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.
Various Artists – The Hic and Hoc Illustrated Journal of Humor Volume One: The United States
The Hic and Hoc Illustrated Journal of Humor Volume One: The United States
Do you like your comics funny? Do you like some or most of the creators I listed in the tags section (right below this post, in big letters, you can’t miss them)? Then this one should be an easy call for you. There, now that I’ve made that case, I’ll go about my afternoon… wait, you want something of substance? Egh, fine. Laurent Barnett does the “Me Likes You” comics (which you should already be reading on a regular basis), and she was one of the editors, so there, that’s substantive. Strips in here include Noah Van Sciver’s fever dreams (both with and without music), funny jokes that aren’t really jokes by Bort, Martha Keavney’s tales of a pet human, Nikki Burch showing us that saying “that’s what she said” too many times will end up with you getting what you deserve, Anne Emond’s cat style, Sam Spina’s ridiculously awesome sex comic, a couple of pages of single panel jokes by Sam Henderson (which should be worth the price of admission right there), Grant Snider’s fears and feats (he had four pages of strips and I don’t want to ruin any of them), KC Green’s depressed fish, Jane Mai’s dream of male lingerie, Nathan Bulmer’s tale of ninja tricks, Julia Wertz’ attempt to get serious and Ian Anderson’s tale of a bear that’s just trying to fit in. But wait, there’s more! And you can discover it for yourself if you buy this. Unless you just have an unnatural hatred for all anthologies, which I guess I could almost understand, but it makes no sense to hate the good ones too, and this is one of the good ones. Hell, just pick three of the names of people who contributed to this, go to their websites and see what there is to see. If you don’t laugh once then I release you from your duty to buy this, but seriously, good luck with that. $10
Wertz, Julia – Drinking at the Movies
Where to even begin?Â It’s cheating for me to just say that this is fantastic and leave it at that, right?Â Crap.Â This covers the time between the summer of 2007 and the end of 2008, as Julia decided to move to New York after all the things keeping her in San Francisco fell away at once.Â Parts of it seem to be taken from her “Fart Party” comic and maybe another mini or two, but I’m far too lazy to go back and check which parts.Â Most of it seemed new to me, and I do try to keep an eye on this sort of thing.Â The book even almost has an uplifting ending, although I’m sure Julia would hate to hear that, as she seems to more or less give up the drinking and get on with a few more “adult” responsibilities.Â In the meantime we get to see her drunken year and a half in all its glory.Â There’s the random nature of her move (hilariously explained as her natural propensity to always take the difficult path), how bums seem to gravitate to her and how she can’t seem to hold a job.Â There’s her oddly happy home life and the fact that she gets along with her whole family, even though an older brother has had some trouble unrelated to her.Â Yes, drinking at the movies does take place, and it seems to take place fairly often.Â Do they serve liquor at the movies or does she smuggle it in?Â The world may never know; I know some places are smart enough to serve liquor with their movies.Â Other highlights (out of about 190 pages, so I’m cutting this list extremely short) include her odd ability to quiet a baby, the various ways she gets fired from her jobs and her utter lack of sadness about any of them, her hobo-like appearance and the fact that she only uses three outfits, her childlike eating habits, being ignored by obnoxious assholes who hit on everyone else, and, of course, drunken shenanigans.Â I read a chunk of comics on her website that seem to indicate some serious maturing going on in some ways, but her stuff is still hilarious as ever, so no worries there.Â Something about a tv adaptation of “Fart Party” was mentioned in this, but I haven’t seen anything about it since, which would be a shame.Â Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t see a way that it wouldn’t fall apart on television (unless maybe it was an IFC and she had a serious hand in the creative aspect), but it would have made for some excellent comics.Â There also don’t seem to be any minis in her store, which is odd, but all her books are available and you get special bonus goodies for ordering them from her.Â If you’ve avoided her comics so far because maybe you don’t like unconnected but fantastically funny comics, this one has a more or less coherent storyline, so your excuses are over.Â Buy it and be happy. $15
Wertz, Julia – Fart Party #7
Fart Party #7
I love the comics where the toughest part of the review is to figure out which page would be funniest as a sample. Julia’s work always has plenty of possibilities, so I just went with the first page. That way when you buy it nothing in the middle is spoiled! That’s not usually an issue in Fart Party, but things are more or less linear this time around, as Julia leaves San Francisco, lives with her Mom for a few months, almost moves to Portland and ends up in New York. One or two of the strips are even downright melancholy. Other subjects in here include stress, creative ways to open a wine bottle (actually, I probably should have sampled that page. Dammit!), drunken phoning, nature, comics, a shooting, a found kitten, and turd blossom. She’s set up a pretty strict standard of funny to live up to with each issue, and so far she hasn’t even come close to missing the cut. Oh, and the first four issues are out in a collected edition from Atomic Books, so I believe this makes the whole Fart Party “saga” in print. Huzzah!
Wertz, Julia – Fart Party #6
Fart Party #6
It took about three panels of this issue for me to briefly wonder if Julia has lost her edge a bit, if she’d been hanging out with too many comic bigwigs and that she’d maybe gotten a bit melancholy. Then the punch line of that strip (spoiler alert! It involves that cover) knocked that nonsense right out of me. There is a sadder theme in here in general, as she deals with losing a long term boyfriend and a crappy job, but there’s still plenty of funny to be found. As always, talking about these things in too much detail has a tendency to make them unfunny, so I’ll only say that subjects in here include a candy cane turd, advice from Keith Knight, not getting hit on by creeps, being written up in the Onion, a week on the wagon, and embarrassing moments from her past. There’s one thing about these issues that I have to wonder though: why are some of the strips neat and gorgeous while some of them look like they took her about 15 minutes? Again, as I mentioned in the last review, I’m not here for the art, and it’s not like any of the sloppy ones are any less funny because they don’t look quite as good as some of the others. I just wonder what’s going on there. $3
Wertz, Julia – The Fart Party Sampler
The Fart Party Sampler
Would you believe there’s not a single fart joke in here? Three cheers for that, although there are plenty of poop jokes in here. None of that makes the slightest bit of difference though, for one simple reason: this comic is funny. Seriously, consistently, laugh-out-loud (to drag out the tired cliche) funny. Will-I-get-in-trouble-if-I-sample-every-page funny. It’s mostly just online because Julia’s too poor to print too many of these things, which is a damned shame, and a good reason for you to go that website up there and order comics. What, you want to read about the actual comic first? OK. In here are strips about career options, being small, how to get a boyfriend, drinking, first swear word, Squitches, Jesus camp, insomnia, and babies vs. abortions. And that’s just the first half of the book. She seems to have completely avoided the strip trap of doing every one with the same damned number of panels and set-up, these range from three panels to the whole page. And did I mention that it’s hilarious? I really was laughing pretty much all the way through, which is a rare and welcome thing. Sure, this is the sampler and maybe all of her other comics suck, but looking at some of the examples on the website I really doubt that this is true. She’s also trying to save up money to go to James Sturm’s Center for Cartoon Studies, but screw that. So she could maybe learn to refine her drawing skills, but so what? She already knows how to tell a good story, what more do you need to know? $2
Wertz, Julia – The Day I Killed Jesus/The Legend of Rebob Mountain
The Day I Killed Jesus/The Legend of Rebob Mountain
Hey look, a flip book!Â Just wanted to point that out in case anybody got confused by the two covers.Â This is another step away from the Fart Party comics and, considering that I loved that stuff, it’s odd that I’d be so happy about it.Â She’s branching out as an artist in a big way, even if the “i before e” rule is still a bit hazy.Â First up, because that title is irresistible, is The Day I Killed Jesus.Â Whatever you’re thinking from that title, you’re almost certainly wrong.Â This is a story of Julia being babysat by a very lazy and inattentive sitter when she was 6.Â Early in the week she had managed to steal a bottle of aspirin, and once she was unsupervised she decided to host a tea party with Smurf, Rainbow Brite and Jesus, as he was the “unseen guest at every meal”.Â Well, she filled their cups with aspirin and only later read the warning label on the bottle.Â Her genuine terror is adorable and perfectly plausible, as why wouldn’t it be possible to kill an imaginary Jesus in such a fashion?Â The other piece is a serious short story, which is something of a departure from her usual work.Â She grew up near Rebob Mountain, and local legend had it that the flying monkeys from Wizard of Oz lived on top of the mountain, swooping down occasionally to kidnap pets and small children.Â Naturally this was a cause of great concern to the children, who kept a close eye on all ten (!) outdoor cats and their other various pets.Â Eventually one of their friends started getting skinnier, lost all his hair and eventually “went to a better place”, which took things to a whole new level for the kids.Â “Heartbreaking” is not a word I thought I’d ever use to describe one of her comics, but this one is close.Â She even has an afterword about how the top of the mountain still isn’t on Google maps, so it’s still a mystery.Â Julia mentions a collection of her short stories coming out in 2011, and if she keeps up this level of quality up until then it’ll be something to see.Â No price, but two stories = $3 to me for no good reason.
Wertz, Julia – Fart Party #5
Fart Party #5
Curse this brain of mine, it’s almost totally worthless at this point. There I was at Chicago Comics, with most if not all of the Fart Party comics just sitting there, waiting for me to buy them. This sorry brain, knowing how much I enjoyed past Fart Party issues, informed me that I must have had at least the first few issues, so I settled for getting #5-7. Alas, all I had was that sampler reviewed above. So many left behind… As you can probably tell by now, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite comics, after reading all of two of them now. This issue is a “travel” comic, which can be a dicey proposition unless you’re Julia Wertz. She doesn’t linger on any of the obnoxious, boring things that can sometimes mar a good travel comic and sticks pretty much to her format of a few panels followed by an ending involving the funny. Maybe the art’s a little choppier than in her past work, as pieces of this were done on trains and I’m sure on various couches, but who reads this for the artwork anyway? Anything that makes me laugh this often could be 100% stick figures and I’d still be telling everybody to buy it. There are also comics from various people Julia met along her travels and even a few pictures in case you were wondering what some of the people shown in here actually look like. Seriously, anybody who’s not reading this series is only hurting themselves. $3
Wertz, Julia – Mystery Theater Episode 1: The Human Brain
Mystery Theater Episode 1: The Human Brain
Hey, this isn’t a fart party!Â It’s OK, I believe Julia is allowed to branch out a bit if she wants.Â This is an intensive study of brains, Julia’s in particular.Â It starts with a hilarious two page summary of brains throughout history and why humanity had such a long chunk of time when no scientific study was possible (hint: it involves the bible).Â My favorite quote out of many good ones: “Around the late 1890’s, fancy tools like the microscope were developed, making brain studies much more sophisticated than just cutting that shit open and poking around the mess.”Â Then we get to the regular comic, which opens with Dr. Watson (who is apparently a tiny, tiny man) and Sherlock Holmes hoping to study Julia’s brain.Â Sadly, the brain has left the building (and I absolutely love the fact that Julia’s cartoon head, when popped open, makes a “boing” noise), so the two detectives have to figure out Julia’s life from her apartment and belongings.Â They conclude that Julia’s brain has helped and hurt her plenty over the years, but I’m done describing the contents here as any more will just cheat you out of this pile of comic goodness.Â I like the new direction, even though it’s not a whole lot different from the fart party stuff.Â I also may be one of the few who hopes she takes one of her fake future subjects listed at the back of the book and makes it into a comic.Â “Why On Earth Did You Ever Think That’d Be A Good Idea?” has all kinds of potential.Â No price listed, but I’m guessing $2.50 just for the hell of it.