Digital Ash is Comics Bulletin’s roundup of non-paper comics — webcomics, online shorts, digital-first releases. Sequential art made of ones and zeroes. Some of it you can read for free, others you gotta to buy.
Can We Stop Worrying About the Millennials Yet?
(Matt Bors; CNN I guess)
We don’t cover a lot of editorial cartooning at CB, and until I was assigned Matt Bors’ “Can We Stop Worrying About the Millennials Yet?” strip for CNN, I admittedly hadn’t thought much about that. On a personal level, I’d say it’s related to why we don’t cover a lot of humor strips, which Daniel Elkin and I touched on when we reviewed Phil McAndrew’s Crying in Front of Your Dog and Other Stories, a book we highly recommended even as we confronted our own prejudices around gag strips and single panel cartooning. The going theory is that unlike comics and graphic novels, strips are by their nature built for easy consumption and not necessarily suited for closer examination. The obvious exceptions that get brought up by anyone stating this theory are things like Peanuts or Pogo or [insert classic comic strip that is more than half a century old here] and that has everything to do with cultural saturation and history. But as I mentioned in that Crying in Front of Your Dog review, webcomics have proven there’s a lot of life left in the strip format, and as more web comics make the transition to general visibility, it’s not surprising that strips are entering far more critical conversations.
Stylistically, Matt Bors’ editorial on the victimization of the poorly named Millenial generation– a generation that I should probably tell you I (and Bors himself, but more on that later) am a part of, out of respect for full disclosure– has a lot more in common with Gabrielle Bell’s The Voyeurs than the stereotypical inky editorial comic I imagine you have in your head right now, or even with a more narrative strip like, say, Doonesbury. There are diagrams and charts, infographs and quotes, but there are also character designs with a clear Peter Bagge influence, as well as a journal tone throughout, like Bors was just writing a rant on tumblr and it haphazardly evolved into a full on comic. The result is an editorial cartoon with a whole lot of life, humor and freshness, which puts it in direct contrast with so many of its peers.
Bors’ status as a member of the generation he’s defending is similarly clear, which perhaps gives him more incentive than normal for an editorial cartoonist — this isn’t some guy mocking a presidential gaffe — but when you factor in Bors’ past, it’s kind of amazing that this comic isn’t a straight-up rage comic. This is, after all, a guy who held the record for being the youngest syndicated cartoonist in the country when he was 23, and who has become a leading figure in the comics journalism field (by which I mean journalism told through comics). If anyone stands as the perfect comics counterargument to the whole “worst.generation.ever.” nonsense, it’s Bors, but the fact that he tackles the debate in a logical, evenhanded and patient manner while also maintaining a clear sense of humor is fucking miraculous. Short as this read is, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t stand out as one of the best and most worthwhile comics of the year.
– Nick Hanover
Read “Can We Stop Worrying About Millennials Yet?” on CNN.
TMNT: A Fan Comic
(Caleb Goellner, Buster Moody)
When I see comics like TMNT: A Fan Comic and James Stokoe’s Spider-Nam, I see a love and adoration for these properties that does not come through in the licensed comics. That’s not to say that the current line of TMNT comics are bad; somehow they’ve managed to be pretty impressive and fun. But there’s a life to Goellner and Moody’s take on the TMNT that just isn’t there in the IDW. It’s the kind of life that you only really would expect to see in someone playing around with the toys they really loved and doing so uninhibited.
I don’t want to use the excellence of this tiny comic to talk shit about the IDW TMNT, but I think there’s something to be said for publishers periodically having a Strange Tales-esque take on their established brands that just let people have fun with them. Comics seem to be so damn serious these days, everyone’s trying to be so damn cool; maybe we could use some more levity?
Part of me wants to write a couple of paragraphs about the brilliance of the art or the onomatopoeias that reminded me of Quitely’s stellar Batman and Robin work, but the rest of me is saying that I should just tell you to go read the comic. So, go read the damn thing.
Read TMNT: A Fan Comic on Buster Moody’s blog.
Pipeline Lizards #1
So there are these four lizards, right, named Dohdo, Laxton, Sulky and Flags, and they find this strange pipeline running through the land of the lizards. Nobody knows where it came from or what is inside, so these four lizards decide to follow the pipe to see where it goes. This is the premise of Swedish writer/artist Alexander Enlund’s Pipeline Lizards, what may be my new favorite digital comic.
I found this book on Comixology Submit, but it turns out it’s a web comic too, and thank goodness for that, because when Pipeline Lizards #1 ended, I needed more! Pipeline Lizards is goofy and surreal, as well as full of interesting characters and a thick sense that there is some larger idea at work here. Enlund has found the perfect container for the story he wants to tell, and, as these lizards go through the stages of their journey, he gets to unpack more and more of what he wants to tell you.
As I read more small-press and web comics, I keep coming across more and more singular takes on the monomyth. There’s something exciting about seeing enormously creative people working within the context of the familiar and making it a forum for their unique vision. Enlund does a great job of this with his story.
It’s a pretty weird story, too. When I wasn’t chuckling at the humor or marveling at Enlund’s art, I found myself thinking “What the fuck” as much as “Do go on.” Nothing happens as you would expect it to in this series, which is half the fun of reading it, as well as what, for me, kept me wanting more and more and more. Each new character and situation Enlund introduces adds to his opportunities to get weird and tell his story. Even throwaway moments have purpose and intent. Enlund’s pacing is spot on, his art works perfectly in tandem with the story he is telling, and his coloring is digitally delicious.
– Daniel Elkin
Rocket Queen and the Wrench
(Justin Peniston, Ramanda Kamarga)
Rocket Queen and the Wrench has a little bit more of a mainstream feel than some of the other comics that we review in this column, but I wanted to give it a shout-out because it’s a entertaining and interesting all-ages comic that might spark the imagination of your kids or your twerpy, annoying younger brother who wants to read enjoyable comics and draw the heroes but whines at you to find those comics.
Rocket Queen is the story of a kid who gets rescued from his school — Kurtzberg Elementary to be exact, a nice call out to the King of Comics! — by a young girl in a rocket suit. She’s the Rocket Queen of the title (or Rocket Girl as her parents still call her). As the tale goes on, our lead kid is sent to the home of wealthy parents to live, and while there finds a surprising mix of paradise, hard work — and the inevitable super-heroic secrets.
This isn’t the freshest or most unique comic in the world, but it’s very entertaining in a light, summer-day, non-threatening way. The art is cute and vaguely manga-esque at times, the coloring is bright and primary, even the secrets seem designed for easy, predictable fun. And when you look at all the other comics we review in Digital Ash, all the amazing books that innovate the artform and present transgressive stories, isn’t it pleasant for a change to read something that’s as light and relaxed as a glass of lemonade?
– Jason Sacks
Buy Rocket Queen and the Wrench on Comixology.