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Old-Timey Hockey Tales
posted September 24, 2013

imageCreators: Robert Ullman, Jeffrey Brown
Publishing Information: Wide Awake Press, somewhere between mini-comic serial comic book, 32 pages, $6
Ordering Numbers: You can order it here.

Here's a vote for attending comics shows. This is a sports comic, of all things, by two creators I enjoy, Rob Ullman and Jeffrey Brown, and it took Ullman placing it into my hands at a recent Small Press Expo for it to register with me that it existed. This would be somehow less sad if it weren't part of my job to know about what comics are coming out and from whom, counter-balanced only by the happiness that comes with comics being such a rich milieu that entertaining work slips through the crack with regular, mercury-like slipperiness.

Ullman and Brown each contribute individual stories: their styles are close enough in terms of the way figures are approached and the mostly-dropped backgrounds that I wouldn't blame anyone for thinking these were comics from one cartoonist working in multiple styles. Brown's work is solid, and has the dashed-off feel of a late-night radio broadcast communicated in staccato fashion. Ullman is one of the slicker illustrators that does a great deal of comics work, but his pages are reliably solid in terms of panel progression and page design. Nearly every comic is at least entertaining; were a short segment featuring any of these stories to burble out of my radio as I pulled into my driveway, I'd wait until the narrator finished before pulling my key from the ignition.

Hockey shares with comics a kind of infinite canvas of projected meaningfulness onto which a million different stories can be placed with all the authority of someone really, really convinced the story is worth telling. As is hockey and comics, so is much of life. Also like comics and geek culture generally the sport of hockey didn't enter any sort of modern age until the mid-1980s, which gives a piquant homeyness to a lot of its tales of oddballs and violence and men acting out. Lower stakes tend to make everything slightly more human in a narrative sense; these are achievements of broken bones and pissiness regarding one's trade status and arguments over utility bills of the kind that are fun to mark and follow, even if you have a hard time remembering the experiences 24 hours later. Old-Timey Hockey Tales the kind of comic where its subjects frequently play to the camera, mouths open and wide eyes glistening with excitement. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and wish there were a dozen such comics on the market. I don't even follow hockey.