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Derry Green, Delaine (editor) – The Portable Not My Small Diary



The Portable Not My Small Diary

Hey kids, or anybody who has started reading comics in the last few years? Are you interested in the history of mini comics, why they’re such a source of passion for so many people? Well, maybe not in numbers, but in level of interest and dedication in following certain artists? Your answer is this volume. If you have no interest in the history, away with you! This one can be for the old timers. This is a collection of the best of the “Not My Small Diary” anthology, and if you read small press comics in the 90’s and 00’s, you will recognize plenty of these names. In fact, good luck not getting lost in a Google hole or trying to figure out what so many of these people are up to these days. Notable names include (but are not limited to) Jeff Zenick, Dan Zettwoch, Patrick Dean, Raina Telgemeier, Jesse Reklaw, Carrie McNinch, Sam Spina, Roberta Gregory, Kurt Wolfgang… you know what, there are just too damned many names, and they’re all in the tags, so check that part out. If any of those names made you say “hey, I wonder what they’re up to these days” then this book is for you. These are mostly snippets of stories, but they’re all complete by themselves. Sometimes the stories follow a theme, like notable dates or moments in their lives, but really they’re all over the place. If it seems like I’m avoiding getting into specifics, that is entirely the case. If you were around for all these artists when they first started, you’re going to get lost in this instantly. If not, this is an excellent way for you to figure out what the big deal was about these people all along. I guess it’s possible that it’s the nostalgia talking and that people might not connect to these stories now, but screw that. These are tales of human weakness (and occasionally triumph), and those stories are universal and timeless. Most of the original issues of this series are out of print, so this is your best option all around. The book itself is $7.50 if you see Delaine at a convention, but if not $10 should be enough to cover the shipping, and I really can’t recommend this enough. It’s rare for any anthology not to have a weak story or two, but these are all golden.


Isaacson, John – Do-It-Yourself Screenprinting


Do-It-Yourself Screenprinting

Ever wanted to make your own t-shirts?  Ever thought that it would be way too complicated and/or expensive to even try, so you gave up right away?  This book will prove you wrong.  It’s a step by step instruction guide for how to make your own shirts whether you have access to state-of-the-art materials or not, or even (potentially) if you don’t even have electricity.  All of that is well and good, you may be saying, but what about the comic itself?  Is it a good read even if you have no interest in making your own shirts?  Well, sort of.  There is a LOT of technical jargon in here (it’s basically an instructional manual, after all), but John and the people around him always seem like real folks, and he does an excellent job of never talking down to the reader while still not taking for granted that you know everything every step of the way.  There’s a section in the middle of this book where he details a day spent being a street vendor trying to sell his shirts (I used probably the only pratfall from the whole book for the sample instead of one of the many pages with useful information on them) that is a great introduction to that sort of thing.  How DO people convince strangers to stop and check out their stuff?  Or prevent themselves from being robbed?  As for the technical information, I honestly believe that I could at least fake my way through making a shirt after reading this, and I have NO aptitude for this sort of thing.  I’m probably overstating and would most likely maim myself if I ever did try to make a shirt, but I could at least answer a few questions about the process and there’s no way that would have happened before.  At any point in this manual where John thinks he might not be explaining something thoroughly enough (or when he thinks that somebody else might have better information than he does) he liberally sprinkles websites around and other sources of information so you can check it out for yourself.  As just a comic this would be a bit dry if you had no interest in the source material, but his teaching of the material is so engaging that you might well end up having an interest by the time you’re done reading it.  That seems like a pretty good recommendation to me.  And it’s only a measly $9 for this hefty thing!

Leunig, Matt (editor) – The Bridge Project



The Bridge Project

Just so it’s clear, as of 10/07/09 that website is still “under construction”.  Well, it does lead to a fair amount of samples from Matt and other places to learn about this book, so it’s better than most “under construction” websites, and this book is new enough that it might really be under construction.  I’ve just become jaded from seeing that warning on countless websites only to have the construction never start.  Anyway, how about the book?  This is an anthology with a unique goal: team up on cartoonist living in Portland with one living in San Francisco, let them do their thing and see what comes out of it.  Some of these stories just have one person drawing, some of them mix both artists in, but the mildly surprising thing is how well all of this works.  Collaborations can be a tricky business, but Matt seems to have found the magic formula.  This did take a couple of years to put together, so I guess technically he did have time to work some bugs out.  Stories in here include The Forlorn Hope (by Shannon O’Leary & Ryan Alexander-Tanner, dealing with the infamous Donner party), The “The Bridge Project” Project (by Peter Conrad, the only solo piece in the book due to Peter’s partner crapping out on him), Nerd Prom (by Carolyn Main & Jesse Baggs about cartoonists in relationships getting along a little too well at a convention), Shanghooked (by Graham Annable & Scott Campbell), Lost Intersection (by Matt Leunig & Seamus Heffernan, the heart of the book), Jumpers (by Sina Grace & Susan Tardif, about a long distance relationship disintegrating), Future Jerks (by Jonathan Hill & Calvin Wong about, um, vegan jerks in the future), Dark Matter (by Tom Lechner & John Isaacson, dealing with an especially creepy invasion), The MVPs (by Josh Frankel & Greg Means, it’s about star basketball players yearning to make comics), and The Doppelganger (by Tessa Brunton & Vanessa Grunton, it’s all about the various evil twins we have all over the place.  All that and there’s still room for a couple of short pieces by Rina Ayuyang & Erika Moen (an untitled piece about trying to fit in in Portland), Mari Naomi & Rachel Mendez (Inga and the Whales, a heartbreaking tale (almost certainly an urban legend) about a whale thanking its rescuers), and David Chelsea & Two Fine Chaps (that’s really what they’re called, it deals with David’s uncle having a stroke).  It’s packed, is what I’m trying to say, and there’s really not a weak piece in the bunch.  Graham Annable is always worth the price of admission to me and his piece on the sea serpent was brilliant, there were some damned useful tips in The Doppelganger (if you ever run into yours, that is), Peter Conrad was far too nice in not naming the slacker that promised him a script for months, and the center of the book by Matt & Seamus, dealing with a few people and their relationships over the years, was a perfect place to do some artist swapping.  So now that I’ve mentioned how great the content was, I at least have to mention the layout.  No table of contents, but that was made up for by the inclusion on the bottom of every page of the artists.   It seems to be the norm not to mention that on the page in anthologies, and it bugs me every time it’s not included, so kudos to Matt for that.  It’s an impressive achievement, here’s hoping this didn’t scare him off editing anthologies altogether and he can keep this concept going with other cities.  And did I mention this is a measly $9.95?


Isaacson, John – Pyromania #2



Pyromania #2

I’ll admit it, I am occasionally won over by the cover to a mini alone.  It doesn’t necessarily save a crappy book, but it’s usually enough to save a book where I’m wavering.  This is a collection of odds and ends but it’s all new to me, and that’s all that matters for these rambles.  First up is a short silent piece about a curious young man (John?) wandering around outside and looking at the stars.  Yes, I do in fact always miss some of the subtleties of the silent pieces.  Next up is a great piece about John trying to find his way in California, where the kids were divided up between skaters and surfers (John was neither).  He goes through plenty of other phases, trying to make his own way in the world, until eventually he goes to college in Ohio and finds that people are back to asking him if he’s a skater or a surfer because he is, after all, from California.  It turns out (spoiler alert!) that he’s still a work in progress, as are we all.  John goes on to tell the story of how he almost burned down the school making special order sweatshirts, as one of them got caught up in dryer and it was too far in to get out.  He built up a nice sense of impending doom, even if the story did start out with you already knowing what happened.  Next up is a shortie about the process of making t-shirts put to lyrics and, even though I’m not generally a fan of this type of story, this is how it should be done, with the main action taking place and the lyrics complimenting the action.  Finally there are a few one page stories called “Susie the Potato Theif” and seriously, if you’re going to take the time to  make a recurring character, PLEASE take that extra step to make sure the damned thing is spelled correctly.  Curmudgeonly reviewers like me tend to get seriously annoyed at such an easily corrected mistake.  The stories themselves are fun, as they detail the mayhem causes while stealing potatoes, and who can’t get behind that?  It’s still a pretty good comic even with that stupid mistake, and this is from 2005 so it stands to reason that the man has only gotten better since this.  That website linked above has plenty of comical goodness and also links to his other websites, so if you’re at all curious about the guy you have plenty of places to go.  $2