All sorts of Paper.

*So I’ve already spent far too much time playing around on Paper Rad’s website, and I thought I should throw it up here, in case anyone hasn’t heard of it. Paper Rad is an art collective composed of Jacob Ciocci, Jessica Ciocci and Ben Jones; Jones has been all over the place in various anthologies like “Blood Orange” and “Kramer’s Ergot”, and I usually find his humor delightful, particularly when his slightly awkward, smirking characters are displayed in painful color. I guess ‘neo-primitive’ is a semi-decent title to apply to Paper Rad’s work, at least ‘primitive’ in terms of conscious web design aesthetic. But there’s something a little too coherent about the structure of the site, and the retina-razing neon shit impulse is a little too calculated for me to really call it truly basic or anything (I‘m not sure if the ‘no design is new design’ theory really applies here); there‘s an obvious pulse of intelligence behind this that sets it apart from the sort of thing you‘d find linked at the bottom of Something Awful front-page update. With all of the 80’s videogame music and old cartoon characters, I’d call it ‘nostalgia plus’ or something, a celebration of youth’s garbage presented with all of the chaos of the fallible mind intact, and maybe a knowing acceptance of the impossibility of replication given limited personal resources (or at least given a reliance on limited resources, MS Paint and the like). It’s a palatable means of utilizing nostalgia in design, at least for me; I picked up on the same feel running through “Kramer’s Ergot 4”, although that particular anthology was varied enough in tone that it only seemed like an undercurrent.

So anyway, I think the site is a lot of fun. Once you find the cartoons, the first Gumby one is the best.

*On that note, I also finally got around to ordering the latest “Paper Rodeo”, issue #18. “Paper Rodeo”, for those who’ve not heard, is an intermittently released b&w newsprint comics anthology out of Providence, RI, resembling a free weekly newspaper at first glance, and it is indeed free to locals. It’s largely maintained by members of the Fort Thunder artistic community, who first came to my attention through Tom Spurgeon’s exhaustive overview in the Comics Journal #256. The publication features mostly comics, most of them unsigned and uncredited, with hand-drawn or roughly assembled ads for local bars and music stores and things relegated to the second and next-to-last pages. I sort of enjoy these ads more than many of the comics; I have a really weird and positive reaction to handcrafted (or maybe handcopied) ads for places that I’m certain almost nobody who’s not living in the immediate environs has heard of.

The cover’s by Ron Rege Jr., one of his rougher, looser pieces, but still as rigorously symmetrical as many of the artist‘s other single-page layouts. Inside we get some continuing features, like Mat Brinkman’s “MultiForce”, an amusing and imaginative fantasy thing with weird monsters (not wholly unlike those of Brinkman’s “Teratoid Heights”, just more talkative) fighting and journeying around. There’s another continuing feature by Brian Chippendale (of the forthcoming "Maggots" collection) which I’m not even sure has a title, but I picked up on returning characters from the other “Paper Rodeo” I have (#16) and I certainly recognized the little set of reading instructions included off to the side which accompany many of Chippendale‘s works. There’s quite a bit of adventurous fantasy and action moving through “Paper Rodeo”, actually, and both of these serials have surprisingly straightforward plots and characterizations, but coupled with Brinkman’s uniquely organic character and environment designs, and Chippendale’s sharp, inky, breathless style.

I picked up a few more recognizable styles here and there (like the aforementioned Mr. Jones’), but the lack of credit for most of the work only encourages looking at “Paper Rodeo” as a single entity rather than a collection of individual stories, sometimes a difficult prospect for someone with an urge to compartmentalize anthology entries, like myself. Many of the comics included within don’t have traditional stories, or at least traditional story development (the entries by some of the more immediately recognizable artists providing an interesting contrast). I sometimes find myself losing concentration as I read through all of these comics, the level of quality varying even more wildly than in the average anthology. One can only enjoy so many collages of archetypical comics/pop culture figures or stories presented entirely as photocopied pages from a spiral notebook or groupings of words and drawings forming human heads before you sort of burn out on the whole thing. It’s strange; I feel like I should be experiencing the work in small doses, but the ephemeral nature of the publication seems to invite quick reading, and swift decay.

But I also think it’s impossible to not at least admire the very existence of “Paper Rodeo”, a 22-page publication of new comics by a wide variety of established and young talent released a couple times per year at a very low price. Again, it's free if you happen to live around Providence, and the rest of the US can order a copy themselves for only the cost of shipping. It was only $1 when the Journal covered it, but postal charges have gone up, so you should send $1.50 or something to Paper Rodeo headquarters at:

Paper Rodeo
P.O. Box 321
Providence, RI 02901

It’s the kind of thing that’s worth at least a sample.