Monday, March 03, 2003

From the Reading Pile XVII

Bear with Me: A 24-Hour Comic
Reminding me slightly of the work of Andy Ristaino and Woodrow Phoenix, this 28-page 24-hour comic was created by Mason between 8:05 p.m., Aug. 15, and 8:04 p.m., Aug. 16, 2001. Drawn in an at-times overly abstract animation-influenced style, the wordless comic tells the tale of a door-to-door salesman who tries to introduce a bear to the pleasures of city living. Mason's slow-paced cinematic timing on pp. 4-5, the Kochalka-like affection on p. 11, and the ending -- p. 24 is basically a mirror of p. 2, only with a change of setting -- indicate that Mason put a lot of thought into his work. Better than most 24-hour comics I've seen, writing wise. But the stark lines and wordless nature of this mini make me wonder what else Mason can do. $2 to Joey Mason, Young American Comics.

Deadbeat #5 (November 2002)
Sent to me by Matt Johnson, the incarcerated publisher of the zine Poor and Forgotten, Deadbeat is published by his friend Mike S. Clocking in at 40 pages, Deadbeat is a well-printed, amateurishly laid out, stereotypical punk zine. Mike's opening editorial on the foibles of punk fashion neglects the fact that British punk was fashionable from the start. His quick history of the Dead Kennedys is a fun rundown of the band's legal crises and Jello Biafra's political ambitions. The MC5 piece is basically a track-by-track listening guide to "Kick Out the Jams," accompanied by a discography. There's also a brief piece on Teengenerate, an interview with Death Becomes You, and record reviews. Equal parts local fanzine, personal zine, and punk-rock history lesson, Deadbeat is a worthy effort deserving further development. While slightly naïve and self-analytical like so many young punk zines, Mike's attention to the past shows that he's trying to understand what formed the basis of the music he loves so much. I'd like to see more local scene commentary, however. Mike's quips about emo and skate parks made me grin. Free from Deadbeat, P.O. Box 460106, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33346.

I'm not quite sure where I picked this up, but I'm quite impressed by Frey's comic work. Artistically, this 40-page minicomic blends the cartoony simplicity of Herge (p. 5, panel 1) with the hyperreal attention to architectural detail of Jeff Zenick (p. 7, panel 3, and p. 33, panel 1). The story, then, is a postmodern mystery. An employee of Divocorp, Ike makes a connection between his employer and a man from the future who came back with a special message. After receiving a mysterious package, a cinematic "dream" in which he kills his boss, and a trip to a rave with the receptionist at work, we are left thinking Ike's swum to his death at sea. Frey's callbacks to earlier story details is extremely impressive, and I'm still not sure whether the murder was a dream, Ike's boss' head isn't in the box, the rave wasn't a ruse, and Natalie the receptionist isn't the author of Ike's death. But it's a wonderful story, and the cartooning is delightful, especially the back and forth on p. 14. Wonderful! I can't wait to see more. Sebastian Frey.

Genetic Disorder #16
It's been a couple of years since the previous issue of Genetic Disorder, and now that Larry's no longer running with the Kill Zinesters of Bunnyhop and Ben Is Dead, he's been living in a van, running from the law, and writing for pornographic magazines and Canadian children's TV commercials. This 76-page issue, done up in the old Flipside production style, only comic book-sized, makes me miss those halcyon days of 1996. Zines were kings then! And Larry's long-awaited re-emergence reminds me of what we've lost. I hope he's able to get work for magazines other than Hustler and Barely Legal because Genetic Disorder is one of the best one-man megazines remaining. Even Mommy and I Are One's Jessica Hunley is writing for Flaunt these days. What's in this issue? "Loser's Guide to San Diego" remembers the social club entrepreneurialism of Thad Poppel, who operated a string of sex clubs around San Diego. "Jailbait" is a two-sided telling of Larry's winter formal date with a high-school girl. "Curses" and "Dates from Hell" compiles anecdotes and newspaper reporting about curses and Satanism. "Sacrificial Lambs" continues that theme with a six-page retelling of a mistaken child abuse case in San Diego. "The Seven Days of 'Stache" and "Reader (Phone) Matches" looks at the underside of dating culture and telephone personal ads, pairing actual ads with the phone recordings and voicemails left by callers in response. And "The Skulls of Punk Rock," perhaps one of the best features in the issue, serves up more than 25 band logos that incorporate the skull. Beautiful. Larry's an extremely journalistic zine publisher, and I really appreciate his blend of seamy local history, prankish narcissism, and popcult commentary. And you know what? I met Larry briefly at the Kill Zinesters tour stop at Jacque's in Boston. I even asked him if he were a Satanist. I might be the guy he mentions in the introduction to "Curses." But then again, maybe I'm not. $4 to Larry, P.O. Box 15237, San Diego, CA 92175.

Go Metric #16 (Winter 2002-2003)
Today is a day of zine connections as I sit on the Big Blue Couch at Church Corner, it seems. Were I Mike Faloon, I'd map them all, later correcting and reprinting the chart. But I'm not. Yet, here they are. Mike is friends with Jef, drummer in the Anchormen. I last saw Mike at the Midway Café in Jamaica Plain, and I first met Jef at the Kill Zinesters stop in Boston. I also met Larry of Genetic Disorder there. Larry reviewed Razorcake in Genetic Disorder #16, which I just reviewed. There's a Rev. Norb and Maddy Tight Pants! column in Razorcake #12, which I also just reviewed. Norb and Maddy also contribute work in Go Metric this go. I've traded letters with Maddy, and Norb's from Wisconsin, my home state. Oh, and Jef drew the cover for this issue of Go Metric. Small freakin' zine world. And Go Metric? Big freakin' zine. If you only send for one zine mentioned in this Media Diet entry, make it this one. Mike compares Ben Weasel's "Fidatevi" to Yes' "Tales from Topographic Oceans;" interviews documentarian Russ Forster about his look at tribute bands, "Tributary;" provides a listeners' guide to the Figgs' "Slow Charm;" interviews Young Fresh Fellows' Scott McCaughey about his project with Wilco; discusses cultural engineering with s-f author Jim Munroe; appreciates Captain Underpants creator Dave Pilkey; and reviews 101 records. In the meantime, Brian Cogan remembers Joe Strummer, David Cawley details the history of Godzilla, Rev. Norb takes on the pratfalls and promise of the Spider-Man movie, Maddy compares the Boys to the Dead Boys, and Frank Leone reports on the state of punk rock in Japan. Arguably, this is the best issue of Go Metric yet. Mike's embrace of movies and books is extremely welcome, as long as he continues to broadcast in Indulge-o-phonica and participate in the Tuned to Itself Publishing Cooperative. Luckily, Go Metric's popcult obsessions are worth sharing. $2 to Mike Faloon, 15A South Bedford Road, Pound Round, NY 10576.

An Inside Job #2 (November 2002)
This collection of dream comics by the pseudonymous Hob is produced in an extremely appealing envelope-sized format. The four-page "Who What Where" is a pencil-shaded assortment of dreamland scene setters. The other pieces -- "Up to Date," "Hosted," Down Time," and "The Action" -- are more simple in their line work and much more involved in their storytelling. My favorites are "Hosted," which features the line, "It's the kind of life where you can get away with a lot, if you're quiet;" and "The Action," the longest selection. "The Action" recounts a dream about a party, a back-of-van orgy, and jealousy. I'm not the biggest fan of dream comics, but Bishop's artwork is extremely clean and emotive, and the stories here are interesting enough. I look forward to more non-dream comics. $2 to Eli Bishop, Graphesthesia, P.O. Box 420596, San Francisco, CA 94142.

A Last Cry for Help #2
Wow. I said not one word to Souther at APE, and I'm beginning to wonder whether I may be comics starstruck. He and Kiersh are two of my favorite comics makers, and this 24-page Crashlander production piloted by Kiersh shows good reason why. I continue to be impressed by how well these two collaborate and connect. Peas in a pod! Their combination of sentimental cartooniness a la Dan Moynihan, the cute brut of Ron Rege, Jr., and occasional process comics astounds. The mini mixes dreaminess with direction, and several elements really hit me hard. The watertower and Pac-Man icons on p. 3 are used to good effect. P. 4's main panel is a dark, introspective counterpart to the goofy strip at the bottom. P. 8 is amazing in its two-part emotional content. And the density and complexity of pp. 13 and 17 is nice to see in addition to the largely simple art. I'm not quite sure how old this is, but trust me, anything these guys do is worth checking out. Consistently creative. $2 to Dave Kiersh, 568 Grandview Ave., 2nd floor, Ridgewood, NY 11385, and Souther Salazar, 106 N. Chester Ave., Pasadena, CA 91106.

Mythos Collector #2 (Winter 2002)
Heavy on the mythos and light on the collector, this slightly misbilled Lovecraft fanzine doesn't quite live up to its promise. While its editor, Brian Lingard, has tried to differentiate it from other HPL zines such as Crypt of Cthulhu, it's really just more of the same. What we have here are three Lovecraftiana-oriented articles -- an interview with comic book adaptor Steven Philip Jones, the second part of Lingard's Lovecraft comic book price guide, and an auction watch lifted straight from Ebay (and therefore immediately outdated -- and three mythos-inspired short stories. The fiction accounts for more than 20 of the zine's 56 pages, and as far as Lovecraft-inspired writing goes, they aren't really worth the ink. That said, Shawn Scarber's humorous three-page nod is extremely welcome. Get in a get out. Until Lingard truly focuses on collecting Lovecraftiana, this fanzine isn't worth $4 -- or $5 postpaid, as his handwritten carbon copy receipt for me indicates. But as the interview with Jones shows, the idea behind the zine is solid. What's needed now is execution. $5 to Dark Tree Press, P.O. Box 748, Boylston, MA 01505.

Nowhere Fast
This full-color pamphlet was written by Simon Woodstock, a former professional skateboarder who was active for seven years in the '90s. Now he's found God and a new calling -- evangelizing to the youth set. This eight-page almost-zine, which was largely dismissed by the mainstream skateboarding magazines, outlines Woodstock's self-realization. For the most part, his religious growth stemmed from falling prey to the party lifestyle he engaged in while a pro skateboarder, which caused him to lose focus with his skating. While the pamphlet is full of photos of Woodstock skating, complete with dyed hair and clown suit, it's unclear whether he kept up his skating -- although it seems he couldn't regain and maintain focus without giving up his skating career. While I'm glad Woodstock found renewed meaning in his life, I'm not sure his work with the chapel or this skater-oriented pamphlet will have the evangelical effect he's hoping for. One, very few people in the skateboarding industry will take this seriously. Two, people interested in skateboarding in general will not know who Woodstock is. Now, if Tony Hawk were to come out as a vocal Christian, the church might have something to work with. Regardless, this is an interesting outgrowth of church culture and skateboarding fandom -- and an intriguing parallel to Christian punk rock. It's just a shame that stuff like this always starts with religion and then culture instead of the other way around. Following that path almost always results in watered-down culture. Free from Simon Woodstock, Calvary Chapel, 1175 Hillsdale Ave., San Jose, CA 95118.

Razorcake #12
Funny how things run in threes. Last night, before falling asleep, I read the Dillinger 4 interview in this issue of Razorcake, learning that Erik and Paddy grew up in Evanston, Illinois, where I went to college. Then I read a review of Razorcake in Genetic Disorder #16, learning that Razorcake was founded by former active Flipside contributor Todd after Flipside folded. And today, in the Media Diet mailbox, I received a second copy of this 108-page issue of Razorcake. I first purchased this issue at Newbury Comics because of the D4 (the real D4) interview. The second of assumedly two parts, the conversation involved everyone but Bill and touches on drunken shenanigans in Las Vegas, Lane's Ph.D. in clinical psychology, the band's penchant for Motown, punk-rock snobbishness, the Boy Scouts, working class influences, media coverage, and Erik's bar in Minneapolis. It's one of the most wide-ranging and in-depth interviews I've read with the band, and I'd imagine they interview relatively well. Other interviews include Nardwuar the Human Serviette's conversation with New York-based rapper Princess Superstar, the Rattlesnakes, the Arrivals, LA classics the Skulls, and the Spits. About a fourth of the zine is made up of reviews, and the requisite columns lead off the issue. While columns are often my least favorite part of zines, Razorcake includes several notable writers. Rev. Norb's advice column is a typgraphically aggressive, caffeine-addled, and heavily annotated roundup of letters about Ebay, hamsters, and subliminal messages in porn videos. Always worth catching up with Norb in all of his Wisconsinite glory! Former Boston zinester Rich Mackin, who left his job working on the Truth campaign for Arnold Communications to travel cross-country, offers a column about bicycles, Critical Mass, and anarchy. And Maddy, editrix of the cute zine Tight Pants!, lists her top 10 punk rock and non-punk things, some of which include scholarships, D4, Ben Snakepit (with whom I'll hang out at SXSW), grad school, and the Portland Zine Convention. You can guess what side those things fall on. But the magnum opus of the issue might very well be "East L.A. Punk Rock Family Tree," a six-page, flowchart-driven history of what area musicians played in which bands compiled by Jimmy Alvarado. Ranging roughly from 1980 to 2000, the project reminds me of my old hypertext history of the Bay Area punk-rock scene. All in all, Razorcake is just as dense as Flipside ever was (RIP, Flipside), but is eminently more readable to me. Maybe it's because it's less LA-centric. Maybe it's because it seems less cliquey and scene in-jokey. And maybe it's because it combines the familiar and the new -- a welcome read. $3 to Razorcake, P.O. Box 42129, Los Angeles, CA 09942.

War Against the Princes
This is a photocopied 20-page collection of anti-authoritarian writings by poet and guitarist Doug Saretsky. Written between November 2000 and May 2001, the chapbook is largely inspired by the anti-globalization protests in Ohio. Saretsky lambastes apathetic punk rockers who aren't politically active. He parallels the authoritarianism of high-school hierarchies with the police state. "Black Bandanna" comes across as almost-lyrics to a Dillinger 4 or Propagandhi song. Saretsky also remembers the first time he was arrested for shoplifting and his various moving violations and run-ins with the law. I appreciate the local nature of his poetry -- and I respect the romantic activism surrounding the Transatlantic Business Dialogue at the of 2000 in Ohio -- buy Saretsky's series of "Arrest" poems bother me. Drunk driving is not only illegal -- it's dangerous. Criticize the cops when your direct action is valid, but cop to your own bad decisions, too, OK? Doug Saretsky, Black Hoody Nation, 1970 Westwood Northern Blvd. #5, Cincinnati, OH 45225.

Soundtrack: Count the Stars, "Never Be Taken Alive," and Wayne Kramer Presents Beyond Cyberpunk

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