Reviewing: Thought Bubble Haul
At Thought Bubble, I picked up some comics. Here, look at them with me!
by Anaseed Man
Prelude to GART!! is a mini-zine from Anaseed Man. You may have seen his art around on tumblr; I know I have. Describing itself as “100% BALLS TO THE WALLS RELENTLESS FANTASY PUNK COMIX ACTION”, you (I) have to respect the book for refusing to be embarrassed. That sounds pretty backhanded, but if fantasy didn’t have a certain atmospheric reputation, no one would need to get punk about it. Goblins and Imps don’t tend to be associated with Hewlitt-style anarchic ruckus comics, but GART!! shrugs off the combination like, “well, why not?”
Gart is the protagonist, an Imp-Goblin man in a Goblin-run world, and we meet him buying a fabled blade that, people say, was forged in another universe. It’s called the Bad Kid. Slang and diminutives aren’t usually used in the naming of a Great Blade! My interest is piqued.
On the second page there’s an establishing panel that exists solely to hold three pairs of naked tits. I pick “tits” instead of “breasts”, etc, when I feel encroached upon: this is the only female presence in the comic, so that puts me in my place. “Step off my rack, Gart,” I think. But I’m pretty used to thoughts in that vein, so I regain my composure and enjoy the rest of the comic.
The dialogue is pretty good: lots of energy, impetus, and world building is done without info dumping. There is no theeing or thouing; everybody just talks like people. “Guard” is spelt “Gaurd” at one point—–but chalk that one up to Zetabella Publishing not catching the edit.
Anaseed Man handles concurrent conversations between two batches of characters in the same room (in each other’s fore- and backgrounds, in fact) with ease, and brings them together nicely to put together a cliffhanger. This is good comic art: the room they’re in is a dimensional concept to me, because I know that two separate things are happening in it at once. I’m aware of more than one consciousness having internal life within one scene. That makes it a “realer” experience to read. There’s no colour or greyscale, and minimal hatching, but I can tell what’s happening and who is where at all times.
Prelude to GART!!’s character designs are a nice blend of RPG details (cowl collar, pouch belt, pointed ears) and semi-alt modern civvies (flesh tunnels, geometric graphics on hoodies, cool-kid haircuts). I like it when a comic artist has proper sartorial and ornamentational influence in their work. It’s an extra conversation to have with the art, the characters, and the world. It’s a purposeful evocation of deeper culture.
Terror Bag is a one-pager from Stuart Antholl Gordon. Stuart was showing at least two printed issues set in the wider world of his ongoing webcomic, but I am not made of money and came away with this one because it was free. I actually like it quite a lot. In eight panels, we get the internal monologue of a lost plastic shopping bag. This bag contains: a) nobody’s shopping and b) immeasurable disdain for those amongst us who happen to be human. The bag tries to kill a man by suffocation. It thinks of him as a “breather” and a “meat slab”. Terror Bag itself is amoral enough to be likeable; Terror Bag is absurd and believable, punishing us pleasurably for using all of those environmentally toxic conveniences and disingenuously acknowledging our guilty nonsense.
While the fabric illustration and anatomy referencing could be better—–hands are hard, it’s true, but knees and trouser-zip placements are less negotiable—–the pacing’s just right. The flow, though interrupted once in panel one with a poorly-placed second text box, is well plotted. I’d like to see S.A. Gordon introduce some of the dynamism of his text to the less confident elements of his art.
Only ME tINy
I was drawn to Jing’s table by nostalgia. I hadn’t seen her school of spindle-thin, large-eyed, intricately dressed character illustration in… I don’t know, eight years? I haven’t been looking for it, but that’s my point: it used to seem like it was everywhere. There was nothing else like Hu’s on the other vendor tables throughout Thought Bubble. I took a look inside one zine, just for old times’ sake, and was taken by surprise by aesthetic oneness: four panels, vertically stacked, per page–all in warm peach tea tones, speech bubbles translucent and floating over/out of their frames. Is this an artistic decision to bring the whole story in line? Or is it style over substance?
It’s the former. This book is, no hyperbole, a beauty.
If you are a heartbroken teenager, find yourself a copy of this book now. This book is your friend. This book is here to be with you while you endure.
It’s an atmospheric character piece that follows the ups, ups, and stomach-twisting downs of a teenaged love story that shows none of the facts but all of the feelings. We’re treated to the inner monologue of a girl, Mo, as she observes, respects, and treasures her reactions to this boy’s impact on her life and heart.
If I worried that the art style was slightly too precious to appeal to the noisy part of me that craves solidity, I needn’t have. The body language and gesture work doesn’t shy from intensity, grasping hands, or abounding energy. Both characters are full of playful life and the paralysing knowledge of inescapable fear and disappointment.
The stand-out fact about this comic, for me, is that its desperately romantic, deeply in love, teenage girl protagonist is shown to win, lose and fight all of her heart’s battles with honesty, self-awareness, and an unwavering core of self-respect.
Edited by Richard Cowdry
I used to live twenty minutes from a fifties-sixties theme diner; it had blue-glitter vinyl seats and the best—–the only—–salad dressing I’ve ever enjoyed. I would take the free paper from the record shop and enjoy between ten minutes and an hour of pure, subcultural atmosphere. I miss that a lot.
The Comix Reader would be perfect for a diner jaunt. “Counter-culture’s” not really real any more (or maybe I’m looking at the past with stupid eyes), but the CR still has that vibe; there’s no apparent stylistic template that anyone’s working to, there’s no thematic thread to follow. Just twenty-four pages of apparently whateverthefuck the contributors wanted to draw. It works for me. Some of the creators stand out as interesting to pursue in a focused collection—–Sina’s diary comics, editor Richard Cowdry’s Krudzy & Klutzy strips, maybe Thor Gang Four if I can figure out what exactly Thor Gang Four is, for example—–but all of a jumble like this, it’s comics tapas. Or any other small-dish dining tradition. Exciting, and at least partially tasty.
Basically this comics newspaper makes me think of food and eating. It even has a J. Homersham page on the history of English puddings! I’m hungry right now, and I’m often hungry, and I like the Comix Reader.
by Emily White
It does not say on the cover of this zine that it is a preview. That was a surprise, once I got to what I thought would be the end. I’m annoyed about that. But I’m pleased too, because The Nikahrat (preview) is surprisingly good.
The cover is patterned with ultrafast pencil marks, just vertical lines dashed off. It’s attractive, and I paid for it, but it doesn’t give the impression that this small and apparently whimsical book will contain the boldness, confidence, or deftness that it does.
Nikahrat herself seems to be a spiritual being or undemanding deity, symbiotic or parasitic with human emotion and/or thought. There are echoes of the BFG on a page or two, and I don’t think that’s a comparison Roald Dahl would sneer at. It’s one I make with respect.
Nikahrat exists to accept and consume humans’ negativity, and inevitably “Hatred fathers a child inside Nikahrat”. Pregnancy and birth as existential;, pregnancy as… natural? Pregnancy as “something that is not taboo”; these concepts had a moment in the spotlight with early Saga issues, and I’m glad to see it/them again. It’s not a venture I’m planning, but it eases the psyche to see it acknowledged.
Unassuming and imprecisely-applied blocks of colour are used (I think they’re lino-cut?) throughout, and the linework doesn’t initially appear to have been set down with much greater intent. But moving through the pages and noting the litheness and delicacy in Nikahrat’s anatomy, thinking about what isn’t drawn into human figures, and how all of these affect the state of mind in which you spend your reading… you could posit the layout and composition template is fluke, or the result of a wavering hand, but you could also step up and say, “well, she drew it this way, and she published it this way, and I’ve been led through the narrative with that weird slowness you forget to notice in good poetry sometimes. I reckon this Stish has got talent.”
So: I reckon, that this “Stish” has got talent.
I look forward to the full Nikahrat.
by James Harvey
Ugh, geez, I really like James Harvey’s work. I’m 95% new to it, (I’d peeked at Bartkira) and this preview booklet, or “limited-run zine”, is enough to get me 100% on board. Dang, dang, dang, but does he know how to work the tones, how to keep a disrespectful sensibility in soft and supple lines, and how to design a hipster asshole you’re totally, totally jealous of because they just look better than you ever even want to. I’m half-seriously wondering if I should shave off most of my eyebrows, and I know for SURE that I shouldn’t.
(Or should I?)
Comics & Stories previews, or overviews, six projects JH is working on; one needs collaborators and at least two are in need of funds via Kickstarter. Run, don’t walk, an’ all that. At least three (Zygote, Masterplasty, as seen in the banner image for this post, and [Nameless Project]) sound like OVAs you might own from way back, on VHSs that you still watch; these weird, outlandish stories that you can’t believe never got franchised! You can’t believe anyone worked so hard on them without getting seriously famous, you have to make a note to look up the later career of the director, follow the character designer, etc. Mini-series that you’re sure people MUST know and love, but that you’ve never heard anyone ever say anything about, which is enraging, because imagine the fandom you could play in.
Out of seven pages of Zygote preview, there are five panels I wouldn’t frame individually, large-scale, on my wall. Five panels! Man!