Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Minis: J.Porcellino, H.Simple, J.Allen
King-Cat Comix #76, by John Porcellino. After the intense and incredibly touching Maisie Kukoc tribute in KC #75, this is a more low-key, odds-and-ends sort of issue. It's one of the rare issues where there's almost as much text (in the form of letters, an introductory essay, and the KC Top Forty) as there are comics. Most of the comics are short and frequently whimsical, like a drawing of radishes that includes different people's opinions about them. There's an aborted dream take of the city/country mouse story that involved some nice drawings of Chicago and the sort of visceral memory of weather that makes John P's comics so memorable. Along those lines, there was a memory of living in a cold apartment, frying up burgers, listening to sports radio and trying to draw with cheap gloves on. It's the kind of story where Porcellino documents the sheer misery of daily existence, the oppressive loneliness of his chosen life, and yet finds a way through. He works on his comic. He gets out of the house. He might be miserable but he doesn't stop trying. It's here where his eye for small details is so important, because it's in relating these details in terms of how they felt but in a mostly visual manner that gives his comics so much power.
That's why his comics are such an emotional gut punch. By paring away all but the most essential details, Porcellino is able to make feelings very clear in a way that a more naturalistic or text-heavy approach would not just render trite, the aesthetic that he's trying to explore simply wouldn't come across at all. When he does choose to use text as the primary vehicle of his poetic expression, the drawings become a little more supportive and utilitarian, like the "January Poem" about him running around his cold yard in his underwear to chase the cat. There are other brief observations, like hearing the sound of a cardinal while taking out the trash, that speak to the way that Porcellino looks at and thinks about the world, even as so much as life is a struggle. That he is able to render struggle and the smallest of joys about being alive with equal clarity speaks to his understanding of how all of these aspects of life form our aesthetic point of view.
Ohio Is For Sale #9, by Jon Allen. The latest issue of Allen's ongoing saga about a group of slackers takes place a few issues after the collection that I reviewed a few weeks back, but it wasn't hard to figure out what was going on. The issue features Julian, the scumbag boyfriend of Dana, and his attempts at actually trying not to be a leach. It also features series regular Patrick, the writer who constantly faces a blank sheet of paper on his typewriter. As always, Allen uses a simple foundation to build stories that have considerable visual and narrative complexity, as well as a healthy slice of perversity. Allen starts with a simple three or four panel grid per square page, reflecting each issue's origin as a webcomic. The panel borders are unusually thick for a comic, as he gives each panel a lot of weight but also mashes them together a bit to form a dark gestalt. He uses anthropomorphic animals as his characters, which allows him to go as simple or as over-the-top as he wants to be at any given time. It also allows him to use magical realism when that seems the thing to do or intense violence, like in this issue. Every character tends to get what they deserve in this comic. Julian sells his stuff to help make rent at a hilariously redneck pawnshop filled with meth-heads, calling Patrick to help him. Meanwhile, Dana essentially enables Julian throughout the rest of the comic, and then she has her bag stolen. For a comic that can seem so episodic at times, Allen is a surprisingly tight plotter, as the subplot with the stolen bag smashes into Julian taking the money from the pawn shop and wasting it on a night out at a bar, and then getting into a fight with two thugs when he sees his girlfriend's bag. It's yet another dark, funny ending reminiscent of a Peter Bagge comic for Allen.
Holly's Whore Haus #1, by Holly Simple. With art and subject matter very much in the vein of Meghan Turbitt, Simple's story of she and her "best friends" (the characters on her keychain) going up against her nemesis Killer Bae and her crew at the "Sexy Awards". The comic is in part an exploration and send-up of conventional beauty, style and personality as it flashes back to the ways in which the conventionally attractive KB was a constant thorn in her side, in part because of the ways she embodied the bland, conservative nature of conventional attractiveness (in both appearance and behavior) are determined by men. The segment of the comic where Holly is getting her crew ready to compete by getting their hair done, dressing more feminine, willingness to perform and above all else, to be slutty, is hilarious, because she's putting a troll doll, a unicorn and a regular doll into ridiculous and slutty outfits. Despite Holly's crew going all out, Killer Bae wins easily, because dudes are always going to choose women wanting this particular kind of attention that are conventionally attractive. There are actually a lot of complicated emotions in this comic. On one level, this is obviously a feminist statement and condemnation of the male gaze, only done in the most obscene, hilarious and over-the-top manner possible. At the same time, there's also a longing to have been accepted for being unique and weird, to have received the same kind of approval as KB. And at a different level, there's a visceral sense of wanting to be like KB, of wishing to be that woman and girl who gets conventional approval, but also a sense of self-hatred for wanting nothing less than to be the avid subject of objectification. The comic is colorful, grotesque and warped in terms of its drawings while keeping the reader's eye on the subjects and the wacky stuff that they're involved with. It's also powerful and to the point. I'd love to see more comics from her.