Sunday, December 31, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #31: Taylor Hunt, Sofia Martin, Sydney Austin

It's always interesting to evaluate the work of first-year students at CCS. When I get to review them, their first semester has not quite yet wrapped up. For students relatively new to cartooning, their minicomics output can be quite limited. For some, this is the first time they've ever published anything, thanks to the resources of the CCS lab. Sometimes, it can be obvious that even working through familiar assignments like the Aesop adaptation or the Ed Emberley comic, an artist has a lot to say. (Natalie Norris comes to mind.) There are other times when it's less obvious what kind of leap an artist is capable of making, so long as they are careful to run their own race. Some of the earlier classes at CCS were highly competitive in terms of output, but that seems to be less prevalent these days. 

Sofia Martin's Off The Path is the one comic every CCS student starts with: the application comic. It's a story that must have the following elements in a story: the cartoonist, a robot, a snowman, and a piece of fruit. Here, using a delicate line that also makes great use of black-and-white contrasts, Martin spins a funny story about walking through a snowy forest and encountering a delivery robot that is distressed at the "frown" of a snowman. You can see how Martin's understanding of pacing, transitions, and gesture all contribute to the very gentle gag that is central to this story. Martin's storytelling is understated and subtle, and it will be ideal for sensitive character work. Their lettering is rough; I liked their using different font styles for their character and the robot, but the lettering is too small and cramped. The good news is that the word balloon placement is sensible, so the other issues are simply technique-related and easily correctable. 

Taylor Hunt's attempt at the same assignment is as big and loud as Martin's was quiet and sensitive. The Big JS is a ridiculous noir detective story where the detective is a rotting banana, the femme fatale is a snow-woman (the initial reveal is hilarious), and the victim is a robot. Printed on a series of unfolding & connected cards, the reader keeps flipping down to reveal more story. It's a clever formal trick that adds to the general sense of ridiculousness surrounding the story. Hunt plays up the black-and-white contrast beautifully to create atmosphere, and there are a lot of bold drawings that push out of the panel that add some drama and excitement. Hunt is definitely funny, and I hope he continues to explore humor in his work. The envelope provided with the comic, acting as a case file holder, was another nice formal, decorative touch. 

Finally, Sydney Austin tackles the Aesop assignment with a bigger-sized mini featuring characters from her own Phoenix Of The South graphic novels, titled Break Your Heart. Based on "The Man And The Woods," the story is about a man named Jeremy secretly in love with another man named Will. That love leaves him vulnerable to Will's ill intentions that deliberately play on the attraction he knows that Jeremy feels. Austin smartly plays up the seemingly innocent but very intimate physical contact they share to lead the reader in one direction but also make Will seem unbelievably creepy. The problem with this comic is that it rests too much of its information on previously-written characters; as a result, we have no clue why Will acts as he does, or what Jeremy wants until nearly the end of the comic. The reference to Aesop is shoehorned in and isn't exactly a one-to-one correspondence. In the fable, the trees in the wood give a man with an axe handle a branch each, and then he makes an axe handle with the branches and chops them down. Some of the individual character poses are also a bit stiff and feel overly posed. That said, Austin has a clearly-defined style and themes she's working with, and this is simply a matter of drawing more. 

Saturday, December 30, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #30: E.B. Sciales and Michael Albrecht

E.B. Sciales draws in a pleasing style, both for gags and a comics cookbook in these entries. Working with Sophie Castner, she drew a number of entries in their The Illustrated Kastner-Mednick Family Cookbook. This is certainly one of the more eclectic approaches to a cookbook I've seen, but Sciales was up to the task of bringing the ingredients and how to use them to vivid life. Kastner added watercolors to further deliver that homespun feel for dishes like latkes, gumbo, and lamb chops. More pertinent to this review is Speed Trap Ahead, where Sciales displays her comedic chops. Done in the style of a Dell or Harvey comic from the 1950s, Sciales sets the stage by informing the reader about her grandfather, Dr. William Sciales, an eccentric practical joker and tale-spinner. 

Sciales' attention to detail adds so much to the story. The slightly faded four-color scheme, the exaggerated use of expressions, over-the-top lettering, and airtight plot are worthy of John Stanley or Warren Kremer. Effects like zip-a-tone shading add to the period feel of this comic, and I could have read another dozen stories about Doc Sciales with great pleasure. The only note I'd add is that some of the more conventional lettering is uneven, especially in terms of the size of the font. At this point, I don't know enough about Sciales as a cartoonist to figure out what their major projects might be, but their wide interesting bode well for some interesting future choices. 

Michael Albrecht is a first-year CCS student (class of 2025) who shows a great deal of promise as a horror and science-fiction cartoonist. Above all else, he's just a sharp writer who has an ear for dialogue who brings grit and authenticity to genre comics. He reminds me a bit of Ivy Allie in terms of the tone of their stories and art as well as the cerebral quality of their storytelling. It's a shame that Albrecht came to CCS after Steve Bissette retired, because Bissette would have appreciated Albrecht's work in You Are Alone, a throwback horror comic. It's in the "I'm camping in the woods, lost my friend, and I am totally fucked" genre of stories ala Blair Witch Project, but it's in the execution of these tropes where Albrecht truly shines. The use of a sickly spot yellow, the attention to detail regarding eyes, and the ominous angles help the truly horrifying ending to land with a great deal of impact. 

Lancelot From Memory is a hilarious recounting of Lancelot: Knight Of The Cart done for the Ed Emberley assignment. That's the one where the cartoonists must draw a story in the hyper-simplified style of Emberley, using just shapes like circles, squares, and triangles. It's such a great exercise for any cartoonist, because it strips away the concept of "drawing ability" and forces them to focus on the true principles of cartooning and storytelling. Even in a story like this Albrecht creates tension and mood with his use of blacks and leaves the reader with an ambiguous but ominous ending after playing much of the comic for laughs. 

These comics were fun exercises for Albrecht. The main event was Deus, an exceptionally well-written and told story about a post-apocalyptic setting wherein a former killer robot has been reprogrammed to act as a childcare aid and friend for a young girl named Beanie. The drawing is so sharp and expressive, especially the way that Albrecht draws the child. Albrecht adds an air of menace when the robot, whose name is Bobby, is revealed to have full awareness of their past, but no connection to it. Albrecht swerves the reader by making this less of a horror sci-fi story and more of an existential inquiry into being. 

Friday, December 29, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #29: Comox and Ionosphere

Comox is an odd little video game-themed anthology with an interesting gimmick: it's a flip book were two artists do the "flip-side" of the other story. Filipa Estrela and Kevin Fitzpatrick are both in it, and both of their stories are very amusing. Each chapter is two pages and focuses on a type of game: horror, RPG, fighter, etc. Estrela gets "simulation," and she approaches an Animal Crossing type of game with the concept of, "what if the farmer was actually kind of a lunatic?" The frenzy of activity following the farmer (including underground rock-breaking) is perfect for Estrela's cute character design, and the fluidity of motion (even on pages crammed with panels) allows the reader to fly right through. Their partner, Emily Wigglesworth, tells the story from the point of view of everyone else in the village who is slightly alarmed by the farmer. 

Fitzpatrick's story is a fantasy RPG, something he's quite adept at in his usual comics. While maintaining some trappings of the game environment (like a health meter), Fitzpatrick wisely steers away from the clutter of a typical video game screen (something that hurt several other stories) and sticks to the layout of a typical adventure. The story follows a hero looking for their young companion in a cave, fighting a monster, and being saved by their friend at the last second. Fitzpatrick is so clever in composing his pages, seamlessly fitting together 14 panels on one page at odd angles in a way that felt both fluid and exciting. The flip story, by Mica Liesenfeld, is told from the point of view of the younger companion. The non-CCS highlight of the anthology was Shoona Browning's first-person shooter story where the bored protagonist, after saving humanity from the zombie horde, restarts the game--much to the chagrin of their companion. 

Speaking of anthologies, Masha Zhdanova edited a very good science-fiction anthology called Ionosphere. It's not a surprise that the best pieces were by her and standout CCS alum Ivy Lynn Allie, but there were a couple of other good pieces as well. Zhdanova's story "This World Still Locked Within A Dream" is a variant take on time loop stories such as Groundhog Day. The story follows a young woman named Perilla who one day realizes she is in a time loop, but her life is so boring and routine that she only realizes it when she notices that the event banner on a phone game hasn't changed. A glamorous character from the game named Gigi Galore tells her she was selected as a time loop beta tester, and for a fee, she would be sent back to her normal life. When Perilla refuses, that creates a long series of loops with some surprising emotional connections, a long meditation on depression and loneliness, and just how hard it is to break out of routines. Zhdanova effectively combines the sparkly video game character with an extremely mundane environment. The story is also available as a stand-alone minicomic. 

Allie's story, "Playthings," is a fascinating account of how adult concerns and the concerns of children are often at such odds that there is a vast disconnection of how reality is perceived. The story takes place on another world, as a girl named Rissy tramps around while her parents feverishly work on a project that will flood a local create in order to grow oxygen-creating algae. Unbeknownst to them, Rissy has discovered a race of tiny aliens that she refers to as fairies, and her parents don't realize that in trying to reassure her about what they think are imaginary friends, they have missed out entirely on the ramifications of what they're about to do. Allie adds greater complexity when she completely misinterprets the actions of the aliens, thinking they've destroyed her robot chicken friend, and she lashes out at them in violence and anger. Allie's pages are so smooth and orderly, built around lurking misery and the creeping feeling that something bad is always about to happen. 

The other notable entries in the anthology are from Akira B. and Zab R., who spin a beautiful-looking story about a space explorer letting in a highly unwelcome visitor to his ship by accident; and Torc, whose story about the ramifications of asking a freed creature for help is emotionally resonant and highly disturbing because of the emotional connection between the characters.  

Thursday, December 28, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #28: Juniper Kim

Juniper Kim has shown that they are a serious talent in their time at CCS. Their work here reflects smaller works ideal for zine festivals as they gear up for writing their first true longform comic. Their latest batch of comics includes a dream comic, a collection of sketchbook/diary comics, an illustrated collaboration, and a collection of bizarre humor strips from The Gutter. Individually, none of them are especially exceptional, but taken as a whole, it's an interesting snapshot in time as we see Kim experimenting with different genres, techniques, and ideas. Guisers At The Door! is an illustrated zine they did with writer Grant Cook. The prose is more than a little florid, but Kim's attention to decorative detail is what makes the zine worth looking at. Teeth is a better example of what Kim is capable of. It's a dream comic that makes use of all sorts of interesting materials and techniques. It's printed on a thick, vellum-style paper that allows Kim to use a great deal of erasure and "ghost images" on the page, as the details of a classic teeth-falling-out dream go to some unusual places. It's a fascinating showcase for Kim's mastery of color and pure drawing as well as imaginative cartooning. 

My Room Keeps Talking To Me is a fascinating mixed bag from Kim's sketchbook. Here, Kim struggles with their upbringing, medication, what it means to be an artist, and their place in the world. It's a highlight reel once again for their drawing, their use of color, their willingness to confront difficult thoughts, and so much more. Kim can work in any style, from cartoony to colorful to gritty. There are some interesting narrative threads here that I'd love to see Kim pick up down the road. 

Finally, Kim also has a silly side, as their collection of Funken strips from The Gutter proves. Kim clearly doodles these out fairly quickly, because the line is immediate, warm, and slightly rough. These strips about these strange rabbit-like creatures are an exercise in bending lines and shapes in funny, strange, and frequently horny ways. They give Kim an excuse to draw any weird thing that they want, come up with non sequiturs, and make strips that are either bare-bones or else crammed with decorative detail. Its purpose is not unlike that of a diary strip, only these are much more entertaining and unpredictable. All told, these all feel like warm-up exercises for Kim, keeping their pen moving in between larger projects or their exquisite journal-binding hobby.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #27: King Ray and Michael Sweater

King Ray is a cartoonist interested in horror. At the moment this seems to be as much conceptual as anything, which I think is one reason why they chose to write about the horror writer Shirley Jackson in the comic the house was vile. Combining text, newspaper clippings, and their own haunting & sketchy art with grayscale shading, Ray combines their analysis of Jackson with an actual trip to the house that inspired the classic The Haunting Of Hill House. That this occurred after a snowstorm and with a set of footprints ahead of them indicating that they were the only ones making the pilgrimage only adds to the atmosphere. I can't get enough of Ray's ramshackle line, deadpan narrative voice, and incisive social commentary, as they freely speculate as to why Jackson didn't leave more of an impression on the community. 

Insomnia Mansion is as much Ray's take on the concept of the haunted mansion as it is a narrative featuring characters dealing with living together in a haunted house. Ray is running this as a serial on the Gutter substack, and it looks terrible online but fantastic in print. The open page layout, sketchy drawings, and extensive use of negative space just don't translate properly online, but the flow of loosely-connected vignettes makes me wish that this mini was a full-length book. Ray's character design is sharp and fully-formed, while the bizarre goings-on in the group house have as much to do with the weirdos living in it as they do the desires of the house itself. Ray's use of what appears to be crayon adds to the slightly crazed, scrawled quality of the art, as though the narrative was a sort of found object. Ray's mix of humor, horror, slice-of-life narratives, and visual surprises make this the project early in their career that really has legs. 

Michael Sweater continues to encapsulate the intersection of cute drawings and crustpunk misadventures. His latest issues of Everything Sucks are both actually tightly-plotted and benefit greatly from the structure that allows him to go deep into some hilarious character narratives. In the third issue, subtitled "Real Gamer Hours," the anti-hero protagonist Noah gets sucked into playing an ancient online video game called Runequest. It's a game with primitive graphics and dull gameplay that is somehow all-consumingly addictive. When his friend Calla checks on him because he's been playing for three straight days, she gets sucked into playing the game as well. Sweater does something clever here, where instead of seeing the primitive gameplay, he draws the action in his typical style, which makes it even funnier when Calla's Runequest character has killed dozens of rats that stack up. Their friend Brad checks in on them and also gets sucked in, leading to a funny conclusion about how one should never make assumptions about who one encounters online. As always, Sweater has nailed that cute/punk aesthetic in his character design, with his drawings of trash and detritus adding a lot to the comic's aesthetic. 

The most recent issue, subtitled "Friends Forever," is what they would call a "bottle episode" in a sitcom. That is, one where the cast is trapped in a single room for most of the duration of the episode, and much of the show revolves around their interpersonal dynamics. Many of Sweater's stories tend to be in such settings (the previous issue is no exception), but "Friends Forever" provides structure when Noah, Calla, and Brad are all trapped in a filthy bar bathroom just when a woman wants to take Noah home. Sweater doesn't skimp on the literal toilet humor, but he does so in a way that pushes things to their limit, like Calla busting into the bathroom when Noah was washing his hands, immediately sitting on the toilet, and when asked why, replies "I don't know why I do the stuff I do...My inner world is a mystery to me." Things escalate from there as the trio nearly drowns when the sink is broken. A back-up feature has Sweater pushing scatological humor even more with a different set of characters; it's brightened by Sweater's typically ultra-cute character design and over-the-top characterization. Little about Sweater's work is ever subtle, but he leans into this and batters the reader with his punk-cute aesthetic, ear for dialogue, and eye for detail. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

45 Days of CCS, #26: Steve Thueson

Steve Thueson has been doing irreverent genre fiction for some time now. They started with a fantasy parody in the same spirit as Lewis Trondheim & Joann Sfar's Dungeon with a series called Quest Mania, and that led them to what is new a 2-book series about a reptilian James Bond type named Timothy Dinoman. The second volume, Timothy Dinoman And The Attack Of The Dancing Machines is 50% pure nonsense, 45% rock-solid spy thriller, and 5% queer romance. It's because Thueson respects that 45% spy thriller that the whole thing works, because the action sequences are excellent: well-paced, exciting, and unpredictable. Much like Trondheim and Sfar love fantasy but also enjoyed poking fun at it, so too does Thueson lampoon the excesses of the spy genre while staying entirely within its world-building rules. 

Spy stories are heavy on setting and plot and light on characterization. The protagonist rarely has a motivation beyond stopping the villain, who sets the plot in motion in interesting settings. It's no different here, as Dinoman's origin story isn't even referenced here; the fact that he's an anthropomorphic iguanadon isn't mentioned once. Like James Bond, he's also a bit of a conundrum: a world-famous spy. Hilariously, his disguises always fool the bad guys. The first 37 pages of the book are an extended infiltration and ski shootout sequence between Timothy and a gang of robots. The ski chase is a classic spy thriller trope, and Thueson nails it visually, with fluid and logical action sequences that still have a touch of humor. 

Thueson mixes that with some very light romance with Timothy's work partner Jen and her potential love interest Kris. The book's real plot involves Timothy going undercover as a journalist at the headquarters of a tech bro genius named Ellis Heron. Heron decides to throw a global party where he unveils his robots, to whom he teaches a choreographed dance routine. Jen despises Heron (a former classmate) and all he stands for, but the somewhat naive Timothy enjoys the tech bro's celebrity impressions. 

The rest of the book unfolds as one would expect: Heron has sinister plans involving the robots, and the heroes are in a race against time to find a way to stop them. Thueson has several spectacular action sequences, including one where Timothy barely survives being on a runaway jet plane. There are nice twists that play into the slice-of-life elements introduced early in the book. There's also a little bonus story that's funny on its own in a Scooby-Doo sort of way that also connects to the main narrative. Thueson hits that middle-grade sweet spot with jokes that tweens will understand and appreciate as well as action that will keep their attention. 

Monday, December 25, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #25: Iris Yan and Mercedes Campos López

Iris Yan is one of the funniest of all the CCS grads. Though she works exclusively in memoir, she injects humor into most of her work, and it's both bone-dry and frequently dry. There's a total absence of sentimentality in her comics, which is what allows her to be so matter-of-fact regarding any number of upsetting things. In one mini, (originally published in the My Pace 02 anthology), she considers the death and then subsequent funeral service for her mother. While there are genuinely touching moments in the comic, Yan also spends time wondering if her mother was on a secret hockey team after receiving a wreath from "the team." Another short comic was Teaching English In Taiwan, which is exactly what it sounds like. Yan's tone is so funny because of the way it shifts; there are times when she's unbelievably (and hilariously) harsh in talking about her Taiwanese students, but she also tenderly discusses how much they look up to her and are grateful for the class. As always, Yan is intensely curious about local customs and culture, which is another key aspect of this mini. 

As always, Yan's line is consistently wobbly, but it never detracts from the expressiveness of her anthropomorphic figures. Yan depicts herself as a pig, and she draws herself as a pig on two feet rather than a pig with more human figures. This is true of all her figures, which is part of the humor of her comics. For example, in the unrelentingly hilarious Pigs In Heat, Yan tells four different stories about going to a "swing house" in her native Brazil. It's a house for swingers to have sex in, with an entry fee. Never have I read a more sex-soaked comic that was less erotic than this one, thanks to Yan's unshakeable character design. Birds fuck bears, monkeys fuck turtles, etc. It's a smart choice, because Yan also emphasizes the total absurdity of this situation; it's enough to make one question one's own desire. Yan is also interested in logistics while maintaining her trademark bluntness about everything. 

It's no surprise that My Brief Colon Cancer Story is one of the better cancer narratives I've ever read. As a former cancer professional, I despise narratives that valorize the treatment process in any way. That was never a concern with Yan, who opens the book detailing the cancer-related deaths of her own parents and her blunt unwillingness to engage with the obvious symptomatology she faced. Yan details, in chronological order, exactly what she experienced as she was tested for cancer, got surgery, and then later got chemotherapy. Details about the friends and family who came with her, the amenities of the hospital, the personalities of her caregivers, and her generally sharp tongue make this as funny as it is a highly informative work of graphic medicine. Yan's line may be shaky, but there's no doubt that she's an effective cartoonist whose art makes her stories even funnier.

Mercedes Campos López's background in biology is in full effect in her comic Virus. It is a highly effective primer on COVID, cleverly and thoroughly explaining what exactly a virus is, how they spread, how they mutate, and how this relates to the global pandemic. With clear, colorful cartooning and a firmly authoritative but welcoming voice, Campos López sticks to the facts and the science with regard to what is understood about how viruses work as well as how they were addressed during the pandemic. While acknowledging that conspiracy theories, politics, and cultural differences have a way of obstructing science, Campos López aims to educate, not engage in debate with bad faith points of view. While an intelligent child can follow along, the science explored in this comic is certainly at a high school/adult level, with visual breakdowns of fairly complex principles of organic chemistry and biology. The comic is designed to follow a series of bite-size question-and-answer sequences, starting with the big question regarding COVID, backing up to explain viruses in general terms, and then circling back around to the central idea. The one problem with this ambitious example of applied cartooning is that it badly needed line edits, as there are multiple typos and errors throughout. I imagine this will be corrected for future editions. 

Sunday, December 24, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #24: 666 Comics

Editor and publisher Ian Richardson loves horror and a good anthology, and he set up a very clever constraint for 666 Comics. There are 6 contributors, each offering up a 6 page story with 6 panels on every page. Ricardson has long been a horror cartoonist, so each of the artists worked in that genre, more or less. There's heavy CCS involvement here, with Richardson, Denis St. John (another CCS artist known for horror) and Iris Yan (an artist known for memoir). In addition, former CCS instructor and horror legend Steve Bissette (Swamp Thing, Taboo) provided striking front and back covers. Even now, after his retirement from CCS, Bissette continues to actively contribute and participate in the projects of his former students. 

St. John has usually walked the path between horror and comedy in his comics, and his "Satan's Log Flume" is no exception. Featuring his "Hellarella" character that's a tribute to schlocky horror-show hosts like Elvira, this story follow two unfortunate Catholic school girls aiming to steal communion wine and pin it on the brutal nuns. Hellarella, barely disguised as a nun, takes them on a theme park ride tour of hell with plenty of wisecracks and puns (the joke about a splash page being more effective on a water park ride but being unable to use it due to the anthology's constraints was especially funny). St. John works in color here, and there are some spectacular pages that lead the reader's eye across the page in gross, hilarious detail. 

Whereas St. John bent and stretched against the layout, Richardson adheres to a strict 6-panel grid. "The Devil's In The Details" is an atmospheric and moody invocation. Working in a black & white with a lot of grayscale shading and other gritty details, the text consists of the instructions for a ritual. The ritual, we eventually learn, involves the young woman we see working with precise determination in panel after panel performing a ritual to resurrect her dead lover. The instructions are from him. Because Richardson locks in text and image on every panel so faithfully, it's especially effective when the actions of the woman veer away sharply from these instructions in the end. Richardson has a clever mind for plot twists like this, making him ideal for the genre. 

Yan's deadpan and sharply-observed humor, along with her commitment to working in an anthropomorphic style, make her an interesting choice for this anthology. Working in color (a rarity), Yan details three, funny bizarre instances of possibly encountering the devil. The first came in a kids' bible class, when one devil-obsessed girl told everyone else that the devil inhabited the letter "S." The second came when a kid stabbed her at a birthday party and she was told that he had the devil in him. Most hilariously was a neighbor who insisted to Yan and her sister that if they took money they found in the street, it could be used as "bait for dark magic." He insisted they pee on their hands to cleanse themselves of it. Yan's sense of humor is precisely my thing, and the matter-of-factness of her figure drawing is part of the fun. 

In the rest of the anthology, Amanda Kahl contributes a Thomas Ott-style scratchboard horror story about a curse that leads to total destruction, ontological and otherwise. The cartoonist HER offers up a moody and psychedelic story about a monster. The highly entertaining Trevor Moorehouse contributes a hilarious, disturbing story about an artist who went to extreme measures in a failed attempt at fame, drawn in a cartoony style. The rhythms of the story perfectly encapsulate both horror and comedy in equal measure. 

Overall, Richardson put together a solid anthology that never wears out its welcome, incorporated its restriction/theme in an interesting way, and explores a wide variety of styles and approaches. 

Saturday, December 23, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #23: Meg Selkey

Another artist who had an entry in the recent ShortBox Comics Fair, Meg Selkey's Sofa King is a keenly-observed anecdote about the ways in which children speak to each other. Specifically, it's a power struggle on the pettiest of levels, and so finding new kinds of ammunition can be crucial in improving one's social standing. This short, black & white depends on Selkey's character design, facial expressions, and especially body language in communicating the complexity of these kinds of interactions. 

Awkwardness pervades what should be a fun filming session for a bunch of girls doing a lip-synch to the Cheetah Girls. Krishna is a last-second replacement because Cora, the queen bee of the bench, has her foot in a cast. As such, Cora insults her and demeans her, even as her friend tries to comfort her without angering Cora. Krishna retreats to use the bathroom (and is sent on an errand), only to encounter Cora's sneeringly obnoxious older brother Josh and his cretinous friends. Selkey's understanding of the psychology of boys is every bit as keen as her ability to convey how girls talk, and the results are not pretty. Josh, like Cora, enjoys making demands on someone he sees should be easy to push around. Unlike Cora, his goal is sexual humiliation, as he demands that she say the phrase "sofa king" because the result would be her saying something unintentionally dirty. The dawning realization of what she almost did and the sinister understanding of how this could be weaponized reveal that adolescence is a war, and war is hell. Selkey's pacing, cartooning, and careful use of detail make me want to read a bunch of these kinds of stories. 

Friday, December 22, 2023

45 Days of CCS, #22: Robyn Smith

Robyn Smith is one of the most talented and successful of all the graduates of CCS. Be it mainstream work like Nubia for DC, award-winning illustration jobs like Wash Day Diaries, or their own, more personal work, Smith's command both over color and line is expressive and beautiful. Their recent entry in the Short Box Comics Fair, Roast Or Fry, is a story about her native Jamaica that starts out in one place and swerves in a rather incredible way. Smith crams an entire book's worth of pettiness, infighting, intrigue, mystery, and mayhem in under thirty pages, with a repeating visual motif that embodies the entire story. 

The story follows the day after a big party with drunken consequences. The protagonist is a young woman named Trelawney, who's part of a group chat with a bunch of old school friends who were in the same home room. Smith sets the scene with Trelawny waking up after a drunken night where she was roped into celebrating her rich school friend Aisla opening up a new spa in honor of a friend she had made over the internet as a child named Paolo. A hung-over Trelawney tries to reconstruct the night by going back over her texts, which was an incredible storytelling device because it put the reader in the same boat that she was. What was her relationship with these people? She referenced guilt--over what? It was made abundantly clear that she didn't have much money by Aisla herself. Immediately, the reader wonders where all of this is going, which details are important, and why. 

A running theme is the huge fruit, possibly a guinep, that falls from a tree. As it slowly dawns on Trelawny what happened the previous night, the attention she's paying toward cooking up the fruit starts to wane. Using a series of flashbacks cleverly accentuated by different color patterns, Smith slowly starts to reveal the significance of what seem to be anecdotal or incidental bits of trivia. Instead, Smith's fiendish attention to detail unravels a jaw-dropping revelation whose ramifications continue to spiral even as the story ends. As always, Smith's figurework and use of gesture could carry entire pages even without text. However, it's their page composition that was truly impressive in this comic. Inset panels, decorative elements surrounding panels, panels at odd angles, the use of a rear-view mirror as a panel--every page has something new and slightly disorienting to challenge and engage the reader. Smith's writing is so sharp and has a nasty cynicism that serves her characters well. 

Thursday, December 21, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #21: Bread Tarleton

Bread Tarleton is in an exciting stage of their career, as you can see them starting to level up with each new publication. (Full disclosure: Fieldmouse Press will be publishing an original graphic novel by them in the next year or so.) However, you can also see this evolution in recent minicomics as well. 

Body Building reminds me a bit of the sort of comics Luke Kruger-Howard would do, and I mean this as a high compliment. It's an origin story, as a new entity is brought into the Body. Whose body is irrelevant, but the new entity is welcomed by another amorphous but bipedal figure and told to give it some time to adjust. There's a hilarious sequence where the new being asks who they all are, and the other figure replies, "You're the hum in our ear, and I'm the sense of self...I was born out of a desire for self-insight...and you were born because we keep listening to music too loud." The Hum rightly recoils at the lack of equity, but Self insists that everyone is equal and part of the whole. There's a party where the Hum gets to meet people and then a committee meeting where previous inhabitants of the ear agree to go elsewhere. The Hum is an incredible character--confused, cynical, scared, and ultimately accepting and trusting of their fate. The blue wash, thick line, and clever page composition all contribute to this ultimately freeing meditation on what it means to be embodied. 

While Body Building is clearly personal, Flip Turn is deeply autobiographical. It's about Tarelton's relationship with their body, with water, with being fat, and with gender identity--and how all of these tie together. Using shades of aqua green and blue, Tarleton investigates and interrogates their feelings of being a failure of masculinity as a child, due to their physique. Being fat was essentially being resigned to being a beta--a joke, ineffective, impotent, "the butt of the joke." They internalized to a self-destructive degree, allowing their parents to deny them food at times and relentlessly exercising. This led to a constant state of being angry, masked by a facade of good humor and self-denial. Swimming competitively made it worse, and worse still that their teammates were supportive and gave compliments that felt backhanded and pitying. Eventually, after years of resignation and dissociation, Tarleton notes that they moved away from that when they understood and embraced their trans identity. The comic ends on Tarleton swimming for the first time in years, in a river at a family function. It's a full circle moment, allowing themselves to embrace their essential comfort in the water without the onus of competition or being perceived as a spectacle. Tarleton's storytelling is assured and the composition on each page is so dynamic. Tarleton leans on this storytelling more than their actual drawing, but their linework has also advanced compared to their earlier comics. These comics are a sign of a cartoonist who is starting to fully come into their mature style and it's obvious that they know it, and it's a thrill to see as a critic who's followed their work for years.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

45 Days of CCS, #20: Quinn Thomson and Alexander Washburn

Quinn Thomson is just a natural at slice-of-life sci-fi adventure stories. His Zero Point comics have been uniformly polished, funny, and engaging. They've actually looked better in black and white than in the color I've seen him use in some webcomics; the color on the cover, for example, is a bit on the garish side and detracts from his linework. Thomson's linework and use of grayscale shading balances naturalism and a strong line with quirky character design. Thomson also understands character-driven narrative, and Zero Point features a ship full of vivid personalities, with the new crew member of a space cargo ship being the most interesting. Shannon Kent is an anthropomorphic dog who, as it turns out, is a genetically-engineered construct: a "smart pet." This issue follows her disastrous first day on the job meeting the human and alien crew members who aren't there to make her life easy. It's a smooth, relatable story with a plot that hinges entirely on character interaction. 

Thomson's Unlikely Hero On Patrol is a short story about a young hero wannabe who inherits a suit she doesn't quite know how to operate. Her buttinsky roommate keeps telling her not to use the suit since she doesn't know what she's doing, but the hero Arlene has her head in the clouds. Predictably, things go horribly wrong in this light-hearted adventure that's an appetizer for more stories. 

Alex Washburn's two entries are a collection of his funny Clan Zargs stories originally published in the Fantology anthology and a diary comic. The diary comic (titled Almost-Daily Diary Comics For A Month) is excellent, and he uses it for its originally conceived purpose: as an exercise to work out creative issues and blockages. Some days Washburn goes for quotidian details, like the daily routine, road trips, or being reluctant to get out of a warm bed. On many of the days, he's much more reflective. thinking about his influences, his personal and cultural connections to Japan through his family, his relationship to his body and how this has moved him to draw fat characters, and in general what sort of artist he wants to be. This was so effective in giving me a sense of the artist that I'd recommend it for any cartoonist to tackle the specific questions that Washburn engages with. 

Washburn's biggest accomplishment to date has been the first three chapters of his Clan Zargs serial, originally published in the Fantology anthology, all of which I've reviewed elsewhere. He's printed each of the three chapters separately, but he collected them into a single mini titled Clan Zargs: A Fantology Story. Washburn pretty uniformly uses a thick, bold line that sometimes obscures certain facial features, but he makes up for that by giving his creations distinguishing scars and fantastical forms. The action sequences are a bit stiff and sometimes confusing, but that's much less important than the character interaction for the five principle leads. There are flashbacks, asides, and other moments that establish each of their personalities in a distinct and often tender way, which is unusual for typical fantasy characters. You can also see his progression as an artist: the third chapter is conceptually different, more ambitious in terms of backgrounds and layouts, and takes a darker tone without leaving humor out of it altogether. This series is very much Wasburn getting better in public, and I'm excited to see where the story will go next. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #19: Betsey Swardlick

Betsey Swardlick's punk and slightly ramshackle humor comics have always been a highlight of this feature, because she never fails to make me laugh. Whether it's vegan werewolves in Failwolves or queer monsters with Glamera, Swardlick not only is good with a gag, she knows how to spin it into a narrative. In her anthology series Spaghetti Punch, issue #3 features a number of shorter works, many of them from the pandemic. The stories are either anthropomorphic creatures chatting about various topics or Swardlick's anecdotes from being a babysitter. The former really show off her drawing chops, as these are well-conceived and just plain strange character designs, and the conversations themselves are hilariously weird. A surfing duck trying to convince a skating bird to try surfing is especially funny, with the question "What if you opened yourself up to new experiences" being answered by "What if I didn't?" 

The babysitting strips are great because Swardlick essentially opens herself to kid logic with regard to playtime. When a kid wants to be a dumpling, Swardlick wraps the kid up in a carpet, and then does it again after initial resistance and a request for it to be "dark." Swardlick instantly understands that kid logic and reactions can turn on a dime, but her flexibility in dealing with it is what makes these stories funny. Swardlick's story about a house that Ween lives in, hanging with her roommate, and other total nonsense is delightful because of her incredible use of gesture and expressive line.

Issue #4 is a standalone story featuring characters introduced in a prose story in the third issue: Moussa and Omar. These friends/lovers are metal-loving musicians and producers who covet working with a local hoss wrestler named Povo whose gimmick incorporates singing in a tender falsetto right before he powerbombs them into oblivion. Swardlick excels at precisely this kind of slice-of-life story mixed in with absurd action. The climax, when Omar steps into the ring in order to get Povo to work with them, kept escalating into further silliness before its happy resolution. The asides in this comic, like the spacy food delivery guy Jay Jay or monster truck driver CV were almost as good as the main story itself. I could easily see a series' wort of shenanigans featuring this cast. 

Monday, December 18, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #18: Dan Nott

Dan Nott's Hidden Systems is a remarkable achievement for journalistic and advocacy comics. It's thoughtful, intricately drawn, cleverly designed, meticulously researched, and deeply humanistic. Like many works of comics journalism, Nott himself is the inquiring figure, wondering out loud precisely how things we take for granted--water, electricity, the internet--really work. What are the physical processes that are required to harness each of them? What are the hidden costs with regard to their use? Who benefits most from these resources?

The book has a built-in limitation: it is published by Random House KidsGraphic, so it's aimed at a younger audience. This is a limitation that's hurting comics in general, as YA/middle grade/kids comics are the only growth market in publishing at the moment. However, Nott is a fairly restrained artist in terms of hyperbole and content to begin with, even with regard to advocacy, so I don't know if a version of this book aimed at adults would have been significantly more different. Certain areas of inequity could have been hit harder, like more detail regarding the lack of potability with regard to Flint's drinking water, for example. Still, Nott goes out of his way to mention the ways that indigenous populations have been repeatedly screwed when it comes to both electricity and water, as well as the ways in which Africa has largely been ignored relative to other countries with regard to the internet. 

The internet chapter was the basis of Nott's senior thesis at CCS, which I was able to read and review at length, and it's still a remarkable achievement on its own. Nott grounds a service that is deliberately regarded as enigmatic and treated with airy metaphors in the reality that the internet is grounded in cables that are underwater, buildings that house rows of computers, and intersections where data is exchanged. Only a tiny portion of the internet is truly wireless, and the internet's existence uses a great deal of natural resources. The concept of the internet transcending borders is only true so much as these centers are in countries with a great deal of wealth; it's one reason why much of Africa, parts of Asia, and even Central and South America are not nearly as wired. 

Nott gets more pointed with electricity and water, as he admits that electricity as a force is difficult to describe and understand. However, its impact is obvious and life-changing, and its pursuit also can wreak havoc on ecological systems. For example, rivers were dammed up worldwide to generate hydroelectric energy, but in so doing it stopped the flow of the rivers, displaced indigenous populations, and disrupted their relationship with the land in a way that prevented them from getting the food and water they needed. He goes even deeper with water, as he notes the use and redirection of water has been the basis of civilization for millennia. However, doing it on a wide scale and for a rapidly escalating population is one of many factors leading to global warming, which in itself tends to disproportionately affected marginalized populations. Some of Nott's references to colonialism, while valid, feel a bit on the shallow side in terms of critical analysis. That's a limit of the publishing format, I suspect, but for a book that is otherwise so carefully researched and its concepts explained, Nott makes a lot of claims regarding colonialism that he doesn't explain in much detail. Still, I admire Nott advocating for and expanding on how a different future is possible in a way that makes complex concepts easy to parse thanks to the diagrammatic quality of his layouts and a relentless battle for clarity. 

Sunday, December 17, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #17: Mannie Murphy and Dean Sudarsky

Mannie Murphy's impassioned tour through the seedier and racist aspects of their hometown Portland in I Never Promised You A Rose Garden became one of my favorite books. Of course, that book had its origins as minicomics first, and they've released a sixth chapter as a follow-up: The Tonya Issue. In the same style as in their book, Murphy's watercolor technique is presented here in grayscale, and the lined paper they drew on gives this the feeling of a high school student goofing off from their real assignment in order to write about the things that mattered. The issue indulges in Murphy's childhood obsession with disgraced figure skater (and Portland native) Tonya Harding, a figure that in the early 90s drew an astounding media frenzy after her skating rival Nancy Kerrigan was injured in an attack staged by Harding's abusive boyfriend. However, no matter how avid a fan she was, Murphy's clear-headed and even judgment regarding the facts of the matter are what add even greater depth to the story.

The story is so familiar that Murphy doesn't even bother introducing Kerrigan with her full name, referring to her simply as "Nancy." Like the other stories Murphy tells in this narrative, it's one with a great deal of personal meaning to them. Murphy reveals their obsession with figure skating as a child, and the sport was never more dramatic (not more beset by racism and classism) than it was then. Murphy recalls trying to get Harding's autograph at an art show featuring portraits of her, only to be denied. Murphy called it a tragic fall from grace from a figure who in many ways, never really had a chance. Much of this series is about detailing the cultural touchstones and figures that Portland got to call its own, and Murphy's reference to the Portland Trail Blazers NBA team makes me wish they'd tackle that topic next. 

Published by the excellent Entropy Editions, Dean Sudarsky's 65 Bugs is reminiscent of early Michael DeForge comics. This is a series of titled comic strips, most of which are three panels, following the lives of anthropomorphic insects. The way Sudarsky draws their bodies with human anatomy twisted into insectoid poses (most similar to a praying mantis or cricket) is genuinely unnerving, and his treating their speech completely within the context of what the insects would actually do is a stroke of genius. My favorite strip was "Crab," where we see an anthropomorphic crab (complete with oversized hands in place of claws) amused by a tiny insect until a bird picks it up and carries it off, with the crab helplessly yelling "Face me!" to its avian captor. The strips are about mating, trying to avoid mating or thinking about mating, devouring, being devoured, and even trying to seek out a few moments of peace. Sudarsky's line is fine and delicate as he carefully renders each figure with great clarity, emphasizing the expressive nature of each insect's faces as well as their twisted body language. 

Saturday, December 16, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #16: Ria "Air" Garcia and Annabel Driussi

Ria "Air" Garcia has been making boldly experimental art for well over a decade, blending abstract and psychedelic art into a variety of dark fantasy scenarios that center around trans issues. Her latest comic, Dark Piss, chucks any pretense of subtlety out the window and instead zeroes in on brutal, pitch-black, hilarious satire regarding the status of trans women in the current culture. With text on the left side of the page and abstract, undulating lines (all in yellow on black, befitting the theme) on the right side, Garcia details a ludicrous yet conceptually plausible scenario where all of the self-described "hot trans bitches" must use a single bathroom in the city to piss in. All of the trans women agree with this measure because otherwise, there's a risk that cis people might get grossed out. Things escalate from there, as they all note they are treated as objects: objects of scorn & loathing as well as objects of (hidden, shameful) desire. The end sequence, where it's revealed just why they are all forced to go to a single building, is screamingly funny and terrible all at once. The abstract art is a reflection of how the women are seen: as signifiers of a particular, objectifying, point of view. 

Annabel Driussi's field of expertise is neuroscience, but they've done a wide variety of comics and in different styles, from using clay to create fumetti to comics about sex to memoir and now a middle-grade graphic novel incorporating neuroscience into a teen girl's difficult life. That book, still in progress, will be titled Your Brain is Better. I read a mini that was part of her thesis package that's mostly thumbnails, and Driussi displayed an ability to blend fine details of neuroscience and neuroanatomy in a way that's easy to understand and attached to a character narrative. Following a middle-school girl named Kat who has trouble understanding why she loses her temper so easily, she's transported inside her brain, where she meets a cute avatar of the pre-frontal cortex (the thinking part of the brain) as well as "Amy," the amygdala (the feeling part of the brain). A crisis comes up (being accidentally hit by some soccer players) which puts the brain on red alert, and Driussi's clear storytelling shows just how the underdeveloped cortex can lead to the amygdala to panic. The similarity to the film Inside Out is obvious, but in this case, it's all 100% neurologically accurate while still pushing a satisfying emotional narrative. 

Driussi's at the 7/11 outside Club Q is a devastating personal memoir regarding the queer nightclub that was the subject of a hate crime shooting in 2022. In beautiful colored pencil, Driussi first notes how formative the club was for her, recalling some fond memories as well as forcing herself to deal with the aftermath of the shooting. Not all is despair--there's an account of mutual aid by trans radicals and a promise to visit. This comic is an intention, an invocation, a prayer, and the brightness of its colors feels intentional for just that very reason. 

Friday, December 15, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #15: Kit Anderson and Andy Lindquist

Kit Anderson is one of the most interesting artists to emerge from CCS in recent years, as she's been doing visually innovative and clever comics with unusual themes. Anderson's comics often focus on the relationship between memory, character, and a sense of place. Their House (a MICE mini-grant winner) is very much about this. The unnamed narrator (presumably Anderson) is describing, from memory and nothing else, the appearance of a house whose owners are unspecified, but the assumption once again is that it's her grandparents' house. This is a comic-as-diagram, an interesting subgenre that connects the concept of a descriptive map with an emotionally revealing drawing. The narrator goes room by room, describing them by memory. The most evocative rooms have smells associated with them (like the laundry room) or repeated, pleasant memories of feeling safe and loved. To indicate her own ghostly presence as a narrator, Anderson draws herself as a kid in a cartoony style in black & white, while the house itself is in vivid and varied color. There are some memories the narrator clearly attempts to ignore, while they hold others tight, such as a Parcheesi board and the kitchen she played it in. One of Anderson's great strengths is formal curiosity blended with emotional resonance, and this comic, modest as it is in its ambitions, is a perfect example of this.

Andy Lindquist's comic What You Owe And What You Own is a powerful story not just about being trans but about what it means to be gendered as a woman. Lindquist's narrative voice is assured and powerful, while their line, though mostly spare, does the job in expressing the frequently awkward and anxiety-producing situations that he found himself in prior to his transition. The comic takes a hard look at Lindquist's teenage years as a self-described "lovely young woman" who was the best soprano in school. Lindquist notes that a narrative that often forms around trans men is that of cis people mourning the loss of a beautiful girl, which Lindquist cynically describes as a "public good." This gets into not just the male gaze and being desired as an object (though that is a big part of it), but also an understanding of being an exemplar for cis women as well. Mostly though, as Lindquist explains through the many arias that involve women being objects of desire where the outcome of that desire is almost always ruin or death, he had no concept of what it formerly meant to be a woman without having to bear that constant, unrelenting burden. The thematic and decorative touches of the comic heighten its themes, with the swelling aria matching the almost inchoate rage and doubt that had plagued them. 

Thursday, December 14, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #14: Rachel Dukes, Kori Michele Handwerker, Penina Gal

Some shorter works for today's entries.

Kori Michele Handwerker, by their own admission, is an artist who isn't quite sure what kind of cartoonist they should be. In their solo collection, I Would Like To Experience Less, Thanks., Handwerker gets to this very problem right away in "True Form." They lament that while they have experience at all levels of creation and production with regard to comics, they have yet to establish their identity as a cartoonist. They rattle off a half-dozen different kinds of things they could be doing but don't feel drawn to any one of them more than another. In the end, they conclude that they are making comics in order to figure themselves out, and that's enough for now. As a reader, however, this claim is belied by some of the other work in this collection. "Little Things" is a piffle of an anecdote; it's the kind of story that's amusing to the author but doesn't have enough bite to draw in a reader. "True Form" itself is so text-heavy that it fairly drowns out the images in many panels. On the other hand, "Rite Hand" is an astoundingly composed story about their husband's traumatic stay in the hospital for a liver transplant. It takes a fairly standard diary comic format and reworks it such that it begins in the middle and flips various days around to create a tense, compelling narrative. In this instance, when Handwerker found something they really needed to talk about, their skill as a cartoonist became obvious. 

The same is true of I Like Masking, Actually. Handwerker's character design and line are both so assured for a story that's essentially a series of throwaway observations about the pandemic. It's fine, and it makes sense that Handwerker seems drawn to these sorts of small, bite-sized stories, but it also seems obvious that they have the chops for something more ambitious. As a reader and fan of their work, I'm excited to see what this could be. 

Rachel Dukes details their own health difficulties and how it's affected their work as a cartoonist. In Poppy Seeds, Dukes did a series of diary comics as they started to emerge from an illness-induced absence from cartooning. Some of them veer away from comics and are more of illustrated zine-writing, but on the pages where they get down to drawing again, it's easy to see the incredible charm of their line. Dukes has been cartooning for a long time, and I recall reviewing their Side A and Side B anthologies they edited when they were still a teenager, in addition to their best-known comics about their cat Frankie. Their cartooning, even after struggling with illness, remains elegant, expressive, and versatile in approach. Dukes is also an excellent illustrator, as their interview zine with Lauren Denitzio makes clear; they are as comfortable with naturalistic approaches as they are with the most cartoony of techniques. 

Penina Gal is another longtime favorite who started their career with a YA fantasy story then veered over into comics-as-poetry. Their mini Baller Baby represents a move toward YA-style memoir, as it's about growing up in 1990s New York as a fan of the Knicks and the game in general, but also as someone who hated dresses and being feminized in very specific ways. Part of Paper Rocket's Mini Memoir Project, Gal's line here mixes sketchy immediacy with bold, thick ink lines. The drawings are lively and rubbery, which helps accentuate the way that the younger version of Gal loves to move with the ball. The contrast with their cousin E. sets a perfect thematic tone, as the active E allows Gal to be brave and try things they might not have otherwise, because they were shy. (The panel where they talk about that has a wonderful drawing of an engaged and curious but slightly shrinking Gal.) Gal took what was essentially a series of anecdotes and imbues it with thematic resonance without sacrificing any of the innocent exuberance that was at their heart. 


Wednesday, December 13, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #13: Rachel Bivens

Rachel Bivens is a clever cartoonist who expresses a great deal of emotional vulnerability in her comics. She's leveled up considerably in the last year or so, with all three of her more recent releases looking sharper in terms of both drawing and cartooning than her earlier work. She still also pursues a lot of different kinds of cartooning, from memoir to absurdist humor to surreal slice-of-life comedy about anthropomorphic fruit.

Fruitlings! features said anthropomorphic characters, and Bivens has really hit on something here. These are 4-panel comic strips, and Bivens printed it as a landscape side-scrolling minicomic. It's an attractive and effective format for these full-color comics, which start off cute and then veer into some different directions. The fruit shyly have crushes, appeal to other fruit for relationship advice, and talk about their feelings. They are also eaten by birds, have worms burst out of them, and deal with breaking away from bunches. That combination of very cute horror and quotidian interactions makes for an unpredictable reading experience, as it whiplashes from one extreme to another, but that's what makes it fun. Bivens' line is simple and inviting, but it's her bright use of color that heightens these extremes. 

DLG is a black-and-white strip about how one's relationship with one's parents can become strained and even invasive during the transition between childhood and young adulthood. The title acronym, of course, stands for "Daddy's little girl," and it refers to the protagonist's father needing her to acknowledge him via text when he asks "SNS?" That stands for "safe and sound," and while a parent's need to know their child is safe is understandable, the context of this comic reveals that it's an invasive form of control. Bivens tells the story with a lot of fairly still images as the protagonist is at the drawing table, receiving the dreaded "SNS" message. There are a series of flashbacks with the protagonist at camp, with a reasonable expectation of earing from a kid, but it persists through college and beyond. In the end, the protagonist ponders options (automatic replies?) and eventually leaves him hanging, creating a necessary boundary. Here, the otherwise silent comic is economically drawn, going deliberately sketchy and expressive as a way of expressing a series of sense memories. The gaps and negative space do a lot of narrative work as the protagonist balances just how to solve this problem. 

Finally, there's Milk. This is a triumph of formal play, as the mini is shaped like a mini milk cartoon and the purple ink and thick cardstock simply make it pleasing to hold and look at. The story is an absurdist account of a Bivens stand-in queueing up at a giant carton of milk for a drink. Along the way, a soccer game bursts into the middle of the line, spills milk out of the enormous carton, and causes mayhem. The end is tense, as things don't go the protagonist's way. This is a silly but well-constructed and cartooned comic with a line reminiscent of Charles Schulz in terms of both its simplicity and expressiveness.