Friday, November 29, 2002

From the Reading Pile XIV: Part 2
Before I can tackle the accumulated zines and comics stacked in the milk crate on the floor by the big blue couch, I need to catch up on some unpublished reviews. Apologies to all involved, but these were penned back in July -- as well as this past Monday.

Bleep, Blop, Bloop: A Celebration of Silliness & Being Friends
Dedicated to Jim Henson, this well-printed 36-page mini by Paul Hornschemeier features two friends who engage in a gleeful dance of mutual appreciation. Hornschemeier's cartoony artwork reminds me of Roger Langridge a little, and the mini, termed an interlude, seems to be part of a larger work entitled Sequential. Gentle, loving, and silly, this mini is intriguing, if not entirely satisfying. $2.50 to IDGI Graphics, 2324 W. Walton #3F, Chicago, IL 60622.

Comic Book Heaven #7
The advertisement on the inside front cover indicates that next year will bring some new comics work by Scott Saavedra, editor of this glorious 36-page fanzine, and -- while welcome; I've missed Dr. Radium -- I hope that it doesn't edge in on Saavedra's comics journalism. More fannish than Alter Ego and more obscure than Scott Shaw's Oddball Comics columns online, each edition of CBH reminds me of why I started reading comics -- the sheer thrill of discovering some new piece of delightful comics ephemera. Whether plugging new self-published periodicals, name dropping the Mad Peck, or presaging Shaw's oddball selections, CBH also retells the tales told in outdated Gold Key, DC, and Charlton comics. Saavedra also analyzes the appearances of mermen in Wonder Woman comics and makes fun of hippies, digging through the back-issue bin of history so we don't have to. The fanzine for true comics fans, not readers or collectors. $2.25 to Slave Labor Graphics, P.O. Box 26427, San Jose, CA 95159-6427.

Comic Nerd/Cumulus
This 28-page flip mini, is an odd pairing. On the cute side, there's Liz Prince, my latest comics crush. Equal parts Ariel Schrag and Allison Cole, Prince does cute well. Her assumedly autobiographical comics approach caffeine, cats, cruelty, and cacophany well. Prince deftly depicts dedication and desperation to good effect. Flip now to Daniel Espeset's 12-page piece, "Cumulus." Couching his creation in heavily inked hyperbole, Espeset tracks the trials of a biplane that meets an ill end with a zeppelin. Shades of Gene Day, it's the lesser element here, but both pieces make me want to see more. $2 to Liz Prince.

The Comics Interpreter Vol. 2 #1
While TCI, Robert Young's creme de la creme comics fanzine for readers is most notable for his interviews, this 72-page edition opens with two solid review roundups. The first, an overview of Top Shelf's recent output, casts the publisher in a light deservedly reserved for its compatriots Alternative Comics and Highwater Books as Young by turns lauds Glenn Dakin's "Abe" (a book that Highwater could've and probably should've published) and lambastes Josuue Menjivar's "Cicada." This dichotomy of digestion indicates that Top Shelf's output, which at its best is indeed top shelf, is to be totally truthful, uneven. He then pairs the New X-Men with Top 10, an immediately clear comparison even though I feel -- fear -- that he gives Grant Morrison's X writing too much credit. Now, the interviews. In the first interview, a multi-part conversation between Chad Parenteau -- who seems to be a Boston local given his comments on Comicopia, the Beantown Zinetown, and the area arts community -- and Hans Rickheit, creator of the Xeric Award-winning (read: Peter Laird-bankrolled) book Chloe, Parenteau does little to build on the body of literature, such as it is, on Rickheit's work. The interview basically outlines Rickheit's experiences in the Xeric process and spends some time detailing Rickheit's role in the Cambridge-based Zeitgeist Gallery, whose influence on the local comics scene is, at best, inconsequential. That said, the insights offered on the role comics -- and Rickheit, whom I saw deliver the recent issue of Chrome Fetus to the Picnic just this past weekend -- played in the short-lived alternative-alternative newspapers the Cambridge Candle and the Cambridge Inferno are well put. These histories would not be told otherwise. Next up, Paul Pope, as interviewed by Robert Young. I've not liked -- which is different than disliked -- much of Pope's stuff until the recent book 100%, so read me as you will. This interview will make me read Pope's comics more closely. His comments on the definition of productivity, substenance via superheroes, value of inking and tight scripting, and artistic inspirations are worth this zine's cover price alone and then some. Thank you, Robert Young. After sharing some of the feedback offered in response to an email survey on the most interesting people in comics, which includes a wonderful two-word response from Brian Ralph, Young turns again to the reviews. In the end pages, Young points out lesser-known work by local Dan Moynihan (who now shares a studio with Jef Czekaj), Rick Smith (love that Shuck!), and the magazine Giant Robot, which was recently featured in the Nation. If you don't always read the Comics Journal, read the Comics Interpreter. Young is a true friend to comics. $4 to the Comics Interpreter.

Everyone Needs a Salesman
I''m not quite sure why this 24-page comic created by Jamie Tanner in 1998 just recently appeared at the Picnic, but I'm glad it did. Compiling five selections ranging in length from one to eight pages, Tanner's mini shares an ugly world populated by ugly people. Deformed people attend a reading. A salesman's vague, non-physical malaise isn't relieved at a retail establishment. A demon repairs televisions. And a prostitute dismembers an unfunny comedian. Tanner's dark narratives, one inspired by Haruki Murakami, remind me of Hand Rickheit, but for the most part, I'm slightly dissatisfied. Perhaps longer pieces would be more rewarding. $3 to Jamie Tanner, 50 Ocean Parkway #4G, Brooklyn, NY 11218.

I have no idea how much I paid for this 84-page anthology edited by Jeff Sharp and Scott Mills. Collecting pieces created between 1996 and 2002, it's an alternating assortment of Mills' wispy comics and Sharp's rough cartoons. Lizards eat bugs. Astronauts battle planets. Clients tease barbers. Tanks race. A boy weeds. And a man ponders over mermaids' tears. Highlights include Todd Webb's contribution, "Work Ethic," Sharp's "Civil Servant" strips, and his "Clifton Nork" strips. Flummery appears to be a catch-all for unpublished work -- as well as an excuse to involve friends such as James Kochalka, who contributes a Magic Boy piece inked by Mills. Inquire about availability.

Lowjinx #4
A Noe-Fie Mono-Media and Top Shelf joint, this Kurt Wolfgang-edited 59-page production indicates why Tom Devlin should issue the next edition of Coober Skeber. These alt-comics anthologies are like glue, connecting the people who are producing the most important comics today and collecting them for readers who need to know who knows whom. This hand-colored edition of Lowjinx comprises childhood comics and drawings by folks such as Ivan Brunetti, Tony Consiglio, Greg Cook, Jordan Crane, Sam Henderson, Megan Kelso, James Kochalka, and Eric Reynolds. We all drew comics like this. I did, first inspired by Jules Feiffer's book. And it's fun to track the inspirations: Brunetti's Darger-meets-Disney panels, Cook's penchant for ninjas, Crane's long-lost Punisher obsession, Kelso's storybook conundrums, and Reynolds' text-driven romance with Marvel. Fun stuff, and well worth the shillings. $6 to Top Shelf.

Mortgage Your Soul: The Business Adventures of Don Hadley, American Entrepreneur
Commissioned by a Titans of Finance fan, this comic is an eight-page ashcan for a longer graphic novel in development by occasional Dean Haspiel collaborator Josh Neufeld -- and Peter Ross, whom I'm guessing commissioned the work. In the few pages offered here, the book-to-be outlines the experiences of Don Hadley, an actual entrepreneur. It's a tale of unwitting corruption, penny pinching, and tomato-field espionage. If it all comes together -- and is truly about one man's business experiences -- it'll be a doozy. That said, "1974 Barbados, W.I." makes me think that exposition can kill a comic. Josh, you've got to rein in this Ross guy. Without an editor, there's only so much you can do. Keyhole Comix, 175 Eastern Parkway #5C, Brooklyn, NY 11238.

These are the kinds of comics I used to draw in grade school. Equal parts Metroid, Pitfall, and Shinobi, these strictly grid-oriented comics trace the adventures of a ninja. He runs, he jumps, he hits, he escapes. And that's the end of another mission. Sloppy, simple, and silly, these are amateurish, immature, but passionate comics. Sometimes passion is all you need. I'm not sure who drew these, but they're credited to Brian and were drawn between 1982-84 it seems. $4 from Lightning Bolt, P.O. Box 1361, Providence, RI 02901.

Paper Rodeo #12 (July 2002)
If the only comics in the world were produced by the people who publish the 24-page tabloid Paper Rodeo, the world would be a better place to comics. For that I need to thank the advertisers who help Paper Rodeo stay afloat: Armageddon Shoppe, Blue Dress, Corleone Records, Flo, AS220, the Decatur Lounge, Atlas Bower Books, Columbus Theatre, Bulb Records, Lightning Bolt, Acme Video, White Electric Coffee, Heresee, Flyrabbit, Dearraindrop, Troubleman Unlimited, Hudson Market, Myopic Books, Hospital Productions, Ragtime, and Red Car White Car. You people are amazing. As are the comics contained herein. (Apologies to anyone I missed.) $1 to P.O. Box 321, Providence, RI 02901.

Paping #3-5
Drawn and self-published by a Puerto Rican, punk-rock, public-school art teacher, this personal comic reminds me of the old Oatmeal minis. The drawing style has an abstract, angular approach, and the stories are solid. No. 3 features stories from John's experiences as a teacher, a yucca recipe, a loving tribute to the Vasquez family, and a political look at public murals. No. 4 is a redrawn collection of pieces that John lost just before printing. It considers teaching art in the Bronx, disagreements with a principal, the outcome of the mural on the handball wall, John's new job in Long Island, bocce, weddings, and friends. The art is more sloppy than in the previous issue, perhaps because John redrew it hastily, and this issue reminds me slightly of Tenth Frame. Lastly, No. 5. Enlisting several friends, John concentrates on life lessons, taking on a special education student, littering, and coming-of-age rituals. Involving friends added an impression of variety to this issue, and overall, Paping is extremely well worth reading. $2 to John Mejias, 60 St. Marks Pl. #4, New York, NY 10003.

Brilliant! This wonderfully produced 52-page comic by Tom Gauld and Simone Lia includes several alternating storylines featuring recurring characters. In one series of selections, a kernel of corn (that has the most expressive gestures I've ever seen in corn) comments on the failings of society and culture. An explorer has to go home before reaching his destination. Two masked wrestlers kill time before a match. An ugly woman finds love. The overarching themes of the 21 pieces are unrequited love and falling short of a goal. The two artists have drastically different styles. One has a denser, almost Edward Gorey approach, and the other opts for a more immature Hamster Man effect. But the two interact well, and the inter-comic connections and call backs add an aspect of consistency and continuity. Wonderful stuff! $8 to Cabanon Press, the Drawing Room, Panther House, 38 Mount Pleasant, London, England WC1 XOAN.

Word to Word
A collaborative comics game played by Davey Oil and Leah Walsh, the basic gist of this is that one participant draws an object described by a word or phrase, each entry changing words but keeping part of the previous word -- such as "mud puddle" turning to "puddle jump." In this 28-page comic, it seems one participant may have contributed all of the 20 words and phrases, with the other depicting them. We start with "animal farm" and end with "animal farm," and a story about a skateboarder and a cranky is told along the way. My favorite panels include "house of cards" and "cardboard." Unfortunately, the comic doesn't include any contact information, but if you and your friends are into comics, you can easily make one of these yourself. A fun idea. $1 if you find it somewhere. Contact me if you know these folks, please.

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