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BIO

Sam Gaskin lives and works in Northampton, MA. He spends his spare time eating cereal and killing moths.

IN THE EMPORIUM

Sam’s comics can be found in the Secret Acres Emporium here.


IN PRAISE OF SAM GASKIN

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.

- Booklist

A Sam Gaskin comic!!

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

– Popthought

BACKTALK

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OFF THE WALL

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Secret Acres
October 10, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Secret Acres commented on their own link.

Secret Acres
Facebook IconOctober 9, 2014 at 4:43 pm

It's that time of year again! The Best American Comics 2014 edition is out there and there are plenty of folks, like the Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon and the Stranger's Paul Constant calling this book the best of the series so far. It's the first time out for new series editor, Bill Kartalopoulos, and it has a new format of sorts, devised by edition editor, Scott McCloud, of Understanding Comics and Zot fame. McCloud groups the main selections, making a map of the current comics landscape. Broader than previous installments, it includes specific instructions to read the entire book, rather than browse through it - and you should do just that. Our very own Theo Ellsworth's the Understanding Monster Book One is included in the section titled EVEN STRANGER ADVENTURES (of course), and there are FOUR Secret Acres artists in the BAC Notable Comics section: Eamon Espey's Songs of the Abyss, Edie Fake's story from Monster Vol. 1, Robert Sergel's Eschew 3 and Sar Shahar's Sequential Vacation 2. Not bad, huh? We've got Bill K's blog post below, but you'll want to sit and read this one cover to cover. Thanks, Bill and Scott for all your hard work and congratulations on putting a great anthology together!

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Bill Kartalopoulos | on-panel.com

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Contents and Notable Comics from The Best American Comics 2014, posted by Series Editor Bill Kartalopoulos

Secret Acres
Facebook IconSeptember 24, 2014 at 2:58 pm

And Theo Ellsworth's the Understanding Monster Book Two has its very first ever review, from RE:Views Media's Max Szyc! It's a rare thing that a review makes us laugh out loud, or LOL, as the kids say. If you've read the first book of the Understanding Monster, you'll understand that reading doesn't begin to describe the experience of this story. The logic of this world, like most psychedelics, takes a minute to kick in. Like Max says, "A few more pages and then I think my mind may have reached some sort of subconscious arrangement with the material, meaning I think I 'got it'. Perhaps the book is so futuristic that it actually has the psychic power to make me think I’m understanding it." Cue us giggling. It is a long, strange trip indeed for toy mouse-bodied Izadore and his consciousness, but the sheer force of Theo's art will move you along with him. You may even start to identify with him. You can thank Max for capturing these feelings so well by reading his review. Thanks, Max!

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The Understanding Monster – Book Two

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A review of Theo Ellsworth's "The Understanding Monster: Book Two."

Secret Acres
Facebook IconSeptember 17, 2014 at 2:15 pm

We survived yet another Small Press Expo. This is no mean feat. Between the thousand deep gang of exhibitors and the crush of so many attendees, it's a wonder we're still standing. Credit Corrinne Mucha for pulling us through. In the absence of Theo Ellsworth (DNP - Fatherhood), Mike Dawson (DNP - Bachelor Party) and Brendan Leach (DNP - Get well soon!), Corinne sketched out everybody's books. We mean everybody's. Even Sean Ford's books. And Sean was there. Secret Acres made bank, yes, but we hardly got to see anybody, or so it felt. This might explain how we escaped the con crud which is laying so many folks out after SPX. This year's show was really all about the Breeders, meaning the band, not folks making babies. Corinne, you see, had not heard of the Breeders. We can see not having heard of, say, U2. But the BREEDERS? COME ON. Also, fair warning, we don't dare dish on our SPX 2014 Celebrity Comics Mule, Tucker Stone. In fact, we're terrified of what he must be saying about us right now. Check out the blog, and you can also get some details on this Sunday's event, the Brooklyn Book Festival! It's going to be a star-studded affair at the Secret Acres-Koyama Press megatable...

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THE MOUTH of Tucker Stone damn near swallowed us whole on the ride down to this year’s Small Press Expo. We are hereby awarding him an Ignatz Brick for Outstanding Shit-Talking Comics Mule. Who knew Nobrow was so gangsta? We appreciate it, Tucker; you were the best consolation for us being down a ma…

Secret Acres
Facebook IconSeptember 10, 2014 at 12:38 pm

OKAY. Summer's over and we're heading back to school, or at least back to our Scuttlebutt blog. It's been a while and a half, but we've been busy, sitting by the pool, giggling, eating watermelon. Included in this post is a rundown of our trip to RIPE, our first ever internet kerfuffle, SPX news and switcheroos, and one rather ridiculous Secret Acres baby boom. Boy, oh, boy are we looking forward to SPX. We know we promised you the second volume of Theo Ellsworth's the Understanding Monster. The good news is that the book WILL be at the show and it will be beautifully sketched and signed. The bad news is that Theo is skipping out - but he'll be coming out to Comics Art Brooklyn to officially debut his new book. He has a a good reason (note the mention of a baby boom above). We do, however, have Sean Ford, Eamon Espey and Corinne Mucha coming to comics camp with us and they will armed with new minis, prints and even little paintings. Our guest comics mule for the road trip will be Tucker Stone, so we'lll have plenty of gossip to dish when we get back. You get yourself to SPX! See you this weekend...

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FIRST THINGS FIRST: Secret Acres had a grand old time at RIPE, the Rhode Island Independent Publishing Expo, which really should be RIIPE, but who’s counting? Dave Nuss, smooth operator of Revival House Press was our celebrity comics mule and neighbor at the show. We would like him to be our neighbo…

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