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The Independent Garcia
Our Man Trolling For The Best In Small Press at WonderCon

I go to WonderCon not to ogle the booth babes (though I just happen to do when I have a moment) or meet-and-greet the Big Name Pros (except for Phil Foglio). I go to buy small comics that I’d never get a chance to read otherwise.

Every con I go to, I take a chance and buy a dozen or so titles that I’d never heard anything about. Usually, a high percentage of these turn out to be good, and this year three different titles turned out to be beyond my imagination excellent. There were others that were just really really good, too.

On the good front, I bought a manga-esque title called Little Bat Koku by Jim Kilpatrick. It’s a fun little story, but I’m just not a manga fan. Still, the characters are sound and there’s a great scene of Koku getting seen by the rabble and hounded that I thought was very effective. You can find art by Mr. Kilpatrick by looking for user koku-chan on Deviantart.com.

Moving up to very good is the work of Ryan Clayton. He had a 24 Comic called Rock & Soul that I rather enjoyed despite it being a wordless comic. I usually have some trouble with those, but here it was OK. It’s the story of a road trip that sings at times, even if it doesn’t talk. I more enjoyed Ryan’s other offering, three issues of a mini-comic called And Then One Day, partly due to the presence of words, partly due to the autobiographical nature of the material. Each page is a different day in Ryan’s life and they are all beautifully done in a style that is simple and expressive. The page for the day Will Eisner passed is touching, and all three issues kept me reading. The fact that the covers of these little wonders are fuzzy help as well. You can find out more about Ryan Clayton’s work at www.ElephantEater.com

I love the old Paradox Big Book format where they’d take little stories and illustrate them. I also love the Bay Area. And I’m a big fan of pets. Put them all together and you’ve got Pet Noir, a series of Bay Area pet tragedies written by Shannon O’Leary. The three stories are all familiar to folks from around my part of the world: the SF dog mauling, the guy who threw the little dog into traffic, the Cat Lady, and the use of a bunch of different artists for the stories and for full-page art pieces really gives Pet Noir a unique look. Shannon maintains the Starryshine.net blog.

Brandon Hanvey is a talented guy. His comic The Stereos is a classic classic kid story: A Battle of the Bands with the evil band, the good guys and the other band. The characters are identified on the back cover as The Geek, The Goth, The Slacker and the Punk, and they all fit their titles, but they also manage to fill out a good realism. It’s a lot like a really good teen comedy (I’m thinking Ten Things I Hate About You level) only smarter. Check out TheGeekOut.com for all of the Geek Pride info.

Curtis Broadway did not have a booth or table at WonderCon this year, so my traditional favorite wasn’t there, but Louie Del Carmen’s Random Anomalies is right up there with the best of Curtis’ stuff. Random Anomalies tells little single page stories of, as the front page says, Fate and Synchronicity. It’s a beautiful piece, absolutely gorgeous, and the little stories are interesting and smart. I really liked it and I hope that I get to read more. You can do just that at louiedelcarmen.com.

Slightly uneven, but at times brilliant, is Tabloia Weekly Magazine by Chris Wisnia. The first issue opens with the strongest story by far, called The Lump, about a traffic jam and a body found on the road. Of all the story arcs I bought at WonderCon, The Lump is my single favorite. With stories like Dick Hammer: Conservative Republican Private Investigator, Wisnia manages to be entertaining, but not quite to the level of The Lump, which carries on. He also has pin-ups done by the likes of Dick Ayer and Los Bros Hernandez. There’s more at Tabloia.com.

One brilliant comic that I was so happy to read was Journey Into Misery. Mostly, it’s a story of a guy who gets taken by aliens into deep space before being saved by the Unified Planets save him and leave him in deep space since they don’t know where he’s really from. It’s a little like Futurama meets Last Starfighter meets…well, there’s something there that I’ve never seen before. Along with that story, there are various other little bits, including one about a Super Genius Lobster that must be read by all. A wonderful comic that makes me believe in the future of sequential story-telling again. You can see more at journeyintomisery.com.

The best of the continuing stories was Byron, by Karl Christian, whose comics Sturm und Drang were a fave of mine a couple of years back at APE. This time, he’s giving us Byron, a tale of a Goth guy who wants to live in a world of darkness and magic only to find out that he’s living in a world of darkness and magic. It’s a great take on a classic story and I was so mad that he only had issues 1 and 2 finished when I wanted to know what the whole story was. It’s one of those comics you can just love from moment one. Sadly, he’s not got a website, but if you’re looking for buying info, I’m sure he’ll be happy to tell you if you mailed him.

Best of Con had to be a little book called Caught Creatures. While there was not a lot separating the wonder of Journey Into Misery and Byron, Caught Creatures just made me a happy happy man. It’s a book of haiku, which usually I hate, but here they are so well presented with such excellent art. It’s a series of haiku about the monsters kept by Duke Davis in his Steam Castle. It’s all computer art, but the style and the talent in both the writing and art creation is obviously huge. It’s one of those little comic-like things that I say everyone should read. Steamcrow.com for more is where you should search.

All in all, it’s the most impressive haul of small comics I’ve ever had. And now I crawl into a corner and wait until my next paycheck clears.

Chris Garcia

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