Catching A Ride With “The Bus Driver”

We’ve all had ’em — those days when you go in to work and just feel like high-tailing it in the other direction for reasons that are difficult to quantify as they are to ignore.

Work — who the hell came up with this idea? Does anyone, on their deathbed, lament not putting in enough hours on the job? Is selling away time you can’t get back in exchange for money you can’t take with you when you’re gone a fair deal no matter how much (or, is far more common in this day and age, how little) you’re being paid?

We all know the answer to these questions, of course. And yet most of us turn up at 9:00 AM (or whenever), clock in, and get down to business — and, more often than not, it’s someone else’s business we’re getting down to. But if you’re in the right position, whether you realize it consciously most days or not, creative re-appropriation of the tools available to you at your job can also provide, should you finally break in that direction, your liberation from it. Which brings us — finally, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself — to writer Anthony Perillo and artist Pat Aulisio’s new mini (self-published under Aulisio’s Yeah Dude Comics imprint), The Bus Driver.

The protagonist in this one doesn’t have a blinding “Road To Damascus” moment or anything — he just does what almost every one of us has the urge to do at some point. He says “fuck it” (as seen above) and splits. In the city bus that he drives for a “living.”

I’m actually shocked this hasn’t, to my knowledge, happened in real life yet. The practicalities of the occupation make it an easy enough one to ditch out on. You can probably make it a pretty fair distance before the bus company would even know what the fuck was going on. There’s honestly just as much reason for a driver to go for it as there is for him or her not to. And when you factor in a complex situation on the home front (again, the page shown above provides a good clue), our titular driver finally has reason to stop ignoring his “inner voice” and hit freedom road.

Where it goes from there I’ll leave it for you to discover, suffice to say Perillo’s story is a mix of the expected and the far less so, of big moments and smaller, more intimate ones. It all makes for a solid enough narrative (sorry for this, but) ride, and Aulisio’s art, while somewhat restrained (relatively speaking) here in comparison to his trademark “gonzo” sci-fi fare, matches the subject matter perfectly and puts the emphasis right where it should be : on the grit, the grime, the ugliness of a world where everybody has to effing work.

Unless and until they realize they don’t need or want to anymore. You might guess this whole thing is pre-destined to end in tears — and maybe it is (again, I won’t give it away), but let’s say, purely for the sake of argument, that it does : wouldn’t it still be worth it? Isn’t a short period of autonomy and self-determination in your life better than none at all?

For a comic that extols the virtues of taking this job and shoving it, The Bus Driver puts in overtime by asking some very profound questions.

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You really need to check out this mini, so order it up for five bucks from Birdcage Bottom Books at https://birdcage-bottom-books.myshopify.com/products/the-bus-driver

Also, please consider supporting my work by joining 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. Here’s a link for that :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 05/27/2018 – 06/02/2018, Kalen Knowles And (More) Pat Aulisio

Still firmly in catch-up mode (but with light at the end of the tunnel), this week’s grab-bag of items that arrived in my mailbox includes three self-published comics from Kalen Knowles, one of the most distinctive voices in the Seattle underground, and another from Philly’s Pat Aulisio, who continues to blow me away with his idiosyncratic visions. Why waste time? Let’s have a look at the good stuff, and this time out it’s all good —

Knowles’ Journal is like nothing else I’ve ever seen in my life, a densely-packed sketchbook diary (think the Wimpy Kid books and you’re getting warm) told from the POV of a young octopoid alien named Atticus that is almost disarmingly clever and imbued with a genuine sense of charm and wonder throughout. Atticus’ world — hell, his entire space/time continuum — bears certain similarities to our own, but rather than employing these as set-pieces for a straight allegorical tale, Knowles fashions a springboard from which to hint at any number of wild, even inexplicable, differences, and the end result is something equal parts utterly alien and entirely universal. You get a hell of a lot of storytelling for your five bucks here, all of it deliriously inventive, and if you pass on this, you seriously ought to have your head examined.

Stick Guy Comics is a varied, but generally pretty impressive, collection of one-page strips Knowles produced as part of Seattle’s monthly DUNE cartooning “jam sessions,” wherein participants would get together at Cafe Racer and produce an entire ‘zine’s-worth of comics in a single night. The character of Stick Guy is exactly what he sounds like, and there’s a definite Michael DeForge “vibe” to most of these stories, with basic and colorful shapes being utilized in service of (mis)adventures that are eminently easy to relate to, yet no less weird for that fact. As you’d no doubt expect given the circumstances under which they were created, some of these strips are more successful in terms of doing what they set out to than others, but when they “hit,” they really “hit,”  and truth be told even the “misses” are still interesting. Not an essential purchase by any means, but still well worth the five dollar asking price.

I doubt Knowles knows it, but the title for his Doctor Dracula comic is pretty similar to an aborted Ed Wood project called Dr. Acula, and like Wood’s films, this feels like art that arrived here from another dimension. Combining the stories of Tarzan, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein, and even Gilligan’s fucking Island into one bursting-at-the-seams package of “high weirdness” might sound like a lot to fit into a mere 16 pages, but not only does it all work, it all hews to a strangely coherent inner logic, and is damn funny, to boot. Knowles’ B&W artwork in this one is richly-detailed, expressive, even lavish, betraying just a hint of Rick Geary influence (never a bad thing in my book) around the margins. You’re gonna want to read this one twice through before putting it down, just to see if you missed anything the first time around, and if your comics budget for the month is only three dollars, this wouldn’t be a bad thing at all to spend it on.

Knowles also sent me a terrifically bizarre and broad-themed mini called Intervals that I can’t seem to find available for purchase anywhere online, but if you can cajole a copy out of him, I highly recommend you try to do just that — as for everything else, it’s available from his Big Cartel shop at https://kalenknowles.bigcartel.com/

F’real Real is a mind-bending solo (well, for the most part) anthology from Pat Aulisio that features such a varied assortment of short, mostly full-color, strips that it’s fair to say there’s truly something for everyone in here — provided, of course, that “everyone” is a little bent. Once you get past that absolutely awesome cover you’ll find —among other, errrrmm, “delights” — tales of repetitious cuckolded cat-burglars, broke ex-wrestlers, dimension-hopping Japanese rock bands, and my favorite, a hot-rodder in the Big Daddy Roth mode who is in hock to a demonic space alien that requires young flesh to feast upon. Aulisio’s art has a raw immediacy that makes even the likes of Brian Chippendale look overly-professional and conservative, so your only option here is to hold on for dear life and try to survive the ride.

Printed on slick, glossy paper and featuring heavy-duty cardstock covers, this “co-production” of Drippy Bone Books and Aulisio’s own Yeah Dude Comics is well worth the eight bucks he’s charging for it and can be ordered directly from the cartoonist at http://yeahdude.storenvy.com/collections/50621-all-products/products/12163422-freal-real

And with that, we’ll call it a wrap for this week’s column. Next time up we’ll be taking a look at — shit, you know what? I don’t even know yet. But I’m pretty well caught up with what folks have been sending me in the mail, so maybe I’ll find something interesting at the shop this Wednesday? One can always (or should that be only ?) hope!

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 05/20/2018 – 05/26/2018, Brian Canini And Pat Aulisio

Let’s talk some mini comics! I’ve been getting a ton of them in the mail lately and am doing my best to keep up (if you’ve sent me some and haven’t seen ’em reviewed yet, rest assured, I’m getting around to everything in the next week or two — and if you haven’t sent me any but want to, get in touch!), so let’s dive right in and take a look at some of what’s been coming my way, starting with a trio from our old friend Brian Canini and his Drunken Cat Comics self-publishing imprint —

Roulette is a stark and unforgiving (just check out that cover) eight-pager about a couple “dudebros” who have hit rock bottom and are indulging in the preferred method of drunken Russians to end their suffering. What exactly brought the pair of them to this point is only hinted at, but it’s not like the details matter too terribly much as the point of this entire endeavor can best be summed up as “maximum impact within a minimalist framework.” In that respect, Canini succeeds quite well, infusing his usual economic cartooning style with a bit of a DIY punk sensibility that suits this material to a proverbial “T” and socks you right in the jaw with very little fuss and muss. This is a bleak little book, to be sure, but a gripping one, and the highly ambiguous final page ensures that you’re gonna want to go right back to the start and read it again to decide how you think it “really” ends. $1.99 for an artfully-constructed comic that really makes you think is a solid expenditure, in my book, so I heartily recommend this one without reservation.

And the same is true (hell, it always is with this series) for Plastic People #5. Last time out we exited the “world-building” phase of this faux-perfect dystopian future and jumped right into the murder mystery that is apparently going to be the main focus of Canini’s narrative, and this time around we get an unflinching look at the political machinations that are going to make an honest investigation well-nigh impossible for our protagonists. The art in this series keeps getting more assured and confident with each issue, and the plot progression is tight and reasonably intricate. Canini successfully crams more story into eight pages than “The Big Two” manage in books three times this length, and he hits on more story “beats,” to boot. This is an expertly-crafted series that has only improved with each issue, and $1.99 for shit this good is an absolute bargain. Plus, the future LA portrayed in this comic has no fucking cops. What’s not to love?

Glimpses Of Life #5 is the latest installment in Canini’s diary comics series, this time focused on cats and our love/hate relationship with the little bastards that we can’t live without. The bookends of the comic are probably the best parts of this issue, with a charming little autobio story about the cartoonist’s pet slugs (yes, you read that right) he used to keep as a kid kicking things off and a terrific little strip called “How Cat Beds Work” serving as the back cover send-off, but to be perfectly honest most of the stories in between fell kinda flat with me. Canini’s drawing style lends itself well to these short little vignettes, and the consumer-friendliness of this series (16 larger-than-the-typical-mini pages for $2.99) is welcome and appreciated, but I still feel like he’s trying to find his voice with this project and sort of eyeing up anything and everything in his everyday life as a potential source of inspiration until he hits on something that he’s really got some unique perspective on. I give him points for trying, and certainly encourage him to continue doing just that, but so far he has yet to find a way to make these admirably simple slices — sorry, glimpses — of life compelling. He’ll likely get there at some point — hell, he’s done some terrific diary comics work in the past — but for whatever reason, this is taking some time to come together.

Still, two out of three ain’t bad at all, and Brian’s storenvy site offers plenty more stuff well worth your time and money, as well, so spending some time browsing his wares is never a bad idea. You can do just that at http://drunkencatcomics.storenvy.com/

Pat Aulisio is yet another cartoonist to emerge in recent years from the suddenly-booming Philadelphia scene, and while I’ve seen some of his work in a handful of anthologies here and there, Ghosted is the first of his “solo” books that I’ve sampled. Printed in black, white, and a pleasingly garish otherworldly aqua-blue, Aulisio’s own description of this comic bills it as concerning “online dating and a walk through the trans-dimensional void” — and I’ll be goddamned if that isn’t exactly right, as his narrative (I hesitate to call it a “story”) juxtaposes some typically lame Tinder-style banter with amazingly-delineated scenes channeled straight from an alternate reality that I can only think to (no doubt inadequately) label as “punk futurism.” You can look at this book for hours and not get bored — hell, not even know what’s happening for certain, and in that sense it reminds me a lot of much of the very best stuff from the volumes-four-and-five heyday of Kramers Ergot. There’s a touch of William Cardini to Aulisio’s work, a touch of Ben Passmore, but mostly a heaping helping of techno-psychedelia that defies not only classification, but even description. If you’re getting the feeling that this comic is exactly what you need in order to survive for another minute in this hopelessly dull plane of existence, guess what? It is.

Aulisio’s got himself a storenvy site For his Yeah Dude Comics imprint, as well — what self-respecting (or otherwise) cartoonist doesn’t these days? — and he’s even running a little sale right now, with Ghosted  going for the bargain price of $3.00 and other books knocked down by a buck or two, as well. Check it out at http://yeahdude.storenvy.com/

Next week we’ve got more Aulisio (he sent me a second comic that I haven’t had a chance to read yet), some cool-looking stuff from Seattle cartoonist Kalen Knowles that I meant to get to this week — and who knows? Maybe a few surprises, as well, depending on what else shows up courtesy of our friends at the USPS. Hope to see you back here in seven!