Website (where you can buy a few of these at least)
Bomb Time for Bonzo #5
The folks at Comixwerks sent me this last week, probably because they saw that I ran across the second issue of their series several months ago. I missed the ones in between so I’m not sure how much they improved in the other issues, but this one is significantly better than the second one. Layout, content, overall look… great stuff. Here’s a list of who’s in it and you can decide for yourself: Onsmith, Dylan Graham, Paul Hornschemeier, John Hankiewicz, Benjamin Chandler, Henry Ng, W. Lantz, and Matt Kapolczynski. As John Hankiewicz is my reigning favorite for the last few months, it follows that I’d have to love this book, right? Well, for once, yeah. There’s one page in the book that didn’t do much for me, but even that one was more of an “eh” reaction than anything actively negative. No, I’m not going to tell you which page. They still have at least a few more issues to go before they can challenge Toenail Clippings for best current anthology, but I can see how they could get there eventually. What are the stories about? Well, besides the samples, there’s not listening to your brain, dinosaurs sinning, a preacher, 9/11, and a living gingerbread man. It’s $2.50 and well worth a shot. Check out the website for ordering info. They’ve updated the site quite a bit lately, all kinds of samples and an interview with John Porcellino. What are you waiting for?
Arrows Bring Comfort (with John Hankiewicz) Now Available in blue or green cover! $2
I can’t seem to get John Hankiewicz to link up there, so here you go. Jeremi and John both did half of this book, which is an alphabet book, meaning that it goes through the letters and has a picture for each one. Simple enough, right? I had fun trying to figure out who drew what, until I figured out the very, very simple way that they split up their duties. Did I mention that I’m a doofus? Good. Anyway, good stuff. This gives them both a chance to show off a bit with things that they don’t usually get to draw, which is always good. It’s $2, you can order a copy from the website above, and it also has a fancy blue cover, if you’re in that kind of a mood.
Gag-Hag Now Available! $4
This reviewing thing is, at times, the easiest thing in the world. Dan Zettwoch, Ivan Brunetti, John Hankiewicz, Jeremi Onsmith, Chris Cilla, Ted May, David King, Bryce Somerville and Johnny Ryan contributed to this collection of one-panel gag strips. So what you have here is some of the funniest people around and probably the best title for a collection of this type imaginable. What, you’re still reading this? OK, I’ll also mention that I had a really hard time just picking one sample, but I’m trying not to give too much away for free here. It’s $4, as you can see, and it’s available here, as you can see. What’s stopping you? Don’t you like to laugh?
Ghost Comics (edited by Ed Choy Moorman)
Sometimes I make these reviews overly complicated, and I probably will with this one too, so I wanted to sum it up simply: this is a collection of different takes on ghost stories from some of the best small press cartoonists around.Â Ta-da!Â What more do you need to know?Â There are all kinds of highlights to choose from, and somehow there’s not a stinker in the bunch.Â That’s a rare thing with anthologies, but Ed has put together quite a cast here.Â Things start off strong with Hob’s tale of a dinosaur ghost witnessing everything that follows its death and the eventual destruction of the earth.Â From there Jeffrey Brown talks about making a fool of himself to a member of a band he likes, Corinne Mucha implies that the “ghosts” in her dorm were really just an excuse to get people to sleep together for protection, Maris Wicks goes into detail about the creepy and non-creepy aspects of living with a ghost as a kid, Madleine Queripel relates the reality of trying to scatter ashes, Toby Jones (professional boyfriend) goes into how useless he is when confronted with death, Lucy Knisley visits an old school she attended briefly and is shocked by the sheer number of ghosts still around, Allison Cole finds a practical way to rid herself of ghosts, Evan Palmer tells the tale of a knight misguidedly trying to win love, and Jessica McLeod warns of the dangers of ghost tomatoes.Â Then there’s my favorite (among many “favorite”) story: Kevin Cannon’s tale of all the major landmarks of the world joining together into a Voltron-like creation to fight evil, how one member of that band is destroyedÂ and, as a ghost, sees a plot to destroy the world.Â Any more detail than that would ruin it, but trust me, it’s a purely awesome thing.Â If that still hasn’t convinced you, here’s everybody else involved: Ed Choy Moorman (duh), Aidan Koch, Mike Lowery, Sean Lynch, Sarah Morean, Jillian Schroeder, Zak Sally, Abby Mullen, Eileen Shaughnessy, Tuesday Bassen, Sarah Louise Wahrhaftig, Jenny Tondera, John Hankiewicz, Will Dinski, Mark Scott, Monica Anderson, Warren Craghead III and John Porcellino.Â Topping off that pile of talent is the fact that this is a benefit anthology, with proceeds going to the RS Eden, which started off as a chemical dependency center and evolved into helping community members at need in all sorts of areas.Â So it’s for a good cause, it’s packed with talent and it’s only $10.Â Sounds like a no-brainer to me.Â $10
Shitbeams on the Loose #2 (edited by Rusty Jordan)
Hey look, an anthology!Â I’ve never understood why so few of these clearly label who did which pages (some even have page listings for the artist without having the actual pages numbered).Â This one at least has a chronological listing of the artists, but the nature of this book makes it difficult to tell where one story ends and another begins.Â Why?Â They’re mostly highly interpretive blasts of art, that’s why.Â Still, I’ll give you a list of who’s in this and you’ll most likely be properly amazed and impressed.Â There’s Ron Rege Jr.(looking less deliberative than I’ve seen him, and I’m a bigger fan of that than I of the mildly sloppy story in this issue (said mostly because the bits of text are hard to follow)), Jason Overby (brilliantly smacking the preconceived notion of what makes a comic strip around), Dave Nuss (with a welcome quiet moment of the Roman soldier who theoretically jabbed Jesus in the ribs), Andrew Smith (puking a tuna melt is the worst), Hector Serna Jr. (I could spend the whole review trying to unpack those images), Brent Harada (with a mildly out of place regular old story about searching for boots in thrift stores), Robyn Jordan (a quiet piece about camping), John Hankiewicz (a breath of fresh, distinctive air in a sea of chaos), Grant Reynolds (with one of his more disturbing pieces, and that’s saying something), Ayo Kuramoto & Amane Yamamoto (please place your review here, this went right over my head), Rusty Jordan (this is where it starts getting really difficult to tell where one artist ends and another begins, I believe his piece is the one with the escaping brain), Luke Ramsey (ditto, I believe his stuff is the series of full page heads), and Andy Rementer (an oddly adorable piece after all this about a man, his bike and their mutual love).Â Or maybe Andy Rementer is the one who did that utterly horrific back cover?Â Hard to tell, and that website doesn’t clear it up a bit.Â Oh well, with that list of stars it’s a hard thing to pass up, and the quality of most of the stories makes it even more difficult.Â And if you don’t love that cover, well, I’m afraid there’s no hope for you.Â It is a fairly hefty $9, but it’s put together nicely.Â You decide!
Handbook Now Available!$3
I’ve found that it’s just about impossible to scan only one page of one of John’s stories and have it make any sense. So I tried to scan two pages in a row, and… well, you tell me if it helped. This one is a collection of shorter pieces that I hadn’t seen before. There’s one about Dancing, one about Epictetus, Amateur comics and some stories about jazz and asthma. Mostly those stories really aren’t about any of those things, but you mostly have to figure these things out for yourself. Go back and read any of my other reviews to see what I think of the guy. Sorry to be so predictable, but what do you want from me? When he puts out a book that doesn’t make me think, doesn’t include at least three things that I’ve never seen before (this one has a great quote, someone grabbing a lightning bolt and the best depiction of a small child I’ve ever seen), and looks in any way rushed, I’ll be all over it, but in a negative way. Until then, be happy that there’s someone out there who’s putting out such consistently thought-provoking work. Contact info is around here…
Eleanor E. Is Home
I’m almost more excited about this website I just learned about than I am about this comic (not that there’s anything wrong with the comic, but more on that in a minute): The Holy Consumption of Chicago. It has new comics every Sunday from four different people. either Andres Nilsen, John Hankiewicz, Paul Hornschemeier or Jeffrey Brown. Check out the site, it has quite a backlog of comics already. As for this one, the main part of the comic is going to be in the next issue of Tepid in a longer form. So far it seems very… coherent for a comic from John. Odd that that sentence could be seen as a negative comment at all and, granted, there’s a lot of story yet to come, that was just my initial impression. The two shorter pieces, You Or I and Miller School didn’t suffer from that, with the latter story actually using a rubber stamper for a legitimate reason in a comic. Wonderfully surreal and interesting stuff, as always, and the art gets better every time. That’s not to say that I don’t already love his art, which is what makes it even scarier that his art keeps getting better. Send him a buck and check it out, or at least go to that website up there and check out comics from all of those great artists.
Tepid: A Mini Comic
Here it is, the first issue of Tepid. It was done three years before the other issue that I saw, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Then John told me (I got this at SPACE) that it sucked, and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. What’s the verdict? Well, if you’re wondering what the funk is on the cover, my cat threw up on it, so I guess that’s a bad sign right there. It’s OK, but it’s only the kind of thing that you’d probably like if you read all his other stuff and were desperate for anything you hadn’t seen yet, like me. You could tell that he had some idea of where he wanted to go, he just wasn’t sure how to get there yet. The Satan story was pretty good, and a few of the shorter pieces were good. I think I still would have thought of him as having a lot of potential if I had seen this years ago. Anyway, he still has a few of these left, so you can send him $1.50 for it if you’re interested.
Tepid Spring 2002
It’s always a happy day when I get a new issue of Tepid in the mail. John wrote to me that this is a bit of a “lame” issue, as other parts of it appear elsewhere, and it depends on what you want to compare it to. Compared to the other issues, it’s true, this one is short and doesn’t have too much going on. Compared to the rest of the comics out there, I still think this is one of the best and this issue is still great. There’s some Hanshaw Development stuff and a big story about a boy who can’t even look at his grandfather. And I was one of the lucky ones who got a drawing on the front cover! Anyway, you all know that I love his stuff, and this does nothing to change my opinion. Get the other ones first if you’re just looking to try him out, but if you already know about him you won’t be able to pass this one up.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like you to meet Mr. John Hankiewicz. These are the most unique comics that I’ve seen in a long time and I think everybody out there should own them. As far as I can tell he’s the David Lynch of comics. Those of you looking for an easy read should go elsewhere, but to those of you who don’t mind a challenge and enjoy studying the panels to see just what the hell is going on, there’s not a better series out there than this. If I had to pick one issue, I’d say get the one from 2000, even though they’re all head and shoulders above most everything else out there right now. And that’s saying a lot when you stop to think that I consider the amount of quality books out there to be pretty immense. Clicking on the titles will bring you to the usscatastrophe page. As long as you have Paypal, you can get all these titles too. Have I made it clear yet that you should do your part to make this guy rich and famous?
Tepid: The Gimmick Book
Maybe I’m just having an odd day, where I can’t think of anything insightful or important to say for any of the comics. Or maybe, like this one, they simply defy description. Are you tired of the “you really need to read this to see what I’m talking about” style of review yet? Me too. OK, I’ll give it a shot. Ostensibly, it’s about a garage sale and the memories that a wooden horse bring to the surface, along with what the children think of the whole thing. In reality, it makes a whole lot less sense than that. And if you think I’m saying that like it’s a bad thing, you’re wrong. This is kind of like Jim Woodring mixed with Twin Peaks with maybe some Gilbert Hernandez in some of his wordless stories. Like it or hate it, it’s a pretty unique book, especially for a measly dollar. I just found a great sample on Kevin Huizenga’spage, check it out. It’s not this story but it should show you what the man can do. You can get it directly from the creator or you could just send $1 asking for it (and a couple of stamps for a catalog) to Paper Radio PO Box 254 Allston, MA 02134. His home address is 18 W. Traube Avenue Westmont, IL 60559 and you can also e-mail him. I also just found something vaguely resembling a homepage…
Asthma Now Available! $17
If you ever wanted to try out John’s comics but wanted to wait for something more substantial than his mini comics (or his giant regular issues), this is perfect for you.Â It contains pieces from old minis like Handbook, Martha Gregory and Dance, along with a couple of pieces that you may have seen in The Chicago Reader.Â Well, you may have seen it if you live in Chicago.Â For the rest of us, it might as well be new.Â John’s comics have never been easy to review, mostly because so much of it is open to interpretation, and the bits that aren’t are better appreciated seen than described by some yahoo like me.Â That being said, I am legally required to make a review more substantive than “reviewing is hard!”, so I’ll give it a shot.Â There is a series of silent pieces in here that may be my favorite thing John has done involving a little (although giant in perspective) girl, a house with two inquisitive arms, pipes oozing goo, a naked couple who slowly find clothes and explore their surroundings, and a series of four panel strips involving hands that always end in the rich, detailed hands being made into cartoon hands.Â I don’t know why that image effected me the way it did, probably because John is so meticulous and detailed that simple images thrown into that can have a substantial effect.Â The jagged landscape (the ground is littered throughout these pieces with what appears to be broken glass), the waves of sound (unless they really are lightning bolts, they’re mostly coming from what appears to be a speaker), and the interaction between all these players really comes together by the end.Â At least chunks of that story were in Handbook, maybe it took seeing them all together in this giant format for them to really hit me.Â Well, that’s one piece (made up of a number of smaller pieces, granted) in this giant book, what else is here to be discovered?Â There the series of Dance pieces (which mostly have nothing to do with dancing), a set of silent pieces involving a man alone in a room with a rotating cast of objects, a story on betting, the Martha Gregory comics, a story of the train station his mother worked at when he was a child, and a personal story about Lot C.Â Yes, that’s the simple version.Â Didn’t I already make it clear that these things are best discovered on your own?Â This really is his most substantive work to date, and that’s nothing to sneeze at when you consider the amount of detail he puts into everything he does.Â If you’re scared of the price I do have minis here you can check out, but I recommend just diving in and going with this.Â $17
OK, generally speaking I try to review things that most people at least have a chance to get themselves, because otherwise there’s not much of a point, but I noticed after reading this that there were only 68 copies made. Maybe it’s only a first printing, maybe this will be included as part of some future graphic novel, or maybe this review is only for myself and 67 other people. Still, even if that’s the case, it’s as good a chance as any to get John’s name up at the top of the main page again. This is a mini, which is rare enough for John these days (and boy am I looking forward to getting to John’s massive Asthma when I get the chance), and he’s more than good enough to be able to make one think whichever format he’s using. This is the story of a young man reminiscing about his father while the images are densely inked pages of a couple of young men searching through a desolate rural landscape. That’s one thing you can always count on with John: even if the nuance of the plot loses you for a minute, you know damned well that he takes “meticulous” to a whole new level when it comes to his art. The story has a poignant moment or two, with more than a few silent, thoughtful images thrown in, then it’s over, as this is a shorty. It’s worth a look, as is everything this guy has done, although you may want to dig into something meatier and then work your way backwards. No price, but there’s a nice color cover, so… $5?
Wow, it’s been far too long since John’s page has been updated. It looks like a homage to my older, crappier scanner over here. Guessbook is a sketchbook comic, and I think I’ve made my feelings known about sketchbooks in general, but a chance to get a peek into John’s brain isn’t something I’m ever going to complain about. Everything is so precise and structured in his comics that’s it’s almost a relief to see messy sketches and half-finished ideas, in an odd way. As always with sketchbooks, it helps a whole bunch if you’re already a fan of the artist’s work, so if you’re somehow not familiar with John, check out some of his other stuff first. If you already are a fan, images in here include people, places and things, some done in a surreal way, and bits of things that never went anywhere. Yep, that’s just about the most generic description I could give, but it’s not like there’s a linear story here for me to comment on. $4
Windy Corner Magazine #2 edited by Austin English Now Available! $10
Why on earth would you put out a magazine like this (as it contains brilliant and vibrant colors throughout) and give it a black and white cover?Â Sorry, I just felt the urge to get my one tiny complaint about this issue out of the way early.Â This is more of an anthology than a traditional magazine, if that makes any difference to any of you.Â There are two pieces here that are full of text, one of which is Austin discussing the art of Lois Lenski at length and the other is an interview between Onsmith (interviewer) and John Hankiewicz (interviewee).Â This interview is absolutely priceless, as who in the comics world would you want to see interviewed more than John?Â OK, it’s possible that there are people you’d rather read about, but John’s work contains so much in every panel and every issue that it was greatly informative to see him break down what he’s doing (or trying to do, in some cases), how he manages to put that level of detail and crosshatching into every panel and how his creative process has evolved through the years.Â Then, of course, there’s the comics.Â This begins on the inside front cover with two short pieces by Mollie Goldstrom (contemplative pieces on the outdoors) and quickly moved to three stories by Austin.Â There’s a trip to the Planetarium as a child and his innocent and wide-eyed reactions, the second part of a series called Francis (and I really should have read the first issue before this), and the memory of a trip to the movies with his parents as a child.Â For anybody who complains about the price of these magazines, and they are a bit steep in these times, the fact that Austin’s work is able to be produced in color because of it is worth the price of admission.Â That still leaves two comics: a piece by Fiona Logusch about the entanglements of relationships and how hard it is to get free and an autobiographical piece by Dylan Williams about his mail relationship with Alex Toth, what he learned from him and Dylan’s own progression as an artist through the years.Â As a whole it’s damned near flawless, assuming you’re a fan of the people mentioned above, and why on earth wouldn’t you be?Â Even if you’re not, picking this up and reading this will make you a fan.Â Don’t take my word for it; a glance around this website will show you work from everybody in this issue, then you can make up your own mind.Â $10
Tepid 2003 Now Available! $4
Sorry, I still haven’t gotten any good advice for how to get rid of the rainbow effect on certain covers. I can mute it, but it just makes everything else blurry, so what’s the point? Looking back over past reviews for John’s work, I noticed that my reviews are a collection of generalities, mostly without any specific information about the actual comic. I guess it could be said that I do that a lot, but for John’s comics I do it for a couple of reasons. For one thing, everybody out there who reads this site knows how much I like his stuff, and I don’t feel like I should have to “sell” someone on this once they see a few samples. Another reason is that there are usually very few “conventional” story points in these, so giving too much away would take away from the experience. For instance, this one is about baseball, Eleanor, and an eyeball. If I told you how it was about those things, all you’re discovering on your own are the feelings you get after reading an issue of Tepid. It’s a look at the unseen world, things that you don’t usually think about. He’s in a class all his own, and that’s a fairly impressive thing to be able to say about a guy who’s only been doing comics for about 5 years. He finally got a Xeric Grant, so this book looks gorgeous. It must take him many hours for each panel, there aren’t many comics out there with this meticulous attention to detail. Send him $4, read this book, make him rich! But not too rich in case that would cause him to retire and stop doing comics…
Tea Now Available! $4
You can see the names on the cover, right? I always feel like these reviews are a waste of time, because anybody who reads the site on a regular basis and/or knows mini comics knows that it would be tough for a collection like that to be terrible. So what’s good? The story from Clutch, about a woman going on a first date with a guy she likes and having to break down and tell him that she really doesn’t like tea, Dave Kiersh getting grabby, Dan Zettwoch revealing a secret recipe, and Scott Mills talking about his mom. Nothing particularly bad about this at all, although I think I liked Garlic better. Probably just the subject matter. Oh, and these are both now available, so check them out, or just go to the website if you need more convincing.
I was going to just write the names of the contributors here to try and convince you to get this, but that scan came out nicely, don’t you think? You’ll notice that I really like most of the people on there, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I think this is amazing. I can’t even say that I didn’t like whole stories, just certain panels. People talking to cats in comics is either cute to me or way too cute, and Dave Lasky’s entry fell into the latter category. The rest of his story was good though. The bit by Austin English didn’t do much for me one way or another. Everything else is more than just worth reading, it’s required reading. That’s right, I’m forcing you to buy this. The only thing I’m not sure of is the price… $5 maybe? It’s a pretty big book. Eh, go to the website (down as of 7/22/07) for this (it’s the first in a series of anthologies about food) and e-mail the guy to see how much it costs. You can’t go wrong with this assemblage of talent.