Category Archives: Alternative Comics

Joshua Boulet at Exterminator City, Push/Pull Gallery, Seattle

As any card-carrying local artist and cartoonist should do, I went down to check out the indie comic show Exterminator City, part of Push/Pull Studio & Gallery here in the Phinney-Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. Exterminator City is put together by Push/Pull member, Seth Goodkind, who is a local cartoonist and published illustrator.

Exterminator-City-comics

Plenty of stellar talent including Allen Gladfelter, Adam Lynn, Megan Noel, Noel Franklin, Scott Faulkner, and Eli Tripoli, to name a few. Coming off the heels of my awesome time at Hempfest last weekend, it was perfect timing to meet up with Joshua Boulet. He’s a fine example of how cannabis and comics mix quite well. In this video interview, Joshua is kind enough to share his sketchbook. BTW, I picked up his “Draw Occupy Wall Street” which I will review in a future post!

"I MET TOMMY CHONG!" by Joshua Boulet

“I MET TOMMY CHONG!” by Joshua Boulet

Here at Comics Grinder, we’ll keep exploring the interconnections between comics and cannabis as well as cannabis in general from time to time. You could say that both comics and cannabis remain somewhat misunderstood by the general public while also receiving a general thumbs up. That said, we can tackle both subjects thoughtfully and respectfully one post at a time.

Push-Pull-Gallery-Kickstarter-2015

Now, let’s focus on the venue for this comics event. Exterminator City was made possible by the Push/Pull Gallery. My heart goes out to them as both an artist and a curator. For many years, I curated art shows at Glo’s Diner with an emphasis on fringe art, specifically alternative comics. Well, Pull/Pull is ready to take things to a new level as they move toward a permanent home. With your help, Push/Pull will achieve its goal through its Kickstarter campaign, which closes on September 4, 2015, that you can visit right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comic Arts Festivals, Comics, Comix, Exterminator City, Independent Comics, Indie, Joshua Boulet, mini-comics, Minicomics, Push/Pull Studio & Gallery, Seattle, Underground Comics

Review: ‘The Sunderland Volume One: Schism’ by Jon Renzella and Eric Weiss

Schism-Taiwan-Lei-Press-2015

The Sunderland Volume One: Schism” is the first in an epic trilogy of graphic novels set in a dystopian world. It will be followed by “Solitude” and “Thermidor.” This is quite an ambitious work and I salute, artist Jon Renzella and writer Eric Weiss, the talent behind this 450-page book of black and white woodcuts and text.

From the introduction:

Society is fractured. Life for most is a desperate struggle. Natural Resources are scarce and the discovery of a miracle source of new, clean energy only serves to deepen the cracks. As the planet reaches breaking point, the sudden appearance of two mysterious pillars…

Schism-Sunderland-Volume-One

It’s a very intense and vivid world that Renzella and Weiss have created. If you enjoy comics with a social commentary bite to them, then this is something you’ll want to check out. The creators of this book live and work in Taiwan and so it is interesting to keep that in mind as a subtext.

Schism-Jon-Renzella-Eric-Weiss

The Green movement is in disarray. The average citizen doesn’t stand a chance. And the Petrolol corporation just keeps chugging along. The narrative can be rather dense at times and so can the artwork, but it grows on you. This is a byzantine journey crowded with numerous characters confronting chaotic and enigmatic challenges. There is no hero. There is no clear resolution in sight. The story just is. But out of that jungle we find numerous graceful and poetic moments.

Sunderland

“Schism: The Sunderland, Volume One” is published by Lei Press and printed in Taiwan. It is available through Jon Renzella’s website. You can find it right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, China, Comics, Comix, Dystopian Fiction, Dystopias, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Self-Published, Taiwan

Review: REAL WORK by Christopher Green

Christopher-Green-Real-Work-comics

Reviewing comics, particularly independent comics, is a labor of love that will thank you with sore eyes, a sore back, and a profound understanding of the road less travelled or some such malarkey. But find a good mini-comic, a really good one by some glorious weirdo, and all is forgiven and you’re good to go for another batch of reviews. And so it was said and so it was done. Christopher Green is one of those glorious weirdos. His mini-comic, “Real Work,” is a fine example of that.

Oh so many cartoonists of a certain ilk are toiling away with thoughts of perhaps making some sort of impact. They don’t dare to dream to be the next R. Crumb, or at least they tell their friends that. But, hey, some don’t have to dare to dream and just do it. Just doing it. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

There’s an effortless quality to what I see in this comic. Maybe it took him hours upon hours to create and then he redid the whole sucker all over again for good measure. Or maybe he cranked it out at one go. There are a number of choices that needed to be made, “problem-solving” tasks, if you will, that Green gets right, one way or another.

Green’s 12-page collection of comics is loopy auto-bio, fantasy, and artful silliness. We begin with observations on the surface to body mass ratio regarding a squirrel’s crash landing. A few more pages in, and we’re in the thick of a war between Alaska and Canada. This also involves the teleporting of souls.

Green has the confidence and skill to pull this zany stuff off. It may seem simple but he’s actually putting his surface to body mass calculations to good use. Adroit placement of objects, thoughtful composition, pleasing contrast, it all adds up nicely. Take, for instance, his two boys on a whimsical crime spree. They may be relatively crude little figures, but they’re well-defined, distinct, and full of life. Katzenjammer Kids underground comix style!

Christopher-Green-Sequential-Artists-Workshop-comics

Consider one last example above: a page on exploring pagan rituals. On just one page, Green evokes a doomed relationship, a universal struggle, and then gives it all a tidy absurdist ending with a hilarious grace note to boot.

Christopher Green’s “Real Work” mini-comic was printed at the Sequential Artists Workshop, or SAW, in Gainesville, Florida. This is a vital center for learning the art of comics founded and led by cartoonists Tom Hart and Leela Corman. It is, no doubt, thanks to the great care to craft at SAW that Christopher’s color cover, with gold no less, looks as nice as it does. Be sure to visit SAW right here. Be sure to visit Christopher Green right here. And visit his store, Wall of Balloons, right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Independent Comics, Leela Corman, mini-comics, Minicomics, SAW, Sequential Artists Workshop, Tom Hart

ZCO.MX Offers Readers a World of Great Indie Comics

From Roger Langridge's "The Iron Duchess," available at Zco.mx

From Roger Langridge’s “The Iron Duchess,” available at ZCO.MX

ZCO.MX is a new and unique place to find some of the best work from leading contemporary cartoonists. ZCO.MX is where you can instantly read some of the best comics around with their “try before you buy” model. The goal is to foster goodwill among the comics community, cartoonists and readers in this together. You can read and share comics for free and then you have an opportunity to directly contribute to the cartoonists who made that work.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comic Arts Festivals, Comics, Independent Comics, Self-Published, zco.mx

Review: SCORCHED EARTH #1 and #2 by Tom Van Deusen

SCORCHED EARTH #1 and #2 by Tom Van Deusen

SCORCHED EARTH #1 and #2 by Tom Van Deusen

If you earnestly wear a “Mean People Suck” t-shirt, then something is wrong with you and this comic is not for you. However, if you ironically wear a “Mean People Suck” trucker hat, then we’re in business. By the way, do mean people suck? Yes, and Tom Van Deusen should know as his main character, Tom (not literally Mr. Van Deusen, of course) is quite a mean-spirited cuss. Anyway, getting back to what I was saying, if you take things too seriously and too literally, then you will ruin an otherwise fine ole time reading the first two issues of “Scorched Earth.”

So, we follow the exploits of a sad sack character who is having a lot of trouble functioning in society, the work place, simple exchanges of just about any kind. You get the picture, right? Van Deusen sure does. He draws up quite a repulsive fellow. And he runs with that as far as he can for his aims at effective dark humor. Given that he’s a young horny guy, our sad sack repeatedly blunders in matters of mating. For this guy, an attractive young woman would be fine but he finds they sure aren’t as easy as ordering a pizza. Once he’s fed up with his date, he is just as likely to disappear as he is to hang on.

In one disturbing/hilarious scene, Tom’s date steps into a port-o-potty. The date has not gone well and, instead of spending another minute with her, he tips over the potty and walks away. The timing is impeccable and inspires a chuckle. The scene is shocking. And it shows that, for Tom, women are literally disposable. But, heck, all of humanity is compost as far as he’s concerned.

There’s an undeniable tension here as we have a cartoon Tom that can’t help but refer back on some level to the cartoonist Tom. You can break this down many ways: it’s an opportunity for the real Tom to behave badly and provoke the reader; it’s an opportunity for the real Tom to comment on such bad behavior; the cartoon Tom can stand-in for human frailty; and, at the end of the day, it’s simply a fiction referring back to its creator. Quite a lot to juggle for Van Deusen–and also be funny. These are dynamics that, no doubt, Crumb was masterful with. And Van Deusen appears to be up to the challenge.

Panel from Scorched Earth #1

Panel from Scorched Earth #1

There’s always room for another character that you love to hate. In this case, you have a classic fool. Van Deusen seems to be on the right track with balancing hateful actions with just the right level of humor. Crumb made a career out of stoking the fires of dark humor to the point where he brought the red hot blaze so close as to burn. Van Deusen has set up camp. We’ll see how far he takes his own fires.

Yes, you too can now own the first two issues of the comics I’ve just reviewed, “Scorched Earth.” Find each 24-page comic book and other fine items at Poochie Press right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Independent Comics, Poochie Press, Seattle, Tom Van Deusen

Review: EAT EAT EAT by Tom Van Deusen

Cover to the print issue of Tom Van Deusen's most excellent EAT EAT EAT

Cover to the print issue of Tom Van Deusen’s most excellent EAT EAT EAT

“Eat Eat Eat” is a very funny comic by cartoonist Tom Van Deusen. That may not be readily apparent for some readers, I suppose. If you haven’t (or have?) been exposed to Robert Crumb, for instance. But, you know, for a lot of folks, this is going to be a laugh riot. Let me delve into this one further because it merits close attention. As I began to say, the content is, well, weird.

So, yeah, some people could potentially think they’re in for some typical gross out session. But, no, no, it’s not that. This is well-timed wry humor with a touch of the poet. That is to say that it does not collapse under the weight of heavily-used underground comix tropes. Many a cartoonist, and comics reviewer, have allowed themselves to get too caught up in what is thought to be fashionable scat. But you show some restraint and respect for craft and you end up moving forward.

Van Deusen knows how to make the most of the little details. He knows how to draw bared teeth to maximum effect. Each instance is mercilessly depicted with precision and gusto. And elicits a giggle. He also knows how to wring out humor from lettering for all it’s worth. Who knew how funny it could be to read his various hand-written renderings of “Later.” You know, a brief break in the action similar to “Meanwhile.” He loves to devote a full panel for each of his uses of “Later.”

Okay, I think we know where we stand now. It’s not so much gross out humor as absurdist humor that we find in this comic. Our hero is just a sad sack looking to get lucky. In this case, lucky in love. Lucky with the ladies. Our sad sack is NOT a ladies’ man but that doesn’t stop him. And when he does land a date with a cutie, he proves to her and all the world how underserving he is to have set foot outdoors in the first place.

Turns out, push comes to shove, forget the ladies, he’d much rather make out with a giant bag of popcorn. Wonderful surreal humor. Is it any wonder that I was reading this as I waited to see some improv comedy? It’s good stuff–and good for you. I read the rest during my visit to the chiropractor. I highly recommend that you read this as they crack you back into shape.

I had the treat of reading the collected webcomic work to EAT EAT EAT that makes for a powerful work in comics, all in one neat 24-page book. You really need to get yourself a copy, even if you’ve already read the webcomic. You can find out how to get your copy here. Ah, and there’s more comics by Tom Van Deusen, all part of his Poochie Press. We’ll cover another title in another post.

And be sure to check out the EAT EAT EAT webcomic at Studygroup right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Comics Reviews, Independent Comics, Poochie Press, Seattle, Tom Van Deusen

Review: RICHY VEGAS COMICS #8 and #9 by Richard Alexander

From "Richy Vegas Comics #9"

From “Richy Vegas Comics #9”

“Richy Vegas Comics,” by Richard Alexander, are what you would consider very personal and decidedly out of the mainstream. It reminds me a little of the work of Daniel Johnston. Based upon reading numbers 8 and 9 of this ongoing comic, I get the picture of what he’s doing and I can offer up some comments. For those who follow my reviews, you know that, at times, I’ll expand upon the review and make some general observations. I also want to discuss here personal comics in general.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Autobio Comics, Comics, Comics Reviews, Independent Comics, Richard Alexander, Richy Vegas Comics, Self-Published

Review: BASELINE BLVD by Emi Gennis

Emi-Gennis-Baseline-Blvd-2015

Emis Gennis is a cartoonist who I see as someone who likes to get down to business and create good comics. I admire that. Her work is clean and professional while also maintaining an organic energy to it. For her latest work, “Baseline Blvd,” she employs a precise and bold use of pencil to take us on quite a journey.

Gennis has a keen interest in sordid tales, as I’ve seen from her past work. For this one, we follow the emotional turmoil from an abusive relationship and the end results. We view this from various vantage points, often very quiet and nondescript.

A woman carries flowers in her car on a trip to find some resolution. We don’t know very much about her or any other details than are necessary. It’s as if the flotsam and jetsam of the urban sprawl the young woman sees on her way to her destination tries to compete for our attention. Faceless everyday detritus. A crow devouring roadside carrion.

Gennis is a born storyteller. “Baseline Blvd” shows us a cartoonist well on her way. This new comic just debuted at the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival. For more details on work in general, visit Emi Gennis right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Carrion Press, Comics, Emi Gennis, Independent Comics, Indie, mini-comics, Minicomics, Self-Published, Vancouver Comic Arts Festival

Comic Arts Los Angeles (CALA) Debuts a Comic Arts Festival

Comic Arts Los Angeles at Think Tank Gallery

Comic Arts Los Angeles at Think Tank Gallery

Comic Arts Los Angeles (CALA), a new comic arts festival in Los Angeles, took place this last Saturday, December 6, in a walk-up art gallery, Think Tank Gallery. This is the first major comic arts festival of its kind in the second largest city in the United States, taking its place alongside such notable comic arts festivals as MoCCA Comic Arts Festival in New York City, Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, and Short Run in Seattle, Washington.

Located in a part of the city tucked near Gallery Row and the Arts District, the actual site is amid a dazzling display of predominantly Mexican businesses, both storefront and street vendors. One banner atop the entrance and staff for the event lead you in. And so you climb the stairs and you are instantly transported to a world of indie comics. As Jen Wang, one of the founders of CALA, said in a panel discussion at the event, “When it comes to breaking into comics, you just make them and you’ve broken in.” In that spirit, you come to this event which is a mix of creators relatively new to breaking into comics along with many seasoned indie veterans attached to various publishers.

CALA-Think-Tank-Gallery

When it come to breaking into comics, while it may seem simple enough, there are a myriad of approaches, motivations, and sensibilities. I can tell you from my vantage point, as someone who has broken in, that there is and there is not a typical cartoonist profile. Referring back to this panel from the show, the last panel of the day in fact, Wang led a discussion on how to sustain a life in comics. Among the comments made, Ron Regé Jr. spoke to the fact that he never ever expected to make a dime off of his comics. And that pretty much says it all in one fell swoop because there are always cartoonists ready to make money from their work right along with others who don’t focus on demographics and the like.

Comic Arts Los Angeles

Comic Arts Los Angeles

A comic arts festival like CALA focuses on the more unusual and offbeat type of comics that are more prone to taking risks with the market. You will see table after table of minicomics and professionally bound books on a multitude of subjects and themes. There are no superhero comics, per se. In this context, a superhero theme is possible but most likely in a ironic tone. The overriding theme is personal and artistic. Of course, major publishers of comic books are hip to what the alternative comics crowd are up to and will collaborate with them from time to time. For some years now, major publishers have been publishing the best that emerges from self-published cartoonists. So, in a sense, the indie cartoonists are akin to stand-up comedians who may get picked up by a network. However, it’s complicated. Some cartoonists try to capitalize on trends, others follow their own muse. Ultimately, it’s quality work that wins out and transcends all these issues.

Ellen T. Crenshaw and "Colonial Comics: New England, 1620 – 1750"

Ellen T. Crenshaw and “Colonial Comics: New England, 1620 – 1750”

I was speaking with cartoonist Ellen T. Crenshaw who is a fitting example of a professional cartoonist/illustrator with an independent sensibility. Take a look at her work and you see an engaging style. She was pleased to see a great turn-out for CALA. In her experience with the Boston comics scene, it can be very rough for the first year of a comic arts festival. But CALA came out strong right out of the gate. Taking a closer look at Crenshaw’s work, it’s a successful combination of a clean and polished approach married to offbeat content. I picked up a hilarious and sweet minicomic of hers, “The Woodsman and the Bear,” that follows a bear who has fallen in love with a lumberjack. That will give you some indication of her vision. For something more challenging, there’s “Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750,” published by Fulcrum Publishing, that provides stories about Colonial America that you won’t find in the history books.

Farel Dalrymple and "The Wrenchies"

Farel Dalrymple and “The Wrenchies”

You could sense the energy in the crowds. I spoke with a number of friends in the comics community and everyone was all smiles. It’s just a matter of diving in and checking out various tables. Each creator is there in support of their most recent work along with their other titles. For instance, there was Farel Dalrymple in support of his graphic novel, “The Wrenchies,” published by First Second Books.

MariNaomi and "Dragon's Breath"

MariNaomi and “Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories”

MariNaomi was there in support of “Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories,” published jointly by 2D Cloud and Uncivilized Books.

Yumi Sakugawa

Yumi Sakugawa and “Bird Girl and Fox Girl”

Another favorite is certainly Yumi Sakugawa and she was there in support of “Your Illustrated Guide To Becoming One With The Universe,” published by Adams Media and “Bird Girl and Fox Girl,” published by Sparkplug Books.

Rounding out my coverage of CALA, I spoke with Jen Wang, one of the organizers and the illustrator of one of my favorite recent graphic novels, “In Real Life,” published by First Second Books. She was definitely excited about how well CALA was doing.

And, just to top it all off, I spoke with cartoonist and renowned comics historian Scott McCloud and got his take on the event. He was quite pleased to say the least.

Think Tank Gallery proved to be a great venue for CALA. With about 70 creators, the space afforded enough room to mix and mingle. Around the corner, there were panel discussions throughout the event. In the end, the reader, the potential buyer of said comix, indie comics, alternative comics, had much to choose from in a delightful setting. We all look forward to this being the start of a new comics tradition in LA.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, CALA, Comic Arts Festivals, Comic Arts Los Angeles, Comics, Independent Comics, Indie, Jen Wang, Los Angeles, Minicomics, Scott McCloud, Short Run

Comic Arts LA (CALA) at Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles, Saturday, December 6, 2014

CALA-Think-Tank-Gallery

If you’re in Los Angeles and love comics, there’s only one place to be this Saturday, December 6, and that’s Comic Arts LA (CALA) at Think Tank Gallery, 939 Maple Avenue, from 10am to 6pm. Free to the public! This is one of those big moments as a significant comic arts festival launches in LA. Comics Grinder has the travel bug and will be there! Will you be there?

Details follow:

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Filed under Alternative Comics, animation, CALA, Comic Arts Festivals, Comics, Comix, Independent Comics, Jen Wang, Los Angeles, Minicomics