First I was made outcast because of my love of comics. Then I got into poetry, and solidified my outcast status even further.
Somewhere around the late 90’s, after the comics market collapsed, people starting compared comics to a specialty market like poetry. I’m not sure if I was upset about that. And if so, what side? My comics side or my poet’s side.
Because my funds seem to be more limited each passing year, I pick the comics I buy very carefully. With comics in the adventure or suspense genres, I chose books that are better read serialized month to month. In the case of alternative comics, I appreciate pamphlets that stand alone. I almost view them as chapbooks, being able to stand alone without having to be “traded” and collected with work that may not compliment what I liked in the original format.
I’m glad that Optic Nerve is still being published monthly, coming out with two issues since the Shortcomings graphic novel finished serializing. I’m glad that Adrian Tomine is forging a new old curmudgeon persona for the readers as he continues to release individual issues in the face of logic as more and more indie creators release brick sized “issues” of their regular comics. His more cartoony style mirrors Daniel Clowes’ own in books like Wilson (I’ll call it New Yorker Dystopia, knowing full well that’s not inaccurate, and I’ll probably label it something else in another review). Whereas Clowes is turning everything into a graphic novel, including previously individually published issues of Eightball (not hating, but I just liked Clowes’ Ice Haven story in it’s original comic book form before he reformatted it as a book), Tomine is not only continuing with the pamphlet format, but he also seems to be experimenging with his stories and styles of drawing, resembling Clowes himself in the early issues of Eightball with more cartoony stories like “Go Owls” and my favorite short story thus far in this new direction. “Translated from the Japanese.” The latter story provides his most photo-realistic work along with his most concise and poetic language retelling a mother’s account of the weakest point of her family’s and marriage’s existence.
I almost want to see both styles of Tomine collected in separate formats, as his mind seems to be working in different directions at once and should be encouraged to continue doing so. Maybe down the line we’ll see the serialization of a new longer work in the same monthly format. It might be too much to ask for a third vein to run through the course of the book, but it’s exciting to watch and wait, even if it’s a year between issues of what is one of the few comics worth buying individually while waiting to buy the collection.