Monday, May 29, 2017

Moreton Of The Week #5: Garden & Bright Nights

Here are are in week five of my series about Simon Moreton. I'll wrap things up next week and start a new feature in its place.

Garden. Published by Lydstep Lettuce in association with the Lydstep Library, this is a zine done on conventional copy paper that follows the slow progress of a garden over time. It's nice to see Moreton's work on a big canvas, allowing his book loops and swirls room to really expand across a page. Moreton walks a delicate line between a naturalistic take and abstraction here, as certain objects (like watering cans) have a solid composition but others (like chairs and tables) are a bit more abstracted. Moreton flips between single-page images meant to slow the reader down and take in the image in full for a moment and a 2 x 3 panel grid that emphasizes the slowness and sequentiality of the garden, as observed one bit at a time. It's Moreton quietly taking in his environment and not glamorizing it--he's trying to capture an essence in terms of shape and form that emphasizes broad strokes of perception rather than exacting minutia. Moreton is also playing with light and shadow (created through the use of zip-a-tone), as he draws the garden at different times of the day. There's also the relationship between nature and the way it's hemmed in, with as much emphasis on pots and planters as the actual vegetation, as well as an acknowledgment of the background with clothes hanging on a line, flapping in the wind. There's also a record of dark clouds and rain (a favorite of Moreton's to depict), adding a degree of animation to the stillness of the prior scenes. This is a nice, simple form of meditation exercise for Moreton, drawing without narrative expectations but still with some kind of sequential base.

Bright Nights, by Simon Moreton & Jason Martin. This is a shared zine between Moreton and Martin, both looking back at past events from today's vantage point. Each of Moreton's stories is taken from a different year of his life. "Fifteen" sees him and his friends jumping out a window to hang out with some friends on a trip, watching the sun rise. There are a lot of these sorts of moments in his comics that he turns back to again and again: perfect little moments in time, frozen by beauty. There's a perfect balance of negative space and actual drawing in each panel, and Moreton's composition is simply top-notch. It's not just about abstracting a sequence down to its core, it's doing so in a way that makes it look best on a page. "Sixteen" is another perfect, simple moment of walking home in the snow from someone he obviously loved, feeling "Like I could do anything". That kind of spontaneous joy is remarkable, and Moreton knows just how to capture it by sort of capturing just the edges of the experience. "Nineteen" is a flood and flurry of racing down a road as fast as he and his friends can, until arriving at a special hang-out spot. "Thirty" is a lovely reflection of "Fifteen" in some ways, featuring a gathering where he met someone special and a subsequent trip to a mall with her and other friends, forming that awkward, exciting moment of possibilities ahead. It's Moreton at his best.

Martin's style is a simple, naturalistic style that's on the crude side but still gets the job done in terms of expressing emotion. He seemed to take his cues from Moreton in terms of what age he was in the stories he tells. "Gualala" is about him going with friends to a party on Y2K. He notes that even though he was just four years younger than most of the people at the party, that as a teenager that kind of age gap is more significant. The story is full of those unforgettable moments when a teen gets a glimpse of a life just ahead of them. That's especially true when he hears the stories of a group of older girls who give him a ride home from the party. His second story is a brief one from age 16, recalling the first time his parents felt comfortable leaving his older brother in charge of him and his younger brother for a night, and the things they did together. His third memory is that of a huge delay on a train as he was going to a Leonard Cohen concert. It's a perfect Martin story in how sanguine and measured he depicts himself in that situation, and the gratitude he feels at the end of the Cohen show. Every one of these stories has that sense of gratitude, including the final one, where he and his girlfriend crash at a friend's house with two other couples all saying goodnight to one another as they fell asleep.

I also wanted to mention the comic that he gave out at his wedding, Michelle And Jason Comics. It's a funny, lovely little inventory of small anecdotes about his future wife that delighted him, the ways in which they've influenced each other's tastes and interests, times they may have crossed each other's path in the past, the precise moment he knew he wanted to marry her, and a special moment on a carousel. It's simple and heartfelt without being sentimental or saccharine: the perfect blend of restraint and emotion that marks so much of his work.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Moreton Of The Week, #4: Days

Days, from Avery Hill, is a collection of some of Moreton's earliest work with his Smoo series, issues four through six. As much as I enjoy Moreton in minicomic form, it was nice to look at these pages blown up and breathing a bit more. That's especially true since Moreton's earlier work depended a lot more on naturalism and detail than his current comics. I reviewed issue four here, and issue five here. I wanted to talk about the sixth issue, the supplemental material and overall what's changed with Moreton's work since his earlier days.

I had forgotten how much more naturalistic Moreton's work was in his early comics. The houses he draws had not yet been abstracted to geometric shapes, and he actually drew in things like bricks and windows. You could see him leaning toward the John Porcellino side of the fence and allowing his work to become more immersive and poetic, but he wasn't quite there yet. Still, there's plenty to see and hear: Moreton's smudged pencil technique is incredibly evocative, and his voice was still similar in the way that he processed the past and pain in particular. Issue five was the first fully realized comic he did, as it was conceptually more sophisticated, funnier and in general more daring than his past work.

The sixth issue features work that most closely resembles his current output as an artist. It opens with a classic Moreton "walk" comic, as we see the world stripped down as he passes by. One nice flourish is how he imagines he hears his Husker Do song coming out of every window, with blank word balloons emanating from them. The next story is rare in that it features some incredibly detailed drawing from Moreton in the form of water on sidewalks and the way the sun catches them to create blurry reflections. Matching that particular bit of naturalism with the slightly abstracted surroundings made the effect all the more prominent. "Houses/Homes" is a nice silent poem aided by simplification in showing how the process of moving puts one in a strange limbo state, until order (symbolized by a hot mug of tea) is finally restored and a new steady-state is established. "Routines" starts with typical Moreton solitude on a walk and ends with a swirl of lines representing a crowd surrounding his figure, head slightly bowed so as to avoid direct interaction. "Holiday" combines those lovely smudges with his stripped down figures; it was actually beautiful enough on its own visually to not need the text.

With regard to the anthology pieces, the earlier ones are very pencil-heavy. Some of them look fairly stiff, even if the actual technique is aesthetically pleasing. A strip he did for Secret Acres' Leon Avelino that's drawings inspired by a Pixies song is excellent: fluid and striped-down. A strip he did for Kus is unusually dramatic and calculated (it's about trying to get out of an office and into the woods, where the main character can paint), especially since as Moreton notes in the helpful endnotes that making a distinction between work and art can create a false dichotomy. I'm glad that Moreton had all of this material collected, because it's fascinating to watch his voice develop and see him make leaps of quality from issue to issue. He experimented with a lot of different approaches before he found one that worked for him.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Comics From SAW, 2016: Part 2

Let's finish up the rest of the comics I was examining from the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW) from 2016.

Vegas Style, by Eric Taylor. This is an odd slice-of-life comic about extremes. Aaron is a high-strung waiter who lives with a slob of a roommate who won't even get off couch, much less do anything about the trash and roaches in the apartment. It's hinted early on that there are other tensions as well, but Taylor cuts to Aaron and his erratic behavior. He slips into waiter autopilot mode and helps a snickering couple, though he does make a point of asking what the woman wanted to drink instead of taking the man's word for it. That results in the woman encountering him outside a bathroom and making out with him, until he reached up and accidentally nearly pulled her earring off. There's an air of someone on the edge of a breakdown with Aaron, who returns home and nearly grinds his fingers by accident when he tries to stuff a bunch of roaches down the sink and cuts his hand on broken class. Then there's a shift to his roommate trying to calm him down and ultimately giving him a hand job.

This comic was printed on a Risograph on light green paper, and it's more an emotional mood and character piece than a traditional narrative. Taylor uses a mix of naturalism and slightly cartoony faces and then uses shadows and other effects to alter mood. Most notably, Taylor uses a light on dark approach when Aaron is trying to fantasize about a woman when his roommate is jacking him off. This is an intense scene that clearly dives into a lot of territory that was only hinted at earlier in the comic, especially as Aaron keeps saying "I hate you" to his roommate. Aaron is a character twisted in knots, hating his life and himself even as he keeps himself as tightly buttoned up as possible. The end of the comic is a (literal) release, but really it's only a reprieve--not a solution. Taylor depicts his fragility with a thin line, especially when drawing his face. The line is so fragile that it barely forms an entire figure at times. The tension is depicted by Aaron reciting his waiter litany to himself, splashing his face with water and engaging the rest of the stuff with awkward banter. There are no conclusions to be drawn here, no real resolutions. There is just the depiction of confusion, frustration and perhaps exploitation mixed with genuine affection.

Missing, by Maxine Marie. This is an odd comic in its own way, as Marie uses a 4-panel grid to tell a story about missing persons and shifting identities. The young woman at the center of the story sees a spate of missing persons fliers and wonders about this even as she hardly sees anyone on the street. She briefly ponders this oddity when she sees the photo on the missing persons flier  turn into an anthropomorphic animal. To her surprise, she turns into a fox. Things keep shifting back and forth, until buildings and streets start to appear on the signs as well. There is no resolution here; just a feeling of alienation, of paranoia, and even a touch of whimsy mixed with dread

Turtles, Frog In Love and Harmontown, by Miranda Harmon. Harmon has a beautiful, fluid line that gives her comics an inherently charming quality regardless of the subject matter. The overall cuteness of her comics is balanced by the frequently dark and personal subject matter that she chooses to explore. In Turtles, for example, a young ogre-like creature is writing to her parents a year after she chose to move underground and live with the turtles. Harmon expertly captures that feeling of being young and falling in love with a new place and wanting to be a part of it, but also is not only wistful regarding what she left behind, but is also disappointed & surprised that the move didn't change her more. It's the sort of rude awakening that one receives that a move and a fresh start doesn't solve all your problems. Frog In Love is a lovely little story about a frog wishing to be a creature that would impress a nearby swan with its own beauty. The irony is that the frog gets turned into an ugly duckling, who is picked up by the swan! Harmon uses a light touch and lets her visuals tell most of the funny story here.

Harmontown is a revealing bit of autobio about Harmon dealing with depression and loneliness through listening to writer Dan Harmon's titular podcast. It's a show that's about pain, camaraderie, shame, addiction and finding ways to persevere. The members of the show also play a round of Dungeons & Dragons, both because role-playing is a long-time passion of Harmon's but also because it represents that sense of shared experience and camaraderie. Harmon delved into her slowly growing depression, noting that the show helped when she was struggling and avoiding the work of therapy. After describing how she slowly got better through therapy and meds, she got to the meat of the book: going to Los Angeles and getting tickets to the podcast. As it turns out, the show often asked for audience participation, and when they asked "Who's in pain tonight?" she raised her hand. The resulting conversation, the kindness of the hosts and the rollicking humor that resulted in a place she knew was safe made for a remarkable account. What's interesting about Harmon's autobio is that she projects timidity but acts boldly. She is unclear about her future as a creative person yet shows a remarkable work ethic. She delves into her pain and feelings of worthlessness and comes out being able to accept who she is, even if that hurts sometimes. Harmon balances that sense of personal awkwardness with a remarkable self-perceptive quality that is well-suited to her versatile and cheery line.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Comics From SAW, 2016: Part 1

Last year at SPX, I picked up a number of comics from the latest group of students from the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW), in Gainesville, Florida. This is, of course, Tom Hart's school that takes the principles of the pedagogy he's been developing for years and puts it into a different structure. After years of teaching at the School For Visual Arts (SVA), he wanted a chance to teach comics in an affordable city and at an affordable price. The school has no formal accreditation, which is really to say that those who chose to attend are doing it because they want to learn about comics first and foremost and aren't interested in getting the degree that would allow them to formally teach. Hart's faculty are excellent, the guest faculty and lecturers stack up against anyone in the country, and the students bond in the same way small programs like the Center for Cartoon Studies do. The school accepts interested students with a wide variety of experience and ability, so I thought it would be interesting to check in after my three years ago.

Ouroboros, by Roxanne Palmer. Referring to the snake eating its own tail, this mini is a meditation on anger and its positive and negative qualities. Palmer makes great use of a Risograph here, juxtaposing the blue ink of a figure with the red ink (and zip-a-tone) of a monstrous, snake-filled version of the same person. It's a brief story about trying to release anger, finding that something about this process doesn't work, and then realizing that if used right, anger can be a source of power. All along, Palmer uses that red/blue contrast as the figure takes the snake and devours it for a positive purpose. There are also story fragments including a dream of being at a huge new Confederate memorial as well as a man talking matter-of-factly about receiving calls from the Andromeda galaxy. Palmer has an effectively ragged and thin line ala CF, and it works well for her storytelling.

No Cops, by Alisha Rae. This is an intense, raw and no frills account of being jailed after protesting the nth iteration of police brutality in this country; in this case, Baton Rouge. What was interesting about her take on these sorts of protests is that in addition to being a first person account, she chose to not depict any riot police, SWAT members or prison correctional officers. Other than a fiendishly grinning cop in a helmet on the cover for contrast, Rae instead focuses on the other women who were arrested alongside her. This is a story about being pushed around the cops only up to a point, but it quickly transforms into a story of camaraderie and the sharing of an intense experience that brings people together. That it was done in the name of social justice made those bonds all the more intense. It's also a very instructive, moment-by-moment account of what it's like to be thrown to the ground, bound, arrested and then taken to jail. Rae wisely lets the events speak for themselves as much as possible. She let the dialogue she recalled fly around the page, reflecting the nature of being in a room with a lot of people, yet she nicely captured the uncertainty, fear and steely resolution of the protesters. Her line may be crude, but there's an immediacy to it that lends it a great deal of power.

Mysteries, by Sally Cantirino. Cantirino always brings an intense amount of detail to her work, This mini is a fascinating account not just of the rise of an indy-rock band and its growing cult following (and followers), it's also a meditation on time, creativity, and the power of playing & listening to music as a kind of magic. Cantirino brings a stylish kind of naturalism to the page that heavily emphasizes spotting blacks as a way of getting across the atmosphere of small club gigs and the night culture surrounding the band. Cantirino teases that connection between magic and music at the very beginning of the story ("A song as a spell.") She then plants the seed of the whacked-out ending in an interview with the lead singer of the band that's the subject of the comic (Magnets and the Sun). He talks about the vagueness of parts of his lyrics, how he doesn't quite know where some of his ideas come from and how he has a sense of wanting to be remembered that is different from fame. Cantirino then follows the narrative throughline with a group of fans waiting in line and then back to the show itself, which closes a series of time loops in an entirely satisfying way. Cantirino has a knack for magical realism that's entirely grounded in naturalism, making it all the more surprising when it does appear.

The Devil and the Deep Blue SeaAdrift and The Burden, by Miguel Yurrita. Yurrita did a number of formally interesting things in these comics. There were times where he didn't quite stick the landing in terms of being clever and coherent, but they are fascinating experiments nonetheless. One of Yurrita's interesting tricks is flipping the "camera" placement in a given panel. In The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea/Adrift, for example, is a flip book where you read only the right-hand side of a given two-page set. The first page sees a woman trying to flag down a ship, sinking below the waves and fighting a monstrous worm, only to meet her doom. Flip the book upside down and start again, and this time the narrative starts with her drowning, then fighting the worm, and then rising to the surface. It's a simple conceit, executed with precision. It would have been worked better as an accordion-style book where we couldn't see the left-hand-side pages, but once I got the gist of the book's rhythms, it all made sense.

The Burden is a looping story about consciousness that has a running conversation between either two beings or two aspects of consciousness existing simultaneously, one speaking English and the other Spanish. Starting from a pair of circles that look like eyes and/or part of a circuit board, the text circles and swirls above and around the images until they decide to create together. They take the form of cartoon characters, animals and various other forms of popular culture, which I found interesting as it suggested they had access either to a database or the collective unconscious, or both. After debating the meaning or lack of meaning of creation, destruction and mortality in general, the "higher self" and "lower self" (as they are introduced) flip languages and revert back to their original states, presumably to start the cycle again. Some of the drawing in this comic is a bit on the wobbly side, as Yurrita kind of went berserk in drawing a bunch of popular characters. It distracted from the overall narrative at times and the joke got old quickly. Still, the role of consciousness, agency and creativity as they all relate to each other made for a fascinating topic.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Comics-As-Poetry #4: Derik A Badman

Derik A. Badman has been dedicated to creating comics-as-poetry in the form of juxtaposed found imagery and found text. In the past, he's used images from old romance and western comics to create new meanings, but in these issues of his MadInkBeard comic, he goes in a different direction. In #5, he used a black background for his four panel template, blowing it up across two pages to make the small details stand out as much as possible. It's a classic abstract comics technique, creating sequentiality without narrative. In this comic, it's especially interesting because the lines of each panel are slightly different in terms of weight and solidity, creating a viewing experience that is deliberately less fluid. It also sets the reader up for Badman's next move, which is introducing text and images in the panels. There are allusions to nature and explicit mention of the moon and the possibility of its double, leading Badman to explore that imagery, including a panel that makes it appear that the viewer is in the forest.

From there, Badman explores images from washed-out photos from nature and other things, random bursts of color and verbal cues related to nature that are explored through the use of color and shape. There's an especially clever sequence where the cue is "we do not forget attachment" and the third panel has no top border as some blue shapes come pouring through. The fourth panel finds order restored with a top border present, penning in a wash of contoured blue. Badman concludes the issue riffing on the phrase "the three kinds of world", with all sorts of photos teasing this out, then uses erasure techniques in exploring the phrase "the way it manifests itself in everything", striking out one or more of the words in order to create a different context. This issue really worked well, maintaining Badman's restlessness with regard to how best to create images. His use of found images will likely always be a part of his work, but seeing him at least vary the sources made his work seem much fresher than it has been for a while. Not only that, but he played around with the words themselves in a way that was interesting, playing with their simultaneous presence and absence through the use of strike-outs.

Madinkbeard #6 is a fun issue with a clever core idea: taking bits from other artists on the envelopes and other packaging sent with minicomics and creating a narrative of sorts with that, an "unwitting collaboration", as he notes on the cover. Accompanying the images is text from Allan Haverholm that's all about reaching out to others through the mail and with personal notes, putting out information that will outlive one's immediate agency. The various shapes and colors accompanying the text are wonderful, with lots of drawings from Warren Craghead and Simon Moreton in particular. That's a great duo, given the fact that they love doodling in general, but also because of how they are able to break down images to just a few squiggles and lines. Adding the plastic quality of envelopes, tape, post-it notes, etc. gives the comic a lovely texture. Badman sequences things in such a way that images of a kind often appear together, like a series of faces drawn by different artists all seeming to stare off at different boats appearing on the horizon on the right side of the page. The end result is a comic with a sense of warmth that's unusual for Badman's output, in part because it was easy for Badman to pick up on this feeling from the actual materials that he received.

Friday, May 19, 2017

On The Occasion of Two Anniversaries: Personal Observations on Koyama Press and 2dcloud

When I wrote a piece for the Comics Journal after Dylan Williams died in 2011, I made sure to ask two publishers for their thoughts on him and his influence: Annie Koyama (Koyama Press) and Raighne Hogan (2dcloud). I thought of them because apart from Williams' close friend Austin English, Koyama and Hogan have carried on the Sparkplug Comic Book tradition more than any other publisher.

Let's consider Raighne Hogan first. I started writing about comics in 2000 (a review of Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde for Savant magazine, edited at the time by Matt Fraction), but I didn't get really serious about it until early 2006, when I decided to turn my occasional column into a weekly for So when Raighne sent me the first two issues of his Good Minnesotan anthology, there's a sense in which we were both starting out. Hogan kept going back, eager to improve and expand. From his earliest days, Hogan's mission was championing young and unknown talent, giving them a chance to do whatever they wanted. In the early years, the focus was often on John & Luke Holden and Nicholas Breutzman (his Yearbooks is still one of 2dcloud's best comics). Hogan made a point of finding work by interesting young queer artists as well; Anna Bonbiovanni's Out Of Hollow Water is one of the best comics of the last ten years. He published Noah Van Sciver, MariNaomi and Gina Wynbrandt. Along with one-time co-publisher Justin Skarhus (almost always a part of the operation), Hogan's choices began to become more assured, to the point where a reader could have complete trust in whatever came into their catalog. 2dcloud is now the undisputed avant-garde of American comics, and Hogan publishes books relying on fundraisers so he at least can break even and at the same time determine the audience base for his releases. That 2dcloud continues to thrive despite being so uncompromising is a testament to Hogan's determination and vision.

Addendum: I was extremely remiss in not mentioning Maggie Umber as a crucial part of the operation. As she noted in the heartbreaking article Getting Divorced In Comics, she was the co-founder of 2dcloud, co-editing and contributing to the very first Good Minnesotan anthology. She wound up handling more of the day-to-day particulars to keep 2dcloud afloat, including mundane but crucial tasks like keeping the books, as well as donating time and money that had initially been reserved for other things. Maggie is the person who made sure I got review copies. Without Maggie Umber, 2dcloud would not exist. She also notes many others who have helped behind the scenes beside Skarhus, including Blaise Larmee, Kim Jooha, Melissa Caraher, Vince Stall, Will Dinski, Saman Bemel-Benrud and Aaron King. She says that Raighne has always been the visionary of the company, but he was carried along by many others, none more important than Umber.

What to say about Annie Koyama? She's been a force of nature and a champion to Canada's illustrators and up-and-coming stars. Her relationship with Michael DeForge is one where both publisher and artist greatly profited from each other's presence and support. She too has a keen eye for talent and is a remarkably nurturing and positive presence. Annie is very much like Dylan in that respect: someone who always has time for an artist who needs someone to listen to them and get encouragement. I love that she has a stable of artists (DeForge, Patrick Kyle, Jesse Jacobs, John Martz, Jane Mai, Dustin Harbin) but also that she brings in new talent all the time, like Eisner-award nominated Daryl Seitchik. There's no end to the list of artists who want to work with her, and it's especially heartening when a veteran cartoonist in need of a publisher fits in with her, like Julia Wertz. She has long supported the work of queer cartoonists and of course the work of women, actively looking to create diversity in publication while still keeping an eye on getting people to buy them. Then there's all of the behind-the-scenes stuff that she does that's been so important to so many. Koyama's genuine warmth, keen intellect and empathy shines through in her books as well as in person, just as Hogan's innate sweetness and curiosity shines through in his. Koyama has had many helpers as well, including her sister Helen and the irreplaceable Ed Kanerva.

I've had the chance to grow as a critic in part because of the challenging and exciting work that they've published. I'm grateful that I've had the opportunity to review virtually everything in their back catalogs. I respect their integrity and am grateful for the respect they've shown my work. They represent what is best about comics, both in terms of aesthetic ambition and personal collaboration. May the next ten years be smooth sailing for them.                                                                            

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Comics As Poetry #3: Comics As Poetry anthology

The origins of comics-as-poetry go way back to the 1960s, at least in terms of poets incorporating illustrations. The origins of what I call comics-as-poetry go back to the 1990s, with Warren Craghead being one of the earliest exemplars of the genre. I first used the phrase in 2009 to describe John Hankiewicz' Asthma and Tom Neely's The Blot. In 2012, New Modern Press published an anthology by the title of Comics as Poetry, edited by Franklin Einspruch. It's a short but solid introduction to the genre, featuring some of its greatest exemplars.

William Corbett's introduction regrettably references superhero comic books and generally lacks a real point, other than "who knows what the future will bring". Fortunately, the first piece is by Paul K. Tunis, who opens and closes the book with a style that brings a decorative quality to text that is well-integrated with its corresponding imagery. His first poem addresses the plastic quality of words, in the sense where all words sound like nonsense or onomatopoeia if said enough. Contrasting that with cartooning representations of said words adds to the fun, playful exercise that this piece is. His final piece is just as playful, using vivid imagery in his description of a relationship between a man and a woman--a relationship that's somewhere between work, romance and mutual aggravation.

Derik A. Badman's piece is his usual stuff: repurposing the work of old cartoonists (usually from romance or western comics) and adding either his own text or text from a completely different source. It's a kind of shtick, but it's a surprisingly effective shtick in that this juxtaposition really does create a new meaning for both image and text. The melodramatic quality of the figures is "cooled" by text that's frequently oblique, but not random. Einspurch's own piece is what I would call more of an illustrated poem rather than comics-as-poetry in that the text could hang entirely on its own without the use of the watercolors of different kinds of flowers he employs in the poem. It's an amusing poem but just doesn't hang together like the other work in the book, and I think part of that may be that he was a poet before he tried cartooning.

Absolutely no one puts together a page like Warren Craghead does. His nautical piece uses carefully drawn images, scrawled lines, odd uses of spot color, a six-panel grid with no outside edges, images that bleed into each other and text that is attached to images and tumbles across the page. Despite the spareness of the drawings and the extensive use of negative space, Craghead's comics have a thickness to them that takes several readings to truly absorb. Jason Overby's comics are like that as well, only he's not afraid to go much more abstract than Craghead. He also makes extensive use of collage, found images, scribbles and repurposed text as he goes meta in a piece titled "Process Is Poetry", referring to process in creating anything, not just a poem.

Kimball Anderson uses a first-person point of view in her piece about riding in a car through the countryside and losing one's sense of self. Not just ego loss, but that sense of being unable to understand the difference between sleep and consciousness. The art here is mostly naturalistic, but the color scheme gives the piece a strange quality, like a sense of being hyper-real as though one is in a psychedelic state. Julie Delporte's story about OCD/pure obsession and tracing it back to her childhood and a fear of being hated by her parents over something she did related to sex is actually one of the more conventional pieces in the book. The accompanying images are quite straightforward, but it's her extensive use of colored pencil and open-page layout that makes it unlike other comics. Finally, Oliver East's feature employs some of that Craghead minimalism and negative space, but then goes in a different direction by providing small cutaways of walks around gardens, tiny slices of quietude that I found to be remarkably moving.