Zervakis, Jenny – The Complete Strange Growths 1991-1997

Website (to buy the book)

The Complete Strange Growths 1991-1997

Look, I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and usually have no trouble starting to ramble about any comic. With this, I hardly know where to begin. This collection reprints the first 13 issues of her comic in their entirety, meaning that even the comic recommendations are included, so it was a heavily nostalgic trip to read through. Some of the names listed there are still making comics, but most of them have vanished. Are they still drawing occasionally? Have they moved on completely? Do they even think about their old comics, and if so are they proud of that time or ashamed? But all that has nothing to do with Jenny’s remarkable book, so I shouldn’t dwell on it. Jenny was one of the pioneers of the self published mini comics movement of the 90’s; for whatever reason her comics were rarely in the comics shops I went to back in the day, so I only ended up with a few scattered issues of this series. After reading this collection it’s clear that I was missing out, and that I should have spent more effort back in the day tracking these down. Like I said, this collects the first 13 issues, has a new introduction by John Porcellino, a new interview with Jenny and Rob Clough, and several of her scattered strips from anthologies. In other words, it is as complete a volume of the works of Jenny Zervakis as we’re likely to get, and I can only hope that this leads to more collections like this in the future (complete Silly Daddy, here we come!). When it comes to reviewing this as a comic, well… this is where I get stumped. It’s wholly original, it evolves as it goes on (I was going to mention some of the rougher poetry of the earlier issues, but Jenny talks about that herself eventually), but most of the earlier strips are still pretty great. Sometimes she’ll tell stories about her family (I do wonder what eventually happened with her brother), sometimes about her life in the city, or going out to clubs and increasingly feeling like the oldest person there, or observations of what she sees around her or stories she’s heard. And the dream stories! Very few people do dream stories better than Jenny. It’s easy for them to feel self-indulgent or pointless, but a few of these are going to haunt my own dreams. That image of her rolling up the side of the wall and how her sister had a similar dream… brrr. There are also a few longer text pieces in the style of Jeff Zenick (another person who could use a complete collection of their work), quiet moments seen and imagined, a few stressful times, and various animal adventures. There’s no ongoing narrative thread, but this still felt like the story of her life, even if she was more private than a lot of the artists of the time. It works remarkably well as a complete book even though it’s made up of disconnected pieces, is what I’m trying to say. If you’ve never heard of Jenny and have any interest in small press comics, you are in for a real treat. If you already know her work, I seriously doubt that you managed to find every issue of this series when it was coming out, and even if you did, there’s no way you also caught all her stories in anthologies. And if you DID manage to do all that, there’s still a brand new interview with her. I get the impression (based on pure speculation) that John and Spit and a Half are looking at this as a test case, to see if there’s interest in publishing other books like this. Meaning that there’s every reason for you to give this a shot and none to pass it up. It really is a remarkable achievement and I hope that everybody reading this tries it for themselves. $20

Posted on October 27, 2017, in Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.

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