All of the following comics were purchased at the wonderful Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Fest. That’s the main thing they have in common, aside from all being comics and all being good. Also, all but one (The Collected John G. Miller) would fit nicely into most standard Christmas stockings, if you’re reading this, Santa. The outlier, meanwhile, would no doubt do fine beneath your standard indoor holiday pine tree.
Kicksville Confidential #1 by Avi Spivak
Anyone with a bias toward the world of wonderful things will almost certainly feel compelled to pay a visit to the Norton Records website, credit card in hand, upon finishing Kicksville Confidential. And there, you’ll be greeted with a devastating little video about the vintage label, which was slammed full force by Hurricane Sandy, doing a number on its catalog stock. Norton’s a beacon of raw cultural salvation in a river of pop ephemera and this is precisely the book it deserves, a sequential catalog of its history and the legendary and often hilarious quirks of its roster of artists.
Billy Miller (who founded the company with one-time Cramps drummer Miriam Linna) kicks off the book with a tale of the label’s founding, writing, “Norton’s got a six-and-a-half foot cyclops drag queen, a pair of singing siamese twins joined at the top of the head, an indian with one lung, at least three murders, the nation’s number one art thief” -- and it just sort goes on from there, setting the stage for the truly insane tales of hillbilly chicken enthusiast Hasil Adkins, label mascot Esquerita and lunatic rock guru Kim Fowley, amongst dozens of other rock ‘n roll inmates.
Fanny & Romeo by Yves Pelletier and Pascal Girard. Conundrum Press
Even with a few Drawn & Quarterly books to his name, Pascal Girard isn’t a household name in American indie comics circles (those living in homes with spinner racks of their very own) -- quite the shame in light of last year’s Reunion, a delightful look at the rituals surrounding attempts to go home again. Fanny & Romeo, a translation of 2010’s Valentin, finds the French-Canadian cartoonist teaming up with comedian Yves Pelletier for heartfelt look at the intersection of adult relationships, animal ownership and allergies. The story’s not always pretty, but Girard’s Schulzian watercolored images usually are.
The Collected John G. Miller 1990 - 1999. Braw Books
John Porcellino (who recently released a new issue of King Cat that you should probably buy) handed me a copy of this collection adding, proudly, that John G. Miller inked all of the blacks with a ballpoint pen. That’s a lot. Each panel in this book is about half black ink. Maybe that gives you some idea of what you’re in for here -- but probably not. Few things can, except to say, perhaps, that this is something akin to what you might get, were Fletcher Hanks obsessed with cyberpunk and rough black and white shapes. Oh and there are nazis and spaceships and the devil and characters named Slasher McSpace (the meanest hippy in town) and Baby Richard Dingball (the baby fugitive).
I read this on a plane and the lady next to me looked at me like I was crazy. She’s got a point, but I’m still going to run out and buy the other collections of Miller’s work. Assuming my head doesn’t explode first.
Looking Out by Philippa Rice. Hic and Hoc
I can’t be the only one who thought of Katie Skelly’s Nurse Nurse (as seen in this very column a few months back) the first time I picked up this mini, right? Like that book, it’s something of a minimalist psychedelic space story (aren’t they all?), but that’s really where the comparisons stop. Philippa Rice’s brave other words aren’t so much the backdrop of strange adventure stories as they are the settings for run-of-the-mill texts between a man and a woman who ran into each other in the stairwell of an apartment building. That’s right -- relationship problems! In space!