Category Archives: Comics

Review: RINGSIDE #1, published by Image Comics


Kayfabe” is the unspoken understanding between the audience and pro wrestlers to suspend disbelief. You never have to question what goes on in the ring. But what pact do pro wrestlers make amongst themselves and each other? This is part of what is going on in RINGSIDE, a new comic published by Image Comics, by writer Joe Keatinge (SHUTTER) and artist Nick Barber. Rounding out the creative team is colorist Simon Gough and letterer Ariana Maher. This is a unique behind-the-scenes look at the world of pro wrestling in the form of a noir tale which kicks off, in this first issue, with our getting to know ex-champ Dan “The Minotaur” Knossos.


In the spirit of a shaggy dog gritty story by Ed Brubaker, Joe Keatinge’s script begins with Dan as he makes his way to right some past wrongs. He’s like on a mission from God; nothing will stop him. We see him uproot himself from a relatively good position in Japan hellbent for San Francisco. Dan is now of a certain age. At this point in his career, he is best served if he was a mentor or, even better, if he just gracefully walked away. But this is a messy situation that is only going to get messier. Just what we want.

Nick Barber has a very accessible style. It reminds me a bit of Box Brown’s approach: pared down to the basics. Brown especially comes to mind since he did a tremendous book on pro wrestling a few years back. His tribute to Andre the Giant set the gold standard as far as I’m concerned. You can read my review of ANDRE THE GIANT: LIFE AND LEGEND right here. Barber has that same energy running throughout RINGSIDE.

This is a comic with a cinematic quality keeping to a steady pace. I especially enjoy the conversations here that involve some creative back and forth between poses and background and never gets caught in the rut of talking heads. The dialogue and composition won’t allow for that. This first issue offers a lot of intriguing possibilities. Dan is clearly a cut above the typical aging ex-wrestler. And he is also clearly over his head with what he plans to do next.

RINGSIDE #1 is available as of November 25. For more details, visit our friends at Image Comics right here.


Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Image Comics

Review: ‘The Puma Blues: The Complete Saga in One Volume’

The Puma Blues Murphy Zulli Dover

The Puma Blues is essential reading. And now, after being out of print for nearly 25 years, here is this beautiful definitive collection of the ecological thriller published by Dover Publications.

Look out for those flying manta rays!

Look out for those flying manta rays!

Now, you know what manta rays are, don’t you? They are those large flat-bodied fish, black on top, white underneath, with a long thin tail, a big mouth, and those fleshy horns. Ech! How about a swarm of them flying above your head? There are many beautifully rendered pages of such things in the legendary comic book series, The Puma Blues, written by Stephen Murphy, and drawn by Michael Zulli, first released starting in 1986 and now with a definitive collected hardcover published by Dover Publications. It is safe to say that there’s nothing quite like it.

The Puma Blues Gavia Immer

With its driven protagonist, conspiracy theories, and philosophical musings, The Puma Blues held its own with other ambitious works of the time like, Watchmen. It is both a thriller and a weird mystical journey for our hero, Gavia Immer. Sort of like Special Agent Mulder, Immer is a government agent tasked with investigating a myriad of ecological anomalies, like flying manta rays. Set in the not-too-distant future, Immer is equipped with a transducer gun able to transport endangered wildlife from their natural habitats to government facilities.

The Puma Blues-Dover-2015

Weighing in at 560 pages, this hardcover is aimed to please. Among its extras, is a 40-page epilogue written by the original creators. This work is in the tradition of some the greatest graphic novels and has made the short list of many critics. It will bring to mind Barry Windsor-Smith, Moebius, and Dave Sim, who happens to provide the Introduction. Another great, Stephen R. Bissette provides the Afterword.

For more details, be sure to visit our friends at Dover Publications right here.

1 Comment

Filed under Comics, Dover Publications, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels

Review: MANIFESTO ITEMS #5 by David Lasky


Even in what would seem to be the carefree world of alt-comics, there is a creeping feeling of “self-publish or perish” that can nag at many a cartoonist. This can be a good thing as it helps to motivate many who must rely upon their own self-imposed deadlines. Despite all the interest that is supposed to be heaped upon the DIY world and a myriad of other endeavors conveniently labeled as “hipster,” “quirky,” or the grand ole workhorse, “geek,” there’s really no money, let alone a livelihood, to be expected from all the scribbling in notebooks and sketchbooks. Maybe, for some, there’s at least a real feeling of accomplishment from one’s efforts, not just a pat on the back. And, for a relative few who keep honing their craft, and especially at the alt level, each year brings a little more recognition. Each year makes the big picture more clear. This is certainly the case with cartoonist David Lasky. Here’s a look at a special annual publication that he’s been putting together to coincide with the Short Run Comix & Arts Festival in Seattle.

David Lasky Cat Comics

David Lasky and I are of the same vintage. I consider him a good friend and a fellow cartoonist that I’ve always admired. We’re both in Seattle and share a certain sensibility. So, of all the people who take a moment to read what I have to say, he’s one of my readers who I will hope to especially resonate with. Let me put it this way: I appreciate what he’s doing on a deep level. I believe there’s this chasing after the brass ring that was drummed into folks from our Generation X. People like us will make good on the dreams we’ve envisioned since we were little kids, as corny as that sounds. I know that makes sense to David, and probably, I would hope, to everyone reading this.


What we find in “Manifesto Items #5” is special indeed. David Lasky highlights his creation of comics from the past year. It’s a fascinating window into the creative process. Like I say, there’s that “publish or perish” mantra that can dog cartoonists. If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? That’s the challenge that many creators must contend with. They can certainly opt to work alone until a project is complete and many are just fine with that. But some want to keep stoking the fires in between significant work and so they need to hunt down viable options such as anthologies, local publications, and comics jams. In the case of Lasky, it is this short form work, with its room for experimentation, that he loves the most and that he can raise to the level of significant work. We get a nice sampling of all of that, notably a sci-fi satire that appeared in The Intruder.

David Lasky Poetry Comics

Perhaps most revealing are a couple of things that feel very natural. One is a father and son comics memoir. David is visiting his dad. And his dad gives him some advice: Rid yourself of clutter! He then proceeds to unload a bunch of books and DVDs on his son who gladly accepts each and every one. I think that speaks to a particular Gen X mad love for all media.

The other is a prose essay recollection of David visiting the Hirshhorn Museum as a little boy to see a Saul Steinberg retrospective. David was fascinated by Steinberg on many levels not the least of which was his noncommercial approach to cartooning! Here you had Steinberg creating cartoon characters without a comic strip or any scent of franchise. Ah, that’s fodder for Gen X rebellion! And to make the point, David emulated Steinberg’s penchant for drawing cartoons directly onto the envelopes he sent off in the mail. How unconventional back then and even today.

Be sure to visit David Lasky right here. Find David at Etsy right here.


Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, David Lasky, mini-comics, Short Run, Short Run Comix & Arts Festival

Review: GONE GIRL #1 and #2 by Noel Franklin

GONE GIRL COMICS #1 by Noel Franklin

GONE GIRL COMICS #1 by Noel Franklin

Noel Franklin explores various Gen X concerns, with a Seattle sensibility, in her ongoing comics series, GONE GIRL. It will grab you right away with its distinctive use of chiaroscuro. Franklin’s artwork comes from a printmaking background and that is what you’ll find here, printmaking turned into comics.

What will charm you is Franklin’s recollections of such things as Seattle during the grunge era. Looking back on it, it was a fleeting time but perhaps no more fleeting than any other scene. Things happen. Time marches on. Fortunately, we have such keepsakes as GONE GIRL.



This is a comic on a slow boil. Take a careful look and every bit of it has been patiently put together. That owes, in no small measure, to the Gen X ethos which I proudly share with Franklin. Yes, we are Gen Xers. Baby Boomers still hold their own. Millennials shine in their own way. And Generation X still informs discussion at-large in spite of ourselves. In our youth, many of us often adopted a spacey belligerence mixed with pre-snark weird humor. In the end, we always demand authenticity.

GONE GIRL COMICS #2 by Noel Franklin

GONE GIRL COMICS #2 by Noel Franklin

Each 24-page issue of GONE GIRL collects an assortment of stories. For the first issue, Franklin features recollections that take us all over Seattle in the ’90s. There is a moving tribute to the OK Hotel which hosted some of the greatest alt-rock acts of the era. She recounts that in 1991 Nirvana first performed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at the OK Hotel. In 2001, the Nisqually earthquake left the venerable music venue structurally unsound and had to be closed down.



The second issue features stories ranging from childhood recollections of Chicago to a fantasy piece about anachrophobia. They are all held together by a fiercely independent vision which brings me back to the idea of a Gen X spirit running through these pages. It seems to me that we were creative trail-blazers without fully realizing it or making a particularly big show about it. All this was pre-internet. We didn’t just draw something and then post it on Tumblr. No, instead, it was like the recollections Franklin shares here about doing an odd day job to get through art school. In her case, she was working as a welder to pay her way through a degree in Photography. Back then, it seems that the art-making process was more far-ranging and we deliberately took the road less travelled. However you want to look at it, this leads to compelling art and remarkable work like this series.

For more details, visit Noel Franklin right here. Visit her on Patreon right here.


Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Generation X, Noel Franklin, Patreon, Short Run, Short Run Comix & Arts Festival

Review: THE AGE, Book One, by Katie Wheeler

Emma is lost and searching in "The Age."

Emma is lost and searching in “The Age.”

Especially in uncertain times, we seek escape in such genre as post-apocalyptic fiction. For her ongoing graphic novel, “The Age,” Katie Wheeler turns genre on its head by giving it a decidedly alternative comics sensibility. Her artwork has that crunchy, bold, and inky look to it, very expressive and direct. This 78-page first installment is one of my favorites from this year’s Short Run Comix & Arts Festival in Seattle. The story thus far has a nice self-contained feel to it while prompting you to look forward to more.


I believe that both Wheeler’s art and writing have a distinctively raw and authentic quality. So, when she goes in and tackles genre, it is handled in a meaningful way. When you reach that inevitable confrontation, and violence, it’s not empty entertainment, per se, but something to think about. We begin with ten-year-old Emma searching through a neglected home. The theme of searching runs throughout as Emma, and a lot of other kids, find themselves in a crisis with an aggressive airborne disease. Worse yet, it is the children themselves who may be the cause of this strange disease. No one seems to really know for sure. The only thing that is for certain is that it has led to a definite split between children and adults.


THE AGE is one of those works in comics that achieves what it sets out to do with flying colors: it holds your attention. Like I say, this has everything to do with a genuine interest in the characters and that’s a hallmark of alternative comics. Wheeler has the patience, and dedication, to spin her yarn with care. And, keep in mind, this is actually how folks like Robert Kirkman began. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but The Walking Dead began as an indie comic all those years ago. While there are no zombies to be found in Wheeler’s comic, it is going to appeal to readers looking for something different, offbeat, and with some bite.

For more details, visit Katie Wheeler right here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Katie Wheeler, Short Run, Short Run Comix & Arts Festival

Mini-comic Review: ‘The Secret Life of Plants’ by Sarah Romano Diehl

"The Secret Life of Plants," by Sarah Romano Diehl

“The Secret Life of Plants,” by Sarah Romano Diehl

In the 1932 short story, “Green Thoughts,” by John Collier, we are treated to some dazzling horror but we are also invited inside the mind of a giant orchid. This unique plant’s point of view is what we find in this recent mini-comic, “The Secret Life of Plants,” by Sarah Romano Diehl.


Collier’s work most likely inspired the cult classic movie, “Little Shop of Horrors.” Diehl’s work takes a more mellow approach. In fact, her inspiration was a song by Stevie Wonder, “Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants.” You can listen to it right here.


This is a beautifully rendered little book in the true spirit of mini-comics. It’s like a little calling card for a new cartoonist. You present yourself at the party, you do a little dance, and finally you leave and go on about your business. And then maybe you wait. Someone like me might pick it up, set it down, and then return to it.

What’s interesting here is a sense of determination and an adventurous artistic spirit. This comic is alive, like a bee making its way into a flower! There’s a good deal of interesting ambiguous imagery. I really have no idea what the colorful flames represent at the end but I don’t believe you’re supposed to know. From what I see, Diehl is an accomplished artist and this little book is a fun and open-ended work that is very enchanting.

You can find Sarah Romano Diehl right here.


Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Illustration, mini-comics, Minicomics, Short Run, Short Run Comix & Arts Festival

Review: ‘Arsene Schrauwen’ by Olivier Schrauwen

Arsene Schrauwen Fantagraphics

What if I told you that there was this one graphic novel that seemed to slip by many a reviewer’s radar last year and it turns out to be one of the most beguiling works in years? Here it is, “Arsene Schrauwen” by Olivier Schrauwen, translated from the original Flemish and published by Fantagraphics Books.

We begin with the author, Olivier Schrauwen, introducing himself byway of his connection to his grandfather. And we are soon on a boat in December of 1947 as Arsene Schrauwen leaves behind his homeland of Belgium on his way to a tropical colony. Once there, Arsene is at the mercy of the hospitality of his eccentric cousin, Roger Desmet.

Arsene meets his cousin, Roger!

Arsene meets his cousin, Roger!

Arsene is far from a dashing figure. He looks to be in pudgy middle-age although he is actually still in his twenties. Arsene looks like your typical Chris Ware character: remarkable for being unremarkable. Arsene is all banality, a portrait of grotesque pathos. He falls in love with Marieke, Roger’s wife, also a poster child for sad people. And it all works splendidly since, again like Chris Ware, we have here a multi-layered narrative employing an assortment of visual treats.

This graphic novel brings to my mind Werner Herzog’s film, “Fitzcarraldo,” about a crazed man’s dream to build an opera house in the Peruvian jungle. As it turns out, Desmet gets Arsene caught up in his dream of building a shining city in the jungle that will require a caravan of workers navigating through rugged terrain that includes a roaring stream which ultimately leads to a valley situated between mountains.

Lippens and his obscenely thick lips.

Lippens and his obscenely thick lips.

Schrauwen appreciates that, if you can legitimately hold the reader’s attention, time and space recede into the background. In this way, Schrauwen can indulge in such involved scenes as, Lippens, a strange old man with thick lips who leaves Arsene feeling uneasy. As he does with other characters, Schrauwen reduces Lippens down to a cylindrical face with only thick lips. Schrauwen deftly focuses on what matters, blurring backgrounds and reducing people to basic shapes as needed.

Perhaps Marieke will save Arsene.

Perhaps Marieke will save Arsene.

With Schrauwen, you have definitely entered into an ideal example of the often cryptic and fascinating world of alternative comics. The air is thin at times in this rarefied environment. At intervals, you’ll get a notice requesting that you please wait a week before reading further. The very next page thanks you for waiting. But you cannot stop reading.

You read on about the constant threat of “elephant worms” that give Arsene nightmares about tiny elephants entering his body. Ostrich eggs appear regularly as you see Arsene preparing them for breakfast just as often as he’s throwing them against a wall. And then there’s the leopard men with insatiable sexual desires. Indeed. This is a tour de force of weird fiction full of the fantastical and an unabashed celebration of the human psyche and all bodily functions.

For a graphic novel weighing in at 257 pages, it makes sense to bring in some anchoring devices to keep things on track for the long haul. Schrauwen manages to keep to a steady pace by framing much of the story in a grid-like pattern: most pages hold six panels that oddly resemble playing cards. Ornate details are kept to a minimum. And we get a consistent pitter-patter of our many characters, much like you’d find in a classic comic strip or a silent movie. Arsene, after all, is supposed to be an enigmatic creature from a bygone era. It is in this story that, for a relatively brief time, you get to see him in all his glory, among the shadows and the ghosts, in his true element.

“Arsene Schrauwen” is a 257-page trade paperback. For more details, visit our friends at Fantagraphics Books right here.

1 Comment

Filed under Comics, European Comics, Fantagraphics Books, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels

Review: The Goddamned #1 – Before the Flood Part One


And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagining of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

–Genesis 6:5-6

THE GODDAMNED is a bold comic indeed, a Biblical noir series from the creative team that brought you SCALPED, writer Jason Aaron and artist R. M. Guéra, with the addition of artist Giulia Brusco.

It is 1600 years after Eden and the world has gone the way of Mad Max. An Adonis emerges, nude and unmarked, from a pond of shit. A little maundering boy peppers him with questions about why he has no scars and how he could survive violent torture. The young man, who turns out to be Cain, just keeps walking, all the way back to his tormentors, the Bone Boys. Off to a very good start.

The artwork is eye-poppingly good, all gritty Western noir. What happens next is that we find that Cain makes for a great, maybe even better, Conan. Although I can imagine Biblical devotees perhaps scratching their heads and waiting to see if things go too far. Well all these things considered, this looks to be a refreshing tale that no one should seriously have a problem with. It may be set in a Biblical landscape, but from there it takes off into its own world.

True to all the promotion for this comic, THE GODDAMNED delivers a satisfying read. There’s a good portion of it that is wordless and that makes for some perfect extended scenes. You’ll find some of the best compositions depicting action here. And I put it mildly when I say, action. Cain knows how to kick ass.

THE GODDAMNED is available as of November 11th. For more details, visit our friends at Image Comics right here.

1 Comment

Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Image Comics

Review and Interview: Koren Shadmi, creator of THE ABADDON

THE ABADDON by Koren Shadmi

THE ABADDON by Koren Shadmi


“I’m going to smile, and my smile will sink down into your pupils, and heaven knows what it will become.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit

THE ABADDON is a very popular webcomic and is due out as a collected work on November 12th from Z2 Comics. It’s my pleasure to share with you some observations on the work and to share with you an interview with its creator, Koren Shadmi.

You’re this young guy in a new city who is desperately looking for a room to rent. You just happen to find what looks like the best deal you could hope for: cool roomies, one a potential romantic interest, a spacious loft, and you can pay what you want on rent. Huh? How does that work? Before Ter can ask too many questions, he’s voted into the group. Little does he realize he forgot to check if he hasn’t just made the worst mistake of his life. And so begins Koren Shadmi’s very quirky graphic novel, THE ABADDON. It is loosely based on Jean-Paul Sartre’s play, NO EXIT, and is due out November 12th from Z2 Comics.


I took notice of Koren Shadmi’s artwork with the recent graphic novel, MIKE’s PLACE: A TRUE STORY OF LOVE, BLUES AND TERROR IN TEL AVIV, published by First Second Books. You can read my review here. Shadmi has a very appealing style that truly brings each character to life. In the case of the character-driven THE ABADDON, he runs the spectrum of personalities, all of which are quite dysfunctional. Poor Ter never had a chance, although he may beg to differ. Shadmi does a masterful job of taking us on Ter’s surreal journey. Even if he were to escape his roomies, does he seriously think he can escape The Abaddon?


Shadmi is the sort of artist/writer who is at home with asking the big questions. With a cartoonist’s instinct for concise and precise communication, he distills those big ideas into accessible and entertaining content. He’s not taking anything away from the integrity of the subject at hand; even existential matters are fair game for comics. In fact, what better subject to tackle in the comics medium that questions of why and how we exist? The Abaddon proves to be a highly satisfying read.


In our interview, we touch upon existential matters, what led to the creation of The Abaddon, and what lies ahead for this up and coming illustrator and cartoonist.

GOD by Koren Shadmi

GOD by Koren Shadmi

I begin by asking him about one of his most compelling illustrations: a museum exhibit with a display for God. It’s one of the illustrations that you can purchase through his website right here. Click below to listen to the podcast interview below:

THE ABADDON is available starting November 12th from Z2 Comics. You can also find it at Amazon right here.


Filed under Cartooning, Comics, Existentialism, Illustration, Koren Shadmi, School of Visual Arts, Webcomics, Z2 Comics

Review: THE MAGICIAN’S WIFE by François Boucq and Jerome Charyn

Velvet Verbone warms up to the case.

Velvet Verbone warms up to the case.

Ever since its publication in 1986, it has developed a cult following. It’s been out-of-print in English for 30 years. And THE MAGICIAN’S WIFE has not lost any of its magic. This is a prime example of what is possible in comics in the graphic novel format. Thanks to Drew Ford and Dover Publications, it is back! As your guide through comics, I strongly recommend that you put aside everything, your morning coffee, your late-night rendezvous, whatever, and seek this book out. It will change your life.

THE MAGICIAN'S WIFE by François Boucq and Jerome Charyn

THE MAGICIAN’S WIFE by François Boucq and Jerome Charyn

All these French masters who took an American art form, the comic strip, and transformed it into the graphic novel: Bilal, Boucq, Blutch, Tardi, Masse, Liberatore, and Loustal. I was in Paris in that heady time, circa 1988, and I most vividly recall as a very young aspiring cartoonist and writer that something very different and exciting was happening. In that same year, Drew Ford, as a youth, would stumble upon a copy of “The Magician’s Wife” in a secondhand shop in upstate New York. Drew Ford would go on to see that book get a proper reprint at Dover Publications after being out-of-print in English for oh too long. So, what is so exciting, and magical, about this particular comic? Well, it speaks to that desire for a truly ideal and satisfying entertainment. It manages to actually realize that dream of a comic that is perfect down to each and every panel. A fantastical story that strikes you with its poetry and poignancy. And there’s supernatural things going on to boot. Rita, the magician’s wife, could quite possibly be a werewolf.

Our story makes its way to New York City.

Our story makes its way to New York City.

Much in the irreverent and artistic French spirit, this is a story that simply is. In some sense, is it both a complex and straightforward visual treat. It is also a splendid work of surreal, absurd, whimsy. And, in the end, it is a very well-structured, undeniably tightly-knit story. It feels like a dream that goes on forever and yet you sense that it is also quite a lean and determined piece. Silly, fun, but also deadly serious. Full of symbolic impact. With a squarely-in-the-eyes shot to the deepest recesses of your mind. Graphic novels come from the city and this is very much an urban story full of gritty elements. Yes, this definitely has mature content. But, like in the best work of this kind, there is a certain level of restraint that makes this suitable for young teens and up.

Verbone continues to track down clues.

Verbone continues to track down clues.

Edmund, the magician in this story, is a cross between an amazing wizard and a cowardly ne’er-do-well. It is a struggle that will consume him and those that come into his orbit. Things move at a relatively steady clip in a work of comics. However, there a number of reasons to slow down the pacing: to convey a mood, to reinforce an idea, to thoroughly establish a setting. This comic manages to keep things moving while seeming to have all day to do it and all in a tidy 82 pages. I maintain that a comic need not run longer than 80 or 100 pages. You find your sweet spot and you don’t need to pad things up.

Edmund futilely attempts to show everyone who is boss.

Edmund futilely attempts to show everyone who is boss.

Consider the above page. Not too much obvious movement but you can quickly sense a rapid energy at work as well. This is a pivotal moment for Edmund: he is momentarily in full control and in the process of consolidating his position, and then he must confront a huge setback and a taste of what’s to come. We first find him emerging from a restful pose; then a full-figure attentive pose; followed by arm raised in confrontation; right in the center, an indignant look; his former lover defies him; he escalates the situation; finally, his new lover puts him in his place.

Edmund. Rita, Detective Verbone. Ah, all the misbegotten jockeys from Saratoga Springs. The gals at the diner. The regular group of cops too concerned with hamburgers. And the hoodlums from the Lower Eastside led by the monstrous Ross. And, for an added literary touch, Dolores, a name that keeps floating in and out of the narrative. At varying times, it belongs to someone’s sweetheart, an animal, and a maid. If only Dolores could be pinned down for just a moment, she might have something quite insightful to reveal. But, not to worry, perhaps the jockeys will carve up another horse. And everything rendered in this glorious semi-realistic style that floats along perfectly with great distinction–and such vivid color. Yes, this is it. This is the graphic novel you’ve been waiting for all your life. Get it at our friends at Dover Publications right here.


Filed under Bande Dessinée, Comics, Dover Publications, François Boucq, France