He’s back! I always feel like sending out an alert of some kind when I see a new comic from somebody that I haven’t heard from in a decade or more. If you’re new around these parts, or even if you only starting reading around 2010 or so, Adam did a four issue series in the aughts detailing his year of apprenticeship at a tattoo parlor. It was fascinating stuff, with my only (minor) complaint being that if it took him most of decade to tell the story of his year as a apprentice, it didn’t seem likely that we’d be getting the rest of the story. Well, I’m thrilled to report that he proved me wrong, as this tells the tale of everything that happened after that. He also included a few pages/bits from that series, as this is meant to tell the whole story of his time as a tattoo artist. One more thing before I start talking about the actual comic. I just went back and read my reviews for Aprendiz (I actually still have a few issues of that for sale, so if you’re interested I’ll check with Adam to see if he’d like to sell them or would prefer to have them back) and I said maybe the dumbest thing I’ve ever said in a review, and boy howdy is that ever saying something. In the review for the second issue I mentioned that he must be having a tough time as a tattoo artist making comics, because I didn’t see a lot of overlap in the two areas. Holy shit was that stupid. It’s significantly more rare to run into people at comic cons without a tattoo than with one, and I’m thinking that was also true in 2004 or whenever that review came out. Whatta dummy I was/am. It’s always nice to throw in reminders like that, just in case people start to think of me as an authority or something. Nope, I’ve just been doing this a long time. Easy to confuse seniority with expertise. Anyway, what about this comic? It’s the comprehensive story of his time in art school, meandering a bit with a soulless job, and eventually taking a gig as an apprentice to tattoo artists. That story is told in the other series (I still don’t think it would be a bad idea to collect it, but that’s obviously his call), and this is mostly focused on getting his own business off the ground and then keeping it running. One fascinating subplot is that Sophie Crumb, through mutual friends, ended up working as an apprentice at his shop. She was young and new to New York, so she did what most young people do in that situation, and word eventually got back to her dad. There’s a hilarious scene where Robert Crumb did everything but accuse Adam of ruining his daughter, despite the fact that they never hung out outside of work (there was an age gap), and all the while Adam was starstruck while being lectured by one of his comics heroes. Interest picked up quickly wherever his shop ended up (not just his, he did have partners), but doing all this in Brooklyn meant he was bound to run into one completely unethical conglomerate that bought his building. This meant a series of annoyances, large and small, until he eventually got a new place, and boy am I ever shortening that nightmare down for the review. There’s so much more that goes into every aspect of being a tattoo artists than I ever expected, not the least of which is all the business nonsense. Also I loved his art style before (I confirmed this by reading the old reviews), but I’d say he’s gotten even better since then. And the amount of detail! Every page, every panel, looks like it took about a week to do. Even the backgrounds (that would be solid black in a lot of comics) are packed with little doodads and icons. It’s already a lot of story at 140ish pages, but this is absolutely a book that rewards you for taking your time with each page. There are also some short pieces after the story by Sophie Crumb, Jason Mitchell, Myke Maldonado and Mark Bode about their time at the shop, and I’ll leave them as a surprise to the reader. Except for Myke’s, as the finale to that story was terrifying. So basically if you’ve been wondering whatever happened to this guy, good news! Everything worked out for him, more or less, and he even got through the pandemic OK (but that’s apparently going to be the story for his next comic). If this is your first time hearing about him, you are in luck. This is a hell of a read, and has me once again contemplating getting a tattoo with his artwork, especially if my plans work out and I get to New York in September for a visit. Check it out, you will not be disappointed. $20
And this behemoth of a page just keeps getting bigger and bigger. One of these days I’ll pare it down, etc. etc. excuses excuses. So, once again, you can see that cover, right? You already read the first two issues of this series and chances are that you’ve been waiting for more for quite a while, and here it is! A few of the artists involved: Stan Yan, Josh Frankel, Lonnie Allen, Peter S. Conrad, Fredo, Jenny Gonzalez, Kate Allen, Adam Suerte, and Dave McKenna, among many others. What sorts of tragedies at sea are they talking about exactly? You have snapping sea turtles, a giant eel, various shark attacks, a whale trying to jump over a boat, horrible storms, and at least one swordfish living up to its name. Great fun to be had here as always, although I was less than impressed with the stories that were told in poetry form. I’m here for the mayhem dammit, not iambic pentameter! $4.50, please keep buying these so they keep making them, next up is “Mauled by Machines”… Website
This is one series that I had given up on completely. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed it and had no problems with quality, it’s just that the last issue came out 4 years ago, and this was only ever meant to be the story of his first year as a tattoo apprentice. Well, I knew what this was as soon as I saw the envelope in the mail, and good for him for at least seeing this through. This finishes off the tale of his first year, avoiding any kind of a happy ending and instead going with reality. Adam gradually starts doing more and more complex tattoos, under the “watchful” eyes of the two store owners. The trouble is that one of them is too watchful (often jumping in and taking over at the first sign of trouble but rarely teaching anything in the process) while the other merely shrugs when things go wrong but it happy to tell Adam after the fact that he knew exactly how to fix the problem all along. Adam was also making a pittance this whole time, starting with %20 of the sale, eventually moving up to %30 and getting to %40 by the end of the year. There was also a creative breakup between the owners, as one of them gave up ownership and became substantially less helpful. Still, at the end of all this Adam found himself the low man on the totem pole, without enough experience to be anything but last in line when new customers came in. Adam finished up with things exactly as they were at that point in his life: bleak. Luckily for the reader (in a way), this took 10 years to put out and Adam is nice enough to put all sorts of updates in the back of the book. We hear from both of the previous store owners, we learn that Adam is doing quite well these days (at least in part due to exposure from the comics), and we get to see a few amazing examples of what is now his “thing”: cityscape tattoos of various sizes. It looks like this is it for Adam as far as comics goes, as the man works with his hands all day long so it takes him forever to put one of these issues out. It’s damned shame, as he’s pretty good at this stuff, but I can see where he’d want to go with his first passion. I still think this is more than good enough for a graphic novel collection, possibly with a progression of his tattoos over the years if possible to showcase his improving skills. The first two issues of this are still available in my online store, and I’ll throw in a copy of #3 with the first person who orders the pair, as Adam sent along an extra copy of #3 with this one for some reason. $3.95
Well, it might have taken a year to come out, but this one was well worth the wait. Adam finally gets to start tattooing people in this one, after paying a few more dues and learning a few more skills. There’s some great stuff in here about just how much goes into finding a perfect needle and how the politics of working at a tattoo parlor are pretty much like the politics of working at any crappy office building with more than one person in charge. Great stuff again, and this is going to make a really amazing graphic novel, especially if he puts in a bunch of his tattoo designs (hint, hint). $3.95
Aprendiz #2 Now Available! $3.95
More tales about learning to be a tattoo artist, with this issue focusing mostly on the dues he had to pay to get anywhere near a needle. It’s fascinating stuff, and it’s a side of things that I’ve honestly never given much thought to. Who goes into tattoo places? How often are people just there to kill time, and how many stupid questions does the average person who works there have to deal with in the course of a day? It seems that no fat women ever come in his store though, just skinny ones with enormous boobs. Hey, maybe he just likes drawing boobs, there’s no law against that. He also tells about his woes of trying to market the first issue, as this was his first comic venture on a large scale. It’s disheartening to see how many quality books are just ignored these days. It must be especially tough for something like this, because most comic people (not all, and I’m speaking generally here) aren’t the type to get a bunch of tattoos, so they probably can’t relate to a lot of this. Hey, why do you need to relate? The man is telling an interesting story about something that a lot of people have never given any thought Like I said before, the art is awfully easy to look at too. Maybe one of these days I’ll find him at a con and get a tattoo, he seems to offer them as a promotional thing. I think it’s $3.95, but there’s no price tag on the book so I’m not sure. Contact info is up there, it’s worth checking out.
Aprendiz #1 Now Available! $3.95
Here’s another random comic that I got through the mail, and it’s another good one. It’s all about the author and his early days as a struggling artist. Actually, the point of the series is to tell about his time as a tattooing apprentice, but this issue is all about him trying to find his niche after college and trying to get on as an apprentice. Kind of takes some of the suspense away when you know how it all ends, but it’s not a major thing. I like his art a lot… it has a loopy, whorly style that would be just great for a tattoo, if I ever got one. There’s no website that I can find, but feel free to e-mail the guy and he can get you a copy of this, along with whatever else he has available (it’s $3.95). If anybody out there thinks that I gave away the ending or something, he has his two teachers write a little something each in the back of the book and has a couple of pages of telling about himself too, so there’s really no mystery of where this is going. But hey, the journey is most of the fun anyway, right? He says he’s been doing comics forever, so I’d have to think that a new issue of this will be out pretty soon. Oh, you could also just send him money at: Urban Folk Art 335 Court Street #16 Brooklyn, NY 11231.