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 imply, wasting time on the internet is one of the topics she tackles here, but the breadth, scope, and sheer variety on offer between these covers is pretty astonishing, from single-page “gag” strips about famous artists to diary comics about TV watching and teaching art to a fairly serious and well-considered essay on the responsibilities, and general perceptions, of male artists in the era of #MeToo. Rendered in her inimitable “loose-form” style that hones in on the expressive humor to be found in everyday situations with subtlety and humanity, this is a damn impressive little volume that is an absolute steal at five bucks.
JC’S Way is probably the most ambitious of the offerings under review here, an autobio work that stitches together a series of short vignettes from Campbell’s Charismatic/Evangelical upbringing over a ten-year period. There’s not a whole lot by way of specifics served up here as far as dogma and doctrine are concerned, but the essential character of the church she grew up in, and the attitudes it inculcated in her family, is readily apparent throughout. If you hate the kind of “mega-churches” that use electric guitars and big, phony smiles to cover up the fact that they’re essentially selling the same old ultra-conservative, patriarchal crap that religion has always made hay from, then this is the book for you. Funny, yes, but ultimately quite a sobering little read that, again, more than earns its five dollar price tag. Oh, and the “JC” in the title doesn’t refer to Jessica Campbell — unless, ironically and at the end of the day, it does?
My Erotic Life #1 may sound like it just has to be a cartoon memoir about the artist’s formative sexual experiences, but fortunately for us all this most well and truly mini of minis actually consists of a bunch of four-panel humorous short strips that primarily focus on Campbell’s gallery job, where she daily interacts with people who drop more on a single painting than she earns in a goddamn decade. There’s not a hint of so-called “class warfare” jealousy to be found, though, as these punchy little numbers are all about — and wildly successful at — finding the absurdity inherent in a situation where so-called “patrons of the arts” spend $35K on work from people who literally have 20 bucks (or less) in their bank accounts. And speaking of bank accounts — the $3 price tag on this one won’t even make a dent in yours.
My Erotic Life #2 can quickly — and fairly — be summed up as “more of the same,” sure, but when that means more fun, smart, highly-observant, and deliciously wry humor, then who the hell is complaining? Again, three bucks you’ll certainly never miss in exchange for a terrific little mini that you’ll likely as not read several times over (if you know what’s good for you) is a more than fair trade.
Campbell’s stuff can be purchased from quite a few online small press distros, sure, but if you want the ease and convenience of being able to purchase all four of these together in one go rather than hunting down one of ’em here, one of ’em there (and also want the ease and convenience of finding them all listed next to each other on the very first “page” of the site), then get yourself over to Radiator Comics via this handy link : https://www.radiatorcomics.com/shop/