Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comic Bulletin’s Small Press Review Column
Due to the time crunch of moving, school starting up, and anticipating this weekend’s SF Zine Fest, I’m going to be doing this week’s Tiny Pages Made of Ashes a little differently. Instead of 400+ word reviews, I’m just going to write up some quick blurbs of spectacular small press books that have been sent to me recently.
So, without further ado:
Ted Intorcio from Denver based small press publisher Tinto Press just sent me their latest release, Pneuma. by British author and artist Daniel Locke. Of this 24 page full color book, Tinto writes: It’s just another day for Sylvia, Alan, Brain, and David. Or is it? The routine of daily life distracts us from an undeniable reality. Everything is about to change. Sometimes for the better. Often times not.
This is an odd, moving, deeply personal book that examines how we blithely go about our day-to-day, unaware of what the future brings. When it finally arrives, though, we often look back at the past and wonder why we didn’t appreciate all the little moments that make up our lives. Locke’s art is flat and exaggerated, yet he understands how to construct a comic using panels and blank space to create tension and flow. While he probably won’t win any “Best Cartoonist” awards any time soon, Pneuma is a book that sticks to you when you finish it. It creates a pause in your head-space, and makes you look around you, soaking everything in.
Next, I got a beautifully embellished package from Illinois based artist Scott Roberts containing his latest book, Happy Trails. Of Happy Trails, Roberts says: “It’s a 3-color experimental comic book/flip book, hand-crafted and Risographed. It was created so the reader can both read the story page-by-page as a comic, and also view the pages as flip book animations from both sides. The story follows three public servants as they work to make life better for the people.”
I love the look and feel of this book. The Risographed art is soft, yet jumps off the page, and Roberts doesn’t sacrifice layout for function — I wouldn’t have known it worked as a flip book had he not drawn my attention to it. It feels like something made with care. It resonates as a work of art.
The story itself reflects the book’s dual usage. It is both dark and beautiful — full of hope as it is full of rather draconian machinations. You’re left looking at its intent with both hope and fear, placing you in a moral gray area punctuated by rainbows.
Oh, yea. Roberts made a little video of the book too:
Finally, all the way from New Zealand came the three issue Cosmic Dust Anthology from Ross Murray. These were a delight and comprise “Pets Talk Records”, featuring animals talking about music that has meant a lot to Murray over the years; “Strange Tales from Summer Bay”, which Murray created during a visit to Australia and inspired by “Home and Away”, a classic Aussie TV soap opera; and excerpts of “Rufus Marigold” which is about anxiety and a chimpanzee in the workplace.
In a way, Murray’s art reminds me a bit of fellow Kiwi comic creator Jonathan King in that it is tight in a Hergé kind of way. And, like King, Murray’s work tends towards the bizarre, yet is grounded in the real world. In “Rufus Marigold”, for example, nobody seems to notice that Rufus is a chimpanzee. It plays no role whatsoever in any of the narratives, yet is unmistakable and the nonchalance in which it is presented adds just enough of a skew to make you begin to wonder what exactly is going on.
As well, in one episode of “Pets Talk Records” Patrice and Hans, two show dogs at a dog show, discuss “Hateful of Hollow” by the Smiths. At one point, one of the dogs says, “Nothing sums up the contrast between Johnny Marr’s beatific compositions and Morrissey’s melodramatic angst more perfectly than ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.’ These extravagantly despairing lyrics overtop of this bouncy, quasi-tropical music.” It’s like a lead-in to a Pitchfork review, spoken by dogs, getting ready to show. It’s smart and off-kilter and it all just comes together in this glorious package.
This is good comics craft. Enjoyable, heartfelt, and thought-provoking. If nothing else, Cosmic Dust will take you out of the “for-granted” and lead you down the “what the fuck”. And that’s worth a couple of bucks, don’t you think?