Tagged: comics

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Manfried Saves the Day by Caitlin Major & Kelly Bastow

OK, first of all I probably should say that I’m not a “cat person.” There is one in my house, and I guess I tolerate cats more than I would dogs (slobbery little monsters), but I’m not all that fond of dumb animals in general.

So I am in retrospect not the right reader for Manfried Saves the Day , a graphic novel by Caitlin Major (writer and colorist, copyright owner) and Kelly Bastow (artist) about a world where…(breathless) Get this! Anthropomorphic cats have a whole society just like our own! And they keep cute little naked “men” as pets! “Men” are just like cats! (Except they only come in one gender, and that’s the gender that the creators are not, curiously.)

This is a sequel to Manfried the Man, which I have not read. The general rule is that the first book is better, and I have no reason to doubt that would be the case here, too. Maybe that book was more random-gag focused, or had a less cliched story. Anyway, if you like the idea of talking cats keeping tiny nonverbal humans as pets, try the first book.

Saves the Day has a plot so cliched that I kept expecting it to be subverted — literally, every page I was thinking up other ways for it to go, and anticipating which of the twists Major would decide to take — but I’m here to tell you that it ends up going exactly the way it looks like it will, roaring straight through all of the signposted events like a movie for particularly dull children before ending in a way Scooby-Doo would have sent back to the drawing board for a touch more nuance.

You see, there is a man shelter. And there is a mean landlord who wants to get rid of the man shelter to do mean-landlord things to it. And there is our hero, Steve, who has a demanding job and a girlfriend who is somehow even more demanding in ways that the creators don’t seem to realize are not fair at all to Steve. That girlfriend, Henrietta, runs the man shelter, and is Ahab-level obsessive about it, though again Major is on Henrietta’s side. And, inevitably, the only way to save the man shelter will be to win the annual Man Show, against (obviously) the highly-trained men of the mean landlord, who additionally will cheat in really obvious ways.

Can the scruffy underdogs beat the privileged jerks? [1] What do you think?

Since the actual plot of Saves the Day is annoying, predictable in its every straightforward second, and relies on Henrietta putting pressure on Steve in ways no one should tolerate, any pleasures of this book will rely on how much the reader enjoys seeing a little man-creature doing “adorable” cat behaviors.

See my first paragraph for context.

I did not enjoy this book. I think I only finished it because I did think Major couldn’t possibly be writing the completely straight version of this story (and was wrong about that) and because it’s short with lots of bright pretty pictures on every page. I do not recommend it for anyone with reading tastes anywhere near mine.

[1] ObMeatballsReference: It Just Doesn’t Matter! It Just Doesn’t Matter!

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

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Glenn Ganges in: The River at Night by Kevin Huizenga

I always feel compelled to begin by stating for the record that Glenn Ganges is not Kevin Huizenga. Of course, he’s not Ganges the same way Sal Paradise is not Jack Kerouac — the old fictional yes-but-no-but-yes two-step.

Ganges has been a main character in most of Huizenga’s books I’m aware of: Gloriana and The Wild Kingdom  and Curses . No wait. I don’t mean “main.” I mean “viewpoint.”

That may sound like a nitpick. Describing the stories of Kevin Huizenga will lead to a lot of nitpicks, and descriptions of nitpicks, though — it’s inherent in the territory. Glenn Ganges is a man living in a secondary American city (maybe St. Louis, where Huizenga used to live, or Minneapolis, where he does live now), married to Wendy (I can’t find any references online to Huizenga’s personal life, and won’t speculate), and working some kind of tech-adjacent office job (again, I don’t know what Huizenga does to pay his mortgage and put food on the table, though a graphic novel every few years probably isn’t it).

But the reader gets the sense that Ganges is mentally an avatar for Huizenga. Huizenga’s comics are about thoughts more than actions, ruminations more than activity, knowledge more than thrills. It’s not quite true that his comics all take place in Ganges’ head, but that’s not a bad simplification.

The River at Night , similarly, is not the story of one night when Glenn just couldn’t fall asleep. That’s a framework for much of the book, true, but it ranges more widely than that — even leaving out the geological time and personal history and pure formalist cartooning that comes up during that one long, restless night.

A book like this relies heavily on two things: its creator’s visual inventiveness and intellectual curiosity. Huizenga has both in industrial quantities, seemingly inexhaustible supplies of startling imagery and complex thoughts, and he rolls them out in waves throughout River at Night, interspersing formalist comics experiments of two muating forms fighting (or whatever) in a video-game space with flashbacks to mundane life and long scenes of Ganges lying in bed thinking or wandering his house ruminating.

Huizenga’s art is on the cartoony side, with dot eyes and simplified limbs for his people, and he uses a cool night-blue palette for most of this book, with only a few sunset- or sunrise-desaturated pinks at appropriate moments. That visual simplification — or concentration, perhaps — lets him focus on the ideas and their visual representations; he doesn’t need to draw every line in Ganges’s hair when a calendar is exploding into deep time.

There is no real story to The River at Night. I’m not going to tell you “what happens” — that’s not the kind of book this is. It’s a dizzying, mesmerizing, deeply specific meditation on life and time and purpose and meaning. It’s both accessible in a way I didn’t always find Huizenga’s earlier work — leading into the deep thoughts in measured steps, looping in and out of obsessions to illuminate them from multiple angles — and thrilling in its audacious energy. I can’t guarantee it will make you think about things differently…but if a book like River at Night can’t make you think, I don’t know what can.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

The Wallace Mystery by Rick Geary

I’ve written a lot about Rick Geary here over the years; I’ll try not to repeat myself too much now. His comics work for the past couple of decades has been variously-titled series of graphic novels, generally in a slightly smaller physical format than a standard pamphlet comic, about famous historical murders of the last two hundred years, in the US and UK. (Or regions that are today parts of those nations, to be pedantic.)

There was the Treasury of Victorian Murder, the Treasury of XXth Century Murder (which may officially be ongoing), the Little Murder Library (which is definitely ongoing), and various one-offs and other things. The one thing they all had in common: murders that got a lot of media attention at the time, so they had enough primary and secondary sources for Geary to sift through to make his comics.

The most recent book in this long string is The Wallace Mystery; it’s part of “Little Murder Library.” Like the previous books in that series, Geary self-published it through his Home Town Press, and publicized and capitalized it through a pre-publication Kickstarter campaign. It’s not yet available in his webstore — and not available anywhere else that I can see — but will probably be available through Geary eventually.

For now, you might have to settle for me telling you about it.

Geary’s self-published books are a bit less “finished” than the ones he publishes through others (mostly NBM, the last twenty-five years or so). The front covers are simpler, there’s less text on the back, and the spine is really minimalist. The art is comparable in style: one or two largeish panels, fully drawn with watercolors to add depth and tone. The text is typeset, though, in a square all-caps font  that is clean and readable but which I don’t love that much. (And comics feel less like comics when the type is clearly set — a good font-based-on-the-artist’s-lettering can go a long way to avoid that.)

But they’re otherwise pure Geary — it’s just Geary with less publishing support, obviously because he’s doing just about all of the work himself.

Wallace Mystery tells the story of the 1931 murder of Julia Wallace of Liverpool, a 52-year-old married woman with no obvious enemies or problems. For the usual reasons, her husband William was the primary suspect, and ended up going to trial for the killing. Geary tells the story in his usual style: generally straightforward, but occasionally florid, with excursions into theory and unanswered questions, the product of a mind pulling on all of the strings at once.

Geary runs through the whole story, through the death of William and the other major characters. That’s one of the benefits of his matter: you can end cleanly if everyone is dead, even if important facts (like actual proof of the murderer) are still in dispute.

Wallace Mystery is not one of Geary’s major books: in general, my advice with Geary is to pick a murder case you’ve heard of and read that book first. Unless you’re an expert on Liverduplian history, this will not be that. But it’s another good entry in that string, and it’s great to see him still doing his thing, dependably and well, this far along in his career.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Is This How You See Me? by Jaime Hernandez

Two years later, here’s a one-shot I Love (And Rockets) Monday — because the Brothers Hernandez have kept making comics, and those comics do make their way into books eventually, and even more eventually I will read them.

Is This How You See Me?  collects a Jaime story that ran from the end of the book-size annual New Stories into the beginning of the current magazine-sized Vol. IV comic. And I covered it, more or less, in the last post of the main run of I Love (And Rockets) Mondays.

The story? Maggie and Hopey, now pushing fifty (possibly from the other side) head back to Hoppers together for a punk reunion that neither one of them is all that enthusiastic about.

Well, Hopey is never enthusiastic in a positive way about anything: she was a ball of chaos in her youth, and has settled into a cynical sour middle age. Maggie is more mercurial, as usual, wanting to believe that things will be wonderful but continually remembering all of the other times she believed that things would be wonderful and they weren’t.

So they both know that you can’t go home again. And they don’t live that far from home to begin with: they didn’t get that far or do that much, all of their dreams of rock ‘n’ roll or prosolar mechanicdom to the contrary. We don’t know what their old friends do for a living, exactly, but we suspect they’re more successful: Terry has been making music all this time, at least successfully enough to have a career as a leader of various bands. And Daffy was never as punky as the rest, a girl from the nicer side of town who went off to college and seems to be solidly in the professional/managerial class. (Remembering that Maggie manages an apartment building and Hopey is a teacher’s aide — both jobs they fell into in mid-life when other things fell apart.)

None of that is text, but it’s definitely subtext. Punk was one of the regular youth-fueled screams of rage and rebellion, giving voice to people who felt like their lives had no good options. And they were not wrong.

But we all have to live our lives, not just protest them. Punk bravado burns out, or starts looking silly. Maggie and Hopey are long past the point where punk attitude was relevant to their lives, so this is like any other reunion: wondering who will be there, whether any of it will be worth it, whether it can provide any of those moments of clarity we live for.

This reunion is scripted by Jaime Hernandez. So there will be moment of clarity, for us as readers if not for his characters. I’m afraid Jaime’s central characters are cursed to never have clarity: that may the most central thing about Maggie and Hopey. They will never really understand themselves, or each other.

Well, I may be wrong. They’re getting older, and they’re getting better at seeing clearly.

This is the story of one weekend in about 2016, with flashbacks to 1979, when the two girls were young and fearless and something that passed for innocent and damaged in different ways than their middle-aged selves. I can’t say if it will be as heartbreaking for people who can’t remember 1979 — who haven’t lived fifty or so years themselves. I think so: I think Jaime is that good. But it has more punch the more of this connects with you personally, like any good art.

The more any of us live, the more regrets and what-ifs we accumulate. They can overwhelm us, I guess, if we let them. Is This How You See Me? is about wandering through those piles of regrets and what-ifs without actually talking about them, about seeing where you are this year and looking back in wonder and surprise and awe at who you were forty years ago.

It does not have the electric shock of The Love Bunglers. It’s a quieter book, a middle-aged book. But it’s just as strong, just as true, just as real. And Jaime Hernandez is still one of our best storytellers, working fearlessly in a form he’s made his own.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

By Night, Vol. 1 by Allison, Larsen, and Stern

I am unabashedly a John Allison fan; I’ll say that up front. I may not have been quite as much of a long-term Allison fan as some — I discovered him around the time Scarygoround begat Bad Machinery, if I remember correctly — but I’ve been reading his stuff for a decade or two and writing about it here for nearly as long.

So if I say that his new-ish series By Night , whose first volume I just read, is slightly disappointing, I want to be clear that I mean that I am not gushing about it in the manner I usually do for Allison projects. It’s fun and zippy and quirky and interesting; it’s a good comic. It’s just not as Allisonian (at least to me) as I hoped.

So, now that I’ve just deflated the whole thing before I even started, what is this By Night comic, anyway?

Well, it’s written by Allison, as I implied. Art is by Christine Larsen (probably best known for a stint on the Adventure Time comic; possessor of an awesome website with lots of excellent art) with colors by Sarah Stern (whose website is only very slightly less awesome). It began in mid-2018 and seems to have ended with issue #12.

It’s about two young women, former friends from school who meet again in their dead-end town in their mid-twenties and go on a quirky supernatural adventure together, eventually pulling in a larger cast of oddballs from that town. So far, it sounds very Allisonian.

But the town in question in By Night is Spectrum, South Dakota, and Allison is exceptionally British. (One might even say quintessentially so.) There are other parts of By Night that made my editor’s red-pen hand twitch, but the core of my uneasiness is that Allison’s dialogue and phrasing here is often not quite American, while also not quite being as sprightly and clever as his usual. He is definitely aiming to write Americans, and it was a grand experiment…I just think that it doesn’t play to his strengths.

Anyway, Jane Langstaff is the studious, serious one and Heather Meadows is the free-wheeling wild child (as we have seen often before in Allison’s work). They meet up again in this dying town, and Heather convinces Jane to go along on her mad scheme to investigate the newly-unprotected Charleswood Estate, which was once the commercial heart of the town, back before its founder and driving force disappeared mysteriously. They go there, and discover a portal to an alternate world populated with fantasy creatures and various dangers, wandering in and out a couple of times, guided by a goofball local, and…well, that’s about it in these four issues.

I assume there’s a larger story about that mysterious founder, and probably Deep Secrets about the fantasy world, and these issues have plenty of plot, but it doesn’t end up going in ways that makes much of a story. Things happen, then other things happen, and a few more people learn about the portal — but what, if anything, any of that means isn’t clear at this point.We also don’t see much of the fantasy world; the story tends to cut away from it to go back to our world — either because Allison is more interested in the real-world end, because he’s setting up for a bigger reveal later, or just because, I can’t say.

There’s one more collection available, of the next four issues, and I expect a third will be forthcoming to finish it up. (Well, maybe I hope it will be forthcoming; from the publication schedule, I would have expected it last fall.) I plan to see where this goes; it’s not a long story, and the creators are all doing good work. So I reserve the right to later say that I’ve changed my mind, and this is just as awesome as other Allison works. That would be a nice outcome, actually: I want to love things.

If you’re less of an Allison fan than I am, I wouldn’t pick this as your entry point. Giant Days or his webcomics (which have the advantage of being free) are much better for that. But if you want to see how he handles Americans: here you go.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

The Eye of Mongombo, Book One by Doug Gray

Serialization, the fans of floppy comics are fond of telling us, means that stories actually get told, since their creators can get paid while they’re working. If a creator had to finish an entire story before publishing anything…well, that might take years, and clearly no one can live on nothing for years and so, ipso facto, Batman has to punch people every month or else comics won’t exist at all.

(I may be horribly mangling their argument for my own purposes.)

But serialization just means that stories can start. Market forces, timing, and the creators’ circumstances will affect that story once it’s running — no storytelling mechanism can avoid those things. And so a lot of serialized stories don’t manage to end. They stop mid-way, for whatever reason, to be picked up later, quietly forgotten (Billy Nguyen), loudly forgotten (All-Star Batman and Robin), or stop-and-start for an extended period of time (Hepcats).

Which all brings us to Doug Gray and The Eye of Mongombo . It was a comic book from Fantagraphics, launched in 1989 and expected to run twelve issues, but the last issue was #7, in 1991. I read it at the time, enjoyed it a lot, and kept hoping it would come back — I’ve mentioned it on this blog a few times, I think.

Spongebob Narrator Voice: twenty-eight years later

Doug Gray re-emerged last year with a Kickstarter and a plan to finally finish Eye of Mongombo and publish it as three album-format books. The campaign did not hit its funding target, but Gray decided to finish the story anyway, and the first book was published at the beginning of this year. So I got to read a big chunk of Eye of Mongombo for the first time in a few decades — I did own the comics (until they were destroyed, with all of my other comics and most of my books, in the Flood of ’11), but I don’t think I’d pulled them out to read since maybe the mid-90s at best.

Eye is a goofy late-80s comic, from deep into the black-and-white boom, and it did set off to tell one story. A long, convoluted, silly story packed with reverses and incidents, yes — one that could be told well in serialized form — but a single story.

Our hero is two-fisted anthropologist Dr. Cliff Carlson, who begins the story by first being fired by one nemesis (department head Nuskle) and quickly afterward being turned into a duck by another nemesis (Jumballah, some kind of witch doctor). Cliff is smart and cunning and quick on his feet, so being duck-ified only momentarily slows him down: he’s soon off to find the fabled treasure of the title along with his unworldly grad student Mick and his sexy girlfriend/fellow adventurer Raquel.

Unfortunately, Nuskle stole the map for the eye, so Cliff and friends are chasing “Numbskull” (and his dimwit brother-in-law). And there’s at least one other group, some nefarious types who also seem to be among Cliff’s many nemeses. All set off for South America, variously hiding from, stalking, and attempting to murder each other.

Gray went into animation after Eye‘s aborted first serialization, and his story has the energy and one-damn-thing-after-another pacing of a good cartoon. It manages to stay a silly adventure story rather than a parody, which is a tricky balancing act: Gray isn’t making fun of his characters (well, not all of them), but using them to tell a story with funny parts.

The art looks pretty much like I remember the original Eye, but the Kickstarter page has multiple examples of improved panels compared to the originals. Clearly, my memory is faulty…or Gray got pretty good by the end of the first serialization, and that’s what I’m remembering. Either way, it will be interesting to see what the back half of Eye looks like, once we get past the reworked early-90s stuff and get into entirely new pages.

Eye is not great literature. It’s not a lost comics classics. But it’s a great goofy adventure story, filled with oddball characters and drawn with verve. I liked it a lot in 1989, and I still like it a lot now. I really hope Gray manages to finish it this time and maybe, just maybe, goes on to do other stories as well.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

I, Rene Tardi, Prisoner of War in Stalag IIB, Vol. 1 by Tardi

I probably should say this first: this book is titled I, Rene Tardi, Prisoner of War in Stalag IIB, Vol. 1 . And it’s credited to “Tardi.”

One might easily assume “Tardi” means “Rene Tardi,” the chap who was a POW. But one would be wrong.

Rene died in 1986, and never drew comics. (There are some of his sketches in the frontmatter here, so I don’t want to say he didn’t draw anything. He could draw better than me, for one thing.)

This “Tardi” is his son Jacques, who originally used both of those names for his bandes dessinees until the weight of all of those other French cartoonists who only use one name got to be too much for him, and he succumbed to the lure of the single moniker.

Even in a case, like this one, where that creates confusion. Style is more important than anything else, eh mes amis?

Rene POW is a 2012 comic — translated into English for a 2018 publication in the US — based on a series of notebooks that Jacques made during conversations with his father in the early ’80s. One may presume that he had the idea for this book even then; Jacques Tardi had been a working cartoonist for over a decade at that point. But it took a few more decades for him to get around to it, during years when he told stories about The Great War and Paris detectives and Adele Blanc-Sec and American crime and steampunky super-science and many more.

For a book that claims to be a memoir of WWII, Rene POW has some very odd elements. It starts off with an introduction by Dominique Grange, which is mostly about her father and only secondarily about Rene Tardi. Somewhat later in the book, the reader realizes that Grange is Jacques Tardi’s wife, but the book does not explain this explicitly anywhere. In honor of that connection, Rene meets Grange’s father in that POW camp later in the book — they didn’t actually meet then in real life, or at least didn’t remember it.

And then the book itself is framed as Rene telling the story to Jacques. Rene looks like he did at the time of the war, a strong, angry young man in his uniform, and he narrates the book — sometimes as a voice coming out of nowhere, sometimes as his young self in the scene. And then Jacques appears as a schoolboy, maybe ten or thirteen, who wanders through the scenes without being part of them, questioning his father in words that mostly seem to be post-Rene’s death but sometimes do turn into a conversation between the two men.

So this is neither exactly what Rene wrote nor a true collaboration between the two. It is instead based on notes made while Rene was alive, but full of questions and second thoughts that Jacques only had after his father was dead. But that’s the only way to collaborate with the dead: to take everything they did and said, and present it as honestly as possible, while also pointing out the things they didn’t do or say.

POW life in WWII was horrible, and the French had it nearly the worst. (The Russians probably had it the absolute worst, and the Americans probably the “best.”) Rene Tardi was in Stalag IIB for basically the entire war; he was captured just as France fell. So he has a long time of horrible events to cover here, and they are horrible and unpleasant and full of hideous details.

This is not quite as searing as Tardi’s books about World War One; this book is about his own father, who survived the war. But it’s still a war story, and it’s a reminder of how much war destroys — not just the people who are killed and the cities that are flattened, but also what’s broken in even the people who survive.

[1] Completely unconnected footnote: I realized, when putting together this post, that I don’t have a snarky tag for France. (England has There Will Always Be An England , for example, but I tend to use the vaguer Foreigners Sure Are Foreign  for the whole rest of the world, which may not be the best plan.) My first thought, since my tags tend to be super-sarcastic and borderline obnoxious, was Wogs Begin at Calais, but that’s vastly too offensive.

So, instead, I’m creating the slightly less offensive new tag 246 Kinds of Cheese, in honor of De Gaulle. I trust you will treat this with exactly as much seriousness as it deserves.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Mage: The Hero Denied Vol. 2 and/or 6 by Matt Wagner

So this is the end, huh? After thirty-some years and around twelve hundred pages of comics, Matt Wagner’s comics fantasy autobiography is done.

(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the earlier pieces are the two volumes of Mage: The Hero Discovered  from the mid-80s, the two volumes of Mage: The Hero Defined  from the late ’90s, and the prior collection of this 2017 series.)

Almost anything I could say here would be spoilers of one sort or another, so I will try to be vague without being totally pointless. Mage: The Hero Denied, Vol. 6  has a confusing volume number — it’s the second half of Hero Denied, and only number six of the overall series — and should encompass the lowest point of hero Kevin Matchstick and then his triumphant conclusion.

It does that, reasonably well, and gives space for the rest of Kevin’s fictional family to shine: wife Magda, son Hugo and daughter Miranda. They’re not allowed to be heroic in the same way Kevin is, perhaps because they are not comics-makers in the real world, and so can’t actually fight nasties in the metaphor the way he can. But they’re active, and useful, and not just people who Kevin needs to save — which is nice. He’s the one who has to do the important stuff, since he’s the one who looks like Wagner.

The metaphor is still very vague: I don’t think each series is meant to be about a specific comics project or time in Wagner’s life; just a transmutation of “sitting at a table writing words and drawing lines” into “wacking evil with a baseball bat just like the characters he draws.” And the Big Evil of all three series is the same: the middle book was slightly different, in a generational way, but Denied goes back to the original Big Bad. And the Big Bad doesn’t relate to the real-world end of the metaphor at all: there’s no force or entity conspiring to stop comics creators, unless it’s something universal like Death or Entropy or Watching Cat Videos Instead.

Also, at the end of this story Kevin Matchstick is explicitly done with heroing. I want to leave it vague exactly as to why, but that’s another way the metaphor diverges strongly from Wagner’s own life — his own kids are old enough to collaborate with him on comics (his son Brennan colors this book), and he’s clearly still working.

In the end, Mage is much more superhero comic than it is transmuted autobiography. It’s the story of a guy who looks like Matt Wagner but does comic-book stuff instead of creating comic-book stuff. And Wagner is not the kind of creator, it appears, that cares about digging into the wellsprings of creation to tell stories about that act: his shtick, like most of modern commercial comics, is making pretty pictures of people hitting each other until the world is saved.

So, after three stories and more than a thousand pages, Mage ends up as just decent superhero comics with a vague mythological shell and a this-is-me conceit that doesn’t go much deeper than the surface. It might still be too weird for a lot of superhero-comics fans, because they are stunted and blinkered individuals, but sucks to their assmar.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Pillow Fight by Brandon Graham

So this is not a book to review, exactly. But, since I’m doing posts on all of the books I read — even now, in my lesser state this year — I figured I should at least mention Brandon Graham’s smutty 2006 “graphic” “novel” Pillow Fight , since I did read it.

Graham, like a lot of comics-makers starting out in the Great Smutty Comics Boom (lasting roughly from Eros’s birth in 1990 to the utter apotheosis of the Smutty Internet and the near-simultaneous Great Recession), did smutty print comics at the beginning of his career. This was one of them; it followed the similar album Perverts of the Unknown, which I haven’t seen. (He did other, non-smutty early work, too — that was pretty common, and probably still is these days, though the smutty stuff now tends to be password-locked at places like Slipshine and Filthy Figments, so it may be easier to keep the two strands of career separated without using pseudonyms.)

So Pillow Fight is a short, album-format comic, published as part of a sex-oriented imprint (NBM’s Amerotica), and the plot and characterization is all sex-comic stuff — the point is to move smoothly through a bunch of sex scenes and have some humor and general story virtues along the way as well.

Our main character is Jem, a young woman being sent off to boarding school after her parents walked in on her in flagrante — Graham does not describe exactly what she was doing, or with whom, but it was clearly very steamy, and “with whom” might have been a multiple-choice answer. But she arrives at this unnamed school for “naughties,” quickly meets her new roommate Bones, and first witnesses a scene with said roommate and soon after has sex with that roommate herself. And so it goes on from there — it’s a short book, and the point of this kind of thing isn’t plot to begin with.

Graham has his usual punny jokes — both visual and spoken — though his work was cleaner and less cluttered this early in his career. (He wasn’t cramming in as many visual jokes and pun labels at this point.) The jokes tend to be up front in the narrative in this book instead of half-hidden off to the edges.

But the point is to be a sex book, with nubile young women enthusiastically doing every last thing the young Graham could think up. Graham’s line was zippy and precise by this point; it’s drawn in basically the same style he still uses now. It’s mostly of interested to big fans of Graham (like me) digging up the last disreputable corners of his oeuvre, or for people who really really like naughty schoolgirl stories.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Book-A-Day 2018 #380: Royalboiler by Brandon Graham

This is not a comic. It’s an art book by a cartoonist, featuring covers (from his own books and guest covers for others’ comics), sketchbook pages, odd single-page comics from in-house Image newsletters, convention posters, a T-shirt design or two, some logos for porn companies and stars, a little bit of movie concept art, and other assorted stuff that Brandon Graham has created in the twentyish years of his comics career.

Royalboiler  is an oversized paperback with full-bleed art most of the time — it’s a great size and format for an art book, and really makes the covers (here presented without logos) show up well. That does mean, though, that text is minimal and mostly restricted to some captions on pages where they can be accommodated. The captions are also all in Graham’s lettering font — I can’t say if they’re all hand-lettered or not; does anyone actually still do that? — so they look like they’re part of the underlying art if you don’t slow down and pay attention.

But the point of an art book is to slow down and pay attention, so I don’t consider that a problem.

There is minimal text here, again: just enough to say what this piece of art is, maybe who worked on it with Graham or what year it was done. But there is enough, from those captions and a few semi-autobiographical strips and some collages of photos and artwork from conventions, to piece together a bit of Graham’s life, or at least the parts of his life that he wants to present in his art in public.

So it starts out with covers from King City  and Multiple Warheads  and then goes into some of his odder, earlier, obscurer, or more collaborative projects — Prophet and Perverts of the Unknown and October Yen and so on, and then into lots of art for conventions and covers for other comics. After that comes the Comic Lovers strip for Image Plus, other odd pieces about comics, and so on.

There’s a lot in here — the book has no page numbers, but informed sources claim it’s 248 pages, and that seems about right. That’s almost 250 big pages full of interesting art by a quirky creator — the one thing I would note is that his cover/sketch work is often less dense than his story pages, so there aren’t as many buried jokes or puns in Royalboiler as there are in his narrative comics. Or, maybe, they’re buried even more deeply, so I missed them….

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.