I am Nicholas Gazin and you are reading my weekly column in which I review and discuss comics, zines, art books, toys and anything that gets mailed to my house. Here are reviews of five things. I include links for you to buy the things from their publishers but always, always, always see if your local comic or book store has it in stock first.
#1: If the Raindrops United by Judah Friedlander, published by Hachette
Famous comedian and actor Judah Friedlander is now also famous cartoonist Judah Friedlander. You know him from his many things he has done and will continue to do. He made a book of single-panel gag comics and now you can read and look at them. Check out these pages. If you like them then you'll like the book. If you don't then you won't. I'm a real freewheeling, no-wrong-answers type of comic critic. Also, I asked Judah about his book and yo can read that below.
VICE: How long have you been doing humorous drawings for?
Judah Friedlander: I used to make my own cartoons—some comedy and some political—when I was a kid—around ten years old. I started doing animation in the ninth grade and got pretty into that for a few years. I did a little animation in my early 20s too. Then I kind of stopped drawing for years, but would pick it up again here and there. I started doing some drawings and paintings again in 2006. And the past couple years, I started drawing again as a way to combat anxiety.
I draw to relieve anxiety too. If I'm talking to someone, drawing helps me focus as well. Just the act of putting marks on paper feels calming for me.
Yes—there's something about how a pen feels on paper that relaxes me. A lot of the drawings in my book were done with a stylus pen on my phone, and some with a stylus pen on a tablet—and I even enjoy the feeling of the digital pen and screen.
Which cartoonists do you like? Are there any in particular who you feel informed your work? I see similarities to Shel Silverstein and David Shrigley.
As a kid, I definitely liked Shel Silverstein (I still like his work now too). I think the biggest influence were the cartoon books of B. Kliban which came out in the 70s. My parents had some of his books; I must've been seven or either when I first started looking at them—and I just thought they were hilarious, wild and great. Looking back, I'm glad my parents didn't censor those books from me. I like Shrigley's work, but didn't become aware of him until recently when my book was mostly finished. In the 80s I liked The Far Side, and a lot of political cartoonists—as a kid I didn't always understand the political cartoons—but I loved the drawings, and my dad would explain to me the meanings of the cartoons. I'm probably going to forget to mention other cartoonists, but I also liked John Callahan. And recently I've gotten to know Lalo Alcaraz, because he writes on Bordertown (in which I voice one of the characters), and I like his work too.
At what point did you start showing people your work?
Several years ago, when i was just doing a few drawings here and there—not that often, I might've taken a pic of the drawing and texted it to a few people. But I would say a couple years ago, I started posting some of my cartoons and drawings on Instagram—and that was a cool experience to get people's reactions to the drawings.
Buy If the Raindrops United.
#2: The Complete Peanuts 1999–2000 by Charles Schulz, published by Fantagraphics
This is the second to last book in Fantagraphics' Complete Peanuts series which began in 2004 and collects the newspaper comic strip that ran from 1950 to 2000. Each comic was drawn by Charles Schulz and he never took a sabbatical.
What's most amazing about this book is how funny a lot of the comics are—even after 50 years, Schulz's well of ideas never dried up. You're having fun, laughing, and sympathizing with the characters, and then there's one final Valentine's Day where Charlie Brown's mailbox is empty of valentines like every year. And then the next comic is mostly a typed open letter to the readers from Charles Schulz saying goodbye and then the note that he died a few hours before his final comic strip was printed. Somehow in the course of reading the book I forgot that it had happened the way it did, and his death and the abrupt end of his comics upset me a lot. I found myself mourning Charles Schulz's death a second and more meaningful time.
The second half of the book collects all of his Li'l Folks cartoons, which he drew from 1947 to 1950 and preceded Peanuts. Over the course of the series, we see the little boys and girls and dogs transform from somewhat generic characters into Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the other round-headed little child-adults who became the Peanuts gang.
The 50 year run of Peanuts comics is one of the greatest creative works humankind has produced. It's far and away the greatest newspaper comic ever. These books were beautifully designed and produced by Seth and Fantagraphics. I interviewed Charles Schulz's son Monte for this column a few years back and he mentioned that this series is his favorite thing ever produced based on his father's work. Let the Peanuts gang live forever in your home with this heartbreakingly perfect series of books, the last as essential as the first.
Here are a few more of my favorite comic strips from this book:
That last one was the final comic about Lucy pulling away the football. Schulz didn't resolve a lot of the repeating ideas of his comics but this one sort of had a conclusion. Wherever you are Charles Schulz, I love you.
Buy The Complete Peanuts 1999 - 2000.
#3: Yes Yes Yes Alternative Press '66–'77 From Provo To Punk, published by a + m bookstore / VIAINDUSTRIAE
At this past year's NY Art Book Fair there were some guys selling old beautiful sex newspapers. Several of the ones they were selling are in this massive phonebook-size volume collecting graphically amazing pages from old alternative press newsprint publications. There's Black Panther stuff, sex rags, punk stuff, political magazines. The color pages are mind-melting. The black-and-white stuff is equally great. The dust jacket's texture is beautiful and the spine lists all the publications that the book pulls from in alphabetical order. I love this thing so much.
Check out some of these beautiful spreads.
Check out this one.
And this one.
And this one.
And this one.
And this one.
Buy Yes Yes Yes.
#4: Crickets no. 5 by Sammy Harkham
Sammy Harkham is a great comics storyteller. Some cartoonists are primarily artists and some are mainly writers, but with Sammy Harkham you have no complaints. The cover shows a woman on a plane looking out the window at the Los Angeles skyline at night. The brown curtain next to her lets us know this story is set some time in the past.
The inside front and back covers reprint the Blobby Boys comic that originally appeared on this site.
The main meat of the comic is about a Jewish couple going to a large family gathering. The family gathering is made up of the husband's relatives who all hate his wife for not being Jewish enough in their eyes. The couple fight and play with their baby. The husband shoots low-budget movies. They have asleep sex. The wife is clearly unhappy and surprises her husband on Thanksgiving by taking the baby and going to visit her family for a few weeks. The cover has a neat relationship with the story since we never see the wife on the plane within the comic, only on the cover. It was a smart and neat choice to use the cover to relay story information instead of a summarization of the contents of the comic. You look at the cover, you read the main comic, and then you look at the cover again. Maybe you read the Blobby Boys comic before or after reading the main story.
Buy Crickets no 5.
#5: Last Slice by Stan Zenkov
My friend Stan made this zine. I don't know how you can buy it online.
That's it for this week. See you next week! Look at my Instagram!