By Robert Goodin
32 pages, black and white
Published by Robot Publishing

Years ago, Robert Goodin’s Robot Publishing released a bunch of gorgeous mini-comics that couldn’t help but catch your eye. They were full color, professionally printed, and all beautifully drawn by a wide variety of creators. Robot Publishing folded up shop a while ago, and I was sad to it go. Now Goodin’s just released his own mini-comic, Après-Shampooing, and just reading the stories reminded me how much I missed his taste in comics.

The comic leads off with “My Wife’s Ass”, a cute little two-page story about writer’s block. At a casual glance it’s got a nice element of humor about it, with a man hiding from the world by going inside of his wife’s ass, but for such a short story it’s impressive at how well it communicates the idea of one’s creativeness temporarily coming to a halt, as well as having to push forward. Slightly more whimsical is “3 Legged Myrna & Her 2 Lovers”, about a woman with a unique disfigurement and her love life. It’s a strange little story, one that starts off full of humor and then takes a strange, bittersweet turn when you least expect it. It’s quirky and odd, and really memorable.

Everything takes a turn for the more serious with “Moon Lake”, where a herd of elephants’s salvation during a drought may be the destruction of a warren of rabbits. Of all the entries in Après-Shampooing this is the one that caught my attention the most, perhaps because there’s ultimately no “hero” or “villain” here. Both the elephants and the rabbits are trying to do what’s best for their species, but is one really right or wrong? The elephants certainly didn’t mean to cause the deaths to the rabbits, but their continued presence will certainly kill the rest of them. At the same time, the rabbits merely want to survive, but doing so will probably be at the cost of the elephants’s lives. There’s no easy answer here, and it’s a distinctly uncomfortable story to read because Goodin makes sure to keep the voice of narration neutral; no side is ever declared right or wrong, making a difficult situation even more problematic.

Last but not least there’s “Toothpaste Run”, a prime example of a story where things start out bad and spiral into worse very quickly. It’s a dark comedy of “what can possibly happen next?” and Goodin is able to perfectly push up the stakes and make it both sad and hysterically funny at the same time as you watch the poor hapless protagonist never able to catch a break. (Four out of five dentists probably do not approve this story where the big moral seems to be, “If you run out of toothpaste, it can wait until tomorrow.”)

All the stories are drawn beautifully here, using a nice, gentle pencil line. Looking at Goodin’s art, it looks almost soft to the touch with the grace in which he creates his characters. Some of the art is whimsical, like the pictures that accompany “My Wife’s Ass”, or the early scenes of “3 Legged Myrna & Her 2 Lovers”. At the same time, he’s able to display real emotion, like the final scenes of “3 Legged Myrna & Her 2 Lovers” with the rejected member walking away, looking utterly crushed and destroyed. My favorite art in the comic has to be what Goodin drew for “Moon Lake”, though. He’s able to make the rabbits and elephants of this story look wonderfully expressive, while still looking exactly like the animals that they are. From cavorting in the lake to consulting in underground tunnels, you can always tell what the animals are feeling and thinking, and it’s impressive at how well he’s able to draw them to both look realistic and still have human characteristics.

Après-Shampooing is a great little comic, and it’s so nice to see Goodin back out there again. I can understand if he’s more than a little hesitant about going back into publishing, but if he wants to just put together low-cost minis like this, I’d be more than happy with it. You can order a copy of Après-Shampooing from Robert Goodin’s website.

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