Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis: Mike Diana and the NSFW Band

If one is not careful, a fellow co-worker can cause an avalanche of mini-comics (or “comicslanch”, from the roots “comics” and “brucevilanch”) by speaking too loudly or inadvertently sitting on a Talking Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man Action Figure Collectible Now With Five Clips from the Hit Movie. A torrent of pulpy-doom will rain down to bury the victim for, oh, let’s say three days. And that’s why this post is so late.

Scummy Comix by Mike Diana

Scummy Comix is an amazing and appalling collection of short comics ranging from 1995 until 2005. For the uninitiated, Diana’s work is an angst-y mix of sex and violence, turned way the frak up. Diana’s comics are completely unfiltered; every point hammered home violently and often at the expense of or the mercy of gigantic and ugly sex organs. His characters are pulled apart, ground up, penetrated violently, and subjected to whatever other torments Diana can imagine. There is something supremely liberating about a comic that so aggressively challenges taboos, but it can be exhausting as well. It’s a tough book to put down; I found myself sucked into Diana’s super-fucked up world. But it’s also a book that requires breaks; at least for me. It’s intense. BTW, it should go without saying that here there be dragons, i.e. that which follows the jump is super not-safe-for-work. Warned you have been!

Diana’s art is feverishly detailed, fixating on the gross and the shocking in a way that reminds me of Basil Wolverton’s work. This compliments the over-the-top morality tales nicely, resulting in a comic that is as focused as it is frenzied.

Stray notes: my usual pet peeve of spelling errors shows up once or twice. Also, the artwork is surprisingly consistent despite the collection spanning a decade. I can’t decide if this is a good or a bad thing.

Polite Fiction 2 by José-Luis Olivares

Once more I need to preface a review with my disclaimer: José-Luis Olivares is a friend of mine from the Center for Cartoon Studies.

And he’s also a damn fine cartoonist. His book Polite Fiction #2 is a collection of short experimental comics drawn with a deceptive, child-like playfulness that is nevertheless able to capture a tremendous range of emotions.

Polite Fiction #2 has too many short pieces for me to review here, so I’ll just discuss my favorite. Like many of the comic therein, this one is untitled. It is, however, the only one that is in color. If I have one criticism of Olivares’ work, it’s that his use of loose, thick lines can sometimes make it difficult to differentiate one element from another. What’s nice about seeing his work in color is that the visual elements are much easier to read. But that’s not what I loved about this particular comic (and, for the record, it only edged out some of the other wonderful stories by a little bit); rather it’s the rich emotional texture that pervades it. The story is about a castaway on a tiny island, fending off the birds who inhabit the island’s only tree. Olivares conveys the man’s loneliness simply and elegantly, there are a couple of moments that come as a real punch to the gut. One of the things that I find so mesmerizing about Olivares’ work is his ability to tackle fairly straightforward ideas in a very unconventional manner. His is constantly pushing the boundaries of what comics can be, which I find exciting.

Tales of October #1 by Paul Sloboda

Paul Sloboda’s collection of short comics is more narrative-driven than the other two comics I’ve reviewed today. His art is ambitious in it’s strive to balance realism with subtle exaggeration, something I admire. It doesn’t always work; physical proportions sometimes stretch awkwardly; but I admire how the artist is pushing himself.

The stories of Takes of October all take place within the small backwater town of Quitoclam, presumable in October (though I don’t recall this being explicitly stated). They range from the comedic to the tragic. Sloboda excels at creating a sense of place and I never found myself unable to follow the action. He does rely a bit heavily on black spotting, both for the purposes of creating atmosphere and for giving objects volume. There is also a creepy quality to the eyes of several characters that I’m not sure is entirely purposeful. I suspect this may be the result of the artist’s attempt to balance realistic and expressive facial elements. It needs a bit of work, but I think he’s on the right track. In general Sloboda does a great job of creating interesting and unique characters. I look forward to reading a longer story where the artist has room the stretch out.

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Morgan Pielli’s latest comic, The Worry Tree, can be read on-line at www.MorganPielli.com

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