August 25, 2011

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SPX Spotlight: 3 Mini-Comics from Andrew Cohen

This is part of Panel Patter's SPX Spotlight, a series of reviews of work from creators or publishers who will be attending SPX in 2011 leading up to the show on September 10th and 11th, 2011!

Howzit Funnies
S-h-h--! (you'll wake the dead)
Dr. W #1

Written by Andrew Cohen
Illustrated by Andrew Cohen
self-published

I first saw Cohen's work in collaboration with Matt Dembicki, and made a note at the time that he was someone I might want to investigate at a later date. This feeling continued when I ran into his Dr. W character, who seemed to care not for the bounds of panels, in the pages of Magic Bullet.

Thus it was a pretty easy choice for me when I had the opportunity to grab these three mini-comics. Each one is thematically different from the other, though the general writing style, artwork, and sense of humor share a common link.

Howzit Funnies is an off mingling of artwork with what felt like poetry to me. Sometimes rhyming, sometimes not, the overall effect is lyrical. Take the first few lines of the book as an example:

"Sittin' in a bar in outer space--talking to a girl in pretty lace--astronaut came and punched my face--woke up later 'bout half past three--in the back of a cab, just the cabby and me--cabbie looked worried, he had something to say--I said don't mine me man, I'll be on my way!"

Each dash represents a new panel on the page, and each one gets an illustration that matches the text in a humorous, downplaying manner. There's a hint of blues in the mix as well, given themes of people done wrong, losers down on the luck, and the like. Not everything fits into that mold, and what doesn't honestly didn't work for me. But I liked the narrative story parts quite a bit. Cohen's scratchy, dark lines work in harmony with his text, even if they sometimes undercut what the narrator is saying or doing.

The heavily inked art continues in Sh-h-h--!. This time around, Cohen puts together stories themed around the dead. They aren't serious by any means, however. We're strictly in black comedy territory Bones dominate the pages, happily flaunting their lack of skin at the reader. We get one tale that would fit right in with the blues vibe of Howzit and the whole thing reminds me very much of the kind of Day of the Dead jauntiness that I'm not sure I've actually seen in a mini-c0mic before.

Cohen also does a few stories here in a manner that suggests old woodcuttings, which is a trick I quite like when I notice a cartoonist using it (Rick Geary being the one that comes to mind most often for me.). This is a more cohesive work than Howzit, and might be a better place for a reader to start unless...

...they want to see someone have fun with the comic format. If you're looking for Will Eisner on steroids, then definitely seek out Dr. W. This was my favorite of the three comics, because each and every story in the comic plays with panels. This is one of the most imaginative comics I've ever read, and I read a lot of comics.

A few examples:
  • Balls ricochet around the page, striking characters from the margins.
  • Dr. W. pulls a panel off to prove a character is cheating.
  • A river flows with Dr. W. in it all over the page.
  • The placement of a window leads to multiple sight gags.
Keep in mind this is a five by eight comic, not an oversized hardcover or anything of that nature!

Dr. W is so incredibly innovative (and cranky!) that his adventures never grow old. He's a perfect straightman for the panel-bending, because he accepts it all as being perfectly normal. Nothing that happens shocks him, though it might be incredibly annoying.

Mr. Cohen is a bit hard to track down on the web. He's got a blog, but it's not been updated in almost two months. He will, however, be at SPX and if you are going to the show, definitely look up his work. Hopefully, he'll have some of these comics along for you to try!