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SPOILER: True Colors was on the boat going to the UK to play shows and ran into Herr Seele. They talked for a while and he apparently used to go to hardcore shows in the ’80s so he was amused to meet a current day hardcore band. They half-jokingly asked him to draw them a cover and he did it. It was used for a limited edition cover for their “Perspective” 7”.
ME: Did they recognize him by sight?

SPOILER: Oh yeah. He’s a well known TV celeb in Belgium, as is Kamagurka. He’s also easy to spot since he looks like a cross between William Burroughs and a skinhead.

SPOILER: True Colors was on the boat going to the UK to play shows and ran into Herr Seele. They talked for a while and he apparently used to go to hardcore shows in the ’80s so he was amused to meet a current day hardcore band. They half-jokingly asked him to draw them a cover and he did it. It was used for a limited edition cover for their “Perspective” 7”.

ME: Did they recognize him by sight?

SPOILER: Oh yeah. He’s a well known TV celeb in Belgium, as is Kamagurka. He’s also easy to spot since he looks like a cross between William Burroughs and a skinhead.

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David Lapham – “Stray Bullets” #41 
In order to get my arms around the massive David Lapham’s “Stray Bullets”, I break it down into four major pieces: 1. “Around Balitmore”, 2. “Seaside”, 3. “Los Angeles”, and 4. “Virginia’s High School”.  The issues that took place with Virginia living with Beth in Los Angelese (#3 in my list) wrapped up with issue #30, and it felt like a legit climax to the story.  Virginia escapes after weeks of torture straight into the hands of Monster who uses her as a bargaining chip for Beth’s hand in marriage. Rereading this I realize how little of this is actually a crime comic. It mostly reads as a horror story where terrible calamity after calamity is piled on top of Virginia’s head.  I think when people say David Lapham is “very good on the consequences of violence” this is one of the things they are responding to.

In the fourth story arc, Virginia is now back home living with her mother and has started high school.  The violence at the high school is jacked up to completely unrealistic levels. Knives are pulled in the lunch room and students get off with limp warnings from the principle when they smack fellow students in the head with baseball bats. This story takes the social dynamics of traditional high school cliques (jocks vs burnouts) and use that as the settings for what is not really a high school story at all. It reminds me of that movie “Brick” except instead of a Dashell Hammet detective story it’s a western or samurai gang warfare type story, with Virginia as the lone gunman who blows into town and plays one side off the other, protecting the innocent.  Issue #41 takes a bit of a narrative shortcut though, wrapping the whole thing up by pulling the move where all the characters are thrown together into the same place for a giant violent climax. 
Like the entire run of “Stray Bullets”, every man in this fourth arc is a psycho-path or an ineffectual weenie. The women are given a little more depth and strength of character, but good people are rare and usually end up with horrific shit coming down on top of them.  Virginia actually is able to affect more change around her than she ever has before, she sets the rival cliques against each other, breaks up her mom and her new boyfriend, and actually even kisses (possibly makes love to) the boy she is protecting this time around.

 Despite the fact that Virginia finally has some agency in this story, that doesn’t prevent her from being raped in issue #40.  And although it has been implied before, this is the first time it’s been shown:

But rather than being very good at dealing with the consquences of this violence it is explained away in the next issue:

I found that disturbing.  Not because I needed narrative certainty but because it seems as if Virginia’s rape is being dismissed by the author – whether she was raped or not its just one more misfortune thrown at her.
And that brings me to my reaction to not just issue #41, but my impression from re-reading the original series for the first time since it’s original run.  I remember the meat of the story being Spanish Scotty and Monster and all the other characters spiraling out from them. But I must have been projecting my desires. The heart of the story is Virginia Applejack, aka Amy Racecar and the horror that befalls her time after time. She just never catches a break, and it’s too much for me. I remember reading a a review of “Babel” by David Denby in 2006 where he talked about how the filmmakers just offered up sheer dread rather than dramatic tension, which ended up being nothing except magnificent looking misery. And it was a watershed moment for me.  Magnificent looking misery does not a good story make.  It’s not illuminating or insightful and it’s not fun. Taking in small spurts it seems like one thing, but when taken in one large gulp it feels like something else entirely.
I don’t think Lapham is guilty of all this, you would have to be out of your mind to say there was no dramatic tension in “Stray Bullets”.    But I need a break from Virginia Applegate, and I think she needs a break too.

David Lapham – “Stray Bullets” #41 

In order to get my arms around the massive David Lapham’s “Stray Bullets”, I break it down into four major pieces: 1. “Around Balitmore”, 2. “Seaside”, 3. “Los Angeles”, and 4. “Virginia’s High School”.  The issues that took place with Virginia living with Beth in Los Angelese (#3 in my list) wrapped up with issue #30, and it felt like a legit climax to the story.  Virginia escapes after weeks of torture straight into the hands of Monster who uses her as a bargaining chip for Beth’s hand in marriage. Rereading this I realize how little of this is actually a crime comic. It mostly reads as a horror story where terrible calamity after calamity is piled on top of Virginia’s head.  I think when people say David Lapham is “very good on the consequences of violence” this is one of the things they are responding to.

In the fourth story arc, Virginia is now back home living with her mother and has started high school.  The violence at the high school is jacked up to completely unrealistic levels. Knives are pulled in the lunch room and students get off with limp warnings from the principle when they smack fellow students in the head with baseball bats. This story takes the social dynamics of traditional high school cliques (jocks vs burnouts) and use that as the settings for what is not really a high school story at all. It reminds me of that movie “Brick” except instead of a Dashell Hammet detective story it’s a western or samurai gang warfare type story, with Virginia as the lone gunman who blows into town and plays one side off the other, protecting the innocent.  Issue #41 takes a bit of a narrative shortcut though, wrapping the whole thing up by pulling the move where all the characters are thrown together into the same place for a giant violent climax. 

Like the entire run of “Stray Bullets”, every man in this fourth arc is a psycho-path or an ineffectual weenie. The women are given a little more depth and strength of character, but good people are rare and usually end up with horrific shit coming down on top of them.  Virginia actually is able to affect more change around her than she ever has before, she sets the rival cliques against each other, breaks up her mom and her new boyfriend, and actually even kisses (possibly makes love to) the boy she is protecting this time around.

 Despite the fact that Virginia finally has some agency in this story, that doesn’t prevent her from being raped in issue #40.  And although it has been implied before, this is the first time it’s been shown:

But rather than being very good at dealing with the consquences of this violence it is explained away in the next issue:

I found that disturbing.  Not because I needed narrative certainty but because it seems as if Virginia’s rape is being dismissed by the author – whether she was raped or not its just one more misfortune thrown at her.

And that brings me to my reaction to not just issue #41, but my impression from re-reading the original series for the first time since it’s original run.  I remember the meat of the story being Spanish Scotty and Monster and all the other characters spiraling out from them. But I must have been projecting my desires. The heart of the story is Virginia Applejack, aka Amy Racecar and the horror that befalls her time after time. She just never catches a break, and it’s too much for me. I remember reading a a review of “Babel” by David Denby in 2006 where he talked about how the filmmakers just offered up sheer dread rather than dramatic tension, which ended up being nothing except magnificent looking misery. And it was a watershed moment for me.  Magnificent looking misery does not a good story make.  It’s not illuminating or insightful and it’s not fun. Taking in small spurts it seems like one thing, but when taken in one large gulp it feels like something else entirely.

I don’t think Lapham is guilty of all this, you would have to be out of your mind to say there was no dramatic tension in “Stray Bullets”.    But I need a break from Virginia Applegate, and I think she needs a break too.

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Portrait commissioned for my wedding from Graham Chaffee.
Here it is framed:
And here it is in a poorly lit room on the wall next to a James Stokoe Galactus:

Portrait commissioned for my wedding from Graham Chaffee.

Here it is framed:

And here it is in a poorly lit room on the wall next to a James Stokoe Galactus:

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Roz Chast “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant” (March 10, 2014 issue of the New Yorker) & Lisa Hanawalt (Lucky Peach #10)
Roz Chast’s comics are rarely funny, but when they are the illustrations have practically nothing to do with it.  Her sloppy draftmanship doesn’t seem to have improved a bit in 30 years and she has leaned on the same frantic looking faces, frizzy hair, and middle aged schlubs throughout that entire time.
In this 12 page (!) full color comic in the March 10 New Yorker there is one funny Quentin Blake-ish looking illustration of some bandits cutting her great grandfather’s throat that is especially eyebrow raising for how far out of her wheelhouse it is.  Forget about violence, it’s rare that she even draws someone getting their ass off the couch.  I wish she would veer off into unexpected directions with her illustrations like this murder scene more often rather than plodding along the well trod path she has beat for herself over the years.

It’s fun to compare this to Lisa Hanawalt’s four full color pages she has in issue 10 of Lucky Peach magazine.  Hanawalt’s draftmanship isn’t really any stronger than Chast’s, and like Chast the text is also doing most of the work.  But the drawings are completely unpredictable, wildy funny, and can show susprisingly subtlty - like her face eating dumplings and looking at dead ducks.  It’s really funny to me.

Roz Chast “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant” (March 10, 2014 issue of the New Yorker) & Lisa Hanawalt (Lucky Peach #10)

Roz Chast’s comics are rarely funny, but when they are the illustrations have practically nothing to do with it.  Her sloppy draftmanship doesn’t seem to have improved a bit in 30 years and she has leaned on the same frantic looking faces, frizzy hair, and middle aged schlubs throughout that entire time.

In this 12 page (!) full color comic in the March 10 New Yorker there is one funny Quentin Blake-ish looking illustration of some bandits cutting her great grandfather’s throat that is especially eyebrow raising for how far out of her wheelhouse it is.  Forget about violence, it’s rare that she even draws someone getting their ass off the couch.  I wish she would veer off into unexpected directions with her illustrations like this murder scene more often rather than plodding along the well trod path she has beat for herself over the years.

It’s fun to compare this to Lisa Hanawalt’s four full color pages she has in issue 10 of Lucky Peach magazine.  Hanawalt’s draftmanship isn’t really any stronger than Chast’s, and like Chast the text is also doing most of the work.  But the drawings are completely unpredictable, wildy funny, and can show susprisingly subtlty - like her face eating dumplings and looking at dead ducks.  It’s really funny to me.

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"The Hedge Knight" written by George RR Martin, adapted by Benjamin Avery, art by Mike S. Miller
In the year 208 Dunk and Aerion face off in in dramatic Trial by Seven combat, too bad they are COMPLETLY HIDDEN IN THE CREASE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PAGES.
There are a lot of things to shake your head at in “The Hedge Knight”. Mostly they are the fault of the coloring and shading… for instance this panel where Dunk has hairy-ass knuckles next to his airbrushed plastic looking newborn baby face. This looks like that gag where you stand behind someone and stick your arms under the airpits and pretend your arms are theirs.

And then later on he gets a new paintjob on his shield and it looks like he sent it off to an airbrush shop at Hampton Beach.

I can overlook this shitty coloring, but that spread where Dunk and Aerion are missing is really something else  I can only assume it happened because the original art was drawn for a pamphlet comic and no consideration was given to the aesthetic differences between a trade paperback binding and a pamphlet.

"The Hedge Knight" written by George RR Martin, adapted by Benjamin Avery, art by Mike S. Miller

In the year 208 Dunk and Aerion face off in in dramatic Trial by Seven combat, too bad they are COMPLETLY HIDDEN IN THE CREASE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PAGES.

There are a lot of things to shake your head at in “The Hedge Knight”. Mostly they are the fault of the coloring and shading… for instance this panel where Dunk has hairy-ass knuckles next to his airbrushed plastic looking newborn baby face. This looks like that gag where you stand behind someone and stick your arms under the airpits and pretend your arms are theirs.

And then later on he gets a new paintjob on his shield and it looks like he sent it off to an airbrush shop at Hampton Beach.

I can overlook this shitty coloring, but that spread where Dunk and Aerion are missing is really something else  I can only assume it happened because the original art was drawn for a pamphlet comic and no consideration was given to the aesthetic differences between a trade paperback binding and a pamphlet.

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FIVE COMICS I LOVED IN 2013
#1 Seth - “Palookaville 21”
At SPX earlier this year Seth said, “I get described as a nostalgist a lot, but I’m not. I don’t want to live in an earlier era. I am drawn to old things, whether it’s an old building or a design on an air vent. But it’s not nostalgia, it’s more about a sense that time is slipping away, it’s really a predisposition to melancholy.” This hit me hard, because I fully understand what he is describing. I feel this all the time. I even feel a physical longing for an earlier era before the elves were in a full retreat when I read “The Lord of the Rings”. I know it’s ridiculous. And I am not actually nostaglic for an earlier time period in a make believe world. But there it is. And Seth has been mining this feeling for his entire career and it resonates with me.

#2 VA - “Society is Nix”
Do we live in a golden era simply because a book like this is available? Or do we live in a shadow of the world where this was actually a mainstream artform and a book like this only has a print run in the hundreds and costs a small fortune to buy? 

#3 Ad Reinhardt - Exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery
There was some images in this exhibit I was able to understand and contexualize pretty easily and they were interesting and fun to look at it. But there were others like this one where Hitler is dragging a dead wizard under the night sky that are master level cartooning with powerful images that I am unable to place into a coherent context or understand at all and they left me reeling and thinking on them for days. 

#4 Anya Davidson - “School Spirits”
There is a three page sequence in here where the hornball high-school age Oola fantasizes about what she would like to do to a schoolmate she has a crush on and the cartooning is out of this world. Things like burying him up to his neck in sand and letting a crab have at him, ski jumping nude onto his face, etc. Each thought it more absurd than the last. It’s like an exercise out of Ivan Brunetti’s “Cartooning Philosophy and Practice” book. The structure of the book is set up to have these bursts of digressions which are sometimes character-building, sometimes just tone setting, hilarious, and wildly creative. It’s such an obvious and effective structure for a comic that I’m surprised I can’t think of an example where it has been that way before.

#5 Simon Hanselmann - “Life Zone”
Habitual drug users busting each others’ balls is a pretty standard trope in indie comics, but Hanselmann does it in a way that is twice as funny and twice as heartfelt as anyone else.
Plus the comedy and the dark emotional core of this play off each other in a way that enhances both dramatically. When Meg bursts into tears unexpectedly I am floored and I have to think I wouldn’t have the same reaction if I hadn’t spent that time with her on the couch busting owl’s balls.

FIVE COMICS I LOVED IN 2013

#1 Seth - “Palookaville 21”

At SPX earlier this year Seth said, “I get described as a nostalgist a lot, but I’m not. I don’t want to live in an earlier era. I am drawn to old things, whether it’s an old building or a design on an air vent. But it’s not nostalgia, it’s more about a sense that time is slipping away, it’s really a predisposition to melancholy.” This hit me hard, because I fully understand what he is describing. I feel this all the time. I even feel a physical longing for an earlier era before the elves were in a full retreat when I read “The Lord of the Rings”. I know it’s ridiculous. And I am not actually nostaglic for an earlier time period in a make believe world. But there it is. And Seth has been mining this feeling for his entire career and it resonates with me.

#2 VA - “Society is Nix”

Do we live in a golden era simply because a book like this is available? Or do we live in a shadow of the world where this was actually a mainstream artform and a book like this only has a print run in the hundreds and costs a small fortune to buy? 

#3 Ad Reinhardt - Exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery

There was some images in this exhibit I was able to understand and contexualize pretty easily and they were interesting and fun to look at it. But there were others like this one where Hitler is dragging a dead wizard under the night sky that are master level cartooning with powerful images that I am unable to place into a coherent context or understand at all and they left me reeling and thinking on them for days. 

#4 Anya Davidson - “School Spirits”

There is a three page sequence in here where the hornball high-school age Oola fantasizes about what she would like to do to a schoolmate she has a crush on and the cartooning is out of this world. Things like burying him up to his neck in sand and letting a crab have at him, ski jumping nude onto his face, etc. Each thought it more absurd than the last. It’s like an exercise out of Ivan Brunetti’s “Cartooning Philosophy and Practice” book. The structure of the book is set up to have these bursts of digressions which are sometimes character-building, sometimes just tone setting, hilarious, and wildly creative. It’s such an obvious and effective structure for a comic that I’m surprised I can’t think of an example where it has been that way before.

#5 Simon Hanselmann - “Life Zone”

Habitual drug users busting each others’ balls is a pretty standard trope in indie comics, but Hanselmann does it in a way that is twice as funny and twice as heartfelt as anyone else.

Plus the comedy and the dark emotional core of this play off each other in a way that enhances both dramatically. When Meg bursts into tears unexpectedly I am floored and I have to think I wouldn’t have the same reaction if I hadn’t spent that time with her on the couch busting owl’s balls.

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CHUN ONE dips his beak into the world of advertising.  Shout out to R Crumb

CHUN ONE dips his beak into the world of advertising.  Shout out to R Crumb

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Ad Reinhardt for the Straight Edge

Ad Reinhardt for the Straight Edge

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melikesyoucomics:

1290, comfortable

This ranks up as one of the best single panel gags of 2013 up there with “Get in this fcking cannon right now bro”, “Do you have Dog Trouble?”, and that one from the New Yorker where the guy was folding clothes with a genie.

melikesyoucomics:

1290, comfortable

This ranks up as one of the best single panel gags of 2013 up there with “Get in this fcking cannon right now bro”, “Do you have Dog Trouble?”, and that one from the New Yorker where the guy was folding clothes with a genie.

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Sean T Collins collaborated with two different artists on two different minicomics that debuted at this year’s CAB: “In Pace Requiescat” with Julia Gfrörer and “Flash Forward” with Jonny Negron.  They are both good – but “Flash Forward” has been the one I’m finding myself thinking about more since reading it. 
 In this comic a man (a husband / father) is photographed by someone with a flash camera lurking outside his house over the course of several days. He puts off calling the police and finds himself becoming turned on by the act of being photographed. As this escalates he eventually wakes up his wife in the middle of the night and fcks her over the kitchen sink while the guy photographs both of them from the woods outside the kitchen window. His wife appears to be just as turned on as he is. Eventually he does go outside and confront the creeper only to find the guy has no face behind the camera - in fact his entire head is hollow.

Is the guy with a flashing camera obscuring his face a motif in alternative comics? It seems like it is, but I’ll admit I may be drawing lines between widely disparate points that just happened to cross my field of vision recently - finding patterns were none really exist.
Here he is in Garo Issue No. 165 from 1977. (note: not sure of the artist) Interestingly the flash seems to be coming from behind the camera, indicating that the flash is not actually the camera flash. This concept is echoed in the first panel on the last page of “Flash Forward” where there is a flash obscuring the photographer’s face, but the camera has been moved away from his face.
 
He shows up more recently in Yuichi Yokoyama’s “Garden”. Negron and Collins have probably both seen this comic, but the flash photographer is one of hundreds of odd characters navigating through the garden in this book, so I doubt it is a direct reference. Here he is in the background creeping around in a sporty diagonal stripped jump suit:

The symbolism of a guy constantly snapping pictures of everything is nothing new. I’m remembering gags/commentary from the 80s where parents experienced their children’s lives entirely through the lense of a camcorder, capturing everything for posterity at the sacrifice of the experience itself. But this is something different - these photographers are dehumanized and anonymous.
The central idea of this comic is a man’s unexpected turn to exhibitionism and his sexual arrousal in the face of anonymous surveilance and I read that as commentary on celebrity culture and zealous oversharing on the internet and social networking. This comic seems to take it a step further than that with the man’s horror at realizing what is actually behind the camera.  It’s just a faceless, brainless monster capturing and consuming images of your private moments. While you are beating off to how many retweets you got, the people retweeting don’t even give a shit. It’s all empty.
It’s cool to see Negron collaborate with someone to do this. I liked his last comic “Blonde Cobra” a lot, but I’m not sure I got much more out of it than the “vibe”. It’s interesting to see him work in a more direct manner that still seems true to his art.

Sean T Collins collaborated with two different artists on two different minicomics that debuted at this year’s CAB: “In Pace Requiescat” with Julia Gfrörer and “Flash Forward” with Jonny Negron.  They are both good – but “Flash Forward” has been the one I’m finding myself thinking about more since reading it. 

 In this comic a man (a husband / father) is photographed by someone with a flash camera lurking outside his house over the course of several days. He puts off calling the police and finds himself becoming turned on by the act of being photographed. As this escalates he eventually wakes up his wife in the middle of the night and fcks her over the kitchen sink while the guy photographs both of them from the woods outside the kitchen window. His wife appears to be just as turned on as he is. Eventually he does go outside and confront the creeper only to find the guy has no face behind the camera - in fact his entire head is hollow.

Is the guy with a flashing camera obscuring his face a motif in alternative comics? It seems like it is, but I’ll admit I may be drawing lines between widely disparate points that just happened to cross my field of vision recently - finding patterns were none really exist.

Here he is in Garo Issue No. 165 from 1977. (note: not sure of the artist) Interestingly the flash seems to be coming from behind the camera, indicating that the flash is not actually the camera flash. This concept is echoed in the first panel on the last page of “Flash Forward” where there is a flash obscuring the photographer’s face, but the camera has been moved away from his face.

 

He shows up more recently in Yuichi Yokoyama’s “Garden”. Negron and Collins have probably both seen this comic, but the flash photographer is one of hundreds of odd characters navigating through the garden in this book, so I doubt it is a direct reference. Here he is in the background creeping around in a sporty diagonal stripped jump suit:

The symbolism of a guy constantly snapping pictures of everything is nothing new. I’m remembering gags/commentary from the 80s where parents experienced their children’s lives entirely through the lense of a camcorder, capturing everything for posterity at the sacrifice of the experience itself. But this is something different - these photographers are dehumanized and anonymous.

The central idea of this comic is a man’s unexpected turn to exhibitionism and his sexual arrousal in the face of anonymous surveilance and I read that as commentary on celebrity culture and zealous oversharing on the internet and social networking. This comic seems to take it a step further than that with the man’s horror at realizing what is actually behind the camera.  It’s just a faceless, brainless monster capturing and consuming images of your private moments. While you are beating off to how many retweets you got, the people retweeting don’t even give a shit. It’s all empty.

It’s cool to see Negron collaborate with someone to do this. I liked his last comic “Blonde Cobra” a lot, but I’m not sure I got much more out of it than the “vibe”. It’s interesting to see him work in a more direct manner that still seems true to his art.