Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This week(?) in small press

I don't wind up exposing myself to much small press. It's not that I don't love comics enough to search out that which is not in the mainstream, it's just that I don't have the time or energy to do it as often as I'd like. Buying comics in the mainstream is easy, finding out about what's coming out, reading about creators you like and what they're up to is simple, knowing where to find new books is a no brainer.

The small press is littered with literally tens of thousands of wannabes, most consisting of delusional writers and artists who think they're better than they really are. That's not to say they can't get better, but in order to get better they need to work, and sometimes in the process they let out a lot of the rough stuff. Hell some of those guys slip into the mainstream far too early producing dubious art or stories barely worth the coin or attention.

But I'm going off track. Last week's Toronto Fan Expo exposed me to a few small press comics, Canadian at that, worthy of more attention than just sitting on a table being ignored by the masses:
(apologies for the image quality, I don't have a scanner)

Squared Circle by Dave Howlett
I was doing some searching about on the Google looking for more details on Dave Howlett's Squared Circle but not finding much. I did, however learn two things about Mr. Howlett: 1) he is the manager of the awesome Halifax comic book store Strange Adventures and 2) he is a contributor to the awesome blog Living Between Wednesdays. Add to that he's the inker on the awesome G.I. Joe send-up Snakor's Pizza and the man is a triple threat of awesomeness.

Make that a quadruple threat, because Squared Circle itself is pretty damn awesome. The planned 5-issue series takes the reader back to the early 1980's wrestling culture, just as wrestling was on the cusp of becoming a cultural phenomenon. The wrestling federation in the book is a WWF analog, but it's not a straight satire or parody of Vince McMahon and company (more "The Wrestler" and less "Nacho Libre"), instead Howlett uses it as inspiration to tell behind-the-scenes tales of wrestlers, their managers, and the commercialization of their "sport".

Howlett's art is solid, if unassuming at first, but he draws methodically planned out, and strategically executed wrestling sequences that, as witnessed in the panels above, use creative and exciting angles that TV cameras could never get in the squared circle. This book should be much sought after by any wrestling fan, especially those who were really into the WWF as a kid, but it's appeal could even extend to fans of behind-the-scenes shows like "The West Wing" or "Sports Night".
(This issue and subsequent can be ordered by contacting shop-at-strangeadventures-dot-com).


Harry + Silvo by Eric Orchard
I have a new artist to add to my favourites list. Eric Orchard's Harry + Silvo ashcans landed before me by happenstance but one look and I was transfixed by his wonderful little creations. Two books, the first "Harry + Silvo fish for garbage", the second "Harry + Silvo + The Girl in the Purple Boat" run a total of 20 pages, each a stand-alone micro-story told stream-of-consciousness style, and are meticulously illustrated in a gorgeous line style reminiscent of Sonny Liew or Skottie Young.

Harry is a bear, Silvo a raccoon, and together they have quirky little (and I do mean little) adventures in the clouds above the Earth. Orchard manages to convey a deliriously grand scope in his illustrations, having an eclectic charm like the elaborate stage backdrops in early 20th century silent films. By the sounds of things over on Orchard's blog there's more Harry + Silvo on the way, which, if you haven't guessed yet, is a very good thing.


Lemuria by Adam Prosser
It seems rather self-serving to pimp the work of friends and colleagues, but at the same time, I like to think I have enough integrity to promote only that stuff which I'm enthused about. Both Devon and I have been working with Adam Prosser for a few years now over at Thor's Comic Column, and like all of the gang there he writes a hell of a review. Also like much of the gang, Adam is an aspiring writer and artist, telling his tales primarily on-line and having seen some of his work, I knew he was getting pretty good at it. I had no idea just how good he already was.

Lemuria is a black and white print collection of the first story (available on-line, in color) with a special print-only back-up story. Adam's art is absolutely solid. He's defined a definite personal cartooning style (mid-way between Anime and Disney), and his line is incredibly confident (this is even more evident in black and white than on-line). His detail work is tight and the body language and facial expressions of his characters have impeccable comedic timing. I'm not only impressed, but envious at how good he is.

Lemuria takes place in a fantasy land of long ago with barbarians and sorcerers and evil demons, all rife for comedic exploitation. The story's main character is Sorcera, a teenaged girl at a magic school who doesn't fit in. Pining out on the balcony one day, she encounters Swordi, a full-figured, cheerful version of the Red Sonja/barbarienne stereotype, who is attacking the school believing it to be a evil stronghold full of treasure. She's partly right. With genuinely witty repartee and a more-sly-than-overt play on various fantasy genres, Lemuria plays out like an estrogen-loaded counterpart to Evanier and Aragones' Groo.

To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was delighted by his creation, one which is honestly deserving of much wider exposure than just self-publishing.

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