Friday, December 31, 2010

A Moroccan Werewolf in London

By Phil Hatchard

Werewolves! Everyone loves werewolves! I love werewolves! Werewolves that cook carrots for stick figure versions of Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and a hunchback of some kind. Plus astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin make appearances in full spacesuits. What is there not to love?

Well, the fact that it doesn’t really make a lot of sense, as there’s no coherent narrative. But I really like the drawings of the werewolf, the other monsters, and the astronauts (fish swimming around their fishbowl heads!), so I’m recommending it anyway.

And this review isn't short because I'm heading down to London for NYE. Nooooo, I would never do that...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cowboy Love is Pure 3

By Tom McNally

This is strange. There’s definitely dream logic at work in this comic about cowboys and giant centipedes. Each page leads on from the previous one, but they don’t really make a lot of sense. Okay, the giant centipede people are hanging out with the cowboy, they dress up in weird costumes to get him drunk on drugs or something. This is all fine, but then why is there a cat? Where did that come from? Why are there suddenly first nations/North American aboriginal people? What’s with the eagle eggs?

It’s all enjoyable in a “WTF” sort of way, and I like the art style, though at times it could have used some shading to differentiate the characters from the backgrounds (though I understand how that might be difficult to do on orange paper). I want to read more, but more because I am just confused, a confusion not helped by the strange songs on McNally’s website. You should all go and listen to Song of the Centipedes right now. "Welcome fleshbag human! She will require the following items for love to occur: A domestic mammal, must be carnivorous."

Though I suppose it is at least an enjoyable confusion. I wouldn't like it if every comic was like this, but occasionally it's fun to read things that don't really make a lot of sense, and it is funny.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Squatters Handbook 13th Edition

By the Advisory Service for Squatters

There are really only two reasons to read this zine. Either a. you’re incredibly interested the legalities involved with squatting in the UK because you’re studying law or something, or b. you are squatting somewhere and want to know what rights you have.

This massive (over eighty pages!) zine is packed full of information relating to what rights squatters have, how to find a place to squat, what to do once you’ve moved in (how to get electricity and so forth), and what to do when faced with eviction orders.

It’s technical, there’s a lot of legal jargon, and it’s not really that interesting to just read fully unless you need to know the information here. I skimmed most of it, because I just couldn’t really deal with reading paragraphs like...

Actually, screw it. I can’t even be bothered to type out some boring paragraph.

This zine is incredibly informative, and if you have intentions on squatting somewhere in the UK it’s something you should definitely have so you know what rights you have. But if you just want to read about tips and stories about squatting you’re better off finding something else to read. Then tell me about it so that I can read it too.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Gentleman Ghost

By Jack Fallows

You can probably tell from the cover, but just in case you can’t, this isn’t a story about the DC comics supervillain. (Who I think is pretty boss, despite knowing absolutely nothing about him. I’m not even sure I’ve read any comics that have featured him.)

Instead we have a comic about a different gentleman ghost! Clearly this is a huge subgenre of comics. I love stories about ghosts that just go about their days doing normal things despite being dead. The gentleman ghost has a shower, he goes to the shops, he reads the newspaper, and more! And that’s just the first comic! There’s also a version of the mummers play and a really dope one page (and 47 panel!) origin story that tells exactly how the Gentleman Ghost came to be.

It’s silly, but I like the way Fallows draws the ghost, his accessories, and the backgrounds. I would gladly read further adventures of this character. Even incredibly boring stories become exciting when they feature a posh ghost! The gentleman ghost goes to the beach! The gentleman makes some toast! The gentleman ghost does his laundry! The possibilities are endless.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Matter Summer Special

By Philip Barrett
Published by Sparkplug Comic Books

If something has a publisher does it really count as a minicomic/zine anymore? Do I even care at this point after three hundred and fifty something reviews?

The Matter Summer Special is different from the other comics by Philip Barrett that I’ve read (and reviewed on this site). Instead of featuring a number of shorter works focussing on (fairly) realistic stories devoted to obsession and neurosis, we have a long (over seventy pages!) story dealing with parallel dimensions.

The story starts with something we all* love: casual drug use! Whitey White (the cover character who is lacking anything but an outline and a face) and Sean Brown are hanging out in their living room, smoking up a storm and discussing the usual things people in that situation discuss (conspiracy theories). Then suddenly we’re in a corporate lab, and some scientists are telling their boss that they may have managed to grow some sort of new super drug with possible dimension-hopping properties. Then we have a montage of some angry looking gentleman beating up a number of other people, and the reader is left wondering how all of this is going to connect together.

Somehow Barrett makes it work, and the various story threads begin to intertwine. Not all of it is completely successful, but the way seemingly different stories connected to tell a whole reminded me of Jack Staff (and strangely there are a few places where the art even reminded me of Jack Staff creator Paul Grist’s style).

Barrett’s storytelling approach in this comic is interesting as he generally avoids the use of panel borders, or even coherent panels. Characters and speech balloons appear on the small pages seemingly wherever they can fit, while backgrounds are frequently nonexistent, leaving the characters to float in featureless voids. Yet this method allows for some interesting techniques, helping to create a claustrophobic feeling to the whole story. Huge heads loom over smaller people, showing positions of power and authority, humans are reduced to repeated specks in order to show that time is passing, and that nothing is really being accomplished, abstract figures are repeated in various forms to help show what characters are experiencing (see below), and characters are reduced to black blotches when they are unable to understand each other.

The story itself reminded me at times of Deep Sleeper (by Phil Hester and Mike Huddleston) and that issue of Sandman about the city that dreams. I enjoyed the paranoia, the secret agents, the parallel dimensions, and the various techniques that Barrett used. I feel that it will benefit from multiple readings, and plan on reading it again soon. You should read it too!

*Okay, not all of us. 365 Zines neither condones nor condemns casual drug use, but likes it when it’s treated in a way other than “drugs are bad”. I mean, who wouldn’t take mutant growth hormone if they lived in the Marvel Universe? Super powers!

(Unfortunately, due to the thickness of the zine, scanning pages was a little difficult. This is a two page spread from near the middle of the comic. Click to embiggen.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Kobold and the Dragon

By Steve Dismukes

Kobolds! Scum of the monster realm! Beat up by everyone. Given the worst possible jobs. Always sent to die first by their evil masters. But now, no more. One kobold has had enough. He (she? How do you identify kobold genders? What genders do they even have?) has decided to become a dragon. For dragons are bold, dragons are strong, dragons are deadly, and dragons are rich.

The comic follows our kobold hero as they attempt to fulfil all the tasks necessary to become a full dragon. It’s pretty short (only eight pages, including cover), and I kind of wish it was a bit longer as I liked the style used to illustrate the kobold and the dragon, and generally enjoy stories about characters who refuse to live the life society has told them they have to. And monsters. Can’t forget that I like stories with monsters.

Still, it’s cute and amusing. I especially liked the bit with the kobold fulfilling the tasks to be a dragon and the back cover gag, which works fine as a back cover image, but has extra resonance after you’ve read the rest of the comic.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Big Sexy

(Cover art by Colleen Frakes.)

Edited by Daniel Barlow, Colin Tedford, and Anne Thalheimer

It’s Christmas! A holiday I grudgingly celebrate for my family, but generally dislike as it celebrates two things I’m not an especially big fan of (religion, capitalism). So clearly, what better time to review porn comics?

Big Sexy is a fat (over ninety pages) anthology of porn comics from a bunch of different creators, many of whom are involved with the Centre for Cartoon Studies. When I look at something like this I’m really left with just one question, why not get another couple of submissions, get it professionally published with a spine and release it as a book? I mean, I love minicomics and zines as much as the next person (or more than, as the next person probably has no idea what they are), but I also know that they limit your potential audience. You’re not going to get rich doing comics of any type, but at least with professional publishing and a spine you can get yourself onto bookshelves in shops around the world (except Canada, who generally won’t import porn comics) and gain access to a larger readership.

Perhaps someone got a great deal on copying. Or the CCS has their own print shop and so they could run these off for cost. I don’t know, it just confuses me a little.

But none of that is talking about the actual comics, which are porn! Penises! Vaginas! Breasts! Penetration! Cum! Yum! The stories here range from sexy to sweet and even verging into a bit creepy (sometimes all at the same time). The art styles are many and varied, and like all anthologies some of the works are better than others.

Rachel Duke’s comic (see below) manages to be both funny and sexy in its treatment of oral sex. Denise Warren’s tale of her time as a phone sex operator barely counts as comics, but is still interesting, and oddly sweet. While Meagan Frappiea’s adaptation of this song is perhaps not what the original creators had in mind, but manages to be sexy, though no doubt in part due to my fetish surrounding space girls. *swoon*

That’s just scratching the surface though, as there’s more than a dozen other stories, featuring both gay and straight sex, lust, longing, desire, a whole lot of sex toys, and a few more unicorns than I expected.

(Art from Kitty vs. Kitty by Rachel Dukes.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Go For Broke! #2 Klimbing Kilimanjaro

By Lani

I travel quite a lot, and I love reading about other people’s travelling experiences. So it was with excitement that I sat down to read this zine about a trip to a place I’d never been to before, Africa!

Our story begins several months before the trip when Lani discovers that her dad has cancer. Not willing to spend his remaining days wasting away (physically or mentally) he’s decided to do as many of the things he’s always wanted to as he can. First stop is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world: Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The whole family decides to go along with him, and they spend several months preparing for the trip before heading off and participating in a type of travel I’ve never experienced before: namely using guides and having porters carry all your stuff for you.

The trip itself is interesting, and while I had meant to read only half of this zine (it’s quite a lot of text) I decided I had to know what happened and read it all in one sitting. It’s pretty crazy to read about the massive differences in temperature, climate, and land type that can happen in just a couple of days of walking. While the health problems, such as difficulty breathing due to low oxygen levels, that some people encountered just from going up high are pretty frightening at times.

This does however lead me to a few questions: Why on earth would you want to climb this thing? (Yes, yes, “because it’s there”.) What must it be like to have your job be to help rich foreigners climb a mountain? Does the guy whose job it is to carry a toilet up the mountain hate the people who hire him? Why can’t they just pee outside? How much does this sort of trip cost?

Lani’s account of her trip is told mostly through diary entries, a form that both has its benefits and its drawbacks. The benefits are that we see, learn, and experience things at (almost) the same speed that Lani does, creating an immediacy in the story that other styles don’t allow. We feel her pain as she climbs the mountain, we struggle for breath as she gains the upper reaches, we worry about the other people on the trip, and so forth. Another benefit of this writing style is that we don’t know what’s going to happen next because Lani doesn’t know either. Do they make it to the top of the mountain? Does everyone but Lani die? You have to read the full zine to find out! Even the introduction (whose style showed the effort put into writing it, and which I enjoyed) was written before the rest of the zine and doesn’t supply any hints as to the outcome.

The downside of this style is that the text can be prone to errors, both grammatical and factual. While Lani’s writing style is generally pretty good, it is, as are most journals/diaries, a first draft and falls to the problem of not supplying us with enough information about certain things the author takes for granted. Generally this isn’t that big a deal, but the occasional reference or Japanese character included in the text just left me utterly mystified. Thankfully there is a brief Swahili/English dictionary in the back, so at least I can figure out those words.

There’re a few problems with layout/design, such as the blank pages at the end that I wish had been used to reproduce larger photos of the trip, but they’re by no means a deal breaker, and I do love the full colour cover (and inside cover), which look really nice. Despite these small problems Lani’s trip is definitely worth reading about, and I hope she does some more travel zines in the future. Especially if they’re about places I haven’t been to yet.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


By Bill Volk

A while ago my friend (and comicker) Jen Vaughn sent me a huge box of minicomics. This would be why you've seen a lot more American comics on the site recently.

However, this is one that I don't think she should have sent me, as inside there's a stamp that says "Property of CCS", which is where my friend works. Jen! You have been stealing from the office (library). Bad girl! : )

This comic opens with several full-page images drawn in a stark black and white style. They tell how England was invaded by the Normans in 1066, and that several years later the king sent out people to talk to every landowner and discover exactly what they owned for taxation purposes (you can read more about it here).

Instead of illustrating the entire Domesday book (or the story of it) in that style, Volk then switches to a considerably more cartoony way of drawing characters, and tells a tale of one young man who is sent off to count the animals.

Interestingly the main character doesn't speak English (though to be honest, I can't understand the "English" spoken by some of the characters either), and doesn't even consider himself English (he's a French speaking Norman). As readers we're thrust into considering the English as the "other" who we cannot understand, and don't even really want to as they are strange and dangerous. An interesting inversion of usual English-language work.

Volk's comic take the route of only showing us two posible interactions between the census taker and the landowners: the best posible, and if not the worst posible, than one rather close to it. From these we can make assumptions about what the job was like overall, and how shitty and horrible it generally must have been to do it. Yeah, you might get bribes, but you might also end up dead.

Volk's cartoony style makes the whole thing seem considerably more light hearted than the actual history was. People died because of this thing! And yet, I can't really think that anything bad would happen to the main character even when the comic ends and we have no idea what will happen to him next.

(I sorta feel there should be more to this review... Oh well.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gags for Kids

By Karen Sneider

Sometimes it's kind of funny to read zines or minicomics and see that they've been published somewhere bigger/more prestigious. In the case of this book by Sneider all the comics were preivously published in Nickelodeon Magazine, which I belive had a pretty solid comics section while it was coming out.

The comics are all single panel gag comics, and they're all funny. I laughed out loud at some of them, and kind of wish I could scan more of them for this review. The artwork is attractive, and conveys the jokes using a simple but effective style.

Overall these reminded me a lot of the type of cartoons that are published in the New Yorker magazine, so I was unsurprised to see that Sneider has also drawn comics for them. The big difference is that these comics are aimed at children, and are probably funnier because they're not trying to be "high brow" or whatever. (Though looking at Sneider's site it doesn't seem like there's much difference between the types of comics she's created for each magazine.)

(Note, I am exhausted and don't have access to a scanner right now. The below picture was taken from Sneider's website. The actual comic isn't in colour (apart from the cover). I'll try to scan that tomorrow. This is an awesome comic though.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gissa Job

By Saban Kazim

Ah, the JobCentre, last bastion of the unemployed. The place you have to go to every two weeks in order to say “yes I have been looking for work, please give me some money”. The place I have to go to in about an hour (hire me?).

I’ve actually read three or four comics _this year_ that feature JobCentres in them, which I think is rather indicative of both the UK art scene and the UK’s society in general. ie. This country is not doing so well economically.

However Kazim’s comic is by far the most creative of all of the ones I’ve seen, as it imitates the JobCentre form they give you to fill out. The comic comes inside the same plastic slip that the form is issued in, and was drawn over an actual form and then photocopied.

I’m not sure if people that haven’t been to a JobCentre will really get this comic, but I thought it was really good. It accurately describes the mind-numbing tediousness of going for your biweekly meeting, and the general idiocy of some of the people that work there. (I was recently asked how the non-profit organizations I was applying to work for would pay me since they clearly didn't make any money...)

The JobCentre is not set up for educated people with actual qualifications, they're (I’m) supposed to be able to find a job by them (my) selves. Instead it’s created for those who have no qualifications or education. Want to be trained in basic computer skills? They’ll pay for that. Want actual help improving your skills in your chosen field? Hah, you’ll have to pay for that yourself.

At least I haven’t been asked to apply to be a Bollywood singer. Yet.

Monday, December 20, 2010

WJC Comic No. 2: Kani

By Warwick Johnson Cadwell

Underwater samurai! In Victorian diving costumes! It’s like if Lone Wolf and Cub had been created by Jules Verne! Three samurai descend to the depths of the ocean and encounter a lone guardian, the Red Demon. A fight ensues, with the added difficulty of each participant having to protect their own air supply.

The mostly silent comic doesn’t give any explanations for why these samurai are underwater, or what they’re trying to achieve. Why are they fighting? I don’t know, nor do I care. Rather Cadwell’s comic grabs me with its ridiculous premise, style, and distinctive art.

Cadwell’s art is not the heavily researched realism you might find in other samurai comics. Instead it’s a rough sketchy style filled with strange proportions and lacking almost entirely in straight lines. While you might think that the hard shells of diving suits wouldn’t work well in his organic style it somehow does. Perhaps the changing proportions, when combined with the heavy use of zipatoned backgrounds, helps to create an underwater feel to the whole comic, where the movement of the water affects how you view things. At times the action in Cadwell’s art seems almost slowed down, as though the water was making movement harder for the participants.

Needless to say I’m looking forward to his (seemingly full colour!) book Gungle coming out from Blank Slate Books next year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Misinterpreted Complications Book Five

By Nick Souček

Parts of Misinterpreted Complications can really be seen more as illustrated philosophic musings than a comic. At first I kind of thought that multiple pages of a character sitting by themselves under a tree drinking wine and thinking about thinking, “the aesthetic of the tortured artist”, and the idea of being alone was wasting space and not using the idea of comics to their full. But then I realized that by having large, mostly empty panels Souček is helping to create the idea of loneliness that his stand-in is discussing. Oh comics! Once more you prove your superiority over prose!

The comic is split about equally between semi-autobiographical anecdotes, and the philosophical musings. The philosophic ones deal with anxiety, self doubt, and wondering about accuracy of the memories you have of your life. How accurate are they? If you have nobody else around to confirm them can you ever be really sure that they happened in the way that you think they did?

The more I think about this (the idea of philosophy comics, not the actual philosophy, as that would drive me insane), the more I think I’d like to see Souček make a comic that was just a philosophy essay. Something sort of similar to Alan Moore’s comics on magic, but dealing with a certain philosophical idea; giving an explanation and examples, testing hypothesis, and creating a conclusion, instead of just brief thoughts about them.

On the anecdote side of things, I quite liked the comic about Sim City and how it’s based around the false economic idea of “infinite growth”. I wish Souček had gone a bit more into this and discussed how constant growth isn’t in any way sustainable, and how our current economic system does not work. Dang, this comic (and I guess my blog) talks about some big ideas doesn’t it?

Souček's people aren’t the most emotive I’ve ever seen, but somehow it seems to work fairly well for a comic where people constantly seem to thank and care more about what’s going on in their heads then what they see in real life. The blank faces reflect the existential doubt the characters are feeling, and I can relate to that.

Souček also has some comics in the really rad ad-free bicycle magazine Boneshaker. Check it out!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Smoo #3

By Simon M.

The cover to this issue of Smoo promises gorillas, Egyptian gods armed with ray guns, what appears to be a dwarven (dwarfen? My spellcheck is no help) warrior, and a giant monster releasing lots of ghosts. How exciting!

However, while all those things are featured in the comic, they’re not the focal point of a story. Instead Simon leads us through a tale of his anxiety and nervousness, something that many of us (or at least I) can relate to.

Simon’s story drifts in and out of fantasy imaginings, uses flashback interludes to help set the mood, and somehow manages to make a phone call seem interesting. The panels with the phone call feature tentacles of anxiety and swearing swishing around in the background, and appearing all over town, threatening Simon through the idea of what they represent. Simon’s nervousness is also represented in a horrible heartshaped monster that runs around screaming, presumably imitating the pounding of his heart at certain times.

The actual story that Simon tells isn’t that important (though it is a bit frightening just for the apparent randomness of it), what is important is the way he tells it. Simon’s panel layout is inventive and attractive. Panels overlap, are connected by tubes, use nonstandard borders, or sometimes don’t bother with borders at all.

I enjoy the random fantasy elements Simon has included in his story, but I think I would have enjoyed the comic even without them, as they way Simon lays out his pages is really nice and attractive. The interlude section is just landscape pictures, with big skies and telephone poles. But they’re well laid out and match the story that is being told in such a way that they help to put you in the same mindset Simon was in at the time.

I also enjoy the different lettering styles that Simon uses for the various sound effects and styles of speaking.

This isn’t a perfect comic, but I like the craft that Simon has brought to it, and examining the way he’s put it together. I am looking forward to reading more of his comics in the future.

Friday, December 17, 2010

To do this Sunday in London: Zulu Christmas Zine Symposium

This is happening on Sunday! I have no further details. Maybe I'll be there? (Probably not...)

Songs of the Monastery Book One

By Celso

(Click on the images to make them look bigger, they look way better larger.)

This comic features a number of short stories featuring monks who live in an isolated monastery next to Ogreland. The comics are kind of strange, and cover everything from interpretations of The Tyger by William Blake (handily reprinted in the back), to crows who debate Gnostic evangelism (and other religions), to monks playing with snakes and kissing.

This last comic is about an old leader monk telling other monks what they can no longer do. I found the list of eleven things really amusing, as it puts the monks in a human light, while also being kind of ridiculous (monks are no longer allowed to make delicious cakes, presumably cakes that just taste okay are still allowed).

The longest story is a fable of sorts (or a parable? Something like that), and features a monk and a yak (I love how Celso draws yaks) going out to beg for food from people in the surrounding area. The monk must avoid temptation from demons and animals, and stay pure. It shows some of the monk's customs (which I’m assuming are based on some religion, they remind me of some of the monks I saw while living in South East Asia), and has some really good art of demons and monsters.

Speaking of monsters, there’s also an awesome included minizine that features lots of neat drawings of monsters! Yay!

I really like Celso’s art style, which uses lots and lots of lines to create shadow and texture. I also enjoy the way he uses tiny panels, featuring only a head or an eye, in combination with large speech balloons that are outside of the panel borders themselves. It’s a technique I don’t really recall seeing very often, but it works well here.

Some of the philosophy references in the book can be a bit confusing, and Celso even apologises in the back for the comic being “highly enigmatic reading material”. But he does include some explanations in the back, and if you get past the first few stories (by far the least accessible) you’ll find some awesome artwork, and some pretty amusing and thought provoking stories.

One of my only complaints is the formatting. Each page is longer than it is tall, but the pages turn from the top (ie. you turn the book on its side), which is a little awkward. I know it’s just a problem with having access to certain paper sizes and everything, but I think the book would have benefitted from being printed in a slightly different format. Don't let that stop you from picking up this comic though, it's well worth it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thank Goodness for Herald Owlett Volume 2

(Herald Owlett comes packaged inside a plain envelope decorated with a sticker. Above is the envelope, on the left, and the covr of the actual comic, on the right.)

By Nikki Stu

I’m not sure if I’ve ever read another comic that uses the style of video games in the same way as Herald Owlett. The boss (bad guy) is too huge and impossible to defeat? Well you clearly have to run around the level (setting) and destroy all of its power generators. Each one is vulnerable to a specific type of attack! The video game comparisons don’t end there, as there are also super moves, arms exploding into pixels, and other awesome stuff.

None of that is meant as a criticism of Herald Owlett, but rather a compliment. It’s done with such style that I don’t care that the plot is just an excuse for a fight and could have been lifted from any number of video games. I mean, I love video games!

The action is fun, the character designs are good (flower fairies!), and there’s clearly a bunch of back story with the characters (though part of me feels I will only ever discover this by reading the non-existant instruction manual). Owlett is a forest wizard/bushwatcher, his enemy Bufu (some sort of evil elf-monster thing) has hired a much bigger monster to kill him. They fight! Yeah!

Stu’s art style is really fun. While all of the characters that appear are monsters (of some kind or another), they’re never really scary or anything. The main monster appears as a giant black blotch on the background, and its look remind me of some of the characters from Samurai Jack.

Herald Owlett is pretty cool looking too: with five eyes asymmetrically laid out on his face, solar panels, and bizarre antlers. You’re not really sure what sort of creature he’s supposed to be until Stu reveals in the back of the book that he’s “a mixture of bird, mammal, reptile and insect, with a dash of plant”. This might just mean that Stu can give Owlett any power the story demands, but I thought it was pretty cute.

The design of the characters makes me really want to play a Herald Owlett video game. I’d love to see a 3-D, cel shaded version of the giant monster Owlett is fighting in this comic.

There are occasional panels where I’m not really sure what’s happening, but it’s not a major problem. I’m also really happy to see that Stu has started hand lettering this, as the computer fonts used in volume one where one of my only complaints. Stu’s told me she’s busy working away on volume three, and I’m looking forward to reading it when it comes out.

Now back to listening to the music from Kirby Super Star.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sugar Needle #35

By Phlox Icona and Corina Fastwolf
P.O. Box 66835
Portland, OR
97290, USA
$2 and a stamp, or send some awesome candy.

Candy! Sugar Needle is a pretty rad zine featuring reviews of lots of different candy! This issue features some UK candy that I sent to Corina, though it seems as though I sent her some that wasn't too exciting (maybe the packaging just doesn't photocopy well). I do love that Corina reads all the ingrediants of the candy she reviews, and that she was greatly amused by some of the things used to colour the candy I sent her.

This issue also features musing on imaginary types of candy that the writers would love to eat, an article/interview with a surf rock band (which, of course, asks them about their favourite candy), and reviews of lots of different candies from around the world.

I love the tall + skinny format that Sugar Needle uses, and the hand coloured images on the cover and througout the interior are really "sweet" to use a terrible pun. If you're into candy (or chocolate) this zine is definitely worth checking out, and if you send the creators some candy you'll probably get mentioned in the next issue. Hurray!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Deadair #2

By Caitlin Plovnick

While the cover says this is issue two, there doesn't seem to be any major backstory that you need to know before you start reading this comic. Some slackers live in a house, their friend organizes a party, their band plays, there are girls. Hurray! In fact, for all I know issue one (and three) could have absolutely nothing to do with this story.

The story isn't really anything special, though I did feel more favourable to it after the early appearance of a character climbing in through a window with dumpstered bagels. That's the type of character I can relate to! Of course he disappears shortly later and doesn't really play any major part in the rest of the comic.

In fact, the plot's kind of weird in that it doesn't really read like fiction. There isn't a three act structure or anything like that, events just happen, characters drift in and out of the story, and there doesn't seem to be any major goal or climax (other than sexual). A bit like real life I suppose.

The dialogue was probably my least favourite bit of the comic, it seemed kind of awkward. I can't tell if I think it's awkward because people don't speak like that, or if it's because people do speak like that, but the way that people actually speak is rarely written down. There's also some weird internal narration that shows up a couple of times, and at first you're not even sure who it is thinking those words. Kind of strange.

Overall, I don't know. The elements of this comic don't really seem to mesh somehow. I do really like the title though.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Space Dracula

By Ben Clark

The whole premise of this comic is in the title. Dracula gets sick of Earth, builds a spaceship, and flies off to conquer the rabbit-men of Mars.

The art is mostly floating heads speaking dialogue (so easy to draw!), and the story is pretty slight, but I was fairly amused for the forty or so seconds it took me to read this.

I don't really have anything else to say about this one.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Blank Stares & Cricket Claps Yearbook 2003 – 2006

Sometimes I wonder if it's even worth reviewing some of the zines I have. I mean, this is a music zine from several years ago. Is it relevant? Is it still coming out? I mean, if it was ancient it'd have historical value, but I think it's from 2005 or something. But I've read (most of) it, so whatever.

Blank Stares & Cricket Claps (the title comes from audiences' reactions to bands they don't know) is about indie music, and is, as you might expect, filled with reviews, interviews, and other stuff. The problem is that the bands featured I've either never heard of, or don't really care about. I don't think I actually finished the interview with a guy from Mercury Rev, though I did read the one with one of the members of the Afghan Whigs. Despite this, I would be unable to pick out any of their songs if you played some to me. "White boys with guitars" is apparently not my type of music.

I feel like I'm being overly critical of this zine, as it's very nicely laid out. Someone put a lot of effort into the design of this zine, and it looks really good! It's just that the content, style, and humour don't really appeal to me, and there are lots of references to things I didn't understand. I did like the step by step ilustrated dance instructions though. Those were pretty great

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Youthful Erotic Fantasies of the now Decrepit Dr. Pembrose

By Matthew Phelan

This comic claims to be based on an attempt two people made at creating a documentary film. Whether this is true, or even what the documentary was supposed to be about, I don't know, as the comic just deals with the fantasies of the titular doctor.

The comic is, thankfully, just made up of panels of the interview subject talking about his fantasies interspaced with those of the film makers looking more and more horrified. This is one of the few times when I think a comic has broken the "show don't tell" rule and had it be incredibly effective. Mostly this is because the fantasies are incredibly lurid and I don't want to see them.

The fantasies are both creepy (at least in part because they come from an old person talking candidly about sex, which we as a society aren't really down with), and hilarious. I mean, they are completely insane, and the way they're described in such a deadpan manner with a sense of superiority really amuses me.

The art's pretty good, though I'm kind of confused by the layout of some of the pages. There are sometimes small bits of head of leg left floating off the bottom or top of a page. It's almost as though the comic was designed for some online "infinite canvas" style setup, but ended up being reformatted oddly to be used as a webcomic. Strangely these bits don't seem to match up to any other sections of the comic. It doesn't detract from the comic, I just think it looks a bit odd.

My only real complaint is that it's pretty short. I'd have been enjoyed reading more of this stuff (though not too much, I don't want a 200 page graphic novel or anything).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Things: A 24 Hour Comic

By James Wilkinson

I reviewed another 24 hour comic recently, and in my review I said that they can often degenerate into nonsense. This one really doesn’t take very long to do so as after three pages of plot it degrades into stick figures and other poorly drawn characters making bizarre jokes and metatextual statements (at one point a character even asks “You really think there are still people reading at this point?”).

Eventually it becomes incredibly self-referential and Wilkinson starts drawing other people at the 24 hour comic event he was attending. As such it’s an interesting look into the thought processes someone creating a 24 hour comic goes through, but perhaps not as effective a comic. It’s too bad as I liked the first few pages.

(Oh, an idea. I’d love to see someone do a Joe Sacco style journalism comic about a 24 hour comic event. That’d be pretty neat.)

Wilkinson included a letter along with the comic when he sent it to me. In it he explains that he spent forever drawing the first few pages, and then had to rush through the rest. He says that he “found it a very useful excersize for [...] creating comics, rather than agonising about creating something that’s perfect and therefore creating nothing.”

True words. So when’s the next 24 hour comic or zine event? Someone invite me to one so that I can get off my ass and make something.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Photocopy Press #2 The International Zine Maker Issue

By Elizabeth J. M. W.

Since I read a lot of zines, and go to a lot of zine events, and write about zines all the time, I’m clearly interested in zine culture. Elizabeth’s zine starts off with reviews of zines (and zine related things), and since there’s been a bit of discussion about it on the internet (including on this blog) I thought it was interesting to read that she only prints positive reviews. She says that she doesn't “see the point in wasting ink and paper on a zine I’m not excited to tell others about”, which is a legimitate argument. (I, however, have the infinite space of the internet!) She also says that she doesn’t want to make people upset by printing negative reviews of things that they've worked hard on.

But that’s not the interesting thing about this zine! The interesting bits are the interviews done with zinesters from around the world (including me!). Elizabeth sent out email questionnaires to zinesters who responded with answers about how they discovered zines, what the zine scene in their area is like, and other questions. It’s a bit English speaking country-centric, but that’s to be expected. There is some pretty cool info in there though, about the scenes (or lack thereof) in Israel, Austria, and other countries. Plus you can read my response, which is somewhat confrontational, devil’s advocate-y, and questions the very wording of the questions themselves. I am predictable.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Neon Girl Zero

By Dennis Pacheco

Considering how many superhero comics are out there it’s sometimes a little surprising that I don’t see that many minicomics in that genre. Though perhaps that is all in my mind, and because there are so many professionally published superhero comics I don’t really pay attention to the smallpress stuff. If I want to read superheros I can read Incredible Hercules, or Invincible, or any number of other books that I see and hear about all the time.

This comic is influenced far more by non-mainstream superhero comics, such as Powers or The Boys, than by random Marvel/DC books. Most of the story actually takes place in an apartment, deals with a guy discovering that his girlfriend is a superhero, and features superhero sex, infidelity, and costumes seemingly created to show off upskirts (but ironically so?).

Pacheco’s craft here is all very solid. I love the image on the cover (no doubt a tribute to a certain Incredible Hulk cover), and the art inside is also good. I like the designs he comes up with for the members of the League of Freedom (though the ones that don’t show up in much of the story seem far more interesting), he draws a pretty rad monster, and I detect a bit of Paul Pope-ish influence in some of the art (though I find that in everyone's art).

Still, I really wonder about stories like this and the morality of the characters involved in them. If I was going out with someone and they lied about what their job was I’d feel pretty betrayed, and it wouldn’t really matter how awesome their job was (“You’re a circus performer?!”). I’d wonder about why they lied to me, and what else they lied to me about (something that’s briefly referenced here).

I did find the comic a little mean spirited, which decreased my enjoyment somewhat. But I think that relates more to what I'm looking for in my superhero comics, and not the overall craft itself.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Peach Melba Issue 14

By Pearl
PO Box 74

The way that pages are folded in Peach Melba mean that the words that makes up each issue are often part of two different list topics. Thus many of the "Things that could be puddings" are also "Shades of Dulux paint available in B&Q". This kind of blew my mind. Who paints their house "party surprise" or "kiwi burst"? And, more importantly, where can I buy some to eat?

Also included are lists of "birds that have fantastic names" ("red-necked phalarope"), "Foods I wish I liked" ("mince pies"), and the truly amazing "Modes of transport involving/that are animals". This final list includes "a cable car somehow powered by ferrets" and "a hot-air baloon-like contraption involving a flock of swifts", both of which I'm half sure are in a steampunk novel somewhere.

The flip side of this issue includes illustrated step-by-step instructions on crisp packet folding. These show you how to fold the package into a tiny triangle. What reason you would have to do this I'm not sure, but it's there!

Flower Eater Issue One

By Will Kirkby

24 hour comics are curious things. I think they're really more about going out and just doing something. Making comics (or zines, or whatver) instead of sitting around thinking about making them. (This is advice I should really take more, as I wonder why I've only made one zine in the last four months.)

However, one of the "rules" of 24 hour comics (such that the are) is that you have to go into the comic without any plot plans. This does seem to lead to lots of comics where things just happen one after the other without reason, then either get wrapped up in some ridiculous manner or just stop, leaving you wonder what's going to happen next. This isn't to say there aren't some awesome 24 hour comics (or that you can't make your 24 hour comic part one, I mean look what Kevin Cannon did), but that you often end up with comics that kind of meander and don't really go anyway.

And that's pretty much what you get out of Kirkby's comic. People eat flowers to gain powers, there's a bunch of fight scenes, a talking cat, a giant, talking frog, and...that's it. There's clearly a massive world with lots of backstory here, and Kirkby's art is something I generally enjoy (though some parts of this seemed a bit weaker than some of his other work, understandably so), but it just falls a bit flat.

As part of a larger work it would probably do just fine, but as a stand alone comic, with no apparent sequel coming it's a bit disappointing. The wrap-around cover is really good though.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Control Freak #1

By Ox

I love collaging. Look, I even started another blog devoted (mostly) to making them. I also love looking at zines that are filled with lots of awesome collage work. They're inspiring! Look at all these new techniques I can use! Look at what they've done just be rearranging other people's work. Look at what they've managed to turn into art despite whatever boring crap it was originally!

Except (except) that I then look at my own stuff and think it's all crap! Well, not crap exactly, but considerably less exciting looking. I'm made hundreds of these things, but I'm not exactly experimenting very much with form am I? Well not until I read a zine like this and then for a little while after maybe my trading cards are a bit more interesting. Until I go back to cutting up old maps.

Anyway, Control Freak has lots of awesome collages, found objects, photographs from weird cameras, drawings, and more. It's an art zine that I really enjoyed. Now I want to look through it again.