I’ve been reading Marc’s comics since the start of this website (before, even) and I’ve never seen one quite like this one. This is exactly what the title implies: a series of banal complications, told about 2/3 in text form. But wait, don’t run away yet! The rest of it is still his inimitable artwork, and the cast of characters alone in these stories is worth the price of admission. Unless you don’t want to read about characters that includes “Pudding Horror” and “Nuclear Sidewalk” (among many others), I guess, but the names alone make up for any banality. This is the story of Chop Salad, who has to travel to New York for six months to pick up some artwork, among other things. He has to sort out his apartment, get a subletter, try to maintain his current tax bracket, navigate roommates, and every other activity and consideration that goes into taking a long trip. It’s oddly riveting, but I guess it’s possible that Marc is just one of those people who can do no wrong in my book. If you’re on the fence, I didn’t even reveal the names of characters that made me laugh out loud, because why would I spoil those? This is well worth a look, and even if the story somehow loses you, gaze upon the art and just try to take in all the details. Gaze! $7
It’s actually called Rosetta: A Comics Anthology, but you all get that, right? As for the book, it’s pretty much your average anthology, in that some of it is great (John Porcellino, Marc Bell, David Collier, Ron Rege), some of it is not so great (James Kochalka) and some of it is downright incomprehensible (M.S. Bastian, Renee French). Don’t get me wrong, I usually love James Kochalka’s stuff, it’s just that I really didn’t need to see the breakdown of one of his diary pages. Isn’t it self-explanatory enough as it is? Overall the whole thing is definitely worth a look, as more of the pieces are good than not and the production of this book was pretty amazing. It looks great. Unfortunately, that great look makes it $20, unless you go to Amazon quick and get it before they take the discount off. Another good thing about this is that there’s a lot of international talent, something we don’t see enough of in general. One problem I had was with Megan Kelso’s story. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, it’s just that it was the length of a regular comic and it seemed sort of out of place in this setting. I say this fully knowing that I’m going to get her collected story when it comes out… Anyway, worth a look, but I’ve seen too many great anthologies this week already to get too excited over this.
There are some reviews that just write themselves. Look, I’ll give you the part of the lineup (that way part of it is still a mystery!) for the anthology, OK? Neil Fitzpatrick, Souther Salazar, Josh Simmons, Paul Hornschemeier, Marc Bell, Dylan Williams, and Scott Mills. The idea here is that everybody picks up after everybody else, in whatever manner they see fit. For example, Dylan Williams has a short story about a man in a bar, complaining about music, until he sees “Me and My Demon Speeder are Gonna Win This Race” written on the bathroom wall. Marc Bell picks up right there, with a character that only Marc Bell could draw, in a race, on something that looks like a demon speeder. Some of the transitions are smooth, some of them aren’t, but this book is a tremendous experiment regardless. Yes, I know it’s been done before, but this book is $10 and hefty, so it’s nice to see it being done on a larger scale. My only beef is that the pages aren’t marked, so it’s hard at times to tell what artist is drawing certain pages. Still, a minor thing, and something that could probably be remedied with a trip around my website, looking at samples from everybody in it, if only I wasn’t so damned lazy. Here’s hoping the contact info above is correct, it’s the only address I have…
There is Nothing!
Oh mini comics time machine, why can’t all comics come from you?Â Ok, maybe I’m not THAT in love with all old mini comics, but nostalgia is a powerful thing.Â I vaguely referenced the fact (in an older review for Marc) that I wasn’t all that fond of this comic, but reading it again now I have no idea why that was the case.Â There are a couple of pieces that aren’t great, granted, but this is a hefty 38 page book.Â It reprints strips from back in the day when Marc was doing weekly comics, a format that is sadly lacking in quality these days (or at least it is in most of the papers I see, online is a different story).Â It’s difficult to sum up Marc’s work if you aren’t already familiar with it, as the Shrimpy and Paul collection (while a masterpiece) came out ages ago, and there’s a generation of comics folks now that may not have seen it.Â To put it succinctly: he’s absurdist, funny, ridiculous, insightful, nihilistic and gooey, while being none of things a good chunk of the time.Â He’s a damned unique voice in comics, and it’s a shame that I haven’t seen more from him over the years.Â It’s an even bigger shame that I can’t find a single place online to buy his comics, although you could still find copies of that collection.Â This is mostly to bring his name up again, and to point out that if you do see his comics anywhere in your travels, buy the hell out of them.Â Stories in here include fighting against nothing, cutting the sausage casing, making a list of things to do, a house getting up and going, smashing something loved and the guilt involved, angry friends and a relentlessly happy worm, a piece of sheer beauty in tiny tiny panels, poor poor Big Boy, The Sensitive Sausage trying to go about his day amidst all the ugliness in the world, humping and mustard, a beautiful day ruined by cheating, one hell of a centerfold,Â a tale of Hercules, getting a head off your head, losing your mind and getting it back by washing dishes, rock & roll being dead, drunkenly trying to get noticed as a writer, an enviro suit, a zine writer’s crush destroyed, Sweet-Cakes, Ol’ Simp, a free box, and being freed by orange juice.Â That’s some of the goodies in here anyway, I’m leaving out some surprised in the hopes that you can track this down.Â If you can it’s only $4 for all this…
For anybody out there putting together a “best of” collection for any of their characters, this is how you do it. There are strips and stories in here from many different years, letters from fans, Shrimpy appearances in other comics, newspaper strips (some in glorious, glorious color), a cover gallery, even a FAQ. For those of you who have never been introduced the world of Shrimpy and Paul, well, you no longer have an excuse. The pages aren’t numbered, but I’d guess that it’s about 150 pages of great stuff. My favorite story in the universe, “The Ball, the Goose, the Power” is in here, as well as an interconnected epic that involves Kevin, Chia-Man, Saul (Paul’s brother who lives in his nipple), Blimpy, Mushroom Hed, Ib-Ub, Miss Polly, Taco, Mennod, Lucky E., Sanitation Man-Of-Festo, Tim Horton, Goose, Texas Sheriff, Mills, Cubby, Mr. Socks, Captain Beige, Mr. Duck Chocolate, Sue, Jambo Stretch, and Grumpy Man in Small Home. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has panels as intricate as Marc. It would take you over an hour to skim through this book, but everything in it is begging to be examined closely. This is truly one of those books that gets better with every read, as there are a ton of tiny side characters everywhere that you miss if you blink. It’s $16.95, and it’s one of those books that I’d pass out to everybody I knew if I was made of money. The humor might not be for everybody, I guess, if you don’t like things that are funny. As for me, this gets my vote for best collection of the year. Somebody find this man and give him a regular series, or a newspaper strip, or something. Talent like this should be rewarded. E-mail address!
Shrimpy and Paul (and Friends)
I’d heard a lot about this guy before I ever read him. His name was popping up on websites as the next big thing in minis, as being the next guy who was going to break out into the world of, say, Top Shelf or Highwater Books. I read another book of his and, honestly, thought it was a disorganized mess. Potential, sure, but it looked to me like he had another couple of years left before everything came together and he put out a really good book. But I had purchased Shrimpy and Paul in the same shipment, so I tried going into it with an open mind. The main story in this mini is called “The Ball, the Goose and the Power” and it is one of the best things I’ve ever read. And what a cast of characters! Taco, Cubby, Miss Polly, Chia-Man, even Big Boy in a brief cameo! It’s about a greedy goose and the things that Shrimpy does to try to please it. There is so much more to it than that, but the joy of reading minis like this is in discovering things for yourself. There are a few shorts in this as well, the one page strip about a dream (called ?????!!!!!) being the best. Apparently the main story in this issue ran in a newspaper too. And to think I was complaining a minute ago about him getting his shit together. Turns out that he’s at his best when his shit isn’t at all together. This is the kind of book where, if I had a ratings system that was on a 1-10 scale (with 10 being the best, of course), I would give it an 11. Yes, I know, that’s an impossible score and it belittles the whole point of having a ratings scale based on 1-10, which is why I don’t use it at all. The point is that it’s better than almost anything out there. The people who said that he’s the next big thing are right, if there’s any justice at all in the world. Elements of work from Doug Allen and Robert Crumb (the ‘Ol Simp character) are apparent, but he’s taken it to a whole new level. Buy whatever he has and then beg him to make more.
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.