Small Press Expo might have been last month, but that doesn’t mean the books our writers picked up won’t be just as good this month! Kayleigh, Rebecca, and Kat highlight some of their purchases from the convention — maybe you’ll find a zine or two for yourself, too!
God Dammit Kyle MacLachlan
Maureen Sullivan (Editor and Artist), Kate Beller, Alex Fine, Janna Morton, Robin Savage, Michael B. Tager, Catherine Wang (All Contributors)
Perhaps no work of modern literature has spoken to my soul as deeply as the mini-comic God Dammit Kyle MacLachlan. Dedicated to the actor, part-time David Lynch muse, and heartthrob of my adolescence, God Dammit Kyle MacLachlan is an adorable little book of illustrations, gag comics, and even a Kyle-on-Kyle-on-Kyle slashfic. “I realized… he was a cutie. And it sickened me,” writes curator Maureen Sullivan in her introduction, her lips drawn curled with lusty disgust. His most popular character, Special Agent Dale Cooper, is well-represented, with Catherine Wang sketching his mighty forehead, and Janna Morton illustrates a colorful portrait that also praises the soothing quality of his voice. Katie Beller’s pin-up of the Dune-era Kyle flashing a nipple captures his ethereal beauty, and Michael B. Tager’s fic will tickle anyone who secretly thought The Captain from How I Met Your Mother was hot. And, as will probably come as a relief to the real Mr. MacLachlan, no one mentions Showgirls.
– Kayleigh Hearn
Jillian Tamaki (Writer and Artist)
Drawn & Quarterly
Jillian Tamaki is one of the best conceptual artists currently making comics, and Boundless, the title of her collection of short stories, could easily describe her imagination. The subject matter veers from the real to the surreal, with the best stories offering unique perspectives on life in the digital age. “Body Pods” compares the love life of a young woman to Body Pods, a fictional Goonies-meets-Star Wars movie that has deep personal significance to all of her lovers; it’s an interesting response to every 30-something who’s ever based a part of their identity on a mediocre movie they watched in the ’80s. The Ignatz Award-winning “Sex Coven” details a mysterious song that has a euphoric, sexual effect on young people who download it from the internet. The last interesting story about Facebook anybody will probably make is “1. Jenny,” wherein a woman becomes drawn into an unexplained “mirror Facebook” that seems to show an alternate, possibly happier and more successful, version of her life; Tamaki contrasts this illusory online world with the fleshy, flowery reality of the plants in Jenny’s nursery. The art is beautiful and engrossing, pulling the reader in like the tide of the ocean. I will be thinking about Boundless for a long time.
– Kayleigh Hearn
Johnny Wander: Our Cats are More Famous Than Us
Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota (Writers and Artist)
It takes something truly special to make a webcomic about young adults “winging it” in the big city feel vital and original; Johnny Wander stands out from the crowd via its charming art and authentic voice. Our Cats are More Famous Than Us is the definitive hardcover collection of the autobiographical webcomic begun by Ananth Hirsch and Yuko Ota in 2008, chronicling the early days of their post-grad life along with their friends Conrad and John—and, of course, their cats. Funny and head-noddingly relatable, the strips mingle major life events, like moving to a new house or adopting that cute kitten at the laundromat, to small, specific moments like dropping your paintbrush in your teacup or walking past a fat pug in a baby carriage. I had to snatch up this book after witnessing Hirsh and Ota’s sweet acceptance speech for the Outstanding Collection Ignatz Award and was utterly charmed by it (particularly any strip with Cricket, the aforementioned laundromat kitty). Our Cats are More Famous Than Us is one of the most refreshing slice-of-life comics I’ve read in recent memory.
Oh, and there’s a recipe for what looks like a kick-ass chicken and pumpkin curry, too.
– Kayleigh Hearn
Les Mis Comics
The musical Les Miserables (as well as the Victor Hugo tome that inspired it) is a bombastic, melodramatic, highly tear-jerky masterpiece… which may be why it’s so much fun to take the piss out of it once in a while. In her short black-and-white fan comic, Buzzfeed artist Maritsa Patrinos goofs on nobody being able to recognize characters in disguise, the Eponine/Marius/Cosette love triangle, and some of the more head-scratching parts of the source material—the comic where Valjean comes on the factory floor to break up the fight between Fantine and the foreman and then immediately leaves made me laugh out loud. While the comic treads similar ground to Kate Beaton’s webcomics making fun of Wuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby, and even Les Miserables, Beaton herself hasn’t been making comics like this for quite some time so I’m more than happy to see another artist woman the barricade. So long as civilization shall permit law and custom to revive Les Miserables on the stage and screen, books such as this cannot but be useful. And very cute and funny.
– Rebecca Henely-Weiss
The Baby Book of Baby Dragons
Sam “Inverts” Boyd
Sometimes I’m not above saying that I like a book because it appeals to my inner child and has pretty colors. A lot of kids grow up treating dragons as actual animals worthy of study, and Sam “Inverts” Boyd’s The Baby Book of Baby Dragons could be a wonderful gift/first comic to those who want to begin studying the mythical flying lizards. The book eschews plot for simple descriptions of the dragons. (“Some baby dragons have stub tails… and some don’t. / Some baby dragons have six limbs… and some baby dragons have four.”) Yet this doesn’t really matter as it’s the art that shines. With their wide and colorful eyes, stubby little clawed limbs and scales speckled in every color of the rainbow, Boyd’s dragons are both beautiful and adorable. If you have a kid who won’t stop talking about Toothless or just remember your youth reading Pern novels, it may be worth it to pick this book up.
– Rebecca Henely-Weiss
Constructs: An Analysis of Trans Themes in The Matrix
There have been trans sci-fi fans who saw themselves in the hero of the 1999 movie The Matrix before writers/directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski came out, but the news has increasingly highlighted discussion of how Neo’s journey from office drone/secret hacker to superhero/messiah mirrors how many trans women feel about finding the strength to live as their true selves. The content of Constructs has in many ways been already covered in prominent online essays and videos, but Fortson’s comic—done in the film series’ iconic green-and-black color scheme—lays out simply and effectively the main idea of The Matrix as a metaphor for society’s imposition of gender roles. The book may not be unique, but in a time when “taking the red pill” has been appropriated by white cisgender male nerds who use it to represent a false conception of “the way things are” and a rationalization to demean and harass women, I appreciate any effort to take the metaphor and the movie back for the people from which the film came. Check it out!
– Rebecca Henely-Weiss
Garfs on Blast
Tyler J. Hutchison
Garfield, eating Odie’s head, mimicking the tableau in Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son, recognizable but not to the point of litigation—the cover of this little zine popped out at me instantly. Odie has always gotten the short end of the stick in the Arbuckle household, his abuse at the hands of the head of the house (Garfield, obviously) going generally unprotested by his owner. Tyler Hutchison expands on Odie’s lot with this small book of comics written from Odie’s perspective, if Odie was a dog named Odoe with a software job, depression, and the world’s worst roommate, a cat named Garf. Garfield may be a selfish house-pet, but as a roommate, he’s a real fucking asshole. Garf is like that shitty voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough but like, if that voice was also leaving dishes in your sink every night. He’s the cat-sonification of that devouring pit of anxious self-loathing that depression can bring with it. The art is simple, printed on Garfield-orange paper, but Odoe’s distraught expressions are instantly readable. Your heart hurts for him, and possibly yourself if you’ve been depressed and had your friends slowly drift as you grow into adults. Potentially triggering if you’ve ever felt like you’re at the end of a depressive spiral, Hutchison never pushes over into treacly melodrama, making this Garfield comic one of the realest things I’ve read all year.
– Kat Overland
Summer Fright Nights
e jackson’s soft little Halloween comic is full of fuzzy werewolves and a haunted carnival ride. Dia is bringing her little brother Summer to Haunted Nights, a fair full of spooky attractions that she ignores in favor of her girlfriend, the person manning the ticket booth. That gives Summer a chance to wander around the fair by himself. He’s never spent too much time away from his pack, and despite being a creature of the night, the reality of a haunted house (even a fake one), is a little overwhelming. jackson’s werewolves and people are adorable, simple but with charming details like furry wrists, hairy legs, and tween mustaches. Described as “a gay werewolf meet-cute,” Summer Fright Nights is a cute, heartwarming piece of fluff.
– Kat Overland