Webcomic Weekly – Welcome to the world of Mark Kalesniko
Webcomic Weekly, a 7 day trip around t’Internet, looking at all of those comics I find there. There are way too many and I’m just one small thing in the grand scheme of things to cover them all. Especially when the rules are as arbitrary and shifting as I care to make them.
Case in point once more… the online comics of Mark Kalesniko. Not webcomics really. These are free comics online, some you can read in situ, others you can download as pdfs. But it’s my feature, my rules. I do it weekly, these are comics, they’re on the web. That’s ticked all the boxes of webcomic weekly if you ask me.
It certainly helps that Mark Kalesniko is one of my old favourite comic artists, and although he’s only completed five books alongside several smaller works, they’re all well worth seeking out. He’s an animator by trade, with credits on The Lion King, Mulan and more, but decided to branch out, fed up with earning money in animation and preferring to join the ranks of the starving adult-themed comic artists. His first comic work appeared in 1991, 8-pages of Adolf Hears A Who in Fantagraphics Pictopia anthology. Following that came S.O.S. (1992), Alex (1994), Why Did Pete Duel Kill Himself (1997), and Mail Order Bride (2001). His last major work, Freeway, was published in 2011.
My first experience of his work came with Alex, a tired, broken, miserable, alcoholic dog-headed figure with a demoralising job as an animator at Mickey Walt Studios, Alex Kalienka’s life is dismal yet enthralling reading. Kalesniko’s thinly veiled semi-autobiography is painful, brutal and damn funny all in one. Now, although his other work is very good, our own Kenny Penman loves Mail Order Bride for example, I have a great love for poor old Alex. I reviewed it way back in 2008, one of my very earliest things on the blog, and said this…
Alex is an incredibly depressing, utterly miserable book with a central character you should find uttely deplorable and without a single redeeming feature, whose existence is a pointless, alcohol fuelled waste and whose relationships are, without exception, toxic.
But it’s also one of my favourite books and never, ever fails to make me amazed at how good a writer and artist Mark Kalesniko is as he makes me care deeply about this utter trainwreck of a person.
That utter trainwreck that I loved continued through to Freeway, another Alex tale, this time 416 glorious pages, most of them stuck in the traffic jam from hell as Alex moans, shouts, rages, rants, and reflects on his shitty life. It’s quite gloriously voyeuristic and terrifically depressing but thoroughly enjoyable all the way through.
Well, although there’s been nothing in print since Freeway (at least to my knowledge), there has been work online. First came 2012’s Tarantula, which I looked at here and you can download as a pdf at Kalesniko’s site. But here’s just a little bit… you’ll easily work out what it’s all about…
Just as with all of Kalesniko’s work I do love his spare and fine line, the animator’s eye capturing motion incredibly well, a great sense of comic (in both senses) coming through loud and clear. Tarantula’s 40-pages long, and it’s a massive farce from the start, including a bit evoking (of all things) the Adam West Batman bit where poor Bats just can’t get rid of the bomb no matter what he does.
But Tarantula was back in 2012, so after 3 years off doing something else, and after nearly 600 words from me, I’ll FINALLY get around to telling you about Kalesniko’s new comic… this:
32-pages. One point of view. No change in background. Just one very, very stressed Alex, all the rage and anger and depression now turned into obsessive compulsive behaviour.
It’s a fantastically paced thing, a comedy routine done exactly right. The sort of comedy pacing only the real brilliant comic artists get right… Aragones, Kyle Baker… this is at THAT level. As you begin to laugh, there’s a pang of guilt at Alex’s obvious predicament and illness, and both the laughter and the guilt intensify to a massive crescendo by the end. Side-splittingly funny stuff. It’s all about the comedy of repetition, of carrying the gag out again and again and again and again and again. Once might be funny, twice funnier, 40-pages worth goes through the predicable and into the hysterical. Absolute brilliance. This might well be on that end of year list. It’s THAT good. And it’s FREE. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE.
Tarantula and the brilliant OCD are both available from Kalesniko’s website. HERE.
Now, to give you an idea of just how great OCD is…