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Friday, February 24, 2012

(Some of my) FAVORITE COMICS OF 2011

Again, I feel like I spent much of 2011 working on my own projects and/or traveling around North America, and my reading seems to have suffered.  Hopefully that will rectify itself this year.  Meanwhile, here's a short list of some of the comics I read in 2011 that stood out for me.

* * *
In no particular order:

Streakers by Nick Maandag (Mean Dog Comics)

Maandag's brilliantly ridiculous look at a motley band of streaking enthusiasts is played for deadpan laughs and subtle weirdness.  From their shitty jobs, to the perfectly sad and predictable way they deal with a couple of young females who show interest in their "club," Maandag paints a spot-on picture of loneliness, self-delusion, and nerd-world pecking orders.


Brut de Carnet by Laurent Lolmède (United Dead Artists)

Lovingly crafted in full color, Lolmède's impressionistic and rubbery sketchbook drawings depict street scenes, politics, family life, and everything else in all their glorious imperfection.  Published on Stephane Blanquet's new United Dead Artists line, I'm so glad this book exists.


Gaylord Phoenix by Edie Fake (Secret Acres)

Originally serialized in zine form, Fake's complete Gaylord Phoenix is one of those books that, as you read, you begin to realize the amazing feat that's unfolding before your eyes:  You can sense the growing perfection of the thing.  As the story develops, and the end approaches, you're practically cheering him on: "You can do it!"  You want so bad for all the threads to come together, for all the promise of the earlier pages to be fulfilled...  And you turn the page.  And it succeeds.  This is one of the most emotionally satisfying comics I've ever read.  It works.



The Wolf by Tom Neely (I Will Destroy You!)

Neely's weird, dark, outsider comics come to full bloom here, in this wild and gorgeous "painted novel." The Wolf tells the highly personal story of two lovers in all its grim, frightening, and erotic glory.  Absolutely unlike any other comic out there, the dangers, horrors, and passion of sexual love and self-loathing are intimately explored here in full color.


Even the Giants by Jesse Jacobs (Adhouse Books)

This brilliant debut is a series of interconnecting arctic stories featuring an eskimo, an ice-locked cargo ship, and a pair of gigantic, god-like monkey/yeti creatures, interspersed with wickedly funny stories of everyday modern-life:  landlords, bad roommates, and more.  Then there's the recurring pair of dudes wandering through a menacing, psychedelic otherworld, all with the underlying theme of nature's brutality and our search for warmth within it.  The artwork is mesmerizing, and the writing is understated when necessary, dryly bitter as needed, and impeccably pitched.


The Body of Work by Kevin Huizenga (USS Catastrophe)

This little comic zine collects a few random, recent stories including the remarkable "Postcard From Fielder" Parts One and Two, quietly brilliant depictions of the everyday, with all the ramifications of mortality and beauty that you've come to expect from Kevin, but perfectly, exquisitely rendered.  Plus a few more experimental pieces.  I love Kevin's comics, and have for some time, but "Postcards from Fielder" may be the best work he's ever done.


Spotting Deer by Michael DeForge (Koyama Press)

All of DeForge's recent comics are highly recommended, but this one, a gorgeous, self-sustained natural history of an imaginary animal, the Spotting Deer, is absolutely perfect in its cohesion.  Beautifully drawn, lovingly colored, funny, weird, and sad, all in one.



Forgotten Fantasy (Sunday Press)

I had flipped through some of Sunday Press's previous giant-sized hardbound classic comics collections (they're printed at the original tabloid size of the newspapers where they were first published), and even dropped the big bucks for their Gasoline Alley collection (one of my favorite comics ever), but it wasn't till I sat down with this edition that I really got what all the fuss is about.  For the first time, I could imagine being a kid at the time, settling down on the floor with these immense sheets of artistic brillance and mystery spread before me.  It must have been awe-inspiring.  These fantasy comics make full use of the resources available to cartoonists of the time-- giant, mesmerizing worlds unfold before your eyes with each turn of the page.  Mind-blowing.


Night Animals by Brecht Evens (Top Shelf)

This beautiful, perfectly crafted pamphlet presents two luciously drawn, full color comics.  In the first, a man in a bunny suit searches for love high and low;  in the second, a young girl enters womanhood in a brillant story that segues seamlessly from the mundane to the cosmic.  Engagingly drawn, with humor and plenty of darkness, I could sit and look at this book all day.  Plus:  the price is right.


Fantastic Four Omnibus Vol. 2 by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee (Marvel)

It was about three or four years back that I got into superhero comics-- by which I mean the classic superhero stuff of the 40s through 60s, and in particular the work of Mr. Jack Kirby.  Superheroes get a bad rap, because they're awful.  But these classic comics should not be dismissed.  The Fantastic Four comics, the comics that begat the "Silver Age," stretched the boundaries of what superheroes were all about, but in this particular collection, which features the justifiably lauded "Galactus Trilogy," you get the sense that Kirby and co-writer Stan Lee were actually blowing their own minds while producing it.  You can practically feel the ground breaking under their feet as they explore their new world with a passion and grand vision previously unknown to comics.


Tel-Tales #1 by Dan Zettwoch (USS Catastrophe)

I always use this particular comic as an example of why I'm not too worried about comics going digital.  Tel-Tales is a story from Dan's dad's youth, working at the phone company in Louisville, KY, back when lines were still largely hand-managed.  In it, he presents a brief vignette about the threat that growing technology poses to the hard-won skills the workers had developed over the years.  A great story for our age, right?  But then Zettwoch puts it all together in a small, hand-wrought package, featuring silk-screened vintage punch cards as covers, plus an intricate fold-out centerfold...  in other words, a package that is impossible to duplicate on a screen.  You absolutely have to hold it in your hands to truly appreciate it.  Viva le rock.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

2012

Hey everyone, here's my first comic of the new year. It'll appear in all its newsprint and smeared-ink glory in the upcoming Roctober 50th issue extravaganza. And probably in King-Cat 73 as well, which I hope to have out by the end of summer.

Click to enlarge

So what else is going on? Well, I have some plans for 2012, let's see what happens. I really hope to get back onto a two issue a year schedule for King-Cat. The last bunch of years have been so confusing and unpredictable for me that it was hard to do. But things are settling in here and hopefully I can get it done. I have plenty of stories, just not a lot of focus.

On the tour front, I'll be heading to the Southeast again in a month or so-- for a 5-day workshop I'm running with Tom Hart at the new Sequential Artist's Workshop in Gainesville. (There's still one slot open, so if you're interested contact the school ASAP!)

After Gainesville, I'll head up the coast with stops at SCAD, Duke University, Chapel Hill Comics, and Atomic Books in Baltimore. Dates here.

Convention-wise, I know for sure I'll be at SPACE (Columbus), TCAF (Toronto), CAKE (Chicago), and SPX. Probably a bunch of regional shows too (Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis etc). I'll be in Gainesville during the CHICAGO ZINE FEST (sigh), but Jake of Roctober will be manning a stripped down Spit and a Half table for me there.

Speaking of Spit and a Half: In the nineties when I was running the distro, my plan was to start publishing other people's books as well. I began with comix-zines from Jenny Zervakis, Tom Hart, and Jeff Zenick, but health issues prevented me from moving forward on that front. Well, I have slow, tentative plans to begin publishing again, beginning with a new international comics anthology called POSSUM, out sometime this year. Check back for details. And other ideas which shall remain unannounced at this point.

Meanwhile, I'll continue work on THE HOSPITAL SUITE, my all-new collection of comics for D+Q. It'll include three medium-length stories, The Hospital Suite, 1998, and True Anxiety, documenting my health issues of the past 15 years. A barrel of laughs, for sure! (Actually, it won't be all doom and gloom, I promise!) Perhaps this book will be published in 2013?

OK. That's plenty. Best of luck to everyone in 2012. Let's hope the world doesn't end.

LOVE,
John P.