Sam Gaskin lives and works in Northampton, MA. He spends his spare time eating cereal and killing moths.
Top Fifteen Comic Books of 2011
14. 2012, by Sam Gaskin. This is Gaskin’s best work to date. This episodic comic about various end-of-the-world myths and predictions has the rhythms of excellent long-form improv, with unexpected and funny callbacks that build up to its climax. Gaskin loves to incorporate junky pop culture into his comics (the Rush Hour films) along with myths, sports, music, comic strip characters and fantasy tropes. His line has become much more assured and in service to his jokes than it was before, when it was more of a scribble. Unlike DeForge, who takes his genre work seriously in his comics, Gaskin goes strictly for laughs, albeit frequently disturbing and uncomfortable laughs.
- Rob Clough, High-Low
In his first collection, Gaskin struts his stuff in more forms than many a comics artist does these days, including one-panel gags, four-panel strips, six-panel one-pagers, several-page stories, and sketchbook outtakes, funny and not. (The only veteran cartoonist who regularly offers as much variety is Sam Henderson, whose latest Magic Whistle collection, Body Armor for Your Dignity, is reviewed in this issue.) Silliness and pop-cultural referentiality inform virtually everything Gaskin does, sometimes rather complexly.
I got so excited when I saw his name on this comic. So, for the first time in a long time, I – yes, moi – picked out my own comic this week.
I reviewed a Sam Gaskin comic once before – I feel like it was his first, but I could be wrong about that. It was certainly my fist Sam Gaskin comic, and I recall that not only did I love it, but it was the comic that made me understand why people like comics as a medium. That’s a pretty big deal!
I was delighted to read something else by him, and even more delighted that it turned out to be such a great comic book! I have to say that, yes, somewhere in some part of my brain I keep the information that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, and well….we’re mid 2011, so I’ve been able to use that as an excuse for all kinds of horrible choices and laziness. I’m a fan of endings, or at least what the options
they’ve given my life.
Now, I’ve read and seen books of all kinds deal with any number of creation stories, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen–and certainly never read–any books that gather up all the varying end-of-world stories, be they real, embellished or imagined. (Being a Jew means we get to skip Revelations, but I’ve that described as being “totally balls out”.) Catching up with a prophecy, even ones as clearly fictionalized as these was a lot of fun! I never thought I’d have so much fun reading about the possible ending of the world.
Gaskin riffs off of a multitude of philosophies and end-of-the-world hypotheses with everyone from Roy Orbision to Nostradamus, from the Hopi Indians to a horny Dracula over to the duo from Rush Hour. (I’ve left out a bunch of others intentionally because hey, I don’t want to totally spoil it for you, right?) It’s clever, hilarious, AND he finds a way to tie them all together into one great 2012, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario.
What I find really, really cool about this too, is that with every new story/scenario there was a different look to the art. Sometimes it’s minor, but it’s always there. Now that’s cool right? It gives each story tangent a distinctive look. The story ends up not only being told by the action within the panels, but in how each of the characters and setting get drawn. It’s cool to see that tone – and I mean tone in terms of, like, tone of voice – could change by changing the art. (Obviously, it isn’t simple to have that variation, but that’s part of why I like Sam’s comics so much. He makes what must be difficult to come upon seem like an obvious choice that anyone could do, and yet I don’t believe for a second that very many people could have done what he does here.)
At first, I felt like I might not be smart enough to review this. But then I realized that it wasn’t intelligence that I was thinking about, but the results of my intelligence–meaning I thought that this was a
comic worthy of a great review, a review that would make people want to read it and experience it and laugh at it as much as I did. I wanted to be able to write the sort of thing that could compare and
contrast it to other artists and comics in ways that would make people want to read along with me.
I figured out what all those feelings meant, eventually. It just meant that I am a Sam Gaskin fan.
And that I think you should be, too.
- Nina Stone, The Factual Opinion
Offbeat, quirky, and hilarious are just three adjectives that can be used to describe Fatal Faux-Pas. Samuel C. Gaskin’s collection of drawings is a non-stop assault on one’s funny bone as he viciously lampoons society with simple yet effective art and prose. Fatal Faux-Pas is a must for anyone looking for a good laugh.
- Mid-west Review of Books: Bookwatch
Apparently I was a bit wishy washy with the review for Sam’s mini, the contents of which are mostly included in this collection. So why, if that’s the case. do I have such unreserved love for this collection? Eh, I’m a mass of contradictions, what can I say. It’s also going to be tough figuring out what it is I love about this so much, as it’s a mass of unconnected stories, gags and strips, some tiny, some not so much. The uniting force behind this, the thing that made me laugh so many times, was the sheer absurbism on display. Spider-Man wondering if Dr. Octopus is squeezing or hugging him, for example, is an image that either makes you smile or it doesn’t. Ditto with a series of four page gag strips involving The Fonz, the series of Faux-Pasta strips involving things that aren’t pasta, theories on what’s inside of Oscar’s trash can, and the drama of being a cat (with an indispensible set of drawings of a cat freaking out). When the worst you can say about a book is that not every page was hilarious, well, chances are it’s a pretty great book. This book is right around a hundred pages and full of things that you’ll enjoy discovering for yourself, so I’m not going to ruin anything by revealing the use of tacos as digging implements.
- Optical Sloth
Fatal Faux-Pas, a collection of strips, drawings, jokes and other odds and ends is a lot more scattershot in its effect–partly by design. This collection really has that blender effect mentioned above, where the reader has no idea what’s coming next. Not every joke scores a hit and not every page even necessarily contains a joke or coherent idea, but once again his total commitment to his aesthetic approach somehow raises his work above the level of mere homage (or rip-off). Gaskin switches between a sort of crude sketchbook immediacy to a more refined approach in his visuals, which matches the nature of his gags. His simple gags about “Faux-Pasta” are an example of the former, starting from a bad pun (shoelaces instead of pasta) and going to complete dada territory (mistaking a brick for pasta). “My Kinski” is an example of the latter, a densely layered and visually extreme strip about a director who tries to channel Werner Herzog that may be the funniest story I’ve read this year. Gaskin is clearly in a phase of his career where he’s rapidly cycling through his influences. Fatal Faux-Pas reads like Gaskin just spent a year doing nothing but reading great comics and then drawing as a response to them. He has already started to develop his own voice and simply needs to keep following his instincts and continue to expand his range of approaches.
- Rob Clough
This isn’t a comic you will have to go to a convention to track down–it’s on Amazon–but it seems like the sort of amazing discovery you read about people making at shows like SPX. Actually, it seems like several amazing discoveries put together, as Gaskin works in a number of veins. There’s heavily ironic, pop-culture referencing strips, sketches, avant-garde passages, satires of other comics (most notably John Porcellino’s King Cat), and a couple of longer, funny stories as well. Those two stories probably are my favorite out of everything in the book, but they’re really nothing alike. The first, “My Kinski,” deals with a mainstream filmmaker who decides to make an “independent” film by copying the worst excesses of Werner Herzog. The latter, “Escape,” is the story of someone escaping from prison; maybe it’s because I recently read Boy’s Club, but I found it somewhat reminiscent of Matt Furie, especially a scene in which the protagonist eats the filling out of a taco. The very loose plot primarily serves as a venue for Gaskin’s humor, much of which involves grotesque/surreal body manipulation. “My Kinski,” however, has a much tighter pace, delivering precise gags intended to highlight the absurdity of the situation. I thought both these stories were pretty funny, which speaks well for Gaskin’s range as a cartoonist. Perhaps even more impressive was the success of the strips referencing pop culture. I generally hate this kind of humor, especially if it’s the lazy, Seth MacFarlane-ish recognition humor. (You know, “Hey, do you remember old toothpaste commercials? So do I! Awesome!”) These were much funnier, not entirely reliant on the reader’s familiarity with pop culture artifact (with the possible exception of the Harry Potter/Black Sabbath strip, which probably makes no sense at all if you aren’t familiar with Sabbath and at least one other band (I won’t spoil who), and which is probably even better if you are more familiar with Harry Potter than I am; my wife, who is familiar with both Harry Potter and Black Sabbath, seemed to really like it). I was especially impressed with the Saved By the Bell strip. I’ve never seen an episode of the show, and my knowledge of it is limited to knowing that Screech is the one who is a nerd. But Gaskin keeps my interest with some pretty clever formal play and off-kilter execution (for instance, all the speech balloons snake around, the tails exiting the speaker’s mouth in a somewhat unsettling way). And it was still funny. Fatal Faux-Pas has a very tossed-off feel to it, the more developed strips sitting alongside sketchbook material and short, hastily-drawn comics. I guess you could interpret this approach in two ways: you could think of this as a hint of Gaskin’s potential, or you could appreciate its loopy, eclectic charm. I’m kind of in the latter camp, even though I thought the more polished material was generally much stronger. So I guess I do expect greater things form Samuel Gaskin in the future, but there’s plenty here to enjoy right now. If you appreciate the work of Michael Kupperman or Sam Henderson, or possibly even CF or James Kochalka, you’ll find Fatal Faux-Pas well worth your time.
- Dick Hyacinth
The first thing that got me was the “Rock, Paper, Scissors” passage, which was an autobiographical tale. I love that, in a matter of frames and very few words, I learned about an entire relationship, an entire summer, and its impact. And yet it’s so quiet. It reminds me of Anders Nilson (and there goes my fear of having nothing to compare this to), whose stuff I love. This quietness within the art, the leaving space for emotion and/or contemplation, if one so chooses to experience those things, is really beautiful. And let me tell you what, too — I laughed out loud while reading this book. No, not out loud at home. Out loud. On the train. Several times. See, that’s when you know something is really funny – when one’s normal sense of self-consciousness (and self preservation) is thrown off like a dirty shirt, in the name of humor.
- The Factual Opinion
The bulk of it all makes Fatal Faux-Pas so great. The tireless string of groaners and pale artistry would seem lame if they’d been parsed out into minis, but Secret Acres has helped pull together Sam Gaskin’s gags, parodies and non sequiturs into something substantially giggle-worthy. It’s so bad it’s gone back to good again. Like a Dad Joke. Or memories of adolescence.
- Sarah Morean, The Daily Crosshatch
Who or what or where is your FAVORITE: COMIC BOOK ARTIST?
Stephen R. Bissette: Sam Gaskin
IN THE EMPORIUM
Damn straight it did. RT @theseantcollins: Oh shoot, Highwater begat Secret Acres too, of course.
- Monday Dec 2 - 6:11pm
If you didn't make it to the New York Comics & Picture-Story Symposium last week, Andrea Tsurumi has all the gory details up on the Rumpus. It was standing room only at the Symposium on Monday night. Maybe it should have been dancing room only. Our man, Brendan Leach, brought the band with him, meaning the actual Newark Wanderers, performing songs inspired by (and appearing in) Brendan's (and our very own) Iron Bound graphic novel. It was a lot of fun. We even got to hear songs that didn't make it into the book or on to the album. Not to be totally outdone, Nick Sousanis talked about his thesis project, Unflattening, which is also a graphic novel on multi-modal learning. Nick can really draw, and the project is fascinating enough that it ought to get him his PhD from Columbia, no less. In any case, this was the most interdisciplinary, most multi of media Symposium night we've ever attended. Get caught up at the link below. And thanks, Andrea and the Rumpus (which could be a good band name, maybe)!
So excited to be going to the Short Run small press fest this coming Saturday in Seattle! I'll be tabling with friend and fellow Secret Acres artist Sean Ford!
PEOPLE OF THE HERE (meaning New York City, because that's where we're at): Tonight at the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium, Brendan Leach's Iron Bound will be up for a semi-scholarly discussion. The Symposium is the brainchild (huh?) of comics deity Ben Katchor. Meeting every Monday night, a bunch of folks get together for two presentations by cartoonists, publishers, academics and the like. Each part of the double bill is up for a Q&A afterward, assuming folks can keep quiet through the actual talk part. Better than the average chalk and talk, the Iron Bound band, the Newark Wanderers, will be performing live! The other half for this meeting is Nick Sousanis, who's getting his PhD from Columbia and chatting about how "images have been typically relegated to aesthetics and spectacle." No, really. Anyway, get yourself down to Parson's Bark Room - and get on the Symposium mailing list. It's free, it's awesome, it's every Monday, and you will get an actual e-mail from Ben Katchor (mr. Picture-story himself) every week. That might be the best part. See you in a few!
Alrighty! In what is likely to be our very last Scuttlebutt blog post of this year of 2013, we give you our thoughts on the bouncing baby Comic Arts Brooklyn show. The short take: we loved it. Our new hometown comics show was a smooth ride. We dropped a ton of books and are forever grateful for the good people of Brooklyn and Gabe Fowler and his Desert Island crew for keeping the flame. Long live CAB! Just for fun, we decided to spill the beans on a whopping five new books coming from us in 2014. Some of them might sound familiar to you (because they shoulda been 2013 books) but we promise you've never seen the new ones before. Speaking of new ones, let's all give Corinne Mucha a warm welcome to Secret Acres. We've been in love with her comics for way too long now, so it feels overdue. We're totally excited to be putting out her new book, Get Over It, in 2014. Yes, Secret Acres won't be such a sausage party next year. If you want even more of the ladies, Mike Dawson's new book, Angie Bongiolatti oughtta be your kind of thing. Oh, yeah, and there's our first ever art book from that guy, Edie Fake. Not bad, huh? Plus, Casey's CAB party report and our thoughts on a certain Kickstarter (so stop asking us) are in here, too. Go on and click the link already.