'They're Rad At Fights And Love Fun'—9 Local Cartoonists To Read Now
From kids high jinks to thoughtful reflections on the ways we live today to demented humor, New England is a hotbed of quality comics making these days. Here are nine cartoonists whose work stood out at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo—aka MICE—in Cambridge last weekend (pictured above). You might say, “They’re rad at fights and love fun,” as the characters describe themselves in the “Adventure Time” comic, illustrated by Boston area couple Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb. This is, of course, an incomplete sampler of indie comics coming out of the region. In the comments, tells us whom you’d recommend.
Sophie Goldstein: Based in White River Junction, Vermont, her comic “The Good Wife,” which is included in “The Best American Comics 2013” anthology, is a dark fable of a wild backwoods wife and husband. When he aches from hauling firewood, she volunteers, “Take my strength.” So he takes her arms—literally—attaching them to his body as an extra pair of hands. It’s a moving and ultimately horrific tale about gender relations, about what we sacrifice for love, about how people abuse those gifts.
Dan Rinylo: Like Goldstein, Rinylo is an alum of Vermont’s Center for Cartoon Studies, where the future of comics is being made. Still based around White River Junction, his hilariously demented comics ape the styles of 1920s and ‘40s newspaper comics. The title of his photocopied mini comic zine, “Nothing Should Be Precious,” could be his motto. Subjects include mutating heads, scams, zombies, alien invasions, deadend jobs, ultra-violence, peeing, pooping, and drinking yourself silly. His deadpan fatalism is expressed by a character who reassures us, “We must always remember that someday … the sun will EXPLODE! … and we will all be blown to smithereens,” all the while blithely smiling.
Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb: The Boston area married couple illustrate “Adventure Time” comics, based on the popular Cartoon Network television show. Written by Ryan North and published by Kaboom!, it’s a madcap adventure comedy for kids offering the pleasures of monsters, magic, explosions and swordplay salted with wisecracking banter. “That guy,” Jake the magical dog tells his partner Finn about one villain. “It’s always something with him, am I right?”
Julia Gfrörer: A New Hampshire native, who said she recently returned to Granite State after living in Portland, Oregon, Gfrörer has been using her finely penned realism to depict haunted adult fairy tales of messed up relationships, including a woman who sleeps with a vampire and a guy who makes out with a swamp thing and nearly drowns. Her “Black Is the Color,” due out shortly from Fantagraphics, is about a pair of 17th century sailors set adrift in a rowboat by their superstitious captain who is trying to rid his troubled ship of bad luck. One of the men quickly dies. The other finds comfort and fear in the arms of a mermaid.
Marek Bennett: “Slovakia: Fall in the Heart of Europe” is this New Hampshire cartoonist’s quiet, thoughtful, 592-page travel journal of visiting the land of his ancestors. While learning the language and visiting distant relatives, he pleasantly wanders towns and hunts mushrooms in the woods, bumping into historical markers and, at one point, an old bunker that reveal old European scars of bigotry, war, Nazis, the Holocaust, communism. “It’s like every piece of life and beauty rests on horror,” he reflects early in the book. Ultimately, it’s an open-eyed but life affirming tale told over sausages, soup, beer and drinking songs.
Robert Sergel: The Boston area cartoonist’s series “Eschew,” now published by Secret Acres, is built on precise drawing and intimate melancholy hypersensitive mediations on life. His subjects include the indignities of drunken romance, art, and stepping in cat vomit. One story, “Thirteen Bad Experiences Involving Water,” recounts cutting a foot on a broken bottle, peeing over the side of a boat only to be spotted by girls, the cruelties of summer camp, and various other tales of trying not to embarrass yourself—and failing.
Patt Kelley: “The Abridged History of a Moon” by Kelley, a Boston artist best known for his surreal gag cartoons regularly published in Dig Boston, is a bittersweet romance set in an ordinary world coming to an apocalyptic end. A guy musters the courage to call up a lady he’s fancied from afar. She agrees to let him take her to the ocean. On the way, they visit an abandoned store, drink on a swingset, play in mud, and kiss in a river. “I keep thinking that maybe they’re wrong,” she tells him as they embrace next to a campfire. “Like we’ll all just sit there waiting for it to end and it won’t.” But they get to the sea—and the world ends.
Ansis Purins: The “Zombre” and “Magic Forest” funny books by this Boston area cartoonist recount the antics of an uptight woodland park ranger, his idiot flower-power assistant, elves, an over protective dad, and his helmet-wearing little girl who befriends a nature-loving zombie.
Besides writing for ARTery, Greg Cook recently sketched a little comic included in “Gulp! A Monster Comics Anthology for Kids,” which was edited by Bob Flynn (who drew the cover here) and Dan Moynihan and published this fall by River Bird Comics in Cambridge.