This is a partial and rough English version of my blog Just Indie Comics (Banner by Pat Aulisio)

venerdì 27 dicembre 2013

Best Indie Comics of 2014

While everyone is doing his Best Of 2013, I'll try to be original setting up a list of next year's most awaited comics. Obviously this is only a part of the new publications we're waiting for, since the indie scene is so lively and spontaneous that it's difficult to get big news. However, I hope you'll find some of these titles in 2014 lists. The comics are listed in random order.

1) Mould Map 3. It had to be the gem of late 2013 but for a slight typographic delay it'll be the anthology inaugurating 2014. As you can see from the opening picture, the printing is currently underway and will end on the 8th of January. So in some days we'll see this 224-pages book published by Landfill Editions and funded through Kickstarter, with comics by Sammy Harkham, Jonny Negron, Lala Albert, CF, Sam Alden and many others.

2) Megahex. Simon Hanselmann added himself as one of Mould Map contributors to support the Kickstarter campaign. In June Fantagraphics will publish his Megahex, the definitive collection (for now) of Megg, Mogg & Owl stories, in a handsome hardcover of more than 200 pages. For further details, you can read my Life Zone review.

3) Frontier. I'll talk briefly about Youth in Decline news here, since I'll dedicate as soon as possible a post to their series Frontier, which guests from time to time a different artist or cartoonist (Uno Moralez and Hellen Jo this year). For 2014 you can already subscribe to four new books: the artists involved will be Sascha Hommer, Ping Zhu, Sam Alden and Emily Carroll.

4) It Never Happened Again. After some online comics and self productions, Sam Alden, winner of last Ignatz Award for Promising New Talent, will debut for Uncivilized BooksThe book, scheduled for spring, will include Hawaii 1997 and a new unpublished story. This will probably be a crucial year for Alden, since he'll publish also a collection of his online comic Haunter for Study Group, The Alpine Biologist for Floating World and Wicked Chicken Queen for Retrofit.

5) Ritual #3. I was very impressed by Malachi Ward's two issues of Ritual, so I'm waiting for the new one with curiosity. The third chapter is the flagship of Revival House Press schedule for 2014, where we'll find also other interesting projects, as Labyrinthectomy/Luncheonette by Chris Cilla.

6) š!. The Latvian anthology is an high-quality brand at the moment and I'm sure we'll find some of the best short stories of next year in the four books expected for 2014, beginning with #16 (Villages, March) e #17 (Sweet Romance, June). You can expect also mini kuš!. I already talked about š! here.

7) Ant Colony & A Body Beneath. After the excellent Very Casual, Michael De Forge will come back with two new books. The first is the collection of the strip Ant Colony, already seen at Comic Arts Brooklyn, in bookstores in January for Drawn & Quarterly. The second will be released in May for another Canadian publisher, Koyama Press, and will collect the issues from 2 to 5 of the series Lose (this is my review of the latest issue). Koyama will publish also two other interesting books by Canadian authors, Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs and Distance Mover by Patrick Kyle.

8) Everywhere Antennas. This is another Canadian comic, still published by Drawn & Quarterly. After the beautiful Journal, originally in French and out this year in English, Julie Delporte comes back with Everywhere Antennas (you can find a preview here), a narrative work realized with the style of the previous book.

9) Sacred Prism. Every two months in Philadelphia Ian Harker prints a 16 pages comic-book by a different author. If the line-up of 2014 will be at the same level of what we've seen so far (Box Brown, Maré Odomo, Lala Albert, Benjamin Marra, Michael Olivo e Thomas Toye), I think Sacred Prism will reserve us big surprises. At the moment we only know there'll be follow-ups by Maré Odomo and Benjamin Marra.

10) Reprints and new editions. In 2014 Belgian talent Brecht Vandenbroucke will arrive in the American market with his White Cube (Drawn & Quarterly, here a preview). We hope the same for Italian Manuele Fior with his 5000 Kilometers Per Second (Fantagraphics), even if the book, originally scheduled this year, has been postponed, probably after the departure of Kim Thompson, who was curating the translation. Fantagraphics will also publish in August The Complete Eightball, the definitive collection of Daniel Clowes' series in an elegant slipcase containing two hardcover books, for a total of 454 pages and a price of 94.99 dollars.

mercoledì 18 dicembre 2013

Sequential Vacation #1-2

Sar Shahar; #1 self-published, 2011, 32 pages, $ 5; #2 published by Secret Acres, New York (USA), 2013, 32 pages, $6.

Sar Shahar is a cartoonist from Los Angeles, where he teaches comics and drawing. He reached some popularity with the debut issue of his Sequential Vacation, selected among the top thirty mini-comics of 2011 by The Comics Journal. Then he was hired by the New York publisher Secret Acres, which printed the second issue of his very same series. Sar Sahar's comics are mute and made with a quite plain style: the shapes are essential and simple while the background is made of geometric lines and a huge black and white contrast. The first comic-book is called The Robbery and it probably takes place in Los Angeles. The main character is a fast food clerk, bored by his miserable life until he meets a woman wearing big round sunnies in a club. They spend the night togheter and he starts to feel something for her while she doesn’t think the same about him. To represent this very significant emotional difference, the author send them to watch the very same movie (Motorcycle vs. Helicopter II, nice title) but they go on their own. When it seems that he has found someone else in a work colleague, she is shot during a robbery. But without any drama the man cleans up the blood stains, go out the fast-food and meets one more woman. The tale ends with the image of this new woman sticking her tongue in his ear, in an ecstatic moment which seems to delete the death scene drawn only a few pages before. 

The second issue is more complex than the previous one, although it offers a similar pattern. The opening pages of Beach Fantasy show two men kissing while wearing quite bizarre floral shirts (a Shahar’s trademark) and all the story is a flashback of their meeting. It starts with the blond character buying the shirt, having his meal and going home by car. Then he gets ready to go out but he finally stays home zapping in front of the tv. When the sun rises he goes to the beach where he finds three people and a dog sleeping on the shore. One of them notices him, they start playing with a frisbee and the they ride the ocean on a speedboat, leaving behind a factory and recalling the first scene. Here, as in The Robbery, the body contact seems to be able to delete a dull life made of malls, highways and technology. And even here we have a scene in a movie theatre (another Shahar's trademark, but we're at Hollywood after all). This tale has some new elements too, such as many references to a forthcoming nuclear disaster, sexual metaphors and some abstract panels with question marks, skyscrapers and clouds. Although the pattern is very similar to the first issue, Beach Fantasy offers something more, because the less linear structure allows the reader to use his imagination and feelings. So we just have to wait for the third issue, that will probably be even more innovative and experimental.

domenica 8 dicembre 2013

Life Zone

Simon HanselmannSpace Face Books, Vermont (USA), November 2013, perfect bound, 64 pages, full color, A5, $ 12.

Megg, Mogg, Owl and Werewolf Jones are a witch, a cat and, obviously, an owl and a werewolf. They drink, they smoke, they’re on drugs, they have sex, they fall into depression, they fight with each others, they fuck up everything, they are looking for a job and for themeselves as well. Simon Hanselmann, a thirty-two years old Australian cartoonist from Tasmania, in 2008 had the intuition to work on some characters taken from a series of books and cartoons for kids quite famous in England during the 70’s. He changed their names and turned them into comics. The success was reached mostly through Tumblr but these weird adventures had already gained some popularity through some indie anthologies and comic books such as St.Owl’s Bay, which made Hanselmann one of the nominees at the last Ignatz Awards. Life Zone has been published by Space Face Books in November and right now is the best Hanselmann’s production, although there are a lot of expectations about Fantagraphics Megahex, a huge hardcover collection with seventy pages of unpublished strips due next June. 

Meanwhile, we’d better be grateful for this one, since Life Zone offers a new evolution from the original stories, in which the protagonists were always stoned and put themeselves in the most absurd situations constanlty making fun of the poor and nerdy Owl. On a comic strip structure, Hanselmann has been able to use some personal details about his life mixed up with serious dialogues and colorful, visionary graphics. For instance, let’s take a look at the last episode of this book, called Altered Beasts, where Megg is dressing up to attend to an engagement party of another witch and of course she wants her partner Mogg with her (yes, the witch and the cat are in a relationship). When she’s ready to go out she can’t find Mogg anywhere until she sees him fainted near a trash bin while Owl and Werewolf Jones have been dancing for hours under the effect of an unknown drug. Megg wakes Mogg up and she begs him to recover for the party handling him a necktie but he feels totally depressed and he doesn’t want to go out. “I don't feel like dressing up - he says - I don’t even want to go. I hate these people. I hate people. I can’t keep pretending everything's okay… It's all so pointless and boring... I can’t do it... Everything's fucked”. 

The bad mood of the cat affects the witch, who has a brief moment of deep sadness until she feels better thinking about the glamour and the drinks waiting for her at that party. They finally go out and they stare at the full moon in a half page drawing that breaks the usual twelve panels sequence. In front of this vision, Megg says that she could die in that very same moment and she couldn’t care less about that and Mogg replies her saying that he would never leave “drug world”. “Can we never leave?” he asks. “One more year” replies the witch. In just seven pages drug addiction, an important topic for Hanselmann, mixes up with depression, fear of the people, lack of self confidence and will to be part of a “normal” world, as we were in a song by The Smiths. 
The other episodes bring some new and intriguing elements. Jobs is a huge part of the collection, it’s a hilarious and at the same time pretty obscure tale where Megg, Mogg and Werewolf Jones become clerks for Owl’s initiative. The anthropomorphic bird is the main actor in the following adventure, Owl’s Date, where in spite of his unbearable attitude he is not just able to avoid being dumped by a girl, on the contrary he succeed to have sex with her. High School is a trip in the past of the characters and it shows how they met and some interesting and unpredictable details about their lives. 

Life Zone is a beautifully drawned, funny, clever and intense book and I highly recommend it if you want to know an author who, if this world is not blind, is bound to become a star. One more thing to know about him is that Hanselmann is one of the contributors of the website Comics Workbook by Frank Santoro with the strip Truth Zone, where his very same characters use to talk about the comics world and art.

giovedì 5 dicembre 2013

A Look is the Fire Itself

You can visit A Look is the Fire Itself, the exhibition by Italian artist and cartoonist Anna Deflorian at the Caos museum in the city of Terni, Umbria, until the 15th of December. The event has been organized by Canicola cultural association and Chiara Ronchini and it offers a great chance to take a look at a new installation, twenty-one original black and white pages from the book Roghi, published at the beginning of November, other paintings and serigraphs. The artist is able to create an abstract, mainly feminine world, often surrounded by mythological and threatening natural elements such as mountains and trees, as you can see from the photos I took last week. I also suggest to take a look at her website and if you happen to be in Caos museum you can visit also an exhibition about the Italian magazine Frigidaire.

giovedì 21 novembre 2013

Comics People: Pat Aulisio

Today I inaugurate a new section on my blog, Comics People, where I'll talk about a different cartoonist each time, without necessarily reviewing a work in particular and without pretending to make an exhaustive profile. I think some of these cartoonists are not well-known in Italy but renowned in other countries (especially in the United States), so if you already know all about them... please read anyway.
Unnecessary clarifications aside, the first guy on Comics People is Pat Aulisio. Pat is a cartoonist from Philadelphia who publishes with his imprint Yeah Dude Comics an endless series of comic books, plays drums in homemade videoclips, participates in many conventions, organizes barbecues with sale of self-produced comics and so on. In short, Pat is a true force of nature and its projects, often bizarre, include a variety of parodies of Marvel and DC superheroes, an hilarious version of Diabolik slave to Eva Kant, a 2001 Space Odyssey adaptation, an 8-page mini-comic with transparent cover and squared paper reproducing the framework of a time distortion modulator and much more. And all of this with his brand well impressed above: you have just to open any of his publications to understand it is by Pat Aulisio.

Time Distortion Modulator Schematics Manual

One of his latest releases, realized in collaboration with the publishing house Hic and Hoc, is Xeno Kaiju, a 16 pages tabloid without words, printed in white, black and red, about a Godzilla's twin destroying a whole city. Among the numerous Pat's projects I liked above all the F'real Real anthology, published by Drippy Bone Books in April of 2012, because it shows an Aulisio drawing very accurate but without betraying himself. The 40 pages comic book is full of very funny gags with the usual variety of massacres, sex, drugs and excrement, but next to parodies of Garfield and Bart Simpson there are also nice panels with  detailed inks and a couple of notable splash-pages.

Two pages from F'real Real

Finally I want to remember some of the latest releases of Yeah Dude Comics and in particular the recent Thinking About Afterwards by Josh Burggraf, presented at the Comic Arts Brooklyn festival, 3 Fates by Emma Louthan and two porn-books, Alluring Pictorials for Lovers by Raul Cuntcrust and Seva Torntaint and Naked Sex: The Ultimate Truth by the only Cuntcrust, which enlarge Pat's range of interests. If you want to find out what means doing underground comics today, without compromise and without caring too much about audience reactions, you have to enter the world of Pat Aulisio.

Xeno Kaiju cover

lunedì 18 novembre 2013

The Comic Arts Brooklyn Experience - part 2

Photo by Chris Pitzer

Second installment of our CAB special, featuring a lot of wonderful guests (here you find the first part). Today we begin with Chris Pitzer, publisher at Adhouse Books from Richmond, Virginia. Chris kindly provided some of the photos of this post. Thanks Chris!
"I love Comic Arts Brooklyn. I loved Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Fest. I think the location has a lot going for it. People love NY/Brooklyn, and with so many creators living in the area, the quality of people who shows up is pretty damn good. This year AdHouse was debuting B+F by Gregory Benton. It was nice because I got to spend a fair amount of time with Gregory, which I greatly enjoyed. He and Florence were quite the hosts, too. 
I had hoped to get out and shop a bit before the doors opened up, but I found myself still behind the table once customers started coming in. I think I snuck away around 11 or noon to acquire a few things I had heard about, or my friends asked me to pick up for them. Probably the number one item was Epoxy #4 by John Pham. Such a great talent and one of my favorite series. I tried to get Ant Colony by Michael DeForge, but they were sold out by the time I got over there. I got the new issue of Operation Margarine by Katie Skelly, Softcore by Box Brown, the Heather Benjamin porn book, Iron Bound by Brendan Leach, Fata Morgana by Jon Vermilyea, S.F. #3 by Ryan Cecil Smith… and a few other things. I enjoyed talking to Larry Marder and Chip Kidd to name a few. Always great catching up with such talented people. 
It was a pretty quick trip for me, so I didn't get to do too much outside of the show. I did get to take in one event at the Society of Illustrators. I had never been in the same room as Steven Heller, so that was nice". 

Gregory Benton draws and signs on B+F. Photo by Chris Pitzer

Leslie Stein, cartoonist, best-known for her books Eye of the Majestic Creature published by Fantagraphics Books:
"I had a great show at CAB this year. I think I sold more books than at any other convention I've been to so far. The atmosphere was very friendly, and the cartoonists exhibiting were exciting. It was a little overwhelming and exhausting, but I have postive feelings about it and am excited that it exists and hope to be included again".

Dave Nuss of Revival House Press, publisher of books by Malachi Ward, Ted May, Rusty Jordan and others: 
"I had a very positive CAB experience. Sales-wise, it was on par with the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Fest from last year and the year before. I was fortunate enough to be placed at a table towards the center of the room, thus ensuring a viable amount of foot traffic.
-It felt efficiently organized with clear and concise exhibitor packages as well as a helpful amount of volunteers who were on hand to dispense amenities like water.
-The show seemed more commercially-inclined than years past. In particular, I'm speaking about the inclusion of First Second books who publish graphic novels that appeal to a broader audience, specifically the children's market.  
-Also, a friend of mine mused on the absence of a larger European contingent. In the past, BCGF catered to publishers such as the French company, Fremok.
-This same friend also pointed out the diminished amount of satellite events, with a sparser offering of programming and animation screenings.

-I went to the after-party at the venue, Union Pool. Previously, the Cartoon House (a residence inhabited by a few comic artist and publishers) served as the site for post-show merriment, thus side-stepping the trappings of a bar tab.  But an abundance of free drink tickets appeared to offset a large portion of this inconvenience.  
-People from outside of New York who I had the pleasure of spending some time with included Veronica Graham (from the art duo, Most Ancient), Todd Bak (fresh off a book tour for Islands of Memory), Derek Ballard, Simon Hansellman, Edie Fake, Francois Vigneault, Ben Catmul, Lala Albert and Jason Levian.
-I picked up the Comic Workbook from Frank Santoro, the new Battling Boy by Paul Pope, some new minis by the Close Captioned posee, and Islands of Memory by my good pal, T. Edward Bak.
-Don't have too much gossip, but Alvin Buenaventura was heard to be wandering around, apparently making claims about returning to publishing". 

Ritual #2 by Malachi Ward

Ed Kanerva of Canadian Koyama Press:
“Comic Arts Brooklyn was a wonderful celebration of comics in city that really understands them. For me, the highlight of the show was tabling with Jon Vermilyea, Alex Schubert and Ryan Cecil Smith (all the way from Japan!) who were all debuting books. Email and chat are great, but sometimes it is nice to interact outside of the internet!”

Koyama Press at CAB. Photo by Chris Pitzer

Mack Pauly of Space Face Books:
"CAB was great. Space Face debuted Life Zone by Simon Hanselmann, Baboom! by John F. Malta and Misliving Amended by Adam Buttrick. One of the highlights was Simon signing Life Zone at the table. There was a long line and he was meticulously drawing Megg, Mogg, Owl, and Werewolf Jones in every single book. His hands were aching, but he persevered. All Space Face’s books sold really well and we had an amazing time.
Space Face’s favorite acquisitions were all of the Breakdown Press debuts: Windowpane 2 by Joe Kessler, J.1137 by Antoine Cossé and Treasure Island #1 by Connor Willumsen. I would’ve bought the new Klaus book by Richard Short, but I ordered it online a few weeks ago. Too impatient. I also got the new Ant Colony book out from Drawn & Quarterly and Michael DeForge. It’s giant and colorful. The new Alien Invasion book by Lala Albert is amazing, too. Plus lots of beer and pizza. NYC is always fun".

We close this post with two links suggested by Conundrum Press to reports by publisher Andy Brown and by Joe Ollmann, author of Science Fiction book. Enjoy! And thanks again to anyone who contributed to this report, I'm very grateful.

Conundrum Press at Comic Arts Brooklyn

venerdì 15 novembre 2013

The Comic Arts Brooklyn Experience - part 1

Some days ago I asked to cartoonists, publishers and retailers to talk about their experience at Comic Arts Brooklyn, the comics festival organized by Desert Island in New York on November 9th. These are the answers I received and I truly want to thank everyone for their contribution. I really really really appreciate it. 

We begin with Gabe Fowler of Desert Island comic shop, who organized the event: 
"We're feeling triumphant and exhausted after a brief but amazing show! Seeing so many favorite artists and publishers together is always a mind-blowing experience, and we're still recovering a few days later. A sincere thanks to all of the individuals who made this the most fun day of the year!"

Pat Aulisio, cartoonist (BowmanXeno KaijuF'real Realand the mind behind Yeah Dude Comics:
"I've been to the former Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival every year since its inception and it is consistently the best show for weird artist driven comics. This year was no exception. The level of craft is at its peak, everyone has a risograph or is an excellent screenprinter. I came to debut Josh Burggraf's Thinking About the Afterwards, Justice Cop (my 24-hour comic) and Josh Bayer and I's collaborative comic The Greater Good.

Thinking About the Afterwords by Josh Burggraf
John Pham's Epoxy and Conor Stechschulte's The Dormitory were both examples of taking printing process to the utmost artist craft extreme and to me stuck out as my two best purchases of the show. Another busy year where the body heat/smell increased as the day went on. Crowds were insane, I didn't get to talk to about half the people I wanted to, since the few times I walked around most tables had four people crowding them at all day long.
There was actually an instance where a younger college age looking guy took five comics off my table, i told him how much they were, he told me would love to pay but he doesn't have money and he turned around quickly and shuffled off between people, the crowd was to big for me to rush around the table to try grab him and to make a scene. There was a girl that witnessed this whole thing and was shocked about what just happened, she then bought stuff off me which I assumed was a pity-buy. I still have never been to an afterparty, me and my Philly crew of Ian Harker and Box Brown went home right after the show with a car ride full of conversations about tumblr, pro-wrestling, drugs, and of course comics. 
This is a pic of stuff I got".

Box Brown of Retrofit Comics, author of Beach Girls, Killman (mini kuš! #6) and Inside the Box, an Italian anthology published by Lokzine:
"It was a really amazing show. Unbelievable really. We were busy non-stop from the moment it opened. There was something great at every table. In the few moments I was able to get away from my table I picked up the new issue of Epoxy by John Pham, a multi-colored risograph printed comic with a mini-comic inside and other cool extras. Retrofit debuted Zejian Shen's Keep Fresh and Roman Muradov's Picnic Ruined was selling well too. The best show of the year for me".

Picnic Ruined by Roman Muradov
Heather Benjamin, artist and author of last Monster anthology covers (here you can find my review). She had also an exhibition at Mishka during the festival:
"I thought it was fantastic this year - its previous incarnation, the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics fest, had been amazing too, but i thought this year topped any previous one by far. The turnout was amazing and the programming was great, there were so many amazing special guests, and the overall vibe was just really high levels of enthusiasm and excitement on everyone's part, which felt really great. There was such a high volume of amazing work in just one building that it was really hard to get around and make sure you spent enough time at every table to see all the incredible work everyone had to show. There's really nothing else like it. I also personally did pretty well this year. I debuted a new broadsheet newsprint zine, called Delinquent, which was published by Floating World out of Portland, Oregon, and sold out of my copies at the fest. From what I can tell, a lot of my peers who were tabling also were selling out of their work by the end of the day. It was amazing". 

Matt Moses of Hic & Hoc Publications:
"CAB was a smashing success. Gabe did an amazing job on all ends. The day ran seamlessly with a steady stream of attendees. Hic & Hoc debuted Amy Jean Porter's Spider (Comma) Man, a nice thick comic booklet about a spider and a man with fantastic letterpress covers. I wrote this scene report here: 

Spider, Man by Amy Jean Porter

So now you can check Matt's report and then come back here in a few days for the second part of this CAB special!

giovedì 14 novembre 2013


Various Authors, Hidden Fortress Press, Providence (Rhode Island, USA), September 2013, 196 pages, $ 30.

During the late '90s Providence, best-known as the birthplace of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, became the center of a lively movement called "Fort Thunder Scene", named after a former warehouse occupied by young local creatives. That experience attracted musicians and artists from all over the United States and was particularly significant in the comics world, since many of its players were from the Rhode Island School of Design. Fort Thunder rebuilded the alternative comics of the '90s and beyond, reintroducing some raw and underground elements, mixed up with a fascination for fantasy, horror features and a lot of nonsense.
Paul Lyons, one of the main authors of this scene, after the experience of Paper Rodeo anthology, dedicated himself to a new publication, Monster, which from time to time is available at some comic shows and in some stores in very limited editions. The latest release, after the one published in 2010, came out the last September in only 400 copies and right now is the most ambitious project of Lyons and Roby Newton, the authors representing Hidden Fortress Press. Monster 2013 is a beautiful silkscreen volume by Heather Benjamin made of 196 pages of comics regarding the horror in its various looks and shapes, divided in three stapled books with embossed covers and brown and blue interiors.

While many anthologies bring often some kind of pleasure and pain to the reader, since they often mix up some great things and some not very interesting ones, this doesn't happen in Monster, because it keeps a very high level on every page. The first volume is a good example: it starts with Thomas Toye's bloody Intimidation Rite, goes on with an hyperrealistic representation of sadism by Edie Fake and then it explodes with Monsters or Teenage Girls Around 1989. Brittany Hague shows female bullying in American colleges and turns it into a social horror, where the images slowly fade to make room for a distressing text reminding Bret Easton Ellis or Brian Yuzna's Society. The book goes on with Jon Vermilyea's powerful drawings of a burning house and then with Leif Goldberg's surrealist pages, before the grand finale offered by Mike Taylor: Twelve Visits is a paranoid tale close to the early work of H.P. Lovecraft himself.
The whole anthology is not on this very same high level, but there are many remarkable things in the other pages as well, starting with the second book, opened by Sam Dollenmayer's Mirror, a teenage horror applied to the potential of the medium, enhanced by amazing arts. The work of the omnipresent Michael DeForge is good as usual and very effective in its simplicity, even if the Canadian cartoonist isn't one of the best authors of this anthology. I liked also Molly O'Connell's comic, three impressionist pages about sexual violence and fetishism. Perhaps the second book is the weaker one, but we can't complain about that.
The third volume is full of amazing cartoonists. Jordan Crane with its elegant and defined drawings provides a well-structured and dreamlike comic at the same time. Then Brian Ralph's Cosmic Poseidon, in which a robot manga version of Poseidon emerges from the sea to destroy New York by throwing tridents and sharks, is aesthetically charming: a must-see. You can also find wonderful arts in the contributions of Paul Lyons, who unleashes his satanic mood, and of the excellent Mat Brinkman, who recalls the not-so-original topic of the curse in a stylishly and charming way (as you can see in the sample below). Roby Newton offers a beautifully painted work about the war and its horrors, while Kevin Hooyman closes the anthology with a nonsense gem about two weird guys trying to detonate a bomb.

The only small imperfection of this Monster is about the printing, which sometimes is a bit out of focus and doesn't mix well both colors, looking like a 3D movie without the proper glasses. Luckily only few pages are affected by this problem, but for instance Keith Jones' amusing portrait of a group of fools going around in a car and getting drunk is spoiled by this kind of printing trouble, so that in a couple of balloons the text is hard to read. Anyway this is just a detail, because Monster remains a highly successful mix of visual art, storytelling, pure entertainment, social issues and creativity. In a few words, one of the best comics anthologies I've ever read.

domenica 13 ottobre 2013

Optic Nerve #13, We Will Remain, Alamo Value Plus #1

I was trying to organize some comics read recently and I picked up three of them for a review, starting with Optic Nerve #13 by Adrian Tomine, released in July from Drawn & Quarterly. I liked a couple of years ago Tomine's decision to resume publishing his series in the classic comic book format, while all his renowned colleagues dedicated themselves to graphic novels or converted their ongoing series in books (just like Chris Ware and Seth respectively with Acme Novelty Library and Palookaville). Issue 12 of Optic Nerve in September 2011 brought a breath of fresh air, especially with the first tale, A Brief History of the Art Form Known as "Hortisculpture", in which Tomine did something new compared to the past, regarding form, tone and content. Unfortunately this new issue is a step backwards, since that - always in my humble opinion - the main tale Go Owls is not perfectly successful. Go Owls combines the author's typical themes - remembering especially the issues from 5 to 11 of Optic Nerve (collected in the paperbacks Summer Blonde and Shortcomings) - with the ironic feeling of Hortisculpture, though creating a not so exciting mix that after a two-years wait leaves a little disappointed. Even the story published as the comic book cover isn't so funny as it should be. So it's better to immerse yourselves in the eight beautiful full color pages of Translated, from the Japanese, where Tomine tells in epistolary form the journey of a mother and her child from Japan to the United States during a family crisis. Deep, melancholy, introspective, the story doesn't show the characters but only the places where they move: someone can even consider it an exercise in style, but for me this is pure early days Tomine with the drawings and the elegant colors of today.

From Brooklyn, where Tomine lives at the moment, we move to Providence to meet Andrew White, a 22 year-old cartoonist who published for Box Brown's Retrofit Comics We Will Remain, a 48 pages collection of short stories subtly interconnected. This is a partly immature work, but even in the alternation of styles and techniques and with some indecisions in describing the human figure, White shows to have good ideas and can be considered a promise. What I like about him is the ability to look beyond the realism of the stories. So he gives a mysterious and magical tone to As Leaves Change Color, puts the metaphysical in the "title track" and shows some Kirbesque influences in Travel, a notable sci-fi experiment. If he succeeds in creating the right mix of intimacy and less usual themes, he will do great things.

Different spirit for the first issue of Alamo Value Plus, new series published by the excellent Revival House Press and created by Rusty Jordan, who already realized for the same imprint Buger Warz (with Levon Jihanian). Jordan's cartoon style is already perfectly mature and is used in a way that looks at the tradition of underground comics as to Peter Bagge. The first pages show a long dialogue between the protagonist Baldo and his colleagues at the department store where he works. But you have to wait just eight pages to get a crazy flashback taking up the rest of the book, where Baldo tells in an excessively epic and totally unrealistic way his struggle against Nazis during childhood, his and his mother's imprisonment and finally theirs escape. The last part of the story comes back to the present and portends a showdown between the main character and his nemesis, Captain Max Schidthed, still alive and longing for revenge. Alamo Value Plus is an enjoyable read that promises bizarre developments.

lunedì 23 settembre 2013

š! #13-14

Various Authors, Kuš! Komiksi, Riga (Latvia), April and August 2013, 164 pages and $13 (worldwide shipping included) each.

With the publication in late August of the new Kuš comics anthology, we can also look back at the previous issue, out last April. Founded in November 2008, the Latvian magazine has earned a remarkable reputation in the international comics scene, so that the editors are now able to create a good mix between emerging authors and indie cartoonists already known to the audience. Every book has a general theme and is characterized by a style that if isn't typical of all the names involved, at least associates most of them. The heterogeneous proposals are in fact dominated by a strong graphic impact, in which the form prevails and the content tends mostly to divertissement. Since it's very difficult to examine all the 328 pages of the two volumes, I prefer to talk briefly about the contributions I found the most original and accomplished.
The issue 13, entitled Life is Live, contains "autobiographical, semi- autobiographical or even autobiografictional comics" due to artists who usually do not deal with realistic and biographical themes. The decision to choose an Ana Albero cover fits perfectly, since she is one of the members of German collective Biografiktion (I reviewed their book published by Nobrow Press a few posts ago). She also realizes the interior illustrations and a short story in black and white, simple in the structure but pleasant for the grace used by the Spanish cartoonist living in Berlin to draw the rotund female figures. Other special guests are Simon Hanselmann, from Australia, author of a new chapter of his funny series Megg, Mogg and Howl about a poor owl mistreated by a cat and a witch (pay attention to the collection Megahex, to be released next year by Fantagraphics), and the Puerto Rican Jonny Negron, with his elongated heads, the innovative construction of the page and the hallucinatory atmosphere. Among others, I liked Anete Melece light but graphically well-done story, Dogboy who proves to have a personal style with his morbid and strongly colored cybersex tale, and Ruta Briede, able to focus on an idea and develop it in a pop-art solution.

Issue 14 is dedicated to sports and has an Amanda Baeza cover. The Chilean girl is also author of Ping Pong Studies, in green and orange with the page splitted like a ping-pong table and the figures who come out from the panels expressing their dynamism. Dutch Michiel Budel, known for Wayward Girls series published overseas by Secret Acres, wins the award of the coolest guest: Roller Derby with the Warriors is a story of ruthless skaters characterized by slender figures and pastel colors, where gratuitous violence and humour go hand in hand.

Latvian artist Dace Sietina does a good work too. Already a contributor in the previous š!, she improved her style, hitting the target thanks to elaborate splash pages focused on mexican lucha libre. It's impossible then to describe sports without references to the world of anime. In Taken Hong Kong cartoonist Lai Tat Tat Wing mixes exasperated sports and science fiction in the typical Japanese tradition, while Team Spirit of Italian artist Ratigher, manga from style to subject, tells of a newcomer in a synchronized swimming team harassed by demonic mates.

For other informations you can check Kuš! website, where you can discover the artists involved, or better yet you can order the magazine, sold at a very honest price, thanks to the small size (A6) and the praiseworthy support of the Latvian State Culture Capital Foundation.