Oily-Comics

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Inspired by the Oily Comics model, I offered a year long Copra subscription starting with issue #2. The first ten subscribers got a free sketch on the inside front cover for that year’s worth of comics. One of these readers posted pics of the actual sketches in his copies. Kinda funny how you can see the amount of detail fall off one by one. Hey, I tried making them all as cool as possible! Completing every issue is a race against time itself. Time always wins but hell, at least I get an issue out of it.

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Oily is extremely pleased (actually we are freaking out) to announce the release of Habit #1 by Josh Simmons. This is Oily’s first step into producing some larger books not our usual mini comic format. Habit #1 will be debuting in Chicago at CAKE on June 15-16. Mr. Simmons will be hanging out at the Oily table signing copies of Habit #1.
Look at that cover. Just look at it! That is how you will be feeling this June if you decide to ride with Josh’s Habit #1. This comic book is 52 pages with 5 different stories form Josh and his collaborators. Get ready, children.

Habit #1
By Josh Simmons with Wendy Chin, Karn Piana, and The Partridge in the Pear Tree
7" x 8.5"
Full color covers
52 B&W pages
$5.00 (cheep!)
June 2013
Published by Oily Comics

vimeo

Hey all. The director, Jonathan Entwistle, has made the teaser for “The End of the Fucking World” public. Go check it out. He is very talented and I only wish we could show you more of it because it is truly outstanding. This adaptation is still very much alive. Don’t give up hope! Now go email Fantagraphics and tell them to reprint the book! wink emoticon

Announcing Can’t Lose: A Friday Night Lights Fanzine.  Debuting at SPX 2013 September 14 and 15th, in Bethesda, MD. 

Featuring comics, drawings, and other contributions by: 

Dan Zettwoch, Jesse Lucas, Nomi Kane, Sean Ford, Sam Spina, Jon Shaw, Henry Eudy, Laura Beck, Minty Lewis, Derik Badman, Thien Pham, Gretta Johnson, Jeff Lok, Breanne Trammell, Julia Gualtieri, Denis St. John, RJ Casey, and Lucius Wisniewski.

Edited by Melissa Mendes 

Cover art by Charles Forsman

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A comiXologist Recommends:
Harris Smith recommends Revenger #1

Over the past few years, Charles Forsman (charlesforsman)  has established a well-deserved reputation as one of the most insightful, challenging creative talents in the comics world.  In books like TEOTFW, Luv Sucker, Teen Creeps and Celebrated Summer, he’s conceived stark, sometimes disturbing but always relatable depictions of disaffected youth, rendered with a kind of minimal beauty that hauntingly echoes Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, though filtered through the preapocalpytic teens-in-trouble drama of films like Over the Edge and River’s Edge.  Forsman’s latest work, Revenger, is both a divergence from this and a natural extension of it. 

Like recent comics such as Benjamin Marra’s (traditionalcomicsTerror Assaulter and Michel Fiffe’s (zegasCopra, Revenger draws upon the aesthetics of 1980’s action, but while Marra’s comics have a streak of sardonic humor, and Fiffe’s work recalls the colorful insanity of the John Ostrander-Luke McDonnell Suicide Squad, Forsman maintains the bleak atmosphere of the his earlier work.  Though it feels like something that could have come out of the Cannon Group in the 80’s (think Stallone in Cobra, as portrayed by a battle-scarred Grace Jones), and you can practically hear the John Carpenter-esque synth stabs punctuating the most dramatic moments while reading it, Revenger is decidedly without camp.   It is powerful, violent and provocative, deadly serious and consistently thrilling.  Forsman builds an atmosphere of nerve-wracking dread and maintains it relentlessly. 

Revenger shows that Charles Forsman can create within the framework of genre without betraying his vision as an artist.  It is a bold and striking step forward for him as an artist and I am greatly looking forward to both future issues of Revenger and to see how this expanded field of vision enhances his body of work as a whole. 

[Read Revenger #1 on comiXology]

HARRIS SMITH is a Brooklyn-based comics and media professional. In addition to his role as a Senior Production Coordinator at comiXology, he edits several comics anthologies, including Jeans and Felony Comics, under the banner of Negative Pleasure Publications. He’s also the host of the weekly radio show Negative Pleasure on Newtown Radio.

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A comiXologist Recommends:
Harris Smith recommends The Grassy Knoll by nickdrnaso

Comics are capable of transporting readers to many worlds, from the farthest reaches of the imagination of visionary artists like Jack Kirby to the hilariously low-key absurdism of Jim Woodring. Sometimes, though, the best place a comic can take you is your own back yard, giving readers small slices of everyday life, populated with situations and characters that are recognizable and relatable.  Such is the case with Nick Drnaso’s The Grassy Knoll, available now from Oily Comics through comiXology Submit.

The Grassy Knoll is deceptively simple.  In it, a teenager named Tim starts a new job and, on his first day, is paired with an annoying co-worker, Sal.  Eventually, Tim requests a change in assignment, in part to escape the boastful, overly intense Sal, and in part to get a chance to work with a trio of pretty girls.  Later, they learn that Sal has been fired.

Much of the power of the Grassy Knoll lies in the Drnaso’s carefully crafted subtext.  Though what is being said and shown in the comic is interesting enough, the ideas that are subtly suggested and not explicitly addressed give the story a great deal of weight.  Issues of class and race come up, intertwined with questions about personal identity.  The narrative climax, a gesture made by Sal as he passes by Tim, gains impact only as the story concludes, and when taken in the context of the title.  None of these ideas are explained in detail, but it is that elusiveness that gives The Grassy Knoll its impact.  What could have been a well-crafted slice-of-life story about bored teenagers trying to get through the day of a summer job becomes somewhat sad and more than a little menacing.

Though only 12 pages long, The Grassy Knoll feels weightier and more thoughtful than many heftier graphic novels.  In its subtlety, Drnaso’s work is masterful, signaling the arrival of a major new creator on the comics scene.

[Pick up The Grassy Knoll here!]

Harris Smith is a Brooklyn-based comics and media professional. In addition to his role as a Senior Production Coordinator at comiXology, he edits several comics anthologies, including Jeans and Felony Comics, under the banner of Negative Pleasure Publications. He’s also the host of the weekly radio show Neagtive Pleasure on Newtown Radio.

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Charles Forsman has a way with disaffected teens. The two major projects I’ve read of his work, The End of the Fucking World and Celebrated Summer use teenage characters to tell stories that explore identity, relationships, and the small crises that make up everyday life. Luv Sucker is Forsman’s newest work, and I got a copy from the Oily Spring 2014 bundle.

Luv Sucker #1 is 26 pages of 5x7 black and red risograph printed on newsprint paper.  I’ve really been digging risograph for the past few months, and Luv Sucker is a great example of why I like it so much – the printing method uses liquid inks printed in layers, which give it a unique look. Because you’re printing one layer on top of another, alignment has to be dead on, and case in point, my copy of Luv Sucker #1 has some alignment issues. Far from being a detriment, I think these little quirks give the comic a more visceral feel.

Luv Sucker #1 has a lot going on under the hood, but I think the theme that spoke strongest to me throughout this first issue was the idea of a sort of collected loneliness. Natasha, the main character, obsesses over her favorite band on Tumblr, but her posts are low interaction, with only a few notes apiece. She is dumped very shortly after the book starts by a guy who is much more interested in his phone than her. She’s able to be connected, but she’s ultimately alone in that space.

Natasha’s interactions with other people heighten this loneliness. But there is also an element of loathing in Natasha. The spiteful way she interacts with her mother and her fuck you attitude with classmates all shine through. She has personal image issues, and an insecurity that makes her vulnerable in a way that feels true to life.

Natasha faces this isolation and self-doubt in her own way; meanwhile, a group of guys claiming to be vampires is stalking her. Ryan, who seems to be the leader of the group, shares a class with her. These guys seem to always be following Natasha around, watching. Alone and under constant surveillance, Luv Sucker allows Forsman to put Natasha in situations that call up Orwell and Huxley in tone, if not in exact substance.

It’s interesting how Forsman has decided to use red as his second color - the color of lipstick and blood. It ties together the comic thematically, but it also looks great throughout the book. Forsman’s use of red especially in the surveillance scenes gives them a foreboding and menacing quality.

Charles Forsman runs the micro publishing outfit Oily Comics, and you can buy his work from the Oily Comics website, or get digital copies on Gumroad. Oily Comic’s tumblr can be found at snakeoily.

Tell God to Blow the Wind from the West, Nick Drnaso
Published by Oily Comics, 16 pages, Risograph printing. Described by Charles Forsman as a ‘9/11 horror comic’, this non-fiction piece depicts a 911 call from one of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. There is an intense immediacy to this work while at the same time it exists as an historical document, reading it gives me a feeling in the pit of my stomach that brings me right back to that day and reminds me of other non-fictional documentation from that time, particularly the video footage of the Qala-i-Jangi prison uprising from November 2001. That this is something that actually happened, that the names in the comic are of real people, in their last moments, that the 911 recording is accessible to anyone with an internet connection, the information is available, but it’s how one chooses to process it that matters. The Risograph aesthetic works well for this book, I think the ‘fuzzyness’ softens the very mundane images Drnaso employs with the text and helps to humanize the work. It may have looked OK printed in a more crisp, traditional manner, but I’m not so sure.

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A comiXologist Recommends:
Harris Smith recommends Expecting To Fly

On of the greatest things about comiXology Submit, aside from seeing work by artists I already know and admire like Chuck Forsman (snakeoily) and Nick Drnaso (nickdrnaso) get wider attention outside of the mini-comics realm, is discovering comics by creators I’d never heard of before.  One of those creators is John Allison (scarygoround) , who previously impressed me with the book Giant Days, a lighthearted yet emotionally honest story about college life.  Allison’s latest is Expecting to Fly, which takes a step back from college to high school and depicts similarly relatable characters in believable situations. 

Set in small-town England in 1996, Expecting to Fly tells the story of the friendship between Ryan and Becky.  Ryan is a shaggy-haired slacker whose drunken dad only shows up to drag him along to the pub.  Becky is a good student but has become withdrawn since a traumatic family event, revealed late in the issue, which she is grappling to find an explanation for.  The two bond over cigarettes and shared musical tastes, as teenagers do, but soon find a deeper sense of connection in their struggles to make sense of a world that is often tragically nonsensical.  Unlike many similar stories, Expecting to Fly focuses primarily on the two characters’ friendship, and not a budding romance.  Though it wouldn’t be surprising, or unwelcome, to see Ryan and Becky hook up in the next issue, I appreciated the story’s exploration of a different kind of connection than the most obvious one between its male and female protagonists.

Though the story his own, the feelings Allison evokes are universal.  Particularly, Expecting to Fly captures the sense of not knowing that permeates adolescence, the continual mystery provided by the opposite sex, the adult world and, ultimately, the changes going on within oneself, not just the urges of puberty, but the gradual understanding of ones role in the larger world, and the impact one has on others, that comes with emotional maturation.  This creates a bit of a wistful vibe, but even with this heavy backdrop,  Expecting to Fly is hardly a downer.  It’s bright and often funny, and the characters are not just sympathetic but likeable.  This is a great example of the kind of rich, rewarding material you can find when you veer just a bit off-center of comics’ mainstream.

[Read Expecting To Fly on comiXology]

Harris Smith is a Brooklyn-based comics and media professional. In addition to his role as a Senior Production Coordinator at comiXology, he edits several comics anthologies, including Jeans and Felony Comics, under the banner of Negative Pleasure Publications. He’s also the host of the weekly radio show Negative Pleasure on Newtown Radio.

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The most exciting arts movement nowadays may be the tiniest one - in the actual size of the output, that is. Micro-publishers specializing in artful comics and illustrated story books have cropped up selling their publications online, maintaining a presence through outlets like Tumblr, and showing up on tables in books, art and comics shows around the world. 

These aren’t comics as you’ve known them, and many stand as the nexus between graphic storytelling, the literary world and gallery art, grasping for something new and different from what you already know. 

Berkshires micro publisher Oily Comics has a vast array of titles and creators in the fold, far too many for me to talk about here, but there are some favorites of mine worth mentioning. 

Melissa Mendes is one of the most exciting young comics talents out there, thanks to her deadpan, insightful stories about kids, and her charming illustration style, which matches the subject matter perfectly. 

Her series “Lou,” which ran for 17 issues, focuses on the middle kid and her relationship with a new dog, as well as family turmoil. The full-color, oneshot “Joey” portrays one boy’s attempts to escape the constant arguing of his parents. 

Oily chief Charles Forsman focuses on an older age group in his work, and “Teen Creeps,” his latest, is a great introduction to his work. Following the lives of smart-ass bad girls Hilary and Dawn, Forsman’s deadpan humor and tenderness for the dysfunctional is very well-realized. 

Jessica Campbell has put out several titles with Oily, and she released two great ones in 2013. “Mrs. Connie Dutton” is an illustrated story about a lonely woman and a Nigerian scam. Her comic, “Rave” #1, is a bittersweet and humorously self-deprecating portrayal of weird girl Mary and the taunts of her school mates. 

Daryl Seitchik’s “Missy” #1 is another winner about a kid’s life, this time, a girl named Daryl, who writes in her diary- each entry is addressed to Missy - about the heartaches of the day. Each entry includes Daryl’s creative spelling, grammatical errors, and vagueness, while the art spells out what she’s talking about. It’s a heart-breaking and hilarious work. 

Also not to be missed from Oily is Nick Drnaso’s “The Grassy Knoll,” about the complicated interactions of a group of people cleaning trash off the side of the road, like “Lord of the Flies” taking place in a high school work program. 

Hic and Hoc offers a great sampler of some of the best work in micro-publishing and minis with its two volume “Illustrated Journal of Humor.” The first covers American cartoonists, the second British, and they are great purchases if you are looking for strong work off the beaten path. 

Hic and Hoc has also given a domestic release to Philippa Rice’s “Looking Out,” an adorable little space romance by the British cardboard collage artist, and handsome artist book treatment to “Spider, Man,” Amy Jean Porter’s charming illustrated meditation on nature and technology, spurred on by a spider web viewed during lunch. 

Minneapolis-based 2D Cloud puts out beautiful books like Meghan Hogan’s “Manny Plus Bigfoot,” a mystifying, amusing little art package, which opens like an envelope and features an encounter between the two title characters, and “Arthur Turnkey,” by Toby Jones and Alex Horab, a hilarious fantasy about a kid who goes to another world every time he sneezes. 

Most impressive of all is “Year Books” by Nicholas Breutzman and Shaun Feltz, a disturbing, riveting portrayal of a kid’s encounter with his guarded high school art teacher, the revelations of the teacher’s own work and the secrets of what kind of person he’s become. 

Retrofit Comics put out one of my favorites, Sally Madden’s “Gray Is Not A Color,” a tender and hilarious comic memoir of her time working at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. 

It’s particularly poignant for her memories of the late great museum director Gretchen Worden. Madden certainly had one of the most unusual museum jobs in existence, and this book is a loving, funny tribute to it. 

Among artists self-publishing their work, Alabaster’s “Mimi and the Wolves Act 1: The Dream” stands out as a deceptive fantasy. It begins with the slightly twee girl Mimi as she devotes her time to creating garlands and doing chores on her friends’ farm. Mimi is stricken with a recurring, violent nightmare about a woman trying to speak to her. Mimi tries to solve the mystery of what it means and becomes involved with wolves in the forest and strange events. Alabaster takes you off guard- you expect one kind of story, a light meditation on Mimi’s pursuits, and end up with something much darker, emotional and thoroughly fascinating. Her previous book, “Wool and Gin,” features some of the same characters and is also exquisite cartooning. 

Further way-high marks for self-published cartoonists goes to Vermont’s remarkably talented Laurel Lynn Leake. Her latest books, “Deep Forest” #1 and 2, is a cryptic and engaging science fiction series about growing up, going to school and interacting with the mysteries of the forest. A previous tiny picture book, “Wolf Girl,” offers more insight to one of the characters, and to the nature of the backdrop of the stories. Leake’s art is as evocative and fluid as the world she portrays, and what she sets up through her characters begs for more work from her. 

Emi Gennis is a powerhouse among selfpublishing cartoonists. Her output includes five issues of “Spaz,” which is filled with autobiographical cartoons about working in a restaurant and hanging out with her own pretend zygote, as well as some strips about unusual deaths. This last topic has expanded into a couple of larger works - “The Unusual Death of Gregory Biggs” and “The Collyer Brothers” - as well as her fantastic 2013 disaster anthology, “Unfortunate Mishaps in Aviation History." 

There are several other wonderful autobiographies worth seeking out. Tessa Brunton’s nuanced, depthful "Passage,” released by Sparkplug Comicbooks, recounts the comforts and oddities of her family through the events of one of her brother’s birthdays, and her own embrace of slumber parties at her friend’s house. 

Marta Chudolinska’s “Home Ache” is a touching piece of cartoon poetry, an ode to her previous Toronto apartment and the life she lived there. “LOVF New York: Destination Crisis” by Jesse Reklaw, put out by Paper Rocket Minicomics, is a sketch book diary with layer upon layer of dense color and imagery as Reklaw recounts wandering around New York City while struggling with mental illness - harrowing and personal, you don’t often see works this raw. 

On the lighter side are books by Kelly Froh, like “The Greatest,” a book of portraits and descriptions of memorable people from her life, and “Tales From Amazon,” a three-issue cartoon memoir of working in the offices of the Internet monolith. 

Josh Frankel’s “Water Column” is a few years old now - the last one was published in 2010 - but it stands out as rising to the potential of non-fiction nature adventure stories within a comic form. 

Frankel’s three-issue meditation follows the cycle of aquatic nature starting with plankton and ending with the carcass of a basking shark, all with personality and charm, as well as a tad of enlightenment. 

T. Edward Bak’s “Island of Memory” - volume one of his “Wild Man” series - tells the story of Bavarian naturalist Georg Wilhem Steller and an expedition he took part in that went through Siberia and onto Alaska. Bak mixes his understanding of the psychology of such an undertaking with a keen sense of nature drawing, at times capturing the environment with an almost scientific precision and then switching to the emotional turmoil of the men on the trek. It’s a remarkable work, insightful and well researched, all the more amazing for being from such small origins, and is guaranteed to wow anyone who encounters it, functioning as a potent gateway drug for anyone who might think the micro comic movement isn’t worth paying attention to.