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Cometbus #57
posted September 7, 2016

imageCreators: Aaron Cometbus, Nate Powell, Charles Brownstein
Publishing Information: Self-Published, 'Zine With Spine, 2016, 100 pages $5.
Ordering: You Can Order It Here.

I greatly enjoyed this latest issue of Cometbus devoted to New York City cartoonists, which standing back and looking at it as a whole seems to be a paean to that group of comics-makers as productive, established, working artists. No one here gets interviewed from a place of their potential. Aaron Cometbus is a fine writer and a really good interviewer, good enough to use his ignorance of a scene or process as a springboard for a fresh approach to any subject for which he has a displayed curiosity. The interviews tend to start off in disarming fashion, but Cometbus has a killer instinct for snapshots of a part as they relate to the hole. In more than half of the pieces presented here, he quickly seizes on an idea or two that might be at the core of understanding the artist a bit better than we could have hoped for going in. There's a lot of "I didn't know XXXXX was that kind of person, but I guess they're that kind of person" which is an excellent thing to be thinking with a bunch of short interviews. Charles Brownstein contributed pieces with Paul Levitz and Karen Green, and those seem different in that Brownstein seems to pursue specific developmental moments rather than core orientations. It's a nice mix.

The New York focus turns out to be both hindrance and help, but mostly help. Cometbus #57 -- a quarter-century removed from its all-comics issues -- provides a perception of New York comics rather than its reality: there are people involved that don't live here anymore or had moved away a while earlier that one still might perceive of as a New York City person. Yet that's about as far as that idea is developed. The interviews read consecutively describe a scene in repose, or even just out of reach -- there's almost no community element beyond the fact that the struggle to find meaning and purpose and housing and time to spare inform nearly every artistic journey presented. I could not even speculate based on this text about the nature of a New York comics scene identity greater than the sum of its parts. I suspect this is a New York and a comics thing. I really got the sense that comics lives in Portland now, which is a curious reaction to a book of strong interviews about a completely different city.

Mostly, though, it's nice to check in with so many cartoonists who are finding ways to produce work or work the job presented to them above and beyond that initial burst of clueless, twenty-something energy that can push a comics-maker through the initial five, six, seven years of creation. In that they find common cause with Cometbus. In the same ways there's no doubt that the people inside the book are creating work of value, a book of their interviews at this price point this well be done seems a self-contained, assured acknowledgement that comics belongs wherever it wants to hang its hat.