Public Service: Dope Flounder

Posted by on July 10th, 2010 at 8:35 AM

Rob reviews DOPE FLOUNDER, the Free Comic Book Day anthology put together by Sparkplug Comic Books, Teenage Dinosaur and Tugboat Press.

My favorite part of Free Comic Book Day over the last three years has been the release of the new minicomics anthology from Sparkplug Comic Books (publisher: Dylan Williams), Teenage Dinosaur (publisher: Tim Goodyear) and Tugboat Press (Greg Means).  This year, it’s called DOPE FLOUNDER, and it features an impressive array of artists both well-known and emerging.  The three publishers share overlapping yet distinctive aesthetics.  Tugboat’s comics tend to be conventional narratives or autobio comics done in a straightforward manner.  Teenage Dinosaur goes more for underground/outsider art comics.  Sparkplug is hard to pin down, ranging from certain kinds of genre comics to being the bastion for the emergent “submersive comics” movement.

DOPE FLOUNDER was anchored by what appears to be an excerpt from Jesse Reklaw’s upcoming COUCH TAG autobiographical project.  Reklaw has hit his stride in the past few years to create one of the most varied and impressive bodies of work in the world of comics.  His autobio comics in particular are original and touching, using the device of recalling past events as mediated by specific objects, pets or individuals.  In “Toys I Loved”, Reklaw examined his earliest memories through particular childhood toys, connecting them to his weird upbringing but also giving the reader remarkable insights about childhood in general. The last page, where from his current vantage point Reklaw is amazed at the way he had fun with a bottle cap, a stick, some lint and rocks, is precisely the kind of memory that lingers because it contained a small anecdote surrounding a more significant experience (moving to a new house).Reklaw’s story was the obvious highlight of this comic, but there’s plenty of other work of interest.  Sean Christensen’s “Church of Awesome Thought, Class of 2006″ took me a couple of readings to fully parse, thanks to the Ron Rege-inspired line and panel design.  Like Rege’s work, this story about a futuristic school’s final projects about modern love carried a remarkable warmth and wealth of emotional detail.  Tom Lechner’s “Rules Of Engagement” was a funny strip about a dissolving relationship, while “Meditations In Graphite” by David Wien was a striking series of intense pencil drawings.

In the autobio/slice of life categories, Nicole Georges did her usual thing in recalling “We Used To Be Awesome At Shoplifting”.  I tend to think of Georges as a zinester who does comics as opposed to a more dedicated cartoonist, albeit one with a devoted following.  I found this strip to be twee and self-congratulatory, like much of her work.  Ian Sundahl’s “The MBZ” was appealingly scribbly, recalling anecdotes from when he owned an old Mercedes; this story served as a bookend to Reklaw’s comic.   All told, DOPE FLOUNDER managed to hold together remarkably well as a coherent reading experience despite its disparate parts, and I continue to be impressed that the small press publishers who put it out every year take so much time and effort in its production. 

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