|Comic & zine
Original 1960s underground cartoonist
Justin Green makes a living these days plying his craft as a signwriter
in California. Justin Green's Sign Game is a collection of single-page
strips that have appeared in Signs of The Times, the professional signwriters'
monthly magazine, over the last decade. Green obviously enjoys his work
both sign painting and cartooning and it shows, these strips manage to
combine the practical--technical hints, tricks of the trade, safety warnings,
small business advice and typography lessons--with anecdotes on how to deal
with and extract payment from clients, flamboyant self-promotion schemes,
and diatribes against the universally hated vinyl lettering. The onslaught
of computer generated lazer-cut vinyl lettering in dull typestyles is held
responsible for a decline in work for traditional signwriters. The Sign
Game obviously has a devoted readership in the sign industry--many strips
are based on tips and stories sent in by readers.
Looking back over a pile of previous
issues of Chris Ware's The Acme Novelty Library I realised that
the main reason I'd bought them was because they looked so interesting.
I'd cherished them for a couple of weeks before getting round to actually
reading the stories, they really are sumptuous visual novelties first and
foremost, top-grade Eye Candy to be sure--and should be enjoyed as such!
Top Notch Comics #1 has got
me puzzled, and I don't like it, this is so similar in every respect to
The Acme Novelty Library--same publisher, same price, same city of origin,
very similar name, similar size and format, mean spirited Father &
Son story, mean spirited Robot strip, paper cut-outs, duo-tone print, spoof
adverts and patterned endpapers, that it's impossible to tell if it's an
elaborate self-parody of Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware himself, (it's
probably the kind of thing he would do, but given the gargantuan amount
of work that goes into each issue of Acme, it's hard to believe he'd have
the time) or a comic so wholly inspired by Acme that it comes across as
a "School of Acme Novelty" title.
Measles, Teddy & Comic Book
are "Comics for Kids of All Ages". In the Measles anthology, the
best strips are the first two, Venus by Gilbert "Love & Rockets" Hernandez
and Jim "Jim/ Frank" Woodring's Little Frogs. Both deal with subjects in
a light and happy way, everybody, particularly the little frogs, ends up
happy in the end, as indeed they should in kids comics.
Teddy faces repeated hassles from the unemployment office for just being a teddy and not having a job. When things get really bad and they're starving, Jean-Pierre, Teddy's cat, decides it's time to utilise his predatory instinct and go find some mice to eat, not expecting his intended victims to be quite so well trained in modern crisis management techniques, the mice decide to help Jean-Pierre by sneaking into a printers and pinching several thousand vouchers for free pots of yogurt! Another delightful story has Jean-Pierre escaping a boring Saturday night a home with his owner by pinching Teddy's cigarettes and slinking off to the cathouse, to guzzle as much milk as he can in the company of dancing felines and accordion-playing tabbies.
After the frustrating but financially rewarding trauma of having his previous characters Ren and Stimpy removed from his control John Kricfalusi vowed to go it alone. In Spümco's oversized, high-intensity colour Comic Book we're presented with John K's latest deranged characters, Jimmy the Idiot Boy, and George Liquor his all-american huntin'n'fishin uncle. We see Jimmy feeding scabs to the squirrels, and together with George spanking a sassy fish, with other bonkers adventures just too ludicrous to attempt describing in print. With their animated cartoons (you can watch at <www.spumco.com>) and merchandising (dolls, skateboards and animation cel painting kits), George and Jimmy are much more worthy of your attention than those South Park guys--a sad waste of plastic, they should be thankful if every South Park toy in the world was melted down to be made into Jimmy the Idiot Boy's incontinence knickers!
Jack Chick's tracts are palm-of-your-hand
sized religious rants in comic book form, I've accumulated a collection
of 12 over the years but have no idea where these mysterious publications
came from, handed out in the street or picked up off seats on the bus?
Dan Raeburn got to wondering about them and dug a bit deeper, The Imp?
a 64 page overgrown monster of a tract is the result of his hideous fascination
with this series of candy-coloured hate literature/soul savers.
Peter Bagge sometimes seems to have more fun doing occasional one-shot mini comics than his regular title, the recently deceased Hate. Donna's Day is a great little slice of life 16 pager following the repeated ups and downs of slackerette Donna Day. Publisher Slab-O-Concrete's new "missive device" format, a postcard-comic hybrid, solves the problem of what to do after you've read the comic in a couple of minutes--write your message inside, stick a stamp on the back and send it to a friend. My copy will be staying exactly where it is though, carefully filed next to Bagge's thoroughly reprehensible and totally enjoyable Testosterone City.
Tiki News excavates the legacy
of the 1950's vogue for Hawaiian/ Polynesian culture, looking at artifacts
of the craze that originated in California and spread worldwide. Editor
Otto von Stroheim has assembled a globetrotting team of lounge-bar archaeologists,
these committed cocktail tasters travel to the world's major cities revisiting
ancient tribal sites--Tiki bars deep in the bowels of hotels, or currently
languishing as strip joints, it seems that most major cities in Europe
and the US have surviving Tiki-themed bars.
Infiltration--"the zine about
going places you're not supposed to go", is the underground journal of
alternative urban exploration, all about exploring hidden, forbidden parts
of our urban environment-subways, rail tunnels, storm drains, catacombs
and other supposedly off-limits structures. Editor Ninja, and the enthusiasts
who contribute to the zine, seem to locate and access these places pretty
At first glance both Infiltration and Tiki News seem incredibly narrowly focussed, you can't help wondering if there's enough material to fill 30 A5 pages of a zine, let alone a dozen or more issues about Tiki Bars or Old tunnels, yet for me this is where the success and strengths of both these zines lies, in focussing on a highly specific, obscure yet accessible area of contemporary culture and covering it well, with the editors enthusiasm showing through and thus attracting good contributors.