I’m Nicholas Gazin and this is my weekly column in which I review comics, zines, art books, and anything people want to send me for free that I think has aesthetic merit. Sometimes the length of the weeks between these columns can last months due to distractions but I'll always return with news of what's happening in the world of beautiful paper goods.
Here are some beautiful things that I think you should know about.
Cavegirl Monologue by Heather Benjamin (Sacred Bones)
It’s cool that Sacred Bones have turned their love of quality object making to art books and it’s very neat that they made this book of Heather Benjamin drawings. The book starts with a great introduction about female sexuality by Reba Maybury that includes the phrase, “There is no progression without discomfort.” And then the book presents the beautiful and gross drawings of Heather Benjamin which depict bestial women with floral labias, lots of beautifully rendered body hair, blood that flows in parallel lines like the circuits on a circuit board, cracked brick walls, spiders crawling on everything and more beautiful and innovative techniques. The tone of Heather’s drawings are often very similar. At the center of most of her compositions are similarly intimidating and inhuman women-like creatures. Watching her add new techniques to what she does is exciting. She’s always evolving and it’s exciting to see the new things she’s made. Every zine, print, and book of her work is mandatory to own.
I decided to check in with Heather.
Nicholas Gazin: What are you enjoying drawing lately?
Heather Benjamin: Lately I have been obsessed with drawing cowgirls. Last year it was sphinxes, so there's a ton of those in the book. The cowgirls are a really recent development, like the last few months, so I haven't really shown any of them yet and there aren't any in the book. So far it's just been singular cowgirls but I think I'm working up to building like, big girl gangs of them that all hang out together, kind of like vivian girls crossed with greek sirens crossed with the sailor scouts.
Do you have a favorite image in this book?
My favorite image from the book is one of the newest pieces I included in it, made right before we went to print this past spring. It's a gouache painting on paper of a close up vagina and Saturn rising above it. It was kind of an experiment for me since I typically draw full figures including faces and this is a zoomed in close up. I haven't made anything like it since, but I like how different it felt.
Go-Bots #1 by Tom Scioli (IDW)
Tom Scioli drew the surprisingly beautiful and smart Transformers Vs. GI Joe comic and he’s back making another comic about a line of Japanese transforming robot toys from the 1980s.
The plot is that humans are living with intelligent robots that can turn into cars and planes and stuff and some of the robots start to go crazy and turn on humans, breaking Asimov’s first rule of robotics. It seems like every story with robots involves them going against their programming and killing humans though. They should change the first rule of robotics to “Robots will somehow reject their programming and rise up against their human masters about 85 percent of the time.”
The story’s fine but it’s mainly a thing that allows Tom Scioli to draw beautiful sequences of cool things happening. This feels like an art object meant to mimic the feelings that Tom recieved from reading comics as a kid. The art’s overly colorful and hazy. What if Larry Rivers made comics? They might feel like this.
What made you want to make a Go Bots comic?
Tom Scioli: My imagination just kept going there. I had the toys when I was a kid so they occupy a space in my psyche. I like the name. It’s memorable. There was a lot of untapped potential. I like how massive the original logo is, even though we ended up going with a different one.
Do you notice how often your characters say the word "Go Bots" in the first issue? It's almost like a rhythmic choice.
“Gobots” was used a lot in my Transformers vs GIJoe series. It was a pejorative term used by the Joes to describe the alien robots from Cybertron. I think it’s a great word.
Do you see yourself making more comics based on popular 1980s toys?
I’ve done Gobots and Transformers and found very different things to say about each of those very similar seeming properties, so I think I’d have no trouble coming up with a unique take on He-Man or Bravestarr or something. It would be pretty funny if I became the go-to guy for 80s toys comics. I don’t see a difference between that and doing Batman or something. In fact I have a little more of an affinity for those things since they’re from my era. Batman and Captain America and all those guys are from the 30s and 40s. As much as I like them, they feel a little more stale. There’s more clunkiness in the classic superheroes that you have to work around.
Are you choosing your comic subject matter so that you can say very personal things without people assuming that they're intimate views into your thoughts and feelings?
It’s nice having that plausible deniability.
Box by Haejin Park (Pyrite Press)
Haejin makes floral psychedelic watercolor shit that is both over stimulating and calming at once. She’s a member of the PLUM art collective and is arguably the Karl Wirsum of that group. This 34-page zine collects an illustrated story written from the point of view of a shape-shifting narrator who seems to be smothering a woman who hides from the character inside a box. The narrator describes turning into a banana when the woman in the story is hungry and then transforming into her shit when she uses the bathroom.
This comic could be about an abusive relationship with another human or maybe giving a personality to depression or negative thoughts. I am unsure but the art is so pretty that I don’t think that trying to untangle the meaning of the words is necessary. You can just let it wash over you like a wave of beautiful sensation and accept it for it’s intrinsic goodness.
I talked to Haejin about Box.
What’s Box about?
Haejin Park: To remember back, I was thinking about self destructive habits that are natural but feeling guilty when done. And struggling with the inner voice that keeps saying what’s good and bad. And the story itself repeats at the end back to the first page so it’s kind of never ending question and struggle to find the balance or to be just good. I referenced a lot of my personal struggle with mental health and religion.
High Heel And Corset Revue: A Unique Collection of Bizarre Photos (Vasta Editions) by Vasta Eros In the past, colleges would buy large archives of zines and small press relating to punk. Apparently they’re all trying to build up their human sexuality archives now so they’re buying up the stuff that Vasta Eros have been selling for years. Vasta is a father and son business that deals in selling old small press adult periodicals, bondage catalogs from the fifties, drag queen and cross dressing magazines from the early 70s, Screw, and all sorts of other bizarre, beautiful, and gross old pornos.
They finally have started documenting and sharing the best of what they deal in with this zine. High Heel And Corset Revue contains some highlights from various early digest-sized bondage magazines of the 50s and 60s. This is a really nicely produced zine and I’m hoping there are more to follow it, preserving and sharing the beauty of historic perversion.
White Rasta Pasta Vol. III by Anthony Quintero, Will Manville, Paul Rouseaeu, Jordan Bogash (Coloured Publishing)
White Rasta Pasta is a zine with a bunch of photos of white people with dreadlocks next to funny made up stories about the kind of people they might be. It’s pretty good! Devin Troy Strother published this and that guy is the best.
That's it for this week!
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