A Lot Going For “It”

Trash Film Guru

As a general rule of thumb, when you give Stephen King material the “Spielberg Treatment,” good things happen — just ask Rob Reiner, who did it twice and found critical and box office success on both occasions. Admittedly, the opportunities to make nominally “family-friendly” populist blockbusters based on novels by a guy billed as the “Master of Horror” are few and far between, but still — when you can find ’em, you gotta take ’em. Especially when there’s (for reasons I can’t really fathom, but that’s neither here nor there) a bona fide 1980s revival going on. So, yeah, in a very real sense, director Anthony Muschietti’s cinematic adaptation of It has all the pop culture stars aligned in its favor. And yet —

Plenty of other sure-fire “successes” that were served up equally easy slow pitches over the middle of the plate somehow managed to swing and miss, didn’t they?…

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“The Bloody Cardinal” : Richard Sala’s Mystery Theater — Of The Absurd

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Some cartoonists are so good at “what they do” — at telling the kinds of stories that fit within a niche they’re not only carved out, but created from whole cloth, for themselves — that you feel no particular urge as a reader to see them “branch out” or “try something different” because there’s so much fertile ground waiting to be explored within the thematic and, dare I say it, philosophical territory that they already call their own. Kim Deitch springs immediately to mind here, of course, but so do names as historically and stylistically disparate as Jesse Jacobs, Mark Beyer, Joe Sacco, and Drew Friedman — and so does Richard Sala.

How long has Sala been at it now? Something like three decades? And yet he consistently finds ways to make his unique combination of Hitchcockian psychological thriller, Poirot-esque whodunnit, occult high weirdness, Samuel Beckett absurdism, and understated…

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Listening To “Your Black Friend”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

By the time you read this, odds are better than good that Ben Passmore will have an Ignatz Award with his name stamped on it, as well he should — his early-2017 Silver Sprocket release, Your Black Friend, is a leading contender in the “Outstanding Comic” category, and while he’s got some stiff competition, it’s hard to argue that fellow nominees such as Libby’s Dad and Sunburning (both of which I recently reviewed at this very site) are great reading, while this is required reading.

Clocking in at just 11 pages of story and art, this is essentially a “high end” mini-comic presented in gorgeous and expressive full color on top-quality matte paper with heavy cardstock covers, and while something tells me an argument could be advanced for presenting it in black and white, I’m not going to bitch about the format or aesthetics of its presentation in the…

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“Nurture The Devil” : A Stroll Through The Dark Garden Of Jess Johnson’s Id

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Any comic that sticks in your brain for 23 years surely must have done something right, would you not agree?

Not that the images and ideas put forth in Jess (then Jeff) Johnson’s short-lived 1994 Fantagraphics series, Nurture The Devil, have always been a welcome guest in my brain. A heady and disorienting mix of body horror, psychosexual pathology, gender identity confusion, and barely-restrained confessional, this largely-(and sadly-) forgotten late entry into the “single-creator anthology” mini-boom that was already starting to see its ranks thinned considerably by the time these three issues expelled themselves from the darkest corners of their creator’s subconscious in 1994 leaves a stain as indelible as the deeply-saturated inks that every panel on their pages is awash — hell, drowning — in. I don’t know of other way to put it : some things you just can’t “un-see.”

Knowing what we know now about Johnson’s…

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Wrapping My Head Around Eleanor Davis’ “Libby’s Dad”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

If there’s one comic this year that’s taken me the greatest number of readings to fully process, it’s Libby’s Dad by the incomparable Eleanor Davis, which technically came off the presses in late 2016 as part of the monthly co-publishing venture between Box Brown’s Retrofit Comics and Big Planet Comics, but didn’t reach subscribers’ eager hands until January, so hey — that makes it a 2017 release in my book, regardless of what the copyright indicia says. Beyond that admittedly arbitrary judgment, though, firm decisions are a tricky thing to come by in regards to this book.

Don’t get me wrong : I knew the minute I finished reading it that first time that I liked it a lot, and in some respects it’s sort of a shame that it’s now viewed as something of a “stop-gap” release between Davis’ much-lauded Fantagraphics collection, How To Be Happy, and…

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The Alchemy Of The Mundane : Why Keiler Roberts’ “Sunburning” Is One Of The Best Autobio Comics You’ll Ever Read

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I couldn’t do it, and not only because I can’t draw to save my life — nope, the whole notion of giving perfect strangers a warts-and-all look at my life is just something I’m not psychologically equipped for. And yet for decades now, “first-rate” cartoonists from Justin Green to Mary Fleener to Joe Matt to Chester Brown to Seth to Gabrielle Bell to Julie Doucet to both Crumbs have made the autobiographical strip an essential part of their repertoire, while for authors such as Harvey Pekar and Dennis Eichhorn, committing their lives to paper for “all-star” collections of artists to run with and illustrate was their bread and butter — and while there’s less autbio/memoir going on in the world of “alternative” comics than there was, say, 20 years ago, it’s still an active genre with some truly notable talents both working within and (crucially, in my view) redefining

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This Week’s “Peaks” Addendum : Some Quick Additional Thoughts On The Finale

Trash Film Guru

Yeah, it’s a holiday, but you’d never know it if you follow any number of Twin Peaks-related fan sites, or even any “entertainment” sites in general. The long-dormant wheels within any number of Lynch-nerd minds are spinning and churning, ganglionic gears grinding in a way not seen since Mulholland Drive first hit theaters. We want to know what we just watched, and since David Lynch isn’t exactly telling us, we’re doing the work for ourselves. In other words, the fun is just beginning.

So — that finale. Yup, it was a doozy. And many a wiser and more astute critic than I appears to have met their match when it comes to trying to decode what Lynch and Mark Frost were “getting at” not just with it, but with the entirety of Twin Peaks 2017/Twin Peaks : The Return/Twin Peaks season three. Hell, they’re even second-guessing…

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