Comic Reviews: January 1993

Comic Reviews: January 1993


The Cheese Heads

Written and Drawn by Nick Craine

Tragedy Strikes Press

Fans of surreal comic books should take note: Tragedy Strikes Press has a comic for you, The Cheese Heads.Comic Reviews: The Cheese Heads

The Cheese Heads is the work of Nick Craine and features (astoundingly enough) three guys with big blocks of cheese where their hair should be. These bewildered Cheese “Heads are on “the run” following the accidental “death” of one “Officer Jerry.” The Cheese Heads actually had nothing to do with Officer Jerry’s mysterious disappearance and are attempting to find a cure for their affliction.

As The Cheese Heads #5 opens, Officer Jerry’s widow is in the middle of fuckin’ nowhere with the most unhelpful, most boring man alive. The police are starting a manhunt for the Cheese Heads, and those same Cheese Heads are at Stinky’s Laundrette (a combination beatnik hangout and laundry).

Sound bizarre? It is, but it works in a weird, ethereal way. Craine’s art is wonderfully depictive and has grown since early issues. The drawings suit the story and move it along while the baffling narrative progresses. All this is hard to describe and is better experienced first hand. Craine’s tale has been compared to that of Yummy Fur‘s Chester Brown, and while both work with bizarre subject matter, they are otherwise dissimilar. While Brown ventures into some fairly disgusting realms, Craine focuses on more heady material. An added bonus to issue #5 is a guest appearance by John Macleod’s Dishman character.

The above review may turn off more mainstream comics readers, but that’s fine. The more experimental and interesting comics seem to be beyond the mainstream, anyway, But those looking for something different and enjoyable should seek out The Cheese Heads (B&W, $2.50).


Tantalizing Stories

Written and Drawn by Mark Martin and Jim Woodring

Tundra Publishing

How to describe Mark Martin and Jim Woodring’s Tantalizing Stories? How about (simply put) the best new comic book of 1992?

Seriously, all ranting and raving is entirely suited to this comic book. Woodring and Martin were evidently weaned on Our Gang / The Little Rascals and Salvador Dali, judging by their material.

Take the debut issue, for example. The fun begins with Martin’s “Montgomery Wart” in “Halloween.” Montgomery’s pal Cicero Buck is hiding under a table, terrified of the spirit of Halloween until Montgomery pops along. Soon enough, the two are dressed up as gang members and then are acting the part (with Cheeze Wiz!!!). Before you know it, the two reckless animals have accidentally given Santa a hot foot.

Martin, who has been best known for his 20 Nude Dancers 20 strip in a comics publication, really has a chance to “break out” and showcase his amusing work. He has a delightful and fluid style that meshes well with his engaging yarn-spinning.

But the highlights of Tantalizing Stories is Jim Woodring’s “Frank.” Previously seen only in short appearances in the late, lamented Jim, Frank is probably on the verge of becoming a cult sensation.

In an eight page excursion, Frank (evidently an animal of some kind) receives an invitation to “a party in honor of the Dead at the House of Mystery.” After that, the events that transpire are indescribable. Woodring abandons dialogue entirely, choosing to depict the mood and tone with a few sound effects and a cartoony, impressive manner of delineation. The appeal to this is impossible to convey in a review. Frank is best savored personally.

Rounding out the issue is part one of Jim Woodring’s “Age of Reason,” featuring two mIschievous youths, Chip and Monk.

All in all, Tantalizing Stories is a rare treat. You owe it to yourself to find a copy. (B&W, $2.50)



Written and Drawn by Jeff Smith

Cartoon Books

Welp, the idea that comics can’t be fun and be good anymore has pretty much been swept away by Cartoon Books’ Bone.

The sole creation of Jeff Smith, Bone revolves around the misadventures of three cousins (Fone Bone, Phoncible P. “Phoney” Bone and Smiley Bone). It seems the cousins have been “run out” of their hometown of Boneville, thanks to greedy entrepreneur Fone’s schemes and become lost and separated after crossing a desert and rugged mountain terrain. Smiley, the most innocent and charming of the three, soon encounters a bewildered array of creatures, from possums to insects to large, sinister rat creatures to the “mythical” red dragon before stumbling across beauteous young Thorn and her grandmother, Gran’ma Ben. Relying upon Thorn and Gran’ma Ben’s generosity, Smiley soon finds himself with faint hopes of returning to Boneville.

Issue 6 is the latest, featuring Smiley traveling to Barrelhaven and reuniting with the noxious Fone and misguided Phoney. But, there’s a dark undercurrent: Prior to journeying to Barrelhaven, Gran’ma Ben’s residence is destroyed by an attack from the rat creatures’ master, who seeks Fone’s soul.

All this is masterfully depicted upon the printed page, thanks to Smith’s virtuosity. Smith blends humor, a fantasy setting, intrigue and fascinating characterization into a delightful whole. Smith’s rendering has been compared that of Pogocreator Walt Kelly, and it’s a valid and flattering comparison. His lines are very clean and precise, and the figures are fluid and expressive, backed by detailed scenery. The diminutive, cartoony Bones seamlessly fit in with the more realistic humans to create a distinctive world.

But all that would be attractive trappings without Smith’s tale spinning. Smith reveals the real, goings-on a little at a time, all the while drawing the reader in. While the situation occasionally seems grim, punctuation with humor never allows the tone to sink to gloom. The dialogue is natural and evocative, and exposition is entirely eschewed (why sink to extensive captioning when a facial expression can carry the mood?).

There’s a lot more to Bone than just this, but that should be left for the inquisitive to seek out. The bottom line is that Bone is one of those all-too-rare comic books that make graphic storytelling worth interest. (B&W, $2.95).

Check out more from the SLUG Archives:
Comic Reviews: November 1992
Comic Reviews: October 1992