July 2014 Staff Picks
( July 16, 2014 ) Summer is a great time for reading. Consult Last Gasp's staff picks for tips on what to bring to the park or pool or to your secret dark reading spot where you hide out from the hideous sun and happy frolicking jerks.
SIMPLE HISTORY SERIES COLLECTION 1 - J Gerlach
Reading the collection of zines in this box set one is reminded of a simple truth: despite some well intentions, like Nick Cave bellows: people are no good. And you can put a pretty bow on it and call your war a moral cause, but the underlying truth is most times it's all about greed and ego.
This collection of well-articulated summaries shed light on world events that reverberate to this day. For instance: the Crusades were a 1500 years predatory exercise by the Euro popes to claim Jerusalem over the actual people who lived there, causing all kinds of bad juju between the Western world and Arab Muslims. Hmmmm.
Also included in this series are the riveting accounts of the Spanish Civil War as a rev up for WWII, the Nez Pierce tribe's gallant plight despite the US land grab, and my favorite: Congo land grab by of all countries the ruthless Belgium (who knew?), and a fascinating survey of the 28 year Cold War where the US was so adamant to be top dog over USSR we supported and financially wooed morally corrupt and cruel dictators (guilty of horrific crimes against their people) just as long as they sided with us against the "evil empire" in Moscow.
Go kiss and hug your animal/child/lover now.
Juxtapoz #163 - Edited by Evan Pricco
Great issue of Juxtapoz this month for lovers of hip hop. An extensive interview with one of my favorite artists "Jeff Jank" who is the mind behind the look of Stonesthrow Records releases. He has also recorded for the label under the alias "Captain Funkaho" and played bass on some Madlib releases. Also an interview with Freddie Gibbs and Madlib who have one of the best collaborative hip hop records to come out in a while with "Pinata"
Peanuts and Snoopies - Jay Howell
Seeing Jay Howell's goony degenerates interact with pages from old Peanuts paperbacks, the world is finally ordered in a way that makes sense to me. Unless your heart is a shriveled old chunk of monkey dung, this one-page accordian fold-out filled with dogs and naked ladies wilding-out will make you feel good.
Juxtapoz #163 - Edited by Evan Pricco
Have you noticed? Juxtapoz has been really good in recent years. They haven't been focusing on an abundance of obvious "flavor of the month" artists, choosing instead to cover a more diverse range of talent. This issue in particular was a magical convergence of good shit for me: Tom Bunk from Mad Magazine/Garbage Pail Kids fame, Jeff Jank who is the art director at Stones Throw (he created Quasimoto's weird Q Bert-nosed/Aardvark-lookin' cartoon stand-in), Jason Jaegel, and more. In addition to some personal favorites, this issue also features potential future faves like the vibrant chewbacca-femme paintings of Erik Mark Sandberg.
Special Exits - Joyce Farmer
I've been waiting for this book from Joyce Farmer (old-school cartoonist & founder of '70s womens comic anthology Tits N Clits) for ages. I'm gonna have to wait a little longer though, because turns out everyone else was waiting too and it was snatched from my clutches before I even had a chance to read it. I'm including it on my list anyway, out of good faith and stubbornness. A hot commodity - get it while you can!
Citizen Keane: The Big Lies Behind The Big Eyes - Adam Parfrey and Cletus Nelson
I live for tacky shit, salacious details, and, most of all, the story of a vindicated woman. The Walter and Margaret Keane story has it all in spades.
HOW TO BE HAPPY by Eleanor Davis
You know how you follow a lot of cartoonists, and watch them grow: "That's almost competent." "Nice." "That's good." Then the book comes out that makes you think, "HOLY SHIT, THIS IS AMAZING. I HAVE TO GET THIS BOOK RIGHT AWAY. IT HITS THE PLEASURE CENTER OF MY BRAIN. And hey, why don't the Japanese build a mall for this artist, like they did with Gary Panter and the Moomin characters?" This is that book. Eleanor Davis was always a cute duckling, and now she is an incredibly beautiful swan.
PACIFIC OCEAN PARK by Domenic Priore and Christopher Merritt
I was a toddler here in 1969? '70? I thought it was a dream, or a memory created later in life by psychedelic drugs, but no: This Thing Really Existed. Well researched, lots of art/photos.
SEX FROM SCRATCH - Edited by Sarah Mirk, Bitch magazine
The world needs more love and honesty, and less one-size-fits-all rules for sex and relationships. Solid advice on everything from awesome people like Michelle Tea, Aya de Leon, Tristan Taormino, Wendy-O-Matic, and many more. I swear, if I had a few thousand extra dollars this month, I'd travel around the country, putting stacks of this book and free birth control on Hobby Lobby shelves.
Tried and True Kid's Books.
These books have been tested in a real-world environment and proven to be effective at retaining the attention of a human child.
The Timid Cabbage - Femke Hiemstra , Charles Krafft
"I've gone to Kathmandu, the note he left us said." The Timid Cabbage takes a well-crafted poem about following one's own path, mixes it with delightful illustrations ("banana flutes and pancake roots and cups of hot moth tea"). Look past the monochrome appearance -- it's a rich and rewarding book. Best for age 3+.
Along a Long Road - Frank Viva
Along a Long Road is deceptively simple, but I think the whole book is a metaphor for life. In that case, it's pretty deep. It's drawn in a great throwback style by the brilliant illustrator Frank Viva. I can look at the illustrations time and again. 18 months - 2.5 years.
Sweet Wishes - Mark Ryden & Marion Peck
I can't stress enough how much kids love this book. Sweet Wishes is about a baby, a bear, and a doll who wish for sweets and candy. Their wish comes true and they gorge themselves... and end up throwing up everywhere. That's pure comedy gold for a two-year-old. Good pacing and nice production values. Best for age 2+.
Not a children's book, but this one is a great gift for expectant parents:
First 1000 Days, A Baby Journal - Nikki McClure
Nikki McClure's illustrations make me feel warm and cozy. That's the kind of feeling you want to have when recording milestones in your child's first few years. This journal has a nice way of prompting writing that feels natural.
Completely unrelated to little kids, but good for older ones prone to misbehaving:
Krampus Playing Cards
I love playing cards, but we haven't published any since we did Tim Biskup's "Lucky Stack" several years ago. So we teamed up with Monte Beauchamp to make these Krampus playing cards. They had to be of the best quality or I didn't want to make them. The cards feel really nice when shuffled. And they have lots of Krampus images to remind you not to cheat.
Dick Dog And Friends Coloring Book - Stephanie Sarley
I love selling this book. This is the kind of book that makes my job fun. It's the kind of wacky, totally unexpected, off-the-wall creation that has always made underground publishing so great. The book is composed of strange, warped, lysergic drawings that you can color in. It's mainly portraits of Dick Dog and his equally mutated friends. If you need a gift for a bachelorette party, you have just found it! I try to convince my stores to start a new section, one devised just to shelve this one title. This is the kind of strange outsider art fun that doesn't come along every day.
World War 3 Illustrated: 1979-2014 - Peter Kuper, Seth Tobocman
Ramsey over at PM did an amazing job on this book. It's just gorgeous. A beautifully-produced lush hardcover that is somehow also affordably priced. I mean, PM usually does good work but this book and another graphic novel they just published, The System by Peter Kuper, are a cut above. World War 3 Illustrated is a punk and anti-authoritarian comics anthology magazine that has been around forever. Nations have risen and fallen during the decades they have been publishing comics. I've been reading the magazine off and on since it started and it's always been kind of a mixed bag. Some of the covers by Eric Drooker would be the best piece of art you'd see that entire year. You could read a beautifully illustrated strip by Peter Kuper and then two pages later would be a strip by someone who could barely draw. Some major talents came out of World War 3 Illustrated: Eric Drooker, Peter Kuper, Seth Tobocman, Sue Coe. These people do New Yorker covers these days and have their paintings hanging in fine art galleries. But another thing that made the magazine great was the complete unknowns it would publish. Every now and then you would see some strip that was amazingly beautiful and it would be the only thing that artist ever published. What makes this new anthology especially nice is that it strikes a nice balance between publishing the big names and the talented unknowns. There have been previous anthologies of World War 3 but this is the best edited and produced one so far. It may be the best anthology of punk comics out there.
Pirates In The Heartland: The Mythology Of S. Clay Wilson Vol. 1 - Patrick Rosenkranz
Wilson may have been the most unrelenting and original of all the underground cartoonists. Other artists may have tried but no one ever equaled the visions of excess that he managed to cram into almost every panel. Every form of decadence and perversion were taken to their most extreme points in Wilson's artwork. In many of his drawings there are so many nasty things going on all at once that at first glance they look like abstracts. It is only after staring at them for a minute or two that one's mind can slowly unravel all the writhing bodies, shooting guns, knives and amputated genitals, and reveal the abstract as instead being a dense tapestry of realistically rendered bad behavior. He was a huge influence on R. Crumb and Robert Williams and though they often tried to emulate or copy him no one else ever was able to take it as far out there as Wilson did. And he somehow made it look not just easy, but NICE as well. There's a certain charming element to Wilson's drawing style that makes his cartoon characters seem almost sweet. Even Captain Pissgums comes off as a kind of likable guy. This is a beautifully produced hardcover book that is both a biography of Wilson and an anthology of his best work. It is a fantastic piece of both scholarship and editing that belongs on not just every comic fan's shelf but in every major college library as well.
Edgar Allen Poe: Morella And The Murders In The Rue Morgue and The Raven And The Red Death - Richard Corben
Both of these are single issue adaptations of classic Edgar Allen Poe stories done by Richard Corben. Corben's take on Poe's classics are a little on the goofy side. He frequently sexes them up and adds some humor. It's not the usual macabre take on things that someone like Bernie Wrightson would render, but the artwork and the color in these are beautiful. I can't wait until Dark Horse collects them all up in a single book.
Prince Valiant Volume 9 1953-1954 - Hal Foster
Hal Foster could draw like there was no tomorrow. These old newspaper comics had a level of artistic draftsmanship and rendering ability that one seldom sees in comics anymore. This is the kind of book that you read and then spend hours going back and looking at the details of the illustrations. My daughter is going off to college and I can see a Hal Foster obsession coming down the road to fill my empty time.
How To Talk To Your Cat About Evolution
Because your cat can never know enough.
Henry And Glenn Forever And Ever - Edited by Tom Neely
These guys are about to knock Bert and Ernie off their pedestal and replace them as America's favorite gay couple.
Forbidden Activities for Neglected Children - Skinner
Skinner has this magical Freddy Krueger ability to take monsters straight from our nightmares and deposit them, beautifully rendered, onto a page. I am sure this would have made me crap my pants as a kid, but as an extremely mature adult who rarely craps her pants, I find it hilariously entertaining.
Dick Dog & Friends Coloring book - Stephanie Sarley
The artist has an interesting style. I cannot identify the breed of any of the dogs in the book, but I do find most of them oddly arousing. Great coloring book for dog lovers everywhere.