Friday, October 24, 2003

From the Reading Pile XXII

Bries Catalog 2003
As a catalog, this beautiful screen-printed item doesn't work so well, says the woman staffing the table for this "publisher of fine comics" at SPX. And I'm amazed and disappointed that that's the case. This catalog -- the most impressive I've seen -- is a wonderfully produced item complete with tucks and folds, illustration details, and handwritten descriptions. The catalog features work by Pieter de Poortere, Lamelos, Stefan van Dinther and Tobias Schalken, Ulf K., Uli Oesterle, and others, which should give you a sense of the kinds of comics Bries trafficks in. Wonderful stuff -- and a catalog, while worthy in its own right, that's well worth ordering from. $3 to Bries, Kammenstraat 41, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium.

Gabagool! #2-3 (June and September 2002)
Despite the funny animals depicted on the cover of #2, this is farn from an anthropomorphic mini. After obsessing over whether the Fantastic Four should have welcomed Spiderman into their ranks -- and withstanding his landlord's rant about blowjobs -- Christopher Vigliotti gets ready to go to a Brazilian restaurant with his roommates and his almost-girlfriend. The sequence in which he selects an outfit (p. 7) works well, and the dialogue during the dinner party is quite clever, as are the first four panels on p. 13. Love the waiter on p. 11! There are artistic moments (p. 19) in which this comic really shines, and given the solid scripting, my only complaint is that #2 is too short at 24 pages. So the longer #3 -- at 36 pages -- is quite welcome. The "all action" issue opens with some surprisingly Tom Hart-esque drawing (especially given the usual Tony Consiglio by way of Peter Bagge artwork) and Christopher Vigliotti dramatically (panel 5, p. 3) retells the tale of bounty hunting, the Y2K "problem," and the recovery of a magic guitar. Ace Frehley makes an appearance, Jed name drops Alan Davis, and the glowering Aris Samaras finally says something. Throw in some able narrative interludes, a flashback to eighth grade, and the first edition of Fiend Folio, and you've got an impressive story of friendship, violence, and justice. The inside back cover sports a column by Cousin Lenny about the Bronx, adding a nice zine-like feel to an otherwise excellent comic. I can't wait to read more of Gabagool! $1 from Mike Dawson and Chris Radtke, P.O. Box 1638, Radio City Station, New York, NY 10101-1638.

Gabagool! #1 Special Edition (February 2003)
Contributing to the general comic book geekery of other issues of Gabagool!, this 28-page "special edition" adds an element of InterWeb fannishness. Our hero, Christopher Vigliotti, scours the Web for Star Wars and Spiderman news before going home, dreams of ROM, Voltron, and Cthulhu dancing in his head. The roomies debate the merits of selling pot versus working at the grocery store and go to a bar, where they call back the "Who talks like you?" joke from #2 (p. 11 -- p. 10 in this issue), reminisce about their old band at SUNY-Albany, and hatch their plan to become bounty hunters. It appears as though this "special edition" is a reprint of #1, but that's OK. Continuity Chris would approve. Indeed, for this is the issue in which the bounty hunters find Doreen's dad. The at-work small-panel sequence on p. 17 is a nice piece of minimal narrative, and the manner in which they find Bill is a pleasing punchline, especially given the doubletake. The issue closes with a three-page throwaway titled "Secret Santa" and an opinion column by Cousin Lenny. My only advice would be to use the text-based column to break up the comic -- and to get a Xeric grant. Mike Dawson and Chris Radtke could easily publish a longer book. $1 from Mike Dawson and Chris Radtke, P.O. Box 1638, Radio City Station, New York, NY 10101-1638.

House of Cards
Using a deck of cards as the organizing principle, Shawn Cheng shares a 44-page story about love and loss, wishes and wanting, sin and snowglobes, pets and preference, adventure and absence, Halloween and hollowness, and music and mistrust. Cheng's artwork is at times evocative of Megan Kelso, and if he's able to maintain this level of lushness daily online, he's a talent to watch. Quite impressive. Write Shawn Cheng for more information.

In a Rut
Apparently an ashcan promoting the fifth issue of David Stanley's comic Outside, this 12-page story is a good introduction to his work. Artistically reminding me somewhat of John Hankiewicz's Tepid work, Stanley's drawing blends sketchy realism with occasionally oblique cartoonishness. A young boy grapples with his growing attraction to women, and his sister and her friends discuss the kind of men they like as a result. Meanwhile, the boy and girl's mother copes with the "octopus" at work. It's a good, multi-level look at sexual attraction and harassment, and if it's any indication of Stanley's wider work, Outside appears promising. Free at SPX from David Stanley, 850 N. Randolph St. #103, Box A35, Arlington, VA 22203.

The Patron
I picked up several of Jamie Tanner's minicomics and pamphlets at SPX. Featuring excellent artwork, off-kilter narratives, and hand-decaled items, they are interesting objects as well as excellent reads. This 28-page 2002 publication includes four connected vignettes about Heinrich Bruno, a monkey-man and "patron of the pornographic arts." I'm not quite sure who the dead body on p. 20 is, but the panels depicting Bruno's children (pp. 17 and 23) are awesome. A solid read, but slightly dissatisfying. Write Jamie Tanner for more information.

Sketchbook 2
Designed by Cheryl Weaver, this 40-page handmade collection of "pictures which have been cleared for publication" combines elements of Farm Pulp, Jeff Zenick, and John Porcellino. Content includes cubes, chair construction, belligerent birds, word play, artistic analysis, passionate pickpockets, and history that's not heavy handed. It's an interesting idea for a publication, and even though I was initially put off by the price, Anders Nilsen remains a need to read. Very nice. $10 to Anders Nilsen, 3103 W. Augusta Blvd., Chicago, IL 60622.

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