It was kind of a boring new comics Wednesday from the mainstream publishers, so I decided to dive into the minicomics section of Phoenix Comics & Games to see what local cartoonists are working on. Or, in one case, what local cartoonists were working on; I had never seen the 2014 Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fanzine Notorious R.B.G. before, so it was new to me. (It also predated the 2015 Christmas bestseller Notorious R.B.G. by a year.)
The zine from poet Amber Nelson, cartoonist Colleen Frakes (author of Prison Island) and cartoonist Neil Brideau, which is “Dedicated to Ruth Bader Ginsburg with apologies to Beyonce,” is a collection of song lyrics rewritten from Ginsburg’s perspective. (“My mother told me two things;/to be a lady and to be independent.”) As a tribute to Ginsburg, and to the other women on the Supreme Court, it’s a delight, and at two bucks, it’s a steal. My favorite bit is the two-page comic-strip cover of “Flawless” that caps the book. (“Woke up like this/Flawless/Supreme Court steps/Flawless…”)
Joseph Laney’s Iron City Shorts is a $4 minicomic collecting two short stories set in and around the fictional Iron City. The setting is a kind of retro-sci-fi groove, with giant robots and goggles and dirigibles. The first story, “The Big Knockover,” feels a bit slight, but the second story, “Escape the Past,” more than makes up for the first in terms of storytelling strength. “Escape” begins with a prison break (from, as a caption helpfully informs us, “Gargantua Island Prison: one of City Harbor’s most notorious landmarks”) and continues with a twisty tale of revenge that incorporates several moral shades of gray. Laney’s sense of design is excellent. He packs a lot onto every page, and his chunky cartooning style — which kind of reminds me of a sci-fi Dean Haspiel — serves the subject matter very well. He’s obviously put a lot of thought into Iron City as a setting and a theme, and hopefully this sampler will function as a springboard for more adventures soon.
Finally, Eli Tripoli’s Me and the Muad’dib is a demented mashup that somehow makes perfect sense: it’s a Chick tract-style evangelical pamphlet extoling the mythology of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. While Tripoli’s art is primitive, the glorified stick figures ably serve the narrative — a pair of supporters of Paul Atreides try to convince a skeptic to believe in the Emperor of Dune. The language is spot on for a Chick tract parody: “Paul Atreides isn’t a giant fish, he’s the Kwisatz Haderach! He’s a person like you or me. And he was born here on Calderan, just like us!” As a celebration of Herbert’s super-weird mythology, it’s glorious — a respectful work of fandom that’s clearly born from a deep and abiding love. Come to think of it, that describes all three of these books.