Here it is: POOR LITTLE JOANIE, the latest - and without doubt, the greatest - print collection of Joanie and Jordie strips by Caleb Orecchio, whose chops you can see developing and improving right before your eyes. The 56 one-page, four-panel strips start out in B & W and then progress through two different two-color palettes, each of which maintains its own particular approach. Action, humor, drama: it's all here. And while we don't doubt that most readers of this space have already seen many of these strips when they first appeared in/on Comics Workbook, we're here to tell you that you haven't truly experienced this work until you've read it in print - and this meaty saddle-stapled edition is the jam!
And, even though these were drawn over the border in Ohio, Caleb plays such an active role in the Pittsburgh-based Comics Workbook, we've given this book an honorary "Made-in-Pittsburgh" designation.
This is the premiere issue of what is threatened to be an ongoing, single-creator, auteur anthology – à la Eightball, Dirty Plotte, Blammo, Grixly, et al – wholly created, and published, in Dayton, OH by erstwhile Comics Workbook stalwart, Caleb Orecchio. Pop Off is, as the title suggests, pulsing with energy looking for release. Here in 48 standard comic book size pages, this energy is largely corralled into a series of stories entirely composed employing a six-panel grid in which black line borders have been dispensed with, replaced in their function by full bleed bright yellow gutters – a substitution that works surprisingly well in conjunction with the slate blue line in which the artwork is reproduced, along with magenta highlighting – and makes for a visually stimulating reading experience. Themes touched on in these stories include lust, compulsive behavior, frustration, deviance, despondence and self-recrimination – occasionally all at once! These stories are interspersed with a handful of darkly comedic, black and white sequential gag strips, as well as several strategically placed full-page abstract/concrete illustrations of varying styles that meet with varying degrees of success.
The design, printing and paper choices made in putting together this issue were all well conceived and together make for a comic book that stands out from the crowd with a very appealing look and feel. Pop Off #1 is a promising debut, one that will be of particular appeal to traditional comic book readers who are ready to explore something more personally self-expressive, and also to those who appreciate the degree of devotion to the form that is evinced here.
And, while this comic was, as noted above, actually made in Dayton, OH, we've given it an honorary "Made in Pittsburgh" designation in recognition of Caleb's recent time and comics making here.
The Rust Belt Review is an all new anthology, edited and published by Sean Knickerbocker, featuring comics from – yes, you guessed it – the rust belt, of which, of course, Pittsburgh was long a prominent component – but no more, as it has now, economically if not culturally, successfully transitioned to a biomedical/technology island island of prosperity amidst the sea of surrounding decline. Here in 72 big 9" x 12" pages, excellently printed by Bookmobile printers we have six great comics pieces by six regional artists: Andrew Greenstone, Caleb Orecchio, M.S. Harkness, Juan Fernandez and Audra Stang, as well as Knickerbocker himself (who also provided this issue's cover art). These works range far and wide, from the gritty urban SF of Andrew Greenstone, to Audra Stang's teen soap opera, from the philosophically reflective digital musings of Juan Fernandez to the apogean satire of M.S. Harkness, and from Caleb Orecchio's slapstick humor to Knickerbocker's rustbelt noir. An unexpected and rewarding mix. Check it out!