Monday, March 16, 2009

Dark Horse Presents #20

Dark Horse Presents #20
by Kate Beaton, Kristian Donaldson, David Malki, and Chris Onstad
Dark Horse / Myspace 2009

Hillary Brown: Is this the only thing MySpace is even good for anymore besides streaming music? Even if so, it's a good enough reason for it to continue to exist. I really need to mark my calendar to go check this stuff out every time Dark Horse posts it. This issue (is that the right word?) is solid top to bottom, corner to corner. It's like an awesome mini anthology that doesn't have any restrictions on page count due to maximization of printing efficiency, and so people can either go long or go short, and there's no reason for weak-ass shit to sneak in. I saved the Onstad piece ("Achewood: The Garage Sale") for last, to do that whole delayed pleasure thing, but the other three were almost as good and comparably amusing. "Ann Romano, Gossip Whore in Gone Dishin'," illustrated by Kristian Donaldson is breezy and sharp; "Wondermark: The Catch," by David Malki, is quirky and funny and surprising; and Kate Beaton's "The Origin of Man" is a great two-page goofball gag. I'm not really sure if I even like Onstad's contribution the most, which is really saying something for the rest of them. Okay, maybe I do, but the other three are all new to me (although Beaton's stuff looks familiar). Do you read these MDHP (MySpace Dark Horse Presents) things regularly? Are they always this good from start to finish?

Garrett Martin: Issue? Installment? Prog? I don't know. I've never checked this out before. I don't remember if I even knew they existed before last week. I'm glad I do now, though, because yes, this particular collection of strips is very good. Especially Beaton's piece, which might be only two pages, but has a great set-up and an even better punchline. This is the first thing I've ever actually read by her, which is pretty dumb on my part, because I've been hearing great things for months now. Guess I've been too busy reading Booster Gold or something. But I love her drawings, how they're maybe a little sloppy and both relaxed but reasonably detailed. And, y'know, like we said, she's damn funny, too. The Onstad was good, no doubt, but maybe rambled on a bit. I kept thinking every page was the last, and the true finale was no more or less final than any of the other possible endings. Maybe it's in the presentation, the expectations you bring to something defined as a single specific strip, but this probably would've worked better as a week's worth of Achewoods. Now, Malki and Donaldson I'd never even heard of. Had you?

HB: Well, there was a previous Onstad that involved Taco Bell and food criticism and was just, you know, brilliant. I'm pretty sure that was a DHPMS number. This garage sale one isn't quite up to that level, and the way that it relates to garage sale stuff that was going on in the strip is a little confusing, I suppose, but, having been raised to stop at the mere hint of someone's worldly possessions laid out for perusal, it all rang quite true. You're right about it not having a lot of structure, but I'm not sure Onstad's stuff ever really does. You make a good case for the Beaton piece being the best of the bunch, and I have to at least consider that it might be. I've also been thinking over the past few days, and I know I've come across her work before, probably just linked all over the internet. The other two, though, no. Not even an inkling that I might know who they are. How do you think Dark Horse picks people for this feature?

GM: Two dudes you know plus two dudes you don't. The former's the draw, the latter hopefully the draws of the future. But then maybe Malki and Donaldson are hot-shit young squires of the underground comic world, and we're just total ignoramuses. Ignorami. Looking at their wikipedias, they've probably got higher profiles than Beaton. I also now realize that I'm familiar with Donaldson, thanks to his issue of DMZ and the book he did with Brian Wood, Supermarket. Haven't read that, but I see the cover every time I'm in the shop, and it looks intriguging. And Malki's strip is kinda familiar, though nothing I know by name. Anyway, if Dark Horse was like, "hey here's free stuff by Malki and Donaldson", who knows how many would click that link. Onstad and Beaton plus two (or, honestly, just Onstad + whatever) has a better ring, marketing wise. Plus that Goon cameo has a touch of bet-hedging about it; that's like the Dark Horse equivalent of a Wolverine appearance. (Ever read The Goon? I don't like that book as much as I should.)

I don't want to short-change Malki or Donaldson, of course. Wondermark is pretty damn hilarious, and I thank Dark Horse for bringing it fully to my attention. And I'm loving Donaldson's art; it slightly reminds me of both Cliff Chiang and Paul Pope without looking too much like either. Great stuff!

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