Friday, December 12, 2014

{Scattershot 8}


Michael DeForge has launched a Patreon. For $3 a month you get 12 to 20 pages of original comics every thirty days, which seems like the best deal in comics.

I started to wonder what Ethan Riley has been up to, and after a quick google search i found that he had a few short comics on his site which i have not read. So heres a link to those.

A compilation of every Same Hat scan.

Subscription Drives

(Preamble: 2014 is almost over which means, as has now become a sacred event over the past two years in alt-comics, every small press publisher will begin opening subscriptions to their 2015 publishing slate. It makes sense to do this at the start of the year, it really does, but the drawback is that 15-20 different publishers are offering the same service at the same time and it begins to get overwhelming, at least for me. So the general idea behind this section is to keep a rolling list going to make things slightly organized.)

Youth In Decline (Ends 2/14/15)


Experimental manga (and comics in general) heavyweight Seiichi Hayashi was interviewed at Varoom.I think this is the first interview i’ve ever seen with him. I guess that may be a pitfall with Holmberg dropping definitive histories to every book he translates in the leadup to their publication.

This is a bit old, (as in 6 months old) but Jog interviewed Jean Pierre Dionnet for TJC. Dionnet seems like a world class talker, but since i know so little about him this isn’t a problem.

In this excerpt he talks about finding Jack Kirby:

“And then I found an Iron Man begun by Gene Colon and finished by Jack Kirby. And I found the Thor story where he goes in the Inferno. I was hooked, because suddenly I realized that he [Kirby] was the master of that new form called comics. Not coming from a good copy of comic strips like some others, because of a bunch of EC reprints or whatever. It wasn’t something reminiscent of Alex Raymond. Al Williamson was very friendly. But with Kirby, I discovered a guy who, for me, opened the door and closed it. After, everything is postmodern, including Watchmen, which for me is the tomb of comics, built on the body of Ditko.”

Olivier Schrauwen interviewed at Pastebin. A short interview, but much better than i was expecting.

Bart Beaty talks about his book on Archie. As Beaty mentions early in the interview i’m glad he, and his publisher, moved away from the “greatest” hits aspect that most academic writing on comics tends to fall into. Maus and Fun Home are fine (or Fun Home is fine, i have issues with Maus) but when every book on comics revolve around them it seems a bit...reductive. I get that it’s a “new” field but imagine if every academic book on cinema was about Citizen Kane. It’d be laughable.


Matt Seneca returns from his self inflicted retirement to review the presumptive book of the year Richard McGuire’s Here. 
By way of thaleslira a link to a composite list of some of the articles written for the now defunct Comets Comets. The comment sections also seem to be intact which is really great.

Ryan Holmberg on Baby Boom at Comics Comics. This is really interesting in that Holberg discusses a fatigue with Yokoyama clean worlds and a wanting for him to evolve, which he seems glimmers of in Baby Boom. Based on his work published in the US after this article though it seems like it was just that, a glimmer and a hope.

Gabriel Winslow-Yost writes a pretty great essay on Tardi’s two books dealing with the First World War, It Was and War Of The Trenches and Goddamn! This War!. The hardest part with writing about those books is conveying Tardi’s anger with the forces that sent those young men to die needlessly, and also his sympathy for those sent.


Mr. Oliver Ristau posted his top 20 comics list (top 5 with 15 honorable mentions). It’s in german, but you can give the list itself a glance since each title mentioned is in english. Plus if you’re feeling bold you run the article through google translate and get the gist of each piece.

Killer Mike and EL-P discuss the filmography of Steven Seagal. Blind devotion to action stars / films is something i can deeply relate too. Seriously talk to me about Roadhouse and Nic Cage with me sometime.

Four images of Ken Kagami SnooPee

Benjamin Urkowitz posted his best of list on his tumblr, which google docs doesn’t allow me to hyperlink to so heres that link in full:

Ryan Sands is selling a digital edition of Prison For Bitches, his and Michael DeForges (in their first collaboration) Lady Gaga fanzine for $1.50. I think this is a trial run to figure out price points on future digital editions of Youth In Decline work. That particular fanzine is interesting because its contributors list is pretty much a who’s-who’s of alt-comics today in one single place, five years ago. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Eight Webcomics From 2014 That I Enjoyed.

This is a list of 8 webcomics from throughout the year (‘14) that I enjoyed. I’m probably missing a few from earlier in the year, but sadly that tends to be how these lists work. They are in no particular order, not even alphabetical, and the length I spend talking about each one shouldn’t be read as meaning anything besides an indictment of my laziness. At the bottom I also link to some other webcomics that I felt were worth mentioning or that someone I respect suggested I read and haven't gotten around to. Again I’m very lazy.  

Sex Fantasy 4 by Sophia Foster-Dimino

The previous three issues of Sex Fantasy could be seen as a set up for this issue, lulling the reader into a false sense of knowing. What started as a gag comic about outlandish sex fantasies slowly transformed over its previous three issues into a exploration as to what those fantasies reveal about the person acting them out, and what ones inner thoughts and anxieties play into them.

Sex Fantasy #4 opens with an unnamed female sitting on a couch, wearing a black sweater and reading a book. Quickly though a pair of arms shoot through the left panel border and another female, this one wearing glasses, begins to rest her head on the woman on the couches right shoulder and lock her hands together around the woman's neck in a loose hug of sorts. The intimacy of this gesture seems to implicate a closeness between the two figures, and as the previous three issues have conditioned you to expect, you await the figure in glasses to begin whispering her odd sex fantasies into the sitting womans ear.

The fantasies you expect to see here though never come, although the intimacy of the statements are nonetheless present, as the figure in glasses begins to reveal the deeply held thoughts and anxieties of the woman on the couch. These thoughts though are couched (ha ha) by the phrasing “have you ever…” at the beginning of each statement, creating the illusion of a question being asked, when in reality none is.

As each word piles up the woman on the couch begins to sob uncontrollably. This reaction doesn’t seem to affect the woman in glasses though, as her body language and facial expression never changes over the course of the comic. That is except for the ever so slightest raising and lowering of her eyebrows. These movements are meant more to telegraph how each new bit of information will hit her target though, rather then show characterization. So as her eyebrows move upwards you see her words begin leading towards something, until they snap back down into a focused and flat lined stare as she delivers the crushing conclusion to the newest perverse iteration of “have you ever…”.

It isn’t until the comics final page, when a new and grotesque looking figure enters through the right side of the panel that the woman in glasses leaves. Mirroring the woman in glasses movements, only this time in reverse, this new figure rests her head on the sitting womans left shoulder and begins to comfort her instead of emotionally abusing her. Gently placing her left hand on the sitting womens shoulder and, after a brief hug, telling her to “go to bed.” in the narratives only thought to end in a period.

The angel/devil paradigm this story is evoking is interesting, first in the flipping of the imagery of each player (the devil character being depicted as a well dressed 20-something female and the angel being represented by a ghoulish looking woman), but also by subverting the roles each play. While the devil in this classic scenario tends to whisper evil ideas into the main characters ear and push them to do something outwardly bad, here she whispers ideas that sink the character deeper into herself; and while the angel typically counteracts these ideas by explaining the harm they would cause to others, here all she can do is bring her back to her normal state of mind. This leaves the experience feeling not so much as a resolution to the devils words, but rather a momentary respite. 

Sadly that tends to be how mental turmoil works though.

Why We Fear The Ocean by Julia Gfrorer and Sean T. Collins

Utilizing both fictional, historical, and real life examples Why We Fear The Ocean looks at the symbology of water to try and unravel what is at the core of mankinds fears of what lurks beneath it. With a deadened narrative voice and a fluid take on panel to panel transitions, recalling more a slide show than a proper comic, Gfrorer and Collins create a sense of dread with each new word and panel read. Because like most fears, this one has more to do with ourselves than the object of fear itself.

Actual Trouble by Michael DeForge

In a combination of text and image that recalls storybooks more than comics, DeForge tells the story of a man and his partner who’s erection can not go away. The metaphor is ethereal, meaning many things at once, but it always comes back to frustration, with work, with what you missed out on in life, and of course with sex.

The title, Semi-Vivi, is a bit of wordplay, combining the titular characters name Vivi (a nickname) and Vivo meaning half alive. Half alive though could just as easily mean half dead, and for the majority of this narrative it seems like a more apt description of Vivi.  

As an entry in the Frank Santoro run Comics Workbook Competition Semi-Vivi takes place in a static 8 panel grid, each 3.25 x 5 inches in size and landscape oriented. Unlike other contestants who simply work within this grid, GG fully embraces it, making the grid into an integral part of Semi-Vivi’s narrative. As we watch Vivi’s life being controlled by boxes, the boxes of the grid become just another obstacle for her to overcome.

Semi-Vivi opens on Vivi watching a youtube video about creating hand drill fires, a skill that with the advent of lighters has largely been regulated to survivalist instructors who break it out on television shows as a way to impart their bonafides to viewers as they stumble through forests hundreds of miles from civilization. Vivi’s viewing of this video is cut short though, as rays of light suddenly beam across her face after the door to her apartment(/older brothers garage) is opened slightly. Confused Vivi walks to the door where she finds a note from her older brother telling her that the lawyers who took over the home want her to vacate the garage apartment “ASAP”. This brief intrusion of the outside world into hers will become a recurring theme in this comic, as each moment of solitariness is interrupted by the outside.

After reading her brothers note, Vivi begins walking alone towards a local park. Before reaching the park though her phone goes off alerting her to a “totally cool 80’s themed party” that she has been invited to over facebook that night. After hitting decline we see the first hint of Vivi’s frustration as she adds a “LLP” to a still wet patch of concrete, which had previously been graffitied with the words “HELL”.

This cry for help though is not answered, as she moves around town her life is continually interrupted by outside entities, be it a small child asking to use the swing she is currently occupying, the leering eyes of a fellow dinner patreon as she is eating a slice of pie, or a friend spotting her from across the street and attempting to gain her attention.

Vivi eventually leave of the city altogether, throwing her cellphone into a lake and taking a bus to its last stop which borders the woods. After exiting the bus Vivi lays down on a nearby patch of grass and looks, for the first time, at ease. In this alone state she drifts off to sleep and the comic shifts to a dream sequence. This sequence, like many dream sequences, retells and adds emphasis to certain aspects of the narrative to this point, and gives hints towards a possible conclusion. As Vivi opens a box to find a small baby bearing the face of the man who was staring at her in the dinner, shocked Vivi throws the baby in the air to find herself trapped inside of a cubicle, which she promptly knocks the walls of down. Freed of these boxes Vivi strips naked and jumps on the back of a dove and begins to fly away, only to have her new found freedom snatched mid-air by the hand of the friend she had been avoiding earlier in the the city streets and being brought back down to earth. This act jostles Vivi awake and she begins to return home, on her way she comes across the patch of concrete that she wrote “HELLLP” on, but again the outside world felt the need to encroach on her plea and responded to with (a not shocking) “FUK U” and “NOOO”.

Upon reaching home Vivi finds her belongings boxed up and laying on the ground in front of her apartment. Her brother had the movers box them up while she was away. Following her dream, in which she destroyed the boxes enclosing her life and flew away only to be snatched by her associations and belongings, Vivi attempts to actualize a new ending for herself. Moving from the half-dead individual which existed for the majority of the story and transforming into one who is half alive, Vivi removes a single book from the boxes (Il canto dell' immediato satori) and implements her newly learnt fire starting skills by setting the boxes and her belongings on fire.

Like the eight panel grid, there is one more rule in place for the Comics Workbook competition and that is that the work needs have both a front and back cover. With Vivi’s fire induced catharsis in full effect, and the required grid no longer in play, GG chooses to use the back cover of the book to echo Vivi’s previous dream of flying away on a dove, illustrating a single image of a dove flying into a void of white, free of the boxes that had once held it captive.

Waylaid by Andrew White

A graphic novel length narrative released in the dead of night, White’s Waylaid tells the story of a relationship but more so it documents the confusion of life, love, and friendships. White overlaps his panels into such a dizzying array that it is difficult to see when a panel starts and when it ends, where the border resides and where it is just part of the color scheme. But it all goes towards keeping the reader at arms length from the narrative, keeping them from projecting something easy onto it, from looking at those pictures in the basement and placing them into an easy order for themselves.

Hollow: Part 1 by Sam Alden

Hollow follows motion like energy, waiting for a spark to appear and then following it until it burns out. Opening on two teenagers talking about the “Hollow”, the economics of summer beach homes, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider we watch one of them craft an apple pipe, but following a few hits it is knocked over and the contents housed inside fall into the sand.
They decide to go home.

Alden uses the comics equivalent of a single tracking shot here, following them as they walk the length of the beach back to their home, showing each step the characters make, each gesture, creating an animation like feel. During their walk one of them begins telling the story of a dog attacking her younger brother, instead of telling this bit of backstory as a series of talking heads (comics is a show don’t tell medium) or breaking the shot and moving into a flashback, Alden instead visually incorporates the story into the scene itself. As all the chaos one would expect a dog attack would entail, interweaves between the two teenagers footsteps, the shot continues.

Reminiscent of Blaise Larmee’s 2001, Hollow feels like animation. While Larmee stayed away from boxing his figures (explicitly) within a grid in 2001 Alden, needing for his story to work as well in print as on tumblr, fixes Hollow within a two panel grid that is so unobtrusive that you hardly recognize it being there. This grid keeps the eyes moving downwards, in one fixed position, instead of darting side to side and breaking the reading continuity.

This ones vague, that is mainly because i could not lock down just one single strip to refrence. Stein shifts between the present day and her childhood with such ease that every strip builds on each other and blends into the story of her life. They’re funny, sometimes sad, but always feel real.

Also Stein has one of the best color palettes in comics.

Brain Buzz by Lala Alberts

This is a cheat, since this comic originally appeared in the print anthology WEIRD, but I don’t really mind cheating. Plus the first time i read it was online.

Alberts is at the forefront of the comics trend towards body horror, and while her contemporaries have also used entities growing inside the human body to great effect, Alberts is unique in that she turns these invasions into an aspect of horror; unlike say Mia Schwartz’s Strawberries which, while deeply effecting at conveying the confusion taking place in ones own body, largely plays it off for laughs.

Brain Buzz is like reading a comics version of a Discovery Channel special on strange parasites that live and devour you from the inside out. But while a tapeworm leaves you ignorant of its presence for most of its lifespan, the creatures of Albert’s Brain Buzz (bee’s) exist both within and outside of her protagonist, turning her into a human hive.

The first hint at this infestation is when the protaganist plucks a bee out of her hair while on her way to work. Holding the bee in her hand she is shocked at its docility, that the bee did not sting her but instead simply flew away. That her immediate thought is shock about not getting stung is not unwarranted. Bee’s sting, thats what life has taught us. And it is this knowledge that Alberts is playing with thematically, because to put it another, more blunt way, bee’s penetrate humans. It’s in their nature. And it is this idea of penetration that is at the heart of Brain Buzz, as following a mysterious (seemingly bee induced) mind shift the main character begins to think of the idea of sexual penetration obsessively, and following an attempt at masturbation that doesn’t work, ends up texting a friend for casual sex.

The moment of penis to vaginal penetration causes another mind shift, this time though it is not her thoughts that change, but her body, as she shrink down into a miniature version of herself and finds her new body inhabiting the head of her old. Rushing for an exit, she is able to open a hole in her neck and escape. As she leaves her body a rush of bees begin exiting alongside her. Having made it to the bedspread she sees that her old body (and that of her hookups) is now encased in a waxy (or honey?) substance. With each further step she begins to grow back to her original size, and that is where the comic leaves you, at a messy fluid filled finally.

While the narrative isn’t particularly clear on its meaning, the feeling Buzz Brain imparts is precise. As each bee’s buzz leaves a cold chill running up the length of your spine that make the strangeness of penetration, both by an insect and a person, all the more felt.

Honorable Mentions (Updated):

Ebbits by Michael Litven
Megg, Mogg, and Owl by Simon Hanselmann
The Short Con by Aleks Sennwald and Pete Toms
On Hiatus by Pete Toms
The Rider Part 1 and Part 2 by Derek Ballard
S. Song by Sarah Ferrick
White Hot by Gloria Rivera
Morgan by Frank Santoro
Goethe Institute - Blaise Larmee
Winter Break by Michael DeForge
Configuration by Aidan Koch

(new "sick" webcomics that i have just been made aware of in the past 24 hours by the all knowing and all seeing mairead )
Future Guwop by Max Huffman
Slowly Dying by Disa Wallander
Whatever This Is Called by Ville Kallio
Crow Cillers by Cate Wurst
kc green’s Graveyard Quest
All of Andy Douglas Day’s Strips Like Holy Shit
Dane Martin’s Debbie Comics And All That
Pearlescent Gray by Zach Hazard Vaupen
4koma’s by Momga
The Subject by Rachel Masilamani
Shit and Piss by Tyler Landry
xmas lemmings things!
Patrick Kyle’s Special Friend 
Death of a Crow by Liam Cobb

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Time Moves Slow

Song of Mercury - Jonny Negron

Song of Mercury takes place entirely within the protagonists bedroom as he suffers through a bout of depression that's cause is only hinted at. Narratively Song of Mercury is almost unrecognizable as a Jonny Negron comics.

Negron’s work in Song of Mercury is based primarily on miniscule gestures. Where two years ago Negron would have illustrated each panel with a Kirby-esque fury, now it all revolves around the glint coming off a figures eyes as they collapse back in on themselves. This is not to say that Negron has unlearned the keys to action sequencing, instead he has redeployed them, shifting their focus while keeping the internal mechanics of them alive.

The key to an action sequence is in the depiction of the moments immediately before and after the impact. The actual connecting of the blow is of little matter. Like in wrestling you have to sell the idea that the action took place, not that it actually did. In Song of Mercury Negron though makes the connecting of the emotional blow the centerpiece of each image. You see the air leave the protagonists lungs and his will to live leave his eyes. And while there is still a build up to that moment, and an aftermath, it is in these almost infinitely small moments where the punch actually lands, that the book is built around.

These moments are so important because without them the spectre, which enters the narrative at its midway point when the protagonist is fully within the depths of his despair, would have no resonance with the reader. You need to see the light leave his eye to understand his embrace of her, not just the moment before and after.

After the spectre enters the room and peels the blanket off the protaganists face, which now resembles more a death mask then a thing of comfort, at the stories midway point she says to him “I have always been here. I have always been with you. You belong to me. You have always belonged. To me.”. Following this line their eyes meet in a gaze that the panels and pages don’t seem to be able to, or want to, stop. Even when, on the following page, the two begin to kiss and the spectre bites the protaganists lower lip off, their eyes never unlock. It is the only moment of physical contact in this comic, but it doesn’t make you feel anything. The artwork conveys no shock or disgust with the act. It is the culmination of the void.

When the protagonist rolls out of bed on the following page he begins to read an obituary. The previous scene seems to have been a dream, but one livid enough to jostle him awake. We are only given an obscured view of the obituaries contents, but it seems that someone close to him has died. We read in a comment that the the doctors and staff of a hospital are sorry for his lose. When Negron pulls back the shot a bit in the next panel the image of a small boy flashes before us. We’re not given any further context as to who this boy is and what his relationship to the man is though, or if he was the one killed. 

The final page of the story pulls out from the protagonists bed and moves towards his unkempt dresser top. Random trash is scattered across it, but your eye zeros in on an empty needle and exacto blade laying there. Their purpose hasn’t been made clear yet, this being a first issue though means that many things have to remain unsaid for now, but there connotations are explicit. When you turn to the back of the comic you see a series of 60’s inspired geometric pattern shifting from mint green to white. An aesthetic static.

And there you are left. In static and wondering.


Jonny Negron's Webstore

Jonny Negron's Tumbler

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Media Consumed In The Month of November

Film & Television

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 9
Life Partner
Le M├ępris
Not Another Teen Movie
Two In The Wave
Edge Of Tomorrow
About Alex
Pierrot le fou
Z Channel
La Grande Illusion
This Is Where I Leave You
Short Term 12
You’re The Worst Season 1
Married Season 1 
The Simpsons Season 2-3


Thickness #1-#3 - Various (Edited by Ryan Sands & Michael DeForge)
In Peace Requicence - Julia Gfrorer & Sean T. Collins
Blackhawk #1-#3 - Howard Chaykin
Usagi Yojimbo v2 (#1-16) - Stan Sakai
Usagi Yojimbo v3 (#1-35) - Stan Sakai
COPRA #15-18 - Michelle Fiffe
Comic Workbook Magazine #2-5 
Impressions - Aidan Koch 
Medicine Comic - Mickey Z / Patrick Kyle / Michael DeForge
Song of Mercury - Jonny Negron
Luv Sucker - Chuck Forsman
Junior Detective Files - A. Degen 
Terror Assualtor OMWOT - Ben Marra
Blades and Lazers - Ben Marra
Daddy - Josh Simmons and James Romberger
Airplane Mini - Michael DeForge
Leather Spaceman Mini - Michael DeForge 
The Hideous Dropping Off of the Veil - Julia Gfrorer & Sean T. Collins  
Friends With Boys - Faith Erin Hicks  
Royal Blood - Alejandro Jodorowsky & Dongzi Liu
Shoplifter - Michael Cho
Ode to Kirihito - Osamu Tezuka
The Adventures of Jodelle - Guy Peellaert
Good Dog - Graham Chaffe


Not That Kind Of Girl - Lena Dunham
Deeper Into Movies - Pauline Kael