2. This is an anthology of several stories by various authors: Glenn Head, Max Andersson, Johnny Ryan, Tim Lane, Judith McNicol, Matt Madden, David Paleo, Mike Wartella, R. Sikoryak, Doug Allen, Lauren R. Weinstein, David Lasky, Tony Millionaire, Onsmith, J. Bradley Johnson, Mats!?, Carol Swain, Sam Henderson, Christian Northeast, Michael Kupperman, Craig Yoe, Ivan Brunetti, Danny Hellman, Mack White, and Rick Altergott. The authors are doing various things — maybe providing a short story, maybe a page-long ‘gag’ strip, or maybe a full page drawing that you couldn’t really call comics at all (Paleo does ‘Inbreed Illustrated’ fake Swimsuit issue magazine covers). You get a range of things in various styles… the intro to the book alludes to the diversity, calling comics a ‘big tent’ medium, one that allows for all manner of styles and subject-matter. That’s pretty much what you get here, a seemingly random sampling of presumedly recent work by various people making comics-related imagery. The intro also wants to let the reader know what to expect from the book, claiming that it will be filled with stories that are ahead of their time and full of attitude and comparing the experience of reading it to a car crash (hope you can survive it!). It wants to come across as a dazzling, fresh, crazy, shocking, rock-your-socks-off book. In reality, it was ‘ok’ and had some highlights but it was really more of the same and quite comparable to a lot of other books I have seen. Nothing new here, but a few stories that stood out from the pile.
3. There are a wide variety of styles in the book, being an anthology that includes many different authors and artists. Cab Boy by Max Andersson almost looks like lithography. Tim Lane’s Sanctuary has an approximately wood-cut look to it, even though it’s done in brush. The Inbreed Illustrated pages are done in graphite. Carol Swain’s Family Circus appears to be done in Prismacolor pencils. Most every other story has the expected black and white pen & brush look to it with whatever line quality makes sense for its story. There are some interesting pages done in color as well. Standing out most is Mike Wartella’s The Visions of Rasputin. He gives his story a fake discolored newsprint base and the look of an old newspaper strip complete with garish color halftone dots, etc. so it ends up looking like Tales of the Black Freighter from Watchmen or what you’d expect from old EC horror. It’s nice … great close cool analogous colors with a hot split compliment usually. He does a great drawing of Rasputin too. I would like to see more of that story for sure… as it exists in the anthology it’s on the incomprehensible side. The only other major formal highlight are the drawings in Tim Lane’s “The Drive Home.” Mainly I find his backgrounds/landscapes appealing with their obsessive surface contour lines of intricate short dashes or varied-line-weight marks covering much of his page with texture. It looks like when Tezuka wants to do an impressive splash page of the environment, but with Lane it gets interspersed throughout the story. It’s interesting that he took so much time with his environments considering the character himself is relatively ‘blah.’ Other than that… there are some people who are clearly good at working in the style of comic strips (Johnny Ryan, and R. Sikoryak does a great Garfield parody called Mephistofield) or in the style of 60s underground comix (Glenn Head especially, only he’s not very funny I guess).
4. Author’s intention: Basically the editorial introduction to the book states the intention. It’s about finding a way to do an anthology that is an alternative to what you get in, though it doesn’t name these specifically, but: Best American Comics (filled with personal memoirs, break-up stories, artsy tales that are incomprehensible) and what you get in something like Kramer’s Ergot (dazzling art, visual pizazz, but not a lot of stories). Hotwire wants to be raw, embarrassing to have in public, shocking, cutting-edge, groundbreaking, and full of low-brow humor, etc. It effectively wants to be like punk zines and earlier underground comix, or it wants to be like Johnny Ryan or Peter Bagge maybe? Instead, it offers you something in-between Best American Comics and Kramer’s Ergot, only with stuff that isn’t as interesting in terms of the average narrative and isn’t nearly as visually stimulating artistically. It’s not shocking or cutting edge at all and many of the stories have very little narrative and are often incomprehensible and artsy. So I’m not entirely sure if they quite accomplished what they set out to do with this one. But, I should say… the overall goal was a great one and I would definitely love to have an anthology that was like that … it’s just not this anthology, sadly. Keep trying I guess..
5. Biggest strengths. There are a few standout stories or pages. Johnny Ryan’s “My Mother the Idiot” was funny (that is, the first one in the book was funny, the rest weren’t really)… it was good because it was simply so ‘easy’ and stupid. It didn’t even really ‘work’ and that was its best quality. I’d like to say Matt Madden’s story was good, but it was like he was trying to be Jaime Hernandez and decided to throw in Mr. Belvedere selling (spiritual?) sex toys… so not sure what happened there. Nice drawings though.. The Visions of Rasputin and Mephistofield works were *almost* really good but neither one really worked finally. I could see them working with some more development. “Metal Fabrication Dept./Okie-Jokies” by Onsmith: that was a highlight. He gives you the story of a guy working in a nightmarish factory job who wants to die most of the time. The biggest strength is how stuck in the rut he is… he fights with his wife but you can tell he wishes he weren’t doing it, but he can’t get out of the cycle. He nows his job is a misery, and he cries about it, but he is ineffectual to actually change anything. He sees the redneck people around him doing awful, stupid, frightening things, but this character is in the background — always involved and implicated but always at a distance and alienated. The other big standout was Danny Hellman’s beautiful, direct, and exquisitely-colored “Joy is a Jewel.” It is a simple 18-panel story telling about how impoverished hippy-type girl Joy wants a nice necklace. She sells her body to a demon for money (gets impregnated in the process), and presumedly gives birth to an anti-Christ type boy. We get to see him grow up and become increasingly evil and powerful, ultimately also being able to provide Joy with that necklace she so desired. It does have an air of Chris Ware about it, sure, but it’s just funny and perfectly concise. The ‘camera’ never leaves Joy and it’s a pleasure to see her evil son springing up around her, as we get hints about his corrupt power. Finally it ends with nukes going off and Joy shedding a tear of joy over her pretty necklace. Bravo Danny! Great job drawing that demon and the demon sex ritual too. I’d like to see more like this. (I also liked certain things about Mack White’s “My Gun is Long” which is a great little play on how the Kennedy assassination went down where we find out Oswald was set up by a look-alike through some complicated circumstances. It works pretty well, and I was surprised to find myself not hating that it had quite a lot of actual written words relative to the amount of drawings… meaning, reading through it wasn’t boring and painful like you might expect from looking at it)
6. Weaknesses: Some of the stories just seemed unresolved. Perhaps if the anthology had more pages overall the authors could’ve fleshed out their ideas a touch more. Some were just not funny or interesting. Some made little to no sense. Some didn’t look super good or lacked other appealing qualities that would grab you and hold your attention. If the intention of the book was to shock and awe and push forward comics with new innovations, then it fell dreadfully short. If the intention was to let some lesser-known people get some exposure then I guess it worked ok, though I don’t know how many people will ever see this book. If the intention was to let some comics artists have a page or two or three to ‘play around’ and pump out a comic that doesn’t matter terribly much whether it works or not… then it did that. I would point out one story though in particular that was just plain bad: The Scaredy Kids by Michael Kupperman. And I hate to single anyone out like this, but I feel it is my duty to discourage this type of humor in comics early on before it gets out of hand as it has done already on American sitcoms and youtube, etc. Phrases from it: “..a bulletin about the Mannister (the man who can become a bannister..” “hey kids! Don’t you remember me? I used to be an ordinary cabdriver, but then I decided to fight crime, because I was fed up with crime! … Then I found this book (picture of a Bittern, a thickset heron with rounded wings, this secretive bird moves silently through the reeds looking for fish and salamanders). Mannister says: See? I mean, that’s perfect for me!” You get various women crashing through windows as a joke, and a woman fighting a Robot Ben Franklin, etc., etc. Repeating the same words at the beginning and end of a sentence is not a joke. Using short phrases in an excited tone of voice is not a joke. Incongruous and nonsensical images, usually with whatever is most trendy (robots, zombies, mustaches, etc.) — not necessarily funny… there needs to be a ‘joke’ there probably. This comic wants to be Chris Ware combined with Adult Swim. It features various fake ads like you’d see in old comics trades and then has that wretched college-humor like you’d see on Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or choose whatever other show. I can’t quite put my finger on just what it is about it that makes it so terrible … but I know it is destructive toward comedy and comics and it needs to stop.
Also, Ivan Brunetti needs to get back to his roots and start being crude and funny again already. …before it’s too late!
7. I would recommend this book to people who already like comics and graphic novels and who are bored and need something to read. I wouldn’t give it to anyone who is just starting on with reading this stuff, because I believe it would turn them away. I wish it was more shocking and raw and punk and that it did what it said it would do in its intro. I read the intro after reading the comic by the way, and was kind of surprised by its stated goals because it didn’t seem to come anywhere near that… I suspect Glenn Head has those goals personally for his own artwork and they don’t necessarily translate or relate to any of the other stories in the anthology. It’s like he somehow got to edit this anthology and has a dream for comics.. but he didn’t pull together the right people or work to get there.. I find it useful just because there were some people in it who I hadn’t heard of before and I can look a bit more into their work.
8. It looks like Glenn Head mainly gets his work out in various anthologies. I see there is a Hotwire Comix Vol 2 and Vol 3 as well.
9. 3.5/5. Parts were ok, some parts were pretty enjoyable.