Hello Lovers of Graphic Arts,
My name is Nick Gazin and for several years I have been writing a semi-regular comics column for VICE, although sometimes it shifts focus to fine art and illustration or even random nerdlery. This is that column.
The biggest comic news of the last month has doubtlessly been that Shia Labeouf ripped off a movie he made called HowardCantor.com from a Dan Clowes comic called Justin M. Damiano. It seems like the people who care at all are watching with morbid glee as Shia apologies via skywriting and tweets he plagiarized from Kanye West. Although I normally get enraged by any act of theft committed against cartoonists or artists, this time I didn't get mad. I'm surprised that more people don't recognize what Shia did as an act of self-destruction. What he did was wrong, but there was no possibility that people weren't going to immediately recognize that he swiped his movie from America's greatest living cartoonist. Pee Wee wasn't just trying to achieve orgasm when he was caught jerking off in the porno theater. Winona Ryder stealing wasn't just about dress ownership. It was something much darker and sadder. That's why I'm not mad at Shia Labeouf, even though he did something wrong.
Gary Panter has taken up the practice of making what he calls "hippy necklaces." He sent me this one, themed around my college obsession with Robin. I'm not sure if he's taking commissions to make more, but you should go to his site and check out the cool stuff he has for sale in the Gary Store.
Rick Altergott made a great Christmas card this year, as always. I wish this man was producing more comics but he's just started teaching an inking class at RISD. That's pretty boss. I wish I could take it. You can still get his comic, Doofus, from Fantagraphics.
The album art I did for El-P and Killer Mike's Run the Jewels got on a lot of "best album art of 2013" lists which was very flattering. You can buy a new, European bonus version with some of my updated art from Big Dada Records.
Paul Kirchner's great comic series, The Bus, from Heavy Metal Magazine is viewable here.
Here are 20 reviews of things.
One of the best new comics guys is Australian artist, Simon Hansellman. A few months ago there was this internet drama that seemed to be going on between him and me and Johnny Ryan. I didn't really understand what was happening until weeks later. But that's behind us now!
Simon's comics revolve around a witch lady that I think is supposed to be him, an owl man, a wolf guy, and a talking cat. Together, they get high and shit talk things and have misadventures! Like the great cartoonists, Simon is able to convey humor entirely with his drawings and his humorousness is loved by all. His stuff is sort of like CF and Ben Jones and the Simpsons.
I made this book one of my favorite books of 2013 in my blog but didn't say anything about it, so here's a little interview with Simon.
VICE: Why is it called Truth Zone?
Simon Hansellman: Frank Santoro asked me to do a "criticism" type thing for his blog. My girlfriend at the time and a mutual friend had been saying "Truth Zone!" a lot. I stole it from them. I always have me ears open around my friends for one liners and titles. (I think they may have gotten it from an episode of Bones)
How long have you been drawing your Truth Zone characters?
I started drawing witches a lot in 2007 and then that evolved into "Megg and Mogg". It was just goofy gag strips at first. Then it started evolving and now it consumes my every waking second.
How much of the content in Life Zone comes from your own life?
Mostly it's trading in metaphors and symbols i guess. I did work in a shitty camping store and was really fucked up from some ketamine there one day but it didn't get as messy as in the book. Everything i write is pretty much "autobiographical" but it's all teased and blurred.
Which character is most you or are they all you?
They're all just different depressed and hedonistic parts of me. They're all the voices in my head. If i had to pick one I'd go with Megg. More likely it's Werewolf Jones though, sadly."
Do you hate me?
No, of course not. All of my shots at you in Truth Zone are fairly affectionate. "Not all opinions in Truth Zone reflect the views of the publisher." I use the characters to espouse a lot of different people's opinions.
When we met briefly in Brooklyn, you said I had like an "arrogant voice" or something and asked if that's how I always talk. I guess it's just how I talk. I regret not making it to Mishka later that night and having you shoot me for your Girls Tumblr. Got distracted by all the Culkins at Union Pool.
We were talking before about how your comic is Simpsons-like in its humor. You said that you just rip off the Simpsons. Tell me more about Simpsons and Simon.
Well, I don't exactly rip off the Simpsons. There are "quotes" in Life Zone though. Like Owl saying "calm, blue ocean" as a relaxing mantra. That's just something Lisa's teacher said once. People quote the Simpsons like the Bible, so why not characters in other media? It's realistic that Megg and Mogg would quote the Simpsons. I'm 32. I grew up on that shit. I was a teenager when it was at its peak. It was HUGELY influential. During the three months I worked on Life Zone, I listened to the first ten seasons worth of Simpsons DVD commentary. Yesterday, Secret Headquarters emailed me and said Groening had come in and bought a copy of Life Zone. That's fucking CRAZY.
Get Life Zone here.
Donald Duck: Christmas on Bear Mountain
Carl Barks is one of those truly perfect cartoonists. It feels so good to have these books with beautiful Fantagraphics quality production sitting on my shelf. For those of you who don't recognize the name "Carl Barks" or know what the big deal is about Donald Duck comics, then you just have to crack open one of these books. You'll get sucked in.
Each comic story usually starts with Donald or his nephews going about their lives and then somehow they get sucked into an exciting adventure that takes them across the globe on a big crazy adventure. The Indiana Jones movies are based heavily on these comics.
Get it here.
Hellen Jo just keeps improving on creating images where the world is nothing but cute, Asian girls with long hair loitering around and having fun or being mean. Hellen did a few things for VICE before she got too big and went on to greener money. This is a zine of drawings of pretty drawings of Asian girls just being girls.
Get it here.
The Strange Tale of Panorama Island
Suehiro Maruo is maybe my favorite manga artist. He's famous for his erotic grotesque or ego-guro comics and illustrations. He makes images which are graceful and delicate, but show the most horrible images the human mind could imagine. The innocent gets punished and evil wins every time. There are intricate drawings of puppies smashed open and pretty girls being psychotic maniacs and seemingly gentle people transforming into snakes.
This book is a lot tamer than Maruo's usual fare and is an adaptation of a Japanese detective pulp novella by Edogawa Rampo. As a guy who doesn't read books very often, the story in this comic reminded me of the meta-writing style of Murakami.
A struggling novelist learns that his wealthy, former classmate who he was identical, to has died. He decides to take over the dead man's identity and soon builds a Caligula-esque pleasure island where naked ladies cavort. This is a very boss goth comic and if you doubt it's gothness, I will tell you right now: the comic ends with it raining blood.
Get it here.
Anya Davidson is a fresh, new voice in comics who slightly reminds me of Jack Kirby, Gary Panter, and Moscoso but not in a way that feels like a ripoff. The story is about two characters of vague genders who hang out in school and escape into their imaginations, where they see beautiful and strange things and worship a rockstar guru. There's more to it than that, but this is a story about bored teenagers and what makes them amazing.
Anya Davidson! More comics please! You'r work is a gift to the comics medium!
Get it here.
Usually, when people rely on narration in their comics, it's lazy. But Michael Deforge might be one of the top talents and minds of this current age of comics, so it works when he breaks the rules.
This is a little mini-comic in which the narrator tells a story about a friendship with a neighbor girl coupled with abstract drawings that aren't always related in an obvious way.
Michael Deforge is so great.
Check out his blog.
World Map Room
When you look at a book this weird and pretty, it's hard not to get sentimental about Picturebox ceasing publication of new work. I hated Dan Nadel when I first met him. I thought he was stiff and uppity and that he was trying to make comics as exclusive and formal as the fine art world. Over the years, I've grown to appreciate the man and his vision and even his stiffness. Anyway, now that Picturebox is done, he's selling all back stock for half-off. If you want this book, you can get it for just ten dollars.
Don't think that just because this is a Japanese comic that this is some goggly-eyed manga. This is some of the strangest and most forward-thinking work I've ever seen in the comics medium. In the last Yokoyama Picturebox production, we saw a world that was like a strange and beautiful dream. This time, Yokoyama makes work that is more like an exploration of what raw sensations feel like. It's hard to explain a work like this in words without resorting to bullshit critic speak, so I won't.
This is a comic unlike anything you've seen before.
Get it here.
Peter Bagge's Other Stuff
Even if you have the Hate collections, it's worth it to have the entire 30 issue run of Hate in single issue form. You get to see the covers and the color art and also the letters column and all these special things that appeared in the back. Some of those things are in this book. Many of those things are GREAT. If you are a young person who likes comics that are a little bit pissed off and not at all hippy-dippy, then dip your toes into the Pete Bagge pond.
There's collaborations in this book between Bagge and a lot of the greats: Crumb, Clowes, the Hernandez Brothers, Tomine, Danny Hellman, Rick Altergott, and Johnny Ryan. So get the book.
The only thing that isn't great about this book is the shitty cover. Come on man, what is that? Pete Bagge's done a lot of great cover art for his own comics and for albums and magazines but his recent cover work has been lacking by my standards. If Pete Bagge is reading this and getting steamed, I still think that you're a genius. I just think your past work was more graphically grabbing and interesting. This cover looks dashed off and it's a bummer, because it could have been great.
Get it here.
Gahan Wilson is sort of a lumpier Charles Addams who made comics that have appeared in National Lampoon, Playboy, and probably the New Yorker too. I don't really want to touch this book anymore because my roommate came home drunk once and puked all over it. It's a really nice book though, full of macabre humor and drawings of creeps and monsters and sci-fi stuff.
Get it here.
Donald: Norske Historier
I had asked VICE TV star, Thomas Morton, to buy me bootleg Tintin merchandise on his trip to Europe but instead he brought me back this Donald Duck comic.
This comic begins with Uncle Scrooge annoying Donald and his nephews with his greed at Christmas. Scrooge tells them a story of being a poor, young child who drove a coal cart and met a young woman living at an Oliver Twist-style orphanage/work house. He helps vanquish the bad guy in a scene that is sort of like a Dickensian version of the climax of Terminator 2. At the end Huey, Dewey, and Louie have a new-found appreciation for Uncle Scrooge who looks lovingly at his childhood orphan love.
I was able to tell what was going on in this comic despite it being written in some Scandinavian language. Nick Bertozzi says that if a comic is well-crafted, you'll be able to follow the story without having to read it. It's true. If you're making a comic and it's unfollowable or uninteresting when you remove the text, then you are probably making garbage.
Get it here.
Revival House Press
Ted May is back with a comic of short vignettes showing the spectrum of men's emotions. As you might guess, all of their feelings are disgusting. In this comic, we see men discuss their dumps with strangers, stare into people's homes, takes shits so awful that they tearfully call their moms, gamble with intense focus, complain about how awful marriage is, cry from watching sports, choke several times, and then finally learn to find intense peace and joy by sticking your head out the window and experiencing nature.
Ted May is always pretty good and this book is also a pretty good little meditation on the male part of the human condition.
Get it here.
Scene But Not Heard
Topshelf Kids Club / Alternative Comics
Sam Henderson is one of the great guys of modern comics who makes you laugh. He's done a regular series called Magic Whistle which is funny in a way where he's deconstructing humor without being pretentious AND he still delivers the laughs.
Before he made Magic Whistle, before he wrote episodes of Spongebob, before all the money and drug problems and glamor, most of us were exposed to Sam Henderson through the comics collected in his new book, Scene But Not Heard. These one- or two-page silent strips originally appeared in the dearly missed Nickelodeon Magazine which had a great comics section printed on newsprint. The comics are about a human and a bear in which they explore the possibilities of comics. In many ways, Scene But Not Heard is a retread of Harvey Kurtzman's groundbreaking Hey Look! series. But that's okay. It's okay to imitate the guy who created the modern idea of how humor works in America.
Get it here.
Time Wars Episode One
This is a poorly-published, mini-comic, but the work is strong. I think Andrew will go places. Everything Andrew does is very pretty.
Check out Andrew here.
Two teenaged losers walk around town while high on LSD in a world that looks exactly like Sammy Harkhwam drew it. I didn't like teenagers when I was one and I never liked sentimentality. I really like Sammy Harkham, but there's already a Sammy Harkham and I don't need two Sammy Harkhams.
I recommend this book to the self-involved and boring teenagers who I never liked. They can buy it here.
Jim Rugg is a pretty good illustrator and a really bad graphic designer. The cover to this magazine-sized collection of his illustrations and comics is so amateurish that I had it for months before I even knew it was by him.
When you open it up, there are these two good black and white images. Both would have made for much better covers to this magazine. Then there was a poster for something and then some cover art for a romance comic and then a drawing of Glenn Danzig and Henry Rollins in a Tom of Finland style from Henry and Glenn Forever. Then there's a beautiful and detailed black and white illustration of a girl playing pinball.
At first, I thought this was an anthology book because everything is drawn in a different style, most of them sort of emulating other popular cartoonists. On the inside front cover there's two Brian Bolland knockoffs, there's some Chris Ware imitation, a Dan Clowes ripoff, some Jordan Crane, and a generic "cartoon animal" style.
Although he is clearly a skilled illustrator, there is something very empty to Jim's work for me. He is technically good, but not great. I wonder if he has any real feelings or identity. It seems like maybe Jim Rugg is the kind of guy who is really into the idea of being an illustrator but isn't much into being a person.
Get it here.
It Came From Outerspace
Helen Penelope Gazin is my bratty kid sister. She's twenty-three and has a career in the arts that is quickly eclipsing mine. She is mad at me because I was born first and our parents love me more. I am mad at her because she rips me off. We are quite a pair.
Anyway! She made this zine by collecting illustrations she made, some of them originally appearing in the pages of VICE. For the most part, the work in this zine is watercolor or gouache portaits based on photo reference, but then the faces have added mutations.
Some of the pieces in this zine work really well and some don't. The ones that fail do so because the grotesque elements don't feel real. When you draw things that don't exist in real life, I think it's important to try to simulate the textures and anatomy that you've witnessed in nature in order for the work to be affecting. There's a real nice painting of a skull with red drawings on it that works and her cover for Sweet Valley's record works. There's also a strong portrait of Kim Kardashian as a monster with two sets of boobs.
I guess my sister's strong points would be her portraiture skills. Her weak points are leaving certain parts of her paintings unresolved. Her text and linework could be more considered. As a zine, this is better quality than most things out there, what with its fancy card stock cover and color pages, but she didn't leave enough room for the bleed and so a lot of the images are cropped badly.
Get it here.
Some of the portraits in this little book are good. Some are very nice. None of them are really great, though. The drawings in this book would be a pleasant Tumblr, but as a hardcover book they just don't quite deliver much. The drawings aren't bad but they aren't beautiful.
Get it here.
Mean Dog Comics
The art has this stiff, awkward style that reminded me of Michael Kupperman's work so I thought it would be funny like Michael Kupperman. Sadly, the writing is as stiff as the art.
Check out Nick here.
Sex With ET 7"
My record player is still broken but how great is this art? Great art.
Get it here.
Banana Button with Sunglasses
Stephanie is making these great clay, hand-painted buttons.
Get yours here.