Print Reviews, 1997-1998

Print Reviews, 1997-1998 (Vol. 1 No. 4)

Penelope’s Pathetic Partnerships of Passion zine
An illustrated story (with a hand-coloured cover) of love gained and lost to Penelope, a 90’s Barbie-like 20-something art student. Now, I ditched Barbie and all things related years ago, but the irony is, the Barbie reference (not so much being blond-haired and blue eyed, but her ‘swirly-girlie-girl-ness) is what immediately drew me in and enticed me to pick up this comic/zine. I was charmed cover-to-cover. I recognized people I know in all of her delightfully rendered characters; the art-school boys, the hippy musician, the tattoo artist, and the girl in question: Penelope.
As for the story, Pathetic Partnerships drove one particular point home: we do really stupid things in the name of ‘love’.
(Victoria Stanton) (Tascha Parkinson, 20 St. Patrick #315, Toronto, Ont., M5T 2Y4 $2)

The Theatre Of Cruelty by Tessier & Lafleur
One of the most technically accomplished and dynamic teams in this city’s comics scene, Lafleur and Tessier fully deserve the publishing clout Fantagraphics has given them. Several previously published works are collected here along with a new one, To Chandra from Surya, their best story yet. There is no dialogue until about twenty pages in, yet it tells one hell of a story. The images keep a strong narrative moving quickly, clearly, and concisely. By the end I felt a sadness usually experienced after reading a long, good book, reluctant to admit it’s over. It’s a pleasure to keep reading it over and over, though, just to linger over the drawings, which are… well, only an example can describe them. Transcendant. (louis) (avail. in stores or $9.95 U.S. from Fantagraphics, 7563 Lake City Way NE, Seattle WA 98115-4218)

Jape, S. Bieri
Holy shit, did I laugh reading this thing. This guy has a hell of a knack for a good laugh, and can draw in seemingly every standard comic-strip style and then some. One strip about Popeye, the Saviour Man, had me doubled over. A small crowd is following Popeye, saying ‘Some say you are John the Baptist, others Elias, and others Jeremias or one of the Prophets.’ To his dismay, they keep following him. ‘But we say you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,’ they continue. Popeye, clearly annoyed, answers, ‘I Yam What I Yam!’
Really funny, really cheap, really well-drawn. Comics don’t get much better than that!
(louis) (several numbers avail. at 50 cents from Garlic Press, 1521 Hubbard #4, Detroit, MI 48209)

Burn Periodicals #1
This is a stellar debut by Tim McGregor which I must recommend because I feel guilty about even having it. Tim was checking out my table at Canzine and wanted to make a trade. Although I took home his Burn, he neglected to get anything in return. All I can do is give him this review. Burn is a finely produced, two colour offset comic book that is beautifully drawn in black ink. This first issue consists mostly of a story about youth culture in the fifties. A trio of teenage boys want to start a “rock and roll” band. The story is spooky in its nostalgic desire for an innocent past but manages to steer clear of sentimentality. It ends just before the nervous boys begin to play their first gig leaving me wanting the next issue. My favourite story is called “Deep Six.” A man wearing a diver’s bell on his head walks through town being mocked. He enters a diner but fails to eat lunch because the helmet blocks the access to his mouth. There is an ambiguous panel in which it appears the man may have stabbed one of the taunting townsfolk. He then goes home and hides behind the curtains. This strikes me as being very Hawthorne (check out The Minister’s Black Veil).
The silent outsider copes with loneliness and alienation, demonstrated by a single absurd act. The back cover is a great parody of comic book covers. In this debut McGregor tosses the prodigal sons, Existential and Nostalgic, from the third story window and into the fireman’s net so that they don’t burn.
(Andy Brown) ($2, 4 – 280 Lisgar St., Toronto ON M6J 3G9)

Awkword #4 zine
I like this zine a lot. The theme is elementary school (or is it High School?). The writing brought up all my own memories: the silly exercises they’d make us do in gym class, the one kid who seemed to throw up every week, the one teacher with the weird accent you’d later realize was American, etc. These experiences are the most common we share. All you have to do is change the names and they could be yours: ‘Plano didn’t have any real outdoors, ‘cept for the swampy high grass where the older kids hid their porno mags. These areas never lasted long, they usually got paved over.’
I was left wondering after reading this what happened to the solid kid-society we had back then, how come it never led to a solid society of adults. Wasn’t that what cramming us all into elementary school was for? Hmm. I guess what we have going in the Plateau comes pretty close to those old schoolyard societies of ours. We don’t work (not often for others, anyway), we don’t behave (well, not in the work-and-TV-watching sense), everyone knows each other and can hardly keep secrets (which is a good thing what with the diseases going around these days)… Now if only the rest of society could follow our example… (louis) (65 cents plus post., Adam, 3553 Aylmer #6, Montreal Que. H2X 2B9)

Une Affaire Gigogne, comic anthology
Line Gamache achieved what she set out to do, in spades: to show that women are instrumental in keeping Quebec’s thriving comics community alive. The large assortment of styles these eighteen women comic (or other) artists proves there is more variety in the women’s than in the men’s work in Montreal.
Helène Brosseau, a well-known sculptress, plays with the form of comics in a wacky two-pager exclaiming ‘What color is my parachute?’ Obom emerges as an incredible minimalist storyteller in ‘A room of my own, or The Green Monster,’ whose entirely unpredictable ending led up to by fast-paced storytelling made me laugh out loud. Leanne Franson is in her usual top form, with what’s comparatively the most conventional drawing style in the bunch but highly competent as always (as is her storytelling).
On first reading it, I thought maybe there was a lack of cohesion or flow, as the strips vary wildly from one to the other. Sophie Cossette’s raunchy one-panel gag strips could hardly have less in common with Sofie Fékété’s collage-art piece. This variety makes it good to pick up and read in short bits, though, and ends up making for a comics collection containing the most different forms
of comics I’ve ever seen. As for the content and themes, they run the gamut from pensive to wild, profound to absurd, with cheap shock value and pot-induced underground clichés pleasantly absent (I guess you’d mostly just see that in your usual male-comics anthologies). (louis) (send $6 to 1510 Aylwin, Montreal Que. H1W 3B7)

How To Be A Pet Activist zine
This is just a little promo ‘trader’ from the makers of Petzine. They’re obsessed with pets. They take submissions from anyone for their zine, as long as it involves pets. You can tell they’re artists, because a) they’re obsessed, and b) they work at 401 Richmond, where all artists in Toronto work. And because their zine is really cool. “How to be a pet activist: fart loudly, spread rumours, sniff your neighbour’s bum.”
(Vince Tinguely) (401 Richmond St. W., #358, Toronto, Ont. M5V 3A8. Free)

Tricycle Speed zine
Matt has been travelling through North America for awhile, and made this up to send to friends back in Australia (and to zine-making folks like me.) It’s a great collections of observations and experiences, this time from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City. Matt usually ends up where the real shit is happening. An excerpt: SAN FRANCISCO, Haight Ashbury district: …One couple lived on a mattress at the entranceway to the downtown subway, they would be there next to the paper machines at 6 pm curled up beneath their blankets, business people swarming around them dreaming or dreading of their homes in the suburbs. But all for a cause. “You’re just gonna blow it on beer” I jeered the not-too-old black guy asking for a buck coming back from the mission at about 2am, a long, not advised by the travel guides, walk back down town. “Yeaaghs thats right sir, If I’m sleeping out here I does need somtin to help me sleep. And if some punk gonna roll me in da middle o da night… I wanna be HIGH!”
…Going to the country is so relaxing. Off off ooofff I say I’m gone. The only person I know lives 3000 miles on the other coast and I need a hug. Details, Details, whatdaya want details for, I was just drivin OK smoking generic $1.50 cigarettes by the pack, driving through snow storms up to Reno, Nevada. (louis)

Booked Into Wartime by Andy Brown
In this collection of stories, various literary figures adopt new careers. It’s a great device for Brown’s freewheeling imagination to run riot. William Faulkner drives a cab and gets in an accident. Karl Marx sells used cars. What I particularily like about this book is the interweaving of plots; what happens in one story bleeds over into the next. And the thought of James Joyce being called ‘pencil arms’ by the boss of a construction crew seems so perfect. (Vince Tinguely) ($2 conundrum press, 266 Fairmount W., Montreal Que.)

Infiltration #6 zine
Infiltration is a very well-made specialty zine all about ‘going places you’re not supposed to go.’ So far, they’ve given the lowdown on getting into (and taking advantage of) hotels, hospitals, subways, and other places. Stories of the author’s experiences are presented as examples within the how-to narrative (complete with maps, sidebars and graphics.) This tone of writing gets a little dry after awhile, however. More full-out personal accounts of infiltrations would make this more readable.
The editor, Ninjalicious, comes off as a fairly well-off kid with lots of time to kill trespassing. It would be interesting (and add variety) if there was stuff from the point of view of real full-time trespassers- like homeless street kids who live in squats, for example. There are people out there who really need to know where to go to mooch free food, shelter, and services, and don’t just do it out of boredom.
Still, this is a young zine with a lot of potential, and it’s very much worth watching to see where it goes. It should be careful about giving away too many details, though, because as it is any security force which manages to find a copy of Infiltration would have the perfect guide for plugging all these holes in their security. And believe me—I won’t get into any details myself, but security forces can be pretty damn resourceful when it comes to things like that. For one thing, there’s no way in hell Ninjalicious should put any of this information online. (No one would be able to follow the zine’s advice for long if the editor did that.) (louis) ($1, Box 66069, Town Centre PO, Pickering ON L1V 6P7)

RIVET #12 zine
A great zine that proves there’s still a decent underground in Toronto. Quality cut-and-paste layout, a grab-bag of contents which is likely whatever people sent in, some good comics, some bad comics, and brutal honesty all around. None of that fancy computerized layout crap or laser-beamed covers here. Stephanie Fucktone writes a great three-page reminiscence of her Toronto punk days of yore, complete with a couple dozen vintage posters. It goes along perfect with the Montreal punk zine retrospective we had in our second issue! Editor Stacey Case gives a great lesson in screenprinting, really clear and thorough– a must-have for anyone making zines, posters or t-shirts. Then there’s cool comics, fun-to-read reviews- and it’s even got our old friend Corpusse in it! (louis) ($1, 689 Queen St. W., Box 193, Toronto ON, M6J 1E6)

SLAM #25 (subversive
literature & arts magazine)
I read an issue of SLAM a year ago and thought it sucked. That’s all I remember about it. This issue had more going for it. There’s the comics of Kurt Beaulieu, nifty anti-Harris stickers and posters (with the ‘collector’s edition’ only), and various diatribes against easy targets like the army and municipal politics in Toronto. Also informative was ‘How To Duck The Collection Agency’ by Skip Paiment, ‘How To Manage A Band’ by Queen Scarlet,’Titty Talk’, a tale of gruesome breast-reduction surgery by The Artiste Formerly Known As Titzilla, and translations from the original Latin of the foul-mouthed Roman poet Catullus, a contemporary of Julius Caesar, by Sue Doe.
(Vince Tinguely) (SLAM, 509 St. Clair Ave. W., PO Box 73585, Toronto ON M6C 1A1)

Thy Holy Handgrenade zine
Mainly this is about video games and other such things I know little about, like current TV cartoon shows. There’s something in the tone that makes it readable despite the subject matter, though. It’s engaging to hear someone talk about Scooby-Doo as if he was on aold friend when they’re being so honest. And that’s the funny part of this zine: people are being fully and completely honest and real about their experiences in fantasylands, which begs the question: is this the closest a lot of suburban kids come to having real, experience-filled lives in a community? I mean, they sound happy about all this, so how important is it to have real experiences as opposed to facsimiles of them? Are these facscimiles actually real experiences when experienced in the context of the suburban simulacrum? How much of our own “late twenty-something intellectualism” is based on such experiences anyway, except just with different TV shows & video games? Whatever it is, it’s honest accounts (like those in this zine) which could lead to a better understanding of young suburban living. Also, it’s zines like this you should read if you’re into video games (as well as pranks or animated cartoon shows.)
(louis) ($3 plus post., 4419 Carpenter Ave., Bronx, NY 10470-1417)

Temp Slave #10 zine
What can I say about Temp Slave? This long-running zine devoted to office slaves everywhere is always a great read, whether you’re a temporary or a permanent slave. This particular issue’s submissions were by accident mostly from women, although reads as if this modern office slavery is just bad regardless of your point of view. (Of course, the problem is men & women are equally treated as disposable sub-humans.)
There’s no bullshit here, these are all real people being dicked around for real, and ranting about it with real passion. Fun comics, nasty diatribes, good letters, and useful information make this one of the best examples of what a good zine is. Keep it up, Keffo! (louis) ($2US, PO 8284, Madison, WI, 53708-8284)

outside the jim carroll show
the opera house, Toronto, fri., june 20th, 1997
people wait by the doors. they wait like they’re trapped in windows.
there are sixteen year old boys with hair hanging down like ropes, one rope behind an ear.
they wait parallel to the hunched over thinning tree in the square of dirt. they’ve come alone. some have knapsacks, most have books in a fist, all of them chainsmoke.
cars drive by slowing down and stare. I am nonchalantly holding a dying pink rose.
I have brought my dad to feel young. my dad puts his hands in his pockets and rocks on his heels and asks me about my future close to my face. a couple sneaks up the side stairs. they come back saying it’s all offices. a guy offers me a seat on the curb.
every night lately the stars have been hooked on the sky but tonight they may be ripped off. people start moving like champagne. the bouncer marks large wilting black Xs on the back of my hands that I will keep for days. the boy in front of us has a pea coat jacket and shows an american passport for ID and my dad thinks he is a sailor.
my dad can’t believe the loneliness and maybe I’ve finally shown him something.
inside, the sailor stops at a standing table, leaving his jacket on. a girl by friends laughs over to him with an unlit cigarette. she pretends she’s too drunk already to catch the flame and lingers.
he half smiles but she has gone and he drags back his heavy head waiting for the sound of approaching footsteps on the stage above. (Golda Fried)

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