Eat some paste!

*I may be sleepy, but you know what's beyond fatigue? LAST WEEK'S REVIEWS!!!

Gutsman Comics #2 and Accident Man #1 (of 3) (the former is a nice-looking silent superhero parable thing from the Netherlands, the latter is a smirkingly graphic assassin adventure - quite a pair)

Challengers of the Unknown #5 (of 6), Tom Strong #29, The Punisher #12

Ex Machina #5

Spawn #16-18, Skrull Kill Krew #1-5, Heartburst (Marvel Graphic Novel #10) (in order: Grant Morrison 'does' early Image, Morrison and a young Mark Millar tackle their first Marvel work in the US, and Rick Veitch gives us some early satire)

They'll keep performing as long as you need.

Steven #4-6

Flipping through my copy of Dave Schreiner's "Kitchen Sink Press: The First 25 Years" (released in 1994, shortly before the venerable alternative publisher was converted into ye olde candy shoppe by its shareholders) I keep running across mentions of "Steven" as a 'cult' comic, with little further elaboration on what exactly made it tick. Having come across three of Kitchen Sink's eight floppy collections of the weekly strip, I'm no closer to an explanation. "Steven" is the creation of Doug Allen, today a regular contributer to "Blab!" and keeper of a really impressive website. It ran in alternative papers since 1976, and Kitchen Sink's books began their compilation in 1989. Currently, Fantagraphics has two issues of a new "Steven" series out, but I'm unsure if the strip itself is still running anywhere.

Steven is a simple little fellow who likes to drink and hates a lot of things, particularly his annoying supporting cast. There's Steven's lazy pal Brock, the attention-starved bear (cat?) Woodrow, a nervous dog named Fifi Doodle who only wants his own strip to star in, and worst of all: the Plant, the world's most alcoholic potted cactus. There's many an adventure to be had with this crew, and the strip indulges in lengthy storylines, following the Plant around as he's captured by a mean dog, or presenting the supporting cast's quest to survive in the Real World after Steven fires the lot of them. It's not a gag strip. Characters often discuss how unfunny the strip is. I really can't imagine reading this in weekly installments; it'd be far too easy to totally lose track of what's going on, although the seemingly improvised plot twists might be better geared toward a gently confused audience more than anyone else.

With the emphasis on drinking and violence, the strip as discovered today all but begs comparison to Tony Millionaire's mighty "Maakies", which it may well have influenced. Allen in an attractive cartoonist, easily filling up space with detailed environments and attractive (not to mention highly unique) character designs. But he doesn't quite have the madman's skill of Millionaire, what with his staggering sense of architecture and his Segar-esque population and his hell-bent fascination with drinking and dying. Compared to this, the boozing and brawling of "Steven" seems almost genteel, and that proves to be a detriment when the storylines begin to drag, and they do.

But there's still something appealing about the little guy, now that his books are mostly out-of-print (including a best-of collection, also from Kitchen Sink). "Steven" is a bridge from the final glowing embers of the underground movement to the alternative humor books of today, and it holds up pretty well as a stand-alone strip. I wonder what comics the members of the cult of "Steven" are reading today. Perhaps those comics with a bit of "Steven" itself in its heart, which wouldn't form an insignificant body of works to choose from.