I was so late with January’s post (because I didn’t have this idea until mid-February), so here’s February already. Read more comics this month (still wasn’t thinking about recording digital/web reads), but didn’t like most of them.
Extra Time 1 + 2 by Jeff Levine (2012, 2013)
-This is pretty classic autobio comics. Not your “my life and how it revolves around some big issue” (oh so popular in the literary world) style, but the “this is my regular life” style. This is really daily life comics (kind of journal comics I guess), not even a romance subplot to be seen, just Jeff… reading books, watching movies, taking walks, playing videos, a little bit of work (no idea what his job is, except he sits in front of a computer), and then his thoughts and feelings. We don’t even get any meta-“I’m making comics” elements.
-This is kind of like King-Cat if John Porcellino made comics about art/media he consumed rather than nature.
-I’m not sure I’ve read any of Levine’s comics before, though I know he’s been making them for awhile. Looking at his works on his website, I think maybe it’s good I waited, as some of that older work looks a little too “underground comix” for me.
-The first page in issue 1 is from November of 2007, the last page in issue 2 is from February 2012. That’s a lot of time covered and it’s interesting to see the progression of Levine’s drawing style in that time. His panels and lines become a lot cleaner and sharper over time.
-Most of the comics are 1 page = 1 day, but there’s a longer comic in issue #1 that is primarily landscapes in San Francisco with an accompanied text. Reminds me of some of Porcellino’s or Simon Moreton’s work, except the drawing is more detailed (actually I think it was Simon mentioning this comic on Twitter that got me to look it up). There are a lot of these nice landscape panels in issue 2 also. That’s one of the elements that makes Levine’s comics stand out.
-I don’t think we see any other people in this comic except Levine (other than the occasional person in a landscape image or a couple people at his workplace). It makes you wonder if that is a planned omission of some kind, or if he just doesn’t see a lot of people.
-Levine won me over by mentioning Jean-Phillipe Toussaint, Yasujiro Ozu, and Kamimura’s Lorsque Nous Vivions Ensemble (he seems to be reading the French edition I read). I can identify with a lot of what Levine writes, too.
-The image above is from issue 1.
Farm School by Jason Turner (Retrofit, 2013)
-This comic has some kind of alternate or post-apocalyptic world or something that is never explained.
-A woman (who I thought was a man for awhile, though on looking back at the comic, that clearly shows I wasn’t paying much attention) goes to town and talks to a couple people. Apparently she used to be a bouncer for a library.
-The most interesting thing about this comic was a brief scene where the protagonist goes to check her email. She talks to a man behind a service window (like a ticket booth or post office) who checks her email for her and tells her what her messages said. I guess internet/electricity is hard to get in this world, but since this random woman who lives in the woods has an email account, one assumes there was some kind of event that caused access to get limited/difficult. That’s a nice element and bit of world building.
-Mostly I was just bored. I’m not really sure what the point of the comic was. It wasn’t all about the world building (the way Finder is at times), at least not enough to be interesting on its own. It wasn’t really about the characters. It didn’t have much of a plot. It wasn’t poetic or just aesthetically beautiful. It was more like a part of something bigger that got hacked down to short comic size. A lot of narrative comics seem to have that trouble, like people don’t want to spend the time/effort to really do the narrative, or they can’t quite edit out in a way to make it work, but they still want to tell a story.
Happiness 3 (2013)
-Sometimes you get rejected for an anthology and then you later read the anthology and say to yourself: “Oh, I really do suck compared to these people.”
-Sometimes you get rejected for an anthology and then you later read the anthology and say to yourself: “Oh, it’s not me who sucks.”
-Live and learn.
-Most of the comics in this anthology are what I call “ugly comics,” which is a very popular type of comic these days.
-The best thing in this anthology is a one page essay by Darryl Ayo about the term “graphic novel” and how comics don’t need to strive to replicate other art forms. Preach it, Darryl!
-Anyone want a copy of this?
The Comics Journal #302 (Fantagraphics, 2013)
-Okay it’s not technically a comic, but it’s “about comics.”
-I can’t really review this in detail, because I’ve already given my copy away. For free (I even paid extra postage). Just to get it out of my house.
-I think TCJ has some kind of contractual obligation (maybe it’s in the publishing contract with Fantagraphics) to have at least one article about Crumb in EVERY FUCKING ISSUE.
-Does anyone love Crumb that much? Is anyone’s life that sad?
-I recall an okay article about Anders Nilsen and Kevin Huizenga, though for how much I love work by both of those guys, the article didn’t really make me excited to throw down the TCJ and pick up the comics in question. (I’m super excited about the new edition of Nilsen’s The End coming this year. I LOVE that comic. It’s on the list of comics to make you cry.)
-There was a long article about Blake and artist-writers that was in that “No, really, these are ‘comics’ before ‘comics’ existed but no one wants to admit it because comics suck” articles, that mostly felt like a long list of “and then there was this guy who did this work and no one cared.”
-I’d love to read a really good piece about Blake and how his poetry, images, and self-publishing all fit together (with a bit about how we’d consider that in regards to comics).
-Mostly this issue was about comics artists I don’t really care about. I feel like the new format for the magazine has actually limited its scope. No manga at all in this issue. (And as someone on Twitter (maybe Ben Towle?) pointed out, no women either.)
Tusen Hjartan Stark #1 (Domino, 2013)
-A new newspaper anthology from Austin English’s Domino Books featuring Warren Craghead and two other people… It didn’t matter, because I’ve bought a lot of not very good anthologies just because I wanted the Craghead Comics™.
-And wow, nice big tabloid size Craghead Comics is great stuff. (And he’s even one of those comic artists, where you don’t immediately lament that the comic is black and white. I guess it’s the whole pencil thing.)
-I’d call this “backyard comics” because that’s what first came to mind, and it made me think about some of Warren’s old minicomics like Jefferson Forest where there is a lot of imagery of suburban landscapes, house, yards, etc.
-I think there are hex color codes in this comic.
-Classic comics have a tendency to overuse exclamation points. They are everywhere and quickly lose all meaning or purpose other than filling space. When I find an exclamation point in one of Warren’s comics it always feels like a little exclamation of joy and excitement.
-Just read and look, let it flow over you. Don’t try too hard to get it. Then reread it. Linger a bit.
-Ok, the other two artists are Joanna Hellgren and E.A. Bethea. Hellgren’s comic is like a minimalist short story in a ton of small panels. Not bad, but I wouldn’t have finished it if it were longer. Not my taste. Bethea’s first two comics are pretty interesting, kind of poetic, kind of abstract (narratively speaking). But then I gave up on the rest of her pages, as the lettering was such, and amount of it was such, that I just couldn’t get myself to actually read all those words in that lettering.
R.L. #2 by Tom Hart (2013)
-Now that you’re crying and feeling depressed…
-Should I have warned you that this is also on the list of “comics that make you cry”?
-I guess this is some kind of proof that art can come from traumatic situations. This is the best work I’ve seen from Tom. The writing, the imagery, that wonderful use of screen tone, it’s all top notch.
I also reread Lynda Barry’s Freddie Stories and parts of C’est Bon #19 so I could say something about them for last month’s post. And I’m still reading daily Peanuts and Krazy Kat.