A View Of A Life Gathering “Dust”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Occasionally I’ll get a comic submitted for review that’s a couple years old but still in need of more publicity than it’s received to date, and such is the case with John Carvajal’s self-published mini Dust, a precisely-crafted and insightful little number that, for whatever reason, appears to have flown beneath almost everybody’s radar. Yeah, I know, the small-press landscape is a crowded one, but trust me when I say : Carvajal’s work pretty much always stands out from the crowd, and this is no exception.

There are some sci-fi tropes and trappings on offer here — robots, for example, seem to be a ubiquitous feature in folks’ homes — but at its core this is a story about coping with loss and grieving, about how we channel our energy into strange and bizarre outlets as a form of release, only to have said outlets become obsessions — the…

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Two From Ryan Alves : “Bubblegum Maelstrom” #1

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I’ve long been of the opinion that single-creator anthologies are something that’s in far too short a supply these days, but I’m pleased as can be to see Ryan Alves has thrown his hat into the ring with Bubblegum Maelstrom #1 from Awe Comics, a solid collection of six short strips, most boasting full painted color, that pleasingly concludes on a “Continued Next Issue” note. Which means, of course, that this is a good enough comic that you’ll be hankering for more.

Still, it’s bad form in the extreme to begin at the end, so let’s back up a bit here : it starts as life itself does, with fucking, and continues apace through a particularly grotesque birth, followed by an equally grotesque bio-dystopia, then on into a Bat-spoof, and from there makes its way through mutant plant growth, just plain mutants doing battle across a canyon, and fire-farting birds…

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Two From Ryan Alves : “Moments With Mo’Peaches”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

You know the old saying — “change is the only constant.” Yet most changes are slow and inexorable things that occur over protracted periods of time, barely visible at all from moment to moment. You likely don’t notice if you put on ten pounds over the course of a couple of months, for instance, but a friend who sees you at the beginning of those couple of months and again at the end will likely be biting their tongue to prevent themselves from saying “hey, looks like you’ve gained a little weight” — unless you’ve got friends like mine, that is.

One of the nice things about cartooning, though, is that it can be used to fuck with time, even absent the stereotypical “Later—” caption box. Events that occur over the course of a few panels can translate to mere moments of “real time,” or to several months. The clock…

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I’ve Seen The Future And It Looks A Lot Like “Spiny Orb Weaver” #1

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I hardly think I’m making news here by informing all you good readers that the economic landscape for small press comics and self-publishers is absolutely brutal right now — and by that I mean even more brutal than usual — but there are still plenty of people making a go of it by means of every distribution and financing mechanism you can think of, the most popular being crowd-funding and online serialization. It’s no stretch to say that some of the most talked-about comics of the so-called “pandemic era” have been instagram comics, and that platforms such as Kickstarter have afforded many a cartoonist the ability to have their work see print even when their own bank accounts were hovering near rock bottom. There are, however, other less-utilized means of hustling up the money necessary to produce a comic, and one that I’m frankly surprised isn’t utilized more often in…

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“Mothers Tales” : Thomas Lampion’s Generational Journey

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I can’t speak to whether Thomas Lampion conceived of and created his semi-recent (as in early 2020, perhaps? Or late 2019?) mini Mothers Tales ( and before you ask, I assume the lack of an apostrophe in the title is intentional) — an impressive riso-printed number, featuring a subtle array of third “spot” colors, lovingly and painstakingly produced by an outfit out of Moscow, Russia called ESH-PRINT — while he was at work on his long-form graphic novel (previously reviewed on this site) The Burning Hotels, or not, but there’s some serious serendipity going on either way. That book, after all, deals with an unplanned move home on the cartoonist’s part from Philadelphia to Appalachia (a town called Hot Springs, N.C., to be specific) and how the same things he was going through in the here and now oddly mimicked and echoed events that took place in his mother’s…

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“Death Plays A Mean Harmonica” — And Steve Lafler Crafts A Really Nice Comic

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Oaxaca is an interesting, dare I say even magical place — a unique intersection of indigenous traditions, modern-day Mexican culture, and American expat bon vivant-ism that’s been added to the mix thanks to its large gringo transplant community. On any given night, anything can happen, and the air is pregnant with festivity, possibility, and even a dash intrigue.

Or so I’m told, at any rate — largely by my parents, who became part of that aforementioned gringo transplant community when they retired down there nearly two years ago. I’d dearly love to visit, but the pandemic has made that wish an impossibility for the time being, although hopefully not for too much longer. Until then, though, I’ve got their emails and photos — and the comics of EX-expat Steve Lafler, who returns to the place he once called home (or, in a pinch, a home away from home) for his…

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The Ballad Of Kitty And Raymond : Lane Yates’ “Single Camera Sitcom” #1

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

It’s tricky, when you’re reading something that strikes you as being wholly original yet wears its influences so plainly on its sleeve, to adequately describe the sensation it leaves you with : deja vu for something that never was? Or perhaps, to quote Jello Biafra, “nostalgia for an age that never existed”?

I dunno — and I’m really good at not knowing lately, incidentally — but it’s fair to say that Lane Yates’ self-published comic (and an admirably slick and glossy self-published comic it is) Single Camera Sitcom #1 took me to places both familiar and foreign, but with the added caveat that they seemed familiar precisely because they were foreign and vice-versa. In a pinch, I’d say its most immediate stylistic antecedent is Greg Stump’s Disillusioned Illusions, but in another pinch I might say nah, that honor belongs to — well, to any actual single-camera televised sitcom. Can…

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Never Forget — As If You Could : Garrett Young’s “Sketch Zine 2020”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Don’t let the blank cover fool you — the images contained inside Garrett Young’s Sketch Zine 2020 are rich, inky, and brain-searingly indelible. And besides, this particular cover’s only blank because Young hasn’t adorned it with one of the individual drawings he puts on them, one of the perks of self-publishing for both creator and consumer. My own copy features a young woman looking both distant and possessed with unknowable intent simultaneously — but my own copy really isn’t what’s important here.

Rather, we’re here to talk about the myriad glimpses at either a slightly pre- or slightly post-fallen world that Young serves up in the pages of this ‘zine, a cornucopia of personages and, occasionally, creatures for whom vacuous amorality appears to be a default mindset — or perhaps, even more chillingly, an aspiration. Some shit haunts your dreams, sure, but some shit can’t even be bothered to go…

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“What Is Memory But A Story You Tell Yourself?” : Four Color Apocalypse Interviews Mara Ramirez

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I’ve been championing the work of Mara Ramirez to anyone willing to listen since first stumbling upon it in the middle part of last year. An undisputed master at conveying what I would call, for lack of a better term, “emotive memory,” Ramirez’ debut graphic novel MOAB resonates in ways both entirely new and oddly, even comfortingly, familiar upon successive re-reads. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Ramirez on subjects far and wide, and it was such a fascinating exchange that I honestly feel I’d probably be doing you all a tremendous disservice by loading you up with a heavy preamble rather than turning the floor over to the artist with all due haste, and so, with that in mind —

Four Color Apocalypse : First off Mara, thanks for agreeing to this interview — it’s no secret that your book MOAB was one of my favorite comics…

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Sometimes We All Need A “New Leash On Life”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

August Lipp is a cartoonist with a singular worldview that’s equal parts charming and disturbing, and he’s unafraid to blend the two in unique ways that leave you feeling decidedly amused, decidedly uneasy, and, frequently, wonderfully perplexed. When he firmly stakes out a distinct point of view and tone he’s capable of “hitting it out of the park” like nobody’s business — Roopert stands as one of the finest comics of the past decade — but hey, every artist has a process they need to work through before arriving at wherever it is they’re going, and that’s what his recently self-published New Leash On Life is all about.

The funny thing, though, is that for what’s billed as a collection of notebook drawings spanning the 2019-2020 period, these are, by and large, remarkably finished works — Lipp puts more “sweat equity” into many ostensibly “throwaway” illustrations than some cartoonists do…

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