FF2016: Love and Rockets

Love and Rockets volume 4 #1 by Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez.

So here we are: The final post in this blog series about Fantagraphics comic book comics. And eerily enough, we end with the same series we started with: Love and Rockets. I didn’t plan this, but the first issue in the new series arrived the other week, and what better way to close than with a classic dramatic return to the original scene of the crime?

VERY CLOSURE!

Fantagraphics are really getting in touch with modern times: Not only relaunching with a new #1, but variant covers! Step aside, Marvel!

Just kidding. An endearing thing about the Fantagraphics/Love and Rockets relationship is how much Fantagraphics has been pushing Love and Rockets onto anybody remotely likely to be interested in it for decades. Format after format, repackaging after repackaging. They’ve always known that Love and Rockets is incredible, and they aren’t shy about selling it.

Tastefully, of course.

Jaime’s story starts off seconds after the last page from the previous volume. It’s both reassuring and perhaps slightly arrogant: Yes, it’s a statement that we’re just going to keep going, which reassures old people like me, and Jaime is apparently confident that new readers will just immediately find whatever’s happening here interesting.

Which I think is correct. I think you don’t need to know who these people are at all to find this intriguing. I’ve been reading about them since I was, er, thirteen: They’ve basically been with me most of me life, and it’s difficult to disentangle nostalgia from other feelings, but: I loved this little story. To bits.

And Jaime also sorta reintroduces us to these younger characters, and relatably enough puts them at a comics convention. Aww.

I was wondering what Gilbert was going to do: Something new and whacked out, something Palomarish, or continue the endless Fritzian odyssey? We seem to be going with the third option…

… but then Gilbert drops these metatextual things into the mix. So it’s an even wackier Fritz thing than usual.

(The lettering here and there looks badly reproduced: Like it was scanned at very low resolution.)

Gilbert has been very playful lately, especially with the recent Blubber series. It’s very X-rated, and I wonder whether his heart is more there than in trying to keep up with the complex Fritz mythology.

After a lot of tits with “must be 18” boxes over them, we get this one. I think he’s working off some aggression towards some critics with this tomfoolery.

So it’s a fun new episode, but it’s even more confusing than normal, because Fritz has all these dopplegangers, and they have all now changed their names. I think I basically knew who everybody was at all times.  Possibly.  I’m not overly confident that this is all going to cohere to something significant in the end, though.

And then Jaime ends the issue with a fun and slightly obscene superhero goof. With no “must be 18” signs anywhere!

Very nice. I’m looking forward to getting a regular Love and Rockets dose every few months again.

So that’s it! This blog series is over! You can all breathe a sigh of relief! No more endless nattering on about old comics that nobody has heard of, and which are mostly impossible to get a hold of these days.

So useful.

Freedom! But I may do one summing up article with an index to the previous posts.

And then I’m probably not going to be reading any comics for the next few months.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1990: Fringe/Fauna

The Fauna Rebellion #1-3, Adventures on the Fringe #1-5 by R. L. Crabb.

Fantagraphics had previously published The Natural Enquirer by 70s underground veteran R. L. Crabb. The Fauna Rebellion was apparently created in the mid-80s, but not published until 1990.

It’s about animals staging a rebellion against humans. The joke above is typical for the word-play here.

It’s an action-filled adventure, with plenty of murder and mayhem.

Also practical tips about how to spike trees to make it more difficult to cut them down. That was a popular way to protest in the mid-80s, wasn’t it?

Not all humans are bad!

Oh, how nostalgic…

Adventures on the Fringe is a very different kind of comic book. Well. “Comic book.” I guesstimate that about two-thirds of the pages are straight-up text pages like this. And they haven’t received any kind attention from the Fantagraphics designers, so it doesn’t look very interesting graphically.

Crabb insists that these issues are all true, all autobiographical.

Oh, and by the way, this issue was seized by Borderlinx and pulped because of “drug use”, which is kinda ironic, since there isn’t much.

Don’t you think?

A story about going to visit Hunter S. Thompson at his 1990 trial features heavily in the first issues.

Yes! Where are the comics?!!

There are more comics in the fifth, final issue. Crabb says it’s being cancelled because of low sales and because Crabb was burnt out.

Crabb is still working today.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF2001: Fuzz & Pluck in Splitsville

Fuzz & Pluck in Splitsville #1-5 by Ted Stearn.

The physical format of this series is reminiscent of La Perdida, published a few years earlier: It’s slightly smaller than standard US comic book size, is thick (most issues are 48 pages) and has stiff covers.

We last saw our plucky pair in the Zero Zero anthology, and the action picks up pretty much directly from that, er, plotline.

The artwork is very different. Gone is the obsessive cross-hatching and condensed action, and instead backgrounds are mostly AWOL and there’s zip-a-tone instead. Especially in the first issue; the hatching and the background returns after a while…

The action is quite decompressed, and reading these five issues was very breezy. They were published over an eight year period, though, so creating them wasn’t as easy, I guess.

As with any Fuzz & Pluck story, perhaps it’s better not to try to recap anything. Things happen, and then more insane things happen, and then…

… you have half-insect half-fruits working as gladiators. It’s the kind of thing that happens. It’s fun.

Stearn explains who the book is for.

Pluck explains the plot.

This series was given an Ignatz nomination for best comic in 2003. Stearn hasn’t published much in comics since this series ended, but Fantagraphics released his The Moolah Tree in 2016.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1991: Perramus: Escape from the Past

Perramus: Escape from the Past by Alberto Breccia and Juan Sasturain.

Hi! I had hoped to end this blog series about Fantagraphics last year, but having the scheduling slide is so very Fantagraphics, isn’t it?

Only three more posts to go, though.

Very early-90s Fantagraphics design courtesy of Dale Yarger.

Anyway, strangely enough, I did not buy this series at the time, so I had to buy them now. These comics were definitely the most expensive items I had to procure for this blog series. Which is both odd and perhaps not so odd: These probably had a minuscule print run, so they’re rare, but on the other hand, they’re translated reprints that are widely available in other languages…

They were originally serialised in Italy in 1983, but Breccia is Argentinian and the plot lines clearly reflect that and the post-Junta time they were produced in.

Fantagraphics helpfully provides these footnotes (seen above) that carry both translations of Spanish text on walls and in sound effects, and also explain who some people are.

Fantagraphics published Perramus in four forty page magazine sized issues, and there are two clear stories being told. The first half is about Perramus, an amnesiac escaping a dictatorship. Hi-jinx ensue. Sorry. It’s all very symbolic and strange, and occasionally gripping.

The artwork is rather lovely, isn’t it? Done with ink washes, perhaps? I’ve seen European editions of Breccia where they’ve printed the artwork with several different grey inks, which looks really good. Fantagraphics have opted for the cheaper rastering method, but it looks fine, too. It’s sometimes a bit more washed out than it should be, I think.

The first issue has a brief Breccia autobiography and timeline.

Breccia’s artwork tends towards abstraction.

And sometimes it teeters on the brink of incomprehensibility, but it doesn’t really ever tip over.

Hey! That’s a reference to The Eternaut, a 60s (I think) Argentinian serial that was reprinted by Fantagraphics in 2015 to great acclaim and attention. Breccia drew a reworked version of that work in the early 70s, which I haven’t seen.

The final issue is printed on newsprint, which I take to mean that Perramus sold even worse than projected. This reduces legibility even further, and also gives the story a kinda Warren 70s feel.

The cover promises “CLIMACTIC FINAL ISSUE”, and the latter part is true, but climactic? It’s very metaphorical, though.

Breccia died in 1993. He hasn’t been widely translated into English.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1996: Coventry

Coventry #1-3 by Bill Willingham.

Willingham is known these days for writing Fables, the Vertigo series re-appropriating fairy tale figures, but in the 90s he was doing things like Ironwood and Time Wankers for Eros Comix, the Fantagraphics imprint. I think I assumed at the time that Coventry was more of the same, but it turns out that it is not porn.

Willingham’s rendering is lush, as always.

It turns out this book is a precursor to Fables of sort: It’s about angels and werewolves and witches living in modern-day USA, and there’s a private investigator (or two) who’s trying to track down supernatural murderers, etc.

The artwork is very un-Fantagraphics: It’s based heavily on photo reference and is rendered in a manner that reminds me of other self-publishers around this time, like Terry Moore and Dave Sim: Facile brush work or something.

Willingham predicts the current Golden Age of Quality TV.

To a T.

Willingham explains that Coventry is the book that he’s going to do until he’s dead, and reading it, I do get a feeling that this one is a keeper. It’s well paced and plotted, with interesting characters and situations.

And my guess about photo reference turns out to be right: Each character is based on a specific person, and he’s collected around 300 photos from each of them.

There’s even a map of Coventry and a description of the various sections. Willingham really did seem like he was going to keep at this book, with its odd price point ($4, which was a lot in the 90s for a comic book), printed one nice white paper, with cardboard cover stock.

Sometimes it seems like Willingham can’t quite make the various photos he’s using match up all that well, which can be somewhat disturbing.

And so the third and final issue ends.

Willingham later wrote two novels set in the same universe, but the reasons for abandoning the comic book series aren’t clear. Low sales? Dissatisfaction with Fantagraphics? This is a really odd book for them to have been publishing. The only thing that comes close to this is Castle Waiting, and that was a decade later.

It’s a shame, because reading this was such a welcome change from the other Fantagraphics books I’ve been plowing lately: It’s a breezy, delicious romp.

And with that, we’re going to take a break for a few days.  I had hoped two wrap up this blog series before the holidays, but we still have four more posts to go before we sleep, and those comics are still in the mail due to lousy planning.

See you on, like, four or five days.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.