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Gennis, Emi – The Plunge



The Plunge

So how much do you know about the first person to go over Niagara Falls and live? If you’re anything like me, it’s probably something along the lines of “some woman did it first, right?” If you already know everything about it, congratulations! Even so, I’d be willing to bet that Emi has uncovered a few things in here that you didn’t already know. The first woman to go over the Falls and live was Annie Edson Taylor. She lied to reporters and said that she was 43 when she was really 63. And, as was the case with damned near everything in those days, the man who did it after her ended up much more famous and financially set for life. It’s odd not to want to give spoilers for a historical comic, but that habit of mine is too hard to break at this point. Bits of information in this comic include the story of Annie’s early life, the various unexplainable holes in her biography, her reasoning behind wanting to go over the falls, how she got the barrel constructed and her life after the event. I had no idea that the first person to go over Niagara Falls was in her 60’s, which makes an already impressive feat downright ridiculous. This comic is a fascinating bit of history that I knew nothing about, something that Emi has come to specialize in for the last 5 years or so, and, as always, I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. $6


Various Artists – Irene #4



Irene #4

As far as I can tell there’s no editor listed for this anthology (unless I’m supposed to assume that Amy Lockhart is the editor because she’s the first person named on the credits page?), but whoever put this thing together deserves a medal for having Ben Juers do single page strips in between the other stories. They never fail to be at least amusing, and most of them are hilarious, which is a welcome break from some of the stories in here. They can get a bit depressing which, as some of them are based on real life, is the way things actually happened, so it’s hard to complain about it. But between those comics, the true life stories and the more abstract pieces, this is a damned well-rounded collection. As always, I’m not going to go through and review every bit of this anthology, as that’s half the fun for people who are going to be reading this for themselves. But I will mention my favorite bits! Emi Gennis starts things off with the story of Lake Nyos in Cameroon and what happened there in 1986. Over a million tons of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere around the lake, which led to only six inhabitants of the nearby town waking up the next day, unsure if the world had ended. On the other end of the spectrum, Andy Warner has one of the best opening page brawls that I’ve ever seen in a comic, and follows through with a wordless tale about a band against some “bad guys.” James K. Hindle has a thoughtful piece about a young boy, a young girl he meets, a fire in the town and how it all comes together. Laura Terry’s story starts off where it ends, and we slowly come to meet and understand the “dark” being she keeps seeing that won’t leave her alone. Mazen Kerbaj lets us in on the secret thoughts of boats, Jackie Roche tells the story (that I’d never heard) of where Lincoln was taken after he was shot but before he died, Georgia Webber refers to her recently losing her ability to speak and how much social media has meant to her since then, and things wrap up with Jan Berger’s piece on awakenings, seeing what’s real and how to save the world. I’m leaving a bunch of stuff out, as this is over 150 pages and, as is usually the case in anthologies, there were a few stories/pages that didn’t do a whole lot for me. But the good vastly outweighed the not-so-good (I won’t even call them “bad”), and there’s plenty in here to recommend it to people. $15


Gennis, Emi – Baseline Blvd



Baseline Blvd

This is going to be another one of those cases where I can’t say much about the comic without giving away the ending, so for those of you who enjoy watching me dance to avoid such a thing, get ready for some fun! Generally speaking you can count on a comic to be autobiographical if a character in the story looks like the author and is referred to by his or her first name, so when I saw another character refer to the female lead here as “Emi” I assumed that would be the case. But you know what they say about assuming, so I went to her website and it’s true, this is autobiographical, and clearly deeply personal. This is Emi’s longest work to date (unless I’m forgetting something, but it’s 64 pages), and long chunks of it are taken up with her driving through Missouri or flashbacks. The flashbacks detail a deeply troubled relationship, or at least that’s the bits of it we see, and I’ve read enough of these types of comics to think I knew was coming. I was completely wrong. The conclusion smacked me right between the eyes, and going by the chain of events that led up to it, I’m glad that was her reaction rather than crumbling up into a ball and shutting herself away from the world. I can’t say for sure that that wouldn’t have been my reaction under similar circumstances, but from everything I’ve seen she has no reason to feel even remotely guilty. I hope that this is an older story from her life, one where she’s had a bit of time to heal, but if it’s still raw, and if she does happen to read this, her reaction was exactly right. Those types of people take their power where they can find it, and they’d probably be delighted to know that they still had power over you even when they can no longer do you any harm. Knowing that conclusion even gives those driving scenes more power, as that drive must have seemed like it took an eternity with all the thoughts that must have been swirling around in her head. Everybody reading this who has ever had a problematic relationship should give this a read, as it answered a pretty big “what if?” question that was in my head. $8


Gennis, Emi – Trepanation




Trepanation! Who out there has thought about doing it? I’m guessing the total is right around zero for those of you who know what it is. If you don’t know what it is, that’s probably because it hasn’t been used with any kind of regularity for at least a hundred years. Basically it involves having someone drill a hole in your hear to either relieve pressure from headaches/stress or release the demon inside you, depending on whether there was even a little bit of science involved with it. Makes it pretty obvious why this has fallen out of favor, right? Anyway, this is the story of the handful of people who have had this done and/or are advocating for more people to get it done to themselves. It is illegal to do this in the United States (which makes sense until you think about some of the plastic surgeries that are still somehow legal), but the “movement” to get it legalized isn’t much to speak of. The people quoted in this comic universally have good things to say about the procedure, but at least one of them still has the presence of mind necessary to know that he is also unable to compare it to anything else, as it’s not exactly a process that you can get undone. Doctors have come to their own conclusion, and you might not be at all surprised to learn that any benefits people experience are due to it being a placebo effect. Meaning that they were so convinced that good things would come from this process that they ended up having good things happen come from this process. Also included in this comic are some examples of when it was used in the past and how the process has become less obviously barbaric in the intervening years. Sure, it’s still drilling a hole into the head of another human, but you should see some of the tools they used in the past. And you will see them if you read this comic, which you should do. It’s a fascinating subject, and whether or not you knew about it before reading this review there’s no way that you aren’t curious about it now. Read it and enjoy, and if you end up converted there’s contact info for some of these lunatics included in the comic… $4


Gennis, Emi – The Unusual Death of Gregory Biggs



The Unusual Death of Gregory Biggs

You ever have one of those days where you’re not even sure if you’re the same species as other humans? Well, if you’re having one of those today, I advise you to stop reading about this comic now, because the casual inhumanity here is stunning. I actually remember reading about either this guy or a very similar story years ago, but the gist of it is that a young woman and her friend were out on the town and they drank a bit and did a few drugs. One of the women tried to drive home, a man was walking along the interstate very late and night, and she ended up hitting him. That would be bad enough, but it’s the kind of thing that probably literally happens every day. But hey, that would mean that the “unusual death” title was incorrect, and that is not the case. Gregory ended up stuck in the windshield, as a very unfortunate human dart. The first reaction of the driver was to try and pull him out of the windshield and then drive away, which is horrific enough, but at least then the guy might have lived through it. As it was he was too heavy for her to lift, so she just drove home with him stuck in the windshield, parked the car in her garage and had sex with her boyfriend. As this guy was pleading for help and slowly bleeding to death! She eventually told her boyfriend, they got him out of the windshield (this was the next morning and Gregory was dead) and they dumped his body in a field, as they wanted his family to find him so that they could bury him. I’ve probably said too much already, but this is such a macabre story that I couldn’t help it. The rest of the comic deals with the events after they dumped his body, how they were eventually discovered and what ended up happening to the people involved. I can be an ultra liberal squish on sentencing for crimes, but this lady is as clear of an example of a sociopath as I’ve ever seen and it would be absolutely insane if she was ever allowed to be a free woman again. Emi really seems to have found her niche with these types of stories (and the occasional Spaz, of course), and there are certainly more than enough out there to keep her busy for years, lucky for us. But hey, if you do find yourself walking home along an interstate at 3 in the morning one day, do what I do: if at all possible, walk on the other side of the guard rail. That way they at least have to really want to hit you…


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


Gennis, Emi – Unfortunate Mishaps in Aviation History



Unfortunate Mishaps in Aviation History

Well, you certainly know what to expect with a title like that. Don’t expect any happy endings here, as Emi once again tells a couple of stories about historical events that didn’t go exactly as the participants had planned. If you’ve ever stopped to think about how the parachute was developed, chances are that you can imagine that it wasn’t perfected on the first time out. The first story tells of one version of it and of the man who decided to test his own invention by jumping from the Eiffel Tower, even though he had only tested his parachute using dummies previously. The really tragic thing about this is that another inventor had successfully tested his own parachute two days before in New York. I do wonder if the doomed inventor had word of the successful test or if he thought he still had a chance to be first and that’s why he rushed it. The second story is all about an expedition to the North Pole in 1896. Emi does a fantastic job of showing the various terrible lapses in judgment that the crew committed before and during the trip, but the idea of using a hot air balloon that was able to control its progress by using a series of ropes dragging along the ground was always a little dicey, especially considering the fact that the inventor couldn’t even get it to work consistently in trials. Emi has managed to piece together a pretty detailed account of their trip, although she somehow manages to make it seem a touch less gruesome than it probably was. There’s room in the world for a big old collection of these stories, oh mighty comics publishers, once Emi gets enough of them together. In the meantime, the rest of you should probably buy these comics of hers to show her that it’s a good idea to keep making them. Not that she should give up on Spaz, but I’m always fascinated by historical tragedies that I’ve never heard of. $2


Gennis, Emi – Spaz! #5


Spaz! #5

I’m in series danger of becoming an addict of the Wikipedia list of unusual deaths. Emi puts a few of these into her comics, so this time around I thought I’d check it out for myself. So if you’re wondering why the review is up later today than usual, there you go. Let’s just say that she’s in no danger of running out of material any time soon, and if anything I don’t get how she limits herself to just a few of those stories per issue. That’s some serious restraint right there. Anyway, a new Spaz in the mail is always a welcome sight around here, and this issue is no exception. Her art just keeps getting better, and it’s not like she was starting off as a crappy artist. You can tell from that cover that her art is getting more regular people-y than cartoon-y these days (both technical terms, obviously), although not in all cases. Stories in here include Emi celebrating her birthday with her pal Zygote (as is continues to hound her about having children and convinces her get tarted up for a night on the town), another edition of “You Know What’s Fucked Up?” (dealing with Munchausen’s By Proxy, which is related to Munchausen’s Syndrome but significantly more damaging (look up either disease if you don’t know what it is, or rent the delightful “Adventures of Baron Munchausen” by Terry Gilliam if you only kind of want to know about the disease but would rather watch a great movie instead)), her pretty damned sound reasons for not wanting to ride roller coasters, what happened to her younger acquaintance Paul after she lost touch with him (believe me, it’s a lot more interesting than I’m making it sound), and a nice rundown of the various types of people that you’ll run into if you’re looking for a roommate online. There are also the few stories of the unusual deaths, but instead of telling you anything about them I’ll just tell you my reactions in the order that the stories were printed: hilariously tragic, I don’t entirely believe it (or “holy shit” if it was true), and they were just asking for it. Judging by her website it looks like Emi has graduated (congrats!), in which case she should be able to devote her energies to comics full time now. All you comics creators out there are millionaires, right? $2

Gennis, Emi – Spaz! #4


Spaz! #4

Huzzah for Spaz! I should point out that the sample below is messed up, as apparently I forgot to crop it when I scanned it in the first place. As the scanner only works on my other PC, and as it would take a good half hour to get it going and then get back to this one (as that one is too virus-ridden to use for very long), I suggest that you go with the theory that you’re actually getting a bonus sample. Sure, it’s only half of an extra page, but that’s 1/2 more than you usually get! Yeah, even I’m not buying that as a bonus. Oh well. If somebody would like to send me a fully functional PC I won’t have to worry about this problem. So how about the comic? You all know that I’m biased to like this one by now, right? Good. After completely loving her last book that was an adaptation of one of the “List of Unusual Deaths” from Wikipedia, this comic has two of those stories and more comics to boot! These two stories involve the Boston Molasses Massacre (which was exactly what it sounds like,depending on what your particular brain pictures for that one) and a brilliant mathematician who was paranoid that people were out to poison him and would only eat meals prepared by his wife. When she got too ill to take care of him, well… Other stories include Emi’s horror story of trying to use a “toilet” in China (seriously, it’s 2011, troughs of shit should just be embarrassing for an industrialized nation), a righteous rant about how people have gone way overboard with the anti-bacterial lotions, and a detailed guide for how a teenager could sneak out of the house for a party and get back in undetected. But wait, there’s more! She also has a few single page strips dealing with things she worries about, things she probably should be worrying about but isn’t, and three places where she’d rather not see hot guys. It’s a damned solid comic yet again with no real weak spots and you guys should probably buy it. $3

Gennis, Emi – The Collyer Brothers


The Collyer Brothers

And here I was thinking that this would be a mostly throwaway comic. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Emi’s work up to this point, and I was curious to see what she did with this story. Still, I got the general impression that most of her creative energies (in terms of comics at least) went to her Spaz comic. Turns out that she has plenty of that energy to spare for side projects like this, as it’s one damned fine comic. This is a story taken from Wikipedia (just in case you can’t read that cover and are afraid of the image embiggening process) about two brothers who lived as hermits in Harlem in the early 1900’s. The neighborhood changed around them, they both became hermits and withdrew from the world. When I say “hermit” I don’t mean your average person with little to no social life. No, I’m talking about two guys who would scavenge food from dumpsters and avoid paying bills until they were trying to generate their own electricity. And they were rich! Anyway, life went on, one brother had a stroke that left him blind, and their refusal to sell the house led to rampant speculation about the treasures hidden inside. I can’t say much more without ruining the ending, but Emi’s use of perspective leading up to that last page was a wonderful thing to behold. I still have a new Spaz to get to in the coming weeks, but this deserves the attention of the comic reading masses. I’m thinking maybe this is a concept she should really get behind, as there have to be a huge pile of stories about the internet involving people dying in bizarre ways. It’s a bit macabre, I guess, but Emi lists on her website that she lives with two cats and ghost, so how much weirder could it get? This isn’t listed on her website at the moment, but I’m guessing that if you send her $2 and request this book that she’ll be willing to help you out. Or add a dollar or two if you’re not sure, or contact her first. You know the drill.

Gennis, Emi – Spaz! #3


Spaz! #3

Leaky ceiling?  That’s my guess.  Oh hello, you have no idea what I’m talking about if you haven’t read this issue of Spaz.  See, Emi woke up one morning with the top of the blanket wet but the underside dry.  So peeing the bed was clearly out as an option.  Still, she’s left utterly clueless as to what happened.  As her reaction shot upon waking up appears to indicate heavy alcohol consumption, might I suggest something from the previous night as another possibility?  Maybe a spilled drink while the blanket was pulled back, which would leave the underside dry when she drunkenly pulled the cover over her?  Maybe a cat protest of some kind?  If alcohol or a cat are not involved, I’m all out of ideas.  And as for the guy who woke up to a locked safe being open, on its side and full of water, that is very clearly a prank by somebody else who knew the combination. How many other people could there be?  Unless huge amounts of alcohol were involved there too…  Sorry, I’m neglecting a proper review of the comic because this mystery has me fascinated.  I think ghosts are utter horseshit, so there must be some logical explanation, but I don’t get it from the facts given.  So what’s this comic like, other than that utterly engrossing story?  There are a couple of bits called “Shit I Worry About” that is, um, shit she worries about, like various forms of cancer, falling down the stairs, having her cat run away, becoming a spinster, and axe murderers in the back seat.  Then there are a couple of bits about unusual deaths taken off Wikipedia, although the second one is more hilarious than unusual.  Throw in a couple of strips with her talking about sex and being late with Zygote and a demonstration of her holding out for making comics by hand (at least for a little while) and the mysterious story I loved and voila!  It’s a comic!  She has a deal right now where you can get all three issues for $5, which sounds like a steal to me, and you’d be guaranteed to get a pile of great comics.  Assuming that’s your thing, and if it wasn’t why would you be looking around this site?  If you already have the first two issues then I suppose you could get this one for $2.

Gennis, Emi – Spaz! #2



Spaz #2

With a mini comic (or any comic I guess) there’s really only one question to be asked about the second issue: was it better than the first?  In this case the answer is an unqualified yes, as she spends more time writing, has more funny bits and just generally kicks the ass of this comic.  Not that I had a problem with the last one, but there’s not a weak piece in here.  Things start off with a tale of her job in general and the t-shirt she wears specifically, as it says “Obama Eats Here”.  She lays out the map, shows where he used to live, where his kids went to school and where he taught for 12 years and yeah, it’s pretty clear that he would have eaten there at some point.  Naturally, this t-shirt leads to all sorts of (mostly stupid) questions, and Emi does a great job of running them all down and explaining it all to the slow folks.  There’s one more page dealing with her job, but if I say anything about it I’ll ruin the joke, so forget it.  Other than that the comic basically breaks down into two parts: stories about her relationship with her boyfriend and her “conversations” with a zygote.  Her relationship with her boyfriend seems horribly strained, but in a “funny for comics” kind of way, and it mostly seems to end well.  You’ll probably have to read the comic for that to make sense, but trust me.  Her conversations with the zygote deal with her asking it about the wisdom of having kids with her boyfriend (as she worries about what genes he would pass on) and going on a cruise with it, as it hopes that said cruise will lead her to reproduce.  This zygote is a hilarious font of useless, contradictory and just plain wrong information, which is always fun when trying to get advice.  Also, I checked for that “atrocious error” she mentioned on her website and didn’t see anything.  I generally catch spelling mistakes, although grammar errors sometimes fly right by me.  Maybe something in her localized map of Chicago?  Either way, it sure wasn’t a big deal.  It’s another issue that’s well worth checking out, here’s hoping she keeps up this pace because there’s some serious potential here.  $2


Gennis, Emi – Spaz #1



Spaz! #1

I’d like to start this review with something utterly irrelevant to the comic.  As I know a good chunk of you read this at work when you should be doing other things (and hey, if it wasn’t for my work blocking me from accessing this site at work I’d probably be writing it there), try saying Emi’s name out loud.  Go ahead, your coworkers already think you’re crazy, especially if you’ve ever brought a comic in.  That’s just a fun name.  Luckily she also makes a pretty great comic.  There are a variety of stories in here, mostly to do with her time working at a restaurant, some not so much.  There’s her getting hit on over by the phone (in an incredibly creepy fashion) by a guy ordering wings, waking up on a bad hair day and having very few options for what to do about it, losing patience with profoundly stupid questions at work and a gallery of the many creatures living at her apartment.  There’s also the heart of the comic, a story about a guy who comes into her restaurant on a regular basis, something he’s apparently been doing for decades.  It does a nice job of going into how hard it is NOT to speculate about the personal life of anybody who is a bit odd and how unlikely that speculation is to be anywhere near the truth.  Personally, I’m also going with the theory of a tiny alien controlling his human body, but I guess we’ll never know.  She also has regular updates to her website, a four panel strip twice a week that’s half comedy and half therapy, but she explains it far better than I could.  I also happened to check out her site right when she mentioned that she found “an atrocious error” in the second issue, which she was also nice enough to send along, so it’ll be fun trying to find that next time around.  As for this, it’s funny, the art is fantastic (especially if this is her first issue of anything), and there aren’t enough minis like this around out there these days.  Send her some money to reward good behavior!  $2