Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Ed Piskor’s Twisted World

Man, poor Ed Piskor. Yeah, the guy has drawn art for Harvey Pekar and he has some mad drawing skills, but some weird shit goes down at the Casa Piskor.

Let's start with his daily sketch mini-comic, Isolation Chamber, where he discovers pictures of his parents online – at a swinger website. Think about that one for a moment. Just let it sink in a bit. Stings a bit doesn’t it. Well, Ed has a hard time with this, even though his friends tell him not to sweat it. If that’s not enough, he gets bifocals, thinks that he’s being crowded out of a group interview with a group of cartoonists, and suffers through interminable waiting to see the Pekar book come out.

Isolation Chamber is a packed twenty pages of loosely sketched panels. The art isn’t as meticulous as his other work, but then again it isn’t supposed to be. He’s just jotting down a few panels each day. Each page has at least nine text- heavy panels, so it takes some time to sit down and read this mini; certainly much more time than you would spend with your average comic pamphlet from the big publishers. I’ll be honest, Piskor often comes across as whining in this journal comic, but there’s just enough here to keep it interesting. You’ve got to find out if he confronts his parents, and you’re a little bit worried about his friend’s new nipple ring. That thing doesn’t look good at all.

There’s one panel in particular that captures the Piskor’s humor best. The dad walks in and asks him why he’s up at 2:00, and Piskor mumbles to himself, “Toothless Dirk Diggler Mother Fuck.” The guy loves his dad, but you can tell his discovery is driving him nuts.

Deviant Funnies: Ed Piskor’s Profane Potboilers & Twisted Tales is a nicely drawn mini-comic under an unattractive cover. The straight jacketed grinning figure is a little off putting, but things simmer down inside. There are twenty-four pages roughly divided into five sections. The first thing that strikes you is that Piskor draws really well here. He works at a level of detail that you don’t often see in self-published mini-comics. You’ll notice an insane level of intricate cross hatching that almost rivals Joe Sacco’s comics. This adds to the depth of each panel and helps set the tone for the stories.

Among the tales that stand out is “The Mysterious Condom,” in which Little Ed tries to bluff his way through conversations about sex with his peers. The character designs here remind you a little of Rick Altergott’s Doofus, as the kids appear more like tiny adults rather than children. Little things stand out in this story, like the tears on the girl's face as little Ed describes what her parents do when the lights go out at night.

Three shorter pieces, “Not So Rude Awakening” is only a page, also shine in this issue. “Awakening” details waking up to a phone call from Harvey Pekar, who tells Piskor, “Quit calling me ‘sir.’ Speak easy, man.” The story “Endurance Test” follows a guy who takes the key from a pair of handcuffs, mails it to himself, and then locks himself to a radiator in his apartment. The backgrounds are less dense here, as the character and his plight become the only focus. Piskor is able to keep your attention by using facial expressions, exaggerated movements, and the ridiculousness of the situation. It’s not easy to successfully spend forty panels on a guy sitting next to a radiator, but he does.

In a sinister unnamed and almost wordless story, a local kid out fishing with a friend falls out of the boat and drowns. Later he comes back to life and haunts an unlucky couple who live by the lake. Since the entire tale takes place at night, Piskor drenches the pages in atmospheric black ink. The reflection of the moon on the lake and the white of a fire’s flames add to the creepiness.

After reading such a solid first issue, the second issue, Deviant Funnies: The Wizmantles, fell slightly short of expectations. The art is excellent throughout, but the characters are sometimes so grotesque it almost hurts to look at them. If Piskor is going for the Basil Wolverton crowd, he nails it. In one panel, the acne-cursed sister lifts a can to her mouth to take a drink; when she pulls the can away, the puss from her pimples kind of strings from her chin to the can. Shudder.

The story of the Wizmantles is the tale of Gummo Wizmantle discovering his parent’s pictures on a swinger website. This should be familiar to readers of Isolation Chamber. Gummo is appropriately horrified, and he goes to his friend for advice. The friend is relieved, “Phew, I’m glad you brought that up, Gummo…I saw your parents naked on the computer months ago.” Poor Gummo tracks his parents to a seedy motel room and watches them through binoculars, as he stays hidden behind some trees.

“The Wizmantles” is the lone story of the second issue of Deviant Funnies. It’s solid and often very funny, but it feels too familiar for a reader that just finished Piskor’s Isolation Chamber where he spends pages talking about the same subject. You can’t blame him though, that’s a goldmine for autobiographical comics. Read this without reading Isolation Chamber first, and The Wizmantles is comical and cringe inducing. I didn’t post the picture of the mother lying on her stomach in a G-string on the rug, or the picture of the father posing in tiny briefs by the toilet.

At the end of the story, you’ll find a two page letter from Gummo to his parents. He explains the difficulty that his discovery caused him, and warns them, “Everytime you piss me off I print up 20 more copies of this.”

Isolation Chamber is twenty pages for $2.50.

Each issue of Deviant Funnies is $3.00.

I didn’t notice a website, but you can email Ed at

You can order Ed’s comics from the awesome Copacetic Comics. The guys at Copacetic have Deviant Funnies available for $2.50 each.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Glaring Omission

Last night while I was sleeping, or maybe as I was watching my beloved Colts cruise to 11--0, I got an email from James Sime who pointed out a glaring omission in my side bar. Look over there to the right under “Mini-Comic Friendly Shows.” Go ahead and check off the list and see if there’s something missing. MoCCA, check. SPX, check. STAPLE, check.

Hmmm, isn’t there something missing, perhaps a little show from the West Coast called APE (Alternative Press Expo). I’ll let James explain:

“Personally, I think it's a great convention... lots of minis, zines, and indy books to be found everywhere. The energy level is always awesome, and it sure looks like San Francisco residents like to drop some good coin on the minis at the con (I know they do in my shop). I'm a sucker for APE's really nice location in the heart of SF with plush carpet and some friendly barstaff who actually encourage you to take your Sapphire and Tonic with you as you roam the convention floor. But y'know, that's their job so I guess I'm not surprised on that count. And shit, the con is held in San Francisco, the home of "comix" and headshops and all that jazz, so it's got some history too. And I like to think I throw a pretty smokin' party every year around APE time and do my little part to celebrate the artform and those who love it (and I happen to also give out an award to mini-comic creators, cos well, I think they deserve more love than they usually get for all that hard work) so that's pretty cool too... but y'know, it's my party so of course I'd think it was good. Your mileage may vary.”

I’m sold. As a matter of fact, I’ve always wanted to check out APE, but I’m usually not financially equipped for a west coast trip at that time of year. BUT, I know I’ll make it out there eventually. And when I do, you can bet I’ll be stopping by The Isotope to give props to James and his devotion to mini-comics. See, what I do is pretty easy. I slap up some images and talk about mini-comics here on the blog. I do it in my spare time. Now James, he lives and breathes comics, especially mini-comics. He’s like a rabid dog, but instead of biting your leg, he’s shoving mini-comics down your pants as you leave the store.

He’s got his own award that he gives for mini-comics, and he hands The Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics out to awesome mini-comic creators like Rob Osborne and Josh Cotter. So, instead of quietly sneaking into the template and adding the link to APE while no one was looking, I thought I’d give a shout out to James and say thanks for bringing such a glaring oversight to my attention. Go check out the Isotope, and definitely check out Rob Osborne’s 1000 Steps to World Domination and Josh Cotter’s Skyscrapers of the Midwest. It’s no accident that both creators landed deals with publishers after winning the Isotope Award.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Things I Learned in Las Vegas:

1) It’s not unusual to sit in Starbucks and watch people walk by at 9am with huge bottles of Corona. You go, crazy overweight tourist with the Corona, it’s Vegas baby!

2) You can walk further, often winding through two separate casinos, to get to a monorail stop on the strip, than you would have if you would have just walked to your destination.

3) You can drink while shopping in the mall.

4) Doubling your money at the blackjack table makes you feel really good. Doubling it five times makes you think you’re the man.

5) You’re not the man. Not even close.

6) It’s really hard to find ten-dollar tables on the strip.

7) The little dudes trying to give you the picture cards for strippers and escorts on the street get annoying really fast. I did wonder how cool it would be if they made these cards as collector sets.

8) If the pirate show at Treasure Island is starting, get to the other side of the street. That crowd of slack jawed freaks will not move – even after the show is over.

9) The view from the Ghost Bar at the Palms is better than you imagine it. Especially after two of the biggest glasses of Glenlivet you’ve ever seen.

10) Everything is open in Las Vegas, even on Thanksgiving.

Back to our regular scheduled program tomorrow. I’m sorry, but I didn’t think about mini-comics or any kind of comics while I was away.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sophie Punt by Julie Doucet

Julie Doucet isn’t doing comics anymore. There won’t be anymore issues of Dirty Plotte. But if you look around, you can find new work by the talented and engaging artist. For instance, at Buenaventura Press, Alvin has a half dozen mini-comics/sketchbooks from Doucet. Sophie Punt, as they’re called, is a series of minis that feaure word art, drawings, collages and musings. I picked up issue thirty-four at SPX after flipping through a couple of them.

Sophie Punt #34 is limited to an edition of 63 and it’s the one with the most drawing, which is what I enjoy the most about Doucet’s work. Inside you’ll find fortune cookie fortunes printed on one page, in German or French, and on the facing page Doucet has illustrated the fortune as only she can.

Facing the fortune, “You may attend a party where strange customs prevail,” is this foldout collage of figures:
Here’s another one:

Sophie Punt #34 is 24 pages for $18. If you’re not already familiar with Julie Doucet’s work, you’ll probably balk at paying $18 for a tiny 24-page book. But then again if you like her work and miss seeing it on the racks, that $18 doesn’t seem so steep.

Alvin has several issues of Sophie Punt for sale at Buneventura Press. They range from $8 to $35. There’s also an editon of Lady Pep for sale as well. And if you want more info on Doucet’s Drawn & Quarterly work, my column at Comic World News should help.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Kevin Analog by Benjamin Birdie

Kevin Analog is a sixteen page black and white mini-comic from Benjamin Birdie. Analog is about a struggling caped crusader who uses the power of analog mix tapes to fight crime. It's weird though, because like us, Kevin lives in a digital world. In one scene, Kevin endures the teasing of his coworkers, and as he looks around for an analog device (presumably to use as weapon), he only sees digital.

Still, Kevin seems to be an effective crime fighter - that is when he isn’t being yelled at by his fiancĂ© for using her mix tape in a street battle.

Kevin: “I’m running out of good transitions and I knew there was a good one on that mix. You obviously read that much. How effective it was.”

Agnes: “Yeah I caught that. No shit. It was a fucking awesome transition. I know. I made it.”

The argument with Agnes and his struggle to come up with a new mix tape is the highlight of a very quick read. Birdie has a good idea here, but I’d like to see more take place on the page. The story is over before you know it, thought some of that might come from the way the art works. Birdie uses a very thin line to create both his characters and the very sparse background. He doesn’t use shading or heavy spot blacks, except for one night scene at the end of the book. This gives the book a very spare look and feel.

Kevin Anaolg is two dollars and you can check out Benjamin Birdie's website for Kevin and other online comics. Heck if you look around, you can find all of Kevin Analog there.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Yeah the title is all wonky.

I'm working on it. Theo Ellsworth was kind enough to send me a snazzy new image for the blog title, and I think it's perfection, but now I have to size it correctly. Be patient. And if you have any hints on how to format the title, please share them. I'd be ever so happy.

Well, I've got the spacing down, but can't get rid of that pesky title in the header. It's messing up the beautiful image.

UPDATE:Friday 9:30pm and the formatting of the title image is as good as it's going to get tonight. Big thanks again to Theo Ellsworth for a perfect logo for SIZE MATTERS. Words can't express how much I love that picture. And I'm proving just how cool I am by being home on a Friday night at 9:30pm working on a blog logo...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Black Star by Jeff Zwirek

If mini-comics were shoved together haphazardly on the racks at your local comic shop, Jeff Zwirek’s would catch your attention. Black Star issue two has a stiff black cover with a cutout of a star in the middle. The star shows up white because of the front page, but there’s a silver pin with a black star inside the cut out. It’s a clean, multi-layered design that immediately stands out. Issue three has a white cover with a black star just above center. Underneath the black star, there’s the BLACKSTAR logo created with a retro label maker stuck to the cover.

Inside each issue of Black Star, there’s three to six short pieces, including stories of a super group comprising Bono, Mick Jagger, the angel of Elvis, a zombie Kurt Cobain, and the Jedi ghost of John Lennon. Like that’s not worth the two buck cover price alone: Jamie Farr sits in his lonely mansion pondering a life lived when a huge bat crashes through the window providing him directions to his most pressing questions. The bat crashes into his CD collection, knocking down copies of CDs by – you guessed it – U2, The Beatles, Nirvana, Elvis, and The Rolling Stones.

Issues two and three both start out with continuing mini-comic themed stories and they’re both engaging. “Comix, Anarchy, Riot,” from issue two, begins the urban myth exploration of an elusive talented mini-comic artist. Here Zwirek, as he’s tracking the mini-comic artist that exists just beyond his reach, lures you in with internal quotes like “I began reading comics at the height of the superhero boom of the early nineties. Lured and dazzled by their stylish dynamics and gimmick covers. But sometimes stupid wears off.” He continues by berating fanboys who see Ware as simplistic next to McFarlane.

The rest of issue two is the charming “Super Group” and the less charming “Jesus-5”; Five Jesus children each with their own super power. This wasn’t horrible, it just seemed like a lengthy supernatural superhero story, which felt oddly out of place after reading “Comix, Anarchy, Riot.” And then, just when you might start to feel a little indifferent, Zwirek hits you with “Saddle Shoes.” This story escapes the traditional panel after panel structure and strikes out on its own with nary a panel border in sight. Images flow into each other naturally as a man chases a woman through the physical and chronological dimension. The passage of time starts slowly on the third page: “It wasn’t long before we were on the ocean. I pass through my twenties. Porpoise spray lights up the sky like glass. And she still runs…I’m fifty, I’m twelve.” This is a moving section of the book, especially for anyone caught up in the love of a lifetime. “Saddle Shoes” is one of those rare stories that show pull back the veil and show the reader something meaningful and deep.

Issue two ends with a short interview with Jeffrey Brown. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

Issue three picks up where “Comix, Anarchy, Riot” ended. “How to Fail in Mini-Comics” has the elusive mini-comics artist/satyr character lead the real life Jeff Zwirek into a small press convention. Here, Zwirek compartmentalizes the different small press fans into more or less realistic groups of players, including my favorite: “The promotionalist is the transient type, but his endgame is big league comics. He thinks that a small press start up will grow and turn into the next Marvel or DC. He’s stupid enough to plunk a bunch of dough into a print run on some bullshit superhero retread.” This story ends with the Zwirek’s guide loudly announcing that Zwirek not only “voted for Dubya,” but that he is currently reading Atlas Shrugged. Ouch.

The rest of issue three consists of a story where “Watergate era Nixon gathers several dead presidents to run a series of bank heists,” and a visually interesting story called “Punk Rock Prep School.” The “Prep School” finishes with a more daring panel structure than the panel-less “Saddle Shoes.” I’ve scanned the page for you below, but notice how the last three panels don’t really follow the story; they’re segmented into four thin strips that provide an intense image that relates to the story in a less direct way. A guitar smashes against a table, toothy “racing bred Chihuahuas” chase a student, a fledgling punk band performs at full throttle, and three costumes figures transverse a graveyard – that’s one panel. Zwirek has a pretty good handle on the art in both of these books, but these last three panels of the third issue are the most exciting.

Check out Zwirek’s comics at his website. Both issues of Black Star are only two dollars each. Issue two is 52 pages and issue three is 24 pages. There are also short previews at his site from these two minis, as well as his Jack Rabbit series.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Untitled (Lightbulbs) by Linda Medley

Most people know Linda Medley’s name from her Castle Waiting series, but this mini-comic is something completely different. Untitled is a wordless twenty page black and white comic that cleverly explores the creative process. In this mini, a young man sits and thinks until a light bulb appears over his head. Something isn’t quite right, however, as the bulb isn’t working properly. It floats white against the black background, but it doesn’t shine. He examines it cautiously and polishes it with a rag. He taps it, shakes it, unscrews it, screws it back in, but still something is keeping the bulb from illuminating the night sky. Finally, the young man accepts his failure and tosses the defective bulb into a garbage can – a can that’s already full of discarded bulbs.

It doesn’t end like that. Another light bulb appears, and when that bulb appears, it illuminates the creative process. A smile breaks out on the young man’s face as he discovers that this idea just might work. He laughs open-mouthed as moths circle the bulb in a frenzy. Here, Medley borrows an obvious metaphor and makes it work with a minimal bag of tools. She crafts an effective story without using words, except for sound effects, or color. The background is a simple black that almost threatens to envelop the white of the character, his makeshift perch, and the bulb that hovers above his head.

Untitled is one of those mini-comics that use less to make an impact. Medley plays with the concept of a light bulb as an idea and explores the creative process in just twenty silent pages. It’s more immediate and effective than a long essay on the same subject might be and Medleys shows considerable skill and restraint in constructing her story.

You can grab a copy of Untitled at One Percent Press for only two dollars. While you’re at it, check out the rest of the mini-comics available from JP Coovert. Look for reviews of other One Percent Press titles in the future.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

“__________ Are Always Fun to Draw” edited by Isaac Cates
Comics are hard to make, mini-comics even more so. Yet there are some hardy fools out there who try to make it even more challenging. Isaac Cates of Satisfactory Comics and Elm City Jams is one of those fools. He’s made a name for himself in the mini-comic word by doing minis with various constraints and rules in place.

Right around SPX, he sent me a copy of “_________ Are Always Fun to Draw,” and it continues with the weird rules thing. Each of the twenty-two contributors made a big list of things that “are always fun to draw.” Isaac compared the lists and picked the forty most common things from them, and then sent that new list back to each contributor. Then each person had to draw a single page with at least forty things from the list, with the top thirty as required things for each page.

The Thirty Required Things:
Skulls or skeletons
Octopi or quid, including giant squid
Space aliens
Monkeys or apes
Fish, especially in goldfish bowls
Pirates or pirate hats
Explosions, especially mushroom clouds
Mountains or volcanoes
Birds, especially black ones
Fire or flames
Guns, especially rifles or x-ray guns
Saturn or other planets
Trees, especially talking trees
Bats or other things with bat wings
Cigarettes or cigarette butts
Eyes or eyeballs, especially angry ones
The undead, especially zombies
Cowboys, especially drunk ones

Here are three pages from the book.

Damien Jay
Karen Sneider
Ben Towle

You can get a copy of “_________ Are Always Fun to Draw,” and you really should, by sending $2.50 to:
Isaac Cates
178 Lawrence St. 2nd Floor
New Haven, CT 06511

You can also send $3 through PayPal to

Monday, November 07, 2005

Tear Stained Makeup from Marcos Perez

Marcos Perez, who also gave us Carl Is The Awesome and Mercury Lounge, is back with three issues of his Tear Stained Makeup (Click on the link for previews of each). The first two issues suffer from what I see as poor printing. Others might pick it up and marvel at the glossy color cover, but the “pretty” cover hides a flawed interior. The art is shaded with different black and grey tones, but the lines are muddy to the point of almost looking like they were done with a dull magic marker. I’m not sure what look Marcos was going for, but the first two issues were printed by Comixpress. I think they would have been better off in Marcos’ hand instead. Luckily, issue three is a simple black and white cover with much sharper interior art and it makes the mini comic much better as a package. I hope he sticks with doing the printing on his own.
Tear Stained Makeup begins with a spoiled but talented rock singer getting dumped by her boyfriend. Her drastic act sets a series of events in motion that involves an overly-dedicated ER doctor, a librarian friend named Tildy, and a scam artist named Robert who latches onto Tildy. Issue three only hints at Robert’s intentions, but it involves Laura Dee and the band.

Tildy, who is the most interesting character in the book, is introduced at the end of issue one and stars in issue two. Perez spends much more time fleshing her out, so the reader ends up rooting for her. It’s difficult to latch onto Laura Dee in the first issue, because we don’t know the history between her and her boyfriend Max. Maybe Max is right; maybe she’s a spoiled bitch that nobody really cares about. Nobody visits her in the hospital except for the creepy Dr. Wilson. In issue three though, Perez fills in Laura Dee’s history a little bit in a nifty flashback involving birds at a Grateful Dead concert.

Once I got past my initial problems with the quality of the art reproduction, I enjoyed the story of Tear Stained Makeup. I think Perez has a big story in mind here, and he’s continuing it online:

“So I've decided to up and take this book onto the web. I'll still be printing out chapters because I love those ancient things. But this way people don't have to wait 4 months for 30 more pages. For those who don't have the print versions (which is almost everyone I gather), I've put the first chapter up in it's entirety.Yay for internets! I'll be updating new scenes every Wednesday, anywhere between 2-5 pages. Enjoy...”

Each issue of Tear Stained Makeup will set you back two dollars. Issue one is twenty pages, issue two is twenty-eight pages and issue three is twenty-one pages. Check out all of Perez' stuff, including the highly recommended Carl Is The Awesome at Cliff Face Comics. It's on the sidebar now under mini-comic creators.

They’ve also got a great review by Justin Fox of Tom Gauld’s mini-comics here. I love this line, “fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.” Gauld makes you feel a bit like that sometimes.
What essential indie rock album are you?
The Pixies - Doolittle
Pixies - Doolittle

What essential indie rock album are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
Hmm, that's about right, maybe Surfer Rosa wasn't a choice...

From Wilco-boy Kevin.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Ryan Richard Carriere 1973-2005

I've just learned from Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter that mini-comic artist Ryan Carriere has passed away at the tender age of 32. Apparently he died on Halloween after being hit by a truck while he was bicycling home from work. Go read at Tom's, this is just really sad for someone so young to die in such unfortunate circumstances. He is survived by a wife and two daughters.

Here's the gorgeous cover of his Wonderbook of Old Men available from USS Catastrophe.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Wow, a week with no posts. Nice job, Shawn.

The SIZE MATTERS offices have just emerged from a serious renovation project. So, we’re back on schedule again. Over the last week, we’ve embarked on a house transformation and guess where everything was shoved in the meantime - the back bedroom, or as I like to call it the “SIZE MATTERS offices.” I can finally get to the computer and to the mini-comics that got shoved way over into the corner. Poor mini-comics…

So let’s get started with a mini-comic that makes me glow when I read it. One of the first posts here, oh so many months ago was a review of an unknown, to me at least, mini-comic called Capacity. I reviewed issue four then, and recently Theo Ellsworth sent the just completed issue six.

This last issue is even better than the fourth one. Ellsworth seems to be suffering from a surfeit of imagination in this comic. It’s like visual tricks and ideas are hammering on the inside of his mind desperate for a way out. In fact, he plays with this idea a bit in the story “Answering Machine.” He tells the reader that he had planned on being home to take their phone call, but his “ideas” forced him outside. “More often than not, once I’ve gotten started, I find it difficult to stop. But today my ideas refused to be cooperative, and then they kicked me right out of my house. They weren’t even gentle about it.”
That’s kind of a neat metaphor, but reading Ellsworth’s comic, you get the sense that he’s not kidding. It’s not often that I’m just stunned speechless by a comic, but reading Capacity issue six was one of those times. You know the feeling, you’re reading along and then the words and the pictures mesh together so perfectly that they send you reeling. Or when the visuals are so imaginative and startling that they make you pause just to appreciate them a few more times. Again, this happened several times reading Capacity. I almost don’t trust my reaction to this comic. Maybe, I’m over reacting or something. I mentioned in the first review of Ellsworth’s work how much I was reminded of Jennifer Daydreamer’s (who needs to get something else out soon!) work, but this time it was more than that. There’s some Theodor Geisel too, there’s a crazy burst of imagery that excites you viscerally.
Capacity issue six is twenty-four black and white pages of comics that will make you flat out love what comics can do better than anything else. This is comics mixed with the best of kid’s books and it makes me happier than comics should. It looks like Ellsworth has a website coming up soon. In the meantime, email him at Shower him with money and tell him that I sent you.