Comics Time: Crickets #3

Crickets #3
Sammy Harkham, writer/artist
self-published, December 2010
52 pages
$8
Buy it from PictureBox

In the past I’ve said the the solo alternative comic-book anthology series works great as an opportunity for developing cartoonists to experiment in front of an audience on a regular basis. That’s certainly true. But it also works great as a showcase for a confident, experienced cartoonist to show off his chops at a manageable but still considerable length — a star turn, if you will. Think the last two issues of Eightball, for example. And think Crickets #3. The bulk of this self-published issue of Sammy Harkham’s solo showcase is occupied by “Blood of the Virgin,” the story of a week in the life of a harried young father and hack in the stable of a fictionalized version of Roger Corman’s American International Pictures who really wants to make films, goddammit. It’s Harkham’s longest and richest exploration yet of his go-to themes: family as a series of unignorable demands on one’s time and emotions, and ethics and morality as a manifestation of how we deal with those demands. It offers him a seamless way to integrate the horror and trash-cinema influences he’s long displayed in comics like “Poor Sailor” and “Black Death” with the literary fiction he’s always championed as editor of Kramers Ergot but which has been overshadowed by that anthology’s artcomix and genre pastiches, not to mention his own. It gives him a shot at an Ignatz Series-style canvas in terms of trim size and two-color printing. It offers us page after page of his deeply pleasurable cartooning, which in its feathery line and dot-eyed clown-nosed character designs and alternately sinuous and bulbous lettering recalls old-timers like Gray and Segar and young turks like Crane and Huizenga while aping none of them. It enables him to sneak in non-narrative, artcomix-influenced visual flourishes completely diagetically — fog enshrouding a neighborhood during the small hours, a mushy plaster cast making a melted nightmare out of someone’s face, frank and kinky depictions of sexuality. It’s basically a just plain terrific alternative comic.

6 Responses to Comics Time: Crickets #3

  1. Pat says:

    Yup, great, great stuff.

    Was I the only one shocked at how much more mature it was than Crickets #2? Not that I don’t love #2 to bits, and not that I think it’s “immature” in a negative way, but man, was I surprised at how much more “grown-up” this one felt.

  2. Oh, nice. I saw this in the store the other day and was like “ooooh what’s THIS” but didn’t really get to fully investigate. Will buy it soon, give it a go.

  3. COOP says:

    This book is AMAZING. I think Sammy is the best guy out there right now – this book was incredible.

  4. [...] Crickets #3 by Sammy Harkham (self-published): As rock-solid a showcase of alternative comics as you’re likely to find, centered on a story about life as a low-level hack in Roger Corman’s ’60s/’70s movie factory. [...]

  5. brad mackay says:

    An insightful review of a great — yet overlooked? — comic. Halfway through this I thought, Why didn’t D+Q publish this as a SC graphic novel? Or, FBI as a Ignatz-style book (as you so keenly observed above)? Kudos to Sammy for self-published this, but you can’t help but think he’s long since graduated from floppies n’est pas (even if they are beautifully produced floppies.)

    • Thanks, Brad! And I would guess that if it’s been overlooked, it has more to do with how it was released than anything else, really. It came out in December at a very limited number of retailers — granted, nearly every comics critic on the East Coast attended the BCGF show where it debuted, but even still, it was always gonna be an uphill battle getting it into enough hands for there to be a critical mass of reviews.