Sunday, 18 August 2013

My Art: Pasta Phelps Sauce

Here's one I did earlier in the year; A drawing for the upcoming Playerist Zine, where I wrote a page of waffle about those who really rely on getting attention from others in the media - namely, hate groups like the Westboro Baptist church, and advertising. This is the combination of the two: Pastor (or Pasta in this case) Phelps Sauce.

As you can see by the pic, Fred 'Gramps' Phelps is no Paul Newman that's for sure.

Review: Spunk Comics 1 And 2 by Dexter Cockburn

For those of you who have been reading previous reviews (Romp, Monty Comix #4, Hot Little Cut, JB's Comic Stories), you'll be aware that Dexter Cockburn, publisher of Canada's The Comix Company, has been putting out really interesting Underground/ Adult sex Comix for a while now, from some of the best people in this field (Aaron Lange, Robin Bougie, Carrie Q Contrary, Kayla Escobedo, JB etc).

You may or may not know that Dexter himself has a long list of his own comix out there also, and one of his most notable is Spunk Comics.

Dexter's comics are as much contemporary continuations of the 'Tijuana Bibles' sex comics of old as they are of '70s Underground Comix.

Ranging from light satire, to parody, to the gross out, but with cartoon graphic porn being the main staple, Dexter's drawings show funny, unashamed glee as his characters joke, fuck and suck their way through the pages.

The stories are riddled with puns and one-liners, which mostly end in porn/ stag film scenarios, where guy takes girl, or girl fellates guy in various positions until he 'pops his cookies', shooting his load (often funny in itself), often with an appropriate pay-off gag.

My favourite story was Pubert Blunderbuss, a suburban, slightly philosophical peeping tom, who walks around his middle class neigbourhood, seeing all kinds of depravity in the seemingly 'respectable' middle class surroundings, which includes the local catholic church (And it was a refreshing change to see that the local priest was fucking a grown woman instead of an alter boy!)

I also liked the more gross out, subversive/ deviant comix, such as the one-page strips; Lord Stucklewadd, and the 'Subversion Begins In The Bedroom' parody of uptight, All- American foam-mouthed conservatism and their "Clean up America" campaigns. The latter features Dexter's moral crusader and xenophobe 'Yankee Dildo'; who is outraged at the spectacle of a man being fisted by his girlfriend in an American bedroom! "Keep It Pure And All American: Keep It Missionary" cries the Dildo.

Dexter's drawing style is fun and playful bold line which reminds me in style of newspaper comic strips and also of early '90s UK adult humour comics such as Viz, Zit and Smut. There's also an infectious 'naughty school boy' quality to a lot of his strips, that recall back to the days of drawing rude cartoons in the back of your maths books, or the beginning of having fantasies about various real-life and fictional characters. His fantasy women, such as his muse 'Pippa Creme' have exaggerated but nice and fleshy proportions, most notably with their massive mammaries.

On a more critical note- after reading these comics, and several others of Dexter's titles which he sent me, I liked the various ideas of using different characters and scenarios (in his comics he uses everything from horror, sci-fi, adventure to comics parody and much more besides), but there was, with quite a few of the comics, a sameness and repetitiveness (with a few notable exceptions), to the execution of them. In most of the comics the actual sex scenes and sexual positions themselves are pretty much the same, which is your bog-standard male-orientated hardcore porn type stuff - girl fellates guy, guy gives her a good pounding, then cums all over her, which can get a bit dull after a while, even if the costumes are different. Also, while the female characters are all happy and having fun, they're almost always very passive, they don't have much to say at all and don't have much in the way of personality,  unlike the wise-cracking fellas. I personally like a little more variation in adult comics, and a bit more imagination and expression in the sex scenes, otherwise it gets a bit mechanical for me. I also like more personality in the female characters, but that's me.

Quibbles aside, Dexter's comics have a charm, visual distinctness and audacity to them all of their own;  in a world where his characters have no hang-ups, celebrate their horny desires and literally jump on top of each other at the drop of a hat, they all have good, harmless, filthy fun. He makes the comics he like to make, so more power to him. Out of those titles I've read of Dexter's so far; Spunk Comics in particular for me, had a variety of ideas, so I'd say they are a good place to start if you're thinking of checking out Dexter's comix for the first time.  You can find his comics here, along with many other underground greats:

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Review: Kripple Killer Konspiracy by Ian Pyper

This 40 page book by Ian Pyper is his own unique expression of artistic anger towards the UK government's current ruthless policies towards the disabled,  the mentally ill and the sick and vulnerable.

The book, which utilises beautifully rendered single page drawings with text (which could be described as somewhere between Underground/ alternative comix and Outsider art), comments on the dehumanising nightmare of conservative ideology which is currently molding British society into an increasinly uncaring, profit-driven system. Those clearly unfit for work (kidney dialysis patients, people with severe heart conditions, amputees, those with serious disabilities or the mental age of children, who need almost constant care etc) have been targetted and passed fit by corporate government contractors ATOS, who were awarded the contracts on the understanding that they would reach monthly targets designated by Ian Duncan Smith. People are being forced into the 'choice' of either having their money stopped (or 'sanctioned') indefinately, or of working themselves to death, or of ending up on the streets, or of killing themselves. Over 10,600 of those who were deemed fit for work have died since the governments welfare reforms started (it has been reported by The Independent and Guardian). Many of which were suicides.

The attempted justification of this Draconian policy via contempt-ridden propaganda, unfair assessments and widescale denial, is expressed through Pyper in the book also. As are the intrusive, anxiety enducing, inquisition style nature of the assessments themselves - where peoples' words are often twisted, distorted or ignored so that they don't score enough points to continue receiving benefit, despite their clear need for a safety net.

Ian Pyper's art expresses this victimisation and cruelty very well, which boils down the naked motivations of Ian Duncan Smith and ATOS; and those actual everyday practices and injustices that eye-witness ATOS employees turned whistleblowers-with-a-conscience have been exposing recently.

But that isn't all the book comments on.

The large-scale apathy of the general public, the 'it's not my problem', approach of many in society is also touched upon.

A worrying culture of those who feel no obligation to defend those who are being targetted is emerging, those who would rather bury their heads in the sand, think only of themselves, or blame the victims for their own fate, rather than stand up for their fellow beings. And we all know where that has led to throughout history.

As many artists indulge their own ego-trips and fantasies, chase the easiest route to financial gain, or attempt to escape the harsh realities of contemporary society completely, Pyper feels a responsibility to speak up and speak out, and to my mind, for this he is to be applauded. I felt like he could have gone into more detail about what is going on with these policies in places, but I am told he already is planning a second volume, and this is a great collection of art all in all. You can purchase Kripple Killer Konspiracy here:
I leave you with Pyper's own foreword, which is a very heartfelt and powerful piece of expressive writing in itself:

Review: Eyeball Comix #3

The third 60 page issue of Eyeball Comix is by far the best in terms of quality strips throughout.

First off is that striking cover by Kyle Platts which shows some surreal cyclops take on a battle between western colonialists and indigenous tribal peoples. There's also the great eye-popping full colour psychedelic inside and back covers by Gunsho (who did the amazing front cover for issue #2)
Betty Black starts things off with a great Eyeball Queen pin-up, who as can be seen in the pic, has been given a lovely bouquet of meat and offal.

Russell Taysom has a funny rhyming filler strip in 'Sexy Vamp' which is reminiscent of Johnny Ryan in it's tone.

Viktor Dunkel provides a genuinely disturbing horror comic, where a kind of psychotic visual revenge fantasy is acted out upon the late Dr Frederic Wertham (the McCarthy era comic witch hunter and man who was behind the shutting down and censorring of many comic companies in the 1950s along with public bonfires of kids comics and the introduction of the comics code).
In this strip entitled 'Pain & Knowledge' he is tortured by a demonic looking Skull faced 'gentleman' who performs a dark ritual within his 'Chamber of Mindfuckin'.

In the end, revenge is not meted out through murder, rather a much more sinister outcome takes place, which I'm sure the prudish moral crusader would have been horrified by.

Shades of Mike Diana, Clive Barker's Hellraiser, and touches of other Underground influences such as Rory Hayes and S.Clay Wilson in this strip I'd say.

Aidan Cook provides an entertaining Rock & Roll tale from the crypt, in his comic about a bullied school nerd who is beaten up by the jocks, who performs a satanic rite and invokes Joey Ramone to avenge him! A fun strip with lots of references to Ramones songs.

Barry Cook returns (accompanied by 'Lizard') with his Dr Sarcophagus character, whom I wasn't really keen on in previous issues. This story is better told however, involving a victim of one of the nazi doctor's minions - a sinewy flesh eating beast which absorbs and stores it's victims to return to it's master.

Robscenity's 'Sextermination In Paradise' is a darkly comedic S&M social satire involving a well-off pair of  new-age Trustafarians who are enjoying their stoned country picnic until it's hijacked by a couple of psychotic sadists who easily subdue and kidnap them.

From here the unsuspecting pair are subjected to painful

humiliation (complete with absurdist and pitch black gags - I mean jokes, not the things that go in your gob - although there's those as well) before being reconditioned and set out into the world again on a mission.

The strip seemed to me, beyond the fetish-fantasy pervery, like a send up of two British cultural stereotypes on opposite sides of the spectrum; On one - spoilt and workshy drug-taking middle class hippy loafers, and on the other; the vindictive and fascistic mentalities of hardcore tories and Daily Mail readers who want to 'get tough' on the layabouts they perceive all around them, and force them into adopting their ideology and values. Rob's art is as beautiful as always, and his penchant for fem-dom hasn't changed, although this time, a male character gets to be dominant also.
 The final main story is by Paul Arscott (formerly Paul Arserott) and is entitled 'DMT: Gateway To Oblivion'. This was a very effective tale, following the life of 'Herman Eddie'; a young drop-out who's been abusing various substances after leaving school.
Obsessed with altered states, narcotic highs, and psychoactive experiences, coupled with a reclusive fascination for death metal, porn, the occult,and the morbid, young Eddie is already living an isolated and precarious existence before he tries his first hit of DMT.  He experiences an intense, melting away of the reality around him, and encounters strange creatures who are trying to tell him something.
Impressed by his hit, he buys a greater quantity of the substance and goes home, where he prepares a huge cocktail of LSD, PCP laced joints, then smokes heroin in a hope of deadening his body, before taking the DMT which he hopes will take him away from reality to the 'other place'.
Sure enough, Eddie trips like crazy and astrally projects from his body flying over trees and oceans before being sucked into a volcano.
From here, Eddie's trip becomes a nightmare as his soul has been drawn into hell itself, trapped and unable to return to it's body, it is instead subjected to the many tortures of the underworld.

There is a twist of course and all is not as it seems.

This strip worked really well for me. It's narrated in a style similar to anti-drugs propaganda films, episodes of the twilight zone or old EC comics, which seem fitting in all respects. It's an OTT cautionary tale about abusing drugs, and the dark places the mind can go, and Arscott does a great job of putting all this into the constraints of a horror story and still making it gritty and disturbing but also darkly funny at moments. It's possibly my favourite of his stories so far.
There's a couple of other good one page fillers in here by the above contributors and over all this is the strongest issue of Eyeball Comix to date (and I was a fan of the other issues). Get one while you still can!

My Art: Girlfriend With Combover, Albert Tatlock, Fracking and other art

Here's some other recent stuff. The one to the left is a play on The Smiths' 'Girlfriend In A Coma' lyrics. I did intend to shade the whole pic with brushpens, but then decided I quite liked the simple line art effect with a little brushpen shading.

I've also put the initial sketch up too, which had the brushpen shading. I rejected that drawing though as the comb-over wasn't serious enough.

I copied off the photo/ cover art of The Smiths 'Best...' compilation, making my own changes.

My next recent art was a silly idea based on lyrics of the '80s radio pop-hit 'The King Of The Rock & Roll' by Prefab Sprout.

The original lyrics were "Hot Dog, Jumping Frog, Albuquerque", but for some reason I liked the idea of them singing Albert Tatlock in the chorus (Albert Tatlock was a very old school character from the old days of TV soap 'Coronation Street' for those who have no idea what I'm wittering about).

And here's The Skid's tribute anthem to Mr Tatlock, updated for the modern audience:

Here's one I did after reading that Frank Miller's black and white cover art for The Dark Knight Returns was going to be auctioned off and was estimated to sell for $500,000. What struck me most was how pumped up Batman looked, hence my parody.

Finally, here's a quick sketch that a drew and coloured in one evening in support of the Anti-Fracking protesters at Balcombe, West Sussex.

The picture shows Lord Browne, ex-BP boss and head of UK fracking company Cuadrilla, who also works for the government and is paid by the tax payer. On top of all that, his company have also been award huge tax breaks to frack around the UK by George Osborne.

For those not in the know, Fracking (the slang for 'hydraulic fracturing') is a very harmful way of getting to shale gas by drilling and pumping high pressure chemicals and water under the ground to fracture shale, releasing gas. The process causes contamination of water with methane gas and toxic chemicals, as well as the other toxic waste fluids being then left to evaporate causing air pollution, acid rain etc. In the U.S. where fracking has been going for some time, there have been many cases of sensory, respiratory and neurological damage caused through drinking water contaminated by nearby fracking gas drilling. Fracking also removes billions of litres of much needed water from the water table. Hear is a trailer for a very good documentary - 'Gasland', about 'fracking' in the U.S:

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Review: Absence by Andy Luke & Stephen Downey - A comic about epilepsy

Absence is a superb and very unique comic.

Very personal, yet a very educational and informative read, Andy Luke has written an absorbing account of living with epilepsy and how it has impacted on his, and others' lives.

Stephen Downey, has done a great job to make the script visually engaging - using greyscale shading, he manages to create gritty, clear, yet beautiful and sometimes dynamic art, which reminds me a little of the '90s Vertigo era comics styles of Steve Yowell and Sean Phillips.
The comic begins with the recollection of Andy's first episode or 'absence' (see right page)- where as a child, he freezes in the street, much to the concern of his mum. In this milder episode, Andy has no recognition of his temporary absence, and is upset and unnerved by what his mum tells him.

From here the story goes through his early life and condition - starting with being sent to hospital and diagnosed (theres a great couple of panels where the young luke thinks "I'M TRON" whilst hooked up the the ECG glue pads and wires).
There's memories of missing an exam, and a favourite teacher's surprise reaction to his condition, then a fast-forward to Andy's teenage years, studying through college, doing all nighters, out drinking, having the mentality that his condition is "not a problem and shouldn't get in the way of having a normal life".
As he burns the candle at both ends however, and takes a second job, his seizures become more violent.
His memories then flash forward slightly, to a girl who he was smitten with while working as a care assistant in a home for vulnerable adults.

He recounts how she had really bad and frequent seizures, so much so, that she used to wear a riding helmet to protect to her head.

Downey does a great job of illustrating these sequences (click to enlarge the images on the left) and the girl's episode, while Luke explains a little more about what goes on in the brain whilst a seizure occurs, and what others should do if in a situation with someone who is having an episode. And later, he goes into how a sufferer feels after an episode, how draining (physically and emotionally) this can be.

The next stage of the story looks at ways the older Andy took steps to gain greater control over the epilepsy, and how through being open and aware, avoiding triggers, and through looking after his mind and body, Luke managed to avoid having seizures for 11 and a half years ("Before the days of his big crisps habit" as he calls it).

The next few pages of the comic look again, in more detail on how Luke experienced the seizures in the moment, the sensations, the disorientated sense of continuity, of being drawn away or 'bodyjacked' and disassociation from the external 'reality', taken off to somewhere far away.

There's a very sweet and funny segment, where Andy recounts the one person who has been able to 'call him back' consistently, his University neighbour, Hashesh (see above right).
The last few pages look at myths, prejudics and supersitions (in a humorous and slightly sarcastic way) surrounding epilepsy, before finally looking at 'bio feedback''; the gradual process of slowly acquiring voluntary control of an involuntary function, which Luke states is basically the process of learning.

He notes that in his 11 and a half years without violent 'grand mal' seizures, he was learning new skills, studying and accelerating neural pathways in his brain, which is what occurs when we learn (the bridge building metaphor highlights these connections).

He also urges for greater communication between sufferers and witnesses, bringing their perceptions together, which he insists is vital for doctors, patients, and supporters alike.

The comic ends on the idea that epilepsy is not something that the individual affected by it should be intimidated by, that rather, they can to a great extent, take control of their condition, and that they have an exclusive experience and knowledge. This last notion is expressed brilliantly visually, by a slightly mystical montage of the eye and space.

Absence is written and flows in a very natural way, it's never pretentious, it always feels candid, warm and open with moments of humour throughout. What's even better, is that it's completely free! You can read the 20 page comic in it's entirety here

My Art: Our Country's Leaders (Those Conniving Bleeders) THE COMIX READER 4

So this particular strip was published in The Comix Reader #4.

A satire of our current Conservative/ Liberal Democrat government here in the UK (ConDem, a very apt and bitterly ironic title). I'm still not really sure what the Liberal Democrats do - they just seem to look sad and frown a lot while the tories rape and pillage.

I could have gone on a lot more and really laid into them, but, with the confines of one page, you need to reel it in and thing about a gag pay-off (a real groaner too - I love groaners).

This was a last minute submission too, done over a two day period right on the deadline, so it was fast and loose.

The Comix Reader #4 is a really good comic, some really great UK Underground/ Alternative artists involved, as in the other issues. You can buy them all for only £1 (or all 4 for £3.75) from the Paper Tiger website:

My Art: Alan Sugar In 'Toilet Fun' THE COMIX READER #3

So, I'm aware that I've been doing a lot of reviews on her and promoting other peoples' stuff, and not really posting my art from the last couple of years.

I may as well promote myself too!

This is a two page strip which was combined  to go into The Comix Reader #3.

It features Sir Alan Sugar, for those outside the UK who don't about him, he's a millionaire businessman who set up the BBC Reality TV series 'The Apprentice' (as later adopted by pinched-face combover king Donald Trump)

Literal toilet humour (mixed with satire) seems to be a speciality of mine...

 The Comix Reader #4 is a really good comic, some really great UK Underground/ Alternative artists involved, as in the other issues. You can buy them all for only £1 (or all 4 for £3.75) from the Paper Tiger website:

Friday, 12 July 2013

Review: ROMP #1 & #2 by Aaron Lange (ADULTS ONLY)

Aaron Lange's Romp is a guilty pleasure. It's certainly x-rated, in your face, perverse. It's crass, bad taste and politically incorrect, but ultimately it's funny, brave, challenging, and has the ability to simultaneously poke at your sensibilities, whilst making you laugh out loud. What at first might look on the surface like a 'men only' shock-jock porno comic (no doubt many would either immediately reject it or buy it as such), actually is  a clever, satirical and fairly open-minded comic (not for the easily offended mind you). It takes swipes in all directions, and slyly uses it's sexual imagery, characters and situations often to send-up politics, history, attitudes, stereotypes, bullshit and societal values, more than it does to tittilate and shock. Lange also indulges his obsessions, celebrates sleaze and artistic freedom, using deliberate puns and wiseacre comments, and 'moneyshots' as punchlines, to give the middle finger to those who would have us all live in a culture of 'morally-pure', guilt-ridden, repressive straightjackets.

To set the tone, issue #1 starts off with a visual pun. Above a P.O.V. drawing of a menstruating woman (blood squirting out of her like ketchup), is her speech bubble which states "This comic is for anyone who's been busted for obscenity...PERIOD!!!". And at the base of the page is a quote from J.G. Ballard: "In a sense, pornography is the most political form of fiction, dealing with how we use and exploit each other in the most urgent and ruthless ways".

We then have a one page strip which uses the 3 panel format to send-up sex in the '70s, '80s and '90s with a gag and comparison for each, showing how attitudes change with the times and fashions.

The next 6 page strip entitled "Incest & Peppermints" is a very near the knuckle yet very funny comic about a bored, hippy stoner brother and sister, who decide to fuck each other to stick it to the man, and start a new world! Part of me was reading this one and thinking "this is wrong!", the larger part of me was gleefully relishing and laughing out loud at the self-important, 'free-love values' satire, and hilarious one liners.

'Career Girls' is a pervy 2-pager which kind of makes a point about the lengths some people will go to look good in the hopes of furthering their career, whilst catering for a niche fetish at the same time.

'Master Race Theatre' features Adolf Hitler as the frustrated and compromising artist, with his aryan muse, who get's truly inspired to paint his 'masterpience' once they get it on and he goes down south... Funny visual pay-off gag to this one.

The comic then introduces the regular characters 'Hesh & his pal Jay Jazz'; Hesh is a rather sensitive loser (prone to quoting old verse, philosophy and latin), who has no luck with the ladies, while Jay Jazz is an aging Beatnik lounge-lizard who knows how to charm the ladies and throw wild parties. I really like these characters and their miscreant exploits a lot.

The first story includes Jay Jazz posing as an alpha-male jock to pick up a girl at the bar ("Girls go for douche bags, you think I cruise for trim looking like a jazznik?" exclaims jay), Hesh then follows him home to spy & learn more about his technique of  'sealing the deal'. Let's just say his methods are unconventional.

In the second Hesh comic, our protagonist is prematurely awoken from his best and most erotic dream ever (see below), but when he tries to go back to sleep and get back to where he left off, he gets another sexual dream instead, but not one he bargained for!

The third story revolves around a Stag Party put on by Jay Jazz.
Hesh, dons his ceremonial fez, drinks cocktails with the bachelor members of C.A.D. (Courteous Advocates of Debauchery), before meeting the evening's entertainment (a bukkake Barbarella), and Hesh having to undergo a humiliating forfeit (sending up male fraternal peer groups, and their weird customs).

The final two Hesh & Friends strips introduce a new recurring female character 'Ronnie'; a pretentious, posh & flakey arty-hipster type, who is up for a kinky good time, who the cringing Hesh finds scary and weird but is also attracted too.

More Pathos ensues for poor ol' Hesh, but the opportunistic Jay Jazz is in like Flynn, ready to accomodate Ronnie's weird sexual requests.

Issue #1 also includes this striking Centrefold Pin-Up for all you gender-bending, transsexual lovers out there...

Other strips include 'A Brief History Of Feminism', 'Per-Mission Impossible' (an ironic strip looking at how over-consideration, procrastination, and too much sensitivity mixed with liberal male guilt, can be a turn-off for women.) 'Post Racial Romance', 'What Women Think About', Nietzsche In Love' & 'Cocktail Party'.

As for issue #2 of Romp, there's loads more Hesh and friends, 'World War Blue'; another short gag strip at Hitler's expense, the very funny colour back cover 'Clownin' Around' (depicting clowns having group hardcore sex), and the epic 20 page "Hey, do you wanna..."; A playful, rhyming comic where a myriad of different women ask the reader if they wish to partake in their particular kink.
As with all of Aaron's work, this strip is beautifully drawn and inked, and he utilises full pages to create montages and retro pin-up style pieces throught this particular comic.

If you don't have a kneejerk reaction to it's use of taboos, pornography, and piss-taking of various mindsets & stereotypes, and don't take any of it too seriously, then Romp is very enjoyable and manages to pull off within it's pages what most sex comics fail at.
In fact, I could be wrong here, but I think this comic's real purpose is for us all to laugh at ourselves, and the absurdity of it all, as well as the artist getting to indulge his visual fetishes, draw women, and express his thoughts in humourous ways and inject some wit and out-there ideas. It may be from an unapologetic male voyeuristic perspective, yet under the hip, tough bravado, there's a deviant angle to it all, and a sense of frankness and fun.

Romp certainly won't be for everyone. The sexually conservative and prudish would do well to avoid it which probably goes without saying, as would the easily rattled on the more liberal and radical feminist end of the spectrum. It's not a manifesto for all kinds of sexual, multi-sexual, or polyamorous liberation; it's a comic that primarily deals with a male fantasy viewpoint, and one artist's world view, with a bit of weirdness, fetish and alternative lifestyles thrown in, mostly for comedic effect. The self-centred Ronnie is the only female character who really has personality out all the female characters, although some of the other female characters get some good one liners. It's easy to see why Robert Crumb is a fan, because he is probably the nearest comparison I can think of in terms of content and intent; putting his thoughts, kinks and visual fantasies out there, and critiscising that which he sees as hypocritical, ironic or absurd in liberalism and feminism (not just the uptight right). The criticisms of feminism and liberalism by Lange seem pretty minor though, in case you're thinking he's Rush Limbaugh or something. Comparisons could be made to Rick Altergott and early Ivan Brunetti or Johnny Ryan too in terms of tone, but Aaron certainly doesn't feel like an imitator.

In fact, as a cartoonist, Lange is top draw, and I'm really surprised he hasn't been picked up by a major publisher by now. Romp #3 is now out too, which I haven't yet read. And he will soon have a new comic, 'Trim' coming out soon which I'm looking forward to.

You, can buy them, and other great comics, from the publisher (Dexter Cockburn's The Comix Company) here:

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Review: Monty Comix #4 by Kayla Escobedo

What a great comic! Monty Comix #4 is another modern Underground Comix treat published by Dexter Cockburn's The Comix Company, and my introduction to Kayla Escobedo's work.

Kayla uses anthropomorphic characters ('Chiz' and 'Lil Whalegirl' being her stars) to tell stories that feel like they're based on real life, but with a slightly off-kilter, tweaked and surreal take.

The artwork is beautiful - full colour inks and fine-art style painting throughout, which works wonderfully in telling the stories.

There's a few single page comics, my fav of these is a true story about an investigation into a strange, foul odour coming from whalegirl's house.

The feature story however, is 'The Sleep-Over' starring lil' Whalegirl and her two friends.

The story starts at school and one of Whalegirl's friends is having a sleep over and invites her and another friend along.

Whalegirl's friend lives in a housing project with her mother.

After providing a dinner of pigs in blankets and salty chips, the mother goes to bed early, leaving the girls alone. They watch TV and talk about girls things.

Things suddenly change however, when Whalegirl's friend wants to show her pals the 'awesome channel' which she's discovered on cable.

The next few pages are conveyed brilliantly; with bizarre, exaggerated, grotesque images (which I found very funny), shown alongside the shock,embarrassment and uncomfortable expressions of the three friends who watch in silence as the images get more bizarre and explicit as they go (the image on the right is the first of these pages).

After this eye-opening sequence, the girls then go to bed, wide awake, and heads still reeling from what they have seen (apart from their friend who introduced them to this very adult world, who is shown sleeping calmly like a log).

The end of this story which takes place the next day, while still slightly comedic in tone, for me was somewhat tragic and revealing too. Despite the surreal sequences, Kayla creates an authentic and very matter of fact, yet sympathetic story.

It's this subtle and original story that really made Monty Comix #4 shine for me, and I really hope Escobedo keeps producing work of this quality.

You can get a copies of Monty Comix, and other great Undergrounds from:

Review: Cheap Laffs #1,2 & 3 by Nate Higley & Tavi Lux Veraldi (& Friends)

Some comics are done purely for fun and the artist's own amusement and that can give it an immediate, infectious appeal. Cheap Laffs started out as a comix jam between Nate Higley and Tavi Lux Veraldi, and they've kept the spirit of this playful spontaneity going throughout the 3 issues. Coming out of Ann Arbor, MI, with a production ethic somewhere between Underground Mini-Comix and punk zines, Cheap Laffs is great value and good gross-out fun .

The two sparring partners are a good double-act, occassionally appearing in the strips (and on the covers), depicting themselves in self-deprecating ways and highlighting their own twisted humour.

The comics have lots of influences running through them; everything from slapstick cartoon violence, horror film spoofs, surreal comedy, Japanese monster movies, to everyday lowlives behavingly badly.

Some of the comics remind me slightly of early Johnny Ryan or Evan Dorkin, or something out of a John Waters movie.

For a few examples, the comics include:

-A psychological horror spoof involving a crazed sadist and some terrorised chickens.

-Anthropomorphised artist tools fall prey to the x-acto knife

-A cavalcade of deviants introduce a first timer to 'Sex Pops'; an ice-lolly ad for the discerning perv.

-A middle-aged man doing something I never wanted to see with a Hello Kitty accessory

-A group of kid's getting a stomach-churning 'treat' they never bargained for on Halloween night.

My favourite strips however, feature a pair of trailer park metalhead ne'er-do-wells referred to only as 'Dude' & Brah'. These two keepers of the mullet make Beavis & Butthead look like Siskel & Ebert. Always on the look out for 'pelt' (or any makedo substitute), their strips follow their mis-adventures which include a mission to get tampons for mom, and getting dolled up in makeup and attempting to woo a Christian Metal chick, which spans a two-parter in issues 2 & 3 and has a very funny and rather nasty finale.

Higley & Veraldi also enlist the help of their friends/ guest artists Noelle Barby, Matt Hansen & Janet Nelson, for a few fun collaborations that work well. And issue #3 has a really nice illustration/ pin-up of one of the dude/brah characters by Nick Melody.

Also of note, issue #3 comes with a very cool attached flexi-disc record with 5 Ann Arbor punk & hardcore bands covering the same track “Make Babies Or Die Trying”. An accompanying comic by Steve Peterson & Josh-Redd Sanchez explains the origins of this song, and how it became a local comedic anthem with a cult following, and a tradition at local gigs.

At only $3 dollars for a record and a 20 page comic, this makes Cheap Laffs #3 a steal. And issues 1 & 2 are only a buck each (or trade) if they haven't sold out already.

To get your hands on a copy, email before they run out.