Reviews - Illustrated Fiction 26

 

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Reviews on this page:

Celebrity Zombie Killers

Cornelia Cartoons #11

Future

House of Schmerz

Noble Head Funnies #3 & 4

Onesies

Power Out

Robert

Sightings of Wallace Sendek

Strange Space Stories #2

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Noble Head Funnies #3 & 4 by Edward and James Noel

Noble Head Funnies #3 & 4

2010 Fanatic Press, 28 b&w pages each, plus cover. 4.25" x 5.5", with saddle stitch binding and a machine trim. Design by Allen Freeman. Color by Brad W. Foster. $2.50 each from Fanatic Press. See Poopsheet Foundation for an
Edward Bolman Bibliography.

These unusual mini comix feature a recurring cast of crazies that wind their way through a series of adventures and gags. Sometimes the breaks between episodes are abrupt, and sometimes they're nearly transparent. By the final page somehow, what at times seems like random, stream-of-consciousness, actually fits together very nicely with fanciful, other-worldly logic.

The comix star is a rotund cat named Kitty Fluff. He is ably supported by Black Rayed Sun and Spittoon of Hidden Delights. The humor ranges from wacky to bizarre with a few, straight ahead groaners thrown in to keep the rhythm unpredictable.

The artwork is simple, but top notch. The Noels keep things visually interesting with additional shading and detail whenever it's needed. And there's plenty of solid black areas to add depth to the strange world these characters command.

The writing is whimsical, clever, and creative, with a decided slant to the strange and unexpected.

The design and production are excellent. Crisp printing on nice paper. The heavy weight covers even have what looks like UV coating for extra durability and high gloss.

If you're looking for a wacky, comical read with first class production values, Noble Head Funnies is great value.

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OnesiesOnesies by Whit Taylor

2010 self-published
16 b&w pages, plus cover
5.5" x 7.25", saddle stitch binding, with trim
$3 from Whit Taylor
Comic Blog: Whimsical Nobody Comics
Blog Blog: Ye Olde Whimsical Nobody Opinion Factory

Taylor blogs and makes comics in her spare time, between classes and the rest of her life. You can get a good feel for her work and her style of humor from perusing her blogs.

Onesies is a collection of her comix, that I assume originally appeared online. Each page is a single gag. Several series are revisited throughout the comix. 1 Minute Deepification provides humorous reflections on popular culture. An unnamed series in which the floating heads of a few homeboys engage in snarky conversation. This could be based on actual, overheard conversations or something Taylor invented. Either way, it works.

Onesies is a short, amusing read that provides a glimpse into the middle-class urban experience through the eyes of a smart, young grad student.

Panels from Onesies

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Cornelia Cartoons #11Cornelia Cartoons #11
by Kel Crum

2010, Dangerous Bird
12 b&w pages, including the self-cover
7" x 8.5", saddle stitch binding, with trim
$1.00 from Kel Crum
Website: Dangerous Bird Productions

Cornelia Cartoons is a great indie comix. The stories are entirely gag driven and remind me of a modern day version of a classic funny animal-type comic book that Dell or Harvey used to publish in the 60s. Only Corny is firmly planted in today's world and the gags are written for the over-adolescence crowd.

If I recall correctly, previous issues of Corny feature short episodes of Crum's cast—Cornelia Dodson, Helen Boomer, and Reba Moonves, etc. (And you can sample his humor online. His Dangerous Bird Productions website features plenty of one-page samples.) However this issue of Corny features part one of what must be Corny's longest adventure to date.

Professor Alfred Ziplock discovers or invents a happy pill, Phychiatrex. One pill and even the most chronically depressed are transformed into rays of sunshine that uplift those around them. And from that start, things get wackier as the story progresses.

Crum's artwork has a simple charm, but his wry wit and non-stop sarcastic quips are the main event. If you're looking for an entertaining, lighthearted indie comix, Cornelia Cartoons is well worth the price of admission.

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Sightings of Wallace SendekSightings of Wallace Sendek by Douglas Noble and Sean Azzopardi

2010 Strip-For-Me/Phatcatz
24 b&w pages, plus cover
6" x 8.25", saddle stitch binding, no trim
£2 (includes postage within the UK)
from Strip-For-Me
Read online at The Sequential
Website: Douglas Noble
Website: Sean Azzopardi

Sightings of Wallace Sendek is a fine bit of storytelling by Noble and Azzopardi. A famous rock star disappears. Was he murdered? Is he really gone? Are the myriad of sightings in the years to come really him, his ghost, or merely look-alikes? Nothing is entirely certain, but the story is told with mounting circumstantial evidence.

Each page is a separate segment with a new character. Someone who knew Sendek or someone who knew of him through his fame or his music. Each entry is dated and they appear in a chronological mix, shifting back and forth through time as the reader pieces together their own mysterious version of the truth.

Noble's narrative is top-notch—and most of the story unfolds in narrative, with only occasional pauses for actual dialogue. The narrative approach—and Azzopardi's artwork generally holds the reader at a distance. It's the building mystery, that draws you in closer and closer.

Azzopardi uses a wide variety of styles in the telling, a technique that works well thanks to the shifting times, places, and characters of Noble's story.

Sightings of Wallace Sendek is well worth reading. If you read it online, note the pages (beginning with the cover) were posted incrementally in order, which means going back now you should start at the bottom and scroll up to each new page. If you're lucky enough to read it in print—better yet.

Page from Sightings of Wallace Sendek

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Strange Space Stories #2Strange Space Stories #2 edited by Jim Main

Spring 2010, Main Enterprises
Cover by Chuck Haspel with color
by Allen Freeman
Interior illustrations by
Kevin Duncan, Miguel Guerra, Larry Tisch, Dann Phillips,
Brad W. Foster, Barry Southworth & Scott Shriver
, and Don Marquez
Production management
by Robert (Floyd) Sumner
28 b&w pages, plus color cover
6.5" x 10.25, saddle stitch binding, with trim
$5.00 post paid from
Main Enterprises
Printed through SPA

The inspiration for Strange Space Stories comes from EC titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy. The comics inside are horror stories set in outer space. In between the three comic stories in this issue are full page illustrations, Jim Main's introduction/contents page, and a two page letters column.

Panels from Strange Space Stories #2

John Lambert's nine page The Creature from Stalag 17 is up first. He employs an unusual storytelling technique in this yarn. Most of the action takes place off-panel, while the characters tell each other what they're doing or what they've just done. Perhaps this was intended to build tension by focusing on the characters faces rather than the events or the horrible creature that threatens them, but the pages are mostly close-ups of the characters and their speech balloons. This appraoch works well for a story that's largely conversation or reflection, but for me it was a less effective choice for a horror story. I'd prefer to see more action portrayed in the artwork and more reaction in the dialogue. The artwork also missed an opportunity to convey the dark, closed space inside the mine and the cramped spaces inside the base. That sort of atmospheric treatment could've amplified the feeling of being trapped inside with a monster.

Nevertheless, despite my carping about the storytelling approach, Lambert delivers an entertaining story, that's beautifully drawn.

Panel from Strange Space Stories #2

A two page story, Outpost, by Robert (Floyd) Sumner is next. Sumner does everything possible to emulate the look-and-feel and style of an EC comic. The lettering; the narrative approach; the deeply-shadowed, detailed artwork; and the long-shot framing of the panels all combine to recall an EC-style space yarn. I only wish there were more pages to enjoy. Hopefully Sumner will have the time and desire to contribute six or eight pages next time.

Panels from Strange Suspense Stories #2

The last story, Darkness Fell, by Martin Oakley, is eight pages (although the opening page is nothing more than the title and credits with a few introductory lines of type reversed out of a black background). So, seven pages of comics story is a more accurate description.

Oakley is a solid writer and his plot and narrative deliver a classic tale combining elements of outer space, artificial intelligence, and domination, in a futuristic setting. Like Sumner, his story is told entirely through narration. It's an approach well suited to an EC tribute, but it can keep the reader at arm's length from the action. Fortunately, Oakley's writing is strong enough to keep you engaged and his artwork has a nice style to it. He uses one line weight throughout and relies mostly on cross hatching for shadows and texture.

As noted above there are numerous full page illustrations interspersed between the comics. Most are outstanding and add real value to the book, rather than feeling like filler. All in all SSS #2 is another solid issue, well worth supporting.

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FutureFuture from Joe Kimpel

2010, I Know Joe Kimpel
56 pages, black ink on ivory stock, plus cover
Cover is gold foil on black cover stock
6.5" x 6.5", saddle stitched, with trim
$7.00
Website/Store: I Know Joe Kimpel
Blog: I Know Joe Kimpel Blog

Future is the latest in Kimpel's 4-square series. The imagery of the cover shown here is accurate except for the yellow. That color is actually gold foil (which doesn't scan well). The foil effect is considerably more impressive than the yellow simulation shown. It changes between a bright gold and a subtle metalic hue as the light plays across its surface.

With a theme like Future you might expect a high tech approach to the package and its contents. But Future has the traditional handmade, artisan feel of the other 4-square anthologies I've read.

The four stories in Future are experimental and artsy in their approach. Each of the artists interprets the theme in their own, unexpected way.

Panels from Future

Virtual Date (18 pages) by Jen Tong is about two boys who meet online and begin dating via a hologram interface. They enjoy themselves so much they arrange to meet in person. This tale is the book's most traditional in that it presents the most linear storyline and imagines the future through advanced technology.

Panels from Future

Shark... (7 pages) by Jason Overby uses the 4-square window to frame his spontaneous observations and frantic illustrations as he writes his own future.

Page from Future

Mirror (8 pages) by Emily Wieja consists of a sequence of full page illustrations without narration or dialogue. Wieja's artwork is simple and bold with sharp contrasts of black and white. Although the individual pages are visually stimulating and I could make interesting connections between some of them, I could not discern an overall narrative.

Panels from Future

First Flower (14 pages) by José-Luis Olivares was inspired by James Thurber's The Last Flower. Olivares' characters are drawn together by a tulip-shaped flower in their wordless adventure. Olivares' pages are jammed packed with his charming, painted artwork.

The Future anthology is a nicely designed and produced package. The comics inside are experimental, with literary/artistic emphasis. Each story provides varying levels of interpretation. The longer you spend with them, the more meaningful they become.

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House of SchmerzHouse of Schmerz
by Clark Dissmeyer and
Lara McCoy-Rolofson

2010, self-published
16 b&w pages, including the covers
5.5" x 8.5", handmade, saddle stitched, no trim
$3 (or trades, CAD likes trades)
Website: What? Are you kidding?
Poopsheet: Clark Dissmeyer
Poopsheet: Lara McCoy-Rolofson
Clark Dissmeyer
917 E. 25th St. #5
Kearney, NE 68847

If the cover of CAD and LRM's recent comix reminds you of an old DC horror standard, then its secret is out. It's horror all right, but it's all played for laughs inside The House of Schmerz. Most of the work looks like Clark Dissmeyer's, but Lara McCoy-Rolofson get her fingers into the pie on a few of the gags.

Most of the book is one-pagers, featuring everything from demons, gross outs, grim fairy tales, the undead, werewolves, vampires, mermaids, and graveyards. What's not to like? It's horrific humor, just in time to start mixing it up for this year's celebration of All Hallows Eve.

Panels from House of Schmerz

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CZKCelebrity Zombie Killers
by Rick Copp and Mikhail Drujic

2010 Ape Entertainment
Character design and cover by Sanford Greene
Color by Jacinto Guerrero
Lettering by David Hedgecock
Invisible Hands Studios
Chairman Vin Di Bona
Editor-in-Chief Joanne Moore
Editor Jeff Foster
96 color pages, plus cover
$12.95
22 page preview
Facebook: CZK

The creative team for Celebrity Zombie Killers (CZK) brings with them an impressive list of professional credits. Writer Rick Copp has worked on TV's Teen Titans and The Brady Bunch Movie. Sanford Greene has worked on Wonder Girl and Marvel Adventures Spiderman.

CZK is a goofy horror comic about a group of tabloid celebrities and their entourage who are relentlessly attacked by hordes of flesh-eating zombies. The monsters are transformed by a virus that's sweeping the country.

Copp's characters are amalgamations of pop culture icons with the staying power of a viral video. They are obsessed with their own celebrity, appearance, and the most stimulating gratification of the moment. Not a lot of depth. But they are amusing to observe as they vie for attention and greater heights of popularity. Even when members of their party fall victim to the horrors of zombies, they remain singularly steadfast in their goals for world celebrity domination. At least the bodyguard has enough sense to know when to fight back and when to retreat. He gets the best of them through the worst of it, but not without a high body count and plenty of zombie-on-celebitches action.

The artwork by Drujic, along with Guerrero's color work, is outstanding. The fast-paced story is pure eye candy, filled with battle scenes and curvaceous, wannabe divas.

A page from CZK

A page from CZK

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Power OutPower Out
by Nathan Schreiber

2010 Canal Press
84 pages, plus cover
Interior and cover printed in black and blue ink on white, matte paper
Printed by Sips Comics
Winner of the 2009 Xeric Award
Nominated for the 2010 Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic
$9.95
Website: Nathan Schreiber
Book Trailer: Power Out
Read online: Act-i-vate
Interview: Multiversity Comics

An introverted teen withdraws into the world of video games and the web to escape the awkwardness and confusion of growing up. He and his older sister are no longer interested in family vacations, so when Mom and Dad want some R&R, the parents head off on their own. Sis takes off with friends for a supervision-free beach weekend leaving fourteen year old Justin alone in the suburbs. Things are okay until the blackout. It's massive, and suddenly Justin finds life a bit more confrontational without the comfort of electricity.

Power Out is a nicely produced exploration of characters reacting to external events and crises. Sister Carrie explores her relationship with boys and sexuality. She loves her brother but has difficultly relating to him, perhaps because of their age difference. She finds herself in the middle of a group that seem like longtime friends. But as time goes on she finally strings together moments of questionable behavior and starts to wonder what she's gotten herself into.

Justin seems just plain overwhelmed with the real world and blunders through it only when there's no other diverting options. His neighbor, a Spanish girl who doesn't seem to know any English, is his opposite in every way: outgoing, friendly, inquisitive, and wild. She forces interaction with her reluctant peer.

When the Spanish neighbor girl ramps up her word count Schreiber translates her word balloons below the panels. But he doesn't bother when her dialogue consists of only a few words. Maybe the mix in approach is intended to communicate Justin's bewilderment, but it also has a tendency to pull you out of the story, if you can't follow Spanish.

Schreiber does a good job telling his story in the comics medium. His artwork is simple, expressive, and nicely rendered. His pages stick to a structured layout of panels, but he varies the framing effectively to increase the drama and keep things visually interesting.

This volume collects chapters one and two of the story. Schreiber is up to chapter three online. Check it out. If you're impressed with Power Out, as I am, you'll want the print edition—no electrons required.

Page from Power Out

Page from Power Out

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Robert mini comixRobert by Clark Dissmeyer*

*and Lara McCoy-Rolofson (LRM) because Robert is her limbless stuff rabbit...
2010, self-published
8 b&w pages, including the covers
4.25" x 5.5", handmade, saddle stitched, no trim
$1 (plus first class stamp)
Website: Not on your life
Clark Dissmeyer
917 E. 25th St. #5
Kearney, NE 68847

Clark Dissmeyer, aka CAD, has produced a fun little mini comix in Robert. As noted above, it's based on a armless, legless stuffed rabbit. CAD provides a rapid fire series of one page (or less) gags in which poor Robert finds himself the helpless butt every time. If you thought Mr. Bill was funny, you'll love Robert.

CAD's has great comic timing, with just enough captions or lines of dialogue to deftly set up and deliver the gags. His artwork, although minimal, provides enough expression to strengthen the bits. It's a quick, funny read that'll leave you wanting more.

Panels from Robert

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Original content Copyright © 2010 Richard Krauss.
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