Comics Cavalcade Day 12

Look at that pitiful selection of comics remaining! Will this be the day when I finally conquer the Window Sill Of Too Many Comics?

Let’s find out, and as usual: No reviews.

The Structure is Rotten, Comrade by Viken Berberian and Yann Kebbi (Fantagraphics)

This is a pretty odd book. The authors seem to want to say something about the demolition of old architecture (I think), but do it mostly through really weak jokes and so many layers of irony that it’s… just… odd.

Perhaps one of the problem is that some of these jokes don’t really translate so well.

Anyway, the artwork is rather spiffy.

OK, I snickered at that one. And I liked the constant wrecking balls in the skyline.

Heavy Metal #291 & 292 allegedly edited by Grant Morrison

A couple of years ago, I signed up for a Heavy Metal subscription. It’s nice getting stuff in the mail, right? Unfortunately, the contents of the magazine wasn’t very… good… so I was going to drop it.

And then Grant Morrison took over as the editor (sure) and I renewed the subscription, because I was curious as to how that was going to turn out.

And there wasn’t a big change: It’s still mostly vaguely 70s sci-fi, but kinda missing something.

Some older creators (like Richard Corben), but also a lot of younger ones. (Geez, look at that character design…)

Like Ed Luce. Unfortunately, it seems like everybody is pretty much conforming to the Heavy Metal template. It does mean that it’s pretty coherent as a reading experience, but it’s also so… samey…

Perhaps Enki Bilal is the biggest attraction here, which may explain why they’re serialising him at a totally glacial pace. It’s like six pages every issue from a very long story, so virtually nothing happens per issue.

It’s very pretty, though.

Hey! Gerhard!

There’s also a lot of “artist galleries” in here. It’s mostly comics-adjacent illustration, though.

Wow. A rare experimental piece by the editor and Rian Hughes.

Anyway, I let the subscription lapse.

Anti-Gone by Connor Willumsen (Koyama)

Yeah, yeah, I’m the last person in the world to read this book, which was The Official Best Comic of 2017, if I remember correctly.

As usual with Koyama, the feel of the book is excellent. But I’m somewhat nonplussed with how this got so much attention at the time. I mean, it’s good, and it’s exciting to see a new talent stretching, but…

… it’s basically a story about two young people getting stoned.

I guess that’s as universal experience there is, and it’s satisfyingly unnerving, but…

The artwork’s cute.

Willumsen’s piece in the newest Kramers was much stronger, I think.

Krazy + Ignatz: Inna Yott on the Muddy Geranium by George Herriman (Eclipse)

When I did the Eclipse blog thing I read all the rest of the Krazy + Ignatz volumes Eclipse published way back when, but this volume took about a year to arrive. So I’m reading it now.

It is, as usual, totally fantastic. And it’s a miracle that Hearst managed to force as many editors as he did into carrying it.

Mmmm… pancakes… I should make pancakes. Be right back.

Mmm… pancakes…

Tempo vol 25 (Egmont)

Hey, didn’t I just read one of these? *bing* Oh, right, they’re no longer publishing these nostalgic collections of action series for boys quarterly: They’ve stepped up to bi-monthly, which either means that it’s selling better, or that it’s selling worse and they’re trying to step up the pace and sell more to a diminishing audience before they all cancel their subscriptions?

I don’t know!

Anyway, it’s a standard mix of action stuff with more action stuff. The Bruno Brazil thing by Louis Albert/William Vance is pretty good: Vance’s noodly, dynamic and sharp artwork holds the attention.

The same can’t be said about this Ringo album, drawn by, er, William Vance. But five years earlier! 1968. It’s about a northern and a southern soldier teaming up. Sort of. I guess you could charitably describe the approach Vance takes here as chiaroscuro, but I think it’s probably just sloppy.

And finally, a Michel Vaillant short by Jean Graton. VROAROOA VROOAM! Everything a boy needs.

Father and Son by E. O. Plauen (New York Review Comics)

This kind of gag thing isn’t really my kind of thing.

But you have to admire the inventiveness.

I think the sentimental strips work better than the ones that are just going for the gag.

Still… not really my cup of oolong.

Shrimpy and Paul and Friends by Marc Bell (Highwater Books)

Oh, yeah, I got this 2003 book as part of the kickstartererd Worn Tuff Elbow #2.

With this nice thing, suitable for sowing onto my jacket.

Anyway, it’s a collection of 90s strips that I kinda guess were serialised in a free newspaper or something? Just guessing. It feels a lot more “underground” than just about anything else I’ve read from Bell, and more improvised. I mean, his other stuff seem to have a kinda floating logic to it, and a structure that isn’t obvious at first but then locks in. This feels a lot more random.

But I mean, it’s Marc Bell. The artwork is super cool and there’s jokes.

Oh, OK, not all the jokes work, but it’s a satisfying package.

Shipping Saver #1 by Marc Bell (No World Books)

Hm… Oh, yeah, the text up there explains what this is. Gotta love Marc Bell.

The booklet is pretty random, but fun.

Kindred by Damian Duffy and John Jennings (Abrams)

I normally avoid comics that are adaptations of novels like the plague… but I was kinda obsessed with Octavia Butler when I was in my 20s, and I kinda accidentally on purpose bought it.

Oy vey.

I viscerally hate this artwork. It’s got an “edgy”, “angular” sheen, but is just boring as fuck illustration. Why did Abrams go with this pair as doing the adaptation, anyway? Very strange choice.

What isn’t strange is doing Kindred as an adaptation. It’s Butler’s only… uhm… I want to say “clean book”, for some reason. But it’s her only book that’s mainstream bait, really. All her other books are intensely othering, while this is a high concept, straightforward sci-fi adventure: It’s about a black woman going back in time to Maryland in 1815, and the horrors that ensues.

Butler has seriously gone out of fashion, and it’s not difficult to see why (there’s nothing about her books that is not problematic), but she’s a brilliant writer.

I guess you could still adapt the Parable books…

Kindred is, like almost all of Butler’s books, very Science Fiction, with capital S and F; the characters react rationally to what’s happening and try to figure out how to work within this reality to survive. I love that, and I’m slightly surprised that they didn’t swap this out for So Much More Drama in the adaptation.

The adaptation mostly kinda actually works. It’s choppy as hell in some parts, but there’s sections that read well. It feels overstuffed, though, and overwrought in a way the original novel wasn’t.

But it could definitely have been so much worse than it is.

Komix #0-5 (Interpresse)

This is a Danish comics magazine from 1983-84 that I picked up used. I knew nothing about it, but I thought it might be fun to see what they were writing about.

It’s a mixture of interviews, reviews, articles and comics, like the Moebius short above I don’t think I’ve seen before.

The magazine is thematically stodgy: Since it’s 1983, I would have thought they’d be writing about what was exciting at the time, which was, well, Love and Rockets and what was happening in US alternative comics. But that’s virtually not mentioned.

Instead it’s all about undergrounds and Frenchey 70s comics.

Not that I mind seeing this Druillet/Tardi trifle, but it’s still weird. I guess they were just kinda… not very with it?

In the last couple of issues they cut down on the reviews and ran more comics, like this not very essential thing by Floc’h (which took about a quarter or the pages).

Heh. In the final issue, there’s a letter glued onto the inside back cover saying that Denmark is too small a country for a magazine like this, and that they’re returning the subscription fee.

Well, that mag was a bit of a disappointment all over… There were some interesting reviews in there, but nothing really… exciting.

I didn’t read the interviews, though. Because TIME.

Baron Bean vol 3 by George Herriman (IDW)

Hey, more Herriman! This is a series that I guess that he did partly concurrent with Krazy Kat? I haven’t read it before.

And… it’s… not as essential as Krazy Kat, perhaps. The jokes are pretty repetitive. Well, OK, they are in Krazy Kat, too, but they’re less corny and more weird there.

The marks are as delightful as ever.

You Don’t Get There From Here #45-49 by Carrie McNinch.

I love these… but I’m going to cheat now and put them by my bed and read them later. Because I have to clear that window sill today! And I’m behind schedule!

Marvel Two In One: Cry Monster by Steve Gerber and thousands more (Marvel)

The reason I bought this must have been that I was curious to see what Steve Gerber was up to in the early 70s. The first issue reprinted is written by Len Wein, and is boring as hell.

And it’s really too late for me to read the rest, so I’ll put it into the bedroom, too! I can stack all kinds of things in there! Sure!

And with that I succeeded! With almost no cheating! I have now conquered the Window Sill! Remember what it looked like! I did it! I will now never let it build up to such a ridiculous degree! From now on I will curb my comics buying and not ever go overboard again!

WHAT THE FUCK!? WHAT HAPPENED! THE SILL WAS EMPTY JUST SECONDS AGO! WHERE DID THOSE COMICS COME FROM!?!? Please don’t tell me that I went to the yearly sale at the comics store here a couple of days ago and went hog wild? Please!? PLEEEASE!

For one bright shiny moment…

Comics Cavalcade Day 11

OK, the number of unread comics on the window sill has definitely decreased, so this blog series is working! And, as usual, I’ll just be reading comics and write some uninformed notes, because there’s just no time for reviews.

Incomplete Works by Dylan Horrocks (Victoria University Press)

This is a collection of short pieces from various anthologies and stuff. I think I’ve read most of these before, but it’s fun to follow Horrocks’ evolution: It’s presented chronologically, which I think is nice.

I had forgotten that Horrocks used the “Sam Zabel” name from almost the very start of his career.

It’s a nice read, but many of these pieces are pretty… non-essential. Of the newer stuff, I did like these diary comics.

Worn Tuff Elbow by Marc Bell (No World Books)

Oh, yeah, this was kickstartererd… That’s nice…

Anyway, this is the usual Marc Bell stuff, which means: It’s amazing. There’s something about Bell’s narratives that are absolutely totally engrossing. It’s not dream logic or anything like that, but things seem to make sense on a different plane altogether. This time out, it all revolves around bologna, and it’s perfect.

A huge attraction here is the artwork, too. It’s just so… right.

That system does make sense!

Read Write Right Reed by Hugh Frost (Landfill Editions?)

I’m guessing this is Landfill, because it has that feel… and didn’t I order a bunch of stuff from them?

This is basically a collection of er paintings and stuff.

Laura Dean Kepps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (First Second)

Oh, deer: Another First Second book. Well, even though virtually everything they publish suck, there’s also This One Summer, which was rather spiffy. But was that due to Mariko Tamaki or Jillian Tamaki?

Based on this book, it was the latter. Without that beautiful artwork, this is a pretty perfunctory book. It’s about a really, really shitty girlfriend and how that toxic relationship makes the protagonist into a shitty friend. It goes exactly how you expect, with all the dramatic notes happening right on queue, and it ends exactly how you’d predict.

Which leaves the artwork to take up the slack, and Valero-O’Connell isn’t really up to it. I mean, it’s nice and all, and she does have a real knack for conveying information, emotion and personal ticks through her drawings, but the Japanese/American hybrid style she uses doesn’t really click. And the lack of backgrounds feels more lazy than stylish.

So, sitting here being kinda bored with the entire thing (and I’m totally in the target audience) I just got annoyed with all these crappy production issues, like using a font that has a way huge lower case k, which means that I’m stopping all the time wondering “what is BerKeley? oh it’s just that fucking font”.

As well as other general sloppinesses (that’s a word) like having the cover of the novel on the back, and kvetch kvetch kvetch.

So to sum up: This is going to be on at least a quarter of all Best Of lists this December.

24 Panels (Image)

This is an anthology where the proceeds go to the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire… and the name of the anthology stems from none of the stories (except the introduction, weirdly enough) has more than 24 panels. So I was expecting that to be a strong structural guide to the pieces, but:

These are just normal anthology pieces: Some have panels, some don’t, and there’s really nothing either formally or thematically linking the pieces.

So we get a hodge-podge of work, but, surprisingly enough for this kind of thing, most of the pieces are pretty good.

It works a whole lot better than I was expecting.

Grote Pyr 1 by Dick Matena (Interpresse)

I found this at a used bookstore, and I was intrigued because I’ve never heard of the author or the series before. It was published in the mid-80s, and Matena is apparently Dutch…

But opening this album now, my initial reaction was WTF? The artwork is so super-cluttered and busy that it makes my eyes swim, and that the character designs are so obviously crabbed from Albert Uderzo (while on acid) didn’t raise my confidence. The colouring doesn’t help, either, but perhaps it’s faded over the years.

I mean… look at those characters: Straight out of Asterix, but with the settings on 11.

Sometimes it does kinda really work, like with that awesome bear.

So does it suck? No, it doesn’t. It’s very lively and quite funny and I would have loved it as a child.

Spanish Fever edited by Santiago García (Fantagraphics)

This is an anthology from 2013 of Spanish comics. In the introduction, the editor lays it on heavily about how Spanish comics are the bees knees these days, so I was all set for a collection of masterpieces.

And… it’s not. They range from totally boring to quite OK, but the emphasis on conventionally narrative works really works against the anthology. It feels so stodgy, and some bits (like this one where the cartoonist lionises himself) is a bit on the embarrassing side.

Hey! Dramatic clouds.

OK, there’s some good stuff in here, like this thing by Ana Galvañ.

Javier Olivares impresses too, with the super-expressive artwork and harrowing storyline.

Things You Carry by Vincent Stall (2d cloud)

Well, this is an odd little book. I kinda like the artwork, but the storyline has something video gameish about it… I think. I don’t quite know why, but it just has that feeling to me.

Tongues #2 by Anders Nilsen

Huh; I had totally forgotten that I hadn’t read this yet. And look at the fancy printing!

This is very much an in-progress kind of book, and I’ve totally forgotten what the first issue was about, but it’s completely riveting anyway. The confusion perhaps makes it even more compelling: It’s creepy, tense and vital.

And so beautifully presented in these oversized pages.

Can’t wait for the next issue, which is apparently going to be published by Fantagraphics and released in a couple of months?

Daredevil vol 1 (!?!) by the people above there (Marvel)

I bought this because somebody wrote somewhere that this was supposed to be pretty entertaining as super-hero comics go… And I guess it is. I mean, it’s standard TV superhero drama stuff, and I wouldn’t have watched it on TV, but the artwork’s pretty nice.

The printing on some of the pages is atrocious, though.

Hm… is this what Maleev’s art looks like? I thought it looked scratchier… Oh! This is by David Mack, which makes more sense. I like the little Bill Sienkiewicz quotations he puts in there, what with the patterned borders and little triangles floating around. It’s fun.

And, uh, and…

Anyway, this is Maleev. It’s nice.

But when he goes for that picture-through-a-xerox look it gets pretty stiff.

But at least it’s better that the people who took over on the last few issues reprinted in this issue.

Dude.

Anyway, this collection is not horrible or anything, but it’s not… like… worth reading.

Les Cinq 2 & 4 by Serge Rosenzweig and Bernard Dufossé (Hjemmet)

This is another pair of albums I picked up at the used bookstore, and which I know nothing about. Or perhaps I’ve just repressed the memory and I did read these once as a child? It’s possible, because they’re not very memorable. Not horrible, not good, just sort of… there. I could see somebody who is ten reading these and finding them entertaining enough.

They’re inspired by the Enid Blyton book series, but set in France.

I think I’ll… re-gift them. (I didn’t make it all the way through the second album.)

OK, perhaps it’s time to call it a day and hope I’ll make it through the remaining comics in the next instalment of this blog series.

Comics Cavalcade Day 10

The to the finish continues, and as usual, no reviews, just reading.

Marble Cake by Scott Jason Smith (Avery Hills)

This is such a fresh comic. It’s told via an ensemble cast that more or less all interact with one another kinda randomly, but it all builds up and connects. It’s such a well-observed piece: Everything feels true and real, and none of the characters are artists, filmmakers or writers. That’s a rarity these days!

Hey, I’ve wondered that myself. Uncanny.

I guess you can see the lineage to British cinema, but it’s very far from being a drawn movie: It uses the comics medium perfectly, with formal touches like different panel shapes in different sections of the book (of which I’m not showing any, because I don’t want to give anything away).

It’s brilliant: It’s an effortless, gripping read. Best comic of the year for me, I think.

Simon & Louise by Mac de Radiguès (Conundrum)

This book is no great surprise — de Radiguès is in his element here. But it’s just such a sweet, perfect little book, with bright summery colours. There’s so many nice little touches, like the recurring punk guardian angel.

I guess there could be some elements some would find trite… I mean, there’s many scenes here that are kinda cliché. But so sweet. So cute.

Fearless #1 (Marvel)

By all those people above there.

I don’t know why I bought this… Hm… was it because it involves Kelly Thompson? She’s fun.

Unfortunately, she only writes a very short itsy bitsy thing at the end of this anthology.

The other two (longer) bits aren’t bad, though. And Millie the Model is back.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #47 by Ryan North and Derek Charm (Marvel)

That crossover nonsense over with, we’re now back to the usual nonsense (which is a lot better). It’s another very amusing issue, and it looks like they’re gearing up for a grand conclusion to the series in issue fifty.

Errr. ASCII is a subset of UTF-8, so that’s one variant she didn’t try. What did she try? UTF-16!? HA HA HA HA.

Fence by those people on the cover up there (Boom Box)

The thing here is to try to emulate a Japanese comic to the max, I guess? It’s not entirely successful — the storytelling is rather choppy.

And there are sections in here that are really, really boring. But it’s not all bad.

Yoko Tsuno vol 20 by Roger Leloup (Carlsen)

Yesterday I carted a case of duplicates to a used bookstore and rooted through their comics and got (among other things) this 90s album in return. Yoko Tsuno is an odd series: It never seemed to become really popular, but it was always kinda there in the 80s, managing to rack up a substantial number of translated albums in the Scandinavian countries. I lost interest, because it’s… Everything is 100% intense all the time; everything is drama. It’s exhausting to read.

The first albums weren’t sci-fi, either, but this one is super sci-fi. It’s so sci that I can’t really make out what the fi is all about; it’s confusing. It’s something about transfers of souls, and transfers of memories, and transfers or self, and those aren’t the same thing, and everything is… confusing.

But it was nice to dip back into this. I like Leloup’s artwork; it’s very classic clear line, but with a certain dynamism. The figures are rather stiff, though, but that’s part of the style.

Hm… it just occurred to me that, unusually enough for a Frenchey adventure comic, this perhaps fails the reverse Bechdel test. That is, there are a couple of male characters in this album, but their scenes are brief and they (I think) never talk to each other. Most of the significant characters are women, and the conversations (and fights) are between them.

Yakari vol 14 by Derib + Job (Carlsen)

This is another find from the used book store. Yakari is a series for small children, charmingly drawn by Derib. I remember reading these as a child… although not this album, which is from long after I stopped reading them.

It’s likeable.

Benoît Brisefer vol 4 by Peyo, Gos and Walthery (Semic)

This was a children’s series I did not read as a child — I think they started translating it in the mid-80s? Which was too late for me.

I don’t know my Peyo history, really, but I think Benoît Brisefer was Peyo’s “other” series, not, er, quite as famous as his Smurf series.

The concept is very simple: the title character is a little boy who’s incredibly strong. Except when he gets a cold, and he loses all his strength. So the plots in the albums I’ve seen invariably involve him foiling some villain through his super strength, then he gets a cold and is kidnapped, and remains so until the cold goes away and he captures the villain for sure, this time. The end.

You can kinda see why this wasn’t as big a deal as, well, a lot of other Frenchey children’s series of the 60s.

But the drawings are classic BD and there’s jokes here and there that aren’t that bad.

Action packed.

Les 7 Vies de l’Épervier vol 4 by P. Cothias and A. Juillard (Carlsen)

This is a series I’m completely unfamiliar with, I think. It’s from the mid-80s, which wasn’t a good period for frenchey comics. If I understand things correctly, it was difficult to get anything published that wasn’t sci-fi, porn or sci-fi porn.

This is slightly on the porny side, but is kinda interesting. It’s about the olden days of witch finders and the power struggle between the church and the king and stuff. It’s got a lot of texture, both in the writing and the artwork. And the colour palette is pretty unique.

I think I’m going to be on the lookout for the other volumes in this series.

Syncopated: An anthology of nonfiction picto-essays edited by Brendan Burford (Villard)

I picked this up from the used bookstore, too, but reading the introduction I was getting bad vibes. I mean, the title of the book is harrowing enough: “picto-essays”? But then “comics” in sneer quotes?

This is gonna suck! Badly!

But then it turns out that at least half of the pieces in here are good. The Nick Bertozzi story about how hay bailing works is fascinating.

The definition of “essay” here is very wide. Tricia van den Bergh does a portfolio of drawings from a park, and very lovely drawings they are.

About one third of the pieces aren’t essays in any way, I’d say, but are just normal (auto-)biographical comics, like this one by Sarah Glidden.

Wow! Paul Karasik!

Anyway, this anthology is a bit hit and miss, but there’s some really good stuff in here. Nice random find.

And now… it’s late. Do you know where your cat is?

Comics Cavalcade Day 9

OK, I got more comics, but this week I’m going to finish the Window Sill Of Comics for sure for sure and finally bring this blog series to an end.

I HOPE.

As usual, just reading, no reviews, because there’s just no time.

Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley (First Second)

I have rather sworn off First Second because their books suck, but I rather like Lucy Knisley, so I thought I’d give this book a go despite the publisher.

My problem with this book is that Knisley spends so much time on things that even I know. She is, for instance, blindsided by how common miscarriages are, and I thought absolutely everybody knew that pregnancies routinely end spontaneously. Perhaps it’s something that’s kept as a closely guarded secret in the US or something?

And she spends pages and pages on dispelling myths that are completely moronic, which makes for a deathly boring reading experience.

And when she’s not explaining things that you’d hope nobody would have to have explained to them, she resorts to these trite metaphors.

That said, the final part of the book is harrowing and exhausting and had me crying a bit, so Knisley still has it, but I don’t know what she was thinking when she made the first four fifths of this book.

Perhaps it’s just the normal First Second editorial influence.

BTTM FDRS by Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore (Fantagraphics)

I don’t know what I expected this book to be. Passmore has mostly done kinda earnest real life comics before, I think?

This isn’t that: It’s a horror movie in papery form.

There’s scant use of the comics medium here, and I wonder whether the author originally wrote this as a movie script?

In any case, despite my misgivings reading this, it turns out to be chillingly effective; weird colouring and all. As befits a classic horror movie, it’s claustrophobic and intense, and while there’s nothing really new here, it’s one of those very rare comic books that is actually scary.

This Woman’s Work by Julie Delporte (Drawn & Quarterly)

I really enjoyed Delporte’s previous book, Everywhere Antennas, and this looks even lovelier.

Full of collages and drawings and paintings; very contemplative. I definitely see what she’s going for with the flowing structure and circling back on the same issues in a spiral, but I don’t think this book was as successful as the previous one.

It’s something about those footnotes that makes the reading kinda choppy?

The ending is heart-stopping, though.

When I Arrived at the Castle by Emily Carroll (Koyama)

This is published in a format that’s quite unpopular now: The album-ish one with soft colours. I really wonder why they did that: The lettering is so big and there’s so little per page that I’m wondering whether Carroll made this for a smaller format originally.

But I guess these bloody images have a certain impact on the larger pages.

I found it hard to get into this.

Invaders by Lots of People (Marvel)

Chips Zdarsky’s Marvel career trajectory has been pretty typical: His first few comics were fun and were overflowing with ideas.

And now he’s doing stuff like this.

I think it’s time for me to stop buying his comics.

House/Powers of X #1-2 by A Bunch Of People (Marvel)

Yeah yeah, OK. I was an X-Men fan as a child, and I’ve sorta-kinda dipped into the stream of X-Men effluvia the last few years. I thought they had something interesting going like four (?) years ago, but whenever I’ve tried reading it since then, it’s been “eh? eh? what? does this make sense? why is this so boring?”

So this is the new X-Men start (I think?), and as usual I have no idea whether they’re just dropping us into all new concepts or whether this had all been set up earlier, and I’m just not aware. Apparently all previously dead mutants are now alive again? OK, I can roll with that.

Ooo! So portentous!

These comics are more entertaining than what X-Men comics I’ve read over the last couple of years, but the storytelling is a bit clunky in parts. Like here where we learn that Moira is “reincarnated”, but it turns out that her mutant power is really Groundhog Day. SO CONFUSE!

It’s got sci-fi scale, which is refreshing.

I have no idea whether this is all going to turn out to be an imaginary tale or something. I think we just learned that all previous incoherent X-Men storylines were just MacTaggart’s Groundhog Days, but perhaps that’s also just an imaginary tale. You never know, and I don’t particularly care.

Tongues #2 process zine by Anders Nilsen

Oh, yeah, this was included with the issue of Tongues. It was hidden between some other stuff on the window sill.

It’s pretty cool.

Out of Hollow Water by Anna Bongiovanni (2d cloud)

This is an unnerving little booklet.

Bongiovanni’s smudgy pencils somehow makes sense in this tale that somehow seems to make sense on some deeper level, although I’m not quite sure what it’s about. It’s scary and affecting.

Aand… with that I think this day is over. More comics tomorrow! Only three-ish more days to go?

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.

FF1972: The Guardsmen of Infinity Portfolio

The Guardsmen of Infinity Portfolio by Carter Scholz and Jim Wilson.

This is the second publication from what one might call Fantagraphics’ prehistory. Publisher Groth was a teenager at the time, and I’m going to guess that everybody else involved was, too.

You have to love the self confidence displayed in that introduction up there. Better than Star Trek! At its best!

Good lord! *choke*

Scholz would go on to become a writer for The Comics Journal, and I wasn’t aware that he was an artist at all.

Which, er, uhm, I’m still not. I mean, you shouldn’t rag on comics produced by teenagers like fifty years ago, and by “you” I mean “I”. But c’mon.

I’m guessing that this is the introduction to the project that they determined to be not good enough so they abandoned it? It’s just a handful of pages that don’t lead anywhere.

The rest of this 16 page magazine sized (printed on thick unglossy paper) object is filled with character er studies like the ones above. Which explains the “portfolio” in the title.

It’s nicely printed, though.

Yeah, sure. Why not.

Hey! A Fantagraphics logo! Rad.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1976: Always Comes Twilight

Always Comes Twilight edited by Dave Dapkewicz.

Concluding our look at Fantagraphics’ prehistory, here’s Always Comes Twilight, a 48 page magazine sized… thing… printed on nice thick paper.

The editor explains what this thing is: It’s a fanzine, and that he’s grown out of comics fandom and will never read a comic again. Which is fair, I guess, but it’s a somewhat strange thing to start off a comics fanzine with.

The bulk of the book is taken up by lightly illustrated short sci-fi stories. I’m guessing everybody involved are teenagers, and I have to admit that I stopped reading every story after a paragraph or two.

Hey, they’re probably better stories than what I wrote when I was a teenager, so who am I to judge.

There’s one long comic in here, and it’s drawn by Karl Kesel, who would later become kinda a big deal.

His talents are not obvious here.

The illustrations aren’t that bad, really. Here’s Steve Leialoha.

Race Hardun. *snicker*

It should be!

I quite like Jan Strnad’s writing, so I had some hopes for this story, but…

Oh, well.

OK, that’s it: The first three things Gary Groth published under the “Fantagraphics” name. At least I think they are.

While Fantagraphics would come to be perhaps the most important publisher of American comics ever, there’s not really much in these three publications that’d make you guess what’s to come, except perhaps display Groth’s tenacity and ability to make publications happen. And an attention to quality printing.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.