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.

FF1971: A Selection of Fictional Narratives

A Selection of Fictional Narratives by Dennis Fujitake.

A couple of years ago I read all the floppies that Fantagraphics had published. It was a pretty random thing to do, but it turned out to be a fun little project.

I used comics.org to get a list of the comics to read, and at the time, the first three things Fantagraphics had published wasn’t in that database.

But now they are, and I’ve bought those three things, and now I’m going to read them.

The first of these magazine sized comics is by Dennis Fujitake . I really love the style he developed later, which is totally unique. He can draw any kind of outlandish cartoonish alien and make it look totally natural.

Here he’s doing a totally derivative early-70s underground fantasy style with more than a touch of Jeff Jones about it. In this slender 16 page package (very nicely printed and on shiny paper) he does two stories, and they’re both, well, pretty lame. Gary Groth was born in 1954, so after getting my slide rule out, I’ve determined that he must have been, like, 17 when he published this. That explains the taste level, but I’m wondering where he got the money to do so.

The first story is just hard to make out what’s going on: Fujitake would later become a brilliant storyteller with pages that are a joy to read, but he’s not there yet.

The second story reads marginally better. Both stories have the required O. Henry endings, but the second story has a more amusing one.

The back cover has an er stark design? Yeah, let’s go with that. Stark design.

Hm… come to think about it — this publication is kinda prescient. One thing Fantagraphics has done really well over the years is to recognise creators that show promise and stick by them for many years while they progress. And Fujitake is one of these, I guess: They published a lot of spot illos by him in The Comics Journal, and by the time they published Dalgoda, he’d really blossomed.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.