August 25, 2019

Processing Loss: Daniel Elkin reviews ROCKS by Rozi Hathaway

When the dying's finally done and the suffering subsides
All the suffering gets done by the ones we leave behind.”
-- Purple Mountains
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
      And the tide rises, the tide falls.”
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Lately, I’ve been processing loss. A friend of mine died the other day. Took his own life. Hung himself.
We were good friends in high school. Teenage hijinx, bonds born of suburban ennui, smart kids among cowboys, surrounded by a plastic city, aglow with punk rock posing. This was supposed to be the new world, all we needed were the necessities (and more).
The years spread us apart and circumstances allowed next times and new circles. We’d come back together frequently through postcards and letters, always promising that we’d meet up on the next round, but time and circumstance conspired against us, always time and circumstance. He went his way, I mine.
Finally, though, we made solid plans to see each other. I was excited to hug my old friend again. On Monday he messaged me: “thank dan. Look fwd to seeing you after / im a wreck as usual” I wrote back, telling him I hope he found some joy along the way.
On Wednesday, he was dead.
Shock, sadness, anger. I played the whole album again and again. Mutual friends reached out, we talked, remembered, laughed, tried to find process through, tried to find perspective.
Tried to understand. Tried to let go.
I took to Distraction. Looking for sources of a different intent. Different reference. Of all things, I picked up a new comic that I got in the mail. I read it. I cried. It was, perhaps, what I needed. Attempting to find clear meaning in seemingly meaningless acts requires a fresh seeing and solid grounding.
Rocksthe new self-published book by Rozi Hathaway, was that comic. Rocks is a meditation on and celebration of rocks. The rocks that she finds on the beach, especially. The single stone among a myriad of others. Ones that are special. Ones that stand out because of their shape, color, patterns, or edges. You know them when you see them. Sometimes when you are looking for them. Sometimes when you’re not. They come to you at the right time. At that moment, in no other place. They are perfect.
And yet, they are what they are, not what you want them to be. As Hathaway writes in Rocks, “But, somehow, in picking them up and bringing them home, they lose their magic, their allure.” As with so many things that come through and into our lives, there is a time. There is a spot. It brings the enchantment. An individual out of millions and millions catches your eye. Remove it from its context and sometimes the only thing that keeps it special is the memory you have of its specialness. Sometimes leaving it where it lies is the better choice.
It is, after all, a rock. It’s not a person full of complexities and simplicities, joy and darkness. People change, move on, fall apart. A rock always remains a rock, no matter what we imbue it with.
Still, it is a rock. And it has been a rock for longer than you can even imagine, much less conceive. It has rocked through eons while that which is much less rock-like has come and gone and come and gone again. Much of Rocks is Hathaway providing this perspective, noting the expanse of time at the expense of time each rock has borne witness to without seeing anything at all. Stoic. Silent. A platform from which the business of the world springs over and over again.
And in this, it provides insight into life, into death, into truth, into our endless quest to understand. As Hathaway comments towards the end of Rocks, “Every argument, … every missed appointment ..., … it doesn’t matter. The world keeps turning.
Certainly, this is not a particularly profound or wholly original idea, but it’s a reminder of perspective, of passage, of what is transitory and what remains. We make our mark in the sand. The tide washes it away. What remains is memories. Then memories fade and those that do the remembering disappear until there is nothing left except the rocks who have no comment, no opinion, no insight, no meaning. Our grief signifies nothing other than the fact that it is our grief.
If everything is ephemeral, why do we invest so much into objects, experiences, relationships, people? Why hold on to things that eventually will slip away? Is this some flaw in the human gizmo or just a manifestation of our endless capacity for hope? What is the significance of all the strutting and huffing we do in our lives?
Why does loss hurt so much?
Loss means nothing to the rocks.
It is ours only so much as we make it so.
Maybe, perhaps. we should just let it all go and see where that takes us. Maybe, perhaps, this is healing. Maybe, perhaps, we should just sit among the rocks.

Maybe.
Perhaps.
Perhaps...
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveler to the shore,
      And the tide rises, the tide falls.
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Daniel Elkin is the EIC of Your Chicken Enemy, the Former Small-Press Comics Editor for Comics Bulletin, and has Bylines at Loser CityPsycho Drive-InWinkFactionalWWAC,and PanelXPanelHe's a High School English Teacher in Northern California. He'll talk to you about Sandwiches.

August 21, 2019

Rendering the Early Internet Itself: Matt Vadnais on Gnosticism, Demons, and Porn in George Wylesol’s INTERNET CRUSADER

In 1998, Erik Davis published Techgnosis, an extended, historically grounded argument that the early internet served a mystical purpose that, like all communication technology, would change the humans who used it. For Davis, the chat-room, virtual reality, and other networked exchanges of information worked according to Gnostic principles intent on escaping the prison of the corporeal body in service of pure knowing. Beyond pointing out ways in which the internet was ideal for folks seeking to escape the physical confines of their parents’ basements, Davis was particularly interested in the ways the internet mimicked specific Gnostic assertions that the Creator of the universe had long abandoned “His” creation and had secretly been replaced by a Demiurge standing in the way of true enlightenment; as understood by Davis, a Gnostic version of the Biblical Garden of Eden would understand the serpent, whispering temptation about the tree of knowledge, as the actual hero of the story.
The twenty years that separate 2019 from the publication of Techgnosis have largely proven Davis correct, though any Gnostic objectives of purity regarding the knowing it has created should probably be abandoned: the internet’s single biggest “gift” to the modern world has been the rise and ubiquity of conspiracy theories, theories whose principal allure is the suggestion that the dominant version of the truth is actually a false god. Though it’s hard to argue against the suggestion that the internet’s forbidden fruit of self-selected information is inherently Gnostic, Davis may have overestimated the notion that mystical undercurrents would result in a unified experience of Revelation. Though the book certainly is aware of confirmation bias and human tendencies towards solipsism, Davis was perhaps less worried than he should have been about the possibility that Gnostic technology would, first and foremost, serve to undermine notions of truth itself, rendering facts into opinions, and evidence into fake news. Nonetheless, even if Davis was not entirely prescient about what would happen in the following two decades, the book remains a clear-eyed, eerily accurate set of predictions about how and why it would happen.
                
Set in the halcyon days of the early web, George Wylesol’s latest comic from Avery Hill Publishers, Internet Crusader, features a character known only by his internet name: BSKskater191. While BSKskater191 is not exactly what Erik Davis would have referred to as a Gnostic Infonaut Hell-bent on escaping the limits of the physical for access to pure knowledge, he does begin the book driven by the desire to escape parental constraints – presented very much as those of a demiurge – to view pornography. In doing so, BSKskater191 trips into a game that may or may not threaten to burn the world.
                
Without, for the sake of spoilers, delving too much into the aspects of the book that is a fairly straightforward meta-adventure about fighting demons in the name of a God-who-may-or-may-not-be-a-false-god, it must be said that the book is engaging and funny throughout. BSKskater191, avatar or not, is compellingly rendered as a disinterested hero whose biggest complaint about his call to heroism is boredom. Wylesol manages to stir empathy for a human being about whom readers know very little, especially since nearly every reference to his actual life is filtered through terrible spelling and internet slang.
Despite a compelling story, George Wylesol’s biggest accomplishments have to do with his rendering of the early internet itself; he brings the pop-up windows, dial-up modems, and weird things that routinely happened to the screen to life in such a way that, reading it, I remembered things about my teenage years that I never imagined I could forget. In doing so, particularly in service of a story about a young man who seeks forbidden images and ends up a pawn in war for the human spirit, Wylesol has created a comic that explores, in much more accessible and comical fashion, many of the ideas that were at the heart of Davis’s Techgnosis twenty years ago.
                
In Internet Crusader, every page is essentially a screenshot of our protagonist’s computer; the reader gets references to some “real” people who exist behind usernames and beyond the frame of what is shown, but the world threatened by the stakes of the comic remains entirely filtered through the visual idiom of early attempts at the virtual. On one level, this filtration allows Wylesol to create art that is nostalgic and funny at the same time; on a deeper level, though, Wylesol’s attention to detail unearths ways in which, even if the graphics and interfaces were rudimentary, the early days of the internet were guided by an almost fully formed ethos of disrupting the way we all understood what was real, true, and human.  As engaging as BSKskater191’s downloads and exploits are, Internet Crusader’s real triumph is reminding us exactly how much the internet has changed, changes that have largely been possible because of ways in which the early internet managed to change all of us.
                
The story of Internet Crusader is a good one, well-paced with genuine stakes and some killer twists; however – fittingly for a comic with even fledgling Gnostic impulses – Internet Crusader’s real story is about the future we are living in right now, one in which this reader can’t help feeling like the powers of darkness have very much won.
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Matt Vadnais has taught college literature and creative writing classes for twenty years. He is the author of All I Can Truly Deliver and a contributor at covermesongs.com. For more comics coverage and the occasional tweet about Shakespeare, follow him @DoctorFanboi. For short takes on longboxes, subscribe to his channel of video essays. 

August 19, 2019

Death Is A Stage: Rob Clough reviews THE TENDERNESS OF STONES by Marion Fayolle

The editors of the New York Review Comics line have shown exceptional taste in their choices for reprinting obscure and untranslated comics. Some of their choices, like Dominique Goblet's Pretending Is Lying, are amongst the best comics I've ever read. Likewise, Marion Fayolle's The Tenderness of Stones is every bit as innovative and emotionally devastating as that work, only in a completely different way. In discussing her father's cancer (initially in remission) and his eventual decline and death, Fayolle unleashes a steady stream of lyrical, whimsical, and even absurd visual metaphors that blend into and stack atop each other. Like Goblet's work, this is a comic about coming to terms with a difficult relationship with one's father, only this comic carries a sense of time and circumstance preventing a true understanding. Even in his decline, Fayolle’s distant father is elusive, and the closeness she feels to him is illusory. At the same time, her family (mother, younger brother, and her) becomes a kind of actor's troupe in service to her father, creating a bond out of duty and performance.
From the very beginning, Fayolle's genius is in transforming medical realities into magical realist imagery. Her father had lung cancer and surgery to remove the diseased organ. The ubiquitous "men in white" had it taken out and told him to bury it. Thus began one of many instances in which she insisted her father was somehow trying to pull a prank on his family, that burying his lung was his way of seeing who would show up to his funeral. Fayolle later claimed that her dad was behaving like a child so he could be taken care of like one; acted as though he were a king in order to receive royal treatment; and was only pretending to be ill as he secretly went pub crawling at night. While these instances of magical thinking were all tongue-in-cheek, there was a deeper truth underlying them. Her father was always closed off to her. She never knew what he was thinking or feeling, and so she used a childlike sense of storytelling logic to make sense of him and his slow decline.
Visually, Fayolle employs a deadpan style reminiscent of Gabrielle Bell. The top-notch production values of NYRC are in evidence with the full album format, good paper, and richness of color. Instead of standard word balloons, the comic is narrated by captions told from Fayolle's point of view, written in cursive script. This is an important detail, because this is very much Fayolle's narrative, not her father's, and cursive makes this feel like a personal diary. Fayolle layers the story with multiple interpretations of events, and sometimes those accounts work in concert and sometimes they are contradictory. Infantilization is a running theme throughout the book, and Fayolle's magical storybook approach reflects her own self-infantilization in response to this ongoing trauma. It's all part of what makes reading The Tenderness of Stones such an overwhelming experience: it's a diary, it's a fairy tale, it's a family trauma, it's a child trying to make sense of a confusing world, it's an adult coming to terms with the death of her father.
The simplicity of the plot and even the childlike quality of the narration allow Fayolle to use complicated techniques to solve visual storytelling problems. The second chapter, in particular, is one long visual tour-de-force. There is an extended meditation on the idea that Fayolle's father had become a child again, much to her annoyance: "He had entered a time machine, and he had not taken me with him." Of course, the reality is that her father had deteriorated to the point of being unable to feed himself, dress, or even walk. Fayolle depicts this as though he is an infant, lying in a crib with a mobile above him or being cuddled in a rocking chair. Her formerly icy father now demands a kiss on the forehead before he goes to sleep and needs the door open as he goes to sleep. Throughout this transformation, and throughout the book, Fayolle measures her own identity against his. If she was now older than him, how could he be her father? Who was she now?
Furthermore, this changes her relationship with her mother. She describes her as a big woman whose body always provided security, and she depicts her as bigger than the panel can contain, as she and her adult brother both disappear under her skirts, feeling safe. She suspects that her father had always wanted this kind of mothering, which led him to become a child. However, Fayolle turns it around as an act of kindness on his part, as he did it to distract her mother from noticing that she and her brother were growing up and leaving for new lives. Fayolle depicts herself and her brother with suitcases, floating away from their mother, but the siblings return when they realize their father is too fragile to leave behind.
This is also the moment where Fayolle realizes her new goal: of deciphering the mystery of her father, of wanting to "meet" him at last. She depicts her father as being a silhouette that they slap up images of him on, desperately trying to figure him out and "see" him and hope that he will let himself be seen. This kicks off an inspired series of pages where she has to act as his mouth--literally taking the lips off of her own face and putting them on his so he can talk to his friends. Then she and her brother have to lend him their hands, their legs, and more, in a brilliant 8 x 8 grid that slowly and painfully gets across the difficulty and frequent ennui involved in this level of caretaking. On another page, also with an 8 x 8 grid featuring a different displaced body part in each panel, Fayolle cartoons herself pushing aside panels and tearing a number of them down in an effort to find her leg. The only instance of word balloons in the comic is the next segment, where she and her family start talking for her father, pasting up word balloons of their own design. She admits to changing some of his words before putting them in the word balloon, making him kinder and more loving than he normally would be. It's an intense push-and-pull, where she feels her own personhood in pieces but perceives that she's also altering his agency. It's an almost self-destructive kind of empathy, as she begins to feel his pains and mimics his movements on the page.
There are many other inspired sequences, including likening the presence of home health/hospice personnel to that of an invasion of the men in white. Of note, many of the dreaded, judgmental men in white are women, but Fayolle conflates all authority as being male, due in part to the influence of her father as this remote, frightening authority figure. Conversely, her mother is a comforting and nurturing figure, and because the women wearing white are neither, they are all referred to as men. What creates tension in the book is a series of these reactions based on childlike, binary logic. If my father needs care like a child, he must have chosen to become a child. If he demands constant care and needs to be the center of attention, he must consider himself to be a king. If he's still hard to know, it's because he's lying about his illness and is sneaking out at night to drink with the fellow lost souls in the local bar.
One of the most beautiful and heartbreaking sequences is at the beginning of chapter three, where Fayolle discusses how she hopes the illness will erode away her father's rough edges like the sea gently smooths over the rough edges of boulders. She writes, "My father was a boulder that I longed to cling to without being wounded. That I longed to shelter beneath without feeling threatened." Instead, as she depicts with beautiful simplicity on a series of splash pages, he becomes even more jagged and "you could still cut your fingers and hurt yourself if you held him too close."
Holding too close and being unable to let go to one's parents in various capacities and with various consequences are also running themes throughout the book. This is finally resolved in the fourth and final chapter, as the men in white decreed that he was dying. The image of invisible, cancerous cells falling from the sky like meteorites herald several pages that all have a single caption: "Dad is going to die." On each page, Fayolle chooses a different visual metaphor for his exit and his family's assistance with it: closing a curtain, packing a suitcase, making him disappear like a magic trick, and levitating off a bed. Fayolle steps outside the narrative for a moment to reveal that she had been in the middle of drawing this book when she learned he was going to die, which made her feel as though she had caused it somehow by drawing his diseased lung. She resents this ending being imposed on her: "I could have come up with a much better finale." This is a moment where she reveals just how dark her sense of humor is, playing around with this naive binary. It's clearly her coping mechanism.
In the end, that humor is abandoned as she depicts her family and herself preparing her dad for one last performance. It's all framed in the language of acting and pumping him and saying he had what it took, that he had been rehearsing for years. The final images are both surreal and exquisitely and painfully beautiful. The spotlight on his last performance remains, with flowers being thrown on stage in celebration of his life — a twist on flowers being sent to the bereft when someone dies. His family is sitting on a bench as they watch the performance, with Fayolle applauding. In a book full of dense backgrounds, this is a page with just a few images and an almost overwhelming use of negative space. The funeral is depicted as a crowd of people smoking cigarettes as his giant body lay outstretched. The smoke looks like stone and also like his diseased lung, which I imagine is no coincidence. The smoke grows thicker and obscures his body. Everyone goes their own way, and the final page sees his body disappear.
The Tenderness Of Stones deals with sickness, end-of-life issues, family bereavement, and caretaking issues with a powerful sense of honesty and authenticity. Too often, narratives about the dead and dying try to smooth over the reality of how we relate to them in real life. Using a clever series of visual metaphors and deliberately making her narrative tone naive allows Fayolle to really "spill some ink" and get at her feelings while still being sensitive to her father's and family's plight. Every page is a marvel of composition. The torrent of visual metaphors brings to mind Tom Hart's Rosalie Lightning, which is about the death of his young daughter. It's as though the layer after layer of metaphors is like Fayolle wrapping herself in blankets for comfort or bandages for healing. At the same time, the clarity of storytelling is remarkably sharp, as she stacks metaphors in some instances and elides them in others. The Tenderness Of Stones is a remarkable achievement whose power in depicting the personal pain of one person and her family resonates for anyone who has ever experienced a loss or been a caretaker.
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Rob Clough has written about comics for Cicada, the Comics Journal, Sequential, tcj.com,
sequart.com, Savant, Foxing Quarterly, Studygroup Magazine, as well as for his own blog, High-Low (highlowcomics.blogspot.com).

August 12, 2019

Everyone Thinks This Is Normal: Kawai Shen reviews BTTM FDRS by Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore

BTTM FDRS is a horror comic written by Ezra Claytan Daniels and drawn by Ben Passmore. The story centers around Darla, a young black artist who moves into a cheap apartment in Bottomyards, a formerly thriving working-class neighborhood in South Chicago. At first, it seems as though Darla and her white bestie, Cynthia, will overcome their initial reservations about Bottomyards. They quickly warm up to the opportunities presented by the neighborhood and its residents: a thriving cultural scene populated by young artists - and potential buyers drawn to them. However, they are unable to shake their unease about the new apartment and eventually discover that there is much more to fear than they could imagine...
True to the horror genre, BTTM FDRS introduces a social anxiety - in this case, gentrification - and quarantines it in tangible, monstrous bodies. The title itself is pretty clever. Bottom Feeders references the residents of Bottomyards but the manner in which it is spelled (all caps, sans vowels) suggests how newcomers see the neighborhood: a fashionable trend. This begs the question: who are the bottom feeders? Long-term residents at the bottom of the American social class? Landlords seeking "artistic" tenants with an eye for property investment? Newer residents and businesses displacing older ones? Anyone extracting whatever cultural capital they can from the next person one rung lower on the social ladder? Or perhaps the answer is not as figurative as it seems.
This critical, but playful and open-ended manner of addressing a social issue is maintained throughout the comic. Views of gentrification are tackled directly, but they are filtered through the characters' personal history with Bottomyards so it’s never didactic. How they speak - and don't speak - about the ways race and class privilege play out in their lives is one of the comic's strengths. Dialogue mercifully sticks to subjective experiences rather than academic theories about gentrifiers. Word bubbles, after all, preclude the kind of preachy monologuing one can find in other mediums like theatre. Instead, you have revealing exchanges, from the landlord who calls Darla "Donna" to Cynthia tearing up over how she can't help being born white.
What I appreciated most about BTTM FDRS is how the neighborhood is humanized. So often, "rough" neighborhoods are stereotyped and stigmatized in the media, which in turn stereotypes and stigmatizes residents. BTTM FDRS instead invites us to view the Bottomyards as a place with a rich history - and its older residents as people with full and complex lives, whose identities do not revolve around their displacement. Of particular note is Katherine, a black adjunct history professor who advises Darla, "No matter what you have, no matter how little it is, they're gonna take it from you eventually." Without resorting to spoilers, BTTM FDRS gives you not only the what and the who of this equation, but the how and the where.
The artwork also gives Bottomyards a friendlier treatment. Instead of an industrial palette of rust and concrete, everything is rendered in saturated colors that could have been derived from a handful of Starburst and Skittles candies. Passmore's palettes often draw on complementary color blocking or split schemes for a dynamic and pleasing effect. It jars readers’ expectations of a horror comic as well as underscoring the neighborhood’s new bright and shiny reputation. At times, this choice proves effective and can give a sense of a creeping, lurid, psychedelic nausea. However, at other times, I found this style detracted from any sense of actual fear. It's difficult to feel afraid for your protagonist getting bashed to a pulp when the walls are a sunny yellow and she’s covered in millennial pink goo.
If there's something about BTTM FDRS I find unsettling, it's not the actual horror or threatening action. It's also not a sense that Daniels and Passmore are exploiting the subject matter - unlike a lot of art dealing with "social issues" I never feel the story is being manufactured to profit from a white gaze (in fact, this issue is addressed in the comic itself when Darla criticizes a black musician for profiting from dressing like a pilgrim). For me, I think it's the candy-colored casualness of it all.
There is one image I cannot shake from my mind from when I was living around Chicago, right in the heart of the city on Michigan Avenue, an area that is all but calcified with a concentration of wealth. It was a sunny afternoon. A man was panhandling on the sidewalk. On his upper thigh was an open, festering sore about the size of my hand, fingers spread. He had clearly been wounded for some time without treatment, yet he was sitting mere blocks away from a hospital. The image struck me - still strikes me - with a visceral horror. It wasn’t the wound itself. I used to volunteer in a hospital and I know sick bodies. It was the understanding that here was a man being denied healthcare in an area so monied, I could practically smell the filthy lucre in the air. And what made this all so surreal to me was not how calm the pedestrians walking past him were - it was how calm he was. This kind of horror is normal here, I realized. Everyone thinks this is normal.
Living in Toronto, in the past year alone, one of my close friends began fighting their landlord due to an illegal eviction and another fell homeless for close to a year following a renoviction. This doesn't count friends who have also been evicted or pushed out of the city's core or out of the Greater Toronto Area altogether. And they are not all, as one might imagine, the most marginalized people in this city - some are white people from middle-class backgrounds, employed in full-time jobs requiring a university education. Displacement and illegal evictions are a new normal here: renters living in a free-floating fear that their home will be seized next while luxury condos blister the landscape and units, bought for investment purposes, sit empty. Despite being set in a different city, something about BTTM FDRS felt very familiar and mundane - and not nearly horrific enough to me. And that seems truly frightening.
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Kawai Shen is a Canadian writer and cartoonist. You can find her at cutejuicecomics.com or on Twitter as @kawaishen.

August 9, 2019

Books In Bites 21: Recent Readings -- Elkin Edition

Here are 10 books that I've recently read and enjoyed in the past few months. All text is copied from the individual solicitations for each book.
30 Miles of Crazy #7 
By Karl Christian Krumpholz 
Available HERE 
“Slice of life comics and true stories about modern life and living in The City by Karl Christian Krumpholz, 28 pages, Full Color. 

Includes the stories: ‘My Mugger‘, ‘A Gesture‘, ‘Walk of Shame‘, ‘Darkness‘, ‘Indifference‘, ‘My Only Stan Lee Story‘, ‘The Show Girl’, ‘Agoraphobia‘, and others.”  

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Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me 
Written by Mariko Tamaki, Illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell 
Published by First Second 
Available HERE 
“Author Mariko Tamaki and illustrator Rosemary Valero-O’Connell bring to life a sweet and spirited tale of young love in Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, a graphic novel that asks us to consider what happens when we ditch the toxic relationships we crave to embrace the healthy ones we need. 

Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley's dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There's just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend. 

Reeling from her latest break up, Freddy's best friend, Doodle, introduces her to the Seek-Her, a mysterious medium, who leaves Freddy some cryptic parting words: break up with her. But Laura Dean keeps coming back, and as their relationship spirals further out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it's really Laura Dean that's the problem. Maybe it's Freddy, who is rapidly losing her friends, including Doodle, who needs her now more than ever. 

Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnists like Anna Vice to help her through being a teenager in love.” 
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Minor Leagues #8 
By Simon Moreton 
Available HERE  
“The eight issue of Minor Leagues is entirely given over to part three of 'Where?', a book-length memoir that explores life, death, history, landscape, and nature in the South Shropshire hills. 

This installment is a fever dream of remembering childhood; a visual essay of country living through the unreliable eyes of a child; drawings, paintings, comics, found archival text, photos, weird stuff.”   
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Gender Queer: A Memoir 
By Maia Kobabe 
Published by Lion Forge 
Available HERE 
“In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. 

Now, Gender Queer is here. 

Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears. 

Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity—what it means and how to think about it—for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.” 
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BTTM FDRS 
Written by Ezra Claytan Daniels, Illustrated by Ben Passmore 
Published by Fantagraphics 
Available HERE 
“This Afrofuturist graphic novel explores gentrification and cultural appropriation with a clever blend of horror and humor. 

Once a thriving working-class neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, the “Bottomyards” is now the definition of urban blight. When an aspiring fashion designer and her image-obsessed BFF descend upon the hood in search of cheap rent, they discover something far more seductive... and deadly. 

Gentrification and body horror collide in this brutal satire from the award-winning creators of Upgrade Soul and Your Black Friend.” 
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Boogsy 
By Michelle Kwon 
Published by Shortbox 
Available HERE 
“Does sticky have to be icky? Mac is at one of life's dead-ends: no job, no motivation, no idea about what to do, and living at her twin sister's place while she (sort of) tries to figure it all out. Into this picture arrives Boogsy- a boyfriend made up entirely of her sentient boogers. The two instantly embark on a relationship, and, it seems, down a path of further self-destructive behaviors.” 
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Frontier #18 
By Tiffany Ford 
Published by Youth in Decline 
Available HERE 
“For the final 2018 issue of Frontier, Animator Tiffany Ford shares with readers a refreshingly immediate and raw side of her work. Tiffany presents sketches, studies, and daily comics pulled from her own diary, kept in a sketchbook on her honeymoon traveling in Japan with her husband Myles.” 
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Skip 
By Molly Mendoza 
Published by Nobrow Press 
Available HERE 
“In this epic tale of friendship, compassion, and growth, Molly Mendoza’s stunning art and gripping storytelling immerse you in alternate worlds filled with mystical creatures and dazzling landscapes. 

When Bloom is thrown from their world, and Gloopy is exiled from their own, the two youngsters find in each other a much-needed kindred spirit. But as they skip through dimensions and encounter weeping giants, alligator islands and topsy-turvy 2D worlds, they find that their greatest challenge will be facing their own fears back home.” 
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Threadbare 
By Gareth Brookes 
Available HERE
A beautifully embroidered comic that captures an overheard candid and moving conversation about love between two elderly ladies on the train

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Steve Gerber: Conversations 
Edited by Jason Sacks, Eric Hoffman, and Dominick Grace 
Published by University Press of Mississippi 
Available HERE

“Steve Gerber (1947-2008) is among the most significant comics writers of the modern era. Best known for his magnum opus Howard the Duck, he also wrote influential series such as Man-Thing, Omega the Unknown, The Phantom Zone, and Hard Time, expressing a combination of intelligence and empathy rare in American comics. 

Gerber rose to prominence during the 1970s. His work for Marvel Comics during that era helped revitalize several increasingly clichéd generic conventions of superhero, horror, and funny animal comics by inserting satire, psychological complexity, and existential absurdism. Gerber's scripts were also often socially conscious, confronting, among other things, capitalism, environmentalism, political corruption, and censorship. His critique also extended into the personal sphere, addressing such taboo topics as domestic violence, racism, inequality, and poverty. 

This volume follows Gerber's career through a range of interviews, beginning with his height during the 1970s and ending with an interview with Michael Eury just before Gerber's death in 2008. Among the pieces featured is a 1976 interview with Mark Lerer, originally published in the low-circulation fanzine Pittsburgh Fan Forum, where Gerber looks back on his work for Marvel during the early to mid-1970s, his most prolific period. This volume concludes with selections from Gerber's dialogue with his readers and admirers in online forums and a Gerber-based Yahoo Group, wherein he candidly discusses his many projects over the years.” 
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Daniel Elkin is the EIC of Your Chicken Enemy, the Former Small-Press Comics Editor for Comics Bulletin, and has Bylines at Loser City, The Comics JournalPsycho Drive-InWinkFactionalWWACand PanelXPanel. He's a High School English Teacher in Northern California. He'll talk to you about Sandwiches.