Have you enjoyed various RPGs and dungeon crawler type games in your life? Did you, when given the opportunity, play through said dungeon using a warrior woman with large breasts (as that does seem to be the default breast setting of several of these games) of your own creation? If not, congratulations on your rich and successful social and business life! For the rest of you, I don’t see how you could find a thing to complain about here. This is a wordless comic, so it takes a few pages before we get to see the “point” of this adventure (the heroine is out looking for her lumpy captured boyfriend). But who needs a point? Things start off with the heroine fighting a large three-balled monster (which is obvious because the dude isn’t wearing any pants). From there she has to fight off a series of challenges and guardians, all while protecting her companion hobbit (or possibly gnome) whose only purpose seems to be holding a torch so that she can see. That whole character is done to perfection, and should get a good laugh out of anybody who has ever played one of these games while trying to keep an obviously inferior character alive. What happens to this hobbit a couple of pages after the sampled page below is absolutely priceless. Anyway, monsters are fought, limbs are hacked off with increasing abandon, and things finally reach their more or less inevitable conclusion. Like I said, if you’re of the right mindset to like this comic then you’re going to love it. If you’re looking for another tale of somebody in their mid 20’s complaining about the meaninglessness of their existence, you could try about 3/4 of the rest of the small press comics out there to satisfy your need. I checked the Top Shelf page out of curiosity to see if there were more issues of this series, and there’s one that’s “web only,” so screw that. Physical comics only please, says that curmudgeon! Then again, it is $7 for this relatively tiny book, which is probably why the next one hasn’t been printed yet. $7
God bless Lowjinx. I don’t know if anybody has ever come up with the concept for this book before, but it’s about time. In case you can’t read the cover, it’s an anthology of childhood drawing from some of the best small press cartoonists around. Included here are James Kochalka, Sam Henderson, Ivan Brunetti, Nick Bertozzi, Greg Cook, Tony Consiglio, Jordan Crane, Pete Sickman-Garner, Jesse Fuchs, Megan Kelso, Alex Robinson, Kevin Scalzo, Tom Spurgeon, Eric Reynolds, Steve Weissman, and, of course, Kurt Wolfgang. Once again, with this book, it’s probably not going to appeal to many people who don’t already know the work of those cartoonists. But for those people, this is absolutely priceless. It’s $6, if you like the work of these people go to the Top Shelf website and beg them to sell you a copy. OK, I should tell you a little bit about it first, even though if that list of names didn’t sell you, I don’t know what I could possibly say to convince you. Eric Reynolds (is he even on my page yet?) had a mostly text story about the Fantastic Four that’s hilarious, Sam Henderson hasn’t changed much over the years except now he swears more, Nick Bertozzi has a great story about a dog who’s learning to roller disco, and Tony Consiglio… aw, just buy it. I don’t want to ruin anything else for you, and everything in here is fascinating when compared to their later work. Don’t believe me? Fine, look at this:
Box Office Poison Junkyard
I was just about to start making fun of the man for not putting anything out in years other than this, then I went to his website and saw that he’s been working on a new book called Tricked for some time, he’s just not doing it in installments. I suppose I can live with that, and in the meantime we have little filler books like this to keep us busy. This is informative as hell, if you’re interested in some of the origins of obscure parts of Box Office Poison. He even throws in a couple of (rightly) discarded scenes from the graphic novel, even though they are still worth reading. Other than that it’s a bunch of pinups and some rambling, but it’s a nice little addition to a giant book. You can probably get it for a dollar or two, unless of course it’s only available at conventions or something, then I’d feel like a heel…
Brilliant Mistake #1
I’m sure there are bad examples of 24 hour comics out there, but all the ones I can think of have been amazing. This one is no exception. It’s no secret that I thought Box Office Poison was one of the best books of last year and this comic focuses on Caprice, a character that was introduced late in the book. I liked the addition of the time of the completed pages in the lower corner of all of the pages, it gives you a real sense of how fast he works. It looks great for a 24 hour book. Some of them, innovative as they usually are, look sloppy or rushed, at least towards the end. This one looked great. Add to that another 24 hour comic on the reverse side by Mike Dawson which is also great and you have a book that’s worth the steep $5 asking price. Check out his website or just send him $5 at 208 W. 23rd St. Dept 1616 New York City, NY 10011. Or just e-mail him to bug him about putting out another graphic novel…
I was skeptical of this idea from the start. Not that concept for the book, because I mostly didn’t know that, but the idea of putting out a graphic novel this big all at once without installments. Sure, it makes economic sense, but dammit, I do like the regular installments of a story. The thing is, it’s not like Alex vanished from the planet while he was doing this. Pretty much every convention had him with a new mini comic at the very least, so he didn’t just fall off the planet while he was putting this together. The first Box Office Poison collection is probably in my top twenty of favorite graphic novels ever, so my anticipation level was pretty high for this one. All of which leads me to say that this is my favorite graphic novel so far in this young year, unless of course it came out last year, which is still meaningless to me because I just read it today, 1/23/06. Make sense? Good. This follows the lives of 6 people and shows how their lives eventually converge in one climatic moment. There’s Ray, the former rock star who’s had writer’s block for years now and is trying desperately to get back on top. Nick, a counterfeiter who’s a generally shitty guy. Phoebe, a young woman who’s trying to find her long-lost father, although she’s not sure if she really wants to find him. Steve, an obsessive music fan who’s stuck at a lousy job. Caprice, a waitress who seems to have had enough of relationships. And Lily, who’s temping for a record company. Steve is the most interesting of the bunch, as we get to see his slow descent into madness done in some great and subtle ways, along with getting to see him as an actual human being, not just some crank. Nick suffers from not getting enough attention, or possibly it’s just that there’s not a single thing to make him a remotely likable human being, which makes him a pretty dull character. The others are all in the same general area and run into each other at least a few times in the course of the story, which follows all of those plot lines I mentioned. Overall, I think he’s stumbled onto the formula for success, or at least for keeping me happy. Put out something that’s more or less brilliant like this every five years or so, and in the meantime keep doing a 24 hour comic every now and then so we don’t think that he’s given up on comics. If you like just losing yourself for an afternoon in a good graphic novel, this is a pretty damned good one to get lost in.
Oops. Looks like one of the casualties of the update was my Alex Robinson page. What can I say, I’m lucky that a lot more stuff isn’t screwed up on this site. I’m making this computer knowledge up as I go, folks. Well, you’ll get a more thorough review AGAIN later, but for now you should know a few things. I almost didn’t buy this book and it turned out being one of my favorites of the year. It’s expensive (although a lot cheaper with the 30% off that Amazon is doing these days) and it’s huge (608 pages) and every last bit of it is good. I really can’t say enough good about this book. Better characters have rarely been in a graphic, and I’m even talking about the tiny supporting characters.
Just to make this clear right off the bat, this isn’t a new story, or a collection of new stories. It’s all the stories from the SPX anthologies, the 24 hour comic I reviewed above, a few pages from the comic over the years, and a story from something called Box Office Kolor Karnival. That last one was the best of the bunch. It was a longer story about Stephen and Jan (and the return of an old girlfriend), and Davie Shermans getting promoted and dealing with his new responsibilities. There aren’t many people out there doing comics who have a better ear for dialogue than Alex, so anything that’s new to me is welcome. Altogether, it’s probably new to most people, unless they’re all as obsessive about getting the SPX anthologies as I am. There’s also a tiny, tiny preview of his new work, Tricked, at the end of the book. He picked a great scene, where Clarice, a waitress, has an ex-boyfriend come into her restaurant with his new girlfriend. Get to work on that book, Alex! Just in case he’s paying attention. Contact info is up there, in case the Amazon link doesn’t work, as the new ones are kind of sketchy.