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09 January 2009

Fluke loot part 3.

Yes.  Yes it has taken me more than half a year to get through all the stuff I picked up at this year's Fluke show.  Sorry it took so long pals.  I was still a full time college student, IT consultant, daddy and hubby for much of the year and life laid the smack down on me.  2009 will be better.  Or else!  (I've got my eyes on you 2009.)
26 Robots by J. Chris Campbell.  
I've been a big fan of J. Chris for a long time.  His imprint Wide Awake Press makes some of the best looking minicomics you are going to see.  J. Chris is one of the creators that inspired me to start file under other in the first place.  I'm ashamed I have not gotten to his books already but I want to do a big thorough over view of his stuff and I just have not had the time.  He's made a lot of books!
26 Robots falls under what I call a sketchbook mini meaning that it is a collection of drawings and not a regular comic book with a story.  However, sketchbook does not do it justice.  This is not a collection of random drawings but lovingly crafted collection of robots.  Each of the 26 robots have their own personality and style.  (My favorites are Fregrik, who is kind of a hip hop bot and Zack who has an oven for his belly and makes cookies.  Every day I don't have a robot that makes cookies is a day the bad guys have won.)   You can tell that J. Chris really, really, really loves robots.  The book if full color inside and out and each page is a great piece on it's own.  J. Chris' design strength may be unrivaled in minicomics.   This book would be a good introduction to J. Chris for those unfamiliar.  It has a light hearted and spontaneous feel that is in all of his best stuff.  As I always say, it is hard to review a sketchbook or collection of drawings but this one really stands out.  Even though there is not a story it is just so cool and neat looking (did I mention the full color inside and out?) that you will want to keep it close by and look at it over and over.  A perfect little gift book for kids or adults.  


A bunch of minis by Allen Spetnagel.
I picked up a pack of four minis from Allen Spetnagel.  Sam 's Story is a sharp looking pocket sized mini that impersonates a kids book the hits you with a clever adult gag on the last page.  Doctor Eisenbart Versus The Heinous Hendecalons is a black and white traditional minicomic.  It is a pretty funny comic about a sorcer/scientist that can transport across the astral plan and vanquish evil sorcerers but can't satisfy his customers as a fortune teller.  Spetnagel also gave me a full color button with the Eisenbart character on it.  My daughter thought it was really cool looking.  Haywire Number One features Eisenbart again in "Return of Hendecalons" and another story called "The Dread Pirate Knottypart".  The art is minimal and feels dashed off but Spetnagel proves to have some decent comic making and storytelling chops.  These two stories are plenty funny.  There is a second Haywire that I assume is Number Two.  This issue is a great looking full color minicomic.  Everything is just a little better than the other comics.  The drawing, panel composition, lettering etc. are all nice and tight and the colors are warm and engaging.  It's a good looking book.  The stories include "Fantomah: Mystery Woman of the Jungle" and "A Tale of the Heinzelmannchen".  Fanthoma is a wacky Fletcher Hanks kind of story where "the most remarkable woman that ever lived" battles an evil Starbucks logo stand in that wants to turn a jungle island into a coffee plantation.  Good fun.  Heinzelmannchen is a version of the story about the shoe maker and his little elf helpers but in this version... well, I won't ruin the gag.  
Eat Food Every Day by Chris Johnson.
The subtitle of this mini reads "Comics about eating food every day, sickness and extra-sensory perception".  That about sums it up.  This is a pocket sized mini but is pretty thick.  About 36 pages of comics.  The comics have the look of an auto-bio sketchbook but the stories take off in some absurd directions. Several parts are hard to follow and at best it does not make a lot of sense but it is an interesting little book.  Just crazy enough to make me curious enough to want more.
Tub Flub by Brad McGinty.
I can't believe I have never reviewed this book before.  It probably would have made my best of 2007 list but I never managed to get a copy until Fluke 2008.  This is Brad in his anything goes comedy style.  If you like Spongebob or Ren and Stimpy then this book is a must have.   The story is about Pelton H. Vanderhuges, who might be some kind of bunny, going through a nervous breakdown after seeing pics of his ex-girlfriend with other guys on MySpace.  The dialog is knee slapping hah hah.  "She's probably googling some dude's YouTube right now!"  The real strength of the book is in the cartooning as Brad displays an amazing variety of ways a cartoon bunny thing can try to kill itself.  The book is published by Wide Awake Press so it is a quality mini with a nice color cover.  I can't think of any W.A.P books that didn't look great or at least deliver a laugh.

I Am Often Mistaken for Miles Davis by Sarah Louise Wahrhaftig.
This standard sized minicomic comes with a really nice cover and I have to say the scan does not do it justice.  The comic is made up mostly of diary strips.  I love diary strips but they are hard to review.  For the most part it would be like reviewing some one's life and I'm not qualified to do that.  About all I can say is that the comics look nice enough and Wahrhaftig knows how to craft a joke out of the mundane.  She uses a lot of nice devices to make the stories a bit larger than life and I think she has a unique strength in how she can jump around from thought to thought without losing the reader.  Her pacing and willingness to let the story go off on a tangent make it a lot more engaging than most diary comics. (A robot intrudes on one scene and steals a cat.)  The drawing is messy but she establishes a consistent cartoon world and her character design is good.  Diary stuff does not demand a lot of effort in the craft side of the game but she demonstrates that she can knock out a Crumb style panel if needed.  Not to compare her to Jeffry Brown (even though the book does have a Jeffrey Brown gag in it) but I think those that enjoy diary comics will get what I mean when I say her stuff is more Jeffrey Brown than Julia Wertz. 


Shortstack The Journal Comic Card Game by Jon Chad.
This is pretty much what it looks like.  A card game where each card is comics.  The packaging looks so great I really did not want to open it but I managed to pry the staples lose without tearing the cardboard.  Everything about this is just fun and awesome.  Even the little instruction booklet is packed with funny.  Each card is a lovely comic panel and the game is to combine them into little stories and then compare them with your opponents.  The instructions detail several ways to play but you can use them in a kind of comic collage solitaire as well.  I think it would be a great drinking game for three to five people.  If only I had friends.
One Spring Day and other Stories and The Astounding Adventrues of Nathan Pretzelberger by Isaac Klunk.
Isaac Klunk's One Spring Day is a good looking minicomic and shows a lot of range both in drawing and storytelling.  Klunk has some obvious comic chops but if the comic has a weakness it is that it is over ambitious.  Klunk uses a lot of tones and gradients that look great in some places (like the cover) but come off abrasive on pages crowded with what are too many panels for a minicomic.  The lettering is also a bit crammed for a minicomic and parts of the book are a challenge to read.  None of that is a slight to Klunk's abilities but I see this kind of thing all the time where the original art and lettering just do not translate down to standard minicomic size.  Fortunately the writing and art in this book are worth the extra effort on the reader's part but it would probably read a lot better at ten or eleven inches tall instead of eight and a half.  
The Nathan Pretzelberger book is much more in the strip comic style of storytelling than the other mini and it features one of the better minicomic covers I've ever seen.  (Pictured above.)  That's a really funny cover for a really funny comic.  The strips are about a young art school student who aims to be the world's greatest sequential artist.  The gags are part comics geek jokes and part college humor but the mixture is balanced well enough that I think they could appeal to a large audience.  The cartooning is also strong.  My only complaint with this book is the lettering.  Not so much that the lettering looks bad but that for such a dialog heavy comic the print is too small.  Like the other book this is just a formatting issue.  The last few pages of the book feature a story in a standard comic format and the lettering works just fine there.  Klunk should prove funny enough to eventually warrant collecting these minis in a larger format more compatible with his use of numerous panels and plentiful dialog.  

Thanks again to all the fine folks that gave or traded me comics at Fluke.  And to the ones that made me pay for them, well, thanks to you too... I guess.  See ya next Fluke.

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith


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