Bryce Martin’s Ultra Weird “Ultra8”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Falling somewhere between what we — or at least I — think of as an old-school underground mini and a Garo-esque “alternative” manga, Bryce Martin (who’s on a real roll this year, having produced five comics in 2020 by my count) has produced a uniquely curious item with his self-published Ultra8, a philosophical treatise on emerging and becoming told by means of a team-up between Japanese pop culture icons Ultraman (who, for the record, isn’t real) and Tadanori Yokoo (who, equally obviously, is).On paper, then — which is what this printed on, after all (and very nice paper, at that) — what we have here is at the very least a study in contrasts between a pair of incongruous figures, but in reality is more than that, in both theory and practice. Possibly even a lot more. But I’m not entirely sure what that “something more” consists of.

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“Proverbs Of Hell” : The Marriage Of Zenick And Blake

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

You literally never know what Jeff Zenick is going to come up with next, and that’s one of the most interest things about him : he’s an artist who never sits still or rests on his laurels, who never fails to find a new way to express himself via his portrait work. In recent years he’s turned his skilled eye and hand to reproducing criminal mugshots and vintage high school yearbooks, and now he’s trained his talents on a subject that would likely vex just about anyone : William Blake.

Well, okay, not Blake himself per se, but the 70 aphorisms included as part of his epic The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell, which have apprently wormed their way so deeply into Zenick’s mind that he’s literally been ruminating over how to approach this project for nearly 30 years, having first attempted to give it a go in…

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“Unexplained” — But Hardly Inexplicable

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

You’ve gotta hand it to Theo Ellsworth — nobody else does what he does.

Oh, sure, other people draw and make comics and all that, but nobody draws the way he does, employing the elements he does, in service of anything like the purpose he achieves. Ellsworth — who hails from Missoula, Montana, where he’s not “part” of the local comics scene so much as he is the local comics scene — combines influences that fall along a continuum that ranges from Native American folk and woodcut art to Charles Addams/Gormenghast to downright alien to produce art that both comes from, and takes you to, someplace else altogether. And although his long-running series Capacity is over and done with, he’s nowhere near done creating art.

And art is what his latest ‘zine, Unexplained — self-published, as ever, under Ellsworth’s own Thought Cloud Factory label, and presented in a generous…

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A Cucumber Finds Himself In A Pickle In Josh Pettinger’s “Goiter” #5

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

For good, ill, or a little bit of both, there are precious few things we can really, well and truly, rely on in today’s comics world — and many would argue that the same is true for the wider world in general. You know, the one they call “real.” But we’re not really hear to talk about that, so let’s get back to comics.

Whether we’re talking the medium or the industry, comics are in a state of flux. Where and how the dust settles, and what things will look like once it does, nobody knows. The mainstream is freaked out by all this uncertainty, of course, but for independent and self-publishing cartoonists, this has always been the way of things. Print a few too many books you can’t sell, you don’t make rent. Have a nice weekend tabling at a show, suddenly you’ve got beer money. There are…

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A Stark And Harrowing “Vision”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Sex and death — there’s just no separating them, is there? I mean, sure, one is fun and the other most assuredly isn’t, but it’s an awareness of our own mortality, and the fear of same, that elevates the sexual impulse in humans to something beyond the mere biological imperative of the animal kingdom. Rightly or wrongly — and I would argue it’s more the latter — humans view the act of producing offspring not just as a continuation of the species, but as a shot at some kind of personal immortality for themselves : a chance to prove that they existed, that they mattered, because they weren’t just passing through life, they actually left something behind.

Message for any kids who might be reading this : next time your parents try to convince you that the act of raising you is some inherently selfless or noble thing, tell…

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Meet The OCDemon : “Marie And Worrywart”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

A lot of people — myself included — have that little voice in our heads. What we don’t have is a little blob on our shoulders.

Marie, the protagonist in Toronto cartoonist Jenn Woodall’s Marie And Worrywart, isn’t so lucky : her anxieties — specifically, the various manifestations of near-crippling OCD that have taken root in her mind — have externalized themselves and become her constant companion. And wouldn’t you know, this little creature they’ve congealed into simply will not shut the fuck up. But can it be prevented from growing?

Anxiety isn’t unique to cartoonists or to comics readers, of course, but damn if it’s not well-represented within our ranks, so Woodall’s willingness to address it head-on is certainly welcome, as is her overall level-headed approach. No matter how big and boisterous Worrywart becomes, she has a deft touch that somehow manages to draw attention to the fact…

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Two From Le Dernier Cri : John Broadley’s “Wild For Adventure”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

It’s a pretty cool thing, when you think about it : making comics like nobody else is making. And it’s especially cool to do it within a framework that’s about as tried and true as it gets.

All of which is me letting you know that the (extremely) short-form stories presented in Johan Broadley’s 2016 Le Dernier Cri book, Wild For Adventure, are both deliciously weird — and strangely mundane. We know this world he portrays — we’ve just never had it shown to us like this before. So yes, at first glance these are every bit the vaguely traditional gag strips they appear to be — until they’re not. And there’s always one or two off-kilter things in each that are guaranteed to shake your perceptions just a bit. I’m reminded, crazy as this may sound, of the so-called “creepy crawls” the Manson family used to engage in…

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Two From Le Dernier Cri – “Mark Beyer : Sketchbook 2016-17”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Aside from Gary Panter, no artist from the first wave of Raw has been more influential to the generations that came in his wake that Mark Beyer — and, like Panter, he’s never been content to simply rest on his laurels and let his reputation (to say nothing of his back catalogue) do the talking for him. Indeed, although he’s mainly moved into the world of “fine” art that he had one foot in from the outset, his work continues to both challenge and transfix, ever in pursuit of new statements to make and ideas to explore within a stylistic framework that’s immediately recognizable as his own and no one else’s.

Which brings us to the latest Beyer item to make its way into my hands, the Le Dernier Cri-published Mark Beyer : Sketchbook 2016-17, which eschews pretty much anything by way of titles or branding and just plunges…

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Horror Scenes That I Love: Dracula vs. Van Helsing in Count Dracula

The 1970 film, Count Dracula, is unique in that it’s a film that stars Christopher Lee but it wasn’t produced by Hammer.  Instead, it was directed by Lee’s friend, the Spanish director Jess Franco.  It was sold as being a far more faithful adaptation of the Dracula story than anything that had been filmed up to that point.  Lee, who frequently bemoaned the quality of the Hammer films, later described Count Dracula as being a personal favorite of the many films in which he appeared.

In the scene, Dracula confronts Herbert Lom’s Prof. Van Helsing.  Lee gets more dialogue in this scene than he did throughout the entirety of Hammer’s Dracula, Prince of Darkness.