Look, I’m going to try and display some restraint here. If I’m not careful, I could easily scare you away with the ocean of magniloquent praise swelling inside me. So let me be delicate in my wording– calm, cool and collected to help you understand the unparalleled beauty of Matthew Thurber‘s 1-800-Mice.
It’s an epic mystery about the moment in our future-history when human-tree marriage is on the cusp of social acceptance. An intersex mouse named Peace Punk roams the world seeking the entrance to Valhala, evading a trio of angry assassins through an underworld of never-ending hardcore festivals and viral video production palaces. A tightly wound mouse detective goes undercover amongst a pack of nihlistic terrorists, confronting his own criminality in the process. And a cog in the machine at 1-800-Mice (the world’s fastest courier service) learns the grisly truth behind a mysterious drug made of dead trees.
If that sounds like a lot, it is! There’s a whole Universe behind this story, and it feels like something dreamed by Henry Darger and Alajandro Jodorowsky after a night of getting stoned, prank-calling Marilyn Manson, and watching Monty Python. But don’t worry about keeping up with all the details: readers of 1-800-Mice will learn to truly appreciate a sudden nosedive into the surreal. Each panel says a lot, even when the narrative speaks in tongues.
Thurber’s particular poetry is a web of jokey stand-up observations, noirish voice-over, drifting existential questions, imaginary buzzwords, playful puns and casual dick jokes. He constructs a foreign language with familiar associations and unexpectedly deep capacity for humanity (even in interspecies characters). You’ll be reading a goofy exchange between a death cultist dentist and his vampiric assistant, and suddenly you’ll tap into a quiet sense of melancholy embedded within the panel. It’s an interplay that grants Thurber’s gonzo fantasy a surprising scope of emotional depth. Plus, heads explode, reality collapses, and you have a new message on MindBook.
1-800-Mice is published by the awesome PictureBox press, and it looks beautiful. The hardcover feeels really special, and it has pretty colors on it. Plus, there’s an endorsement from Matt Groening on the cover! Check it out at one of Thurber’s upcoming readings!
San Francisco: September 30th at 7:00pm – Escapist Comics (with Leslie Stein)
San Francisco: October 1-2 – Alternative Press Expo
Los Angeles: October 4th at 7:00pm – Family
Brooklyn: October 7 at 7:00pm – Desert Island
Brooklyn: October 20th at 7:00pm – Triple Canopy (with C.F.)
Brooklyn comic book shop Desert Island‘s self-published comics newspaper Smoke Signal is just awesome, jaw-dropping, and jam-packed with some of today’s most talented artists. They’ve produced five luxurious issues in just over a year– and it’s distributed completely free of charge (if you’re lucky enough to live near the Brooklyn store)! The best part about Smoke Signal, aside from just reading great comics, is holding in your hands an ink-smudgy, full-sized newspaper. It really brings me back to those Sunday comic section days of yore, minus the indignant rage I always harbored for Family Circle.
Picking favorites, here’s a quick rundown of some of the rad people involved in Smoke Signal: Matthew Thurber, Gabrielle Bell, Ron Regé Jr., Ariel Schrag, Anders Nilsen, Leif Goldberg, Tom Gauld, Johnny Ryan and Lisa Hanawalt. Those last two are responsible for putting a scene of Alf sensuality and a bugged-out train-shaving cat on the covers of issues four and five, respectively.
Read issues one, two and three digitally, and try to scoop up one of the latest issues while first-run copies still exist! I just got issues three, four and five in the mail– take a peek at them after the jump.
The comics of Dane Martin, graduate of The Center for Cartoon Studies (yes, a real thing), exist in a genre that I can only describe as psychedelic naive bittersweet nightmare comedy. Romance and innocence snake like a smiling anthropomorphic vine around the sadness and isolation that play on the surface of his characters’ faces. It’s more than a little bit thrilling.
He lives in Michigan. He’s obsessed with Walt Disney. Blurred nostalgia for days gone by permeates his page, offering an intriguing twist on the yearnful techniques of terminal reminiscers like Seth and David King. Anxiety-prone characters and a disarmingly slurred poetic prose bring to mind Matthew Thurber‘s dreamy comics. Beyond these enticing references that seem to orbit Martin’s work, there is something entirely unique at work here.
Check out some illustrated missives from Dane Martin’s vast internal world, below. And while you wait for his forthcoming 300+ page collection of comics, send him an e-mail and he might just mail a mystery “fun pack” to your doorstep.
A brief glimpse at the cinematic endeavors initiated by comic auteur extraordinaire Matthew Thurber during his residency at Thirty Days NY. Will the world ever see the brilliantly demented films he made that week? We can only pray. For the woefully unacquainted, Thurber is a genuine genius whose work feels like the byproduct of an all-night paranoid Chatroulette session between Thomas Pynchon, R. Crumb and James Ensor. Hyperbole has previously gushed from my fingertips about Thurber’s comics Hong Kong Bong and 1-800-Mice, both of which you would be remiss not to seek out and devour with your eyeballs, post-haste.
Thirty Days NY is a massive project that I’ve been helping out on for months now, and it’s finally ready to send off into the world! Following the release of Spike Jonze’s robot love story, I’m Here, Absolut Vodka and TBWA teamed up with Spike and the rad dudes behind Family Bookstore, David Kramer and Sammy Harkham, to create a live gallery space for one month only in New York City. But more than just a gallery, it’s a performance space, bookstore and an artist studio– and all the events are free! Located at 70 Franklin Street, Tribeca, Thirty Days will feature weekly performances, symposiums, and showcases from contemporary artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers from all over the world.
Dallas Clayton and I were tasked with creating the online presence for Thirty Days, and it’s evolved into so much more than a blog. In addition to providing daily coverage of live events at the gallery, the site will host loads of original content including exclusive interviews with No Age, Little Joy, The Morning Benders, Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony, Sumi Ink Club, and many more. There are so many awesome people contributing stellar content for the site, from We Love You So’s Molly Young to photographer Bryan Derbella to Matt Wolf, the filmmaker behind the stunning Arthur Russell documentary Wild Combination.
Among those participating at the physical space are some of my favorite artists, like Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, Ben Jones of Paper Rad (whose designs are all over the space– check out his bookshelves on the upper left of this post), Andrew Jeffrey Wright and SNL’s Fred Armisen, Albert Maysles, Shana Moulton, Matthew Thurber, and Lance Bangs. Take a peek at the full schedule and stop by if you’re in the area! I’m flying out tonight for the opening event on Thursday, which will include sets by the amazing Aska, Brian Degraw of Gang Gang Dance, and a psychedelic light show by Joshua White and cartoonist Gary Panter. Come say hi!
Kramer’s Ergot is to the comic book world what McSweeney’s is to the literary set. Established by cartoonist Sammy Harkham in 2000, the anthology has evolved into a standard-bearing almanac of alternative comics’ perennial favorites, veritable legends, and underdog up-and-comers. From the original 48-page self-published compilation of mini-comics to the hardbound 16″ x 21″ bookshelf-defying behemoth it takes the form of today, Kramer’s Ergot has always championed the experimental and the audacious.
Last night saw the release of the 7th installment, boasting contributions from over 60 artists representing a diverse range of styles and subject matter in their comics. Simpsons creator Matt Groening, Ghost World author Dan Clowes, and graphic design god Geoff McFetridge are a few of the heavyweights whose work can be seen in Kramer’s Ergot 7, amongst the likes of some of my favorite art world sensations like Matt Furie, Paper Rad, and Matthew Thurber. Actually, it’s a hard not to just keep naming all the awesome people who worked on Kramer’s Ergot 7, that’s how jam-packed full of quality goodness it is.
I was lucky enough to pick up a copy last night and get it signed by 11 of the contributors (including Groening – childhood dreams do come true!) at Family, the bookstore that Harkham helps run when he’s not cartooning or fostering creative outlets for his fellow artists. It has a pretty steep price, but I definitely think it’s worth the cost. It’s a fascinating look into the point at which the art world and comic books collide, and a decadent showcase for the artists who hover around that spot. I’ll leave you with an excerpt from Geoff McFetridge’s page, a simple but amazing four-panel strip that summarizes my hopes and dreams for humanity.
Comic book artist Matthew Thurber is a man of many talents. In addition to his cartooning and painting (see my post on the Hope Gallery’s Male Odor Monsters show for some of his canvas work and his comic 1-800-Mice), he’s also a multi-talented musical savant. Perhaps best known for playing saxaphone in Soiled Mattress and the Springs (which, sadly, has recently disbanded), Thurber’s currently concentrating on a solo project called Ambergris, which sounds something like Captian Beefheart and Steve Buscemi getting funky in a sea of broken glass, and sometimes reminds me of early Of Montreal records, and sometimes sounds like the video game score for a dangerously jocular trek through a demonic Eastern European elementary school.
I’m not sure if this will help clarify what the project is all about, but here’s how Thurber describes the latest Ambergris release, a cassette tape entitled “Anti-Matter Alma Matter.”
Wormholes and Sperm Whales aside, I’m in love with the prolific artist’s latest comic book. The final Soiled Mattress album, entitled Honk Honk Bonk!, was recently released on vinyl, accompanied (for a limited time) by complimentary copies of Thurber’s Hong Kong Bong.
It’s a story of intrigue and betrayal, taking place in the near future ( “Filmed in front of a live audience at Family Bookstore, Los Angeles © MCMXI” ), when a string of Kombucha overdoses leads notorious police detective Serpico into the seedy underbelly of “The Smell” — a 2000s-themed animal-only nightclub in Upper Bed-Stuy Heights, New York, full of shape-shifting spies and sinister scenesters covering up a horrible secret! It’s worth the cost of a useless vinyl disc (JK, analog-lovers) for the hilarious puns, fedoras, and psychedelic non sequiturs alone.
+ Video interview of Soiled Mattress and The Springs from The Fader
“Mail Order Monsters” is a totally sick action-packed, laser-blasting, tentacle-wrangling battle game for the Commodore 64. Likewise, “Male Odor Monsters” is a highly titillating, testosterone-impregnated (rationale here) new group show at Echo Park’s Hope Gallery. Teeming with the lo-fi crayon-colored psychedelia/neon childhood-nostalgic nightmare vibe that has come to dominate the experimental comics scene– and maybe avant-garde art in general– “Male Odor Monsters” features the work of Lightning Bolt drummer (and co-founder of Rhode Island’s legendary Fort Thunder) Brian Chippendale, Matthew Thurber, C.F. (a.k.a. Kites in the music world), and Kramer’s Ergot contributor Carlos Gonzales.
I was initially lured in to the show by Chippendale, whose zines I’ve become familiar with at stores like Family, Ooga Booga, and Giant Robot– but after checking out all the work, I’ve totally fallen in love with Matthew Thurber‘s adorable intensity (e.g. the endearingly terrified horse in the picture above, entitled A Degree in Time Travel). I ended up slapping down a crisp Lincoln on the first issue of his new comic book, 1-800-Mice, which reads kinda like a Sally Cruikshank cartoon watched in the midst of a Vietnam acid flashback.
Check out my photos from the show after the jump, and make sure to stop by the Hope Gallery at 1547 Echo Park Ave before August 5th to experience the odor intimately.