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Baylis, Jonathan – So Buttons #12


So Buttons #12

Jonathan has never been nominated for an Ignatz award? Seriously? That seems like an absurd oversight to me. Oh hi, did I already get distracted from my review? Sorry about that, but he mentions that fact a couple of times in here, and it’s ridiculous. But hey, maybe this issue will get nominated next year, because it’s packed to the gills (a phrase I’ve never understood, but never mind that) with winners. First up is the tale of how he settled on his facial hair, how it ties in to Ethan Hawke and what happened when they met (Rachelle Meyer). Next is his memories of sitting with Tom Spurgeon and Carol Tyler at the aftermath of an SPX, which I really have to get to next year (Lance Ward). Then there’s a page by Carol freaking Tyler herself, which is all her, as she agreed to let Jonathan publish one of roughly 100 unpublished pages she found recently. If you were wondering whether or not Kerry Washington was a mensch, does Jonathan (and Ben Passmore) have a story for you! Next up is his story about Grant Morrison, and I have to take a minute here, because it’s about an original page of art he bought from All Star Superman years ago and his debate about whether or not he should sell it, as times were tough during the pandemic. I read All Star Superman literally last week (not for the first time, but in the fancypants “Absolute” edition) and he’s right, it’s the best Superman story ever told, and the only one I’ve seen where the Clark/Superman difference was actually portrayed as big enough to fool people. He also mentioned something I’ve noticed, where I’m roughly 50/50 on Grant’s work, but the 50 on the positive side is VERY positive. But he did this over his own talking head, so now I’m thinking our lists don’t coincide. Doom Patrol in the “bad” pile? Madness (art by Tony Wolf). Josh Bayer draws a true and necessary story about Johnny Rotten, and how inexcusable it was that he ended up a Trump supporter. “The Monkees of punk” was dead on, and if anything maybe a little unfair to The Monkees. Next is the story of a real punk band, Fugazi, his meeting Ian MacKaye and Ian’s story of his time in the crowd at SNL when Belushi wouldn’t go on stage unless a punk band was the musical guest (J.T. Yost). The quality didn’t dip a bit for the last few stories (how could it when Josh Pettinger, Noah Van Sciver and Miss Lasko-Gross were involved, among others) but it’s best to leave a few surprises for y’all, right? Also, I’m going out on a limb here and saying this was my favorite issue of the series so far. Have I said that before? Maybe! But this is the latest issue, so if I have ever said it before, this is the NEW favorite. Pretty good sign when somebody can keep topping themselves like this, huh? Give it a shot, why don’t you? $8

Van Sciver, Noah – My Hot Date (And Other Embarrassments)


My Hot Date (And Other Embarrassments)

For anybody who gets everything Noah puts out (which isn’t a terrible idea, as the man is awfully good at making comics) this is NOT the same as the previous edition of “My Hot Date.” I reviewed that one already, so I’d recommend reading it before digging into this review. It’s one of my old reviews that I can read without cringing, so it looks like I was having a good day. Ah, memories! The bottom line is that I thoroughly enjoyed the story, although this second time around his 90’s dialogue was almost completely unbearable. Historically accurate, from what I remember, but just unbearable. But still, it’s not like he’d bother putting this out again without some new material, which is why it’s still worth a review. Besides, Noah is maybe the most prolific guy out there (outside of Brian Canini maybe), so if anybody is entitled to poof up an old story a bit while adding new short pieces, it’s him. This one starts with a short piece about how poor he was back in the day and how hard it was for him to get Star Wars action figures (he made his own Millenium Falcon), and about how the whole “playing with toys” bit fails to impress other people right around the time you turn 14. Then there’s the main story, and I honestly can’t tell if he added any new material to it. Maybe? Check around the internet, I’m sure somebody out there knows. I don’t think “Lemon Juice in the Sun” (where he believes his sister when she tells him that lemon juice in his hair, along with sitting in the sun, will lighten his hair before his date) was in the previous edition, but I could be wrong. If I could ever be bothered to organize these mounds o’ comics I could check on things like that. He also included his top albums at the time (which are mostly cringe-worthy new, but not entirely), a depressing “where are they now” about a few of his old friends, and finally a comic called Holly Hill. This story is one hell of a bonus story, as it could easily be expanded into its own graphic novel based on what I’ve read. It’s the story of him trying to find ways to avoid becoming a “real” adult after leaving home, and it involves an extended stay in Florida along with some other couch surfing. How he manages to make things grim yet hilarious is always a wonder to behold, and this one is no exception. I just checked and saw that the original edition is sold out, so this is the only way left to get the story. And the extra bits more than make it worthwhile even if you do have a copy of the older comic. Why don’t you give that dusty old thing to a friend and get yourself of the new and improved version? $12

Baylis, Jonathan – So Buttons #8


So Buttons #8

To those of you who read these reviews in order, yes, I did review a collection of the first 8 issues of this series already. And I wrote a review of #9. But he was also nice enough to send along a copy of #8 for review, and roughly half of the stories in here weren’t included in the collection, so it’s kind of like new! To those of you who don’t care at all about such minutiae, my apologies. I’ll treat it like a regular old comic and won’t even mention which of these stories were in the collection, how about that? Partially because my memory is garbage and I’m not completely sure without looking back at the book. Stories in this collection include (after the American Splendor homage cover by Noah Van Sciver) his struggle with pork (he’s Jewish) and the best dumplings in New York, his early years experimenting with gory special effects (and the time he got into a fender bender while wearing gory face makeup), what almost turned out to be the perfect day, and the story of his history with pets, up to an including the tragic story of the first dog he adopted. So if you were curious if just getting the collection would cover you for the first 8 issues worth of stories, sorry! That was merely a “best of” collection. Plenty of great stories still around in these individual issues! $5

Baylis, Jonathan & Various Artists – So Buttons: Man of, Like, a Dozen Faces


So Buttons: Man Of, Like, A Dozen Faces

One sign that I’m reading an amazing book? When I pick about a dozen pages in my head to be my sample page, then realize when I’m done that I could really use just about any page. An embarrassment of riches, I believe it’s called. If you’ve been living under a rock (like me) and have somehow never heard of “So Buttons” even though you already know almost all of the artists involved, you’re in luck! This book collects stories (possibly all of the stories? It’s not clear) from the first 7 issues of his comic series. He uses several different artists, with a few names popping up several times. These strips are all autobiographical, and (this is important for people thinking about making an autobio comic) each of them had something to say. Even the ones about mundane aspects of his life; it’s clear that the guy has seen a lot and/or known people who have seen a lot, which is when it’s advisable to make an autobio comic. Not to name any names of people who make autobio comics for years with seemingly little to nothing to say. Ahem. Anyway, this one starts off with a comic about Jonathan’s first day working for Marvel in 1994, which happened to be the day that Jack Kirby died. He was there when John Romita Sr. did the tribute art for Jack, and he was the one who had to tell him to improve his Thor drawing. Which was a little intimidating, to put it mildly; if you’re not familiar with comics history, those were two legends and it was his first day. This story was also drawn by Fred Hembeck, which is not a name that I’d ever thought would be on my website because he’s a Marvel guy through and through, but here he is. There’s a real danger of my saying either too much or too little about the remaining stories, but I’ll give it a shot. Subjects include taking a trip to take in some art, overdoing it on the Halloween makeup before getting into an auto accident, his kinda sorta connection to R. Crumb, the dangers of meeting your heroes (in this case Robert Redford), meeting Jackie Mason, the perfect joke after seeing Schindler’s List, trying to find the secret to the perfect brisket, how he manages to love both New York baseball teams, how we went from bully to bullied in one word, his Annie tryout in grade school, his unfortunate reaction to the news that John Lennon had been killed, hanging out with his dad and learning that the guy wasn’t as predictable as he thought, bringing out a traumatic memory of the war from his uncle, and almost meeting Jim Jarmusch. There is also almost an entire half of the book that I didn’t mention at all, so obviously there’s a lot here to love. The artists do amazing work with the material they’ve been given and Jonathan is an incredibly gifted writer. Yeah, I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this one. Check it out! $20

Van Sciver, Noah – His Last Comic


His Last Comic

For those of you who are literal by nature, don’t fret! This isn’t actually Noah’s last comic. Or maybe it is and he just never told anybody; guess we’ll have to wait and see on that one, huh? This is also a mini kus book, in case that wasn’t obvious from the tiny blurb on the cover. Things start off with a fictional comic book artist who’s vowing that the current comic he’s making is the last one he’ll do, as nobody appreciates his work and he feels like he’s already wasted 20 years on this endeavor. Don’t be fooled, as this is not a Noah stand-in. This guy thinks the early days of Image comics, with things like Wildcats, Spawn and Youngblood were the cream of their crop, was the pinnacle as far as comics go. He’s spent his career trying to emulate those artists and is constantly baffled when regular people in his orbit don’t recognize his greatness. But along comes a witch in a magic potion shop to give him a potion labeled “desire.” He’s supposed to use this on himself to have the best month of his life, but in a fit of annoyance he pitches the potion into the ink machine at the printer for his comic. So this does lead to him finally being recognized, but once he sees why he’s being recognized he has to take a trip back to the witch to get everything sorted out. I’ll say no more, as there’s plenty more goodness to be had here, but any fans of Noah’s work already know that the man can basically do no wrong. Buy his books, if you’re not already doing so! This is mostly just a public service announcement to let you know that he’s put out a new book under a different publisher here, so don’t let it slip by you… $6

Van Sciver, Noah – Blammo #9



Blammo #9

I’ve had more and more of a compulsion to get political ever since Trump got elected a few weeks ago (future people, assuming any exist after this administration, we really can’t apologize enough, and please know that more people voted for Clinton but she still lost because America), so in that vein, please read that sample image I posted below. I can’t get out of my head the idea that the sad man baby in the top hat is now the face of the resistance. Sure, I don’t know the guy (Noah didn’t either, clearly), but we’re all going to have to get over this concept of “safe spaces” to survive the next four years. Oh, and Noah also has a new comic out, which is always good news, in spite of whatever else is happening in the world. And hey, he’s just one issue away from taking an independent comic into double digits, which is vanishingly rare these days. Stories in this comic deal with his recent time at the Center for Cartoon Studies (along with a letter from R. Crumb asking him why he was wasting time training when he already knew his shit), the true story of where Blammo comics come from, various strips about 19th century cartoonists, two people with broken hearts and a complete lack of the story going in any direction you may have expected, the dangers of playing a prank with egg sacs from a preying mantis, and his time at a comics convention as a moderately famous artist. It’s a dense pile of stories and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something you enjoy/that will make you think/that may change your life in some way. Hey, life changes can come from anywhere, so it could very well come from a comic story. He also has quite a few new graphic novels out over the last few years, so if you’ve lost track of his work somehow you have some real catching up to do. $7


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.


Eichhorn, Dennis P. & Various Artists – Extra Good Stuff



Extra Good Stuff

You can file this review under “you kids today,” if you like to know that type of thing right away. What I mean by that is that there are two people out there that everybody else attempting autobiographical stories should be compared to: Harvey Pekar and Dennis Eichhorn. Sure, Harvey had a movie made about him, meaning that even casual comics folk may know the name, but Dennis, for reasons that baffle me, has never gotten that kind of attention. They also wrote completely different types of stories, as Harvey was all about daily life, the mundane bits mixed in with insights about the human condition. But Dennis, man, Dennis has lived a hell of a life, and he’s chock full of fascinating and/or hilarious stories to tell. Dating back to his Real Stuff series in the 90’s he’s had nothing but the top comics artists in the field helping him out. Back then it was both of the Hernandez Bros, Chester Brown, Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge, I think even Robert Crumb… basically anybody you can think of from that era. So, since this is a collection of (mostly but not entirely) new stories, he brought in some of the best artists working today. The stories in here are all over the place and from various portions of his life; if I had any complaint it’s that I sometimes wished for context as to what age he was or when exactly the story happened (although he did usually give a ballpark estimate). Stories include his very first writing gig interviewing a terrible local band (with Ivan Brunetti), his first night as a taxi driver and how he learned to trust prostitutes (with Max Clotfelter), a fantastic prank on Mormons/a shitty neighbor (with Dame Darcy), a very surreal medical experience with Fox News blaring in the background that also involved him finding out that Harvey Pekar had died (with RL Crabb), finding out that the Coast Guard is not legally bound in any way in regards to searching boats (with Colin Upton), and sifting for gold with a (literally) crazy friend. There are other solid stories in this collection too, but it’s best to leave some things a surprise, right? I checked a bit online and somehow there doesn’t seem to be a definitive collection of his earlier series, so maybe Fantagraphics or Top Shelf should get on that, legal mumbo-jumbo permitting? That’s a pile of really great stories with some of the best artists in the world that are somehow still out of print. Regardless, this is plenty worth checking out all on its own, and if you stumble across any old issues or Real Stuff (or, if you’re old enough, Real Smut), pick that sucker up too. $10


Van Sciver, Noah – My Hot Date



My Hot Date

There are a few things you can assume right away when reading a comic/book/story. Chances are that it’s about something memorable to the author (if based on true events), and chances are that thing was not a good thing that happened to them. Sure, there are stories of the greatest day in the life of the author, but those are (anecdotally) more rare than the “worst thing that ever happened” stories. Which is my roundabout way of saying that there will be spoilers in here, but before I get to that, I’ll sum up my conclusions: if you’ve enjoyed Noah’s past comics (and why wouldn’t you?), then you’ll love this. It tells the story of his first date and digs deep into the life he was living at the time. So even if you haven’t read any of his comics, you’ll still relate to the story, and in some cases you’ll relate too much, for which I apologize. Anyway! Noah is nice enough to sum up the state of his life on the first page, but it boils down to his father leaving his family, Noah’s mom being forced to take a series of crappy jobs to pay for the six kids that still lived at home and rarely being around because of it, and Noah’s family taking over the lease of an apartment that his older brother bailed on, leaving the six kids and the mom in a tiny apartment. Oh, and Noah at this point is 14, which is an especially awkward year for anybody. The bulk of the comic is just Noah going about his life, chatting with a girl on AOL, with his friends teasing him about the fact that she probably wasn’t even a girl. Noah doesn’t shy away from depicting his “street” talk from the time; it’s mortifying but lots of white kids tried way too hard to project at least a slight aura of menace. Which leads to a fantastic moment where Noah is called on this while getting weed (for the first time) with a friend, and he doesn’t have much of a defense. But with that title you’re probably most curious about the date, and it’s as brutal as you may have expected. He finally gets Colleen to agree to meet with him, and I don’t know what specifics they got into online, but she’s clearly older than him, late teens maybe? And she came with a friend. Which, in the early days of internet dating, makes sense, but it sure didn’t help the awkwardness. I won’t get into details so you can enjoy those bits for yourselves, but for any young ladies who are somehow reading this, know that you have serious power in dating situations in the teenage years. Noah didn’t even try dating again after this for another 6 years, as crushed self-confidence can take some serious time and effort to get back. Overall this is a hilarious, insightful look into life in 1998 and the awfulness that is dating as a teenager. $7


Various Artists – Cringe




Quick, think of the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you. Now imagine yourself writing and drawing a comic story about it. That right there should make you cringe, which means you’re in luck, as that’s what this anthology is all about! This book has right around 30 small press artists, some new and some who have been around for awhile, who are willing to share some shameful incident from their past. I don’t think anything in here will get anybody put in jail, but it’s hard not to cringe while reading some of these. I’m not going to review every story because there are so damned many of them (and for a measly $8!), but the highlights include Shaenon K. Garrity wetting herself while out with a group of other cartoonists (including a big name guy, but I won’t spoil the surprise; I particularly loved the way she ended her strip), Sam Spina’s unfortunate method for drinking a rum shot when he met the Bacardi girls, Adam Pasion’s particularly gruesome retelling of an incident involving a finger in the eye, Geoff Vasile dodging a bullet (not literally), Chad Essley and his series of embarrassing moments (hard to top the one where he volunteered to breakdance at school on stage), Fred Noland’s theories on some crayons he used to own, Chad Woody and his racist former roommate, Box Brown and his former habit of eating light bulbs (it’s not quite as life-threatening as it sounds), Stephen Notley and his experience of being “that guy” at a comic convention (you know the one, the guy who gets up to ask a rambling and pointless question and has no idea how to get out of it once he gets started), and Sam Henderson’s experiences with having seizures while surrounded by strangers. It’s a damned fine mix of stories, and at a ridiculously cheap price. Save yourself the embarrassment of not owing this anthology of embarrassment! Ugh, I feel dirty for saying that. I’ll let myself out… $8


Kirby, Rob (editor) – Pratfall




Has the theme of falling on your face/ass/other ever been the subject of a comics anthology before? I can’t think of one, but it’s such a natural fit. This naturally made me think of various falls in my life, and I kept coming back to one what wasn’t really a fall and also wasn’t me. I was walking with a couple of friends on an icy road years ago. One of these friends is 6’6”, and my other friend and I noticed him start to slide. This is one of those moments when time slows down, but after the fact we would both swear that he had fallen far enough backwards for the back of his head to slide on the ground, but he somehow more or less kept his balance and never did completely fall. Not sure even today if that’s a good story or a “you had to be there” story, but it’s notable that I still remember it maybe 15 years later. Anyway! The point of that story is that it’s impossible to read this comic without thinking of pratfalls you know and love, and Rob has assembled quite a talented bunch here to tell their stories. There’s Carrie McNinch’s story of getting her thumb slammed in the door (and her mother driving away with said thumb stuck in the door), Becky Hawkins and her amazing collection of bruises and cuts (not the mention her ridiculously unlucky landing spot), Aron Nels Steinke almost knocking his eye out, Tessa Brunton’s spectacular rolling fall, John Porcellino’s skateboarding mess, Jason Viola’s trip to Russia and the impression he must have left with some of those people, Noah Van Sciver and his preventative precautions taken to prevent ever being hurt again, Cara Bean’s skiing “mishap”, MariNaomi’s bowling injury (yes, it is possible), the cat of Gabrielle Gamboa taking her eyebrow, Tony Breed getting away with one, Max Clotfelter getting seriously punched, and the causes of Rob Kirby’s various scars from waiting tables. With a list of talent like that I doubt that I have to do much convincing, so just do yourself a favor and pick this up. Then, if you haven’t already, work your way back through the older comics of these folks. You deserve it! $5


Henderson, Sam – Scene But Not Heard



Scene But Not Heard

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this a few times on this website already, but Sam Henderson was a favorite of mine from the early 90’s (wow have I been reading small press comics for a long time). The strip that starts this collection in particular was something that I copied and showed to strangers for at least a month. Yes, this was before I had a comics review website, and no, I shouldn’t have copied that page, but it wasn’t nearly as funny with me describing it, so I figured it was OK. Anyway, Sam has been doing a strip based on the characters from that one strip for 16 years in Nickelodeon magazine, and this is a collection of either all of them or the best of them. Look at the sample for some idea of the dynamic going on here, but each strip involves two characters: a humanish creature and a bear creature. Neither one of them ever says a word, the strips are usually a page or two and they all involve hijinx of some sort between the two of them. Wow, that doesn’t get the funny across very well, does it? I should know better by now, but I’ll attempt to describe that one favorite strip of mine from 1993. These two creatures are grinning maniacally in the same panel. The human reaches over and plucks the nose from the bear and eats it. The bear is shocked, but pulls the eyes off the human and eats those too. And then… nope, this isn’t working either. The best way to kill humor is to describe it. Anyway, the humor is all in the expressions of these characters, as I’d have to imagine that having my cartoon nose pulled off my face and eaten would be a traumatic experience. This book runs about 120 pages, with actual pictures of the characters (and Sam) in the back, along with a brief “how to” about his strip. Oh, and there’s an introduction by Noah Van Sciver, which should have maybe been mentioned on the cover. Hey, there’s my single complaint! Anyway, buy this book. This is the perfect “all ages” book, with nothing dirty for the kids, and plenty for adults to enjoy. And for long-time readers of his, this is all in color, which is a damned treat. Oops, a swear word on a review for a kids book is not OK. My apologies… $14.95


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


Gennis, Emi (editor) – Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends



Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends

You should have a pretty easy time knowing whether or not you’d be inclined to like this book from the title alone, and I’m happy to tell you that the contents more than live up to it. Emi has been doing mini comics on this theme for a few years now, and she took her chance to edit this anthology and ran with it, doing a really fantastic job of picking out/accepting these stories. I should say up front that I have no patience for those stupid “ghost hunting” shows with the shaky cams and the loud noises and won’t believe that aliens have visited us until I see solid proof (which is not the same thing as declaring that no other life exists in the universe), but overall this isn’t that type of book. These are all, as Emi says in the introduction, unsolved mysteries, so the reader doesn’t get the satisfaction of getting the story neatly tied up in a bow by the end. Instead you’re left wondering what the hell happened for these 32 stories. If you’re a naturally curious person and/or at all interested in the weird and bizarre then you’ve probably already stopped reading this and ordered a copy. For those of who are too polite to quit reading in the middle of the review (and it’s OK if you do, I’ll never know), subjects include a mysterious gelatinous goo that rained down on a town, the monster with 21 faces, an unexplained shower of meat from the sky, an arcade game that quickly came and went in 1981 under mysterious circumstances, a tumor that was bigger than the carrier, Gef (of which I will say no more but this may have been the most intriguing tale in the book), that weird hum in the air that some people can hear all the time, the Nain Rouge and his continuing destruction of Detroit, the money pit of Oak Island (which some bored billionaire should look into), creepy kids with black eyes trying to enter homes, the Leatherman and theories of who he might have been, unsolved murders at a campsite, the former Prime Minister of Australia vanishing while swimming, the missing body of Addie Mae Collins, why 9 campers in Siberia ran from the safety of their tent (sometimes barefoot) and why they never went back to it, two bodies and their lead masks, Rasputin (an oldie but a goodie), Frederick Valentich and the UFO that seemed to by toying with him, D.B. Cooper and his disappearance (it’s an ever funnier story to anybody who watched Justified this season), a bridge where 600 dogs have committed suicide, the Axeman, and a serious skeleton in the closet of Orson Welles (possibly). DC comics used to do a series of “Big Books” on various subjects, and after seeing this I’d suggest that they start it up again and put Emi in charge. Not every story was perfect, granted, but good luck not having several of these stories haunt your dreams. Also good luck on not taking to the internet to learn more about them, as I already know how I’m spending the rest of my afternoon. And look at that pile of talent in the tags section! Why would you possibly need any more convincing to check this out? $12


Van Sciver, Noah – Blammo #8



Blammo #8

I often end reviews here by pointing out that you should buy the work of whoever it is I’m reviewing that day, because if enough of you do that then that person will eventually be able to make a living purely from their art, enabling them to create exactly what they want to create. Well, after a year without Blammo (he was working on a few other projects that didn’t leave him much time for it) Noah has concluded that he’s better off just working on pages after work when he gets the time. So never mind! Although I get the sneaking suspicion that he’d change his mind if somebody dumped a million dollars in his lap and told him to draw whatever the hell the wanted, but who knows? Maybe he has a fantastic day job. But hey, how about this comic of his? As always, you won’t get more out of your comics dollar than an issue of Blammo. An actual letters page, bunches of stories, there’s even a comic on the back cover for the gentler souls who may have trouble with… well, anything. Stories in here include the origin story for a dog on wheels (a creepy little toy who compels you to tell it your deepest secrets), a young man trying to reconnect with friends after backing away from them during a breakup where both members of the couple had mutual friends, Charles the chicken trying to bring Bill back to life in a series of hilariously hopeless ways, an adaptation of an old Grimm’s fable about the wolf and the fox, a man and his ill-fated attempt to get a woman to date him while he’s wandering around with a tiny grotesque man, a dream of sleeping and waking in an old apartment with serious emotional ties, punks vs. lizards (starring John Porcellino, sort of), and all kinds of strips packed into the final two pages. It’s comics like Blammo that keep me from declaring comics in this form dead entirely. It all seems to be trending towards collections or graphic novels, but this format is much more suited to a comic like this. Hey, there’s room for both. $5


Van Sciver, Noah – Blammo #7


Blammo #7

Noah had a throwaway line in this one that really got me thinking. He called his comic something like the last independent comic standing and I instantly thought that was hyperbole. After all, I get mini comics all the time, and many of them are high quality books. But then I realized that Noah’s book would fit perfectly into the 90’s mold of Eightball, Hate or Yummy Fur and I realized that those comics are all gone now. Well, Peter Bagge still does a yearly issue of Hate (which is a more regular schedule than most of his contemporaries with “regular” books), but Dan Clowes is mostly gone from the field and Chester Brown just put out an (I think) original graphic novel. Noah really is one of the last ones standing, which got me thinking that the industry really is dead, which sent me into a tailspin of sadness until my mind went back to all those mini comics. Sure, the industry is either dead or dying and most people certainly can’t make a living at it. But hey, at least great comics are still being made for the 100+ people who care to read them! Hm, back to the sadness again. Anyway, this isn’t about me or the state of the comics industry, it’s about Noah once again putting out a seriously fantastic comic. First off, just on the off chance that I haven’t mentioned it yet, good for him for including an actual letter’s page, guest strips and comics recommendations. It really is like a 90’s comic! The stories in here include a fake news story about Noah (complete with the stupid “Biff! Bang! Pow” nonsense that all news stories about comics are seemingly legally required to start with), a fake ad about collecting, a couple of single page strips about horror stories, and an update of how Bill the Chicken is doing in hell. The bigger pieces are what makes up the meat of it all, and the Mormon story baffled me a bit before I read his reasoning on the inside back cover. It’s told as a straight-up historical recollection which, if you think about Mormonism and how it was founded, is a bit of a stretch (says the guy who thinks all organized religions are silly, but seriously, Mormonism came from a guy supposedly reading plates from a hat). But hey, if you don’t know the story it’ll be news to you, right? Other than that there’s a longer classic horror story idea (maybe Noah should look into doing a whole book of these things, he clearly has the knack for it), the story of a guy trying to get a job and how he reacts to finding the wallet of an attractive woman with $250 in it on the bus, and the main story about a guy who accidentally wanders into watching over a young kid as she goes trick or treating and her brother abandons her. The impressive thing about this book is that pretty much each one of these stories has multiple layers past what I’m telling you about here, but I’m one of those reviewers who prefers that you find such things for yourselves. I’m going on the assumption that everybody hates spoilers as much as I do, which I think has worked OK for me so far. Overall he may have been nominated for an Ignatz for the last issue (and not won, sadly) but he really should earn one for this issue. Ah, if only I got a vote in such matters. Or maybe I should make up my own comics awards. So what if they’d be utterly pointless? $5

Van Sciver, Noah – Blammo #6


Blammo #6

I have a theory about the longevity of small press comic artists, based upon many years of observation of the behavior of these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.  I’m going to avoid naming names because otherwise I’d be sure to leave somebody out or offend them, but it seems like most of them need either the money or artistic validation to eventually get published somewhere.  Your fantasy/superhero types want to eventually make it to the “big leagues”, and that’s true of the smaller “big leagues” of the alternative comics world.  There are also plenty who don’t give a shit and they’ll keep making comics until they eventually get tired of it, and these people you can usually spot because they always come back to the business, even after being away from it for years.  They just can’t help themselves.  Then there are people like (not naming names, but there is certainly more than one), who seemed to have a really good thing going but just gave up the ghost after a few really great issues.  I can’t say that I blame them for quitting, as doing as thankless a job as making comics  without any significant compensation must be trying.  Where was I going with all this?  Oh yeah.  Noah Van Sciver is on the sixth issue of Blammo, as you may have guessed from that prominent “#6” up there.  He is still self-publishing.  He is also getting better and better with each passing issue, even though I continually think he must have hit a high water mark.  I don’t know if Noah is the type of person to eventually give up if Fantagraphics/Top Shelf/Drawn & Quarterly don’t publish him sooner or later, but do we really want to take that chance?  Take a risk, one of you guys, this guy is more than worth it.  So how about the comic?  I sampled the very first page, as I just couldn’t help it.  Other stories include Abby’s Road (told from the perspective of a 21 year old juggalo/stoner who’s “dating” a 17 year old high school girl, he’s exactly what you think he is and it’s a perspective not often seem in small press comics), As I Remember It (written by Noah’s brother, a quiet moment in the life of the early Van Sciver family), Chicken Strips (still going, Bill goes to heaven, with a fantastic final page spread), Convention (yes, these are fairly common in these types of comics, but it’s still insightful as hell and worth it for the haunted look on the face of John Porcellino), The Krampus Visit (dealing with an asshole singer and an even assholier man trying to get an autograph), and The Easy Life (telling you how easy it would be to quit your job, kill your boss and take over the world).  There’s also his sure-to-be breakout hit Punks Vs. Lizards, which is exactly what it sounds like: 5 pages of punks gruesomely killing giant lizards.   If all his smart and meaningful strips can’t make him millions, maybe this one can.  Oh, and don’t forget a few pages of shorter strips, reader mail and last words.  It’s a whole comic book experience, in other words, and one that most people don’t bother putting together these days.  I doubt if I have much in the way of “cred” in the small press hierarchy, but if I have a shred of it, I am asking somebody to take a risk and publish this man.  We can’t risk losing him to apathy or one of those paying jobs I keep hearing about.  Barring that, the least you can do individually is buy his comics, and you get the added benefit of owning a really fantastic comic.  Where’s the flaw in that?  $3.95

UPDATE 7/7/10: This was actually published by Kilgore Books & Comics from Denver.  That big “Kilgore” on the cover should have clued me in, but I missed it, and anybody who published a comic like this deserves the highest of praise, not being left out of the article entirely because I wasn’t being careful enough to include them.  Mea culpa.

Van Sciver, Noah – Blammo #5



Blammo #5

You can already tell it’s going to be a good day when a new Blammo arrives in the mail.  If Noah gets Wilford Brimley to read that in a commercial I believe that he’ll be set for life, assuming Wilford Brimley is still alive and is willing to do a commercial for a comic book.  Noah decided to take a little break from his Abe Lincoln graphic novel after getting the urge to release another Blammo into the world (and after life threw his girlfriend one of those “you have got to be fucking kidding me” problems) and I’m glad that he did.  Um, not of the circumstances that led to it though.  Not a fan of that at all.  Stories in this issue include a thank you note to all sorts of people, the adventures of the fastest (balding) man in the world, practical jokes with a time machine, chickens resuming their endless wanderings (and being accosted by both skeleton people and cops), a very old and mysterious haunted house (and all of the strange stories that come with such a thing), his reaction to constantly being asked to draw science fiction stories, how he would fare in prison, the many freaks that ride Greyhound (and how he had to wait 8 hours in the middle of nowhere after a clearly faked bomb threat), a clinical description of paranoia and a chance encounter with an old crush.  Like last time Noah has used every tiny bit of this comic, clearly emulating the Native Americans of old, and it really does improve the whole package.  See, this is what I’m talking about when I bitch in reviews about the importance of doing the basics correctly.  There are letters, praise from other comics folk, links to people he fancies at the moment, little comics crammed into blank spots and even an update on his life.  And did I mention that the whole thing is in color?  It bears mentioning.  Look, I’ve already praised this guy up and down, there’s no longer any excuse not to check out his stuff.  I’d say just send him $20ish and buy the whole set of #1-5, but that’s just me talking.  $5 (not $4 like the cover says, which is going to cause him no end of troubles, I’m sure).


Van Sciver, Noah – Blammo #4



Blammo #4

To give you readers a peak behind the scenes here at Optical Sloth Inc., generally speaking comics that come in the mail come with some form of letter, usually just a post-it or tiny note that requests (or occasionally demands) a review, and about a quarter of the time they come with no notes at all, correctly assuming that when I see their comic in the mail that I will instinctively know to review it.  Spoiler alert: I review every comic that comes in the mail regardless of the note.  Really, if you’ve sent a comic that I haven’t reviewed, it’s because I never got it.  Anyway, the point of this intro is to note that on very rare occasions the comic comes with an actual letter, clearly with a bit of thought put into it, and this letter was wonderful.  A bit daunting, as at the end of it I’m told that the future of the underground comics scene is in my hands (as if I’m the only guy out there rambling about underground comics), but this is just a long, rambling way to say thanks to those actual letter writers out there.  Hey, isn’t there a comic I’m supposed to be talking about?  Well, assuming that anybody made it past that long intro, it is, once again, a wonderful thing.  Stories include taunting a neighbor with a gorilla mask, getting to them before they get to you, the true story of the Denver Spider-Man (it’s not what you think), an absolutely hilarious chicken story (picked up, more or less, from the last issue), a bad dream that goes just fine until his nose falls off, how Bob Dylan influenced a young (er) Noah in his wandering around years, and a longer piece about a masked artist and his inability to face the world without his mask (because he’s brutally ugly).  Noah gets all kinds of bonus points from me for not wasting even a tiny bit of space, as there are letters on the front inside cover and extra comics on the back (including an excellent tip for avoiding panhandlers).  The Denver Spider-Man was my favorite of the non-funny pieces, as it tells the true story of a man in 1941 who lived in a tiny, tiny attic of a house until he was caught stealing food and killed the owner of the house.  It was creepy and fascinating, and definitely piques my curiosity about his upcoming Abraham Lincoln graphic novel, something that didn’t really interest me until I saw this.  Of course, I have no idea if he’s doing a serious Abe Lincoln story or something involving Abe as a cyborg child molester, but either way I have no doubts that he can pull it off.  He also mentioned on his back page that reviewers didn’t seem to be getting the chicken stories and that they weren’t supposed to go anywhere; they were just fun.  Fair enough, I’m easily caught up in the idea that all stories are supposed to go somewhere, and this time around the thug who was going to beat up a chicken from the end of the last issue gets rocks thrown at his head, lodging in his nose and the back of his skull, and this whole story had me laughing out loud, always a good sign.  And that bit about us all eventually turning on each other was brilliant.  Well, more ramble there for your buck than usual, but there’s some really great stuff in here, Noah is doing everything right as far as I can tell, and clearly I have to do my part to get the word out.  He says this is in my hands, but really it’s up to you people to buy his books.  All I do is talk about them and he needs the cash to survive.  Won’t all you good folks help him out?  $4


Van Sciver, Noah – Blammo #3



Blammo #3

I must have said this a few hundred times by now, but it remains true: three cheers for random submissions.  Sure, it’s nice to have the regulars send in all their new books for review and see them develop as artists.  Or give up completely, as a bunch of them end up needing to avoid poverty and quit with the whole comics thing.  That being said, Noah has all the potential to end up being one of that rarest of cartoonists: one who will be able to eke out a living through sheer talent alone.  This isn’t meant to indicate any lack of talent on his part, as this is still early days for his work and he already has plenty of things down pat, it’s mostly due to the fact of the tiny, tiny number of people who read these things.  How about that new year pessimism?  Anyway, the strip sampled below is brilliant, with many of the other pieces reaching that level.  He has everything from longer pieces to one page wonders, including the pathetic tale of Carter (a man with no neck and no luck with women), the creative stimulation of a horrible breakup, a long piece about two chickens wandering through the desert that didn’t seem to go anywhere (but it’s “to be continued”, so who knows), the story of his poor and crowded childhood, whatever happened to Scott, the daily struggle to get up and go to work (and as somebody who called in “sick” today for no reason, I can relate), accidental Daisy Dukes and his inevitable fate.  There’s one other thing that I love on his website: if you send him $50 he’ll put your name in his next comic.  A brilliant idea, and I am hereby stealing it for this website, so get those donations in!  Seriously, other than the chicken story, this was a great comic all the way through, and even the chicken story had the best “chickens on acid” page I’ve ever seen. Plenty of sample comics on his website (and even a few in color!) and, like he says on the cover for Blammo #2, he probably is a future cult favorite.  If you don’t get in on the ground floor you won’t be nearly as cool as you think you are.  $4