Alternative – Read About Comics http://www.readaboutcomics.com Where to find out what's really good. Mon, 16 Nov 2015 17:36:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.10 Pizzeria Kamikaze http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2007/02/12/pizzeria-kamikaze/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2007/02/12/pizzeria-kamikaze/#comments Mon, 12 Feb 2007 05:00:22 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2007/02/12/pizzeria-kamikaze/ Written by Etgar Keret Art by Asaf Hanuka 104 pages, two-color Published by Alternative Comics

Some books you read and are glad you took the time to experience, and can’t wait to tell others about. Others you might read and then run out to warn people away from. But then there’s that rare sort of [...]]]> Written by Etgar Keret
Art by Asaf Hanuka
104 pages, two-color
Published by Alternative Comics

Some books you read and are glad you took the time to experience, and can’t wait to tell others about. Others you might read and then run out to warn people away from. But then there’s that rare sort of book like Etgar Keret and Asaf Hanuka’s Pizzeria Kamikaze, where you’ll put down the book and appreciate the experience that went through courtesy its creators. But if someone asked you if they should read it? Well, you’re not sure. And that’s ultimately the crux of this book.

Would people be willing to commit suicide if they knew that in the afterlife, everyone who killed themselves are all together in their own spiritual realm? That’s what Mordy found out the hard way. With everyone looking like they did when they died it’s a slightly strange yet somehow familiar world, even as the mundane drudgery of every day life-after-death continues. Then Mordy finds out that his girlfriend also committed suicide soon after he died, and along with his friend Uzi attempts to find her in a road trip through the routes of purgatory.

Keret’s story (adapted from his prose short story “Kneller’s Happy Campers”) is an off-beat, meandering piece. As much time is devoted to the set-up of the world of suicidal afterlife as to the plot itself, if not even more. Maybe it’s because of the imbalance of the two halves, but that’s almost a relief because the plot itself feels like little more than an excuse to have Mordy and Uzi leave the town their in to see the rest of the land and have them do more than hang out at bars and make fun of Kurt Cobain. There are a lot of fragments of world building going on here, from terms invented for those who arrive without any sort of physical trauma due to dying by pills or poison (a “Juliet”), to the discovery that race and religious lines really have vanished in the afterlife. There’s certainly a point that Keret seems to be trying to make as it progresses about miracles and anyone being able to make them happen, but it’s one that’s lost on Pizzeria Kamikaze‘s generally self-absorbed characters. It’s hard to say if it’s hard to warm to Keret’s characters because he’s trying to make a point about people who committed suicide, or if it’s merely a failing in the writing itself instead of authorial intent. (My guess is that it’s the former rather than the latter, but there are arguments for either being the case.) Either way, it’s hard to warm up to these people who stumble through the afterlife still not really caring about others. Mordy at times seems to start breaking free of this mind set, but even it seems hard for him to abandon his old ways. In the end, Mordy’s journey is an interesting one, if in some ways unsatisfying because of the very manner in which it’s taken, with its erratic, aimless, lackadaisical pattern.

While Keret’s story meanders and feels less focused the further it progresses, Hanuka’s art is the exact opposite as it continues to tighten and refine the more he draws. While the early art of Pizzeria Kamikaze is certainly good in its own right, it’s the later chapters that really show off Hanuka’s skills as an artist. He’s able to draw the “just like the real world” scenes of Pizzeria Kamikaze well, getting all the little moments like Mordy covertly looking into the back seat via the rearview mirror down just right, bringing the intent of Keret’s scenes to life in a just so manner. With each page Hanuka’s lines are sharper and more carefully defined, aided with his use of a second, silver ink for toning and shading to provide additional texture and depth. Even the cover is perfectly framed, with the art shifting from full color into black-and-silver as Mordy’s suicide plunges him backwards into purgatory. It’s a nice trick, both in terms of catching the eye with its split from all colors to just the metallic silver, and by being an actual plot point of the book.

As said before, in the end Pizzeria Kamikaze is a book that one can appreciate the work that went into it, and you’re glad that you read. Is it satisfying enough to recommend to others? That’s a harder question. This is the sort of book for someone who likes the journey as much (if not more so) than the destination. For people who will appreciate Keret’s world-building and Hanuka’s beautiful art, absolutely get this. For those looking for something with perhaps a bit more punch in the plot department, that’s a harder question. Keret’s writing (both here and in other comics) doesn’t offer easy answers, so perhaps it’s apt that even trying to recommend it results in a puzzle with no solution in sight.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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Lunch Hour Comix #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2005/02/01/lunch-hour-comix-1/ Tue, 01 Feb 2005 04:00:35 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2005/02/01/lunch-hour-comix-1/ By Robert Ullman 64 pages, black and white Published by Alternative Comics

I love the idea of the “journal” comic, from extensive travel journals (like Rick Smith’s Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco) to the strip-a-day-format (like James Kochalka’s American Elf). Robert Ullman’s new comic, Lunch Hour Comix, has a nice take on the latter [...]]]> By Robert Ullman
64 pages, black and white
Published by Alternative Comics

I love the idea of the “journal” comic, from extensive travel journals (like Rick Smith’s Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco) to the strip-a-day-format (like James Kochalka’s American Elf). Robert Ullman’s new comic, Lunch Hour Comix, has a nice take on the latter concept. His comics are about his day and what’s going on, but they’ve got to be completed in one hour: the amount of time he gets for lunch. So these really are, well, lunch hour comics.

Ullman’s life is in many ways a pretty mundane one; he and his wife are trying to get a mortgage to buy a house, Ullman’s lost his coffee mug, he has to walk the dog. What’s important in Lunch Hour Comix is not so much what happens, but the telling of the events. Ullman’s got a laid back, humorous attitude that comes through in the writing, letting us feel his glee about something as simple as not having to go to Kinko’s, or listening to himself be interviewed on a radio program. The normal becomes exciting in Ullman’s hands because he approaches each incident as if it’s an event to be shared, and that’s what makes them special to the reader. You’re getting a private insight into his life, and he’s showing you what’s so fun about it.

No doubt because of the original dimensions of the illustrations, Lunch Hour Comix is a small book, one you could push into a back pocket and care around with you. Maybe it’s because of the smaller size that it helps the reader feel comfortable with its stories, in such an unpretentious format. (And yet, at the same time, perfect for leaving on your coffee table for guests to pick up and idly read.) Regardless of the size, though, Ullman’s art is straight-forward and attractive here. You unfortunately don’t get the nice slick ink line that I’ve grown used to in his art from books like Grand Gestures, but there’s still a lot to like. One could almost make a “guide to Robert Ullman” out of the drawings here, as he shows himself in all sorts of states from befuddled to confident, from happy to angry, and all other points in-between. In stories as small and personal as Lunch Hour Comix, it’s important that Ullman’s able to convey emotions quickly and effectively to the reader, and he does that perfectly through the faces and expressions of the characters.

Lunch Hour Comix #1 is a fun little book, the sort that you can pick up and re-read and still get the same level of enjoyment the twentieth time as well as the first. Hopefully Ullman hasn’t given up on the idea of drawing diary comics, because if he wants to take people into another journey through his days, I’m sure the audience is ready for more. A fun little diversion you’ll be happy to take again and again.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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Salmon Doubts http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/09/24/salmon-doubts/ Fri, 24 Sep 2004 04:00:43 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/09/24/salmon-doubts/ By Adam Sacks 128 pages, two-color Published by Alternative Comics

About a year ago, Alternative Comics publisher Jeff Mason was talking about an upcoming graphic novel he’d just gotten the rights to publish called Salmon Doubts, and how this would be a book that everyone would talk about for some time to come. Having now [...]]]> By Adam Sacks
128 pages, two-color
Published by Alternative Comics

About a year ago, Alternative Comics publisher Jeff Mason was talking about an upcoming graphic novel he’d just gotten the rights to publish called Salmon Doubts, and how this would be a book that everyone would talk about for some time to come. Having now read Salmon Doubts for myself, it’s easy to see why he was so excited.

Henry and Geoff are two newly hatched salmon, swimming down the stream into the ocean. As they grow, they learn about the democracy of schools, other species of marine life, and the dangers that lurk around every corner. But will any of them be able to fight what nature decrees their lives should be?

Adam Sacks’s writing for Salmon Doubts was a pleasant surprise in how it handled the themes and ideas behind the story. While Sacks gives his fish human names and speech patterns, he’s still able to keep a certain animalistic thought process throughout the graphic novel. The pack mentality and the slavery to nature’s demands come across not as arbitrary, but rather as something which has to be obeyed and is a part of their very core. The only problem with this is that when Geoff’s titular doubts do appear, it just seems to come out of nowhere. It’s hard to buy it’s Geoff that suddenly rebels against the school, doubly so when up until this point it’s been Henry that doesn’t seem to really fit in with the other salmon. It’s certainly a surprise when it does happen, but I do wish that there had been a bit more leading up to it.

Salmon Doubts uses an attractive two-color printing process to bring its underwater world to life. Sacks is really able to make the sheer mass and power of the salmon school come across on the page, with hundreds of fish crowding into panels to help bring that imagery to the reader. Sacks especially shines in drawing the salmon once they’ve reached the ocean, arcing through rock formations and amidst the currents. It’s there that Sacks is able to let the school move in interesting groupings, giving the comic a real sense of motion that it had lacked up until then. As a result, when the salmon do return to the river to travel upstream and spawn, as their surroundings close in on them again Sacks is able to give the book a sudden sense of inevitability, that this will soon be the end of the fish. It works well, making the river have an added sense of death that it previously didn’t hold.

For a debut, Salmon Doubts is pleasantly strong; Sacks has a good eye for visuals, and his imagination certainly shines through. Sacks is definitely someone to watch closely, both to see what he’ll put together next, as well as taking a look at Salmon Doubts itself. It may not be a perfect first work, but it’s still quite good. You’ll certainly never look at a salmon filet on your plate quite the same way again.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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Yellow Baby #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/03/18/yellow-baby-1/ Thu, 18 Mar 2004 04:00:53 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/03/18/yellow-baby-1/ By Jed Alexander 32 pages, two-color Published by Alternative Comics

One-man anthologies can be both appealing and frustrating at the same time. On the one hand, you often get a wide variety of stories and styles by the creator all collected into a single volume, letting you experience all sorts of different approaches in one [...]]]> By Jed Alexander
32 pages, two-color
Published by Alternative Comics

One-man anthologies can be both appealing and frustrating at the same time. On the one hand, you often get a wide variety of stories and styles by the creator all collected into a single volume, letting you experience all sorts of different approaches in one sitting. On the other hand, there’s nothing more frustrating than getting an anthology by a single creator, loving one entry in particular, and wishing all the rest of the pages had been just like that. It’s sort of like an appetizer tray, where either you’ll love the entire assortment or make you wish you’d just ordered a lot more of one particular food. I’d never read anything by Jed Alexander before Yellow Baby #1, so I had no idea just which of those two options I’d be in for…

Yellow Baby opens with the first part of a longer work, “Turtle, turtle”. A young boy, Cesar, goes to live with his grandmother in Mexico for the summer, and begins to head down a path of discovery. Alexander infuses this story with a wonderful sense of narration, which moves rhythmically with the art in a way that makes the story sound as if the protagonist is recounting the story directly to you. Of the four stories in Yellow Baby this is easily my favorite, a strange mixture of wistfulness and disgust for the memories of an earlier time. The story is only beginning in this first installment, but when I got to the end of the chapter I found myself really wishing that I could see more, and right away.

The other three stories in Yellow Baby are a little lighter, and in some ways a little more blatant. “Free Ideas” is a twist on the old “where do you get your ideas?” question, as Alexander begins to offer up a series of crazy ideas for stories, each goofier than the one before. They’re all deliberate takes on other existing ideas, but Alexander takes each of the ideas one step further, hammering the joke with an added layer of nervous laughter. “Making Little Boys”, on the other hand, is much more serious as two young girls use a concoction to “make little boys” out of a mold. Short and sweet, Alexander knows how to disturb the reader with a simple and innocent idea that’s gone horribly wrong. The only story that didn’t work at all for me was “Fil’s La La”, an over-the-top explosion of violence and mutilation as Fil gets his very own “la la” and then things go horribly wrong. I just always felt like I was somehow missing part of the story here, with the contents just not quite connecting with my brain.

Alexander’s art is a strange, loosely inked style that works wonderfully with most of his stories. The way Alexander draws people makes them seem almost normal… but not quite. There’s always just something a little off-kilter with his characters, like they’ve been slightly warped when you weren’t paying attention. When you add this style to a story like “Turtle, turtle” the effect is instant. Cesar’s outsider status becomes more apparent by the funhouse-mirror antics of the world around him, making him feel truly alien. Likewise, in “Making Little Boys” Alexander is able to make the creations flop and twist around as they’re pulled out of their molds in such a way that you instantly know that something is horribly wrong with these creations, that the girls are doing something they shouldn’t. It’s a very powerful art style, and while you wouldn’t want to see it used on just anything, Alexander’s matched it well to his writing. The only time it seemed to fall flat for me was in “Fil’s La La”, where it seemed to obscure more than clarify what was going on in the story. Even the handsome two-color process used in Yellow Baby #1 just didn’t seem to help here, which was unfortunate, because I’d enjoyed so much of the rest of the book.

In the end, Yellow Baby #1 is a success if for no other reason than I’m absolutely dying to read more of “Turtle, turtle”. That’s not to say that the rest of the book was a wash, of course; “Making Little Boys” certainly showed me that Alexander isn’t a one-note creator by any stretch of the imagination. While I still definitely want to see more short stories from Alexander, though, here’s hoping we get more “Turtle, turtle” soon. Yellow Baby #1 served its sampler function perfectly, letting me know just exactly what I’d like to have more of the next time through.

Purchase Links:

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Vagabonds #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/02/24/vagabonds-1/ Tue, 24 Feb 2004 04:00:47 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/02/24/vagabonds-1/ By Josh Neufeld 24 pages, green and white Published by Alternative Comics

Josh Neufeld’s travel stories have caught my attention ever since they first appeared in Keyhole years ago. Neufeld and his then-girlfriend (now wife) backpacked through large stretches of southeast Asia, and the resulting adventures have appeared in comic stories since then. With The [...]]]> By Josh Neufeld
24 pages, green and white
Published by Alternative Comics

Josh Neufeld’s travel stories have caught my attention ever since they first appeared in Keyhole years ago. Neufeld and his then-girlfriend (now wife) backpacked through large stretches of southeast Asia, and the resulting adventures have appeared in comic stories since then. With The Vagabonds, Neufeld has his own solo book to both reprint and hopefully present new stories about his adventures in both foreign lands and those places a little closer to home…

Neufeld’s opening story about traveling to a festival in Thailand is easily my most favorite entry in the book. Neufeld’s able to display his culture shock in a way that isn’t demeaning to the Thai people, and there’s a great contrast presented between his and Sari’s impressions of Thailand with those of the Baptist missionaries that they’re forced to stay with. It really shows just how differently people will react to situations, without whitewashing Neufeld and Sari’s own actions.

That’s not to say that the rest of the stories aren’t good, mind you. “From the Asylum” is a hysterical little two-pager that has Neufeld unabashedly display an obsessive-compulsive list-making part of his teen years, almost as if daring his readers to claim that they didn’t do something similar in their lives. While it lacks a decisive ending, it’s certainly fun. “I Left My Name in San Francisco”, on the other hand, more than makes up for the previous story’s ending, as Neufeld and Sari puzzle through an old acquaintance’s sudden change in name. It’s a fun mystery that Neufeld sets up and then just as quickly resolved, with a sudden shift so unexpected you can’t help but believe it, as the story (like life) defies your expectations.

Neufeld closes out The Vagabonds #1 with “Song for September 11th”, which takes Neufeld back to his home city with the lyrics to “New York, New York” moving on in the background. After Neufeld’s travels around the world left him (mostly) unfazed and calm, seeing his near-breakdown here says more about his reaction to that traumatic day than seeing the story on its own ever could.

Neufeld’s art in The Vagabonds has a nice, clean, stripped down style. He compares it to famed Tintin artist Hergé in one of the stories here, and one can certainly see some similarities. Neufeld’s stories operate on a very human level, and his art reflects that with its careful depictions of people from different cultures and backgrounds. It helps bring the full package together, making The Vagabonds #1 a satisfying trip around the world for the reader, without ever leaving the comfort of their couch. As soon as Neufeld wants to take us on another journey, I’ll be reserving my seat.

Purchase Links:

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Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/01/23/baraka-and-black-magic-in-morocco/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/01/23/baraka-and-black-magic-in-morocco/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2004 04:00:20 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/01/23/baraka-and-black-magic-in-morocco/ By Rick Smith 128 pages, two-color Published by Alternative Comics

When told properly, I adore reading travelogues. There’s something fascinating about reading other people’s experiences in far-off places that I may never experience for myself. Through their eyes, I’m able to better get an idea of just what this part of the world is truly [...]]]> By Rick Smith
128 pages, two-color
Published by Alternative Comics

When told properly, I adore reading travelogues. There’s something fascinating about reading other people’s experiences in far-off places that I may never experience for myself. Through their eyes, I’m able to better get an idea of just what this part of the world is truly like. That’s probably why I was instantly intrigued by Rick Smith’s upcoming graphic novel Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco; I knew from Shuck Comics that Smith can tell a story, and I suspect the closest I’m getting to Morocco in the near future is the EPCOT Center at Disneyworld, so this seemed like a perfect book for me.

In Fall 2000, Rick Smith and his wife Tania Menesse journeyed to the country of Morocco in North Africa. What they found were friends, ever-shifting rules, scams, moments of beauty, and drugs. In short, a trip to remember for a very long time.

Those expecting to find something an over-arching plot driving Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco (“It’s a search for the hidden Moroccan city of black magic!”) are going to be awfully disappointed. Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco is a book where you’re along for the ride in a very different world than the one the author is from. Smith knows how to make that interesting, though; all the little struggles and victories are enthralling because for Smith and his wife, it is the entire focus of their world at that moment in time. Smith gives a fair representation of the people of Morocco here, showing both the positive and negative parts of their journey with equal candor. Nothing’s whitewashed here, from Menesse’s frustration at the country towards the end of their journey to bad decisions made by our traveling companions. By the time you’re done reading Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco, you get a real sense of what this journey was like, because you feel like you’ve been there with them.

Smith’s art in Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco reminds me a little bit of Chester Brown’s, with its simplistic shapes hiding a very powerful emotion behind them. In a book that hinges on Smith and Menesse’s emotional reaction to the events around them, he does an excellent job of portraying that through the art. From the swarm of children around Smith with even the word balloons boxing him in on all sides, to the vibrations of the drums moving through Smith and his traveling companions, you get a real sense of being there in Morocco. The two-color approach to Smith’s art looks really sharp as well; the added yellow gives the art a real sense of depth, and Smith is careful to only use it when appropriate. I’d love to see more artists use two-color printing; less expensive than full-color, Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco shows how slick the end result can be.

Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco is a fascinating journey into a different world. Those who don’t care for travelogues may be disappointed, but I think it’s fantastic. Smith really shares his experiences in a way that you’ll feel like you were in Morocco as well. I’m ready to take further journeys with Smith whenever he is. Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco has been rescheduled for an October 2004 release. Let your comics retailer know that it’s listed in the current (August 2004) Previews on page 210, or alternatively provide Diamond ordering code AUG04 2362.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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A Sort of Homecoming #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/10/22/a-sort-of-homecoming-1/ Wed, 22 Oct 2003 04:00:24 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/10/22/a-sort-of-homecoming-1/ Written by Damon Hurd Art by Pedro Camello 24 pages, black and white Published by Alternative Comics

The experiences of our childhood are always interesting when filtered through the perception of adulthood. Things often fall into place, or simply gain new meaning. In reading Damon Hurd and Pedro Camello’s A Sort of Homecoming one can’t [...]]]> Written by Damon Hurd
Art by Pedro Camello
24 pages, black and white
Published by Alternative Comics

The experiences of our childhood are always interesting when filtered through the perception of adulthood. Things often fall into place, or simply gain new meaning. In reading Damon Hurd and Pedro Camello’s A Sort of Homecoming one can’t help but reflect on your own past even as the central character does the same with his—with hopefully more cheery results.

When Owen was a child, his only real friend was David, even though in many ways the two were opposites. David was much more accepted and loved by his classmates than Owen, something that often made friendship difficult for both of them. Now, as an adult, Owen has to deal with David’s death… even as he tries to sort through his own memories and feelings of someone who was once his best friend.

Hurd’s tracing of childhood memories through the eyes of an adult is certainly a familiar storytelling device, but it still works just fine. Maybe it’s because Hurd avoids over-dramatizing his story; there are no lengthy internal monologues dissecting every event to hammer in the significance. Instead Hurd lets the events of the story speak for themselves, quietly laying out the events of Owen’s past. Hurd refreshingly avoids the simple traps of his situations; there is no apology lurking around the corner when David slams Owen at a part to maintain his credibility with his classmates, for instance, and there is no amazing last second reprieve waiting to help any failure. It’s very straight-forward, but avoids descending into cliche. The first of three issues, A Sort of Homecoming feels like a story that will work a lot better as a completed whole. That’s not to say that it doesn’t work on its own, but there’s still so much open at the end of this first issue that you can’t help but find the empty spaces jarring. It ultimately says a lot that Hurd’s story can be told in such a manner that you really feel the need to see the other installments.

Camello’s art is a nice match for Hurd’s story, with its stripped down yet realistic art style. Camello does a nice job illustrating Hurd’s ideas, from both the actual events of the story to the transitions between past and present. In a book where events from the present will spark a memory from the past, it’s important that you can instantly tell when A Sort of Homecoming has shifted timelines. Camello’s art accomplishes this perfectly, keeping younger version of characters distinctive but not merely looking like midget incarnations of our protagonists. These characters really look like younger versions of the main faces of the book, and it’s an important part of the book. With its strikingly stark cover, A Sort of Homecoming is a prime example of a book that can take something very ordinary and make it stand out through its usage.

Hurd and Camello made a big splash last year with My Uncle Jeff, and A Sort of Homecoming is a nice reassurance that it wasn’t just a fluke. By the end of A Sort of Homecoming #1. the biggest response will probably be, “Where’s #2?” Hurd and Camello should be proud because they’ve clearly succeeded in their goals.

Purchase Links:

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Fancy Froglin’s Sexy Forest http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/09/30/fancy-froglins-sexy-forest/ Tue, 30 Sep 2003 04:00:37 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/09/30/fancy-froglins-sexy-forest/ By James Kochalka 64 pages, color Published by Alternative Comics

At this year’s SPX, James Kochalka was overheard describing the creative process for his web strip Fancy Froglin. “Every week I draw a new page,” he said, “and then I show it to my wife Amy. And every week she says, ‘I don’t get it.’ [...]]]> By James Kochalka
64 pages, color
Published by Alternative Comics

At this year’s SPX, James Kochalka was overheard describing the creative process for his web strip Fancy Froglin. “Every week I draw a new page,” he said, “and then I show it to my wife Amy. And every week she says, ‘I don’t get it.’ So I ask her if that means she doesn’t like my comics, and she says, ‘Not Fancy Froglin.'” Well, I don’t know about you, but that was all I had to hear to buy a copy (once I stopped laughing, that is).

Fancy Froglin is a happy little frog. Why is he so happy? He’s got something in his pants that he wants to share with you. And you. And you too! But you better hurry before his lecherous Uncle Funky shows up, because things never get better with Uncle Funky around… well, maybe.

Don’t get me wrong, Fancy Froglin’s Sexy Forest is definitely not for everyone. Personally, I think it’s hysterical. If you take the individual components and analyze them, it seems like a must miss: a young frog talking about his boner, a perverted aging frog, a lisping rabbit, and a lot of talk about a jar of pickles. Somehow when they’re all together, though, it just works. Maybe it’s the childlike attitude of Fancy Froglin himself, keeping the story from feeling unsavory. This is both Kochalka at his filthiest and purest, and that combination alone should both intrigue and terrify you. Then again, how can you not love a book where the publisher’s website notes the following: “Fancy Froglin’s Sexy Forest contains scenes of frank and explicit nature including but not limited to: nudity, suggestive themes, mature sexual themes, strong sexual content, homosexuality, beastiality, offense to God, attempted suicide, comic mischief, mild violence, violence, graphic violence, mild language, strong language, hate speech, informational and edutainment. It is intended for mature readers.” I’d say publisher Jeff Mason has covered all the bases there quite nicely… and then some that don’t even happen! Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

This is the first work by Kochalka that I’ve seen in color, and I have to say that I love the end result. Kochalka uses vivid shades of green, blue, purple, and pink to have each page of Fancy Froglin’s Sexy Forest explode off the page and into your eyes. You can’t miss a single panel of Fancy Froglin even if you want to… just like Fancy Froglin himself when he’s trying to show off his shorts that are containing his boner. Kochalka isn’t just relying on the colors of his strip to tell the story, of course. Fancy himself is drawn surprisingly expressive considering what a very basic character design he has. So much of it is in his eyes, from angry squints to heavy-lidded loopiness and all points in-between. It’s a children’s book on crack.

As Amy Kochalka will no doubt tell you if given the chance, Fancy Froglin’s Sexy Forest is not for everyone. If you don’t mind a happy little frog saying ribald things to a fuzzy pink rabbit in a forest and think it could actually be funny, you’ll definitely want to check this book out. If you’re not sure, though, you can always take a look at the first couple of pages at ModernTales.com, where new installments are available on a weekly basis. Who knows… you, too, might end up with a tingling in your pants when you’re done reading. (Hopefully it’s just your pager.)

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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Same Difference and Other Stories http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/08/29/same-difference-and-other-stories/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/08/29/same-difference-and-other-stories/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2003 05:00:31 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/08/29/same-difference-and-other-stories/ By Derek Kirk Kim 144 pages, black and white Published by Small Stories, distributed by Alternative Comics

Don’t trust editors. I should engrave this on the top of my monitor or something, because every time I ignore this adage I end up spending money. I first got suckered by Matt Wayne from Milestone Media, who [...]]]> By Derek Kirk Kim
144 pages, black and white
Published by Small Stories, distributed by Alternative Comics

Don’t trust editors. I should engrave this on the top of my monitor or something, because every time I ignore this adage I end up spending money. I first got suckered by Matt Wayne from Milestone Media, who promised me that if I didn’t love Maison Ikkoku he’d give me my money back. Fourteen volumes later, I was happier if a bit poorer. Ever since then, I keep getting sucked into new books by editors saying the same thing. When they haven’t published the book themselves, I figure it must be sincere, and it usually is… and my wallet ends up a bit lighter. This time the blame goes to James Lucas Jones from Oni Press, who did the whole, “If you don’t like it I’ll give you your money back” thing with Derek Kirk Kim’s Same Difference and Other Stories. You’d think I would have seen the end result a mile away.

Simon and Nancy both know the meaning of the word regret. When Simon sees an old classmate across the street, it brings back memories of how nervousness and fear made him treat her badly. When Nancy gets her mail, she discovers that responding to “please return to me” love letters written a former resident of her apartment may not have been the kindest thing to do. When these regrets bring them both back to Simon’s old neighborhood, though, both find themselves taking a good hard look at themselves.

If I was trying to sell this book with a comparison to another, the closest I could probably come to is Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve; not so much for subject material, but how both are able to evoke a feeling of wistfulness and regret. Kim’s story impressed me in how its meanderings were able to dip into the past, return to the present, and seemingly head off in a random direction before pulling everything back together while never losing the mood it had generated early on. At the same time, there’s also a nice balance of humor here that keeps the book from getting too maudlin; references to visions of the future as seen in “Sleeper” and high school crushes on the girl from “Real Genius” fly fast and furious and you really can’t help but grin at Simon’s and Nancy’s earnestness. Even then, though, the humor still ties in strongly to the story’s look at how we view our past and the things that still affect us years later. It’s a really effective story and at the end of the book I found myself turning back to the first page and reading it all over again.

I’d encountered Kim’s art before, back when he drew Duncan’s Kingdom for Image Comics. I was a fan then, and I’m even more of one now. There’s a real sense of gracefulness to Kim drawings; the early images of the friends sitting in front of the restaurant fishtank are beautiful, with the fish seemingly floating amongst the people as they talk. It’s a smart move to grab the reader’s attention, but he never really lets go. Both the big and the small moments work in Same Difference and Other Stories; a breathtaking view of Pacifica makes an immediate grab for the reader’s attention, but it’s just as impressive to see the look on Ben’s face when he picks up the ice cream carton and sees the note underneath. Kim’s art is ultimately a visual chameleon, able to shift just slightly to fit with the exact tone of what he’s drawing just then, be it humor, drama, or something in-between.

Same Difference and Other Stories is absolutely fantastic… and I haven’t even mentioned the “Other Stories” part of the book, where Kim collects a lot of short stories for your entertainment. This is one of the most satisfying books I’ve read in a while, with every aspect working wonderfully. Even the production design is fantastic, with snazzy endflaps on the covers, a nice paper stock, and an adorable cover design. It’s no small wonder that Same Difference and Other Stories got a Xeric Grant, because if I’d been in charge of giving them out that year I’d also want to give Kim money to make sure his work got into even more hands than ever. If you don’t trust me, trust James Lucas Jones. Buy this book.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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Sweaterweather http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/08/06/sweaterweather/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/08/06/sweaterweather/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2003 05:00:56 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/08/06/sweaterweather/ By Sara Varon 88 pages, black and white, two-color, and full-color Published by Alternative Comics

Sara Varon is probably not a familiar name to most comic book readers. I’d never encountered her work until last year’s anthology Rosetta, but I found myself already hoping to see more of her comics before too long. Sometimes it’s [...]]]> By Sara Varon
88 pages, black and white, two-color, and full-color
Published by Alternative Comics

Sara Varon is probably not a familiar name to most comic book readers. I’d never encountered her work until last year’s anthology Rosetta, but I found myself already hoping to see more of her comics before too long. Sometimes it’s almost like Alternative Comics’s publisher Jeff Mason is hovering over my shoulder and taking notes at moments like that, because now we’ve got Varon’s first graphic novel, Sweaterweather, collecting a great deal of her works to date.

Sweaterweather is a series of short stories, where the only real link is Varon’s sensibilities that come across in her work. Cute animals and people walk down the street side-by-side, competing in pie-eating contests, worrying about making higher rent payments, and generally just leaving their lives. Sweaterweather is definitely an all-ages book that really meets those requirements; I think adults are going to find the skill and craft displayed here just as enjoyable as younger readers. Take, for instance, Varon’s 26-panel story where each panel in order is related to a letter of the alphabet. Younger readers will find it a fun story and try to pick out how each letter is represented. On the other hand, adults will better appreciate how Varon put the story together to follow this alphabetical pattern, while still seeing the amusement in the events of the story themselves. Adults, if anything, will probably better appreciate some of the stories like the one where the racoon has to sacrifice some prized possessions to have some needed money. While children will certainly understand what’s going on, it’s an adult sensibility that tells a story of giving up parts of one’s past in order to have a brighter future.

Varon’s art just makes me keep thinking what a perfect name Sweaterweather is, because it’s as soft and comforting as a favorite sweater. There’s a children’s storybook quality to her creatures, with her thick ink lines and friendly-looking creations. Perhaps the greatest strength of Varon’s art, though, is her ability to make anything seem perfectly reasonable. One doesn’t even bat an eye when a rabbit is able to climb inside a turtle’s shell to seek shelter from the snow, or when a cat is able to use special feathers to fly through the sky. It all just looks natural without a break in style or form from Varon.

Last but not least, I was really impressed with the production design of Sweaterweather. This is one gorgeous looking book, with its usage from time to time with two-color and full-color sections. That’s not the only nice touch to the book, though. Everything’s been thought out very carefully here, from one page being a small “flyer” inserted into the book, to the special postcards, stamps, and paper dolls that you can snip out of the back of the book, each page was conceived as an entity in its own right and treated accordingly. Even the cover is great, with a great feel to the cover stock and the shiny ink that I kept rubbing my fingers over its surface. Varon’s debut book has a gorgeous charm about it, and I can’t imagine someone not falling just as in love with Sweaterweather as I have. Sweaterweather is on sale now at better comic book stores everywhere.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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