A month of mini comics, oh boy!

Here is a linkto a feature by the awesome Brian Cronin (from Comic Book Resources) who is featuring and reviewing one self-published mini comic per day this month.One of the things that’s really nice about this is that Brian isn’t separating the work of queer cartoonists, as is so often the norm, but mixing them in with the work of other creators throughout, just like they’re anyone else (imagine that).  I think it’s high time the rest of the comics world evolves to this state, but I guess until readers support the gayer stuff, publishers won’t either (and I and others will continue to publish queer-only anthologies until then too – always separating ourselves…)

But that’s all a subject for a longer post, perhaps later…

In the meantime, do check all of these reviews out…some great-sounding stuff from a wide variety of creators described here. Among the artists included who are “that way” and who I personally have already put in a good word for here are Steve MacIsaacBrian Anderson and Matt Runkle, but do also note the review of Thingpart creator Joey Alison Sayer’s Just So You Know #1, a wonderful new auto-bio comic (probably my favorite kind) about Joey’s transitioning from male to female.  It gets a nice recommendation from Cronin, and from me as well.  You know, there are a lot of really talented folks out there, creating words and pictures not for money (necessarily) or recognition (particularly), but because they love and need and are inexorably driven to work in this particular medium – like on a mission some might say, or, on particularly bad days, like having a strange birth defect. As such they deserve special kudos, cuz let me tell you, it is certainly not an easy route to fame, fortune or recognition.  Viva la mini comics and support these people!

A few odds and ends, just to keep this here thing somewhat current…

Happy 2009 to one and all! OMG, I for one am just vastly relieved that Barack and Michelle Obama have taken up residence in the White House at last, and that the President from Fucking Hell is back in Texas – good riddance to the worst of bad rubbish! But……can this country be saved? If anyone can do it, it’s Barack and his cabinet. He has a way-uphill climb, to put it mildly, and I have to balance my innate optimism with the stark reality of how truly sucky things are here in the USA…..However (optimism rearing its head here), wasn’t inauguration day a beauty-full, starry-eyed affair? I was as overcome as Beyonce herself was, watching the incredibly handsome & glamorous First Couple a-waltzing at the Presidential ball – oh, “At Last!” – yesyesyes! I dunno if Barack will be able to get a firm grip on the hellish multitude of problems facing us, but goddamn, he’ll look good trying! Glamour is a good thing in a President and First Lady, and he and Michelle have it (and BTW, excuse the first name references, they just inspire that in me)!

Anyway, this being a site devoted to cartooning; let us turn to a couple of items about just that. Onward…

Apparently, at least a few folks did indeed read my mini-reviews of several comics and zines back in November (see below), and sent me some stuff to assess and report on. So I will be doing another small round of capsule reviews soon – I just need a little more time…….my life has been a double-barrel shotgun sort of affair for the past couple of months; it’s no wonder I haven’t found the time to update this blog, or to be very creative in any capacity. This can be worrisome – dark thoughts of “Will I ever draw again?” swirl about in my brain – but I guess if I worry about drawing and writing so much, that spark of desire is still there, right? (right?) I have a lot of stories to tell, this I know – it’s probably just time to force myself to act and pick up that ink, brush and paper. Here’s one of my favorite artist quotes, by the painter Chuck Close“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just get up and go to work.” That’s a statement I’ve learned works very well for me, but one I have to relearn over and over, again and again (what fun).

Oh yah, better provide a link to the nice review of The Book of Boy Trouble Volume 2 that Sean McGrath of Prism Comics recently wrote.

More later, hopefully in a less desultory manner!

Good Press on our Good Press Pt. II

This from yet another handsome man, one Zack, a major guiding force behind the stellar website The New Gay:

TNG cartoonist Robert Kirby, who has been nice enough to lend us his Curbside comics for the better part of this year, has just put out his second collection of quality queer comics. (Say that three times fast.) “The Book of Boy Trouble: Volume 2” was edited by Kirby and fellow cartoonist David Kelly. It contains the work of 30 alternative queer comic artists and guess what? None of it is crappy. In fact, it’s all of pretty damn high quality, especially considering the laughably low standards applied to so many other gay comics.

While most gay storytelling that I come across has little similarity to my actual life — Queer as Folk actually caused me spend an hour in the fetal position, lamenting all the fabulous, promiscuous sex I’d never had — the boys and men in Boy Trouble tend to look like guys I might actually meet and want to hang out with. Most have normal builds and average looks, and the few ultra-muscled gym bodies are either played up for their cartoonishness or put in undignified situations that belie their Ken Doll looks.

I assume a lot of the credit for this goes to Kirby himself. His Curbside Boys graphic novel remains one of my favorite gay books of all time. His sensibility of realistic characters doing mostly everyday things comes across throughout the various cartoons in “Boy Trouble: Volume Two.” In Craig Bostick’s “Whiskey and a Haircut,” a Lou Reed solo album becomes the soundtrack for a slightly reciprocated flirtation with a straight boy. Ed Luce’s “Chat Attack” details some of the more laughable aspects of shopping for dick online.

It is still cartoons, though, so not everything falls under the “slice of life” umbrella. Justin Hall’s “Evil Bear Man,” one of the books funnier moments, recounts what happens when a New York escort is payed to act out a Batman and Robin Seduction scene.

It’s hard for me to describe exactly why gay comics are so affecting to me, but I think it has to do with the simplicty, and childhood memories, that come with comics being combined with the much more adult realities of being gay. It’s really worth checking out. If nothing else I said above convinces you of that, I should reiterate the fact that Batman fucks Robin on pg. 53.”

And Little Comics, all in a Row

This is pretty late, but as I was inspired by the recent month-long list of Good LGBT Comics on the Comic Book Resources site (see posting below), I thought I would post a quick roundup of some of the mini comics, books and zines I got at APE and elsewhere recently (in no particular order). Rest assured, all of these titles are well worth your time and money, so click on the appropriate links and use as directed.

Wuvable Oaf by Ed Luce
This little burst of brilliance features the titular character, a big, strange, hairy, hunky lug with a big love for his many, many kitty cats, along with his bizarre friends and acquaintances, among them the totally inappropriate Smusherrrr (who stars in one of the funniest stories, “Straight Street”) and Pavel, a kitty tormented by frightening, possibly drug-induced visions. These comic books are actually really hard to describe – you really just have to see them for yourself to fully appreciate their many wonders. Ed Luce, a newcomer to the “biz,” has created one of the best debut comics in many, many moons. Two issues out so far (#’s 0 and 1) and they complement each other nicely, so make sure to get both.

Shirtlifter by Steve MacIsaac
Dashing Steve MacIsaac tells smart tales of urban, sexual and social angst, with a particular focus on cultural displacement, and he draws really, really well. These short stories are thoughtful character studies more than plot-driven exercises, but he also depicts hunky hairy guys doing it pretty frequently. The first issue is a standard comic book and the other two are thin perfect bound paperbacks (the second, all-color edition was a Xeric Grant recipient), all very nicely produced.

Hard to Swallow by Dave Davenport and Justin Hall
This X rated series is filled with lusty adventures of throbbing pirates doing nasty stuff to one another and a buxom werewolf with a talented tongue, accompanied by his pal, a horny punk rock ghost. There is much heavy-duty “sexual intercourse” here and it’s gorgeously drawn with large dollops of humor by two of the best gay comics pornographers around, Justin and Dave. Guest star Brad Rader kicks in with a very funny 50’s-style sci-fi porno parody, featuring a penis so terrifyingly large even the most heavy-duty size queen would quail from its massive bulk.

Estrus Comics by Mari Naomi
Mari Naomi kisses and tells in this sequence of intensely auto-bio romances (and, as it turns out, non-romances). This girl has seemingly done it all with quite the variety of the good, the bad and the ugly (we’ve all been there) and reading the grisly details is fun, if occasionally cringe-inducing! I particularly recommend issue 6 and wonder what MariNaomi will do if she ever, god forbid, runs out of exes to write about!

A Waste of Time by Rick Worley
A collection of short cartoon strips about bleak existential angst with occasional bouts of suicidal ideation, but also artistic angst and the usual helping of torment over boys and sex, and lack thereof. It’s all in good humor – in fact some of it is funny as hell – and it’s all told through the artist’s familiar, a cute little fluffy bunny rabbit and his furry pals. This is great twentysomething angst – I’m almost embarrassed by how much I identified with it – and I sure hope Worley doesn’t stop at #1. AWOT is published by Brian Anderson, the So Super Duper guy, who appears to be branching out as a small press comics mogul – You Go on With Your Bad Self! BTW, looking at one of Brian’s So Super Duper comic books (he recently birthed the 6th issue) is to me like looking at a cupcake, a cupcake topped with a swirl of pink frosting and covered with sprinkles, lots of sprinkles.

Runx Tales by Matt Runkle
Newcomer Matt Runkle’s comic is a ragtag comics collection of wacky on the road-type adventures (“Summer of Love” – in Portland), weird job stories (“The Weiner Takes it All”) and bemused lovelorn snippets (“That’s Why I’m So Obsessed”) that are fresh, funny, and big-hearted. This zine has a funky charm all its own. I’ve reread it 3x already now and really hope there will be future Runx’s. It’s huggable!

Tales of…Blarg! by Janelle Hessig
This long-running zine is uber cool, but never in a cooler-than-thou way – it’s simply irreverent and hilarious grunge cartoon goodness – total
Punk Rock for sure. This 9th issue is actually a couple of years old, but it’s still available for those of you who want to read stories like “Shitting is the New Crying” and “Gilman Street Babylon” – lots of crazy ass shenanigans and genuinely funny scatology in these pages. C’mon, you know you want to.

Homobody by Tim Batiuk/Rio Safari
This a sweet series by one Rio Safari – 4 issues out so far that show a lot of promise. He also did a groovy little mini-mini called Gay Lithp and a really good one shot called Odd Ends that mainly features an auto-bio piece about how the author’s close friendship with another boy changed as the two grew up into different realities (one straight, one gay) – it rang universally true. I’ll be curious to see how these comics develop in the future.

You Can’t Get There from Here by Carrie McNinch
One of favorite zines, this is a collection of daily diary comics featuring the ups and occasional extreme downs in McNinch’ s life. Each day gets a short wrap up, and every entry gets a song of the day written up top (one of my favorite things here is checking out that entry: “oh yeah, what a great song”). I love immersing myself in McNinch’s life and her drawing style is zen-like perfection.

Todd’s Favorite Adult Actors and Their Favorite Flowers from Eye Rocket Books
A true original, this is a little portfolio of cards of adult film actors with their favorite flower. Each card is in its own plastic page, like baseball cards or Wacky Packs. The front of the card has a drawing of each “actor” with his flower – for example, the very manly Raymond Dragon, whose floral object of choice is the Tulip. The back of the card carries the actor’s stats (Birthplace, ht & wt, sexual position) and a story from “Todd” describing a beautiful, breathlessly romantic scenario with each man in question. Eight cards in all. This true objet d’art would make a wonderful one-of-a-kind gift and I never say that sort of thing (articles devoted to gift giving suggestions gag me), but it’s really true in this case. Fabulous.

Papercutter from Tugboat Press
Excellent anthology series, lovingly produced and handled with care – the price is right too – only 4 bucks each! Not gay, but we want good alterna-comics of whatever persuasion, right? I’ve seen issues 4, 7 and 8 and recommend all of them. Contributors include Vanessa DavisAndy Hartzell (one of our wonderous Boy Trouble boys – let’s hear it!), Jonathan HillJeremy TinderAron Nels Steinke, and other bright lights in the alternative comics firmament. Tugboat also published a haunting book collection of a full year of Carrie McNinch’s strips, I Want Everything to be Okay.

Spaniel Rage by Vanessa Davis
Along with Carrie McNinch, Davis is my favorite diary cartoonist. She is a wonderful artist who manages to present the most mundane occurrences of life in an acutely observant and relatable way, without drawing any unnecessary fuss to said acute observations. I already raved about Spaniel Rage below, so a two-time rave means Get This, obviously.

If I left anything out of this past month’s booty, let me know and I’ll throw it up here; I may actually do this here round up as a rotating feature if y’all like it and find it useful.

A Look Back at Curbside Boys

Comic Book Resources, a general interest site pertaining to you-know-what, has a current running feature by one Brian Cronin called A Month of Good LGBT Comics, wherein he does a little write up on a gay-oriented comic book he likes each day. My book Curbside Boys (Cleis Press, 2002) was his third entry, a nice surprise. I thought the review was spot-on too: I will always feel one of my main strengths is characterization and a weakness is my “loquaciousness” (as Cronin so aptly put it). I had so much to say with the strips in that particular book that I often neglected to edit myself down, so some of the episodes lack a visual dynamism, due to the dominance of text. This is a weakness that I’m still not sure I have completely overcome yet. Still, I remain proud of that book – although it’s not autobiographical per se, it’s straight from my heart and guts, and much of my personal life experience and feelings went into it, particularly on the twentysomething love and sex front (oh, the memories…) Anyway, I’m pleased that Curbside Boys “made the list,” and I’m looking forward to seeing what other titles will be featured in the days and weeks ahead……

The New Gay: Making the Old Gay much, much better

There’s this Website straight outta Washington DC that I should tell you about called The New Gay (”for everyone over the rainbow”).  They describe themselves as free-thinking, curious and opinionated, and they really are.  This site beautifully represents the new millennium updating of the DIY alternative ethos: it’s apparent that these boys and girls, weary of the sometimes stiflingly conformist and unimaginative gay monoculture that surrounds us all, decided to kick out their jams online (15 years ago or so ago TGN  would have probably been a zine) in an effort to, among other things, connect with like-minded individuals who are not willing to sacrifice their individuality to the traditional rainbows-and-house-music scene.  They do so in a way that is not overcome with bitterness and rage, like so much of the alterna-culture that has come before them; instead they present their alternative viewpoints as just that: alternative viewpoints – take ‘em or leave ‘em, or at least Discuss  with them if you’ve a mind to.  I’ve already bookmarked the site as a daily read.   Zack , one of the smart minds behind the site, likes me and my book (so naturally I think he’s even smarter now) and asked me to let them run “Curbside ” on TNG.   Naturally I said yes and it just debuted.  So check out The New Gay  and remember: out with The Old, in with The New.

It’s done

I did it – I sent that book, that Book of Boy Trouble Volume 2, that project that ate up many months of time and energy and maybe even just a bit of my sanity in the last several weeks (buy me a drink and I’ll tell you all about it sometime) – it’s gone from my life for the time being, until the pre-publishing work commences.  In the meantime, the publisher has it now.  I’m done.  Done.  It’s over.  Hooray!  John took me out to dinner on Friday night to celebrate, and celebrate we did.

I’m kind of tired now.

So, what to do with myself?  Maybe I better spend some time with people again, for starters.  There’s always stuff to do around the house too.  Plus I haven’t drawn a comic strip in like 3 months (took a hiatus from “Curbside”).   I have a bunch of stuff to sell online too – would like to make a serious dent in these cds I don’t want anymore (anyone want some New Wave Hits of the 80s?  Cheap?  have a few volumes left – in great condition!)   So I guess I’ll get cracking on all that.  It is really good to be done with the book.  There have been times in my life when I have felt an undertow after finishing a project, a sense of aimlessness, a pervading sense of “is that all there is?”   This, I can safely say, is not one of those times.   I’m damn happy – I really feel a real sense of accomplishment – and that I did a fine job besides. It’s going to be a good book, with some really great artists – some of whom we see far too little of – featured.  That’s all there is to it.

year of the new book

Hope you all had a great holiday! Mine was pretty good –uneventful, which is the way I prefer it. I did go to Chicago with the BF the first weekend in January to attend a 2 day writing workshop with the great Lynda Barry, which was fun and inspiring. You totally don’t have to read aloud in this class if you are shy, but I read a total of 4 times (revealing perhaps, my inner ham). Lynda B. will be doing this course throughout the year in various cities – next stop is in Madison, WI in February – I urge you to go sometime if you love Lynda and/or if you want to try a very interesting, fun and insightful approach to the creative process. I just started re-reading her brilliant, hellishly funny novel Cruddy. The rhythm of her narrator’s voice, Roberta Rohbeson, is one of the most unique, truthful and transcendent in recent modern fiction. Can’t recommend this book enough. Oh, for more information on her class, go to eBay and search under Lynda Barry writing – it’ll take you right there (she usually has some awesome paintings for sale too, at reasonable prices).

Okay, I’ve pimped for Lynda Barry, not that she needs it, so now it’s time to fill you in on my Aht. I am still getting The Book of Boy Trouble 2 ready to send to the publisher by the deadline (fast approaching). I’d forgotten how much work putting together a Boy Trouble book is – what I went through with the last edition is just a dim memory, with the exception of the 3 dozen emails I need to write and send per day – that part is indelible. Anyway, I’m really liking the way this book is shaping up – we’ve got a nice mix of light, funny stories vs. darker, more dramatic work; DIY-styled drawings vs. seriously skilled professional cartooning, and revealing auto-bio vs. pure fiction. There’s even some sci-fi parody, a porn-flavored true tale, and some beautiful portraiture too. The book will be 112 pages, all-new, and did I mention all-color? Well, consider it mentioned again. The roster of artists is a real intergenerational group, featuring a few key cartoonists whose work I was reading in Gay Comix long before I ever picked up my first rapidiograph pen or Windsor Newton brush (namely Howard Cruse, Jennifer CamperRobert Triptow), alongside folks I consider my peers from the 90s queer zine heyday (my co-editor David KellyGB JonesAndy HartzellMichael FahySina Shamsavari, Anonymous BoyNick LeonardJon Macy and Victor Hodge), folks who came after us in the new millennium (Justin HallTim FishCraig BostickSteve MacIsaacBrett HopkinsBill Roundy and Abby Denson), as well as fresh talents who emerged even after them in the later half of this decade (Dave OrtegaEd Luce and Derek Charm). BTW, if I placed anyone in the wrong generational wave, a thousand pardons – I’m working from my admittedly faulty memory here. Anyway, it’s a real nice mix of people and perspectives. I’m jazzed to see the final, published work.

One interesting thing about this particular edition is how quickly it filled up. When I first started Boy Trouble back in 1994 it was a bit of a struggle filling up a 32 page gay boy comics zine – mostly due to a lack of connections. As the years went by that changed, to the point where with this book I actually missed nabbing a few people I wanted to include (C. Bard Cole, for one – I’ll get you next time, buddy) just because I ran out of available space so startlingly fast. The response to my call for submissions was huge and lightning quick. I barely managed to save a few pages for myself, actually – no kidding. I also lost track of several people from my potential contributor list because there are so many more than I remembered – I’ve since remedied that with a new spreadsheet. If there will be a third edition I am going to have to figure this aspect out better. I’ve also had to face the fact that I just can’t fit everyone available in these books. So I think it’s high time we get more queer-based anthologies to stand alongside Jen Camper’s Juicy Mother series and Boy Trouble. Somebody (else) start that ball rolling please.