Monday, March 9, 2020

Minis: Michael Aushenker, Jenny Zervakis

Crows, by Jenny Zervakis. This was a zine that Zervakis produced for 2019's Zine Machine show. It's not a comic; instead, there are illustrations on the front and back cover of the Durham skyline and crows flying over it. This is a painfully difficult read, as it's about the slow dissolution of her marriage, yet her writing is intimate and full of wisdom. Zervakis adds the running element of associating her divorce with seeing crows. Though she's not superstitious, she wonders about this. Much of the zine is also dedicated to talking about the women of her family and their strength, and it's suggested that perhaps the crows are ancestors trying to pass on a message. The final lines, "They are neither villains nor ghosts. They are just birds, living their lives. I should be too." are powerful and worth pondering. Creating meaning in random events is a human thing to do, but obsessing on these details can create paralysis. Zervakis' story is a difficult one that emphasizes finding a way to mourn and move on; making this zine is clearly part of the process.

Professor Mrs. Miniver, by Michael Aushenker. A good rule of thumb for Michael Aushenker's comics: the more ludicrous the premise, the more entertaining the actual comic. And the three premises for Professor Mrs. Miniver are among his zaniest. The first imagines a third volume in the Mrs. Miniver film series (from 1942!), conflating the character's relationships with the actress who played her. Greer Garson, who played the feisty titular character, had an affair with the much younger actor who played her son. In Aushenker's version, she fakes her own death, goes to college, parties naked, and manipulates her "son's" love into committing an extremely minor crime. Then she goes off into the sunset with the Nazi she supposedly killed at the end of the first film. It's all total nonsense that's made even more hilariously lurid with his use of color.

"Lincoln Horse" asks the question: "What is Abraham Lincoln had been transformed into a centaur?" Well, he would have personally ended the civil war, been in threesomes, and gotten a new owner. Aushenker keeps this silliness to a tight five pages. His Unstoppable Rogues also get a story as McDonald's employees, and the expected chaos ensues. Tonally, Aushenker likes his images, colors, and action as loud as possible. This sometimes belies the cleverness of his craft, especially his verbal gags, but it also befits the overall silliness of his ideas. From premise to execution, every aspect of this comic is designed to make the reader asks "WTF?"

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