Update for 6/14/24

New review today for Teen Girl Killed by Lauren McCallister, happy weekend y’all!

McCallister, Lauren – Teen Girl Killed #1

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Teen Girl Killed #1

I’ve been wondering what Lauren had been working on since I read her Bad Sex comic several years back, but as is often the case with this brain full o’ artists, I often leave it at wondering and not googling. Well, it turns out that she’s five issues into this series that she started way back in 2016, so it is once again confirmed that I’m a big dummy. I’d swear that she hasn’t had a table at CXC for the last few years. Anyway, who cares about that? This one tells the story of Lauren’s past (unless it’s one of those Seth-esque “kind of true but not literally” type of autobio stories), starting with her in an obvious rut and bored silly at school. Another girl asks her if she wants to hang out sometime (at that age when it was just that easy), and Lauren’s life changed considerably. She was introduced to a game called “dare or dare” pretty much right away, which is just what it sounds like: truth or dare without the truth. It immediately got sexual, which sounds about right for high school kids, and which leads later to a belated changing of the rules to ban that kind of thing, as it also had the potential to get rapey in a hurry. The rest of the comic is mostly teenage meandering, with subtle but huge milestones piling up all around her. First time drunk, first time (?) being yelled at by the parents for staying out late, getting the boy she liked stolen out from under her by her own friend, those sorts of things. It feels to me like there’s an undercurrent of distance here, which makes sense considering the fact that Lauren is probably a decade out of high school (I’m guessing based on information in her last book), and it also helps this book from devolving into a coming of age cliche. It’s also the first of five issues (so far), so who knows where things go from here. It’s a hell of a promising start though, and yes, I clearly should have bought more than one issue when I was at Laughing Ogre today. Oh well, now I have an excuse to go back. Oh, and that title? No idea. Maybe it comes into play in a literal fashion later, maybe not. Read more to find out! $6

Update for 6/13/24

This week just about got away from me, but here’s a new review for Eyeland #13 by Nick Forker.

Forker, Nick – Eyeland #13

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Eyeland #13

It looks like that tricksy Nick Forker has been working on a longer story, so my usual plan to randomly review his issues is not going to work anymore. But hey, this one is comprised of a few short pieces, so I’m going to cheat this time around before going back to them sequentially. More information than anybody would ever need or want, that’s the Optical Sloth promise! Like I said, this is a collection of shorter pieces, with one story that’s obviously part of a bigger narrative. There’s some talking cat and dog mayhem to start things off (if you consider a calm conversation to be mayhem), a peek at some actual aliens and their exact level of competence, a badger confronting several animals in what is a clear attempt by Nick to justify drawing a whole bunch of animals (no shame here, the man can draw all sorts of animals damn near photo realistically), the piece that’s part of the bigger story (that’ll make more sense when I go back through the other issues, but it looks like our hero is headed to the real world), and a bit of commentary on the quality of the drinking water in various cities in the U.S. He’s not wrong, and it would be nice if ANY CITY took pride in their water. Finally there’s a personal story about the time he got beat up about 20 years ago, the damage it did to him physically and mentally, and what it feels like to sneeze when your jaw is wired shut. That image of him on one knee, trying to play off the pain as his friends looked on, is rough to look at. He also goes into his reasoning for talking about this now, and how our identities are a construct of the stories we tell ourselves. I’d recommend going and watching the talk Dan Clowes gave at CXC 2023, as he really dug into the unreliability of memory and how tough it is to nail anything down when the other people who were part of those memories have passed away. What does that leave you with? Anyway, yes, this is another really solid issue, and he’s apparently stuck forever (with Brian Canini and a few others) on the list of artists that I just can’t seem to keep up with here on this blog. Still waiting on that eccentric billionaire that decides to keep me as a pet just so I can read comics and write about them forever… $7

Update for 6/6/24

New review for the very last of the mini kus adjacent books, Good Night and Sweet Dreams! by Teddy Goldenberg. Until next time, mini kus!

Goldenberg, Teddy – Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

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Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

This is a collection of short stories, almost entirely about situations that are just bizarre and otherworldly enough to make you feel uneasy, like they couldn’t really happen but still might one day. Dreams, in other words, which I guess is right there in the title. Stories include showing off a revolutionary way to make comics (but having it fail when the pressure is really on), an attempt to salt the earth to help plants grow and the effect it has on everybody involved, a conference where our hero is forced to try and sleep in the lobby before getting rid of his pants and attempting to find a bathroom (in that order), and being young enough not to care about a serial killer on the loose, not that that’s guaranteed to keep anybody safe. The heart of the book, to me, was Prison Laps. Our hero, as part of a mysterious prison sentence, was forced to run laps around his old hometown. Which was fine, until the route changed to force them to go near the scary hotel. It was nerve-racking but manageable, but then the route was changed again to force them to go THROUGH the hotel. Our hero speaks out against this, which doesn’t go well for him. Finally he reaches the roof and the sample page below happens. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it’s one of the times that this book got an audible laugh out of me. The reason may surprise you! It’s a damned solid collection of stories, and after looking at his website I’m really curious about that Cobra parody as well. Give it a chance, why don’t you? $15 (ish)

Update for 6/4/24

It’s the triumphant return of Matt Kish, and a new review for Spudd 64 #5!

Kish, Matt – Spudd 64 #5

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Spudd 64 #5

I’ve been robbed! That’s the only reason I can think of as to why my copies of Spudd 64 #3 and 4 are missing, anyway. I had it all planned out for this lazy Sunday morning: grab all of the previous issues of the series, read them, then read the new one and talk about it. Simple! But since I could only find #1 and 2 (I have copy #4 of the 25 copy print run for #1, in case anybody was curious), I’ll have to go with my own reviews to remember the other issues. Terrifying. This issue is Matt’s return to the world of Spudd 64, and since the last issue of it came out in 2007, I’d strongly advise you to at least read my reviews of those issues before going on. Matt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease recently, but he’s been wanting to return to this world for ages, so he went with a minimalistic approach with his art. Have no fear though, this is still very much the world of Spudd 64. This issue starts with Hassan picking up the unconscious body of Spudd 64 from space, where’s he’s been drifting since the end of issue #3. Don’t take my word for it, Matt was nice enough to include synopses for the previous issues at the end of the comic. He also includes a couple of other comics in the timeline, including one that’s still unpublished, so he clearly has big plans. Hassan takes a leisurely journey through space, sees several odd and wonderful sights, and is eventually shot down and crash lands on a strange planet. It turns out to be a peaceful world, but Spudd didn’t survive the crash landing, so Hassasn sadly buries him. But after several years a tree grows from the grave of Spudd, and it happens to have a creepy face on it. Could this be the end of our hero? Well, that would be a heck of a thing to come back to a series after 17 years away, wouldn’t it? This is a quiet, contemplative issue, and a very welcome return to this world. I didn’t touch much on Hassan’s time on the world, but it’s all about exploring and coming to terms with the fact that he’ll probably never leave that world. I’m not seeing an easy place to buy this online, but get in touch with the man, maybe he even has copies of previous issues to help you complete the story so far. As for me, I’m going to find a spelunker to go through my comics caves to find those two missing issues… $3

Update for 5/31/24

New review today for For Thee by Suzanne Baumann. Hey look at that, a full week of reviews! No, I’m still not through the SPACE pile, but I’ll sprinkle the rest of ’em in with the other reviews. There’s still a new issue of Spudd 64, after all, which should come as welcome news to a bunch of you. But I can’t review that without going back and reading the previous issues, now can I?

Baumann, Suzanne – For Thee

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For Thee

Did I go into SPACE this year hoping to get a new comic from Suzanne? Of course, it’d been at least 5 years, maybe more. But I’m also a sucker for a good collection, so here we are. This is a collection of the minis that Suzanne made specifically to have free comics to offer at cons. She made a new one every year for several years before finding out that the plan was unsustainable, as that’s a whole lot to manage along with everything else that goes into planning for a con. She has an informative introduction for anybody who’s curious about the process, and as somebody who rambles on a regular basis (I’d say “professional basis”, but come on now), I can appreciate an intro that goes into detail about a grammatical error that’s bugged her for years and was only fixed for this collected edition. If you’re thinking that you go to every con all the time and probably have already seen these stories, I kind of thought the same thing, and only two of these stories were familiar. This is a collection of seven stories, dealing with things like a talking teddy bear that gets far too existential with a small child, the joy of skipping and how it’s somehow not for everybody, a detailed strategy session for dealing with whiteheads, getting called out at school after forgetting about the social hierarchy (also kudos for the information on the back cover proving that she was correct way back when), a more realistic love song, aliens at the bar, and the inevitable conclusion of being unable to change your mind. She was correct in her intro, these stories held up really well and I’m glad she put them all out in this collected format. I also saw several minis on her website that I wish I had picked up (two 24 hour comics in a row? Done over a 48 hour period? The mind reels), but hey, there’s always next time. $8

Update for 5/30/24

New review today for Anywhere Man #3 by Rob Cooley, and if you can find a website for the man, let me know, eh?

Cooley, Rob – Anywhere Man #3

Website (sort of but not really)

Anywhere Man #3

I do love a cautionary tale from SPACE, and this one fits the bill. Because, and this is an easy one: there’s no contact info anywhere in the comic. Sure, this has happened before, but I can usually at least find an Instagram page with some digging. This time around, not so much. There’s the bizarre “history of comics” type page that at least has details of his work, and nothing else. But hey, screw it, I’m still going to talk about the comic. First, a personal note to Rob: if your totals were off by $2 after SPACE, somehow another copy of this issue was shoved into this one. Meaning yes, I ended up with two copies of #3. Not sure if that was you handing me the comics or me grabbing them without paying attention, but my apologies either way, and if I see you at another con I owe you $2. Should I finally start talking about the comic? Yeah, I’ve stalled long enough. This is the story of a planet killing monster (unnamed, I think), but the comic starts off with him worrying about an escaped villain named Mindscare. We don’t hear anything else about that guy, as the entirety of the issue is a fight between Anywhere Man, Star Acer (a local hero) and the planet killer. There’s a loopy Kirby vibe to some of his artwork that I enjoyed, but the story itself is fairly typical superhero stuff, which is not really for me at this point. But hey, that’s just me. If it’s still your thing this issue is pretty well done, although it does hit the “God” talk a little heavy, considering the fact that they’re literally fighting a planet killer and that sort of thing might make one question their faith or even the concept of faith. Overthinker, that’s me! Ooh, my own super hero name. Anyway, if you can find this and if you still enjoy the superheroes, give this one a shot! Hell, if you can track me down you can have one of my extra copies if nothing else… $2

Update for 5/28/24

New review for Bad Day For Melvin by Aaron Zvi Felder. Hey, look at that, I’m more than halfway done with SPACE week! Maybe I’ll pull this one off after all…

Zvi Felder, Aaron – Bad Day For Melvin

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Bad Day For Melvin

Oh, poor Melvin, that dude cannot catch a break. Looking around Aaron’s website it appears that Melvin has been a character for awhile now, with him changing here and there as Aaron’s style evolved. Or it’s a bunch of different characters named “Melvin” and I’m just not understanding it because I’m parachuting into a situation where he’s been working with the character for years and I’m doing a quick skim of his website. This particular comic is an epic story about a fairly simple day. Aaron really takes the time to let the situations breathe, whether they’re deadly or mundane, which really helps with the sense of inevitability of the whole story. We start off with a view of Melvin’s normal routine, with a ticking clock problem left in place when he leaves to walk to work. Along his walk a tragedy occurs, as he’s entirely too close to a crashing airplane. He gets away without being hurt (or this would have been a very short comic), but not unscathed, which was plenty for his supervisor to notice and chastise. Our hero then remembers that he left his coffee pot on but, office culture being what it is, he doesn’t get permission to leave, so he has to wait for his lunch break. Is there also an obstacle over his break that prevents him from getting home promptly? Reader, you’d better believe it. He arrives home to the sample image below, which I just could not resist using. From here he returns to work, but as you might have guessed from that last panel, that doesn’t go well either. It’s a “three strikes and you’re out” rule at work, and if you’re wondering if there was also a third strike, there absolutely was, and you wouldn’t guess it in a million years. It’s a spellbinding journey, and I couldn’t help but root for the poor guy even though it was clear that he was doomed. Is this the winner of SPACE so far? Eh, it’s tacky to rank comics like that, but let’s just call it one of the better comics I got from a solid pile of them. $15

Update for 5/28/24

New review today for Cute Girl Magazine by Addi Kalmbach. Don’t be afraid of the title, you faux macho cowards!

Kalmback, Addi – Cute Girl Magazine

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Cute Girl Magazine

This was the blindest of blind buys at SPACE this year, and I had no idea what to expect from it with that title, but I’m happy to report that it was a bizarre and unexpectedly dark extravaganza of madness. Addi describes it as “inspired by tigerbeat magazine and my love for surrealist horror,” and while I was expecting the first part of that sentence, the second was a welcome surprise. I should note here that it’s entirely possible that Addi described this all thoroughly at SPACE and I’m just blanking on it now because it’s a month later and, as has occasionally been established, my brain bad sometimes. This one is going to be tricky to review, so I’ll say right now that this is gorgeous/spooky/hilarious, and if that general combo sounds appealing to you, go in blind! The stock is low, according to the website, so you might not even have time to read this review. If you need more convincing, topics/stories in this one include suggestions for where to keep your teeth, a terrifying warning about pet rocks, one of the funnier set of fake zodiac signs that I’ve seen (believe me kids, I’ve seen people get this very wrong, which is not what happens here), some facts about Shadow Man, a good tip on a hot new trend, trying to pick a boy for the perfect date, and a page that tells you how to get out of an awkward situation, complete with encouragement. Oh, and Addi also manages to make an ad for spoons deeply disturbing, in case you were wondering if that was possible. It is! So yeah, it’s a nice mix of pieces, why not give it a try already? $15

Update for 5/27/24

I’m giving the “review a day” thing a shot this week, and I’m saying it right off the bat so I can’t weasel out of it later. Otherwise the website police would come after me. Right? New review today for Plastic People #10-12 by Brian Canini!

Canini, Brian – Plastic People #10-12

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Plastic People #10-12

I’ve been promising/threatening to do this for awhile now, and the day is here: it’s a combo review! Honestly, it’s mostly the reviewer equivalent of self defense, as Brian is too prolific for me to keep up with otherwise, and even after this chunk I’m still a good 8 issues behind. These actually are all grouped around a single event, the first murders in 20 years, that happened last time around. Or was it #8? Recently, anyway. #10 starts off with a press conference assuring the public that everything is fine, followed quickly by a peek into the actual investigation and the obvious conclusion that everything is not at all fine. There’s a missing ear, and a trail of teeth, and oh hey, love is in the air! Brush up on your latin before reading the last panel, as I think I got the gist of it, but Google translate may become involved if this keeps up. In #11 the investigators of the murder try to interrogate a former detective, who has some hard feelings about being pushed out of his job decades ago after all murders stopped. The attempt to keep the worst of this from the public also goes up in smoke, as the killer sends a letter (and an ear) to a local news station directly. #12 is all about the aftermath of that event, as we hear reactions from some citizens before checking back in with Gabriel, who’s having all kinds of thoughts and regrets. Yes, I’ll stay that vague, thank you very much. It already feels weird talking about most of the previous issues all in a clump like this. The story is moving along nicely, and I’m going to try to get to the next set sooner rather than later to see how things progress. If you’re new to this whole thing, grab a few issues, see what you think! Or heck, just grab these three to start. Sure, it’s bizarre to start a series by reading issues #10-12, but don’t let the man tell you what to do! $4.99

Update for 5/24/24

New review today for Ol’ Man Maggot Sucks! by Tim Fuller and Basil Wolverton, although Basil has no idea. To find out how that’s possible, read the review!

Fuller, Tim & Wolverton, Basil – Ol’ Man Maggot Sucks!

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Ol’ Man Maggot Sucks!

If there’s a theme with the comics from SPACE 2024 that I’ve reviewed so far, it’s that they’re not available on the respective websites of their creators. This has baffled me for as long as I’ve been doing reviews, and it still does today. If somebody picked up one of these comics at SPACE like I did, but was curious to see a few more (he had a number with a similar theme, which was “Tim rewrites the dialogue over a classic story and artist”), well, good luck with that. Once or twice would just be the person selling their newest work without a chance to update their website (even though they could literally update their website during quiet moments of the con), but to not find the comics on the website so many times? I’ll never understand it. Too many of these reviews have ended with “it’s not listed as available for sale, so just contact them.” Make it easy or lots of people won’t bother! OK, rant over, but maybe I reached an artist or two. And to think, all I wanted to talk about originally was how happy I was to have a chance to review a Basil Wolverton comic, even if it is only sort of his comic at this point. Kids (or middle-aged people, I guess): Basil was an artist on the old timey EC comics like Tales From the Crypt and Weird Tales back in the 50’s, among many, many other projects. I’d be curious to see which comic this originally came from, but we get 16 panels of the comic with Tim rewriting them, sometimes seemingly barely at all and sometimes quite a bit. The story is about a drifter who comes into a town, hears a story about some riches held by a very old man, and decides to go after those riches, despite all the warnings from the townspeople. Tim does a solid job with the rewrite as there’s some really funny stuff in here, and boy howdy was Basil ever one heck of an artist. Check it out, if you’re lucky enough to find one! It’s listed as only $.50, but I vaguely recall paying more.