Work, today's XKCD installment, hypothesizes the latent, invisible human effort that went into the everyday things around us, from the hours of meeting-time to decide upon the length of the stem of a goose-neck lamp to the career-ending engineering argument over where to put its switch. It's a kind of preview of what augmented reality could bring, the embodiment of the spime idea, where the full costs and histories of the things around us cluster around them in complicated, emotional clouds -- an idea that's been around since at least 2006, but that is feeling increasingly likely with the passage of time. Read the rest
Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito Viz Media 2015, 224 pages, 5.8 x 8.2 x 0.8 inches (hardcover) $12 Buy a copy on Amazon
Fragments of Horror is a collection of eight wonderfully grotesque and creepy short stories. A seemingly bright and pretty architecture student terrorizes a family while having a bizarre relationship with their house. A boy tries to hold his body together after cheating on his girlfriend. The number one fan of a novelist finds herself in a sick situation trapped in the writer’s basement. A young woman who just eloped can’t understand why her new husband won’t come out from under his futon covers.
Written by horror manga artist Junji Ito, whose influences include H.P. Lovecraft, the stories are as weird as they are original, while the art is crisp and expressive. What I love is the way these stories, set in modern Japan, are about seemingly normal lives that take a twisted turn into the bowels of darkness. They remind me of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, the ones that start off in a stylish, mid-century modern house or office where sharp-looking people go about their ordinary lives… until a crack in normality suddenly appears, the creep factor sets in, and they enter the twilight zone. My only regret is that there aren’t more stories here, but fortunately Ito isn’t new to the genre and has many other titles that I’ll be picking up soon. – Carla Sinclair
Drinky Crow Drinks Again by Tony Millionaire Fantagraphics 2016, 128 pages, 10.8 x 8.8 x 0.7 inches (hardcover) $19 Buy a copy on Amazon
Captain Maak (captain of the ship), Uncle Gabby (the Irish monkey), Gunslinger Jesus, Phoebe Bird, and everyone’s favorite violent, binge-drinking, suicidal avian anti-hero, Drinky Crow, are all back and more beautifully bizarre than ever in Maakies: Drinky Crow Drinks Again. From the confident, well informed, but often fevered hand of well-known American weekly comic strip artist Tony Millionaire, comes this new Fantagraphics landscape hardback collecting recent syndicated strips (along with some additional material). The book is as handsome as you’d expect, coming from this artist and this publisher (even if it’s the first Maakies collection not designed by Chip Kidd).
You never know what you’re going to get from Tony Millionaire, but you know it will never be boring and it will always be beautifully rendered. Even more so than most, Millionaire’s comic strips feel like you’re mainlining the author’s own insane membrane, watching him think out loud and exorcising his demons with pen and ink on paper.
The incredibly meticulous old-school draftsmanship, the many allusions to old comic strips and classic art, lots of clever twists and brilliant pay-offs, strips that dead end, and ones that go completely off the rails, often ending in violence or suicide – it’s not always the smoothest ride, but it’s one you’re compelled to take, even if just for the gorgeous scenery. Luckily, Tony Millionaire, Maakies, and Drinky Crow have far more riches to offer than that. Read the rest
Graphic novelist and sometime Boing Boing contributor Gene Luen Yang has joined the ranks of the small number of brilliant comic books artists and writers (Alison Bechdel, Ben Katchor, Junot Diaz, and Ta-Nehisi Coates) to be given the prestigious Macarthur genius prize, which is awarded to "individuals who show originality and dedication in their creative pursuits." Read the rest
Cat Rackham by Steve Wolfhard Koyama Press 2016, 124 pages, 7.3 x 10.1 x 0.6 inches (hardcover) $20 Buy a copy on Amazon
Cat Rackham is an anxious, scruffy, navel-gazing kitty who sometimes likes adventures. But mostly he likes to stare. And sleep. And stare some more. An existential Ziggy, if you will. He has a couple of friends, but he is usually by himself. He doesn’t have good luck, and his stories don’t have especially happy endings, but they’re weirdly charming and, dare I say, humorous. Cat Rackham used to have his own web comic series, created by Adventure Time storyboard artist Steve Wolfhard, until it disappeared for no apparent reason. Fortunately, Koyama Press has just released Cat Rackham, a collection of these comics that are as miserable as they are wonderfully addictive. Read the rest
I discovered Villains and Vigilantes in 1982, with the publication of the game's second edition, and 11-year-old me played it like a fiend; I still remember long hours of designing costumes on the super-cool character sheets that came with the game (we'd sneak into the school office and run off more of these from blanks; ditto for hex-ruled paper for Car Wars and all the best stories from that month's Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine). Read the rest
Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake, has completed her first graphic novel, Angel Catbird, with Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain, about a superheroic anthropomorphic winged feline. It's bonkers, but...
...to Atwood, it isn’t strange at all. Before she a venerable elder stateswoman of literature and the winner of the Booker Prize and the Arthur C. Clarke Award, she told me, she was a comic book fan who grew up devouring superhero books about heroes like Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel. “I’m a child of the ‘40s and that’s when superhero comics were really, really big,” said Atwood. Nor is she a stranger to making her own sequential art; she wrote and illustrated a children’s book called Up in the Tree in the 1970s, and published an intermittent series of autobiographical strips called “BookTour Comix” on her website. “I’ve been making my own comics since I was little,
A wonderful quote: “I’m so old. Why do anything that isn’t fun?” Read the rest
Decades before the banality of Comic Sans, there was the fantastic hand-lettering of Artie Simek, Sam Rosen, and a handful of other artists with beautiful penmanship.
Heart and Brain: An Awkward Yeti Collection by Nick Seluk Andrews McMeel Publishing 2015, 144 pages, 6.5 x 8 x 0.4 inches (softcover) $9 Buy a copy on Amazon
Heart and Brain is a wonderful collection of the lovable characters from Nick Seluk’s The Awkward Yeti webcomic. This special print edition features over 75 exclusive comics, as well as dozens of previously published fan favorites. The exclusive comics are the real draw, since they’ll be totally new to you even if you’ve read every single comic online.
If you’re new to Heart and Brain, the title says all you need to know about the characters. Brain is the rational one, always looking out for the logical, safe thing to do, while Heart is all about passion and seeking out the things he loves. Seluk creatively captures the constant push-and-pull between these forces in us all and externalizes them in some of the most endearing characters in comics. It’s hard to not fall in love with Brain’s neurotic over-worrying, and Heart’s blissful aloofness. They’re a perfectly matched odd couple because they come from such extremely differing viewpoints, but they always manage to meet in the middle.
The comics themselves are hilarious. I don’t think a single joke misses the mark in the entire book, which is pretty incredible. Seluk understands his characters on such a fundamental level that everything they do and say feels authentic. They’re just as endearing as other comic duos like Calvin and Hobbes, and their stories have the every day simplicity of Peanuts. Read the rest