Monday, November 24, 2008

So…Buttons by Jonathan Baylis So…Buttons is seven stories over twenty-four pages. Jonathan Baylis enlists artists T.J. Kirsch, Mr. Alan, and David Beyer Jr. to illustrate his slice of life vignettes.

Jonathan’s work in these stories has an easy conversational rhythm. The first piece, “So…My Dad Got Drafted,” works well and feels intimate, but suffers from an impersonal font that even includes Jonathan’s words as slanted italics. Mr. Alan’s exaggerated and chunky line is appealing though.

David Beyer Jr. pencils a few stories, including the two lengthiest, “So… Racist” and “So… Only Nixon Could’ve Gone to China.’ David’s art stands out by its use of grey shaded tones to craft the backgrounds of each panel. He does a fantastic job showing Jonathan as a child and highlighting his Jewishness in contrast to those around him.
T.J. Kirsch works in color in So… Buttons. Each of his three sections is in a glossy color similar to the cover. His work is probably the most immediately appealing, especially in “So… I’m Dating a Comic.” Here his angular and attractive art dances against a changing color palette. Jonathan’s stories feel comfortable and immediate. There’s nothing here that will amaze or challenge the reader, but you’ll feel like you know him and his characters. You recognize yourself and your friends in these tales, which makes it easy to recommend So… Buttons.

This 24-page mini is wrapped under a thick, glossy, color cover that reminds you of an old crime comic. T.J. Kirsch’s art ably lends it that seedy, desperate look.

Visit Jonathan’s website for more information about his work. His ordering page gives you several options for getting your hands on the three dollar So… Buttons.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Todd’s Favorite Adult Actors and Their Favorite Flowers by Matt Kessler and Zach Huelsing More zine than mini, Todd’s Favorite Adult Actors and Their Favorite Flowers is a series of eight baseball card-like cards sheathed in plastic and attached to the spine of the book like regular pages.

I’ll let “Todd” describe his work: “These are my favorite adult actors and their favorite flowers. I investigated the subject extensively in personal conversations I had with these men on dates and during romantic interludes... These descriptions are factual and highly intimate; the reader is warned. ”

Todd selects eight adult film stars. On the front of each card, artist Zach Huelsing draws a bare-chested star from the pecs up. Escaping from each man’s mouth is a single word balloon with the name of their favorite flower written in lower case letters. In the background, Zach provides delicate drawings of the star’s chosen flower. On the back of each card, writer Matt Kessler records the vital statistics of the men, including DOB, height, weight, hometown, and top or bottom status. Underneath the stats, Matt relates, in flowery prose, Todd’s encounters with his film fixations. From Todd’s encounter with Tom Chase, after Tom pricks his finger on the thorns of a bougainvillea:

“I took the slit finger to my lips and licked each bead of blood with my tongue, lapping at his finger like an unshorn Alpaca. Each drop was nutty and thick, and tasted like wood-aged port.”

From Todd’s encounter with Roman Ragazzi and the sabra cactus flower:

“I was dancing in a chic Bhangra club hidden in the deep alluvial plains of Punjab… I was dressed in a beautiful Phulkari shawl. It was red and tailored to accentuate the finer parts of my physique.”

Todd’s cards are a delight. His stories are exotic and intoxicating, and Zach’s colorful inked lines help set the mood for Todd’s erotic liaisons. The eight protected cards are safely wrapped in a thick cover with the back cover folding over the cards and securing with a hidden Velcro disc. And since Todd’s longing is universal and beautifully captured by Matt’s prose, Todd’s Favorite Adult Actors and Their Favorite Flowers is the type of art object that you’ll want to share with all your friends.

Check out Quimby’s or the Eye Rocket Books website beginning December 12th. Todd’s Favorite Adult Actors and Their Favorite Flowers is a limited edition of 500 and available for $10.
Below, I’ve scanned Todd’s thoughtful missive to a lonely reviewer ensconced in his drafty office:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jessica by Jason Overby Jessica is one of the most visually arresting minis I’ve seen this year. Jason Overby’s art flits from suggestions of figures, out of focus faces, morphed arms, and seemingly haphazard shapes floating in the background, to panels featuring almost nothing but randomly placed text balloons and squiggly lines. The overall feeling created by Jessica is of an artist playing fast and loose with his pencils and inks, yet you become captivated by the cumulative effect of all those lines and an appearance of sleight of hand. Jason uses a few styles of drawing that switch at random. At first it looks like the styles switch between an old comic or memory to the present, but the two bleed into each other’s territory and you’re left with randomness. This isn’t distracting. In fact, it adds to the overall charm of this book. Jessica is about the artist’s experience trying to date Jessica. They go on a date, but ultimately end up as just friends. In the present, he’s still distracted by the one that got away. For the cover, Jason uses a thick, virtually unadorned recycled brown card stock that looks like something used as the backing for a pad of legal paper. No information other than the title scrambled inside four lines of randomly stamped letters and Jason’s name on the back cover.

You can check out nice page scans of Jason’s comics at Discrete Funk. Unfortunately, Jessica is sold out on his blog. You might be able to grab a copy from Rick Bradford’s Poopsheet Shop though if you hurry. For more of Jason, read Austin English’s 20 Questions with Cartoonists Interview.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mini-Comics by Robert Ullman I have a soft spot in my heart for Robert Ullman's artwork. When I lived in DC, he did illustrations for the "Savage Love" column in the alt weekly, The City Paper. His figures for that gig were vivacious and charming, managing to be both sexy and cute. It looks like, as I’ve been to DC several times and grabbed a copy of The City Paper since then, that he isn’t working for them anymore. Without his art, it's a much less enjoyable read. Luckily, Robert continues working in other venues, including mini-comics.

Issues three and four of Teeny Bikini continue where issue two left off – well done pin-ups of semi-clothed or nude girls. Each 20-page issue features finished drawings and sketches of girls next door types, coeds, and even costumed ladies like Supergirl and a few lesser known DC heroines. Each issue of Teeny Bikini is $2. That’s Just Super is a wordless 48-page mini that tells the tale of a female office worker/super hero who, while battling a giant monster, runs into a less than honorable male super hero. Even though she dispatches the Godzilla-sized beast, the male cape steals the credit. That’s Just Super has a full color cover, which looks similar to other nicely produced minis from Wide Awake Press. Inside, each page, except for a few splash pages, feature two panels of storytelling. At all times, Ullman does a great job of telegraphing the action through visual cues. That’s Just Super is $3.

Crustacean Frustration is also from Wide Awake Press. It sports a subtle tri-color cover wrapped around 28 black and white pages. The last lobster escapes from a restaurant tank as an important food critic sits waiting for his lobster dinner. This event derails the life of the chef in the story. The lobster and the chef meet again later with an silly and warm all ages ending. The pages are divided into a strict four-panel structure, except when a firearm appears on a one-panel page.

Crustacean Frustration, like That’s Just Super, is wordless. Again, Robert has a nice command of communicating without speech. The art in this mini is much simpler. The characters are more representations of characters, rather than fully fleshed out. It’s a much looser type of cartooning than any of his other work, but it’s an effective way to communicate this story. Crustacean Frustration is $.

Check out Robert’s website for more information on his minis. You can buy them here. Also go to Wide Awake Press for other interesting minis from J. Chris Campbell's shop.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Austin English asks Sarah Glidden 20 Questions She answers the 20 questions here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Mini-Comics by Phil McAndrew The mustachioed Are You Man Enough by Phil McAndrew clocks in at twenty pages. Seven pages are devoted to a drum solo. That’s a solid ratio in my book. When a young artist asks his girlfriend’s father for her hand in marriage, the father balks at handing his daughter off to a “good for nothing” artist. The father is the ultra manly type with the mustache of a German Kaiser. He forces the artist to, and this is where the title comes in of course, prove he is man enough. The burly father rips off his shirt revealing his hairy barrel chest and cries, “You must perform a really cool drum solo!” In this mini, Phil’s characters are wildly expressive. The father is an exaggerated figure with bushy eyebrows and smoking pipe stationed under a sprawling standalone. The artist is thin, frightened, and visibly shaken by the brute of a father. Phil draws the girlfriend impossibly wide-eyed, tiny hearts float above her head. He uses startle lines, flying sweat beads, and onemonepia liberally throughout these pages, giving the reader a vigorous reading experience.

Each copy of Are You Man Enough features an actual felt mustache on the cover. Looks like the mini is sold out in Phil’s shop, but you can read it online here..

Phil’s This and That issue three is a 32-page mini containing several stories and one page gags. The second story, “The Kids Are Dancing,” was in the first issue of the You Ain’t No Dancer anthology. “The Kids Are Dancing” is a standout piece in a very solid mini-comic. The art veers from sketchy and minimal pages to lovely shaded and textured panels with generous black ink. Phil frequently uses exaggerated figures to fill his stories with uneven relationships of power – kids cowering under towering adult authority figures or the trembling artist in Are You Man Enough. This and That issue three is $4 at Phil’s shop.

The 48-page The Secret Thoughts of Harold Lawrence Windcrampe shows Harold’s internal struggle with his difficulty in scoring a girlfriend. Each page, except a few at the end, shows Harold as he appears on the lime green cover – on the left of the page, looking forlorn, hands in pockets. If you flip through the pages, you almost get the effect of a flipbook as Harold walks or exhibits slightly changing facial expressions. Phil pastes Harold’s internal monologue hovering in the top middle of each page. Phil’s mini-comics possess great energy and very solid cartooning. Check out his website, blog, and shop for more information on his work.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Congrats to Jonas Madden-Conner
Jonas won the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics. Jonas' blog and the Isotope Award page.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Calamity Coach by Aaron Costain Calamity Coach or alternatively titled Thirteen Reasons Not to Travel: A Non-Narrative Pictorial Sequence of Imaginary Events Designed to Discourage Even the Bravest Souls from Vehicular Travel is 16 pages of, as Aaron describes, “Uhm, Rupert Bear meets the Gashley-Crumb Tinies.” That’s a pretty accurate description. Aaron begins with a bus sinking in a river – “The chassis gave a final shiver. As it was swallowed by the river.” Each page shows a new disaster for the bus and its passengers - fire, satellites, sea monsters, trains, airplanes, a herd of caribou -nothing is too absurd or grand of a fate for the Calamity Coach. Across the bottom of each page, the cadence of a children’s book rhyme appears as a caption.

All the pages of Calamity Coach are full color. Aaron uses slick paper stock and computer generated color for every panel. Check out Aaron’s website for details. Calamity Coach is $7 for 16 full-color pages. At his site, you can check out previews of all of Aaron’s comics. To purchase his comics, contact him at Several fine retail establishments also stock Aaron’s comics, including Chicago Comics, Quimby’s Comics, The Beguiling, Legends Comics and Books, and Strange Adventures.