Friday, 14 December 2012

It's An Aussie Comics Christmas - Milk Shadow Books

Callooh Callay! Milk Shadow Books are offering a very generous 15% off their range of titles this holiday season, available now until the 19 December, so the clock be a ticking. With a stable of creators such as Bruce Mutard, Scarlette Baccini and the never-safe-to-drink-milk-while-reading Ben Hutchings, there is a lot on offer for fans of smart, humourous comic work. 

Milk Shadow Books
To give a taste of what is available, two recent fine examples include All You Bastards Can Go Jump Off A Bridge by J. Marc Schmidt and The Trials of Francis Bear by Gregory Mackay.

Coming off the back of The Sixsmiths, which the Geek of Oz and myself are big fans of, All You Bastards is largely a collection of strips that swing from comedy to pathos, the everyday to the absurd, sprung from the observant imagination of Schmidt. If a broad theme was to be attached to this collection of rapid-fire stories, it would be that of the battle between the sexes. As well as Mortal Kombat and Streetfighter - I think that was a metaphor. 

All You Bastards Can Go Jump Off A Bridge J. Marc Schmidt Milk Shadow Books
One recurring storyline involves a young woman propositioning a series of partners with the unlikely come on I am an atheist. What begins as a somewhat on-the-nose satire of religion and sexual hypocrisy continues to develop with each new 'encounter' until finally ending on a surprisingly poignant note. While Schmidt is not afraid to feature naked ruddy cherubs throughout the book, emotion is never far from sex in these stories. This is not Crumb-lite erotica on display, but heartfelt and occasionally raw in its observational detail.

Examples of this include the story about a minor sitcom actress from a well-known show who turned to porn. Schmidt investigates her career, reproduces IMDB forum gossip on her - a sweating panopticon of prurient voices - then ends on a touching note of concern. Another strip has two guys indulging in a bit of braggadocio, trading on sexual exploits, until the former back-packer's freelove reminiscences of wild times in Canada during the 90s turn to unexpected tragedy. 

My pick of the collection though, just for sheer oddness, is two dots on a page engaged in an existential dialogue as to what they are and what their panel is supposed to represent. It is a short and sweet piece, but very clever and witty. All You Bastards... shows how far Schmidt is willing to push the boat out to develop his craft - that cover is probably very significant. Throw in a 'prognostication pterodactyl' (just...just read the book to find out) and you have quite the entertaining tome on your hands.

All You Bastards Can Go Jump Off A Bridge J. Marc Schmidt Milk Shadow Books

Gregory Mackay's book on the other hand feels like a relay race of absurdism, with every page raising the bar as to how crazy the adventures of this foul-mouthed little bear can become. We first meet Francis enduring a bout of sea-sickness on board a ship, as he is incredibly unsuited for the job of crewman. By the story's conclusion he will have changed jobs several times, each one somehow outside his menial skill-set. 

Except Francis is a very special bear. Capable of McGyvering complicated machines, with several diagrams suddenly appearing throughout the book mid-assembly, but also possessing quite the foul mouth for such a cute little fellow, Mackay has fashioned something that lies between Paddington Bear, Phineas and Ferb, with a smidge of Southpark.

The Trials of Francis Bear by Gregory Mackay Milk Shadow Books
Of course then the story takes a turn, with scenes featuring an internment camp right out of the pages of  Solzhenitsyn, proving that once the reader thinks they have a handle on Mackay's febrile imagination, it can take an entirely different path.

In between The Trials of Francis Bear serves up a beach sculpture competition, the most terrifying creature in the sea - Man, a horde of 'ink junkies', and we learn the lengths a bear will go to to have some baked beans. Hilarious stuff, but with an unsettling edge that is really impressive, this is a fine book - and was one of my end of year picks for the final Beardy and the Geek podcast of 2012. 

The Trials of Francis Bear Gregory Mackay Milk Shadow Books

So there you have it. Two great titles to get your teeth into and both available at a discounted price from Milk Shadow books until December 19. For more information visit the publisher website and Facebook page

Happy purchasing!

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