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Boyce, Melinda Tracy & Whitaker, Aaron – Bangs & Beard Diary

Aaron’s website

Melinda’s website


Bangs & Beard Diary

Yay, a flip book! Since these are so rare, I’ll give a little description: one artist does half of the book and another one does the other half. Simple enough! But in this case it’s flipped around, so all of the strips of one artist are upside down until you turn it over. Don’t worry about having to work for it, as the halves are neatly split up. To give you some idea of how long I’ve been reading comics, the first flip book I remember seeing was with Joe Chiappetta and John Porcellino, and I don’t think Joe has drawn many comics in at least a decade now. Which sucks, as Silly Daddy was a fantastic comic. Kids, know your small press comics history! Anyway, this flip book is unique in that it features two halves of a couple, with roughly half of the diary strips being their different perspectives on events that happened that day. That’s something I don’t remember seeing before and it’s done really well here. Aaron maybe goes for the bigger laughs at the end of his strips, but Melinda’s were more effortlessly funny overall, although that opinion is clearly completely subjective. As are all opinions, so never mind. I would be curious to see more comics in this format, as I know a fair amount of couples have come together because they’re both comics artists. Pick a month and go to town, couples! It’s easy. Oh, and subjects of these strips include reflections on the homeless, going for a walk, accents, accidents, bug bites, insomnia, comfy hair, setting unrealistic reading goals, looking good while working out, having a good soul, and having a short attention span while watching tv. I added that last bit, as apparently it’s normal to watch shows while simultaneously on your laptop, but I’m a cranky old man on the subject, so don’t mind me. Anyway, it’s funny and just kind of neat to see their slightly different perspectives on certain events, and their wholly unique perspectives on the things that only happened to them. $5


Gennis, Emi (editor) – Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends



Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends

You should have a pretty easy time knowing whether or not you’d be inclined to like this book from the title alone, and I’m happy to tell you that the contents more than live up to it. Emi has been doing mini comics on this theme for a few years now, and she took her chance to edit this anthology and ran with it, doing a really fantastic job of picking out/accepting these stories. I should say up front that I have no patience for those stupid “ghost hunting” shows with the shaky cams and the loud noises and won’t believe that aliens have visited us until I see solid proof (which is not the same thing as declaring that no other life exists in the universe), but overall this isn’t that type of book. These are all, as Emi says in the introduction, unsolved mysteries, so the reader doesn’t get the satisfaction of getting the story neatly tied up in a bow by the end. Instead you’re left wondering what the hell happened for these 32 stories. If you’re a naturally curious person and/or at all interested in the weird and bizarre then you’ve probably already stopped reading this and ordered a copy. For those of who are too polite to quit reading in the middle of the review (and it’s OK if you do, I’ll never know), subjects include a mysterious gelatinous goo that rained down on a town, the monster with 21 faces, an unexplained shower of meat from the sky, an arcade game that quickly came and went in 1981 under mysterious circumstances, a tumor that was bigger than the carrier, Gef (of which I will say no more but this may have been the most intriguing tale in the book), that weird hum in the air that some people can hear all the time, the Nain Rouge and his continuing destruction of Detroit, the money pit of Oak Island (which some bored billionaire should look into), creepy kids with black eyes trying to enter homes, the Leatherman and theories of who he might have been, unsolved murders at a campsite, the former Prime Minister of Australia vanishing while swimming, the missing body of Addie Mae Collins, why 9 campers in Siberia ran from the safety of their tent (sometimes barefoot) and why they never went back to it, two bodies and their lead masks, Rasputin (an oldie but a goodie), Frederick Valentich and the UFO that seemed to by toying with him, D.B. Cooper and his disappearance (it’s an ever funnier story to anybody who watched Justified this season), a bridge where 600 dogs have committed suicide, the Axeman, and a serious skeleton in the closet of Orson Welles (possibly). DC comics used to do a series of “Big Books” on various subjects, and after seeing this I’d suggest that they start it up again and put Emi in charge. Not every story was perfect, granted, but good luck not having several of these stories haunt your dreams. Also good luck on not taking to the internet to learn more about them, as I already know how I’m spending the rest of my afternoon. And look at that pile of talent in the tags section! Why would you possibly need any more convincing to check this out? $12


Boyce, Melinda Tracy – The Melinderly #1


The Melinderly #1

Beware the promise of a quarterly publication schedule! I say this not to you fellow readers, as you already know this all too well.  “D & Q” stands for “Drawn & Quarterly” publishing, which was named that because, you guessed it, they had plans to put all of their books out on a quarterly basis. A few of them managed to come close to this (remember when Joe Matt’s “Peepshow” was published on a fairly regular basis? It did happen), but I’m guessing that that’s why they eventually shortened it to just the initials. Not that they have anything to do with Melinda’s book. I like seeing this from artists, really I do, but frankly I’ll be impressed if even #2 is published on that schedule. It just seems like an impossible task for the vast majority of comics out there. But enough about a publishing schedule that nobody is going to remember a few issues from now, what about the comic? It’s in full color, and gorgeous color at that, and that combined with her art makes for a damned pretty comic. Stories in here include the rules for a drinking game (that I’d never heard of), a night out at a bar after said drinking game, the history of gifts that she’s received from her mom over the years (both good, bad and wildly inappropriate), finally breaking down and going for pure comfort in her home wardrobe, and a nervous, dramatic night of Melinda and a couple of friends posting wheatpaste art around deserted parts of Portland late one night. There’s also the first part of a story called Lustwander, written by Aaron Whitaker (of “The City Troll” fame), which deals with a young woman who comes home to a letter from a secret admirer (which cheers her up instantly) and walks inside to deal with the reality of a boyfriend who seems to take her completely for granted. There’s more to come, but I’m intrigued, and it’s always a good idea to have at least one continuing story if your goal is to put out a quarterly book. Just don’t forget to make every installment end with either an explosion or a ticking bomb and your audience will be hooked! Yes, that kind of thinking is one of many reasons why I don’t make comics myself. Anyway, this is a damned fine comic and I’m intrigued to see where she goes from here. No idea on the price, but she’s offering subscriptions for $40 a year, meaning this is $10? It’s gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t know if the world is ready for a $10 mini comic. I have, of course, been wrong before…

Whitaker, Aaron – The City Troll


The City Troll

Three cheers for Kickstarter, as this book most likely would not exist without it. I do have to add that you small press folks should try to get your book published through Top Shelf, or Drawn & Quarterly, or Fantagraphics or whoever is still standing first (as the world would be a crappier place without those three companies in existence), but if they’re not interested, it’s a good thing Kickstarter has become as successful as it has. The book looks gorgeous (outside and inside), which would not have been fully possible at this price without a little bit of help. OK, fine, people helping people is great and all that, but what about the book? This starts off as the story of god getting bored one day and deciding to create the perfect man. But god, being the little insecure bitch that he is, couldn’t take how perfect he made this dude and decides to force him to be friends with a man who is as horrific as the perfect man was perfect. All of this was Aaron’s rather mystical way of starting off a story that’s really about an insecure man, his perfect friend and the way that they both interacted with the ladies. As the main story begins we see that Ian (the perfect one) is “stuck” in a relationship with two beautiful women, neither of whom can bear to leave him. Paul (the troll), on the other hand, is horribly insecure and miserable, which only leads to him being MORE insecure and miserable, and we all know how much the ladies love those personality traits. Things seem to be picking up for Paul when he meets a woman at a grocery store who seems perfect for him, but he lacks the courage to start up a real conversation. She is then coincidentally in the same restaurant where he’s meeting a blind date (even reading a graphic novel, the holy grail of all blind dates), but it turns out that his date is with a different woman, so there goes that shot. Eventually Ian meets this girl and falls for her himself (his two girlfriends thing didn’t work out) and, since Paul had never actually made a move on her, he has no “guy code” to fall back on. This is all against the backdrop of Paul’s mostly missing and formerly abusive mother, his father (who’s dating a woman called “Understanding) slipping away from him, and Ian’s lifetime of watching girls that he liked fall in love with the more obviously handsome Ian instead, despite what seems to be Ian’s best efforts to prevent this from ever happening. Things spiral a bit from there, but most guys can relate to somebody in this story, and I would have to think that most of the ladies will find stuff to relate to in here too. It looks like Aaron has done another  mini comic or two in his time, but this seems to be his first graphic novel, which makes it especially impressive. You can practically feel it when the self-loathing threatens to overwhelm Paul, and Aaron wisely resists every temptation along the way to take the easy way out of any situation. My only tiny quibble (as I’m contractually obligated to throw at least one of these into every review) is that he could stand to draw the word bubbles after he knows what his characters are going to say, as too many long word bubbles with only one or two words in them looks awkward to me, but that’s really not even worth a mention. This is a hell of a story and here’s hoping it gets some serious attention in the coming months. $15