Saturday, December 31, 2005

Chicago Reader Comics Issue

You can usually find a few good comics in the Chicago Reader, but the latest issue is their "Comics: The Year in Review Issue."

It's online here.

Oh, and Happy New Year's Eve. Get crazy drunk if you're into that sort of thing, but be safe. We're taking a cab tonight.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Cornelia Cartoons by Kel Crum and Dangerous Bird Productions

Cornelia Cartoons, or Cartoonz as of issues six and seven, resembles a newspaper strip in it’s visual simplicity. Also several of the stories are longer, which would fit well in an episodic format. The central character, Cornelia, is the butt of several jokes and stumbles into mishap after mishap.

In these three issues, Crum has assembled a string of misadventures and pop culture barbs surrounding Cornelia and her small gang of friends. Cornelia joins a corporate group of protestors and they try to use her as a martyr on stage, she is nagged into buying a “rare” animation cell and later regrets her purchase, she’s fired from “SmallMart” and then almost re-hired when a friend takes on the company for discrimination.

Cornelia Cartoons is decent cultural satire, but American Idol jokes do not age well. Luckily, there’s enough here to balance any outdated jokes. My personal favorite pieces were the ones starring Ed Thud. Below is a page where Ed struggles to get the plastic off of a CD.

Not pictured is a story where Ed’s head falls off every time something good happens to him. Job promotion? How exciting! Whoops, there goes Ed’s head. Yes, it’s silly, but the fun kind of silly.

The art in Cornelia Cartoons is stripped down with a minimal use of blacks or shading. An exception is this page, which uses some black backgrounds and some shading.

Issue five of Cornelia Cartoons has a color cover, sixteen pages and a price tag of $1.50. Issues six and seven have black and white covers, thirteen pages each and price tags of $1.00 each. For copies, email Crum at There’s no website that I can see listed in these issues.
Back from Vacation

That was way too short, as always. Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. Our Christmas was lovely, and I'm looking forward to New Year's Eve and a weekend of football on TV.

The only bummer was having to check our carry on bags plane side at Reagan National. I had carefully packed some bottles of hard to find scotch whiskey in my carry on, but they did not have enough room in the overheads for luggage. Damn, I felt like I was leaving a puppy to be abused on the tarmac. The bottles were safe and sound though.

This evening I'll post a couple of reviews and get back to the regular routine.

Again, hope everyone is enjoying their holiday whatever it is. Peace to all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

365 Things I Enjoyed in Comics This Year

I posted a list of 365 comics related things that I enjoyed this year over at my regular Past the Front Racks column. Here's the link. You'll find lots of mini-comics on there, many that I haven't had the chance to review here. So, check it out if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Product of the Eighties: Confessions from the Reagan Era by Dana Jones

So, Product of the Eighties, I suppose you could look at this mini-comic and say, “That’s not a comic. There’s no visible art or skill here.” You could, but you would be wrong. Product of the Eighties is comprised of page after page of four yearbook pictures, sometimes the same picture, but just as often different ones, beside each other on each page. A black bar hides the eyes and the identity of the person, but you get enough of a sense of the person behind the image to make some guesses as to what kind of a person they may have represented in junior high. For instance, the guy with the Ratt T-shirt – we all knew him.

A caption rests under each picture, and it’s here that Dana has made a comic. The words and the pictures do work together. No, the pictures aren’t drawn, they’re photocopied from a yearbook, but Dana has taken great care in matching the captions with the pictures. Each page stands alone, but together they give an overall picture of your own experience in middle school. Dana and I are both products of the eighties, so there were times when I could have sworn that he was using pictures from my own yearbooks of the time period. The hairstyles, the smiles, the clothes, they all looked so familiar. It’s uncanny.

The real beauty in this mini-comic is that you could hand it to almost anyone and get a laugh. We’ve all been there. And for a comic, it’s very accessible to non-comics readers. You won’t find any word balloons or thought bubbles in this book, just well-timed captions. For example one page has four different seventh graders next to each other with the following captions underneath:

First seventh grader: "My fist Cure album was Seventeen Seconds."

Second seventh grader: “My first Cure album was Staring at the Sea.”

Third seventh grader: “My first Cure album was Disintegration.”

Fourth seventh grader: “What’s the Cure?”

Product of the Eighties: Confessions from the Reagan Era is a whopping seventy-six pages for four bucks. You can contact Dana @ for your copy. I suggest you do so.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Habitual Entertainment by Will Dinski
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Both issues of Habitual Entertainment have two covers. The outside covers are silk-screened transparencies, and the first issue’s interior cover is also silk-screened. Dinski has taken great care in wrapping his minis, but the real fun is inside.

In issue one a group of office workers decide, after three grievous transgressions, that they want to kill Simon, a fellow office worker, who also happens to be the son of the boss. In fairness to them, he is kind of a dick. What’s funny is how they mess with him on the fateful day. Stu walks up to Simon and casually mentions, “Tonight, after work, I’m going to beat you to death with a baseball bat… Well, not JUST me…everyone will.”
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Do they do it? I’m obviously not telling here, but Dinski handles the ending in an unexpected way that pleases almost all parties involved.

Issue two of Habitual Entertainment is longer than issue one and it feels more substantial. Gerald, a long out of work actor finally receives a call – not for an acting job, but for a secret shopper job offered by a temp agency. But he treats the gig as an acting job, telling all of his neighbors and acquaintances that he’s going to be in a one-day play. And in his mind, it’s an acting gig. The story is largely told through the conversations of different characters, and there are two short bits of narration. As in the first mini, Dinski tweaks the ending a bit to give the story more panache.

Dinski has a clean line and pleasing style in both of these minis. The first issue’s art suffers a bit from a grainy photocopying job, but the copy job on the second is very clear. His characters are well designed and despite a large cast, there’s no difficulty in telling people apart.
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Habitual Entertainment issue one is 24 pages for three bucks. Issue two is 33 pages for the same price. Check out Dinski’s website, where you can buy copies of each using Paypal.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tune In and Sandpaper #1 from ThinkTankRx
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I’m always excited to get my hands on an issue of World War 3 Illustrated, now published by Top Shelf. WW3 has gutsy political comics and still has a bit of the energy of Seth Tobocman and Peter Kuper.

These two Thinktank RX comics sort of remind me of WW3, but they’re frankly too flawed to enjoy fully. The grammar is occasionally error-riddled to the point where you start to question if it was on purpose. For instance JTW uses “they’re” when it should be “their.” This happens seven times in one story. You’ll find other typos and problems as well; “was was” and “beleive” the most bothersome. It gets a little problematic the more times you notice, and the errors start to get in the way of any story.

Most of the pieces are political in nature. If you’re fed up with the current administration and the direction our country is headed, you won’t find much to disagree with here. If you subscribe to the Rush Limbaugh newsletter though, you might want to give Thinktank a pass. A few of the pieces were sound, and I enjoyed some of the one pagers - anyone that blows Wolverine’s head off gets a high five from me. Additionally, I liked the messages most of the time. When JTW worked on longer stories, however, they ultimately fell flat.
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The art in both of these “mini-comic magazines” is very unpolished, which isn’t necessarily a problem itself. But, like the grammar, it presents a problem for me as a reader. It’s rough and unfinished, and a few pin-ups are just poorly drawn. Maybe JTW is just goofing on these pin-ups, but they resemble other character sketches that you’ll encounter in other stories.
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Thinktank RX has a website where you can check out the “comixzines” and some online comics. It will probably give you a better idea of how the art strikes you. I give JTW props for speaking his mind and tackling some of these important topics, but I wish he would have taken some more care in the execution.

Tune In and Sandpaper #1 are both 48 black and white pages under shiny color covers. They'll each run you $2.75. JTW has previews of both on the website.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Souther Salazar is the Cover Boy at Giant Robot
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The latest issue of Giant Robot, issue 39, has a cover by Souther and a six-page interview with him inside. Now, GR has always shown excellent tastes in comics, but this issue they've outdone themsleves. If I had to identify one artist that's given me the most pleasure through mini-comics it would have to be Souther Salazar. Everything that he puts to paper is so full of love, whimsy, silliness, truth, and fun that it hits it almost makes me weep with happiness.

And this issue of GR has tiny reviews of comics like Anders Nilsen's Big Questions, Missy Kulik's Persoanl Charm, The Ganzfeld #4, BJ and da Dogs by Ben Jones, Jordan Crane's The Clouds Above, The Hobbit by Marc Bell and Peter Thompson, and the Shawn Cheng's mini-comic Vengenace at Cackling Mountain.

So, if you're interested in good comics, track down the lates issue of Giant Robot. Then check out their webstore for even more good comics and T-shirts.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bazaar Bizarre

This weekend is the Bazaar Bizarre in Los Angeles. If you live near LA and have an interest in mini-comics, I recommend that you check it out. They’ll have some weird crafty stuff, prints, and T-shirts, but you can also find mini-comic artists at The Bazaar.

Here’s a quick run down of mini-comics related stuff it looks like they will have:

Alvin of Bueneventura Press will be there.

Fantagraphics cartoonist Steven Weissman will be there.

Jordan Crane will be there.

Also Catia Chien will probably have great prints and art books.

BoyGirlParty will be there with neat stuff. Not comic stuff, but cool note card sets and prints probably.

Same thing with Bughouse. Not really comics, but cool things.

Skylight Books will probably have some comics related stuff.

The Poketo! folks will have wallets by artists like Susie Ghahremani.

Gah, Saelee Oh will be there too with stuff from Lemonade Maid. Her “Singing Birds” t-shirt is up top in this post. Maybe Souther Salazar will be there with Saelee.

Seriously, if you love in the area, go check this out. At least check out the web page and I guarantee you that you’ll discover some fun and talented artists. They have links to each artist’s website.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Underpanting by Matt Wiegle

Underpanting is a twelve page black and white mini-comic hiding a little known myth between its covers. You see - and now you’re in on this whole myth thing, mind you – the underpants traditionally worn by the devil have special powers. They’re seductive and powerful. They can promise you things and deliver. They can let you down when you need them the most. They can startle your enemies and fool your friends. But, just as often the fool will be you.

After searching through musty libraries and newspaper stacks, Matt Wiegle has collected seven unfortunate tales and condensed them into twelve pages. Most of these stories are distilled into a single powerful tale, but one of the tales is spread out over three pages.

Underpanting is available to anyone with a dollar to burn. Just go to the Partyka store and push a few buttons. I’d do it if I were you. This is one of those things that you don’t want to be kept in the dark about.