Drifting in from all over.

*I don't want this to get lost so - a nameless party posted quite a lot of Jessica Abel material in yesterday's comments on the topic of La Perdida, specifically in regards to changes made from the initial Fantagraphics serialization to the new Pantheon collected edition. Someone who happens to have both versions (unlike me) ought to do a nice comparison.

*Bathroom Humor Dept: Found on the wall of a men’s room in a chain bookstore:


Added beneath in another hand:

You’re in the right place!”

Folk art, folks.

Floatation Device #11

Always fascinating happening onto these things. Released in 2005 to little discernible fanfare amongst the larger comics community, this is a fine minicomic featuring new art by Kevin Huizenga, Jeffrey Brown, John Porcellino, Dylan Horrocks, Anders Nilsen, Gabrielle Bell, and many more - quite a line-up, and certain to be of interest to a good number of readers, though I have to say that it’s not necessarily the individual visions of these diverse creators that power the book. Rather, it’s writer Keith Helt that dominates the proceedings, since this is after all his zinester autobiography.

Yes, it’s an autobiographical comic about making zines - it’s also the latest issue of Helt’s Floatation Device zine (and gracious me, let’s not get into the semantics regarding ‘minicomics’ and ‘zines’), now filled to the brim with comics art, all stories scripted by Helt, providing in anecdotal fashion the writer’s origins and development as a maker of zines, and a participant in the according scene. The pamphlet itself remains a charmingly hand-crafted item - Ted May has provided some fun Jack Kirby and Murphy Anderson inspired silkscreened covers, wrapped around 64 pages of slightly uneven yellowish paper; my copy was apparently printed incorrectly, the inside-front cover material appearing inverted, which screws around a bit with the material on the last page, clearly meant to flow right onto the inside-back cover.

There’s two very big things the book has going for it - first, there’s that great line-up of artists. But all of that would probably have been for naught (given that these talents are apparently not writing their own stuff) had it not been for the second strength: Helt’s own aptitude for smart structure and emotionally involving writing. Every contribution of every artist in this book (and many of the contributors have more than one story) is positioned as its own anecdote; some are humorous one-page gags, others are little slices of living, and a few are wandering ruminations (Benjamin Chandler’s pieces prominently feature collage and images of aquatic life). But all of them add up, things moving largely in chronological order (apart of Huizenga’s lovely, scene-setting prelude) from Helt’s days as bargain bin digging high school comics fan to his eventual immersion in the community of zine and minicomic making. There’s quite a lot of good reflection throughout the book, acting both within the confines of the story (Helt’s journeys with his friends to the local comics store nicely reflect his later missions with Porcellino and Nilsen to the Underground Press Conference show - the search for kinship and artistic enlightenment being the connecting fibre) and without (Horrocks’ Pickle series is cited by Helt as a big early favorite - later, as Helt and Nilsen drag boxes of zines around, Horrocks provides the art).

And all throughout, there’s an emotional frankness that cuts right through to the reader - a pair of opening quotes by zine makers Jon Resh and Travis Fristoe speak of the communicative power of zines, as well as the personal investment that go into them, and Helt’s stories more than flesh those notions out. There’s no doubt by the end that Helt views his experiences as powerful ones, and he broadcasts that to the reader through both attractive scene-setting (an interlude taking place during the late shift at a gas station nicely depicts the memories that surround the creation of a favored piece of work) and direct address - as the final words of the final story say, “the best thing about doing zines in high school... was getting mail. it made me feel... less alone and more happy.” You can't get more overt than that, and it caps a lovely selection of scenes from a life trying to create, and loving to create. It surely helps that so many fine talents are handling the visuals, but this book is really a triumph of construction and a celebration of the act of making things, and sharing things. Sweet notion, and well-mounted. I ordered it here; it's only $5. Give it a look.