I’ve been missing for two months but I’m found again for the New Years. I’m now writing for Mass Appeal Magazine. This is my first article: an interview with Ed Piskor and his fantastic Hip Hop Family Tree.
The End of the Fucking World was originally a 16 part minicomic series created by Charles Forsman, owner of the small press company known as Oily Comics. The minis were sold at $1 a pop and quickly rose to the top of many lists in 2012, creating huge buzz over blogs as one of the best comics of the year, according to The Comics Journal and Comic Book Resources. Fantagraphics did a great deed for collecting these minis into one softcover book for all who couldn’t find a physical copy.
This year, the series is nominated for an Ignatz award in the “Outstanding Minicomic,” category, specifically for it’s 16th issue. I’m a bit late to the scene with this breathtaking title from Chuck Forsman, but damn do I feel like The End of the Fucking World will be talked about for an extensive amount of time. Forsman has illustrated a seriously dark comic in which two angst-filled teenagers are doing terrible things. If you want a glipse of how dark this comic is, just take a look at that bold statement that is the title of the book and stare at the intense tint of red on the cover. This kind of story is a void of comic book I don’t see often.
TEotFW revolves around two teens, named James and Alyssa, going on a road trip away from their parents and venturing into an awful journey of nothingness. Each chapter is told from a different perspective, with James and Alyssa alternating points of view between each part of the story. We’ll get a look at James’ view on Alyssa and his personal upbringing, while Alyssa will show readers how much she blindingly falls for James.
Through each chapter, we find James giving off more and more confirmation that he’s a young sociopath who is aiding in ruining Alyssa’s young life. His chapter starts off detailing his first affair with murdering animals at the age of 13, punching his father out and stealing his car at 17, and within a few more chapters, venturing further into sociopathic nature, revealing his troubling thoughts and murderous urges he tries restraining.
Alyssa’s views of the world are about the same as James, except more angst filled and less of an evident disorder. It could be Alyssa’s combination of young love with James, as well as James’ influence on her to accept doing horrible things in her life. She’s masked with fear throughout the book, while James is comfortable, knowledgable there’s something wrong with his way of thinking, yet never comprehending what exactly he is yearning to feel for.
All the adults featured in the book seem to represent an aggressive force of authority for the kids to run from and attempt to exploit. They break into a professor’s house who is on vacation and live together for a bit, experiencing what their lives could be if they could sustain a place with each other. The plot gathers momentum as the professor comes home early and James slits the man’s throat, showing Alyssa proof of him being a Satanist and a terrible person — more terrible than James may think he is, which is reason it was justifiable to actually murder in both of the kids’ eyes.
It is then that the story becomes deeper than what’s revealed on the angsty teenage surface. It’s a story that explores psychopathy. It explores teenage rebellion against authority and a need for love and understanding. The dark, simplistic style of drawing from Charles Forsman is that of Charles Schulz, injected with a syringe of inpurity. The creepy illustrations and the quickly escalated momentum of problems in The End Of The Fucking World is absolutely insane. It’s gritty and clearly conveyed as crazy. The discomforting, disturbing story is a unique comic book nothing short of fantastic.
Heck was originally serialized in the hefty sized Double Barrel — a digital comic released by Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon for a mere $0.99 from Top Shelf Comix. Evolved from Zander‘s contributions of the digicomic, Heck follows a man named Hector “Heck” Hammarskjöld and his adventures into Hell (or Heck, to fit the pun).
In Heck, Hector Hammarskjöld has inherited his father’s mansion and started a business in which he travels into Hell to deliver messages to the dead from the living. The mansion literally bears a gateway into Hell that Heck (Hector) regularly ventures into. He has a friend mummy named Elliot who aids him in adventures, in addition to being equipped with some heavy weaponry and heroic fearlessness.
Think Bone mixed with Dante’s Inferno here. Hector goes through limbo, fights a minotaur, and battles both literal and figurative demons. There’s an extremely imaginative, yet simple story in place with Heck, with the main theme revolving around Hector’s friendship with Elliot, and some other themes playing on morality. Ultimately, this is an adventurous, gripping Dante’s Inferno for kids to comprehend and adults to enjoy.
Hector is in Hell solely to deliver a letter from a woman named Amy to her deceased husband. He gives her a spellbound ring for them to communicate back and forth from the afterlife to the living and Amy is then told to look through past diary entries and think of past memories in order to speak with Hector. Thoughts and diaries of her past are processed as Hector’s words, whether she thinks it’s him or not. It’s an odd, but truly imaginative detail for a tale like Heck‘s that I thoroughly was impressed with while reading from page to page.
The story runs by very quickly, even at 285-collected pages, but it’s still a thrill to read. All characters in the story seem so established off the bat, to the point where I could actually see each personality having a standalone comic of their own. The wit in Heck is there, still having imagination without being overbearing with complicated detailing and rules. It’s a great blend of adventure, comedy, morality, and Hell. The black and white cartoony style will appeal to teens, but the post-read questions posed will definitely prompt some adult notions.
Kelly Froh sent me some mail. Inside of the envelope that was in my mailbox were seven mini-comics and zines for me to read. From what I’ve read, she seems to be a charming artist who writes autobiographical comics with a big sense of humor. Some of her comics come packed with awkward, while others seem to be bundled in harsh truths, but they all very much reak of personality. I thoroughly enjoyed her Weekend Casserole series, as well as her Tales from the Amazon series, in which she tells fascinating personal bits of her time working for Amazon.com. Check out her zines on her Etsy or check her official blog here.
Here’s what I thought about a couple of her zines:
Weeknight Casserole #1 Featuring some great illustration work, this is a collection of comics and drawings by Kelly Froh. It’s very charming, and if you were to check anything out by Froh, it’d be this series (she’s got a Weeknight Casserole #1, of course, but I can’t seem to find the link to buy it anywhere so I’m assuming it’s sold out). She’s got some funny stuff in this anthology, definitely. Froh captures the creepiness and the awkward out of others she illustrates and chooses to gossip to you about. It’s great stuff!
Samson: Milwaukee’s Biggest Celebrity This is the history of a gorilla named Samson who lived in the Milwaukee County zoo. Interesting and heavy on the informative side, no beating around the bush and concise with its delivery, I heavily enjoyed this zine.
Two Days Away From Staring At Birds From A Park Bench This mini-comic was about Kelly Froh losing her job. It feels like a lifetime of struggle being unemployed, though she was jobless for only 7 weeks, Kelly Froh guides you through a rough patch in her previous years.
Funny how I start reading this book directly before the Ignatz nominees for this year’s SPX were announced. Michael DeForge has not one, but two different books on that list for 2013, for Lose in the “Outstanding Series,” category, and Very Casual in the category of “Outstanding Anthology or Collection.” Rightfully so, it has earned that nomination as a solid collection of strange works by admired cartoonist, Michael DeForge.
The man has worked on numerous webcomics and strips, but this counts as his first full-fledged trade paperback. It’s also worth the buy for any comic book collector or indie comic artist/reader/admirer. It’s a damn beautiful comic book.
It’s also a very strange piece of work. It’s avant-garde. It’s innovative. It’s weird. It’s beautiful. It’s hilarious. It’s extremely colorful, mysterious, oddly funny, imaginative, and it’s absolutely all over the map of where comics can take you, and further. Needless to say, I love it.
The book opens up with a 23-paged narrative documentary on a deer animal DeForge made up called a “Spotted Deer,” parodying nature shows and using captions to explain this strange creature. We see how the deer is portrayed in the media, along with it’s weird penis and how it reproduces, and we also see a behind-the-camera look at the man who is obsessed with this weird animal. That can also be a metaphor for DeForge himself, or even a parody of the comic book/media world altogether. It’s a thick piece of thought for such a brief story, only featuring two-panels per page and using dark, vivid colors on every section the illustrator could.
DeForge‘s stories are dense. Or sometimes they’re not, or they are and I just can’t tell. There’s a sense of me not getting something or understanding exactly what DeForge was aiming at in some stories. It’s like Tim & Eric humor when I was first introduced to the duo.
There’s a short comic that’s beautifully illustrated in which a slice of pizza runs away from a sleeping man and the man catches it. There’s one where a man pops a tiny palm tree that’s on his arm as it were a pimpe, and is told “Don’t pop it! They’re just gonna spread,” by an unknown source. There’s another where a man is watching a filthy channel on television and watches a woman pull poop from her butt that turns into weird, colorful tubes that fill the entire panel up in gooey brown substance and yellow pipes. Sometimes I don’t get it, other times I do.
And if I don’t understand it, I still appreciate it and am left with an odd chill of coolness. Michael DeForge‘s art style is so on-point and pretty to look through, just peering from panel to panel can make anyone interested in his deranged, psychedelic cartooning.
The pages of Very Casual are unique, to say the least of the title. When reading a book from Daniel Clowes or Charles Burns, you can easily pick up their style from a mile away, simply by seeing which color palette Clowes would choose or how thick Burns‘ lines are in illustrations. Well, Michael DeForge has easily garnered a distinct method of illustrating and storytelling that’s more abnormal and deranged than others today, yet still expertly polished to a point of total control only DeForge can sustain. That’s saying a lot in the comic world, but that means miles to the underground.
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.
High Score: A Microcomic Anthology on Videogame History is a collection of charming short comics published by 2D Cloud, featuring works from artists Hanna Blumenreich, Peter Wartman, Eric Schuster, Saman Bemel-Benrud, and Toby Jones. The comic was originally a reward given out to those who pledged to Rusel DeMaria’s Kickstarter for the third edition of High Score: An Illustrated History of Electronic Game, but 2D Cloud has allowed for this wonderful mini-comic to be purchased online via their shop.
I’ve never seen a more delightful collection of comics compiled in such a small amount of space before. Through 24 pages, this mini-comic presents five different artists with exceptionally different styles, retelling a piece of video game’s past. Hanna Blumenreich tells a tale of being a young female gamer, with the help of radical coloring done by Raighne Hogan, the microcomic’s editor and designer. Peter Wartman recalls his first playing of a Metal of Honor game. The most vibrant and interesting story comes from artists Eric Schuster and Saman Bemel-Benrud, who illustrate the history of one of the worst video games of all time: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600 game console. Toby Jones gives a great laugh with his gamer jokes, with the final pages of the anthology end with impression images by Raighne Hogan’s nostalgic gaming art.
The actual book measures 4″ x 5″, so it’s pretty tiny, bearing 24 small pages. I’m new to this microcomic scene, but it was a surprise to see such a fantastic short print released in such a tiny package. It definitely works though. High Score: A Microcomic Anthology on Videogame History is an entertaining read, and at $4, it’s a fresh addition for any comic collection.