Comic Fan #1 edited by Jim Main
Comic Fan is a great fanzine that delivers exactly what the name implies — and more. Editor Main provides an enjoyable mix of coverage on major and minor titles, collectibles, media, and comics fandom itself. His writers are long-time collectors and readers, well-versed on their subjects and excited about the chance to share their knowledge and observations. His stable of artists are also a seasoned group. Comic Fan features some outstanding spot illustrations that are generously spread throughout the zine. The debut issue provides 4 main features:
Sam Gafford's report on Invincible provides a good synopsis of the character and his adventures, the rise of creator Robert Kirkman's career, and smart commentary on the series.
Lance "Doc" Boucher's article on The Eye was a pleasure to read. Loaded with art and the history about the character's creation, evolution, and appearances, it provides an informative glimpse into the early days of fandom and its characters — real and imaginary.
I must've blinked when The Spirit TV movie debuted. In fact, I didn't even know it existed until I read about it in this issue of Comic Fan. Fortunately, Frank Oviatt provides all the details in his comprehensive report and commentary on this near-classic. In addition to a full story recap, Oviatt provides a great career brief on each of the movie's key contributors. I was floored to learn Nana Visitor was cast as Ellen Dolan!
Lee Stone follows with his in-depth article tracing the convoluted career of Batgirl from her simultaneous TV/comic debut, through several reincarnations, and finally to her potential return from limbo. It's been a wild, turbulent ride for the female caped crusader, but Stone never skips a beat — even through character and identity changes!
This issue shines its collectible's spotlight on Batmania and Main provides photographic evidence of many unique and wacky trophies from the nation's whirlwind love affair with everything Batman.
Comic Fan #1 also includes a nice collection of reviews of Marvel, DC, and several indie titles by Sam Gafford, Shawn Granger, and Matt Levin. The outstanding spot illustrations I mentioned earlier were drawn by Larry Blake, Ben Robinson III, Chuck Robinson II, Stewart, Dave Farley (cover), Dan Adkins, Lance "Doc" Boucher, John Mundt, and Larry Tisch. Production management by Floyd.
Comic Fan #1 is 36 b&w pages, plus a full color cover. $6.50 postage paid from Main Enterprises.
Guest Editor Alec Longstreth
This issue of Papercutter is exceptional in at least two ways. First, it represents an excellent balance between solid production values and sticker price. With good quality cover and interior paper stock, a full color cover and b&w interior, it delivers a very appealing package that's easy to hold and inviting to read for under five bucks.
The other distinction this small press comics anthology offers is consistently solid content. Each of its three entries is well conceived and well told. There's no filler pages here. Even the inside front and back covers by Nate Beaty are beautifully rendered and designed.
Guest Editor Longstreth opens the issue with his own story, Summer Stock, about his memorable Summer spent working as a theater company's Assistant Technical Director in Randolph, Vermont. At 22 pages, it's the issue's longest story and is featured on the beautifully drawn and colored cover. It's a slice-of-life diary about the connections and relationships the cartoonist built along with the sets.
Ken Dahl's sobering, 10-page contribution is a double-barrreled assault on American culture and consumerism and its devastating results. The piece is politically charged and jarring in the company of the book's other stories. But the sharp contrast helps make the point and Dahl's writing is simply brilliant. He successfully presents a view of America from the outside and whether you agree or not with this perspective, the only questions that remains are: How pervasive is it and what direction do we go from here?
After Dahl, there's no easy transition to the book's final entry. You just have to turn the page. Julia Wertz and Laura Parks team up to give their take on that whole Public Hair/Pubic Hair misunderstanding. It's a funny, personal 4-page comic that's equally well drawn and scripted.
Papercutter #6 is a highly accessible comic that could be categorized as an art comic. Nicely produced without being lavish, and very reasonably priced. Its three stories are worth telling and told well. It's a great example of what all the fuss is about in small press comics today. Published by Tugboat Press and available from multiple outlets. Websites: Alec Longstreth, Ken Dahl, and Julia Wertz.
Tales of Woodsman Pete by Lilli Carré
First published in 2006 by Top Shelf, Tales of Woodsman Pete With Full Particulars is a quirky, charming collection of comics. The 80-page, perfect bound volume features plenty of single page stories, with a few longer episodes mixed in to provide a nicely varied reading experience. Although Pete gets the title and the lion's share of the ink, there are plenty of separate adventures with Paul Bunyan and his Ox, Babe as well.
Pete is a serious woodsman - long beard, ear-flap hat, and an independent spirit bordering on psychotic. He lives alone in a cabin in the woods. His only companions are his bear skin rug, named Philippe, and wall full of mounted deer, elk, and moose heads. Carré's humor is direct, dry, and sometimes surprisingly sentimental as she puts Pete through his weekly routine doing important woodsman stuff like hunting, fishing, and cavorting with nature.
Meanwhile in a parallel universe, Paul Bunyan's routine is on a grander scale. Paul loves women but their comparatively miniscule size presents a real challenge. Poor Paul. All his relationships seem doomed to be short term. But that doesn't keep the big Bunyan from trying.
I thoroughly enjoyed Carré's Woodsman Pete and look forward to seeing more of her work. Carré's Website. Tales of Woodsman Pete at Top Shelf.
Cosmic Man #1
by Steve Keeter and Tony Lorenz
Prolific small press publisher Jim Main has added another title to his catalog: Cosmic Man! Inside the striking, full color front cover by Scott McClung, writer Steve Keeter provides a useful introduction to the characters and their previous appearances in past issues of Main Enterprises' *PPFSZT! comic magazine. Armed with this background, you're ready to launch into the first issue's 20-page adventure penned by Keeter, drawn by Tony Lorenz, and lettered by Jim Pack.
The Cosmic Man is a somewhat naive, superpowerful being who came to Earth after his homeworld was destroyed. He found allies in Dr. Raymond Kelsey, his daughter Mary, and K'Bar, another superpowered being from the same world as the Cosmic Man. In This Earth... My Battlefield our heros are attacked at their mountain retreat by a special forces team who claim to represent the government. Cosmic Man #1 offers plenty of action, twists, and misunderstandings in classic superhero comics tradition. Artist Jack Bertram contributes a full page pin-up of Cosmic Man on the inside back cover. Production management provided by Richard Sullivan.
Cosmic Man #1 is $3.25 postage paid from Main Enterprises. The issue was printed by SIPS Comics in Canada, who bind in a protective cover over the comic's own.
Comics and Sequential Art
by Will Eisner
What makes a good comic story? Eisner examined this question with his contemporaries in the 80's and found that most produced their art "instinctively". When he started teaching at The School of Visual Arts he began to break apart and examine the individual elements that make up a good comic story. This book evolved from his series of essays from The Spirit magazine and his syllabus from his course on Sequential Art.
Comics are a unique form of communication that employs both images and words. While it's tempting to compare comics with film, the images on a comic page are still and silent. The "language" of comics is its own. A marriage of visuals, narrative, and dialogue, where even the text itself is often rendered as an image to enhance its meaning or the mood of the story.
Reading comics is an experience of the sum of its parts. But to teach comics creation, Eisner breaks things apart and focuses each chapter of his book on an essential discipline: Imagery, timing, the frame, expressive anatomy, writing & sequential art, application (the use of sequential art) and concludes with a chapter on teaching/learning.
Each chapter is generously illustrated with both specific, singly-focused examples as well as complete comic stories. Several Spirit stories are presented with relevant notations by the author in the margins. It's both fascinating and instructive to read these background annotations about his classic work.
Eisner analyzes each of his subjects in thoughtful detail and generously imparts the hard-won lessons of a master storyteller, cartoonist and communicator to his readers. Comics and Sequential Art is a great textbook for aspiring cartoonists and graphic novelists to read and study. 164 pages, $22.99 Top
Shore Leave Showcase Vol. 1 by Max Clotfelter
Volume 1 of Shore Leave Showcase is subtitled: Odin's Okra. This oblong mini comic is divided into two sections. The first, Odin, presents daily comic strips about two skinheads trying to reduce a complex world into simple black-and-white.
Clotfelter does a nice job of delivering social commentary along with some wicked punchlines. Besides the gags, a larger storyline progressess across the series and is left continued for the next volume. The artwork for Odin is simple, but engaging.
Clotfelter takes the artwork up a notch in the second section, Okra, with more complex looking characters; and lots of crosshatching and details. In contrast to the straight-ahead Odin comic strips, Okra is a surreal progression told in a series of full page panels, without dialogue or narration. I enjoyed reading Shore Leave Showcase and look forward to seeing more work by Clotfelter.
Shore Leave Showcase Vol. 1 is 5.5" x 2.75, 28 interior black-on-white pages, plus a black-on-tan paper cover. You can purchase it from the Poopsheet Shop for $1.50 plus postage. Top
Levels of Insanity
by John Callahan
Callahan's jokes are consistently raw, outrageous, and funny. This collection of his cartoons was published in 2004. Some of the gags relate to the stories of the day like Janet Jackson's Superbowl boob and the '04 election, but they're still funny today. Callahan revels in poking fun at Bush and his Iraqi war, but he takes on Michael Moore, gay marriage, and feminists just as easily. Sometimes his gags are just gags, like the angry protester with a sign that reads, "Homeless Go Home." But most often they also make a comment about life in America, like the bozo jumping for joy outside an adult video shop who exclaims, "I don't need you anymore!! I've got the Internet!"
The book concludes with a short interview with Callahan that provides some meaty background on the cartoonist, his perspective, his music, and a few of his other projects. 106 pages, Ballantine Books. Orderable from Amazon.com, Powell's, and other places. But if you just can't wait and you need Callahan cartoons right now, visit his website. Top
Satyr #7 edited by Jim Main
Satyr is an anthology comics zine with a nod in the direction of comix. The highlight of the issue is a 4-pager by the late Michael Roden, called Door Eye and the Magic Clock. It's a surreal adventure in time travel that affords itself well to alien landscapes, bug-eyed monsters, and the classic, richly textured details that are hallmarks of Roden's artwork. Editor Main has recently published several comix with work by Roden, but his work here is exceptional. Each page must have taken many hours to complete and the panels include many of Roden's favorite icons, subjects, and rendering techniques.
The next feature is Carl Alessi's history of Men's Magazines that provides some interesting factoids about "the skins".
Alessi added his own illustrations to his article, which is hand lettered rather than typed. It's an unusual technique, but it actually helps integrate this lone article into an otherwise all-comics zine. Next, Brien Wayne Powell contributes a funny 1-pager starring Magnet Man and Cow Man.
Bebop provides a 4-page story about a bittersweet encounter between two strangers warming a precinct bench while they each await booking. Larry Tisch's 1-page Left Handed Street Comic offers a series of monstrous puns delivered by double-breasted stick figures! Which Carl Alessi follows up with a 1-pager about Mr. Girly Cartoonist set in the same era as his article earlier in the zine. The final strip is a 4-pager by Jack Bertram about a cartoonist obsessed with completing his 24-hour comic - no matter what. Addition artwork is provided by Don Marquez (front cover), Dan W. Taylor, Kor Watkins, Dave Farley, and Mike Roden (back cover). Satyr #7, 30 b&w pages, plus color covers. $3.95 from Main Enterprises.
Bluefuzz The Hero by Jesse Reklaw
Bluefuzz is not a hero. Not even close. Even if he was just a sandwich, no one would order him. I would never want to know or associate with him. He's a frickin' idiot. But as long as you can keep your distance, his wacky adventures are pretty entertaining. You could say this mini comic is about his quest to redeem himself for his past autrocities. But that would imply that he's driven by guilt or a new-found passion for redemption. But he's not. He's more like a slacker adventurer who'll support the concept of clearing his name as long as it doesn't take too long or require too much effort.
Reklaw populates this yarn with peculiar characters and nicely drawn cartoons. His offbeat story is funny and entertaining. It's told in single-page episodes, each with its own title. Interspursed throughout the book's black-and-white comic pages are full page, color, watercolor paintings highlighting a scene from the story. Reklaw is a talented cartoonist, storyteller, and painter, so getting a little of each of his artistic skills in a single package adds to the book's appeal.
Bluefuzz the Hero includes 20 b&w pages of comics and 8 pages of color paintings, which are saddle-stitched inside a wrap-around color cover. I picked this up at Reading Frenzy's retail shop for $4. If you want to order one, you might contact Reklaw directly via his Slow Wave website. Top
*PPFSZT! #27 edited by Jim Main
Editor and publisher Main has been actively involved with small press zines since about 1972. In fact, that's the year he recollects the first issue of *PPFSZT! - his longest running title - debuted. The name was one of several suggested by Mike Tuz, with embellished spelling by Main. It's pronounced "Fiz-Zit!". Now, over two decades later, it's still going strong with its 27th issue.
I'm not sure if the term "small press comics" was sticking in 2003 or not, but this issue reminds me more of a nicely produced comics fanzine, complete with superheroes. It looks like it was printed using the shortrun printing techniques of the day: print on 11x17 paper, then fold and stitch, without a trim.
The Battle for Tampa by Steve Keeter and Tony Lorenz is the 8-page conclusion of The Cosmic Man saga that began in an earlier issue. If you enjoy fan-produced superhero comics with heart, you'll enjoy this yarn. Tim Kelly provides a couple of nice Under the Sea comic strips with a whale, octopus, and other sea creatures trading quips.
Fragile is a 5-page comic story by Brien Wayne Powell. I enjoyed its wry humor and the deadpan delivery of the characters.
Johnny Gonzales contributes, Same Old Song and Dance, a 7-pager featuring a brawling encounter between a potential assassin and an iron-jawed secret agent. The issue concludes with a wacky Twilight Samerais 1-pager by Kathy, Judy, and Steve Keeter. Full page artwork and spot illustrations for the letters column, contents page, and editorial are provided by Scott Rosen, Chas Smith, Chuck Robinson II, Floyd Choat, Mike Tuz, Myke, Normand LaBelle, Scott McClung (front cover), and Winston Lee Jackson (back cover).
*PPFSZT! #27 is 32 b&w pages plus color covers. $6 from Main Enterprises. Top