Update for 5/20/24

New review today for Dutchy Digest #10 by Steven Hager and Bruce Rosenberger. This week is not going to be my hoped for “review a comic from SPACE a day” week, mostly because there’s an arts festival going on literally right outside my front door all weekend. I’m distracted!

Hager, Steven & Rosenberger, Bruce – Dutchy Digest #10

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Dutchy Digest #10

I was all set to go with a review, but when I got to the Dutchy Digest website (which might be dead, because it’s looking rough, but it was the most current thing I could fine online for them) I was greeted with a banner ad that said “what is a vampire breast lift and how much does it cost? Take a look!” and suddenly I’m filled with questions that I would have never thought to ask. No I didn’t click it to check, as it might as well have said “click here for malware!”, but boy howdy am I curious. OK, back to reviewing! I’ll stay on topic. This is the story of a small town that makes a colossal doughnut, the theft of said doughnut, and the efforts from there to both figure out who stole it and why. There was a nice little fake-out a couple of pages before the end of the comic where I thought they were just going to leave the mystery hanging, but worry not! We do eventually figure out what happens. It’s a fun little story, in which I learned two new facts about hobos (that a group of five of them are called a “tramp” of hobos and that they leave a bent nail as tribute after being fed) and had to puzzle over whether or not the eventual thief would have had his plan work out how he wanted in real life. There are plenty of these issues out there and I’d say it’s worth hunting a few of them down, but I’m not sure how confident I am about suggesting that you use the linked website. Maybe it’s fine and it’s just the banner ads that are a giant red flag. Or maybe you should look them up on Facebook or something. Or hey, just go to SPACE in Columbus next year! No malware there. $3 (roughly)

Update for 5/16/24

New review today for Here and Now by Nick Stellanova, another new face from the SPACE pile.

Stellanova, Nick – Here and Now

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Here and Now

I had a couple of people ask me at SPACE this year about the general state of physical comics. I’m really not one to ask, because I’m well aware of the fact that I’m outside of the usual trend lines when it comes to physical media (I only review physical comics, my pandemic obsession was buying movies from the Criterion Collection, my current nine bookshelves are soon going to need a tenth, etc.). My thinking is that there will always be an audience for physical media, and that that audience will ebb and flow over the years. But even if physical comics do end up dying out, comics themselves are going to be fine, and I’m 100% sure about that. Why? Comics like this, which was Nick’s freaking senior thesis for CCAD in Columbus. Meaning that Nick is technically very much still learning, and this comic still managed to be (so far, anyway) one of my favorite comics from SPACE 2024. This is the story of a woman who loses her wife to cancer. That whole process is covered quickly, but there’s more than enough to hurt: the hospital bed with the severely physically diminished wife, the open coffin with the deceased wife all dressed up but seeming artificial, and finally the closed casket that’s about to be lowered into the ground. The rest of the comic is all about grief and how you try to get through it, in a more physically fantastical setting than most. Flora goes through her days in a fog, trying to see the point in going on, and soon discovers that she’s transported to a colorful, ever-shifting second world when she expresses aloud that she “doesn’t want to be here anymore.” She gets lost in this world a few times before she finally gets a glimpse of a familiar face: her deceased wife Iris. It goes in a direction I wasn’t expecting, so that’s all you’re getting out of me in terms of the story. But as for the overall future of comics? Not that I’m putting this all on Nick (save comics or else!), but based on this and other recent comics I’ve seen, yeah, comics are going to be just fine.

Update for 5/24/24

New review today for Cosmic Taco Zero by Joseph Morris, and it’s becoming very clear to me that I’m not going to be able to get through the SPACE pile in one month. Do I have an old timey Optical Sloth week in me, where I go back to my habits for the first decade or so of the website and do five reviews in a week? Ugh, maybe.

Morris, Joseph – Cosmic Taco Zero

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Cosmic Taco Zero

Oh, SPACE. I can always count on going to the convention, getting a book from somebody who seems completely new to me, then going home and seeing that I already have a few reviews up of their older comics. In this case I reviewed three of Joseph’s comics in 2005, 2006 and 2009 respectively, so maybe I can be forgiven for thinking he was brand new in 2024. So hey, what’s this one all about? I’m guessing the “zero” is meant to indicate an origin story or issue number, but since he doesn’t have any numbered issues of the series on his website I’m only guessing. This one starts off with a right wing nutjob politician further terrifying the masses after something huge has fallen from the sky, killing millions of people. From there we pull back to see what exactly this giant item was, what was on it and how it came to crash. We get the origin story of the star of the show (who I’m leaving a mystery just in case it’s relevant for future issues), then several pages of pin-ups and unconnected images. What about the Cosmic Taco? Unclear. He definitely shows up a few times (assuming that’s him on the cover), but he doesn’t do a whole lot. It’s an intriguing issue, which is pretty much what a #0 is designed to be, so kudos on that. Here’s hoping it’s not another 15 years before I review another one of his comics, because I’m curious to see what happens next. Not to mention the fact that he has all kinds of comics available on his website, so clearly he’s been putting in the work. No price, and it’s not currently listed on his website, but I’m going to guess $5. Ask the man, if I’m wrong he’ll set you straight!

Update for 5/10/24

New review today for Noumenon by Maryanne Rose Papke, happy weekend y’all!

Papke, Maryanne Rose – Noumenon

Website

Noumenon

Maryanne describes this on her website as “an allegorical tale of the sun and the moon,” and wow is it ever tempting to leave it at that. Not for negative reasons, but because this comic takes you on a real journey with a thoroughly satisfying conclusion, and picking apart at the details is the kind of thing that lessens the joy of discovering them all for yourself. Huh, sounds like I just talked myself out of a reviewing gig. Well, before I vanish is a puff of smoke at my own irrelevance, this one starts off with an image of a whale in a boat. Yes, I said “in,” so right away the reader is off guard and a little confused. From there we’re told that a bird is inside the whale, and that bird is the moon. So three pages in, it should be clear to everybody both that this is an allegory and that you should be ready for anything. Next she takes us back to an older story, about a time when a spirit and an inkling were sailing together on a sea of stones. If you have a problem with this tale, take it up with the monkey with the silver tail. I can be as cranky and cynical as anybody, but it’s always a joy to just be carried away by a story like this. Good to see that Maryanne is still making comics (It’s at least 10 years since I first saw her stuff, maybe 15) and she’s at the top of her game with this one. $3

Update for 5/8/24

New review today for Confessions of a Craft Show Vendor by Andrew Mosher, and yes of course he was at SPACE. Not much reason to wonder about that for the rest of the month, unless otherwise mentioned…

Mosher, Andrew – Confessions of a Craft Show Vendor

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Confessions of a Craft Show Vendor

I was all set to unload on this comic, because I bought it at a convention and there’s no contact information of any kind in it nor even the author’s name. Luckily the title was unique enough that Google was able to find it and him, but seriously people. Putting your name in your book is the bare minimum, unless you’re on the run or something. That’s a cranky way to start the review of a comic that I thoroughly enjoyed, but little things like that still bug me. This is a collection of some of Andrew’s experiences at craft shows, and aw, I just noticed that he’s wearing a King Cat shirt on the cover. Subjects include the importance of checking the weather, a new vendor learning the hard way where you get a tent, an impressive assortment of the sights and sounds of the con (which is kind of selling these stories short, as there are a whole lot of them), an honest but inevitable reaction from a couple of friends who wanted a portrait drawn of them, and the brief joy of being compared to some of your comics heroes. It’s a solid enough collection of stories that I once again wish that I had bought more of Andrew’s stuff, but that’s always a crapshoot at conventions. $5

Update for 5/6/24

New review for Kekionga Digest 2024 by Pam Bliss, a returning champion. Could be you’ll be seeing a few of those long lost comics names in these reviews for the upcoming and ongoing SPACE month…

Bliss, Pam – Kekionga Digest 2024

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Kekionga Digest 2024

What can I say, sometimes I have to guess a bit on the title, but I’ve decided to go with the unfounded assumption that Pam may make other “digest” minis in the future, so I’ll differentiate it by adding the year. Another unwanted peek behind the curtain on my few minutes of research after being baffled by the title! This is #61 in Pam’s series of mini comics; to be clear this is one branch of her comics, as she’s been making them since 1989. That’s right kids, over a decade before I started this website, and further proof that quality minis have been around for ages. This one is a collection of short pieces, mostly centered around roughly half a dozen characters. There’s Zinj (the narrator, and a creature that’s apparently also in the fossil record), Mr. Frisky (an adorable name for a terrifying shark), Mr. Rock (pretty clear Mr. Spock stand-in), and a few others I’ll leave for you to discover. Stories in here deal with encouraging the reader to try their hand at drawing, an unlikely place for a small Victorian child, the fatal flaw of a ghost, an adorable Anubis (on the same day I read a Harlan Ellison short story with regular sized Anubis in it. Synchronicity!) the woman (kind of) with the riddles, and a truly unique new set of options for the Fantastic Four. It’s another solid collection of stories from Pam, which should come as no surprise, seeing as she’s been doing this for 35 years now. If you’re just hearing about her now, check out some of her comics why don’t you? I’m not seeing an easy place to buy them online, but you can read a bunch of them at the link provided, and I’ll bet she’d be willing to sell you some comics if you contact her. $5

Update for 5/2/24

New review today for Do You Think of Me? by Felix Hustead. Two SPACE reviews so far, two comics that aren’t readily available to buy of their respective websites. On this I am a curmudgeon, but it’s always a good idea to have your comics as easy to purchase as possible. Just think of the 0 to 7 (I’m just guessing here) people I’m sending your way with a review!

Hustead, Felix – Do You Think of Me?

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Do You Think of Me?

This is a thoughtful and at least slightly heartbreaking story about losing touch with a friend after moving away for college, but if you’ve ever gradually lost touch with anybody, you’re going to feel a bit of a sting reading this one. I’ve tried a few times to go through some of my older memorabilia (I barely ever throw anything away, it’s a problem!), and the bulk of it involves people I lost touch with 20 years ago, maybe even longer. At the time each of them took up a big chunk of my world, but would they even care to see some of this stuff now? Not that this comic has anything to do with me, but it got me thinking about my own issues, which is as solid of an endorsement of a story as I can think of. This one starts off with June getting home after graduating from college, and we’re introduced to her as she’s writing Daisy a letter. We quickly see that Daisy never responded to these letters and June crosses them out after she writes them, using them more for therapy than anything else. Throughout the book we flip back and forth between June’s present and her memories of better times with Daisy. As she goes through these memories it becomes clear to her that Daisy had been drifting away for awhile, but figuring that out doesn’t do much to lessen the pain of it. In the end it’s about acceptance and moving on with your life, or at least giving it your best shot. And it even has me debating joining Facebook or something else horrible to see what those old friends are up to, and if you knew how much I hated “the socials,” you’d know what a huge statement that is. I think this one was $15. Not seeing it on their website currently, but I did buy it last week, so I’m thinking there are still copies available…

Update for 4/30/24

SPACE month? Yeah, SPACE month, I reckon I got enough comics from the show to pull that off. Er, “SPACE month” is technically going to be May, so ignore the fact that the first review of it is going to be in April. New review today for Playboy Dan by David G. Caldwell!

Caldwell, David G. – Playboy Dan

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Playboy Dan

Has anybody out there seen the original Dolly Parton Playboy cover? If you, you might be having nightmares after seeing that crazy-eyed dude in place of her picture. Also, I’m clearly still a sucker for the autobio comics, as there were about a dozen to choose from at David’s table (SPACE 2024, future readers) and I went right for this one. Do I regret not also grabbing the wrestling comic? Reader, you know I do. This is a story from David’s time working at a used movie/music/games/comics store and the reliable event that happened every time they had a sale on VHS tapes and Playboys: Dan would come in a clear the place out, even bringing his own tubs for transport. As their checkout system was fairly antiquated, this would take quite a while to process, which gave the staff plenty of time to get to know the guy. And since “crazy” is reductive and hurtful more often than not, let’s just say that Dan’s theories about just about everything were a shade off of the norm. A conspiracist, is what I’m saying, and they had a great time getting his thoughts on anything and everything. Still, eventually he stopped coming (or the store closed down; David doesn’t say which), and the remaining staff were left with their own theories as to what happened to him and what he did with all of those VHS tapes and issues of Playboy. As “resold them” was considered too boring as a theory, they had to get creative. Hey, you try! What could somebody do with piles of VHS tapes and magazine? It’s an interesting mix of possibilities, although my guess was an enclosed cot made of VHS tapes, wallpapered with Playboy images. Hey, there are no wrong guesses! Anyway, it’s a fun little story, and even though it’s not listed on his website at the moment, I bought it from him literally two days ago, so I’m guessing he still has a few tucked away. $5 (If I’m remembering correctly)

Update for 4/26/24

Ever read one of those graphic novels that kicks you in the face hard enough that you can’t help but stop what you’re doing to write a review? No? Maybe it’s just me. New review for Tender by Beth Hetland!

Hetland, Beth – Tender

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Tender

Here I was, all set to rave about this as an absolutely stellar debut graphic novel (which it very much is, don’t get me wrong) only to discover that I’d reviewed one of her minis 15 years ago (The Legend of Johnny Rocker, and hey, at least this gave me the opportunity to clean up the text and the link). So it’s not like she’s brand new to comics, it’s just that this is her first hefty comic book. Yes, that’s my preferred term for graphic novels, and no, of course it never caught on. Yeesh, I’m rambling, and if any readers are wondering, yes, this is indeed why I don’t usually post reviews after a couple of drinks. But I just finished this, and I can’t put it onto my bookshelf without getting some thoughts out. This will be tricky to talk about without giving anything away, so be warned: I’ll try my best, but I unreservedly recommend it, even though you’re pretty much guaranteed to be disturbed by it. This is the story of a young woman (Carolanne) who had a crush on a guy at work and dreamed of a perfect life. Beth chose a fascinating structure for the book, starting with the ending (the tone changes completely once you’ve finished and know what’s happening in those opening images), followed by her successful relationship that preceded it, followed by her pregnancy and her taking time off of work. All relatively normal so far, even benign at times, outside of a dream(?) sequence that hints at the horrors to come. The flashbacks continue, as we see Carolanne in the utter mundanity of her life before she landed what she thought of as her dream boyfriend and eventual husband. I’m glossing over this quickly, because this is going to be on all kinds of “best of” lists by the end of the year and you’re all going to read it anyway. Right? Anyway, we eventually end up back in the happy stage of the relationship, with her pregnant and taking maternity leave from work, before something absolutely devastating happens. Is that a bad place to stop telling you what happens next? Oh well, that’s all the specifics you’re getting out of me. What happens from there was something that could have gone predictably in a number of ways under lesser hands, but there were all kinds of surprises all the way through the end, and anybody trying to predict things would have at best only guessed at the level of disintegration of her life, friends, and self. This is terrifying, deeply disturbing stuff, and I can’t wait to see what Beth does next. $19.99

Update for 4/24/24

New review today for the last of the mini kus comics, DJ School by Anu Ambasna. Of course, that’s just the last of the minis. They also sent along a heftier book that I saved for last, meaning any time now, I guess. Oh, and I forgot to include a link to SPACE in the last update. Oops!

Ambasna, Anu – DJ School

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DJ School

DJ school! We’ve all thought about it. OK, some of us have, at least, and maybe even in the olden times when it involved switching out actual records. Why, in my day… man, sorry about that. Narrowly avoided a serious old man rant. Anyway! In this issue our hero is bored at his day job and dreams of being a DJ. That terrible boss is wrong; a kitchen is absolutely a perfect place to pretend to be a DJ. He gets fired, more or less, and tells us his origin story, which involves hearing “Firestarter” by Prodigy at the age of 3 and having it change his life. How many DJs did that song create, do you reckon? It has to be hundreds at a minimum. He looks online and finds a course about becoming a DJ, although he finds it boring and a bit obvious, at least until he discovers… the secret trick. As we move on to his first gig, our hero is nervous, so a well-meaning (?) liason offers him what solves all problems at a rave: hard drugs. Our hero thinks he’s maybe bitten off more than he can chew, as he can no longer tell where his hands are, but in case of emergency he can always rely on… the secret trick! It’s a fun story with a happy ending (spoilers I guess), which is very much not a guarantee with the mini kus books. It’s also $7.95 by itself or $22 if you buy it with three other comics and, as always, you know which of those two options I recommend.