Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's roundup of small press comics reviews.
Digestate: A Food and Eating Themed Anthology
(Jeffrey Brown, Renée French, Alex Robinson, James Kochalka, Marc Bell, Box Brown, Kevin Cannon, Noah Van Sciver, Josh Bayer, Danny Hellman, Sam Henderson, Josh Burggraf, L. Nichols, Al Ortiz, Sophia Wiedeman, Paul Hoppe, C.M. Butzer, Victor Kerlow, John Kerschbaum, Dan Piraro, Jess Ruliffson, Ben Snakepit, Cha, Adam Hines, Sungyoon Choi, Nate Doyle, Minty Lewis, Hawk Krall, Aaron Mew, Jonas Madden-Connor, Keith Knight, Pranas T. Naujokaitis, Tod C. Parkhill, Jungyeon Roh, Hazel Newlevant, J.T. Yost, Aron Nels Steinke, Gary Fields, Marek Bennett, J.T. Dockery, Jonathan Baylis, Anuj Shrestha, K. Thor Jensen, Nicole J. Georges, Jeremy Tinder, Darryl Ayo, Neil Brideau, James Turek, Jeff Zwirek, James Turek, Ayun Halliday, Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg, William Cardini, Liz Prince; Birdcage Bottom)
In his "A Word From the Editor" at the start of Digestate: A Food and Eating Themed Anthology, JT Yost blames Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County for making him go vegan. Yost does so in order to inform you that yes, "comics CAN change lives!" Somehow, all this was the impetus for him to go gather the work of over 50 comic artists who have produced work focused on the theme "food and eating," and then layer them, slice by slice, into this anthology.
The theme of "food and eating" comprises a lot more possibilities than you might imagine. Digestate proves this.
This anthology opens with Cha's "Gwenaelle the Baby Sitter: The Shitty World Explained to Children" which is illustrated in a light, fun style but recasts the story of "The Three Little Pigs" as a cautionary tale about the cruel manner in which pigs are factory farmed for their (our?) pork. The juxtaposition between Cha's cartoon style and the horror of the topic is enough to make you lose your lunch — which I guess is sort of the purpose. This piece, plus Cha's other selection included in this book about the dairy industry, are shotgun blasts blowing apart the public relations veneer covering how these commodities are actually brought to our tables. I was a bit worried that the rest of this anthology was going to be just one long rant about why eating meat is bad, why our factory farms are killing us, and why choosing veganism is the (snootily) superior option.
And there is that in the book, that, some of it more heavy handed than others, but this is a food and eating THEMED Anthology which gives Yost opportunity to include all kinds of weirdness and wonderfulness within its 288 pages.
For example, Noah Van Sciver tells the three-page tale of eating "3 Bowls of Raisin Bran." This is followed by Jeffrey Brown's lovely "Bacon vs. Asparagus with Oscar." Both of these are about as far from a polemic on the evils of factory farming as you can get.
Likewise, Marek Bebbett's "Successful Slaughter" and Neil Brideau's "Tell Now, The Tale of The Argus Mushroom!" are incredible acts of graphic storytelling. There is food involved (sort of), but it is peripheral to the heart of each of these pieces. These two stories stood out as they are more about the concept of how we come together and define ourselves by the rituals surrounding food and what we choose to eat, than the politics behind food production.
Yost has put together a pretty diverse anthology here, with pieces varied to suit almost every taste. It's a smorgasbord, for sure, instead of a well planned gourmet meal. It's Luby's Cafeteria, not Le Circe. But mmmmmm… Luby's…
I just wish there were more comics about sandwiches.
– Daniel Elkin
You can get Digestate: A Food and Eating Themed Anthology at Birdcage Bottom Books — and while you're there, you should also check out Yost's own books, Losers Weepers, because they are twelve kinds of awesome.
Fork in the Road
For the last three or four years, Jon Esparza has been creating his own very silly comics as part of what he calls his "Crazyverse." Jon kind of picked up the mantle of the cartoonists who produce ridiculous slapstick stories with his own wacky one-pagers featuring his rather weird kids Mike and Mindy; now the first collection of those stories is available at Createspace and it's worth checking out for a fun time.
In Jon's comics, everything is malleable and changeable. People blow up like balloons, get twisted into pretzel shapes and get sawed in half. There are cameos by characters from The Wizard of Oz and Peanuts, Pac-Man and fairy tales. There are living Xerox machines and anonymous monsters and the most frightening thing of all: Taco Bell.
I had a lot of fun with these strips. Jon's an clever and inventive cartoonist — I loved the gag in the strip above — and his art style is just right for these sorts of strips. This isn't mindblowing comics, but it's a fun way to spend a few minutes giggling over an unexpected Marilyn Monroe joke.
– Jason Sacks
For more on Jon and his crazy comics, visit jonscrazystuff.blogspot.com
ZeroZero Series #1
(Sarah Machicado; Left/Right Press)
While billed as "an art and design zine" rather than your average humdrum comic book, Miami-based designer Sarah Machicado's ZeroZero Series #1 is a series of pull-page images of a hexagon (or a cube depending on how you look at it) that produces other geometrical shapes of increasing complexity — first points in lines, then 2-D shapes, then 3D shapes and then it gets crazy.
It's easy to just write the zine off as just a bunch of shapes or weird geometry porn, but for one thing ZeroZero Series #1 is well-rendered both in art and the package and Machicado clearly has a sequence in mind as each subsequent page adds another black bar in the panel gutters to indicate the passage of time and the accumulation of pages. She throws in page numbers, too, but I actually think that's a tremendous misstep, as there's a sense that we're looking at a different, more pure method of visual storytelling — one that doesn't require the tyranny of written language to express what's happening.
ZeroZero Series #1 takes a pure, capital-A art approach to comics, a novel series of images that force the brain to work to figure out the what and why because the characters, narrative and themes aren't spelled out. Is it about the creative process and how a simple idea can grow and take on a life of its own as it grows more involved? Is it about life? The growth of societies? The controlled chaos of the universe? It's art; it's about whatever you want it to be about.
– Danny Djeljosevic
Buy ZeroZero Series #1 at Atomic Books.