Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin’s Small Press Review Column
This week, and probably for the next couple of weeks, Tiny Pages Made of Ashes will be devoted to books the Comics Bulletin Crew picked up at SPX 2016 (and we all picked up veritable armfuls full of books)
By Simon Moreton
Published by Kilgore Books
It’s amazing how much information can be conveyed when you remove the details. Such is the premise of the art of British cartoonist Simon Moreton. In What Happened, his latest release from small press publisher Kilgore Books, Moreton combines thin lines, thick scribbles, and a profusion of Dot Toning in order to craft an April to September tale of childhood summer that softly and deftly evokes what changes and what stays the same in the process of growing up.
Moreton’s art continues to be beautiful in the complexity of its simplicity. Even in its most chaotic (Moreton, for example, spends two full pages thick in the swirls and the dynamism of a fist-fight), there is still a quietness to his drawing that ultimately puts the onus on the reader to create the emotional charge. In this, Moreton builds a connection with his reader that is visceral and profound; it is a pure example of the text reading the audience as much as the audience reading the text.
As far as the title, What Happened isn’t a question, it is a simple statement. This is recollection, storytelling, a sharing of a particular moment in time, the summer of 1995. And this is Moreton’s purview; some of his most emotionally profound work has been in the reminiscence business (his previous release, Plans We Made from Uncivilized Books, is a beautiful example of this). But in What Happened the past is inconsequential, as there is a timelessness to this story, a universality to its message. Once again, Moreton’s linework and choices contributes to this by working with the idea of form and iconic abstractions — his automobiles look more like the shoes worn by Charles Schultz characters than actual cars, his characters rarely have faces if at all. This forces identification and textual processing that allows the imposition of the “you” into the panels, into the action, into the moment.
Which is gorgeous in both intent and execution.
With What Happened, Simon Moreton continues to show why he is one of the most interesting cartoonists working in comics today, and, thankfully, small presses like Kilgore Books exist to publish his work.
— Daniel Elkin
THE BLACK HOOD
Edited by Josh Bayer and Mike Freiheit
As Josh Bayer says in his introduction to the anthology Black Hood #1, “Depression isn’t a fertile state.” It is, as the title of this anthology suggests, a black hood that envelops and suffocates, dimming vision, stifling progress. It is thick anti-inspiration, and those who suffer in its throes want nothing more than for it to end.
Because it is then, when the hood lifts, that the artist can look upon their own struggles with open eyes and use it to understand, communicate, and, just maybe, to heal.
Josh Bayer and Mike Freiheit have done the herculean task of curating a 72 page collection of comics dedicated to depression and disorder by artists like John Porcellino, Box Brown, Tara Booth, Noah Van Sciver, Elizabeth Bethea, Josh Simmons, Haleigh Buck, Katie Fricas, Luce, and others
They range from extended pieces like Jacob Hamrick’s “Shit of Piece Fucking” or Liz Marra’s untitled comic, to one pagers like “No Crown for a Winter Brain” by Noah Bailey or Mike Taylor’s “The First Time You Have A Panic Attack” — some included are incredibly personal and revelatory, others abstract and visceral. Each addition seems to comment on the one before it as each one examines the guilt and the weight that depression meticulously caretakes, or jags and zips that sizzle with the electricity of anxiety.
Black Hood is not light reading. As with most anthologies, it serves as a pastiche and is greater than the sum of its parts. Its existence serves as introduction and re-examination; its contributors layer personality and context into their choices — the reader cannot help but sense the empathy and concern within these pages.
As with all creative works dealing with mental illness, there is a level of audacity inherent in trying to communicate the experience and/or offering assistance or guidance. All the cartoonists in Black Hood seem to understand the tightrope they are walking as they wade into this sphere, as none of the contents here seems neither pedantic nor didactic. There is as much heart here as there is hope; for every hand reached out for understanding, there is one that is offered in embrace. Bayer and Freiheit have done a fantastic job of balancing and organizing the selections in this book.
The more artists use and share the creative experiences that arise out of their own depression and anxiety in order to foster their communication with themselves and others, the more community is created, the more we all begin to understand each other, and the more help we can all get in the end. Josh Bayer and Mike Freiheit’s contribution to this endeavor with Black Hood serves as clear trail marker along this difficult journey.
— Daniel Elkin