Sunday, 11 April 2010

"Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s" - Mini-Reviews 31-40

You can't see it clearly in the photo, but there's an open can of "Whoop Ass" on the floor.

I can honestly say that the further we dive into the murky depths of Newave!, the better it gets. Hot on the heels of all the anarchic fun of the first thirty mini comics, come ten more that show, in various ways, a little extra sophistication in content or execution. In today's omnibus edition of our Tweet review project, Dadaism, philosophy, fine art and morphological images sit happily alongside violent foul mouthed teens, neo-Nazi  ducks and penis-toting dogs. Oh yeah, and there's a fire-breathing, robotic Viking version of Popeye.

Please check out our previous Newave roundups, if you haven't already: 1-10 ; 11-20 and 21-30.

31: Weird Secretary – Jim Ryan, 1983, Comix Wave

We tweeted: "A few great puns and a lot of satirical sexism inside Terry Gilliam-esque cover."

Python-esque inside and out, Weird Secretary features a number of skits filled with non-sequitur jokes, sideways satire and good ol' fashioned "bad" puns. It also contains one of the funniest strips in the anthology so far: "The Adventuress of Finn McQuade: Alcoholic Professor of Philosophy". Need I say more? I didn't think so.

32: Metaphyzix – Jim Ryan, Meher Dada, Jim Siergey, Douglas O’Neill, Steve Willis, Hank Arakelian, Dale Luciano, C.E. Emmer, 1986

This makes the AJ Ayers on the back of my neck stand on end (God, that was awful).

We tweeted: "Fantastic collection of philosophy-themed jokes that could make even grumpy old Nietzsche laugh!"

Interested in philosophy? If not, don't worry about reading this comic. Those of you who've dabbled in the least employable subject will find a collection of images that range from comedic (see above) to vaguely diagrammatic. Speaking as someone who dabbled in the subject during college, I can confirm that this mini is at least twice as informative and well-written than any of my essays.

33: Artix – Jim Ryan, 1983

We tweeted: "Fantastic exploration of relationship between fine art and comics. The unifier? Breasts, of course."

As should be evident from the two previous minis, Jim Ryan takes a slightly different approach from most of the other Newavers in the collection so far: they have boob jokes, and he has academic boob jokes.

Truthfully, this comic addresses an issue that is still a major talking point in the industry even now: the relationship between comic books and art. Satirical in delivery, the characters of Sappo and Sluggo (when confronted with a fine art image) make it quite clear that they think comics and art are incompatible: "Is dat stuff up dere in dis strip?","Naw, I don't T'ink so, Sluggo! Dat looks like art to me, but we is in da comix!". Clearly nobody's introduced them to the work of Rob Liefeld.

34: Dada Gumbo #5 – Dale Luciano, Meher Dada, Norman Dog, Michael Dowers, Brad Foster, Par Holman, David Miller, Michael Roden, J.R. Williams, Steve Willis, Bob X, XNO, 1984, Dada Gumbo Press

We tweeted: "Massive Newaver cross-over with dadaist non-sequitur jokes a go-go! Popeye returns as a Viking!"

"DESTROY BEFORE READING", instructs the irreverent cover of this relatively lengthy collaboration between a pretty impressive collection of mini-comix pioneers.

XNO's demented robot-viking Popeye (complete with a flame-throwing pipe!) and Steve Willis' trademark transformations might be the most visually arresting contents of this comic, but my favourite submission is Norman Dog's two page account of "The New Problems".

A recounting of a mysterious problem that's never explicitly mentioned, "The New Problems" plays out like a satire on the good old fashioned media panic. Disposable and inflated for the sake of a good headline, the supposedly once-pressing issue is quickly forgotten by the public as soon as coverage ends.

35: Cranium Station DMZ; 36: Eternities of Darkness & 37: Hungry Stairs To HeavenAll by Steve Willis, 1984, Dale Luciano and Dada Gumbo Press

We tweeted: "Great visual transitions connect scenes of a drunk's hallucinogenic misadventure.", "Continuation of the last book's idea with mysterious Morse-code; investigation needed!" & "The trilogy of morphing comics concludes with the exact panel that started the first!"

Absolutely defying our tweet-review omnibus format are Steve Willis' trilogy of transitory comics. Like some sort of comic book Transformer (surely that idea is no more ludicrous than Soundwave), the structure of our Newave review omnibus reviews is thrown out the window as Willis takes the reader on a circular journey of optical trickery and absurdist humour.

Starting with the image of a cosmic gardener (think Galactus in overalls), the seeds she plants sprout into traffic meters, which become become poles on the side of a building, which, in turn, become the oars of a longboat. I'm sure you get the picture. The transitions aren't always pretty, but that's far beyond the point; the pleasure is seeing Willis jump recklessly from one unfathomable image to the next.

Whilst the comics overtly feature such varied subjects as clowns, martini glasses, the devil himself,  there's also an innocuous line of Morse code that runs along the bottom of the first two installments. Being extremely obsessive, I decided to decode it:
Lord; the things people did before Facebook.

38: Lordy, Lordy, Where’s Mr. Morty – Steve Willis, 1984, Bob Conway and Phantasy Press

"Lordy, Lordy, Where Are His Pants?" more like.

We tweeted: "No one is sure where this dog went. I suspect neutering was on the cards."

Following the completion of his Mighty Morphin' Mini-Comic™, Willis continues his off-centre comedy in Lordy Lordy, Where's Mr. Morty? Starring his anti-mascot-of-sorts, the titular Mr. Morty, he proceeds to create a series of "what ifs?" regarding the whereabouts of the dadaist dog.

My favourite has got to be the panel in which Morty is speculated to have penetrated the Iron Curtain, walking "across the ice covered Bering Strait to the U.S.S.R., shooting Rooskies right and left...". Gun in hand, Morty hisses through gritted teeth, "Another widow in Commie-land tonight!". Indeed.

39: Bad Teens – J.R. Williams, 1990, Starhead Comix

We tweeted: "Forget Salinger, this is the most important teen-based fiction of all time; "I don't care, FUG IT!"."

Besides from having an awesome cover (I love these character designs), Bad Teens is a scarily accurate caricature of disgruntled teenage years. Foul-mouthed, drunken and overly aggressive, the eponymous teenagers pretty much sum up those golden years of angst-ridden futility.

The best character by far is a fellow teen who is lambasted for basing his identity on Joey Ramone. Once his humiliated and rage die down, he does what adolescents to best, doubts himself, questions his identity and necks a whole bottle of booze; "FUG IT!".

40: Deadly Duck – J.R. Williams, 1985, Comix World

(Blurred to avoid SPOILERS)

We tweeted: "June Previews: Darkwing Duck. Newave: A duck with a machete, steel toe boots and neo-Nazi tattoo."

Combining all the goofy slapstick of Loony Tunes with the political perspective of Walt Disney, Deadly Duck punts, stabs and slices his way through a world he condemns as "BAD". More or less, this beaked Travis Bickle commits gruesome acts of violence to rival even modern comics gore-hound Johnny Ryan.

Forty entries down, 394 pages to go! More than just a collection of mini-comics, Newave! features interviews and insightful commentary from some of the creators as well as the lovingly-reproduced source material. Available pretty much everywhere now, the collection costs around $24.99 (US) and looks great no matter where you put it.



  1. Thanks - very interesting to see this work by J.R. Williams. I like his Crap!

  2. I agree with your first sentence. I'm about at the same point in this book and it does get better and better. It makes me want to seek out some of the originals and some of the others works by these artists.