Nick Gazin's Comic Book Love-in #36

By Nick Gazin

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Hey You Graphical Novellers,

Thanks for returning to read another one of my weekly comic book teardowns. I know I missed the last couple weeks but I was busy doing all kinds of other shit. If you're in Manhattan check out the Halloween window display I made for Metropolis Vintage, a used clothing store on 3rd Avenue and 10th street. They have a lot of Beatle boots for sale.

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Also I wrote this article about Dragon Con for VICE and this about the New York Comic Con, again for VICE.

In comic news:

1) The new Batman: Arkham City video game is out and everyone is talking about how great it is. I haven't played it yet. I think the concept of Arkham Asylum is corny but I love the idea of a video game that makes you feel like you're Batman, so we'll see.

2) Geof Darrow is going to complete his totally awesome Shaolin Cowboy comic series after all these years.

Now for some reviews. From best to worst, here's what I skimmed recently.

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#1
Eye of the Majestic Creature
L. Stein
Fantagraphics

Leslie Stein is a pretty lady who made a comic in which she is a cute/gross little humanoid with eyes that are like coins and a best friend who is a guitar. Her comical alter ego is named Larry Bear and her guitar's name is Marshy. They live in a house in a field, but it's pretty clear that almost everything they experience is some joked-up fantasized autobiographical story. It's hard to know what's based on reality and what isn't, and which characters are based on real folks and which are just supposed to be Leslie's internal feelings personified. During one sequence Larry builds a coffee cart so she can sell coffee door to door. She wanders around, pushing this cart through pastures. Then we see her go to a party with people she knew in high school. Then she goes and buys pointless junk that is fun. Then she has a lousy family dinner. Towards the end she's working in a studio, bejeweling cell phones until the glue gives her hives. It's a very specific kind of awful job that young creative types will take out of desperation. Those jobs are the absolute pits except for the part where you can often show up very late.

Leslie's work communicates an urban loneliness that I relate to a lot, seeing as we live in the same place. It's cute and sad and familiar, especially if you're 30 or under. Leslie also drinks a lot of Maker's Mark in this comic. Here's this short interview I did with her.

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VICE: The main character, Larry Bear, is you, right? Leslie is Larry?
Leslie Stein: Yep!

How accurate is Larry as far as being your self image? How long have you been drawing yourself as Larry?
I drew Larry for the first time in the first panel of the book and kept going. She was pretty grotesque-looking at the beginning of the series, but now she's morphed into something a little more cute.

I think for the most part she represents the lighter side of my personality. I'm happy when I'm drawing and I hope that comes across through her on the page, in whatever situation she is in. She dresses a bit weirder than I do, so that's fun. I'm not really a shy person, but I feel like I'm constantly embarrassing myself. She doesn't have that self-consciousness.

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What's the heavier side of your personality like?
Melancholic. Easily annoyed. Self-centered... but then I beat myself up a lot, too. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. Not a great thing to be, but then again it motivates me to exercise a lot.

Is Marshy, your living guitar, based on anyone alive?
Not really, no.

The redheaded reggae enthusiast friend of yours is also in here, right? I remember him being happy when I bought a Lee Perry compilation record.
Was that at Kim's on St. Marks? That's where I met him back when I got a job there in 2002. He's a huge reggae/dub fanatic. His name is Bruno. He's the best.

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Oh yeah! He is a nice guy. You were in the Woods with him, right? Is that a different band than the band that's calling themselves the Woods right now?
Yep, we've been playing music together for years. I named us the Woods, and then we learned about the other Woods, and they started getting very popular so we changed our name, twice. Right now we are Prince Rupert's Drops, pretty much the worst band name ever. Thanks, Bruno. We still play together.

I've since become friends with Woods. Right now I'm in San Francisco for APE, and I went to see Woods play in Golden Gate Park. There were tons of people there and they were really good. I missed Robert Plant play that night to go to my signing in Berkeley... no one came!

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What about the horrible family dinner? That was all real, right?
That was truly a horrible evening. I had to leave a lot out in order to smoosh it into the comic. I actually feel bad I wrote about it, in some ways, but I felt it was important to show a bit of where Larry came from. Everyone's family is dysfunctional, so I've had folks say they relate to it, and that's very important to me.

And Seashell, is she real?
Yep, she's based on one of my best friends, Kirsten. We lived together in San Francisco and then again in New York. She's hilarious. When we were living in SF she used to wear crystals around her head and would run around wrapped in an American Flag. I think she had a staff at one point. She's really into science fiction and fantasy. Also, she's a classically trained pianist.

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In your book you live in a house in the middle of a field, but then you go to places in New York and work awful jobs. The comic is a pleasant mix of fantasy and reality, which I like a lot. I wish I lived in a house far away from everything.
Do you? You seem so social. That's one of the reasons why I made up the series in the first place, I've always wanted to "live away from it all," but so far I've been a consistent city dweller.

The part where you describe working for a company that bedazzles cell phones was pretty wretched. I've worked at jobs that felt like that and had friends who worked at photo and design firms where the feeling in the air was always,"What the fuck are we doing here? The bosses are insane and this business is totally unsustainable." What are you doing for a living now?
I work at a bar/restaurant. Right now I'm a server but I've worked almost every job within the restaurant industry, except for in a fancy kitchen. It's a famously good job for us artistic types, because you can get away with working three nights a week. Also it forces me to be social, which is good. It sharpens you up a bit.

I think it should be mandatory for everyone to work in that industry for six or so months. People need to know how to act and, more importantly, how to tip properly. Also, how else am I gonna make money so I can draw my comics?

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#2
Bullworthless
By Wizardfistfight and Dangercock666

This is a weird one. Two girls got together and made a gay porn fanzine of drawings about the male characters from the video game Bully kissing and jacking each other off.The weirdest part is how great the drawings actually are. They're kind of like Tomer Hanuka's work. Bully was a really awesome video game and I think about it every fall. It was the first Rockstar video game I played that seemed optimistic and I was able to beat. Anway, the drawings are really good so I emailed one of the people who made it and asked them what the deal was.

VICE: What made you want to do a gay fantasy porn zine about Bully?
Bullworthless:
Well, the first thing that drew me to Bully as soon as it came out was the poorly-kept secret that you, as a 15-year-old private school boy, could make out with other boys as a sort of Easter egg. Jack Thompson and other evangelical types were all over how DISGUSTING that was, so of course it only made us want to play it more. Jimmy Hopkins is the tough, 15-year-old bad-ass punk we all wish we could have been in high school, I think amidst that environment was the boy-on-boy action me and [my partner in crime] love so much. I'm pretty sure it was her idea to make a zine about it in the first place.

How's the zine selling?
I've moved a decent number of copies online, to a small but devoted community of what seems to be mostly young women interested in all things gay sex at Bullworth Academy. Greasers, preps, jocks—they seem to love seeing all of them goin' at it with each other. I've tried to move it amidst my gay fan base but it's difficult when I'm not using an alias they recognize or my usual blog. It's actually become a much more subversive zine than we ever intended, which is fine by me.

Are girls actually into guys offing each other? Who is this zine for?
OF COURSE girls are into seeing dudes all over each other. At least some girls are. That's one of the main reasons I make any art like this, because it's something girls want to see. But there never seems to be enough of it around, tailored specifically for us. No pretty boys, just real and raw punks, please. Gay dudes are totally welcome to enjoy it if that's what they're into, but I make this stuff with the ladies in mind, because that's what I am.

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How many of these did you make?
There exist about 70 copies of this zine, but I'm sure I've distributed a big chunk of that either online or to my collaborator in Virginia, as well as to friends and other unsuspecting victims/artists.

Where can people buy a copy?
You can buy a copy at Desert Island in Williamsburg! Or directly from us.

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#3
Fashion Cats
Takako Iwasa
VICE

We published this book of cute cats in cute costumes. This is both really cute and really weird. I love it. If you like pretty kitties looking fancy then don't take meow word for it. Go down to the store and meow meow meow meow meow.

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#4
Swallow Me Whole
Nate Powell
Top Shelf

Nate Powell's a really rad guy who used to be in a party punk band called Soophie Nun Squad. I'm not so into this book. I find it hard to want to read. A lot of the word balloons are too small to read and I can't see anything likeable or relatable about his characters. There's a dark-haired high school girl who looks mad all the time and her younger brother who always looks kind of dopey. I don't really feel like I ever know what's going on with them. Their parents are these out of touch people, and I find them the most relatable because I don't know what's wrong with their kids either. It's like the comic is full of assholes who talk too quietly.

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My other problem is that Nate is really into this parallel line style of shading that I think is distracting and a little clumpy-looking. Chester Brown uses diagonal parallel lines as his main shading technique, but he does it sparingly. I think Nate overdoes it and often is using this technique when it feels unnecessary or doesn't describe what the things he's shading actually feel like or the way the light is bending around them. This is all just me. I spend a lot of time trying to draw good parallel lines. Sometimes I do them well and sometimes not. Sorry that I wrote this.

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#5
The Joker
Daniel Wallace
Universe

Chip Kidd should have made this book. If he was busy the publishers should have waited until he had free time. The images in this coffee table book about the Joker jump back and forth in time, seemingly with no sense. You'll see a cutout photo of Heath Ledger on the left page and then a full page of Batman comics from 1951. The natural thing to do here would be to organize this book chronologically. The modern (often ugly) images clash with the older images and there seems to be little thought put into their relation.

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This book was designed by my friend Chris McD who I think is wildly talented, so I'm going to place the blame on the editor, Daniel Wallace. It's a real shame because this could easily be a great book showing the evolution of the character from the inspirational imagery to early appearances and any sketches that might exist, but ultimately the book's layout just kills the fucking thing.

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