guttergeek the discontinuous review of graphic narrative

With this entry, we launch a new featurette here at guttergeek HQ: “Gutter Briefs,” a hit-and-run review roundup of some titles that caught our attention but not always at the right time for us to sit down for a full and proper review. For the most part these are books I would love to review in more depth and detail if not for that whole day job thing. Time marches on and there are always new books to review, but these are a few of my favorites I don't want to forget along the way...


Liz Prince, Tomboy (Zest Books, 2014). $15.99, paperback.

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There is a lot to like a bout Liz Prince’s comics (not least of which is the fact that she still holds the prize for best title of a comic book ever with Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed?, her 2005 debut). What I like most is her ability to avoid the deadly traps of self-seriousness to which the graphic memoirist is inevitably prone, maintaining always in her work an understanding of the absurdity of this life we live. With Tomboy, a memoir about her lifelong war with gender norms, she brings her characteristic ability to laugh at the traumatic while  acknowledging the trauma of the seemingly mundane. In the end, the volume might not have any messages that we wouldn’t find in an episode of Freaks and Geeks. But they are good messages beautifully rendered here, and this is a book I would recommend to freaks and geeks of any age and stripe, but especially the teenaged kind, when everything and every day is truly the end of the world. It really isn’t, Prince reminds us, but it really, really does suck. But not as much as not being ourselves would. As lessons go, that might in fact be the only one we need to make it from 13 to 30.

Katie Skelly, Operation Margarine (AdHouse Books, 2014). $12.95, paperback.

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Skelly’s first book, Nurse Nurse (Sparkplug, 2012) collected her mini-comic of the same name, telling  the freewheeling sci fi adventures of Gemma, intergalactic nurse. The volume was fueled with improvisatory energy, like a series of dreams after watching Barbarella with a high fever. Operation Margarine similarly collects a series of Skelly’s mini-comics, but this time around it is clear that she had a vision for the book in mind from the start, and this particular fever dream—this time with Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! playing in the background—is both more structured and more satisfying. I don’t want to confess I found the ending actually moving, since that does not seem to be the intended affect, but in truth I did. Ride on, Margarine!

Box Brown, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend (First Second, 2014). $17.99, paperback.

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Somehow despite having read this book multiple times over the summer, I neglected to review it. Well, that’s part of what this little corner of the guttergeek empire is for—to make wash away my sins. This biography of the professional wrestling legendAndre the Giant (perhaps best known to non-wrestling fans for his role in Princess Bride) is a pleasure from start to finish. Meticulously researched and informed by a lifetime of fascination with the history and art of professional wrestling, the biography never gives in to either minutia or hagiography, instead presenting a profoundly compelling and compassionate portrait of a man who was at once profoundly blessed and doomed from birth. Brown brings to this first major book-length project his unique style—thick lines and broad shading that plays at a simplicity that (at first) draws attention away from the obsessive design of each panel. In fact, Brown’s style somewhat mirrors the style and aesthetics of pro wrestling itself: a deceptively simple collision of forces that obscures the intricate performance that made it all possible. In addition to making new fans for Andre the Giant, I hope this book makes new fans for Box Brown. (And if you are one of those new fans, seek out his ongoing Kayfabe Quarterly at Retrofit Comics, a micropress he runs to keep the art of the floppy comic alive into the 21st century.)