One More Year Of Drug-Addled Sadness And Hilarity

One More Year by Simon Hanselmann. Fantagraphics, 2017. 9781606999974. 200pp.

I last wrote about my love for Hanselmann’s comics years ago, and I can assure you that his tales of Megg (a young, green witch), Mogg (her boyfriend, a cat), Owl (yeah, an owl) and the other folks they know are only getting better. (In this case that means sad and gross.)  Megg can only deal with her emotional problems by getting high, which she does often, leading to a lot of puking. Mogg isn’t really there for her, though he’s usually right next to her on the couch. They’re both freeloading off of Owl, who seems determined to work hard and escape the black hole of bad decisions that his “friends” pull him into. Owl’s attraction to Megg and his lack of a non-stoner social circle keeps him circling the drain that their lives are destined to be sucked into. At the end of the last book, Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam, there were hints that Megg was on the verge of trying to change her life. And that hint is still somewhere in this book, too, if it’s not just me hoping for that on her behalf.

Wow, that sounds a bit depressing. This book and the others are also riotously funny, especially if you can laugh at the grossest of lowbrow humor and giggle at sadness. My favorite bits in this one were Owl trying to treat his friends to a fancy French dinner for his own birthday (horrible choice), when Owl briefly works with Megg and Mogg’s boss at Hot Outdoors (they turn it into a nightclub), and the high school flashback episode (Owl made me soooo sad). And of course Werewolf Jones, the world’s worst father, is disgusting. He’s super pathetic when he turns back into a human.

When I saw Hanselman at the Fantagraphics booth at last year’s Short Run Comix Fest I didn’t know what to say. “I love your work!” seemed too generic. “I love it when Werewolf Jones and his kids poop on Owl’s bed!” seemed overly specific (and I didn’t really want anyone to overhear me saying that). I chose silence. I think it’s just too weird for a non-stoner in his mid-40s to talk about his love for these books, except in a short review like this.

CatStronauts Are Go!

CatStronauts Book 1: Mission Moon by Drew Brockington. Little Brown, 2017. 9780316307475. 160pp.

CatStronauts Book 2: Race to Mars by Drew Brockington. Little Brown, 2017. 9780316307482. 184pp.

These two graphic novels for young kids were just released simultaneously. I have amazing advanced copies that are a black and white, but from what I see online it looks like the actual books are being printed in color.

In Book 1, the world is facing an energy crisis. To save the day, four cat astronauts (Blanket, Pom Pom, Waffles, and Major Meowser) must set up a solar power plant on the lunar surface. Blanket wants to bring his experimental cat-stro-bot along (and does so against orders). Waffles brings way too many snacks. The Major has to keep them on track and training (none of them likes getting wet during a water landing) while the cats at mission control focus on constructing a new rocket.

In Book 2, the Cosmocats, the first cats in space resent the accolades being heaped upon the CatStronauts and want to reclaim their place in history. From SOCKS (Society of Cosmic Kitten Services) they begin planning a mission to Mars. Two other space programs, MEOW and COOKIE have also joined the race to be the first to set paws on the red planet, along with the CatStronauts. There’s a potential disaster en route, though, and only cooperation can save the day.

These aren’t full of science lessons or anything, but they’re fun stories and move right along. I know that if I’d read them as a kid they would have sent me out to find more info on both the Moon and Mars, at the very least.

Wow: Dave Engledow is the World’s Best Father

Confessions of The World’s Best Father by Dave Engledow. Gotham, 2014. 9781592408894.

Sarah: This is Confessions of the World’s Best Father by Dave Engledow
Gene: Who’s Dave Engledow?
S: He’s a photographer and a photojournalist who started taking these pictures of himself with his daughter. Each picture has him, his daughter, and his World’s Best Father Mug.
G: (laughs) On the cover he’s arm-wrestling her on a box.
S: On a crate of hand grenades.
G: Oh! I didn’t see that. And his daughter has a barbed wire tattoo on her bicep.
S: He does some Photoshop on the pictures. He arranges the pictures in the book by how old his daughter is.
G: “Day 240” (laughs) They’re playing X-Box together!
S: I don’t know if you can see the games…
G: I see Resident Evil, Grand Theft Auto… and Call of Duty! I was talking to Bill Barnes, he was asking how early I played video games with my daughter. I couldn’t remember! She was always watching me play, so she wanted to play. I think we started with Katamari Damacy.
S: Oh, yeah, that’s a really good kid game.
Continue reading “Wow: Dave Engledow is the World’s Best Father”


Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy by Judd Apatow. Random House, 2016. 9780812987287. 576pp.

I love Apatow’s films (The 40 Year Old Virgin, This is 40, Trainwreck), TV shows (Freaks and Geeks), and have enjoyed listening to him talk with Terry Gross, but he’s at his best talking to other comedians (Amy Schumer and Jerry Seinfeld). I say “other” because he gave stand up a try a long time back, before he became a comedy writer / producer / director, and is currently giving it another shot. About half of the interviews in this book were conducted when he was a comedy-obsessed high schooler who used shaky press credentials to get interviews with some of the best comedians of that era (and ours). What’s amazing is not only Apatow’s naked need to try to understand how they do what they do, right down to asking how they write jokes, but the comedians’ patience with his questions. (I’m not going to list who he interviews because this is a who’s who of greatness. If you like funny people read this book.) In the more recent interviews he talks to other comedians at the height of his own career, and he still can’t fully hide his wonder at getting to chat with them. (There are some non-comedians interviewed as well, including a few musicians and more than a few film folks.) In addition to discussing performing and writing comedy, there’s a lot of talk about creativity, parenting, marriage, and fame, and having been a serious nerd. It’s all pretty great.

Recommended if you enjoy Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Paul Provenza’s Satiristas or The Green Room, and listening to comedians discuss their work on podcasts — Marc Maron’s WTF and Jesse Thorn’s Bullseye are two of my favorites.

Rooting for the Little Guy

Big Appetites: Tiny People in A World of Big Food by Christopher Boffoli. Workman Publishing, 2013. 9780761176411.

The tiny people in the title are little model railroad figures posed doing their jobs or just going about their lives in a landscape filled with (to them) massive food items. Hard hatted construction workers carry pretzel rods, golfers putt papaya seeds, and canoeists paddle in a pool of spilled milk — all of which is delightful.

The problem for me was the “funny” captions on the facing pages. Most just fell flat, but a few really rubbed me the wrong way, like a joke about a “self-harm drama queen” threatening suicide on a mushroom. Oof. Maybe you won’t mind that. Or maybe you’ll need to make up your own funny captions with some kids.

Mom Rom Com

Colonial Madness by Jo Whittemore. Aladdin, 2015. 9781481405089. Also published as Me & Mom vs. The World.

When I booktalk to middle school classrooms, I like to bring at least one squeaky-clean book for the kids who need one. (And as a palate-cleanser for all of the books about skeletons and bizarre animals that I bring.) Colonial Madness was a perfect fit. The plot is light and cute: an eccentric aunt has decided that her huge historic house will go to the relative who can best live like a colonial settler in an heir-on-heir reality-show-style competition. Throw in a cute boy (the son of the house’s caretakers) and you’ve got a screwball family romantic comedy. Tori and her mom, competing as a team to save her mom’s dress shop, have a warm and close relationship, even if mom is often silly and impractical. How so? She and Tori once made a massive ice cream sundae in the bathtub, played hide and seek in a graveyard, and decided to see how many stuffed animals they could velcro to their bodies. Tori loves her mom a lot, but still gets mad at her and hurts her feelings. And it’s all presented in a way that I think would be very reassuring to a kid, especially to one who doesn’t want to read anything mom might think is inappropriate.

Blood and Roses

Sexcastle by Kyle Starks. Image, 2015. 9781632153005.

Last week, I found myself in need of a new, good B-movie. Unfortunately I don’t think this post apocalyptic nightmare or this R-rated headshot montage is going to cut it.

Wandering my local bookstore’s graphic novel section I came across a copy of Sexcastle and knew it was time to reread this homage to 80s action films and the great quips in them.

Shane Sexcastle, fresh from prison for killing the Vice President of the United States, gets a job at a florist’s and tries to leave murder and mayhem behind. But he can’t. After helping his new boss stand up to local thugs, the top 9 killers from the Assassins Union come for him. (They’re lookalikes for the better known action movie stars of the 80s and 90s.) Then: violence.

The mid-book sex scene is amazingly gratuitous. The dialogue is at times spectacular: “I’m gonna beat you into a fine red mist…I’m going to make a blood humidifier out of you.” And it features the best pair of demonic nunchucks ever drawn.

The other way I get my B-movie fix is replaying levels of Broforce. (Its playable characters are also stand-ins for action movie favorites, though the video game, unlike Sexcastle, had the sense to include a few brought to the screen by the great Christopher Lambert.) Each characters has a unique attack, and if you misuse it you can not only kill yourself, you can destroy so much of each level that you can’t win. It’s chaos. You can play online with your friends. (If you email me, maybe you can play it online with me.)