Category Archives: Small Press

Stickleback

SticklebackStickleback
by Graham Annable
Alternative Comics

Two-color, 48 pgs, $6.95 US / Higher in Canada

It really is impressive how some people can do so much with so little. Take comics creator Graham Annable for instance: his Grickle and Further Grickle collections are comprised of a series of short comic stories populated with characters that are little more than stick figures, and yet the tales are filled with poignancy, humour, sadness and triumph. He manages to do this because he is able to convey truth that resonates in both his illustrations and his words. This is as evident in Stickleback as it is in Grickle and Further Grickle. Continue reading Stickleback

Farewell, Georgia

Farewell GeorgiaFarewell, Georgia
by Ben Towle
Slave Labor Graphics

BW, 48 pgs , $6.95 US / Higher in Canada

We all know someone who is great at telling tall tales. For me, I had two such folk around my campfire of life. The first was  Joe Zack, a kindly man who was old even back in the days when I was young. The other person is my great uncle Leonard, who has many tales to tell about his own life, from rum-running with his brother (my grandfather), helping smuggle Chinese immigrants into Canada, and of a murder to which, to this very day, Leonard claims only he knows the identity of the killer.

Tales such as these often take on a life of their own, growing with each telling, each teller adding his or her own particular brand of spice. In time, these tales make the rounds and become a defining characteristic of a community, a time and place. The best of these become folk tales, specific to certain locations, but also capable of crossing borders because people from all over can identify with their underlying qualities. Continue reading Farewell, Georgia

Pistolwhip

PistolwhipPistolwhip
by Matt Kindt and Jason Hall
Top Shelf Productions

BW, 128 pgs, $14.95 US / Higher in Canada

This graphic novel was released in 2001, and soon after its debut, the big name critics like the folks from The Comics Journal were singing its praises. Pistolwhip and its sequel / follow-up tale Pistolwhip: The Yellow Menace, tossed creators Matt Kindt and Jason Hall into the limelight. Pistolwhip opened new doors for both of these talented guys.

The opening pages really floored me. A man wakes up to find himself in an old fashioned diving suit. You know, one of those big buggers with the metal helmet and the oxygen tube rising out of the top, snaking its way through the water to the boat where it is attached to a pump. The man wakes up in this suit, and finds himself under the water, surrounded by other men. These fellows are not in suits, at least not the diving sort. These guys are dead, floating in the water with concrete blocks attached to their feet. Up above on the deck of a fishing boat, two pirates wonder if the man below gets the message. Continue reading Pistolwhip

This Will All End in Tears

This Will All End in TearsThis Will All End in Tears
by Joe Ollmann
Insomniac Press

BW, 166 pgs, $16.95 US / Higher in Canada

This Will All End in Tears is a collection of five stories that tell the reader so much about the way life is lived without making us feel like we’re being told everything. Joe Ollmann knows what he and his stories are about and he has enough faith in his readers to allow them to take what they will from each. He avoids the conceit that his opinion and interpretation is gospel. Yes, these stories are his creation, but what you take from them is your own. Continue reading This Will All End in Tears

Clumsy: A Novel

ClumsyClumsy: A Novel
by Jeffrey Brown
Self-Published

BW, 226 pgs, $10.00 US / Higher in Canada

Failed relationships are a hard thing. In some relationships you can never exactly tell where they’re headed and when they do finally breakdown you look back and wonder if things could have worked out differently; if you did some action differently or said some unknown magic word that could’ve fixed it all.

In Clumsy, Jeffrey Brown gives us an autobiographical look at one relationship that ended only a few years ago. This relationship failed a few days shy of its one-year anniversary. I saw it as a very strong relationship, dysfunctional but very caring and sincere. Jeffrey takes us on a tour of how he and Theresa met and the roller coaster ride of moments that defined their relationship. They plan their life together, but the strains of everyday life take their toll and the relationship ends abruptly. Continue reading Clumsy: A Novel

IF-X Vol. 2 #3

IF-X Vol. 2 #3
Hamtramck Idea Men
(w) Jill Hill, George McVey, Sam Johnson, Kathryn O’Connor, Chad Boudreau
(a) George McVey, Mike Bunt, Bruno Letizia, S.T. Smith
B&W 32 pgs w/ ads $2.99 US / Higher in Canada

This is another small press anthology comic book, one that has been getting published for a couple of years now. Each issue features several different writers and artist trying their craft with each issue being a different theme. This issue is the Halloween issue and that means horror stories.

The stories vary, the first is called Night Shift by Jill Hill and George McVey featuring an Ash / Army of Darkness like story about a man named Derringer Wesson who works at a Walmart like store and fights monsters and such in his spare time. The second story is called Voodoo Moon by Sam Johnson and Bruno Letizia and features a woman with the power of voodoo fighting a werewolf. The third story is a prose story by Kathryn O’Connor entitled Seance. The final story is by Chad Boudreau and S.T. Smith and it’s called Cutter’s Reward which is about a sheriff holding a criminal in his prison and receiving an unexpected visitor. The format reminds me of Regina’s local anthology comic book Value Comics. The quality varies from story to story but the format does give up and coming writers and artists a chance to show their stuff.(Shane Hnetka)

Special Edition #1

Special Edition #1
Ronin Studios / Bohemian Zen
(w) William Blankenship Jr., Mike Colbert, Josh Wigler, Chad Boudreau & Jeremy Still
(a) William Blankenship Jr.
FC 52 pgs $5.99 US / Higher in Canada

This anthology comic reprints several web comics that appeared on the Bohemian Zen’s website. All the stories are drawn by William Blankenship Jr.  and are written by a variety of different writers. The stories range from superhero stories to a modern pirate story. There is standard superhero story and couple more humorous stories.

Blankenship ‘s art style manges to cover the different variety of stories quite nicely. And the move from a single panel web comic to the comic book page works quite nicely and reaffirms my belief that nothing beats the printed page. Some of the stories are stronger than the others but that happens in all anthologies. Overall an enjoyable read. (Shane Hnetka)

ERIC

ERIC  eric
Robots and Monkeys
(W/A) Tom Manning
BW, 80 pgs $5.00 US

Two years after the final chapter of Runoff, Tom Manning returns to comics with ERIC, a brief, weird and ultimately successful sophomore effort that showcases the creator’s range as a storyteller, yet feels somehow slight when viewed in the context of his previous work.

As a follow-up to the critically acclaimed Runoff, comparisons are inevitable.  And while ERIC’s story begins with scenes of a supernatural ritual reminiscent of Manning’s previous tale, it quickly shifts in tone to a character-driven story told on a much smaller scale.  There are no complex mysteries or talking animals; just a sad, burned-out pop musician dealing with faded glory, paranoia and a loose grip on reality.

Eric himself is introduced through a new compilation CD that spans the highs and lows of his career through the decades, before being revealed as a paunchy, drug-addled hippie unable to cope with the world around him.  He’s a strange hybrid of sixties musicians – think Brian Wilson, Jimmy Buffet and Bob Dylan – living in a small California apartment and grappling with increasing irrelevance and chemical dependency.  As his mind slowly unravels, it’s clear his best days are behind him and his future is bleak.  He’s a relic from another era, and his only escape from a society that has passed him by is to find solace and shelter in an altered reality. Continue reading ERIC

BAD MOJO

Bad Mojo badmojo

AIT / Planet Lar
Writer: William Harms
Art: Steve Morris

BW, 80 pgs
$12.95 US / Higher in Canada

During the late 1980s and into the 1990s, I was a big fan of late night horror shows such as Tales from the Crypt and Tales from the Dark Side. Typically, they were on in the wee hours of the morning so I’d set the VCR, tape the shows and watch them the following day. Each program consisted of two or three short horror vignettes, quirky and creepy little stories that didn’t scare as much as they simply entertained. Bad Mojo, a new graphic novel written by William Harris and illustrated by Steve Morris, reminded me of these shows. The story plays out like an extended episode, albeit one with better writing and visuals then any of the stories that appeared on those shows.

Bruce O’Connor is on the verge of realizing his childhood dream– playing professional baseball. He’s driving across country with two friends to keep him company, on his way to training camp. One evening, Bruce nods off behind the wheel, veers into the oncoming lane and hits another car. No one is seriously injured, although both cars take damage. The driver of the other car turns out to be a witch who just so happens to love her car. Enraged, she places a curse on Bruce: Every day at dawn he will die and when the sun goes down he’ll come back to life. Of course, Bruce and his friends don’t believe the woman’s words, but that all changes when the sun rises. Continue reading BAD MOJO

MY NEW YORK DIARY

My New York Diary  newyorkdiary
by Julie Doucet

Drawn & Quarterly

BW, 96 pages
$15.95 US / Higher in Canada

Julie Doucet’s My New York Diary, first published in 1999, is a classic in the graphic novel genre. It’s the true story of Doucet’s move to New York from Montreal in 1991 to live with a man she barely knew. At first the relationship seems happy and healthy, but as the story progresses Doucet begins to discover an obsessive, paranoid side to the man she is stranded with in a city that terrifies her.

Drugs, epilepsy and success each play a vital role in her story, but the most fascinating aspect of the book is the way Doucet uses her comics as a form of reflection, as a way to make sense of a very chaotic time. Yet her ability to tell a story, and be really funny while doing it, saves it from the self-indulgence to which many diary-styled works often succumb. And the art is amazing. Everything is cluttered, claustrophobic. She has an affinity for the stuff that crowds up her apartment, like coffee pots and plants, the stuff of everyday life. In her earlier work, it was the things surrounding her that were the characters, her stories centered on dreams and inanimate objects coming to life. The characters that populate My New York Diary, even just the ‘extras’ passing on the street, are so stylistically unique as individuals that they alone pull you into her world.

My New York Diary also includes two short stories from Doucet’s old comic book Dirty Plotte, one of which is about how she started drawing comics, which is also the tale of her ‘First Time’. In addition to My New York Diary, her work has been collected into two other books, Lift your Leg, My Fish is Dead! and My Most Secret Desire. (Carrie-May Siggins)