Chris Mautner, Author at Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources - Page 4 of 72
It’s kind of impossible to overstate the influence Kim Thompson had on American comics. As co-publishers of Fantagraphics, he and Gary Groth transformed the way people thought about the medium, both in the pages of The Comics Journal and in the kinds of comics they published. If any one publisher can be regarded as the singular entity (and let me be clear, I’m really wary about staking that sort of claim) that made not just fans but the general public take notice and say, “Oh, hey, comics really are an art form and capable of greatness,” it was these guys.
As you might have heard, Kim Thompson died Wednesday morning after being diagnosed with lung cancer. I thought I’d try to cobble together a few words about Kim’s legacy. (And I hope you don’t mind me calling him by his first name; although we were only casual acquaintances at best, it just feels weird to refer to him in anything but familiar terms.)
This Sunday is Bloomsday, that special time of year when people around the world draw together to celebrate one of the finest works of English literature, Ulysses by James Joyce. Or they try to, anyway.
If you haven’t attempted to read Joyce’s magnum opus before, it can be a little rough going. In honor of the literary holiday, I thought I’d list six Joyce-themed comics you can read on Sunday in addition to (or, if you must, in place of) Ulysses. You wouldn’t think there could possibly be that many Joycean comics available to the casual reader but I assure it’s so. Steady on, stately, plump Buck Mulligan!
1. Boom Boom #2 by David Lasky: Lasky has done enough Joyce-themed comics to fill at least a thick-sized pamphlet if not an actual book (and really, at some point I need to devote a “Collect This Now!” column to those works). But if you’re looking for just one comic to read this Bloomsday, I would strongly recommend starting here, with the second issue of Lasky’s ’90s-era one-man anthology. In Issue 2, Lasky tells various anecdotes about Joyce during his time writing Ulysses, but his method is both inspired and unique. He apes specific, iconic Lee/Kirby comics, especially Fantastic Four #1, imbuing Joyce’s comparatively mundane life with grandeur and heroism. Even after all these years, it’s still a pretty boss idea. Once you’re done with that comic, consider picking up Lasky’s “Ulysses” minicomic adaptation as well.
There’s a growing number of small-press publishers popping up these days, from Koyama Press to Oily Comics and beyond. No doubt that’s in large part due to the increasing number of indie-comics conventions like CAKE and SPX, the relative ease of selling your work online, more and more cartoonists trained in basic printing and business skills thanks to schools like the Center for Cartoon Studies, and perhaps even more affordable printing technologies. (I’m guessing at that last one. OK, I’m guessing at all of these.)
Whatever the reason, we are blessed (or, depending on your viewpoint, cursed) with a plethora of minicomics from new and up-and-coming cartoonists. Here then are some short-ish reviews of minis that came to my doorstep from two relatively new publishers: Yeti Press and Retrofit Comics.
Our Ever Improving Living Room by Kevin Budnik ($20): This is a chunky-sized collection of a series of four-panel journal comics Budnik did while attending college. It’s similar in style and presentation to James Kochalka’s American Elf, although Budnik portrays himself as being a bit more reserved and anxious than Kochalka. It seems like just about everyone and their cat is doing a diary comic of some form these days, and while I can appreciate how the daily rigamarole of that type of comic can improve one’s artistic and storytelling skill, there’s always a danger in discovering that the examined life turns out to be rather dull. While he’s not above highlighting the cute moment or indulging in some unnecessary naval-gazing, Budnik manages to avoid many of the pitfalls of his peers by possessing a self-effacing sense of humor and an appreciation for the minor victories and miseries of life. This is early work, and rough at times, but it shows a good deal of promise and I want to see what he does next.
This book will lead the reader into Onsmith’s funny and outlandish world, full of shady characters and troublesome shenanigans through a mix of never-published stories, favorite gag strips, and mesmerizing prints and illustrations.
No price details or page count has been released but the book is scheduled to arrive in spring 2014. Onsmith will be at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) in June and might reveal more information about the book and its contents then.
Hailing from Chicago, Onsmith (a.k.a. Jeremy Smith) should be familiar to the average alt-comix reader, even if they don’t recognize the name, as his work has appeared in such anthologies as StudyGroup, Hotwire Comix, Black Eye, Graphics Classics, Ivan Brunetti’s Anthology of Graphic Fiction and many others. To the best of my knowledge, however, this is the first time any of the artist’s work has been collected.
You can read the full press release below:
LOOK AT THIS:
Comics critics like myself like to talk about living in the “golden age of reprints,” and indeed, it is exciting (and somewhat astonishing) to see classic stories and strips that often were only glimpsed in anthologies or discussed in glowing terms in historical chronicles (Skippy, King Aroo) finally be made available. Works long regarded by fans as stellar – Little Lulu, Captain Easy – now have the ability to reach an audience beyond the handful of collectors that had the time and resources, or simply the obsessive-compulsive capabilities, to track down the musty old newspapers and crumbling funny books.
And yet. And yet the success of these collection projects has often encouraged publishers to seek out work that might not be worthy of such lavish format and attention. Do we really, for instance, need a complete run of Hagar the Horrible or Wizard of Id in hardcover? Do these humorous but rather mediocre and ephemeral strips really deserve that sort of focus?
More to the point, does Bazooka Joe?
What’s that, you say? You find it hard to believe there’s a comic book series by Gilbert Hernandez that’s not only out of print but has never been collected in trade paperback?
Oh, but it’s all too true. Read on to learn more …
What is it about childhood that makes us forget about ours so easily? Whether consciously or not, we seem all too eager to not only put our younger years behind us, but obliterate them from our memories. Even as parents we frequently grow exasperated and angry with our own children, seemingly incapable of remembering what it was like to be little.
While many cartoonists are cited for their “childlike” abilities, precious few are able to accurately convey what it actually feels like to be a child – what makes up the significant joys and anxieties of your average 12- or 6- or 3-year-old and how they best express those complicated emotions.
There are a few, however. Lynda Barry is one, Kazuo Umezu is another. Add to that short list Gilbert Hernandez, as evidenced by his latest book, the excellent Marble Season.
It’s the episodic story of Huey, a the middle child of a moderately sized family living in California in the mid-1960s. His adventures, such as they are, consist of avoiding scary things, like neighborhood bullies or the crazy lady in the spooky house down the road; discovering cool stuff, like Mars Attacks cards; and inventing and playing games with the kids in the neighborhood. Taking a page from Peanuts, we never see Huey’s parents or any of his teachers (indeed we never see him in a classroom). The entire book is staged and presented from the viewpoint of Huey, his brothers and their friends.
Note: My schedule has been all goofy lately which means I haven’t been able to post on a regular weekly basis or contribute to Cheat Sheet or What Are You Reading in the manner I’d like to. I know: Wah, wah, wah.
Meanwhile, the books keep piling up. And piling up.
So, in an effort to assuage my guilt, I attempted to run through some of the titles I’ve received in the mail in the past few months. Warning: I might do this again. I might not. I’m mercurial.
You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly)
As appreciative as I am that we live in an era when cartoonists are encouraged to, and do, create lengthy, thoughtful, multi-layered stories, there’s something to be said for the simple pleasures of a gag strip – the fleeting joy that a really short, well-constructed joke can provide. I didn’t realize how much I missed that sort of thing until I read You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, a collection of short strips that cartoonist Tom Gauld did for The Guardian. The bulk of the strips play upon classic stories, genre fiction or publishing in general. Gauld’s jokes are are silly enough and play upon familiar cliches well enough to make the reader feel smart even if you haven’t read, say, Zola’s “Germinal.” His minimalist, silhouetted style helps get the joke across as well. He’s also rather fond of diagrams and maps, which puts him in good company with folks like New Yorker cartoonists Roz Chast and Jack Ziegler I didn’t care much for Gauld’s last book, Goliath, which I thought milked a rather weak joke (gosh, the Biblical Goliath was actually a really nice guy!) but Jetpack had me frequently laughing out loud in the way that only my favorite comic strips do. Comics need more of this sort of “get in, get out quick” work right now and I’m happy that Gauld is here to fill that void.
I first came across Rina Ayuyang’s work with the arrival in 2010 of Whirlwind Wonderland, which collected her various minicomics in one slim book. Iwas quite taken with the warmth and good humor she displayed in detailing her life, family and relationships, and I dubbed it one of the most criminally ignored books of that year.
While she’s still putting out the occasional minicomic, Ayuyang has recently become a small-press publisher with her new imprint Yam Books. The company is off to an excellent start with its first book Ticket Stub, by Tim Hensley, which came out late last year. The book, which collects the off-kilter minicomics Hensley created while working at his former day job as a closed-caption editor is a head-spinning series of dada-esque riffs on popular movies.
Curious about what sort of challenges Ayuyang might have encountered in making the transition from indie cartoonist to indie publisher, I asked whether she’d be up for answering some of my invasive questions. Thankfully, she was more than happy to do so.
“Ah, young love,” the poets like to sigh. But as intense and memorable as childhood (and early adulthood) romance can be, it can also be fraught with insecurity, awkwardness and trauma, a fact Canadian cartoonist Patrick McEown underlines in his latest graphic novel, Hair Shirt.
The story centers on John, a veguely insecure twentysomething who, while mourning the death of a long-term relationship, stumbles into the arms of Naomi, a former childhood sweetheart who happens to be attending the same university.
And while John seems happy to reconnect with Naomi, it’s clear from the start their budding relationship is fraught with problems. For one thing, both John and Naomi are haunted by the ghost of Chris, Naomi’s rather swinish older brother who died in a car crash when they were teenagers. Chris and John had been friends as kids, and there seems to be a cloud of guilt and apprehension hanging over John concerning how his relationship with Chris soured as the latter became more of an obnoxious bully. While never completely stated, John hints at horrible things that happened to Naomi in her formative years, and there’s a specter of abuse — either physical or sexual — that haunts her and by extension John.
Oh, Red Ketchup, how do I love you? Let me count the ways.
You’ve overcome huge obstacles. The albino son of an abusive, hulking Nazi sympathizer who made you play chicken on the train tracks to strengthen your resolve, you’ve managed to channel your aggression into your job as an FBI agent, helping make the world safe for democracy.
You’re a man of action. When a star NFL quarterback is accused of dealing drugs, there’s no need for niceties. Just tackle that sucker and handcuff him right there on the football field in the middle of the game (making sure you keep the drugs for yourself, of course).
Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.
After a longer hiatus than was initially intended, I’m happy to sayComics College is back and ready to give you the sequential-art schooling you so desperately need. This month we’ll be looking at the output of one of the most important — if not THE most important — figure in the early history of comics, Winsor McCay.
Everyone knows about Zap, Arcade, Raw, Weirdo, Mome, Paper Rad and Kramer’s Ergot. Even lesser lights like Taboo, Twisted Sisters, the SPX anthology and even (gulp) Heavy Metal have all gotten their due at one time or another. But then there are those anthologies that, for whatever reason, never seem to resonate with readers despite containing a host of high quality contributions. Below the jump are six anthologies I don’t think have fully gotten their due. Be sure to let me know what your picks are in the comments section.
Having reflected back on the best (and most cruelly ignored) comics of the past year, it’s time to look forward. Here are six comics I’m really excited about reading this year. As usual, my list reflects my own alt-comix/alt-manga interests/biases. So let me know in the comments what titles I’ve been such a clod as to overlook.