Catching Up With “Ley Lines” : Simon Moreton’s “The Lie Of The Land”

The rural British countryside has always held a certain mystique to those who aren’t from there — and to those who are, as well.  The supernatural and the entirely natural seem to have a way of converging in this “green and pleasant land” — from the stone circles to the crop circles to the fogous to the hill figures to, of course, the rumored  lines in the Earth from which the Czap Books/Grindstone Comics visual poetry series Ley Lines derives its name. Hypothesized by antiquarian/photographer/entrepreneur Alfred Watkins in three tracts he wrote in the 1920s to have been literally straight lines which connected many of the ancient mysteries just mentioned with hills, lakes, rivers, and villages, and to have served purposes both mystical (hidden energy grids) and mundane (trade and transportation routes), the Ley Lines remain an intriguing enigma, even if they might be complete bullshit — hell, maybe even because they might be complete bullshit.

Veteran cartoonist Simon Moreton is the perfect person to explore this latter-day mythological conceit, and the man who proposed it, not only because he’s from the UK, but because his work has always been concerned, whether subtly or overtly, with something “other” that we as readers can’t always quite put our collective finger on. But in the moss-colored and riso-printed pages of The Lie Of  The Land — issue #23 of Ley Lines for those keeping score at home — he goes one better and asks whether these lines, whether real or not, might hold lessons from the past that can perhaps help us navigate through a turbulent and uncertain present.

Utilizing both broad brush-stroke illustration and photography to juxtapose concerns both dated and contemporary, he teases out and infers temporal lines of connectivity that may be every bit as speculative as those “discovered” by Watkins, and does so through a decidedly personal lens, one which eschews the easy answer of the “knowledge drop” in favor of something ultimately far less specific but decidedly more true : the point of view that things are invested with whatever meaning we choose to give them. And that those meanings can change in accordance with time, circumstance, and necessity.

Needless to say, then, this is conceptually-dense stuff, yet the tone and tenor of Moreton’s work is, as always, light as a feather. Fluidity is a staple feature of Ley Lines in general, and here it’s downright necessary, because it offers the only plausible “delivery method” by which to intuit what has come before, take stock of the here and now, and contemplate the myriad “maybes” of the what’s to come without risking the same sort of sensory overload that, let’s face it, we need to get the hell away from in order to give the subjects raised by this comic the time and attention they deserve. All of which may just be my long-winded way of saying that this book is best experienced in a quiet setting free of distractions — and yes, that includes your phone.

In fact, don’t be afraid to get downright lethargic here. Let Moreton’s ‘zine wash over and through you, as this is a contemplative and even sensual work that is designed to be felt every bit as much as it’s understood. Absorb it like moss on an old rock might be another way of putting it. Otherwise, you’ll be depriving yourself of the chance to take it in much in the manner in which it was put out. This doesn’t tell a story, per se, so much as it offers up a considered meditation.

Maybe Watkins was indeed on to something — and maybe he wasn’t. And maybe it doesn’t matter all that much either way as long as his hypothetical (?) lines speak to you on a subliminal level. There are any number of possibilities to choose from, and Moreton is a splendid guide to explore them all with. He certainly leaves you feeling that there might just be hope for us all yet, country folk and city slickers alike — and even if there isn’t, his book reminds us that the act of looking for it is still one inherently worth the undertaking.


The Lie Of The Land is available for $6.00 from the Ley Lines storenvy site at

Review wrist check – Ocean Crawler “Paladino Wavemaker” green dial model riding a black Ocean Crawler stingray leather strap. I like how the orange stitching matches the hands.


Catching Up With “Ley Lines” : Victor Martins’ “Cabra Cabra”

Separating art from artist has always been a tricky proposition, but it’s doubly so when the artist in question is a symbol of liberation and subjugation both. Many artists from various media whose work I generally respect hold or held views I absolutely abhor, from Steve Ditko to Jim Steranko to Douglas Pearce to Peter Sotos, but it’s not all that difficult to say “their worldview’s repugnant, but I like their stuff” without coming off as a hypocrite. Respect for one facet of a person’s life isn’t a tacit endorsement of all of it. But what do you do with Virginia Woolf, who’s justly lauded for her trailblazing feminism and fearlessness in dealing with overtly queer subject matter and themes literally decades before such things were discussed in “polite” (as in, bigoted) company — but was also a fairly pronounced racist?

Cartoonist Victor Martins tackles that very conundrum in the blue riso-printed pages of Cabra Cabra, issue #22 in the Czap Books/Grindstone Comics visual poetry series Ley Lines, using Woolf’s Orlando as the prism though which he lyrically tackles her personal and artistic dichotomy and even hypocrisy. Ambitious as that project is in and of itself, though, there’s another, larger issue that Martins is interested in at least poking at the margins of, and that’s the fact that so many people’s initial exposure to art that explores or celebrates queerness comes via older works that are saturated in the racism and colonialism of their times. What’s a queer person of color in particular to do, then, when they go looking for sympathetic portrayals of folks like themselves in artistic “classics,” only to find that they’re still marginalized in those works due to their race or ethnicity?

Yeah — I haven’t got the answer to that one myself, and I’ll be the first to admit that as a straight white cis male I’m the wrong person to even explore the topic in any truly considered sense. Martins, however, most assuredly is, and the fact that there’s still an admirable amount of gentle humor mixed with the sinking sense of disappointment and righteous outrage in this exceptionally visually- and thematically-fluid comic is proof positive that he’s given this combustible quandary a lot of thought over the years. As such, then, although this is certainly as rhythmically and tonally loose as any Ley Lines you’d care to mention, it’s perhaps the most conceptually tight and focused entry in the series to date.

Still, even though his thoughts on matters at hand are organized and concisely laid-out, this comic never feels like a lecture per se. Much of that is down to Martins’ cartooning, which is about as eye-pleasing and non-threatening (as well as delightfully smooth and lush)  as it comes, but another huge contributing factor is the simple fact that he understands that righteousness can be both funny and deeply felt. This balanced approach eludes most who try it, which is probably why so few actually do, but as with all things in this comic, Martins makes it seem natural and easy even though you know it’s anything but.

Another tributary springing forth from this admittedly contentious stream is the extent to which white supremacy has become almost as ingrained — if not overtly institutionalized — in LGBTQ culture as it has almost everywhere else in the West due the promulgation of cultural touchstones in which it’s explicitly or implicitly taken as either a given or, worse yet, a positive, but one only has so much time to follow every single thing down its respective rabbit hole. On that score, then, Martins subtly asks questions and leaves it to you to infer his answers. Not that it’s very difficult, mind you — he wears his heart on his sleeve throughout this comic, even as he avoids bludgeoning you by dint of his sheer cartooning skill. For that reason, I’d love to see him turn his attention to a long-form work tackling the history of queer art, cinema, literature, music, or even comics — but until that day comes. this is a great primer for a book that, at least so far, doesn’t exist.

It’s also a standout release in a series where standouts are, frankly, the norm, as well as being one of the more immediately-accessible Ley Lines to date. Victor Martins delivers a veritable tour de force here, and this is a book that I can more or less guarantee you’ll find yourself returning to time and time again, both to appreciate its visual literacy and consider the points it makes so eloquently.


Cabra Cabra is available for $6.00 from the Ley Lines storenvy site at

Review wrist check – if it seems like I wear this Zodiac “Super Sea Wolf 53” a lot, well — that’s because I do. This is is the “Blackout Edition,” and it’s one of those watches that literally goes with whatever you happen to be wearing.


Catching Up With “Ley Lines” : Alyssa Berg’s “Forget-Me-Not”

There’s no more natural a fit for the Czap Books/Grindstone Comics visual poetry series Ley Lines than Alyssa Berg — as anyone who’s been fortunate enough to get their hands on her self-published Recollection and Soft Fascinations can tell you — so now that she has, in fact, gotten “on board” with the title, so to speak, my only question is : what took so long?

Admittedly, it’s unusual to see Berg’s soft watercolor work rendered in black-and-white, but prospective readers needn’t fear : Ley Lines #21, Forget-Me-Not, is absolutely gorgeous and shows that she’s every bit as adept with inkwashes as she is with paints. Every page has a lyrical rhythm that flows into the next, and that’s true before taking her sparse and emotive verse into account. This is Berg firing on all creative cylinders — but then, she never does anything halfway.

The historical figure she trains her eye on for this book, in keeping with the series’ remit, is Hilma af Klimt, Swedish painter and occultist, and Berg pays particular attention to her role as central organizer of “The Five,” a groundbreaking all-female artists’ circle devoted to the act and art of mediumship as a means by which to communicate with worlds both supernatural and entirely natural — especially botanical. The title of this work gives that much away, I suppose, but there are two kinds of gardens that Berg is illuminating here — one within, and one without. And in her more than capable hands, both are shown as the lush, verdant, awe-inspiring environs which they are.

What took me by surprise here is how linear Berg’s lyrical narrative thrust is at first glance — but deeper, and hopefully more astute. successive readings reveal a circular, perhaps even recursive, pattern to her tone poem, and show her to be at play in a garden of everything, one where “time” is laid bare as the false construct we all intuitively know it to be. Much of this, from a purely revelatory standpoint, is necessarily couched in a soft but delicious secrecy, but that’s a running theme here, as well : exploration, after all, is the necessary precursor to discovery, and there’s a lot to be discovered in Berg’s hauntingly resonant comic.

Getting back to time, however — psychological crutch though it may be (okay, is), you’ll nevertheless want to invest a fair amount of it into wrapping your mind and heart around this work. That’s par for the course with Berg’s comics and ‘zines, but is doubly true with this one, which may run counter to initial impressions given its marginally more specific focus than her other efforts, but hey — if you’re not prepared to leave rationally-arrived-at expectation aside, you’re going to get nowhere fast here, anyway. If you can, though? Then be prepared for a journey that will take you just about everywhere you want to go.

And yet it’s more an intuitively-guided journey than one it is with a hard-and-fast “map,” per se. Berg shows you various directions of where you might go with the content she’s created, but the paths you take are, ultimately, of your own choosing. All of which means that this is one of the most involving, challenging, interpretive, and provocative works of comic art in recent memory — as well as being my personal favorite Ley Lines to date.


Forget-Me-Not is available for $6.00 from the Ley Lines storenvy site at

Review wrist check – Farer Universal “Beagle II” riding a Hirsch “George” croco print strap in brown from their “Performance” series.

Catching Up With “Ley Lines” : Gloria Rivera’s “Island Of Elin”

At first glance, issue number 20 of the Czap Books/Grindstone Comics series Ley Lines, Gloria Rivera’s Island Of Elin, is one of the most narratively straight-forward entries into this ever-developing “canon” — I mean, for the most part, it looks and reads very much like a “standard” (whatever that even means anymore) comic book. But don’t let its appearance deceive you — this is every bit as multi-faceted and interpretative a work as we’ve come to expect from these books.

Incorporating, as these things do, a variety of non-comics influences, Rivera — who is a uniquely perceptive and emotive cartoonist, using an economy of lines to communicate a wealth of visual fact and feeling — leans into the works of Jean Audubon, John Muir (especially), and the so-called “Hudson Valley painters” to tell the story of Plover the bird, his friend who’s on their last legs (err — feathers), and naturalist Elin, who’s conscripted by Plover to visually record his compatriot’s de facto deathbed memoir. Bring a tissue, absolutely — but don’t worry, Rivera is not about to resort to cheap sentimentality in order to yank tears out of you here.

It’s always a tricky bit of business, is it not? To elicit a genuine emotional reaction to a work without relying on manipulation to get it? And yet the success of Rivera’s comic is entirely predicated upon it. Compounding the challenge she’s set for herself is her determination to impart some brief knowledge about the lives and work of Audubon and Muir without leaning into the dry “info-dump” of pure exposition — as well as to cleave to the character and temperament of their conservationist efforts. Whew! No easy task! But one that Rivera is absolutely more than up to.

There’s a real gentleness to the pacing and the characterization here, as you would likely expect, but that in no way lessens its ultimate impact — in fact, it sets the stage for it nearly flawlessly. But there’s even more to it than that when viewed in a larger, broader context : we live, after all, in harsh, coarse, combative, and inherently cynical times, and while nature offers reprieve from that, so too does Rivera’s comic. And that, right there, is what strikes me as being the most remarkable thing about it, among many remarkable things to choose from.

Was that her intention? I don’t see how it couldn’t have been, that’s for certain — but then, I didn’t make this book. Nor does it particularly matter whether or not it was in the strictest sense. The fact is that she has created a work that allows for some much-needed time away from the noise, a small series of moments where we’re able to focus on what really matters. That’s worth its weight in gold right there, and it means that this isn’t simply a comic to enjoy, to analyze, to marvel over — it’s one to be downright grateful for.

Trust me, then, when I say that I’m very grateful for it indeed. I’m grateful for its grace, its beauty, its charm, its entirely unforced messaging, its magnificent cartooning, its elegant pacing, its authentic dialogue, its quiet way of making the magical seems everyday and the everyday seem magical. Read it for yourself and I’m quite confident that you’ll be, as well.


Island Of Elin is available for $6.00 from the Ley Lines storenvy site at

Also, this review — and all others around these parts — is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative indeed if you’d take a moment to check it out by directing your kind attention to



Catching Up With “Ley Lines” : Diana H. Chu’s “Trance ‘N Dance”

All that glitters may not be gold — but Diana H. Chu’s Trance ‘N Dance, number 19 in the Czap Books/Grindstone Comics visual poetry series Ley Lines, is — although the riso printing doesn’t, in fact, glitter. So where does that leave us, besides with an admittedly gorgeous-looking mini?

I’m still in the process of answering that question myself, but there’s no question that Chu has created a de facto visual “museum guide” like no other here. The rub is that the exhibit that she’s offering up for display has a lot more to do with many more things than the book’s back-cover blurb would perhaps, at first glance, lead one to believe — but that may not be a bad thing. It’s up to you decide — it always is with this series, that’s one of the best things about it — so consider my role here to be every bit as much that of an interpreter as it is that of a traditional critic per se. How does the extra hat feel? Maybe I’ll be able to let you know by the time we’re finished here —

So, the page presented above is fairly representative of what you’ll find herein, an intriguing mish-mash of objects from times and places various and sundry juxtaposed with both proper labeling and short-form explanations for what it is we’re “seeing” and fairly free-form verse. The overall effect is unique, to be sure — for good and ill. In my considered view it’s more often the latter than the former, so that’s a plus, but it does mean you need to be prepared for something that runs the risk of not registering with you completely when you go into this book. As with all Ley Lines publications, this one is ostensibly dedicated to exploring the work of an artist from outside of the comics sphere — in this case Patti Smith, although in fact she’s got plenty of company — but it’s every bit as committed to exploring the meaning of that work, as well. And that’s where the scattershot focus here ends up being, in my view, perhaps a bit overextended — though again, that may not be a bad thing, as Chu’s aim (which we’ll get to, I promise), while specific, is better communicated by conscripting a number of participants, even if there might be a couple/few too many here.

What she’s giving form and voice to, I would venture to state, is a  field manual mapping out the whats and whys of something and somewhere else — a rhythmic circular loop around maybe not so much a higher as it is a different state of consciousness. Returning to the back cover blurb, we see reference to “a guidebook to another plane, a love song on repeat” — and that, friends, is entirely accurate. Maybe even seductively accurate, weird as that no doubt sounds.

Prepare, then, not just for Smith — although she’s well-represented — but also for Henri Rousseau. For Jimi Hendrix. For statuary from Egypt, Greece, Rome. For the rhythmic trance the title refers to — but the transcendence it aims to achieve? That might be a hit-or-miss proposition. I do, however, give Chu serious points for her ambition in that regard, as well as for the visual means by which she attempts to take us to that other state of consciousness, or being. By that I refer to her illustrations, which, while obviously photo-referenced, are nonetheless more concerned with capturing the essential character of what she’s depicting rather than with physical exactitude (although she acquits herself plenty well in that regard, as well), and that makes all the difference — on this dimensional plane or any other.

By book’s end, you’re either going to come back down to where you were when you began, or to circle back around to that same point, albeit with some extra insight into a different state of mind — and while the former may be indicative of a more memorable overall experience, neither is a bad outcome. In fact, neither is actually an outcome at all — and you may very well find yourself inclined to start Chu’s guided journey all over again.


Trance ‘N Dance is available for $6.00 from the Ley Lines storenvy site at

Review wrist check – Zodiac “Super Sea Wolf 68 Saturation” in burnt orange with blue dial.



Catching Up With “Ley Lines” : W.T. Frick’s “One & Three”

It occurs to me that I’ve been remiss in my responsibilities around these parts to keep you all up to date on the comings and goings of Ley Lines, the long-running visual/comics poetry ‘zine from Czap Books and Grindstone Comics that explores the intersections between this beloved medium of ours and other forms of art/culture by presenting a different cartoonist’s take on the work of somebody else with each issue, so we’re going to be playing a bit of catch-up around here in the coming days until I’m a) all caught up, and b) consequently feeling a lot less guilty. First up on this journey : Ley Lines #18, W.T. Frick’s One & Three, which came off the riso in late 2019.

Taking the form of a vicarious tour through a multi-media conceptual art show inspired by the works of legendary author Ursula K. Le Guin — specifically The Lathe Of Heaven — Frick’s immaculately-detailed realist illustrations are juxtaposed with text captions both heavy and sparse in equal measure, establishing a highly unusual rhythm to the work as a whole that keeps readers wonderfully, dare I say tantalizingly, off-balance throughout. All of which means, in short, that this is a highly experimental and unconventional entry in a series where such things are already taken as a matter of course.

It’s also — and this is the crucial part — quite beautiful and immersive, with Frick bringing you indirectly into her world in order to, for lack of a better term, lull you into Le Guin’s. One needn’t be terribly familiar with The Lathe Of Heaven — goodness know I’m not — in order to feel both siren-called toward it (which could very well be the whole point here) and reasonably familiar with, at the very least, its conceptual framework and concerns by the time all is said and done here, but this is by no means a linear exploration of its subject on Frick’s part. No, that’d be too easy and too dull. Rather, this is an examination of it from the perspective of an ambitious double remove : after all, attending a gallery show is by its very definition an exercise in observation, so when we, as readers, are observing those who are in turn observing the exhibition themselves, well — that’s reification squared.

Compounding the effect further still, some of the art herein isn’t by Frick herself — although she’s offering her visual interpretation of it — but is, rather, by the likes of Louise Lawler, Ellsworth Kelly, Joseph Koseth, and even Tilda Swinton. It probably would be beneficial to have at least a passing familiarity with Le Guin’s original text in order to limn the connections between it and these works, sure, but again — I’m not prepared to say that’s a “make or break” deal. I emerged from the other side fairly confident in my having pieced most of this together, and the “blind spots” I went in with that still persist strike me now as being intriguing blank spaces I’d like to fill in rather than frustrating knowledge gaps. But perhaps I’m deluding myself?

It’s certainly been known to happen, so I’m not prepared to rule it out, but this is nevertheless a very inviting and tonally reverential look at various looks at Le Guin, a number of which are conscripted into said service rather than having been created with such aims in mind. Trust me when I say it only sounds confusing — if you drop your guard at the outset and allow yourself to go with Frick’s flow, it all feels quite true, and where I come from that means a hell of a lot more than making hard-and-fast, concrete sense.

Admittedly, this doesn’t exactly put me in an optimal position when it comes to determining whether or not Frick has achieved what she set out to do here, but comics poetry, like its literary equivalent, is all about individual interpretation, anyway. From where I’m sitting — as a voyeur twice-removed — I’m still processing the impressions that it left me with, and I never feel cheated or unfulfilled by art that takes me time to first process, and then process a reaction to.


One & Three is available for $6.00 from the Ley Lines storenvy site at

Review wrist check – Formex “Essence” automatic chronometer brown dial model riding a Formex blue strap.


Weekly Reading Round-Up : 12/23/2018 – 12/29/2018, “Ley Lines” 2018

Placing itself at the conceptual and philosophical intersection of comics and the works of art in other mediums (as well as the artists themselves) that inspire them, the quarterly “solo anthology” or “mini-monograph” series Ley Lines, a joint publication effort of Grindstone Comics and Czap Books, boasts a wider-than-it-sounds editorial remit, a “murderer’s row” of cartooning talent, and production values to match, each issue being approximately 1/3 (or so) the size of a standard comic book, riso-printed on high-quality paper with unique color schemes designed to match and, by extension, amplify the tone and tenor of the material on offer. Before the calendar flips yet again, I think it would behoove us to have a look back at the four installments of this remarkable title that came our way in 2018 —

Jia Sung’s Skin To Skin (Ley Lines #14) is visual and verbal poetry of the absolute highest order, weaving a tale of sisterhood, transformation, and loss within the loose framework of the Madame White Snake folktale as interpreted by Cuban painter Belkis Ayon. This is a book of few words, but those words are chosen with care and with an eye toward maximum emotional impact, while the illustrations, tasked with most of the “heavy lifting,” somehow feel light as a feather, transient as a summer cloud. This is the definition of “remarkable stuff,” harrowing work couched, perhaps I’d even go so far as to say disguised, as a lush, dreamlike mediation that nonchalantly enters the back of your mind, burrows its way forward, and then refuses to let go of its berth for days. Expect to see these images play out in succession whenever you close your eyes — maybe even when they’re still open — as your subconscious challenges you to unpack their meaning, their message, their essential character. Sung excels at this sort of thing, of course, but here she is in full flower — and that flower is blooming with energy, intent, and silently visceral determination. One of those rare comics whose full impact is undeniable on first reading, but only well and truly felt and absorbed through repeated exposure and, crucially, exploration. I’m. In. Fucking. Awe.

Oliver East’s Langeweile (Ley Lines #15), a more formal “tone poem” exercise, creates (and subsequently adheres to) a tempo and a pentameter that grounds its story about “everything and nothing” in a space where only the kind of loose-form visuals employed herein, that communicate unfathomably deep meaning with a minimum of pen and brush strokes, can possibly work — and as a result its ambitious goal of providing a “proof positive” argument for Martin Heidegger’s theory of “profound boredom” is met with flying colors. What goes through one’s mind on a circular trip around and through an airport? How can these thoughts be presented and relayed in each of perception’s three stages of retention, immediate present, and protention? As with many an airplane flight, your mileage with this one may vary, but I found it a profound and contemplative piece that took me a hell of a long way — even though I never left my favorite reading chair.

L. Nichols’ Recapitulation (Ley Lines #16) is one of the most earnest and provocative stories about coming back home I’ve read in quite some time — only “home” here is not a place, but the work of a composer. Growing up, Nichols admired the incomparable Ludwig van Beethoven, and was determined to master playing his most complex sonatas, but drifted away as a teenager toward more contemporary music — until that old itch for “Ludwig van” (you knew a reference to A Clockwork Orange was inevitable here, right?) demanded to be scratched again. This time, though? Nichols’ time away, and exposure to new forms of music and ways of thinking, inculcated within him not only a new and deeper appreciation for his past and future favorite composer, but an entirely different, and more considered, way to both interpret and approach his truly timeless work. Illustrated in a style that appears “slapdash” but actually scales numerous levels of tremendous complexity, this is a comic that succeeds in being both entirely organic and exactingly precise simultaneously. If it actually were a piano recital, it would receive a standing ovation.

Whit Taylor’s Smile (Ley Lines #17) is the closest thing to a traditional narrative of the bunch here, and it’s an absolute and unequivocal triumph. A multi-layered work of short-form memoir that weaves the (supposed) backstory behind Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Mona Lisa in with learning about him for the first time by way of legendary children’s book author/illustrator Tomie dePaola in preparation for her role in an elementary school play, this is Taylor’s trademark humane and heartfelt approach firing on all cylinders — and an absolute joy to both read and to look at, as her naturalistic, unforced cartooning style has never been better than it is in these pages. In no way cold and lonely, this is a warm, real, lovely work of art. My sincere apologies, Mr. Cole.

At six bucks apiece, these books are an absolute steal, and with the Ley Lines project getting more broad in terms of scope and ambition with each passing year, I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store. For now, though, you’d do well to close out this year (as we’re doing here, since this will be the final Round-Up column of 2018 — Happy New Year, one and all!)  by picking any — or, better yet, all — of these up at