I may yet have more than three posts on this site in the next week. Sheesh.

*What I am about to do is necessary.


REVIEW PILE LIBERATION CAMPAIGN #1 (aka: the Prom Night to Tom Spurgeon's Halloween)


Johnny Boo Vol. 1: The Best Little Ghost in the World! (James Kochalka; Top Shelf, 40 pgs, $9.95): This'll be out pretty soon; it's the first in a planned series of hardcover comics for kids, and it's ok enough. Kochalka's pulsing colors and curvy, grinning characters are as good a fit as any for a book about happy ghosts who fly around, play games and make friends with a scary(?) ice cream monster while threatening to mint catchphrases from mentions of Squiggle Power! and Boo Power! There's also a barf joke, and lots of exclamatory dialogue that will doubtlessly sound better when read aloud to your lil' fraction of the target audience, although I wonder how the occasional self-aware glibness will play at bedtime? I guess that's for the parents.

I'd also like to guess that there's not a ton of appeal here for adults without tykes (or a diehard appreciation of Kochalka's visual approach), but that's the kind of thinking that Owly loves to rend with his deadly talons, so let me also say that there's an almost determined simplicity at work here, one that borders on condescension but never quite tumbles over, mostly due to the exuberance of the drawings conveying some sense of a goofy dad spinning a yarn. As a result, you, adult reader, might feel as distanced as I did; the comic doesn't seem complete when the only reader is your adult self.


Robot Vol. 4 (Range Murata, ed; Udon, 172 pgs, $29.95): In which design superstar Murata continues his quest to discover which of Japan's manga, anime and video game talents can blend the glossiest colors and the dullest storytelling into the most perfect comic-like capsule of otaku pandering. This US edition is currently six volumes behind the Japanese release, and consequently still in the 'lookit my ass' phase of cover design, but don't think the anxiety sweat will cool once you're past the cash register! No, the insides all but pulse with horrible magic, be it the comedy short that ends with a girl and her gym bloomers drenched in squid cum, or the beautiful saga of a lecherous ghost puddle that sits on a stairway to ogle little girls' panties - turns out the only way to defeat the ghost is for little girls to not wear any panties under their dresses! Ha ha, one million thanks, Robot, for the solution to that riddle! It all might have been Johnny Ryanish if it weren't so skeevy-yet-cutesy-poo.

It's almost a relief to elsewhere run into simpler, Heavy Metal things, like the adventures of a warrior woman in a black bustier who has mildly coherent flashbacks accessed via a naked evil woman kissing her with her tongue, or the tale of a young boy who goes to the forest and encounters a swarm of super-stacked pixies cavorting stackedly amidst the trees (and... that's the whole tale). I mean, don't get me wrong - if all you want is colorful graphics spattered over bland evocations of 'free-spirited youth,' 'the joy of creation,' and 'that guy from Wolverine: Soultaker drawing badasses,' you might have some fun. Yumi Tada starts up an ok-seeming coming of age story, and Yoshitoshi ABe's aimless dungeon-crawl serial is at least memorably creepy in a body-horror way, as opposed to memorably creepy in a See Above way.

As for me, I'm inevitably going to pause to bury my face in my palms as I run into some double-page spread like Vinyl Gothic Dress 2, where the drawn model looks so helpless and alarmed and altogether moé that it seems less a fashion shoot than an accident at the shower curtain factory during an elementary school field trip, and the paramedics aren't getting there fast enough. I don't know Japanese or anything, but this series is certainly the most eloquent statement I've encountered in favor of manga, as an art form, rising up to acknowledge the sexuality-and-gender peccadilloes of the 21st century otaku audience, then running in the opposite direction as fast as it possibly can.


Hyperbox #1 (William Cardini; minicomic, 20 pgs, $3.00): A simple, fun little comic; it's about some bearded guy who finds himself zapped away to the HYPERVERSE, then gets in trouble with a HYPERGAWD while visiting the transdimensional HYPERCASTLE of the MIIZZARD. Plenty of weird, fleshy curls and pointy spires on these pages, most of which are panel-free dollops of inky scene, surrounded by white. I liked the attempts to use lettering as unique, responsive elements of page design, but it's not all fitting together just yet. Still, if I'd picked this up at a con table it'd have made me smile.


Mineshaft #21 (Everett Rand & Gioia Palmieri, ed; Mineshaft, 48 pgs, $6.95): I always like reading through this small, scattershot zine, guided by seemingly nothing but the willingness of the editors to allow their prominent list of correspondents a forum to follow their interests, or to a give a little something over to print. Bill Griffith drops off an autobiographical Zippy strip, Robert Crumb offers some sketchbook pages (one's on the cover), Christoph Mueller & Joe Coleman discuss the nature of terror... it's welcoming in its clutter. I suspect the format helps.

This is a more text-heavy issue than usual, and suffers a bit from a lack of Crumb's and Kim Deitch's fine, rambling letters, but I still enjoyed J.R. Helton's slice of coke-fueled early '80s youth living, and William Crook, Jr.'s mini-manifesto on drawing scenes from a small, fading city, with several detailed samples provided. There's also a Harvey Pekar/Mary Fleener comics collaboration on the life of Beat personality Diane di Prima, primed to tie in with Last Gasp's recent book of di Prima's letters, and a Jay Lynch/Ed Piskor strip about a 1968 trip to meet Chester Gould. And if you don't like any of that, there's about five other things ready to spring out, almost all of it worth the modest demand on your reading time. It's good to know that things like this still exist, and for 21 issues.