TCJ’s Slush Pile

Posted by on January 24th, 2011 at 5:48 AM

Rob reviews a variety of comics that have come through The Comics Journal’s transom, including Toner #5 by Jonathan Wayshak; The Boston Gastronauts, by C. Che’ Salazar & Andrew Abbott; Sub Text & Tonight And Every Night, by C. Che’ Salazar; Negative +00, by Phonzie Davis; The Short Term, by Nick Jeffrey; and Interview With Delicious Storm, by Si-Yeon Min.

Toner #5, by Jonathan Wayshak.   Wayshak’s dense, ink-splashed black & white drawings remind me a little of Ashley Wood’s work, only with a far more whimsical point of view.  This issue kicks off a storyline about a young woman looking to get a bit of information in exchange for acting as a mule for a lowlife acquaintance of hers.  Wayshak lays on the squalid, sleazy aspects of his decaying urban setting pretty thick, reminiscent of a Ralph Bakshi movie, while some of the elongated figures and ink splotches remind me of Ralph Steadman.  It’s an interesting comic to look at if you have a taste for the grotesque, but it’s unclear how compelling a narrative this will make.

The Boston Gastronauts, Tonight And Every Night, and Sub Text by C. Che Salazar (with Andrew Abbott on The Boston Gastronauts).  Salazar is a member of the Minimalist Comics Collective and his solo minis here play on the physical qualities of paper to help tell his stories.  Tonight and Every Night uses a clever subliminal technique wherein text is written on the opposite of a page and backwards, so as to only appear on the front page when exposed to light.  Each panel is a TV screen illuminating the death of someone randomly important, detailing the ways in which our culture chews up and spits out this sort of information.  Sub Text uses the subliminal technique for two minimally-drawn talking heads having an uncomfortable conversation.  The Boston Gastronauts is a far more conventional mini detailing the art duo’s side project of blogging unusual food in Boston and almost getting a TV deal; this mini suffers from a good bit of bloated back-slapping and perfunctory art from Abbott.  It’s pretty obvious from the very first page where the story was headed, and so a story that might have made an amusing anecdote in one or two pages felt highly strained at 8.

Negative Too, by Phonzie Davis.  Davis’ scribbly “anti-comik” style is astonishing to look at, which is no surprise considering he’s a member of the illustration-heavy Meathaus comics collective.  The anarchic spirit of the quasi-narratives in this mini remind me a little of Funkadelic cover artist Pedro Bell, combining the spirit of underground comics (especially in the occasional bursts of violence and frank sexuality) with a powerful imagination that’s reflective of the larger culture.  The first story in the book is about predation in pretty packages, while the latter story is about martyrdom.  I hope that Davis at some point releases a more substantial collection of his work.

The Short Term, by Nick Jeffrey.  This comic by the former Xeric-winner pits a series of epistolary narrative captions written by a man to his ex-girlfriend against the reality of his rapidly-deteriorating life.  Jeffrey excels at wallowing in his character’s misery, depicting scumbags, drug-dealers, lowlifes and drunks in an intensely detailed and slightly grotesque line.  Every panel is heavily hatched or cross-hatched with almost no white space to relieve the reader from the self-inflicted nightmare of a life that belongs to its protagonist, Jack.  There’s no real redemption to be found, no connections made, despite Jack’s insistence that his life is turning around in his letter, and the fade to black at the end suggests the bleakest of possible endings in a well-crafted, if highly unpleasant, comic.

Interview With Delicious Storm, by Si-Yeon Min.  Of all the idiosyncratic works discussed in this article, this is certainly the strangest.  Min is an architect who adopted the “Delicious Storm” persona as a way of exploring his own unusual ideas about his field, which is the most functional of all the arts.  Creating a dialogue between Socrates and his alter ego, Min uses computer-generated images to act as a highly abstracted set of character icons.  Min is unusual in that his goal is to strip words and concepts of their meanings and recontextualize them, which is an old Dada technique (Duchamp’s Ready-Mades, for example).  At the same time, he views architecture as a kind of narrative.  Min’s examples and definitions are on the oblique side and lacking in clarity.  Part of that is intentional, I believe, but part of it is working in an art form that’s unfamiliar for him.  I’m certainly intrigued enough to want to hear more about architecture as narrative and hope Min continues to dabble in print.

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