I’ve had more and more of a compulsion to get political ever since Trump got elected a few weeks ago (future people, assuming any exist after this administration, we really can’t apologize enough, and please know that more people voted for Clinton but she still lost because America), so in that vein, please read that sample image I posted below. I can’t get out of my head the idea that the sad man baby in the top hat is now the face of the resistance. Sure, I don’t know the guy (Noah didn’t either, clearly), but we’re all going to have to get over this concept of “safe spaces” to survive the next four years. Oh, and Noah also has a new comic out, which is always good news, in spite of whatever else is happening in the world. And hey, he’s just one issue away from taking an independent comic into double digits, which is vanishingly rare these days. Stories in this comic deal with his recent time at the Center for Cartoon Studies (along with a letter from R. Crumb asking him why he was wasting time training when he already knew his shit), the true story of where Blammo comics come from, various strips about 19th century cartoonists, two people with broken hearts and a complete lack of the story going in any direction you may have expected, the dangers of playing a prank with egg sacs from a preying mantis, and his time at a comics convention as a moderately famous artist. It’s a dense pile of stories and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something you enjoy/that will make you think/that may change your life in some way. Hey, life changes can come from anywhere, so it could very well come from a comic story. He also has quite a few new graphic novels out over the last few years, so if you’ve lost track of his work somehow you have some real catching up to do. $7
I often end reviews here by pointing out that you should buy the work of whoever it is I’m reviewing that day, because if enough of you do that then that person will eventually be able to make a living purely from their art, enabling them to create exactly what they want to create. Well, after a year without Blammo (he was working on a few other projects that didn’t leave him much time for it) Noah has concluded that he’s better off just working on pages after work when he gets the time. So never mind! Although I get the sneaking suspicion that he’d change his mind if somebody dumped a million dollars in his lap and told him to draw whatever the hell the wanted, but who knows? Maybe he has a fantastic day job. But hey, how about this comic of his? As always, you won’t get more out of your comics dollar than an issue of Blammo. An actual letters page, bunches of stories, there’s even a comic on the back cover for the gentler souls who may have trouble with… well, anything. Stories in here include the origin story for a dog on wheels (a creepy little toy who compels you to tell it your deepest secrets), a young man trying to reconnect with friends after backing away from them during a breakup where both members of the couple had mutual friends, Charles the chicken trying to bring Bill back to life in a series of hilariously hopeless ways, an adaptation of an old Grimm’s fable about the wolf and the fox, a man and his ill-fated attempt to get a woman to date him while he’s wandering around with a tiny grotesque man, a dream of sleeping and waking in an old apartment with serious emotional ties, punks vs. lizards (starring John Porcellino, sort of), and all kinds of strips packed into the final two pages. It’s comics like Blammo that keep me from declaring comics in this form dead entirely. It all seems to be trending towards collections or graphic novels, but this format is much more suited to a comic like this. Hey, there’s room for both. $5
Noah had a throwaway line in this one that really got me thinking. He called his comic something like the last independent comic standing and I instantly thought that was hyperbole. After all, I get mini comics all the time, and many of them are high quality books. But then I realized that Noah’s book would fit perfectly into the 90’s mold of Eightball, Hate or Yummy Fur and I realized that those comics are all gone now. Well, Peter Bagge still does a yearly issue of Hate (which is a more regular schedule than most of his contemporaries with “regular” books), but Dan Clowes is mostly gone from the field and Chester Brown just put out an (I think) original graphic novel. Noah really is one of the last ones standing, which got me thinking that the industry really is dead, which sent me into a tailspin of sadness until my mind went back to all those mini comics. Sure, the industry is either dead or dying and most people certainly can’t make a living at it. But hey, at least great comics are still being made for the 100+ people who care to read them! Hm, back to the sadness again. Anyway, this isn’t about me or the state of the comics industry, it’s about Noah once again putting out a seriously fantastic comic. First off, just on the off chance that I haven’t mentioned it yet, good for him for including an actual letter’s page, guest strips and comics recommendations. It really is like a 90’s comic! The stories in here include a fake news story about Noah (complete with the stupid “Biff! Bang! Pow” nonsense that all news stories about comics are seemingly legally required to start with), a fake ad about collecting, a couple of single page strips about horror stories, and an update of how Bill the Chicken is doing in hell. The bigger pieces are what makes up the meat of it all, and the Mormon story baffled me a bit before I read his reasoning on the inside back cover. It’s told as a straight-up historical recollection which, if you think about Mormonism and how it was founded, is a bit of a stretch (says the guy who thinks all organized religions are silly, but seriously, Mormonism came from a guy supposedly reading plates from a hat). But hey, if you don’t know the story it’ll be news to you, right? Other than that there’s a longer classic horror story idea (maybe Noah should look into doing a whole book of these things, he clearly has the knack for it), the story of a guy trying to get a job and how he reacts to finding the wallet of an attractive woman with $250 in it on the bus, and the main story about a guy who accidentally wanders into watching over a young kid as she goes trick or treating and her brother abandons her. The impressive thing about this book is that pretty much each one of these stories has multiple layers past what I’m telling you about here, but I’m one of those reviewers who prefers that you find such things for yourselves. I’m going on the assumption that everybody hates spoilers as much as I do, which I think has worked OK for me so far. Overall he may have been nominated for an Ignatz for the last issue (and not won, sadly) but he really should earn one for this issue. Ah, if only I got a vote in such matters. Or maybe I should make up my own comics awards. So what if they’d be utterly pointless? $5
I have a theory about the longevity of small press comic artists, based upon many years of observation of the behavior of these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.Â I’m going to avoid naming names because otherwise I’d be sure to leave somebody out or offend them, but it seems like most of them need either the money or artistic validation to eventually get published somewhere.Â Your fantasy/superhero types want to eventually make it to the “big leagues”, and that’s true of the smaller “big leagues” of the alternative comics world.Â There are also plenty who don’t give a shit and they’ll keep making comics until they eventually get tired of it, and these people you can usually spot because they always come back to the business, even after being away from it for years.Â They just can’t help themselves.Â Then there are people like (not naming names, but there is certainly more than one), who seemed to have a really good thing going but just gave up the ghost after a few really great issues.Â I can’t say that I blame them for quitting, as doing as thankless a job as making comicsÂ without any significant compensation must be trying.Â Where was I going with all this?Â Oh yeah.Â Noah Van Sciver is on the sixth issue of Blammo, as you may have guessed from that prominent “#6” up there.Â He is still self-publishing.Â He is also getting better and better with each passing issue, even though I continually think he must have hit a high water mark.Â I don’t know if Noah is the type of person to eventually give up if Fantagraphics/Top Shelf/Drawn & Quarterly don’t publish him sooner or later, but do we really want to take that chance?Â Take a risk, one of you guys, this guy is more than worth it.Â So how about the comic?Â I sampled the very first page, as I just couldn’t help it.Â Other stories include Abby’s Road (told from the perspective of a 21 year old juggalo/stoner who’s “dating” a 17 year old high school girl, he’s exactly what you think he is and it’s a perspective not often seem in small press comics), As I Remember It (written by Noah’s brother, a quiet moment in the life of the early Van Sciver family), Chicken Strips (still going, Bill goes to heaven, with a fantastic final page spread), Convention (yes, these are fairly common in these types of comics, but it’s still insightful as hell and worth it for the haunted look on the face of John Porcellino), The Krampus Visit (dealing with an asshole singer and an even assholier man trying to get an autograph), and The Easy Life (telling you how easy it would be to quit your job, kill your boss and take over the world).Â There’s also his sure-to-be breakout hit Punks Vs. Lizards, which is exactly what it sounds like: 5 pages of punks gruesomely killing giant lizards.Â Â If all his smart and meaningful strips can’t make him millions, maybe this one can.Â Oh, and don’t forget a few pages of shorter strips, reader mail and last words.Â It’s a whole comic book experience, in other words, and one that most people don’t bother putting together these days.Â I doubt if I have much in the way of “cred” in the small press hierarchy, but if I have a shred of it, I am asking somebody to take a risk and publish this man.Â We can’t risk losing him to apathy or one of those paying jobs I keep hearing about.Â Barring that, the least you can do individually is buy his comics, and you get the added benefit of owning a really fantastic comic.Â Where’s the flaw in that?Â $3.95
UPDATE 7/7/10: This was actually published by Kilgore Books & Comics from Denver.Â That big “Kilgore” on the cover should have clued me in, but I missed it, and anybody who published a comic like this deserves the highest of praise, not being left out of the article entirely because I wasn’t being careful enough to include them.Â Mea culpa.
You can already tell it’s going to be a good day when a new Blammo arrives in the mail.Â If Noah gets Wilford Brimley to read that in a commercial I believe that he’ll be set for life, assuming Wilford Brimley is still alive and is willing to do a commercial for a comic book.Â Noah decided to take a little break from his Abe Lincoln graphic novel after getting the urge to release another Blammo into the world (and after life threw his girlfriend one of those “you have got to be fucking kidding me” problems) and I’m glad that he did.Â Um, not of the circumstances that led to it though.Â Not a fan of that at all.Â Stories in this issue include a thank you note to all sorts of people, the adventures of the fastest (balding) man in the world, practical jokes with a time machine, chickens resuming their endless wanderings (and being accosted by both skeleton people and cops), a very old and mysterious haunted house (and all of the strange stories that come with such a thing), his reaction to constantly being asked to draw science fiction stories, how he would fare in prison, the many freaks that ride Greyhound (and how he had to wait 8 hours in the middle of nowhere after a clearly faked bomb threat), a clinical description of paranoia and a chance encounter with an old crush.Â Like last time Noah has used every tiny bit of this comic, clearly emulating the Native Americans of old, and it really does improve the whole package.Â See, this is what I’m talking about when I bitch in reviews about the importance of doing the basics correctly.Â There are letters, praise from other comics folk, links to people he fancies at the moment, little comics crammed into blank spots and even an update on his life.Â And did I mention that the whole thing is in color?Â It bears mentioning.Â Look, I’ve already praised this guy up and down, there’s no longer any excuse not to check out his stuff.Â I’d say just send him $20ish and buy the whole set of #1-5, but that’s just me talking.Â $5 (not $4 like the cover says, which is going to cause him no end of troubles, I’m sure).
To give you readers a peak behind the scenes here at Optical Sloth Inc., generally speaking comics that come in the mail come with some form of letter, usually just a post-it or tiny note that requests (or occasionally demands) a review, and about a quarter of the time they come with no notes at all, correctly assuming that when I see their comic in the mail that I will instinctively know to review it.Â Spoiler alert: I review every comic that comes in the mail regardless of the note.Â Really, if you’ve sent a comic that I haven’t reviewed, it’s because I never got it.Â Anyway, the point of this intro is to note that on very rare occasions the comic comes with an actual letter, clearly with a bit of thought put into it, and this letter was wonderful.Â A bit daunting, as at the end of it I’m told that the future of the underground comics scene is in my hands (as if I’m the only guy out there rambling about underground comics), but this is just a long, rambling way to say thanks to those actual letter writers out there.Â Hey, isn’t there a comic I’m supposed to be talking about?Â Well, assuming that anybody made it past that long intro, it is, once again, a wonderful thing.Â Stories include taunting a neighbor with a gorilla mask, getting to them before they get to you, the true story of the Denver Spider-Man (it’s not what you think), an absolutely hilarious chicken story (picked up, more or less, from the last issue), a bad dream that goes just fine until his nose falls off, how Bob Dylan influenced a young (er) Noah in his wandering around years, and a longer piece about a masked artist and his inability to face the world without his mask (because he’s brutally ugly).Â Noah gets all kinds of bonus points from me for not wasting even a tiny bit of space, as there are letters on the front inside cover and extra comics on the back (including an excellent tip for avoiding panhandlers).Â The Denver Spider-Man was my favorite of the non-funny pieces, as it tells the true story of a man in 1941 who lived in a tiny, tiny attic of a house until he was caught stealing food and killed the owner of the house.Â It was creepy and fascinating, and definitely piques my curiosity about his upcoming Abraham Lincoln graphic novel, something that didn’t really interest me until I saw this.Â Of course, I have no idea if he’s doing a serious Abe Lincoln story or something involving Abe as a cyborg child molester, but either way I have no doubts that he can pull it off.Â He also mentioned on his back page that reviewers didn’t seem to be getting the chicken stories and that they weren’t supposed to go anywhere; they were just fun.Â Fair enough, I’m easily caught up in the idea that all stories are supposed to go somewhere, and this time around the thug who was going to beat up a chicken from the end of the last issue gets rocks thrown at his head, lodging in his nose and the back of his skull, and this whole story had me laughing out loud, always a good sign.Â And that bit about us all eventually turning on each other was brilliant.Â Well, more ramble there for your buck than usual, but there’s some really great stuff in here, Noah is doing everything right as far as I can tell, and clearly I have to do my part to get the word out.Â He says this is in my hands, but really it’s up to you people to buy his books.Â All I do is talk about them and he needs the cash to survive.Â Won’t all you good folks help him out?Â $4
I must have said this a few hundred times by now, but it remains true: three cheers for random submissions.Â Sure, it’s nice to have the regulars send in all their new books for review and see them develop as artists.Â Or give up completely, as a bunch of them end up needing to avoid poverty and quit with the whole comics thing.Â That being said, Noah has all the potential to end up being one of that rarest of cartoonists: one who will be able to eke out a living through sheer talent alone.Â This isn’t meant to indicate any lack of talent on his part, as this is still early days for his work and he already has plenty of things down pat, it’s mostly due to the fact of the tiny, tiny number of people who read these things.Â How about that new year pessimism?Â Anyway, the strip sampled below is brilliant, with many of the other pieces reaching that level.Â He has everything from longer pieces to one page wonders, including the pathetic tale of Carter (a man with no neck and no luck with women), the creative stimulation of a horrible breakup, a long piece about two chickens wandering through the desert that didn’t seem to go anywhere (but it’s “to be continued”, so who knows), the story of his poor and crowded childhood, whatever happened to Scott, the daily struggle to get up and go to work (and as somebody who called in “sick” today for no reason, I can relate), accidental Daisy Dukes and his inevitable fate.Â There’s one other thing that I love on his website: if you send him $50 he’ll put your name in his next comic.Â A brilliant idea, and I am hereby stealing it for this website, so get those donations in!Â Seriously, other than the chicken story, this was a great comic all the way through, and even the chicken story had the best “chickens on acid” page I’ve ever seen. Plenty of sample comics on his website (and even a few in color!) and, like he says on the cover for Blammo #2, he probably is a future cult favorite.Â If you don’t get in on the ground floor you won’t be nearly as cool as you think you are.Â $4