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Recovery Period

Today on the site, Austin English is back with the second and final part of his tour through his favorite zines.

I was intrigued by people's reactions to the first installment of this series. Some expressed excitement at seeing one of the first zines by artist Margot Ferrick. The work in question is from 2012, not ancient history in the least, but Ferrick's work has changed considerably since that moment. As I said before, zines disappear arbitrarily and without warning. A reader's favorite artist may have made something deeply heartfelt in the very recent past, but the work and the attitudes expressed may forever be obscured. With this in mind, for the final installment in this series, I've tried to write about a great many zines, in the hopes that works that have moved me might open up forgotten corners of what is possible in cartooning (which is the not so secret intention of this column in general).

 

Secret of the Saucers by Char Esme, 2013

Pages from Secret of the Saucers by Char Esme, 2013

I'm always surprised that we so rarely see comics like this one, works where total expression is attempted without much concern for the trouble the reader will go through to grasp what's being communicated, but instead with a desire for the audience to catch up. Underground/art comics is a small world, with (it varies year to year) virtually no industry. Experimental works often allow themselves to fall into trends of the day, allowing their truly groundbreaking qualities to be go through a twisty straw constructed with of-the-moment popular aesthetic tropes to make the enterprise more palatable. Not so with this comic by Esme. A comic based on the life of Orfeo Angelucci, a man who claimed to be in contact with extraterrestrials, this is an uncompromising work: the characters change appearance from panel to panel, there is no visual relief in the form of negative space, facial expressions often clash with what is being expressed verbally and the subject matter itself makes one uneasy. I don't believe any work of art is made up solely of intentional choices and I don't believe in a 'gotcha' critique in which a nontraditional work is shown to be doing things exactly as it set out to do. And yet... with this comic, all of Esme's choices are thrilling, all add up to an experience that has no peers elsewhere, in a way I've never had (and I'm sure never will have) elsewhere. I believe Esme once expressed that she liked reading 'any comic' that was put in front of her, and this work, in spite of its seeming opposition to what cartooning is, can only be a comic. It presents us with an experience using images, text, and characters that is entirely its own, and rewards, both in feeling and intellect, the challenge it presents.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Marvel Comics is relaunching its entire line, always a good sign of a healthy brand. This is probably just the lingering virus in my system that had me out of commission for the entire three-day weekend, but I'm getting less and less confident about the near-term survival of comics stores as we know them...

A GoFundMe fundraiser is very close to raising the money necessary to publish the last comic by Mark Campos.


—Reviews & Commentary.
Charles Hatfield writes about Ezra Claytan Daniels & Ben Passmore's BTTM FDRS.

Creepy and charming, it mashes up oozy, sick horror and dark, politically barbed comedy. The story satirizes racism, structural and environmental, via a blighted Chicago neighborhood and an imposing, temple-like block of an apartment building there that serves as the setting. A hyperbolic SF riff on urban decay, BTTM FDRS also skewers the kind of White hipster hypocrisy that extols urban decay for its authenticity. It does all this with a cast of distinctive characters, funny, stinging dialogue, and moments of queasiness built around a body horror conceit: that of a building that literally gets inside your guts. It’s one of a kind.

Michael Dooley looks at Paul Gravett's Mangasia.

[John] Lent investigates comics cultures and changes regionally, from East to Southeast to South Asia, while Gravett explores its subject thematically within a loose chronological timeline. Visually, Asian Comics has a textbook vibe, with its university press-style workmanlike cover and amateurish layout, while Mangasia comes across as an eye-popping coffee-table book, from its screaming cover starring Star Punch Girl to pictures on every single page, beckoning you to keep flipping through. And while Asian Comics has less than 200 images, all in black and white, Mangasia is in full color and packed with more than a thousand. And while there are a few by familiar names like Osamu Tezuka, Sonny Liew, and Nestor Redondo, many are wildly experimental and most have rarely, if ever, been seen in the U.S. However, in this case less images would have been more, inasmuch as a handful are either undersized or unsharp.

Brian Nicholson looks at Adam Warren's Gen13.

“Everybody’s talking about Riverdale and the Archie who fucks,” I texted a friend. “But the original Archie that fucks is Burnout from Gen13.” The sad truth that led to me having Gen13 on the brain was that I had recently purchased the last few issues of Adam Warren’s run on the title. Not the issues drawn by Ed Benes, whose figures have the expressiveness of mannequins, but whose proportions make it clear you’re supposed to jack off to them, but those drawn by Rick Mays. Mays’ manga-influenced style is close to Warren’s own drawings, though its less maniacally cartooned, a little closer to mainstream superhero comics notions of detail. He illustrated the Kabuki spin-off miniseries Scarab. The first issue has its main character on the toilet, flipping through comics and talking about an earlier Adam Warren Gen13 comic. It’s a weird scene. Not just the page, but the subculture of comics that produced it. That’s not to place any value judgment on the work. I’m not necessarily in love with Rick Mays’ art, but it’s a good match for comics I feel conflicted about.

—Misc. Daniel Clowes as a category on Mastermind.

Eddie Campbell is publishing new webcomics.


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