Blog Archives

Wolfgang, Kurt (editor) – Lowjinx #2: Understanding the Horrible Truth About Reinventing Mini Comics


Lowjinx #2: Understanding the Horrible Truth About Reinventing Mini Comics

If this was a perfect world, anybody who bought any mini comic ever would get a free copy if this book with their purchase. Yes, it’s that good. There’s one page that doesn’t do much for the book, but it doesn’t do much to take away from it either. Everything else is golden. I didn’t know much about Kurt Wolfgang before I saw this book (he’s the editor and contributed two pieces, “What the Fuck is a Mini Comic” and “My ‘Career’ in Comics”) and I still don’t really, but reading his pieces did inspire me to go to his website and order some of his other stuff. The new issue of Lowjinx is out and it has everybody who is anybody in it. If you’re wondering about the wisdom of making a comic about comics, well, he addresses that in the intro, so worry no more. The comic basically makes fun of Scott McCloud and James Kochalka and talks about trying to be taken seriously around your family and friends while drawing comics for a living. Jef Czekaj apes the Kochalka drawing style in his piece and pretty much nails the guy. Throw in Sam Henderson, Tony Consiglio , Dave Kiersh and Johnny Ryan and you have yourself a hell of a book. I can’t wait for #3 to get here…

Ryan, Johnny – Shouldn’t You Be Working?


Shouldn’t You Be Working?

I still feel like I’m cheating when I write reviews for this guy, as it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. Have you read Angry Youth Comics? Do you like Angry Youth Comics? If the answer is yes, then you need to go out and buy this right now. If the answer is no, why are you reading this review? Listen, the only thing that’s different with this is that this is a collection of Johnny’s “doodling” from free time spent working at a urological clinic for two years. There’s no structure and no story to speak of (although you can see the germs for more than a few ideas that he’s used in his comic), just sketchbook stuff that’s funny as hell. What can I say about it? Well, he likes boobs, and he draws a lot of shit (literally) and either you like it or you don’t. If you like it, it’s only $5.95 for 80 pages, so why not buy it? Couldn’t you use a really good laugh right about now? Contact info is around, I’m sure you can find it…

Ryan, Johnny – Angry Youth Comix #5


Angry Youth Comix #5

OK, before I get started on this one, there was a debate recently on the Comic’s Journal message board about how Johnny Ryan’s comics were terrible, that he crossed all kinds of lines and that was terrible. It wasn’t quite as moral as all that, as people said that they didn’t mind lines being crossed, the comics just weren’t that funny. Well… no. Listen, Fantagraphics mostly puts out books that are for the discriminating comics reader, or the more intelligent reader. These types of people aren’t going to think something that is kind of offensive is funny, or “American Pie” offensive, like sticking your dick in a pie. These people need things that break all kinds of boundaries, or maybe things that are just funny, and I think Johnny delivers pretty consistently. I’m going off on this tangent because everybody knows how I feel about the guy, so obviously I liked this issue too. It’s a bit different from the usual, as there’s a long story in the middle about a guy who’s trying to get velvet pants in 1976. He uses the styles of more than a few of the underground guys, I’m not going to embarrass myself trying to name them all. Other than that, a monkey shaved and disguised as Loady McGee fucks a hole in a vat of boiling hot liquid dildo, saving the day, and I can’t imagine what else you would need to know to check this out.

Ryan, Johnny – Angry Youth Comix #4


Angry Youth Comix #4

I am Johnny Ryan’s personal hype machine! Honestly, it’s just reminding you that he’s putting out quality work on a consistent basis, and to point out the fact that there are TWO collections of his Angry Youth mini comics coming out in 2003, so get on the ball! Included in here is a story about a Halloween party, one about “Comic Book Skool” (and I know I have gone on before about people doing stuff that too self-referential to the genre, but I have to take it all back after reading this), Hipler and one called “Fuck and Shit”. How can you not love this guy? If you don’t have any issues of this yet, well, why not start here? Then go back and get the other ones. Maybe I’m too biased to be writing a review for this so I’ll stop now. And check out his website!

Ryan, Johnny – Angry Youth Comix #3


Angry Youth Comix #3

Didn’t I already establish the fact that I’m not going to analyze humor comics? So why, you might ask, am I bothering to post anything at all then? Mostly to remind you that there’s a new Angry Youth Comix out, and that is a special thing indeed. I didn’t laugh quite as much at this one as I did at the other two, but I didn’t laugh that much at the first couple until I read them a couple of times or related parts of the books to friends and remembered how funny it really was. If that makes any sense at all, there you go. Oh, fine, here’s his website again. The only comic people who might have a better website are Ivan Brunetti and Tom Hart, but they’re better for different reasons.

Ryan, Johnny – Angry Youth Comix #2


Angry Youth Comix #2

OK, a show of hands. Who doesn’t know about Johnny Ryan yet? I figured as much. I only learned about him when he put out his first Fantagraphics book, so I’m still kind of discovering how funny he is. Before I forget, he has one of the best websites out there. All kinds of samples and enough to convince anybody who’s not quite sure about this guy that he’s one of the funniest people out there. Honestly, there’s no way in hell that I’m going to try and review this book. Here’s a list of people who make me laugh every time I read their books: Evan Dorkin, Sam Henderson, Ivan Brunetti, Archer Prewitt and Jef Czekaj. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few people, but the point is that the list of people who are genuinely funny out there is not very long, and it’s always great to add somebody to that list. Johnny Ryan made it there with #1 and cemented his place on it with this one. In this issue, Loady McGee goes on a blind date and there are several one panel strips. That’s it, that’s all you get from me. I’ll sit here and analyze some other comics until the cows come home, trying to figure out what the author was getting at. Not with humor comics. Analyzing these can sterilize them pretty quickly, and I’m not about to do that to something like this. I’ll say again that there are all kinds of samples on his website and that I think this is the funniest new person I’ve seen since the first time I saw Sam Henderson, and if you know me at all you know that that’s saying a hell of a lot. Go to the Fantagraphics website and order these two comics. If you don’t think they’re funny, let me know why and I’ll buy $5 of stuff for you from their website. Although why you’d want me to buy stuff for you from Fantagraphics after it’s obvious that we have drastically different tastes is beyond me…

Ryan, Johnny – The Comic Book Holocaust



The Comic Book Holocaust

Let’s say, and why not, that you’re a Johnny Ryan fan and enjoy his lampooning of various comics icons.  But they only happen here and there, for a panel or maybe a page at a time, and then it’s back to the business of his usual comic.  Well, fret no more, as this collection has all you could ask for in terms of making fun of every sacred cow in comics.  The book is broken up into four parts: daily comic strips, superheroes, independent icons, and… various, I guess.  I didn’t recognize half the things in that last category.  These are all one page strips, and look one tiny notch above sketchbook level at some points.  When text is scribbled out there are just ugly black marks in the word balloons.  But what, you’re reading Johnny Ryan comics for their neatness?  There’s no sense debating the quality of the work either; as I’ve mentioned on this page you’re either a fan or you’re not.  I have to admit though, as a fan, this was a bit much for me at times.  Somebody with more time on their hands should total up how many of these strips don’t have gag involving shit, piss, boobs or dicks, although it does have to be said that nobody does it better.  As for what specifically is in here, picture every strip in the newspaper, every superhero worth a damn, pretty much all the big names in the small press field, and all the assorted stuff in the last chapter.  Or, put another way, what do Garfield, Silver Surfer, Art Spiegelman and Star Trek have in common?  There’s that plus about another 120 pages of this for $10 and again, you already know if you want this or not.  I’m just here pointing it out in case you missed it when it came out a couple of years ago…


Onsmith, Jeremi – Gag-Hag


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?

Hellman, Danny – Legal Action Comics Volume 1


Legal Action Comics Volume 1 Now Available! $14.95

I could go on and on and tell you that the proceeds for this go to a great cause, and one that is vastly important to free speech in general. But if you want to know why Dirty Danny and Ted Rall are in court these days, you should go to the homepage of Danny Hellman and see for yourself. Or I could run down the stories and tell you what I thought of each one. Instead of wasting your time with that, if you read all about the lawsuit and still don’t think you should give money to this guy, I’ll just let you know who’s in this benefit, and this collection of talent should pretty much speak for itself. Tony Millionaire, Sam Henderson, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Renee French, James Kochalka, Marc Bell, Johnny Ryan, Steven Weissman, Ron Rege, Doug Allen, and Spain, among MANY others. I hadn’t seen most of the stuff in here, although I don’t know if it’s pulled from other stuff or mostly original. Whatever the case, it’s all really good, and I’d never had a chance to see Danny Hellman’s stuff before this and I like it quite a bit. Did I mention that this is over 250 pages? What the hell are you waiting for?

Note: The following is from Ben Durgin, and it was on a forgotten page here, put into limbo after a past update of the whole website. No idea how this came about or why it’s here (thank you brain, for losing that memory completely) but, as it’s a great synopsis of the actual legal case involved here, thought it best to put it on the “main” Danny Hellman page.

Danny Hellman is in a bit of a rut right now. In addition to being doomed in the highly unrecognized field of comics, he is facing a $1.5 million lawsuit. Well, we’re four years into this mess, and since the fall of 2001, I’ve had a wonderful lawyer named Erik Jacobs handling my case pro bono, says Hellman. For me, as a struggling artist, the most emotionally devastating aspect of the lawsuit was the expense, and thanks to Erik, these last two years of the lawsuit have been a lot less stressful for my wife and I than the first few.

The lawsuit is over an e-mail prank Hellman circulated and a cartoon he drew of fellow comic book author Ted Rall. Rall had written an article for the Village Voice boldly criticizing Art Spiegelman, the well-respected, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus. Hellman says the cartoon that he circulated came out a day or two before the prank.

The cartoon consists of Rall drawn as a small dog in a park, peeing on a statue of Spiegelman. The prank came after Rall and Hellman exchanged several private e-mails about Rall’s Village Voice article. Hellman says he found Rall’s e-mails to be snide and decided to write an e-mail mocking Rall’s article.

The e-mail, which is entitled Ted Rall’s Balls, featured a faux Rall bragging about his testicular fortitude, which he earned by criticizing Spiegelman, the chain-smoking Napoleon of comics. The e-mail welcomed it’s recipients to join a list serve where the topic of discussion would be Ted Rall’s balls. Hellman says he sent the email to approximately thirty people, most of whom were already well-acquainted with his juvenile jokes. Rall was also included on the list.

That e-mail was followed by a series of faux disgruntled responses from well-known voices in the publishing industry. They were actually written by Hellman himself. Within a couple of days of the Ted Rall’s Balls e-mail, I was receiving cease & desist letters from Rall’s attorneys, threatening legal action, and demanding an apology, as well as a five figure sum of money, he explains. I provided an apology immediately, but declined to offer any cash, (as I felt none was deserved). Within a few weeks, Rall’s attorneys filed a $1.5 million dollar libel suit against Hellman. In Hellman’s opinion the whole prank was completely harmless.

Regarding Rall’s article about Spiegelman, Hellman says, The Main thesis of the piece, (as I remember it) was a dark portrait Rall struggled to paint of Art Spiegelman as a petty, power-mad tyrant of the New York cartooning scene, without whose consent no aspiring cartoonist could ever hope to advance professionally. Hellman says Rall even attacked Spiegelman’s smoking habits.

Danny Hellman isn’t a millionaire who can easily pay a settlement to Ted Rall. So he has put out a benefit book called Legal Action Comics Volume 1. The second volume of his anthology is also available .I’d wanted to do a comics anthology for years. And had tried a few times to get such projects off the ground, with little success, says Hellman. I had done a mini comic in the early 1990s called Legal Action Comics, which reprinted two strips I’d done for Screw magazine parodying Superman and the Simpsons. So in a sense, there were precedents that led to 2001’s Legal Action Comics Volume 1, but I’d certainly had no plans to print such a book prior to the lawsuit. The anthology contains work from some very well-known people in the world of comics such as Robert Crumb, Sam Henderson, and Art Spiegelman. The second volume contains some returning contributors from Legal Action Comics Volume 1 and some new talents as well.

Hellman also has gotten some help from M. Doughty, former front man of the band Soul Coughing, whom he calls a very gifted writer (as one can tell from his lyrics). Hellman says he got acquainted with Doughty a few years ago at the New York Press offices, and at the newspaper’s legendary lavish parties. Doughty had been a writer and an illustrator for the paper for several years. Hellman says that Doughty was possibly the funniest writer the New York Press ever had.

When I got into legal hot water, Doughty and his band Soul Coughing were generous enough to headline a benefit concert the New York Press had organized on my behalf. (Soul Coughing disbanded shortly after that December 1999 concert, and I’d like to think that the sight of me in clown makeup had nothing to do with that breakup).

Danny Hellman doesn’t have any specific plans for the future. He says he has made a living as an editorial illustrator and hopes to have continued success in that field. I enjoy doing comics, and hope to do more of that, in spite of the meager financial rewards and limited audience. Perhaps he’ll continue to get by with a little help from his friends.

Ben Durgin