A semi-regular column about great comics you probably don’t know about. These could be Indie comics, comics with small print runs, or foreign comics. As reader and lover of comics for over 35 years, I’ve accumulated a huge collection. And this collection runs deep with the weird and the esoteric.
UNDER DARK WEIRD FANTASY GROUNDS is a 150-page, black-and-white anthology that features five very unique artists doing serialized stories.
Michele Nitri, publisher and editor at Hollow Press, has distinctive taste. U.D.W.F.G. started as a way of bringing his favorite independent creators to a larger audience.
But not too large of an audience. Only 700 copies of each issue of U.D.W.F.G. are printed!
U.D.W.F.G #1 came out about two years ago and I initially picked it up because of Mat Brinkman’s contribution. I think that Mat Brinkman is one of the most thrilling cartoonists working in comics today. His work can be challenging at first glance, with messy, some would say “child-like” drawings. But look past the surface and you will see the work of an artist pushing the medium forward, experimenting with both content and presentation, looking for a purer form of self-expression.
I don’t think you could call Brinkman’s comics “autobiographical” but they feel just as personal as Chester Brown’s Yummy Fur. The characters are other-worldly yet remain completely relatable.
Looking at Brinkman’s art for U.D.W.F.G. we see that it is considerably more detailed than his usual work. Brinkman is also using panel borders to make the page clearer, something he doesn’t normally bother with.
Brinkman’s story is told without words, leaving his gorgeous, finely rendered artwork to tell the whole of the tale.
What is going on in this story? Is this a metaphor for a dead-end job? I don’t know. But I know that I love it and I know that Brinkman is taking it to the next level. The fact that his contribution to U.D.W.F.G. was included in the BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2015 is a testament to the importance of this work.
Like all the best anthologies, U.D.W.F.G. introduced me to some great new creators. Paolo Massagli is an Italian artist whose work reminds me of both Milo Manara and Paul Pope. He delights in giving us beautifully drawn, naked women composed of thin, curvy, “wrinkly” lines.
This story begins with a death, which is followed by a spiritual rebirth, as the soul of a young woman leaves her body and arrives on the outskirts of Hell!
Forced perspective down the length of a naked body, with a beautiful face staring out at the reader: a provocative composition that Massagli repeats quite often.
I love Massagli’s style, his line and sensibility, so much so that I actually bought a few pages of original art from this story. They adorn my wall and remind me every day to keep pushing my art, my writing, forward.
Tetsunori Tawaraya is another amazing discovery for me. He uses powerful visuals, made up of thousands of tiny lines and dots, to tell the story an armed guard standing on “The High Bridge”.
These pages are so striking. From the composition, to the design, to the play of light and shadow, these are all bold choices for an artist to make. But Tawaraya renders it all like a true master, planting his flag in this wonderful medium we call comics.
Like Brinkman, Tawaraya is building not just a world, but a whole eco-system. As such, the creatures are all wonderfully original and bizarre looking. I almost want action figures of these characters, they are so strangely detailed.
There are two other contributors to U.D.W.F.G:
Miguel Angel Martin
Both do fine work, but I don’t feel that it’s up to the high bar set by the other artists.
Of course, that’s the wonderful thing about anthologies, there’s something different for everybody’s taste. And even if every story was not to my liking, U.D.W.F.G. was still one of the best anthologies that I’ve ever read.
Hollow Press continues to publish some truly exceptional books that deserve wider recognition. We’ll look at more of their releases in the coming weeks and months..
But next time in The Comic Exotic; one of the funniest TV shows of the last ten years had an obscure comic tie-in and I’m going to show it to you!
See ya’ next time!
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