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Jackson, Rob – California #2



California #2

Well, this has gone from being a bit like “Grapes of Wrath” to being a lot closer to something from H.P. Lovecraft. And they go together much better than you may think! In this issue we see a tiny bit more of what’s out there in that forest, the whole family is finally together in California (with a few mysterious stops by Jake along the way), the water that was so suspicious gets made into communion wine, Billy gets a job where he sees a few more suspicious things, and a cellar is uncovered in an old mansion. See, this is there it gets tricky, as I don’t want to tell you anything past “buy this already,” and that failing has dogged me through 11+ years of writing these reviews. So join me as I try, once again, to thread that needle! The story is building up nicely, and the next issue (which Rob was nice enough to include with this one) promises to finally start revealing some of the mysteries. The last few pages, where ____ gets to the ____, were creepy as hell and set up the next issue perfectly. And those creepy glimpses of the _____ in the forest were done very well. So, like I said earlier: buy it already!


Jackson, Rob – California #1



California #1

Spoiler alert: we never get to see California. This one starts off a lot like “The Grapes of Wrath,” with a family losing their farm and heading out to California in search of better times. They get into an accident on the way (well, an accident on their part; the truck that runs them off the road doesn’t seem to care about them one way or the other), the dad hurts his ankle and is unable to work, and one of the sons ends up taking a job to pay for repairs. While this is going on another one of the sons has taken to wandering off constantly, into the creepy local woods, and generally seems to have trouble concentrating or helping the family. This daydreaming son (Jake) somehow gains the ability to heal people, so he heals his dad and convinces the family to keep on going to California, leaving the other son (Billy) behind so that he can keep paying off their debt. Jake gets noticed by some religious folks in California, the family earns enough money to pay off their debt and get Billy back, and I’m on the verge of describing the whole book to you. We do start to see some very brief hints of what might be happening in that creepy forest, learn about the very human problem that also exists in those woods, and generally have things nicely set up for the next issue. Out of how many issues? Who knows, but Rob has proven in the past that he’s more than capable of juggling a few different series at once. Worth a look, and Rob has already made enough interesting/ridiculous/fantastic series that I’m on board with whatever he wants to try. And yes, I’ll be here to point it out if the whole thing goes off the rails…


Jackson, Rob – Segway




Hollywood, take note: “Time Puncher” should be a major motion picture in the next few years. Conversely, Rob should really trademark that idea. Oh right, you probably don’t have any idea what I’m talking about unless you’ve already read this. The main story in this comic deals with time travel, hilariously set up by a guy who’s just trying to read the electricity meter and has no interest at all in the fantastic goings on around him. The professor who invented the machine wants to go back to a few moments in his past (relatively minor moments, sort of, but they do involve punching), but things naturally get a little tricky by the end. But wait, there’s more! Other stories include an anxiety dream involving spiders shaking their fists in anger (I wonder how many fists they were shaking? It’s just the one in the image, but with the eight legs and all…), the only good thing about the power going out in a freezer full of Rob’s homemade ice cream, living the life of a ventriloquist, having a ghost in the house (song lyrics, not some dope who actually thinks that ghosts are real), the ups and downs of how dreams were interpreted in ancient times, and the true origin of a woman named Marigold. That last story seemed to just fade away at the end, but it was still an amusing story while it lasted and I have no complaints at all about the rest of the book. I’ve been reading Rob’s comics since damned near the beginning of this website, and I have to confess that there were moments when I didn’t think that he’d make it (whatever that means). But the man has built his own niche, handling short pieces and longer pieces with equal skill, and this one even has a genuinely striking cover. The lesson to people who put out a few comics but maybe weren’t happy with the results? If you have something to say, keep at it! You’ll get there. Dave Sim has said a lot of genuinely crazy things over the years, but one thing I always liked was his comment that every artist had 1,000 pages of terrible art in them (I’m probably getting the number wrong, but you get the idea) and the only way past it was to draw the pages and get them out of the way. Anyway, buy this comic and enjoy. No price, but his books generally go for somewhere in the $5 range.


Jackson, Rob – It’s a Man’s Life in the Ice Cream Business #2


It’s a Man’s Life in the Ice Cream Business #2

Technically, this comic should probably be called “It’s a Man’s Life in the Ice Cream, Cheese, Sorbet, Soup, and Black Pea Business,” but I don’t want to give Rob any ideas, as that title is more than long enough as it is. As for the comic, it continues directly from the last issue (as is usually the case in any numbered series, obviously), so here’s hoping that you picked it up so that you’ll have a clue what’s happening. If not, Rob throws you in right in the middle of his quest to earn a living by selling ice cream and various other items (depending on the season and the crowd) at various markets. It was fascinating to see him trying to start things up in the last issue and navigate all of the various challenges of making it work, but this time around his business has more or less settled down. He seems to know the market circuit pretty well and he knows (more or less) what will sell to which crowds. We also get to see him making various new dishes (I’d love to try the elderflower sorbet) and dealing with some direct competition this time around from people who were selling his same dishes. In some cases they were cheaper or looked more professional than his stuff, which makes me wonder how anybody could plan to make a long-term living off of this, but I suppose we’ll find out the answer to that in the next issue. Which may be awhile, as he ends with a note that he’ll pick the series up again “once I’ve had a break from endlessly drawing gazebos.” This covers markets #25-52, just in case you were curious. I’m hoping this series is finite, as this would get more than a little dull if it went on forever, but so far it’s still a fascinating look into making a living through markets and the various people you see at them. Not sure on the price, so I’ll guess $3.

Jackson, Rob – Flying Creature


Flying Creature

Ah, a comic as a newspaper. I’ve seen a few of these recently and love the idea, but hate the fact that I can’t scan anything off of the damned things and always have to end up using the sample images from the creator’s own website. And, in this case, that sample looks like total crap. Oh well, luckily Rob has a huge backlog of comics, so chances are that you probably already know whether or not you enjoy his work. Anyway, this comic starts off with a man having some quiet time by himself before this is rudely interrupted by a chase scene between a cop and a gangster. There’s a crash, the quiet old man tells the cop that the gangster has been killed but secretly fixes up the gangster because he’s not a big fan of the police. Our hero lets the gangster rest up but doesn’t want to return to that life (we’re left with the impression that he gave that life up for the peace and quiet many years ago), so he agrees to take him close to the city. On the way there they stop and stumble across a plot to take over the world involving angry caterpillars with wings. Hey, they’re not moths yet, so what else would you call them? From there we get a longer chase scene with some caterpillars that have an interesting method to increase their numbers, a peek behind the curtain to what’s really going on, and an absolutely fantastic finale. Sure, you could kind of see it coming, but it was still nicely done. I’m clearly getting older and crankier, as I used to love comics of odd shapes and sizes, but these days I’m mostly annoyed that I don’t have any place to keep them (too big for comic boxes, too awkward for a shelf). Still, I’ll take a great story over an awkward presentation any time, and this one fits the bill for that. That and a newspaper comic left laying out of a coffee table is always guaranteed to confuse even the friends who slightly understand the world of comics, which is always fun. No price listed, I’d say at least $6 from the sheer size of this.

Jackson, Rob – It’s a Man’s Life in the Ice Cream Business #1


It’s a Man’s Life in the Ice Cream Business #1

OK, maybe not the catchiest title in the world, but a new comic from Rob is always welcome around these parts. In this one he says he’s going “back to basics” and tells the story of how he quit his job and what he’s doing for cash these days. Things start off with a few pages of very simple, Austin English-esque pencil drawings explaining his motivation for quitting his pointless job and trying to sell ice cream at outdoor markets for a living. Once he starts telling that story the art shifts back to his usual, tighter style, and we get reports about the 21 markets he attended to start his new career. There’s a second issue coming, so we’ll see what happens next, but this tells a familiar story of fits and starts as he tries to get things going. Weather is key to selling ice cream (hot days are obviously the best), and he also has a lousy time of it during the early hours (nobody wants ice cream for breakfast). From there he tries to come up with unique ice cream flavors to make himself stand out, and when the weather gets lousy he branches out into selling cheese and some local delicacies. The key to the success of his ice cream operation seems to be selling it in hot places and/or locations where other events are occurring. I had an idea to help with his early morning problem: why not try more breakfast oriented ice creams? Granted, this is almost certainly going to sound ridiculous, but you could probably whip some ice cream up that would taste vaguely of pancakes. That and the world is just waiting for a bacon ice cream flavor. See, this is why I don’t go into business for myself, I’d spend all my time coming up with inedible flavors that made me curious. Another solid comic from Rob and I’m curious to see what happens next. Looks like the next issue is going to have some interesting scenes, as who wouldn’t want to see a fight between ice cream makers and cupcake makers? No price, so my random guess of the day is $4.

Jackson, Rob (editor) – Gin Palace #2


Gin Palace #2

That Rob Jackson, he has to be one of the hardest working guys in comics today.  Well, small press comics anyway, as those guys with Marvel and DC have a monthly schedule to keep up, but you know what I mean.  The first Gin Palace was a success, and this one follows it up nicely.  Don’t be alarmed with the familiarity of my using first names here, and check the tags so see exactly who they are if you’re unclear. Francesca starts things off with a story about how awesome it was to go out to a bar with her dad when she was very young, Andrew has a story about a black dog rib that flew right over my head, Rob has a lovely tale involving a black hole and a robot that became a god, John/Sean has a story about living with a serious regret even though things aren’t all that bad as they are (probably the highlight of the comic), Paul has an excellent mish mish of family drama, Dave tells the story of a pumpkin competition that goes too far, Pete has a great piece about a grandson being tricked into pursuing a career in science, Sin-Cat (I’m guessing that’s the name the creator goes by too, at least judging from the back cover) has another wandering tale that hits and occasionally misses, Jarod deals with his tricky future self, Brad gives us instructions to build our own intelligent robot cubehead, and Barry has a fairly straightforward story about revenge until the ending.  What else do you want to know?  Any comic with Rob Jackson, Dave Hughes, John Robbins and Brad Foster gets my vote, and this one has more than a few great stories besides that bunch.  Buy it why don’t you?  $6ish

Jackson, Rob – Goblin Hall


Goblin Hall

I love that cover.  You probably have an instant reaction to it, and you’re probably more than a little off in that reaction.  This is the story of a Count who comes back to his estate after being gone for five years.  He’s a fairly typical Count, just looking to marry off his son to the daughter of a wealthy family and finally getting some time at home after being gone for so long.  Well, his son has met someone else while the Count was away and he plans on marrying this woman.  This woman is a mystery, as are the whereabouts of his son during the daylight hours, so he follows his son, meets this girl and is impressed.  Sadly for him, he had a cup of wine while meeting this woman, didn’t realize she was related to goblins (the fairy tale kind of goblins, not the Tolkien kind), and ends up drugged in a field for a month (although it seemed to him like only a short time had passed), and he misses the wedding.  This causes the Count to get enraged and recruit a posse of mercenaries to take care of these goblins, and it’s here that things start to get awesome.  So, naturally, this is the point where I stop telling you the story.  I will say that from here things go in all sorts of directions you wouldn’t expect, and Rob’s ability to bring out the quiet human elements in a huge battle are impressive.  I particularly enjoyed a moment when the Count meets a friend on the battlefield and begs the guy not to fight him, as he saved the Count’s life in the past, and after the Count gets the better of the guy he drags him off the battlefield and out of harm’s way.  This is also self-contained, so no worries about wondering whether or not Rob is ever going to put out another issue (although he’s prolific enough that he’s more than earned the benefit of the doubt).  Oh, and as for the sample, the rest of the book is s good bit chattier than this page, but I couldn’t resist using the image of the goblin parade.  If you hate all this fantastical I guess you could stay away, but this is really more about how humanity deals with the unknown than anything else, and the results aren’t always pretty.  $6ish

Jackson, Rob – On the Banks of the Mighty Croal


On The Banks Of The Mighty Croal

If you’ve ever been interested in taking a walk through a town in England, learning about its history along the way, but have lacked the resources necessary to go there, this comic is perfect for you. Rob takes a walk through Bolton, his home town, stopping to go into the history of various places along the way. The sheer range of years described here is impressive to me, a history-deficient American who would rarely be able to trace the history of any given town back farther than a couple of hundred years at most. He even provides directions, just in case you ever make it to Bolton, to follow along his path and see everything he describes. It’s a great book all around, and makes me want to get the hell out of this country for a bit even more. $4

Jackson, Rob – Random Journeys #3


Random Journeys #3

Here it is, the exciting conclusion, and the whole issue is dedicated to the story this time. Who gets to keep that dagger? Is the Professor’s daughter going to get killed for it? This is told from the perspective of the Professor giving a lecture, so we know some of the things that aren’t going to happen right away. Let’s see, how should I talk about this stuff without giving anything away… Well, it’s the end of the series, so things are wrapped up in a more or less satisfactory way. We get to see one of the actual people in the Professor’s fantastic version of events, and he’s not happy with the way he’s portrayed. Oh, and a group of guards in the jungle are tricked into eating some psychedelic mushrooms. I thought things were wrapped up nicely, with the possibility of more in the future, but not so much that things are left dangling here. I’m liking the art more and more, and I love Rob’s version of sweaty nervousness. Worth a look for those of you who like archaeological stories mixed in with plenty of human errors.

Jackson, Rob – Random Journeys #2


Random Journeys #2

Well, this should put to rest any doubts I had about this being an actual continuing series. The story of the archaeologists continues in this issue, and it’s even going to bleed over into the next one (at least). The team finds themselves trapped in an ancient ruin (although the escape is fairly anticlimactic), then run into another team that is even less ethical than they are. I enjoyed the characters more last time around; I guess at this point they’re supposed to be established so it shouldn’t bug me, but the character of Professor’s daughter seems almost wafer thin in this one. Still overall a good story, and it ends on another cliffhanger. Then there’s a wordless story called “The Swirling Vortex Of Doom” about, oddly enough, a swirling vortex of doom. We see the destruction rage through an underground cavern and suck up everything in its path, so if you like some good mayhem, well, here you go. Finally there’s a science fiction shortie that’s my favorite of the bunch. A man goes to a remote satellite to focus on his writing, and of course space madness sets in from there… or does it? I loved the subtle touches to make this seem otherworldly, like the pleasure planet (that looked kind of creepy) and the fact that the alien on the satellite drags around a cart filled with snouts and cakes. Another solid issue, and yet another case when I’m not sure how the currency settles into American dollars. $3 maybe? Let’s go with that…

Jackson, Rob – Random Journeys #1


Random Journeys #1

Could it be that this is actually the start of an ongoing series? I hope so, for one simple reason: Rob is one of those rare people who does autobio comics that actually travels all over the place. Meaning, essentially, that there are always good stories to tell. The first half of this book is the story of an explorer, his daughter and a crew of vagabonds (which I say mostly because I wanted to use the word “vagabonds”) who go to try and find a lost city that was indicated on an old lost map. Great job here, as everybody has an established personality in the few pages they’re allowed and it even ends on an excellent cliffhanger, to be continued in #2, unless of course he’s just kidding about the whole continuing series idea. Also included in this are the strip I sampled about the birds, the story of Rob’s first day or work in South Korea and various tales told by various folks on allotments. Again, kudos on keeping the autobio stuff interesting (far better than plenty of the navel gazing stuff from this country) and art seems to be improving by the issue.

Jackson, Rob – A Km of Dummy Torpedoes


A Km of Dummy Torpedoes

You’re not likely to see many comics that are more of a labor of love than this one. There’s nothing resembling a story, instead there’s 28 pages of random drawings. Some are in full, stunning color, other are black in white, with various stages of complexity involved. Every copy has the order of the images altered, with different ones thrown in, so every issue would be different from every other issue. I’m guessing that every issue isn’t hand-drawn (it just doesn’t seem possible) but this sure LOOKS like it was drawn on paper and pasted on the page. It’s impossible to review as there’s no story and whatever story there might changes with every issue, but it’s a truly gorgeous book to have laying around, I can say that much. It’s listed at 2.50 euros, so kudos to you if you know what that means in American dollars…

Jackson, Rob – Cafe Le Guillotine: The French Revolution


Cafe Le Guillotine – The French Revolution

OK, I’ll admit it. I don’t remember much about the French Revolution. Typical American, I guess, but there you go. This is a recap of sorts that comes across as strangely breezy and light-hearted, considering the fact that I’ve probably never seen this many decapitations in a comic before. I’m not going to recap all of the historical data in here, as you either already know that or you don’t, and if you really want to learn it without buying this comic I’m sure you could find everything you need to know on at least one of the internets. The art remains a bit rough, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t charm me completely this time. The panel with Robespierre trying to talk with half of his face blown off in particular was priceless. So, if you like your comics to be fun and still have a bit of actual historical information, this is a pretty good place to start. I think this one is $4 (sorry, I have trouble converting from pounds), contact info is up there and he does take paypal, if you’d like an easy way to buy…

Jackson, Rob – To Nail the Killer With All Efforts


To Nail the Killer With All Efforts

Well, at least there’s a really great title. The story isn’t bad in a lot of ways too; there’s an interesting story involving a robbery gang that’s buying vacuums for some reason (yes, it is made clear in the comic). The art’s still rough (check out the sample to see what I mean), and for some reason the main villain in this talks in rhymes, which is incredibly annoying. Still, it’s an engaging story, with all its flaws, although I’d really recommend getting his other book first and checking this out later if you like his stuff. Let’s say it’s $2, contact info is up there!

Jackson, Rob – Train to Shanghai


Train to Shanghai

Here’s a great travel mini from England. Well, technically it might from Shanghai, but I’m not sure if this is from Shanghai or just from it. Does it matter at all? Anyway, this is the story of Rob losing his job in Hardin, China, and ending up deciding to look for work in Shanghai. This book is mostly about his train ride to Shanghai, as well as everything that was going through his head at the time. It’s a neat little story, although the art was a bit rough in places. Just looks like he needs to maybe study some anatomy, work on some of the more awkward poses and positions in the book. Hey, I have to throw a suggestion or two into these reviews every now and then to break up the rambling, right? Anyway, this is probably a buck or two and you can always send him an e-mail.

Jackson, Rob – Bog Wizards #2



Bog Wizards #2

I had a few doubts about this story coming out of the first issue, wondering a bit if it could hold up over the long term.  All doubts have been smashed into teeny tiny chunks with this issue.  First off, just look at that cover.  That’s brilliant.  Things pick up where they left off in the last issue, leading up to the second page of the story, and it’s the one I sampled below.  Go ahead, take a minute to check it out.  The reaction from the giant was hilarious, as was the reaction from our hero.  The giant makes a deal with our hero in exchange for not eating him (even though this giant doesn’t eat people anyway), which causes our hero to remorselessly mess things up for everybody else to get himself out of trouble.  So what gets him back on the side of right?  The possibility of getting with the fairy queen, of course.  From here we get some fantastic fight scenes, and here’s where Rob really shines: his depiction of the various monsters.  Two full pages introduced the monsters a bit earlier (I particularly loved the vaguely Mr. Potato Head looking monster), and great glee is taken in taking these creatures out.  There’s more, a lot more than you may think with a mini comic,  but I’m gushing here, and I do have to save some praise.  Why?  Because this issue comes with a Bog Wizards board game.  How is it possible to include a board game with a comic?  Rob has broken the game down into two large color pages, along with three pages of cards to use in the game and a page of characters.  If you wondered about the names of any of the monsters from the comic, the mystery is solved here (my favorite is called Yogblog).  All of this comes in a plastic bag with simple instructions, ending with the following disclaimer: “Have cautious fun.  Don’t expect too much.”  I think the man’s selling himself short.  This whole thing goes for about $6, and the arbitrary pricing system in my brain says  that is just barely too much for a comic (even one that’s this good), but is a steal when you factor in the board game.  He didn’t skimp on the details for it either, it looks gorgeous.  Buy this from the man, we should all do our part to make Bog Wizards a phenomenon.


Jackson, Rob – Bog Wizards #1


Bog Wizards #1

I do believe that this is Rob’s first attempt at fantasy, in this case the story of a young man, a curse, a fake wizard, a demon and some bad bargains. Things start off with the father of the young man dying a slow, painful death, and telling his son about an awful thing he did years ago, something that he’s still paying for, something that caused a curse that only the son can remove. From here the story is full of zigs and zags, as most of the attempts to fix things make matters worse. I’m keeping this as vague as possible to avoid giving things away, as per usual, and because of the simple fact that Rob kept me guessing throughout this story, always the hallmark of a good fantasy story, or a good fiction story in general. Oh, and Rob describes this as kind of like a 24 hour comic, but done over the course of a month instead. Good stuff, unless you hate all wizards, demons and curses, in which case everything else on this page is probably a bit more realistic and more to your liking. $1.50

Jackson, Rob – 8 Stories


8 Stories

Hey, guess how many stories are in this one?  Rob has to be one of the more prolific small press folks out there, which is a good thing as he always has something interesting to talk about.  First up there’s the story that covers the bulk of the comic, written by Shonagh Ingram, about a city by the lake that falls in love with a reflection of itself.  As you can probably guess if you’ve read the fable about the dog that sees another dog in the lake that is also holding a bone and tries to grab it, things don’t end well.  Next up are a series of short pieces, one about Rob’s rules of life (part 6 in a series where the first five parts are mysteriously missing), the comic sampled below, a story about Rob finally climbing a small mountain near his home, a disgustingly hilarious piece about the Math-Ro-Mancer, and a shortie detailing something that a lot of people already know: kayaks are horrible, horrible things.  Things go off the rails a bit in the last story, as Rob details his night out seeing a favorite band from his past, apparently drawing the story at the bar, if the quality of the art and the handwriting is any indication.  There’s also the lovely fact that the copying was off for this story, so bits of text are chopped right off of every page, which is probably for the best as it’s mostly illegible anyway.  Exceptions to the lousy art and handwriting are in the story, but overall it’s better skipped, as that still leaves you with 7 great stories.  Oh, and there’s also the one on the back (which I almost missed until I scanned the comic) about a vending machine and its dream of taking over the world.  OK, so it’s not a perfect comic, but anything that’s 7/8 fascinating still has a lot going for it.

Jackson, Rob (editor) – The Pasty Anthology



The Pasty Anthology (edited by Rob Jackson)

A note to the American readers who have never watched any tv shows or read anything from the UK: pasties look like calzones, but with (I’m guessing here) fruits and cheeses inside.  They look to be a bit much for a breakfast food, assuming that’s all they are, but what do I know?  This is an anthology, with all of the stories theoretically dealing with pasties.  First up is  a story by Steve Butler which relates a conversation between two friends.  One of them is going to get a pasty, the other has been told by his girlfriend that he has to lose some weight so goes off to get something healthier.  Without giving anything away, it has an excellent ending.  Next up is a piece by Francesca Cassavetti about… chewing gum.  Nope, no pasties in that one.  It’s still a great story, dealing with being told as a child that swallowed gum always stays in your stomach and eventually kills you.  Jim Medway is next with a unique perspective, as he has a week in the life of a pasty clerk told through the faces of the recurring customers.  The next piece by Dave Hughes deals with an obsessive young man, making his pasty and having everything planned out just so, only to have it all ruined by gravity.  Our hero Rob Jackson has the central piece in the comic, dealing with the Greggs and their role in inventing and then improving pasties over the years.  As I have no idea how much of this is historical I’m just going to leave it alone, but it’s an excellent story either way.  Next is… hey, who put a text piece in here?  There’s a three page story by Anthony Mercer called Devil in a Blue Tabard and, as a sucker for the hard-boiled stuff, I loved it.  It’s all about a pasty shop, a missing young woman, a grimy detective and a very shiny worker.  Dave Hughes has another piece next, this time dealing with a pasty festival, a pasty eating contest and the effect this contest has on the wife of one of the contestants.  Finally there’s another text piece, this time by Matt Badham, dealing with the Japanese equivalent of the pasty (sort of), the natto.   It took me a second after reading this to get the catch of the story, and it’s wonderful in an anthology like this, so there’s no way I’m going to ruin it.  Good stuff all around, which is more than you can ask for from anthologies.   I think it should also come with a free pasty so we can get an idea of exactly what they’re like, but I have no idea how that would work in the real world.  No price, but I’m guessing it’s around $4.