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Krumpholz, Karl Christian – In The City Part Two


In The City Part Two

As always, it feels like cheating to tell the reader to refer to the previous review in this series, but yeah, do that. Everything I said there remains true, about how Karl is using the comic to show a city, warts and all, as only regulars in that city can see it. Honestly, his books these days make me want to instantly go down to the bar for a few drinks, which is awkward because I’m usually reading his comics in the morning hours. This comic is another glimpse inside of an average day, made all the more complete because he has an excellent ear for dialogue (I’m just assuming that he’s using overheard conversations and not just making all the dialogue up, but most of it sure sounds/looks real) and detail. Things again start off silently for several pages, as we see the routine of Karl and his wife as they get ready to head out on the town. There’s also a brief glimpse of Oola, but she’s not the star of this series, so take what you can get, Oola fans! From there we see some colorful locals, a band advertisement, the route that they walk, and finally a leisurely look at their bus route. An overheard conversation on the bus is the first dialogue we see, followed by the entire experience of eating in a diner. Observations, stories, even a doomed attempt to hit on a sad waitress, it’s all there. After they leave, Chekhov’s Middle Finger (or maybe I’m thinking about the rule about his gun), which was seen earlier, is now used as a weapon, and a depressing argument occurs. The rest of the book is a delightful continuation of an average day spent out in the world, or this city in particular. You know, I’m pretty sure Karl doesn’t say a word in this one, but I could be wrong. You know what kind of mood this comic would be perfect for? If you’re in the mood to go out but either can’t (let’s say it’s snowing) or can’t decide. If it’s the former, you get to live vicariously. If it’s the latter, chances are that it’ll help you decide to get off your ass and head out. For the rest of us, I’ll guarantee you that something in here will remind you of something YOU’VE seen while out and you’ll get a chuckle out of it. $12

Baylis, Jonathan (with Various Artists) – So Buttons #13


So Buttons #13

What’s this? Am I attempting to sneak in another Karl Christian Krumpholz book under a different name? No, you silly things, he just did the cover and a story for Jonathan’s comic. This time around the theme is (more or less) Hollywood, his time in it, and Harvey Pekar (and his time interacting with Harvey). Mostly, anyway, as he always has room for random stories. Topics in this one deal with him discovering Alan Moore as a young comics kid and how it shaped him (it also mentions that Alan drew a strip for Harvey Pekar in 1990, which I now have to locate) (art by Tony Wolf), his time working for the Sundance Channel and how it eventually ended up with him sitting directly behind Harvey Pekar for the premiere of Harvey’s movie (art by Joe Zabel), a solid choice for a midnight movie experience (art by Bernie Mireault), his time going to school with Eli Roth and his joy at watching him shoot Hitler in Inglorious Bastards (art by Gary Dumm), an entirely too detailed depiction of his having to get his Lasik eye surgery adjusted (art by Maria and Peter Hoey), his love of a good Ennio Morricone soundtrack (art by Rick Parker), a well-earned love letter to Tallulah Bankhead (art by Michael T. Gilbert), Nolan Ryan’s disgusting trick to toughen up his fingers to pitch a baseball (art by T. J. Kirsch), and of course the story with Karl Christian Krumpholz with the odd bit of synchronicity of them talking about The Friends of Eddie Coyle when I just watched that movie a few weeks ago. Coincidence? I mean, obviously. Still, it’s an obscure enough movie that I’m tickled by it being mentioned. Obviously there are few more stories I’m leaving as a total surprise for the reader (I mean, I didn’t even mention Whit Taylor’s piece), but even compared to his already solid body of work, this issue is a shining example of what Jonathan can do with a solid cast of artists and when everybody is firing on all cylinders. What does that mean exactly? Probably a car thing. Anyway, heck yeah you should check this one out. $10

Krumpholz, Karl Christian – In the City Part One


In the City Part One

You know how sometimes you’re watching or reading a mystery and the answer makes perfect sense when you hear/read it and you feel a little stupid that it never occurred to you? Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, I was wondering which direction Karl would take after his years of putting out The Lighthouse in the City, which were collections of his regular diary strip, in case you’re new here. After all the stories and talking of that series, he’s moved on to this, which still keeps his love for a big city front and center, but lets the reader take a few steps back to take it all in. If you’ve ever taken a walk through even a mid-sized city (one that’s friendly to pedestrians, obviously) by yourself, and if you managed to do it without listening to podcasts/being so glued to your phone that you’d fall into any open manhole cover in front of you, a lot of this will seem familiar to you. The landmarks, the people (in crowds or alone, drunk or sober), new reactions to familiar sights from others, overheard conversations… it’s a real love letter to the idea of a busy night in a city. His wife joins him halfway through, so the perspective shifts slightly from one of silent observation to taking in familiar sights through a loved one’s eyes; a solitary glove placed on a fence post was noticed by Karl on his silent walk, but it’s given new meaning through her eyes later on. Honestly, it feels like cheating to use one of the few pages with dialogue as the sample image, that’s how contemplative this one feels. I’m not clear on how to actually buy his comics online, short of contacting him directly and asking him, but I think it’s worth reaching out for this one. Unless you’re looking for a big shoot ’em up type comic, in which case this is frankly a poor choice of a website to visit. Check it out, is what I’m saying. $12

Krumpholz, Karl Christian – The Lighthouse in the City Volume 11


The Lighthouse in the City Volume 11

The sample image below is for everybody who has a cat that got just a little too curious about the shower/bath that their owner was taken, resulting in a trail of wetness going through the house in a panicked fashion. Seems to be a thing that every cat needs to figure out for themselves. Oh hi, it’s time for a new volume of Karl’s autobiographical series! This one cover September 2022 through the end of the year, and (no spoilers, but kind of a spoiler, I suppose) this is the last volume he’s going to be doing for a while. Completely understandable, and he’s lasted longer than most who attempt the daily diary strip. I’m curious to see what he does with this new bounty of free time. So what’s this particular volume about, you ask? There are of course several adventures with Oola (both real and imagined), some strips about his time at a few conventions, more tragedy in his personal life (he was on a rough string of losing friends and family members for a while), observations from his walks around the neighborhood, getting through a rough cold (and still making comics through it), and so very much more. Which seems like a copout on the part of a “professional” reviewer, but the man has over 130 pages of strips in here and I’m not going to bloodlessly boil them down to their essences. This is the 11th volume, after all. The man is a hell of a storyteller (and an artist; the level of detail in these strips considering that they’re produced daily is staggering), so I’m guessing that you’re already on board for his comics at this point. If not, it would probably be kind of funny if you jumped on with the final volume of this three year journey. He was nice enough to send me his earlier volumes (that I hadn’t reviewed) a while back, so maybe I’ll review a couple of those randomly while I wait to see what he comes up with next. Will it be odd to talk about those, especially the BO (Before Oola) days? Yeah, probably. We’ll see. Meanwhile, this is yet another solid entry in this series, which you should be checking out already. $12

Krumpholz, Karl Christian – It’s Oola!


It’s Oola!

Less than a year in their household, and Oola already has her own comic. I see big things ahead for this cat! If you’re not familiar with Lighthouse in the City (Karl’s ongoing daily strip series), Oola came onto the scene in November of 2021, several months after both of the cats who had been with them for many years passed away. She made an instant and gigantic impact in their (the other half of “their” is Kelly, his partner) lives, so naturally Karl decided to put together this collection of strips where she was the star of the show. Is it technically kosher for me to review a book where I’ve probably already read half of the strips in other comics? Well, since I don’t have a boss, the only one to decide that is me, and my answer is: when it comes to cats, all rules go out the window. Reviewing something like this, as is the case with the vast majority of comics involving cats, my objectivity goes out the window, so if you’re looking for a detailed, erudite review about the linework and the meaning behind certain strips, move right along. What does that crazy cat get up to in here? Without giving too much away, there’s her introduction to the house, some odd leftover behaviors from her early life on the street, her Halloween cat arched back (the same thing my old cat, Sassafrasquatch (20 year mascot of this website), used to do), the futility of their trying to sleep when she wanted to play, her great escape, her SECOND great escape, what always happens when glass items on a mantle and a cat come together, and several strips based on great comics artists from when Karl was overdosing on comics with just himself and Oola in the house. I was also fascinated by the single image strip of her sitting on a hardcover collection of comics with one of those fabric bookmarks attached to the spine. Somehow she was just sitting there and NOT attacking the bookmark, so I can only assume that he was taking some artistic liberties with that strip. It’s a funny and adorable comic, what more do you want? Check it out already! Unless you hate cats, in which case I can’t believe you read this far into the review. Oh, one last note for Karl and Kelly: I noticed a small continuity error. In the first strip, while you two were discussing whether or not the time was right for another cat, you mentioned getting a pair of cats. But (as of this writing, anyway) you still just have the one cat. Any plans to rectify that? $6

Krumpholz, Karl Christian – The Lighthouse in the City Volume 8


The Lighthouse in the City Volume 8

For all that I sometimes give artists grief who only put out a book every few years, it’s even trickier as a reviewer to keep up with the people who constantly produce comics. Karl was nice enough to to send along a half dozen or so books after I reviewed his fifth volume earlier this year, which then leads to the problem of what to review next. Read them all in order and talk about them? Nope, this time around I decided to review the most recent volume, with the hope of getting back to the earlier stuff at some undetermined point in the future. That never seems to work with me, but I live in hope! This collection covers October through December of 2021, and it also wraps up his second full year of daily strips. The level of detail he packs in these strips is astounding; I get that he’s able to illustrate for a living, but this is not a man who follows a simple formula for daily strips. Generally speaking, the four panels then out format is the most common for daily strips, but Karl is fine making a three or four page story out of the events of that day if that’ll make a better story. Granted, he also has a few strips that are silent sketches, but he even puts so much detail into those that I’d hardly call them an off-day. So, what’s going on in this volume? If you’re reading this in the far future you may have forgotten, but things are rough all over these days, and this volume reflects that reality. The first strips starts off with a quote from The Thin Man (the book by Dashiell Hammett) that ties into the madness of the vaccine deniers, so he’s right off to the races. There are just under 100 other strips in this book, dealing with loss (way too many of his friends passed away during this time period), hope, trying to get back to normal (i.e. being comfortable going out with friends again with not everybody wearing masks), and the introduction of a new cat in their lives, and this cat naturally ends up being the star of the show. Sure, I’m biased towards cats, but I’m also right. This feels like maybe as vague as I’ve ever been in describing a comic, but I am completely fine with that. This is a guy who’s wrapping up his second year of daily strips and frankly seems like he’s at the top of his game right now. They’re unlike most other daily strips I’ve read (the level of detail especially, but it’s also rare for a book like this to not ever feel repetitive) and I’m pretty comfortable recommending this to anybody. As to the question of which volume you should start with, that’s quite a bit tougher. Maybe pick the most eventful chunk of three months or so from your own life over 2020-2021 and see how his life was in comparison? That way if you enjoy the book you can always go back and read what came before and after it. Or just pick a number between 1 and 8 and get one at random. Give it a shot, is what I’m saying. $12

Krumpholz, Karl Christian – The Lighthouse in the City Volume 5


The Lighthouse in the City Volume 5

I’m going to get a bit nitpicky here at the start, so if you don’t want to read it, just skip ahead a few lines. Or if you don’t even want to be bothered doing that, I thoroughly enjoyed this, so take that information and go about your day. See that “Volume 5” up there? Yeah, I did that. It’s not listed on the cover, on the spine, not even on the inside with the title. But this IS the fifth volume, and since this is a collection of daily strips, that seems relevant if you were looking for the whole journey. Even worse, I don’t know if you can even get all the volumes. The first volume is listed through Birdcage Bottom Books, the fifth through Kilgore, but as for everything in the middle, a quick Google search has failed me. Maybe the thinking is that only obsessives read small press comics, so those types of folks would research before buying. It might even be correct! It just strikes me as odd, as a needless way to confuse people. See all that complaining? Didn’t mention the quality of the book even one time, did I? That’s because it’s delightful, right around the best of the daily strips I’ve seen. That’s for a simple reason: Karl doesn’t force it. This might seem basic, but some people who do daily strips seem like they’re performing at times, or pushing for something funny and/or insightful when the truth is that they don’t have much to say on that particular day. And that’s fine! Karl’s solution is given away a bit on that cover, as he has no problem silently narrating a small happening from the day, or the absolute lack of anything happening. He’s also not boxed in by the same format (generally four panels, single page with these sorts of things), as some strips are a few pages, some are a single panel, some are all over the place. Flipping through this book before I started reading it I assumed it was a regular graphic novel (this is also where the lack of numbering failed me) just from the wildly different looks of the pages. Anyway, finally, this book covers the period from January through March 2021, which is less than a year ago as I’m writing this. Some shit went down during this period, to put it mildly, but since everybody reading this went through it too, I won’t go through it again. It’s an engaging collection, with funny and sad strips (and everything in between), and it makes me want to scour the internet to find those missing volumes. Give it a shot, and yes, that’s especially for people who are sick of the daily diary strip format. This proves that it still can be done well with a little ingenuity. $12

Krumpholz, Karl Christian – 30 Miles of Crazy: Another Round



30 Miles of Crazy: Another Round

If there’s one rule about autobio comics, whether they’re daily strips or regular old comics, that everybody should stick to, it’s this: have something to talk about. That’s it! The “something” could be deeply personal, or absurd, or just observances of the people around you. I’m happy to report that Karl nailed that last one, as this is a collection of stories told (usually) at bars, or at least dealing with drunken people. And, if you’ve ever been to more than a few bars, you know that that is where the best stories often come from. These were originally single page strips that were published on a weekly basis on his website (and he’s still keeping up with them as of late February 2016), so there’s no greater narrative arc here, but who needs it? Some of these stories are funny, some baffling, and some are downright sad. Subjects include the various ways that people get kicked out of bars (as a recurring theme in these strips it’s hilarious), what counts as an ID, eating a sandwich that was left at a bus stop, getting lectured by a bum about forgetting the lesson of Super Size Me, drunken acrobatics, drunkenly hitting on ladies on a bus, picking the appropriate area to vomit in, finding his people at a comic convention, and the troubles with a language barrier while trying to find a little person prostitute. That covers about half the book anyway; the other half is up to you to discover. Unless you just read them all for free at his website, you cheapskate you. Overall this is a fantastic collection of stories and overheard conversations and I defy anybody not to enjoy reading this. As for me, I don’t go to bars much lately, but this comic actually has me missing them, which is no small feat. $15


Landes, Daniel & Krumpholz, Karl Christian – Revolt to What?



Revolt to What?

OK Americans with no interest in history, bear with me on this one. Also please note that I am not assuming that no Americans have an interest in history, and particularly the people who read websites about small presses tend to have more eclectic interests than most. But the dumb American is a valid stereotype. I also know that lots of people from other countries read this website… ah, enough already. Remember when the Czech Republic formed in the early 90’s? I was a young student back then, so I knew the Soviet Union fell apart, but the details were hazy to me. Anyway, even if you did know the history and what came from it, this is still an entirely new perspective. Why? Because it’s based on a conversation set in a bar among a group of dissatisfied former revolutionaries who are more than a little sick about what came next. There’s a fair amount of philosophical chatter, and the question of how things could have turned out perfectly in any case lingers over the whole conversation, but it’s a fascinating chat involving stereotypes, the behavior of the victors, how quickly it all fell apart and the strong, constant state of drunkenness of much of the population, with no hope of any further positive steps. Still, the bar scene covers the gamut; I had no idea that the frat bros type was something that anybody else in the world actually aspired to, although it’s nice to see that it’s mocked universally. It’s a fascinating chat and it makes me wonder what else these two creators can do, so it’s a good thing for me that they were nice enough to send along another book for me to ramble about later. $5