Comics Daze

Merde! I’ve totally messed up my sleeping again, after being so good for yonks. That was a very late New Years Eve, and I guess I’m still working my way through that. Even so, getting up at one in the morning isn’t ideal, eh?

So let’s see… if I read comics all night long, then take a nap around eight, and then read comics until midnight, that should fix things, right? Yeah, doesn’t sound like a viable plan to me, either, but let’s give it a go.

And I see there’s a new temperature record in the surrounds here, but where I am, it’s just -20C, as you can clearly tell from my brilliant shot of that outdoors thermometer. Brr! But I’ve got a blanket and a couch, so I should be OK.

But since it’s so cold, I’m going to listen to music only from 1970. (And perhaps 1971, if I run out of albums from 1970.) You know it makes sense.

Art Ensemble of Chicago: Les Stances a Sophie

01:38: The Great British Bump Off by John Allison, Max Sarin and others (Dark Horse Comics)

I’ve never seen The Great British Bake Off, so I’m probably not the intended audience for this, but on the other hand, I like murder mysteries so…

Oh, it’s the same concept as The Great Canadian Baking Show? I’ve seen that. (Well, I’m guessing that the Canadian show is a version of the British show…)

Neil Young: After The Gold Rush

So you’d think this book was for me after all, but eh. It’s amusing, but it’s not actually funny? They go for Silly To The Max All The Time, which can work well, but it doesn’t here. And the artwork does nothing for me.

But it’s OK — I can totally see lots of people enjoying this.

Vashti Bunyan: Just Another Diamond Day

02:25: Red Ultramarine by Manuel Fior (Fantagraphics)

This is more like it.

I’m not quite it totally works, though — you’ve got a mash-up of Icarus and Faust and stuff, and told in this very dynamic way… It’s pretty good, but it creaks a bit under its own weight.

Fotheringay: Fotheringay

02:41: Power Button 1 by Zack Soto (Graphic Universe)

I’ve always liked Soto’s artwork, and I’m happy to see that he hasn’t straightened it out too much for this children’s book.

That’s excellent skin care advice!

The book is fun — if I have one criticism, it’s that things perhaps take a bit long to get started? But we get a lot of character development, and we get hints towards a bigger storyline (like — what’s up with that Uncle Cat guy anyway?), and it’s an enjoyable read. And perhaps it ends without much of a resolution — it feels rather a lot like the first episode of a TV series? But it’s fine.

03:15: Blah Blah Blah #4 by Juliette Collet

This is great — the book is a mix of shorter and longer pieces, but it has such a good flow: It’s almost stream of conscious-y the way the stories flow in an obsessive way.

And there’s a number of different approaches to the artwork, but it’s still cohesive.

And this story was just flabbergastingly amazing — a heartbreaking sucker punch of a story, really. And look at this artwork! Just fabulous.

Shirley & Dolly Collins: Love, Death & The Lady

03:37: Qualification by David Heatley (Pantheon Books)

This was part of the latest Mystery Box, and it’s from 2019. I’m just shocked that I don’t already have this book? So weird, because I was a big fan of his back when, but I guess I just didn’t know that this existed? Well, I guess like most people, I was impressed with his early work, but underwhelmed by his first Pantheon book, so perhaps I just didn’t want to read more…

This is a book about being addicted to Alcoholics/Debtors/Sex Anonymous, and it’s borderline incomprehensible at times. I mean, not what’s happening, but why. Like… his mother fell over at a skating rink (haven’t we all done that?) and that’s her “lowest moment”? That is, nothing that happens to these people seem to be very er hard, but Heatley dramatises it up to the max?

Shelagh McDonald: Let No Man Steal Your Thyme (1)

But I guess it’s all part of having religious damage. I mean, if you’re apt to depicting your mother calling you on a phone with dodgy battery as “it was a miracle”, then it’s just hard to take it all seriously. On the other hand, Heatley portrays much of this in a way as if he wants you to come to the conclusion that he’s perhaps insane, anyway…?

Hm! I think I must have read this before after all. It’s now seeming extremely familiar to me. Or were parts of this published in a different format before?

Anyway, reading this can be pretty exasperating, but the storytelling is pretty good? The artwork is effective, and it’s oddly propulsive: Even if I can’t claim to actually like the book, I didn’t feel like putting it down either?

It’s an oddly unfocused book, though. I didn’t much enjoy reading the bits from all the AA meetings (which is most of the book (and I can’t really imagine how Heatley justified over-sharing on behalf of these people (although he says that the characters are composites))), but the sequences like this are more interesting, right? But they’re scenes any good editor would have edited out, because they don’t have much to do with anything beyond “this also happened”.

So what did the critics think of the book? Here’s The Comics Journal:

Heatley’s great sin isn’t that he is a sinner, a horrible, petty, carping mess of a human dominated by urges and appetites he will hardly account for. It’s that he is a boring sinner who offers neither aesthetic pleasure nor insight only to then demand sympathy for unveiling his wriggling ego.

I get a vague feeling he didn’t really enjoy it.


David Heatley writes a way, way over-long narcissistic study of his own narcissism through the potentially humorous lens of his own addiction to 12-step programs.


A narcissist creates a monumentally narcissistic work about his narcissism.


This book needs a sequel from the wife’s pov. Hopefully it will end with her leaving him.

OK, that’s enough time spent on this not very compelling book. I guess I didn’t hate the book?

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Déjà Vu

06:20: Clamp #5

This is great — it’s an anthology of mostly short pieces, with different approaches but feeling cohesive.

I do wish they’d put the artists’ names on the pages, because I have no idea who did what.

But it’s all good stuff.

Very nice.

I thought I was the only one that did that with plastic straws!

John and Beverley Martyn: Stormbringer!

06:46: Roxane vend ses culottes by Maybelline Skvortzoff (Tanibis Editions)

Heh. Fun how the French title is a lot more direct: Roxane Sells Her Underwear.

It’s an oddly traditional plot…

It’s basically “woman starts selling sex, descends into depravity (including obligatory Eyes Wide Shut scene), before going back to her true love”. I didn’t think these books were legal to make any more! (I.e., it’s not “sex work positive”.) But it’s pretty good.

Sudden Joe Matt reference!

07:06: Mini Kuš #1119-122 (Kuš)

Latest batch arrived in the mail the other day…

Weng Pixin does a really compelling story about anger and stuff.

Nuka Horvat is more abstract.

Gary Colin goes geometrical.

And Anu Ambasna does a very appealing (and amusing) story about the secrets of DJ-ing.

Kraftwerk: Kraftwerk 1

07:22: Don’t Go Without Me by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (Shortbox)

This book collects three stories that are similar in tone, and two of them seem to be slightly connected (both are about memories as currency/energy, I guess).

It’s really good. The stories have this elegiac, tragic quality to them, and the storytelling is rather dissociated — it’s pretty unique.

And dramatic.

OK, perhaps I should take a nap now to try to get myself back on a more reasonable sleeping schedule… I mean, it’s getting light out, after all.

Jimmy Lyons: Other Afternoons

14:53: Gristle by Lily Blakely (Shortbox)

Oops! That was way too much napping! Wow, I must have been tired or something…

Hm… this seems very familiar. Hm. Oops! I’ve already read this a couple years ago! Oh well; I’ll just read it again.

It’s still really good. It’s body horror, and it’s really creepy. And rather affecting.

The Pentangle: Cruel Sister

15:12: Milky Way by Miguel Vila (Fantagraphics)

Wow, the storytelling on this one is something else. Very Chris Ware, of course, but used for a very different effect than Ware uses it for.

Simon & Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water

It’s a difficult read not because of the storytelling, though — it’s really kinda horrifying. It’s the squishiest book I’ve read in a while. It reminds me of what was happening in American indie comics back in the 90s? Renée French, Dave Cooper, etc — i.e., there’s a lot of very unattractive sex in this book. Or perhaps attractive! It might all be a fetish book! I don’t know — there’s a disgust that pervades the book, but I’m not sure what Vila thinks of it all, but I get the feeling that Daniela is Vila’s viewpoint character, sort of. (He’s the dorky friend of the woman being wronged.)

What I’m saying is that the book is really accomplished, but it’s a really depressing read.

I guess this is a pretty ambivalent review:

Vila’s English-language debut swirls the erotic and the grotesque into a tart tale about the perils of sexual obsession.

Various: Amchitka (1)

16:12: Unended by Josh Bayer (Uncivilized Books)

This book has gotten a lot of buzz on the interwebs…

Wow. This is so full on from the very start — this is the first thing you see when you open the book.

This introduction, though, had me confused for the first, like, thirty pages of the book?

Because Bayer says that the book adapts his father’s unfinished play, and I thought that this was that play, or wasn’t sure whether it was the play or was Bayer talking about his father. It was confusing, is what I’m saying.

Various: Amchitka (2)

But perhaps the confusion is what Bayer is after. I mean, I like being confused when reading a comic — it makes you more involved. Like this bit — is it fiction, or is Bayer this much of a dick?

Archie Shepp: Live in Paris

But we do get to the play about halfway into the book, and everything becomes clear.

Anyway, this book is great. The storytelling is almost overwhelming, the artwork is exciting, the story is interesting, and I really enjoy how he ends the book by upping the ante on fictionality. It’s something really special. I’m surprised that it wasn’t on more people’s “best of” lists — just four, if I count correctly? But it was released late in the year, and perhaps (like me) they hadn’t read it yet.

Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity: Jools & Brian

18:57: Pill Hill by Nicholas Breutzman (Uncivilized Books)

This reminds me a lot of Tom Kaczynski, so it makes sense that it’s published by Uncivilized…

King Crimson: Lizard

But then again, it doesn’t really.

Joni Mitchell: The Reprise Albums: Ladies of the Canyon

It’s a really harrowing book, but it’s also funny in parts. It’s about a nightmare of a divorce, and the struggle to save his kids from a meth addicted mother. While it’s totally gripping in parts, it’s also frustrating: The flights into fancy with the lizard people didn’t really bring anything to reading other than a slight blizzard of dandruff from scratching my head so much. What did he want to achieve with those bits? Add a distancing effect? Make us doubt all of the story (i.e., pretty forcibly telling us that the narrator was insane)?

It’s just very odd.

But OK, it’s really very well done otherwise — it’s propulsive and gripping. Except for the lizard bits.

Hm… I googled a bit, and it doesn’t seem to have gotten much attention? That’s weird. Is it too straightforward to be appreciated by the art comics crowd, and too odd to be appreciated by mainstream outlets as the next Nick Drnaso? Dunno. It’s a good book, anyway.

Led Zeppelin: III

20:50: Haruki Murakami: Manga Stories by Jean-Christophe Deveney (Tuttle Publishing)

Ah, I assumed that this was going to be comics stories written by Murakami, but instead if just a collection of adaptations of his short stories.

It’s pretty good? These are (of course) slightly mysterious stories, but the adaptations are extremely straightforward. So — not very exciting, exactly, but pretty entertaining.

David Bowie: Hunky Dory

21:46: The End

Well, I think that’s enough comics for this er “day” — I’ve been reading for *counts on fingers* 21 hours, with that “little nap” in the middle.

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