A few weeks ago, Ace of Cups hosted the 3rd Annual Indie Comics Fair, a small comics show set in Columbus,Ohio. The event is always a lot of fun with good beer, amazing BBQ from the local food truck RayRay’s BBQ in the parking lot and of course a lot of great comic creators. I tabled at the show with my cohorts in 2 Headed Monster Comics, but I also always like to see what my peers are making so I picked up a nice little stack of books at the Fair. I also always mean to write about the good work in the self published scene that may not get as much exposure as it deserves. So here’s some quick reviews of what I picked up.
One disclaimer is that this is work by people I know, personally, and maybe have hung out with socially. We are all fellow comics makers in the same local scene (so I’ll be using mostly first names too).That doesn’t affect my opinion of the work. I won’t say something's good if I don’t believe it is.
Also, these reviews only cover what I picked up at this show, so lots of great Columbus comics aren’t getting covered here. Hopefully I’ll find some time to talk about them in the future. In particular, it means nothing from Indie Comics Fair organizer Ken Eppstein’s Nix Comics group is covered here (I already have all of those), and I can’t really review my own 2 Headed Monster Comics team’s work (so check us out).
That said here’s what I got:
Azteca #1 by Enrica Jan, Jhazmine Ruiz, and Andre Frattino;The Poe Twisted Anthology, edited by Jang and by various
I’ve been wanting to read a comic set in the milieu corruption and gang violence in some contemporary Mexican cities for a while now, and Azteca seems to scratch that itch. Based on the first issue seems to be a sprawling ensemble crime comic showing how various individuals in different social strata are affected by those problems. And meanwhile someone is collecting hearts from criminals. It’s promising start, I was looking forward to seeing it unpacked as a social novel/pulp hybrid, but sadly it looks like only four issues were made before a hiatus. It does make me want to check Enrica’s other writing though.
The Poe Twisted Anthology is a solid anthology with some good artists and writers who tend to take a blood soaked and/or comedy based approach (I’m not sure Poe really lends himself to zombie hordes but they show up several times) to the topic the most successful of which involves the cat from “The Black Cat” being adopted by two 1930’s police officers. The best bit of the book are interstitial illustration and quote pages which are a little slyer in humor and evocative of Poe’s mood.
Moon Pie; The Seeker by Liz Valasco
Two short and evocative mini-comics with minimalist hand made covers (one was construction paper and the other judging by the logo still on the inside back cover was an Office Max folder) with single striking images on them. Liz’s art is nearly as minimalist in Moon Pie. The book is made of charming one page vignettes about a little boy made of Moon rock and his robot pal . Their activities and musings play like a resigned, bittersweetly humorous take on Invader Zim.
The linework in Seeker is a little more lush with soft blue, almost grey tone adding a mood of twilight to the comic. In it a little girl who skulks about her neighborhood and performs a bit of magic Halloween night. It catches a tricky tone in between childhood wonder and spookiness. What is really impressive with these two comics is how confident and assured the storytelling is. Liz tells these story with clarity and in such a way as to let your mind linger or wander in the spaces they create.
Orphans by Eric Paliki and Branko Jovanovic
Orphans works in the military/espionage superhero mode that has in many ways dominated with Marvel/DC superhero comics of the 00’s. It’s a concept that would normally be very easy for me to ignore but the creative team handles Orphans with skill that set it above the chaff. This is take that’s more a Warren Ellis-esque one that considers entwined multinational corporate and military interests, post-human experimentation, and how those interests ruin lives. Eric has some interesting concepts at play here and and enjoyably understated approach to character development. He has a great grasp of pacing and plotting as well. While the five issues work well as tight single issue stories, each one further develops the characters and build off one another until when things finally go pear-shaped near the end (and it’s a surprising and messily human end) of the volume you realize how invested you’ve become in them.
Jovanovic’s art runs a little too generic indie superhero in the first issue (there’s even an unfortunate broke back pose), but from the second on his work becomes more atmospheric and restrained in a Michael Lark sort of way. His work really matures as the series goes and I’m looking forward to seeing a second volume from the pair someday.
Space Woman #1; Versace! by Bryan Moss
Space Women is another comic with an interesting construction. It’s cover is made from cardboard with blue duct tape on the spine and a sticker as the cover image. It’s unique package that’s makes it feel like like gritty DIY hardcover.The narrative boils down to Space Woman floats through, uh, space and encounters several cosmic menaces before undergoing a transformation. It's a simple framework,but strength is in the unique visual execution. Bryan’s art is like cosmic graffiti, full of interesting patterns and shapes that metaphorize across unique layouts. It’s a fluid, bubbly comic full of rounded shapes and supple curved lines. It’s borderline abstract but not obtuse, and an interesting extension of Bryan’s gallery centered work into a narrative form.
The Versace! minicomic is an explicitly abstract images that evoke the cosmos and cellular activity.The images are well composed and have a certain visual flow that makes it hold together over it’s brief running time. Both books are nicely experimental but enjoyable works and I’ll be looking forward to see what he tries next.
What’s really impressive about this selection of comics is just how diverse it is in style, content, creator and even materials. This is the tip of massive iceberg of Columbus comics and it’s really exciting to see what my peers are doing. There’s something here for everybody, so take a moment to check out these books and throw some money at these talented creators!