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
@TribeXX Thanks, John! We're very proud of that book.
- Tuesday Apr 22 - 5:44pm
JOY! It's Publishers Weekly's Panel Mania with an exclusive preview of Corinne Mucha's Get Over It! We've been looking forward to this one for what seems like forever, and now you can, too, because, really, you're gonna love it. Corinne's quite wise for her years, certainly, but that's probably because she's learned from her mistakes. She made a lot of mistakes. A lot. But everyone's got to find their own way back to sanity. Speaking of smartypantses, Zainab Aktar is responsible for this one, writing for PW instead of her usual Comics and Cola, which you really should check out. She writes things like, "The visualization of that process is often reflected in very compact, text heavy pages, simultaneously rich and yet precise in execution and clear in intent." She's way too smart for us. Sigh. What are we babbling about? Go read Get Over It! or at least a bit of it...
Hello! Are you in New Jersey or have you escaped? If you are still in Jersey or anywhere near it, you ought to stop by the Asbury Park Comic Con, which is right along the historic boardwalk, which is the site of some terrible goings on in Brendan Leach's Iron Bound. Of course, Brendan will be there, and we promise it's much safer than you would think after reading his book. If you don't have a copy of Iron Bound handy, you can pick one up from Brendan at the show. If you do have a copy, you might want to wait to read it until after the show. You can still play pinball at the Silver Ball Museum, though. Even more ridiculous, Jersey boy Mike Dawson is crashing the party. He's back living in Jersey now, but his latest book, Angie Bongiolatti, is all about life in New York post 9/11. His other books, Troop 142 and Freddie & Me will give you all the non-scary Jersey you need. Get over there and get some comics and take a little stroll along the beach, where the "Jedi" play "Tatoine," as the kids say. We actually saw that last year. It was HILARIOUS.
HEY! Are you in Portlandia or something? Because Edie Fake is in Portland, Oregon, doing some Linework. Linework NW, kinda like Edie himself, is blurring the line between comics, fine art and illustration work. They have Jim Woodring and Michael Deforge and some pretty killer events planned for the show, including an evening of Edie at the legendary Floating World Comics. We'd tell you what Edie is doing there, but the Lineworkers say it best, "Fake will be giving a short and colorful experimental lecture on the sexuality of patterns that weaves together fabric, the tarot, the concept of individuality and jeggings." Yes, sexy fabric and jeggings. Now you have to go! Read all about it here...
Hi! Are you in Ohio someplace? Because Sean Ford is in Columbus, Ohio, aka SPACE, the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo. Sean's got the brand new edition of Only Skin and a brand new issue of Shadow Hills, which is the third of that series (!). There's lots of fun programming, but you can also double dip and go check out the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum right next door. It's probably the largest collection of comics anywhere and, in conjunction with the SPACE Jam (that's a thing), they're opening up the Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes, duh) and Richard Thompson (Cul de Sac, duh) exhibits, too! Now that's worth the trip. Make sure you get Sean to sketch your books out. That guy acts like every day is Angouleme. Deets at the link!