Review – Requiescat In Pace by Livor Mortis Zine and Cameron Zavala

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This is a grim zine dealing with loneliness, abuse and self-hatred.  It’s handled with an extremely dark humour. It doesn’t make light reading, but it’s got a pure angry voice that’s laughing whilst making you sick. It’s a classic underground comic, gross out, and in your face, but busily dealing with life at the extreme margin of society.

The zine mixes comic pages from Cameron Zavala with photographs from Livor Mortis Zine. These photographs have been used as a springboard for the settings of the story and it’s fascinating to see the original and the drawn version in combination. Impressive how such a loose and quick looking style managed to still take these references and render them so recognisable. But more interesting is seeing how a few images can inspire the creation of a story. 

I’m a huge fan of Livor Mortis Zines photos and these are great, managing to capture corruption, decay and out of time artifacts of fashions left behind, with a grimy beauty. The star of this zine is Cameron Zavala’s comic story. Riffing on the images and the mood within them he takes it and runs, making a story that delves deep into cruelty, absurdity and boundary pushing extremity. It scores its points against alienation faced by those rejected from love in their lives. It digs at homophobia and the othering and criminalisation of those outcast from mainstream society.

In fair warning though, it does this with huge amounts of depraved and cruel dark humour. The kind of bitter humour that isn’t so much funny as a cry of anger. Yes, it’s out there pushing your buttons (and this could trigger abuse survivors for sure) but it wants to because it’s damn angry about the cruelty being called out.

The art and the story are ugly and in your face, are crude and bitter and scratched out and it’s horrible. But it’s got a bleak humour in its hysteria and it’s making its points against the cruelty of making people outcasts from love and hope.

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Review – Adam Yeater – (I’m not going to tell you the name, because you should find it for yourself!)

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I love Adam Yeater’s art. For some of his work, like Blood Desert it’s simple and cartoony and unpolished and deliberately so. That bluntness, that getting it done and not worrying about the anatomy is what’s appealing. It’s the lines and storytelling that matters. 

But I love it the most when he takes that style and then just fills the space up with visual noise. He does this a bit with World of Knonx, but best of all are his big mushroom or plant paintings and images. They channel psychedelic art and that lovely scratchy line of black metal art.

This zine takes that visual noise and scratchy line and drags them through Where’s Wally to make a horror monster picture search. 

I personally hate doing Where’s Wally because I get bored with looking for things, but I love just drinking in those pages and letting details surface up. This zine is so much fun to stare at and see how inventive all the character designs are or to just let the noise drown you. 

A great little zine to pick up and drink in when you feel like it. 

I asked Adam why we are looking for little toads and he explained his reasons to me, which I thought were fascinating, so I thought I’d share what he said with you.

“It is a tribute to the Sonoran Desert Toad. Its habitat is in my local desert region here in Tucson, Arizona.

It is going extinct from people abusing them for the DMT in its poison glands. 

People dry and smoke the poison. I have seen them when it rains. I have never been on a toad trip but I heard it is very intense.

I did the comic as a tribute to these magical toads.”

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Review – Cui Shirts

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Cui Shirts is an online project and zine that documents t-shirt slogans gone wrong. It’s a fun project with a big task. It’s squarely aimed at making fun of bad design, poor translation and the sometimes genuinely weird slogans on the fast fashion of Asia, but at its heart it wants to show the hollowness of that consumerism and the lie that it lets you be an individual. 

Fast fashion squarely sets its stall in sass and an ‘up yours if you don’t like’ attitude, with the occasional foray into ‘positivity meme’ territory. At its heart it’s crass, trying to sell individuals the sense that mass production can make them truly an individual. 

So, whilst there’s a little sense of harshness to laughing at awkward translations into a foreign language, there’s the balance of mocking such a hollow cash grab and the lying mask it wears. 

Cui Shirts latest zine really pushes into that thought by adding additional commentary in the form of the life costs these slogans carry with them. You can see its aim clearly, it’s about trashing consumerism and it’s fake ‘I’ll set you free to be you’ lies and not so much about  poor grammar or translation. 

I also love the shiny, textured paper that the zine is printed on, it looks and feels lovely. 

There have been previous issues, including my personal favourite that came hung on its own coat hanger. 

Cui Shirts is a touch of class in the trashy fashion slogan market. 

P.S. even the envelope is great, look at those seals!!

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Review – Purple Hate Balloon by Fraser Geesin & Laurie Rowan

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It’s hard to define Fraser Geesin’s humour, but it’s fun to give it a try. In all his work there’s a feel of the satire being spot on in an uncomfortable way. My favourite of his is The Cleaner where he’s doing humorous, gentle observational humour about his life. However, he’s excellent at handling farce, loves to throw in social satire and is often about pushing things to absurd extremes to make his point.  

Even when he does really push it, it still doesn’t have that sense of hysteria to it that absurd humour often does, for want of a better phrase it’s not zany or wacky, in fact, even with how odd it is, it doesn’t feel odd. The best way I can describe it is that it has a hyper real sense of absurdity. You know it would never happen, but it feels only one step away from being real. I think it’s the way he mixes farce with the absurdity that keeps it feeling grounded.

Purple Hate Balloon, co-written by animator and director Laurie Rowan, is working in that vein of believably absurd, too close to the bone humour that makes you laugh and bears thinking about afterwards. It adeptly makes its points, has a good plot whilst telling funny jokes.  It’s a fun read and it scores some good points.

It’s all helped with Fraser’s amazing art. A fine balance between realism and cartooning that just adds the feeling of being one step off reality. There’s a lovely rubbery realism to it that makes it good to look at and easy to understand.

This is a great little comic, like a Carry On for the angry online troll era.

I’d add in that there’s a nice one-pager from Laurie Rowan at the end. A lovely gross sight gag. Also, go and see his site as it has some very awesome animation to watch.

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Review – Not This House by Gareth A Hopkins

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Gareth Hopkins is really one of the main reasons I got back into comics reading and particularly became interested in the small press and zine culture.

His comics are not comics as you think of them, they’re not linear representations of actions and events. They are stories and his stories have become more linear and less like the broken poetry you’ll find in Intercorstal Extension. His art, though, remains mercurial and abstract, sometimes colourful and explosive, with pages broken up by panel shapes and sometimes, as with Not This House, like mists of lines and spots of black where suddenly something coalesces into almost the shape you’re reading about.

Not This House continues his moves towards prose storytelling and does so with great skill. There’s a sense of really manipulating what’s happening with the images, how they almost make scenes that illustrate the words on the page, in particular page seven evokes the sense of moving through tunnels in the dark, which feels deeply fitting for the story unfolding at that point of the comic.

There’s also the sudden tonal shift that hits home so very effectively with the change in lettering style and tone of illustrations. The shift, feeling sudden and, for me, emotionally affecting.

All in all, this work picks up threads from his earlier work, such as the use of poetic repetition of key phrases, but also adds a sense of intentionalism that is skilled and assured whilst also delivering some very powerful emotional tonal shifts within the story. That Gareth can manage this with the art, the story and the lettering is impressive in an inspiring way, that he can make this work as an emotional story, with emotional heft without any of the normal props of drama shows why I find his work so inspiring.

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