Reviews - Illustrated Fiction 10

 

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Reviews on this page:

Boot Hill #1

Cavaliers #1

Cornelia Cartoons #10

Ed #4

The Idol of Svargald

Mallard #3

Not My Small Diary #14

Phantascape #2

Rabbit Shadows

Tim Corrigan's
Comics & Stories #19

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Not My Small Diary #14 Part 1 coverNot My Small Diary #14
edited by Delaine Derry Green

This amazing anthology of indie comics is so huge it had to be divided into two volumes. As a sampler of contemporary small press cartoonists it's an absolute must have, weighing in with the work of some 53 different comikers. The stories range in length from one to five pages, with the majority being two. This issue's diaries are all about dating and the autobio comics herein pull no punches. By the time you finish all 138 pages you'll have seen it all—sex, lust, disgust, elation, heartbreak, warmth, laughter, anticipation, worry, weirdness, straight, gay, other,—oh yes, and L-O-V-E—thank God there's some love in these date diaries too!

There are plenty of favorites in this anthology but I'm going to resist singling them out. This wonderful collection is best taken as a whole. And it's pretty impressive when taken that way. I have nothing but admiration for the contributor's who share their stories and took the time to tell them in comics form. Editor Green deserves some kind of award too for bringing this all together into a beautiful handmade package. If you've ever dated, you'll love reading these true-life diaries. If you've never dated, it's even more worthwhile.

Not My Small Diary #14 is 138 b&w pages, split into two volumes with colored paper covers, and bound with hand-tied ribbon. It's available for $7 (postage paid) from Delaine's Small Web Site. (Comics > Not My Small Diary > NMSD 14)

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Phantascape #2 cover

Phantascape #2 edited by Jim Main

It's always great to see the second issue of a small press title make it to print—especially one that features continuing series like this one. As Associate Editor Sam Gafford said about small press comics in his issue one introduction, "You have to be really determined. There are so many roadblocks and speedbumps along the way..."

So congratulations to the Phantascape creative team for overcoming the challenges along the way and delivering another fine issue of this adventurous, supernatural small press comic.

 

Panel from Phantascape #2

The lead feature is the second chapter of The Chronicles of Reverend Moore. Created by Publisher and Managing Editor, Jim Main and Sam Gafford, it's a tale of good versus evil, set in the mid-1700's. Moore struggles against the agents of evil that attack him from all directions and his own sense of duty and morality as he chooses his path. Main and Gafford are progressing nicely through an epic tale that's layered with history, mystery, and plenty of action. The artwork and layouts are nicely rendered by Greg Woronchak. His artwork is bolder and simpler, with more blacks and virtually none of the crosshatching he used in issue one. He seems to be working toward a noir/goth style. Many of the best looking panels and pages—like the title page—have this noir look.

Panels from Phantascape #2

The other comic in this issue is part two of Sister Steel, written and illustrated by George McVey. This yarn is part scifi and part sword and sorcery. A modern-day woman finds herself in 2000 BC, compelled to don the battle armor of a warrior. Her surroundings are so alien she isn't sure if she's dreaming, hallucinating, or if her perceptions are really happening. McVey's pages are packed with detailed artwork that's a visual treat.

Phantascape #2 is 24 b&w pages, plus full color cover. Veteran small press artist and painter Dan W. Taylor provides a bold front cover featuring a scene from the Reverend Moore story. Dave Farley contributes a classic back cover pin-up of Sister Steel, with Jack Bertram handling the inside back cover and a letters page illo. Production Management provided by Richard Sullivan. Available for $3.95, postage paid, from Main Enterprises.

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Cavaliers #1 coverCavaliers #1 by Noor Hafizah

Malaysian writer and artist Noor Hafizah makes her comics debut in this new small press comic from Main Enterprises. The Cavaliers are a five young men with one foot in late adolescence and the other in early adulthood. The introductory page provides stats on each as well as a brief backgrounder on the story's realm.

The influences of RPGs, Manga, and superhero comics are nicely melded into a rich fantasy world filled with demons, goblins, elves, and magic. The young Cavaliers each possess unique powers plus the ability to transform into the innate spirit that lies within—dragon, werewolf, demon, gryphon, and serpent.

Hafizah has obviously immersed herself in the world of this series. It's clear that she's spent considerable thought on the background of her characters and the history of their worlds. The story itself is action oriented; filled with battles employing both brute strength and magic powers, but there's also plenty of threads that begin to reveal the more complex history beneath the surface that ultimately drives the story.Panels from Cavaliers #1

The characters, artwork, and humor seem targeted at younger readers, but there's enough substance for anyone who enjoys a good fantasy to find worthwhile.

Hafizah's artwork is strongly influenced by Manga: her cartoony/realistic style is ambitious and nicely rendered. The first issue of Cavaliers marks a strong debut. Let's hope there's many more editions.

Cavaliers #1 is 28 b&w pages, plus color cover. Jim Main, publisher. Richard Sullivan, production manager. Wally Lowe, colorist (front cover). It's available for $3.95 (postage paid) from Main Enterprises. Noor Hafizah (aka Lady Fieza) on Cloven Hand Comics and ComicSpace.

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Ed #4 CoverEd #4 by Sean Azzopardi

The first thing that struck me about the latest issue of Ed was the change in the look and feel of the pages. Azzopardi's recent experience with 24-hour comic sessions has encouraged experimentation and the need for speed has driven a looser, bolder style for both the artwork and the lettering. With a closer look you can see the layout and storytelling are influenced too. Ed's adventures in his fourth outing are more direct; the dialogue more succinct.

Still, the character Ed remains true to his past. He's still the same gentle, unassuming cartoonist who navigates his days through an engaging combination of plans and circumstance. His artistic soul is inspired by the wonder of nature but he balances his pure creative spirit with the realities of commercial illustration and the need to earn a living.

Panels from Ed #4

On one hand I admire Azzopardi for taking risks and experimenting. The bolder storytelling approach and panel designs are nice improvements. On the other hand, I also really like the more detailed, refined artwork used on Ed #3. Taken as a pair, it's exciting to see the growth and exploration across the two issues. It's tempting to offer a guess as to what will happen next, but I'd better leave that to Azzopardi. Now that he's set the stage for stylistic surprises, I'm anxious to see what direction he takes next!

Ed#4 is 28 b&w pages, plus a color cover. It's available directly from the artist here.

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Mallard #3 coverMallard #3
edited by Tom England

Mallard is an entertaining digest-sized zine with a nice variety of content. It includes two prose stories as well as a mix of comics and gag cartoons. Christopher Bernard Leahy contributes the third installment of his story, The Yearning and the Recoil. Without a recap of what happened in the first two parts, it takes a little while to get oriented, but the third chapter is well written and held my interest. A young man, hired to assist in the repair of the aging Brayling house struggles to understand his role in the project and his relationships with the estate's inhabitants.

Editor England provides the majority of the comics in the zine, plus the cover and the production work.

Gag cartoonHis artwork is simple, clean, and engaging. His stories are thoughtful, poetic, and lingering. His comics include a wordless, 1-pager about songs of love, 2-pages from the diary of a middle-aged man, and a 5 page story called Dialogue #2 that contemplates ideology and purpose.

The stick figure comics of regular contributor Joe Baddeley provide a nice contrast to England's more artsy comics. Baddeley's work is entirely gag driven. His single panel jokes and multi-panel strips are sprinkled throughout the book to provide moments of variety and laughs.

Comic strip

The two pages of comic strips by Dan Dyer are also funny. I particularly liked his series on texting.

Cartoon imageFuong Mai Nguyen provides 3 pages of drawings. They're not really comics in the traditional sense, but each page does tell a story or invites the reader to create one of their own.

The zine's final prose entry is called The Philosophical Hog by Claire Symonds. It's a fairy tale populated by woodland creatures with some nice moments of darkness and humor.

Mallard #3 is 32 pages including the cover; b&w throughout. Like issues 1 and 2, it's available in the UK for £1.50 postage paid. I imagine North American orders would be about £2.50 Tom England's MySpace page.
Send your orders to:

Mallard Small Press
Tom England
4 Laburnum Avenue
Durham DH1 4HA
UK

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Boot Hill #1 coverBoot Hill #1
edited by Sam Gafford

Editor Gafford aptly describes his new small press comic book as Billy the Kid meets Dracula. The book's host is The Gunslinger, a cowboy who's returned from the grave to bring us a trio of macabre tales of the old west. The character's visual design was created by John Lambert and the book includes a full page drawing of the undead storyteller. I'm glad Gafford included it in the debut issue because it provides a larger more detailed view of the undead host without the captions and word balloons of the comic stories.

All three yarns in the debut issue were penned by Gafford and illustrated by a different artist. First up is an 8-page story nicely drawn by Dave Farley. Like all of the artists in the book, Farley is a frequent contributor to Main Enterprises zines.

Panel from storyFarley's work on Do Not Forsake Me is his first published comic story. The story is a classic tale of just deserts with a horrific conclusion.

Panel from storyNext, is a 7-page story called The Horseshoes, that's ably drawn by Jack Bertram. A bungling horse thief is lucky enough to escape hanging only to escalate his list of offenses until a new court doles out a sentence to match the crimes.

Panel from storyThe final entry, The Battle of Perkin's Feed, is artist Lambert's first published comic story. It's a tongue-in-cheek yarn about the competition for customers between rival feed stores. Lambert's cartoony style is nicely matched to the over-the-top script.

Gafford did a great job bringing life to his vision of a Western comic book with a nod to EC and/or Uncle Creepy. I get the feeling the creative team on this book had a lot of fun putting it together.

Boot Hill #1 is 24 b&w pages, plus full color cover by Scott McClung. It's available for $3.95 postage paid from the publisher Main Enterprises.

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Rabbit Shadows coverRabbit Shadows by Jason Viola

Rabbit Shadows is a handmade mini comic, that's just a tad smaller than the size of a quarter of a sheet of paper. It's bound on the short edge, so the page layout is horizontal. Each page features a nicely rendered full page illustration with lots of details and crosshatching. Viola relies entirely on his artwork to tell the story. His rabbit muse, tucked inside a cozy burrow make an ideal character and setting for the fable's opening scene. The drawing style and the unencumbered artwork—free of narrative or word balloons competing for real estate—along with the handmade cover, all contribute to the "art comic" feel of this small press comic.

The visual story is easy to follow, even without narrative or dialogue, for most of the fable. The end pages are a little less distinct and although Viola's main idea comes through, there's enough subtlety for some personal interpretation as well.

Panel from Rabbit Shadows

Rabbit Shadows is 44 b&w pages, plus a heavy-weight cover with the illustrated title artwork affixed. It's available for $3 here. To see more of Viola's work check out his webcomics The Bullet Points and Herman the Manatee.

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The Idol of Svargald cover

The Idol of Svarbald
by Shaenon K. Garrity & Andrew Farago

This action-packed adventure yarn has its roots in classic teen adventurers like The Hardy Boys, but Garrity and Farago have added a meglomaniacal twist to spice things up. The main character, Max O'Millions, really is the richest kid on Earth. An unwavering capitalist, he and his Adventure Society gang will solve any problem for the right price. In The Idol of Svarbald, a group of Norwegian Monks ask the boys to help them regain their stolen idol, a golden statue of the god Ramatulu.

Garrity's story unfolds faster than a harebrained get-rich-quick scheme and it's loaded with nice pulpy touches like a scrap metal drive; thickly-accented foreigners; giant story props right out of a 50s Batman comic; and a seemingly endless supply of vintage exclamations like "Gee Willickers" and "Cushlamochree".

Panels from The Idol of Svargald

Farago's artwork is thrifty and energetic with nicely rendered figures and just enough background detail to set the scene or the mood. His bold use of blacks and vintage clothing pay tribute to the golden era this tale draws its inspiration from.

The Chronicles of William Bazillion is part of the Webcomics Nation and both Garrity and Farago have ComicSpace pages.

The Idol of Svarbald is a digest-sized, 28-page, b&w small press comic with a black paper cover. It's available for $3 and $1 postage from Webcomics Nation's Swapmeet.

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Tim Corrigan's Comics and Stories #19 coverTim Corrigan's
Comics and Stories #19

This issue features the fourth installment of The Saga of Tyran, which is good and bad. The good part is that the story is really getting interesting and we're beginning to learn more about the characters and the strange worlds they inhabit. The bad part is that Tyran won't be back next issue. Instead his return will be "all in good time."

Corrigan included an extra four-page letters section in this issue. Letters of comment are always fun to read and Corrigan's friends and fans are unanimous in their enjoyment of his comics and the recent Tyran series.

A few of the earlier issues had some production problems, but it looks as if Corrigan has worked things out. This issue, like its predecessor, has solid printing and production. The front and back covers are in crisp, bright, full colors, with excellent registration. The b&w interior pages are also crisp and consistent with rich, solid blacks throughout.

Panel from Tim Corrigan's Comics and Stories #19

Corrigan has been like clockwork delivering his Comics and Stories on an impressive monthly schedule. If you'd like to catch-up, he's re-released the back issues with full color covers and is offering them for $1.50 each. Or you can subscribe for the price of $15.00 for the next 12 issues. Send your dough to:
Tim Corrigan
PO Box 25
Houghton, NY 14744

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Cornelia Cartoons #10 coverCornelia Cartoons #10 by Kel M. Crum

Crum is a cartoonist and comedy writer who contributed to Cincinnati's Gary Burbank radio show for over 15 years. His comic stories are loaded with side jokes, entertaining banter, and topical humor.

Crum's collective of comedic characters includes Ed Thud, Cornelia Dodson, Reba Moonves, and Helen Boomer. In addition to his self-published titles, his work has appeared in small press comics such as Angry Dog Press' Potlatch, Bob Corby's Oh Comics, and Almost Normal Comics.

Crum's website, Dangerous Bird Productions, is loaded with sample Cornelia and Ed Thud cartoons, background information about the artist, comic jams, contact information, and his catalog of back issues.

Comic strip panels

Crum's main character Cornelia, is a young, adventurous working girl with a knack for finding trouble. The lead story in issue #10, Witness Protection, unfolds as Corny and her part-time foil, Reba Moonves, match wits with a couple of dim-bulb bank robbers. It's a 9-page comedy adventure story. And while the action does follow a logical progression, the real fun is in the quips, remarks, and asides Crum packs in along the way.

Comic strip panels

Next up is a 1-page comic featuring another Crum favorite, hapless Ed Thud. It's followed by a second 1-pager with Corny at the center of an unfashionable rant about what not to wear. The issue's final episode involves a bucket of ice cream that'll please more than your palate.

Cornelia Cartoons #10 is 7" x 8.5", b&w, 16 pages (including cover). It's available for $2 from Kel M. Crum. To order, send him an email.

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Original content Copyright © 2007 Richard Krauss.
All other copyrights belong to their respective owners.