Dear Comic Book Likers,
My New Year's resolution was to review all the comics that have piled up in my kitchen, around my bedroom, and in my bathroom. I owe it to the comic artists and publishers who have mailed them to me but I also owe it to me because it looks like my house is inhabited by a crazy person.
There are two really great art shows in New York right now. The first is Judi Rosen's humongous and beautiful paintings, which are partially made with stuffed sculptural elements. I have seen it and this is a series of giant, lovely canvases that you should see unless you are a complete fool.
The other is the James Jean show at Jack Tilton Gallery.
Here's a Wendy the Good Little Witch comic in which they drew the cartooning studio and also they decide to make her a bad witch. You can check out more awesome old comics at the Big Blog of Comics.
From best to worst, here are my reviews of some of the comics that were near my desk. Most of them were awful.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Everybody shut up and go get this comic immediately. I know Andy Gonsalves and his work from his Threadless shirts. He draws in a style that looks a lot like other great animators. It's sort of like John Kricfalusi, but cuter. This comic is about a big fat uncle pig and his three piglet nephews trying to avoid being eaten by the Big Bad Wolf. In addition to the obvious similarities to Disney's Three Little Pigs cartoons, the pigs also remind me of Donald Duck and his nephews, but the art is more like John K. or Bill Wray, and it's not totally revolting although it sure as hell isn't neutered. The horrible and stupid pig uncle's first attempt to stop the wolf is to set up a Mousetrap-style board game called Wolf Trap and then cover it with leaves. The wolf stomps through it without even noticing, so the uncle pig decides the obvious solution is for him and the pigs to kill themselves. Every drawing is funny and unique and off-model like John K. insists they should be, and you will love this comic so much.
The Eyes of the Cat
Moebius and Jodorowsky
This is the kind of book that you're glad you own but can digest in about five minutes. It's by Jodorowsky and Moebius so you know it's great and beautiful, but it's not some dense saga like The Incal. Each panel is a whole page. The left page is always focused on a human character and sometimes has some text. The right page is always focused on a crow. Eventially, when the two characters are within close proximity, the book does something that feels incredible to me. The final images have the intensity and precision of something by Durher.
Ninja Turtle Sex Museum
Drawing beloved childhood characters doing adult activities is one of the laziest and most obvious ways to appeal to idiots. Dumb people who don't really have any interest in art will feel good when they see something they recognize doing something out of character and respond with "Dude, that's so fucked up! HA HA HA!" Usually making art around the Ninja Turtles bores me but this zine is incredible. It's a zine of Ninja Turtle drawings, some of which are of people dressed as the Turtles engaging in various sex acts.
What makes it beautiful and great is the ways in which the artist has redrawn and further mutated the fictional characters: Penises as crucifixes with heads coming out on three ends; a Ninja Turtle fucking a rectum with an eye until it explodes with blood; a face with a dick for a nose and nuts dangling from its chin fucking a Ninja Turtle; a Ninja Turtle with erect human nipples poking though its yellow chest plate, shattering it like an egg shell… If genital mutilation and drawings of hardcore gay turtle activity turn your stomach you will not be able to handle this, but if you think it is beautiful when an impossible creature jerks off onto a pizza then you have to get this wonderful zine.
Here's a little interview I did with James Unsworth.
VICE: How long have you been drawing Ninja Turtles for?
James Unsworth: I used to do a comic in junior school with my friend Graeme Williams. We'd copy the Ninja Turtles and make up bad knock-knock jokes. I'd also copy pages from my dad's Mad magazines and pass them off as my own, because I assumed that no other nine-year-olds would know what Mad was. The school didn't support our comic and we stopped doing it after one issue. I stopped drawing Ninja Turtles, too. Thanks, Sudley Juniors.
How long have you been drawing the Turtles boning?
I first drew a Ninja Turtle with a boner in 2007. It remained an isolated incident until I had the idea for the Ninja Turtle Sex Museum exhibition in 2010. Ninja Turtles and boning presented a good visual paradox, which embodied the research into the grotesque in popular print I was engaged in at the time.
Were the drawings just for this series, or are you still drawing them?
The drawings were just for that exhibition. I haven't drawn a Ninja Turtle since 2010 and I don't intend to, though there will be a follow up to the Ninja Turtle Sex Museum publication, it's called Dead Boys. It's like NTSM, only there are no Ninja Turtles in it, just humans.
Spain: Rock Roll Rumbles Rebels & Revolutions
This came in the mail about a week before Spain died. It's a catalogue for an art show that is still up. The show opened on September 14. Spain Rodriguez died on November 28. This show will close January 20. This isn't the end-all be-all Spain book that I assume and hope will be published at some point, but it is a good introduction to Spain's work and a nice souvenir from the show. It features some great details and photos of his original drawings, along with some writing about him.
The Night Riders
This is a children's book by Matt Furie published by McSweeney's, so you know it's smart! It doesn't have any words and is largely influenced by Frog and Toad Are Friends, but also draws from other 1980s childhood staples such as The Neverending Story and Jim Henson's fantasy movies. The book is about a frog and mouse and their adventure through a fantastic world full of beautiful and grotesque creatures where they make friends and have a nice night bicycling around. You should get it. Also, the cover unfolds into a beautiful two-sided poster.
A lot of people try to make comics that will shock the reader, but they fail because they are idiots who don't understand what makes a thing shocking. Karl Wills draws so beautifully that when things don't make sense they are upsetting and confusing instead of boring and confusing. This new issue of Princess Seppuku starts with the flying Japanese superhero slicing the heads off of two high school students that she caught lighting homeless people on fire. Later Seppuku goes to the movies alone while her assistant goes to feed soup to the homeless community. When Seppuku shows up to see how she's doing she discovers that the crazy homeless people are attacking her and force-feeding her the soup that she brought them. Seppuku slices the heads off the homeless people and brings one to Courthouse Island, a place covered in the headless corpses of her victims. This comic is full of strange and confusing things, but it works. I may have said this before but it reminds me a lot of the Hellboy Junior comics that some of you might have read.
Space Face Books
This is a 12-page mini by one of my favorite modern cartoonists. The comic is a weird little comic that doesn't make much sense. Cyber Surfer is a robot who lives on an island resort with his girlfriend. One day she goes missing and he goes to find her but his batteries run out as he bursts into her kidnapper's lair and they presumably dismantle him. I love Alex Schubert but I only like this comic.
The Skateboard: The Good, The Rad, and the Gnarly: An Illustrated History
Considering how gay the title is, this book is actually pretty neato. If you like looking at pictures of old skateboards and easily avoidable text about old skateboards then this is for you. Who doesn't like looking at old skateboard graphics? Jerkoffs.
Krampus Greeting Cards
This is a set of 20 Christmas cards with images of Krampus, the Satanic-looking Christmas demon that puts bad children into a sack in German folklore. I do not like Christmas and don't really like to acknowledge it. I don't like the commercialism, the religious aspects, the familial closeness, the music, the time of year it takes place during, the TV specials, or almost any aspects of the holiday.
I do like two things about Christmas. I like Christmas trees because they are pretty and smell nice and make sense to me as symbols of the relationship between man and nature. I also like Krampus because I prefer the idea of mythical monsters over mythical saints. I think it helps prepare children for the reality of this world.
My dad used to write "From Satan" on my Christmas presents and will often remind me that if hell exists, this world is it. So that might be why I hate Christmas so much.
Sunday in the Park with Boys
This is a weird autobio comic by a lonely Asian lady librarian who is 19 and dresses in a japanese school uniform. Later she starts wearing an eyepatch, which is another Japanese fetish. She spends the comic by herself talking only to us and a teddy bear. It is a pretty good comic about being lonely and crazy.
Eat More Bikes
This is a comic full of page-long humor comics. Three of them are funny. The rest aren't.
By This Shall You Know Him
Some of Jesse Jacobs' drawings in this book are very pretty. His lines and patterns and full-page drawings are nice. The rest of the drawings did nothing for me. I think he should quit comics and stick to just making paintings and drawings. His drawings of shapes that don't exist floating in space are great.
Drawn & Quarterly
I don't get Kevin Huizenga at all. He seems like a nice guy but his comics are a whole lot of nothing. I read them and think, Where's the story, where are the characters? I'm like that little lady from the old commercials who goes, "Where's the beef?" It's possible that this is by and for the kind of people I've spent my whole life trying to avoid. I don't know. That's my way of saying I don't like it but maybe you will.
The Infinite Wait and Other Stories
I saw this collection of Julia Wertz comics and thought, Why does this exist? and How can someone draw this much and not improve? I guess I see art as a quest for self-improvement as well as self-discovery and stuff. Julia's work is fine in mini-comic form. Printing it in a book feels wrong.
This mysterious envelope
This mysterious envelope showed up for me at the VICE office. It was mailed from a town called Lacrosse in Wisconsin. Inside was a piece of paper with drawings that had been torn in half and folded twice as well as a series of images on little squares of paper. I can't tell if this is a love note or a death threat or what. Crazy people often make the most boring art.
Everything Dies 7
Box Brown seems like a nice guy and he has confident linework, but I do not get this comic at all. Some things happen and I don't know why or care.
Bright Morning Stories
This was sent to me back in 2009 and I am just getting to it now. Oh my god, I reached that point where my life is just flying by and in a second I'll blink my eyes and it will be the end of my life. Ben sent a nice note on the back of a picture of Humphrey Bogart wishing me well and saying that he'd be in New York in October (of 2009) and would like to get a beer with me. I do not like his comic at all.
(I lost the comic before I could photograph it. That's why there isn't a photo of it above the review.)
Total shit. Printing this on paper was offensive because it is so mediocre and dull and garbage. Learn how to draw, dummies.
Two Dumb Girls
This is a comic about two girls and the art is so gray that it is really hard to know where to look. It looks like stew.
Sparkyly Sparkly Chew
Flys Eyes Comics
You're not at a point where you should be publishing your work yet. Keep drawing, but focus on learning to draw and figuring things out. Don't focus on a finished, polished image.
Previously - Nick Gazin's Comic Book Love-In #78