Silver Sprocket is the reigning champion of the radical, quirky indie comic. Pinky & Pepper Forever—lesbian humanoid dogs and their journey to Hell, is no exception. Pinky & Pepper Forever opens with a bang. Pinky, the fun-loving, wild, pigtail-donning performance artist dines at a restaurant in Hell with her (only slightly) more demure girlfriend, Pepper. From there the story of how these two ended up in Hell, eating human remains out of a river of blood, begins.
Rife with cartoon violence, torture, sexual themes, images of suicide, and bondage, Pinky & Pepper Forever is most definitely a niche comic. However, for those that are curious, Pinky & Pepper Forever is a lot of darkly humorous fun. Atoms’ writing is full of energy. This comic is nonstop. It is a weird, sexy rollercoaster with no time to stop for air. And, yet, somehow it is also the oddly romantic story of two young women in love. Atoms’ writing is wholly sincere and the Pinky and Pepper’s relationship is completely genuine. Atoms’ candid writing style is in total synchrony with the accompanying artwork of the comic.
Atoms’ artwork is crudely drawn and occasionally experimental. Panels are full of rough lines and, upon close inspection, a few tiny errors following the tracing of the artist’s pencil. Similarly, the coloring is an eccentric blend of ink and colored pencil. Pencil marks created while coloring each character are visible on just about every page of the comic. And, yet, this is part of the appeal of Pinky & Pepper Forever. It is unique. The artist is clearly passionate and that passion emanates through every crooked line in every panel. These images could have been lifted directly from Atoms’ personal journal—which makes them all the more appealing. But, despite these qualities, Pinky & Pepper Forever is likely going to be a hard sell for most readers.
Though Pinky & Pepper Forever is certainly worth the time of any indie comic enthusiast, this one is going to be difficult to incorporate into your library’s graphic novel collection. Frankly, a story about the love between two performance artist dogs in Hell is pretty niche. Pinky & Pepper Forever, at face value, is only going to appeal to a specific demographic of comic readers. Many people may be turned off by the art style, the violence, and the fantastical storyline. These elements are what make Pinky & Pepper Forever as great as it is. But, frankly, if purchasing for your library, demand will have to be generated via reader’s advisory. Ultimately, Pinky & Pepper Forever is a very beautiful, weird, fun comic that will attract fans of queer comics and zines.
Pinky & Pepper Forever By Ivy Atoms Art by Ivy Atoms ISBN: 9781945509223 Silver Sprocket, 2018 Publisher Age Rating: 18+ Series ISBNS and Order
Title Details and Representation NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+) Character Traits: Lesbian Related to…: Book to Comic
Imagine: You wake up one morning and your cat has evolved into a humanoid feline. Standing on two legs, the cat-human is now asking to borrow your clothes and hang out with you. Worse? Your furry friend is definitely cooler than you. This is the premise of Benji Nate’s Catboy, a cute, thoroughly engaging, fun comic for cat lovers. Originally a comic strip for news media and popular culture site Vice.com, Catboy is a collection of both fan favorites and previously unreleased material.
Olive is a twenty-something art school graduate, floundering in both her personal and professional life. One night, while looking at a shooting star outside her bedroom window, Olive wishes for the ability to hang out with her cat, Henry, “like a person”. The next morning Henry, now human-sized, is spread across Olive’s pillow. From there we follow Olive and Henry’s escapades as interspecies best friends.
Without a doubt, Catboy is whimsical fun. Nate’s artwork is clear, vibrant, and aesthetically appealing. Adorned in fictitious brand Cool Boy clothing, Olive and Henry are the peak of millennial coolness. Nate uses a harmonious color palette filled with reds, pinks, yellows, and oranges throughout all her artwork in this collection. The bold color choices in this collection create visually cohesive storytelling. Additionally, individual comic strips are consistently entertaining, a feat for any comic artist. Though I do have several favorites, notably one in which the duo attends a lavish house party, each comic strip is of high quality. There is no filler here.
The writing in this collection is both particularly strong and accessible. Henry’s aloof, playful demeanor perfectly contradicts Olive’s perpetual anxiety. Olive struggles to find a career in the arts, please her parents, and make friends. Yet, Henry, despite all of his obnoxious tendencies (which will be ever-familiar to cat owners) is always by her side. They are a great pair and, best yet, Henry’s existence is almost never questioned. He is thoroughly accepted as the cat-human that he is.
Though Catboy is intended for adults, as kids may miss more of the nuance within the writing, there is certainly a place in your juvenile and/or young adult section for this book. Kids that have aged out of Luke Pearson’s Hilda series will get a kick out of this. Olive is likeable and honest, Henry is her safety net, and their wholly supportive friendship is a great example for any reader. In this wholesome vein, Catboy will most likely appeal to those familiar with Sarah’s Scribbles by Sarah Andersen and Nathan Pyle’s Strange Planet. As a lesser known comic strip, Catboy may require a little more advertising and reference promotion, but it is certainly worth the promotional effort. Quirky, thoughtful, and charming, Catboy is a great addition to any library collection.
Catboy By Benji Nate Art by Benji Nate ISBN: 9781945509155 Silver Sprocket, 2017 Publisher Age Rating: (18+)
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)
In his introduction to Your Black Friend and Other Strangers, author and illustrator Ben Passmore writes, “I know you picked this book up thinking you were gonna read a whole lot of wokeness from a mad inspired and inspiring melaninated revolutionary King” And I’ll admit, he was relatively spot on for me—I thought I would be reading a collection of comics that would educate me about my unintentional racism and about the lived experiences of Black people in America. Reflecting on that thought, it seems a rather stilted expectation; luckily the collection did that, but had even more to offer.
The original Your Black Friend by Passmore was published as a 12-page zine by Silver Sprocket in 2016. It was nominated for an Eisner, won an Ignatz Award, and made it on NPR’s 2017 list of 100 Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels. Your Black Friend and Other Strangers was republished in March 2018 as an anthology of Passmore’s previously published pieces, as well as some of his new work. In the title piece, which is summarized in this three-minute animated clip, Passmore narrates his experiences as “your Black friend,” navigating the constant spectrum of racial expectations White people have, regardless of whether they view themselves as allies.
Because I can’t describe it better myself, I leave Silver Sprocket’s description of the comic to list the topics included in the anthology: “race, gentrification, the prison system, online dating, gross punks, bad street art, kung fu movie references, beating up God, and lots of other grown-up stuff with refreshing doses of humor and lived relatability.” Also notable is Passmore’s warning in the Introduction that “There are a bunch of comics in here that are supposed to turn you into Anarchists.” My favorite pieces, like “A Letter from Stone Mountain Jail” or “Whose Free Speech?”, were those that were more narrative- or politically based, telling stories of Passmore’s experiences in protests or his reflections on what political movements (e.g., Black Lives Matter versus Antifa) might actually have a chance of making long-term impact. My least favorite were the ones that were most abstract, such as “A Pantomime Horse I” or “Goodbye.” I found myself just confused at the end of several pieces, flipping back through to see what I had missed.
Passmore’s art aligns with the genre of the piece he’s writing. The pieces that are based on experience have a more literal style of cityscapes and corner stores, with large blocks of small text providing background information. However, pieces like “It’s Not About You” or “The Punklord” are vibrant with color and abstract creatures and imagined settings. I like the punk influence of his art—the characters with mohawks, piercings, gauges, and tattoos—as well as just more “realistic” characters with beards, dreads, hoodies, and suspenders. There is some violence and “gore,” but most of that is relegated to the more fantastical pieces of the book. (However, at one point two punks do end up biting, shooting, then beheading a police officer… but when the characters look like they belong in a punk adult version of the 90s Doug cartoon, it’s not as gory.)
Both the art and the writing ask for your attention in more than one sitting. I read the collection in one sitting, and it was a lot to take in. However, I will return to it in bits and pieces. There may be some parts that I never understand, as several other reviewers have mentioned similar feelings, but I know there is much in both the text and the art to appreciate repeatedly throughout the book.
I think this a comic worth investing in. It will be a good addition to a memoir collection, and it’s important to include memoirs by authors of color, especially about the experience of racism and activism in America. It’s likely best for readers who are 13 and up. Even younger teens (13-16) will benefit from reading about and gaining a better understanding of race and friendship, and the importance of activism and standing up against brutality and injustice. Many of the pieces have an elevated vocabulary and an expectation for a baseline understanding of anarchism and nihilism, which younger readers will likely lack, but as is evident throughout this review, the anthology is sort of a “mixed bag.” Anyone can find something of interest, but there will be pieces that some readers don’t understand or are just confused by. Ultimately, if everyone just reads at least the title comic, the world might be a better place.
Your Black Friend and Other Strangers By Ben Passmore ISBN: 9781945509209 Silver Sprocket, 2018 Publisher Age Rating: T (13+)
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+) Character Traits: Black Creator Highlights: Own Voices, BIPOC Creator
Be Your Own Backing Band collects Liz Prince’s comics for the punk rock zine Razorcake. Prince portrays her intense love relationship with punk rock and the way it’s affected her life. From self-inflicted dental issues to epic concert experiences, Be Your Own Backing Band is a fun collection of the heartfelt adventures of a punk rock fan.
Despite my unfamiliarity with the punk scene, I found plenty to enjoy. In addition to covering her experiences at punk shows and life on the DIY punk scene, Prince also portrays her love of certain songs and the related associations or memories—which is relatable regardless of your musical tastes. The collection as a whole feels a bit unfocused—it’s clear the stories are being at drawn at different times, and it’s hard to establish an exact timeline or narrative arc. That being said, the experiences are all portrayed in a heartwarming, humorous way that is fun and relaxing to read.
The artwork is in Prince’s characteristic expressive style; the panel layout and drawing style has a bit of a DIY feel that works well with the topic, and the drawings often portray humorous, over-the-top reactions of whatever the topic is, further contributing to this fun volume. There are some points where some of the lettering and panel spacing makes things hard to read, but most of the time it is clear. Readers who owned the black and white version will be excited to know that this version is in full color!
Punk fans will likely get the most out of this collection, but fans of Prince’s previous work will also find plenty to enjoy here. Be Your Own Backing Band would be a great acquisition for punk, DIY, Razorcake, and Prince fans. This volume is softcover, and it doesn’t look there is a hardback version—so that is something to keep in mind. Nevertheless, if a library’s patron base includes any of the aforementioned fans, purchasing Be Your Own Backing Band might be worth considering. This volume has a couple of middle fingers and swear words, so this would likely be best for older teens and adults.
Be Your Own Backing Band By Liz Prince ISBN: 9781945509247 Silver Sprocket, 2018
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)