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 (traditionalcomics) Terror Assaulter and Michel Fiffe’s (zegas) Copra, 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.
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.
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.
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.
A comiXologist Recommends: Leah Wishnia recommends Harold
In a time in which many comics seem to strive for a slick and colorful exterior, each page densely packed with calculated, witty one-liners, and every shade of the color-wheel represented in all its Photoshopped glory, a quieter, more nuanced work like “Harold” comes along and reminds us that comics, the wonderfully malleable medium that they are, can still be brilliant and attention-grabbing without all the excess.
“Harold,” Antoine Cossé’s fourth or fifth long-form comic published in the last year, starts off with several full-panel pages of silent observation. We see the silhouette of a dog running in the distance, contrasted against an array of vast mountainous landscapes, black on white, white on black, and so on. As the comic panels progress and multiply, the single silhouette of the dog turns into a herd of silhouettes, running onwards through each frame of Cossé’s continued world of silence. It’s a quiet that further tunes us into the subtle, unspoken visual elements of each page. As trees sway in the wind behind the running herd, one can almost hear their leaves rustling along with the patter of each dog’s footstep. As the herd moves on past our field of vision, the frame slowly zooms in on a dominant structure in the distance, eventually focusing in on the narrative’s main characters standing within it, famous movie star J.1137, and his mysterious, all-knowing bodyguard, Harold. And with that, the story unfolds.
Like Antoine Cossé’s other recent comic works, “Harold” is poetically enigmatic and surreal in its tone and general approach; one must read between the panels in order to fully realize the true meaning behind the narrative. With delicate and deliberately inked forms, brush strokes, and light washes, Cossé’s line work is a visual treat, likewise serving as an aid to help digest and interpret some of the social commentary that has been quietly inserted into the overarching, pseudo-futuristic, semi-dystopian, and occasionally psychotropic narrative that Cossé has created. Fans of comic works such as The Backwards Folding Mirror by Jesse Moynihan (Alternative Comics), Luv Sucker by Charles Forsman (Oily Comics) or MAby Matt Huynh (self-published, via submit) could easily fall in love with “Harold” and Cossé’s multitude of other small-press titles, as could a reader less familiar with the comics form, even those of a more abstract and poetic nature such as Cossé’s.
I’ve been keeping an eye on Antoine Cossé’s progress as an artist and cartoonist for a few years, having seen his work go from relative obscurity to greater demand and recognition in the alternative comics community. With that, I am personally elated to see his work finally available on ComiXology’s digital platform, for it means a much wider audience will be able to enjoy his enthralling visual narratives as he continues to flourish. Take the leap and try Harold!
For the past several years, Charles Forsman has been making a name for himself in the comics as world as the writer and artist of books like TEOTFW and Celebrated Summer, and as the publisher of Oily Comics, a mini-comics imprint through which he publishes his own work, as well as new comics by other indie up-and-comers, including Melissa Mendes, Nick Drnaso, Dane Martin and Ben Urkowitz. Between his comics, which are by turns heartbreaking, relatable, disturbing, thoughtful, minimal, evocative and occasionally hilarious, and his publishing, Forsman has established himself not only as a substantial emerging voice, but as an asset to the comics community as a whole.
His latest is Luv Sucker, a low-key, slow burn take on the vampire genre (as the cover says, “file under: teen/blood/vampire/heartache”), published by Oily. Luv Sucker, the first two issues of which are now available via comiXology Submit, follows Natasha, a seemingly normal teenaged girl who, depressed after a breakup, is attacked by a coven of nerdy classmates claiming to be vampires. Natasha is incredulous at first, but then starts noticing weird changes in herself. Is she actually becoming a vampire, or is she just the victim of the adolescent hormones?
Eschewing the melodramatic posturing of a lot of contemporary teen genre media, as well as the seemingly omnipresent “chosen one” narrative, Forsman grounds his story in a very recognizable landscape of teenage disaffection, favoring the kind of episodic, slice-of-life moments that served him so well in TEOTFW, underplaying the horror and fantasy elements. Instead, he gives the reader a story, setting and characters that are believable and easy to relate to. Luv Sucker is smart and challenging, narratively adventurous, but it’s also unpretentious and an engaging, entertaining read. Charles Forsman once again shows us what a creator with a voice and a vision is capable of. I can’t wait for issue three..
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
It’s gauche to complain about the price of art comics, but this shit is an expensive hobby. True there is always the interlibrary loan system, but that only goes so far. Maybe your city is different but Boston libraries aren’t stacking up too many copies of PWR MSTRS or PRISON PIT. Fortunately no one said you can’t celebrate value. In my opinion 52 pages of Josh Simmons for $5 is the best value in comics today.
Also shout out to Josh Simmon’s hairy faery above who’s evil twin appeared in a deserted house in a Theo Ellsworth comic a few years back:
Whit's Thursday Review: Melissa Mendes' 'Lou' Series
I sat down to start Melissa Mendes’ minicomic saga Lou (Oily Comics), figuring I’d stretch the 17 comics out over 2 or so days. Nope. I read the whole thing in one sitting because each chapter (aka. minicomic) left me wanting more. This is a tribute to Mendes’ ability to use a storytelling structure for each episode that leaves the reader in suspense. Mendes released an episode of Lou each month, starting in 2012 and finishing in August 2013. It has been one of the anchors of the Oily lineup and one that has developed gracefully.
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.
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.
Oh man so many great things in this picture. I even re-bought issue #16 of TEOTFW just because of that lovely Ignatz sticker. So many comics here I’ve been meaning to buy for months, others I discovered while shopping around!
Now let me find some time to review some awesome stuff. Stay tuned!!
I just finished reading the latest oily comics and it had the last issue of Moose inside. I loved it so much and I wish it wasn’t the end. And the “Dear Readers” at the end of Lou was the really nice to read. I’ve been having a lot of doubt in myself as an artist and just reading that helped. Melissa Mendes is such an inspiring artist and I hope she continues to make many more comics.
I also got a few late christmas presents from my folks and one of them was Troop 142 by Mike Dawson. This has to be one of my favorite graphic novels now. The story is about a bunch of boy scouts at a summer camp and all the experiences that come with it.