Prison Pit is an original graphic novel from the pen of Johnny Ryan, best known for his humor comic, Angry Youth Comix. Prison Pit represents a marked departure from AYC or his Blecky Yuckerella weekly comic strip, combining his love for WWE wrestling, Gary Panter’s “Jimbo” comics, and Kentaro Miura’s “Berserk” Manga into a brutal showcase of violence, survival and revenge. Imagine a blend of old-fashioned role playing fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons crossed with contemporary adult video games like Grand Theft Auto, filtered through Ryan’s sense of humor.
The book begins with C.F. (his full name would be too horrifying to reveal here) being thrown into the Prison Pit, a barren negative-zone populated by intergalactic, violent monster criminals. In this first volume, C.F. gets into a bloody slorge war (a slorge is a giant slug that excretes a steroid-like drug called “fecid” that all the monster men are addicted to) with ultraprisoner Rottweiler Herpes and his henchmen Rabies Bloodbath and Assrat. The ensuing bloodbath is an over-the-top, hyperviolent yet hilarious farce worthy of Ryan’s inspiration, Kentaro Miura.
Things have reached a chilling climax in this week's installment of Steven Weissman's in-progress pages from "Blue Jay," an epic 51-page story from Chocolate Cheeks, the next collection of the Yikes! gang's adventures....
• Analysis: For Comics Comics, Dash Shaw pens an appreciation of the work of Tim Hensley: "It’s like what he chooses to draw in the environment (and what he chooses not to draw) is determined by some graphic Feng Shui. When his comics are at their most beautiful, these environments function both as the story’s world and abstractly... With his best dialogue, a line that you first read as being surreally disconnected on a second reading is funny and on a third reading reveals a wider scope of the story."
• Review: "Yes, both of these books are like kryptonite to good taste. But there are a couple of big differences between what Johnny Ryan is doing in Comics Are for Idiots!, his latest Blecky Yuckerella strip collection, and what he's doing in Prison Pit, his ultraviolent action-comic debut... The four-panel Blecky strips often feel like a breakneck race to the punchline through some kind of bizarre obstacle course requiring the basic premise of the gag to get more ridiculous with each panel... Ryan's rep as altcomix's premier overgrown juvenile delinquent is well deserved--and don't get me wrong, you can absolutely enjoy Prison Pit on that level--but the poetic savagery he depicts here is the work of a grown-ass man." - Sean T. Collins
• Review: "[Delphine], Richard Sala's contribution to Fantagraphics's prestigious Ignatz Series, is some of his strongest and most personal work yet... He sets his pop-cultural influences aside this time to lead us down a grimmer path... As for the art -- well, what can I say? It's recognizably Sala's, and at the top of his game, but taken to the next level, in that the usual precision of his black-and-white work is here inflected with sepia washes that give an added visual dimension to the murkiness of the hero's experience... The heavy dustjackets, with such gorgeous full-color art not only front and back but on both big inside flaps, deliver a lush visual and tactile experience that no bonus gallery in a collection will be able to duplicate... By whatever route you get here, I highly recommend this." - Curt Purcell, The Groovy Age of Horror
• Review: "Even when she's not especially inspired, Dame Darcy creates superior goth comics: cheerfully mean-spirited, idiosyncratically stylish, and oozing with surreal ichor... In [Meat Cake #17], Darcy indulges her goth tropes and her feminism: men are tormented, sisterhood is affirmed, and light-hearted squick is relished by all. And, as always, Darcy's eccentric drawing is a joy, with perspective, proportion, and visual logic all flattened out to fit into geometrically obscure but oddly elegant patterns." - Noah Berlatsky, The Comics Journal (reprinted at The Hooded Utilitarian)
• Plug: "The big story here [in The Comics Journal #299] is Bob Levin's spectacular essay on Michel Choquette and his never-completed comics anthology... Sadly, the project never got off the ground, and Levin details in his typical stellar fashion why and how. It's a fascinating tale, one well worth your $12." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "This is a particularly excellent issue of TCJ, thanks to Bob Levin's magnificent 50-page... history of 'The Someday Funnies'... You really need to read it." - Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
• Interview: Seth continues discussing his design work for The Complete Peanuts in the final part of Brian Heater's interview at The Daily Cross Hatch: "Schulz’s work is right there in the book. Every line in those strips is his. But the design stuff is just design stuff. It’s a setting to put a gem in. The setting is not the gem."
• Things to see: At the Covered blog, Anthony Vukojevich does a Gilbert Hernandez Birdland cover
Aw man, I can barely watch this week's installment of Steven Weissman's in-progress pages from "Blue Jay," an epic 51-page story from Chocolate Cheeks, the next collection of the Yikes! gang's adventures....
• Review: "What more can I say about these wonderful [Complete Peanuts] collections? I’ve enjoyed each one immensely so far; they make me laugh and grin and even smirk a little from time to time... Top notch book. You can’t have a much better time than reading these collections. Highly recommended." - Todd Klein (link via Robot 6)
• Review: "[Prison Pit: Book 1] is the best comic Johnny Ryan has ever drawn. And I'm the guy that ranked the last Angry Youth Comix in his Best of 2008... This really needs to be experienced on its own. It's rich, clever, energetic, funny - I don't think I've purely in-my-guts enjoyed another comic so much in 2009... You've gotta see it to believe it." - Joe McCullough, Jog - The Blog
• Plug: "...[O]ur favorite comic book artist is Mr. Johnny Ryan!... Johnny continues his brilliant legacy with an 120 page epic tale named Prison Pit... Next to Jughead, Johnny’s about the best thing going on in comic books these days, so don’t be a chump and wait until they make some perverted documentary about him and he’s some hipster darling! ACT NOW!" - retroCRUSH
• Profile: For the Los Angeles Times, Tobias Carroll profiles artists who straddle music and comics, including Zak Sally, whose "surreal and compelling series Sammy the Mouse, begun in 2007, is a kind of existentialist's Bloom County," plus our pals Archer Prewitt & Ron Regé Jr.
One of my favorite books this year is Johnny Ryan's PRISON PIT, a book that I think is his magnum opus. So it was with great self-satisfaction this morning that I read Jog's review of the book, the first proper review I've seen yet. A brief summary of his take? "Jesus Fucking Christ."
• Interview: Sean T. Collins's series of interviews with Marvel Strange Tales MAX contributors at Marvel.com continues with Peter Bagge: "The Hulk story's about both the Hulk and Bruce Banner trying to cope with their many issues via the use of modern pharmacology, in the form of head pills, Viagra, et cetera. Needless to say, wackiness ensues."
• Interview: And another one from Sean at Marvel.com, this time with Jason: "With the Spider-Man story I pretty much followed the Stan Lee formula of him being a super hero but a screw-up as a private person."
• Interview: In the second part of his talk with Brian Heater at The Daily Cross Hatch, Seth discusses his involvement and design for The Complete Peanuts series: "The design evolves slightly for each decade, but it’s all about subtle change. For example, the end papers change each decade. The color scheme changes each decade, but it’s a very subtle shift."
• Review: "Fantagraphics' recent release Abstract Comics, while nicely designed and filled with some fantastic artwork (kudos to editor Andrei Molotiu and the Fantagraphics team), brings up an interesting argument...: at what point do you stop calling something comics and start calling it... well, something else?... I'm not sure there is an answer, but it's an interesting debate. Check out this book and come to your own conclusions." - Paul DeBenedetto, Wednesday's Child
• Review: Comic Book Bin's Leroy Douresseaux examines The Comics Journal #298, calling the Trevor Von Eeden interview "scandalous and provocative," saying R.C. Harvey's "Comicopia" column is "both thoughtful and insightful, the kind of exceptional writing that would normally earn a magazine about comic books an Eisner Award," and overall grading the issue an A-
• Plug: "I can't recommend Johnny [Ryan]'s comics highly enough. They go places no one else would dare and, like all great art, show you something you've always known but never have seen before." - Benjamin Marra
• Interview: Sean T. Collins's series of interviews with Marvel Strange Tales MAX contributors at Marvel.com continues with Johnny Ryan. The imagination reels: "Well, there was one joke, now that I think of it, with Galactus that had to be altered a little bit. I don't know if I should reveal the joke—it might ruin the experience. But it was this little detail for that joke that I initially put there, and they were like, 'Eh, can you change that a bit?'"
• Review: "...Tales Designed to Thrizzle... is not all tradition; it's largely a satire, a satire of a pulp fiction oeuvre that didn't take itself that seriously to begin with. Kupperman's humor — a mix of genre, non-sequitur and nonsense — is a kind of laughter in the void, wonderfully lucid and slightly sickening... That Kupperman so masterfully plays to and upsets expectation makes Thrizzle that much funnier and finer. With stunts such as a Twain & Einstein crime-fighting partnership, Kupperman is all goofball, all the time. But Kupperman's line, even in shaping locomotive-sized garden snails, is weighty. And the weight of five years of Thrizzle, is, well, as formidable as a locomotive-sized garden snail." - John Reed, Art in America
• Review: "The story [in Delphine] surrounded me and carried me away to a very real world. It's a cartooned, exaggerated world, but a real world nonetheless... The layouts are impeccable: very clear and superbly paced... I noticed that the story GREW in my mind when I took breaks from reading, allowing me to immerse myself in the story like a dream." - Frank Santoro, Comics Comics
• Review: "...Fletcher Hanks [was] one of the greatest comic book talents you’ve never heard of. Working in the earliest years of comics (1939-1941) Hanks’ contributions walked on the darker side of comic books in a way that managed to take on a timeless quality... In this collection is the work that makes Hanks so incredibly special to the world of comic books. The physiognomics of his evildoers, the strange retributions they suffer at the hands of the heroes, is all really powerful stuff... You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! is an incredible testament to what comic books were once capable of... If you want to understand the essence of comic books in their purest form then pick up You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! and learn." - Iann Robinson, Crave Online
• Plug: "The pieces in The Bradleys are broadly satirical and funny, marked by Bagge’s rubbery art style and a sarcastic tone that should appeal immediately to anyone with a prior awareness of The Simpsons or Looney Tunes. They’re also good stories, full of sharp observations about the impossible expectations that govern the dynamics of a nuclear family, as well as the way a good used Yardbirds record can make a crappy day better." - Noel Murray, The A.V. Club "Recommended First Comics"
• Plug: "All my exploration of the Moon/Ba axis came out of reading their pretty great Comics Journal interview in [#298]. I love it when an interview is so well-done that it convinces me to sample writers and artists whose work I haven't read before." - Alan David Doane, Comic Book Galaxy