Thursday, January 03, 2002

From the Reading Pile IV

Book of Insomnia
Originally published four years ago, I picked this 36-page comic up at the Picnic last night in a fit of appreciation for the shop's minicomics selection -- and skilled reorganization by Cheryl. Gabrielle Bell has an awesome Bay Area Tales of Blarg-meets Leela Corman-meets Ariel Schrag style that just sings through the eight stories collected here. Parts of her page composition occasionally remind me of Richard Scarry and Edward Gorey, but to be truthful, I read this without imposing the above-named people on her art or writing. "The Dream I Had" is a William Gibson-cum-Jesse Reklaw story about an alternate future for the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. "The Bicycle Story" is a touching tale about anger and bitterness converting into love and creativity. Here, Gabrielle's portrayal of characters with lanky frames really impressed me. And "Just One Reason" sports an Emily-like waif girl who -- in a simple surprise ending -- decides not to commit suicide. Gabrielle's panel composition and character design is amazing, and this mini is delightfully dense wihout being reproduces too small or overly weighty. Awesome and well worth the reminiscent return to 1998, so write before you send money. Wonder if she's still active? Email Gabrielle or send $3 to 3288 21st St. #217, San Francisco, CA 94110.

Bus Tips
Here's a tip: If you're self-publishing comics and zines in the hipster-riddled Y2K2 and have Net access, don't assume everyone else does. You still have a mailing address, and chances are that folks still have to send you money somewhere. Soapbox stowed. Daniel Morgan's 100-copy, 24-page mini offers nine useful suggestions for people who ride the bus a lot, as well as folks who "don't and maybe never have before." Advice covers seat reclining, luggage, headphones, how to spend time, and relations with fellow passengers. The funniest tip: "Ride the train." Dan seems to alternate between a permanent marker and a heavy brush, but perhaps this is all marker. Regardless, the art is pleasant and iconic, and the writing is friendly and clever. "An informative booklet," indeed. Email Dan to ask where to send your $1.50, or visit his Web site.

Does Canada Even Have Months
Oh, those Paper Radio fellers. When will I cease being a sucker for their puckish sense of whimsy and only pick up the comics and zines "worth" documenting? Hopefully never, although some of their photocopied ephemera might not have a lasting shelf life. Take this 16-page mini, for example. The 13 stories are reproduced Mad-Libs that have already been filled in. The parts of speech don't always match the insertions, but occasionally the results are funny. Most of the time, though, the experiment fails and is probably best shared with close friends already in on the joke. Michael Jackson, city guys, and millionaires gloat, rap, and sleep over with astronaut suits, dope, and the family. The result of free photocopies ad ample free time. Costs $1. Paper Radio is on the Web.

Go-Go Girl #2
Snuggled somewhere between Andi Watson, Megan Kelso, and Maurice Vellekoop, Craig's stylish scooter-girl comic evokes the scripting of the Powerpuff Girls and Richard Salas, of all people. I haven't seen #1, so I can't speak to Craig's consistency, but with self-published comics like this around, why does Jim Mahfood have steady work? A hair stylist's clients start to be mysteriously attacked by a hideous creature, and Go-Go Girl is on the case! She meets a cute guy, infiltrates a society ball, confronts the monster, and eventually saves the day. I knew I'd like this; Craig's contribution to the Expo 2001 anthology, now available from Highwater Books, was one of the better pieces. Tailor made for an animated short, this is a wake-up call for Rick Veitch and Alan Moore, too. Let's see Craig draw a Cobweb story instead of Dame Darcy for once. Very impressive. $3 to Craig Bostick, 7 Weld St. #2R, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130. He also has a Web site.

Lady Dwenton's Matrimonial Planner
Published in March 2001, this simple, slim (eight pages) mini recalls Robert Lewis and Jhonen Vazquez, on the Lewis side of the family. Purchased as a gift for my friends -- well, acquaintances, if Sarah were to call me on it -- Matt and Mary, this mini offers wedding planning tips that touch on musical group selection, flowers, dresses, and uncertainty. Probably worth expanding into a full-fledged DIY wedding planner to match the pocket-sized goodness of the Slingshot annual planner I just picked up in Brooklyn over New Year's. 25 cents to Bruce Orr, 1601 S. 8th St., third floor, Philadelphia, PA 19148. Published by Immersion Press.

Landfill Anxiety
Gods love Allison Cole and the comics she's making at the Rhode Island School of Design. This beautifully printed eight-page mini tells the story of a broken turntable, a broken heart, and a kept promise. Allison name drops John Porcellino and Ron Rege, Jr., in another comic, so it's somewhat clear where her influences and inspirations lie, but her comics -- like her previous mini Record Love (dreamy!) -- are current faves of mine... ranking among the work of folks like Megan Whitmarsh and Dan Moynihan. Her work is a tad more Fort Thunder- and Paper Radio-inspired, but her simple linework and understated bittersweet pacing and writing elicits a tender melancholy that's right up my alley these days. And I think her comics carry a lasting impact, so snatch them up now. Allison's been self-publishing thread-bound limited editions of 30 or 40 comics. Fingers crossed that she keeps them coming. A sure-to-be hit. Sigh! $5. Email Allison for more information.

Macros2000 #7
Macros are "tiny community/media-inspired phrases, actions, and concepts that get together and have little parties but you're not invited because you're way too big!" This recent 12-page collection -- released into the wild in November 2001 -- gives nod to David Eggers, even though he didn' invent parenthetical indicia, and Nicholas Baker, even though he's not the only person who loves the library, and is uncestually related to Media Diet because I'm hosted by the same nice man. I bask in the glow of my comrades, comrades more talented than I am. The macros pay heed to Shake 'n' Bake, my friends at Audi, the Peace Corps, Hasil Adkins, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Captain Kangaroo, gender identity, Sizzlea, and Mr. Show. That might explain the excellent Molly Kiely artwork on the cover. There's also an insert that explains why there's been no issue of Macros since 1998: printers are weird, software is hard to use, and Evan Dorkin uses a lot of black. Not as awesome as past issues, but still awesome. $1 to Jeff, Box 476, Palo Alto, CA 94302. Macros is also on the Web

Not in Order #4
Max and Danny O.'s hardcore zine is a slim shade akin to HeartAttack or Maximum Rocknroll. Amidst the requisite hardcore and straight-edge record ads, there are interviews with Salem resident and show organizer Matt Pike, Over My Dead Body's Daniel Sant, and Blood for Blood's Ian McFarland, a couple of puerile "new band notices" written by people in the bands, record reviews, and show reviews -- mostly in the immediate Boston area. Even though the zine pushed me over the edge to pick up the Moment CD, "Songs for the Self-Destructive," which I've been enjoying, I can hardly recommend this zine. The writing is short, shallow, and sketchy in terms of values (like tattoos, drinking, and gossip means anything; I have no idea who these people are, what their bands sound like, or what they think -- and after reading this zine, I couldn't care less), and your quarter is probably better spent. Room for improvement. 25 cents to 372 Russett Road, Brookline, MA 02467.

Poush Comics #14
J.R. Poush's 20-page, pocket-sized perzine blends page-long comics art with writing about his (?) time in Thailand. The zine concentrates on his flight overseas, Puk's becoming a monk (ordination?), how he met Puk's family, Jim's Vietnam memories, and J.R.'s time in and around Bangkok. While the writing borders on the dramatic -- Nanthana's disapproval and J.R.'s pending solo adventure in Phuket -- this stuck me as surprisingly bland and restrained. Still, it's better than Joe Chiapetta and Tony Consiglio's experiments with text comics. Kudos for format and presentation even if the art doesn't relate to the writing. The ad "How to Subscribe" alludes to what J.R. can do in full comics form, and the back-page "Adding an Extra Comic Book Isn't Splurging... It's Living!" shows that J.R. has a sense of humor he doesn't show in the main body of the comic -- even if it is appropriated text. So... points for trying. I look forward to a regular issue of Poush. $1 to J.R. Poush, P.O. Box 1236, Cooper Station, New York City, NY 10276-1236.

Sketchbook of Frustration
Self-published in November 2001, this 52-page mini of sketchbook comics lacks the production values -- multiple color printing and thread binding -- of Allison's previous minis, but it still results in a tidy item. Allison's apologetic that this is one of those "I don't have any ideas" self-referential DIY missives, but Sketchbook of Frustration holds up as an interesting and independent read nonetheless. Poking fun at the angst inherent in her creative process, Allison draws on her love for her cat (RIP, Marmalade) as she stresses out over her edition class, fable- and literature-oriented inspirations, opinions on the importance of art, love of coffee and comics, consignment sales success (I was probably one of the five!), and productivity. Well, if Record Love and Landfill Anxiety resulted from this process and her new sewing machine, I gather that everything turned out OK. More John Porcellino- and Ron Rege, Jr.-inspired comics from my pick of the litter this batch. Major comics crush! $3. Email Allison.

Everyone's sewing their comics together these days! Another cryptic mini assumedly from the Paper Radio crew, this limited edition of 60 (what's with the edition counts all of a sudden? Are folks in art school or something?) is a collection of sketches, found text and art, prose poetry, and detourned comics. Themes addressed include freedom, the male gaze, holidays, risk, technology, and pop culture. While not as nonsensical as Does Canada Even Have Months, this continues Paper Radio's recent rash of disposable one-offs. Bring back the likes of the characters that populate the previous, longer comics works, I say! $2. Paper Radio is on the Web.

What are you reading?

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