Thursday, June 25, 2009

Up a Blind Alley and Paunch by Scott Smith Scott Smith's Up A Blind Alley, subtitled "When did I get to be so boring," entertains with its deadpan humor and laconic pace. Scott's art is rather stiff, but it works well in this mini-comic. For instance, there's a panel to panel transition that has Scott talking to a girl at a boring party. It's one of those situations where he doesn't know anyone and feels awkward. In the first panel as the girl faces him, he starts to say something about teaching. Rather abruptly in the next panel, the girl's head is turned away from him. His thought bubble says, "Fair enough." The stiffness of Scott's art adds to the feeling that one might get at such an event.

The stories in the 36-page Up A Blind Alley meander into each other kind of like life unfolds. Before you know it, Scott slips off to a local pub and runs into this: I enjoyed Scott's work here. It's slice of life, autobiographical stuff that most of us can easily relate to. He records awkward moments that revolve around the unpredictability of our fellow travelers.

The pages of Blind Alley are cream colored and Scott uses some nice shading to give his art some depth. This one has a nice, deep black cover with a hand colored figure of the artist walking in a blind alley, scratching his head. It's a good juxtaposition with the content inside.

In Scott's fourth and latest issue of Paunch he steps out from the autobiographical and into more straightforward storytelling. Three of the four stories ("Cat in a Bag," "Forbes Thorpe in... Speed Date," and "Charlie Cymric: Part Four") are character pieces about a creepy old guy, a creepy younger guy, and a guy recently out of prison. In the fourth piece, Scott gets back to Scott's observations on things that bug him - some game show hosts, sunglasses worn inside, bed head, drinking tea just to be cool.

You can check out more of Scott's stuff at his blog. I'm sorry I don't see a price for these, but if you email Scott, I'm sure he can give ou the scoop. One last thing, I liked this little "Thank You" page:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Yearbooks by Nicholas Breutzman, Shaun Feltz, and Raighne Hogan Flipping the mailing envelope of an ordinary SIZE MATTERS package revealed this: Inside Yearbooks, these very panels show up in a dream sequence, as main character Ryan dreams that a teacher, pushed by the emotions of the children's intense art, goes batshit insane on the kids in a classroom. Yearbooks is written by Nicholas Breutzman and Shaun Feltz, Nicholas handles the art, and Raighne Hogan adds the colors. It's a joint effort for sure, but it flows in a natural manner from start to finish. The story, from creepy dream sequence to almost apocalyptic ending, perfectly captures the creepiness and angst of high school, and Nicholas' art only adds to the effect. He does a fantastic job of capturing emotion in the character's faces, especially the creepy, blank stare of the bespectacled art teacher. When you look at this whole package, what really makes this project crackle with energy is the vibrancy of Raighne Hogan's colors. The red of Ryan's hair, the mostly green background, and the bright pink skin tones give the pages an extra pop. The subtly shifting panel layouts keep things lively as well.
The voyage that Ryan takes as he gets to know more about his art teacher resonates with that slightly off kilter vibe that marks our high school years. Everything seems a little more charged and mysterious. This is very captivating cartooning in a sleek and seductive package. It's only 40 pages for $13, but the over-sized (11"x8") landscape orientation packs in a lot of material.

Get your own copy at the 2D Cloud website.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jim8Ball's Carnival of Comics This could be the best deal in mini-comics: 25 black and white minis with color covers packed into a circus-inspired box for $20. Feast your eyes on this: I sat down and opened this box of minis from Jim Coon over the weekend, expecting to find a handful of good minis and a pile of stinkers. No such luck. I smirked and laughed my way through almost all of them, except for a three issue series called Super Soap that just didn't do it for me.

Jim's art is professional and deadly consistent. He's been making his own comics since the Reagan administration, so the consistency is understandable. But it's still nice to see that each of these minis are so solid. Most of them are quarter page format, with a few eighth of a page size ones thrown in. I started with the smaller format and a couple of them were my favorites - It Came From the Sea and Robot vs. Alien. Both of these 16-pagers are heavily indebted to the monster movies that Jim and I probably both grew up watching and both feature single panel per page layouts with captions telling the story.
I also really enjoyed the five-issue series Tail of the Tomcat Samurai. This felt a bit like Stan Sakai's awesome Usagi Yojimbo series, but Jim's tongue is a little firmer in cheek than Stan's. Each issue has a "to be continued" drop that makes you wonder what's about to happen next. Issue two has a particularly heinous surprise for Meowki San aka the TomCat Samurai. These eight-page minis are packed with shifting panel structures and an abnormal amount of action.

Lola and the Spaceman is probably the simplest of these minis, but it's also one of the best. A spaceman lands on Lola's planet and the two of them fall in love. Unfortunately spaceman's oxygen tank is limited. Poor Lola just wants to help her new love, but sometimes love hurts... This one is wordless, but Jim does a great job of showing the two character's emotions as the story unfolds.
Get more information at Jim's blog. He has multiple deals on this page, including a slightly risque mature audience pack. I would suggest the Robot and Monster Pack for $4 for starters. You can buy individual comics or any combination at his Etsy store.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lost Kisses and Worms by Brian John Mitchell These minuscule mini-comics are adorably sized. The cute factor ends there, however. Inside it’s sci-fi dread and hard-core issues of hate, guilt, and anger.

I love that each mini is barely larger than a postage stamp. And it’s also nice that they come in snug, clear plastic sleeves. Brian gets an A for packaging. Inside things don’t go so well. The two issues of Lost Kisses deal with a stick figure character’s feelings about an ex-girlfriend. Over two disturbing issues, the guy finds that he may or may not have indirectly led to his ex’s house being broken into, which leads to her being beaten into a coma.

Over 40-single panel pages, the main character talks to the reader in word balloons; underneath Brian types captions that usually telegraph the action above, but sometimes lead you in a different direction. It’s a bit disconcerting at times. For instance, at some point in issue 8 the ex goes from being in a coma to actually being dead. After rereading, I couldn’t figure out where it happened, where she went from coma to dead, but it did happen. I think. Brian’s art in Lost Kisses is stick figure drawings with minimal props and no background. It’s serviceable to the story, but unfortunately as flat and lifeless as the computer font in the captions.

Worms, with artwork by Kimberlee Traub, is physically similar to Lost Kisses. The panels are one per page and the mini-comic is tiny. The art is livelier, but still very basic. Her line is thicker and her drawings are more varied. Worms is the third part of a tense story where a girl wakes up in an ICU with an IV bag full of worms. The captions totally mimic the action drawn above, which gets tedious, but the story does grab you and move along quite nicely. You can check out more on Brian's minis at his SilberMedia website. Issues one through four are just $1 each, not sure about these two issues, but give Brian a shout on his website and he can give you the scoop.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Urgent Telex by Hurk Hurk's, er Lord Hurk's 44-page mini-comic Urgent Telex is a handsomely outfitted comic with screen printed covers and cool graph paper endpapers. Inside you'll find three stories and a few one page pinups. The best story is the creepy and colorful, "Glass Chops." A redneck type fellow sends his teeth off to hunt some pigs in the forest, but the teeth, who have morphed into little sentient creatures, find out that the pigs might be one step ahead. The longest story, "Bozak the Space Dictator," is less engaging (maybe after the technicolor glory of "Glass Chops" it couldn't be helped) but gets points for effectively lampooning our chimp of a an ex-president George Bush . Hurk's art is expressive and fun. Often it brings to mind some of the better work in the now defunct Nickelodeon Magazine. I especially enjoy the use of the benday dots in his backgrounds.

Hopefully, copies will be still be available a Hurk sent this in for review ages ago. Check his blog, website, and he's even got an Etsy shop. Definitely check out these posts on his blog of his latest work, The Odd Hour Presents.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

MoCCA Continued
My apologies to everyone at MoCCA who I didn't get around to visiting. I've heard from several people who saw me pass by their table - pass by being the operative word - and I feel kind of bad about that. For some reason I didn't pick up a map of tables and it took me a few laps to orient myself. I did stop and talk to several people, but despite my best intentions I didn't make it back for my final round after the Panter/Santoro panel. For instance I really wanted to talk to Katie Skelly some more about Nurse, Nurse but never made it back to her table. I saw Marek Bennet talking to someone and made a mental note to go back, and then never made it back.

MoCCA wasn't a total loss though, I got to talk to several people and pick up some great books. For starters, I ran into Marcos Perez and Justin Fox, two of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. I have a handful of their comics for upcoming reviews and it's been awhile since I've checked out their stuff. Also got sucked into the Partyka table. John Meijas had this amazing book with huge, painted wood covers. Inside was just too good to be true. When I asked him the price, he sheepishly said it was $100. I didn't get a copy there, but John says they are available at Desert Island, which I REALLY need to visit, and St. Mark's Books, which I did pop into on the way to Angel's Share cocktail bar on Sunday night.

Talked to John and Shawn Cheng for a bit and bought a couple comics that I hadn't had a chance to see. I really loved the self explanatory Matt Wiegle's Monsters & Condiments and Shawn's Whiskey Jack & Kid Coyote Meet the King of Stink. I haven't cracked open the copy of Paping yet, but it's on the nightstand. Here's a shot of the Paping books: Also talked got to meet Tom Gauld and picked up the third volume of Three Very Small Comics. Tom's packaging as always is first rate.
I talked to the super sweet Meghan Hogan of Good Minnesotan for a bit and was bummed that I missed her husband Raighne. Right next door I found Cathy Leamy and got to chat with her for a little bit. I'll have reviews of her stuff coming up. Then abruptly I was face to face with the wild-bearded Raighne Hogan. His beard was truly a site to behold and we held court on vegan and vegetarian food for a bit.

I also got to meet Kevin Church for the first time, which is kind of weird since I already feel like I know him from his many online ventures. Kevin, I hope you made it to The Spotted Pig after the show.

And that's pretty much it for my MoCCA visit. As the Panter/Santoro panel was winding down - it was at that point that I hate, where the audience members were asking questions (or also know as let me show everyone how smart I am) - I got texted away on a beauty emergency. So, everyone that I didn't get to talk to or return to, I'll see you next year or maybe at SPX.

Pictures of the PictureBox table:
Buenaventura Table:

Sunday, June 07, 2009

MoCCA Haul

Didn't spend near enough time at MoCCA, but talked to a few people and picked up some cool looking books. The new site wasn't in as good a location as the Puck building, but the layout was much more open. Not much cooler though! I grabbed a copy of Multiforce and completed my Cold Heat collection. Also geeked out and cornered poor Frank Santoro to introduce myself while he was trying to check his email or text.

I'll type up a more complete report in the next couple of days. Hope everyone had fun at the show and sold a lot of books.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

On the Beach and Prologue by Kenan Rubenstein Both On the Beach and Prologue are made of one single sheet of paper folded in half four times. You read the panels exactly as they unfold and it's never unclear where your eyes should go next. Both minis are a departure from the normal fold, cut, and staple jobs.

What works very well in On the Beach is that each time you unfold the comic, the storytelling space gets larger. Usually the panels themselves double in size until the last fold takes you from two adjacent quarter sized panels to a mondo full page final image. I've seen this used before, but not as well as Kenan does here. On the Beach chronicles an experience through the ages on a local nude beach.
While Prologue is less successful at taking advantage of the unfolding format (the panels don't escape from the eighth of a page size until the very end), it's understandable because Kenan has more of a story to tell. He needs more panels to convince the reader just how dire things are romantically for the main character. The art is much more dense in Prologue than On the Beach, as the setting is a dark party and city streets at night. No matter the setting, he really manages to pack a lot of visual and narrative detail into this story. In both minis, the quality of the art is superb. The level of detail and the grace of the line is very convincing for the reader.
You can find out more about Kenan's work at his website. No prices that I can find, but I'm sure a quick email to will sort things out.
MoCCA 2009 is This Weekend!
Tom Spurgeon, who I only know and love online, has a list of 25 Things I'd Do at MoCCA.

It's a shame that he won't be at the show, but I really enjoyed his list this morning, particularly this one:

5. I'd walk to the show one morning
You have to be careful with this one because you'll be on your feet a lot at the show, but there's nothing better than taking a long walk through one of the great cities of the world knowing comics is your final destination.

I couldn't agree more, Tom. One thing for me about New York, is that it makes you slow down a bit and want to walk. If it's a beautiful day, I couldn't imagine taking the bus or the subway if you are just going a few miles. Hell, Kate and I have walked from our place all the way up to 23rd Street. Of course that was with the promise of a Shake Shack Shroom Burger (Crisp-fried portobello filled with melted muenster and cheddar cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato and Shack sauce) and fries at the end of our destination.

I'm excited about MoCCA this year, mostly because I haven't been for a few years. But I'm also looking forward to meeting a lot of the folks that I've reviewed and emailed with over the past few years. I'll be at the show on Saturday, but probably not Sunday unless I stop by for the Gary Panter/Frank Santoro discussion Sunday afternoon.

I'm not that familiar with the area up there yet, but I enjoyed local expert Heidi's guide to eats close to the show. Maybe this will give me the chance to try Baoguette.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Jin & Jam and Reich from Sparkplug Comic Books

Hopefully, you are familiar with Sparkplug Comic Books. They are a quality publisher of mini-comics, comics, and books, as well as a must visit table at finer comic conventions.

Months ago, I received a fat package of comics and books including a few comics that fit in well here at SIZE MATTERS. Dylan and the gang publish these in Portland, but they retain that oh so appealing mini-comic factor. At the same time, the materials and design feel kind of luxe and consistent giving off a "publishing house" vibe. The first issue of Jin & Jam by Hellen Jo is a barely contained riot over 36 black and white pages. Sure, Hellen tells a linear story, but her art has a manga-like (think Matsumoto’s Black & White or Blue Spring rather than something cuter like Sgt. Frog) energy that’s impossible to ignore. Movement is hyper and exaggerated at times and the volume of the text expands, threatening to burst out of the straining word balloons. Hellen is having a ton of fun and so is the reader.

The characters are over the top stock characters – the good girl who might not be so good, the bad girl, the sidekick – but Hellen also tosses in the rough and tumble conjoined twins, Ting & Terng to test the story’s protagonists. Roughly a third of the book is an extended fight scene, but even the fight has some lovely interludes. I’ve posted a few images from Jin & Jam to illustrate some quiet moments. Notice the carp floating in the black backgrounds in this first image. I love this page showing the Jin and Jam floating up into sky littered with SAT flash cards after Jin says, “I wanna get out of here! For more information, check out Hellen’s website or Sparkplug Comics. Jin & Jam is $5 plus shipping.

Issues four and five of Reich by Elijah Brubaker continue the story of the young psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich in 1920’s Vienna. Reich reminds me a bit of Chester Brown’s extensively footnoted Louis Riel. Elijah takes his subject seriously, but also isn’t afraid to bend history for a good yarn. Where he does depart from history, he makes sure to let the reader know how and why he diverges.

Reich is visually austere, which serves the storyline and subject very well. Walls are a stark black and the faces rarely smile. However issue four is a little lighter in appearance. Here you see the emotion and changing points of view that mark a reunion of Reich and a friend. Elijah softens the austerity with the shape of his characters; the heads are large and rounded and the noses are exaggerated. Children are more cartoonish and less well developed. On the page below, the young daughter almost looks like a cartoon character in an otherwise reality-based comic. This is a neat touch. Each 24-page issue of Reich is $4 plus shipping and handling. You can get yours through the Sparkplug Comic Books webstore. For more information on Elijah's work, check out his website.

Side note part one: On a visit to Powell's Books in Portland, Kate picked me up a mini-comic and it was a Sparkplug Comic Books mini called Super Crazy Cat Dance by Aron Nels Steinke. It's adorable and fun!

Side note part two: Sparkplug Comic Books will be at MoCCA this weekend. Here's a posting from their website on new books and events.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Folk Issue #2 by Tyler Stafford The second issue of Tyler Stafford's Folk is visually engaging and whimsical. Over 20 pages, Tyler tells two stories on pages of alternating colors. For some reason, the transitions from yellow to green colored pages are the most jarring. Of course it doesn't help that the thread of the story is something that reminds you a bit of a hallucinogenic trip. "The Hunt" is a hunter becomes the hunted story that channels some of Jim Woodring's Frank. Tyler packs these densely landscaped pages with imaginative and otherworldly flora and fauna. The setting in "The Crystal Ship" switches from woodsy and dense to lunar and angular. Tyler doesn't drop as many details in this story, but you still get something like this: Check out the little guy in the mid-to-upper right of the page that has the vacuum tube thingy. Have no idea what's going on there, but I like it.

Folk issue two is on sale at Tyler's Etsy shop for $2.50. You can also see some additional page scans. Also check Tyler's website for more information.