Sunday, May 17, 2015

Peter Said To Paul

How It Happened
by Jason T. Miles

Touch, I keep coming back that word after reading Jason T. Miles newest release How It Happened. A mini comic in the truest sense of the word, risographed and printed on grey paper with purple ink How It Happened revolves around a visit to an artist's studio by a long time fan, but its the fandoms touch that overtakes the work. Miles artwork clashes with itself, varying between heavy brushstrokes creating nearly abstract imagery, to lines inked with precision and care, but the battle these two styles are fighting isn’t over space but rather authorial ownership.

Much like the very cover of the book (that you are holding), human touch, human commodification and the creation of mass art creates a messiness inherent to the object. A risograph comic will have its ink smudged even after its dried. A slight fold by the postman irrevocably changes the book. A spilt drink, a moldy home, a hungry dog, a licked finger all change the physical object in ways the creator could never intend. That is why the front cover is barely recognizable as anything outside of a series of ink splotches, which change context every time you look at them (is that an eye? a flower? a figure?) because the work changes in an infinite number of ways between one breathe and the next.

A bookcase filled with leafed over zines has a waviness to its composition. Blotches of ink appear to be placed haphazardly between the lines that create the image of a bookshelf; making a vaporous approximation of a series of book spines placed next to each other. When pulling a random comic off the shelf the grid shifts with every movement of the hand. Nothing is defined. Not even the idea of a book.

Original art, sitting perfectly framed on the author's wall, retains its rigidness of creation because of its classification as “not to touch”. One cannot reproduce an original because it is just that, an original. The Heisenberg Effect posits that once something is observed it is irrevocably changed, the same idea exists with an original and a reproduction, each reproduction, however skillfully done, loses something of the original; it becomes murky with the fingerprints of the other, the other artist, the other photographer, the other machine.

Even the encounter between the fan and the creator becomes murkier with each passing page, as the idealized version of the meeting becomes the actualized, as beer is drank, weed is smoked, zines are flipped through and the end is reached.

It is changed. By touch. By consumption. By life. 

You can purchase How It Happened here

Friday, May 15, 2015


There's been a pretty big gap between these, so this ones going to be pretty long as a heads up.


Sophie Yanow does a journalistic piece on Canada’s (and The United States) laws relating to HIV/AIDS positive individuals not informing their sexual partners of  their status as carriers. Fredrick Peeters Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story deals with a similar narrative, although less academically. Both though reveal how deeply the general populations idea of HIV/AIDS transmission is seeded in the stigma of the 1980’s and not in modern science and medicine. They both also deploy similar puns, which i enjoy for some reason.

ZComx is a new agregat site for various art comic artists work. Some work seems to be resubmissions of older web work, but a few are from out of print work shown online for the first time, like Sarah Ferrics Elsa. I'm glad about that aspect.

The second installment of Jonny Negron’s web/print comic Song of Mercury was published this week. The first seven pages are available now, which provide a nice bit of reading to get you interested in more. 

For some reason after her Comics Woorkbook piece i never followed up on any of Gloria Rivera's work until a few days ago, when one of her newer comics was re-blogged into my timeline. Everything on there is just really beautiful. I’m having trouble elaborating much past that for right now though. 

Connor Willumsen's comic in response to Ronald Wimberly's comic about Marvel's choice of coloring its non-white characters, this one being about Marvel's no anal rule.

Patrick Kyle put up the entirety of his comic Witching Hour on Flickr. An odd choice of venue but a sold comic nonetheless.  

Sophia Foster-Dimino released a new issue of Sex Fantasy. That is pretty easily the best continuing webcomic out right now. 

Mickey Z’s contribution to USA Trucker.A zine from last year that seems to be out of print.

Helen Jo and Sammy Harkham fill in on The Blobby Boys along with a gaggle of other artists.

Another great Uno Moralez gif. (It counts as comics if i say so)


Subscriptions/Patrons/Kickstarters/Other Things That Cost Money

Chucks Forsman has started a Patron. For a mere $10 you can get a rolling subscription to his new comic Revenger which seems like a bargin.

Sammy Harkham set up a website to purchase his original art. As beautiful as many of those pages are, they sadly are out of my price range. I hope he adds some more impoverished level art at some point.

Sam Alden has created a line of t-shirts and sweatshirts based on his pixel art. I hope someone who a) has money and b) has a personal style that is beyond looking mildly homeless (aka someone that is not me) buys them cause they look cool as hell.

Ley Lines announced their 2015 lineup. It looks like an ambitious series of books, with a focus on younger and more abstract artists.

Inaction Comics #1 was announced. The press release is vague enough that i have no clue what it is about past a pretty solid contributor list.

kus!kus! announced their sprint releases, the big one looks to be a new work by Lala Alberts. Additionally i’m unaware of her work as of right now, but the cover for the Amanda Vähämäki book looks really interesting to me.

New work by Sarah Ferrick, I like the design of that site.


2D Cloud has been in the process of almost weekly re-designing their website, thanks to Blaise Larmee, but inbetween those events they're been posting a ton of intersting content. Most notably this interview between Blaise and Leon Sadler and their 2015 MOCCA report.

Melissa Mendes on The Darling Sleeper. She seems very capable of talking her way through the limitations of the questions asked of her. Simon Hanselmann was also interviewed on The Darling Sleeper. You have to give that questioning some credit, it allows for a lot of interviews to be done in a short period of time. 

HTMLflowers is interviewed about his new book, Virtual Candles out from Space Face Books.

Audio to Charlie Kaufman's BAFTA speech on screenwriting.

Gary Panter interviewed about meeting Philip K. Dick.


The webisode (?) adaptation of Chuck Forsman’s The End of The Fucking World had it’s first teaser released. TEOTFW is one of my favorite comics and i’m excited to see how it translates to film.

I watched Ben Jones new show Stone Quakers in a certain altered state. Seeing Frank Santoro show up with a longbox in the middle of a riot made me freak out a bit.

A tour through Seth’s house. It looks exactly as i suspected.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Kids Are Alright: Huey, Dewey, and Louie

"The thing that I consider most important about my work is this: I told it like it is. I told my readers that the bad guys have a little of good in them, and the good guys have a lot of bad in them, and that you can't depend on anything much; nothing is always going to turn out roses." 
- Carl Barks

From the first written narrative onwards the titular character of any story has had a natural tendency to be ascribed a certain heroic virtue by its readers. Carl Barks Donald Duck saga proposes an interesting twist on this idea. Donald Duck, originally a sidekick to Walt Disney’s banner character Mickey Mouse, began his solo career in comics during 1937 as a wisecracking reiteration of himself. It wasn’t until Carl Barks entered into the Duck universe and began filling it with a supporting cast of family, friends and enemies; along with writing him into globe trotting adventures that brought him into contact with the lost tribes of the Andes and the haunted castle of the Clan McDuck that it became clear that Donald had to overcome his origins as a sidekick too become the hero of his own narrative.

This transformation is difficult though; and across Bark’s epic we continually see that Donald is not the hero of his own story, but rather a participant in it, still learning his way around. But it is who he is learning from that is the most interesting facet of this journey. Readers naturally ascribe heroic qualities with adults, and more importantly the role of teacher is almost always represented by a wise elder and the hero an individual in his mid to late twenties. Donald's only elder in the Barks saga though is Uncle Scrooge, the world's richest duck, a character that has more in common with Ebenezer Scrooge before he is visited by the three Ghosts of Christmas than after. Scrooge is a robber baron with a money pit that he regularly dives into for fun, a display of hedonism that even the Romans may even have found a bit much.

The only other character of any significant age in the narrative that could be called, in the traditional paradigm, Donald’s teacher is Gladstone Gander. If Scrooge is the world's richest duck, Gladstone is the worlds luckiest. Breezing around life with no aims or goals Gladstone is assured in his confidence that the stars above will take care of him because they seemingly always do. He is largely Donald's foil not because of Donald’s hatred of him, but because of his jealousy of him. He wants that life of leisure but will never have it because that is not Donald’s path. He has to strive for something or their is no narrative for Barks to tell.

(It should be noted though that Donald does learn from these two individuals explicitly, but they are not lessons that Barks wishes to teach the reader, but rather condemn. Scrooge’s greed and Gladstone's reliance on luck feed into all of Donald’s worst tendencies, and he is continually punished for them. They represent the weaknesses that he must overcome to become a better person, even though they seem so profitable for the two people he has learned them from.) 

No Donalds teacher(s), and the real heroes of Bark’s saga, are his three nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. 

There is a history of side characters rising to the level of the “hero” in comics, fellow Landon School of Illustration and Cartooning subscriber Roy Cranes most famous work Wash Tubbs quickly transformed from a comedic strip of one mans continuing series of misadventures into the celebrated Sunday strip Captain Easy: Soldier of Fortune, where Wash Tubbs exists solely as the sidekick to Captain Easy as he punches his way through adventure after adventure following Easy’s introduction into the series. Superhero’s comics, which follow in the footsteps of Crane, largely do not have this kind of narrative upheaval since they begin with Captain Easy and expanded outwards with Wash Tubbs. Batman, The Dark Knight, has the mostly derivative sidekick in Robin who exists almost solely for comedic relief, not as a person to learn from outside of government funded PSA’s. 

Huey, Dewey, and Louie though are unique in this history of heroic usurpation though because, unlike Captain Easy, they are not swashbuckling loners with a deathwish who always get the girl in the end, but rather merely children. But it is the very fact that they are children that allows them to exist as a mirror to be held up against the eccentricities of Donald, along with the narratives other characters, too show them all wanting. “Out of the mouths of babes” the saying goes, or since this is comics “through the eyes of babes” may be a bit more apt.


Bark’s narratives have an almost unhealthy obsession with money. A brief reading of his biography makes the reasons for this strikingly clear; like almost all of the great cartoonists of the 20th Century Barks got screwed over. A lot. But what is interesting based on his life is that his belief in hard work paying off never falters. The promise of the American Dream never disappeared for him*. And it is in this belief of hard work that we see Huey, Dewey, and Louie stand out compared to Donald and his elders.
Throughout Donald's tenure under Barks hand Donald goes through a number of careers. The common thread across all of these jobs though is Donald's attempt to do the least amount of work possible while making the most money. Barks most famous story, or at least the one Fantagraphics decided was important enough to give the first collection of their Carl Barks series over too Lost in the Andes shows Donald's, and societies, deferment towards the upper, lazy-ier, class in the face of the hard work of their subordinates.

A fact Donald supports wholeheartedly, as he waits to one day join that class. 
Lost In The Andes opens with Donald as a security guard for a local museum, he is competent, but little more than that. The stories narrative doesn’t kick off until his supervisor forces him to dust a series of stones collected from the Andes. Donald, known as a butterfinger since his debut as comedic relief, promptly drops one of the stones revealing it was an egg all along. After hearing of this discovery the museums board of directors decide to take a trip to the Andes to find the square eggs origin, in hopes of profiting off of its efficiency in packaging. (Of course with Donald and his nephews in toe)
The most telling sequence in this story involves each member of the search team, from the expedition leader down, ordering the next in command to secure his boss an egg omelet. At the end of this chain of command lies Donald, who quickly passes the job onto his nephews who, with a lack of eggs, choose to make the omelet from one of the remaining stone eggs, which without delay, makes its up the chain of command to the top researcher, even as each link in the chain takes a taste and remarks that they taste of dirt. Each member though feels their superior will appreciate the taste for a reason never stated.
That the omelet leaves everyone who tastes it sick is not telling besides illustrating that one's superiors are little more than yes men from the bottom up. But as Barks unfolds the journey you see that Donald's nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, while the lowest on that chain, are the most inventive and successful. They both find the lost civilization on their own, but also outwit that society by blowing square bubbles to stop their, and Donald's, execution. When the chickens they bring back “crow” it, in typical corporate speak, falls upon Donald and not his superiors to take the blame for the exhibitions failure.

This series of events though doesn't end at Lost in the Andes. It merely evolves.


Like a Shane Black script, Carl Barks seems single minded in setting as many of his stories within the Christmas season as possible. While one may groan at the sight of a theater marquee during December, for the glut of films centered around the holiday being shown, when one sees a wreath and snow drift in a Barks comic it is immediately meet with a feeling of warmth. This warmth isn’t because of Christmas cheer, but instead because Barks is at his best when he centers his stories around the holidays. This is because Christmas allows him to both deal with the capitalist tendencies of the holiday and the altruistic nature that underlie the day.
In “A Christmas For Shacktown”  Barks opens on Huey, Dewey, and Louie walking through a Duckburg hovel known as Shacktown, inhabited by children who don’t have a head lifted higher than necessary to see the tips of their toes and whose faces portray a kind of sadness only a cartoonist could capture. The caption overhead reads “Most everywhere kids look forward to Christmas with google-eyed glee but in Shacktown Christmas promises to be just another bare, cold, hungry day!” in the time it takes the boys to enter and leave Shacktown they are no longer talking about their Christmas plans, but rather a feeling of downtrodingness has infected them as they think of the inhabitants of Shacktown “Those poor kids in Shacktown don’t have any Christmas to worry about, and that worries me!”
Huey, Dewey, and Louie’s empathy for others is one of their hallmark characteristics, and what's more is their ability to turn that empathy into action. On there way home from Shacktown they come across Daisy (Donald’s seeming girlfriend, but not quite) after seeing how affected they are about the plight of the Shacktown residents she proposes her and her women's group, with the aid of the boys and Donald, create a fund to buy turkey dinners and a toy train set for the children of Shacktown. 

Daisy and the boys insistence on helping the children of Shacktown doesn’t so much change Donald’s way of thinking but rather shift it. Previous to their talk we were shown Donald walking in circles around his house trying to figure out a way to get enough money to buy his nephews presents so that they could have a happy Christmas. After the boys insistence that he give the money he had saved for their gifts to the effort to supply the children of Shacktown with toys (in addition to Huey, Dewey, and Louie’s donation of the funds they had saved for Donald's gift) Donald changes from worrying about raising money for his nephews to a single minded devotion to finding the remaining funds needed almost instantaneously.
That Donald continues to attempt to gather the money needed in ways that requires the least amount of work possible, primarily by scamming Uncle Scrooge, while his nephews shovel driveways and Daisy sells her furs, is decidedly characteristic of Donald. But Barks makes a point of not allowing him to get away with these easy outs. Even when one of his scams work, and he is given the money needed, it is quickly lost by the time it takes him to find the boys. It isn’t until he enlists Gladstone's help, and following Gladstone ’s returning of a lost wallet, that he secures the funds needed for Shacktown.
It isn’t that Donald lacks the empathy that his nephews bring out of him, it is that he needs them to show him when to think past his own family and look at the world as a whole. And that is a sign of how complex of a character Donald is, but why he needs Huey, Dewey, and Louie around to show him a better way.
*That Barks is still remembered today as “the good duck artist” i hope sheds some truth on this thought, even if he spent most of his unknown and died impoverished.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Hell Can Wait

Flayed Corpse (Oily)
by Josh Simmons

It would be simple enough for Josh Simmons to draw a series of gory images over twelve pages and call it a day. It's something he excels at, but Simmons (as always) adds additional layers to his work, and this is what distinguishes him from other horror artists. Simmons can be as disturbing and horrific as everyone else, more so in fact, but by including the seeds of something more lofty he is able to force his stories into the readers sub-conscious, leaving them to linger long after the final page has been turned.

The standout element of 'Flayed Corpse' is Simmons use of dialogue to tell two stories at once. Layering each words meaning around a single event, an autopsy, creating both a grotesque examination of a mutilated corpse and a commentary on philosophy, science and their relationship with humanity.

This double narrative begins on the first page as a mysterious voice address the other coroners "Industrial accident, I would say", commenting on the injuries the man has suffered, but also expressing a decidedly Marxist critique. This critique is drilled home by another shadowy figure who remarks that the marks more so resemble those caused by an angry mob wielding machetes. This brings to mind the Reagan-era funded death squads of South America, capitalism in action. The two go back and forth over the next four pages, conceding some points while bringing up new ones (racism, self reliance, etc) until a third figure interjects saying that they are both right and wrong, the man was tortured, burned, ground up, beaten, and hung, but it was both of their actions that lead towards these injuries.

This third voice has a definitive tone to it, in both discussions (the political and spiritual) this voice is granted the final word on the matter. By setting this story in a scientific facility Simmons seems to be stacking the deck in favor of this third voice, but his answers are no less cruel than those produced by the other figures, if not more so, due to their calculated and sterile tone. His final statement, combining the two theists ideas of the after life and blending it with quantum physics "Neither of you are exactly right, or wrong...He died terrified, in agony. And it echoed out and was absorbed into a universe already sick with pain" creating a fate far worse than those posed by the Marxist or Capitalist coroners.

What Simmons never does though is push the readers sympathy towards any of these "options". By only showing the coroners in silhouette; Simmons doesn't allow the reader to identify with them. Instead Simmons humanizes the corpse, keeping him as the focus of every panel with a look on his face that seems to be pleading for an end to it all. Opening on the corpses face, Simmons depicts him deeply in pain. His only visible eye seems to almost be crying, all the while as his coroners argue overhead. This emotion is actualized with a clenched hand that looks to be shouting for help to a group that never wanted to help him in the first place, only discuss his suffering in the abstract. Even in a moment of empathy, when one figure says "At least we know his suffering is over" the statement is only used to launch into the next argument, not mourn what had happened to the man.

You can purchase 'Flayed Corpse', by Josh Simmons, at the Oily Comics website here.
* This post originally appeared on The Chemical Box