Back In The Saddle, Part Two : Tara Booth, John Sammis, And Noah Van Sciver

Continuing our frenzied and likely haphazard overview/brief analysis of stuff I read over the course of my break from posting here, we happen upon the following foursome of comics —

Cabin In The Woods, Part One By Tara Booth – Admittedly, the cover price on this 2019 comic from Berlin’s Colorama is steep at 18 Euros plus shipping, but there’s no denying that it’s absolutely gorgeous, as well — which comes as no surprise given that all of Booth’s gouache-painted comics are. The title’s a bit curious given that most of the “action” takes place in the city, but rest assured that by the end (for now) of the largely-wordless narrative our heroine/authorial stand-in makes it to the rural retreat in question. Prior to that, though, we are treated to an equal parts thoughtful and dizzying display of motion and its absence, communicated via the entirely relatable means of workaday drudgery, homebound lethargy, and good old fetishistic kink. Few cartoonists can captivate you with scenes of opening a goddamn package for a couple of pages, but Booth is certainly one of them and, as with much of her work, a rumination upon/examination of her own creative process is at the heart of things here. A sublime comic that you’ll find yourself returning to again and again — let’s hope the next installment is in the offing sooner rather than later.

Your best bet to score one of these is to get it directly from the publisher at https://coloramabooks.space/collections/all/products/cabin-in-the-woods-part-1

Pisser! By John Sammis – I got a copy of this in the mail from the cartoonist himself awhile back, read it promptly, and then completely spaced out writing about it, but hey — that’s Alzheimer’s for you. I recently unearthed it again, however, and found myself every bit as taken with its weirdness as I was the first time around — which is also an Alzheimer’s thing in that you often find yourself recalling feelings and impressions in a general sense while having little to no recollection of specific details. In any case, this is a collection of often disquieting-to-downright-disturbing gag strips that are expertly rendered in classical “cartoony” style and are sure to linger in a mind that functions better than my own. I had assumed Sammis was a nom de plume for Johnny “will the last person working at Mad please turn out the lights when you leave?” Sampson, but come to find out no, this guy is someone else entirely, and my best guess is he’s sorta twisted and perhaps a bit fixated on some things the average shrink may not deem “healthy.” What do those squares know, though, anyway? Unfortunately, there’s no way at all to get your hands on a copy of this anymore, but it’s more than earned a long overdue “shout-out” from yours truly, and John, I promise, if you send me your next comic, it will not fall between the cracks of my neural synapses. Simply put, this thing is great.
My Hot Date (And Other Embarrassments) By Noah Van Sciver – This bumper re-issue of Van Sciver’s Ignatz winner from a few years back is part of Kilgore’s 2021 publishing program, and while its awesomeness is already well-established, I just felt the need to point out a couple of good reasons to “double dip” for this new edition : the newsprint paper stock it’s on results in a more pleasingly muted color palette that really captures the bleakness of 1990s life in suburban Arizona (a general state of affairs that I’m sure continues there unabated to this day), and the chief “other embarrassment” in question, a 2018 strip entitled “Holly Hill,” is damn near as good as the main feature itself. This is Van Sciver firing on all cylinders creatively, and is a comic you’d do well to add to your collection/library even if you’ve got the original version — which I’m assuming everyone does, because it apparently sold “over two million copies.”

Grab it for 12 bucks at http://www.kilgorebooks.com/shop/my-hot-date-other-embarrassments-noah-van-sciver

Boring By Noah Van Sciver – I’d certainly love to be as effusive with my praise for Van Sciver’s latest (this time self-published) effort, but unfortunately it’s really a tale of two comics in and of itself. The secondary feature, “My Own Jurassic Park,” is another near-flawless reminiscence from the cartoonist’s youth that plays to all of his considerable strengths, while the titular lead feature is a rather bog-standard piece of contemporary autobio that plays to all his weaknesses. Simply put : Van Sciver seems like a guy who’s far more comfortable expounding upon — and for more honest in his appraisals of — his past than his present. I can’t say I blame him for that on a personal level — after all, I don’t want anybody knowing shit about me — but then, I’m not trying to make my living as an autobiographical cartoonist. When the subject of Van Sciver’s stories is his youthful self, there’s real pathos and something very much akin to unforced wistfulness in every panel on every page, but when he’s writing and drawing himself as he is now, he seems considerably more guarded and more than happy to caricaturize “adult Noah” in (yawn) gently self-deprecating terms. “Yeah, I’m neurotic, and bemused by the modern world, and probably kinda tough to live with, but gosh, I mean well enough, and hey — isn’t it funny?” He’s not the first to take this “make yourself look good by making yourself look bad — but only sorta bad” tack by any means, so I guess it’s not his fault that the whole act had worn thin by the time he started down that road, but he’s capable of a better. A lot better. Hell, the second strip in this very comic proves it.

Negative views of the lead feature aside, this one might still be worth a purchase for the back-up story alone. You can find it at https://noahvansciver.bigcartel.com/product/boring

Is that enough for now? Sure, I think that’s enough for now.

Oh, wait, it’s not. Please check out my Patreon for three new posts/reviews/essays/rants/whatever per week on subjects comics-, culture-, and politics-related. You can join for as little as a buck, and you’re absolutely guaranteed to get your money’s worth. Here’s the link : https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

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