Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jump Off The Roof

This Is A Brick Wall
Andrew White

White seems to relish in narratives with an infinite number of possibilities for the reader that suddenly narrow down to one the second the book is opened. Comics seem so set in stone and White is lashing out at this idea. He is not even relying on his readers ability to read their own meaning into his work, but rather physically forcing them to have a different reading experience from one another. By the way he packages his books. By the way he draws his books. By the way he writes his books.  They all go towards this goal, whether the reader knows about them or not.

Before you open up This Is A Brick Wall there are two possible ways of reading it. One with a pencil in your hand and the intention of following the instructions given to a tee. The other minus the pencil and simply a want to read this mini-comic as its own thing. While both choices are valid it should be noted that once you make one of these choices the other option is gone for ever. At least in its purest form of expression. Even if you reread it again without the other choice in mind the feeling of immediacy the instructions impart on you has lost some indescribably amount of meaning.

You are no longer simply following directions on blind faith, you know where those directions lead. And however small a change that sounds it is monumental when experienced.

Either way the choice is yours. 

I hope it's as rewarding as mine.


Monday, June 22, 2015


Lydian (2015)
Sam Alden

Another Alden book, another new Alden trick.

Created on a jacked up version of MS Paint that limits the number of colors to something that would probably cause most digital colorist to crawl up into the fetal position, Alden created the most interestingly colored comic since Dash Shaw’s New School.


There are no lines in this comic. Only square pixels. This places the entire burden of the pages readability on the shifting of color from one pixel to the next. The foreground is solely distinguishable from the background by the change in color between them. Because of this, Alden chooses to depict his narratives characters in brighter colors and his backgrounds in slightly darker ones.

Alden’s shifting from foreground to background creates an almost impressionistic aspect to the images in Lydian. As the eye attempts to focus on small clusters of color to discern what is happening in the image, you are left with just an eyeful of nonsense. It isn’t until you refocus and take the image in as a whole that you can see what is happening. An optical illusion that takes almost the entirety of the book for your eye to learn.

This effect is best illustrated by a page towards the end of the book. Lydian (the narratives main character) sits on top of a mountain and looks out at the view, the caption next to her reads “this would be pretty in a movie”. Because of the caption you are forced to keep looking at various aspects of the image waiting to see what Lydian sees, until, eventually, you just settle into the image and are overcome by it. Of course It would look pretty in a movie, but it probably looks prettier here.


The ability to read 2-D images as 3-D is a well established artistic trick. In Lydian though Alden, by intentionally limiting himself to such a small amount of colors, in addition to the pixels inherent blockiness, is forced to rely heavily on the readers learned reading abilities from 8 & 16-bit gaming. The narrative largely exists as a pastiche of these early video games, a group of light shooting characters is attacking another group of light shooting characters*. This, if not consciously, then subconsciously puts the reader in a place of basic understanding and gives them a starting point in how to read the work.

*While Alden is using the general trope of Atari-era games, like all good genre work, it is merely window dressing for his story and characters.


These Walls

Elsa (2014)
Sarah Ferrick

“The Snow Queen” are the first words uttered in Elsa. A female figure with a long and overlapping black robe takes up the majority of the page. The line, half boxed in, reads as a narrative caption explaining to the reader who this person is, which seems like a bit of a joke. Elsa is of course the protagonist of one of Disney’s biggest films of the decade Frozen. The next line is a sample from Kendrick Lamar’s Backstreet Freestyle Seem like the whole city go against me, every time i’m in the street i hear:” For anyone who’s heard Backstreet Freestyle the next line is an aggressively loud and visceral noise, but in Elsa Ferrick subverts your expectations and puts a ¾ shot of Elsa’s face as the sole image on the next page. Utilizing Disney’s “big eye” princess design, Ferrick creates a deeply resonating and soulful view of Elsa, as she places both hands on the collar of her robe you feel everything tightening around her as her mournful eyes draw you in.

The next page in the spread is almost completely black, with white scratches that seem more to repel your eye then draw it towards the next page, forcing you to linger on Elsa and her robe. 

When you eventually get the nerve to flip the page the answer to the question of what Elsa and Kendrick hear is loudly declared. A two page spread of A’s and H’s overlapping and stepping over each other to gain further visibility. It’s deafening.

And for the remainder of the book Elsa seems to be trying to overcome that deafening noise, that defining blackness, the never ending winter of her psychological imprisonment. Words and phrases reappear, commingle with one another, questions asked fall away into the white nothingness of the blank page only to reappear a dozen pages later with a completely new meaning. 

The most important of these phrase, which started out as a question but through its repetition and the actions of Elsa shifts in context to become a deceleration of intent: “Now’s The Winter When You Come Out.”

This shift comes when Elsa drops the heavy black robe she wore on the first page. The originally stationary Elsa begins to express motion on every page, with her hands, with her hair, with her clothes. Everything is in a state of movement the second that cloak hits the floor.

As a ice castle created by her hands jettisons upwards from the earth a few of the short phrases from the start of the story begin to reappear. But they are all washed away by the addition of a short phrase onto one of them. “I’m The Snow Princess… & That's Okay.” 


Lion's Teeth

Palm Ash - Julia Gfrorer

Gfrorer has always been light on backgrounds; choosing to allow her characters to take center stage within her panels, instead of allowing other details to distract from them. Palm Ash is no different, but here their scarcity reveals the class systems inherent in Roman culture. With a claustrophobic nine panel grid the narrative takes place in large part underneath the Roman Colosseum, within its dungeons and slave quarters. Everything is so cramped and tight that the walls fade away for sheer lack of space. It is only the barriers to the outside world that are given any detail. The heavy wooden doors and barred windows that hold them inside. These barriers do give the inhabitants of the world  beneath the coliseum a brief view of the outside world, it is not a view of freedom they see though, but rather a front row seat to the atrocities that befall those who attempt to break free from their captivity.  

It is due to this station of life that Dia sees the martyr, and his religion of freedom of the mind, as a possible escape; and conversely why the Roman State and Drusus see it as something to counter, to crush.  As long as martyrs are turned into playthings for packs of hungry lions their god is insignificant. Martyrs do not create more martyrs when they are mauled by lions. Or so the thought goes. That is what makes the martyr in this stories survival, after five rounds with a pack of lions, so enticing to Dia. She sees a glimmer of hope in his way, and while it won't be in this life, for that life is bound by doors and windows composed of metal bars, in the next life she and her son may be given some modicum of freedom.

This thought of possible freedom leads us into Palm Ashes final sequence, which unfolds as quickly and violently as it is alluded too. Following the discovery of Dia’s attempted baptism of her son, at the hands of the martyr, her master sets out to systematically destroy everything around her. Screaming “you belong to me” as he amputates her arm and then precedes to beat the martyr with its bloody stump. The only thing that seems to stop him from killing the martyr is one of his guards informing him that the lions are ready. To satiate his bloodlust though he also sends Dia’s newly baptized son to the coliseums floor to face the hungry pack of lions.

It isn’t shown if Dia’s son or the martyr survive. The final page only shows Dia’s face, as she drags herself to the barred window that looks out onto the coliseums floor. Her eyes and mouth give off a smirk, but it isn't certain if that smirk means her son’s death, and thus his being reborn into the kingdom of god, or his survival. There are as many tales of saints be eaten by lions as there are of them being saved from lions. 

So the horror is yours to read into it or not, which makes it all the more horrible. 

Julia Gfrorer’s webstore.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Media Consumed In The Months of April & May

Film & Television

Clouds of Sils Maria
Stone Quakers Season 1
Eastbound & Down Season 1-4
Togetherness Season 1
Maron Season 2
Garfunkel & Oates Season 1
Bill Burr: I’m Sorry You Feel That Way
Bill Burr: Let It Go
Bill Burr: You People Are All The Same
Chelsea Peretti: One Of The Greats
30 For 30: Of Miracle & Men
Madmen Season 6 & 7
Life Itself
Nick Offerman: American Ham
Showrunners: The Art Of Running A TV Show
Morgan Murphy: Irish Goodbye
The Rules Of The Game
Kurt Cobain:  A Montage Of Heck
Wet Hot American Summer
Bored To Death Season 1-3
The Battle Of Algiers

Going Clear
Misery Loves Comedy
Super Troopers
My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn
Atari: Game Over
All This Mayhem
Le Petit Soldat
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
The Passion Of Joan Of Arc
… And God Created Woman
Mad Max: Beyond The Thunderdome 

The Kid
The Idle Class
The Darjeeling Limited
Hotel Chevalier
Jen Kirkman: I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine)
The Shield Season 7
Community Season 6
Bobs Burgers Season 4
Joe Rogan: Live
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Night And Fog
La Jetee
The Love Goddesses
The Last Samurai
The Inglorious Bastards
Plucking The Daisy


Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show - Suehiro Maruo
How It Happened - Jason T. Miles
Cricketts #4 - Sammy Harkham
Rebus - Edited by Warren Craghead
Frontier #7: Sexcoven - Jillian Tamaki
Dominant Wives - John Stanton
Super Mutant Academy - Jillian Tamaki
Mighty Star: And The Castle Of The Cancateruater
Inaction Comics - Various
AX: Alternative Manga - Various
Revenger #1-2 - Charles Forsman
Revenger: Armory - Charles Forsman
In The Part Of The Wave - Lala Alberts
New Lone Wolf And Cub V1 - Kazuo Koike & Hideki Mori
Lone Wolf And Cub v 28
Good Night - Sarah Ferrick
Ley Lines: Golden Smoke - Warren Craghead
Black River - Josh Simmons
Fantagraphics: Free Comics Book Day - Ed Piskor & Dash Shaw
A Mysterious Process - GG
The Pushman & Other Stories - Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Frontier #8 - Anna Deflorian
Panorama Of Hell - Hideshi Hino
Bouncer: Book 1 -A Diamond For The Beyond - Alexandro Jodorowsky & Francois Boucq
Bouncer: Book 2 - The Executioners Mercy - Alexandro Jodorowsky & Francois Boucq
Alone Forever - Liz Prince


And The Heart Says Whatever - Emily Gould
Ed Vs. Yummy Fur - Brian Evenson