Back In The Saddle, Part Three : Ryan Alves, Chaia Startz, Drew Lerman, And More

I dunno if I’ve got miles to go before I sleep (let’s fucking hope not), but I’ve got miles to go before I’m caught up, so let’s keep on keeping on with the single steps that make up the journey of a thousand — you know what? Enough with the cliches already.

Spiny Orb Weaver #2, Edited By Neil Brideau – Starting things off with a shameless plug for my Patreon, I’ve been talking a lot recently about the new trend in comics toward more locally-focused anthologies over on that site, and Brideau/Radiator are taking things a step further by funding this Miami-centric ‘zine with a South Florid arts grant. The format of each issue is tight and disciplined, to be sure, but there’s room within it to tell just about any story a person could want to : the lead feature is done by a South Florida-based artist, followed by an interview with them, then there’s a secondary strip by someone who used to call the area home about their time there, and then we get a text piece on the comic arts in South Florida wraps things up. This time out, the “headliner” is Drew Lerman, who’s never made anything less than a nearly-perfect comic, and that trend continues here with a sublime strip set in his Snake Creek “universe,” so this is a “must-buy” item already. The back-up is by Chris Lopez, a name new to me who contributes an evocative bit of reminiscence, and the text piece comes courtesy of my friend and SOLRAD cohort Rob Clough, so — yeah. Plenty for your money here, and projects worthy of your support don’t come a whole lot worthier than this one.

All this can be yours for ten bucks by going over to

The Adventures Of Nib And Borba By Chaia Startz – Making a strong case for the year’s best mini, we have this compact legitimately auteur vision from Startz, perhaps best known as part of the Bay Area’s Dead Crow de facto collective (sorry, don’t know what else to call it), who packs more sheer cartooning energy onto the page than a reasonable person would ever assume possible. And speaking of assumptions, I think our title characters are cats dressed as hearts, but honestly, it doesn’t really matter : they’re an outlet for Startz to make hilariously well-considered points about our media-saturated culture that never miss the mark and, just as crucially, never come off as heavy-handed or overly obvious. If you wear reading glasses like I do, you’ll need to break ’em out for this comic as the panels are incredibly small, but every last one of them is just plain incredible, as well. This reads and feels like the future of comics as you hold it in your hands, and if we’re lucky enough, who knows? Maybe it will be.

On the downside, it appears to be sold out everywhere, but if you want to start the process of hunting one down — and trust me, you do — you could do worse than asking around at

Bubblegum Maelstrom #2 By Ryan Alves – If the first issue of Alves’ solo anthology brught the heat, the second brings pure fire, as this represents what personal, idiosyncratic works of art are all about : wordless barring the continuing Bat-parody/reluctant tribute “Moustache,” this is a (damn I hate this word, but) cornucopia of styles and methods in service of stories loosely linked by themes of metamorphosis, inconsistency, and “change being the only constant.” But it’s not just physical change Alves is playing with here, nosiree — by the end of his strips one usually finds their perception of everything that’s happened going back to the beginning has changed, as well, each story therefore being an internalized, self-referential interrogation of form, function, and the very concept of finality. “Nothing ends, Adrian — nothing ever ends.”

In theory I’d recommend you get this from Alves’ own Awe Comics, but for reasons I’ll get to in a moment I’m going to direct you to the Strangers website to score it :

Bubblegum Maelstrom #3 By Ryan Alves – Okay, I stand corrected : nothing ends except when it does, and with the oversized, squarebound, third issue of his series, Alves is calling it a day. There’s something to be said for going out on top, though, and as our three continuing narratives wrap up alongside a smatterinig of stand-alone strips, you get that entirely pleasant feeling of an artist having done everything they want to do with a particular project and moving on to the next challenge, whatever it may be. Not everyone can hit with every story, of course, and there’s a “buddy cops vs. mutants” yarn in here that didn’t do a ton for me and seems conceptually slight in comparison with everything else, but that “everything else” is grade-A comics all the way. Once again, we run a stylistic gamut here, but everything (except that one thing) makes for a cohesive whole from dizzyingly disparate parts. Remember how freaking amazing comics can be? Read this, and you will. Problem is —

I don’t know where the hell you’re supposed to find it. Strangers has the first two issues, but not this one. The Awe Comics Storenvy site is likewise bereft of it. My recommendation would be to go to Alves’ personal website and bug him to sell you a copy. Hit the contact “button” at this link :

And with that, I’m calling it a night. Be a mensch and help a jobbing critic out by signing up for that Patreon I mentioned earlier, where you get a lot more of this kind of thing for as little as a dollar a month :

Fieldmouse Press Launches Inaugural Fundraising Drive

Fieldmouse Press, the new non-profit comics publishing entity founded by myself and fellow critics Rob Clough, Daniel Elkin, and Alex Hoffman, is pleased to announce the launch of our fundraising drive to help finance our inaugural 2020 publishing season, primarily focused on establishing our new website, via  Your support is greatly appreciated, and all donations are tax-deductibe.

For more information, please visit

Announcing Fieldmouse Press And Solrad

Fieldmouse Press Board of Directors ​For Immediate Release Field Mouse Press 9/3/2019

Small Press Comics Critics Announce Formation Of Nonprofit Publishing House Fieldmouse Press

Grass Valley, CA:​ Today, veteran comics critics Daniel Elkin, Alex Hoffman, Rob Clough, and Ryan Carey announced the formation of a new, non-profit publishing company, Fieldmouse Press, establishing a visionary, ambitious, and dedicated multi-venue publishing initiative within the burgeoning small press comics community. The company’s first publishing project, SOLRAD (, will publish comics criticism, essays, interviews, and new comics as a part of a larger effort to serve the public good. SOLRAD will launch at the beginning of January 2020.

Fieldmouse Press will be operated by President Daniel Elkin, long-time publisher and editor at Your Chicken Enemy, with Alex Hoffman, publisher of Sequential State serving as Secretary/Treasurer. Rob Clough of High-Low Comics and Ryan Carey of Four Color Apocalypse round out the company’s initial board of directors. The aim of Fieldmouse Press is to emphasize its four pillars of “comics, critique, community, and collaboration” by presenting challenging, unique, and diverse material to as wide an audience as possible.

Of the press’ founding, Secretary/Treasurer Alex Hoffman said, “Our goal is to provide a space for readers, artists, and the general public to explore the comic arts in the many forms they come in. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, our goal is to serve this community that we love and do something we think hasn’t been possible before now. And as a nonprofit organization, we can take chances that other publishers haven’t.”

Fieldmouse’s first major publishing project will be a new website, SOLRAD (, which will be a comics journalism hub featuring all-new and original content ranging from comics criticism, original comics, essays, interviews, and the promotion of small-press events and releases. Further publishing projects will be announced in due course, and will likewise share in the company’s expansive, inclusive, and innovative vision.

Interested parties are encouraged to contact any of Fieldmouse’s founders with questions, comments, and any business-related correspondence at:

Daniel Elkin: Rob Clough: Alex Hoffman: Ryan Carey:

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 01/20/2019 – 01/26/2019, Small Press Comics Critics On Patreon

It goes without saying that almost every nominally “indie” cartoonist has a Patreon site of their own these days — but a few of us critics are getting in on the act, too, and it’s high time we devoted a Weekly Reading Round-Up column to them (okay, us), because all their (alright, our) stuff really is worth reading!

Daniel Elkin’s Your Chicken Enemy is the go-to “clearing house” for all things small press, not only because he now runs two reviews each week from voices both seasoned and fresh, and not only because his “In Case You Missed It” column is the single-best resource for finding out who wrote about what and where week in, week out, but because he actually pays his contributors! You do indeed get what you pay for, as the saying goes, and if you wonder how Elkin consistently gets the best content for his site — well, now you know. He’s recently launched a Patreon to help foot the bills commensurate with his ambitious expansion, and could really use your support. As could we all, actually, given that nearly everyone in the small press orbit counts on YCE gigs for beer money, at the very least. Open your wallet and head over to :

Rob Clough of High-Low could probably be considered the “grizzled veteran” of small press criticism, if it weren’t for the fact that he’s so damn friendly. Seriously, ask around and find out how many cartoonists got their first big break in terms of exposure via Rob. This guy is more “plugged in” than anybody else and it’s all down to the fact that people know they can trust his opinion — as well as trust him personally. To borrow a tired-but-true sports metaphor, every team needs a “glue guy,” and Rob is ours. Help a brother out by directing your browser to

Alex Hoffman sets a consistently high bar for the rest of us to live up to with his thought-provoking, challenging criticism at Sequential State. He always tells it like it is and is one of the most genuinely skilled and analytical readers around. Any cartoonist who submits stuff to Alex knows he’s not going to miss a detail of the effort they’re put into creating their art. Quality criticism takes time, though, and time is money, so if you have any of the latter to spare, he could use it to help facilitate having more of the former. Or something like that, at any rate. Show Alex some love by donating to

Finally, there’s yours truly, Ryan C., new to the whole thing with my Four Color Apocalypse Patreon site. I’m taking a slightly different tack over there by focusing on not just comics but also film, television, literature, and even the “real world” (whatever the hell that even means anymore). I definitely appreciate all the support readers have shown to me here, but if some (or, better yet, all) of you would do the same for me over there, I’d have a lot more time to write and be doubly grateful for that fact. You’ll find me typing with one hand, holding my hat in my hand with the other over at

Seriously, I know I speak for everyone when I say we’d all appreciate whatever you’re able to chip in, and by and large patronage comes cheap and we all offer you plenty of content for your money. Next week’s column will be more of what you expect — short-form comics reviews — but this week, please take a moment and consider lending a hand to all of us who steer your attention off the beaten path and onto things that are well and truly special. We all do this for the sheer love of doing it, and we’d love to keep sharing that love (is that enough “love” for one sentence?) for a good long time to come.