Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin’s small press review column
Loud Comix #4
Loud Comix, a collection of “tales of glory, humiliation, terror, and the abnormal” written by a group of leading lights from the Southern Punk Rock scene and illustrated by Jamie Vayda, is back again with issue #4, and this one is louder and cruder and more fucked-up than any previous issue. Issue #4 features a guy falling out the back of a trailer home trying to take a piss, a Punk Rock Detective who may be a dick but gets the job done, and other sordid stories about running Moonshine, a dead snake, and a Christmas party with co-workers that becomes an unforgettable mess for all that attend. It’s raucous fun that don’t give one tug of a dead-dog’s dick what you think about it.
These are Comix, after all, and Comix don’t take no crap. Comix ain’t for the sensitive or the dainty or the social justice advocate; they are all about tits and booze and cocks and drugs and fucking and shitting and screaming. And Loud Comix is hollering all this louder than anything else you got going on right now. A matter of fact, it’s got its own PA system and they’ve turned those volume knobs all the way up.
Remember when noted American Punk Rocker Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) wrote, “Let everyone mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he was made”? I’m pretty sure he was writing about Comix – the zine scene around Walden was killer back then.
Sure, Loud Comix probably won’t go down in history for its literary merits or highbrow approach to lowbrow humor. But that’s okay, muthafuckas, cause it kicks out the jams.
And damn if Jamie Vayda isn’t just hitting his stride now with his cartooning. Vayda wears his Comix influences on his sleeve pretty brightly, you can see the Crumb in the folds, but he is carving out his own niche cleanly and it’s great to see. He’s got his comic (and Comix) pacing down damn near perfectly. His cartooning brings the right balance between over-the-top and solidly right on for the genre, and he draws just about the best swinging thick midget dick I’ve ever seen in the pages of a comic before.
So if you’re not easily offended and you don’t take life all that seriously, then what the hell, man, why aren’t you ass-deep and face-first into this series? If you feel the need to release that beast that likes Gothic tales of pissing on couches or getting snake blood all over the fucking place, and then letting it run naked in the moonlight free from the confines of Tumblr and other shame, then this is your book, my friend. This is your series. These are your Loud Comix!
Loud Comix #4 is available from Birdcage Bottom Books.
Tonoharu: Part One
Pliant Press and Top Shelf Productions have released Lars Martinson’s Xeric Award winning Tonoharu: Part One in a redesigned paperback edition. This is worthy of celebration as Tonoharu: Part One is an amazing work and Martinson is an artist who deserves wider acclaim for the task he has undertaken in service of his muse.
Ostensibly, Tonoharu “tells the story of a young American who moves to rural Japan to work as an English teacher.” This is a framing device for something larger, providing a springboard for an examination of social mores, concepts of culture, ideas about the nature of language, and, above all else, how we connect with each other. These are big ideas of course, ones that require deft hands to balance without tipping. Martinson has those hands
In its 128 blue and black pages there is a certain heaviness to Martinson’s art, though none of it heavy-handed. Each panel bears dense cross-hatching of fine and uniform lines, an at-times nearly impermeable sieve that never diminishes a sense of space as he creates engaging perspectives with dynamic triangular compositions throughout. There is an almost obsessive attention to background detail. The energy released from Martinson’s ink creates a wave-like frequency despite the absence of nearly any curved lines. This visceral tension mirrors the protagonist’s painfully tense emotional interior, a tension also inherent in Japanese culture and the language barrier it presents.
And it’s subtle.
Upon first glance this appears to be a quiet book, one in which little happens that isn’t of a personal nature and almost whispered in hushed tones. The main character of the narrative, Dan, is ill-prepared for his adventure abroad, but this lack of preparation only leads to isolation, not danger. As the story unfolds, though, it seems that Dan has brought a certain amount of isolation with him to begin with. He’s socially awkward and has led a quiet life. What could have been a grand adventure for him appears to only to create a further spiral into the self, a place where hardly anyone, especially a guy like Dan, seems to be at home.
It is almost as if part of the story reflects the notion that you only find your “true self” by leaving your comfort zone. But this is misleading; there is something else going on in Tonoharu: Book One, some larger thing on the outlying edges that moves this from simple platitudes and navel-gazing onto a grander stage.
In his afterword to this book, Martinson writes, “The experiences that inspire me most are those that make me feel like the world is a huge, terrible, exhilarating place filled with untraveled roads, fascinating strangers, and endless possibility.” As Book One stands, one would hardly guess that Martinson harbored these feelings. Like I said, there is a continuous scent of quiet isolation throughout its narrative. Yet there are wafts of fermentation underneath, dark hedonistic secrets that arise in the freedom of “exotic locales” and different customs. This story is poised to be filled with torrid turns as Martinson completes subsequent volumes.
Still, at its heart, Tonoharu is a book about communication, about connecting, about learning through our shared experiences and defining ourselves through the eyes of others. The story of Dan becomes the story of us. This is the thematic sandbox in which artists build castles and Martinson is building Neuschwanstein.
Tonoharu: Book One is available from Top Shelf Productions.