Posts Tagged ‘Josh Simmons’

Comics Time: Exorcise Book and Habit #1

Monday, December 16th, 2013

I wrote about two of my favorite comics from 2013, Heather Benjamin’s Exorcise Book and Josh Simmons’s Habit #1, for Zainab Akhtar’s year-in-review series at Comics & Cola.


Comics Time: Flayed Corpse

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Flayed Corpse
Josh Simmons, writer/artist
Oily Comics, 2012
12 pages
$1
Buy it from Oily

I reviewed Flayed Corpse by Josh Simmons for The Comics Journal. Happy Holidays!


Comics Time: Mome Vol. 22: Fall 2011

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Mome Vol. 22: Fall 2011
Zak Sally, Kurt Wolfgang, Jordan Crane, Chuck Forsman, Steven Weissman, Sara Edward-Corbett, Laura Park, Tom Kaczynski, Joe Kimball, Jesse Moynihan, Josh Simmons, The Partridge in the Pear Tree, Malachi Ward, Eleanor Davis, James Romberger, Derek Van Gieson, Michael Jada, Tim Lane, Nate Neal, Wendy Chin, Anders Nilsen, Tim Hensley, Lilli Carré, T. Edward Bak, Nick Drnaso, Joseph Lambert, Paul Hornschemeier, Sergio Ponchione, Nick Thorburn, Dash Shaw, Ted Stearn, Jim Rugg, Victor Kerlow, Noah Van Sciver, Gabrielle Bell, writers/artists
Eric Reynolds, editor
Fantagraphics, 2011
240 pages
$19.99
Buy it from Fantagraphics
Buy it from Amazon.com

For today’s Comics Time review, please visit The Comics Journal.


Comics Time: Mome Vol. 21: Winter 2011

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Mome Vol. 21: Winter 2011
Sergio Ponchione, The Partridge in the Pear Tree, Josh Simmons, Dash Shaw, Steven Weissman, Kurt Wolfgang, Sara Edward-Corbett, Nicolas Mahler, Tom Kaczynski,
Josh Simmons, Jon Adams, Nate Neal, T. Edward Bak, Michael Jada, Derek Van Gieson, Nick Thorburn, Lilli Carré, writers/artists
Eric Reynolds, editor
Fantagraphics, 2011
112 pages
$14.99
Buy it from Fantagraphics
Buy it from Amazon.com

It was the best of Momes, it was the worst of Momes. Alright, that’s not quite accurate, and not quite fair, either. But this unwittingly penultimate issue of Fantagraphics’ long-running alternative-comics anthology — page for page the longest-running such enterprise in American history! — is a hit-or-miss affair in the mighty Mome manner. In the miss column you can place Sergio Ponchione’s bombastic, cartoony fantasy about an imaginary childhood friend brought to life; there’s really not much more to it than that description would indicate. Ditto Kurt Wolfgang’s next “Nothing Eve” chapter, which continues to work the “people still act pretty much the same even though the end of the world is coming” buttons it’s been mashing since issue #1. T. Edward Bak’s “Wild Man” remains awkwardly paced due to its split-up narrative captions; Nicolas Mahler’s autobio strip remains of limited interest to people not Nicolas Mahler; Lilli Carré’s contribution is nicely colored in reds and blues but otherwise insubstantial.

A few contributions are both hit and miss at once. Sara Edward-Corbett’s near-wordless reverie involving inanimate objects romping around the outside of a house comes across more inscrutable than mysterious, but at the same time her crosshatching and linework are an absolute marvel, and she’s playing with forms (and with form) in a fashion reminiscent of John Hankiewicz, if not as successful. Steven Weissman’s deadpan “Barack Hussein Obama” strips fall flat when they merely parody the rhythms of four-panel gag comics, but spring to surreal and oddly scathing life when he injects a healthy dose of the sinister supernatural into them. I’ve never quite cottoned to the way Jon Adams’s razor-thin line and labored-over character renderings sit against the large white expanses of his pages, and his writing feels overwrought to me, but he does give his blackly humorous tale of a hunting expedition gone bad a laugh-out-loud visual punchline. And Nate Neal’s caveman morality play makes much better use of his meaty cartooning than his lukewarm slice-of-lifers do, though the conceit of gibberish dialogue from the cavepeople conceals more than it illuminates.

So that leaves the hits, and they’re strong enough to make the book worth checking out. Dash Shaw continues his seemingly ongoing series of adaptations of “reality” programming, this time an excerpt from a making-of documentary about Jurassic Park; he has a really sharp and off-kilter eye for people observing and commenting on their own behavior for a camera, and his transition from talking heads to full documentary “footage” is a gleeful one. Nick Thorburn’s take on Benjamin Franklin, a first-person monologue in which Ben lets us in on a dirty little secret, is anachronistically absurd (“In Seventeen-Sumthin’-Er-Other, right before I invented electricity and just after I’d sired my illegitimate son, I received an e-mail from Lord Sandwich about comin’ to London to take part in this new secret society known as ‘The Hellfire Club.’”) and very funny, with a great undergroundy character design for Franklin himself. Derek Van Gieson’s murky World War II period piece continues to stun from page to page. Tom Kaczynski examines home ownership during terminal-stage capitalism as only he can, casting it as a catalyst for powerful erotic and apocalyptic impulses and proving himself once again to be one of the most stealthily sexy cartoonists working today. “Stealthy” isn’t a word I’d use for Josh Simmons, but he doesn’t need it: His weird psychedelic fantasia on racism “The White Rhinoceros” is as bold and bulldozing as the giant slugs who stampede across its pages, and the elliptically concluded short story “Mutant” ends with an image of an enraged creature in the form of a human female, her nude body shadowed but covered in glistening sweat, that may as well symbolize the workings of Simmons’s entire brain. You gotta take the rough to find the diamonds.


Comics Time: Jessica Farm (January 2008-April 2011)

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Jessica Farm (January 2008-April 2011)
Josh Simmons, writer/artist
self-published, June 2011
40 pages
$8 (including shipping)
Buy it from Josh Simmons

If there’s a cartoonist working today who more reliably, ruthlessly, and relentlessly exploits his own strengths with each new release than Josh Simmons, I’ve yet to encounter him. Witness this self-published slice of Jessica Farm, a 600-page graphic novel Simmons is drawing one page a month for a projected fifty years. Volume One was published by Fantagraphics in April 2008, (the back cover of this minicomic installment reads “Volume 2 coming 2016″), and already the contrast with the involving but formless original is striking. Instead of taking us on sort of “It’s a Small World” ride through various disconnected images of dreamlike horror and weirdness, Simmons here uses his rubric of a teenage girl meeting strange invaders and residents on the sprawling family estate to keep us rooted to the same two places: a bare room where a trio of goat-people called the Smiths are brutalizing a boogeyman akin to the one that Jessica encountered in Vol. 1, and the field outside where they eventually do battle with an army of the creatures. The book feels much more focused for the lack of literal wandering. Moreover, within these established confines, Simmons can get much more mileage out of his astutely choreographed action sequences. In the first half of the book, two dramatic attacks are dependent on our feel for how large the room is and how long it takes characters to get from one side to the other, and Simmons crafts that space so well that you can practically hear the scrambling footfalls. A later sequence involves charging horses and bounding beasts, depicted in a succession of widescreen panels that keep the action dead center in each one, a restrained presentation of very visceral material.

And I don’t know how it’s possible, but the pacing is remarkable for a book drawn with thirty days between each page. It’s reversal after reversal: These Smiths are scary, no wait, they’re friendly; they’ve got the upper hand on their captive, no wait, it’s got the upper hand on them, no wait, I was right the first time; they’re attacking a couple of monsters, no wait, they’re outnumbered a hundred to one, so what, they’re still going to win. It has a propulsive feel to it that Vol. 1 lacked.

Simmons’s usual talents are in evidence here as well. From the title creatures in “Night of the Jibblers” and “Jesus Christ” to the witches and ogres of “Cockbone” to the Godzilla-sized pink slug in The White Rhinoceros, he’s developing one of the best bestiaries in comics, and the “skrats” at the center of this story fit right into that menagerie. They come in black and white varieties here, and in great numbers by book’s end, allowing Simmons’s ever smoother inks (reproduced beautifully here, by the way) to evoke everything from Spy vs. Spy to David B. to that Escher drawing with the fish and the birds. And like most of Simmons’s monsters, they’re a discomfiting combination of flesh and fangs that makes you feel that being attacked by one of them would be not just deadly but grotesquely intimate, like being mauled by a giant scrotum studded with razor blades. The characters we meet are similarly creepy, using Simmons’s standard and still unnerving combination of over-the-top aw-shucks friendliness and violent, obscene threats and exclamations, like a beloved uncle you suddenly realize you don’t want to be alone with anymore. Lovely cartooning, icky horror, and a battle scene that’ll likely top anything else you see this year, for eight dollars total? No way you should wait till 2016.