Preview : “American Cult”

This isn’t my usual custom, but since I collaborated with Mike Freiheit on the story “Walk A Mile In My Shoes : A Jonestown History” (I wrote it, he drew it) in editor Robyn Chapman’s new Silver Sprocket-published anthology American Cult, I thought I’d shamelessly plug it here and, of course, encourage all of you to order it. I’ll have more to say about it on my Patreon in fairly short order, I would guess, but for now I’ll regale you all with some sample art pages from the book and the publisher’s official promotional text. I’ll resume regular programming (that being reviews, naturally) with my next post, I promise, but hey, this is the first comic I’ve been a part of as a creator, so I hope you don’t mind indulging me a bit — and I also hope you’ll consider supporting this very worthy project.

A graphic history of religious cults in American from the colonial era to today

From its earliest days, America has been home to spiritual seekers.

In 1694, the religious tolerance of the Pennsylvania Colony enticed a Transylvanian monk and his forty followers to cross the Atlantic. Almost two hundred years later, a charismatic preacher founded a utopian community in Oneida, New York, that practiced socialism and free love. In the 1960s and ’70s, a new generation of seekers gathered in vegetarian restaurants in Los Angeles, Satanic coffee shops in New Orleans, and fortified communes in Philadelphia. And in the twenty-first century, gurus use self-help seminars and get-rich-quick schemes to evangelize to their flocks.

Across the decades, Americans in search of divine truths have turned to unconventional prophets for the answers. Some of these prophets have demanded their faith, fortunes, and even their very lives. In American Cult, over twenty cartoonists explore the history of these groups with clarity and empathy—looking beyond the scandalous headlines to find the human stories within.

Featuring the talents of Lara Antal, Brian “Box” Brown, Ryan Carey, Rosa Colón Guerra, Mike Dawson, Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg, Mike Freiheit, Emi Gennis, Andrew Greenstone, Janet Harvey, Josh Kramer, Jesse Lambert, Ellen Lindner, Lonnie Mann, Ben Passmore, Jim Rugg, Robert Sergel, Vreni Stollberger, Steve Teare, and J.T. Yost.

May 2021; $24.99; Paperback; 208 B & W pages; ISBN: 978-1-945509-63-6; Diamond: FEB218242

American Cult is available for $24.99 from Silver Sprocket at

From The Paper Rocket Vault : Robyn Chapman’s “Twin Bed”

Billing itself as a “micro graphic novella,” 2016’s Twin Bed was the first published cartooning from Paper Rocket Mini Comics proprietor Robyn Chapman in a good number of years, and there’s a fun air of formal experimentation to it throughout : the publication comes packaged in a paper “slipcase” illustrated to look like a quilt that the reader “uncovers” to get at the book itself, and the story is constructed as a series of roughly 100 single-panel-per-page images that feature a static background (that being a guy’s bedroom) with Chapman’s two unnamed protagonists positioned differently over/within said unchanging space. It’s a choice that no doubt saved the cartoonist a little bit of time when it came to drawing the thing, sure, but it’s also a bold and risky one — after all, if the narrative and the characters’ actions aren’t interesting, the whole thing could get pretty old pretty fast.

As readers, our gaze is fixed by default throughout, and this lends the project a distinctly voyeuristic feel, as there’s little doubt that we’ll be seeing things occurring in this bedroom, and on this titular twin bed, that the couple would of course be mortified to know that we were privy to — and this isn’t limited to sex, although that comes to mind first (for some of us, at any rate). As anyone who’s ever been in a long-term relationship can tell you, though, it’s the emotional intimacy that comes with negotiating life as a couple that is at least as private a matter as the physical intimacy, and Chapman puts us front and enter for all of that herein.

As you’ve likely surmised by now, then, this is a distinctly uncomfortable work in many instances, but it’s also a warm and welcoming one in others. The narrative is segmented into a series of fixed chronological dates, each getting a handful of pages of “screen time,” and while it’s fair to say that what is essentially on offer is a trajectory of the highs and lows of this particular relationship, Chapman’s agreeably basic cartooning, ear for authentic dialogue, and acuity in terms of guiding the eye where it’s supposed to go elevate what could, in less capable hands, be a fairly basic story into something that both hits home while you’re reading it and sticks with you after you’re done. Comparisons with Richard McGuire’s Here are inevitable, I suppose, but Chapman’s concerns are far more tightly-focused, as she’s utilizing a specific location to tell the story of two specific people rather than several.

About that, though : since this is the bedroom of the male partner in the couple, we do find ourselves getting know him a bit better simply as a matter of course. We know he’s into George Romero and Star Trek, for instance, and we never get that kind of added information about his girlfriend. Given the strictures attached to Chapman’s “ground rules” this is unavoidable, it’s true — we were bound to get a little bit more insight into one of the characters depending on who’s place she chose to set things in — but it seems a bit of a curious choice to me given that the woman comes across as the more interesting and multi-faceted personality. It’s a small quibble in the scheme of things, I’ll grant you, but one that merits at least a brief mention.

All that aside, however, you will absolutely find yourself “rooting” for these two people to make it, and empathizing with their plight when the going looks rough. Chapman’s figure drawings are “cartoony,” to be sure, but her characters look and feel real regardless, and many a reader is sure to recognize the conversations they have because, hey, most of us have been there, too. This is a remarkably resonant comic, then, and more than likely one that you’ll want to return to every now and again, as doing so feels like visiting a couple of old friends that you know very well.

Okay, maybe even a little too well, but that’s rather the point of Twin Bed, and in that respect Chapman does a very admirable job off achieving her simple, but innovative, goals. I encourage you to discover the charms of this comic for yourself by heading over to


Review wrist check – I was wearing my Farer Universal “Beagle II” while I wrote this one, riding on Farer’s factory-issue tan perforated leather strap. I’ve got their green barenia strap for this one, as well, and while that one makes the ceramic dial “pop” out a bit more, I think the tan gives some nice contrast to the green hands and numerals.

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 if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to




Weekly Reading Round-Up : 03/24/2019 – 03/30/2019, Old School ‘Zines

Fuck the internet. Once upon a time, if you wanted to get your thoughts on any given random-ass subject (say, for instance, comics) out there to a tiny sliver of the public, you had to go to the trouble of writing ’em down, constructing them into articles, essays, or at least rants, designing and laying out pages, selecting and/or commissioning illustrations, and then slapping everything between two covers and actually publishing what you’d come up with.

It took guts. It took determination. It took commitment. And it took cash that most ‘zine creators were sorely lacking. Fortunately, some folks still refuse the “easy out” offered by digital and continue to produce these labors of genuine love. For this week’s Round-Up column, I thought I’d draw attention to some notable recent examples —

Mineshaft #36 is the latest issue of Everett Rand and Gioia Palimieri’s long-running, idiosyncratic, expertly-curated (a term I usually avoid at all costs, but it really does apply here) small-press publication featuring a selection of illustrations, poems, correspondence, and personal observations/essays. Rand and Palmieri are essentially continuing a long-form conversation with their small-but-loyal readership at this point, who have come to expect nothing but the best both in terms of content and production values from this indefatigable, hand-crafted ‘zine. Mainstay contributor R. Crumb provides gorgeous covers this time out, with interior contents courtesy of a “murderer’s row” of counter-cultural talent including Justin Green, Billy Childish, Mary Fleener, David Collier, Noah Van Sciver, Denis Kitchen, and many others. A true artisan publication, well worth its $9 asking price and then some. Find out more by heading on over to :

The Tiny Report #5 continues editor/publisher Robyn Chapman’s welcome trend of getting better and more ambitious with each issue, and while the exhaustive fold-out chart that is her annual “Micro-Press Yearbook” is something to behold, for this critic the highlights this time out were the interviews with one of the best cartoonists alive, Eleanor Davis, and one of the most disturbing and original cartoonists of all time, Mike Diana. Tons of mini-comic reviews round out the impressive package, but seriously — these are two of the best Q&A’s offered up anywhere in recent memory. $6 is a steal for anything this superb, so order one up at

But Is It — Comic Aht? #1 is a newcomer to the fold, courtesy of our old friend, editor/publisher Austin English, and his Domino Books imprint. If the return of The Comics Journal to print felt a bit underwhelming to you, rest easy — this ‘zine has you covered, and it’s a lot cheaper. A career-spanning interview with the great (and sadly under-appreciated) Megan Kelso was my favorite thing in this debut issue, but a personal exploration of the Mexican indie comics scene by Ines Estrada was another standout contribution in a publication that, frankly, features nothing but. I’m working on an interview with cartoonist David Tea for the second issue, but until then you can get the first for the ridiculously low sum of $5 from

The Holland Report #3 is probably the most specialized book under our metaphorical microscope this week, a true throwback in terms of both style, content, and format to the fanzines of yesteryear courtesy of publisher John Boylan, whose love for the venerable DC muck-monster known as Swamp Thing knows no bounds. In fact, he tosses in a fan club membership card and button with each order. Unseen Swampy sketches from one of his most beloved artists, Stephen Bissette, a terrific interview with arguably the most under-valued writer to ever work on the book, the great Nancy A. Collins, a mind-bendingly thorough look at the early history of John Constantine, and lots of cool fan art make this a sensational value at $10. Boyland and his collaborators are true fans and this is a true fan publication. Get more details at

The independent comics ‘zine is far from dead — let’s all do our part to make sure it stays that way by supporting these amazing folks and their amazing work!

That’ll do quite nicely for this week, which leaves me with just enough timeto remind you that this column is “brought to you” each and every week by my Patreon site, where for less money than a hit of acid cost when I was a kid you get exclusive thrice-weekly ravings and ramblings from yours truly on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature and politics. Plus, supporting me there keeps me sufficiently motivated to provide a steady supply of entirely free content here and over on my trashfilmguru movie site. Please take moment to check it out and consider supporting my work by following this here link :