Alt. Comics. I know little about them.
I know there’s a MOCCA arts festival, and I know the names Robert Crumb, Chris Ware, Harvey Pekar, Daniel Clowes, and Jeffrey Brown.
That’s it. And I’ve never actually read anything by any of those names. Except Clowes. I read Wilson.
I am fascinated by the scene, though. The personality, the technique, and the “art” keep grabbing at my eyes. But hero comics won’t let me go, so I hold back the full dive into alternative. One day, I figure. For now, I stay where my heart’s at.
There does exist one alternative artist I feel confident in “knowing.” His mini comics found home with me by way of a friend. They were cluttered in with an assortment of items handed off to me. For a while, they lay dormant with the rest of my ‘to read” pile, but at some point the work of J.T. Yost caught my attention. I’ve purchased all of his books since.
I’m kidding. That would suck as a blog post. So what made Yost’s work impressive? For starters, the generous amount of breasts splattered about his pages made reading quite enjoyable.
Again, kidding. I’m bad at jokes, I know. No, what made Yost impressive came down to a matter of voice. His comics utter something unique and worthwhile in terms of perspective. This may be insignificant in the world of alternative, personable comic books, but I don’t know, voice is hard to do. I’m speaking from my own experience, you know, writing these blog posts. Active voice, points, organization – that shit is cake. Sounding distinct? Whole other game. J.T. Yost, at least from my context, sounds like his own man.
His focus sticks to the everyday man and the idea of bearing witness, and his work captures that focus in a very blunt fashion. Yost has produced several mini comics and one-page stories, but his “Losers Weepers” series speaks the most about his work. The premise of Weepers is part catch, part emotion. Yost builds his story from a handful of random letters and notes he has come to possess. These letters are in no way directed at him, as most have been found on sidewalks, in parks, or on bulletin boards, but Yost looks into the words communicated and does his best to imagine the world of the person writing. From this, Yost hones in on a themes of defeat, perseverance, and stress.
Yost’s true talent resides in his ability to communicate emotion. A certain amount of it comes from the pure subject matter, but another half lies in the technique. His artwork holds an expressive style, and much of its power originates from the roundness associated with Yost’s figures and objects. While I certainly believe emotion can seep through blocky or angular line work, the roundness in Yost’s brings out a soft quality that really drives home the feeling. Everyone appears vulnerable and slightly bruised, and the backdrop, the setting, feels equally worn. Yost can jump over to generous detail too. At times, backgrounds are completely absent, but at some point a full page splash showcases his printed world. These moments put the story into perspective, and they show you where these characters come from. They suggest an environment which is out to get you, or at least pester you.
It’s the characters that stand out as well. As Yost uses story to walk in another’s shoes, he crafts characters to work as the men and women we see everyday. A single mom, an ex-boyfriend, and an immigrant – all archetypes in a way. Further connection comes from this element. These are figures we can easily believe in and may even know in our own lives, and Yost’s narrative gives us a little glimpse into that world. He holds little back too. It may come more from the format, but Yost gets right to the events in his story. The pacing can seem a little quick at first. Most characters seem to sometimes spontaneously act out, but after sinking into the narrative it all seems natural. As if, the rules of Yost’s story world dictate a universal bluntness. I like it. The story doesn’t waste time yet moves comfortably and gets to the point. The pacing helps shape these mini comics into short vignettes that stand out.
I don’t know. My knowledge is limited, but I dig J.T Yost’s comics. I probably own most if not all of them, and I will continue to follow his future exploits. This guy has something, and his talent as a story teller is impressive.
Now, if you’re interested, you can listen to me interview him. But. I warn you. This interview is weak. I blame me. J.T. speaks well and has much to offer, but my questions are lame and predictable. Also, as stated, I know nothing about alternative comics, and this is J.T.’s background. The interview sounds like two guys on two separate wavelengths. Listen at your own expense. Here.
You can also buy the dude’s comics. I highly recommend such action. Do it. Losers Weepers #3 is his new one.
6 responses to “One Day We’ll Win”
Thanks for the kind words, Alec!
I’m honored to have been able to bust through the superhero comic barrier. The two words don’t often overlap (I’ve never read a superhero comic, for the record). Have you ever seen Marvel’s ‘Strange Tales’ series? They have indie comic artists write/draw stories using their superhero characters, so there’s probably more cross-over than we’re aware of.
Anyhow, thanks again for the perceptive and flattering review of my comics. I’m working on some shorter pieces for various anthologies, but I’ll get back to the last chapter of Losers Weepers soon.
See, I find that so interesting. Growing up with comics, yet never touching hero books. I remember you saying you were big into the strips. I guess there would be plenty of those to keep your attention, but super-hero comics just seem so natural to fall into at some point. Not saying you’re wrong for never doing so haha, but it just seems strange to me. Maybe I’m just off?
I have read some of Strange Tales. For the most part, you’ll stumbled upon a good one-pager here and there, but I was never really impressed by the series. Rafeal Grampa did a pretty awesome Wolverine story, James Stokoe did some stuff for it, and I believe one of Harvey Pekar’s last works was in Strange Tales. Other than that, it’s never really impressed me.
It’s not a hero comic, so maybe you have read it, but have you checked out Casanova? It’s by Matt Fraction, Gabriel ba, and Fabio Moon, and I feel you would possibly like it. It was an Image book, and is now published through Marvel’s “indie” line, but it is a highly personal work and it totally strays away from the usual drawbacks of mainstream work.
I haven’t read ‘Cassanova’, but I promise to if you’ll promise to read Chris Ware’s “Jimmy Corrigan’.
Done Deal. I think we need some proof for this though haha. I want you to read this book haha.
We’re moving at the end of the month, but then I’ll get it from the library. I’ll take a photo of me reading it so that there is indisputable proof (although I suppose I could stage the reading but not actually read it if I were malicious).
That is true, but I will trust a photo. You seem like an all right guy. If you find Casanova in the library though, you will still be missing a major part of the book. In the original issues, Matt Fraction included back matter material that really isn’t backmatter but more like an important part of the work. Trade collections leave it out. If you want, I could photo copy the back matter and send the copies to you via snail mail. Interested?