August 28, 2016

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 8/22/16 to 8/28/16

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


* Keith Silva makes his debut at The Comics Journal with this spectacular review of Derek Van Gieson's ENOUGH ASTRONAUT BLOOD TO LAST THE WINTER, "an odds-and sods assortment of illustration, microfiction, and photography chronicling Derek van Gieson's salad days in New York City."

* Hillary Brown reviews Lynda Barry's THE GREATEST OF MARLYS.

* Andy Oliver reviews GREEN GRAVES by Liam Cobb, whose "carefully crafted pacing... ensures its doom-laden build-up sweeps the reader away on a wave of inescapable fatalism." 

* Sarah Horrocks on Brendan McCarthy's DREAM GANG, which is "all about these basic ideas of the exterior of the character mapping to the interior dreaming."

* Scott Cederlund reviews Sarah Becan's STOCKHOLM IS SAUCEOME which may, perhaps, feature a sandwich or two. 

* John Seven reviews THREE MINI COMICS for The Beat, including Ley Lines, Mini Kus #42, and Space Rope: Mars and Venus 

* From earlier this month, but a must-read: Aaron Kashtan's COMICS CRITICISM: BASIC QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN READING A COMIC


Julia Gfrörer's Black is the Color is back in print through Fantagraphics. To celebrate this, here's an old INTERVIEW she did with Tucker Stone

* The list of EXHIBITORS and list of DEBUT BOOKS at this year's SPX makes me realize that I will need to bring more cash than I had initially planned (time to sell more blood).

* September 4th is when San Francisco Zine Fest is happening. This list of EXHIBITORS makes me realize that I will probably also need to sell a kidney sometime soon. 

* The New York Comics and Picture-Story Symposium will feature a conversation between BENJAMIN MARRA AND JOSH BAYER on August 30th at 7 pm. Someone please go and live-tweet that.

* After a nine-month absence, LARS MARTINSON updated his blog and promises that Tonoharu: Part 3 will be released in November of this year. 

* Swapna Krishna's ON THE FUTURE OF PANELS -- the website she edits is not exactly closing on August 31st, but is transforming. 

* Alex Mansfield on the concept of "MINDLESS ENTERTAINMENT" where "even as we soak up the endorphins rushing so fast and furious flooding our synapses while indulging in so-called 'mindless entertainment' we cannot shut ourselves off to the emotional connection that fuels them regardless of genre or depth or method."

* Jake Muncy's WHY I WATCH PEOPLE PLAY VIDEOGAMES ON THE INTERNET really helped to open up my understanding of this phenomenon. He writes, "It's not community, exactly, but it's a proxy of one, and I think it's easy to devalue that unless you personally need it. Proxy communities, through mediated relationships and art, create a space for people to see themselves more clearly and to build a sense of connection with the broader world. When you're in isolation, proxy communities can help you find real ones."

August 27, 2016

Poetry Comics on Comics Bulletin

This week I got to explore what's going on in the world of Poetry Comics 
over on Comics Bulletin.

First was THIS ESSAY by Alexander Rothman, the Editor-in-Chief of the premier Comics Poetry journal, Ink Brick

As a new form (or at least one where precedents are rarely accessible), comics poetry is difficult and uncharted. Practitioners must figure out what they’re doing. And more fundamentally than with most work, audiences must figure out how to read it. Our media environment encourages quick consumption of content that is increasingly custom tailored. This work, on the other hand, asks us to walk a mile or two in someone else’s brain.

Next, I badgered Austin Lanari into writing THIS REVIEW of Ink Brick #5

My favorite thing about Ink Brick is not just that the work is often challenging: it’s that the challenges it often presents to the reader do not in any way resemble the often more literary challenges of more traditional comic books.  This has an effect of broadening any reader’s appreciation for sequential art as a whole (and arguably fine art or poetry as well).  That kind of expansive rewiring is in stark contrast to the often insulating effect that sticking to one kind of work can elicit.  

Next came an INTERVIEW I did with Chrissy Williams, one of the Editors of Over The Line: An Introduction to Poetry Comics

So I suppose the thing to say, even though I realize how obvious it sounds, is that the genre needs to be defined fundamentally as an inextricable combination of both comics and poetry, neither of which should be dispensable. In the best poetry comics, I believe, the piece would fail utterly (or at best be horrifically diminished) if you removed either the poetry or the artwork from the composition.
That may not be what you mean though. You may mean “yes, fine – but what is it?” Or, in other words, what does it do that distinguishes it from either comics or poetry? Well, poetry is used to creating meaning with text alone (either on the page, or audibly), so putting it into a visual sequence makes it something different. It now finds it has help in building imagery that it didn’t have before, and has to ask itself “how can we keep this interesting and make sure we’re not just repeating ourselves?”
Finally, for Tiny Pages Made of Ashes (our small press review column) I got Ray Sonne to write this REVIEW of Sarah Ferrick's SEC

Ferrick’s poetic lines hitch and groan, interrupting the speaker’s passion (“I want to fuck you!” screams one page in a curly, nearly unreadable red) with their anxiety and frustration as they fail and fail and fail again to find completion. “One sec, one sec, one sec” evolves into the speed and tempo of a bedsheet mantra. The sickening desperation of the speaker only ceases as the comic becomes wordless, giving into the blossoming of bright red, vulva-like flowers with brown pubic hair drawn on the higher points of their stems. Orgasm has no words and neither does its post-coital peace, which is represented on the last page via a flower of purple and yellow, two colors previously unused.

While I wrote reviews of LATE BLOOMER by mare' odomo

Ultimately framed as a journey, Late Bloomer examines that which is without, within, as odomo works through what it means to be an individual in world among others: how we interact, what we desire, how we perceive and are perceived, what we reject and are rejected for. It’s messy business, and odomo’s work reflects this. Page after page are filled with smudges and things almost violently crossed out. Some pages are only half-filled, others framed, yet left blank. Thoughts are begun, reflected upon, abandoned or tossed aside in frustration caused by either an inability to understand or the necessity to move forward. Moments of tightly rendered landscapes are juxtaposed with the crosshatch of window screens or almost oppressive urban streets.

And TIME CAPSULE by Maggie Umber

Umber’s work is comics poetry insomuch as it is neither narrative nor sequential. It is, instead, a series of images — landscapes, bats, insects, snails, snakes, birds, chimpanzees — boxed in panels, sometimes alone on a page, sometimes crowded together, juxtaposed with numbers and letters, as if apartment addresses, our own little boxes. Everything is rendered in a moment, sometimes nimbly as if to record it as it happens, other times tightly detailed as if by capturing each element of her subject she can give it some permanence. Placed together, her pages resonate with her final admonition, “We are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event. If it is allowed to continue life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on.

August 21, 2016

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 8/15/16 to 8/21/16

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


* Missed this one last week, but Scott Cederlund reviews John Porcellino's KING-CAT COMIX AND STORIES #76

* Andy Oliver on DIRTY ROTTEN COMICS #7, which "exists not just to give a showcase to some of the very best new voices in small press comics but also to provide them with the opportunity to be published side-by-side with more established names." 

* Andy Oliver also reviews Matthew Swan's PARSLEY GIRL: CARROTS and Paloma Dawkins' SUMMERLAND as part of Broken Frontier's Safari Festival coverage.

* Hillary Brown reviews OTHERWORLD BARBARA VOLUME 1 by Moto Hagio, newly translated by Matt Thorn for Fantagraphics.

* Alex Hoffman reviews Anja Wicki's THE MEANING OF LIFE, which "evokes a sense of skepticism about the act of attempting to derive meaning from anything."

* Not small press, but really damn good criticism, this roundtable discussion by Heather Knight, Ray Sonne, and J.A. Micheline on the characters MIDNIGHTER AND APOLLO in DC's Stormwatch is a fascinating and entertaining read.


* Andy Oliver interviews SIMON MORETON about his zine, Minor Leagues, as well as his previous work and what is coming up (notably a new book as part of the Kilgore Books Kickstarter)

* Ginnis Tonik interviews RACHEL KAHN about her new book, By Crom!, "a collection of Kahn's autobiographical comics that feature her interacting with Crom, a barbarian explicitly based on Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian.

* Alenka Figa interviews KEVIN CZAP about his Kickstarter for Czap Books and all things regarding micro-publishing

* Poopsheet Foundation has their MINI-COMIC HISTORY ARCHIVE available online for you! It's a treasure-trove (do people still say "treasure-trove"?) of not only mini-comics, but fanzines, small press comics, newave comix, and all kinds of goodies. Check it! * Columbus College of Art and Design has launched a new COMICS AND NARRATIVE PRACTICE MAJOR. It's pretty major. 

* KILGORE BOOKS AND COMICS has a Kickstarter.

* SF ZINE FEST has a Patreon.


The Velvet Underground: New York Extravaganza was at the Philharmonie de Paris. Here's hoping this is a traveling show.

August 20, 2016


This week on Comics Bulletin I ran two reviews of small press books

First, I reviewed SUMMERLAND by Paloma Dawkins (published by Retrofit/Big Planet)

It is when the circle of Summerland is complete that the reader understands Dawkins’ intent. What may seem garish or ill-thought through is, in the end, by design. Summerland is the result of careful choices and a heart worn on the sleeve of its creator. With this book, Paloma Dawkins reminds us that life is a series of cycles. While it seems that we lose so much with each renewal, the reality is that the beauty that colors our relationships and ideas exists eternally.

Next, Keith Silva reviews REVENGER ... IS TRAPPED by Charles Forsman (published by Oily Comics)

Forsman’s cartooning has a rude, uncomplicated, and unflattering edginess to it, if for no other reason than a story calling for harelips, goiters, and veiny arms should lack a sense of … romance. It’s not that Forsman is a one trick pony, far from it. He knows his game and he plays it well. When the story calls for the splashy shot of the buckled, booted, and bladed heroine, it’s earned due to the starkness (ugliness) that precedes it — a perfect example of a cartoonist who understands comics are a visual medium.

August 14, 2016

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 8/8/16 to 8/14/16

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


* John Seven reviews Sean Karemaker's THE GHOSTS WE KNOW from Conundrum Press, which he claims pushes the autobio comic to dense new places.

* Rob Kirby has a bunch of SHORT REVIEWS on a number of small press books that were sent to him for review in the first half of 2016.

* Alex Hoffman has a short review of Nick Drnaso's BEVERLY which he says "is about the horror of daily life". 

* Hoffman also reviews BREAKING IS OPENING by Sab Meynert, "a response to brokenheartedness." 

* Christopher M. Jones reviews Simon Hanselmann's MEGG AND MOGG IN AMSTERDAM, "that is part Adult Swim absurdity, part noise rock cacophony, all strange and cruel and hilarious psychedelic despair." 



* Gil Roth interviews LESLIE STEIN about her books Time Clock and Bright Eyed at Midnight and the artistic benefits of boredom

* Annie Mok interviews MARE' ODOMO, focused on their book Late Bloomer.

* Meg Lemke interviews EMMA RIOS and BRANDON GRAHAM about their anthology, Island.

 * Cartoonist Sarah Glidden writes and draws this profile of the JILL STEIN CAMPAIGN for The Nib. 

* Chase Magnett does an incredible job answering the question, "IS IT TRULY POSSIBLE TO ETHICALLY CONSUME MARVEL AND DC COMICS?" Spoiler: The answer is "no". 


* Leela Corman draws this "roundup" of JEWISH COMICS and tries to define what makes a comic a Jewish comic. 

* Gwen Benaway on Vivek Sharaya's first book of poetry, even this page is white, "an explicit exploration of racism from many sides. It looks at race-based gender violence, racism in Queer spaces, racism through economics, racism in friendships, and racism in sex and love.


August 13, 2016

Review -- TIME CLOCK by Leslie Stein

Wrote about Leslie Stein's new book from Fantagraphics, TIME CLOCK.
It's the third book in her Eye of the Majestic Creature series.

"Structurally, this encompasses the narrative, but peeling back the skin of all of this seeming nonsense is a meditation on the responsibilities of adulthood, an examination of the idea of place, an unpacking of the obligations of the relationships we foster, a questioning of the limitations of art, and, of course, an acknowledgement of mortality."

August 7, 2016

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 8/1/16 to 8/7/16

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


* Joe McCulloch on KRAMER ERGOT 9, which McCulloch claims is "shot through with continuing theme of illusion and mistake: perfect for an American election year" and goes on to say, "what is unique about the series is the restless sense of anxiety in its stories, as if the book is preparing for calamity."

* Bill Boichel on Marc Bell's STROPPY in which "Bell has employed his idiosyncratic arsenal of cartoon creations in the service of a cohesive long form narrative that opens with an incensed populist sentiment that ruthlessly ironizes the blatant inequities imposed by unbridled capitalism, ridiculing both those directing it and those in its thrall."  

* Andy Oliver writes about the second volume of RADIO ON, an annual music-themed anthology from England's The Analogue Press.

* John Seven on Jon Allen's OHIO IS FOR SALE which was a web comic and is now collected by Alternative Comics.


* Check out this amazing illustrated interview that Madeline Keyes-Levine did with YUMI SAKUGAWA

*Sarah Horrocks talks about the films of ALAN CLARKE, of which she says "are resistance. Petty resistance, sure. But that's all we have anymore. Disobedience of thought. Of art." This leads her to talk about her own struggles with creating and her own frustrations therein. 

* WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO RUN A SMALL PRESS COMICS EMPIRE? The answer comes in the form of a discussion with the publishers behind Breakdown Press, Retrofit Comics, and Koyama Press, and "profit" doesn't seem to factor into it anywhere. 

* JA Micheline continues to explore the concept of "criticism" in CRITICAL JAM #4: ON TRUE CRITICISM. If you've got a spare dollar or two a month to support her Patreon in order to keep this kind of writing going, do that. 

*Whoah. Brian Hibbs has moved his excellent column, TILTING AT WINDMILLS, over to The Beat. Hibbs writes well about all the shit comics does to destroy itself at the retail level. This month he talks about Marvel Now.

* If you haven't been keeping up with Mason Dickerson's HALFTRACK over on Study Group, it's time you rectified that oversight.

* There's a new DAVID HINE AND SHAKY KANE one-shot on the horizon. Keep your eyes out for that in October.