Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Books in Bites 17: THRILL MOUTH #1 by Theo Ellsworth, MINOR LEAGUES FOUR by Simon Moreton, AFTER LAUGHTER by Jonathan Djob Nkondo, and LITTLE GODS by Leda Zawacki

Quick Reviews of 4 Books you may be interested in.

By Theo Ellsworth
Available HERE

Theo Ellsworth creates books that pivot and place you in spaces wildly psychotomimetic and yet deeply affecting. Drawn in mostly straight ballpoint pen, this 36-page black and white zine defies unloading in terms of narrative, and yet, as is typical of an Ellsworth book, seizes your attention, as if pleading with your subconscious to recognize limitless process as well as marking the path to some recognition of healing. As is also part and parcel of an Ellsworth book, there’s a tension towards resolution and an understanding of the importance of the unknowable self. Ellsworth provides guides to cosmic understanding. Thrill Mouth #1 sets the stage for something new, something important. As always, it is Ellsworth’s dense art that captures this perfectly.

By Simon Moreton
Available HERE

The draw of a Simon Moreton comic is his ability to reduce everything to its most basic elements and, in that, expose its emotional core. Like much of Moreton’s work, Minor Leagues Four is introspective, scrutinizing the past, breaking down that which was into those beats that linger, paring the entirety to gestures and capturing the lines that outline experience. Moreton seems to see summation as story, and his linework prunes the personal into universal tokens, allowing his readers to mirror encounters of their own existence, their self on top of his. Cartooning combined with short fiction and photographs, Minor Leagues Four is both zine and rhetoric, and once again proves that Simon Moreton is an artist of and for our times.

By Jonathan Djob Nkondo
Published by ShortBox
Available HERE

One of the best things about Zainab Akhtar’s quarterly curated ShortBox releases is she consistently introduces us to artists to whom we might not otherwise have access. French animator, designer, and artist Jonathan Djob Nkondo is one such creator. His book After Laughter is, perhaps, perfect. This wordless 44-page, black and white book reads as if it were a short film, reflecting movement and time, focusing attention and perspective in a manner not often found in comics. Parsing story into sequential static images, as Nkondo does here, makes that which could be a passive experience,the act of viewing an unfolding as told by another, into an active engagement -- the reader lingers as long as they feel necessary on panel or page, focusing on whatever element that draws, each creating cadence of an intrinsically personal reflection. Then, in that moment of closure only found in the experience of comics, the reader ends up having a unique interaction with the text, revealing in that, themselves. Nkondo’s use of negative and positive space adds to what he is seeking to convey. Here, solid truths, those of the agreed upon black and white variety, seem to fluctuate through the choices of the artist, and yet, even in this, an agreed upon reality is pushed to the forefront. This is an amazing book from an amazing talent, and it’s one that should be on the shelf of anyone who considers themselves a fan of the medium.

By Leda Zawacki
Published by Tinto Press
Available HERE

In order to talk about Leda Zawacki’s Little Gods, it may be best to just quote from the solicitation from Tinto Press. It was “originally inspired by the Northwest Native American creation mythology Mount Shasta and the Grizzly Bears. Sky Gods closely follows the Native American myth and uses much of the original text. With Little Gods, the story is diverted into an alternate, female-focused mythology while embracing some of the main themes and symbolism from the original story.” Zawacki’s art in this book is beautiful, taking full advantage of possibilities watercolors offer cartoonists. As well, framing the story to focus on love, acceptance, and empowerment adds a further dimension to a rich mythology. This is gentle comic, one to be enjoyed and shared with those needing a voice, a community, and a sense of purpose.

Monday, December 11, 2017

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 12/4/17 to 12/10/17

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


* Caitlin Rosberg reviews Niki Smith's CROSSPLAY, "an emotional, evocative read about finding yourself and finding love". 

* Tessa Strain on I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS by Charles Forsman, "a complex piece of work and one of the most honest depictions of the emotional telescoping effect of both depression and adolescence."

* Matthias Wivel on THE GREEN HAND AND OTHER STORIES by Nicole Claveloux, "symbolist comics evoking internal states, giving fantastic flight to common emotions in colors and landscapes that border on the surreal. They are glimpses of a road not taken, in which comics evolved differently, sending their green shoots off into modalities that I would be loath outright to call feminine, but from which comics would certainly have benefitted had more women been attracted to and accommodated within the form at an earlier stage in its history."

* Tom Baker on the anthology MIRROR MIRROR II from 2dCloud. "a sexy, creepy book which is daring in the topics it addresses, its creators eliding conservative platitudes or easy explanations for parts of human behaviour which psychologists have spent decades struggling to get to the bottom of."

* Zachary Littrell on MICKEY'S INFERNO, a Disney version of Dante's 14th-century epic poem which features Mickey and Goofy going to Hell. I mostly link this because I love it when reviewers use the word "bonkers" in their reviews. Spoiler: Littrell uses the word "bonkers".

* Shea Hennum looks at PROXIMA CENTAURI by Farel Dalrymple, a book that "is as fun to rread as it is dizzying, and it's as dizzying to read as it is gorgeously drawn."

* Andy Oliver lauds praises on AS THE CROW FLIES by Melanie Gillman, saying "there's a pacing here that asks the reader to slow down their reading speed and immerse themselves in each single, evocatively coloured panel, creating a sense of lingering time as each day of the hike passes."

* Bryce Davidson introduces us to a strange book he found at a library book sale, ILLUSTRATED SALARYMAN IN JAPAN published by the Japanese Travel Bureau in the 1980s.

Ryan C. reviews ANTI-GONE by Connor Willumsen, which "returns how much you're willing to invest in it, and ends up being 'as good as you want it to be.'

* Greg Hunter on OLD GROUND by Noel Freibert, where "readers find presences where they'd expect absences, along with questions about how much agency the things they're seeing possess."

* Rob Clough on the comics of HANNAH KAPLAN, "one of a younger set of autobiographical cartoonists whom are especially frank about their mental health, their overall existential position on the world, and their sex lives."

* Alex Hoffman reviews BOTTLED by Chris Gooch which, "uses the interpersonal failing of family and friends to reflect the economic, political, and social unease of the millennial generation...".

* Finally, Emily Lauer looks at MANGA SHAKESPEARE: TWELFTH NIGHT as a jumping off point to discuss and dissect comic book adaptations of "classics".


* Dash Shaw interviews CONNOR WILLUMSEN about Anti-Gone. This is a pretty amazing conversation. You should read it.

* Brian Hibbs talks to CHARLES FORSMAN about his new book I Am Not Okay With This as part of the Comix Experience Graphic Novel Club (which you should join!)

* The Slate Book Review and the Center for Cartoon Studies announce the sixth annual CARTOONIST STUDIO PRIZE.

* Phillipe LeBlanc pens THE BEAT'S HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: FOR THE INDIE AND SMALL PRESS COMICS ADMIRER -- a title which really could have been pared down to "What To Get The Best People In Your Life" if you were to ask me.

* DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, PUNK? Five Cartoonists on Guns.

* Jenny Brewer on the 2018 PANTONE COLOUR OF THE YEAR (hint: it's not brown).

* Alex de Campi has this Storify called ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF featuring Comics Professionals discussing what they would go back and tell themselves at the beginning of their careers if they could.



Monday, December 4, 2017

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 11/27/17 to 12/3/17

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


* Ryan C. looks at November Garcia's MALARKEY, and writes, "it's honest, it's self-deprecating, it's witty, it's smart, it's superbly illustrated, and it's utterly devoid of pretense. Ir you were to strip away the layers of bullshit so many cartoonists surround themselves with in their portrayals of their 'real' lives, boil down the essence of the thing they get right, and filter it through a lens that sees the humor inherent in just about everything, this is what you'd get."

* Rob Clough writes what has to be the definitive review of Tillie Walden's SPINNING. Clough approaches this book with both a critical mind and an open heart, and his writing here reflects that. He ostensibly quests after meaning, but along the way comes to understand Walden as an artist on a fundamental level. This is one of my favorite bits of writing on comics that I've read in a long time.

* Etelka Lehoczky pens this plot-heavy review of I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS by Charles Forsman. I link it mostly because this book is pretty great, and second because I'm glad to see NPR getting its feet wet with small press coverage.

* Leopoldine Core reviews THE GREEN HAND AND OTHER STORIES by Nicole Claveloux, which are "darkly humorous, existential, erotic, trance-inducing -- these comics wield a rare and innovative power."

* Dominic Umile on STREET FIGHTING MEN: SPAIN VOLUME 1 which, "features reported essays on [Spain] Rodriguez's work, his reproduced art, exclusive photos, and his comix. The challenge, however, lies in coming to terms with the artist's innovative repertoire and the extent to which some of his comix revel in the sexism regularly broadcast in the era's male-authored strips." This sort of re-evaluation of the works of creators can be painful, but is absolutely necessary as a means of moving into a more inclusive future.

* John Seven praises Dave Ortega's DIAS DE CONSUELO, saying "Ortega realizes his personal vision with an art style dominated by clarity, with clean lines that capture humans and landscapes perfectly and plainly, complimented by some muted coloring that give the story the feeling of the distance past..."

* Matt Seneca reviews SHOWTIME by Antoine Cosse', saying "Books that encourage this much of a breakneck pace and still feel substantial are rare."

* Claire Napier also reviews SHOWTIME, writing "some pages -- or alright, the entire comic -- may demand or allow consideration of interpretation but there's a difference between playing Where's Wally and proofreading a document." I'm not exactly sure what Napier means by this, but I'm all in.

* RJ Casey looks at KLAUS MAGAZINE 3 by Richard Short which is "gentle without ever being cloying."

* Alex Hoffman doesn't like  IT'S NO LONGER I THAT LIVETH by Francisco Sousa Lobo, finding it "overwrought and flowery without any meaningful purpose."

* Oliver Sava on ZEGAS by Michel Fiffe.

* Douglas Wolk points out a few books on the New York Times' THE LATEST IN GRAPHIC NOVELS.

* Robert Kirby presents an excerpt from DIAS DE CONSUELO by Dave Ortega.

* Phillipe LeBlanc once again has his Canadian-flavored (?) SMALL PRESS AND INDIE COMICS GALORE over on The Beat. 


* Hillary Brown interviews LESLIE STEIN about her new book, Present, and "expressing the most with the least."

* Alex Dueben interviews SOPHIE GOLDSTEIN about her new book, House of Women.

* This conversation with all the folks at PEOW and ZAINAB AKHTAR about Zainab's new position as editor just fills me with hope, joy, and excitement, three emotions that have become harder and harder to fill myself with as 2017 grinds down to an end.

*Speaking of hope, joy, and excitement -- Andy Oliver previews all of the 2018 releases planned by AVERY HILL BOOKS and they all seem pretty spectacular. Check them out!