Alt. Comics. I know little about them.
I know there’s a MOCCA arts festival, and I know the names Robert Crumb, Chris Ware, Harvey Pekar, Daniel Clowes, and Jeffrey Brown.
That’s it. And I’ve never actually read anything by any of those names. Except Clowes. I read Wilson.
I am fascinated by the scene, though. The personality, the technique, and the “art” keep grabbing at my eyes. But hero comics won’t let me go, so I hold back the full dive into alternative. One day, I figure. For now, I stay where my heart’s at.
There does exist one alternative artist I feel confident in “knowing.” His mini comics found home with me by way of a friend. They were cluttered in with an assortment of items handed off to me. For a while, they lay dormant with the rest of my ‘to read” pile, but at some point the work of J.T. Yost caught my attention. I’ve purchased all of his books since.
I’m kidding. That would suck as a blog post. So what made Yost’s work impressive? For starters, the generous amount of breasts splattered about his pages made reading quite enjoyable.
Again, kidding. I’m bad at jokes, I know. No, what made Yost impressive came down to a matter of voice. His comics utter something unique and worthwhile in terms of perspective. This may be insignificant in the world of alternative, personable comic books, but I don’t know, voice is hard to do. I’m speaking from my own experience, you know, writing these blog posts. Active voice, points, organization – that shit is cake. Sounding distinct? Whole other game. J.T. Yost, at least from my context, sounds like his own man.
His focus sticks to the everyday man and the idea of bearing witness, and his work captures that focus in a very blunt fashion. Yost has produced several mini comics and one-page stories, but his “Losers Weepers” series speaks the most about his work. The premise of Weepers is part catch, part emotion. Yost builds his story from a handful of random letters and notes he has come to possess. These letters are in no way directed at him, as most have been found on sidewalks, in parks, or on bulletin boards, but Yost looks into the words communicated and does his best to imagine the world of the person writing. From this, Yost hones in on a themes of defeat, perseverance, and stress.
Yost’s true talent resides in his ability to communicate emotion. A certain amount of it comes from the pure subject matter, but another half lies in the technique. His artwork holds an expressive style, and much of its power originates from the roundness associated with Yost’s figures and objects. While I certainly believe emotion can seep through blocky or angular line work, the roundness in Yost’s brings out a soft quality that really drives home the feeling. Everyone appears vulnerable and slightly bruised, and the backdrop, the setting, feels equally worn. Yost can jump over to generous detail too. At times, backgrounds are completely absent, but at some point a full page splash showcases his printed world. These moments put the story into perspective, and they show you where these characters come from. They suggest an environment which is out to get you, or at least pester you.
It’s the characters that stand out as well. As Yost uses story to walk in another’s shoes, he crafts characters to work as the men and women we see everyday. A single mom, an ex-boyfriend, and an immigrant – all archetypes in a way. Further connection comes from this element. These are figures we can easily believe in and may even know in our own lives, and Yost’s narrative gives us a little glimpse into that world. He holds little back too. It may come more from the format, but Yost gets right to the events in his story. The pacing can seem a little quick at first. Most characters seem to sometimes spontaneously act out, but after sinking into the narrative it all seems natural. As if, the rules of Yost’s story world dictate a universal bluntness. I like it. The story doesn’t waste time yet moves comfortably and gets to the point. The pacing helps shape these mini comics into short vignettes that stand out.
I don’t know. My knowledge is limited, but I dig J.T Yost’s comics. I probably own most if not all of them, and I will continue to follow his future exploits. This guy has something, and his talent as a story teller is impressive.
Now, if you’re interested, you can listen to me interview him. But. I warn you. This interview is weak. I blame me. J.T. speaks well and has much to offer, but my questions are lame and predictable. Also, as stated, I know nothing about alternative comics, and this is J.T.’s background. The interview sounds like two guys on two separate wavelengths. Listen at your own expense. Here.
You can also buy the dude’s comics. I highly recommend such action. Do it. Losers Weepers #3 is his new one.