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.
Wolfgang, Kurt – Where Hats Go
I had a feeling that this guy had some amazing stories in him (go ahead, look at my review for Noe-Fie #6) and he proved me to be a genius with this one. This one is perfect in just about every way, folks. If the people who give out the comics awards have any sense at all you’re going to be hearing about this book a lot when they pass out the awards at SPX. It’s a wordless tale, but with a twist: the word balloons have pictures in them. It might not seem like much, but it contributes to the unique feel of the book. There’s a little boy who loses the hat that his grandfather gives him in a gust of wind, and the rest of the book is spent with him trying to find his hat. Probably doesn’t sound like much fun, I know, but trust me when I say this is one of the best things that I’ve read all year (I would say the best thing but then I remembered the Abe book from Glenn Dakin). There’s more to the story too, of course, but that’s all you’re getting out me. It’s cheap and it’s great, so just buy it. The one thing I’m always afraid of with the wordless comics is that it’s over before you know it, so it can be hard to justify spending $8 or more on them. Don’t worry, this one takes a while to get through and you’re going to want to linger over the amazing art in this thing anyway.
Wolfgang, Kurt (editor) – Lowjinx #4
God bless Lowjinx. I don’t know if anybody has ever come up with the concept for this book before, but it’s about time. In case you can’t read the cover, it’s an anthology of childhood drawing from some of the best small press cartoonists around. Included here are James Kochalka, Sam Henderson, Ivan Brunetti, Nick Bertozzi, Greg Cook, Tony Consiglio, Jordan Crane, Pete Sickman-Garner, Jesse Fuchs, Megan Kelso, Alex Robinson, Kevin Scalzo, Tom Spurgeon, Eric Reynolds, Steve Weissman, and, of course, Kurt Wolfgang. Once again, with this book, it’s probably not going to appeal to many people who don’t already know the work of those cartoonists. But for those people, this is absolutely priceless. It’s $6, if you like the work of these people go to the Top Shelf website and beg them to sell you a copy. OK, I should tell you a little bit about it first, even though if that list of names didn’t sell you, I don’t know what I could possibly say to convince you. Eric Reynolds (is he even on my page yet?) had a mostly text story about the Fantastic Four that’s hilarious, Sam Henderson hasn’t changed much over the years except now he swears more, Nick Bertozzi has a great story about a dog who’s learning to roller disco, and Tony Consiglio… aw, just buy it. I don’t want to ruin anything else for you, and everything in here is fascinating when compared to their later work. Don’t believe me? Fine, look at this:
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…
Wolfgang, Kurt – Noe-Fie #6
Another case of me digging through the vault to post about somebody I think you should look at, but it’s OK this time because this is still in print. I still think that his anthology Lowjinx #2 is one of the best minis ever, even if it is a bit too “comics insider” for some people. He’s still doing that in this issue, bitching about comics to people who are reading his comic, so it seems kind of like a waste of time to me. My only complaint about his style though, really. I like his art a lot. He accuses himself (in his comic) about being too obsessive to leave any blank spaces, but I think it works. There are all kinds of little stories in this one too, and most of them are funny. He’s somebody that everybody should keep an eye on. Maybe not this coming year (or maybe, I’m just guessing here and I’m no expert), but he’ll do something big one of these years, mark my words. He just has too much talent not to. Pick up some of these (don’t start with this one unless you feel like reading about the state of modern comics three years ago, although there is enough good stuff in it to make it worth getting) and see what you think. He did a wordless comic too recently, I’ll let you know what that one’s all about when I get around to getting a copy. Until then, go to his webpage (down as of 7/26/07) and buy all kinds of stuff.