Cutting Paper

In my haste navigating the Small Press Pavilion at #SDCC, I just randomly grabbed a few of these issues that looked the most interesting based on a quick cursory glance. Now I kinda’ wish I’d just picked them all up, because it’s easily one of the best anthologies ever crafted. It’s further  proof that if ConSARS ever wipes out Portland, the indie comics scene would basically be irrevocably decimated and the industry would likely never recover. In short, Papercutter is one of my new favorite things. Tugboat Press has an amazing eye for talent, attracting both established and upcoming creators to fashion stories that don’t fall into the stereotypical indie autobio mindless navel-gazing trap. Instead, they engage and resonate, 99% of the time firing on all visual and narrative cylinders.

Papercutter #11 (Tugboat Press): There are quick stories by Dustin Harbin and Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg, but “Lululand” by Amy Adoyzie & Jon Sukarangsan is the feature piece in this issue, the sumptuous art part Charles Burns and part Jeff Smith. It’s a smart story that avoids dialogue for extended sequences, about two underemployed sisters. At times, the tale is many things, it’s a getting-to-know-you story, it’s about typical behind-the-scenes restaurant antics, and it’s about being stuck in a rut. The end is unexpectedly triumphant and proves once again that change is typically healthy. Grade A.

Papercutter #13 (Tugboat Press): Matt Wiegle’s “The Orphan Baiter” is just exquisite. It bears an almost Gorey-esque Victorian aesthetic, but hums and ducks and weaves with modern flair, full of rich background details and variable line weights giving life to the figures in the foreground. It’s a full bodied experience with a witty narrative unlike any other, about odd “vinegar workers” and the inheritance of a “Pelt The Beast” animal menagerie. Wiegle’s ear for language immediately engages and holds the reader’s attention. “Put this on. Your name is Minotaur.” Yeah. I love shit like that. “Heroes Drink Shmutz” from Tim Root is the primary back-up feature, with shaky line quality, and something I’ll quickly term “loser consumer detritus humor.” Fandom and junk food leads to petty crime, gunshots lead to flatulence. If Robert Crumb was growing up today, his work would look like a mix of Noah Van Sciver and this guy, Tim Root. It’s terrific. Grade A+.

Papercutter #14 (Tugboat Press): Honestly, you had me at "Jim Rugg" and "Farel Dalrymple," these guys being two of my favorite comics creators around. The extended travel story by Dave Roche & Nate Beaty is done in black, white, and grey washes that capture the various moods so convincingly. There are subtle humor cues that don’t assault your intelligence, all about the reality of interacting with traveling companions, yet the desire for some isolation to absorb the experience. It’s full of smart visual choices, like the seamless depiction of fading in and out of interruptions. Jim Rugg and frequent collaborator Brian Maruca contribute a lightning fast soapbox derby one-pager, but lines like “Let’s trade some paint, shithole!” tend to stick with you. Farel Dalrymple brings his quirky, beautiful line weights and sense of character design to his story. I love how he’s not afraid of inking up the page to great effect, and he even squeezes in a little Pop Gun War homage. I enjoyed his story that sees life in urban settings clashing with nature in a semaphorical (I may have just made that word up, it’s probably “semaphoric,” huh?) representation. He ends with a gorgeous back cover, and the UFO credits on the inside back page, well, I got a kick out of that too. This was very close to making the jump to “+” largely due to Dalrymple, but we’ll go with an overall Grade A.

Papercutter #17 (Tugboat Press):  This issue boasts such names as Hellen Jo and Vanessa Davis, though Jason Martin is actually the star, writing all of the pieces and being paired with different artists on each. Standouts for me included the Jesse Reklaw illustrated story about a homemade Batman villain and how writers internalize experiences that manifest in their creations. The collaboration with Francois Vigmeault makes me miss my San Jose roots, recalling frequent trips to Streetlight Records on Bascom Ave., Sam’s BBQ, Juicy Burger, The Pruneyard, the old Tower Records, and Heroes Comics in Campbell. *Sniff* The feature length piece is “Scenes From The Fire” with Calvin Wong, about a traumatic experience amid shared housing in the Bay Area and 911 foibles. “Avo” with Sarah Oleksyk has some very memorable line work that’s almost like Craig Thompson combined with Farel Dalrymple. Grade A.


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