Monday, December 21, 2009


I have also elected my best of the decade, best of the naughts, best of the oohs, best of the ahhs. Trimmed to five, this list is neither shocking nor necessary. Call it an excuse to put up images on a sinking comics blog.

1. Seven Soldiers by Grant Morrison and many fine artists (2005-6).Thirty issues born to the world in an odd order made me feel the full happy weight of the floppy. Above, J. H. Williams III gives me a face I'll never forget from issue zero.

2. 100% by Paul Pope (2002-3).
Pope's story of Gastro -- exotic dancing for the lovers of digestion -- has many pulsating and moving moments like the one above. See-through pocket, new gun, clenching fist, clenching fist.

3. Eightball #23 by Dan Clowes (2004).
Archaic pop American ennui. Tights. Andy the Death-Ray is our hero. He pops a squirrel. He very majestically cannot sleep.

4. Cecil and Jordan in New York by Gabrielle Bell (2008).
I have spent good time with Bell's collection. The scale of all these smart stories still wows me; the cage above lets you witness an illusion of magnitude.

5. The Fixer by Joe Sacco (2003).
The dizzy story of Neven and Joe, storysellers of Sarajevo. Read it for weird intimacy, for clear-as-mud conflict.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Herzogian Shoe Feast

Goddamn it. I was ready to whiten my flag and wash up alone on the comfortable shore of Outcaultlandia. Turn my attention backwards like a good Spiegelman in a time of crisis.


Carol Tyler's You'll Never Know, Book One: A Good and Decent Man descended from the reshelving corral of fate onto the recent arrivals rack of my soul. This book revitalizes the buried-dark-and-deep father's-WWII-history story with ornamentation. Not stripped down, not allegorized, but a storm of genres and accessories on Carol Tyler's part to counter the global warming of father Chuck Tyler's slowly-heating-up life details. You'll Never Know is tempest-tost. Tyler's a MAD clutterer, a Comeek sketchbooker, a Buckinghamian bannerer, an Eisnerian choreographer -- ehhh comparisons blah.

Enjoy the head of the chair poking out of the rush in the third panel.


For you to feel the movement:
Notice that "How's that" is outside the panel proper.
Next: the best of the decade. (I know.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Two Funnies

Two cartoons this evening. The first is an historical scrap from the life of fictional explorer Chance Oxblood by Grant Reynolds from his Comic Diorama: Collected Comics. The second is by best-of-the-bunch Roz Chast from the 30 November 2009 issue of The New Yorker. I've tagged "faces" so pay deep attention to those. Enlarge both for the reading.
Coming soon: an eating-my-shoe post and a rare color image.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Now, End-Product-of-Laughter "Stitches" I Can Get Behind

My favorite sequence from David Small's Stitches (2009).

One of the reasons why I was underwhelmed by this book is that it feels like a series of painted cartoons instead of a comic. The last two panels on the page above are art school exercises: draw a curious and youthful eye (good!) and then a scary eye (good!). They are oddly free-floating illustrations, as if from a sketchbook, and it doesn't seem worthwhile to add them up. Add to the mix many pretty scenic double splash pages and there's almost too much independence.

As for the story, even though it's Small the small child who gets caught between Small the artist's tug-of-war between extreme innocence and extreme cruelty, my arms were hurt.

I am very close to declaring 2009 the Year of Trite Acclaimed Comics. Formal sophistication meets flat sentiment and thought. A thrilling style can't convincingly offset or reignite sitcom writing.

The following spring to mind:
1. George Sprott by Seth.
2. Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli.
3. Greg Rucka's unbearable Detective Comics dialogue.
4. AD: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld.
5. The Nobody by Jeff Lemire.

You can still use words, you know.

My comic of the year? Citizen Rex for its immense difficulty and absurd final issue "message"? Maybe. Gaiman and Allred's "Metamorpho" from Wednesday Comics? Maybe. The ever-reliable Joe Sacco's Footnotes From Gaza, which I haven't yet seen and may not even be out? I'll go with Sacco any day.

Sorry, The Graphic Novel, I'm wanted elsewhere.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


(From Jules Feiffer's Ronald Reagan in Movie America. Enlarge.)

Norm MacDonald roasts Bob Saget: "Bob has a beautiful face, like a flower -- yeah, cauliflower. No offense, but...your a cauliflower." Reagan's Feiffer-made face looks like the Grinch made out of broccoli. So it's plainly obvious why I have quoted Norm MacDonald on Bob Saget.

Monday, November 30, 2009


This plum wonder's from a Gary Panter sketchbook in RAW Vol.2 No.3. The page break of the notebook officiates the surprise of page two. Bottom left to right and then up up up. Those leaky eyes!

Okay, I'm on a faces kick.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Woodwork

Citizen Rex -- so far so fun -- moves at quite a clip. Gutters and closures and the opposite of decompression oh my. Panel to panel, I get lost. Intra-panel, baby, I get lost. Look at panel one up top: abruptly flying garments! The caption "Outside:" is just as abrupt: where'd the inside go? Are they under a bridge? Look at the moon shift! This is some Coconino County bullshit. I second suddenly-there Flying Squirrel Girl's question mark.

(From Citizen Rex #1 by Mario and Gilbert Hernandez.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shaw Could Use a Lish

Scan a 700+ page monster and you get the blurs.

Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button is a cushiony comic. Place it behind your head and its brickiness will soften. I mostly mean that it's a huge hug, a pat pat on the back. No hard feelings. Barely any hardness at all. Precociousness heals all wounds.

His faces, though, on the other hand, however. Strange to think that nuance enters the picture during moments of highly overt wretchedness, but that's what I think.

Someone pioneer comics physiognomy right now. Add Sean Phillips' work on Criminal. Who else for faces? Lynda Barry's bulgers and frighteners. Basil Wolverton. John Cassaday. Charles Burns.

And now for something grocery related (also from Shaw):

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yard Sale Wilmer

Drew this in BC two years back. Knew then and there that it would be downhill from there. Witness my apex.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Creeps

(From Hellblazer #25 by Morrison and Lloyd.) Note the thickness of each nested mask's outline. This is for tomorrow.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hockey Hauser, Eh

In Kaspar Diane Obomsawin does the story of the 19th century foundling with many many placid effects like above's scissored starburst and below's delightful locomotion.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Who Am I? Ware Am I?

Though I'm still working my way through Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library #19 (stupid small words), I wanted to halt and appreciate this wheezy sequence from the volume's lead story, a Rusty Brown-penned tale of woe on Mars.

Outward-facing flashlight demands judgment.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sneak Peek: Victor Cutwell

Page 3 of a 4-page prologue to an in-the-works Charles Grocery comic.

More Like Dull-uge

My title's unfair but I wish more pages in Josh Neufeld's A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge were like the one above: distorted, detached, outside-looking-in. The book is generally concerned with one-note in-the-thick experiences of good will and survival. It's too earnest, its criticisms of Bush too tranquil, and its color-coded mood shifts arbitrary. But Neufeld manipulates panel size to great effect: scenes often lead up to dramatic and sometimes grim two-page spreads.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fumbling Loggerheads

I regret that I've seen so little of Tony Millionaire's work save for this, a Sock Monkey story, and his recent piece about Iron Man battling criminal cold cuts in Marvel's Strange Tales #2. This is "The Bat-Man" written by Chip Kidd in DC's Bizarro Comics.

I could inhabit those nostrils.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Gotham Ain't Venice, Son

Look at that sewer steam, goddammit! Good to see Kelley Jones do Batman again, especially since I missed out on Gotham After Midnight. I'll commit to 5 issues (well, maybe), not 12. Doug Moench's script for Batman Unseen #1 is herky-jerky at best, but I'll always have a soft spot for Moench and Jones' spooky run on Batman (#515-552, minus a few) when I was a youth.

Enjoy my meat puns.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Okay, There's Talking Now

Under the watchful eyes of these two pages from Sammy Harkham's Poor Sailor and as a kind of summary of comics silence, I offer the following:

-Inwardness, isolation
-The end of communication/interaction
-Body language, the tip of the hat to imagery
-Disorder, scramble
-Anticipation of communication/interaction
-Effort, work, process
-Emptiness, minimalism (certainly silence is opposed to the splash page. Silence, I think, depends on panel size; a two-page spread transgresses silence by being loud even if silent)

The scene in Poor Sailor: a husband contemplates going to sea with his brother, which would result in abandoning his wife and their unfinished home.

I'll finish with Chester Brown's Louis Riel. This typical-for-Brown four-panel sequence dramatizes at least a few of the modes I've entertained above.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sexless Doom Disco

$0.12 got me The Beezer Book 1979. Forgot how much I love neurophysiology.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Grocery vs Warhol

First real attempt at penciling inking erasing rulering. A gift for a friend named Canning. Soon: the Charles Grocery graphic novel Grocers in Space. Think Flesh Gordon with more perishable goods.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Spitting Image

From a 1978 parody of Hamlet in Cinemastock Tome 1 par Gotlib et Alexis. I was red-cheeked in front of stacks and stacks of BDs in Old Quebec. Bought this to help change my life. I don't speak French but I think this joke is un joli coup.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Yo Teach Time

... help here, guys, I can't very well do this on my own. Anyone? Thoughts on the Wife of Bath? Know anyone like her hahaha? No? No. Tiffany, did I see your hand raised? No? No.

(From "Bizarre Wars" by Duffy and DeStefano in Bizarro Comics.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I'm impressed with Hope Larson's specifically female-young-adult-tailored comics. I feel a little intrusive reading her work but that can't be bad right?
(From Gray Horses.) A silent sequence in the service of making visible the environment. The 3rd panel reveals that the black background bridge is in fact the shadow of an overpass from which Noemie emerges into the refreshment of sunlight. I like this modest surprise and brief reorientation. And how refreshing for me to read comics not published by D&Q, DC, or F!
(From Salamander Dream.) Really cool 2 pages. The freefall. The underbelly of clouds. The descent as story into the mouth of Salamander through a hole in the heart. Before the story ends it's in first-person, arms reaching up.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gern Blanston

(From Daniel Clowes' Ice Haven. Enlarge!)

Both justifications and mock-justifications for comics are by now de rigueur, pro forma, old hat, a dime a dozen. They go hand-in-hand with comics creation like parsley and sage. It's good to see Clowes take a piss out of the old thing. And on the next page is the name he settles on:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Paid The Cost To Be The Boss

(From that Twain book. Art by Daniel Carter Beard.)

The step-like bottom tempts me to read this illustration from left to right (or southeasterly): from sky effect to explosion to audience reaction to caption.

Stretch your comic imagination.

Friday, August 14, 2009


(From Ex Machina #6 by Vaughan and Harris.)

Mayor Hundred can't envision old New York's cause for alarm over the issue of gay marriage: "So?" This full page takes place before that response and bizarrely repeats the same image in each panel, albeit with digital modifications: zooms, crops, the third panel's de-centering. Since Harris is not drawing discernible facial shifts and bodily tics, we're not reading Hundred for any new signs of thought beyond what he's already given us: locked hands, narrowed eyes, slightly furrowed brow. Nothing changes on his face during the sequence; zero physical closure is required. The modifications in the other panels corroborate our perceptions of iconography: yup, he's biting his lip he's so deep in thought. The duplication is for drama: to simulate the attention on Hundred and the tension he's causing. (We have to flip the page to get his answer.) But the sequence also gives us the illusion that time is passing and that Hundred is taking this time to formulate a response, to wonder why he has to deal with smallmindedness, etc. Mental closure could take us ages.

The wheels are turning. The wheels are not turning. (Apologies to Samuel Beckett.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


(From Kevin Huizenga's Curses. Click to.)

Suspense is a well duh for silence. Drop talk, drop music. Body language time. A creeping pace. Observation meets motion. Close inspection prompts revelation of the thing. I get a laugh at the whimsical aspects of all this darkness: the petite question mark in panel one, the jumping hat in panel two, and the only thing that could be said to be revealed (on this page anyways) is the reverend's single eye!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Herpes Not So Simplex

(From Matt Groening's Love is Hell.) Most of Groening's strips are lists spread across panels going for the ever-reliable cumulative effect. In this single panel -- this cartoon -- you'll probably read the "mmm nice" last. It's less of a restriction than the others but still banal as hell. There's just no hope.

Poor Kordax

(From Aquaman #25 by Peter David and Marty Egeland.)

File under: woof.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

You Said It

(From Seth's George Sprott, 1894-1975: A Picture Novella.)

I prefer this one:
It's the wry expression staggered over two panels. It's the withdrawal from George in panel two. It's the shut door that either confirms the silence or confirms our distance. It's the smudge on the glass of backwards lettering. It's the cigarette doing the speaking. It's the act of smoking. It's the satisfied loneliness.


(From Northlanders #3 by Brian Wood and Davide Gianfelice.)

Sven searches, strikes! He fishes. Water splashes. The loosed water has pretty layers and colors. There is a look on Sven's face. Two looks because there are two Svens: hovering Sven and jabbing Sven. Sven performs a task over the course of both panels, not simply in one. Fishing is the sum of actions.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August Hobbyhorses

I think a good portion of this month's posts will be about Comedy or Silence. Already begun the first, after a fashion, but would like to look at: lightheartedness, bait and switch, Mutt and Jeff. We'll also see if I can avoid resorting to Michael Kupperman. And silence: the no-words type and others.

Let's start with both.
(Attributed to Rolf Pielke from The World on Sunday collection.)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mad Science

The "abstract" comic in my previous post was actually the British town of Thursdyke getting wiped off the map. Yikes. And for fear of devastation by big bombs we can thank J. Robert Oppenheimer's Manhattan Project. In the latest and all-comics issue of Taddle Creek Michael Cho tells Oppenheimer's tale.
When content precedes and dictates form . . . well, I'll just return to "yikes." The writing is anti-complex and nothing you haven't heard before: "In that cloud was contained all of our aspirations and achievements, both good and bad." It conveys information and adds pictures. The trickiest compositions are of the "one panel broken up" kind (I do like the above sequence's hanging time).

A lot of biographical comics are cropping up these days. They're labors of love or homages or corporate commissions. They're useful: we can educate with these comics. They lend respectability to a lowly medium. They reveal to us real and weighty subjects: Nelson Mandela, the Beats, and even the Space Race. No bloody thanks.

Back to the cheap moral ambiguity of the Oppenheimer comic: if the moral is this, then let it be this and be done with it.
(Thank you, Warren Ellis and this week's Ignition City #4. Art by Gianluca Pagliarani.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Abstract Comic

The generous and regular people at Abstract Comics: The Blog are counting down the release of their book Abstract Comics by snooping around for possible and eclectic examples of "non-representational" or "non-narrative" (my empty shorthand, yes) sequential art. I just finished reading Grant Morrison's two Hellblazer issues from 1990 and thought that this page from #26 out of context could qualify.(Art by David Lloyd.)

Just Because

(From The Goon #32 by Eric Powell.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Choreography, Part 2

(Also from Desolation Jones #4.) Jones is prone to hallucination. I won't say much about this page except that it's not as if the grid structure is merely smoked over. It's damn near eradicated at points and replaced by pale orange and distortion ghosts. The 3x3 grid structure itself: the first row is 1 panel divided in 3; the second row bleeds horizontally (4 and 5) and vertically (5 and 8); panels 6 and 7 are anyone's guess; and Jones's marvelous hand cutting through in panel 9 is what makes it!

Coming soon: some Hellblazer, some J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Choreography, Part 1

(From Desolation Jones #4 by Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III. Click to.) Williams is quite at home creating stylistic battle scenes and his sole issue (so far) on Batwoman in Detective Comics has upped the ante and added red lipstick. Flee here for a preview of next week's hyperhyped second issue.

In 2005 Williams co-created with Ellis the haunted Michael Jones: for one year his eyes were pried open and he endured the wealth of our televised horrors. He is then a desensitized wreck, a hardburned detective.

Here's the bottom half, just over the crease, of a two-page spread. Jones on the floor waits and listens. Williams gives us a moment of pause: the silhouette of the crowbar is raised and looks like an image found in an instruction manual for how to use a crowbar. "Step 3) Swing downwards." The pause is scientific: the crowbar in space is matter and there are sound waves or molecular vibrations swerving away from the space the crowbar occupies. The pause is for emphasis: everything depends on when and where this weapon will strike.

Downwards and THWANK.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


(From Boody by Boody Rogers and edited by Craig Yoe.) Always-smoking Jim Teapot travels to Possum Holler to recruit smoking-hot girl pitcher Babe Boone and is really red-hot impressed with what he sees.

Sometimes a cigar.

Why have I been reading more than a little about baseball this summer? In The Great American Novel, Philip Roth creates and quashes the Patriot League, a third big league, by pitting its desperado players against ruthless HUAC in the forties.

The not-a-biography-but-kinda-historical comic Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow by James Strum and Rich Tommaso is about official white baseball's erosion by unsanctioned black skill. Paige brings out the crowds but since he's an entertainer he's counterfeit, so the poor reasoning goes. The tale is told in Seth-like throw-back images but breaks away nicely to capture the idiosyncratic movements of Paige's pitching. See left: the silent zoomed-in panels give us his deliberation and poise, the detail and process.

All three see doppelgangers of baseball as intrinsic to baseball: Boody's local bumpkin Babe, Roth's misfit Patriot League, and Strum and Tommaso's exploration of the Negro League. Who dares storm this Bastille of American sport?