June 5th, 2004

smokin'

Mad #443

Got my copies of the upcoming issue of Mad that I have a strip in. It's #443, features a Harry Potter cover, and should be out ina week or so. My strip is on the inside back page, easy browsing opportunity. If you feel like shelling out the dough, you get artwork by Marc Hempel, Bill Wray, Drew Friedman, Peter Kuper, Danny Hellman, and of course, Sergio Aragones. Cripes, ten years ago that line-up would have been a Kitchen Sink or Fantagraphics anthology. Weird. Anyway, my first strip for Mad, hopefully not my last, but even if so, it's very cool to see my name in a magazine I grew up on.

Haven't been straight-plugging as of late, so here's a few things I've recently picked up at the comic shop:

IT LIVES #1 by Ted May (Sparkplug Books edition) -- I'll be damned if I understand the point of these superhero comics that aren't exactly parodies but certainly aren't Marvel/DC fare. But I don't care if I know what the intent is, I'm no deconstructionist deep thinking guy, I just dug these crazy comics. Stroies include, "Help Me Understand Your World", "Toilet Battle" and "Monster Mask". Everyone fights but the dialogue is off kilter and funny, and the slightly raw but pleasing punky monster and stuprohero art is fun anf funky. The covers are attractive and the front cover looks like a bunch of rejected Ultraman rubber suit kaiju marching down a suburban street. Worth $3 to you? You decide!
http://www.usscatastrophe.comitlives
http://www.sparkplugcomicbooks.com

(Dunno if them plugs will work. I forgot how to make them "blue" and linkable. I'm pathetic.)

This week I picked up the new AMY and JORDAN collection by Mark Beyer, published by Pantheon and designed by Chip Kidd. I used to read the New York Press pretty much only for comics like Amy and Jordan, Steven, and Mark Newgarden's work, and I was very happy to see this book come out, as previous collections eluded me. These are bleak, raw, funny cartoons (at least I find them funny) about the title characters (and sometimes Amy's injury-prone (and death prone) baby, Ba Tilsdale (!?!), that perfectly capture city angst and paranoia circa the late 80's/early 90's. Kind of like punk crack city Peanuts, way heavier and darker, dirtier than Pig Pen, more depressed than CHuck Brown, more violent than Lucy, more suicidal than -- hmmm. Spike? Whatever. Nihilistic, tense, nervous, surreal comics with many "what the huh?" moments. Beyer's art is primitive and may turn off readers but I find it really weirdly attractive, like a crazy, jittery pre-teen psycho prodigy who needs ant-depressants learned to etch as therapy (and became obsessed with repetitive shapes and designs for panel borders and strip decoration). Creepy, cray fun that might make you a little jittery after reading a large run of them. I remember a lot of people hating this strip when it ran, but me and my roommates would put them on our fridge and quote them all day. No, it didn't make us cool, it just made us different kinds of idiots. Ba Tilsdale?!?! Anyway, Pantheon's a real publisher so look for yourself. It's about $22, designed so the the strips run large and long, in a wonky manner than makes you feel like the book's going to fall apart any minute. Perfectly fitting in with Amy and Jordan's world of disaster, mayhem and emptiness.

Still enjoying the herky-jerky classic manga series CYBORG 009 by Shotaro Ishinomori (Tokyopop). It's pretty dunderheaded, but a lot of fun. He tells a broader adventure story than his obviosu inspiration, tezuka, so this sort of works for me in a way that Astro Boy ceased to after reading practically the same story over and over again. He doesn't use a sledgehammer for the obvious humor (just a big mallet) and I'm digging it as a simple superhero/robot/monster/evil secret crime empire jam with nicely controlled, attractive art, goofy characters and high energy action and nonsense.

Also picked up the new issue of Hogan's Alley and Buddha #1, speaking of Tezuka. haven't read either, yet. I won a coupla books off e-bay recently, fairly cheap, the aforementioned 40 YEARS WITH MISTER OSWALD, a collection of retail ahrdware-oriented strips done by a, well, retail hardware shop owener/cartoonist named Russ Johnson. I'd been clued into this by an issue of Hogan's Alley from two years ago, and have been trying to find this book ever since. Johnson's cartooning is clean and wonderfully detailed, and because he was doing a strip for a niche retail magazine not meant for wide consumption, the material is unlike anything in the funny papers. His observations are witty and staging is nicely done, it's in some ways a very "adult" strip not in terms of language or sex or violence, but because the subject matter involves humorous but very real takes on commerce, social conditions, the black market, rationing, employment, social polotiucs (and real politics) ina small town where everyone knows one another, theft, retail competition, the travails of dealing with the buying public, etc. It's very funny stuff, and the lead character isn't always likeable, he often tries to put one over on customers, employees, salesmen, etc. The book was put out in the laste 60's, and Johnson continued to do his monthly strip for another twenty years or something cray like that. I think he worked on Mr Oswald for 60 years or something insane like that. Hunt down the Hogan's Alley with the article/interview with the late cartoonist (made it to 100+), and if you like old strips, keep an eye out on e-bay and in thrift/book shops. I ended up winning two auctions at lowe prices and gave the other copy to Stephen DeStefano. After two years, I end up with two copies. Nutty.

Also won a cheap copy of the Dover book that collected two old MOON MULLINS episodes. I'd like to find more MM and Kayo stuff, these strips weren't hilarious but I really like the characters and wish theyw ere collected in a new edition. Hell, I wish a ton of strips were being collected. Can't win a copy of Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy at an affordable price (and of course there's a million volumes to get). Ditto Popeye vol 2 from Fantagraphics, or the early Prince Valiant books). Ah, we should all have such problems. Actually, no, because thyere's enough people bidding, go have similar pop culture small time troubles. G'wan, g'wan, shoo!

I've got some other stuff to plug but I have to get back to work, so, later for the second Twink CD/booklet project (Supercute!) from Mike Langlie and co, as well as some other things floating around in my office, house, and head.

Have a fine weekend. Work hard, play hard, eat right, don't litter and consider your neigghbors when jumping up and down on the bed while blasting that punk rock and roll.