Hello, VICE readers,
My name is Nick Gazin, and I am VICE's art edtor. A long, long time ago I used to review comic books and zines in this column and list them from best to worst. The last time I did this was in January.
A lot of things have happened since then. I have gone from being VICE's freelance non-official comics expert to the part-time, completely official art editor. We have also increased the amount of comics on the VICE site, and plan to add even more. So you are welcome for that.
Also, Anya Davidson, who does our Friday comic, Band for Life, was nominated for an Ignatz Award. She didn't win it, but Fishbone became giant fans of hers and invited her to hang out with them backstage at a show. There is no award as good as having Fishbone want to be your friend.
I spent my summer doing art for the second Run the Jewels record and merch campaign. Get it from Mass Appeal Records if you want.
Here are my reviews for this week.
Megahex is a hardcover collection of mostly older work by Simon Hanselmann, who does the Megg, Mogg, and Owl comic that appears weekly on this very site. Megahex collects stories of three roommates: a witch named Megg, her cat/boyfriend Mogg, and their nebbish pal Owl, who is a big talking owl guy. They also have a group of friends who come around. Together they get drunk, high, abuse one another, have adventures, fights, and get hurt while trying to stave off depression. This book is inevitably going to be number one on a lot of "best of the year" lists. Every page is beautiful. Every joke is funny. Every character is a complete asshole. The book itself is a nice chunky hardcover with some good heft and a cover design that is made to resemble a DVD box set of a TV show. Every element of the book is drawn by Simon except the barcode, and it is a very special object.
I did a little interview with Simon about Megahex, and here it is.
VICE: Are any of the characters directly based on people you know?
Simon Hanselmann: Yeah, kind of. Amalgams of people. Some nice, some horrible. It's been amusing to read reviews that say how horrid and repellent all the characters are and how nobody would ever want to associate with them. It's been a revelation. I am a horrible person and nobody should associate with me.
Megg, Mogg, and Owl are at least sort of based on characters from some English cartoon show that you didn't create at all. How did you decide to remake them in your own image?
It was a total fucking accident. Like Flubber. Interesting history side-note for scholars: The first MMO strips were conceived and drawn almost within weeks of my arriving in the UK for a two-year stay. I was living in Richmond upon Thames, where Meg & Mog illustrator Jan Pienkowski lived for a time. I think he had his civil partnership there. I was unaware of this fact at the time. Shit was DESTINY. (Don't get me started on my Seth Cohen/Eric Reynolds theories. Everything is linked and I have followed through the snow the markers laid by the universe.)
Is Booger supposed to be made of boogers?
No, Booger is made of marzipan (and 10 percent polyester).
You're an Australian living in Australia. Do you see the characters all having Australian accents? Is the comic set in Australia?
No. They're not Australian. I see them as living in a generic, made-up Western-ish country. That said, I'm pretty into them being potentially French. I'd want money for it, though.
In many ways Owl is the hardest character to totally understand. He is this bullied nerd when he's with his friends, but somehow he gets laid a lot and has a secret rage and willingness to fight strangers. Do you see Owl as the most complex character?
Owl's just a drunken wallflower. Booze is his spinach, and it allows him to seduce women and have some semblance—some minor fucking shred—of self-confidence (sometimes). He's malleable and adaptable, though. I'm looking forward to doing the Megg's Coven book and exploring him on his own away from the group. Will he succeed or fail? Find out in like two years or something.
In one comic Megg freaks out because she thinks Mogg got her pregnant, but the other characters seem to believe this is impossible. Why is it impossible for Megg to get pregnant?
Megg treats her body like shit. Her womb is highly inhospitable. Cockroaches couldn't live in there, and they can survive radiation and explosions. (I think. I dropped out after year 10.) Also: Mogg is a cat. Also: Mogg is almost exclusively into rimming.
What's your process like for making an individual comic from the initial idea to finishing the art?
I have my ideas pile and my idea wall. Also my bag-based travel idea book. I take some ideas and mash them together. Often Grant (roommate) will be around and make terrible suggestions that are invariably about Werewolf Jones's felt hats and pooping.
Then you make a point-form list of the basic beats. Flesh it out. Nail it. Thumbnail it. Rule up grids accordingly. Ink grids. Pencil in lettering and bubbles. Pencil the art. Ink it all. Begin laborious body-ruining watercolor session. Dream about maybe learning to use Photoshop. Remember that "watercolor" is your "thing." Remember that computers suck and people who use computers don't have beautiful physical artwork to sell at premium prices to "art collectors" upon reaching a certain profile and level of critical "buzz."
I've known Farel and watched his work progress for more than ten years now. I own a copy of his first published work, which is a 3-D Christian comic called Behold 3-D. This book is the best thing he's done yet.
The story is an intentionally confusing and circular yarn about some kids who find an amulet and some zombies and a dystopian future with kid gangs who are on some quest. There are a few parts where I kinda didn't follow what was happening, and then they bring some characters from another dimension who are reading the adventures of the characters in comics and stuff. It's very "meta" and layered, and there are multiple levels of reality.
The art is really organic. Everything is beautiful with delicate ink lines and great watercolor coloring underneath. Farel draws beautiful fantasy settings and clubhouses and stuff, as well as outfits and weapons. He's like a more hipstery Mike Mignola. I am really sorry for saying that if you just squinched up your face. I didn't like writing it, but I couldn't figure out how to say it better.
The themes of the book seem to be about people living in states of suspended adolescence, and there's a party scene that I feel like I recognized out of my own life even though this one was all children under 15 and talking animals and then zombies attacked.
Get it here.
Space Face Books
I woke up very drunk and read this comic on the toilet while still in a dreamstate, which made this already intense experience even more real and emotionally involving.
Where the hell did Jordan Speer come from? This guy is doing something that is mind-bending and completely new to me. It's hard to accurately describe what he's doing because I do not totally comprehend.
Jordan Speer is making still images that sort of look like they might be sculpted from clay or possibly made with an airbrush, but I am fairly certain that it's done with CGI. The only text is from a series of company-wide newsletters telling of the resurrection of an evil demonic deity named Pentadrox who is turning the planet or city or wherever the comic takes place into a horrible nightmare of constant blood sacrifices.
Each page is the most beautiful and horrifying thing you ever saw. Imagine if Stanley Kubrick were young right now and making comics and operating ten years ahead of everyone else.
Get it here.
Buddy Buys a Dump
I insist that owning every individual issue of Peter Bagge's Hate is essential to any comic collection. This volume collects the stories from the Hate Annuals, which were made after Hate's 30-issue run came to a close. Buddy and Lisa become older and have a baby. Buddy buys a dump, like the title says, and then has to wear an eyepatch, which he decides to combine with a captain's hat and an occasional corncob pipe. Buddy's brother is blabbing about the horrible fate of their dead friend Stinky. Life goes on for Buddy and Lisa in their sorta odd but sweet and domestic existence.
You probably can't do better than this as far as comic literature goes. I think Hate might be one of the most intelligent and meaningful comics ever made.
Buy it here.
Drawn & Quarterly
Anouk Ricard is the best person on Drawn & Quarterly by about a million miles. She or he draws these cute little animals and people and animal people. Anouk has some great other books about a girl and her frog friend. This book is slightly more adult than those. Only slightly though.
This is a story about a blue duck who goes to work at a company that makes cuckoo clocks. All of the other employees are crazy assholes, and the boss is the craziest of them all. He also acts like every terrible boss you ever had. Eventually the blue duck guy starts discovering a crazy conspiracy and also falling in love with a dog lady at his job. In many ways it seems to follow the plot of a movie, but it's really different than other things I've seen. The timing of Anouk Ricard's work sets it apart from everyone else. Also, I'm never able to tell what the intended readership age range is supposed to be. Anyway, get to know Anouk Ricard's work.
Buy Benson's Cuckoos here.
Me Nut Nut Nut #2
Space Face Books
This comic isn't easy to follow or make sense of, but it's still entirely enjoyable due to the fun art and goofy figures. There are two people and a spider. The spider seems to bite the guy a lot and make a spider-web wig for the lady. I can't really explain it better than that.
Get it here.
*Lil' Buddies Magazine*
Edie Fake makes these little zines of photos of anthropomorphic signs and mascots that belong to random businesses. Many are bizarre and funny. The best are some paintings of clothes in a laundromat that look like they want to nail each other. Volume one is random good things. Volume two is just dental signs.
Get them here.
Escapo is a graphic novel by Paul Pope about an ugly escape artist who is a very popular performer in a traveling circus. He has a big crush on a pretty dancing girl, but she loves another circus guy named the Acrobat King, who looks like Paul Pope.
Paul Pope's beautiful, inky, seemingly loose but super well-informed drawings have been great for so long that even though he's still relatively young, there are multiple generations of illustrators whose styles were primarily informed by studying Paul's stuff. THB, Paul Pope's comic about teenage girls on Mars, is probably his best stuff. All his other comics look great, but the stories are usually hit-or-miss. Paul will often get so wrapped up in clever inventions and concepts that he gets too far away from the story. I think Escapo works better than some of his other comics because the plot is pretty simple.
Escapo was originally released sometime over ten years ago in black-and-white with a different cover and fewer pages. I had a signed and numbered copy, but somebody must have taken it. This new version is bigger and in color. There are a lot of great things about this book, and there are some less great things. Most of the additions to the work seem odd or misguided to me. The cover, which is supposed to resemble torn-up wheat-pasted promo posters, looks like camouflage. The original cover really jumped out at you and this new one doesn't. There's also some very digital coloring thrown on top of the art for some reason. I don't think this book needed color, but the color it's given is too nuanced. They should have just used flat colors. Paul Pope's drawings don't require complicated coloring to make sense or look good. His line work is the star of the show. The Beatles had such great songs that they didn't need a Keith Moon on drums. Ringo was the perfect drummer for the Beatles because he drummed in a way that served the songs best. Paul Pope's art is most benefited by limited coloring.
There are also some cool sketches and notes from Paul and then some sort of needless Escapo fan art too.
Paul Pope is great. Escapo is pretty good. Maybe try to get an older printing of this, though. You can buy the new printing here.
Moonhead and the Music Machine
This book tells the story of a nerd with a moon-shaped head that floats above his body. Everyone hates him until he plays some crazy song at the school talent show on a Devo-style guitar with a keyboard glued to it and the help of a boy in a ghost costume. Soon popular kids are nice to him, and he is rude to the nerdy lady who actually likes him. Then some other shit happens, and it ends predictably with a plot borrowed from several 80s rom coms but with one or two alt-comic-style curveballs. It's fun to read, but afterward the story seems kind of simple, stupid, and even false.
Get it here.
Sean Michael Wilson and Michiru Morikawa
This is some real dogshit-looking manga. The line work is ugly, and there's an over-reliance on some hideous zip-a-tone textures that it doesn't look like the artist was comfortable using. I would like to direct the makers of this comic to a great book called Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga. It is one of the best and funniest mangas around.
Get Musashi here.
Anyway that's it for my 99th comic column. See you at my 100th.