Sunday, September 25, 2016

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 9/19/16 to 9/25/16

Highlighting some great small press comics criticism being published, as well as other random things that have caught my eye over the past week.


* Shea Hennum reviews Luke Howard's new release from Retrofit, OUR MOTHER, which "features the incompleteness and pervasive unknowability that makes a rendering of mental illness sensible without being insulting." 

* Megan Purdy writes about SOMEONE PLEASE HAVE SEX WITH ME by Gina Wynbrandt, "a working through and a deliberate exposure of her own vulnerabilities"

* Rob Clough on HOUSES OF THE HOLY by Caitlin Skaalrud, "an emotional narrative wrapped in symbols, fragments, and genuinely harrowing sequences."

* Greg Hunter reviews Tom Gauld's MOONCOP whose "rewards increase with a person's level of engagement." 

* John Seven on Leela Corman's WE ALL WISH FOR DEADLY FORCE


* This sneak peek at ON A SUNBEAM, a new self-published, sci-fi style webcomic from the incredible Tillie Walden

* Tom Spurgeon interviews JESSICA CAMPBELL 

* Tobias Carroll interviews BEN KATCHOR

* Peggy Roalf has this very short interview with BENJAMIN MARRA

* Brian Hibbs weighs in on the whole DIRECT MARKET CONVERSATION 



Friday, September 23, 2016

Writing Thoughts on SPX

So the Comics Bulletin Team sent a crack group of critics (and me) to this year's Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD.

Ray Sonne, Alison Baker, Christian Hoffer, J.A. Micheline, Joe Schmidt, and I all contributed to a little write up about our experience. Therein I make the assertion that 

I ended up with a lot of new books

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Cleaning Off My Plate Only To Refill It Ten Times More

Funny how things work out.

On the day before SPX started, 
my final review column on the books I gathered at 
SF Zine Fest ran on Comics Bulletin.

It featured short reviews of 

Low Light by Tristan Wright
A History of Increasing Humiliation by Geoff Vasile
Our Best Shot: Disclosures of Unlawful Compassion in the United States
When We Were Kids by Andy Warner
Rebel Rebel: An Illustrated Tribute to David Bowie by Patrick Sean Gibson

Now that I cleared my plate of my SF Zine Fest books, I've got a dinner tray full of SPX books to write about.

It never ends.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 9/5/16 to 9/11/16

Highlighting some great small press comics criticism being published, as well as other random things that have caught my eye over the past week.


* "It's hardly the most perceptive of observations to make but one of the most powerful aspects of autobiographical comics is their ability to immerse us in a pool of shared experience; to speak to us with a profound and resonant intimacy about those recognisable rites of passage that we must all live through and to remind us that we are not alone in dealing with them." -- so begins Andy Oliver's review of Sarah Lippett's STAN AND NAN, "a graphic novel that speaks to us about the bonds of family and the importance of the lives that shape our own.

* Andy Oliver also reviews VERIPATHY by Andy Poyiadgi, "a compact comic replete with far more incisive observations on the human condition than its short page could ever suggest."

* Rob Clough reviews THE NINCOMPOOP #1 by Christoph Mueller, in which while "most of these sorts of stories tend to focus strictly on the id, being transgressive and shocking and the conflation of that kind of expression with good storytelling, Mueller avoids those masturbatory and self-indulgent tropes by acknowledging them and then taking a sharp right turn away from them."  

* Jason Sacks reviews Lars Martinson's TONOHARU, whose third volume has finally come out through Top Shelf.

* Tom Spurgeon reviews COMETBUS #57, a series of interviews with New York-based cartoonists and their "struggle to find meaning and purpose and housing and time to spare."

* And finally, if you haven't yet read Claire Napier's piece, GLITTERBOMB AND HELTER SKELTER: STUDYING IMAGE FROM WITHOUT AND WITHIN, do that now. You'll thank me. I promise.


* Annie Mok interviews TILLIE WALDEN about the re-release of her book The End of Summer and her relationship with her readers.

* The title of Christian Hoffer's piece on the Direct Market, WHO'S TO BLAME WHEN A GOOD COMIC GETS CANCELLED?, is far more incendiary than his measured and thoughtful writing. 

* Sacha Mardou's great essay on the comics of JULIE DOUCET and menstruation.

* "What compels female writers to include rape even when it doesn't apply to their stories?" So asks Ray Sonne in her piece, THE INESCAPABILITY OF RAPE NARRATIVES

Saturday, September 10, 2016

SF Zine Fest -- Finding Old Friends

My initial review column about the books I picked up at SF Zine Fest last Sunday ran on Comics Bulletin yesterday.

It features books by:
Johnny Herber

Spencer Hicks

Mark Badger

Jason Martin and Simon Moreton

Roman Muradov and Sophia Foster-Dimino

Sunday, September 4, 2016

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 8/29/16 to 9/4/16

Highlighting some great small press comics criticism being published, as well as other random things that have caught my eye over the past week.


* Robert Kirby on Jon Allen's OHIO IS FOR SALE which is a "funny animal" comic for mature readers who's "cast seems to function at a sort of baseline ennui. Rather than suffering extreme highs and lows, they muddle through their lives disaffectedly, viewing themselves as helpless cogs in the Wheel of Life." 

* Shawn Starr on Michael DeForge's REGARDING QUICKSAND, which "while it exists on the surface as an experiment between the two planes that comics exist on, words and images, a fairly well-trodden idea, it brings those ideas around again to a discussion of a character's understanding of the seen and unseen." 

* Andy Oliver reviews Josh Hicks' GLORIOUS WRESTLING ALLIANCE and calls it "fond fun"

* John Seven reviews Benjamin Frisch's THE FUN FAMILY which seems to have taken him by surprise, in a good way.


* Alex Dueben interviews TED MCKEEVER about his life in comics and his recent decision to walk away from them. 

* Over on Loser City, Dan Hill talks to SANDRA LANZ and LAURA GRAVES 

* Also on Loser City, the COMICS TWITTER BINGO CARD

* Heidi MacDonald weighs in on the whole THE COMICS INDUSTRY IS IN ITS DEATH THROES twitter war, which contains my favorite line, "Comics are almost certainly in a golden era right now ... if you don't care about Marvel and DC" -- something I've been saying over and over and over and over again.

* DINK, the Denver Independent Comic and Art Expo, has announced that for the second iteration of the show, they are moving to the recently restored McNichols Civic Center Building in Downtown Denver. The show is scheduled for April 8th and 9th.

* If you are looking for a refreshing bit of comics-related writing, you should read Ray Sonne's enthusiastic report of her experience at FLAME CON

Saturday, September 3, 2016


For this week's Tiny Pages Made of Ashes over on Comics Bulletin, 
I cleaned out part of my "to-read" pile 
by writing some quick blurbs of three books 
that have been sent to me recently.

These include:

PNEUMA by Daniel Locke (published by Tinto Press)

HAPPY TRAILS by Scott Roberts

COSMIC DUST by Ross Murray

Sunday, August 28, 2016

ICYMI -- Small Press Comics Criticism and Whatnot for 8/22/16 to 8/28/16

Highlighting some great small press comics criticism being published, as well as other random things that have caught my eye over the past week.


* Keith Silva makes his debut at The Comics Journal with this spectacular review of Derek Van Gieson's ENOUGH ASTRONAUT BLOOD TO LAST THE WINTER, "an odds-and sods assortment of illustration, microfiction, and photography chronicling Derek van Gieson's salad days in New York City."

* Hillary Brown reviews Lynda Barry's THE GREATEST OF MARLYS.

* Andy Oliver reviews GREEN GRAVES by Liam Cobb, whose "carefully crafted pacing... ensures its doom-laden build-up sweeps the reader away on a wave of inescapable fatalism." 

* Sarah Horrocks on Brendan McCarthy's DREAM GANG, which is "all about these basic ideas of the exterior of the character mapping to the interior dreaming."

* Scott Cederlund reviews Sarah Becan's STOCKHOLM IS SAUCEOME which may, perhaps, feature a sandwich or two. 

* John Seven reviews THREE MINI COMICS for The Beat, including Ley Lines, Mini Kus #42, and Space Rope: Mars and Venus 

* From earlier this month, but a must-read: Aaron Kashtan's COMICS CRITICISM: BASIC QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN READING A COMIC


Julia Gfrörer's Black is the Color is back in print through Fantagraphics. To celebrate this, here's an old INTERVIEW she did with Tucker Stone

* The list of EXHIBITORS and list of DEBUT BOOKS at this year's SPX makes me realize that I will need to bring more cash than I had initially planned (time to sell more blood).

* September 4th is when San Francisco Zine Fest is happening. This list of EXHIBITORS makes me realize that I will probably also need to sell a kidney sometime soon. 

* The New York Comics and Picture-Story Symposium will feature a conversation between BENJAMIN MARRA AND JOSH BAYER on August 30th at 7 pm. Someone please go and live-tweet that.

* After a nine-month absence, LARS MARTINSON updated his blog and promises that Tonoharu: Part 3 will be released in November of this year. 

* Swapna Krishna's ON THE FUTURE OF PANELS -- the website she edits is not exactly closing on August 31st, but is transforming. 

* Alex Mansfield on the concept of "MINDLESS ENTERTAINMENT" where "even as we soak up the endorphins rushing so fast and furious flooding our synapses while indulging in so-called 'mindless entertainment' we cannot shut ourselves off to the emotional connection that fuels them regardless of genre or depth or method."

* Jake Muncy's WHY I WATCH PEOPLE PLAY VIDEOGAMES ON THE INTERNET really helped to open up my understanding of this phenomenon. He writes, "It's not community, exactly, but it's a proxy of one, and I think it's easy to devalue that unless you personally need it. Proxy communities, through mediated relationships and art, create a space for people to see themselves more clearly and to build a sense of connection with the broader world. When you're in isolation, proxy communities can help you find real ones."

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Poetry Comics on Comics Bulletin

This week I got to explore what's going on in the world of Poetry Comics 
over on Comics Bulletin.

First was THIS ESSAY by Alexander Rothman, the Editor-in-Chief of the premier Comics Poetry journal, Ink Brick

As a new form (or at least one where precedents are rarely accessible), comics poetry is difficult and uncharted. Practitioners must figure out what they’re doing. And more fundamentally than with most work, audiences must figure out how to read it. Our media environment encourages quick consumption of content that is increasingly custom tailored. This work, on the other hand, asks us to walk a mile or two in someone else’s brain.

Next, I badgered Austin Lanari into writing THIS REVIEW of Ink Brick #5

My favorite thing about Ink Brick is not just that the work is often challenging: it’s that the challenges it often presents to the reader do not in any way resemble the often more literary challenges of more traditional comic books.  This has an effect of broadening any reader’s appreciation for sequential art as a whole (and arguably fine art or poetry as well).  That kind of expansive rewiring is in stark contrast to the often insulating effect that sticking to one kind of work can elicit.  

Next came an INTERVIEW I did with Chrissy Williams, one of the Editors of Over The Line: An Introduction to Poetry Comics

So I suppose the thing to say, even though I realize how obvious it sounds, is that the genre needs to be defined fundamentally as an inextricable combination of both comics and poetry, neither of which should be dispensable. In the best poetry comics, I believe, the piece would fail utterly (or at best be horrifically diminished) if you removed either the poetry or the artwork from the composition.
That may not be what you mean though. You may mean “yes, fine – but what is it?” Or, in other words, what does it do that distinguishes it from either comics or poetry? Well, poetry is used to creating meaning with text alone (either on the page, or audibly), so putting it into a visual sequence makes it something different. It now finds it has help in building imagery that it didn’t have before, and has to ask itself “how can we keep this interesting and make sure we’re not just repeating ourselves?”
Finally, for Tiny Pages Made of Ashes (our small press review column) I got Ray Sonne to write this REVIEW of Sarah Ferrick's SEC

Ferrick’s poetic lines hitch and groan, interrupting the speaker’s passion (“I want to fuck you!” screams one page in a curly, nearly unreadable red) with their anxiety and frustration as they fail and fail and fail again to find completion. “One sec, one sec, one sec” evolves into the speed and tempo of a bedsheet mantra. The sickening desperation of the speaker only ceases as the comic becomes wordless, giving into the blossoming of bright red, vulva-like flowers with brown pubic hair drawn on the higher points of their stems. Orgasm has no words and neither does its post-coital peace, which is represented on the last page via a flower of purple and yellow, two colors previously unused.

While I wrote reviews of LATE BLOOMER by mare' odomo

Ultimately framed as a journey, Late Bloomer examines that which is without, within, as odomo works through what it means to be an individual in world among others: how we interact, what we desire, how we perceive and are perceived, what we reject and are rejected for. It’s messy business, and odomo’s work reflects this. Page after page are filled with smudges and things almost violently crossed out. Some pages are only half-filled, others framed, yet left blank. Thoughts are begun, reflected upon, abandoned or tossed aside in frustration caused by either an inability to understand or the necessity to move forward. Moments of tightly rendered landscapes are juxtaposed with the crosshatch of window screens or almost oppressive urban streets.

And TIME CAPSULE by Maggie Umber

Umber’s work is comics poetry insomuch as it is neither narrative nor sequential. It is, instead, a series of images — landscapes, bats, insects, snails, snakes, birds, chimpanzees — boxed in panels, sometimes alone on a page, sometimes crowded together, juxtaposed with numbers and letters, as if apartment addresses, our own little boxes. Everything is rendered in a moment, sometimes nimbly as if to record it as it happens, other times tightly detailed as if by capturing each element of her subject she can give it some permanence. Placed together, her pages resonate with her final admonition, “We are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event. If it is allowed to continue life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on.