February 3, 2010

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Black Ghost Apple Factory

Written by Jeremy Tinder
Illustrated by Jeremy Tinder
Top Shelf

Sometimes I want a book that features complex characters, a tight plot, and storylines that extend across the entire book, if not multiple volumes.

And sometimes I just want a bunch of little random throwaway characters who do quirky things to entertain me a few pages at a time, with only a shadow of a plot to keep the narrative going.

If you're looking for the latter, you'll find a perfect match in Black Ghost Apple Factory, a collection of seven stories that have absolutely nothing to do with each other but manage to work well together as part of a short story grouping by writer-artist Jeremy Tinder.

First up is the title story, which is about exactly what the title says. A love-sick black ghost doesn't particularly feel like going to work as an apple-maker. His angst is nothing special, but the visuals that accompany it, as you realize how literal Tinder is being about the story, makes it both funny and absurd at the same time.

Robots Don't Say I Love You uses the robot as a metaphor for all those times people are a jerk in a relationship. It's only two pages long, but packs a punch that calls out to the tradition of old romance comics.

The next story is a very Jeffrey Brown-like sequence. I believe they live in the same city and have a shared publisher, so perhaps they know each other? Tinder talks about one of the most uncomfortable parts of any relationship--when you like a person, but aren't sure if they like you back. With in your face pictures of, well, Tinder's cartoon face, he takes the normal discomfort of the situation and makes it even worse. His pathetic face and overly sincere desire to be with the reader actually turns into creepiness by the end.

Moving into the realm of the silly, Grizzly is a tale of how Tinder dug up a hibernating bear and brought him back to Chicago to be his new roommate. Things go okay for awhile, but never argue with a roommate who has claws is definitely the moral of the story. Tinder's illustrations look both completely absurd and completely normal at the same time. I think this was my favorite of the collection.

Angst returns as the theme of I'm So Tired, another two-page comic. A rabbit walks through his life in a state of ennui, and it's mostly notable for doggy-style bunny sex. (If that didn't grab your attention, then I'm not doing my job as a reviewer!)

Ever wonder what really happens to a cat who gets neutered? Tinder knows the truth behind the lies of Bob Barker and controlling the pet population. It's really to get the cat players out of the way! The idea of manhood as it relates to sex is played with here to good effect, and the looks on the cat's face before and after the operation are really funny.

Finishing out the collection is 1,2,3,4. I didn't notice it so much at the time, but another reviewer compared the style to Craig Thompson, and I think that's pretty accurate. Moving away from cute animals, this time Tinder uses an elephant as the protagonist. He's in love with a girl, but she has someone else. But before you can feel sorry for him, it turns out he's not nearly as innocent as he'd like you to believe.

Featuring characters from the stories, the cover above will give you a pretty good idea of Tinder's art style. Despite taking pieces from other indie artists, I think Jeffrey Brown is the most accurate comparison. This is especially true because of the theme of relationships that carry across all of the stories. Tinder is taking a sometimes comic, sometimes tragic look at the same kind of ideas that Brown reviews in his stories as well.

Black Ghost Apple Factory is a short, quick read that should appeal to anyone who likes to read independent comics about relationships. It's a lot quirkier than most in the genre, but that's a good thing in my opinion. I'd definitely read more from Tinder in the future.