Friday, February 23, 2007

· 2006 Self-Published Favorites

I recently wrote up a few reviews for the upcoming issue of Best Zine Ever, a wonderful, charming and super useful guide to some of the best zines and comix of the year... Greg Means of Tugboat Press and the excellent I.P.R.C. and a whole slew of contributors put it out every year. Greg said that my submission was late enough that not all my reviews will make it in (Me? Late?), but it is pretty cool to be involved at all and get to promote some of my favorite self-published comix from the last year.

Anyways, here are all the reviews I wrote... obviously, these aren't all of my favorites... I just wanted to highlight a few that really struck me.

By Tim Le Jeunesse
Love Letter Press
The premise of “Spacecase” is like the set-up of your new favorite joke: “An astronaut, a cowboy, and a French pirate with a peg-leg land on the moon...” The hapless protagonists (mysteriously thrown together in the previous installment, “Out to Sea”) wander around their Little Prince-esque environment, bicker endlessly, and eventually meet up with a garrulous cosmonaut and his space-faring doggie. Tim’s spare drawings are nicely balanced by the vast, solid black of space that fill up nearly every panel, and there is a great, absurdist quality to the dialogue. There’s one more chapter left in the trilogy (the cowboy’s chance to take a star turn, one surmises), so maybe we’ll finally get to know what the hell’s going on here, but I doubt it. I’ll just go along for the ride and enjoy the company. By the way, Tim and Stefanie (the other half of Love Letter Press) also make tons of great silk-screened t-shirts, underwear, and more under the name Confiserie Lingere!

Animal ABC Book
By Ayumi K. Piland
Apak Studio
I was super pleased when I saw that Ayumi had put out a print edition of her Animal ABC images... I had been planning to buy one of her prints (I would still like to), but it was so hard to choose! The original prints, reproduced here in super-mini format, are linoleum block prints with added accents of pasted-on bits of Japanese washi papers... The animals range from the expected (lions, monkeys, elephants) to the exotic (unicorns, queenbees, x-traterrestials), all drawn in a festive, earthy style. This book (or even better, one of the actual prints) would make a great present for any parents or little kids you might know.

Let Me Tell You Where To Stick It/ Let Me Tell You Where Not To Stick It
By Jay Howell and Audrey Erickson
Mt. St. Mtn.

This book was amongst the funniest things I’ve read in a long time! “It” is just what you might suspect it is, and Jay and Audrey give you a quick and informative list of places where you might want to try and “stick it” (somebody’s vagina, a birthday cake) and an equally essential set of situations which might be icky, unpleasant, or downright dangerous for “it” (a bucket of nails, a time warp), all illustrated, of course!

By Josh Frankel
Hungry for Brains

This is a follow-up of sorts to Josh’s equally brilliant comic “Seafood” from a couple of years ago... like that comic, “Trilobite” silently follows a day in the life of it’s hero, this time a trilobite, a common inhabitant of the Earth’s seas during the Cambrian Period, about 500 million years ago. The little guy scurries along the sea-bed, seeking out a meal while avoiding becoming one. Josh’s loving depictions of the utterly bizarre inhabitants of the primordial ocean are a delight, bringing to life creatures unlike anything we can see in the world of today. It’s a bit harder to relate to an extinct invertebrate then it was to see life through the eyes of a tuna (the protagonist of “Seafood”), but the sheer thrill of peeking into such a seemingly alien world makes “Trilobite” a must-read.

The Basilisk
By Kazimir Strzepek
Available from Bodega Distribution
Short, sweet, and nearly perfect, this fantasy comic cracked me up so much that I embarked on a gigantic publishing project just to see the rest of Elfworld in print! Kazimir perfectly captures the nuances of a Dungeons & Dragons style adventure story in this tale of a obnoxious Audubon-esque illustrator looking for new monsters to add to his bestiary. When he hears about a dangerous Basilisk in the vicinity (after getting clues at a tavern, naturally) he goes searching for the creature with his barbarian bodyguard Boor and the friendly local kobold. The fruits of his quest are, suffice it to say, not what he expected. Kazimir’s cartoony, textural style is perfect for this sort of story, the characters and environments pull you right in from page one. The cover to this mini is a screen-printed onto a parchment like card stock, and the whole thing is bound up with thread; it really adds a fantasy feel to the comic. If you missed this version, I will be publishing this story again in Elfworld Vol. 1, which is where it was meant to be in the first place!

Fox Bunny Funny
By Andy Hartzell
Available from Global Hobo
I feel that I almost can’t call this a mini-comic, it is such an elaborate, lavish presentation; but Fox Bunny Funny was by far the most interesting and accomplished self-publishing effort I saw last year. I had previously been a fan of Monday, Andy’s still unfinished take on the Garden of Eden, but his new comic really blew me away. Really a self-contained series of three books, F.B.F. comes packaged in a handmade, silk-screened black slipcover. The art is bold and attractive, and in the third book (“Funny”) Andy’s illustrations take on an extremely graphical style.
Inside, Andy has created a silent, fable-like story of anthropomorphized Foxes and Rabbits. Unlike your typical funny-animal story, F.B.F. doesn’t shy away from the ethical quandaries of having carnivores and herbivores sharing the same world; the Foxes wantonly prey on the Rabbits, going far beyond hunting them for food: the Foxes live in a virtual death-cult society, vilifying the Rabbits and inculcating racial hatred in their young. The protagonist of all three books is a Fox who is secretly drawn to the oppressed Rabbits’ society. His fascination torments him throughout his life, and he eventually ends up going “down the rabbit hole” and entering a world where everything he has ever known is turned upside down.
Like the best fables and myths, F.B.F. doesn’t give any easy answers, the symbolism can be read in a variety of ways and parallels can be drawn to any number of real world problems, from state-sponsored violence to gender and identity issues. This comic is a real work of art.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

· Elfworld on the Horizon!

Work on Volume One of Elfworld is gaining momentum... We are looking good for our premiere at APE here in San Francisco on April 21st + 22nd, and the Elfworld contributors have also been asked to participate in We're Rollin', They're Hatin', an massive show of D&D themed artwork (it is a part of Chicago's Version Fest 07)! I love this amazing flyer art for the show:

Awesome! The show starts April 20th, so Elfworld will be making a sort of dual premiere! Whoa... We're so big time!

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

· Teenage Angst has Paid Off Well...

Years and years ago I had an idea for a short story titled "Dear Diary, It's Me, Starscream" about, yes, the trials and tribulations of that misunderstood Decepticon second-in-command, Starscream. I kept putting of working on it because I really didn't think I could do the idea justice(get the teen-angst tone just right, etc.), and it ended up on the "indefinite hold" shelf in my brain (And I missed the boat a bit, a couple years later I saw Journal of a New Cobra Recruit!).

A couple of weeks ago my friend Kim Vo contacted me about doing a comic strip for the new issue of Tea Party, a local litterary magazine she works at... Well, the theme was "TRANS______", as in "trans-gender", "trans-portation", "trans-fats", and, yes, you guessed it, "Trans-formers!" I threw up my hands to Fate's machinations, got over my fear of failing, and polished off a single page comic in less then a week! Click the image below to read:

Well, I'm pretty happy with it... I was super nervous about having to draw the various Transformers, what with all those various mechanical parts and what not, but it was actually a lot easier than I thought! I'm now totally ready to draw the comic's adaptation of the film... Any takers? Anyone?

Keep an eye out for that issue of Tea Party, they say it will be out this Summer! My thanks to Kim for getting me to finish this little story.

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