Sunday, July 23, 2017

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 7/17/17 to 7/23/17

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

COMICS CRITICISM

* Megan Purdy and Kat Overland have this great conversation about Kabi Nagata's MY LESBIAN EXPERIENCE WITH LONELINESS.

* Dominic Umile on Ellice Weaver's SOMETHING CITY

* Hillary Brown takes a look at Andrea Pazienza's ZANARDI which she calls "foul, rude ... and not wholly without merit."

* Robert Kirby on I WISH I WAS JOKING by Tom Van Deusen.

* Arnar Heidmar's STRANGERS IN PARADISE RANTROSPECTIVE PART 1.

* Keith Silva takes apart his reaction to METAL GODS: A TRIBUTE TO JUDAS PRIEST from Decibel Books.

Rob Clough reviews a few releases from the MINI-KUS! series, including: 
                      -  mini-Kus! #14: The Pernicious Kiss by Tiina Lehikoinen.
                       - mini-Kus! #16: Runaway Dog by Emilie Ostergren.
                       - mini-Kus! #42: Alien Beings by Laura Kenins. 

WHATNOT

* Greg Hunter talks to MICHEL FIFFE on Comic Book Decalogue.

* Joe McCulloch interviews KATIE SKELLY on Inkstuds.

* Zack Soto and Mike Dawson talk to ERIC HAVEN on Process Party.

* Elana Levin interviews REBECCA EPSTEIN on Graphic Policy Radio about her new book, Gently Murder Me.

* RJ Casey talks to JASON MURPHY about "his evolving style, childhood symbolism, and his new short story "The Character".

* Emma Houxbois' powerful unpacking of the death of CHESTER BENNINGTON.

* Iris Cushing on poet NIKKI WALLSCHLAEGER's new book Crawlspace, which "discovers the violence embedded in our most familiar structures: mortgages, meals, rooms, houses, family relationships, and language itself."

* Joan Nathan makes a perfect DAIRY BORSCHT for these hot summer days.



Sunday, July 16, 2017

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 7/10/17 to 7/16/17

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

COMICS CRITICISM

* David Fairbanks on M. Dean's STRANGE MAGIC, a short work that feels "more expansive than its eight pages should be capable of, to linger in the mind." 

*Dominic Umile takes a long look at The New York Times Magazine COMICS ISSUE.

* Philippe LeBlanc reviews Zoe Taylor's JOYRIDE, a book "about escaping, multiple types of escapes, whether from the personal, the social or the emotional."

* Here's Rob Clough looking at a number of books from one of my favorite new publishing ventures of the last few years, SILVER SPROCKET.

* Andy Oliver reviews A CUP OF TEA WILL SORT YOU OUT by Andy Poyiadgi, "a collection of tea-related cartoons masquerading as beverage-based advice and wisdom that positively revel in the absurd."

* Addley Walker has a list of COMIC MAKERS AND ARTISTS HE FOLLOWS AND ENJOYS. It's a pretty diverse and solid list. 

* Jenny Robins reviews THE ADVENTURES OF TEAM POM VOLUME ONE: SQUID HAPPENS by Isabel Roxas.


WHATNOT

* Alex Dueben interviews KEILER ROBERTS about her new book, Sunburning. Dueben also interviews NOAH VAN SCIVER about Fante Bukowski Two.

* Riki Robinson interviews MARINAOMI about "the progression of her art journey."

* Ken Parille's LESLIE STEIN: A BRIEF APPRECIATION.

* Kim O'Connor's really well written ANOTHER FAKE CONVERSATION, which basically revolves around the premise: "There's nothing immature about saying that something makes you feel upset. Nor is it anti-art to interrogate whether that feels earned."

* Jessica Plummer's STOP EXPLAINING THE DIRECT MARKET TO ME.

* Is it time to start making lists? We are in SDCC media glut time. It's the summer. It's going to be 100 degrees here today. I guess that's what happens. Anyway, here's 100 FAVORITE COMICS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS from NPR Books.

* Jesse David Fox presents AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE SIMPSONS' CLASSIC PLANET OF THE APES MUSICAL.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 7/3/17 to 7/9/17

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

COMICS CRITICISM

* Keith Silva reviews REVENGER AND THE FOG by Charles Forsman, which "proves pastiche without purpose grows stale."

* Kat Overland on WHAT IS A GLACIER? by Sophie Yanow, "a story that's more than the sum of its parts."

* David Nieves reviews Becky Cloonan's, BY CHANCE OR PROVIDENCE, a new collection of her previously published mini-comics, now colored by Lee Loughridge and released through Image.

* Jon Day reviews Eleanor Davis' YOU AND A BIKE AND A ROAD, "a quiet celebration of what Davis calls the 'sovereign body' pitted against the landscape and 'god's thrilling indifference.'"

* Ayla Angelos presents RIPPLES by Wai Wai Pang. 

* Rob Kirby presents an excerpt from Teva Harrison's IN-BETWEEN DAYS.

* Rob Clough on Greg Farrell's HIPSTER!


WHATNOT

* Andy Oliver interviews ELLICE WEAVER about her career and her new book, Something City

* Dash Shaw interviews GARY PANTER about Panter's new book, Songy of Paradise.

* Hillary Brown interviews JEN LEE about process, disaster preparations, anthropomorphic animals, and her book, Garbage Night.

* Dan Nadel has a conversation with SIMON HANSELMANN.

* Nick Hanover pointedly asks the question, WHY DOES IMAGE'S VISION OF THE FUTURE OF COMICS MOSTLY CENTER AROUND EXPLOITING QUEER VOICES? 

* Jordan Calhoun's IMAGE APOLOGIZES, MISSES POINT: A LINE-BY-LINE BREAKDOWN OF IMAGE COMICS' "APOLOGY".

* Greg Hatcher on the perils of publishing, SWIMMING WITH SHARKS, PART ONE.

* B. Lana Guggenheim writes about A NEW BALLET MATCHES JEWISH JEWLIET WITH NAZI ROMEO and "it's as terrible and offensive as it sounds."

* Jenny Brewer talks about how Greenpeace has enlisted SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS AS AN ECO ACTIVIST.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

KILGORE QUARTERLY #7: The Art of The Self

KILGORE QUARTERLY #7
Edited by Dan Stafford
Featuring works by Summer Pierre, Tim Lane, Joseph Remnant, Sam Spina, and Leslie Stein
Published by Kilgore Books


Here’s something that you probably already know: putting together anthologies is a tricky business. It usually takes a certain level of editorial intent in order for a collection to hang together on its own. As far as Kilgore Quarterly #7 goes, though, editor Dan Stafford says this one “focuses on longer works from artists who have orphaned stories. Some of these appeared elsewhere, have gone out of print, and need to be read by more people, some are from forthcoming works, and some just needed a home.” Throwing together something palatable with this sort of junk-drawer editorial construct strikes me as akin to the meals I make at the end of the week using all the leftovers in the fridge. Sometimes it tastes disgusting, sometimes transcendent. You just don’t know what you’re going to get when you throw it all in the pot.


Amazingly, though, Kilgore Quarterly #7 tastes great.


In the end, the disparate voices and styles complement each other by bringing out thoughts and themes that stand out through their juxtaposition far greater than they would have by themselves. Though separate and contained, each piece is magnified by its relationship within the whole. Through what may be happenstance, this anthology ends up being thematically sound -- an exploration of the relationship between art and the artist.


Reading Kilgore Quarterly #7 makes me think that it would benefit by the subtitle: The Art of The Self.


The collection opens with Summer Pierre’s “Dappled Light”, a five-page, thickly inked rumination on the connection between “sitcoms from the 1950’s and 1960’s” and the author’s creative output. Pierre reflects on her past, spending “hours after school drawing to old TV shows” and the escapism that activity provided, an exercise that transported her not necessarily out of time but out of place. A jarring two-panel sequence halfway through “Dappled Light” indicates a certain level of abuse Pierre suffered as a child. This abuse provides the impetus for the connection Pierre feels for these long past TV shows, “a place filled with dappled light -- uncluttered by secrets or rage.” The final horizontal panel of the artist as a young girl curled up on a couch emits the feeling of comfort inherent in escapism. The correlation between the acts of her watching those old shows and of her creating art demonstrates a sense of purpose behind the two endeavors. Here, escapism is at the core of creating the self. Pierre is, in effect, stating clearly that her art is what allowed her to define the person she longed to be.


The next piece in Kilgore Quarterly #7 is “Steve McQueen Has Vanished” by Tim Lane. Drawn in straightforward, naturalistic style, Lane’s use of light and dark elements, plus his choices of perspective and tight close-ups, give the piece a vaguely noir sensibility. Ostensibly, the narrative revolves around a stranger showing up at a roadside motel. The stranger may or may not be the actor Steve McQueen who, according to news reports, has disappeared from public view -- perhaps due to a feud with Paul Newman regarding billing in the film Towering Inferno. Where narrative ends, theme begins, as Lane becomes more introspective regarding the nature of identity, exploring how everything we do, especially creative acts, defines how the world sees us, and how that self is as much a creation as the act itself. Where the true self lies is somewhere altogether different, a place of solitude, reflection, and contemplation. In Lane’s piece, art is a mask the artist wears in public, a persona created by the audience who have projected their own desires and needs onto its face. For the artist, that mask is either something to hide behind or be suffocated by. In the end, Lane’s story becomes more about the narrator than the characters it describes. In that, “McQueen” takes the universal and localizes it to the experience of a stand-in for ourselves.


Would I have read “Steve McQueen Has Vanished” along these lines had it not been for Summer Pierre’s piece prior to it? I don’t think so. Such is the power of putting these pieces together.


Likewise, Joseph Remnant’s “I Told You So” continues the framing theme of the art of the self. Remnant’s propensity to fill his panels with small diagonal lines belies the influence artists like Robert Crumb have on his work, but it also adds a certain dingy foreboding to his cartooning, as if filth and darkness are constantly threatening to engulf everything. This is another story about understanding a person through the work they create. To be honest, it’s my favorite piece in Killgore Quarterly #7, and it’s heartbreakingly sweet, the kind of comic where you end up smiling a teary-eyed grin at in the end, though the process to getting there is a painful journey to walk. Remnant is able to turn the sad-sack upside-down and unpack its heart. There’s every reason not to root for the protagonist in this piece. After all, he’s a moody, mopey, privileged white boy whose actions, though well-intentioned, smack of, at best, social awkwardness. And yet….



And yet in “I Told You So” Remnant exposes that one’s true self can be found in their art, as long as it speaks to the truth of the heart. If art is pushed out because of some obligatory grasp at what others have expressed is true, then it smacks false and reveals nothing but a void within. When it speaks of the self, though, it is revelatory, worthy of encapsulating that which is the real “you”.


Sam Spina comments further on this idea with his contribution to Kilgore Quarterly #7, “K. Trout Makes His Move”, which wraps itself in an absurd metatextual bind. This comic begins with a down-on-his-luck fish who uses his name, which also happens to be Sam Spina, to get laid. It then pulls back to the “real” Sam Spina who is incredibly pleased for having created “another perfect comic” in a coffee shop, where he is summarily beaten for being a “lanky little freak”. At the end, a fish which had been living in human Spina’s knit-hat comments, “Wow! Your comics just get better and better!” Here the relationship between the artist and his art is bundled into a self-awareness that nobody outside of himself can conceptualize. Art is a lie that serves to bolster the self, to give it power and meaning in a world that is chaotic and draining. Spina’s comic is only of value to himself, empowering him to a moment where the true self is given voice and agency. Though the human Spina is physically repulsed of this idea through the agency of others, the fish in his hat, the idea of self that Spina still grabs hold of, continues to be unswayed. Whatever humor it is intended to convey and/or contains, “K. Trout Makes His Move” is a complex bit of business.


Rounding out Kilgore Quarterly #7 is Leslie Stein’s “The Desk”. In “The Desk”, Stein features her semi-autobiographical character, Larrybear, from her Eye Of The Majestic Creature series. Here, a young Larry builds a desk in the doorway of her room using oversized fake bricks. As her family members walk by, she says, “Hello! Larry’s room! How can I help you?” -- though neither her mother nor her sibling pay her any mind. While this is, on the surface, a simple childhood reminiscence of “playing adult”, there’s still that undercurrent of how artists use their art to define themselves.


There’s a lot to process in “The Desk”. The image of a child using bricks to seal up half of the entrance to their bedroom in order to become something more than they are is the stuff that post-Freudian analysts dream of. The fact that her family ignores her assumed identity, this “false self” that Larry has created through an act of imagination, also speaks volumes as to Stein’s own sense of herself. Larry eventually has to pee. Because of this physical need, she has to break through the wall she has created with her artistry, clearly demarking the line between the self as a corporeal thing and the self as a conceived thing. The body as form must break through the barrier of art in order to satisfy its needs, showing its predominance in the cartesian duality that plagues us all. “The Desk” ends with Larrybear cleaning up her bricks and focuses on a shattered picture frame that holds a portrait of herself. The line between who she is and who she wants to be is clear. It is only through an act of sheer artistic endeavor that she will ever become actualized as her desired self.


Again, Kilgore Quarterly #7 would benefit by a subtitle: The Art of The Self.

All my interpretations of each piece are only brought to the fore through its interaction with the pieces that preceded it. This is the mark of a coherent anthology. Dan Stafford has collected all these “orphans” and has given them a home in Kilgore Quarterly #7. They become a family by the proximity they share. These leftovers only become a truly harmonious meal when they stirred together in the same pot, and I, for one, have become more aware of myself for having tasted this dish.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 6/26/17 to 7/2/17

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

COMICS CRITICISM

* Sam Ombiri on PLANS WE MADE by Simon Moreton, brilliantly using a comparison to Dash Shaw's New School in order to make his point. 

* Michelle Dee reviews WET MOON, a graphic novel series by Sophie Campbell, "a proud testament to the notion that mostly dialogue can be a gripping page-turner in the American comics scene."

* Ayla Angelos takes on Nathan Cowdry's latest offering, SHINER.

* Brian Nicholson dives into Noel Freibert's WEIRD 6, which "takes spiritual deadness as a given, a prerequisite."

* Kat Overland, Alexis Sergio, and Melissa Brinks' SMALL PRESS BITES this week features three queer stories by three queer creators: Postseason Blues by Kristen Rosa, Gamer Girl and Vixen from Joy Cat Comics, and Deja Brew by Taneka Stotts and Sara DuVall

* Alex Hoffman presents QUICK PICKS #7,  "an occasionally written series of mini comics reviews of books [he's] read over the past two weeks." This one features books by Olive Booger, Brian Blomerth, and Opal Pence.

* Lucy Bourton takes a look at Anna Haifisch's new book, DRIFTER, "a comic book of an entirely alternative medium, reverting back to the process that led to her drawing comics, printmaking." Bourton also presents German Cartoonist Max Baitinger's comic BIRGIT.

* Rob Clough finishes his look at the Comics-As-Poetry work of Andrew White by unpacking his collection titled M.

* Philippe LeBlanc's EXPLORING CLIMATE CHANGE AND MIGRANT DETENTION IN SOPHIE YANOW, IONA FOX, AND TINGS CHAK'S LATEST COMICS


Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

WHATNOT

* Edited by Hass Otsmane-Elhaou, the new digital magazine PANEL X PANEL may be setting a new high bar in comics criticism. The first issue is thoughtful, deep-diving, and lovely. I don't have enough superlatives in my lexicon to give it ample praise. Go get that.

* Dean Steckel interviews writer and critic J. A. MICHELINE about criticism, comics, race, and Leverage.

* Alex Dueben interviews VANESSA DAVIS about her process and her book, Spaniel Rage.

* Veronique Emma Houxbois' powerfully written TRANSMYSCIRA: WHY I'M BOYCOTTING IMAGE COMICS.

* Ardo Omer gives us a list of 10 MUSLIM WOMEN WHO DRAW.

* Emma Nichols gives us a list of 9 QUEER COMICS FOR KIDS.

* Alex Mansfield's FORGET JUMPING ON, JUST DIVE IN: AN EXPERIMENT.

* Andrea Leigh Shockling's latest SUBJECTIVE LINE WEIGHT is pretty amazing.

* The official fourth single off the debut Witch Watch album, Wandering and Wondering, is called TRANSPARENCIES, the video of which is animated and edited by Derek Van Gieson.

* Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib's A BRIEF, CHEESY INTERLUDE. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

In Lieu of Reviews Two: Eight Books For You

Elkin’s note: I’ve been busy with end-of-the-school-year shenanigans, and now I’m going on a two-week vacation. I have a bunch of books that are mostly spectacular which have been piling up on my “to-review” stack. I kinda want to come back from my trip relaxed, calm, and unconcerned, so I’m just gunna dump a whole bunch of these books in this week’s column. Know that if they are featured on this list, they are worth your time and money. I may come back to them again for full-length reviews in the future.

WHAT IS A GLACIER?
By Sophie Yanow
Published by Retrofit/Big Planet
Available HERE

Retrofit writes: Sophie Yanow, acclaimed creator of War of Streets and Houses, returns with another autobiographical tale of her trip to Iceland. Air travel in our environmentally fraught times is juxtaposed with her reflections on a relationship that ended a year prior.

Simply stated and drawn, emotionally powerful, this short book demonstrates why Sophie Yanow is one of the best cartoonists working today.

THE MAN WHO CAME DOWN THE ATTIC STAIRS
By Celine Loup
Available HERE

Celine Loup writes: Inspired by film noire and the works of Ira Levin and Shirley Jackson, The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs is a horror comic about motherhood and post-partum depression. Emma is excited to start a family in her new home, but motherhood brings far more isolation and despair than she is prepared to handle. If only her husband could understand, but he hasn't been the same since that day...

Highlighting Loup’s art, this one deals with some serious issues and takes the reader deep into the experience she is exploring.

THE CHRONICLES OF FORTUNE
By Coco Picard
Published by Radiator Comics
Available HERE

Radiator Comics writes: Originally published as a series of minicomics, The Chronicles of Fortune is a quirky and idiosyncratic adventure of Fortuna, the greatest superhero who could do anything to improve the world, but is tragically stricken with ennui. Coco Picard’s The Chronicles of Fortune follows the lives of Fortuna, and her alter-ego, Edith-May as they learn to cope with loss and recruit a team of friends along the way! Discover a temperamental stove, a nosy mountain, a goofy crocodile, a loner moth, and a singing goldfish as they lead Fortuna on her greatest adventure! At once charming, sad, funny, poignant, and bizarre, The Chronicles of Fortune keeps one foot in mundane reality.

Kinda bonkers, kinda sweet, kinda sad, this one is definitely a keeper.

COSMOS AND OTHER STORIES
By Rozi Hathaway
Published by Good Comics
Available HERE

Good Comics writes: Cosmos and Other Stories examines themes of loneliness and longing, with Hathaway’s uniquely expressive and dreamy paintwork taking the reader on a journey through various cities, towns, bedrooms and celestial realms. If you’ve ever been lost in a crowd, stayed up all night to talk to someone long distance, or felt the ache of an absent love, then this collection will speak to you.

More like comics-poetry than a straight narrative, this book demonstrates Hathaway’s evocative use of color and pacing to capture mood, tone, and theme.

PRETENDING IS LYING
By Dominique Goblet
(Translated by Sophie Yanow)
Published by New York Review Books
Available HERE

New York Review Books writes: In a series of dazzling fragments—skipping through time, and from raw, slashing color to delicate black and white—Goblet examines the most important relationships in her life: with her partner, Guy Marc; with her daughter, Nikita; and with her parents. The result is an unnerving comedy of paternal dysfunction, an achingly ambivalent love story (with asides on Thomas Pynchon and the Beach Boys), and a searing account of childhood trauma—a dizzying, unforgettable view of a life in progress and a tour de force of the art of comics.

This book is spectacular. Buy it.

EVERYTHING IS FLAMMABLE
By Gabrielle Bell
Published by Uncivilized Books
Available HERE

Uncivilized Books writes: In Gabrielle Bell’s much anticipated graphic memoir, Everything is Flammable, she returns from New York to her childhood town in rural Northern California after her mother’s home is destroyed by a fire. Acknowledging her issues with anxiety, financial hardships, memories of a semi-feral childhood, and a tenuous relationship with her mother, Bell helps her mother put together a new home on top of the ashes. A powerful, sometimes uncomfortable, examination of a mother-daughter relationship and one’s connection to place and sense of self. Spanning a single year, Everything is Flammable unfolds with humor and brutal honesty. Bell’s sharp, digressive style is inimitable.

It’s Gabrielle Bell. It’s good. Of course it’s good.

EARTHA
By Cathy Malkasian
Published by Fantagraphics
Available HERE

Fantagraphics writes: Eartha is Cathy Malkasian’s fourth graphic novel — a metaphorical fable that resonates with contemporary themes. For a thousand years the unfinished dreams from the City Across the Sea came to Echo Fjord to live out their lives. Sex fantasies, murder plots, wishful thinking, and all manner of secrets once found sanctuary in Echo Fjord. Emerging from the soil, they took bodily form and wandered the land, gently guided by the fjord folk who treasured their brief and wondrous lives. But recently, city dreams have stopped coming to Echo Fjord, and without their ethereal tourists the fjord folk suddenly feel lost. Has their ancient way of life ended for good? Has something happened to the city? Are all the dreamers gone? One of Echo Fjord’s inhabitants wants answers: The story’s eponymous protagonist Eartha wants to visit the City Across the Sea, but how will she get to a place no one’s gone to for a thousand years? The city isn’t on any map, or in anyone’s memory. Without thought or hesitation she ventures into the limitless waters, hoping to find the City and solve the mystery. Cathy Malkasian’s Eartha is an expansive tale of pastoral life, city corruption, greed, and addictions, and reverberates with questions plaguing us today, such as the alienating effects of hyper-connectivity and the self-destructive obsession with novelty. Malkasian’s drawing is notable for its rigorous draftsmanship, stunning landscapes and depictions of nature, the gestural nuances of her characters, and her sophisticated storytelling, all of which are on display in Eartha, making this the author’s lushest and most impressive graphic novel yet.

I’ve been working on a full-length review of Eartha in fits and starts for the last couple of months, but I just can’t seem to make it stick. My thoughts on theme keep falling apart. Regardless, this is a beautiful book. Malkasian’s pencils are breathtaking and, while it doesn’t entirely hold together, in the end, it’s worth owning just to look at.

THEN IT WAS DARK: A PARANORMAL ANTHOLOGY
Edited by Sarah Benkin
Published by Peppermint Monster Press
Available HERE

Have you ever seen something you can't explain? Heard a voice speak a warning to you as you drifted off to sleep? Ever see a woman with no face singing to herself on a long, empty road? Ever talk to a serial killer? From the strange, nighttime experiences of a man deployed in Iraq to the story of a house haunted by a slightly mad old Jewish matriarch, from a chaplain's experience performing an exorcism to the history of spiritualism, to a ghost that seems to love LARPs, Then It Was Dark collects a variety of strange experiences from talented and diverse voices. A collection of personal paranormal experiences, true ghost stories, friend-of-friend tales and brushes with the unknown.
Check out the now-funded Kickstarter for further details. This book has many spooky, scary, and unnerving tales. As with many anthologies, the contents are hit-or-miss, but those that do hit, hit hard and well.