Reviews - Illustrated Fiction 22


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Reviews on this page:

Buzzpop #1

Buzzpop #3

Chase #1-10*

Costumed Crimefighter Comics #1-4*

Holiday Out #1

How Rice is Made

Marc Haines: Short Attention Span

Satyr #10

Was That Supposed to be Funny?

Worms #5

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Holiday Out #1
Holiday Out #1 front and back covers

Holiday Out #1 by Michael Lail

The new comic book version of Holiday Out is actually a collection of work done during the cartooning explosion of the early 80s. Holiday Out began as a comic strip in 1982. It was syndicated for newspapers and ran in The Buyer's Guide (Comic Buyer's Guide).

The center section of the new comic, published by Main Enterprises, reprints thirty of the original comic strips. Later the series appeared in its own comic book title, published by Renegade Press.

The issue opens with a short introduction by editor Lail that quickly transitions to comments from fans, syndicate editors, and comic creators who wrote to Lail back in the day. These actual letters of comment and one-liners make for interesting reading and provide the opportunity to have a letters column in the comeback issue.

Richard "Grass" Green from Holiday Out #1

The first story in the book is a nine-page comic book-style story written by Michael Vance (aka Michael Lail) and drawn by Richard "Grass" Green. The plot is secondary to the non-stop quips and satirical jabs that Green ably complements with his frenetic, action-packed cartooning.

Holiday Out comic strip

I'm not certain who drew the comic strip version of Holiday Out, but it seems to be Wayne Truman, who's credited with the character designs. The comic strips seems to have a different set of characters than the opening story drawn by Green. Here the setting in outdoors with the cast trading their quips in wooded clearings, caves, or on the banks of a river ala Pogo.

Charles Smith in Holiday Out #1

The final story returns to comic book-style presentation. In this one leaves the comedy behind. In fact, the title "Holiday Out", could be substituted with "Twilight Zone". The story is a mix of science fiction and horror written by Vance and illustrated by Charles Smith.

There's plenty of Holiday Out material available to keep this title going for several more issues. I hope publisher Jim Main keeps them coming, but I'd love to see editor Lail give us uninitiated an overview of the Holiday Out universe. How does the comic strip, the slapstick hotel, and its tales of the supernatural all fit together?

Holiday Out #1 (2010, Main Enterprises) 24 b&w pages, plus full color covers. 5.5" x 8.5", saddle stitch binding, printed through the Small Press Association (SPA). It's available for $4.50 (postage paid) from Main Enterprises.

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Buzzpop #1

Buzzpop #1 by Matt Chicorel & Travis T.

Technically this is Buzzpop #1 the Deluxe Edition, which supersedes all previous editions of Buzzpop #1. Like an Ace Double, this comic flips to reveal a second cover. Slightly more than one half of it is by Chicorel, and slightly less than the other half is Drop Dead Dumb by Mr T. The two buddies share the same irreverent sense of humor and combining their work into a single comic provides a nice, complementary mix of styles. The inside covers include a photograph of both cartoonists personifying the characters who populate Drop Dead Dumb.

Mr. T opens his half with a two-pager about Duggy Beiderbecke, a horny frat brat on the make. He heads right for the jugular and earns the book its adults only rating with the stroke of a single panel.

A panel from Alabama Jihad's Over (If You Want It)

Next is Alabama Jihad's Over (If You Want It). This eight-page mini epic traces the lives of the members of punk band Alabama Jihad from cradle to—in some cases—grave. The pages are rich with atmosphere and packed with story and art. Mr. T captures the punk scene expertly and delivers some funny bits in this biting satire. There's a fun crossover scene in which the band members encounter Chicorel's characters Trenchcoat and Kim.

Mr. T wrap up his half of the comic with a final two-pager about a crimefighting gang of heroes called the Knife Squad.

Chicorel's portion of Buzzpop consists of six stories featuring characters like Annie and her Indestructible Guitar, Rock-n-Robots, Cat-Man-Do, Threnchcoat, and Kim. Their adventures range from crimefighting skirmishes, dreamy robot love, funny slice-of-life episodes, and the laments of would-be action heroes on a slow night.

The deluxe edition of Buzzpop #1 provides a nice sample of both cartoonist's work drawn from the worlds of indie music, struggling artists, and too many hours spent reading comic books.

A panel from Buzzpop #1

Buzzpop #1 (2009, Night Light Comics) is 36 b&w pages, plus black on green covers. 5.5" x 8.5", saddle stitch binding, with machine trim. It's available for $3 along with several other issues and titles from Night Light Comics. You can read many of Chicorel's comics online there and keep up on his projects via his blog. Travis T. can be contacted via MySpace.

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How Rice is Made

How Rice is Made by Lara McCoy-Rolofson

The title and opening page of LMR's How Rice is Made set me up to expect a serious documentary in comics form. The only hint that the narrative might not be straight-forward was the character LMR choose to ponder the subject in the second panel. But as the story unfolds, it quickly turns from grainy factoids to slapstick humor in the rice fields of Japan.

LMR is clearly having fun with her story. It becomes more absurd as it progresses to its climatic clash between the forces of good and evil. It's a short, but fun ride.

How Rice is Made (2010, LMR) 8 b&w pages, including the self-cover. 5.5" x 8.5", handmade, saddle stitch binding, and untrimmed. $2 from Lara McCoy-Rolofson, who can be contacted via her page at the Poopsheet Foundation, where you can read previews of her comics.

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Costumed Crimefighter Comics #1 & 2 covers

Costumed Crimefighter Comics #1-4 by Josh Tonn

Costumed Crimefighter Comics is a punch-drunk cocktail of camp, crude, and charisma. Creator Josh Tonn captures the look and feel of Golden Age comics beautifully with stilted action poses complete with speed lines, wooden dialogue that mimics the narration, and absurd situations played deadpan straight.

Despite its obvious satire, there's a genuine feeling of nostalgia as Frogman, The Bug, and Captain Electro make complete asses of themselves in their careless attempts to dole out self-righteous justice.

The stories and plots are cast solidly in the good old days, but these foul-mouthed crimefighters look to the street life of their beloved Buffalo for their profuse language and their sentiments.

Panesl from CCC #1

In the debut issue each hero is introduced in his own amazing adventure. The wall-eyed Frogman delivers quick justice with his fists. Captain Electro takes on the Neo-Nazi Nightmare and The Bug dispatches Goldfish, Poker-Face, and the Leprechaun one page at a time.

By the second issue the three heroes team-up to take on the menace of an escaped chimpanzee who alludes Buffalo's official safeguards. In the backup story, a new hero is introduced: the Woodsman. Friend to forest creatures, the Woodsman smashes a deadly dumping scheme by money-grubbing corporate city dwellers.

Issue #3's lead story features the Frogman and his heroic pals enjoying some fast eats atop the Burger Bomb. Suddenly they find themselves in a deadly parking lot skirmish with Buffalo's notorious street gangs: The Hell-Hounds, Iguana Gang, and The Viking Boys. With a 5:1 ratio and cold, hard steel against superpowered fisticuffs readers won't see this bloody taste of justice coming. Rounding out the issue is the introduction of The Blue Blazer who fights fire with fire as he squares off with The Red Flamer.

panels from CCC

Perhaps the greatest villain to confront the citizens of Buffalo and the Frogman and his pals is the grotesque, mockery of a kingpin, "King Crab" Kowalski. In the lead story of issue #4 our three heroes face their toughest challenge yet when they attempt to yank victory from the vise-grip of their hardened, flabby foe.

If by issue #4 you're starting to feel as if the triple-C is just a boys club, you couldn't be more mistaken. This time out the backup features the sexy, pitchfork-wielding, stunning She Devil. This gal rocks as she uproots a mutated hippie known as The Weed in record time. Whew, thanks She Devil! And thank you Mr. Tonn for these retro send-ups from an alternative Golden Age.

Tonn is a huge fan of team comics. He's taking his time to introduce his growing cast of characters, but it's all leading up to the formation of the Super-Awesome Squad planned for a future double-size issue of the triple-C. He's also just published the first issue of an unrelated series called Stupid Funny Comics.

Costumed Crimefighter Comics #3 & 4 covers

Costumed Crimefighter Comics #1 (March 2009), #2 (June 2009), #3 (Sept. 2009), and #4 (Dec. 2009) all published by Ace Comics, 16 b&w pages each, with covers printed on distinctive blue stock. 5.5" x 8.5", handmade with saddle stitch binding, no trim. Check out his Facebook page (Ace Comics Fan). His comics are available for $2 each (plus postage I imagine). Contact Josh Tonn via email to order yours. Mature readers. A Midnight Fiction Favorite

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Was That Supposed to be Funny? coverWas That Supposed to be Funny? by Lauren Barnett

Lauren Barnett hits another home run for great titles. This one captures both her self-depreciating humor and the larger experience of every struggling cartoonist who ever tried to get a laugh.

The zine features 24 pages of short comics and gags. The unifying theme is selected entries from childhood diaries that Barnett turns into comic fodder. These "flashbacks" are interspersed throughout the zine with recent autobiographical excursions into Brooklyn and urban existence.

For me the best insights are the ones that correlate the perspectives of the girl at 10- or 15-years old contrasted to the young adult of 25. Office work for one, but more the subject matter that's top-of-mind at the time. The playful spirit still comes out in the adult Barnett, but it's tempered by life's grown-up demands.

Except for the outside covers, everything is printed in black and white. It looks like Barnett colors it all anyway, as she does on her blog Me Likes You Comics. Reproduced in grays, the tones add some welcome depth to her simple artwork.

Panels from Was That Supposed to be Funny?

Was That Supposed to be Funny? (March 2010) is 22 b&w pages, plus 2 full color pages that make up its self-cover. 5.5" x 8.5", handmade with saddle stitch binding, untrimmed. It's available for $4 from Lauren Barnett. You can view the back cover at her Etsy Store, along with her other zines like I'd Sure Like Some Fucking Pancakes. You can see Barnett interviewed by Jose Ramos in a Crazy Sexy Geeks video about Was That Supposed to be Funny? and her other mini comics.

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Chase #1-3 covers
Chase #1-3

Chase #1-10 by Jim Main and John Lambert

I originally intended to focus on the more recent issues of Chase for this review. But when I sat down to read them, I decided to start at the beginning of the series and reread the early issues. Chase is a novel-length story told in shorter "chapters" that span two to three issues. The series started out in the old mini comics format (4.5" x 5.5") and recently expanded to regular comic book size.

The story concept and writing is by publisher Jim Main. Main has been a comics reader and small press publisher for many years. You can see influences of Marvel and pulp fiction in his storyline. It's filled with action, character conflicts, danger, and unexpected surprises.

The artwork by John Lambert is excellent. His work started out strong in the early issues and improves incrementally as the issues progress. With issue #10 he's drawn well over 100 pages of story.

The final production work on the artwork and the print prep was handled early on by Dan W. Taylor. One of the original Newave cartoonists, Taylor has contributed to and published dozens of mini comix over the years. His work shines quietly in the background of the first eight issues. Marc Haines took over the production work with issue #9, as the book increased to comic book size.

After the first issue, Main added a letters column that appears in most issues. In issue #6 he put out a call for readers to send in drawings of their favorite Chase cast members, which he published in issues #7 and 8.

In early 2009, Chase was selected as the winner of the 2009 Gaffy and Syndie (Small Press Syndicate) Awards for best mini comic.

Chase #4, 5, and 6 covers
Chase #4-6

The Chase story is about a crime family, the Marsdens, and the secret Special Crime Deterrent Force (SCDF) that brought them to justice. As the story opens, the Marsdens begin escaping from imprisonment and gather for their next assault on humanity. As word of the impending danger reaches SCDF chief Stan Winslow, he begins reassembling the specialized task force that originally brought them to justice.

Keeping readers straight on two teams worth of characters is a lot to manage, but Main and Lambert do a credible job of it. I had no trouble keeping everyone straight, but rereading the early issues was helpful. As one reader suggested in an LOC, a short recap of the story thus far might be a helpful addition.

I love the traditional mini comic format, but I imagine both Lambert and Main eventually wanted more space to work with. Despite the great job Lambert did on the smaller pages, I have to agree the larger size was a good move. His work has never looked better and the comic-book-size issues also sport full color covers.

Most of Main Enterprises' comics and zines include a dedication to a small press creator in every edition. The tradition continues with Chase. In fact, in issue #8 the practice spills over into the storyline with "placements" of Wade Busby's characters Minky and Mr. Emergency, references to Sam Gafford, "Doc" Boucher, and cover repros of ME comics like Boot Hill, Cavaliers, Comic Fan, and Cosmic Man.

Chase #7 and 8 covers
Chase #7 and 8

Mini comic format issues of Chase are b&w, with self covers, handmade with saddle stitch binding and without trim:
Chase #1 Family Reunion Part 1, 8 pages (Fall 2008) $1.60
Chase #2 Family Reunion Part 2, 12 pages (Oct. 2008) $2.00
Chase #3 Family Reunion Part 3, 12 pages (Nov. 2008) $1.90
Chase #4 The Adventures of Jackie Spratt, 12 pages (Dec. 2008) $1.90
Chase #5 The Collective Objective Part 1, 12 pages (Jan. 2009) $1.90
Chase #6 The Collective Objective Part 2, 12 pages (Feb. 2009) $1.95
Chase #7 Nate Solomon's Blues Part 1, 16 pages (Apr. 2009) $1.95
Chase #8 Nate Solomon's Blues Part 2, 24 pages (Winter 2009) $2.20
Chase #1-8 are available in a bundle for $12.30

Chase #9 and 10 covers
Chase #9 and 10

Comic book format issues of Chase with b&w interior pages, plus color covers, are printed by the SPA (Dime Store Productions), with saddle stitch binding.
Chase #9 Deep Cover Part 1, 8 pages, plus covers (Mar. 2010) $2.25
Chase #10 Deep Cover Part 2, 16 pages, plus covers (May 2010) $3.50-print, $1.00-PDF
At the moment, all issues are still available from Main Enterprises. Get them while you still can. A Midnight Fiction Favorite

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Worms #5 coverWorms #5
by Brian John Mitchell and
Kimberlee Traub

Worms is one of several micro mini comix series written by Brian John Mitchell and published through his Silber Media productions. This series could be categorized as science fiction and/or horror.

Previously the Worms heroine found herself hospitalized and subjected to a bizarre medical experiment in which alien worms were introduced into her bloodstream through an IV drip. Worms #5 opens as she struggles to escape this living nightmare.

The story is told in first person through the voice of the heroine. Her name has not yet been revealed to the reader (unless I missed it in prior issues). Mitchell refers to her as "our girl" in the efficient one-page recap he provides up front to orient new and old readers and get things off to a quick start.

As usual, this segment of Worms is all action and plenty of surprises. It's a fun ride and leaves you waiting for the next issue, particularly after the cliffhanger ending.

Kimberlee Traub's stylized artwork conveys the action well. It was particularly fun to see how she handled the outside world when "our girl" finally breaks out of the institution.

Pages from Worms #5

Worms #5 (2009, Silber Media) 52 b&w pages, including the self-cover. Approx. 2" x 2.25", handmade, saddle stitched, and untrimmed. Each issue comes inserted into a tiny plastic bag. Issue #5 and many other micro mini comix are available for $1 a copy from Silber Media. (BTW, the website was recently redesigned with much improved navigation.)

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Satyr #10 coverSatyr #10
edited by Jim Main

Satyr is a comix anthology published by Main Enterprises. The content is an eclectic mix of street level fables and pop culture satire. The eye-popping cover is a painting by Jeff Gaither called I'm okay . . . you're okay. It has nothing and everything to do with what waits inside. The cycloptic head is both grotesque and beautiful. It's gross, but ladled with whimsy. That's Satyr. A quirky anthology that lingers at the edges of extremes with an occasional nod to the supernatural. It proudly bears its mature readers content with most of the gratuitous graphics taking place off-panel.


Simon Mackie from Satyr #10

After editor Jim Main's short introduction, the issue begins with Simon Mackie's Lonesome Hound Dog. Mackie collaborated with Ben Rowdon on the writing. The five-page story concerns a struggling cartoonist who'll do anything to get his work in print. Very funny stuff.

Bebop from Satyr #10

Bebop contributes a sweet five-page episode of Wild Strawberries. (It's really 4-1/2, because the final page is filled by a short Doug the Smug Slug comic strip.) The banter between the two Wild characters seems to be the main event until suddenly it isn't. This is another terrific episode of Bebop's continuing Wild storyline.

Barry Southworth in Satyr #10

Barry Southworth's piece, Monster in the Sheets reveals what could easily be an urban legend about a sexy bar babe and her encounter with a stud on the make. The four-page play was lettered by Linda Southworth.

Jennifer Walker in Satyr #10

Another Satyr regular, Jennifer Walker offers up another episode of Cocktail Hour. Written in the first person, it's a five page story about a girl whose boyfriend has a serious control problem. Despite its emotionally-charged situations, the story unfolds over a period of nearly ten years like a documentary. The technique works to pull the reader into the morass and ask yourself what you'd do in the storyteller's place.

Carl Alessi in Satyr #10

Carl Alessi lightens things up with a three-page cruise through the Beat streets of Subterreania. Dig it, this tale is word from the bird.

Satyr's Production Manager, Marc Haines contributes !*%&#ers a send-up of gritty cop shows in which half of the dialogue consists of !*%&#. Haines included the three page story is his own Short Attention Span stripzine, reviewed below. The Issue wraps with a two page letters column.

Satyr #10 (Spring 2010, Main Enterprises) is 28 b&w pages, plus full color covers. 8.5" x 11", printed by SPA Dimestore Productions, with saddle stitch binding, untrimmed. Additional artwork by Gaither and Brad W. Foster. It's available for $5.25 (postage paid) from Main Enterprises.

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Marc Haines: Short Attention SpanMarc Haines'
Short Attention Span

Marc Haines has worked on a number of comic series including The Colony; Doe, Jane; and Sketch. In his brief introduction to Short Attention Span (SAS) he confesses to a "meandering mindset" that led him to collect several short pieces produced in the years from 2006 to 2009.

To borrow a term I've seen used in Ken Meyer Jr.'s Ink Stains column, SAS is a stripzine. It starts off with a six page adventure of Jet Danger, Agent of R.A.N.G.E.R. The comic isn't dated, but it seems to have been created near the end of the Bush administration. It's a blistering attack of the Bush-Cheney-Rove trio done with no-holds-barred satire. It ends just as Danger faces a new threat from across the aisle. I suspect this was written before the real world events of 2008 transpired, but it points to the risks one takes with topical subjects and delayed publication. The jabs at Ted Kennedy were funnier in 2007 than they are in 2010. Still, the bulk of this scathing send-up remains topical and it reads as if it was a blast (and therapeutic) for Haines to create.

Panels from Short Attention Span

Continuing his biting humor, Haines' next entry is a three pager called !*%&#ers. Homicide detective Lutheran Stroller and his potty-mouthed parter Needa Nomad attempt to apply pervasive language to the gritty streets of Dark City until their old school story editor takes them to task. Nuff said.

A panel from Short Attention Span

In Not a Hoax! Haines takes on the death of the world's most famous super-hero in an alternate universe where dead really means dead, and the world goes on even without its hero.

A panel from Short Attention Span

The Last Believer was written by Jason DeGroot and drawn by Haines. It's a five page story of devout narration with post-apocalyptic imagery and action. This entry was one of my favorites in the issue. I really liked the way the script told one story, while the artwork told another. It's a clever reminder that words are always subject to the interpretation of the listener.

A panel from Short Attention Span

Haines curbs his humor and plays it straight with Remember, a six page story told through narrative and illustrated with stylized photo imagery. The book wraps with four pages of full page illustrations (aka pin-ups), which includes the back cover.

Published through Haines' Deadly World Productions, SAS is nice sampler of the artist's work. The first three stories in the book play off knowledge of Marvel and DC super-hero comics.

Panels from Short Attention Span

Haines is a very busy creator. He and writer Jason DeGroot produce Repercussion Web Comics. Plus Haines contributes work to several comics and zines published by Main Enterprises as well as their print production management.

Marc Haines: Short Attention Span (2010, Deadly World Productions) is 28 b&w pages, plus color covers. 8.5 x 11, with saddle stitch binding, untrimmed. It's available for $4 (postage paid) from Marc Haines, who can be contacted via Deadly World Productions.

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Buzzpop #3 coverBuzzpop #3
by Matt Chicorel

In the third issue of Buzzpop, Matt Chicorel presents parts 4 through 6 of Origins. It's the centerpiece of the book, but the parts are nicely interspersed with event posters and other comic stories. Each chapter of Origins in this issue focuses on a character of pair that we expect will eventually be brought together into some kind of homegrown crimefighting team.

The characters in Origins are offbeat and interesting. This issue features Cane-Sword-Man, Annie & Tracy, and Jack the Magician. Chicorel shows some superhero influences with the pin-up of Spider-man and his character Trenchcoat's penchant for heroics. But his characters are generally more unique than super. The story is a fun eclectic mix of many influences, including slice-of-life.

Centerspread from Buzzpop #3

Chicorel's writing is witty and entertaining. He generally keeps his stories progressing and allows the reader fill in the blanks. I like his artwork too. His characters are lively and animated, although the most fluid poses show up in the larger, full page posters.

One story, called Jump, was created in 2004. It's fun to compare this older piece to his more recent stories to see all the areas where his work is evolving.

A panel from Buzzpop #3

Buzzpop #3 (Dec. 2009, Night Light Comics) is 40 b&w pages, plus cover. 5.5" x 8.5", printed on good quality paper, with saddle stitch binding, untrimmed. Issue #3 sells for $3 and is available along with other comics from Night Light Comics. You can also read parts 1 through 7 of Origins online.

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