A “Migraine” You’ll Actually Be Glad To Have

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Featuring one panel per page and a pocket-sized horizontal format, lianhuanhua have been a staple of Chinese popular culture for decades, providing an affordable, and eminently portable, “delivery system” for mass-appeal sequential art storytelling. Some of the more dominant genres to grace the pages of these easily-digestible miniature magazines over the years, according to Paradise Systems editor/publisher R. Orion Martin, have been “fables, kung fu epics, and unauthorized adaptations of foreign films,” but with his own imprint’s entry into the world of lianhuanhua Martin seeks to bring something of an “art comics”  ethos into a field that has been previously closed off to anything that fell outside a generally populist aesthetic sense. As always, he’s clearly not short on ambition.

My first exposure to lianhuanhua Paradise Systems-style comes by way of Shanghai-based cartoonist Woshibai’s recently-released Migraine, and to say I’m eager for Martin to get more of these…

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Weekly Reading Round-Up : 01/06/2019 – 01/12/2019, Paradise Systems

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Editor/translator/curator/publisher R. Orion Martin is doing some seriously extraordinary things with his Paradise Systems imprint, bringing the best in contemporary “alternative” cartooning from China to these shores is sumptuously-formatted and impeccably-designed packages. These are some of the most utterly unique comics on the planet (no exaggeration), and well worth your time and money. Four of my favorite recent releases follow —

Friendship Forever by Inkee Wang occupies some bizarre middle ground between Simon Hanselmann and Austin English, with pliable, gelatinous, bulbous characters toiling away at a dark approximation of what, I guess, passes for “friendship.” But mostly they’re just assholes to each other because, hey, it relieves the tedium of droll, everyday existence. Laugh-out-loud funny in a “guilty pleasure” sort of way, this collection of strips and sketches has a real and unforced fluidity to it, even if it ultimately, in dry parlance, “goes nowhere.” A triumph of color, design…

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“Cry” Tears Of Sorrow, Tears Of Joy

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Rendered in a combination of pen and graphite with exquisitely emotive precision, groundbreaking Chinese “alternative” cartoonist Yan Cong’s 2018 Paradise Systems release, Cry, is a sumptuous feast for the eyes, of that there is no doubt. But being that its brisk, economic narrative is primarily focused on immediate-post-break-up loneliness, what will surely surprise many is that it’s also a feast for the heart.

Not an easy one to consume, by any standard of measure, but one that lingers deliciously, that seeps in, its flavors revealing themselves over time as the work is allowed to stew, simmer, and be digested slowly. Yeah, I’m hungry as I write this — is it that obvious?

Ostensibly, this short-but-conceptually-dense book is about a guy, and a fairly typical-seeming one at that, who apparently does what a lot of typical guys do : takes his girlfriend for granted, doesn’t take time to understand her…

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Chris Reynolds Maps The Geography Of Your Dreams In “The New World : Comics From Mauretenia”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse


I have a recurring dream about a house.

My house, to be specific, but not really : there are extra rooms I’ve never seen before, large walk-in closets that my wife and I both wish we had but don’t, cavernous storage spaces with nothing in them — hell, one time I even discovered a massive interconnected underground aqueduct system that carried sewage (ugghhh) along in a canal but had sidewalks on either side that literally led to every other house in town; houses you could then enter unless folks had their cellar doors locked. Which, for some reason, they didn’t.

What can I say? Dreams are weird, but after a little bit of research I found that mine are no weirder than most — dreams where your house is different than it really is, where the bus you take to work every morning goes somewhere entirely new, where anything

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Weekly Reading Round-Up : 12/30/2018 – 01/05/2019, Jessica Campbell

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

We last checked in with Jessica Campbell around these parts when her superb, topical, and hilarious graphic novel XTC69 rolled off the presses courtesy of Annie Koyama just over a year ago, but I’ve been meaning to do a write-up on some of her self-published minis ever since picking up a small batch of ’em at Autoptic back in August. A couple more came my way in the past few weeks and so, with her work once again reasonably fresh in my mind, it’s high time the esteemed Ms. Campbell got her due here at the Weekly Reading Round-Up. I shall procrastinate no further, this column has been a long time in coming.

Ten Most Incestuous Royals is, I believe, Campbell’s most recent release and collects a series of strips that originally saw the light of day on the Hyperallergic arts website. As both the cover and the title would…

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Definitely A “Little Stranger” Than Most

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Talk about an eye-opener!

To date, my only exposure to the work of Edie Fake has been via his Gaylord Phoenix comic, which certainly doesn’t fit anyone’s definition of “conventional,” but which nevertheless is structured, albeit perhaps tenuously, along standard-issue linear narrative lines.

Not so with the book under our metaphorical microscope here today, Little Stranger, a multi-faceted, deeply emotive collection of short-form strips published a few months ago by Secret Acres that presents work culled from  Fake’s own ‘zines self- published between 2002 and 2017. Simply put — and I say this with utmost respect — most of these strips are just plain weird. Delightfully so, in most cases, but you have to come into this book prepared to do some serious interpretive work yourself, as many of them discard with the concept of “narrative” altogether, and those that don’t adhere to it very loosely.

From the “Clowns”…

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“Little Teeth,” Big Bite (Advance Review)

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I’m not sue what it is about anthropomorphic animals and the LGBTQ+ comics community, but for the second time in less than a year, we’ve got a tandem of queer creators releasing a book of vignette-style stories centered on the broadly-defined “queer experience.” First out of the gate was Remy Boydell and Michelle Perez’ The Pervert from Image Comics, well-reviewed in most quarters (including this one) and focused on the hard-scrabble life of a trans protagonist subsisting on the economic margins, and in the next few weeks Czap Books will be releasing Little Teeth, drawn by Rory Frances and written by Jae Bearhat, that transposes the so-called “funny animal” trope into a queer communal living situation.

Beyond the more fluid sexual and gender identities and the tails and fur, though, it should be noted that the two books have very little in common, conceptually and tonally, and this points…

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