BAKUNE YOUNG to WEASEL
Bakune Young vol 1 (£11-99) by Toyokazu Matsunaga –
One of the strangest manga I’ve ever read. After running my eyes over it when it appeared in PULP I realised that it made no sense to the casual observer so thought that a thorough going through would be better. It’s the intense, obsessive artwork that drew me in. The overly intricate hair of the woman who appears later, the bug eyes on the title character, way too far apart, making his face look like an overstretched balloon. There are touches of Gerhard’s fine crosshatching and Joe Sacco’s warped, full-bleed treatments.
Bakune is 22 when he starts a fight in a pachinko parlour. This brings the wrath of the Yakuza down on his deformed head. Effortlessly laying waste to fifteen of Osaka’s toughest, he embarks on a gonzo war against crime that sees him kidnapping the leader. And then it gets weird for the rest of the book. And from what I’ve glanced in PULP it gets weirder.
She Draws Comics (£8-99) by Trina Robbins & others –
Story of a female cartoonist, written by a female cartoonist and largely drawn by female cartoonists. Should be a big seller to female cartoonists.
Magic Whistle #7 (£2-20) by Sam Henderson, Dork #10 (£2-20) by Evan Dorkin, Deep Fried: We’re #1 (£4-50) by Jason Yungbluth –
A batch of funnies to lighten up your (possibly) dark English Summer direct from the land of the freeeee. Three varieties of humour. You’ve got the almost deconstructionist Magic Whistle that manages to use humour at its most bare and joltingly stupid, while casually looking like it’s drawn by a really enthusiastic six-year-old. Dork is Evan doing what Evan does. This involves bile and despair in equal measures. The cover features folks with pitchforks and torches and a burning comic shop. Inside you get a new Eltingville strip that deals with the hot issue of QVC and “The Devil Puppet’s Invisible College of Secret Knowledge”. Say it out loud. Fun fun fun. DEEP FRIED is the Lowest Comic Denominator that we’re allowed to stock. More bile but in a safer, more easily digestible format. His origin of a clown from the last issue produced gasps of ‘I can’t believe that I’m reading this’ and ‘did he really draw that?’. It’s good for you and it’s funny. Buy all three and get a hernia. No refunds.
Borbonesa #9 (£1) –
Not a comic, just a bundle of strangeness and slanted writing. Past issues have included Great Dictator trading cards, articles on suspended trains, a Bastard Armory catalogue and lots of flowery language. Rarely less than unsettling, always smile-raising. A piece of tracing paper folded down to A7 with inserts, housed in a plastic bag.
Fleep (£3-99) by Jason Shiga –
I think that this started off as a dare to himself. Write a premise that couldn’t possibly be strung out for forty to fifty pages and then string it out to forty to fifty pages. And then make it gripping. Well, it worked. A guy wakes up on the floor of a phone booth that is surrounded by concrete. There’s a phone book in a foreign language, three coins for making calls, he’s got slight amnesia and there’s no way out. Gripping, funny and audacious all at the same time with an ending that I did not see coming. From the creator of the still excellent DOUBLE HAPPINESS.
King vol 2 (£8-99) by Ho Che Anderson –
Tedious, stilted, almost unreadable biography of Martin Luther King. Makes CAGES look like SUGAR BUZZ.
Substitute Life (£10-99) by John Pham –
A one hundred and forty-four page sketchbook with tryouts, roughs, unused strips and an article about Chris Ware & Nick Cassavettes. While we’re waiting for John to complete EPOXY #4 (or whatever he’s going to put out next) we have this marvellous little object of desire. Pulp, recycled cardboard covers, screen printed in three colours, the dandiest, smoothest paper for the interior and tracing paper dividers with notes about individual pages. If you’ve seen the third issue of EPOXY you’ll know that John pays the highest attention to production details, resulting in something highly desirable and very affordable. And we’ve got a free bookmark while stocks last.
Mystic Funnies #3 (£2-95) by Robert Crumb –
Three new stories showing you how Bob sees the world. The first one seems unplanned and rambling, but that’s a good thing. ’The Hipman’ sets out in his little voiture, assured of his high status in the world, only to be smitten with feelings for a standard issue R.Crumb Amazon. Bob tells us how he lost his front teeth during some childhood wandering. Super Duck tries some of that herbal viagra that we all get spammed about. It’s Crumb. He’s not going to change, but that’s a good thing.
In The Shadow Of No Towers (4-99, Penguin Viking) by Art Spiegelman –
You might have seen excerpts in either the COMICS JOURNAL or MCSWEENEY’s 13.I think that The Guardian ran a few pages a while ago. This is Spiegelman’s reaction to the attack on the Twin Towers, American reaction to that and the government’s reaction to the whole thing. Ten huge pieces, aping old Sunday comics sections, printed on thick card like baby’s first book. The scale is correct, the book, with the black cover, spot varnish and illo of ancient American comic characters kicked sideways by a foreign goat, is huge. The format works, carefully spelling out the events of the day like a scary kids’ book for adults.
Club 9 (£11-99) by Makoto Kobayashi –
Harou moves out of the countryside and into the big city. She leaves behind her big lunk of a football playing boyfriend, says goodbye to her adoring, although equally simple parents and their farm, and heads off to college. Her vows to remain a simple country girl, unaffected by the bright lights and temptations are put to the test when she works at a hostess club to make ends meet. And it’s one of the funniest things I’ve read in ages. The creator of WHAT’S MICHAEL gives her a heart the size of glazed ham that stops this turning into a merciless character assassination and smug put-down of folks from the sticks. Hell, everyone else is the monster. The translators have been careful to give her an equally American bumpkin accent that displays her naive charm and willingness to do something right. Imagine a gene spliced mash of Kurtzman’s LITTLE ANNIE FANNY and Daisie Mae from LI’L ABNER re-routed to the Ginza district of Tokyo. Don’t worry if you’re afraid of manga, this one is for everyone.
No. 5 by Taiyo Matsumoto (£11-99) –
Number Five has taken leave from the International Peace Council (and probably his senses) making that august body fear the rogue out there in the wilderness. The other seven try to get to him and shoot down what was one of their own. They are colourful figures, loved by the public. Their state funerals attract thousands. Number four appears to be two people, two identical girls like Russian dolls. Number eight is a great marksman, his face painted with bold stripes and a white strip of a beard. Papa, their leader, dresses in a giant bunny suit and none of it makes any more identifiable sense than the jackalopes and dog-faced sheep that roam the wild outback. It reminds me of Druillet’s LONE SLOANE without all the sex and mutilation or Moebius’ collaborations with Jodorowsky. In fact it feels like an outtake from 1970′s METAL HURLANT/HEAVY METAL with a sort of Bruce Lee philosophy. Matsumoto previously produced BLACK & WHITE, as serialised in the mighty PULP.
Rusty Brown lunchbox (£21-99) by Chris Ware –
Continuing our series of reviews of things-that-aren’t-comics-by-Chris-Ware, this is, if you’re counting, number two. It’s the same basic format as the Bone, Bettie Page, Lenore boxes that inhabit the shop but this is, as you’d expect, loaded with storytelling, little jokes and experiments with graphic narrative (about a lunchbox). And you can keep stuff in it. Rusty is to be the main character in the upcoming ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY storyline. We’ve seen part of his tragic life in issue fifteen. Ut, that’s ‘tragic’ in the playground sense rather than taken from the original Greek. Printed inside the box are games, puzzles and a poem. Oh, there’s a tiny, tiny comic inside as well.
The Stuff of Dreams (£2-95) by Kim Deitch –
And while we’re on the subject of criminally underrated, criminally overlooked or however you want to label it. Apparently Pantheon (publishers of DAVID BORING & JIMMY CORRIGAN, well the people that repackaged those books, let’s not take any actual risks and fund the development of a new graphic novel) are going to put his MISHKIN SAGA out to the general public. I think the man has found a good agent. One of his illustrations hangs over the monitor here, all illicit, candy-coloured hues and enticing, dawn-of-animation lines. He’s one of those folks that have the whole fictional world mapped out in their heads. He’s got his epic soldered onto his synapses and they’re sparking away. I don’t know if I’ve seen the whole thing (I’ve seen a lot) but I’ll try and find a route for you.
It starts with a cat, as many great works do. Deitch is versed in the ways of the underground’s, so maybe the cat stems from the same place the Crumb’s ‘Fritz’. Waldo could be a tidied up, Diznee-fied version of Krazy Kat but his mythical origins take a parallel trip to any number of post-STEAMBOAT WILLIE Mickey Mouse rip offs. We’ve seen many different incarnations as various studios have adopted and bastardised him but his spirit still haunted his creator through his most drunken moments. Along the way we’ve had a love story, the history of animation, lysergic off-world sorties and much much more. This chapter starts with a Waldo doll turning up at a flea market and goes well off the rails and includes a volcano along the way.
I have no idea why Mark wrote two reviews of this. Maybe one was a preview –ed.]
The Stuff of Dreams (£2-95) by Kim Deitch –
Kim’s wife collects stuffed toy cats. She’s got some marvellous specimens of ragged old felines as you can see on the back of the book Some cost an arm and a leg, some were picked up at a thrift store for next to nothing. Some are licensed characters, some just a long-lost fad. At a flea market, Pam & Kim come across a stall with one shining example of her obsession. And, naturally, it’s a Waldo doll, a three dimensional representation of Kim’s long running comic character and soon to be star of THE BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS. The seller spins a tale of a south sea island, an alcoholic and a pair of star-crossed lovers. As I mentioned in the BOULEVARD preview, most of Kim’s work has been based around the fuzzy miscreant. His unique, decorative art with the slightly stiff figures tell another part of the same story each time.
The Frank Book (£27-99) by Jim Woodring –
I think the only quibble here is the inclusion of language. You’ve got the introduction by Francis Ford Coppola and an afterword by Jim, a little copyright information and so on. To keep the purity of the book it should have been on a separate booklet, something that would come with the book but you could keep in a drawer for reference. Then you’d have a somnambulant rosetta stone or maybe a bible-thick version of one of those air-safety cards. Pure communication. For extra fun you can take away the dust jacket to reveal the perfectly designed, deeply purple, cloth-bound cover. Almost like the book that Frank finds in FRANKS REAL PA.
So what is Frank? He’s about three feet tall, looks almost like a bipedal cartoon cat and is curious but not entirely innocent. He drifts through stories, observing, sometimes tormented by the other inhabitants of his bright, soft world. The stories are fables or morality tales but very rarely something you can pin down. As Mark Martin said, you either get it or you don’t but how could you not get it?
Jim Woodring’s Crazy Newts (£4-50 each) –
Last year, in collaboration with Sony, Woodring produced a set of six little figures akin to large Kinder Egg toys. Only available in Japan, the idea was that you put your ¥300 in the machine, turn the knob and you get one of these in a little capsule along with a tiny comic. Five other artists contributed, there’s been a two more series, with Charles Burns and Peter Bagge contributing. The Crazy Newts are perfect, everything I’ve wanted in a piece of throwaway plastic. One or two of the designs have appeared in his comics. If you remember the ‘Harvest’ cover, the yellow, box headed thing features here along with five other creatures dancing their respective decades (don’t ask) for our pleasure. Just for an extra bit of fun they’re sold as a blind assortment so you but a box and you find out later which one you’ve adopted.
Jim Woodring Jiva (£19-99) – Back in the day he used to do jiva portraits for free. Just send in a picture of yourself and he’d draw your soul on a piece of paper and send it right back. Nowadays you can buy such a thing moulded in plastic as an accessory to the Crazy Newts. Place them all around the glowing maypole of life and they writhe in Middle Ages ecstasy to the various drummers they have lodged between their ears.
Hysteria In Remission (£27-99) by Robert Williams –
Part of the ZAP! crowd and an artist in Big Daddy Ed RATFINK Roth’s sixties studio of hotrods and cranked up t-shirts, Williams is best know for his heavily-layered paintings and for being the founder of Juxtapoz magazine, the champion of the lowbrow, the outsider art and my favourite bi-monthly haunt for new eye-candy. This book collects all of his comic and illustration work. If it’s not paintings it’s in here and if you like chrome-effect stuff this one is for you. There are a few strips that are almost impossible to read as every object is vying for your attention, reflecting the (imaginary) Californian sunshine right back at you. In the pages of ZAP he seemed like an outsider in a boat full of outsiders. His slick line and thought-out layouts were a million miles away from the scratchy, frenetic pages of S.Clay Wilson or the blocky machismo of Spain Rodriguez. Where he shares the transgressive subjects of his peers he’s the confident, handsome flipside to Crumb’s impulsive, nervous energy. In a way it’s a big loss that he left the comics to one side in the same way the Dave Cooper and Jim Woodring are threatening to do presently, but it becomes more and more obvious that his panels are trying to break out and become canvasses.
[Editor’s note: at the time of editing, Jim Woodring is back, back, back with WEATHERCRAFT whilst Dave Cooper has new material imminent in at least one volume of MOME!]
Scatterbrain (£14-99) by various –
Big, thumping hardcover treat designed by Craig (GOODBYE CHUNKY RICE) Thompson. Greatest hits, for me, have to be Dave Cooper’s selection of PIP & NORTON strips as Pip deals out hare-brained schemes in order to buy a Spinning Buddha and Jim Woodring & Tom Dougherty’s BRONCO TEDDY. Also on the full colour pages you get Evan Dorkin’s Fisher Price Theatre version of 1984, a Mike Mignola short, the first new MONTGOMERY WART story from Mark Martin for, gosh, ages and more. Plenty more. This sits very nicely next to the BIZARRO book released earlier in the year. It feels like one of those bumper annuals the grandparents would find for you each christmas.
[Editor’s note: the following later became ICE HAVEN, on sale and also reviewed by Mark.]
Eightball #22 (£4-50) by Daniel Clowes –
There’s a look that a lot of Clowes characters get. It’s a sort of bored, disengaged, distracted realisation; an internal revelation kept from the rest of the world. We get to see it in at least once of these intertwined twenty nine stories. This review may seem a little garbled as the book has really thrown me. In ICE HAVEN, different characters are given a particular style for their own stories, lending the book an anthology feel even tho’ the book feels like a whole. For one of the kids there’s a minor PEANUTS/FAMILY CIRCUS key. The detective feels like fifties EC, probably Kriegstien in particular. (Is the hat and trenchcoat a reference to ‘The Master Race’? Not sure.) The full colour is used well to give each tale particular tone. Vida presenting her little ‘zine to Wilder is almost pastel with none of the dark shadows that characterize ‘The Ransom Note’. The plot thread that ties them all together (a child is missing) is never satisfactorily resolved, although there might be clues as to who dunnit. As ever, Clowes lets the inhabitants of the town damn themselves without realising it. Each false claim to talent, each blind eye that is turned, each hopeless protestation of love is completely misread by the speaker.
It seems that DAVID BORING came out of the process of getting the GHOST WORLD script together, the lead even talks of the three-act structure that films tend to adhere to. ICE HAVEN is a wonderful rejection of that and a proud defence of the possibilities of a single comic book just as the author is getting recognition and promoted to the rank of doing work so good ‘it’s not really a comic’. Maybe it’s the a touch of healthy rivalry now that Ware has upped the stakes with JIMMY CORRIGAN. Maybe I’m just over-analyzing (and judging by the last page, I’m not alone), maybe it’s just a great little book.
Orchid (£5-99) by various –
Victorian horror stories adapted by Kevin Huizenga, Ben Catmull, Gabrielle Bell, David Lasky, T.Edward Bak, Dylan Williams & Jessie Reklaw. Under a great cover by Mats!? it’s difficult to pick any one artist out so I’ll mention a few. Bell’s tale of a talking cat and the embarrassment of the owners as it begins to recount gossip from the servants’ quarters and above is charming with a slinky little feline. David Lasky pushes the use of non-pictorial comics with only a few abstract shapes, lots of word balloon, captions and panels to retell the oft-told ‘The Raven’ by Poe. The pick of the bunch (and the lengthiest) is Huizenga’s ‘Green Tea’ which uses a modern day mirror of the story to bookend the main piece. Glenn Ganges (from the astounding SUPERMONSTER #14: GLORIANA COMICS) starts off with with a piece on a ghoulish hallucination bought on by too much studying which dovetails nicely into the original from J. Sheridan Le Fanu. Kevin manages to put unknown menace into the dark corners of remote cottages and primal fear into the either motionless or frantic animals that characters from both eras see without falling prey to bad conventions.
[Editor’s Note: you can now find Kevin’s ‘Green Tea’ in his CURSES collection.]
King-Cat Comics & Stories #61 (£1-80) by John Porcellino –
I know it’s a cliché, but Christmas has come early for me in the form of a new KING-CAT. I haven’t delved into the extra sketchbook of his cat but I love the way that this smaller publication is attached with a rubber band and I wonder how long it took him to collate them all. His work would still shine brightly no matter how it was presented (his page in the COMICS JOURNAL SUMMER SPECIAL is a good example) but the fact that someone prints them up himself on a photocopier is a special thing. The penultimate strip gave me goosebumps and the rest wasn’t too shoddy either. Quiet, reflective strips bathed in simple sparse light like nothing else. It makes me want to move out to the country.
[Editor’s note: plenty of KING-CAT comics and collections always in stock!]
Amy Racecar: The Ultimate Collection VOLUME UNO (£14-99) by David Lapham –
IN ORDER TO SAVE THE WORLD–
SHE HAD TO DESTROY IT!…
The most dangerous criminal the world has ever known BLASTS off into the unknown reaches to escape from an overbearing mother and a world that would never understand her. Hated across the globe, HUNTED like an animal, this is her story. Originally presented as an occasional serial in STRAY BULLETS, finally she tells EVERYTHING in her OWN WORDS. Offer void where prohibited.
Wolverine/Hulk (£7-50) by Sam Kieth –
Hulk smash & Wolverine snikt by Sam Kieth. What should have been a routine fight with a bit of introspection and posturing gets turned sideways and forced into a Kieth-shaped format that allows his bigfoot art style to drive recklessly around high mountain roads in search of something a little sillier and a little more touching that you’d expect. Out in the wilderness, Wolvey meets a little girl who begs him to come find her father trapped below the ice. The Hulk comes along and can barely restrain himself from smashing the beclawed one, because that’s what they do. Midway through you understand what’s happening and where the girl is from and it only adds a sense of urgency and sadness
Cusp (£2-95) by Thomas Herpich –
This is a beginning. A rag tag of demos and thoughts that might find their way to bigger stories. Or this might be the finished product. Crumb made his way with fragments and odd pages and I’ve got nothing but admiration for someone who can fill a book with varied wanderings of the mind such as this. The cover might have initially mislead me. The head of a stag poked up through the water surface in an intoxicating autumn light seems lighter and more jovial than the insides. Although the work isn’t derivative (and it’s some of the freshest comics I’ve seen for a long time) there are echoes of a lot of Chester Brown (from early YUMMY FUR up to the autobio stuff, although this is all fiction) and Dave Cooper’s sweaty obsessions.
“We went out a few times
We went out a few times
She didn’t seem too enthused by this situation
So I transformed into children in one-piece pyjamas”
Each of the above lines is text over a blank panel. After the last line there are six children in one-piece pyjamas tumbling through the rest of the blank page. His figure work is so assured and spot-on that each of the conundrums is transformed from a sketchbook idea into an exciting, haunting piece. The style and layout will change from story to story as he tries out new skills. I’m almost scared to see what he’ll do next.
[Pop GONGWANADON in our website search engine and you’ll find out – ed.]
The Pogostick #1 (£3-50) by Al Columbia & Ethan Persoff –
I think I’ve just noticed what’s up with the cover. The colours are muted and I’m not even sure if it’s a four-colour process. The eye is drawn to the open window in this shabby little flat, drawn almost like Shag would. There’s an old radio on the coffee table and a plant hung up over the dresser. But it’s the rug that you notice last. There’s a big red stain around the bed, on the rug.
This is Columbia’s first full comic since THE BIOLOGIC SHOW and it’s a strange little tale of Audrey (male) and his nightshift at the office, his lack of interaction with co-workers and what looks like his breakdown. Persoff’s art, sort of a more detailed SOUTH PARK attitude to figures, is perfect for the static backgrounds and creepy realisation that all is not well.
Dork vol 2: Circling The Drain (£9-99) by Evan Dorkin –
There was something in the latest Comics Journal about the great humour cartoonists around at the moment and how they are largely unappreciated in the comics field. It’s much easier to praise a book with deep, deep thoughts that holds a mirror up to humanity blah blah blah than it is to say ‘this funny’. This is partly because there are precious few yuks in the (largely dominant) superhero world and those outside of the superhero world tend to lay praise on the serious story. Luckily there are almost enough artists who want to make us laugh out there. We’ve got Henderson, Ryan, Herschbaum, Langridge and, pretty near the top, Evan Dorkin. Even in the depths of depression (DORK #7?) it’s a laff riot, although we may be questioning if we’re supposed to be laughing. And the answer should be, yes. He’s right on the button with social commentary, pop culture attacks and general laffs. Which is what we need at the moment. ‘Kay?
The Pirates and The Mouse: Disney’s War Against The Underground (£16-99) by Bob Levin –
More tales from the underground. In the early seventies Dan O’Neill decided that what America needed was the destruction of Walt Disney and the surrounding empire. To aid this he and a group of similarly attired friends launched the AIR PIRATES FUNNIES comic, featuring Disney characters involved in the un-Disney behaviour. The court case continued for ten years. From what I’ve seen of the strips, this was no typically crude attack on copyrighted characters that tended to happen in the underground (and to this day) but a beautifully drawn book. Not sure if any of the artists were animators but, if for this small transgression, they surely could have got work at the house of the big mouse. Whether or not this will actually have any illustrations we do not know. There are some in REBEL VISIONS: THE UNDERGROUND COMIX REVOLUTION which is still proving to be a great read.
By the way, those working for Disney say anyone building a set for the Disney Channel have to sign an agreement which states that they’ll be in big, big trouble if any of the Mickey heads have the ears at anything other than the correct angle. Don’t ask me how I know.
Steampunk #1 (£1-80) by Kelly & Bachalo –
Okay, I admit that I was ignorant to the fact that ‘steampunk’ is a genre starting out in (I think) a William Gibson book and then bleeding over into comics. Instead of a possible future (cyberpunk f’rinstance) we have an imagined past with strange technology, the industrial revolution with mechanical limbs and shiny tail-fins.
Bachalo’s artwork is the obvious element to start with and as I rambled on about his invention and dazzle when THE WITCHING HOUR started up a few months ago I should keep this brief. His use of pattern is wonderful, starting off with a field of monochrome daisies then using his trademark go-go checks. The slums of Victorian London hang between the clutter of Jabberwocky and the grime of Oliver Twist; great claustrophobic spaces. I swear that there’s even a touch of Nagano’s FIVE STAR STORIES in there. The colours, by *ahem* Badass are quite stunning from the bronze relic on the third page to the spirited use of jade green on deep red and purple later on. During one conversation the word balloons of each character are differentiated with very subtle shading. This is faultless eye candy. As much as I love Lewis, Hart and Porcellino I can occasionally be wooed by the school of more is more.
Onto the story.. it’s 1837 and our hero has been awoken from a glass coffin (shades of Snow White) and, due to the chronological zipping about, we’re unsure if his wanderings throughout the years occur before or after this release. Scavengers search for usable body parts. There’s a big divide between high society and the underdwellers beneath the city. At this juncture the scene is being set, the characters are being introduced and, yes, it’s a little confusing. The creators promise that all is worked out, release schedule and all.
Sweaterweather (£8-50) by Sara Varon –
Probably the cuddliest, fluffiest book I’ve seen in a long, long time. I’m tempted to say wait ’til the winter comes before buying it as it’s best to snuggle up with it under a huge duvet while you’ve spannered on Neurofen Cold’n'Flu. The cute figures (cat, rabbit, turtle, snowman) amble through an oft-frosty world, pull together and everything’s alright. In the back there are postcards, stamp and cut-out figures to play with as your mucus filled head wonders if you should go for honey & lemon or the menthol of just work your way through the hobnobs. Nice bit about bees too. Aren’t bees nice?
In The Woods (£2-50) by Leon Sadler –
Not really a comic but more a sketchbook of doodles, stray thoughts and designs. Leon also designs toys and possibly did the robot sticker/graf on the outside of the shop. I liked it. This is in the MILKKITTEN/BAD ART COLLECTION line of strange cuteness and mind wanderings. There are touches of both Pete Fowler an James Jarvis but there’s more than enough of his own style. It makes me laugh and there’s a pattern to make your own toy so I say ‘VALUE!’. ’Kay? Oh, and there’s a grand tree on the cover. Bonus points.
It Lives #1 (£2-50) by Ted May –
May was featured as the best new mini-comics creator in a recent Comics Journal and I see why they fell in love with him. There might be four stories in here but they all meld together. You’ve got the overly vocal superheroes promising, WWF style, to take each other down, make them cry between punches. Then it all flows into archetypal sixties greasers, causing trouble around the neighbourhood. The art is a chunky, stylised, neo-Kirby affair that reminds me (and, let’s face it, me alone) of Grass Green. In itself the comic is nothing special (apart from being better than 97% of the output of the big four) but it has the promise of an emerging talent. You can already see his own layouts and ways of thinking coming to the fore.
The Most Powerful Gate (£1-25), The Ditch, The River, The Sea, The Snake (£1-25), Ramadan (£1-80) all by Tom Hart –
Three excellent little minis, each one a fable on life. The Ditch might be my favourite but give me five minutes and I’ll change my mind. Two rulers, both saying that they will save their land but one is after power. Scratchy as hell, it doesn’t just look unfinished it appears to be unstarted but there is more lyrical power in these twenty-four pages than I’ve found in most seventy-two-page hardcovers. Ramadan takes to task those motivational phrases that appeared on cheap (and not so cheap) t-shirts and sportswear in the nineties. How does a bit of screenprint guarantee that a sweatshirt is authentic performance wear? And why wear it? Buy these little things and then go for THE SANDS and THE COMPLETE HUTCH OWEN.
Yeast Hoist: Does Music Make You Cry? (£6-50) by Ron Regé jr. –
Well, yes. Yes it does. Or rather it can. And probably it should. Do Comics Move You? I think that they should. As with his previous book, SKIBBER BEE-BYE, Regé is using his own idiosyncratic language, a style that has developed over the years through the ‘zines and anthologies that he’s appeared in. There’s a lot of longing in here. A longing for someone that’s not there and an occasional longing to be away from people. The final section reprints a mini that showed the different places a band member had to sleep on a European tour. I got a nice little buzz from the entries for Nottingham. They weren’t the best sofas in the world but they were nearby.
Kramers Ergot #4 (£17-99) –
Hard to believe the quantum leap that this anthology has taken. I might have only seen the previous issue, and it was almost there, a little push and it would have been great. For some reason they went a little further to make a towering thing, shaped like a phone book and full of exciting stories and experiments. Firstly we’ve got Mat Brinkman’s cover of two scaly beasts heading for collision on a child’s rainbow. Now, I don’t know if this was intentional but they’ve used either a type of ink or a process that smells just like wax crayons. And the cover was either done with crayons or something that looks damn close. Neat, huh?
The contents read like a best of the recent releases with a few new faces thrown in. Jeffrey Brown gives us a regular comic length story, ‘Don’t Look Them In The Eye’ about the various beggars and bipolars that he could meet in a day venturing across town. Everything that I’ve said about his fragile figures and gentle disclosure stays true here. Marc SHRIMPY & PAUL Bell is allowed a huge colour section to show us new, similarly deranged characters and, like the goose in his book, a phrase that takes on a mantle of magic due to repetition.
Sammy Harkham turns out to be the find of the book. His ‘Poor Sailor’ managed to freeze my blood during the heatwave. A frontiersman is lured away from his wife by a sea-faring brother. Home life is getting too easy, the house is safe, he needs excitement. Not a breezy story but the clearly delineated figures, robust and full of life sit perfectly in the four panel grid and shine in the two colours.
Elsewhere there are a are wide range of styles. Some stay away from narratives, preferring to bombard us with sketches and doodles. Josh Simmons tried his damnedest to churn my stomach with the story of ‘Wholesome’, a insipid, smiling girl taken for a long walk amongst some of the worst parts of humanity. Then to help you get over that Southern Salazar and Geneviève Castrée offer you some very sweet comics that look as if they were shot straight from the sketchbooks: you can see the cut-out shapes, the texture of the paper, every penline etched in. Anders Nilson’s two Sisyphus tales book end the collection. There’s a goose, the Balrog, a minotaur, a damsel in distress and a large rock to be pushed up that hill.
DeeVee 2001 (£3-50) by various –
Special issue for the long running Australian anthology. Daren White and Eddie Campbell show us the ‘The Playwright’, a view into the sheltered world of a man bound up in his own head. Amber Carvan’s reaction to the passing of Charles Schultz has some very simple Porcellino-like lines. ’Jack Cole’s Sketchbook’ by Gary Chaloner has us both confused as to how much of the story is true; sweet artwork, not seen much of his stuff recently. The title of ‘Primal Brown’ by Kochalka seems to reference some theory (can’t remember whose) about the artist being similar to a baby smearing his own excrement around the walls, then he neatly ignores that image and gives us another view of creation (the linking theme to the collection). Bruce Mutard will probably be sick of having his art compared to Jason Lutes, but if you’re going to use that clean line and tell us about ‘When Hitler Was An Artist’ you’ve got to expect those sort of things.
Land of Nod (£8-99) by Jay Stephens –
It’s back in print! Finally, all the early, childish/childlike, speaking bug, getting lost in a hole, shouting, laughing, joyous pages that diverged into another story on the merest hint of a whim is back on our shelves. Shares the same parking space as Evan Dorkin (without the misanthropy), Jhonen Vasquez (without the self-mutilation posse) and Sam Henderson (without the maturity). It’s summer, so get yourself hopped up on tartrazine and try and sit still long enough to devour this book.
[Editor’s note: I’m pretty sure that when Mark and I read the first instalment of Jay’s work some twenty years, it had a plaster on the cover. Is that possible? A plaster over a hole in someone’s belly or something.]
Too Much Coffee Man the magazine issue 11 (£3-50) –
A new format and a very welcome change. There’s the usual TMCM strips and coffee related articles but the net is cast further as other artists and writers are taken on board. Our favorites are the star wars strip and the battle to have a pair of Nike trainers embroidered with the legend ‘sweatshop’. This last one has apparently been doing the rounds as an e-mail. Also, a look inside the US prison system!
Weasel #4 (£3-50) by Dave Cooper –
Yes, it’s late but, suddenly, all is forgiven. The fourth installment of the ‘Ripple’ saga makes me think that the final, collected book will not force its way through UK customs. It’s a little racy. Previously, we’ve seen the artist meet Tina by approaching girls, giving them his number and telling them that he’s interested in doing some life studies. And, for a change, that was true. Then he becomes entranced by this girl a good dozen years his junior. It’s not love, but as they fool around it becomes a creepy sexual obsession, beautifully mapped out by Cooper. Tina is no classical beauty, there’s a good helping of ugliness to her but he gives her a radiance that reminds me of both Crumb and David Lynch. Crumb, obviously, for the attraction to the younger, big-boned girl and Lynch for the freakish surfaces that he portrays. Or maybe that’s just honesty.