It’s a floppy, so it harks back to those good old days when Big Questions was being serialised. But it’s an oversized colour magazine, which is nothing like Big Questions. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s late and I’ve been typing at this blog article for hours and hours and I’m sure nobody read this far.

But it’s really, really good.

Whatsa Paintoonist? by Jerry Moriarty (Fantagraphics)

I’ve never seen anything quite like this book. Here’s what a typical spread looks like:

You have paintings to the left (that may or may not be telling a story), and then you have this sketch-like strip to the right where the painter (Moriarty) explains what’s going on in the paintings to a girl. The rhythm established is kinda hypnotic. It’s nothing like Moriarty’s wonderful work from the 80s (Jack Survives), but it’s new and fresh.

Escape from Syria by Samya Kullab, Jackie Roche and Mike Freiheit (Firefly Books)

I thought that it was pretty likely that this was going to be pretty wretched. Not only is it on trend, but it’s got a list of creators 235% longer than the mean of the other creator lists in this blog article.

But it doesn’t suck! Instead of being a first person account (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it’s written by a journalist who’s worked with Syrian refugees. And while I think you could perhaps say that it idealises the protagonists a bit beyond belief, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be touched by the narrative.

You & A Bike & A Road by Eleanor Davis (Koyama)

Davis does such gorgeous colour work normally that when I initially opened this book…

… I was immediately disappointed. “Noo! Where are the beautiful colours!”

This is a diary comic of sorts: It was apparently (mostly?) drawn while on a bike trip from Arizona to Georgia (that lasted for two months). In addition to the usual stuff you might expect (funny and kind strangers, beautiful landscaped, knee pains) you also get this:

Davis was biking not that far from the border to Mexico for quite a while, and there’s a constant immigration police presence.

Oh, and that initial disappointment? It disappeared after a couple of pages. I just love her expressive, beautiful lines and figure work.

And the book packs an emotional wallop you wouldn’t expect from a book like this. It’s both a sad and profoundly uplifting book. And perhaps contemplative biking should become the next major genre.

Sex Fantasy by Sophie Foster-Dimino (Koyama Press)

I think this was originally published as a series of smaller books? I seem to remember having a couple of them? Or am I just completely making things up?

Anyway, this is a thick, thick book of sad and funny vignettes that seem to speed by so fast that it’s difficult to stop reeling from the trauma inflicted by these intensively emotional stories.

The act of reading this book is so physical, because you turn turn turn the pages, and it’s all just a bit too much. But in a wonderful way.

Songy of Paradise by Gary Panter (Fantagraphics)

And here’s the completely opposite of Foster-Dimino’s book: It’s huge and thin instead of squat and fat, and it’s playful and distanced instead of being sincere and emotional.

A new work by Gary Panter is always a reason to rejoice, even though I couldn’t really make heads or tails of this one. Is it as obscure as Panter’s last two Jimbo books (printed in similar formats)? Nope; it’s almost straightforward, but I guess I just don’t… understand… what Panter wants with this book.

But it’s funny and very pretty.

Boundless by Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)

While reading this I was frequently going “wow! that really packed an emotional punch!”, but then I went, “hey… wait…”

“That story was a bit like an elevator pitch, too, right?” I talk too much to myself in my head. But it’s like this: This book has wonderful artwork, fabulous storytelling and more art styles than you can shake a stick at. But after the, like, fourth story where, if you think a bit about what you’ve just read, it’s a bit like “did I just read the result of a pitch?”

“It’s like a mirror-world Facebook.” “It’s about a woman that grows shorter.” “It’s about a forgotten porn sitcom.” “It’s about getting bed bugs.” “It’s about a mysterious mp3 file that makes people hallucinate.”

“That sounds like a cool story,” I imagine the editor being pitched responded each and every time, and then Tamaki went and drew the story.

But if you don’t notice the pattern, these are some really awesome short pieces.

One More Year by Simon Hanselmann (Fantagraphics)

Oh, here’s another Hanselmann book. It includes the Drone story I mentioned up there. So redundant! Perhaps I should, like, edit out that entry up there… Well, too late now, since I’ve already written this bit and it wouldn’t make sense to then remove the Drone bit up there so you know.

Just like Hanselmann’s two earlier books about Megg and Mogg (and Owl), we get the usual stories about sitting on the couch and getting high while watching sit-coms on TV. But here we also get their amazing origin story! So exciting.

What can I say? It’s brash, it’s horrifying, it’s funny and it’s heartbreaking. What more do you want?

And Hanselmann’s artwork is as suited to his squirmy tales as ever.

The Collected Neil the Horse by Arn Saba (Conundrum Press)

And finally, we have probably the best book here: A a collected Neil the Horse. I adored this comic when I was a teenager, and rereading it now, in a slightly larger format and with better printing, has been pure joy.

How can you not smile?

I just love the Barksey linework, but with stark spotted blacks making everything so gorgeous.

And speaking of which, I also bought the tapes of this radio show way back when, and I put it on Youtube for your enjoyment. (If Katherine Collins or anybody objects, please let me know and I’ll remove them again.)

Anyway! This collected edition seems to have everything from the original comics (except letters pages and stuff), so it’s a cornucopia of comics, songs, illustrated stories and everything. Get thee shopping.

Aaand… that’s it! I read a lot of comics this year, and my impression was that this hadn’t been a very strong year. So I must have read a lot of crap, because this was a bumper crop of good stuff.

*time passes*

After writing the above, I googled around a bit to see what the major publications had on their best-of lists, and there’s a lot of decent stuff, but it’s mostly all so… respectable.

Take the one from The Vulture. There’s an embarrassing amount of overlap between that list and the books above here, but I’ve read all the other books on that list (except the Connor Willumsen one (which I now have to get)), and in every case when had read the book I was thinking “this book will end up on all of the ‘best of’ lists this year”.

Not because the books are particularly fantastic, but because they deal with Serious Subjects. It’s like Oscar season: You know those particularly Oscar-ey movies? Those are award-ey comics. If you get the reader feeling that they’re reading about something worthy (or identifying with the protagonist), the book doesn’t have to be, like, that good.

So there seems to be a consensus about a number of worthy books, but there’s a few missing that I thought would be there. Just because they seem like the stuff to be on those lists.

Like Spinning by Tillie Walden. It beautifully drawn, and I liked her previous books a lot. But I approached this one with a bit of trepidation: First Second have a tendency to make most artist suck by relentlessly editing out any semblance of life from the “scripts”. Some authors survive the process, but they’re pretty rare. And Spinning had all the hallmarks of the pitch/outline/full script/draw it already grind, so I thought it was going to go down great everywhere, but apparently not. Didn’t First Second push it hard enough? I mean, it’s not a bad book, and it’s topical, and it’s pretty, and it’s really really easy to read…

A book with the opposite problem is The Customer Is Always Wrong by Mimi Pond: Editors should (in principle) not get anywhere near a comic book, but couldn’t somebody at least have read it and given Pond some sort of feedback on basic readability? “Hey… why did the caption name that bartender but not any of the others? Is he somebody we’ve seen before? No? Will we see him again? No? WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE! THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME!” I really wanted to like this book (I did like her previous one, Over Easy), but it was such a slog in certain parts. (There were sections that were really fun.) But anyway, I thought it would end up on the “best of” lists anyway, because it’s an interesting subject and Mimi Pond has a somewhat well-known name…

And the final frustrating book is My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame. I love his artwork, and this is a mostly cute and fun book, but the endlessly recurring after school special scenes where we’re bravely being explained that, no, gay people are not monsters, were really grating. And in a way I kinda felt paradoxically insulted on behalf of Japanese people in general: The main impression after reading this book is that Japanese people must be developmentally challenged. IN THEIR HEADS. Which isn’t accurate, I think. I didn’t think anybody else would mind, though, so I thought it would be a shoo-in for these “best of” lists, but apparently nobody else found the endearing bits (and there are many) as swell as I did. (Also: The will-they-won’t-they sexual sub-plot is almost as creepy as Chasing Amy. OK, let’s not exaggerate. Half as.)

I also read some great books that weren’t published in 2017. Quite a lot, even though I didn’t mean to. Here’s some more:

Extended Play by Jake Terrell (2d cloud)

There’s something liberating about Terrell’s wispy artwork.

It’s been almost a year since I read this one, and I can’t really recall what the storyline (if any) was about, but just riffling through the pages now is very pleasant.

Nicolas by Pascal Girard (Drawn & Quarterly)

This is a book about Girard dealing with having a dead brother.

That sounds like it’s going to be very sad and heavy, and it is. If that also sounds like it’s going to maudlin and treacly, he somehow manages to avoid that almost completely. The open layout helps a lot, I think: All the characters just float in this sad, lonely void.

Iggy 4-Ever by Hanna Gustavsson (Galago)

This Swedish book apparently was nominated to All The Awards (according to the stickers on the cover here), but didn’t win?

It’s yet another coming of age tale, and those can get kinda wearying after a while. But the artwork’s charming and there’s a real sense of realness to the proceedings. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody were to publish an English translation…  Probably…  Top Shelf?

Girl Stories by Lauren R. Weinstein (Henry Holt)

This was published back in 2006, but somehow remained a mystery to me until now.

And, yes, it’s yet yet another another coming of age book, but this one is told in an episodic kinda early Ernie Pook way. And you can’t have too much early Ernie Pook Komeek.

It’s funny and it’s brash.

Panther by Brecht Evans (Drawn & Quarterly)

I think this one ended up on everybody’s “best of” list last year, and deservedly so.

The artwork is completely gorgeous, and that asshole panther is really unnerving.

Marvellous.

White Boy by Garrett Price (Sunday Press)

If I understand things correctly, Sunday Press’ thing is to reprint newspaper strips in their original format. That is, if it was running in a broadsheet newspaper, then the book’s going to be pretty large. I’ve got the Gasoline Alley one, and it’s so huge that you more resign to spend your life inside it than trying to hold it with your hands

I have no idea why they insist on all those gradients on the cover, though, it looks ugly.

Anyway, this book isn’t that big, because White Boy was a half page strip. Which means that it’s only this high, but thiiiis wide.

Just look. Goes on until infinity.

If you’re lucky enough to have long enough arms to be able to read it, you’ll be amply rewarded, because it’s kinda unlike anything else. Sure, it’s a cowboy & indian “adventure” strip, but the stories never go anywhere, and the mood and direction of the strip veers wildly.

But it’s a joy to look at, and it’s great fun.

*gasp*

That’s it.  This blog post is now over.

ACW1996: Escape from LA

Debra Hill is back.

John Carpenter. Escape from LA. 1996.

Wow! Debra Hill is back as a producer!

John Carpenter is known as a genre director, but this is the only sequel he’s done. He didn’t even direct any of the Halloween sequels.

The highest-rated review on imdb says that it’s a misunderstood masterpieve but it’s also “near self-parody”, which is kinda confusing.

We’ve got Stacy Keach back from the hilarious Body Bags anthology film, and, of course, we’ve got Kurt Russell back from, well, all the other Carpenter films.

And watching this, the main thought I have is… why? But I guess the answer is on imdb: “Budget: $50,000,000 (estimated)” So this is more money than Carpenter ever had when making a film.

“The future is right now.”

Kurt Russel soldiers through, but there’s no fun here; no plot; not reason for this film to exist. It’s the first Carpenter film I’ve watched where I’ve thought “where did the budget go?”

It’s just so joyless.

I do appreciate the ending. It’s kinda apt today.

This post is part of the A Carpenter Winter series.

New Music

Music I’ve bought this month.

The end of the Grand Sampling (of bootleg and rare tapes from the 90s).  It’s been fun revisiting the tapes, but it’s also nice that I can go back to listening to newer music again.

jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=4AD+3-94 jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=4AD+Dub+for+Lars jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=The+Residents&album=80+Aching+Orphans+(1) jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=The+Residents&album=80+Aching+Orphans+(2) jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=The+Residents&album=80+Aching+Orphans+(3)
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=The+Residents&album=80+Aching+Orphans+(4) jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Nine+Inch+Nails&album=Add+Violence jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Ekkehard+Ehlers&album=Adikia jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Margo+Price&album=All+American+Made jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Moritz+von+Oswald+%26+Ordo+Sakhna&album=Aslant+%231%3A+Bishkek%2C+Kyrgyzstan
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=BAD215%2C+BAD116%2C+BAD11 jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Ekkehard+Ehlers&album=Betrieb jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Big+Hat jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Boundless jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Breathless&album=Chasing+Promises
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Cranes%2C+Rage+Against+the+Machine jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Various&album=Creation+for+the+Nation jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Alcazar&album=Crying+At+The+Discoteque jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Dead+Can+Dance+live+at+the+Loft+Club jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Denon+XL+II+90+4AD
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Pet+Shop+Boys&album=Elysium jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Various&album=Erased+Tapes+Collection+VIII jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=King+Gong&album=Erhai+Floating+Sound jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Various+Artists&album=Even+A+Tree+Can+Shed+Tears%3A+Japanese+Folk+%26+Rock+1969-1973 jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Claire+M+Singer&album=Fairge
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Shirley+Collins&album=Folk+Roots%2C+New+Routes jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Pet+Shop+Boys&album=Further+Listening+2005-2007 jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Pet+Shop+Boys&album=Further+Listening+2008-2010+(1) jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Pet+Shop+Boys&album=Further+Listening+2008-2010+(2) jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Pet+Shop+Boys&album=Further+Listening+2011-2012
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Happy+Rhodes%2C+Loreena+McKennitt jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Hersh+Live jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Various&album=I'm+On+My+Journey+Home%3A+Sacred+Harp+Singing%2C+1928-1934 jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Tiny+Vipers&album=Laughter jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Melanie+de+Biasio&album=Lilies
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Adult.&album=Live+at+Third+Man+Records jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Maxell+UDI%3A+%229%22 jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=OCS&album=Memory+of+a+Cut+Off+Head jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Deerhoof&album=Mountain+Moves jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Muses+Demos+%2B+Mandelbrot+Set+%2B+Lush+(2)
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Muses%2C+Chain%2C+Inrain jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Magnus+Granberg&album=Nattens+skogar jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Four+Tet&album=New+Energy jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Pharmakon&album=Pharmakon%3B+Contact jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Various&album=Polish+Radio+Experimental+Studio+1957-2003
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Godflesh&album=Post+Self jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Project+Hyperion jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Ralske%2C+Breeders%2C+Tammy%2C+Twins%2C+Coil%2C+Breathless jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Rare+4AD+Tape+1 jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Rare+4AD+Tape+2
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=RareThree jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=RareTwo jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Various&album=Shape+Platform+2017 jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Sudan+Archives&album=Sudan+Archives jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Tel+Basta%2C+Seefel
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=The+Breeders%2C+Unrest jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Betty+Harris&album=The+Lost+Queen+Of+New+Orleans+Soul jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=The+Smiths&album=The+Queen+Is+Dead+(1) jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=The+Smiths&album=The+Queen+Is+Dead+(2) jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=The+Smiths&album=The+Queen+Is+Dead+(3)%3A+Live+In+Boston+at+Great+Woods%2C+5th+August%2C+1986
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Throbbing+Gristle&album=The+Second+Annual+Report+Of+Throbbing+Gristle+(1) jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Throbbing+Gristle&album=The+Second+Annual+Report+Of+Throbbing+Gristle+(2) jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Throbbing+Gristle&album=The+Taste+of+TG jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Throwing+Muses+live+at+Anaconda+%26+Club+With+No+Name jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Throwing+Muses%2C+Breeders
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Cosey+Fanni+Tutti&album=Time+to+Tell jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Various&album=Twin+Peaks+(Limited+Event+Series+Soundtrack) jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Various&album=Twin+Peaks+(Music+From+The+Limited+Event+Series) jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=US+Indie+Sampler+1 jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=US+Indie+Sampler+vol+2
jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Ultra+Vivid+Scene+%2B+other+cool+stuff jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=White+Belly jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Unknown+Tape&album=Wolfgang+Press%2C+Belly jukebox.php?image=micro.png&group=Pet+Shop+Boys&album=Yes

Useful Consumer Review

I’ve got most of the rooms in the apt. wired up for sound, but I’ve never managed to work up enough stamina to get the bathroom wired.

So I’ve been using this Creative wireless blaster thingie for years and years, and it works OK. It sounds fine and it usually works. But it’s… kinda a lot of stuff.

It’s got an external power supply, and there’s all those wires back and forth… I mean, I can’t stand untidy wires.

Just look at what spills out whenever I open the cupboard door next to my main computer.

Aaanyway.

The amplifier in the bathroom died some months back, and I got a new one, and this one has bluetooth built in. So I thought: Hey! An opportunity to slim down the chaos on top of that cupboard in the bathroom, at least. I should be able to get rid of basically all of that by switching to internal bluetooth.

Order! Cleanliness! Goodness!

So I bought this bluetooth transmitter.

It’s a Homespot Dual Stream Bluetooth Audio Transmitter, and I got it because it talked about low latency bluetooth (in addition to aptX and all the other modern bluetooth goodness).

Getting the devices to pair was slightly tricky, because the amplifier will pair with anything, anywhere, and the transmitter will pair with the first willing device when it’s switched on. Which was confusing, because the first three times I switched it on, it paired with something, but not the amplifier. I got it to work on the fourth try by holding it two centimetres from the amplifier when I switched it on.

Heaven knows what it’s streaming music to in addition to the amplifier now…

But remember that “low latency” thing? Well:

If you pump up the volume you’ll hear a lovely Machinedrum ditty coming from the office (wired sound), and then I turn the amplifier up in the bathroom. Listen to that loooow latency.

*sigh*

Well, it’s not like I usually have the music on the bathroom switched on. I mostly just use it while showering, and in that case I can’t hear any music coming from other rooms.

But that’s really annoying. The Creative wireless thing has a much, much lower latency: You mostly experience the effect as a sort of thickening of sound, not the stumbling effect you get from the bluetooth latency.

So I dunno… I think I may just switch back to the old setup, even though it’s so… messy…

ACW1995: Village of the Damned

John Carpenter. Village of the Damned. 1995.

Well, this isn’t a good movie, but it’s still got a kind of charm going. I’m not quite sure what that charm is, though.

Carpenter isn’t an overtly distinctive director, but it’s obvious that he’s got… something…

Even if it’s not really on display here much.

This post is part of the A Carpenter Winter series.

ACW1994: In the Mouth of Madness

I might be slightly mad here, me.

John Carpenter. In the Mouth of Madness. 1994.

I have no idea whether this was a studio film or not. It has a mid-level budget (more than twice of any of Carpenter’s indie films), but it’s wild and wacky.

It’s not really all that scary, but it keeps tension up throughout the movie.

And it’s so meta. I love meta, so.

This post is part of the A Carpenter Winter series.

ACW1993: Body Bags

John Carpenter. Body Bags. 1993.

After the horrible (but high-budgeted) Memories of an Invisible Man, Carpenter retreated to TV (Showtime) and made this fun anthology horror show. He directed two of the bits himself (and acted as the “Crypt Keeper” like host for the show) and left the third for Tobe Hooper.

This is the first non-2.35:1 Carpenter film I’ve seen since forever. He’s really hung up of that very wide screen wide format, but this one is only 16:9. I guess you have to make concessions for TV. But it still looks great and luxe, like Carpenter’s films always do, no matter what the budget is.

It’s scary! And it looks like the filmmakers had a hoot while making it.

I love the look of the Gas Station segment: It has a very “filmed at night” look instead of the usual “day for night” thing you often see.

I think this may be one of Carpenter’s best flims. It’s just so breezy, fun, snappy and unforced.

(The bluray I bought didn’t arrive in time for this screening, so I pirated it from teh torrenzt.)

Tobe Hooper’s bit is the weakest one by far. It’s more dramaey than hootey, and it kinda drags.

I threw the die based on the Carpenter parts only.

This post is part of the A Carpenter Winter series.