Programming note: this book is debuting at SPX in a couple of months, so while the link at the title does not lead to their new book yet, it will soon. And now, allow me to wander into the review, where I will also wander with my words. L. has been a favorite at this here website for many years. Jumbly Junkery, Unrequited Monsters, and of course Flocks (which should have won all the awards), so you’d better believe that this one moved to the top of the review pile (which is more of a precarious mound at this point than a pile, but you get my meaning). The only drawback to always topping yourself is that it leads to heightened expectations, and I’m happy to report that L. managed to somehow get even better this time around. There have been several changes in their life since Flocks, and this is a collection of several short pieces that depict some of them. Where to even begin? In the big picture, L. is still coming to terms with several events from their life, and some of them will always be haunting. They’re also better off in a lot of ways than they have been in years, which is a persistent undercurrent running through even the most difficult stories. Subjects in here include trying to put into words just what it’s like feeling like your body has never been quite yours, getting through covid, learning to accept their excess skin after losing a lot of weight, a happy memory of their mother just before we learn how rare such a thing really was in their childhood, being alarmed about seeing their mother’s face in the mirror whenever they shave, trying to imagine exactly the body they wanted, learning to live with what was taken out during gender reassignment surgery (and having to pay for nipples because insurance apparently deemed them “optional”), the bittersweet reality of seeing so many younger trans people being so comfortable with who they are so quickly when it was always difficult for L., and one good thing about having to share custody of their kids. And much more, obviously, but it seems silly to dig too deeply into the specifics months before it even comes out. To anybody who’s trans or questioning, this is once again required reading, as is just about anything L. does, because their books as a whole tell quite the story over the years. And if you’re not trans or questioning but just enjoy a great, if occasionally heartbreaking series of stories, I’d call this mandatory for you too. $15.95 (out in early September 2023)
L. has been making comics for quite a few years now (go check the archives here if you don’t believe me, although I really wish the years of the reviews still showed up), but this might be the best thing he’s ever done. Granted, I’d have to go back and read several old issues of Jumbly Junkery to be sure… you know what, I should probably do that anyway. Anyway, Flocks is the story of his life. L. was gender assigned as female at birth and raised by a strictly religious family. Meaning that when she (at the time; please forgive me if I mess up the pronouns and/or correct me so I don’t do it again) was growing up and started to get feelings that didn’t coincide with the feelings church/her family/her school told her that she should be getting, L. had nowhere to turn for better advice. Instead she had crippling self-doubt, what seemed at times to be an inner loathing as she tried to make herself behave the way she was supposed to and like who she was supposed to. L. spares no detail in Flocks, and the details are almost uniformly grim. She did have supportive parents in other areas (specifically scholastic), and she did have supportive teachers, but it wasn’t until she was able to go away in her later high school years that she was able to start to put it all together. It’s a riveting and heartbreaking journey, and he seems to have arrived at a moment now where all is right with the world: loving wife, two kids, happy in his own skin, he even finally found a church that was supportive and loving instead of the hateful mess he had growing up. I guess all that constitutes a spoiler, but since we’re dealing with L.’s life, I thought it was allowed. For anybody out there is struggling with who they are, this comic will speak to you in a profound way. This is especially true if you’re in one of the backwaters of America or anywhere around the world where intolerance is still considered the right way to be. Whatever you’re going through, it can all work out; it’s just a matter of getting through the rough parts first. $21.95
Damn, now that’s how you put together a fantastic anthology. The stories in here are of various lengths, but it gets going with a 20 page story by Eric Orner dealing with his coming to terms with his sexuality, dating a woman in college, having a right wing nut of a father and generally not having much of a source to educate himself about being gay. The social progress this country has gone through in the last five years on this front has been staggering (it’s like the majority of the country realized all at once that they were being homophobic assholes and all decided to stop and pretend like it never happened), but it’s stories like Eric’s that remind the youngsters that there were very few options when you were growing up gay in the 70’s and 80’s. The closet was a lifesaver back in those days. Anyway, I’m rambling, and I haven’t even gotten to the other 32 (!) creators in here. Highlights include (and I don’t think there’s a single actively bad story in here, for the record) Annie Murphy’s story about her elderly closeted relatives and wondering what their lives were like, Marinaomi’s first time being an awkward threesome, Ed Nuce and the rules of survival at death metal shows, Dylan Edwards and his childhood friend who referred to his Transformers toys with headlights in robot form as women to try to even out the gender imbalance, Justin Hall’s story about dating a man with (unbeknownst to him) serious mental issues while Justin just thought the guy was trying to work out his life, Jennifer Camper’s hardboiled detective story, Terrance Griep’s most painful wrestling injury, Edie Fake’s hilarious two pages of jokes told by somebody trying to pay to get into a sex show, Steve MacIsaac’s coming face to face with his childhood bully and the unlikely way the conversation ended up going, Andy Hartzell’s story of Pvt. Manning (in his own words) talking about his potential gender reassignment surgery on top of trying to come to terms with his conscience about all of the awful things he knew that the U.S. was doing around the world, Carrie McNinch’s first summer love, and Sasha Steinberg’s triumphant tale of a drag queen buying panty hose. That’s right, I somehow didn’t mention Howard Cruse (who’s been at this for decades and who at least partially started gay comics in general), Craig Bostick, L. Nichols or Rob Kirby, all favorites of mine. So that should tell you the level of quality you’re going to be getting here, right? Oh, and since I’ve been cranky about it in past anthologies, I should mention that Rob does everything right in editing this thing. Creator names at the top of every page? Brilliant! Check it out and enjoy, but set aside an afternoon for it, as this here is a hefty pile of stories. $29.99
It’s tricky enough to review comics that are essentially visual poems, it’s even trickier to try to pick a sample image from the comic. Still, you can get people interested in a certain poem by a line or two, so maybe it works for comics too. This is a series of images of people, couples and not couples, that L. drew at some point and put together to form a story. Well, sort of a story, as it probably depends on your definition. It hits on all the “high” points of relationships and the effort to enter one: fear of rejection and/or solitude, the inevitable distance created, and secrets,Â but also the potential of making something better than you could on your own. L.’s choice of images, particularly those of couples who didn’t know that they were being observed (or, if they did, she managed to catch them in some candid moments anyway), really makes this comic, as subtle glances can mean everything. If you stick with comics with a linear story, I suppose you can skip this. If you like a little bit of poetry in your stories, this is right up your alley. If you’re somewhere in between, the visuals in this should bring the fence-sitters in. No idea on the price, but my random guess of the day is $4.
Jumbly Junkery #9
Sometimes this whole art form just hits me all at once.Â L. had a simple note at the start of this mini, mentioning that this was one of 200 copies of this issue and that there were only going to be 200 copies of this issue ever and really, she’s right.Â Sure, there might be a collection some day, a “best of” kind of thing, but there are 200 copies of this issue in the universe and that’s it.Â Then I take a step back and realize that I have boxes and boxes full of comics just like that, one of 100 copies ever made, one of 50 copies, sometimes even one of only a dozen or so copies ever made.Â That’s what this crazy business is all about right there, the love and dedication that goes into making something with only a relative few copies floating around the world.Â As for why I’m in a “what’s it all about” mood anyway, I blame L. and the latest issue of Jumbly Junkery.Â There’s a sense to me that something has settled in her life, although a lot is still less than ideal, and yes, that is totally me pulling these ideas out of a few fictional stories, so feel free to laugh at me.Â Just a general sense of a slowly dawning acceptance of the nonsense in the universe. As for the actual stories in here not related to my opinions, they include worries about a self-perceived lack of originality, wishing for snow but enjoying warm weather, random items and their potential, having to think about how old you are, realizing that life does not pause when you want it to, the vicious cycle of insomnia, all the skinny people, true love, a recent lack of interest in music, all the people trying not to sleep on a train, a lack of truth, trying to trust in a world of internet dating, dance moves, rain, turning it all off, and Outlaw Dog and Knuckles.Â The range of artistic styles she chose was impressive as hell too, ranging from the simple to the abstract to cartoonish to certain forms that I believe she made up herself.Â Her feeling of a lack of originality is baffling to me, as people who always stick with their preferred style could learn a few things here.Â As for the sample, yes, it has very little to do with the rest of the book, but I could not resist that dog shooting at the shark while jumping over it.Â Too awesome for words… $5
Philly Alternative Comic Con 2010
Well, at least I think Pat was the editor.Â He put the book together, anyway, and that’s basically the same thing.Â Sadly, it’s one of those anthologies without a coherent table of contents (although I did like the look of the one Box Brown put together), so a lot of these stories are going to be reviewed through a bit of guesswork and process of elimination.Â Stories in here include a very colorful mess from Pat, Liz Baillie keeping the tradition of record collecting alive, Hawk Krall with some disgusting but hilarious pranks, Dina Kelberman’s inimitable comics (with a drunken disclaimer tacked onto the bottom), Mike Sgier with a futuristic tale of trying to cap an uncontrollably spewing well, Ian Harker’s love of flying, L. Nichols and going along to get along, and Sally Bloodbath & Matt Wiegle with a piece on the most horrible child alive and her fitting end.Â That leaves a few pieces without a noticeable creator, so in no particular order, the other stories in here dealt with making a friend (literally), trying to make art to please a critic, and two grotesque creatures sharing an apartment and their antics.Â Chris McDonnell probably did the first two pieces and Lance Hansen probably did the last story (which was actually a series of smaller stories), and I say “probably” because that’s where my coin flip landed, and when has that ever been wrong?Â Box Brown did the covers and has a lovely group of people at the end of their lives bemoaning their lack of buying quality comics in their lives, something you should all take to heart.Â As this was from a con I have no idea if it’s still readily available to the world, but as it’s all in color, gorgeous and full of talent, you should hunt it down if at all possible.Â Pat would probably know if it was around, why not check it with him?Â Or I can post a little update here if I hear anything, how about that?Â No price, but $5 sounds nice, if possibly too low.
Jumbly Junkery #8
There are few people making comics that put this amount of work into their product.Â Most people throw a few stories of varying lengths together and call it a comic.Â L. always has a whole pile of stories in her comics, I have yet to see a weak piece and the whole package is always amazing.Â I don’t know if those covers translate well through my scanner, but they’re always impressive.Â Â She mixes a few larger pieces in this issue along with the usual short pieces, and subjects include fireflies, a schoolboy who’s obsessed with numbers, theories on how she cracked her tooth, the many stores closing and opening in her neighborhood, her fears of never making anything that lives up to her standards (utterly unfounded, but it’s often impossible to convince genuinely talented people of that fact), trying to enforce discipline on herself, contemplating the meaning of everything while having a mundane conversation with her parents, Katrina (her dad was living there when the storm hit, and I’, guessing that was her home for a long time), ennui, being unafraid to show real emotions, her amazing ability to always catch guys being assholes to women, and the heroic tale of a cat taken away against its will.Â Her Katrina story was particularly awful because she was stuck at school for months and had no idea what to expect when she got back, she just knew the effect that it was having on her family.Â And really, I’m a guy and I haven’t heard guys being total assholes to women nearly as often as she has.Â It’s another impressive collection of stories, and as this is up to #8 I’m sure you guys already know all about this series so I won’t belabor the point.Â $5 (?)
Jumbly Junkery #5
L. adds a few longer pieces this time around, and I think she may be onto something.Â Granted, I already thought #4 was fantastic, but it’s always nice to see something completely different from an artist and still have it be fantastic.Â Shows range, don’t you know.Â There are still one page stories in here, about things like being gassy, public urination, the guard cat, and the daily grind of working.Â New to this issue are brief snippets about L.’s new love interest (or at least her character in the comic), adorable as they’re only about this new person sleeping.Â The longer pieces are what shines in here though, especially the biggest one in the bunch, about what to do when a person (in this case, a Muslim) overhears a stranger (in this case, an asshole) making racist comments to you.Â Do you go go out of your way to tell the asshole off?Â Do you, alternately, go out of your way to tell the Muslim that you don’t agree with the asshole?Â Other longer stories deal with the dangers of watching tv, where women are at today, feminism in theory versus reality, a quiet piece of observation, and the persistence of some men who yell at attractive women as they walk by.Â Oh, and in case anybody is wondering, it’s just a coincidence that both of the sample pages are entitled “The Sad Truth”, it’s not like that’s a constant theme of her comics or anything.Â just felt compelled to point that out.Â Great stuff again, if the last issue was $5 I’d say this one is the same.
Jumbly Junkery #4
Are there people reading this site who aren’t cat lovers? It’s one of the things that boggles my mind, like the idea that there are Republicans out there reading this (not that there’s anything wrong with that… oh who am I kidding, I think they’re all nuts at this point). Anyway, if that’s the case with you, while there are still delightful chunks of this book that you would enjoy, the obvious cat love may turn you off. As for me, with a hungry cat meowing at me as we speak, I loved it. This is mostly a bundle of one page stories, about such subjects as the Hello Kitty idol, Sisyphus (actually L.) in action doing various hopelessly repetitive tasks, the good and bad sides of Spring, reconciling her profession with the macho jerks she inevitably runs into, making a conscious effort to get rid of her Southern accent, her mutual disappointment in her parents and their disappointment with her, and even a very brief origin story. Oh, and there are also the tales of Guard Cat, the valiant protector of the house who keeps it safe from evil, something every cat owner can relate to. I should also mention that L. is portrayed as a sort of sexless doll with buttons for eyes, not because of any lack of artistic ability, as the book is gorgeous, it’s just one of those things that reviewers are compelled to mention. Just checked the website for price info and it turns out that this is issue #4 and it’s $5, for the curious, but #2 is mysteriously missing from the site…
Always Comix #4 edited by Erin Griffin & Sarah Louise Warhaftig
Once of these days I’ll settle on a universal standard for reviewing anthologies.Â Is it best just to list the talent involvedÂ and leave everything else a mystery?Â Or is it best to go through every story and one page image one by one, leaving nothing for a future reader to discover? How about splitting the difference.Â Here’s a list of the people involved, outside of the editors because duh: Falynn Koch, Jeremy Tinder, Will Kirkby, Josh Blair, Colin Tedford, Matt Wiegle, Alvaro Lopez, Colleen Macisaac, Amanda Kirk, L. Nichols, Ed Moorman, Box Brown, Alisa Harris, Josh P.M., and Joe Decie.Â As this is the Activity issue, there’s plenty in here to do, for the active comics reader.Â There’s recipes, a maze, even a mad lib.Â Specifically I enjoyed the guide to getting over your cat allergies by Sarah Louise Warhaftig (because any “how to” guide that ends with acheiving Nirvana is hard not to love), the attack of the clouds by Falynn Koch (not so much an activity but still funny), Amanda Kirk’s cut and paste page, Ed Moorman’s guide to inner peace, Joe Decie’s guide to fun with matches, and Box Brown’s “wrestler or tattoo artist” quiz.Â There, that still leaves plenty to the imagination, right?Â It’s a fun anthology even without all the practical tips and with them, well, what more could you ask for?Â $4
Jumbly Junkery #7
Is it possible for one person to make an anthology?Â I never thought so, but the sheer range of stories and artwork in this one make me wonder.Â The bigger pieces of past issues are gone (I think the biggest piece is 3 pages), but variety is the theme for this issue.Â The “normal” pieces in here include L. wondering if she’s ever going to have the one moment where she joins the sisterhood of women, drinking too much coffee, wondering what makes cats tick (and if they’re inherently good creatures), trying to pick out the things that separate people from animals while walking through a crowd, how Obama easily beats the lowered expectations left over from his predecessor, using cats like skates, whether or not it’s wrong that she loves one cat more than the other, and the thought process of a cat when it sees a box.Â Mixed in with these pieces are the ones where she’s branching out (and I’m not going to even try to analyze them one by one), dealing with themes such as the unreliable nature of memory, machines as the imperfect perfection of man, happiness, the language of the body, a nightmare, process, and Narcissus.Â The Narcissus piece was notable because she uses nothing but a collection of short lines to form the whole, it’s a deceptively simple and impressive story.Â All this and I almost forgot the story at the center of the comic, a color piece about a man who became paralyzed due to his fear of death and was promptly buried alive.Â It’s an eclectic bunch of stories, that’s for sure, and if you’ve been waiting to check out her work for some reason this one is the one to get.Â You’ll certainly see a wide range of her talents.Â And what does it say about me that of all the stories available here to sample, where she uses a wide variety of styles, I went with the cute cat page?Â $5