2012 – 2012
It’s over: 365 days of ups and downs. I’m unsure what 2012 signifies in my own personal journey at this point, but I can say it was another year of learning and lessons complete with the expected depression, doubt and general dissidence. Aren’t they all?
I managed to pull it together and figure out a few new personal tidbits, though I haven’t dealt with the negatives yet. I’m aware at least, right? That’s something.
Could I list and heavily describe my insightful discoveries right here in this blog post? Sure could, but why? I know them; that’s cool enough. I’d rather write about comics, anyway (plus, that’s what you care about).
10. King-Cat #73 – John Porcellino
I love this dude. The issue delivered a cuckoo bird. Not short, poetic bursts of emotion or hardy, reflective haikus. Nope. Instead, Porcellino drags us through a lengthy piece on cuckoo birds and his obsession, crafting a better, more real diary comic than the handful I’d read this year. And for someone completely uninterested in birdwatching, the story only has more of an affect. Only then do you realize the dedication and focus necessary to either commit to such a stakeout or draw such a comic. That says a lot about Porcellino, revealing a tendency possessed by our author and sharing something personal while also straying from a more direct, potentially heavy-handed approach. Also, it’s a further example of comics as documentation, and I respect the way Porcellino has made King-Cat such an extension of himself. It lives beyond the page.
9. Zegas #2 – Michel Fiffe
“Slice-of-Life” acting larger-than-life. Beautiful colors. Touching stories. Huge pages. We all love this dude.
8. The Sky In Stereo – Mardou
The saddest thing I’ve read all year, Mardou takes this tale of hometown discomfort and drug use and places her readership right alongside the cast, creating this sensation of universal familiarity (especially proving the point by using a UK township). Through body language, a wash of short, black lines and a general 90s aesthetic, she fabricates a sense of sorrow and grime so vivid it propels the work. The Sky in Stereo may appear a little typical of alternative comics, what with the frowns and self-awareness, but the conflict feels larger than hometown entrapment and youth disarray. There’s something cosmic about the work, and the conflict jabbing our protagonist feels more like a test of fate than self-destruction.
Read it. It sticks with you.
7. Lose #4 – Michael DeForge
After the initial read, I sat lopsided, dumbfounded as to what Lose #4 is. Like much of DeForge’s work, it’s grotesque, oily and pimple-ridden, but #4 was disinterested in some of that visceral immediacy; it works from the inside out after planting its seed. I spent days with the flashbacks, reliving a handful of its images as the disease slowly took root.To translate horror and disturbia in such a way just deserves applause, and like always DeForge’s pacing is sharp and such a component of the delivery.
6. Prophet – Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis
A beautiful example of visual storytelling paired with an exciting epic. So much has been said, yet words aren’t necessary to understand Prophet‘s genius. You just have to look at it.
5. Incinerator – Michael DeForge
4. Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #8 – Joe Casey, Mike Huddleston
My #3 pick last year, this conclusion delivered. More so, maybe, than any other conclusion I’ve read of a comic book series. Angry, bulging and a true work of art, Butcher Baker will always represent collaboration, attitude and the true potential of comic books. Fuck, it’s a love letter to the medium, if anything. There’s so much to be said of it, yet I don’t feel like expressing here. So, some links:
3. Injury #4 – Ted May, Jeff Wilson, Mike Reddy
If you are the type of reader who enjoys to watch and witness rather than unravel a mixed bag of plot items, “Songbird,” Injury #4’s main feature, delivers. In fact, it may re-establish your faith in the medium and remind you of the power and control a comic book artist has in their intimate domain. Some may try to write “Songbird” off as more drug-themed slacker fiction or indie autobiography, and while technically it has those themes, May and Wilson’s tone for the story feels more like a war narrative than anything. A crew of teenage metal heads read as if they’re a platoon of soldiers preparing to experience heavy combat, and detention is their no man’s land.
There’s an epic scale brought to this familiar background, yet it’s funny in just the right places.
2. Casanova: Avarita – Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba
Everyone hated it; I loved it. Casanova transforms as Matt Fraction bites back against every pundit and reader who thought they could define his magnum opus. It subverts and destroys itself as Gabriel Ba produces the loudest, decibel-splitting work of his career. It’s fucking bloody and upset. It’s the truest shit he’s ever written.
God damn, I love this book.
1. The End of the Fucking World – Charles (Chuck) Forsman
In which I re-post something I wrote months ago because I’m lazy.
This right here is why I read comics.
Yet, while so won over and ready to spill praise, I’ve sat staring at the previous two lines for, oh, two hours. A few Twitter visits in between, sure, but staring, staring … I’m not sure how to start this one. I think that’s the sign of when you’ve truly enjoyed something, though. It’s easy to be negative or tear something down, but to convey enjoyment or state why exactly something spoke to you … that’s hard. Because you want to get it just right, and ultimately you know you won’t because, well, there’s too much to say.
Charles Forsman’s The End of the Fucking World, like John Porcellino’s King-Cat, represents what I’d love to make if I were an artist, and beyond that, it just exemplifies what exactly it is I love about comics. It’s lo-fi yet stylistic, subtle yet visceral – a version of Bonnie and Clyde bled through the lens of Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park, and it’s completely been sown into a series of eight page mini comics cut to match the size of your hand.
And even then, I’ve just sold this thing short using a cliche “this meets this” label.
TEOTFW follows James and Alyssa – two teenagers living the classic teenage experience as they sort of face down the impending doom of oncoming adulthood. Forsman tells their story by adopting both character’s perspectives, jumping between first person points of views with each issue, using each leap in narrator to define the other character. So far, five issues deep into this however long saga, we understand James and Alyssa in one, clear way. That they hang onto each other because they seem to be afraid of the alternative: facing the future alone.
The book in general riffs on this nihilistic temperament – something I guess you could say is synonymous with adolescence – and in numerous ways Forsman illustrates, I think, the disdain, fear and existential search the teen years bring about. He may do so through a few extreme examples, like shoving a character’s fist into a garbage disposal, but the idea certainly resides under the, at times, harsh visuals. The comic’s pacing puts me on my ass, though, because Forsman only has eight, substantially smaller pages to accomplish all of this, yet he’s nailed the mission every time. Much of this comes from Forsman apparent understanding of timing and how long is long enough for a scene or moment, and he’s also just aware of what exactly needs to be seen. Every panel has a job, here. You can’t say the same for most other comics.
All together, this great, solid rhythm works its way into your reading. You feel the beat in Forsman’s storytelling, and it all sort of reminds you of how much can be done with less at your disposal. Which is sort of the bigger point here. I love that TEOTFW is printed on plain old white paper any of us could go and purchase at a Staples. I love that it’s a mini comic. I love that it comes out monthly. None of it says high production or hype. No red tape. No middlemen. Instead, TEOTFW embodies the “let’s do it” mentality and just tells its story without any of the flare around it, as opposed to the gloss paper and PR of mainstream books or the hardback, book tour savvy graphic novels of high art. TEOTFW just goes in the face of all such examples of nonsense and extra and simply revitalizes the idea that, “hey, making comics is something open to every man, woman and child.” The lo-fi mechanics strengthen the ideal perception of comics being these very direct, timely expressions and reflections.
Yet, as I’ve noted, Forsman’s work doesn’t exactly live up to the minimal format, though, which is something else I truly love about this idea of comics being lo-fi and direct. There’s a dichotomy present, a phrase Joe Casey coined as “lo-fi futureshit.” I love that in these simple productions, these pulp mags, these Kinkos pamphlets there can exist ideas or emotions far beyond the grasp of the paper. That even though you may be reading something made on an HP printer and costs a dollar, you can spend a day, or a whole essay, reflecting on it as well as gain inspiration.
Something about such a dichotomy gives me goosebumps, and ultimately it’s kind of why I grow a little sad when I see such a push toward expensive book formats and year long waits for graphic novels. Suddenly, the production cost grows a little steeper, yet I’m not sure the truest impact comes along.
Because, to me, that’s the most amazing part about comics. Simplicity achieving complexity.
And above all the waxing thoughts of teenage conflict, storytelling or Peanuts art style transposed over seventeen year old deadpans (nod to Frank Santoro on that point), Forsman’s The End of the Fucking World hits me hardest because of its faith in lo-fi futureshit. Granted, I’m not sure if Charles Forsman intended any bit of such a thing, but when I read these mini comics, my head automatically goes there and I gleefully clap.
That said though, I would totally double-dip and buy a collection of this work because eventually I’m sure my copies of these comics will fall apart with age. And re-reading. Aside from my crazy beliefs on what comics are and how this series represents them, The End of the Fucking World showcases some wonderful storytelling, and it nails the bleak wonder lying behind the end of youth. I look forward to forthcoming chapters. Who knows what the future holds.
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Also, Shawn Starr drew this comic and made me laugh. Farewell, 2012!