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M., Simon – Smoo #3


Smoo #3

It’s depressing to think that this comic only has a print run of 50 copies. Oh sure, Simon can always make more, and he has plenty of free comics up at his website, so it’s not like his work is barely visible. Still, it’s a sad testament to a lack of any sort of financial reward for doing really exceptional work. Are you kids today even buying comics, or just sticking with the free stuff on websites? As I’m officially in my mid 30’s now and I’ve been saying “you kids” for at least 15 of this years, I think it’s perfectly appropriate of me to ask that question, as a general disconnect with what has been considered popular has been a constant theme in my life. As this isn’t supposed to be about me, it’s a good thing that the first piece in this book deals with Simon’s general annoyance with his cell phone while still understanding that it’s more or less a necessity at this point. Yes, people DO forget that it’s just a tool. It also fits in nicely with the overall theme of this book, which is dealing with anxiety. Simon tells the story of a peaceful time, or at least a time when things were getting more peaceful, before he started getting threatening phone calls. The specifics of this are left out, which is a good thing for Simon and a bad thing for nosy people like me who always want more information. Anyway, the rest of the book deals with Simon trying to get a handle on his fear, how it’s always lurking around him somewhere, how he really doesn’t have it so bad after all and how throwing himself into mindless tasks doesn’t always work as a distraction. I loved it, but I’m pretty much officially biased towards the Smoo series at this point, so what do I know?  It’s listed on his site as (if I’m getting the conversion rate right, and I most likely am not) roughly $4, so if you hurry you’ll be able to red it and make up your own mind. If not, he has the first piece of this book up at his site for free, so you should at least go read that.

M., Simon – Lisbon



Thank you, travel diary comics, for letting me see these portions of the world that I never seem to make it to on my own. Lisbon never even made it to my list of possible travel destinations, but it sure seems like a nice place to visit after reading this. Simon and his wife went on a trip in which he contemplates what life would be like in Lisbon (except for the hat, not all that different than it is now), walks along the beach, fails to help a man with his lunch, watches fish, wanders between bars, and rides a very old elevator. He also throws in a few more astute observations here and there, but this is a short mini and I don’t want to relate the whole thing. If you like the travel diary comics or just the general tone of Simon’s work, you should probably check this out.  If you’re looking for a better example of his work, well, Smoo comics generally have a wider range of stories, so maybe you should start with one of those and work your way back. Or not, I’m not the boss of you. I liked it plenty, that’s the point I’m trying to get across. No price, but I’m going with $3 for no apparent reason.

M., Simon – Smoo #3 Preview


Smoo #3 Preview

Last time around I asked Simon about the preview and the “1/2” issue, and he had good reasons for both.  Actually, the full edition of #3 is out now, so you could just get that and skip this entirely.  So why am I talking about it?  Two reasons: I’m in a rush (it’s a little thing) and I don’t have a copy of #3 yet and wanted to remind you all that he has a new issue out.  Hey, but aren’t I the guy who complains about people who rush out books for cons?  What’s the difference between that and my rushing out a review?  One thing is a piece of art, the other is… whatever it is that I do here, so it lands a bit low on the hypocrisy scale.  Wasn’t there a comic somewhere in all this?  A very tiny one, yes.  This starts with Simon fantasizing about throwing his phone into a lake (ah, we’ve all been there), then musing on whether this is a fad or a piece of technology we’ll be stuck with for a long time, all in his own inimitable way.  This is only a few pages but, like I said, the whole issue is  out now, so you should probably just go ahead and buy that one.  How do I know that it’s worth it?  Well, this is a great little story, and it’s not like he’s done anything awful yet, so let’s call it a leap of faith.

M., Simon – Smoo #2 1/2


Smoo #2 1/2

What the heck?  2 and a half?  That wouldn’t be so bad, but the next issue in the pile o’ comics Simon sent is a preview of #3.  I don’t make the rules or anything, but I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to have two issues between one issue number.  This one is called the “odds and sods” issue, as it supposedly only has bits and pieces of things.  Still, if you go into this expecting a sketchbook or something without a bit of genuine storytelling, that’s not the case at all.  He could have just slapped a “#3” on it and I would have been none the wiser.  Stories in here include a personal rumination on a night spent in a hotel room (and how he was unable to go out and enjoy the town due to feeling guilty about everything), a drunken bar conversation about the baffling behavior of one woman in particular (and the proposed mental sweepers to keep their brains free from “emotional debris”), Simon’s thoughts as utter nothingness, and a winter trip to see Mount Etna in Sicily that seemed to be poorly planned in every way but still a profound experience for him.  OK, maybe the issue was a bit shorter than his other offerings, so I guess that’s where the “1/2” comes from.  I still think he could have gotten away with calling it #3, and if you’re already a fan of his work this isn’t something you should miss.

M., Simon – Days



Was James Kochalka the first person to do a really dedicated and serious diary strip?  In my hazy memory there were others who tried it, but they never seemed to stick with it for very long, and so James is credited as the inspiration for all these other people doing their own diary strips.  I’ve sort of soured on the piles of sweetness in the Kochalka diary strips over the years, but the man is still something of a pioneer.  Add Simon M. to the list of people who tried this diary strip thing for a while and then tossed it aside, which is a shame, as at least Simon came at this from a different perspective.  There wasn’t a single four panel diary strip in here; stylistically they were all over the map.  As it should be!  It’s fine for James Kochalka to be the inspiration for all these diary strips, but once those strips are started the artists should veer off into their own directions, and Simon did an admirable job of that here.  He only tried this for a few months and these are his picks from that pile.  Topics in here include his tiny chile plant, watching the birds, finding humor on his deodorant can, listening to tragedy while getting ready to watch bands, quiet days, hangovers, moving, taking a walk on a nice day, drawing a potato while lacking real inspiration for the day, pigeons in a puddle, keeping it simple, drunken wisdom, dressing up as Sarah Palin for Halloween, finding a white hair in his beard, and even posting a crossword he’s been stuck on (if you’re still stuck Simon, I could help you out with that).  So in terms of subject matter it didn’t revolutionize the field or anything, but I very much appreciated his efforts to make each day look unique, and his genuine appreciation with the  little things in life.  Check it out, maybe if he gets swamped with requests for this book he’ll pick up his diary strips.  No price, but let’s say $3, as this a fairly hefty book.

M., Simon – Smoo! #2


Smoo! #2

Ah, the quiet, contemplative comic.  They seem to be harder to come by these days, although that could be my imagination, or perhaps just my lousy memory.  This one is a series of short pieces that all more or less blend together.  Things start with Simon needing a change and going for the easiest one: haircut and growing a beard.  Stories after that include visiting a stranger’s grave, exaggerating your qualities while telling stories about yourself to strangers, the nature of time and worrying about the future, the inability to really remove yourself from the world, Simon’s sudden memory of killing a small wounded animal as a child as something he thought of as a kindness, and the brief space right after a fight with a girlfriend when things could go in any of a number of directions.  The stories have more variety than you might think from those basic descriptions, as Simon regularly populates stories with images and/or demons from his mind.  The art is quietly impressive without being overbearing, as it seems simple enough until you really start to pick at it, then you can see that there’s plenty going on.  None of that lazy, “I’ll just skip the backgrounds” nonsense going on here.  Anyway, it’s worth a look, although it’s always at least mildly worrisome when the most recent book from somebody was done over a year ago.  Or worrisome to me at least, as it seems like minis build up a momentum of their own and once they’re left alone for too long that momentum never comes back.  No price, but let’s go with $3 for no reason.

Jackson, Rob (editor) – Gin Palace


Gin Palace #1 (edited by Rob)

“Welcome to the first meeting of the society of enormously be-hatted gentlemen!”  I don’t usually start with a quote, but how on earth could I pass that up?  This is a fantastic anthology put together by Rob, with only one story that was mildly disappointing in the bunch (and that was mostly because the copies were a bit off and cut off some text).  Rob has two pieces, although you could argue that it’s just one piece split up into two: The Ballad of Hatty Jack.  It’s the story of a land where wearing hats is practically required, but a poor young boy isn’t allowed because his mother was killed while chasing a hat into the street, so naturally he takes to fighting crime while wearing a giant hat that covers most of his body.  Other stories in here include Little Scary Monsters by Dave Hughes (in which the world of science learns how to avoid making little monsters), In The Gin Palace by Simon M. (dealing with trying to get the attention of a bartender on a busy night to buy drinks), Interview by Ant Mercer (the sampled piece below, as it starts well and ends poorly), Measuring Up by Francesca Cassavetti (relating the story of how she reluctantly grew to love alcohol, and how that reluctance faded over the years), The Rain by Jarod Rosello (a silent piece about a dog in the rain and the heartless people who would keep him outside), Kennedy by A. Mercer (a shortie with a good punchline), and The Adventure Journals of Sin Cat by Lee Johnson (a meandering story of Sin Cat, damaged because of the awkward cropping but still with plenty of funny; if this is the worst piece in the bunch you just made a hell of an anthology).  Other than that all you need to know is that it’s $4, mostly looks great and is something you should probably rush out and buy.  $4