How The West Was Fun : Nate Garcia’s “Gecko”

It may not be today, and it may not be tomorrow, but the law of averages dictates that one of these days, Nate Garcia is just gonna take this whole thing too far. His comics about tennis-shoes-wearing cowboy Alanzo Sneak, his horse Sheena for whom he harbors an unhealthy longing and/or obsession, and their anthropomorphic dog pal Huff Deely have consistently straddled the fence between humorously cheesy and downright queasy (with generous side helpings of sleazy and uneasy for good measure), but he’s got this uncanny ability to take you right to the edge and then reel you — and his characters — back in. There’s a frisson of real tension that undercuts these intentionally lame (and, therefore, hilarious) humor strips, but he’s managed to keep the darker impulses of both himself and his coterie of less-than-lovable losers in check. Still, he’s only 21 years old or something — give him time.

And I have to admit, speaking for myself, that I’m curious to see what his iteration of “too far” is going to look like. The overtly “cartoony” nature of his — well, of his cartooning — more or less guarantees that sharp edges are blunted upon delivery, but in a weird way that makes his shit seem even more amoral : like, this is a guy who probably could show a man and a horse making the old beast with two backs (or should that be bestiality with two backs?) and somehow find a way to make the whole thing seem as hysterical as it would be nauseating.

Still, why worry about future eventualities when the present offers such damn good strange fun? And Garcia’s latest, Gecko, certainly is that — not a whole lot happens story-wise, it’s true, but that’s entirely beside the point. Garcia (with a one-page assist at the back of this one from Goiter‘s Josh Pettinger) is more about atmospherics and tonality than narrative ambition, more about the cohesive experience than its reductive elements. The whole has always been greater than the sum of its parts with this Philly-based enfant terrible, and that’s as true as ever here — although those parts deserve special mention.

Specifically, with this new comic Garcia has thrown off the yoke of the magazine format (not that we object to said format around these parts, mind you, but it’s nice to see a self-publishing cartoonist venture out of their comfort zone sometimes) in favor of the old-school A5 (I think, at any rate) ‘zine, and this time he’s opted for a riso-printed cover and full-color interiors. Purely as a physical object, then, this both looks great and feels good to flip through — which rather belies its decidedly modern origins as an Instagram “swipe-though” comic. In fact, petty as it makes me sound, I sorta hope this thing looked like shit on Instagram (I didn’t see it since I don’t have an account on there), because this feels like exactly the right “delivery method” for this material.

As far as what that material consists of, in short : Alanzo stomps on a Gecko, an anthropomorphic Gecko who works at a hamburger stand takes exception to this act of brutality against one of its brethren and — ya know what, I don’t want to give away the fucked-up “joke” that comes after that, so let’s just say Alanzo ends up sicker than hell and leave it at that. And if all that sounds like flimsy grounds to extrapolate a 20-plus-page story from, well — technically speaking you’re absolutely right, but Garcia’s led an extremely charmed life up to now in his still-nascent cartooning career, and that pattern holds true here. There are a couple of punchy little backup strips, as well, so all in all it’s gotta be said that reading this — and oohing and aahing at the art — is a great time.

So go on, pick it up and have precisely that. Nate Garcia is one of our weirder and more wonderful comics auteurs of the moment, and there’s no reason to feel the least bit guilty about liking his impeccably-drawn, curiously folksy bizarre surrealist humor. Not yet, at least.


Gecko is available for $10.00 from Nate Garcia’s Bigcartel site at

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Short Film Review: A Little Dead (dir by Ben Richardson)

On a farm in Oklahoma, an old man who we get know as being Grandpa (Jack C. Hays) sits at a dinner table.  Though he seems to be alone, he’s got three glasses of wine sitting in front of the other chairs, along with with a glass for himself.  

Things haven’t been easy for Grandpa since Grandma passed away.  His two grandchildren, Hailey (Eden McGuire) and Kevin (Ben Richardson, who also directed the film) arranged for a caretaker to live with him but, when they stop by for a visit, they discover that the caretaker has vanished and Grandpa seems to be convinced that there are people sitting at the table with him.  When his grandchildren try to clean up the table, he snaps at them not to touch anyone’s drinks.  There’s a ritual going on and his well-meaning grandchildren better not interrupt it.  At times, Grandpa seems to be perfectly lucid.  At other times, he expresses surprise when Kevin tells him that it’s not a good idea to keep a big box of rat poison with all of the cereal.  Is Grandpa losing it or is there something else happening that only he can understand? 

Clocking in at a little over 10 minutes (not including the end credits) and deliberately paced without ever being slow, A Little Dead is a nicely atmospheric piece of country gothic.  On the one hand, it is a story of a man who may or may not be living with spirits.  On the other hand, I think it can be argued that the film is also a metaphor for the mixed emotions that many people have about the feelings of responsibility that they feel towards older relatives and the guilt that comes from feeling that maybe they were not there as much as they should have been.  There’s a lot of people like this film’s Grandpa, who are living alone and who are only occasionally visited by younger family members who are, for the most part, checking in to see if they still have their mind and if they’re still capable of taking care of themselves.  Is Grandpa talking to actual “people” at the table or is he just talking to the lingering memories of the people who used to be there?  And are his grandchildren correct to be concerned about him or are they just dealing with their own feelings of guilt?

A Little Dead is also an enjoyable little horror story.  It’s the type of story that you would might expect to find in an old horror comic book, complete with a nice little twist at the end.  The film makes good use of that old farmhouse and the desolate country landscape.  If you have spent anytime in the rural midwest, you will immediately recognize the film’s milieu.  If there were ghosts to be found, that’s definitely where they would probably be living.

This is one to keep an eye out for.  Pour yourself a glass and relax with A Little Death.