Never read a Dash Shaw book until New School and I will say his drunken, dizzying experimental style is something I’m not used to, but I am fond of. Fantagraphics sent this over to me a couple of weeks ago and I finally got a chance to finish it tonight. With no prior knowledge of what this 340 paged book was about, I got a very slight idea from the back cover by reading the sole sentence: “Two brothers on a mysterious island.”
Right off the bat, the first 20 or so pages strike with bold, Sharpie-like drawings, and fully-utilize the largeness of the yearbook-sized book it’s bound in. We’re introduced to our key players: two brothers named Luke and Danny. Danny, the youngest, idolizes Luke and goes as far as to wanting to be him at times. After some childhood history and an introduction to the two characters’ sibling and homelife, Luke is sent to a mysterious island, amply named “X,” to teach islanders how to speak English.
“X,” is also home to a crazy elaborate theme-park called ClockWorld, which seems to be a mix of Disney’s EPCOT and national historical exhibits. The theme-park is home to historical reenactments and events, such as JFK’s assassination, while the island of “X,” acts as a utopia in which the islanders, known directly as “Xians,” inhabit. After the brothers’ mom and dad become concerned of Luke’s well being, Danny is sent to “X,” to see just what his brother has been up to.
Drawings span over two-pages for some spreads, and occasional colors and bold lines go awry over the sizeable sheets. The more and more we see the mysteries of “X,” unravel, the more we see colors splattered and shaded over panels, and the more we see Danny slide down a path of angst and confusion over the islanders and his brother’s new attitude. It’s almost as if Shaw color-coded each panel around Danny’s own mind, using certain colors to signal his character’s curiosity or wonder.
And the more and more the story unfolds, the more it becomes apparent why Dash Shaw used his specific art style to tell this tale. It fits. The crazy mayhem the two brothers eventually get into, as well as the oddities surrounding the island, become more hectic and exciting as the story goes. The coolest feeling of New School came from the final pages of the story’s climax, in which I felt I was literally running right along with each character, as Dash Shaw drew full-sized pages for your eyes to feast upon immediately and flip through at the pace of his characters fleeing for freedom.
Danny’s dialect for the story was interesting, to say the least. Everything is exclaimed, almost like Danny is reciting a verse at times. Think an adolescent Thor on a quest to bring his brother back to Asgard. It adds humor, but it obviously helps with unlying the themes of New School.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of New School are the mysterious Xians themselves. They speak another language, and Danny and Luke understand their mannerisms by observing them or by learning from Otis, the island’s owner and creator of ClockWorld. They are primitive 1950′s Americans, with women dropping jobs as soon as they birth children to stay at home and care for them, and men working on construction of ClockWorld to support their wonderful families. One of the islanders actually randomly asks Danny if he owns a gun back in America, then becomes totally appalled by his answer and dismisses him as a violent American.
Overall, New School is an superb read that blends surreal and innovative storytelling with translucent colors and bold lines. This hardcover binds together a terrific showcase of expressive colors and lines with an emotional comic-of-age story. Dash Shaw succeeds in telling a fine tale in a fantastic, woozy, and drunken way.
As a promotion for Yeti Press‘ 2 year “Yetaversary,” the publisher decided to have a digital sale every week before August to push some of their titles. This week, from July 22nd to July 28th, you can grab Kevin Budnik‘s Our Ever Improving Living Room for only a single dollar.
$1. That’s. It.
This week’s book is the first month of Kevin Budnik’s Our Ever Improving Living Room. Kevin did a daily diary comic strip every single day for an entire year. Here’s your chance to sample a bit of Kevin’s insight, humor, and comic draftsmanship for only a dollar!
This sale runs from July 22nd to July 28th, so get it while you can! Don’t forget to give your email address with your order. We will send the pdf file your way in 24 hours or less.
I received an unexpected comic book in the mail the other day that was neatly wrapped inside of a bright blue envelope with my name on it. The envelope wore the words, “The Outliers,” atop it, with Erik T. Johnson‘s name on the return address. I honestly have no idea how Johnson sent this comic over to me, but I’m surely thankful he has. Because without a doubt, reading The Outliers was the most fantastic comic book experience I’ve had all year.
Maybe it’s the presentation of it all that made holding the book in the first place such a dazzling feeling. From the blue envelope, to it’s smooth dur-o-tone butcher paper dust jacket, this baby looks great. Johnson really spent the time and effort making the comic appeal to the average eye, using unique cool colors for the cover and detailed heavy inking inside of its two-color newspaper pages.
The Outliers‘ first issue tells the tale of a mute 11-year old boy who has a friendship with a secret, massive woodland creature. Not much of any character is explained in this issue, but by the very last page, the reader is left with a thirst for more. The motives of each character are left unanswered as well, though each character introduced is presented so strongly, the unknown in the story are definitely begging to be told.
And I’m begging Johnson for more. This title was unbelievably exciting, full of adventure, mystery, and a strong attention to detail that Erik Johnson should be delighted of. I’ve never been so enthralled by an independent release before. The art is terrific, the ink and shading looks fantastic, and the story’s pacing is so wonderfully done — I highly recommend this comic book to anyone looking for something fresh to read.
I’m going to be honest when I say I haven’t heard of kuš! until last month, however, after reading through š! #12, Future 2.0, I’m seriously smacking myself for being so behind schedule as I’m seeking their older anthologies. kuš! (pronounced ‘koosh’) komiksi (comics in Latvian) is a comics anthology based in Latvia that specializes in publishing preferably Latvian comic artists, but also shares page space to others from North America and all over Europe.
This collection carries a very diverse lineup of artists, with an even more diverse sense of style and emotion revolving around one common theme: the future. And while there are many different styles and comic artists, the book does a great job of standing up as a whole to revolve around that sole theme. This is a damn hard task to do, especially when you’ve got so many illustrators from North American and Europe chiming in at once.
Featured in this edition of š! are: Michael DeForge (Canada, cover illustrator), Anja Wicki (Switzerland), Charles Forsman(USA), Chris Kuzma (Canada), Dace Sietiņa (Latvia), Dustin Harbin (USA), Ernests Kļaviņš (Latvia), Ginette Lapalme (Canada), Irkus M. Zeberio (Basque Country), Jane Mai (USA),Jesse Jacobs (Canada), John Martz (Canada), Jon Boam (UK), Julie Delporte (France),König Lü.Q. (Switzerland), Kuba Woynarowski (Poland), Léo Quievreux (France), Luke Ramsey (Canada), Maciej Sieńczyk (Poland), Mārtiņš Zutis (Latvia), Melissa Mendes (USA),Michael Comeau (Canada), Michael DeForge (Canada),Nicolas Zouliamis (Belgium),Oskars Pavlovskis (Latvia), Patrick Kyle (Canada), Paul Paetzel (Germany), Ryan Cecil Smith (USA), Steve Wilson (Canada) and Tiina Lehikoinen (Finland), and also featuring special co-editor:Annie Koyama (Canada).
This collection is 180 pages worth of 29 artists you’ve maybe heard of and many more you might have not. This is fine, and the collection does a beautiful way of presenting itself, though some of these shorts are a bit too short. The effect may seem a little pretentious, however none of these comics come off as being better or smarter than their audience. They’re more inviting. With comics that end abruptly, most endings are left usually ambiguous, but it’s a great thing for those wanting alternative or independent work from their comics. The diversity in the collection is especially needed for this reason, since there’s something for absolutely anyone to pick up and enjoy.
None of the comics stray far off from the subject of the future, either. Efforts by Michael Deforge (Leather Space Friend), Chris Kuzma (Life Drawing), and Luke Ramsey (Letting Go of What the Future Holds) are showcases of a charming art style that succeeds in giving readers a fun puzzle of thought for the future. Oskars Pavlovskis (Curious) and Melissa Mendes (Animals) provided stunning artwork for such a pocket-sized comic collection. I’ve also found a slew of other artists through this collection I’m going to be following.
Honestly, that brings up the best part of this package aside from its sleek look and awesome roster of illustrators: the bang you get for your buck. This anthology is only $13. That’s a bargain considering the amount of folks promoted in š! #12, Future 2.0. After reading the anthology, one will have indeed found a new favorite illustrator. kuš! chooses to showcase the best and provide a consistent and concise raw quality in comics that I feel most smaller publishers can’t quite grasp. That’s a beautiful feat for comics in general.
Author Jane Mai created an intimate diary used to describe depression, leaving the reader in an odd, yet compelled position.
While it’s not directly stated in the comic book itself, Jane Mai illustrates a life of depression, self loathing, and misunderstanding. It’s a pretty harsh read, and it could possibly be difficult to relate to since Mai is a bit (purposely) vague when displaying her emotions, but it’s a terrific display of pacing from the artist that works well for the reader. Sunday in the Park with Boys conveys feelings that are hard to pinpoint when you’re under deep depression, but it never feels like it’s forcing you into pitying the author in any way. I believe Mai just wants you to understand.
Throughout the comic book, Jane illustrates centipede like creatures that cover certain panels and areas on pages that sort of symbolize depression that is illustrated as almost literally “eating” at her. Every couple of pages, a new idea is introduced about the character and her state of being, represented with personal opinions and thoughts by the character. It can be a bit uneasy to read the author mentally beating down on herself so hard, but by the very last page, you do have a sense of understanding on how self-loathing has indeed been eating at Mai.
Though the tone may be serious and gloomy, it does an incredible job of representing what many feel every single day with total unhappiness. Mai’s black and white illustrations do a great job accompanying the vibe of the story. The dialogue, while a bit hard to digest at times, also holds strong in Sunday in the Park with Boys, leaving behind an impressive memoir and solid read, especially for the comic book medium.
Hey gang. I’m pretty excited to present to you an interview Estevan and I worked on about Jess Smart Smiley, whose first book, Upside Down: A Vampire Tale, released early this month of October. Also, consider this article an entry for the Halloween month. Estevan had fun creating a comic to accompany the interview I did with Jess, so we both hope you enjoy reading this piece as a whole. Big thanks to Jess Smart Smiley for doing this with us!
DW: Let’s kick this off with an easy and annoying one. What is Upside Down: A Vampire Tale all about?
JSS: It’s about 144 pages. Get it? (Insert rim shot here) Okay, seriously — Upside Down: A Vampire Tale is about a friendly boy vampire named Harold. Harold isn’t the neck-biting kind of vampire, but a chocolate-chomping, syrup-sipping, candy cane-crunching vampire. In fact, he loves candy so much that he ends up losing his teeth and running away in shame. He meets up with Vermillion, the last witch on earth, and she just happens to hate vampires. There are also bats and a mad scientist that keep the book rushing toward the exciting ending!
DW: Your style of illustrating is colorful, simple, and extremely charming, so it naturally fits with the style of the children’s comic you’re readying to publish on Top Shelf Comix this October. Were there any kind of tweaks you had to make in your style or illustrating for readying up for this project, or did you always have a children’s story planned in your head to publish all along?
JSS: Thank you! I’m always looking for new and better ways to draw things and add to my visual vocabulary. When I decided to work on Upside Down I had a three-color palette in mind that I wanted to try out. I asked myself, “What if the entire book was colored in black, white, and halloween green?” It made me look at my drawings a little differently, knowing that placing one green object next to another green object wouldn’t be as striking as placing green next to black, or black next to white would be. Each panel and page was like a little puzzle, figuring out the best way to place colors. It helped me see that comics are as much about design as they are about the drawings.
I also kept the drawings simple and playful because they seemed to fit the overall tone of the story, which is dark, but really playful. If I had drawn everything photo-realistically, it just wouldn’t have the same impact. Imagine Scott Pilgrim drawn in the style of Watchmen, or Batman drawn like Spongebob Squarepants. Bob are valid forms of drawing – but it just wouldn’t be appropriate.
DW: What is the best part about using comic books as your outlet, especially with children in mind?
JSS: Comics are a great way to tell stories, while still leaving room for the imagination to fill in what happens between panels and pages. I love the immediacy of comics – how readily a message can be communicated in a panel, and still leave plenty of room for subplots and foreshadowing.
DW: What was your personal planning process for Upside Down: A Vampire Tale? Did you have the story planned out already or did you work another way around tackling it?
My one goal for the year I made Upside Down: A Vampire Tale was to finish the book completely, as best I could, and to send it out to my dream publisher, Top Shelf Productions. I had never made a comic longer than 20 or 30 pages before, so I knew that I had to break down the book into manageable pieces in order to finish it.
In a nutshell: it all started with a drawing of a vampire in my sketchbook. I wasn’t looking to make a book or do anything with vampires – I just thought it would be funny to draw one that lost his teeth. I started coming up with more ideas and picking the ones I liked best, and connecting them in ways that built a rough story arc. I wrote out all the main action for the book, and used that as a reference for writing and drawing the rough draft for Upside Down: A Vampire Tale. Once I had worked out the action, dialog, story and composition of each panel on each page, I moved on to the final. It was one of the most daunting tasks I’ve ever taken on, but after the drawing the first page in ink with a brush, I got into the flow and drew, drew, drew. I scheduled a few hours each day to draw the book, and I drew every single day, until I had finished drawing the last page. I scanned everything into the computer and spent some time coloring everything in black, white and halloween green, and then looked over the book several times before sending it to Top Shelf, to make sure everything looked right.
DW: It’s noted that this is book one in the series for Upside Down. Do you already have all the future books planned out, or are you still unsure of when to end it all?
JSS: Ah! You noticed that this is book one. Ten points for the Drawn Words crew! Yes – when I was talking with Top Shelf about Upside Down: A Vampire Tale, they asked if I had more stories within the Upside World that I wanted to make. I’m not sure how much I can share about the book, so let’s just say that Upside Down: A Vampire Tale is just the beginning for Harold and his friends. (Suspenseful music!)
DW: The Tattoo Club is such an incredibly cool idea, and I’m very glad people are still keeping the spirit of temporary tattoos alive. I love the idea of different artists contributing to creating new temp tats. How did the idea first come about?
JSS: Right on! I really like Tattoo Club, too. Earlier in the year I was making some temporary tattoos for my Comics Grab Bag (collection of short comics), and illustrator Julia Green made the comment that she had always wanted to make her own temporary tattoos. I thought it was a shame that such a thing didn’t exist, and I immediately started thinking about other incredible illustrators who would undoubtedly make phenomenal drawings that could be used as temporary tattoos. Julia and I launched the project on Kickstarter, in the hopes of getting the needed funds to make it happen, but we didn’t reach our funding goal. I think a lot of people really dig the novelty of the idea, as well as how collectible the tattoos could be. We’ll see if we’re able to revive the project in the months to come.
DW: I’ve seen some talk about you seeing UFOs/aliens via your Twitter and other interviews. What’s with all the sightings?
JSS: At the risk of sounding like a complete weirdo: aliens are real. I’ve had a series of interesting experiences with them and I can verify that they are real, they are green, and they fully intend to take over our planet. Even in my own encounters I had never seen a UFO — until recently, and it was the strangest thing. I was in a parking lot, talking with my friend, and this object came out of the night sky and into the light of a street lamp. It must have been 30 or forty feet above us and it looked like a paragliding chute, but without any lights and without a passenger. It moved just slowly enough that we could see what it looked like, and then it slipped back into the night, straight on course to its unknown destination. Bizarre.
DW: Is there anything for fans to look forward to in the future of Jess Smart Smiley?
JSS: Not really. I’m ready to pursue a career in electrical engineering. Just kidding — I’m working on my first children’s book right now (to be published next year), and am developing a brand-new comics series that I’m just aching to share.
You can check out my blog to get some behind-the-panels looks at the making of Upside Down: A Vampire Tale, as well as my thoughts on other creative processes. There’s also a facebook group for Upside Down, where I’ll be posting downloads and goodies for fans of the book. Thanks!
I’m very excited and delighted to present this post with everyone. We recently shared some words with Ed Piskor, creator of Top Shelf’s newest graphic novel, Wizzywig. Piskor shared his thoughts and creative process with his newly published graphic novel, as well as some personal info and his current work with his ‘Hip Hop Family Tree,’ strips. As always, Drawn Words is very thankful to have spoke with the great man, Ed Piskor.
Drawn Words: Unfortunately, Ed Piskor does not have a Wikipedia page [Note: At the time of this interview, he really didn't. Honestly.], so I’m left out of a lot about your earlier life, where you grew up, and a ton of other comics and work you’ve done outside of working with Harvey Pekar. Do you mind giving us a brief rundown of who you are?
Ed Piskor: I had a Wikipedia page and didn’t know it disappeared until you mentioned this. I’m glad though, some of that stuff was embarrassing and really really wrong, from what I remember. I’m from, and live in, Pittsburgh, and have been doing comics, graphic novels, and even some work in animation for the past 8 years. Wizzywig is the first, solo, piece of work I’ve done on any big scale. Aside from doing some American Splendor strips for Pekar, I drew 2 graphic novels with him, Macedonia, and The Beats. In 2009-2011 I designed the characters, and did artwork for an Adult Swim cartoon called “Mongo Wrestling Alliance“.
DW: Before working on with underground comic legend Harvey Pekar on American Splendor, what exactly were you doing to break through the comics industry?
EP: I honestly just did a few comic strips before working with Harvey. I think he gave me a call after the 9th page I’ve ever fully completed.
DW: How did Pekar find you?
EP: I would send these comic strips of mine to every cartoonist who’s address I could find. This is before Myspace and Facebook, and many creators didn’t have websites or contact info online, so I would comb the letters pages, or back matter of books. A month or so after the movie came out Harvey gave me a call, which was surreal, to say the least.
DW: You’ve done a slew of comics since being published with Harvey Pekar on a handful of comics such as American Splendor, Macedonia, and The Beats: A Graphic History. Since then, you’ve stuck to self-publishing comics on the Internet. Why the choice in producing comics for websites as opposed to publishing in book format?
EP: I actually did self publish book versions of Wizzywig. 3 volumes. I really like the idea of sharing work on the internet, and I consider my online stuff to be a first draft. I’m a believer in creative commons, and giving work away, allowing people to support my stuff after digesting it and seeing if it’s for them. I would hate it if someone plunked their money down on something I did and then disliked the material. Also, with what I’m doing now, The Hip Hop Family Tree, I’m striving for accuracy, and if there’s anything wrong in the strips I’m posting, there has to be at least a few of the million Boingboing readers who’d be more than happy to blast me in the comments or send an email.
DW: I’ve been reading a ton of your older entries of Brain Rot on BoingBoing lately. I notice that while each entry of Brain Rot is different, they all seem to have a certain similarity in which they’re all products of you venting in pop culture and media of today and yesterday. It’s pretty similar to what we do at Drawn Words, by presenting certain info and articles in comic form. Do you feel like the comic method is a better way to present emotion and explain certain points than other medium? Are there certain advantages and disadvantages using this form over others?
EP: Comics is just my form of choice to express myself, pure and simple. I don’t know how effective it is in my hands, but, there certainly are great creators out there, who can generate emotion and manipulate your feelings. I feel like the stuff that I do lacks that humanity, which is kind of, indicative of where my head is at, most of the time. I like to run away from emotion and maintain that Iceberg Slim composure about everything. The major disadvantage to comics is just that it’s a highly inefficient method of telling stories, from the creators perspective. Each page requires so much labor and, if you do your job right, it can be digested in seconds. I got to be an extra in a movie for a month and a half and I can see that film making is highly inefficient as well, but, the advantages Hollywood has is the sheer manpower involved with each aspect and they obviously pay higher dividends at the end…which I guess negates the inefficiency argument, now that I think about it. They put a lot of work in, and can get a lot out, financially, at least. Fuck those guys.
DW: So where exactly did Wizzywig initially originate from?
EP: When I was working on Macedonia for Harvey, I found a 20+ year archive of a really great radio program called “Off The Hook”, that largely focused on the political implications that came with being a hacker. I consumed the entire 1000+ hour cache of content, over a 14 month period, and developed such a knowledge on the subject, that I don’t think any other cartoonist out there is/was equipped to tell such a story, so I figured that seemed like the perfect reason I should do it.
DW: I’ve read in a couple of other interviews that the main character of Wizzywig, Kevin, was inspired by several real life hackers and phone phreakers. Who are some of these hackers that Kevin is a reflection of?
EP: Kevin is to all the greatest hackers in America, as Charles Foster Kane was to William Randolph Hearst. Some of the hackers who inspired my Kevin are, Kevin Mitnick, Kevin Poulsen, Phiber Optik, Bernie S., Emmanuel Goldstein, Joybubbles, John Draper, and probably close to 10 more.
DW: You’ve been self-releasing Wizzywig for years now. Have any of your inspirations ever seen these comics? Have you gotten any attention from any other hackers with these comics?
EP: Almost everyone I mentioned has seen the comics and nobody has complained about inaccuracies, or overly anachronistic bull crap. In fact, for a while, I’ve been getting invited to different hacker conventions and technology conferences, where I’ve met a lot of these guys, which was pretty cool. I got the same feeling, meeting the hackers who inspired my project, as any Joe Schmoe would feel if they met their favorite Football player or something.
DW: The entirety of Wizzywig is releasing in July one collection, thanks to Top Shelf Comix. While reading my advanced copy of the comic, I flipped back and forth between your web archives of the comics and the collection releasing in July and noticed some differences in panels and dialogue. Why the changes? What all has been changed in this new edition?
EP: What’s even funnier, and more ridiculous, is that the stuff you’ve seen on the web is a second iteration of the work, in terms of the prose. The first self-published books are so overly verbose, and poorly written, that I had to amend so much, that I basically took a whole year off from producing new work, to tweak everything that was already drawn. When it came time to get all the material together for the book, I reread the story and anything that made me have a negative reaction I decided to change. It’s better to do that, then let something slide and hate myself when it’s published. Lots of the verbiage is changed, and some panels are redrawn too. Oh yeah, and a lot ofspelling errors, hopefully all of them, were fixed.
DW: Your new entries of Brain Rot are now compiled of something you call the ‘Hip Hop Family Tree,’ explaining the origins of hip-hop and starring folks such as Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Eddie Cheba. Do you find yourself listening to old school hip-hop a lot more now since starting these comics?
EP: I’ve always listened to old school Hip Hop as my major genre of choice. It’s the foundational knowledge that provided the initial basis for the project. I’ve got a playlist of every major rap single from 1979-1998 and I play it on shuffle a lot, then, the jams that I really gravitate toward, I start focusing on those particular artists until I exhaust their library. With both the Hip Hop Family Tree and Wizzywig comics, you pull a ton of facts together to show wonderful tales and stories revolving around real people, so naturally, a ton of research is put into what you present.
DW: What kind of resources do you use when writing factual comics? Have you even spoke to anyone you’ve written about or took inspiration from with your work?
EP: I use everything I can, from Documentaries, Audio Commentary tracks, interviews, books, and anything else that might provide a cool moment for a strip. With Wizzywig, I spoke to many of the men who inspired the work. With the Hip Hop Family Tree, there’s been a trickle of correspondence with various guys. One thing that I do love is that Chuck D and Fab Five Freddy shared my comics with their followers on Twitter a few times. Actually, so did a few other emcees and DJ’s, but, I don’t wanna do too much name dropping. I feel as though while your illustrations and storytelling are so incredibly gripping, you still are relatively unknown in the comics industry.
DW: Sadly, there are a large number of artists and writers who are unknown or undiscovered, due to the fact it’s so difficult to break through the industry if you don’t have connections or ties already. How do you do it? What do you think is important when presenting yourself to others and getting the word out of your comics and illustrations?
EP: I’m not too sure on this at all. I’m not worried about it either, to be honest. I feel like you should just do work that’s as pure of intent as possible and everything should be okay. It also goes back to the inefficiency of the medium. I’ve spent 5 years on Wizzywig. Half of my 20′s. And I technically call it my first book. I feel like the stuff I did for Harvey was like my art school, where I was still feeling things out, and trying to learn this medium a bit.
DW: What’s on the horizon for Ed Piskor and the future of comics?
EP: Future of comics? Who knows? I’ll always be doing them for print though. That I can promise. Right now, the Hip Hop Family Tree has taken over my life, and will be my main focus for a few years, at least. There’s interest from a bunch of the indy comics publishers, and some NYC book publishers, but, I’m terrible with commitment, so someones gonna have to make me an offer I can’t refuse so that I can finally decide on who’s logo will grace the cover. It’s such a fun project to produce too. Maybe I’ll do a kickstarter to put it together? I don’t know. The print component is still up in the air, but, it’s a definite part of the plan.
Written by Kevin Cortez
Illustrated by Estevan Sanchez
Ed Piskor’s graphic novel debut is perhaps one of the most fascinating stories I’ve ever had a chance to read. Oddly enough, its subject matter is something I’d never before imagined to be so intriguing: phone phreaking, computer hacking, and running from the authorities being one of the two. The story explains a simple, precise, yet still slightly fictionalized account of a character named Kevin “Boingthump” Phenicle, and explains the trouble and cult status he gains from being one of the earliest and notable phone phreakers/hackers in the nation.
Piskor uses his underground comix charm, initially brought to life in his earlier works with Harvey Pekar in American Splendor and Macedonia, to flawlessly illustrate the life and hardships of Kevin Phenicle. This is Piskor’s first full-fledged writing effort, yet it does not stumble a smidgen as he manages to engulf the reader in a vivid story that captures the very essence of curiosity a hacker feels. From the very first chapter of Wizzywig, you will be surely hooked.
Ed Piskor created Kevin Phenicle to be a combination of several major hackers in real-life, such as Kevin Mitnick, Kevin Poulsen, Emmanuel Goldstein, Joybubbles, and a dozen of other iconic figures in the subculture. Phenicle is used as sort of a representation of the early hacking community. Through “Boingthump,” we can feel how most of those individuals perceive their work, as well as learning their social mannerisms and hacking traits.
In Wizzywig, we follow Phenicle at his early stages disassembling several devices to discover out how they tick, and eventually finding loops and hacks that make him curious to find out more. He starts to phone phreak, whistling to make long distance calls into payphones. Then we see him evolve into a computer hacker, creating a virus and hacking into databases through the very earliest stages of the Internet. We even see him rigging telephone contests hosted by radio stations. Eventually, we understand why Phenicle does the things he does, rooting for this anti-hero but also fully comprehending the criminal mischief the character creates.
One thing Piskor did very well with Wizzywig was not glorifying the act of hacking and phreaking that Phenicle did. As much as you may find yourself rooting for the main character, you know from the very start that Kevin is seen as a criminal, and his jail time is apparent in early pages of the graphic novel. To help progress this idea even further, Piskor tied in fictional, yet still slightly true, news reports and other events in between chapters and panels to explain how Phenicle was seen to the public eye, what friends and family thought of the situations Kevin was in, and most important, how Boingthump himself felt about his own doings.
The sole constant that remains throughout the entirety of Wizzywig is the feeling of curiosity. Kevin Phenicle is a charming person with an extreme case of curiosity, which fuels his passion for hacking and uncovering more. The reader will definitely experience this emotion while reading Wizzywig, speeding through pages until the end to see how Phenicle handles jail, hacking, and running from the law. This is a very unique graphic novel that should absolutely be read by any person who thirsts for freshness in modern comics.
Written by Kevin Cortez
Illustrated by Estevan Sanchez
Existing as an artist or writer on the Internet can sometimes be very irritating. Anyone can become a blogger nowadays, thanks to BlogSpot and WordPress, even if they have absolutely no content with actual substance to contribute to the web. Likewise, this is said the same for artists and hand-drawn comics. Tumblr makes throwing content and original photography/artwork around much easier, and somewhere between the reblogging and “liking,” credit is loss and art is somewhat devalued, as it becomes merely a pretty image to gawk over for a split second of an attention span. This can be especially true with web-comics.
I’m not very fond of web-comics, but I have read plenty to make me laugh. Great web-comics tend to get lost in the slew of clones and cookie-cutter copy art presented, while some creators have issues being consistent with humor and content that can ultimately lose the attention they deserve at times. For the most part though, I’ve seen too many comics on the Internet that aren’t amusing at all and plain out suck total ass.
Thankfully, Lauren Barnett’s web-comics don’t suck total ass and are actually pretty damn funny. Her collection of hand-drawn comics are presented on her blog and her archives date back all the way to 2007. Fortunately, Hic & Hoc Publications released a huge chunk of those comics in a collection titled Me Likes You Very Much, featuring multiple comics by Lauren from 2008 through 2012.
What kind of comics am I talking here? Cute ones. Lauren Barnett draws various fruits and animals throughout her 1-4 panel comics, each with its own little face and an adorable stance. She also throws in a couple of curse words in some panels to turn the cuteness factor up a bit. That doesn’t distract from the actual content though, as Lauren pokes fun in each comic at everyday situations and clumsiness in short, tiny conversations. She also flawlessly showcases these daily awkward affairs in a very simple way, conveying sometimes hard to explain happenings in an effortless fashion.
Through each page’s few panels and talk bubbles, Barnett exploits conversations that most experience every day through witty comments and snappy remarks. These comics include certain “I wish I would’ve said that,” moments and real life frustrations. Hell, as adorable as the comics may seem, Barnett still comes across as a realist, lacing complicated thoughts and emotion behind adorable animals and characters.
It does seem odd and a bit out of place as an idea, but combining cute animals and fruits with real life stories of sarcasm and crudeness really just flow natural with Barnett. Because of this, Me Likes You Very Much is an exceptionally charming collection of comics (or web-comics, whatever you may see them as in book form) presented in a pretty unique way that needs all the praise it can get. This comic will go under the radar for sure, but this comic collection is something you surely do not want to miss. Her 187-page book contains enough laughter to motivate readers to share with friends and re-read over and over again, while the blog will definitely become a new addiction for new fans to hold over until a new effort arises.
Writing by Kevin Cortez
Illustrations by Estevan Sanchez