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New Talent, will debut for Uncivilized BooksThe book, scheduled for spring, will include Hawaii 1997 and a new unpublished story.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.