Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Minis: The Yeah Dude Comics Box

Philadelphia's Pat Aulisio has been steadily publishing his own work as well as the work of others for quite a while. The beautifully constructed cardboard box that houses the Yeah Dude Comics mini-sampler is quite the attention-getter for a variety of comics. Aulisio essentially constructed a portable mini-library for these comics.

Most of them are very short and raw. Going in order of the table of contents, Josh Bayer leads off with Hot Desert Fever. It's one of his riffs on Sylvester Stallone and Stan Lee, as he imagines Stallone desperately wanting to write comic books like Lee. The resulting Human Torch story is a classic Bayer parody: altered character design (the Torch wears a helmet and carries a gas can), scatological humor, and visceral violence. Bayer's ability to fully inhabit the minds of these hyper-masculine, ridiculous characters and somehow make them come alive on the page is one of his greatest talents. Even in a story as absurd as this one, where Stallone has a butler that he names as Jarvis or Alfred, depending on the panel, and where he grows a tiny version of himself as Rocky to give him advice and encouragement, Bayer's always working within an internal set of logical rules.

Ian Harker's Face Force is a parody of 90s era Image Comics, with Rob Liefeld in particular being a touchstone. Nothing much actually happens in this comic, which makes it a particularly apt satire. McDonald's National Cemetary (sic), by Michael Gerkovich, is a series of strange images and clip art surrounding the idea of McDonald's going back to ancient Egypt, and to imagine what one would find if a site was excavated. Some of them riff off McDonald's iconography, like a Hamburglar looking through a telescope or a pharaoh having Ronald McDonald makeup on. The actual images match the meaningless absurdity of the concept itself, and Gerkovich gleefully runs with it. Josh Burggraf's International Geographic cleverly takes the you-are-there anthropological premise of the source material it's parodying with similar shots of nature, candid shots of "native" life, and the rituals from an alien world that are as baffling to the reader here as indigenous societies are to western societies. Burggraf's skill as an illustrator sells the joke, which is short enough to not outstay its welcome.        
Aulisio's Diabolik! is a parody of the Italian anti-hero, and he nails the way the narrative in the comic spells everything out. Getting pushed aside by his girlfriend Eva was also amusing in the way he puts everything in annoyingly modern speech patterns. The use of shadows and effects like zip-a-tone also made it reminiscent of its source material. Tara Booth's Daily Routine reminded me a lot of Jerry Smith's Rattletrap: extremely crudely-drawn comics, printed at tiny size, that hilariously and disgustingly address quotidian issues. Booth holds absolutely nothing back, like an early strip where she's over at a friends' place, falls asleep on her couch and accidentally urinates on it while asleep. When she wakes up, she leaves as fast as possible, as the caption "Run away from pee couch" indicated with a combination of shame and glee. Booth isn't afraid to get absurd or exaggerated, like in her strip where her face resembles two eggs and bacon, another where her dog licked her face off, and a truly disgusting entry where she gives birth to a "food baby". The cheery wave the food baby gives is what puts the strip over the top. There's an essential sweetness to these strips despite the frequently disgusting and scatological subject matter, and that sweetness ties in to her willingness to confront issues that normally are couched in terms of shame. She forgives herself and allows herself to be human, and that shines on every scrawled page.

Issue one of Box Brown's Softcore is something I have reviewed elsewhere, Skuds McKinley's Korgok is straight-up, visceral sword-and-sorcery. After an epic-establishing introduction, the actual comic is all highly-detailed violence. Keenan Marshall Keller's The Goiter #1 is another standout in this collection. Keller's work is not unlike Ben Marra's in that he uses hyperviolent and exaggerated situations for humorous intent, only that humor is bone-dry and at times indistinguishable from the actual genre comics and movies that he is paying homage to. In this case, Keller starts out doing a story about stoners and transforms it into a supernatural/horror story, as a young man who's working for an elderly woman hears a voice coming from the enormous tumor on her head. Keller leaves open the possibility that the young man is insane & hallucinating, which makes the scene where he "frees" the tumor by cutting it off, leaving her body spurting blood, all the more disturbing (and yet hilarious because of its ridiculous nature). Keller goes over the top in his figure work, deliberately overdrawing and cluttering up his page in an effort to keep the reader off-balance.

Finally, Erika Davidson's enigmatic Hadaka is a dreamy, surreal version of the Japanese festival where a minimal amount of clothing is worn. All the figures here are women, as they walk into rooms filled with or filled up by various women's erogenous zones. It's a brief mini whose mission seems to have been getting down those images on paper, of putting something that came from dream logic and fantasy and making it partially tangible. Thomas Toye's Entering A Room Full Of People is another visceral horror story, this time involving a frightening, serpentine home intruder who encounters a voracious plant that has killed the family living in the home. This almost entirely silent comic is typical of the works found in this box: rough, visceral, iconoclastic, visually distinctive, uncompromising and entertaining. The actual quality of each comic varies, as does its ability to sustain interest after a single read, but this was a great sample of a particular kind of comics aesthetic that a number of artists are currently pursuing.

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