August 22, 2014

Review -- MAIL-ORDER MUTANT! by Frank Candiloro

Mail-Order Mutant!

(Frank Candiloro)
4 stars
Aussie Comics Wunderkind Frank Candiloro keeps putting out books that plum the depths of Western Pop Culture, and his 42-page paean to 1950's teenage horror films, Mail-Order Mutant! keeps the wheels turning and the rock rolling while putting the real in surreal.
Mail-Order Mutant! is as much a love letter to comics as it is to the genres of monster movies and teenage kick flicks foisted on a culture unnerved by the advent of a nuclear age, still reeling from the psychic havoc it exploded. Candiloro says about his book:
Mail-Order Mutant! is the story of Theo Gorgo, a young whippersnapper obsessed with horror and sci-fi comics and a member of the teenage gang The Gorgos, led by his older sister Tina.
Upon encountering a nuclear missile, Theo is caught in the explosion, and ends up with various powers and abilities, all based on things he read in the funny books. Now a nuclear misfit, Theo goes to his friends for help.
But The Gorgos have other plans for him.
As this is a Frank Candiloro comic, there are all kinds of wonks and whatnots within its pages. It cooks with the crackle of energy these sorts of stories can unleash, and Candiloro's linear, black-and-white, German Expressionistic, wood-cut inspired cartooning keeps the backbeat clear, the rhythm jamming, and the whole thing blowing: GO! GO! GO!

August 21, 2014

Review -- FLESH AND BONE by Julia Gfrörer

Flesh and Bone

(Julia Gfrörer)
4.5 stars
In the late 1980s the Pixies reminded us that “Your bones got a little machine.” That machine is, of course, encased in flesh. Together, flesh and bone, we create meaning through our senses. We reach out. Touch. Caress. Love. Together, flesh and bone, we are procreant, fecund. We express our desire for others and for ourselves in the same act, using the same flesh, using the same bones. We connect, fluids exchange, life is affirmed as life is created.
This affirmation is fundamental. In fact, it has been designated a basic human need. We are driven to conjoin and sexuality surrounds this. For the artist Julia Gfrörer, though, this drive is also tinged with horror and mysticism. Gfrörer's books are full of the intersection between desire and repulsion, bliss and woe, and in this intersection Gfrörer sees a ripe darkness that exists in the world that bears a strange fruit.
Gfrörer's 2010 book Flesh and Bone from Sparkplug Comics takes this fruit and makes from it a delicious pie. It is a comic that is as ejaculatory as it is desperate. There is a hunger that drives it and it is rhythmic in its telling.  The story revolves around a young man who craves death in order to be reunited with his dead lover, but he fears eternal damnation if he were to take his own life. So he turns to a witch to help him (as we all do at one point or another in our lives). But as this is a Gfrörer book, the impulses here are all layered through a carnality bred from desire. Love in Flesh and Bone is a sexual act, death is orgasmic in execution. The devil is serviced through our desires, yet this evil is euphoric and fervent, fructiferous and fertile. A man's seed is planted. What grows from there is the stuff of Gfrörer's art.

August 20, 2014

Review -- THETH by Josh Bayer


(Josh Bayer)
Remember when you felt totally isolated from everything around you? Remember when your only joy came in escaping what then constituted your existence? Remember feeling like you had to encase yourself in some sort of armor in order to keep from exploding?
Josh Bayer remembers. His 80 page black and white release from Retrofit Comics titled Theth documents this.
Theth is a brutal read, where even its moments of humor are tinged with horror. It's a psychotic bildungsroman of sorts; characters in this book only serve to torture, in some way, the young titular hero – Theth has few positive role models for behavior (though everyone keeps giving him advice) and he finds solace only in the world of comic books. Bayer's loose art style and heavy inking mirrors the emotional tone of the book and adds further chaos to the read.
And yet there is something powerful at work here, as if Bayer is able to capture a purely visceral moment and subsequently communicate it directly to his audience. It's as if there is no filter between the artist's emotional sensibilities and your reaction to them. There is a rawness at work in Theth that is unlike any other comic I've read.

August 19, 2014

Convenient Truths: Diagram for Delinquents

Over on Comics Bulletin
Eric Hoffman, Jason Sacks, and I look at the documentary DIAGRAM FOR DELINQUENTS about FREDRIC WERTHAM

August 17, 2014

Review -- PICNIC RUINED by Roman Muradov

Picnic Ruined

Roman Muradov
4.5 stars
First impressions carry a lot of weight. They force us to generate inferences about the quality of the person or thing we encounter, and that perception lingers until powerfully proven otherwise. Therefore it takes a lot of audacity to begin anything with the phrase, “God, this is dull.” Roman Muradov is that audacious.
Roman Muradov's Picnic Ruined is, in the words of its creator, “56 washy pages of me circa 2011 wandering around and talking to myself about fiction & autobiography, memories & re-creation, prepuces & car numbers, futility & bellensebastians, etc...” What we have though, in reality, is a rumination about one of the larger artistic questions: How does one re-create a singular experience in a way that conveys it to a greater audience?
Another question it raises is why don't more things have foreskins, but that is secondary to the main thematic thrust.
Picnic Ruined is a slightly snarky, ironically pretentious, self-aware full-press rumination of the role of the artist and the nature of art itself. In an amusingly self-deprecating fashion, Muradov casts himself as the creator whose affected mannerisms run the gamut of owl-frame glasses, a shaggy mop top, a long coat, and a flowing stripped scarf. As this hero wanders through the limits of his world, he comments on the efficacy of art and his role as the creator. The idea of re-creating experience is paramount in his mind, which he calls “an endeavor fundamentally hopeless, yet hopefully charming in its hopelessness.”

August 16, 2014

Review -- 30 MILES OF CRAZY by Karl Christian Krumpholz

30 Miles of Crazy

(Karl Christian Krumpholz)
4 stars
Colfax Avenue is Denver's main throughfare, running close to thirty miles east-west through Denver, Aurora, Lakewood, and Golden. Playboy Magazine once called Colfax 'The longest, wickedest street in America.'” This is the backdrop for Karl Christian Krumpholz's 30 Miles of Crazy, a long-running webcomic that has finally been collected by Drunken Tiki Comics. While ostensibly a series of (mostly) one-page shorts about what defines place and what can happen to people,  it's also about notions of family and, more importantly, about the concept of home.
Many of the stories Krumpholz captures in his comics take place in various bars along Colfax Avenue and present a voyeuristic view of some of the weirder, damaged, drunken, or flat-out crazy folk who inhabit them. Often, his comics begin with someone saying something like, “A Colfax story? Yeah, I have one.” But interspersed among these tales of depravity and drunkenness, Krumpholz includes these little moments of autobiography, celebrations of place, and attempts at understanding his relationship with the world around him.
I could easily see a lazy critic making the argument that a book like this teeters on the edge of sensationalism – that Krumpholz is holding up wreckage for ridicule – and then castigating 30 Miles of Crazy as capitalizing on the misery of others. But to make this argument misses the heart of what Krumpholz does with his art.

August 15, 2014

Review -- DETRIMENTAL INFORMATION by John and Luke Holden

Detrimental Information

(John and Luke Holden)
3.5 stars
John and Luke Holden's Detrimental Information defies easy categorization. It's not comics. It's not prose, nor is it poetry. It's not pretty in the slightest. What it is, is something bizarre and off-putting, something scrawled and ugly, something so displacing that, as you read through its 312 pages, you begin to lose your esthetic and flow into theirs. By the end of the book, you begin to understand what the Holdens are doing, you understand character, and through this understanding you see the beauty in its vileness. 
According to publishers 2D Cloud, Detrimental Information is collection of a zine series, 13 years of it in fact, and is “an epic collection of rude and crude comics about the Midwest; its winters, family, mental illness, sex education, cigarettes and strip poker.” Calling it “comics” though, stretches the label. This is not a sequential narrative. More often than not, the art featured on each page has little if nothing to do with the story being told. It serves no other purpose than to set a tone, arouse a mood, put you off focus in some manner from the thrust of the writing. 

August 14, 2014

Poem for David Lynch's Hair dashed off while binge watching the first season of Twin Peaks

Poem for David Lynch's Hair
dashed off while binge watching
the first season of Twin Peaks

Harry, I have no idea where this will lead us,
but I have a definite feeling it will be a place
both wonderful and strange.

Cascade a waterfall by the Mill there on top of his and drawing the eye notes plucked leading to red curtains that shiver light vomits into darkened rooms filled with little coconuts like a wave no Lipstick Smear or Mascara Rivulets undulating each strand Wisp Thick crowning one-armed defining our wide open pupils knowing perfectly placed

Imagine the conversations of his combs gritted through their teeth

Piled as if worn by forces on the agate and sapphire of Missoula, Montana sculpted by the wind and the rain into a shape that denies our Physics made black like a strong cup of coffee a little present to ourselves like Christmas.

His brushes hold hostages to negotiate some sense of truce or gather their loins in revenge.

Form full Carnal execution Styled against rot and lurid and bestial and our sex in a one-eyed jack in defiance reminding us that these things Define and make deals with the Icelandic or fill the plates with mounds of donuts at the crime scene no invitation to love.

Bottles of shampoo conditioner products tossed about on the tile of florescent lit bathroom floors are really full of Myna Bird blood.

Huddled cold chattering in the shadow that it casts clinging to others who will beat us with bats or hide drugs in our gas tanks we are its twin peak though As the darkness is always darkest inside

Who is your barber, wrapped up so in plastic, washed up on shore?