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.
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
@DandQ This is amazing! Best comics publisher site of all time. Maybe you should get artists for the other letters in the alphabet now.
- Friday Aug 8 - 5:01pm
@realasianfriend It's all for YOU! But, really, thanks; we needed that!
- Thursday Aug 7 - 10:09pm
ZOMG! It's Tim O'Neil for the Onion AV Club on Corinne Mucha's Get Over It! and it's a pretty darn good review, too. Tim's clearly on top of his comics game, name-dropping and comparing Corinne to none other than Kate Beaton, John Allison and Dylan Horrocks - pretty much a Mt. Rushmore of the medium. He gets it right; Corinne hits every bump on Heartbreak Road, ever stage of grief, but all told, it's actually kind of... ...fun? As Tim puts it, she "turns a book about three years of anguish into a page-turner." There IS something fun about being heartbroken, and not just the rebound. It's like a license to crazy. At least we think so. There's lots of other good stuff reviewed here, too, including Rocket Raccoon's latest, Superman and Roman Muradov (love that guy). Corinne's got some good company for Get Over It! Thank you, Tim, and thanks, AV Club, for the very kind words. You guys go read now at the link!
We are outta here! Or at least will we be in the morning. Actually, the very early morning. Sigh. But we're going to the Rhode Island Independent Publishing Expo aka RIPE! This is our first time at the show. It's also the first time FOR the show. RIPE is brand new and the brainchild of some folks we truly adore, like Mickey Z, who roped us into going way back when at the last Comic Arts Brooklyn. Yes, it is suspicious that there's a comic show in the dead of summer called RIPE. We've stopped showering and wiping for the occasion. Kidding. At our table will be Brendan Leach, of Iron Bound fame, and Sean Ford, he who has brought you Only Skin. Not only will Sean have the new and improved edition of Only Skin, he will have the fourth, yes, FOURTH issue of his new series, Shadow Hills. Playing the role of Secret Acres comics mule on the ride up will be Dave Nuss of Revival House Press, home of folks like Malachi Ward. It's a star-studded event and we don't even have to worry about crossing any borders! Doors are at noon and details are at the link below. If you're in Providence now, there's all kinds of stuff happening tonight, too. We will see you tomorrow...
The thing about Mike Dawson's newest graphic novel, Angie Bongiolatti, is that it's daunting at first glance but kind of impossible not to identify with its characters. Well, you could somehow not identify with them, and that's your right, but you'd probably be completely insane. Rob Kirby, writing for the Comics Journal, writes about Angie Biongiolatti so well, that he might just be the ideal reader for this one. He's sensitive, empathetic, politically conscious and he likes to party. He also nails Angie, the character, who can come across as enigmatic or aloof, but it's her faith and her clarity, as Rob puts it (and we're paraphrasing), that make her the best barometer ever for the most difficult of times and the craziest of people. The key, though, is Rob writing that he knows these folks and he's partied with them. It would have been a lot easier for Mike if he'd had an agenda when he drew these people. Yeah, we might have recognized the ideas, but maybe we wouldn't have recognized these people. Poor Rob! He's one of THEM! Thanks, TCJ, and Rob, especially. This was a really good one.
Well, folks, Edie Fake has arrived! This newest LA native gets a very warm welcome indeed from Joshua Michael Demaree at the LA Review of Books. It's both a full-blown interview, a complete history and in depth review of Memory Palaces, Edie's latest and our first ever art book. If you're worried about Edie going Hollywod, go ahead and worry since Demaree has christened him a "flourishing celebrity." At least, he's a flourishing celebrity in the queer art world. There's some stuff in here that rarely gets discussed, including Edie's background as a video artist and the influence of that medium on his comics work. We even get a mention in the story of how we met Edie, which almost didn't happen. Plus, and this was news to us as well, Edie's return to Chicago (after "going feral") coincided with the death of Michael Jackson. But was it a coincidence? Thank you, Joshua, for all your super thoughtful work here (and for making another dream come true and writing up a Secret Acres book for the LA Review of Books). Go and read this very funny and very serious career retrospective right now!