Nick Gazin's Comic-book Witch Hunt #8
Jerry Seinfeld once said something about how childhood is a constant quest for candy. I spent a lot of my time looking for candy, but I was hunting for comics even more. Comics equalled happiness--even bad ones were great. Obsessive wanting has led me to writing comic book reviews. Only now I no longer hunt for the comics. The comics come to me.
In tribute to the insulting top-ten lists of the once mighty Wizard magazine, I rank the free comics I get from best to worst. I think it's funny to also burn the worst comic. I don't think that the people whose comics I burn appreciate my humor, but to be fair I don't really appreciate theirs.
Drawn And Quarterly
Finally. Marc Bell first entered my awareness with his comics in Vice wayyyyyy back in the when. Then the Shrimpy and Paul book came out and it quickly became one of my favorite comic books. His comics were funny both for their visuals and unique use of language (I still say "cheg it oot" in casual conversation). His drawings combine the beautiful flatness of the characters in Gustin paintings and the ability to create impossible environments in three dimensions that odd characters can explore and wander around. He was a herald of what was coming in the fine art/comics/print world. It's here now and it's continuing to come. And so am I.
This book is a nice big hardcover textbook of Marc Bell's fine-art pieces and comics and some writing about how important he is. I don't really know how much I can say about this book before I'm talking out of my ass. Marc Bell makes his brain leap mental hurdles when he draws and draws things that are too weird for most people to imagine. Marc Bell invents a beautiful world that's full of friendly possibility. Go buy this book, pea brain.
THE ART OF DITKO
Fantagraphics just produced a flawless Ditko book a few months ago that colleted a lot of his pre-code horror comics. Did the world need another Ditko book so soon? Yes.
If you don't remember, Steve Ditko co-created Spiderman and refuses to be photographed or grant interviews. His art is beautiful and intense. Also he is really into Ayn Rand and puts her ideas into all his books.
Craig Yoe's new Ditko book is almost twice the dimensions of the Fantagraphics book and there are lots of great scans of off-white original art and vibrant images of the actual comic books. The art is reproduced huuuuuuge and you fall into it like a haunted painting with a universe inside it that you can walk/fall into.
Most of the comics in this book seem to be his work from after the Comics Code Authority pissed all over comics and only some of them are as good as the stuff from Fantagraphics book, but that thing was insane. It was just one glimpse into Hell after the other, grinning demons, torture and revenge. This book's a little more chaste but it's still gold.
There are alien beatniks, a haunted painting with a universe inside it, science fiction, murder, nazis, surfing cavemen. The final comic in this book is about a cursed cartoonist who is held at his drawing table by an invisible force and is found drawing, long after he died. I love this book. Get the Fantagraphics Ditko book and get this one too if you like things that are beautiful and interesting and hate things that are boring and terrible. Also Stan Lee wrote the introduction and there are testimonials about Ditko's character by other comic greats like Jerry Robinson and P. Craig Russel.
A lot of people hate Craig Yoe. He lives in a castle with two Italian women who cook him food and owns an amazing collection of original art including the first Pogo comic strip, a drawing from Gertie the Dinosaur (the first animated movie), and a living room full of Krazy Kat sunday strips. Also he gets to make all kinds of awesome books and he's even got his own imprint within IDW. He's my spiritual father and when I think about how amazing his life is I start to hate him a little bit. Also he worked with Jim Henson.
I like Craig's sensibilities and I like IDW but I think they both have really shitty looking logos. IDW's is especially crummy looking. It looks cheap. Look at it and then look at how solid Dark Horse's logo is. That thing looks like it's made of stone and IDW's looks like it's assembled from pipe cleaners. Someone had to say it.
UNLOVABLE VOL. 2
Esther Pearl Watson
When I saw Unlovable Vol. 1 I took a passing glance at the glitter crusted cover and thought, "This just ain't for me." When Vol. 2 showed up in the mail I thought "Aw, man this is some girl stuff. Why can't they just send me more Popeye reprints?" I was so wrong and stupid and smelly in my early judgement of this series that I am ashamed. I love Unlovable. Take that, book title.
Unlovable is a chunky little monkey of a book, about five inches by five inches in heighth and width with a depth of maybe an inch and a half. This book is based on the diary of Tammy Pierce, found in a gas station bathroom. It hilariously chronicles the second half of Tammy's sophomore year of high school which took place from 1988-89. I wonder if the real Tammy Pierce is aware of this book. I wonder if she's alive and wants her diary back.
The 15-year-old Tammy Pierce is drawn as a sweating, hairy, uncoordinated mess of a teenage nothing with hair that looks like carpet samples have been hot-glue-gunned to her head. She obsesses over boys at her school, tries to be pretty, fights with her friends, and does stuff with her family.
Unlovable 2 is a fun and funny read all the way through. You don't need to have read the first volume. There are drawings in here which I am guessing are based on Tammy's own diary drawings. They punctuate the book with super-goodness, like a crude drawing of Garfield with the words "I want to be kissed" next to him in bubble letters. Tammy's crush shows up and wants to drive her to Pizza Trails so she goes home to pretty up and comes back looking like a sweaty make-up-smeared monster. Tammy's crush is heartbroken that there will never be a new Smiths record and try as she might she can't memorize their lyrics so she comforts him with a line from a Kool and the Gang song.
Girls are gonna like this book and dudes are gonna like this book. It'll remind you of how stupid you were and also of suburban sadness and realizing that your high school crush will probably never love you back.
HIGH SOFT LISP
There are so many Love and Rockets comics out there that it's easy to get lost or confused by the mythology of Gilbert's and Jaime's characters. I always like reading the comics but sometimes it's hard to keep the characters and chronology straight. The trade paperbacks help a good deal, but still, it's rough sometimes.
This collection of Gilbert's comics focuses on Fritz, a perpetual victim who never seems to lose her optimism despite getting treated like garbage by every man she meets, especially the ones she marries. The back of this book describes it as one of Hernandez's sexiest, funniest, and most freewheeling of Gilbert's works yet. This book is incredible but I don't think it's sexy, funny, or freewheeling,whatever that means. This book is pure horror for me.
We watch Fritz in her various nightmare relationships with men, jumping backward and forward in time, from shitty dude to shitty dude--the one she keeps coming back to, Scott the Hog, being the most worthless of them all. The book shifts around from one perspective to another and the torture never stops. The world in this book is one I wouldn't want to live in but I can't stop thinking about the story of Fritz. I assume that there will be a companion book about her sister Petra who is almost as aggressive and controlling as Fritz is masochistic and passive.
HAMBURGER EYES - THE CONTINUING STORY OF LIFE ON EARTH - ISSUE 13
This isn't even almost a comic book but comics and zines and small press stuff is all in the same family. We are all brothers in brokeness and paper lust.
Hamburger Eyes continues to publish some of the absolute best photos you can find anywhere. Police holding down a woman dressed like a witch while they arrest her. This book has all the stuff you hear about in Eminem lyrics. "Blood, guts, guns, cuts/ Knives, lives, wives, nuns, sluts."
NEW CHARACTER PARADE NUMBER FOUR
Buena Ventura Press
Johnny Ryan's work is going into some dark places where there are less jokes. For a while it seemed like he'd settled in a comfortable style that was funny and offensive, but with that issue of Angry Youth Comics where Boobs Pooter destroys an entire family he took a decisive turn into much more intensely sadistic territory. That comic he did about the Christmas Spirit in the Fiction issue of Vice? That was terrifying to me. He's really into demons that corrupt the souls and bodies of characters and make them kill their loved ones before going to another dimension or plane of existence.
This little booklet is limited to 300 signed and numbered copies with a hand printed cover. It collects Johnny's sketchbook comics series "New Character Parade" in which each comic features a new character. A few of these are as scary as possible and some are fun and goofy like Obi Wan Slobbobi, who refers to his light saber as a "zim zam stick." If you like Johnny Ryan then buy this thing because they always sell out and are nice little objects that others will envy you for owning.
CITY HUNTER MAGAZINE #1
Fantasy Empire magazine Co.
This is a fold over mini-comic by C.F. and if you like C.F.'s work you'll pretty much want everything he does because his work is much pretty. The comic is silent and features City Hunter wandering around the CIty, a place that looks like it was inspired by the backgrounds from video games, while he searches for the city within the City. Trying to explain this too much is futile--it's confusing and that's what's good about it besides the pretty drawings. I love C.F.'s gratuitous use of a ruler in his drawings. I wonder if he'd sell me the ruler he uses or would trade it for a more fancy ruler. I would frame his ruler.
MARGINAL ECSTACY AND SECOND CONTACT
Lost Ghosts Records
These are nice books with silk screened covers that contain beautiful ink drawings with Pettibonish uses of text. Marginal Ecstacy comes with a CD that I haven't listened to. This is part of that Closed Caption Comics group and those guys mostly produce gold if you're into the world of beautiful comics and prints.
BASEMENT BOY PRESENTS: MY BEST PET #2
Nate Friebert and Lane Milburn
The Closed Caption Comic guys win every time in the fine art/print making/comics thing. That fold out box that turned into a giant silkscreen monster? That's one of the best things I've ever seen and their Cinders Gallery show was amazing. My Best Pet #2 has a really awesome silkscreened cover that's tactile and hostile. The comic is about a monster child who tortures his pets to death until he feeds bleach to his dog and it turns into a S&M monster man who leads him around on a leash. If you flip it over there's another comic but it's not as good. This is advised for those of you looking for weird and beautiful shit.
NIGHT BUSINESS #3
Ben Marra's back with another Night Business. The guy who protects strippers has been kidnapped and is being tortured in a warehouse. Once his kidnappers have ripped out his last fingernail his rage and drug-filled blood allow him to break free of his bonds and waste all of his enemies. Meanwhile the mysterious stripper-killer is still prowling the streets and a mysterious lingerie-wearing vigilante saves some would-be rape victims. This thing is an explosion of unsexy sex and super-sexy violence. If you don't know Ben Marra then you should. Idiot.
YOUNG LIARS: ROCK LIFE
David Lapham, for those who don't remember, was the genius behind Stray Bullets. Each issue of Stray Bullets was a self-contained story which added to a larger story, further detailing a carefully-laid-out narrative that starts in the 1970s. The individual issues were set backward and forward in time. Some mysteries are solved and new ones are created, all the while the major ones keep you wondering. It's got the mystery of Lost with the upsettingness and confusion of David Lynch and noir way beyond Frank Miller could ever hope to achieve with his adolescent nerd-fantasy shit. If you like comics then go read Stray Bullets. It was one of the best comics of the 1990s.
Stray Bullets ran for 40 issues before the financial demands of a family caused Lapham to abandon the series in search of Marvel and DC money. In the past few years he wrote and drew a bunch of mainstream comics that were all OK but not as strong as his previous work.
Young Liars: Rock Life collects the final six issues of the 18-issue series. I didn't realize there were other books in this series before reading this or it probably would have made more sense. Or maybe it wouldn't have. It's a confusing comic about a town taken over by spiders from outerspace who want to eat the main characters' brains. The main characters seem to blow up in their home in almost every issue and somehow come back. There's lots of characters with multiple names and identities and struggling to remember their real names and where they came from. It's dreamlike and less obnoxious about it's rock n' rollness than some comics featuring people who play instruments. I am looking at you, Killapalooza.
Pile of DEADPOOL comics
Who knew Deadpool was so good? Everyone but me I guess. Deadpool is a killer for hire who is insane and can't die. He regularly gets his arms and legs cut off and survives. He gets shot in the head with an arrow and it only causes him to act retarded until it's removed. Good gravy, what a great pile of comics this is. It gives me the goofy fun feeling I used to have reading superhero comics when I was nine.
It takes about 20 minutes to read this entire book even though it's 300 pages. Apart from looking at this from a "value for your dollar" standpoint, this is a really good book and Jason is a strong cartoonist. He does a lot with his simple-but-well-drawn characters and little to no dialogue. This hardcover volume collects his previous books Meow Baby, Tell Me Something, You Can't Get There From Here and The Living And The Dead. That thing I said about dollar value before? Scratch that. For $25 you get a nice sampler of what Jason can do. This is entirely worth owning.
It starts off with the contents of Meow Baby. Funny silent comics about cave men, Elvises, vampires, mummies, skeleteen, devils, and angels. It's pretty funny. The comics that follow it are mostly about tragic love. The first is between a poor guy and a rich girl, the next between a Frankenstein monster and Bride of Frankenstein monster, the final one between a poor guy and a prostitute in the middle of a zombie epidemic.
THE UNWRITTEN: TOMMY TAYLOR AND THE BOGUS IDENTITY
Mike Carey and Peter Gross
This isn't the next Preacher or Sandman but it's better than Fables. If you're not familiar with DC's Vertigo imprint, it's a little sub-company that produces work that is for a more mature audience but not that mature. I got into Sandman when I was 12 and was out of it by 17. When I hear adults talk about it, I can usually safely assume they are idiots. A lot of the comics within the Vertigo line are based in fantasy worlds and are gothish. They often have the sophistication level that you would expect from a decent sci-fi TV shows and really shitty art that gets the job done while otherwise sucking.
The Unwritten is a comic series about a guy who's father wrote a series of Harry Potter-ish books which feature a main character with his name and characteristics. Then the dad disappears and the kid grows up and makes a living by signing his dad's books at comic conventions. The Harry Potter wizard world turns out to be real and a good portion of the book involves the main character resisting the urge to believe in magick as it seeps into his life. Other characters come in who know who he is and some are villains and others are helpful buddies and he's all,"Ah, I don't really know what you're talking about, those are just books my dad wrote." the lettering is obnoxious and draws too much attention to itself. The final story in this trade paperback is about Rudyard Kipling being manipulated by an evil force, which is a very Sandmanny choice.
It's entertaining and a good time, much like the Harry Potter books. The story keeps moving forward and so far I am not bored. I'm not going to recommend these to people who aren't already into Vertigo's stuff. If you already have read and enjoyed the complete Sandman, Preacher, and Swamp Thing then you should probably go ahead and pick this up.
STAR WARS: THE THRAWN TRILOGY
When you're a Star Wars fan there's multiple levels of reality, both within and outside of the Star Wars world. With Star Wars, the integrity of the realness is decided by how far from George Lucas's hand the storybook/ videogame/ novel/ comic book/ role-playing game/ action figure is.
Anything George makes is considered "G-level canon." The 80s cartoon shows are T-canon, they have secondary priority. After that is C-canon which is like the books and comics. After that is S-canon. The S stands for "secret" because no one knows what this level of canon consists of. The final level of canon is N-canon which is "what-if" stories and appearances that the characters make on Doritos bags and shit like that.
Most of the time when you pick up a Star Wars book or comic you're doing it because you like the movies and want to continue experiencing things that felt like the movies. The problem with most Star Wars comics and books is that they don't look like the movies or feature interesting characters that you care about. They'll talk too much about how things work or military strategy instead of getting to the action.
This 437-page book is a comic adaptation of an early series of books that are set six years after Return of the Jedi. You open it up and bam, there's Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy, Lando and the other guys you think of when people bring up Star Wars. Way better than a bunch of pony-tailed Burning Man aficionados who somehow got lightsabers and talk in a nonsense language, like referring to the bathroom as the "refresher," coffee as "caf," or cigarettes as "deathsticks." It just gets closer and closer to being like, "Hey, robot, get in my space car and let's get some space pizza." I hope I'm not trying to insert adult stuff into a kids' thing where it isn't really there, but what were those illegal spices that Han was smuggling for Jabba the Hutt? Was it supposed to be drugs?
This is a big, long, arty sci-fi comic about a guy named Professor Panther and it takes place in the future. Panther travels to a smalltown school where a plant with strange properties grows wild. When smoked the plant allows you to experience the thoughts and feelings of people you are near. Panther gets into trouble while acting like a maniac and dating a high school girl. Eventually the town kills him and they shoot his ashes into space.
This book's not great. You have to hold the book lengthwise which makes it annoying to read. The art also seems to be ugly on purpose. It feels reminiscent of David Mazzuchelli's drawing style in Asterios Polyp except that Dash's line weights and shapes are inelegant and amateurish. His last comic seems to have been a big success and it seems like this one might sell well too. I personally think it's a big nothing.
I liked his comic about High School that he did for the Vice Fiction issue although I had the same problem with his art. I went to school with this guy and have been watching his evolution as an artist for years. I thought this book was ugly and boring but I'm probably the only one who feels that way.
EVERYBODY'S SCENE: THE STORY OF CONNECTICUT'S ANTHRAX CLUB
Butter Goose Press
Something tells me that this book isn't going to sell well. One reason is that nobody cares about Connecticut's punk scene. The other reason is that all the kids in the photos look awful. This isn't the same crowd from We're Desperate or any of the other books that document the punk scenes in LA, New York, or England. These kids are a lot more boring-looking and suburban. If it had been open when I was growing up I would have been spending all my time there. Maybe if you hung out there then this book will mean a lot. For me it means very little.
WUNDERKAMMER No. 1
Nicholas Di Genova
Koyama put out Glenn Deforge's comic, Lose, and some other stuff. They sent me a bunch of business to review and it was mostly pretty good but also years old. This thing was the recentest but it's kind of disappointing. It's a bunch of drawings of freaky animals drawn with angular lines and a shading style that bugs the shit out of me.
ARKITIP No. 52
Each issue of Arkitip is about a single artist and comes with some sort of additional item that relates to them. The last issue was about Shepard Fairey which is unforgivable. This one's better. Steven Harrington does line drawings of hippies in a 60s style of illustration. There are some photos of his fabric patterns, cut-out drawings photographed in the desert, and other drawings. It's pretty nice. Also it comes with what the magazine claims is a scarf but is really an unsubstantial piece of fabric that wouldn't keep a mouse's dick warm. As an object it is moderately nice.
With a title like that you'd think this was about teenage prostitues killing their pimps. Nope, it's the pencil sketches that photo-realistic comic artist and illustrator Alex Ross draws before making his paintings look like photographs of superheroes. I wonder if they got the title from that 2005 Rolling Stones song.
USAGI YOJIMBO: YOKAI
I'm always happy to read Usagi Yojimbo but never feel that attached to it. This is an exceptionally good Usagi story in which the bunny samurai has to fight a whole lot of Japanese demons and it's nicely colored in watercolor. If you think you might like a story about anthropomorphic samurai animals then you could read this.
HANK KETCHAM'S COMPLETE DENNIS THE MENACE 1961 - 1962
Some people might find it funny to watch as Dennis the Menace pisses off every adult in his vicinity, but I don't get it and I LOVE shitty old comics. Brush works pretty good, though.
MYSPACE DARK HORSE PRESENTS 4
It's weird to see that Myspace is still connected to anything now that it's become the abandoned stripmall of the internet, but here's this book, reminding you of the place where you bought a pair of sneakers five years ago.
There are some good comics in here. Farel Dalrymple always delivers with his sweater-rock/ex-severe-nerd vibe. His one here is about the little girl witches that he used in his comic that he did for Vice. Angie Wang blew everyone else in this book out of the water with her psychedelic comic about flowers and Asian girls. Chris Onstad did an Achewood strip about the cretins that swarm to yard sales. Guy Davis is the king of drawing monsters and he did a great job doing that. Everyone else sucked dick, especially the guy who does this popular webcomic called Sinfest. That comic is the biggest piece of shit in the world and it's readers are all ugly and stupid.
HOW HIGH AM I? A JOURNAL
No author or editor credited
This is a little green notebook that you are supposed to keep around when you're high and then you check off how high you are and note the date and any stupid high ideas you get. I feel like this was inspired by that website highdeas.com but they figured it would be cheaper to do it without crediting the site. Those fuckos. If you like pot so much that pot is your personality then you might as well buy this. Your life isn't going anywhere any time soon. Or ever.
I like how Weissman draws, all chubby lines and chubby characters, but his comics seem to be getting further and further away from a place where stories or characters exist. I guess that might be intentional, but I don't enjoy it. Some of his older comics had stories about these kids in a junior fireman squad and a cowboy club and shit like that, but with each book there's less and less going on. Now the strips are just about the kids sitting around and not doing or saying much of anything. I think it's supposed to be a takeoff on Peanuts. There's a bunch of mildy gross comics about weird-looking monster kids and then the book ends with a really dark longer story in which one of the kids' dad escapes from prison and murders his son's friend before kidnapping his son and running around. It's like a less Al-Columbia-ish Al Columbia and a less Peanuts-y Peanuts. I don't hate this but I do find it impossible to care about and the humor doesn't work for me. Humor's subjective, though, so what are you going to do.
NEWAVE! THE UNDERGROUND MINI COMIX OF THE 1980s
You've never heard of most of the cartoonists in this 892-page book, and for good reason: They are terrible. It's great when publishers go back and do a nice job archiving art that was lost to human memory, but there's a lot of stuff that wasn't so much lost as it was thrown away. A good portion of these are bad knock-offs of R. Crumb's approach to comics about sex and drugs. Some are straight-up pornography. There's a good J.R. Williams comic, and a couple drawings by Dan Clowes, There's some awesome Wolverton-ish stuff by someone named XNO and a smidge of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth material. There are maybe 20 passable pages that would have made an interesting mini-anthology and the other eight hundred and something that should've remained in the garbage bin of comics history.
M. K. Perker
Everyone in this comic looks deformed even though I think it's supposed to be the guy's drawing style. I imagine the characters speaking with down-syndrome accents.
AT BOTH ENDS ISSUE 9
This is a shitty hardcore magazine about shitty hardcore music and it comes with a seven-inch with a song by Bane and three bands I've never heard of. My roommate just pointed out that all the bands in this magazine look like barbacks from the Lower East Side, where you're not allowed to barback unless you are really REALLY into Avail and have plugs or had plugs at one point and your ears are all droopy and yucky.
SECRET ASIAN MAN: THE DAILY BASIS
This is a collection of daily strips about a crudely drawn Asian guy whose only personality trait is that he's Asian. If I led an anti-Asian group I would use this comic to convince my followers that Asians are bad people. This is like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for Asians.
It is pure shit and so I burned it. Well, it wasn't me. I had a topless superhero do it. Watch this video to watch Ryan Keely work her fiery magic.