Comics Cavalcade Day 8

What happened!? How did the Window Sill Of Unread Comics grow while I was away on holiday?

Oh, right, I stopped by Comix Experience in San Francisco and bought this little stack of comics.

Not to mention this bigger stack of candy.

So let’s get reading: Comics Cavalcade Comix Experience Edition!

And as usual, no reviews, because ain’t nobody got time for that.

American Industrial Complex by Joppo (On Paper Press)

This comic is told from a pretty unique point of view: A guy returning to San Francisco after spending some years in prison.

So we get these one page vignettes, mostly with a punch line, about the lives of people living on the streets. Joppo depicts his subjects sympathetically, and it’s pretty interesting. Adding some longer stories may have been nice.

Always Punch Nazis edited by Silas Dixon and Ben Ferrari (Pilotstudios)

This is an anthology about punching Nazis.

It’s hard not to like that concept, and even if some of the contributions are a bit on the amateurish side, it’s a brisk, enjoyable read.

Hey, that’s a nice drawring.

So edumacational.

Dressing by Michael Deforge (Koyama Press)

This is a collection of shorter pieces. I seem to vaguely recall reading at least one of them before, so perhaps it’s a collection of work from anthologies? Although some seem more like sketchbook stuff that’s been retrofitted.

Anyway, this is Deforge, so you get these vague, unsettling narratives, beautifully drawn.

It’s a lot more varied in approaches than Deforge’s work usually is.

So it’s easier to see how little things, like having gutters or not, or having speech balloons or not, affects how we read Deforge’s stories. Even the size of the lettering informs the reading: Smaller, hushed dialogue.

Anyway, I have no idea why I haven’t bought this earlier. I thought I had pretty much every book that Deforge has published, but somehow many Koyama books seem to evade my grasp.

My Brother’s Husband volume 2 by Gengoroh Tagame (Pantheon)

I didn’t really like the first volume of this very much, so of course I bought the second volume.

The pacing is both glacial and abrupt at the same time: In the 700 pages (all together), there’s endless rumination, and nothing much happens, and then suddenly it’s over.

The artwork’s very pretty in a mainstream Japanese way, and I kinda like the use of those horizontal blank panels to represent time passing.

I have to say that I liked the second volume more than the first. There’s still an inordinate amount of unbelievable gravitas, and the dialogue is still choppy as hell, but it feels less like watching an After School Special.

Slightly less.

The second book of Mezmer by Jon Chad

I bought this because I thought it looked kinda interesting, what with the die-cut cover and these nice black pages.

But I didn’t find the story itself very gripping. I do like the inventive graphic design.

And the fanny pack.

Everywhere Disappeared by Patrick Kyle (Koyama)

I’m not quite sure what Kyle wants to achieve with these pieces. They mostly somewhat absurd takes on behaviour, and are, I guess, amusing-ish, but not actually funny. Is it all about the drugs?

But the main problem I have with this is that I just don’t enjoy the artwork.

(And what happened to the light outside? Oh! I had a short eight-hour nap while reading this book.)

OK, that’s pretty funny.

Life is Beautiful by Cody A. Owens

This is a short, sad tale, effectively told. I like the stark blacks.

The Year of Loving Dangerously by Ted Rall and Pablo Callejo (NBM)

Hey… this is a new edition of this book? Didn’t I buy that a long time ago? Hm.

I re-read stuff all the time, but somehow I get antsy if I don’t know whether I’m reading something for the first time or not. It’s weird and illogical, but.

So it is. Rall thinks the reason the book didn’t sell when it was originally released, in 2009, was because of the Great Recession. So NBM is re-releasing it now, in 2019, and… I bought it for 50% off at Comix Explosion, so I’m guessing it wasn’t very popular this year either.

I like Ted Rall’s comics, but it’s really his punky artwork that’s the attraction. With Callejo’s smooth, legible, professional and readable style, there’s nothing on the page that interests me.

So it’s all up to Rall’s writing, and whether we’re interested in the story or not. And, geez, no. Just no. The book starts with what turns out to be a super-dramatic introduction to the story: Rall was booted out of college, and was then homeless. Well, not homeless homeless. Well, OK, he wasn’t homeless; he had friends, family and a steady stream of girlfriends.

And therein lies the problem: After selling the reader on a story of desperation, it turns out that he had a minor hitch in his life, and resolved it by having a lot of sex. And that made him all pensive and stuff.

The other problem with the book is the structure. If you’ve read the book, you’ll be saying “there’s a structure?” We’re constantly being pulled back to his past, and his past is all fucking and having fun, which isn’t much of a contrast to his present, which is all fucking and having less fun.

I mean, if by “less fun” you’re not counting getting on stage (and backstage) with the Dead Kennedys and stagediving and stuff.

Such a horrible fate.

And, oh yeah, Rall (when not being all sad) consistently portrays himself as a total douchecanoe. Is this an act of total honesty, self-loathing or just Rall being oblivious as to how he comes off?

I have no idea, and I’m not interested in finding out.

Cat Person by Seo Kim (Koyama)

I guess this is a collection of Tumblr posts?

It’s mostly observational humour, which I don’t really… like… but I have to say that I’m really charmed by the artwork.

I mean, this is something we’ve all experienced, so it’s optimised for posting on the interwebs… but I just really like that non-expression on the face while looking under the sofa three times for the pencil.

But I like the occasional excursions into the absurd even more.

Crawlspace by Timothy Sinaguglia (So What? Press)

The art style here is intriguing, but the storytelling is kinda choppy.

I didn’t quite realise that there was a second story in here until about halfway through, which led to even more confusion.

I think the second story is more successful, even if I don’t quite understand what the crosshatching on her chin is all about. Very, very sunburned?

Somnambulance by Fiona Smyth (Koyama)

Hm. Are all the Koyama books I bought at Comix Experience collections of short work previously published? I guess so…

Anyway! Yowza! Fiona Smyth! I’ve loved her work ever since the late 80s, when she first started popping up in various anthologies.

This hefty book (370 pages) collects (some of) her work semichronologically, and it’s fascinating to see how her work changed over the years, from the scratchy and messy start in the mid-80s…

… to a more striking graphical style…

… before arriving at what I thought her “real” style was. Which is filling most of the surface of the page with all these squiggles ans patterns and totally overloading the senses. Even her lettering is in the same style, really, with the white interiors of the large letters blending into the same miasma of graphic overkill.

I just find her artwork riveting. In lesser hands, this sort of stuff would be unreadable, but it’s compelling instead.

Some of the choices in this book are a bit odd, though. Why shrink down the covers for the Nocturnal Emissions in this way? They’re great images.

All this squiggliness makes you slow down when reading, which is interesting… But… I can’t really say that the narratives are all that rewarding.

The Nocturnal Emissions series (published by Vortex Comics) had several to-be-continued stories that were never finished before Vortex went under, so Smyth added a new chapter in 2017 that ties up a few loose ends. Which is very thoughtful. It’s also drawn in this completely unexpected, clear, non-fussy halftone style.

What I thought was her “real” style (in the early 90s) turns out to be just one of many she’s been through.

Great collection.

Oh, and that’s it for the stack of comics I bought at Comix Experience.

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