Books, Comics, Music

Lazy Daze

We’ve had a large hatching of dragonflies- possibly brought on by a sudden spell of cool wet weather. Squadrons of them, swarming the neighborhood. It seems like a nice omen for a summer that’s already been pretty enjoyable. I am teaching, and watching a lot of football. I pulled for the USA, then I pulled for Ireland, but I’ll pull for Azerbaijan if there’s good beer and someone who knows the difference between an in-swinger and an out-swinger. Subject for a long-postponed future post.

All the rest of the time, I’m reading. There’s been a large hatching of books, too. I had an art show last month; I like to stock up when I have cash. If it sounds like a vacation, that’s what it is. I head back to a temp job next week, and life is short. I’m reading prose; fiction, and non-,  but I’ll save that for another post to cut down on length. Here’s what I’m reading in comics:


Spaniel Rage: Vanessa Davis. These are sketch diary entries, in an engagingly loose pencil and ink style, of a twenty-something’s adventures in the NYC Millennials culture. Autobiographical comics have come a long way since the 80’s, and Davis’s uninhibited line work and eye for quirky human detail and absurdity is along with others such as Gabrielle Bell, a great example why.

Black Eye Magazine #1: Ryan Standfest, editor. There isn’t enough of this type of journal. It highlights edgier examples of new comics output, and offers critical examinations of some of the ignored creators of the censored 50’s and 60’s.  This issue has a good eye for comics outliers: Michael O’Donoghue’s Phoebe Zeitgeist, Al Feldman Panic comics, and the objectivist solo work of Spiderman creator and lone wolf Steve Ditko are all discussed. I found this 2011 number at a used bookstore, but I’ve located a second issue on the net ( Rotland along with an impressive selection of mini comics they’ve commissioned from artists like R. Sikoryak, of which, more below.

Comic Art #8, Todd Hignite, Editor: This well produced, but dearly departed journal featured critical essays and historical research on many comics and creators, from the medium’s origins to the present. This one has an interesting speculation on the origin of the word balloon, only somewhat marred by a tendency toward academic jargon; a long feature on the comics and graphics of Richard McGuire (Here); a look at the influence of Arizona’s Coconino County on  20’s newspaper cartoonists; and a critique of early Marvel Comics auteur Jim Starlin’s trippy, cosmic Warlock, from the 70’s. Back issues can be found on the web, and they’re all worth reading.

Sir Alfred #3, Tim Hensley: I’ll admit to my ignorance- I haven’t more than the barest knowledge of Alfred Hitchcock’s life, though I’ve seen many of his films. The intrigue here, for me, is in Hensley’s well crafted melding of “apocryphal anecdotes” from Hitchcockian lore with a dead on parody of the 50’s Dell children’s comics of once-anonymous now belatedly-recognized-comics-genius John Stanley.

Stanley, who might accurately be called the 50’s most popular feminist writer, wrote and sometimes drew Little Lulu comics. In these, Tubby and his gang, goaded on by an inflated sense of self esteem, often scheme to deprive Lulu Moppet of her allowance or a treat, or to con her into completing an odious task, all without surrendering the supreme entitlement of membership in their “No Girls Allowed” clubhouse. Almost invariably, Lulu, whether through her wits, or the impervious grace of the just, turns the tables on the boys. Stanley’s brave flipping of the insistent 50’s trope of the dumb, emotionally unstable, quiescently domesticated woman serves him well, as these comics will crack you up. Stanley later brought his eye to the burgeoning genre of 60’s teen humor, which Hensley also sends up in a previous effort, Wally Gropius.

In Sir Alfred, Tubby plays the role of eccentric legend Hitchcock, and the sense of entitled aplomb, along with a “well rounded” graphic profile in each makes it a genius bit of casting. Hitchcock was apparently known for poor treatment of women. The comic itself is a clever melange of gossipy vignettes and absurdly reductive movie plot summaries all paced and designed in the classic Dell “One-Pager” format.

This is really a bit overpriced. It’s packaged ($25) as an author-signed, limited edition oversized comic with a Giclee of an interior panel and a letterpress beer coaster (?). But Hensley is a rising star in comics and I was no more likely to pass up his latest satirical project than skip over a well crafted Little Lulu homage, which are more common than one might expect. R. Sikoryak, I think, launched this mini-genre in the 80’s with a pastiche of LL and The Scarlet Letter. These sorts of things are an example of a type of satire unique to comics, which ultimately trace back to the antic transgressions of EC’s Mad (Comics, not Magazine) and Panic. These were censored out of existence in 1955, but lived on in spirit in the 60’s undergrounds and 80’s Raw magazine.  Hensley, Sikoryak, and others are keeping up the tradition.

Spanish cartoonist Max channels The Andalusian Dog along with Charlie Brown and Jimmy Corrigan
Spanish cartoonist Max channels The Andalusian Dog along with Charlie Brown and Jimmy Corrigan

Bardin, the SuperRealist, Max: Spanish cartoonist Max gives us Bardin, a Charlie Brown-like Ligne clair (“clean line” cartooning, popularized by Herge in Tintin) euro-bohemian, who when not cadging cognac from friends in Madrid cafes, is admitted into iconically Dali-esque southern Spanish surrealist landscapes. Max has fun exploring Surrealist tropes, including the infamous “A cloud across the moon…” scene from Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou, and adds his own in a wide-ranging pastiche that includes Mickey Mouse. I’d passed this up when Max published it shortly after The Extended Dream of Mr D. I was still working full time and didn’t feel I had time to experiment with a lot of new reading, especially with such a bizarre approach, but it turns out to be delightful- witty and hilarious. I read parts twice and will return to it soon, I’m sure.

I’m halfway through Kramer’s Ergot #9, my favorite comics anthology, and picked up Emma Rios’ (Pretty Deadly) just-released I.D. I’ll comment on those later. I’ve also started a commentary on the hows and whys of monotypes which collects thoughts I’ve often shared with my classes.