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Kirby, Rob (editor) – Tablegeddon #1



Tablegeddon #1

Comic conventions! Maybe you’re one of the people who only go to conventions to buy comics and don’t create them yourself, but have you ever wondered about life on the other side of the table? Not really? Well, you really should try putting yourself in their shoes for a few minutes. This anthology has all kinds of stories from conventions, good and bad, from some of the champions of small press comics (if the industry had formal champions, which they should maybe think about doing). Stories in here include Max Clotfelter’s first time working a table when he was a kid, Cara Bean and Sara Carson’s long road to a triumphant show, Kelly Froh’s two worst shows (I hope), Carrie McNinch’s problem with shyness, Rob Kirby’s mostly bad day (but with plenty of good things in it, like the progressive redneck parents), Mark Campos’ ingenious trick to selling original art, Aron Nels Steinke dealing with a friend getting a tv deal while having a slow day himself (along with dealing with an annoying kid), Gabrielle Gamboa’s hilariously illustrated conversations among cartoonists, Justin Hall’s description of finally getting the sale after talking a guy into it for 20 minutes, Tony Breed dealing with putting a book together and the reality of the show, Matt Moses and Jeff Worby narrowly avoiding a beating/murder, Zine Crush trying to get a copy of their zine to the object of their crush without being obvious about it, Rick Worley learning the truth about Dash Shaw, Jason Martin showing the good and the bad and John Porcellino showing us the weather paradox at cons. Oh, and a bonus piece by Kelly Froh (I’m almost positive) showing us the moment at a con when her spirit leaves her body. I’ve seen plenty of comics about convention horror stories in my years of reviewing these things, so I was a little nervous about a whole anthology on the subject, but that was silly of me. This whole thing is full of goodness, and should probably be handed out to obvious first-timers as they walk into cons as a public service. $4


Martin, Jason – Driftwood City



Driftwood City

I’d like to start this off by praising Jason for getting one little thing right that lots of people seem to forget: he puts the dates for all of his strips on their last page. As this is a collection of his favorite strips from his run on Laterborn (with a few more included from anthologies and five new strips if you’re one of the people who already has all of the original issues of that fine series), it provides some helpful context. He even gave brief synopses of where he was at in his life with each strip, so there’s plenty of new material right there for fans of the series. One question right off the bat: was Laterborn #2 so bad? I think that’s the only one that isn’t represented here, but I don’t have that issue so it’s a mystery to me. Anyway, subjects in here include Jason as a hamburger, the “peace on earth” sign that went up after 9/11 and what happened to it when we went to one of our stupid wars, a perfect moment of the Humpty Hump, his story of a teacher that actually inspired him to action in high school (it’s his favorite piece and probably mine too), his first real crush in 8th grade and his theory for why it fell apart, a Friday night in college, his method for letting people know that he was available in his dorm room, how an old teacher dealt with the grief of the death of his daughter, an awkward plea for a girlfriend from the lead singer of a band he was watching, how Dr. Mario brought his friends together, aquarium soaps, a Taco Bell on the beach, the awkward closing of a local book store, the allure of the Golden Gate Bridge, and a few more strips that I’ll leave as a total surprise, as it still makes no sense for me to ruin such things. Jason has a real knack for finding the meaning in moments, and he’s not at all shy about detailing some of the shitty things he did back in the day, as his thoughtless gay slurs from being a kid would prove. You’re bound to find at least one high school/college tale here you can relate to, and it’s more likely that you’ll find several. Give this a shot and, as I’ve been trying to make absolutely clear, it’s still very much worth it if you’re already caught up on Laterborn. $12


Young, Jason and various artists – Veggie Dog Saturn Special


Veggie Dog Saturn Special

I do love the collaborative comic. There aren’t too many of them, what with so many people scrambling just to put out their own comics on any semblance of a schedule, but they’re pretty much always a ton of fun. This is a collection of stories that are written by Jason (except for the story that was written by Brian John Mitchell and illustrated by Jason) and drawn by the people that you’ll see listed in the “tags” section, or I’ll get to them as I continue rambling on about the book. Pretty much all of them have other comics listed on this site if you get curious about them, and they’re all very much worth you getting curious about if you’ve never heard of them. Things start off with a story illustrated by Kurt Dinse about a gigantic bully from grade school who would steal bits of food off all the trays of kids who didn’t eat quickly and how that affected him in later life. Well, it’s told by a very old man, so I’m guessing maybe some of these aren’t literally true. That part was a little vague in the introduction. Hey, as long as the story is entertaining, who cares, right? Next up is the story of a house party (illustrated by Jason Martin) where the bands show up and the author steps in to play a little guitar. PB Kain is next with the shame of depositing large chunks of money to the bank on a regular basis and how he’s sure that the tellers think he’s a drug dealer (when he actually works at a comic store). Chris Hoium has a story about a brief conversation of the worst things that people had done to their grandma, Carrie McNinch illustrates a piece on the dangers of having too much store credit at a tattoo parlor, Joe Grunenwald remembers a friendly neighbor who would show projected cartoons when he was a kid, and Eric Shonborn shows what happens when pranks involving a label maker go horribly wrong. There’s also the piece illustrated by Jason Young and written by Brian John Mitchell, dealing with an implausible vomit configuration that I couldn’t help but sample below. It’s a pile of fun, in other words, and if you’re a comic artist/writer out there who would like to do something like this yourself, Jason does mention in the introduction that literally every person he asked to be in this said “yes,” so maybe your hypothetical project wouldn’t be as hard to get off the ground as you may think. $3

Martin, Jason – Laterborn #7



Laterborn #7

OK fine, so technically Jason hasn’t completely abandoned the idea of the high school story, even though these mostly deal with college and its aftermath.  As long as he still has this much insight into the whole ordeal of friendship and maturing, he can keep it up forever as far as I’m concerned.  First up is a short story which is about friends a young man meets in college (it is fiction, not Jason, as far as I can tell), their time as housemates and how they eventually move onto bigger and better things while the young man just keeps living in the same house, finding new roommates through internet listings.  It’s a fantastic story; he should look into having it published.  I don’t usually say things like that, as I’m one of those dopes who think that being published in your own mini is achievement enough, but there’s a deep core of resentment at the hallowed memory of the time as housemates being made fun of by one of the old members and a full realization that those times are never coming back which make for a damned wistful story.  The comics following this keep up that wistful theme, as further stories deal with quitting a temp job for no apparent reason, being the only person who was decent to the only woman at another temp job, having too many people to pray for and the story I sampled below, which I can relate to all too well.  Finally there’s the piece that made me say he’s still (sort of) doing high school stories, as it’s all about a friend of his from 2nd grade on, how they eventually (but amicably, it seems) drifted apart, and how he later found out that this close friend had gotten married, had a kid and then gotten divorced because his wife was cheating on him with another friend from back in the day.  Clearly these comics are striking a serious chord with me, like I needed more nostalgic tendencies when I’m going home to visit this weekend.  This comic has been a real find (if I’m allowed to consider something that was sent to me in the mail a “find”), and I really can’t recommend it highly enough.  $2


Martin, Jason – Laterborn #6



Laterborn #6

OK, to the chronologically curious, here’s the order in which I reviewed these comics: #5, #4 (after about a year and a half) and finally #6 (after about a month).  If you just read one of these reviews and think it might seem a bit more muddled than usual, you’re probably right.  Anyway, after being mildly impressed by #5 and significantly more impressed by #4, this one blew me away.  Jason describes it in his intro as an attempt to wrap up a lot of topics, as he was heading towards 30 and thought he should probably get away from sad high school and college tales.  This means that he crammed all kinds of stories into this one, so for those of you who are looking for the most bang for your buck, here you go.  Stories in here include the healing power of playing Nintendo with friends after being ignored by the girl you like (and making a new friend in college to begin with), a brief piece about aquarium soaps, an awesome video store clerk in Berkeley, and a dream he had years ago about crashing at the home of a very nervous family, which inspired a follow-up dream years later when he stumbled across a written description of said dream.  The heart of this comic, however, is contained in two longer sections.  First up is Jason’s tale of going on tour with his band in 2007, with all sorts of stories about the generosity of others on the road (including bands giving up their door money to help out the struggling traveling bands) and the various people and places he saw.  Then there’s the subject he’s trying to kill: high school memories.  There’s a piece about his Pavlovian response to the public address system at his school ending each class with the first note from “Today” by Smashing Pumpkins, how he just assumed that Kurt Cobain was an asshole until learning more about him after he died (and how much Cobain hated knowing that he had fans who were assholes), the story of Pearl Jam buying up 4 hours of radio time in 1995 to promote little bands that they liked and promoting new projects from friends, how the way he acquires music has changed dramatically over the years, and a piece about a candle and falling asleep to music that honestly flew right over my head.  Still, my not really getting one story (and it’s not like I hated it or anything) in a comic this hefty was impressive.  It’s going to be a shame to have Jason put some of these topics behind him (even though I’m intensely curious to see what he comes up with next), as few people have been able to convey the quiet moments that really make up friendships at that age.  The realization that you’ve started talking like your friends, the tiny things you do to amuse yourselves and how much they can help you out when you’re down.  OK, that veered towards sappiness, but you get the idea.  As you get older your friends have, you know, adult responsibilities and can’t always be there when you need them.  In high school and college, generally speaking, they were occasionally as miserable as you were and got exactly where you were coming from.  It looks like he’s putting together a collection of the best of his stuff, which should be something to see.  In the meantime, I’d start with this one, his best yet, and work your way backwards.  $3


Martin, Jason – Laterborn #5


Laterborn #5

Mini comics 101, that’s what you’ll find here. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing in my book, or at least it’s not when you have something interesting to say. Jason packs this little thing with autobiographical stories about growing up, falling into and out of friendship with a girl, peepholes, suicide, bike soccer, and a crappy data entry job. Nothing in here will set the world on fire, but it’s a solid mini, the kind of thing you’d read and then forget what was in it a couple of days later. I don’t mean to crap all over this or anything, the art is solid enough and there are a few genuinely touching moments in here, but if you’re one of those people (that I just made up in my head) who only buy comics from up and coming superstars who are setting the world on fire, thus far you can probably skip this series. But who knows if he keeps at it… $2

Martin, Jason – Laterborn #4



Laterborn #4

I have nothing but sympathy for anybody who reads this site and hopes to find numerical coherence in the reviews.  Sometimes I do get #1 of a series and then work my way down the line, but more often than not I get an issue somewhere in the middle, review it, and am then sent other issues of a series (or seek them out myself) for a more balanced perspective.  Jason thought I was a little hard on him last time around (for the review of #5) and, generally speaking, he’s right.  Hey, you try to come up with something at least mildly interesting about this stuff every day.  It’s usually easy, sometimes it’s not.  One thing I do have to point out to people though: when I say that something is “mini comics 101”, well, that’s a good thing in my book.  I like comics, you see, or I wouldn’t be at the end of the eighth year of this reviewing gig.  Anyway, this extended intro was mostly so I could mention that #5 was sort of a response to #4, as friends told him that #4 was a bit heavy and he wanted to focus on lighter fare.  The fourth issue was a bit heavy, granted, but it was also a really excellent comic.  There are basically three long stories in this issue to go along with one short piece about how a longstanding “Peace on Earth” sign was taken down after the start of the Iraq war with an American flag.  The first, a long text piece (I believe these are known as “short stories” to those of you who have only ever read comics), deals with a young woman on holiday with her boyfriend, visiting his family, and her remembering a traumatic childhood of story of his and coming to a much greater understanding of his “faults”.  Next up is one of the rawest things I’ve ever seen in comics, the story of a music teacher  and his reaction to the death of his young daughter.  This piece should be copied extensively and handed out to anybody who says that squiggly lines on paper don’t have the power to move people.  Finally there’s the story of a genuine inspiration in the life of a young Jason Martin, his teacher of “Personal Growth” (yes, apparently the name of the class).  This teacher broke all kinds of boundaries, challenged his class to think in entirely new ways, and inspired young Jason in probably his first act of civil disobedience.  Jason even throws in the newspaper clipping of the event, in case we thought he was taking liberties or anything.  It’s a great mini, not a weak link to be found.  Maybe I was a little hard on #5 (it’s been a year and a half and it’s not like I have an encyclopedic memory of these things), but #4 is a wonderful thing, well worth seeking out.  $2