Eschew #1-2 by Robert Sergel

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Eschew #1-2
by Robert Sergel
Sparkplug Comic Books

eschewRobert Sergel’s comics always amaze me. For work that’s clearly so photo-referential, there’s still something in the form of the art that tricks my mind into thinking maybe it’s NOT photo-referential. The people and landscapes and interiors all look so real and well-proportioned, yet alive, as though there is a perfect cartoony version of our normal world out there and Sergel’s comics are more like a snapshot of that world than they are a reflection of ours.  Perhaps this comes as a result of referencing a complete shot, instead of merely referencing a person in a shot, but whatever the method, I find the results truly lovely and unique.

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Piecemeal #2 by Nate Beaty

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Piecemeal #2
By Nate Beaty

nate_beaty_piecemeal2I’m a worrier. I always have been. Even as a child, there was a general sense of impending doom that couldn’t be avoided. I wish I could point at something as the cause of such general, faceless dread, but it’s easy to get caught up in the symptoms, rather than addressing cause. You learn to deal with it eventually—you have to—be it through drugs or therapy, or, in my case, the simple realization that not everything is worth the investment.

There are those who live lives on the other end of the spectrum, with seeming unflappability. It’s a trait often associated with youth. And while novelists and filmmakers no doubt have a penchant for remembering such bygone days through rose tinted glasses, there is, perhaps, something to that retrospective idealism. Even amongst the most perpetually worried amongst us, there is a certain sense of invincibility that eventually erodes with age.

It’s a sense that Nate Beaty embraces fully in this second issue of Piecemeal—taking the concept to an almost cartoonist length in the story of an afternoon out for three friends. The first several pages play out like a selection of snapshots from some fondly remembered summer, driving around on back roads and plunging from rope swings into swimming holes.

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Mermin # 1-4 by Joey Weiser

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Mermin 1-4
By Joey Weiser
Tragic Planet

joeyweiser_mermin_panelThere’s something freeing in realizing that something isn’t for you. It’s not the same, of course, as deciding you don’t enjoy it—it’s simply an acknowledgement that whoever it was who created a work almost certainly didn’t have you in mind when he or she created it.

With Mermin, the realization came quickly. When Joey Weiser first sketched out his pint-sized baseball tee-wearing fish man, he almost certainly didn’t have his fellow 20-something indie comics readers in mind. Something of a modernized boyhood take on the much beloved and oft-adapted Little Mermaid tale, and when a group of kids discover the titular hero washed up on the beach a couple of pages into issue, it’s pretty clear who Weiser is writing for.

Mermin is the latest in a recent string of minis targeted towards younger readers—something arguably kickstarted by Jeff Smith’s magnum opus, Bone, which, while not hand photocopied like more recent fare, certain bear the spirit of self-publishing proudly upon their covers.

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Acme Novelty Library #20 by Chris Ware

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Acme Novelty Library #20: “Lint”
By Chris Ware
Drawn & Quarterly

chrisware_acmenovelty20“Man’s misfortune lies in being time-bound.” That’s Sartre on The Sound and the Fury. The philosopher then turns to an excerpt from the book, “…a man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you’d think misfortune would get tired, but then time is your misfortune…”

Time, it seems, is Jordan Lint’s misfortune, as well. And so “Lint,” then, is the story of a man made victim of his own limited time, whose present, like Sartre’s take on Faulkner, is victim to an ever-existent, always dominant past. The further Jordan Lint presses on in his increasingly unfortunate existence, the more powerful his past becomes—lines are blurred and time, an ever-increasing source of confusion, grows all the more antagonistic.

The connection between The Sound and the Fury and the 20th issue of Acme Novelty Library is, perhaps, tenuous at best, but it’s one I couldn’t bring myself to abandon, as I read and re-read the first several pages of Chris Ware’s new story. There’s something familiar in the book’s opening struggle to make sense of the world.

For Ware, however, it is a tale told by an infant—a young human thrust into this world, surround by a disconnect of colors and shapes, splotches of single colors formed then into patterns and overlapped into Ben-Day dots. Ware is always cautious, but still playful with the form, as unassociated images of mother and father and Jordan himself emerge in some primitive attempt at communication, cobbled into something resembling the Pioneer plaque, a valiant, but absurd attempt to focus in on reality, congealing into panels and then, eventually, into full comics pages.

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Cross Hatch Dispatch 10.11.10

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[Above, Mick Foley loves Tori Amos.  Below, the Dispatch prefers death metal.]

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X’ed Out by Charles Burns

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X’ed Out
By Charles Burns

charlesburnsxedoutcoverEleven years. It’s difficult—if not impossible—for most of us to imagine working on a project for that length of time. But then, most of us aren’t great artists, I suppose. Of course, it’s not as though Charles Burns wasn’t keeping busy during that period, doing illustration work for various publications, submitting work to anthologies, and generally living his life. Still, it’s hard to image dedicating a decade of one’s life to a single, self-contained project as Burns did with Black Hole.

Try a brief imagination exercise—picture yourself as you were, ten years ago. Now take a quick look in the mirror. Could the second person have finished a story the first one set out to tell?

Such devotion paid of, of course. Black Hole is largely regarded as one of the great graphic works of its era, and may well go down in history as Burns’s masterwork. When set designers in 20 years are assembling bookshelves for cool artsy film characters, Black Hole will no doubt continue to be a go-to book.

A half-dozen years after the serializing of that series ended, Burns hasn’t done much to speed up the creation process—understandable, perhaps, given the fact that the success of the book has designated him one of the most in-demand illustrators around.

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I’m Moderating a New York Comic Con Panel : A Day in the Studio

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Hey New Yorkers and those traveling to the big Apple, I’ll be moderating a panel at this year’s New York Comic Con, featuring indie cartoonists Dave Roman, Tracy White, Matt Madden, and children’s book author, Jane Yolen.

The panel is called A Day in the Studio. It’ll be a fun time for all you artistic buffs out there, including lots of images of the aforementioned artist’s studios. The one major caveat is the fact that the thing is happening at 10:45 on Sunday morning, so plan your church going and hangover recovering accordingly.

Full panel details are available after the jump. For the full list of panels, go check out the Beat.


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Norman Pettingill: Backwoods Humorist Edited by Gary Groth

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Norman Pettingill: Backwoods Humorist
Edited by Gary Groth
Fantagraphics Books


There’s a picture of the cartoonist in his early 20s, standing knee deep in wolf carcasses, holding two more fresh kills stretched lifeless from his hands. He’s standing in front of a Model T in a flat clap and a bowtie, looking snazzy in that signature early century style, as though he’s just emerged from the top of a flag pole or a phone booth crammed with college students.

He’s not smiling, exactly, but it seems fairly clear from the look on his face that he harbors a sense of pride in the pile of carcasses before him.

This is Norman Pettingill in 1918, a man in his natural element—a trapper, a hunter, and a fisherman first, the artist grew up in the back woods of northern Wisconsin, and these are themes that dominate his work.

Pettingill is, not surprisingly, aself-taught artist. After all, it’s hard to imagine that there existed too many opportunities for a formal training in fine arts, given his upbringing as the son of a trapper. It’s a fact clearly reflected in the cartoonist’s work, as well, seemingly beholden to no particular logic, save for that which is self-imposed.

Really, it’s hard to know what to make of Backwoods Humorist, the first time you flip through its lovingly-curated pages. I first glanced through the book at SPX. I fell in love with it almost immediately, first caught completely off guard by the amateurish art in a book compiled by Fantagraphics. Why, precisely had the publisher chosen to compile these works in such a beautiful volume?

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Future Space by Mark Velard

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Future Space
by Mark Velard
Refractor Industries


If you think beyond your five year plan, do you have any idea what will happen in the future?

I ask because I’m beginning to see a pattern in the minis I receive.  Between Utu, Ochre Ellipse #3 and now Mark Velard‘s Future Space, cartoonists are describing with alarming regularity a future that is awfully bleak.  Just starting to wish I had a few more options to choose from.

These books all take place in a world where people are just lonely individuals pressing buttons for pleasure.  Not to say I wouldn’t fit in there (read: I love you, Internet), but apparently someone burned all the books and trees too.  At least, those objects of our modern society are nowhere on the page.  Bummer, right?

If that were really the case, who wouldn’t retreat into technology if it offered some semblance of what we lost?

Future Space develops this idea to its extreme, exploring a future where digital convenience becomes more than a distraction.  It’s a way of life.

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Three #1 Edited by Robert Kirby

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Three #1
Edited by Robert Kirby

Three orange cover FINALWEBRobert Kirby‘s Three anthology collects comics from three queer creators in one wonderful, concise book.  The first issue showcases work from Kirby, Eric Orner and Joey Alison Sayers. The stories are true, fictional, funny, sobering and educational.  Everybody has their own thing to say and that’s great.  I like anthologies like this and MOME that let creators loose and don’t restrict them to one topic.  The diverse styles and subjects build a conversation instead of blasting a statement, and that experience appeals to me most as a reader.

While still an infant in its first issue, I get the impression that Three will always have a place on its pages for queer creators writing whatever they feel like, with queer themes coming up and being addressed or not from time to time.  It’s just nice to know that because it’s queer-driven, it’s also queer-friendly — like much of indie comics, really, but more obvious.

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