August 14, 2017

The Best Comics You Can't Own #1 (Subterranean Number Three by Sean Knickerbocker, Alex Bullett, and Andrew Greenstone)

    This weeks comic and the first ever review of Best Comics You Can’t Own is a sweet book from the vaults of self publishing history called Subterranean Number Three. Subterranean was a 55 page over sized 8.5x11 book with a beautiful screen printed cover. Unlike most self published books I have from this time it feels heavy and substantial in the hands. It was a three man anthology by Sean Knickerbocker, Alex Bullett, and Andrew Greenstone.


Look at this cover! What happened to cool covers?

    I got a copy of this while all three of them were at The Center for Cartoon Studies co-habitating in an apartment they called Danger Mansion. (Sean was the only one at the school in an official capacity.) When this book came out I thought they were the coolest people in spitting distance of the school. All of their comics felt genuinely cool in a place where I was surrounded by work that was over processed and intellectual. Nothing felt stupid, but it felt very raw and natural. I wanted to be just like these guys when I hit my stride.

    The book starts with a silent comic by Sean called Hunters and Gatherers. For a silent comic not about physical gags it is incredibly clear. The characters are a much more stripped down version of the way they draw now in their comic series Rust Belt, but has a more urgent look that reminds me of Brian Ralph’s Daybreak. That said I think every comic made in 2011 looked like Brian Ralph could have been involved. SPX was panels of square blocky limbs as far as the eye could see. The comic is pretty simple just dealing with a brief interaction between a Hunter and a Gatherer that reads as a non preachy examination of how different types of people fulfill their needs. Pretty sweet.



    Alex Bullett’s Magik School is a fun little story that seems to be about two henchmen trying their best to please their pants less boss by going to murder someone for an unspecified reason. The way everyone is designed in inventive and wreaks of cool. The big dumb character in the main duo doesn’t look like any comics character I have seen before, but should be a staple “shape” if anyone is looking for cool things to swipe. I really like the different characters and how they interact in the space. I think the crudeness of the drawing really adds to the story, and it is definitely the funniest thing in here.



    Andrew Greenstone’s Pizza Vampire is the personal highlight of the book. Nobody uses a brush like Andrew, and nobody does self doubt comics like Andrew. Andrew’s worlds feel genuinely lived in and lush. The story is about a guy who went to school to become a Vampire and doesn’t feel like he is really following that passion now that he is out and wasting away at a job they don’t enjoy. I am pretty sure I have seen several iterations of this same story in different forms over the years as recently as 2016. Hopefully self doubt will lose and we can get a proper full length Pizza Vampire book at some point.



    I really wish there were more anthologies like this. Just a few close friends teaming up to make something really cool. I don’t even read anthologies anymore because they all feel like impersonal random assortments of whoever responded to a tweet calling for submissions. But this book has so much personality, and the three people in it are clearly part of a secret group trying to take on the world. It just feels really good. I like it.

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Got a hot tip on a cool out of print comic that is a gem or would embarrass an award winning cartoonist? Point me to the scoop on twitter at @pleasekeepwarm! You can also see all of Michael Sweater's other stuff at- www.michaelsweater.com