The Fat Girl Love Club, Volume 1

Woof. The Fat Girl Love Club, Volume 1 is an exercise in determination for me. Let’s review this comic to see why.

What’s This Comic About?

Fat Girl Love Club is the story of a young teenage girl named Becky. She’s, for all intents and purposes, a Jesus fanatic. As in, writes fanfiction about Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The comic opens with a fiberglass statue of Jesus being struck by lightning, Becky seeing this on the news (and being heartbroken about it), and then Becky scrambling and trying to find the ashes of the statue in order to bury them.

The metaphor is that fiberglass doesn’t create ashes when it’s set on fire. It evaporates into nothing. Just like a lot of things in Becky’s life in this issue.

Becky’s mom is a flea market master, but not a loved one. And through a series of unfortunate dealings, Becky’s mom is arrested and sent to jail, and Becky is sent to live with an uncle who, in her worldview, “lives in sin.”

Why I Have a Hard Time With this Comic

This comic is an exercise in determination for me because I grew up in a part of Ohio with a LOT of Beckys. But I was not a Becky.

I was not the kid who laughed about the Jesus statue melting, but I wasn’t going to go try and find the statue’s ashes to bury them. But I knew kids who would do that.

And those kids were absolutely nasty to me when I was growing up.

There’s also the portrayal of poverty that hits a little too close to home for me. In the comic, Becky lives in a trailer park, in a trailer filled with her mom’s boxes, until she has to live with her uncle. The ink washes in this book do an excellent job of portraying how dirty and crowded such a living situation is. But that does not mean it’s flattering.

What Did I Like About This Book?

Honestly, I don’t like this book. But I appreciate it.

I appreciate its honest portrayal of poverty, of fanatic devotion to a religious figure, and of a point of view of a character whom I would normally have a difficult time empathizing with.

This book does a great job making you empathize with Becky, even if you normally would not like Becky in real life. And that’s the mark of a good storyteller.

So, kudos to you, Gabby Metzler. You made a comic I can appreciate.

You can find out more about this book (and maybe even read or buy a copy) through Gabby’s website.

Once you read it, let me know in the comments what you thought of the comic. Let’s get a discussion going.

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Review Day Tuesday: Punks Not Dead

punks not dead comic book cover issue 1

Welcome back to Review Day Tuesday! Today it’s the review of the indie comic Punks Not Dead. This is by David Barnett (writer), Martin Simmonds (artist), Aditya Bidikar (letterer), and Dee Cunniffe (color flats).

It’s released by Black Crown, which describes itself as a “fully functioning curation operation…by way of IDW Publishing.” And honestly, I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. I’ve never encountered a publisher using language like this. It’s weird. I’m assuming Black Crown is an imprint.

Also Weird…

I thought this indie comic would be like a Battle of the Bands epic of one punk band versus the world. BUT NO.

This comic is about ghosts.

No joke. This comic book follows two perspectives, one being a teenage boy who’s followed by the ghost of Sid from the Sex Pistols. The other being an old woman whose main gig is as an exorist on the British government’s payroll.

My First Thoughts…

I had no idea what to make of this comic from beginning to end when I first read it. I mean, the storytelling WORKS. The idea of a fatherless teenage boy haunted by ghosts isn’t anything new. It’s that the twist this time revolves around punk music.

Honestly, my least favorite character is the main lead, the teenage boy followed by the ghost of Sid Vicious. The kid himself is the typical teenager who’s apathetic of the world around him. In other words, he’s boring.

The only thing intriguing about this kid is the life around him. His mom makes a living being on reality tv shows (thanks to make-up and wigs, she can pull this off well). His father, who is conveniently absent, was a secret agent who’s serving three life sentences. And of course, the ghost of Sid Vicious is following him around after encountering him at the airport.

“But is it REALLY Sid Vicious?!” the author asks at the end of the comic. Well, to be frank, I’m not that invested to find out.

So What Did I Like About This?

Really, the character I liked the most was Dorothy Culpepper, the aging exorcist. She has this old hippie 1960s look, even with her wrinkles, that make her appear classy as hell. With her sass and her foul mouth, she held my attention the most. But I doubt she’ll be the lead in future issues. The boy is the lead. And that’s boring to me.

I wanted to like this comic, but it was not what I expected. At all.

If you want to read it, go give it a try. I picked up this issue at my local comic shop, so yours should still have this book on their shelves (if not the back issues). Or you can go to IDW and buy through them.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

REVIEW DAY TUESDAY: Sugar Town by Hazel Newlevant

Let me start this review by saying this book is deliciously refreshing.

I came across Sugar Town during Awesome Con weekend of 2018. My buddy Carlos and I went to Fantom Comics and I spotted this little beauty on the shelf. Of course, the cover and the review quotes on the back got my attention, so I had to get it.

This is the story of a lady named Hazel, who’s staying in Portland for a few days to visit family and celebrate her birthday. During her stay, she meets and crushes on Argent, a totally cool lady… and Hazel also stays in touch with her boyfriend, who’s back in New York City.

Yep. This is a book about polyamory.

Now let me make this point real fast: I am not polyamorous, but I can get the appeal of it. I have friends who are poly and they’ve clued me in about how it works and how to make it work. Polyamory is a “weird” concept only because here in good ol’ US of A, monogamy is treated as the default. It’s just culturally assumed that “soulmates” are a thing and there’s only one “right one” for someone else and you better find them in your lifetime and marry them and have lots of babies and UUUUUGH.

That said, polyamory could be seen as an anarchist statement against “the system” of monogamous marriage arrangements. To which I say, “…Maybe?”

And there are still others who look at polyamory and say, “Those people are just indecisive and think they can have everything!” To which I say, “No.”

Polyamorous people know what they want. What they want is to love, and to be in relationships with, more than one person at the same time. And if they can make it work, kudos.

Ok, point made. Back to the comic.

Sugar Town is the story of a poly-amorous relationship done right. It’s also one of the VERY FEW stories with girl-on-girl love where both characters are not only alive, but still in love by the end of the story. That’s freakin’ rare.

This is also one of the few stories with queer main characters who aren’t 110 percent in absolute angst over their status as queer. Hazel, the main character, has the occasional moment of questioning whether she’s doing it right. But that’s only because she’s so new to polyamory.

The characters are charming as heck, and the art has such lovely saturated colors. The art also does this thing where every set location has a different color scheme, and it’s wonderful.

Really, the only problem I have with Sugar Town is that it’s so short. It’s one of the skinniest trade paperbacks I’ve read thus far, at 40 pages long. However, it’s not really a problem: the story doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, and I always enjoy going back to it. Sugar Town is a book you can read and re-read and still get enjoyment out of it. At least, for me.

If you can get a copy of this book, do it. It’s available directly from Hazel Newlevant’s website.

Oh! And one more thing before we split: somehow it didn’t click in my head during the first read-through that the main character has the same name as the author. However, as an artist, I know how fraught it is to point to a piece of work an artist made and declare, “That’s you!” This work may have bits of autobiography to it, or it could be all autobiographical. I don’t know. What I do know is that this is a work of fiction, and we, as readers, should respect that.

Ok. That’s it for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Review Day Tuesday: BARTEZ

This review has waited long enough to happen, so here it is. Today we’re talking about Bartez by Ryan H. Peraro and Gale Williams.

I first found this book at Intervention Con in 2014 (may that convention rest in peace, because it’s no longer a thing). Ryan was there, selling copies of this book, as well as other swag for the Bartez name. I got this book, numbered 56 out of 500 copies, and… I think I got a pen, too? I can’t remember – it’s been a little over 5 years since I got this book. Bear with me.

I remember reading this once, liking it, and then setting it on the shelf again. Well, recently I re-read this beauty and now, I want to talk about it.

From what I have gathered, this is Ryan’s first foray into writing for comics and graphic novels. And I must say, for a first time comics writer, he did a DANG good job of writing.

I’ve worked for a small collection of comics writers before. And one thing I noticed with first-time comics writers is this: they can get WORDY. As in, stuffing in as much dialogue as possible instead of letting the action and art help to carry the story. Aka, lots of “tell, don’t show,” when it should be “show, don’t tell.”

That said, Ryan does not have that issue. Which is remarkable, considering this is his first book. And to that, I say: kudos and major props, my dude.

The artist Gale Williams has made comics before; notably her semi-autobiographical webcomic, Patbird & Galesaur. Which, I will get to one day – PATIENCE, my buddy.

On her art in this book, I’ll be blunt: you can tell she went to school at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I’ve noticed that there’s a particular kind of quality to the art that you can spot in the grad students of SCAD if you’re looking for it. You can see it in this book, in Check, Please!, in Distillum, and in a few other books. It’s the big, emotional eyes with the bold line quality, and the dang-near perfect use of blacks to delineate background details that make the foreground pop easily.

I’m not saying that the art quality of SCAD students of this grade are bad. What I AM saying is that it’s almost a house-style, and you can spot it if you know what to look for. I’m still sorting out my opinions on this house-style effect and whether it’s good or bad.

Anyway, let’s talk about the story. What’s it about?

Bartez follows Jimmy Barton, a guy who works in IT. He is, to be honest, kind of a quitter. He tries his hand at a lot of different hobbies and quits as soon as those hobbies get difficult. This is a habit he’s had since high school, and surprise-surprise, the 10-year anniversary of his graduating class is coming up.

Of course, he’s trying to hype himself up by making a website celebrating all his accomplishments in high school. Because he’s not just a quitter – he’s a massive dork.

To be honest, I sometimes had difficulty relating to Jimmy as a character. However, that’s because my personality is very different from his. Which reminds me to make this very important point that a lot of people forget about when reading fiction, and analyzing fiction for reviews:

The characters don’t have to be likable for you to empathize with them. It doesn’t matter that you can’t stand the character. What matters is if the writer can write a compelling character despite that character’s lack of similarity to yourself, the reader.

To that end, Ryan writes Jimmy VERY well. Yes, Jimmy and I are not alike, but his struggles are written in such a way that I could still empathize with this guy… even if, on a logical level, I couldn’t stand him.

It helps, too, that Gale’s art has a simplified vibe to it. When I first read the book, I wanted to compare it to Bryan Lee O’Malley. And considering the bold lines, the large and expressive eyes, and the exaggerated posing of the characters in a lot of these pages, the comparison could be apt.

The key words being “could be.”

Obviously, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is O’Malley’s most popular and widely-known work. Scott Pilgrim also drew its reality as a video game. As in, a love interest’s ex-boyfriends were boss-fights and their defeats resulted in item drops.

Bartez re-imagines reality as, strangely enough, more like an espionage story.

This may surprise you, but the book doesn’t open with Jimmy Barton. It opens with one spy murdering another one. And you find out later through some exposition that the spy who died was one of Jimmy’s high school friends.

A high school friend who took his crush, but still a friend.

And believe it or not, the spies tie back to Jimmy Barton’s high school. But that’s getting into spoiler territory.

In short, you should read this book. Now, I only have volume 1, but this is part of a 3-volume series. You can find out more about it (and purchase the books) at projectbartez.com.

Give the book a try! I know I’ll be getting volume 2 soon.

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Review Day Tuesday: Stoner Knight 2

My buddy Suzie (editor of The Magnolia Press) sent me a care package full of indie comics recently. One of those comics was Stoner Knight 2. And…well, I HAD to bring back the Review Day Tuesday video series for this book.

It’s WILD, man.