Monday, 1 March 2010

Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s - Mini-Reviews 1-10

Marvellous and monolithic: definitely one of our favourite book designs ever

Almost a fortnight ago, in a fit of madness, we decided that it would be fun to tweet-review one mini comic a day from Fantagraphics' excellent Newave! anthology. Throwing caution to the wind, our evil cliché-mongering inner-marketers attached the tag-line "Mini-reviews for mini-comics" to the project and away we went. Now, 12 days into this epic journey, we're collating the first 10 reviews in a special omnibus edition for the blog.

As appropriate as Twitter may seem for posting these truncated mini-reviews, it soon became obvious to us that there was never enough space in 140 characters to do the comics justice, let alone give our comments context. So here you will find our original comments plus a few added "director's-cut" extras thrown in for good measure. 

1: Purple Warp #1 - Al Greenier, T. Hosier; 1972

We tweeted: "Crank Ludlow is like the Batman of mucus: a determined vigilante with questionable methods. Brill"

We meant: Loin-cloth-wearing Crank Ludlow pretty much sets the tone for the anthology. A charismatic prankster, his adventures are solely about forcibly imparting his snot onto others via his feet. He even manages to booger-kick Bob Dylan (but not quite Richard Nixon, for shame).

2: Purple Warp #7 – Al Greenier; 1972

We tweeted: "A Psychedelic Ouroboros-esque myth; Is it wrong that it seemed a bit sexual to me?"

We meant: There's really no good way to cover an entirely visual comic in the space of a tweet. The potential sexuality comes from the sheer amount of things being ejected from and entering into holes in this symbolic cyclical depiction of life and death.

3: Brief Encounters – Roger May; 1981

We tweeted: "Reads like a simpler, 24-years-early, prototype of Tales Designed to Thrizzle."

We meant: One of the things that is most appealing about mini-comics (even now) is that, most of the time, they represent a prototypical idea that is expedited onto paper as soon as possible. Although it's nowhere  near as complete or as intelligent as Micheal Kupperman's ever-popular series, you can tell that a similar spark existed behind its creation.

4: Blown Away – Roger May; 1974 

We tweeted: "Six-pages of fellatio, builds up to a classic punchline. Is it wrong that it seemed a bit sexual to me?"

We meant: Something about this extremely NSFW sex comic seemed to remind us simultaneously of the cartoons of Playboy, MAD Magazine and Viz (the long-running British toilet-humour comic, not the manga publisher). What a messy ménage à trois that would be.

5: Nutso Toons – Artie Romero; 1979, Everyman Studios

We tweeted: "Five strips with vaudevillian gags a go-go. Also, Mr Peanut shows his ferocious side!" 

We meant: The highlight of this comic features pathos and hubris collapsing down onto the unfortunate peanut-mascot as he fights a valiant losing battle against an army of squirrels. You can't ask for more out of two pages, really.

6: Real Dope Thrills – 1979, Everyman Studios

We tweeted: "Interesting from a historical perspective; Cold War paranoia satire meets Cheech and Chong. Dope." 

We meant: The main interest we found in this cannabis-scented comic was just how much it appeared a product of its time. Not just because of the Cold War references, either. It's interesting to imagine a time where weed-humour had such powerful currency. I hear that they are making a third Harold & Kumar
movie, by the way.

7: Bug Infested Comix – Bob Vojtko; 1979, Everyman Studios

We tweeted: "Classic occupational 'toon strips ft. deadpan delivery & satisfying final panels." 

We meant: Being a big fan of the Sunday strip format, I was pleasantly surprised by "Murray's Garbage Worms Inc." which features the titular worms (the least rigid working stiffs ever) cast as a garbage demolition crew. Not necessarily laugh-out-loud funny, there's a wry simplicity to the punchlines that reminds me a little of Andy Capp. Nowhere near even remotely close to the league of Peanuts, though, obviously. 

8: Book of Falling – Rick Geary; 1981

We tweeted: "The Book of Falling visually expresses the joy & ambiguity of falling objects. Favourite so far!"

We meant: This is really an interesting mini-comic. In some ways, it feels more like a sampler or demonstration from the artist than anything else. In its multitude of earthbound items, the "wingless chicken" has to be our number-one choice. 

9: Night Beat – Rick Geary; 1981

We tweeted: "The low-down on a city's least important events. Really fun; excellent use of the format."

We meant:  Just as we claimed that Geary's The Book of Falling was our favourite-so-far, he immediately trumps himself with this throughly entertaining comic that features a late-night radio personality covering the minutia that's too inconsequential to be real news.

10: Nart #1 – Jim Siergey, 1979

We tweeted: "Thought-bubble pierced with dagger: Gags framed by truely appealing thick-line 'toon style." 

We meant: There's something about the simple visual puns of Nart that communicate the sheer joy of drawing for fun's sake. The image on the back cover of this issue is the most appealing art work we've seen so far; a slightly masonic one-eyed rose growing from the eye-socket of a buffalo skull. Neat-o.

So there you have it, the first ten reviews from this exercise in brevity. Stay tuned to our Twitter account over the next decade or so as we cover the remaining 763 pages of this tome. More than just a collection of mini-comics, the book features interviews and insightful commentary from some of the creators as well as the lovingly-reproduced source material. Available pretty much everywhere now, Newave! costs around $24.99 (US) and looks great no matter where you put it.