Trade Post: The Wild Kingdom

THE WILD KINGDOM (Drawn & Quarterly)
Written & drawn by Kevin Huizenga
Collects sections from Supermonster #12 and Or Else #4.
I was really excited about Kevin Huizenga’s The Wild Kingdom, especially after reading and loving the first three issues of Ganges. After immersing myself in this year’s most interesting indie books for a gift guide over on UGO.com, most of which I haven’t read, I decided to actually buy some books and actually immerse myself in a few indie books I’d heard good things about or enjoyed previous works by the creator. So, I bought Wild Kingdom, which had just come out, Black Hole and Jimmy Corrigan. I was impressed with Wild Kingdom‘s presentation, the cover is rad, and the book itself is actually a little hardcover that reminds me of books I had when I was a kid.

I really wish I understood/liked this book more than I did on the first read. I just don’t get it. The book is supposed to give some inner meaning to the world of nature, but I didn’t pick up on any of that while reading. Instead of being a full-on story, the book consists of a series of stories told that are supposed to relate to each other on a kind of esoteric level, many of which star Glenn Ganges. Between faux commercials for the Hot New Thing 2 and lots of appearances by writer Maurice Maeterlinck, but over all it felt really obscure and cerebral in a way that didn’t quite grab me like moments in Ganges did. There were bits I liked throughout, but I can’t say I enjoyed this as a complete work because so much of it either didn’t make a lot of sense to me or just wasn’t all that interesting (like reading an excerpt from one of Maesterlink’s books). I’m not saying the book is bad, I’m just saying it wasn’t really for me at least on this first reading.

I wish I had read Chris Mautner’s Comics College on Kevin H before purchasing or borrowing the book from someone else. He rated it as “Avoid” not based on the quality of the work but on how dense it is. For whatever it’s worth, Huizenga’s interview over on Avoid The Future didn’t help clear things up, though it is an interesting read. Overall, I wish I had done a little more research and bought the Curses collection instead, but maybe another reading down the road will change my mind.

Ganges Is Awesome

As I mentioned in my MoCCA report last weekend, I picked up Ganges #1 and 3 from the Fantagraphics booth to go along with my #2 written and drawn by Kevin Huizenga. Holy crap, I love these books. Huizenga has this amazing way of writing and drawing comics that hit me in the soul, either directly reflecting an experience I can relate to (having trouble falling asleep in #3) or a feeling (like missing the good old days of a group of awesome work friends). Plus, his art style is this amazing mix of surreal and everyday imagery that mimics the daily weirdness of being a creative, introspective person and also takes on the look of a classic comic strip (Glenn’s nose reminded me of Popeye for some reason).

Before getting into the details of why I liked each issue, I want to comment on the actual format of these comics, as they’re not your average floppy (I still can’t tell if I hate that term or not). The three issues of Ganges are the fifth, 27th and 35th installments of Fantagraphics Ignatz series, which are 8.5×11-inch comics printed on card stock-like paper, come with a dust jacket (the covers you see in these images) and cost $7.95. Huizenga’s art definitely benefits from the larger page size, but I’m not really sure what the benefit of having a dust jacket is. Wouldn’t eliminating the jacket bring the cost down? I’m sure a lot of readers are like me and will balk at $8 for a 32-page comic by someone you might not be familiar with.

Now on to the actual issues themselves. The basic premise is that each issue stars Glenn Ganges who lives with his wife Wendy. We don’t know much about Glen’s background, but it seems as though he works from home (he used to be employed by a dotcom startup) and his wife is an animator or graphic designer. The first issue is made up of more smaller strips than the other ones with five in total with topics ranging from litterers to trying to get to sleep. Of all three issues, this is my least favorite, not that it’s bad by any means, but it didn’t hit me like the other ones did. I can relate to Glenn’s tendency to get completely lost in his own head and really lose himself.

I also appreciate the drawings of Beatles songs. I’ll be honest, I didn’t catch on right away, but after I did I went back and read through it again with a smile on my face. That’s one of the great things about these books, they demand repeated readings or at least another look through just to check out Huizenga’s art.

The second issue is all one story, though it starts with 11 pages of crazy drawings set in the video game based on Wendy’s designs. Being my first issue of Ganges (and one of the first indie comics I ever read) this kind of blew me away while also confusing me. I had no idea what this book was about or what these little guys were, but I was completely drawn in and compelled to devour the images which just get more and more intricate and crazy as you go on.

But it was the rest of the issue that really got me and hit me in the nostalgic gut when I read it late the other night. Glenn’s thinking back about some after hours video game shenanigans at his old dotcom job. It really reminded me of the early days of Wizard, though I came a few months late for the marathon Halo sessions, in which a lot of really good dudes were doing some really good work and having a good time doing it. There’s kind of an “us against the world” mentality.

I just finished the third issue tonight while the missus was watching America’s Next Top Model (I can’t even be in the same room when that show’s on). This one focused entirely on Glenn’s difficulty falling asleep. While in bed a mental version of himself tries all kinds of things to actually fall asleep. Man, I can relate to that like crazy. I’ve had nights where I just can not get to sleep because my mind is racing too much. When I worked a traditional job it used to plague me fairly regularly and even back when I was in school, specifically on Sundays. You’d think it would go away now that I can stay up as late as I want and basically get up in the same fashion, but I can still think of a few recent times when I sat in bed, hoping for sleep but it didn’t come. I enter a kind of in-between sleep and dream state where time passes, but I’m still kind of awake, especially when the power went out a while back. Anyway, Huizenga nails my personal experience which is impressive.

Maybe it’s just me and if you haven’t had these similar experiences the books might not strike such a chord, but I would definitely recommend these books to anyone who’s looking to dip their toe into the indie comic scene. I’ve got to check out more of Huizenga’s work and can’t wait for the next issue of Ganges. Anyone know what he’s working on next?

A MoCCA Report

As I mentioned the other day, the missus and I went to our very first MoCCA (that’s the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art’s annual comic book show which is generally filled with indie comics, writers and artists) on Saturday. It was an interesting experience. I’m not super into the indi comics scene, so a lot of stuff was over my head and off my radar, but it was a fun experience overall, mostly because I got to see a lot of my buddies who were all way more educated about this stuff than I was. I did get a few things and got to meet a few of my contacts from my old Wizard days which was very cool.

  • Ganges #1 and 3 (Fantagraphics) Written and drawn by Kevin Huizenga – I haven’t read these yet because I want to enjoy them like a new record: without any distractions. I got the second issue about year back when I was still at Wizard and really dug it. As I don’t go to the comic shop much anymore, I took the opportunity to pick up these two issues. I’ll do a post after I read them along with re-reading #2.
  • Murder (Partyak) by Sean T. Collins, drawn by Matt Wiegle, Matt Rota and Josiah Leighton – Sean’s my buddy and he was working the Partyak booth which gave me the perfect opportunity to finally pick up Murder, an anthology of his stuff, and the next entry. Murder’s a mix of Destructor strips (which I loved drawing here and here) along with the account of some really creepy folks.
  • The Side Effects Of The Cocaine: David Bowie April 1975-February 1976 (Partyak) by Sean T. Collins, drawn by Isaac Moylan – Another book by Sean that was really great. I don’t know anything about David Bowie, but this book is still a fun, sick ride (dudes loved coke and Nazis). This was the one book I stopped reading on the train for fear of strange looks or my fellow riders thinking I was some kind of new-Nazi. The spread in the middle of the book is gorgeous. You can read the whole thing here.
  • Wiegle For Tarzan & Head To Head (Partyak) both by Matt Wiegle – While at the Partyak booth I figured I’d check out a few of Matt Wiegle’s mini comics for a buck. Both were a great deal. In Tarzan, Wiegle lobbies to become NYC’s current Tarzan and take it away from the current one who’s not doing a very good job. Head is a series of one page gags with two characters. Both had me giggling on the train and most likely getting funny looks from my fellow travelers.
  • How To Survive Working In Retail #1 and 2 (3 Guys Making Comics) Written by Ronnie Gorham and drawn by Lisandro Di Pasquale – I’ve got to give it to the HTSWIR guys for being hustlers. I was standing talking to a buddy and these guys came up and offered us their two $2 comic books for $2. I hasn’t bought much and figured I had a couple extra bucks, so whatever? The book follows five friends who all work crappy retail jobs. The first issue didn’t knock it out of the park, partly because it didn’t separate itself from Kevin Smith’s work enough (they used the number 37). The second issue is better as it gets into more relationship type stuff. The main reason I bought this book is because the second issue has a girl with a guitar. Overall, the $2 purchase was worth it, but these guys need to step up their production game a little more. The first issue wasn’t copied correctly so word balloons and panel lines get cut off, plus they don’t seem to have any kind of web presence. I will say that I dug Pasquale’s art and would love to work with him on something.

We also got this rad puzzle created by artist Chris Yates. The missus, being a scientist, already took it to work where it sits prominently on her desk. I think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and would love to add more of his awesome Baffler!s.

I also wanted to pick up the above Jack Kirby post cards from the Jack Kirby Museum, but didn’t. Luckily, Rickey was still there and he was able to pick them up after I texted him. Thanks Rickey!

All in all it was an interesting and fun experience, though we probably should have gone a little later so we didn’t run out of things so quickly. Hopefully over the next year I’ll become more familiar with the indie comic scene and grow some cajones and actually go talk to more artists to get some sketches in my Green Lantern sketchbook, like my buddy Matt who got his cartoon-themed sketchbook packed with mostly free sketches, hopefully he’ll start adding them to his Saturday Morning’s Awesome blog. My laziness combined with my crippling shyness around strangers with any kind of success have resulted in only one sketch in that book thanks to Koi Pham. It’s a pretty good one, but I need to get more, otherwise it’s just a sketch being held in by 100 pages and a hardcover, which seems a bit ridiculous. Oh, also this Paul Pope after party poster featuring Orion of the New Gods is super sweet.