May 27, 2015
On this episode of The Comics Alternative podcast, Derek and Andy W. discuss four new titles. They begin with Ryan K. Lindsay, Eric Zawadzki, and Sebastian Piriz's Headspace (IDW Publishing). This was originally an eight-issue digital series published by MonkeyBrain between March 2014 and April 2015. A law enforcement officer, Shane, finds himself in a surreal land with no memory of how he got there nor any idea how to leave. He eventually discovers that he is inside the mind of a violent criminal whose brain is being manipulated by the authorities. As the guys point out, this is a psychological thriller as much as it is an astute exercise in world-building. Next, they take an extensive look at Nate Powell's You Don't Say (Top Shelf), a collection of seventeen short stories published between 2003 and 2013. For readers who appreciate Powell's previous works -- such as Swallow Me Whole, Any Empire, The Silence of Our Friends, and the first two volumes of March -- this is a wonderful opportunity to see the development as well as the full range of the creator. The earlier stories, several of which were part of his first Top Shelf book Release Me, demonstrate Powell's autobiographical attempts to capture an artist in transition. But the emerging impact of the writer becomes more apparent in the later works where you can more clearly see some of the characteristics that mark Powell's style, such as the theme of race relations (often set in the South) and the psychological quality of his storytelling. In fact, Derek points out that in many of Powell's work, there is a "dreamy" quality where transitions between scenes and even panels are represented in a fluid, and at times ambiguous, manner, reflecting the way in which memory and fantasy allows us to interpret the world. Both Andy and Derek highlight their favorites in this collection, including "Cakewalk" (written by Rachel Bormann), "Bets Are Off," and the gothic "The Villa at the End of the Road." These collected stories originally appeared in earlier Powell works, in various anthologies, as part of a CD release, and as self-published installments. Together they demonstrate the sheer force of Powell's artistry. Finally, the Two Guys look at two recent releases from Nobrow, Andy Poyiadgi's Lost Property and Jen Lee's Vacancy. These are both part of the publisher's unique 17x23 series, a graphic short-story project established to help young creators present their work in a concise and economic format. Lost Property is a brief tale about missing pieces, the various things we have lost throughout our lives -- both literal and figurative -- and how their rediscovery can help us define who we are. Lee's comic is an anthropomorphic narrative about the costs of freedom. Simon, a young dog, is neglected by his owners, yearns to venture beyond his backyard fence, and then ventures into the woods with a deer and a raccoon, with mixed results. Both of these short works are beautifully produced -- Andy specifically points out Nobrow's distinguishing coloring -- and highly affordable. For a little more than the cost of an ordinary American comic book, you can get a 17x23 publication that is more of a book than a periodical. The guys featured a Publisher Spotlight on Nobrow last year, and there's certainly a reason that they keep coming back to their publications.