Sunday, September 17, 2017

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 9/11/17 to 9/17/17

Highlighting some great small press comics criticism being published, as well as other random things that have caught my eye over the past week.

Note: I'll admit that this week's ICYMI is a bit thin -- this has to do with both the seemingly endless Twitter battle that critics seem to be fighting every day for legitimacy, and, more importantly, my getting ready for SPX (which, ironically, will be over when this posts)!


* Greg Hunter on WARMER an anthology about Climate Change edited by Andrew White and Madeleine Witt, a book that "reads like a product of conviction".

* Rob Clough takes a look at the new book by Tom Gauld, BAKING WITH KAFKA.

* Scott Cederlund's mildly awkward review of Ben Passmore's YOUR BLACK FRIEND.


* Phillipe LeBlanc interviews RYAN SANDS about the return of Youth In Decline's amazing series Frontier! Can't tell you how great this news is.

* A reading from An Introduction to Alcohol by Karl Christian Krumpholz and a SHORT INTERVIEW about his new comic.

* Rebecca Fulleylove lets Breakdown Press' JOE KESSLER show us his most-treasured books!

* While I may not entirely agree with everything Liel Leibovitz writes in WHY THE INTERNET IS BAD FOR THE JEWS, I think it is worth a read.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review: Lindsay Anne Watson's HUNK

Wrote about 
by Lindsay Anne Watson
published by Tiny Splendor

The reader is left at the end of HUNK awash in both the naiveté of Watson’s messaging and an anticipatory sense of possibility. Watson is acknowledging that life often conspires to undermine all of our endeavors, while at the same time extolling the opportunity we have to choose happiness in the end. As it seems that the world is continuing to gather momentum towards chaos and destruction, a book such as this can help ward off despair.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review: HOW TO BE ALIVE by Tara Booth

Got a review of 
by Tara Booth
Published by Retrofit/Big Planet
over on

"This is humanity writ raw. Booth is holding up a mirror to aid in our reflection of all the minor struggles that our brains trick us into interacting with on a monumental scale. The reader sees themselves in Booth’s paintings, sunburned or killing houseplants, popping zits or choosing shoes, and says, “Yeah, that’s me. I see myself in that moment.”"

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: Loretta Miauw's SWEAT + TEARS

By Loretta Miauw

One of my favorite things about September, besides it being the start of autumn, the month of my birthday, the beginning of football season, and my annual pilgrimage to Bethesda, MD for SPX, is that it starts with the SF Zine Fest.

If you’ve never gone, SF Zine Fest is one of those small events that brims with energy, excitement, creativity, and community. In the midst of all the muck that is this world nowadays, this little festival is a panacea, infusing you with a new sense of purpose and zeal.

For me, it got me excited about comics again.

One of the books that caught my eye at SF Zine Fest this year was the yellow-covered mini comic by Loretta Miauw, SWEAT + TEARS. According to a small biography I was able to find on an online magazine called The Rusty Toque, Miauw is “a youth worker, arts facilitator, and comics artist currently living in Toronto. She self-publishes the series Dreams of Loss and Transformation as well as poetry zines.” According to her Instagram account, she’s a self-described “Qweerdo azn femme making comics//illustration//zines”.

What Loretta Miauw is most, though, is an amazing artist.

SWEAT + TEARS is a love letter at its heart. Addressed to “April”, SWEAT + TEARS follows a young woman that has moved to the city, bolstered by her loneliness, and embarks upon a journey to find missing cats. There’s a heartbreaking honesty to Miauw’s cartooning, an almost furtive grasping of the rawness of her character’s sense of isolation and apartness from those around her, as well as a slowly paced confusion as to motivation that smacks of self-delusion. The casual ink-strokes that make up Miauw’s cartooning breathe wide, as if meditative, as if always only steps ahead of an ensuing panic attack.

Loss and change are the staples of existence. How we respond to these factors define who we are and shape who we will be. SWEAT + TEARS replies to the questions of “what ARE you doing here” and “what are you looking for” by gently tapping us on the shoulder and pointing at a mirror containing a reflection of ourself through someone else’s eyes. The seemingly random acts in which we suddenly find ourselves engaged often times erupt out of longing for what we once had without us even realizing it. SWEAT + TEARS holds this as an operating principle, but does so with a muted and subdued knowing nod.

It is an affirmation, no matter how much this makes the tears stream down our cheeks.

I wish I could point you to a place to get your hands on this spectacular book, but I can’t seem to find anywhere online to buy it. On Loretta Miauw’s Tumblr, though, it says, “Enquiries:”. I guess you could try her there. See if she has any copies available. Tell her I sent you. It’ll be okay.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 9/4/17 to 9/10/17

Highlighting some great small press comics criticism being published, as well as other random things that have caught my eye over the past week.


* Alex Hoffman reviews Thu Tran's DUST PAM, which he describes as "a fever dream, a surreal experiment in color, and a fractured burst of manic light."

* Hoffman then takes apart the book adaptation and design flaws in ICELAND by Yuichi Yokyama by Retrofit Comics.

* Tom Baker pens this interesting take on PERFECT HAIR by Tommi Parrish, where the "recurring themes of loneliness, self-preservation, and the complications of adulthood come through loud and clear."

* Alenka Figa on Keren Katz's THE ACADEMIC HOUR. This is a book about which I have continuously linked some great writing (Figa's take is no exception), yet I still haven't read. I don't know what this is all about or why I'm even mentioning it, though. Sorry.

* Alex Thomas does a quick round-up review of three books -- BAKING WITH KAFKA by Tom Gauld, GOOD NEWS BIBLE from Shaky Kane, and BOAT VOLUME 3 by David Lumsden -- in his INDIE COMICS ROUND-UP.

* Emily Gosling on Charlotte Salomon's LIFE? OR THEATRE? in a feature titled "The Tale of Nazi Persecution, Suicide, and Beautifully Wrought Image-Making the Prefigures Today's Graphic Novels". (Thanks for the heads up on this one, Dominic Umile!)

* Andy Oliver points out that Josh Hicks is set to release the second issue of his GLORIOUS WRESTLING ALLIANCE series at Thought Bubble on September 23rd.

* Hillary Brown takes a look at the implications of panel layouts in Seth's PALOOKAVILLE 23.

* Rob Kirby presents an excerpt from Mimi Pond's THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS WRONG.

* While not particularly about a small press comic, Alex Mansfield's WHY SAGA IS SUCH AN EFFECTIVE GATEWAY COMIC is still a pretty damn good read.

* Finally, Some Guy has been writing reviews for First, AN INTRODUCTION TO ALCOHOL by Karl Christian Krumpholz. Then HOT SUMMER NIGHTS by Freddy Carrasco (shhhhhhh.... that guy was me).


* Rob McMonigal is filling Panel Patter with posts called SPX SPOTLIGHT which, interestingly enough, spotlights things about this year's upcoming SPX. SEE YOU THERE!

* If you haven't read it yet, your MUST READ this week is Ta-Nehisi Coates' THE FIRST WHITE PRESIDENT.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review: Freddy Carrasco's HOT SUMMER NIGHTS

One of my favorite books in the latest edition of Short Box was 
by Freddy Carrasco
soon to be published by Peow Studios

There is also a youthful innocence to all the delinquency in which the boys engage. They are conscious of the demands that becoming “men” (or, in this case, Freshmen) will require of them. No more time for laser-shooting action figures or poorly rolled joints. Everything has to be touched, experienced, done by the end of this one night before new pressures are put upon them. As bildungsroman, Hot Summer Nights is that part of the story that occurs in the first act, right on the cusp between nescience and experience, fecund with that which comes next–the inevitable losses and heartbreaks and horrors that make up the rest of having to “grow up”.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Review: AN INTRODUCTION TO ALCOHOL by Karl Christian Krumpholz

So I got a new gig writing reviews for, and, to kick that off, I reviewed 
(my first in nearly two months) 
by Karl Christian Krumpholz
published by Tinto Press

"Morality is ambiguous in this book. There is no didacticism or preaching to be found in its pages. Krumpholz’s choices of what to leave in and what to leave out tell the story he wants to tell about his father. At times he crams his pages with panels and text, at other times he lets his stylized cartooning do the emotional lifting. The varied rhythmic result provides the perfect beat for the story. Krumpholz is as much musician as he is cartoonist; his layouts are intricate solos within the larger theme of the song."

Sunday, September 3, 2017

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 8/28/17 to 9/3/17

Highlighting some great small press comics criticism being published, as well as other random things that have caught my eye over the past week.


* Sarah Rose Sharp on DIASPORA BOY by Eli Valley, a book that "analyzes the contradictions lodged within the heart of Zionist ideology and how they're an indictment of American Jews."

* John Seven on JAM IN THE BAND by Robin Enrico, an "on-target examination of the tug-of-war between nostalgia and change, and how the eternal quality of a youthful experience becomes just a dot on a timeline."

* Melissa Brinks looks at LONG LOST by Matthew Erman and Lisa Sterle, a book where "you're being thrown in the deep end and effectively told to figure it out as you go."

* Andy Oliver reviews A PORTRAIT OF SHEFFIELD by Anja Uhren, "a reminder that there are still a wealth of possibilities in how we react to and interact with graphic storytelling in print that digital delivery can never emulate."

* Zainab Akhtar spends an hour crafting these thoughts about YOU AND A BIKE AND A ROAD by Eleanor Davis, which just goes to show you that an hour of Zainab's time is three days for me.

* Rob Clough reviews POPE HATS #5 from Ethan Rilly, a book about "personal agency when faced with a culture that steamrolls indecision."

* Corissa Haury lauds praises on the work of cartoonist KATIE O'NEILL, in which Haury says, "Though there are serious themes in these stories like societal expectations for queer people  or psychological trauma, O'Neill's comics are untainted by violence and rage."

* Jon Hogan on Sonny Liew's THE ART OF CHARLIE CHAN HOCK CHYE, "a graphic novel worthy of its fans and acclaim around the globe."


* Ryan Claytor interviews JAMES STRUM on the always amazing Michigan State University Comic Art and Graphic Novel Podcast.

* For JACK KIRBY'S 100TH BIRTHDAY, Tom Spurgeon posts panel after panel of why Kirby is King.

* RJ Casey's well-done take-down, YOE BOOKS: A DISSERVICE TO COMICS HISTORY.

* Phillipe LeBlanc is at it again over on The Beat with his SMALL PRESS AND INDIE COMICS GALORE set of links and commentary. Phillipe is finding some good stuff. Is it weird to link to a set of links that links to something you wrote? Whatever. Maybe Phillipe and I should for some small press criticism linking super team or something...

* Please take a look at Luke Humphris' WHAT DO WE MEAN WHEN WE SAY "TOXIC MASCULINITY".

* Kim O'Connor writes this "tribute" (not sure what else to call it, sorry) to JOE MCCULLOCH on the occasion of his last installment of his long-running column on TCJ.

* The SPX 2017 PROGRAMMING SCHEDULE is live and there are some damn fine things happening on that end. Check it out and if you're still on the fence about whether you should attend, this should help you make up your mind. Also, I'll be there celebrating my 50th birthday, so not only will you get great comics and fantastic panels, but you'll also get to buy me drinks.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 8/14/17 to 8/20/17

Highlighting some great small press comics criticism being published, as well as other random things that have caught my eye over the past week.


* John Seven on CRAWL SPACE by Jesse Jacobs, in which "Jacobs does a great job in walking the line between an emotionally realistic teenage drama and an abstract cautionary fable about the different things people want out of life." If you've never experienced a Jesse Jacobs book, you should correct that oversight as quickly as possible. This seems like a good place to start.

* Helen Chau Bradley reviews GETTING OUT OF HOPE by James Cadelli which she describes as "a romp, at once lighthearted and unexpectedly serious". This looks like an interesting book that was totally off of my radar. I'm also fascinated suddenly by the word "romp" and what all that actually entails. 

* Robert Kirby reviews GREEK DIARY by Glynnis Fawkes, "a work that's more vivid, immersive, and entertaining than any vacation slide show could ever be." Travel comics of this type seem to always unlock something in my brain that causes me to look around my apartment and think to myself, "I should get out more."

* Nola Pfau's dislike of FAILSAFE clearly demonstrates the idea that a negative review sometimes more fully reveals the positive aspects of the medium by pointing out how a particular work fails to deliver them. Pfau's takedown is on point and fully realized. It's also engaging as fuck.

* Lucy Bourton introduces us to the four-panel comics of PEPA PRIETO PUY that wordlessly translate haikus written by her grandfather, a fascinating concept which I would love to see more cartoonists take on if for no other reason than for the expanse it creates in the heads of the reader.

* Isaac Butler on Yeon-sik Hong's UNCOMFORTABLY UNHAPPILY. The tone of Butler's writing is all over the place in this one, but he constantly sticks ideas in here that land on their feet which add remarkable insight into Hong's cartooning. 

* Andy Oliver dives into EVERY HOUR IS SAVED by Chloe Elise Dennis, "a visual record of interviews she conducted with her grandmother." I especially admire the way Oliver deals with the nascent rawness of Dennis' talent, how he looks past its missteps and sees in them their potential. Oliver is a great flag-waver for burgeoning talent, and his critical eye is certainly one to be trusted.

* Rob Clough reviews IN-BETWEEN DAYS by Teva Harrison which he calls "bracing, powerful, and achingly honest." This review made me recall my fondness for Sharon Lintz's Pornhounds. Cancer fucking sucks, y'all.

* Just go read Carta Monir's LARA CROFT WAS MY FAMILY, and you'll understand why I put this link first.

* Alex Dueben talks to SHANNON WHEELER about his new book SH*T MY PRESIDENT SAYS and the idea of illustrating Presidential Tweets. I'm personally on the fence here, as I see a certain value in this (exploding the insanity, for instance), but I also see how this could be mildly dangerous, as if holding 45 up as an object of ridicule in some ways normalizes him and lessens the impact of the implications. Strange times bring their own set of responses, I guess.

* Alex Dueben also interviews SETH about the final chapter of Clyde Fans, "what he's working on next, and some thoughts on the film Seth's Dominion."

* Greg Hunter interviews KATIE SKELLY on the latest episode of Comic Book Decalogue.

* If you're a fan of small press comics, you probably already have seen the list of IGNATZ NOMINATIONS released this week. If not, click on the link as it will lead you to said list and a couple of comments by Heidi Macdonald.

* Kim O'Connor has three words for us: "HORNY CHRIS WARE". Here, O' Connor takes a solid gaze at Ware's representations of women in his comics, and how "he mistakes all human experience as interchangeable in a way that would only ever occur to white men." O' Connor has given us a lot to chew on here in this relatively short piece, and it's enough of a mouthful to make me second guess every time I start conceiving any aesthetic or thematic reaction I have as being "universal" and "speaking to us all".

* MUST READ OF THE MOMENT: Speaking of Kim O'Connor, once again she and Nick Hanover get together to have a DISCOURSE ABOUT DISCOURSE -- this time they focus on comics criticism. I'm certainly intrigued by Hanover's idea that the best critics demonstrate a "constant pursuit of understanding." As well, O'Connor's observation that "The spirit of real criticism requires doubt more than conviction or certainty" reframes much of my thinking in an enormously positive way.

* Andy Warner and Jackie Roche present SOCIALISM: AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE.

* Liel Leibovitz dives into the archives of Tablet in order to address the issue of THE ALT-RIGHT AND THE JEWS.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 8/7/17 to 8/13/17

Highlighting some great small press comics criticism being published, as well as other random things that have caught my eye over the past week.


* Andy Oliver reviews ENTITY REUNION by Alexander Tucker. From the images Oliver ran alongside the review, this book looks spectacularly bonkers (and I am a big proponent of things spectacularly bonkers). Of that, Oliver writes that it requires "an engagement from the readership that can deal with the non-linear and cope with sequential art that bends the very definition of that term to its own will." That alone should get your juices running. Then he calls it "esoteric, enigmatic and inscrutable" and I'm all in, baby. Often times the most profound aesthetic experiences are the ones for which you have to work. That's what makes Batman vs. Superman such a work of great cinema.

* Andy Oliver also reviews (who has this kind of time) SOUND OF SNOW FALLING by Maggie Umber. Umber's work is something to behold; its silence speaks loudly through her art -- or, as Oliver writes, it "emphasizes the reader's role as observer, always that one step back from a world we can never truly be a participant in." 

* Zainab Akhtar reviews Jillian Tamaki's BOUNDLESS, saying it "is many things -- contemplative, cynical, amusing, surreal -- but it mainly anchors Tamaki as a formidable essayist of modern life, and undeniably one of the finest cartoonists of this generation." I wish I could write like Akhtar, as she's pretty much spot on about most everything she turns her critical eye towards.

* Brian Nicholson on Keren Katz's THE ACADEMIC HOUR, a book I absolutely keep meaning to read but, for some reason, keep forgetting about (is this some sort of subliminal act my brain does in order to keep me in a state of depression?). It's hard to tell if Nicholson likes this book, as his review if full of adverbs and adjectives which indicate a profound befuddlement on his part. I often wonder why a critic would take on a work that they don't fundamentally understand (although, geez, how many words did we all write about Stray Toasters?), but part of the charm of this piece, I guess, is seeing Nicholson come to terms with his confusion.

* Katie Skelly reviews MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS by Kabi Nagata, a book where "satisfaction doesn't come from setting up equations or crossing off notches. It's the experience, and what it brings out, that counts." It's this sort of insight into theme and purpose that makes Skelly as great a critic as she is a cartoonist.

* Greg Hunter reviews GHOSTS, ETC. by George Wylesol, and, in the end, says: "readers may be unsettled by Wylesol's comics while delighting in their effects." Hunter picks up on much of the same ideas that Alex Mansfield did back in May (look at me plug work that I edited!!). This is one of those books that sticks, long after you put it down. I'm excited to finally meet the Avery Hill people (the publishers of this book) at this year's SPX because they deserve hugs for the spectacular books they publish.

* Greg Burgas (how many Greg's write comics criticism anyway?) takes a look at MISTAKEN IDENTITY by Gordon Harris. There's a lot of words in this review, but the ones that best suit the purpose of this column are: "Harris does a nice job showing how we invent ourselves and how we move from one section of our lives to another. He also casts a critical eye on the things that others think are important and want us to believe are important, even if we don't feel that way." Like I said, a lot of words. It's hard to tell if Burgas likes the book by his use of the words "nice" and "critical eye" -- but rest assured, he does.

* MariNaomi presents an excerpt from Nichole J. George's graphic memoir FETCH, which she recommends "for both animal lovers and those who hope to understand their animal-loving friends."

* John Seven reviews Yeon-Sik Hong's UNCOMFORTABLY HAPPY and really likes it for its optimism. As I just wrote that sentence, I realized how few times in life we completely admire someone for their optimism. Often times, we regard positivity in the face of challenges as either an act of denial or ignorance. And when you think about it, that's really pretty sad. It's too damn easy to be cynical, people. As Jackie DeShannon said, "Put a little love in your heart."

* I know this is from last week, but I missed it then because I was probably drunk or asleep, but anytime Rob Clough writes about comics poetry, I want you all to read it. This time he reviews INKBRICK #3. Inkbrick is a comics poetry anthology curated by Alexander Rothman, Paul Tunnis, and others and is my go-to when people ask me about the genre. I've been writing extensively about comics poetry since I got my first issue of Inkbrick (it was my gateway piece), but I will never be able to write as well as Rob Clough.

* Oliver Sava reviews PANTHEON: THE TRUE STORY OF THE EGYPTIAN DEITIES by Hamish Steele which "spotlights just how strange mythology can be, adapting ancient Egyptian folklore in all of its absurd, grotesque glory." I like how Sava keeps reminding you that this is not a kid's book by using some pretty graphic examples of Steele's choices.

* Alenka Figa on NOT MY SMALL DIARY 19: UNEXPLAINED EVENTS, an anthology edited by Delaine Derry Green. Figa has a lot of great things to say about this book, and since I trust her taste, I imagine this is worth your time. My favorite thing about this review, though, is when, at the end, Figa acknowledges what is best about anthologies altogether by talking about her excitement seeing artists she knew alongside artists that were "entirely new" to her. Nothing helps a reader discover great new talent than a well-curated anthology. We need more of those. Get on that, everyone.

* Nick Hanover takes a long look at Rupert Everton's I ROVED OUT, a book which "showcases a beautiful world where problems are caused and just as often solved by immense amounts of fucking." There's a pitch you don't get every day. Or maybe you do? I guess it just depends on the circles in which you operate. Maybe I just need to get out more.


* Mike Dawson and Zack Soto talk to creator and critic DARRYL AYO on the latest Process Party. Ayo is someone you should listen to (unless he is shit-talking sandwiches, then fuck that guy) about comics. Follow Ayo on twitter @darrylayo. You'll be glad you did. Also, the whole conversation that Dawson and Soto have about being dads at the start of this episode makes me feel really, really old.

* Philippe LeBlanc interviews XIA GORDON about her new book from 2dCloud, Kindling, as well as her "use of colours (sic) and her upcoming comics." While the interview suffers from the lack of further development (and Canadian spelling) inherent in an interview that isn't conducted live, LeBlanc asks some good questions and, regardless, I'm really looking forward to this book.

* Joseph Schmidt talks to AUBREY PLAZA about dancing on Legion. I link this for a number of reasons. One, I like Legion a lot and Aubrey Plaza is probably the best thing in it, and two, I like Joe a lot and I like to watch him try to make this an actually interesting interview.

* Check out the CARTOONISTS OF COLOR DATABASE and the QUEER CARTOONISTS DATABASE, both a labor of love, created and maintained by MariNaomi. Then hire some of these amazing cartoonists.

* Cartoonist JULIA GFRÖRER went to the hospital after being ATTACKED BY A FERAL CAT. I realize that sentence sounds a bit sensational, which is a shame, as the story is rather mundane. All I can say about this whole story, though, is thank goodness for the Affordable Care Act.


* Finally, here's some really great news: