Category: Mini Comics

Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever Number 4 is Here

Henry & Glenn Forever and Ever #4 Jeff Ayers thumbIn the final installment of the greatest love story ever told, about the domestic life of “Henry” and “Glenn” as well as their neighbors “Daryl” and “John,” we are treated to three new short stories. (similarities to real people must mean those real people have really crazy lives. What a coincidence!) This issue includes the shocking conclusion to the story of Glenn’s mother living with them (spoiler alert: zombies), Glenn and Wendy make a daring rescue from Space City after Henry gets a pep talk from Lemmy, and Henry saves Glenn from some giant lizards after his drummer quits. It’s a true testament to the power of love to overcome even the biggest, manliest egos of our time. The book also features dozens of pin up art and full color covers from the original serialized series. Will our lovers continue to frustrate, inspire, and show us the way?

You can order via mail here or just come by the shop and pick yours up while supplies last.

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TRY SOMETHING NEW Chapter 11: The Death Star!

Hello loyal readers. How was your week? Not that anyone asked but I had a good one. Well it was good until Forbidden Planet’s Tech Wizard/6th member of Modest Mouse, Tyler, threatened me. It turns out that some of the links I use on the blog weren’t up to his liking. I think he didn’t like the one linking to him singing a song he wrote about me, but that is conjecture. He is my editor though (ironic since his grasp of grammar is even worse than mine) and that comes with a certain amount of power. Mostly the power to make me look like an idiot… more of an idiot. I, of course, can write stuff that makes him look bad as well. I OBVIOUSLY never ever would , but I could. And that keeps him up at night, sweating through the sheets in his tiny little crib. And thus we have invented the concept of mutually assured blogging destruction. I am Forbidden Planet’s Dr. Strangelove. Tyler is my Dimitri.

In good news I’m not apologizing for anything in this week’s column. I pitched a perfect game with my last column. I’m hoping to keep my streak going and have some great comic recommendations for you all. And yes, all you Unkie Dev fans (or Dev-iants as we call them), I do not consider having my column run long so that Unkie Dev gets bumped a mistake. I consider it good strategy. There’s a plan at work here people. You won’t understand that until it’s too late for you.

I talk a lot about Dark Horse Presents here. Partially it’s because I think it is a great venue for some of the best storytelling in comics and you readers would love it. Mostly it’s because I like it a lot and don’t want it to get canceled. I never claimed this wasn’t self serving. DARK HORSE PRESENTS #21 has more stuff from comic greats like Shannon Wheeler, Duane Swierczynski, and Michael Avon Oeming. I am really excited to see new stuff from the great Simon Roy, artist on the always great Prophet. But the real reason you are probably buying this, and the real reason I don’t have to think of more stuff to say is this- a new story from Paul Chadwick (Concrete) and Neil Gaiman (Neil Gaiman stuff). If that doesn’t mean anything to you there isn’t much more I can say other than you need to read more comics. Start with Concrete and Sandman. Also read Dark Horse Presents.

The point of this column is to suggest (read: pressure) new books for you all to buy. Well I feel like an idiot for suggesting you pick up HELLBLAZER #300, but as the foremost comic journalist in the world I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. As it stands right now Hellblazer is the longest running sequentially numbered book at DC. That might seem like a minor distinction but it feels important. Hellblazer may only “technically” be the longest running book at DC, but it is arguably the best. And now all of that comes to an end with issue #300. DC has canceled the book in favor of a “younger, hipper” book in the regular DCU called Constantine. Apparently young hip people don’t like unique characters with rich history. Either way, buy issue #300 and put it on your nightstand for later while you work your way through the collected editions. (I know you don’t have a nightstand, you just use a bunch of old pizza boxes as furniture.) Hellblazer vol. 1 is about as good as a comic gets and it rarely lets up for the next 290ish issues.

Dynamite has done a real interesting thing the past few years. In their quiet corner of the comics universe they have taken a bunch of old pulp characters most people don’t care about and they started making fresh and exciting books out of them. The Shadow has been one of their flagships in this re-imagining. Well comics never let’s a good thing simply be, so this week sees the release of a new Shadow book, THE SHADOW: YEAR ONE #1. Willfredo Torres does some beautiful pencil work that has both a classic cartoon feel and modern styles all at the same time. And Matt Wagner does a great job of slowly leaking the origin of this 70+ year old character and keeping you guessing. This is a book that is good enough to get you excited about the whole Dynamite line. Get into it.

Remember- Don’t talk about a perfect game while it’s happening. You will jinx it.

HOW DO I KNOW WHO I AM IF I FORGET? is the new self published mini comic from writer/artist Luis Echavarria Uribe. As beautiful as it is disturbing, HDIKWIAIIF? is the story of an obsessive girl trying to figure out who she is and how she relates to the world. Her obsessions are both uncomfortable and somehow comforting all at once. Equal parts outsider art comic story and EC horror book, Mr. Echavarria Uribe crafts a story that twists and turns under you in uncomfortable and exciting ways.  His art can be quite beautiful and, unlike so many self published creators, he has learned to write to his art strengths and draw to his writing strengths. Obviously for most of the people who read this column a self published mini-comic may be far outside their wheelhouse, but this book would be write at home in the collection of anyone who likes reading good comics, regardless of genre or format. Pick it up, support someone who is doing it on their own, and you will be rewarded with one of the best books out so far this year.

I was going to write a bunch more stuff but I am tired and for some reason my girlfriend just put Glengarry Glen Ross on so I sort of stopped caring about my job here. Other good stuff out this week includes the long awaited return of Kill Shakespeare. Fans of Fables, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and trying to look more literate than you actually are would do well to pick up KILL SHAKESPEARE: THE TIDE OF BLOOD #1. A mash-up of many of The Bard’s most famous characters, the Kill Shakespeare series is always good fun if you get the references and really odd but still enjoyable I am sure if you don’t. Also worth grabbing is the strange early 90′s British sci-fi series TALES FROM BEYOND SCIENCE, which is finally collected into one hardcover. 8 tales all drawn by British artist and graphic designer Rian Hughes and written by a bevy of great Brit sci-fi scribes including Mark Millar (Kick-Ass). These bizarre short stories explain seemingly unexplainable phenomenon in ways that will make you laugh and feel like someone dosed you. If you like stuff like stuff like Madman or anything zany at all this book should be going home with you. Now go spend your money wisely. And remember kids, Always Be Closing.

How about that. It was funny. It was smart. It used commas in interesting ways. Good books were recommended. A flawless column. And that means back to back perfect games. Give me the Cy Young right now. (1% of you have any idea what I am talking about.)

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Somewhere Around The Number Ten Best Comics That Nobody Told You About

Part 1:

I love Chris Ware. Bit redundant to say so this holiday season with everyone and their sister buying Building Stories, but with so much comic awesomeness that happened in 2012; between Charles Burn’s second installment to his X’ed Out trilogy, The Hive, and Brian K. Vaughn’s SagaSAGA… It’s too easy for amazing comics to get lost in the stacks, so I’m here to give my somewhere around the number 10 best comics of 2012 that nobody told you about…

LOSE #4

Michael DeForge might be the most prolific cartoonist working right now. He pumps more work and at a higher quality that would make any other cartoonist want to quit, or work harder…..no quit thats the correct response. On top of Lose #4 this year you can also see his work in the pages of Adventure Time comics, where he does the backgrounds,variant covers, anthology stories in  Nobrow 7 (more on that in a bit) and the newest  KUS, not to mention his on going serial Ant Comics, oh and his porn comic that he designs that features work by Johnny Negron, Brandon Graham, and Jillian Tamaki….more on all of them latter too…Bottom line, DeForge has a hand in everything and you’re probably a fan of his already, so read Lose, or Ant comics, or KUS, or Nobrow, or one of the million other things he worked on this year. King of comics 2012 goes to DeForge, no contest.

The Underwater Welder

Did I mention that DeForge is Canadian? Canadians….must be a universal sigh when cartoonist’s who aren’t Canadian talk about them. Jeff Lemire is another cartoonist hailing from The Great White North. Lemire had a full year of releases with Sweet Tooth Volume 4 and 5, the reprinting of his Xeric grant book Lost Dogs and Underwater Welder. Underwater Welder is for lovers of well paced, clear story telling, and the Twilight Zone. Lemire has an economy to his comics, the art is quick yet purposeful in the same manner as the writing, which rewards the reader with a world that they can envelope themselves in. Lemire is an odd school of cartooning, he’s not so deep into independent styled comics as DeForge, but he isn’t mainstream either (though he does write the only two books at DC still worth reading Animal Man, & Frankenstein Agent of Shade ). He’s a cartoonist in love with genre but doesn’t mistake comics to be only that.

Nipper Volume 3

Nipper Volume 3 finally came out! WOOOOOOO! I might be the only American to love Nipper so go buy it and prove my gross presumption wrong. Keeping in theme with brilliant Canadian cartoonists, Nipper volume 3 is the Canadian version of Family Circus, if Family Circus was anything like a real family and not so adorable that even your grandmother finds it lame. Always silent, black and white line work with one beautiful saturation of red dropped into each panel, Doug Wright creates multi-layered story telling, in the most simple yet still incredible complicated drawing. Just go look already, and then come meet me for coffee to talk about it, I’ll be here till next year trying to describe why it’s so effffffing smart.

Diary Comics 4

Dustin Harbin is yet another broken hearted cartoonist, upset that his nationality isn’t Canadian. Diary Comics 4 starts with Dustin talking about how amazing it is to be in attendance at the Doug Wright rewards (the Canadian version of the Eisners), and how he wishes we as American could take comics as seriously as they do. Why can’t we folks? Dustin’s beautifully minimalist drawings deceive readers with their simplicity, when they are really just the right amount of information needed, each mark done with purpose in mind and simply decroative. Go read em’ they’re good. And if your not a fan of memoir, you just like the punching and kicking comics, he did letter Casanova sooo…..I don’t know Matt Fraction wrote Iron Man for like a century right? See the full picture of creators not just the characters you like….

Pope Hat #3

Pope Hat #3 by Ethan Rilly. Rilly is surprise surprise, another Canadian. Pope Hats is technically 3 issues deep but you really only need/want two and three. In Pope Hats Rilly tells the story of Franny, a young law clerk at a massive law firm, picture Wall Street with less Charlie Sheen….okay no Charlie Sheen, just that one part where he gets punched in the face by Michael Douglas… Rilly drawings show traces of his influences but they don’t unhinge the story. You can see traces of Doug Wright’s drapery in the clothing, and bits of Shultz popping up in the rendering of grass and clouds. It’s like a love letter to days past when cartooning was a profession and getting a weekly strip in a newspaper was the dream. Pope Hats narrative shares a similar tone of nostalgia with its drawing, that bitter sweet pain, from an old wound.

Thats the end of Part 1. Part 2 on Sunday 12/23/12.

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THIS SATURDAY: Pete’s Mini Zine Fest 2012!

Saturday, July 21st at 2pm

at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn

It’s time for the fourth Pete’s Mini Zine Fest, the fest-in-a-bar.

Our celebration of the duplicated arts promises a good time and a relaxing atmosphere, and is a great opportunity to really get to know our wonderful, talented tablers. Nurse a beer; read some zines.

Marguerite will be hosting a FREE comics workshop. If you’re interested in creating your own comics and don’t know where to start, this is the workshop for you.

I’ll be going over how to create comics–from the initial idea to finally getting it down on paper–and how to make your DIY books ultra faboo.

I’ll also talk about how basically any subject you choose can be made into a comic and do a little art demo.

At 5pm, meet at the stage area–once you enter Pete’s, just keep walking straight and bam, you’re on a stage.

FREE! Just show up!

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The Weekly Pulse – Power Girl Corrupts

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With the Avengers movie set to premiere in a mere two days, it’s mighty hard to concentrate on anything else! But concentrate we must, as there’s all manner of exciting things in the store this week! Minimates of Iron Man, Cap, etc, new #1s from DC’s second wave of New 52, plus some cool indie books like Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever!

Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever

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I LOVE BAD MOVIES #5 AVAILABLE NOW!

I Love Bad Movies Issue Number 5 hit the FP shelves late last night and they’re already selling like hotcakes… hotcakes filled with essays, reviews and illustrations about some of our favorite bad movies that is!

Amy Adams trying to be sexy! Jim Carrey dancing and Nicolas Cage eating a cockroach! Kirk Douglas fashion show! Nicole Kidman BMX-ing! And many more perplexing, entertaining moments from the strange outskirts of otherwise successful careers.

Ever wonder what Sharon Stone did with the Amish or what movie features Orson Welles in his final role? In this issue, writers, artists, comedians and film nerds investigate the most entertaining bad movies made by all the big stars — either before they were known, or after they should have stopped.

I LOVE BAD MOVIES: VOLUME FIVE
- A collaborative project featuring the work of 29 artists and writers
- 28 funny, insightful, celebratory and/or mocking essays
- More than 70 pages of written content
- Beautiful color glossy cover stock
- Interview with Alex Winter of Death Wish 3!
- Illustrations and weird film stills for each movie
- Theme: “Before and After They Were Famous” or, “Early and Late Roles”

COVER ART: Mat Pringle

CENTERFOLD ILLUSTRATION: Jeremy Jusay

ADDITIONAL ART: John McCoy, Chris Piascik, Mary Regan

WRITERS: David Archer, Claudia Eve Beauchesne, Matt Bird, Tom Blunt, Cristina Cacioppo, John Carman, Matt Carman, Max Cavanaugh, Eric Epstein, Kate Hutchinson, Eleanor Kagan, Elliott Kalan, M. Sweeney Lawless, Kevin Maher, Christine Makepeace, Laura Jayne Martin, Dan McCoy, John McCoy, Harry Merritt, Andrew Miller, Shove Mink, Eric Nelson, Mary Regan, Bob Satuloff, Justin Shatraw, Jay Stern, and Kseniya Yarosh.

FILMS DISCUSSED: Purple Rain, BMX Bandits, Once Bitten, Death Wish 3 (Alex Winter Interview), Tough Guys, The Transformers: The Movie, Making Mr. Right, Bad Taste, Summer School, Disorderlies, Teen Wolf Too, Vampire’s Kiss, Slaves of New York, Cool as Ice, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Freeway, Fear, Cruel Intentions 2, Whatever it Takes, Hercules in New York, Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Stay Hungry, The Last Tycoon, Sextette, Bloodline, The Burning, Deadly Blessing, and Miss All-American Beauty.

For more info on these killer cult zines check www.ilovebadmovies.com

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Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis: Happy Town Tales

I’d already decided that Justin Madson‘s Happy Town Tales was going to be the one book I reviewed for the week (based both on its hefty 80-page length and because it consists of three separate stories), but three pages in I fell in love this the book and realized that there would be plenty for me to talk about. I am not familiar with Madson’s other work, but I’ve since been told that his graphic novel Breathers is something I need to pick up.

First in this collection, and comprising the bulk of Happy Town Tales, is “No Girls Allowed.” As I said, this book made a strong impression on me early on. Part of the reason for this is Madson’s gorgeous art. He has a simplified style that doesn’t abandon complex perspective or intricate backgrounds. He seems keenly aware of what in a given scene needs to be to focused upon in detail versus what needs to be simplified down to a gestural line. His figures are subtly elastic, allowing them to better emote through gentle exaggerations. The author’s use of black-spotting is particularly strong as well, though if I have one criticism, it’s that his overall framing is sometimes confusing. It’s not such a problem as to hinder readability, but it is at times distracting.

The other reason that I was so responsive to this book is the quality of writing. “No Girls Allowed;” about revisiting childhood memories in the wake of a suicide; is exceedingly well paced. Madson wisely leaves plenty of space between moments without making the story feel slow. The protagonist is interesting in that he’s not particularly sympathetic. He comes across as a descent-but-self-involved person who can only view a person’s tragedy through his own mirror. I find this sort of complex character so much more interesting than the usual bland everyman or author-surrogate. Continue reading

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Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis: Woman King and The Trials of Sir Christopher

For a some time now I’ve been considering expanding the scope of this column. What is a mini comic? They come in all shapes and sizes and are drawn by people as all levels of skill and success. Many are self published, but just as many are published by small imprints or other indie cartoonists. The idea that they come from people on the fringes of the medium; perhaps once true, is no longer the case. Though mini comics, in many ways, came out of ‘zine culture, the mini comic has transformed from an object to a genre. As such, it now encompasses a broad range of comics.

With that in mind, we will be looking today at two graphic novels from artist Colleen Frakes; Woman King and The Trials of Sir Christopher.  In the interest of full disclosure, Colleen Frakes was a classmate of mine at The Center for Cartoon Studies.

Additionally, I was part of the critique group in which Frakes workshopped Woman King, and I was a member of the studio where The Trials of Sir Christopher was drawn. I will endeavor to remain as objective as possible. However, I have had the unique privilege of seeing both of these books as various stages of completion, and will likely draw upon that for my review.

Woman King is a lush and powerful book. Like much of Frakes’ work, Woman King has a timeless fairy-tale quality to it. It is the story of a girl who is adopted by a tribe of bears and groomed to lead them in their war with men. Like the best fairy tales, there is as much blood as there is sweetness, and Frakes’ spare drawing style heightens the grim circumstances in some unexpected ways.

Continue reading

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Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis: Fuff #8 & Spider Monkey #1

Welcome to another edition of mini-comics reviews! Today’s selections were chosen without any sort of over-riding theme in mind, so let’s just jump right in and take a look at what we’ve got this week:

Fuff #8 by Jeffrey Lewis

Two months ago I had the great fortune of being asked to participate in a live comics reading at the KGBar in Manhattan. The lineup included many artists I admire, and they all did a killer job. One man, however, knocked it clean out of the park. That man was Jeffrey Lewis. Rather than merely read his comics off of a projector screen, Lewis arrived with a specially drawn cue-card-sized comic in one hand and his guitar in the other. He read, he sang, he engaged in a conversation with a pre-taped Jeffrey Lewis. Part indy artist and part rock star, Jeffrey Lewis is an odd mixture of influences and approaches.

Fuff #8 is the most recent in his long-running collection of beautifully drawn and eclectic short comics. The bulk of this collection is a series entitled “Stories My Dad Tells” that recount how Lewis’ father built a cabin in the woods of Maine. The tales are told Rashomon-style from the perspective of Lewis’ father, mother, a family friend, and even Madonna (whose life did intersect, however briefly, with that of Lewis’ parents). Each story presents the reader with a different type of unreliable narrator, and the omissions and inconsistencies therein serve to illustrate the relationships between the various storytellers.

As much as I enjoyed the “Stories My Dad Tells” tales, my favorite part of Fuff #8 was the “Meteorite Mite.” Couched in the guise of a coming-of-age superhero spoof, “Meteorite Mite” seems almost autobiographical of the author’s adolescence. If it’s not a thinly-veiled true account of childhood humiliation, this speaks even more to the talents of Lewis for creating lived-in and believable characters.

Either way, the story has great emotional weight to it. Apart from the superhero elements, “Meteorite Mite” paints a very realistic portrait of how boys begin to think about sex as they enter puberty; lacking the mental maturity and benefit of life experience needed to understand it.

Spider Monkey #1 by Jesse McManus with Austin English

This is a tough comic to describe. Both visually and story-wise, Spider Monkey #1 is a twisting, constantly shifting ribbon of a tale. Ostensibly the story of a boy who can talk to animals, the book moves further and further away from conventional narrative. The art, provided by Jesse McManus, has a disturbing quality to it that reminded me of a looser, more Tex Avery-inspired version of Jim Woodring. Cartoon physics blend with real-world consequences (except when they, um, don’t) to create an environment of constant unease. Austin English’s story bounds across the world that they have created as though he were laying railroad tracks in front of their own moving train. The end result is a story that reads like a nightmare or a nervous breakdown.

And yet, despite the extreme and elastic surreality of both writing and art, there is remarkable clarity to the book. The geography of the story is always clear; I never found myself unable to read a panel or understand where the characters are in a given space. Spider Monkey #1 is a high wire act. It is impressive to read, albeit a little overwhelming. This is only the start of a larger story and I will be interested to see if this careful balance can sustain itself without collapsing in on itself or becoming exhausting to the reader. Well worth checking out.

As always, everything I review can be found at Forbidden Planet NYC and on our website (www.FPNYC.com). In addition, you can find more from Jeffery Lewis at thejeffreylewissite.com, Jesse McManus at heyfu.com, and Austin English at http://windycornermag-austin.blogspot.com.

Happy stapling!

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Look for more from Morgan Pielli online at IndestructibleUniverse.com and follow him on Twitter at @UltraMorgnus

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Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis: La Petite Mort and Oak & Linden #1

Welcome to the newest, bestest year of them all! The universe has decided to save the best for last, so as we count down the Mayan calendar, let’s take a look at some of the mini comics we’ll need to stockpile to get us to the end times.

La Petite Mort by Russell Ihrig

La Petite Mort is about zombies and sex; two great tastes that don’t normally go together at all even a little. The premise has an interesting hook; the dead are coming back to life, but rather than killing and/or feasting on brains, they just hang around and masturbate. Unfortunately, I found the execution to be a bit too jokey for my taste. High concept stories tend to work best when played straight. The premise of this book is funny enough that it doesn’t really need any winks to the reader or puns to enliven it. That only serves to shrink the world that is being built down to the size of a running gag. Russell Ihrig avoids this for the most part, but things like the Federal Undead Control Department or FUCD, make the trombone in the back of my mind go “wa-waaaaaaa.”

Additionally, as interesting as the premise is, the book only gives it ten pages to breathe. That’s not much space to set up the bizarre scenario, establish the central mystery, and still work in some twists and gross-out moments. The result is a cool idea that rushes to the punch-line. I would love to see this story expanded upon and explored in more detail; there is a lot of room for world building here.

The art of La Petite Mort is solid and I applaud Ihrig’s fearlessness in drawing complex backgrounds and perspective. I would be interested to see what he can do with a longer story.

Oak & Linden #1 by Pat Barrett

As I’ve done in the past, le me again state up front that Pat Barrett is someone who I know from the Center for Cartoon Studies, and this fact should probably be taken into account when reading my review.

Oak & Linden #1 is a collection of four short comics with a wide range of themes. They tend to be on the surreal side and mix humor with melancholy. The art is also a melding; of realism and detail with cartoonish-ly rubbery limbs. This gives Barrett’s work a unique style, but it sometimes works against the clarity of storytelling. His devotion to detail can result in panels where everything has been given equal line weight; making it a difficult composition to navigate. The rubbery limbs, on the other hand, work well in moments of action and whimsy, but I found them distracting in moments of melancholy. That said, the writing in this book is uniformly strong, so any issues that I had with the art are more than made up for.

The strongest piece in Oak & Linden #1 is “Petrified Girlfriend.” It starts in a place of absurdism; with the protagonists’ girlfriend freezing on his bed; and drifts effortlessly into a charming boy-meets-girl reminiscence of how they first met (as he nestles beside her, trying to thaw her out). The art is fun and lively, and the writing is some of the book’s most personal.

Overall, Oak & Linden is a perfect introduction to Barrett’s work. He has two new issues of the series out, and from what I gather several of these stories (including “Petrified Girlfriend”) are continued therein.

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Look for more from Morgan Pielli online at IndestructibleUniverse.com and follow him on Twitter at @UltraMorgnus

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Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis INFANDUM #2 and HEAVEN ALL DAY

2012’s almost here, but I have so many more comics to read! The pile grows ever-larger, blotting out the sight of the coming year. Plus, you know, the end times. I’ll need something to wile away the days as I await the fulfillment of the Mayan prophecy, the collision of Planet X, total economic meltdown, and the eruption of the Yellowstone National Park’s super-volcano.

Infandum #2 by Molly Lawless

We have Molly Lawless’ second installment of Infandum in stock. I haven’t read the first in the series, but if it’s on par with this book, then Lawless is a talent to watch. Infandum #2 is a fun and funny look at a variety of topics. The bulk of the book is a tongue-in-cheek retelling of famous baseball goofs (narrated by the embodiment of the flub; mister Bill Buckner). The stories are as interesting as they are amusing (which I appreciated, as normally have very little interest in sports and sports trivia). Rounding out the book are several autobiographical tales as well as an instructional vignette on how to react to being dumped.

Lawless has an expressive and detailed drawing style that compliments her sense of humor nicely. The sideways alignment of some of the baseball stories is a bit awkward on the page (I suspect they were drawn originally for someone else’s anthology), but that’s really the only criticism I have. Her work is well worth checking out.

Heaven All Day by John Martz

I’ve been thinking about widening the scope of Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis to include small press comics in addition to self-published minis. There’s some tremendous stuff being produced that, while it does reach a wider audience than self-published work, it is still largely unknown outside of the indie scene. When I saw that we got John Martz’s Heaven All Day in stock, I figured now is the perfect time to take the plunge. Continue reading

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Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis: Odessa

This week a new batch of comics were added to the pile of minis, including a particularly handsome-looking book called Odessa: Birth of a New Nation. This is an independently-published trade collecting issues 1-5 of the Odessa series. There is a lot to like about this book, with only one or two minor complaints.

Production-wise, this is a very slick collection. It was produced via print-on-demand rather than by hand which, with the understated and elegant design of the covers and title pages, results in a very professional-looking book. At first I thought that Odessa was perhaps a miss-shelved small-press book.

The only aspect of the book’s design that I dislike is the use of dot tone. On the covers (front, back, and insides) this looks great; it makes the colors pop and gives the whole book a retro-quality (which is an especially nice touch given the book’s subject matter—more on that in a bit). However, the choice was made to use dot tone on the comic pages as well, something I find distracting. It feels like a cheat to me when one artificially “dates” comic art with tone; as though hoping to appeal to a reader’s nostalgia. I wouldn’t mind so much had the tone been restricted to the panels, but the gutter-space has also been dot-toned in an attempt to make the book “feel” older. Again, considering the subject matter, I understand why this choice was made. Regardless, I still found it distracting and superfluous.

The story of Odessa operates under a compelling-but often satirized-conceit: What if the Nazis had won? Fortunately writer Christian Rubiano (of Inkbot.net) has taken this idea much further, asking: How would a Nazi victory have shaped the Civil Rights Movement in the United States? Considering the United Sates’ incredibly troubled and troubling past, not to mention the widespread expressions of antisemitism and bigotry leading up to-and during-World War 2, the idea that a large segment of this country might welcome the Nazi party with open arms is hardly a stretch. Many influential people were sympathetic to the Nazi ideology; Henry Ford famously received the Grand Cross of the German Eagle (the highest medal a foreigner could win) for his many articles supporting the views of the now-thoroughly debunked Protocols of the Elders of Zion (an infamous hoax that, plagiarizing and doctoring sections from two different works of fiction, purported to be documents proving a world-wide Jewish conspiracy). In the world that Rubiano has constructed, the Union is once again split in half along familiar battle-lines, with racial tension in the North and a Confederacy-Nazi alliance in the South.

Of course nothing is cut-and-dry: when the country isn’t at war with itself, the respective sides are embroiled in internal struggles over ideology and power. This is a rich setting and Rubiano doesn’t let it go to waste. His characters are well-defined and their motivations both realistic and compelling. Continue reading

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Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis: The Shortpants Observer Issue #1

This week we’ve got a really interesting a new anthology to look at! Originally formed as a collective of Midwestern cartoonists, Shortpants Press has blossomed into an indie publisher of curated talent. Now they’ve put out their first anthology; a three-color collection of some of the groups’ artists. According to their website, Shortpant Press was described by Tom Spurgeon as “one of the half-dozen most reliable sources for quality mini-comics going right now.” I’m happy to report that The Shortpants Observer Issue #1, edited by Sarah Becan, lives up to that high praise.

The book features four artists, each with a very different style and choice of subject matter. Normally (as I’ve expounded upon in previous reviews), this could have easily resulted in a scattershot anthology; bereft of focus. However, perhaps because of their relationship with the Shortpants collective, these artists share a similar rhythm and sensibility. So, while the comics themselves are very different, the tone of the book has a subtle cohesiveness.

Mr. Magic in: Holey Moley by Anya Davidson is a surreal story about a slick huckster; part con-man and part sociopath; who has almost supernatural powers. Davidson’s thick marks and loose line-work is reminiscent of Lynda Barry. Coupled with a prose full of 60s-era Robert Crumb swagger, there is an intimacy to the story, as though it were being told specifically to you. There is a lot going on here, both visually and textually, and it can become a bit overwhelming at times. But overall Davidson strikes a good balance with her conversational tone and aggressive mark-making.

Four Short Comics About Death by Corinne Mucha are conversational in a different way. These autobiographical ruminations about mortality are as funny as they are frank. Mucha draws in a pared-down style that is rich with charm and flows nicely with her writing (though she could do with more variety of facial expressions). My favorite comic of the anthology was her second-to-last of the four; Easy Life, Hard Life, Hard Life, Easy Life; is about something a since-departed friend once said to the author that always stayed with her. Indeed, that friend’s mantra (the story’s title; about the dangers of procrastination) stuck with me as well.

Sorties by Becca Taylor is a fascinating mash-up of different existing texts, culled presumably from nature programs and documentaries about sharks, as well as excerpts of prose and poetry. The comic reads like a stream-of-consciousness narrative. Coupled with the fluidity of Taylor’s delicate line-work and isolated visuals, the story has an appropriately dream-like underwater quality to it.

Lastly is Forever by Jeremy Tinder, a melancholy moment-in-time piece about three friends (a girl, a boy, and a bear) in the woods. It feels like it was part of a larger story, but it functions well as a stand-alone piece all the same. Tinder presents an interesting mystery as the story’s focal point; an atomic clock in the middle of nowhere. The artist has a refined style that he is working with; honed to maximize clarity of story-telling; that reads like visual language. His people (and bear) are as characterful as his writing is nuanced.

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Look for more from Morgan Pielli online at IndestructibleUniverse.com and follow him on Twitter at @UltraMorgnus

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Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis: The Birds in the Bushes & Cakewalk/Bets Are Off

Like many, I was at first thrilled when the Academy Awards introduced a Best Animated Feature category. Quickly that enthusiasm faded. I realized that the industry, for decades unable to understand animation, had at last decided to label it a genre rather than what it actually is: a medium. To play devil’s advocate a moment, I can understand where the confusion comes from. In order to make films accessible to the broadest number of people, film-makers are often forced to shoot for the middle. And while there is enough variety of subject matter in live-action film to keep the medium from being flooded with filmic clones, animation has a much smaller pool of films budgeted per studio. And thus many, many animated films follow the same formulas. Indeed, MOST films follow the same formulas, and the only animated films to deviate tend to be those on the fringes; the Waking Lifes and the Triplets of Bellevues; that play to art-houses and independent theaters but are rarely seen by the majority of the public. It therefore makes sense that the Academy would look at that which is highest profile and most accessible; the Shrek franchise, Disney princess movies, Pixar’s latest adventure; and conclude that animation is a genre.

My fear is that the indie-comics movement is running the risk of being similarly pigeon-holed. There has been a resistance to genre comics (fantasty, sf, horror, super hero, etc.) in the indie scene while web comics tend to be viewed as a separate thing entirely. Indie cons are flooded with autobio comics and non-fiction, the narrow range of story that the term “indie comic” has increasingly come to be associated with.

Right now, at this very moment in comic’s history, book publishers are scrambling to tap into the recent swell of comic-popularity. For really the first time indie creators are being courted en mass. But these same publishers are struggling to understand comics beyond what Marvel and DC produce. And so far their solution has been, as with the Academy Awards with animation, to treat indie comics as a genre. They are opening comic-specific imprints to publish comics under rather than simply publishing them under their parent name.

Like it or not, these big publishers are the gateway to a broader readership. If we define ourselves into a corner, or let them define us, we will forever be trapped in an artistic cul-de-sac. The indie community needs to embrace a broader range of storytelling to avoid this serious pitfall; storytelling that goes beyond auto-bio and non-fiction.

This is, of course, my elaborate way of introducing the two comics we’re going to be looking at today: Zach Giallongo’s The Birds in the Bushes and Nate Powell’s Cakewalk/Bets Are Off double feature.

The Birds in the Bushes is a stand-alone story in the universe that Giallongo has been painstakingly constructing in his epic fantasy series Grune (www.zackgiallongo.com). The story employs the same lush line work as that of his other books, as well as the same quality of writing. The author has a talent for imbuing even the most ancillary characters with personality and many of the antagonists in this book could have easily been relegated to the status of “thug #4” in less capable hands. Continue reading

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Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis: Our Father’s Umbrella and Sequentulär!

Well, with New York Comic Con behind us, Convention Season officially comes to an end. Sort of. Kinda. To a degree. Of course there’s the odd con here and there over the next several months, but for the most part, the socializing and salemanshipping comes to a close.

Instead, let us look forward to the winter; AKA Comics Making Season!

Yes, it’s that time of year: when it’s too cold and snowy (even in October…grrr) to go out and do anything, so our attention turns to making comics. Soon hundreds more minis will come pouring into Forbidden Planet. So let’s not waist any more time and pull two more mini-comics off of the already gigantic pile.

Our Father’s Umbrella by Barry Rodges is a sweet, melancholy comic about three brothers who have lost their father. The siblings in question are a blank-faced biological son, a robot that the father constructed, and a snowman that the father made one winter. The otherwise-silly ensemble is treated here with care and humanity. When an argument over who gets their father’s only bequeathed possession; an umbrella, turns ugly, each character’s deepest insecurities bubble to the surface. I’m impressed with Rodges’ writing in this comic. While the art could use some work in the perspective and background departments, the characters themselves are rendered clearly and expressively. The panel layouts are also quite varied and creative without ever becoming too clever-by-half or unwieldy.

Our Father’s Umbrella is a sweet, charming mini that demonstrates smart writing and depth of character. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a website for Barry Rodges, so I guess you’ll have to buy his comic from us!

Of course, when Comics Making Season hits, the only thing I can think about is being ANYWHERE but on the East Coast. So it is with jealously deep in my heart that I picked up Sequentulär!, an anthology of work by Texas-based cartoonists. Sequentulär! is a collection of comics by members of the Austin Sketchgroup, and beyond that commonality, there doesn’t seem to be a unifying theme to this book. While themed-anthologies can sometimes be too niche or narrow in focus for the causal comics reader, having no theme keeps the book from standing out against the many other anthologies out there. This is something that Sequentulär! suffers from. On the one hand, I likely wouldn’t have come across the work of any of these cartoonists were it not for this anthology. On the other hand, where I not grabbing comics for this review, I don’t know that I would have picked it up to begin with. This is not a knock against the packaging (which features a very nice front cover by Sam Hurt, Geoff Sebesta, Zach Taylor, and back cover by Carey Atchison), or even the content therein. It’s simply that without a hook, un-themed anthologies are forced to survive on the reputations of the artists included. Unless you have some big names in there, it’s going to be a tougher sell than if you had a fun hook. Continue reading

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