Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's roundup of small press comics reviews.
Captain Midnight Special
(Brian Augustyn, Jay Piscopo; Moonstone)
In the name of full disclosure before beginning this review, I need to let you know that as far as I am concerned, Jay Piscopo makes comics just for me. I've never met the guy, but I swear he keeps having a hand in books that seem to come out of the daydreams of my childhood. It's kinda creepy in a way, but I don't want him to stop.
The last Piscopo book I read was the wonderful Commander X All-Star Special #1. Now he's back with Captain Midnight Special. Though he's illustrating Brian Augustyn's story, the book's feel is all Piscopo and that's all right with me.
The character of Captain Midnight has been around since the late 1930s as a radio serial, and has subsequently appeared in comic strips, movie serials, television, and a Fawcett Comic series, but this time, Captain Midnight inhabits the Piscopo universe.
In Captain Midnight Special, the character is fighting alongside Commander X, Britannia, Airboy, and other heroes against Baron Hydro of Atlantis and the obligatory Nazi bastards. It's adventure time plus one, as our heroes battle Triebflugel Drones, Code Name Stukka, and an Uber-Armada with nothing but their fists, their planes, and, of course, an Electro-Magnetic Bazooka. It's all jet packs and Gliderchutes, "Ya-Hoo's" and "Himmel's," BRAKOW's and THWAMM's as the battle rages over the skies of London. It ain't serious business, brother, it's just keeping the world safe and providing some good clean fun entertainment.
Did I mention the fact that there is a moment in this comic where one of the characters screams, "We have devastated reality! Insanity reigns unchecked!"? If you know me, you can see why this comic appeals to me so much. I mean, how awesome is that?
So let Captain Midnight Special shine its ever-lovin' light on you. If you are looking for a clean, well-crafted sandwich of fun, this book is right up your alley. It's got all the right things going on in all the right places. Whatever those things actually are, and wherever those places may actually be.
– Daniel Elkin
The Captain Midnight Special is available to purchase directly from Moonstone.
Giant Man Mini-Comic
Even as digital comics become more and more of a thing than they're already are, there will always be an interest in physical objects. That said, if physical editions of my mass-produced monthly comics disappeared, I'd be relatively okay with it because the tactile element grows increasingly dire as the paper it's printed on degrades over closer to 1-ply.
But minicomics will likely never go away, because they have a different feel — not just when it comes to the art and narrative, but also the paper and printing methods. Even if it's a quick and dirty xeroxed thing, you can tell that the people who produce minicomics have taken care to craft the very method by which their work gets out into the world. Everything seems deliberate and handmade, especially if it's a comic that could never be reproduced in digital.
Giant Man Mini-Comic, which I bought from MIND MGMT creator Matt Kindt at WonderCon last week, is one such comic. Packaged in a tiny ziplock bag with a backing card, Giant Man Mini-Comic is a metal "spy capsule" you unscrew to reveal a tiny rolled-up comic, which is indeed about a giant man. Illustrated in Kindt's trademark watercolor-y style, the mini comic is a short, cute little thing, offering simple pleasures, but that's okay. It's a cool idea and the clever method of delivery is essential for people who are into the various ways you can put out a comic book.
– Danny Djeljosevic
You can buy Giant Man Mini-Comic from Matt Kindt's online store.
Oh, Internet. You make peoples' lives great and wonderful — yay, Facebook, twitter,
online banking, YouTube, FailBlog, Comics Bulletin and online porn! And you also make peoples' lives miserable — did I mention YouTube?
Randolph Gentile's new small press comic is about a kid who becomes famous on the Internet in exactly the wrong way, becoming a YouTube celebrity because of a daring daredevil move that went horribly wrong. So just like a college freshman who finds her naked selfpic on some porn site and ends up being harassed by every slack-jawed porn addict at school, Wesley Welling finds himself put upon and ostracized from his classmates, your basic lonely laughingstock whose angst is as much a product of his own mindset as anything.
Wesley is an artist, a sensitive soul whose angst is very very deeply felt. As far as his therapist knows, Wesley is just drawing birds. But as Gentile's short story shows, Wesley's vision is much darker — a '80s style serial killer fantasy with Wesley as the mask-wearing, Jason Vorhees style madman. And, as Wesley says after Gentile shows us readers our protagonist's incredibly horrible fantasy, "That's it… my own personal therapy. But I need more." Which leads to a bone-chilling conclusion that will stick in your mind for a long time.
Gentile's art is rough, even when he's not essentially presenting the kid's comic for us to read. His characters feel loose and unformed, even a bit amateurish at times. But I think that's actually a success in what he's going for with this book, as his style shifts and changes at various points in the story in ways that help to emphasize the drama of the section of story that he's telling. The scenes on the roof when Wesley has his disastrous fall are drawn in a more childlike style than is used in the main sections of the story, giving that aspect of the story a feeling like it's being created by younger kinds.
Similarly, the art from Wesley's comic is stunted, strange, and oddly claustrophobic, with smart placement of blacks that accentuate the story but also with an unconfident depiction of human anatomy like you might expect a virginal angry teen to display.
Viral was an upsetting and very rewarding GN for me. It resurrected my own memories of teen angst while also telling an intriguing story in a compelling way.
– Jason Sacks
For more information on Viral go to Lazy Comix.