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Monthly Archives: October 2013

I first heard of Olivia Horvath when researching past winners of the Xeric Grant, which they were awarded in 2012 for the publication of Tiny Bangs. In an obscure market that mostly lacks endorsement and funds from the nation’s wealthy and elite, the Xeric was one if not the only grant aimed at helping self-publishing comics artists produce and distribute their work (it recently ended after 20 years). This was a grant that every self-determined, hard-working cartoonist I know applied for, and I found myself asking what sort of qualifications it would take to win such a grant, and in other words have one’s work be crowned “BEST COMIC[S] OF THE UNDERGROUND.”

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While I can’t speak for what The Best Comic[s] of the Underground are, Horvath’s stark yet poetic narrative, which focuses on one young woman’s day, reached me in a way that many other described “poetic” comics do not. With fine brushwork, light washes, and intentional splotches of darkness, Horvath focuses in on the unspectacular, but with great intensity. I.e, grooming in the bathroom, smoking a cigarette by the windowsill, washing some dishes, all scenes are paced slowly so that we have time to take in the event and find its meaning. Meanwhile, the young woman’s unconventional job of being a nude model is presented as just another passing moment in the day.

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Above: Excerpt from Tiny Bangs #1 by Olivia Horvath

Now I know what some of you are thinking. I too, often find that comics about the everyday and mundane can come off as kinda, well, mundane. This is not one of them. While the tone of the work is subtle, the honest presentation of human desire and emotion (or lack of) is acutely-observed, which allowed myself to take a moment to appreciate the thoughtful, awkward nature of our species. And that’s a pretty cool thing to allow.

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Mike Taylor‘s work equally evokes the raw and honest nature of our people, mixed with a hyper-thoughtful understanding of the system that they dwell in, plus a dose of the amusingly absurd. 

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Above: Late Era Clash (AKA Scenery) #22 (2009), by Mike Taylor, with a featured story by Sam McPheeters.

While I highly endorse all of Taylor’s work, today I focus on Late Era Clash #22 because I just read it for the fourth or fifth time and can confidently say that Yes, this is one of my favorite mini-comics of the recent past. Ah-hah!

With a screen-printed cover and b&w xeroxed interiors, Late Era Clash features an array of different narrative-driven comics, drawn and inked in a style that I can only describe as, “Yeah, this is pretty fucking righteous.” Stories focus on various human interactions that take place in seemingly average small towns that may or may not have one jarringly eccentric component to them. 

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Above: The gov doesn’t know what you’re talking about in this episode of Private Panthers, featured in Late Era Clash #22.

Some stories made me smirk or even chuckle, while others made me wish that I could only create such perfection in a mini-comic. Taylor’s sense of humor seems to stem from the anxiety of being overly aware of one’s surroundings, like someone who is locked in an empty room with no distractions but a loud, ticking clock, tensely awaiting the Next Terrible Thing to happen to them. Basically, the world can be a wretched place, but we use humor to make it out alive. And man, Taylor uses it well.

Below: Big Baby Man enters the scene and he’s NOT happy. From Late Era Clash #22, story written by Sam McPheeters.

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Bottom Line: If you’re the type of person who enjoys to sit and observe those surrounding you when most others have their noses in smartphones, ipads, or books, you are taking note of their features and gestures, their personality, thinking about What Kind of Person they might be and what kind of life they might live, appreciating the beauty of some, and the ridiculousness of others, well, then the passionately written & drawn work of Olivia Horvath and Mike Taylor might be for you.

– LVW

 

Hola comrades,

Tonight on the first installment of Spit Picks, I present to you some CUTTING-EDGE comics work of the FUTURE. 

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Edited by Ben Mendelewicz and Char Esme, SPIDER’S PEE-PAW #1 is a computer-art-and-collage-driven comic anthology featuring the works of Lauren Poor, Xela Flactem 3, John Gutierrez, Esteban Neumann, Mark Mathews, and Mendelewicz and Esme themselves.

I’ve been following these guys’ various art projects and collaborations for several years now, since the release of Tumbleweave’s DEMON SQUEEZE (which I believe Ben is in) and Butt-Dilly #1. I’m pretty sure when SPIDER’S PEE-PAW debuted in February, most if not all of these guys were still in college, which only adds to the impressive results of this editioned and bound art and comic-experiment. The work to me reflects the spirit of Being-at-Art-School, and I mean that in the best way possible. No fucks are given as Medelewicz and crew romp through the pages of the anthology, with crudely written story lines, deranged characters, and a great deal of experimentation with the traditionally ink on paper medium. The  non-linear, random story-lines may make the comic work more difficult to digest, but that doesn’t even matter. What does matter is that work takes comics to a place they rarely get to hang out in.

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Above: Excerpt from “Grinners” by Ben Mendelewicz, featured in SPIDER’S PEE-PAW #1

The experimentation with 3d-computer-art used throughout the various works in SPIDER’S PEE-PAW is reminiscent of the conceptual/abstracted digital art pieces that I’ve seen at galleries, but with a way weirder (and better) sense of humor. Meanwhile, the overarching themes yell “Overconsumption!”, “Sex!”, “Materialism!”, and well, the general ridiculousness of our vain & privileged culture a la artists Ryan Trecartin, Paper Rad, and the late Mike Kelley.

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Above: an excerpt from “Bad Sex” by Xela Flactem, featuring a Jesus + Brat Doll + Regular Joe who mates with a bald white female mannequin to create the perfect baby-doll specimen (or I’m pretty sure that’s what happens), featured in SPIDER’S PEE-PAW #1.

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In the same reign as SPIDER’S PEE-PAW, lies Rüff Haus Supplement #1, which lists its editor-in-Chief as “Blackie Santiago”, aka John Gutierrez.

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Rüff Haus is a parody Adult Supplement (STRICTLY ADULTS ONLY), in the vein of something National Lampoon might have produced in the early 70s. Fake and/or Real ads (I honestly can’t tell) sprinkle the interiors with taglines like “DO ME THE HARD & FUNK WAY – 1-800-FUNKY” and “WE CUM IN PEACE – ALIEN TWO-TIMING IN TIME AND SPACE DVD”. Then there are several ‘erotic’ features that revel in their absurdity. Whether they go too far I think depends on the sexual orientation of the creators, for a lot of the humor comes at the expense of homo-erotic underground culture, which may be fine if the contributors are queer themselves, but not so much if they ain’t.

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Above: Excerpt from “Horse Play” by Ben Mendelewicz and Char Esme.

Below: “All a Prisoner has is Time” by Esteban Neumann.

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Lastly, I bring your attention to FORMAL HOARD by Ben Mendelewicz

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This mini-zine is a collection of collages, with digital interiors and a screenprinted acetate cover.

Mendelewicz’s densely saturated collages seem in step with the collages of Björn Copeland, likely drawing samples from various magazine advertisements and other consumer artifacts from the last 20 years (perhaps a cereal box or a deck of pogs?). Importantly, the composition and balance of the collages keep the viewer from falling into a tunnel of over-stimulation and confusion, instead remaining a pleasant and manageable viewing-experience. A Formal Hoard, it is.

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Above: A page from “Formal Hoard”

Bottom Line: If you’re interested in the interaction between contemporary abstraction, digital art, and comics, get yourself a copy of SPIDER’S PEE-PAW and keep your eye on this crew for their future projects and progress into the vastly unexplored realm of the bizarre.

– LVW