Nick Gazin's Comic Book Love-in #64

By Nick Gazin

Hey You!,

I drew the flyer for this series of shows that Impose is hosting at San Diego Comic Con. I won't be there but it looks pretty good to me. Viv Girls, Grass Widow, John Maus. Go to it if you can.

Sam Henderson is a movie maker now. Here's what he had to say about them: "I've been making these little films and hopefully if I make one a month something will become of them. What exactly, I don't know."

Check out Ayu Nakata's stuff.

Check out this guy, Daniel Guerrero Fernandez.

There's a new Johnny Ryan Prison Pit toy. Buy it if you want it and can afford it. 

Check this out, someone made a video in which puppets based on Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore argue about Before Watchmen. It's hilarious especially if you're familiar with these cartoonish geniuses.

Chris Onstad, the genius cartoonist behind Achewood has a daughter, and that daughter did this drawing of Tinkerbell, who she apparently hates.

Look at this amazing Alex Toth drawing of the golden age Sandman. Alex Toth is the master of black ink shadows. His placement of blacks is probably without peer.

My brother made this statue. It's called "Searching For Hugs."

Here are reviews of some comics I got in the mail.

Anouk Ricard
Anna & Froga
Enfant

Good graciousness, what a comic! This is a 40-page hardcover comic full of very funny comics that are appropriate for kids but have a sophisticated sense of humor that adults will like whether they are parents or not. It's basically like a European BD volume, like the Smurfs or Tintin. The main character is a human girl of indeterminate age named Anouk. She pals around with a frog in red boots named Froga, a cat named Ron, and a dog named Bubu. Althouh this sounds ilke it could be the setup of a bland children's book, all of the characters have defined personalities with strengths and flaws and are all basically likable.

The art is just flat-out beautiful and there's something about the way Froga is drawn that is hilarious every time you see her. This book collects a bunch of comics that are usually only a few pages long and then some samples of the characters' art and things like that. If you like Leslie Stein, Marc Bell, or Ines Estrada, get this. If you don't like those people then you should still get this. This is my essential book of the week. It's great. Get it. 

The Uncolored Book For You To Color
Matt French
Schiffer Publishing

Matt is a skater who does a lot of art for Volcom and has a great juvenile delinquent art style that looks like some of the best blacklight posters, skateboard art, and show posters you ever saw. If you're an artist trying to figure out how to do good-looking commercial black-and-white art then flip through this book. He employs pretty much every shading technique you can get out of black and white. Most importantly, he hardly ever draws skulls, which every lazy artist who wants to be cool does these days. Look at your own work. If there are skulls in more than 15 percent, then you need to sit and work on your imagination.


Ding Dong
Edited by Penelope Gazin

This is a comic anthology my sister made. She also drew the cover. Its spine is stitched up with a sewing machine, which is pretty cool. She also did a one-page comic about how to meet girls and illustrated a story that my dad wrote. I drew a portrait of my dad but she rejected a comic in which I made fun of her drawing ability. So it's a real family affair. 

The other contributors are mostly CalArts students. The highlights are Patrick Harpin, who has a real strong Spumco style, and Mikey Ray-Von, who has a Ben Jones style. Plus, my sister did a nice cover and comic, and Kai Wu has his own thing going and is going to blow up. Charlene Yi, the comedian, also contributed some funny single panel gags. Good job on this, Helen. 

Avengers: The Ultimate Guide to the Earth's Mightiest Heroes
Scott Beatty, Alan Cowsill, Alastair Dougall
DK Press

I was all set to shit all over this book, but man, this is like the best bathroom book ever. Just pick it up and flip to any page and you're hit with some primo Avengers trivia. There's profiles of all the characters, detailed descriptions of all the key issues, wrap-ups of the Avengers major story lines, you name it. There's nothing about the movie, which is fine with me because the movie is fucking garbage. I like this book about a million times more than I liked that shitty movie. And what's up with that new Spiderman movie? I heard it sucked. How can you have a cool Peter Parker? What the fuck is that? Anyway, this book is a lot of fun and feels kind of like looking at Wizard magazine when it still existed. I miss Wizard. I wish Wizard came back. Boooo hoooooo.

Dethbook 01
Actual Pain

This is a full-color, oversize photo zine full of pictures of goths and sea-punks looking cool or corny and being pretty and humorless. It's not bad but it kinda looks like a look book or a catalog. There isn't much humor in these photos, and what I like best about TJ, who runs Actual Pain, is his jocularity. I like his aesthetic too, but this zine feels like it's a lot of Tumblrs I've seen. Also, calling it "Dethbook" makes it seem like it's connected to Dethklok.

My American Summer
Jon Burgerman
Burger

I met Jon Burgerman through Lamour Supreme. He's an English artist who's hanging out in America and making some art. He showed up with his cute girlfriend at my house while I was asleep, and came inside to give me this while I was in my underwear. Jon has a nice, energetic line and sense of shape and color, for the most part. I love his cartoony senses but he has a tendency to do this layered Picasso shit that I think looks crummy. When he draws cartoon people and apples with faces he wins every time, though. This is just a collection of colored sketchbook pages so I reserve my judgement until I see his more serious stuff. 

Nurse Nurse
Katie Skelly
Sparkplug Books

This book collects the seven-issue Nurse Nurse mini-comics into one handy volume. I like the way Katie draws. It reminds me of the way Zach Hazard used to draw, and there's sort of a Junko Mizuno influence with the content, I think. It's a pleasant, simple cartoony style. The comic follows Nurse Gemma, a space nurse, as she goes from planet to planet having adventures. She goes to Venus and Mars and meets space pirates and there's sex and drugs. And then the book ends. I don't know if there's much of a story arc in this comic but it might have made more sense as individual mini-comics. It doesn't seem to build or explore much. I'm not sure if there's much of a core to the story. Gemma seems lost and confused in general and I don't know if we ever figure out what she wants or if she ever does anything proactive in the story.  

Furry Trap
Josh Simmons
Fantagraphics

How the fuck did this talentless loser get Fantagraphics to publish a hardcover book of his comics?! I mean, congratulations and all, but this is garbage. Depending on the month I get comic submissions who make work that's basically the same as this. This guy tries to making work that has a shock or horror or gross-out appeal, but it's just nothing. His drawings might be serviceable if he was a great writer, but the whole thing's a waste. 

The first comic in this book starts of with a cartoony-looking comic set in a fairies-and-elves style fantasy. An elven couple frolic and are happy. An evil wizard and his pet dragon conspire to fuck with the happy couple. We cut back to the couple who are having innocent fun, but their poses suggest at first that they're fucking in different positions. Then the dragon and the wizard show up to cause them trouble and the male elf slices up the dragon before raping a hole in the wizard's throat and enthusiastically extolling the  virtues of rape. The lady elf is terrified and then he hugs her, pressing his bloody boner against her. The rest of the book is basically more of the same. There's a comic about Batman but Batman's gone crazy and he's torturing homeless people. There's a set-up of something you think might be an innocent situation, and then some torture porn or whatever happens. It's not beautiful or interesting and it feels lame. 

People love to submit comics that are a lot like this because their perception of what is "VICE" is wrong. They think, "Oh, VICE shocks me, so they like shocking material. I'll submit some comics I made that I think are shocking." The problem is that making work that is genuinely shocking is hard, and if you try and fail to be shocking then you're usualy not left with much.  

When I was little, the comics that I liked that shocked me were The Maxx, Sandman, EC comics, Spawn, R. Crumb, Jack Chick tracts, Taboo, The Spirit, and maybe some others. I was a real sensitive kid and was easily upset. These comics were both alluring and horrifying to me. I was ten though. Now I just see them all as beautiful in one way or another. The last panel of the final issue of Angry Youth Comix genuinely shocked me. I said, "WHOAAAA..." aloud upon Boobs Pooter finally revealing this other side of his personality. I should also mention that I never saw any value in that cartoonist who did Schizo. I don't remember his name but he always struck me as phony, and then went and proved it by doing a cleaned-up style and getting in with the New Yorker.

Shocking art has value. Good art can shock, but shock fades fast. John Waters has observed that his style of humor in Pink Flamingos basically became mainstream with Something About Mary, where Cameron Diaz walks around with cum in her hair and that's the big joke of the movie. You have to make something beautiful first and foremost. Or it can be funny. Or it can be interesting. Going for cheap shock value is for high school lunch tables. However, if you love this book, say so in the comments. I'll get you in touch with 50 cartoonists who do stuff just like this. 

Both horror and comedy are completely subjective, and concepts of what these things are often change. A basic element of shock or horror is that we have to care about the characters and forget that we're reading a horror story, or they themeselves have to deeply connect with something at the base of our psyche. If there's no investment in the universe of the story then there's no reason to be bothered by the events that happen within it. 

Finally I'd like to just say: THERE IS ONLY ONE JOHNNY RYAN AND UNLESS YOU ARE JOHNNY YOU WILL NEVER BE JOHNNY RYAN. 

Here's the Moebius image of the week. See you next time.

Previously - Nick Gazin's Comic Book Love-In #63

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