Hey look at that — Despot Killroy makes a return in the pages of Wonderella, we find out what Dark Esther’s been up to in the Scary Go Round miniseries, Giant Days, and parties get scientifically quantified thanks to T-Rex. Cool stuff, but let’s talk about the printed page for a bit, shall we?
I recently came into the possession of a book and some minis thanks to the kind indulgence of a pair of webcomics creators — usual deal with review copies — I will make an effort to read them, no guarantee of a good review (or even a review, period), but in this case I’m happy to say that both of them grabbed me.
- The first of them, Misery Loves Sherman by Chris Eliopolous, was no surprise, because everybody that reads MLS’s daily updates already knows it’s the most Calvinesque strip out there today. By that, I don’t mean that Eliopolous is copying Watterson’s work, just that the joyous, anything-goes feel of Calvin & Hobbes comes through clearly. Instead of a stuffed tiger that responds to his wishes, young Sherman has actual aliens, a vivified action figure, and the literal embodiment of Death hanging out with him (in most cases, he’d rather that they didn’t). Mom and Dad are aware of this, and mostly take it in stride.
It’s fun, it’s well done, and it’s clear that Eliopolous (one of the foremost letterers in comics, and busy writing all-ages semicontinuity books for Marvel) also has the chops to work within the four-panel world. It’s not an easy thing to go from having double-page spreads to having to make everything clear (and yet not hopelessly minimal) in just a few side-by-side boxes.
And, like just about every major-publisher artist/writer that works on webcomics, it’s clear that Eliopolous has a love for characters that he’s created himself. Much fun, and much appreciated, especially given that if Eliopolous ever had too much work, it’s Sherman — which surely qualifies as a labor of love — would be the most logical item to be cut in order to free up time. As long as he has the time and inclination to mess with Sherman, give him your eyeballs.
- Less familiar to me was the work of Michael Jonathan; I’d done fast reads of his Eros, Inc. (which, despite the name, it completely and totally safe for work — honest!), but hadn’t previously seen his other comics work. Starting off, three diary-style minis of Michael Jonathan is Jewish, detail a trip that the author took to Israel with a group of artists in Dec 2009 — Jan 2010.
Done poorly, a diary comic of this type could be little more than being forced to look through a casual acquaintance’s vacation slides, but Jonathan does a good job keeping the story rolling, bringing in enough of his own questioning, doubts, and ultimate rejection of the religious part of his Jewishness (while finding even more to enjoy in the cultural part) to keep the narrative brisk and compelling. The most recent (third) volume of MJIJ brings the trip up to approximately the halfway point, and I’m eager to find out what else Jonathan has to relate of the story.
Along with the autobio comics, Jonathan sent along two minis related to the aforementioned Eros, Inc. (a company of cupids, doing the work of Love and getting people together). Not having been a close reader of the parent story, I could get hints of the character & backstory provided by The Greatest Road Trip of All Time, but I’m fairly certain I’m missing story beats I would otherwise be picking up.
By contrast, The Afternoon Before Chanukah requires no knowledge of plot or characters and drops the reader into a beautifully crafted (to look antique & distressed) rendition of Clement Moore’s famous poem, culturally & temporally shifted. Kudos to Joanathan’s long-time friend from back home, Brian Carroll of Instant Classic, who had a hand in the design of TABC.
Rounding out the package o’ fun is a one-shot mini, mixing indie rock/folk/fantasy/kung fu in the story of a bard looking for the most kick-ass instrument of all time, so that she may become the most kick-ass musician of all time; preview here. Jonathan notes that this may be the first entry in a short series, and I’m witholding final judgement until this one has more context. Right now, it seems a little … isolated. The broader framing story of E,I served TABH and TGROAT well, and Quail: The Song of the Blackbird EP seems slightly lost without that framework. That being said, nice job by Jonathan on making music an integral part of the story. I’m not certain that the tunes that popped into my head fit any of the songs that the characters sang on the pages, but the fact that they spontaneously generated in my frontal lobes says he’s doing something right.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that Michael Jonathan knows how to do brand identity. The “I Am Michael Jonathan and These Are My Comics” construction shows up on his website header, linking buttons (“… And This Goes To My Website”), his business card (“… And This Is My Business Card”), even his personal stationary¹ (“… And This Is My Letterhead”). ; it’s eyecatching, it’s consistent, and it’s adaptable to lots of different presentations. “I’m Michael Jonathan And …” is something you’ll likely be seeing in the future, so go give his work a good look now.
¹ Super-duper bonus points to Jonathan for including a cover letter with his comics, providing me with a list of included comics and handy directions where to find the rest of his work — the easier you make it for reviewers, the more likely they will write about your stuff)