Category Archives: 90s Indy

Slash Fiction: Jason vs. Leatherface

Greetings, Legions of the Unspoken!

Ol’ Dean Compton is back, and I do apologize for having been away so long.  Life has separated me from the 90’s comics I dearly love and treasure, and it has also separated me from all of you, but that shall happen no more!  We hope to be back on track around here in time for early summer, and my portion starts right here with the rather fun (and gory) Jason vs. Leatherface from Topps Comics!

I’ve been obsessed with Jason Voorhees (although not as obsessed as I am with some things) ever since I was about 4 or 5 years old.  I don’t recall which Friday the 13th movie it was, but one Saturday morning in the middle of the serenity that only Saturday morning cartoons can bring a youngster, the slasher invaded.  This had to be a mistake on the part of the station, but all of a sudden I was seeing a commercial for a Friday The 13th flick!  I was so scared that I had nightmares about it later.

Whether this had anything to do with it or not, movies like Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were banned in my house growing up.  The only Jason stuff that ever made its way into ComptonSpace was the NES game.  Ask Emily or anyone who knows me: I am goddamn obsessed with NES Jason and will purchase just about anything to do with him, from NECA figures to Funko customs.  For me, that game was Jason, in all of his purple and neon blue glory.  Later, as a teenager, I’d be able to watch some Friday the 13th movies, and whole some of them are scary, most are just funny and a blast to watch.

I didn’t have the same affinity for Leatherface.  I never got to play the Atari Texas Chainsaw Massacre game, although I am pretty obsessed with it now, to the point of having bought a NECA Atari Leatherface.  (I bet you’re starting to think NECA paid me to put them in here, but nah, they just have great stuff.  Of course, should they want to sponsor the site, come on, fellas!) I didn’t see Texas Chainsaw Massacre until I was 22.  It’s a good movie, but I always sort of thought of Leatherface as the least of the slashers until recently.  Thanks to various action figures, I have started to really dig Leatherface, so when I learned of this mini-series, I Just had to see how these two horror icons did against one another.

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The covers to this mini-series are excellently done by Simon Bisley, who displays from the get-go why he was the perfect artist for such a task.  Also, Jason’s machete sort of looks like the one he uses in Jason X, making this even more badass.

Published in the waning days of Topps Comics, Jason vs. Leatherface had a very low print run, making it highly desirable these days.  From what I can tell from my research (which is done on little sleep and a shoestring budget, so please correct me if I am wrong), this is the only time in any medium that Jason and Leatherface squared off in an “official” manner.  That sort of makes it sound like they had some sort of government sanctioned duel.  That is decidedly not the case; this is much, much more fun.

Nancy Collins writes a fun story in which Jason is caught up in corporate malfeasance.  A corporation has been using Crystal Lake (the perpetual home of Jason’s massacres) to dump toxic waste.  They are moving on from the area, and the EPA has confirmed that something must be done about the waste.  The CEO decided to just drain and dredge the lake and then use the land to build high-priced development housing.  AND THEY SAY JASON VOORHEES IS THE BAD GUY!

Of course, Jason is at the bottom of the lake from the end of one of his last massacres, and he’s just waiting for something or someone to free him.

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Remember that Southern Rock compilation CD “Going South”?  I bet Jason hates it.

The man in charge of the dredging makes it clear to all involved that he is not a nice man and that he is there because he works cheap.  While they are in the process of dredging the lake, a local arrives and warns them of the danger that is Jason Voorhees, but the contractor laughs it off.  Of course, as he is scoffing at the idea that a crazed and unstoppable maniac is at the bottom of the lake, what does his crew pull up with a large crate of toxic dirt?  If you guessed anything but Jason, turn in your badge; you’re off the force.

The dirt gets hauled to a train where it takes off for the desert. Joining the dirt on this journey is a hobo and his dog, and being honest, these are the most likeable characters in the entire book.  Sadly, Jason kills them rather quickly, and this is the moment that really reminded me that while we all like Jason, we really shouldn’t  He murders harmless and defenseless people for no good reason.  This hobo offers him some booze, which is like money to hobos in pop culture, and Jason hacks his arm off.

Of course, what will really get to most folks is when Jason hacks the dog right in half.

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Of course, the hobo was just telling his dog about how happy he was that they had been riding the rails together, which meant they were about to die.  Being happy in a horror comic or movie means instant death.

Jason proceeds to kill everyone on the train. Even without being an engineer,  I know a train can’t run without one, and it doesn’t take long before the train, toxic dirt and all, blows up with our favorite maniac walking away from the carnage.

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IS HIS MACHETE ON FIRE?  JASON IS THE COOLEST.

Jason’s train has crashed in Texas.  Sawyerville, Texas, to be exact, which just happens to be the home of Leatherface and family.  Jason comes upon one of their intended victims trying to escape.  The victim implores Jason for assistance, which is sort of like asking a demon for assistance with the devil.  Leatherface and family quickly make their way onto the scene, desperate to hold onto their meat.  The victim is terrified as Jason and Leatherface make first contact!

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The moment you have been waiting for since you read the title.

Jason and Leatherface square off in a slash clash of terror titans!  Jason manages to overpower Leatherface and force the aberration to lose his grip on his famous chainsaw, but then rather than killing Leatherface and his kin, Jason kills their intended victim and then hands Leatherface his chainsaw.  Leatherface’s kin introduces himself to Jason as Hitchhiker, and he convinces a confused Jason to join them back at their house for supper.  Jason has never felt anything but hate and anger, even at that awesome hobo who just wanted to get him drunk, so the fact that he doesn’t want to kill these people immediately is foreign to him.

He goes along with them, and after being introduced to Cook and the rest of the family, he finds himself feeling a kinship with Leatherface.  The rest of the family, especially Hitchhiker, picks on Leatherface the way Jason was picked on.  Upon arriving at the house, Hitchhiker immediately makes fun of Leatherface for losing his saw to Jason, which is really not anything to be ashamed of, what with Jason’s super-strength and all. (It’s like a baby losing an arm wrestling match to Hulk Hogan.  That’s just how it is gonna go down.) The taunt leads Leatherface to run away to his upstairs bedroom and fling himself on the bed in the way that teenage girls do in sitcoms, although Leatherface has decidedly fewer posters of boy bands and kittens on his walls.  (He does have a sweet poster of what seems to be Conan or Franzetta’s Death Dealer above his bed.) Jason’s kinship with Leatherface grows, and he heads upstairs to offer his friendship and understanding.  Jason was tormented too, and seeing Leatherface in anguish is reminding Jason of his own torment and somehow making him show empathy and sympathy for another human being.

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This is the beginning of a very ugly friendship.

Cook tells Jason that he is glad that he and Leatherface have started to become pals, and he introduces Jason to the rest of the family.  Jason, being mute, reaches back into his memories and finds a way to reveal his name to his new “family”.

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For someone who gets a rap as being mindless, that’s not awful blood penmanship from Jason Voorhees.

The second issue centers around the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family settling in with Jason and Jason settling in with them.  Cook opens up to Jason about his desire to one day own a fancy restaurant (that I presume would serve people) while he just rakes in the cash and lives in a doublewide trailer.  Hitchhiker shows Jason his dog, which Hitchhiker killed but still keeps on a chain.  Hitchhiker doesn’t care for Jason for lots of reasons, including that he has taken up for Leatherface, but it seems to me that what bothers Hitchhiker the most is that Jason doesn’t eat.  This scene meanders back and forth between what seems like Hitchhiker trying to get to like Jason and Hitchhiker trying to intimidate Jason.  It makes little difference, as Hitchhiker has to head for the gas station where the family makes its income and meat.

A lost couple stops in for gas, and after Hitchhiker makes sure they won’t get far, Hitchhiker and Jason (at Cook’s request and Leatherface’s reluctance) set out to murder the couple when the car breaks down.  Hitchhiker loves the game aspect of this, but Jason is just brutally efficient.  After choking the wife in the couple to death, Jason gets chastised by Hitchhiker for not taking enough time.  Hitchhiker is somehow the most despised character in this book, as his love of sadism means that he wants to hear his victims scream and beg before he kills them.

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You’d think that in a comic book full of cannibals and mass murderers that you’d have trouble picking the one you hate the most, but it’s surprisingly easy.  Hitchhiker is the worst.

After returning from what they call “getting groceries,” Hitchhiker decides to show Jason his hobby, which isn’t collecting baseball cards or Pogs, you 90’s kids, but instead, he has this odd fascination with making things out of body parts. I guess that really isn’t too odd, seeing as how he is batshit crazy and a murderous cannibal, but you know for folks like you and me, we’re not so enamored with such things.  This fascinates his brother Leatherface, who is hiding among the macabre creations as Jason and Hitchhiker chat.  He tries to sit in a bone chair, and when he breaks it, he is discovered.  Hitchhiker goes to abuse Leatherface over this transgression, only for Jason to recall his own past as an abused youngster, and he also recalls when his mom cut his dad’s head in two with a machete, leading to a lifelong (and deathlong, I suppose) obsession with murder and violence for Jason.  This abuse, though, isn’t a pleasant memory for the Crystal Lake killer, and he decides to step in and spare Leatherface any more abuse.

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Jason knows that mass murdering icons gotta stick together.

After Jason’s siding with Leatherface, Hitchhiker gets really mad.  Like, 1990’s Nine Inch Nails Mad.  He then says he doesn’t care that Jason has taken sides with Leatherface (who Hitchhiker often refers to as a “retard” among other things.  In addition to being a homicidal cannibal, Hitchhiker just isn’t very nice.)  because Hitchhiker believes he cannot be hurt.  He demonstrates this to Jason and Leatherface by driving a pocketknife through his hand without wincing or grimacing.  Rather, as would befit the stature of such a madman, he just talked about he is invincible and how nothing can stop him.  Jason, never one to turn down a challenge, picks up a sharp piece of bone and decides to find out just how invincible Hitchhiker really is.  He picks Hitchhiker up by the throat and goes to stab him, only to be stopped by Leatherface.  Out of respect for Leatherface, Jason decides not to murder Hitchhiker.

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This is the first time in his life that Hitchhiker has known fear.

Hitchhiker thanks Jason by calling him chicken and then letting Leatherface know that he doesn’t care.  Things are building to a head between the members of the family that aren’t Leatherface and Jason, and Cook attempts to try and soothe matters by apologizing on behalf of Hitchhiker, but Jason’s newfound patience is just about at an end.  The third issue has Hitchhiker getting angry with Leatherface again, this time for reading his comics and leading fingerprints on them.  Of course, many comic book fans have felt rage over this, but Hitchhiker lashes out at Leatherface and slices his arm with a pocketknife.  I’ve been angry at my family for ruining comic books of mine, but I have never sliced anyone over them.

Jason’s had enough, and he tosses Hitchhiker across the room.  Now Hitchhiker has had enough, and despite Cook’s protestations that this conflict not occur at the dinner table, Hitchhiker stabs Jason in the heart with the pocketknife, which has about as much affect on Jason as a BB Gun would have on a tank. Cook defends his brother with a meat cleaver, but no one can now save Cook and Hitchhiker from Jason’s wrath…except Leatherface.

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CHAINSAW VS. MACHETE!

The family is able to overpower Jason due to their numbers and take him out temporarily.  Rather than eating him, they dump him in a lake.  Jason recovers and makes his way to the surface.  Rather than going to kill them, he decides to go home, as he’s had enough of the world outside of Crystal Lake.

This is a fun mini-series.  I wish there had been more of Leatherface and Jason actually fighting, but three issues of this was probably a risk at that time anyhow, and to get anymore fighting we’d have needed a fourth issue.  Nancy Collins tells a fun tale that actually is much deeper than anything one could have expected with this title, and the covers alone are worth the price of admission.  Simon Bisley does a great job.

The worst thing about the series is that it shows us how fun Topps Comics was, publishing everything from this to X-Files to the Kirbyverse (covered here and here, and we also look at another Jason appearance here) with a large number of really good comics that drew from all sorts of source material.  It’s a shame that Topps didn’t survive to do sequels to this or to keep their other great titles going.  Alas, such is the fate of many a comic book company, especially during the 90’s.

Hope you have had a great time reading about two maniacs trying to kill each other!  We’ve got more great stuff around the bend here at The Unspoken Decade, so stick around!!

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Steven Grant goes back to the 90’s!

Hey there Legions of the Unspoken, your old pal Dean Compton has returned, and I’ve brought someone much cooler with me!  Steven Grant (Whisper, Punisher, The Rook, X, Challenges of the Unknown, Two Guns, etc…) was kind enough to take about 90 minutes out of his day to chat up the 90’s with us!  We cover lots of ground involving his work and some events of the 90’s!  Take a listen!  You don’t have anything better to do anyhow!

 

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Daniel Clowes’ “Eightball” — A Personal Reminiscence, Part Eight

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And here you thought we were done —

To be honest, there were times when it looked like you were probably right. Having made it through the entire contents of the recently-published The Complete Eightball Issues 1-18 deluxe hardcover slipcase set, I felt like I was, for all intents and purposes, finished writing about this, my all-time favorite comics series. But as most of you are probably well aware, The Complete Eightball isn’t actually “complete” at all, and given that we (fair enough, I) talked incessantly in previous posts about the four distinct “phases” that the title went through during the often-sporadic course of its publication, it seemed a (low-level) crime to me that I had really only talked about two of them — the “Velvet Glove Phase” and the “Ghost World Phase.” So that leaves two more to go, and even though we’re pressing up hard against, and then surpassing, this website’s remit of covering ’90s comics and ’90s comics only, the simple fact of the matter is that I hate to leave a “job” unfinished, and I distinctly recall that I stated in no uncertain terms that we would, in fact, at least briefly touch upon the other two “phases” of Daniel Clowes’ sprawling masterwork anthology before we called it a day around here. And so, that day has arrived. If you’ve actually been waiting for me to get around to this I sincerely thank you for your patience — and if you’ve forgotten about this series of posts altogether, well, I can’t say as I blame you. In any case, here we are, so let’s get started with the task of getting this finished.

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The third “phase” of Eightball‘s publication and creative history is one we’ll unimaginatively title the “David Boring Phase,” because Clowes’ sole ongoing concern at this time was utilizing his publication to serialize the long-form (well, if you consider three parts “long form” — but they were each lengthier-than-average issues) graphic novel David Boring, The story was issued in annual installments (or thereabouts) beginning in 1998 and concluding in 2000, and to mark the shift in focus the comic also saw another shift in format, this time “graduating” to what’s commonly referred to as “Golden Age size” (think halfway between a standard modern comic and a “proper” magazine) and retaining the heavier cardstock covers and slicker, higher-quality paper that had wormed their way in during what we call “Phase Two” around these parts. It’s an impressive package, physically speaking, but as always, the contents of the comic itself were the real “star of the show” moreso than the slick, glossy production values. Hollywood, it seems to me, could take a lesson from this.

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Speaking of which, there’s a definite ethos of “Old Hollywood” (specifically 1940s Hollywood) in full display in the pages — and especially on the covers — of David Boring, and while the story itself definitely has a modernist — or even a  post-modern — overall “vibe” to it, the “Hollywood noir” influences on Clowes’ art are not only apparent in, but gradually come to dominate, the visual language of the tale as it progresses through Eightball  numbers 19, 20, and 21. On the literary side of the ledger, the “noir” tropes are also on full display, as the entire story is related by means of a very matter-of-fact first-person narrative that could very well have come from the pen of Raymond Chandler himself — if it were about a detective.

But it’s not, of course, It’s about a security guard. A young, affect-less, pathologically nonchalant one, at that, who is simultaneously driven to extremes by his very singular obsessions and, paradoxically, sick to death of them, as well. In a move that almost (and I say “almost” because I highly doubt Clowes read the book I’m about to name-drop) seems ripped directly from the pages of Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo’s classic Vertigo series Enigma (which was covered in wonderfully exhaustive detail on this very site some time ago, and which is a pretty remarkable read in and of itself), our protagonist is fixated on an old comic book called “The Yellow Streak,” but unlike in Enigma,  in this case he’s got a valid, concrete, Earth-bound reason for being so dangerously enamored with it — his dad used to draw it. If you think he’s OCD about the comic, though, you should see his single-minded determination when it comes to visualizing what he considers to be the feminine ideal. Let’s just say that he has very particular — and in the minds of many, I’m sure, peculiar — tastes, and is more or less resigned (as he is, seemingly, about all things in life) to the idea that the girl of his dreams just well and truly doesn’t exist.

And then, one day, he meets her. And that’s when his problems really begin in earnest.

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Over the course of its three-issue “lifespan,” David Boring sees its central character shot in the head not once but twice, throws him into “winner-take-all” competition with an older suitor for the affections of his dream woman, places him at the mercy of his highly dysfunctional family, kills his oldest friend, and oh yeah — the world is ending, too. There’s very definitely a murder mystery and an almost-murder mystery at the heart of the proceedings here, but it’s buried under so many layers of existential ennui and faux-“hip” nihilism that you can’t help but take your eye off the ball on occasion — and that’s, of course, when you’ll miss out on all sorts of valuable clues. It’s a highly accomplished and complex work that wrestles with a number of weighty themes, but don’t let that dissuade the less than ambitious among you from checking it out if you haven’t, because it’s also wickedly, even sadistically, funny. And it lingers in the mind like nobody’s business — I remember that back when it was coming out, no matter how bogged down with “real life” events I may have been at the time (and I switched jobs a couple of times, bought my first house, and went through a couple of harsh break-ups during the three years it was serialized), my memories of what had happened the in the previous issue (which, as we’ve already discussed, would have come out 12 months — or more — earlier) always came flooding back within the first couple of pages of reading the latest one. That’s pretty damn remarkable when you think about how many comics you read where you seriously can’t even remember what happened  in them last month, let alone last year.

Fortunately for any of you folks out there who haven’t had the distinct pleasure of immersing yourself in David Boring yet, those interminable waits between installments are over and the whole thing’s been collected, in both hardcover and paperback formats, from Pantheon Books. Needless to say, it’s worth tracking down and reading faster than immediately. Some folks may find Clowes’ distancing of himself from his characters (an odd thing to say about a story told in the first person, I know, but trust me on this) again after getting a bit “closer” to them in Ghost World something of a “step back,” I suppose, but I find the clinical, even morose, set-up here to be a fairly accurate mirror-image of Boring himself’s “interior landscape,” so to speak, so all in all I’d say it not only works, it works beautifully. If coldly. But then that’s sort of the whole point.

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Which brings us, finally, to “Phase Four” of Eightball, which we’ll label the “Stand-Alone Graphic Novel Phase.” We’re into 2001 at this point, so I’m only going to touch on this last “phase” briefly. The two works in question that comprise this final stage of the series’ development/evolution, Ice Haven and The Death-Ray, are certainly worthy of far more exhaustive analysis than they’re going to get it my “short shrift” treatment here, but plenty of folks have written plenty of wonderfully astute essays about them already, and I would highly encourage you to hit up Google and check ’em out.

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First, though, I’d encourage you to check out the comics themselves. Eightball #22 mimics the “deluxe Golden Age” format utilized for issues 19-21, and for this reason (as well as, I’m sure, the fact that it’s also been re-issued in both hardcover and paperback by Pantheon — in a curious but effective smaller format this time around) Clowes and Fantagraphics have likewise omitted it from The Complete Eightball. The story here focuses on the mundane tribulations of a small town called — you guessed it — Ice Haven, where the disappearance of a local youth has set off a chain reaction of, well, various reactions, and is told via a purposely-disjointed series of newpsaper-style comic strips that give Clowes the ability to demonstrate his artistic “chops” in a number of different genres and also, I would assume, helped to prevent him from becoming  bored  with, or bogged-down in, the work as it progressed. It’s a conceit that he would refine and improve upon in both The Death-Ray and his later graphic novel Wilson, and while the tone of Ice Haven remains uniformly bleak and somber throughout — as we’ve no doubt come to expect by this point — the shifting visual look certainly ensures that it never actually becomes dull. Of all Clowes’ works this is, in many ways, the “heaviest,” but it also has an ending that could almost be classified as “upbeat,” and the various characters we meet throughout, from a frustrated would-be poet to a gaggle of precocious youths to some seriously twisted “funny animals” are all quite memorable indeed. And no, not even at my most pretentious and overbearing am I all that worried that I even sound, much less think, like Clowes’ fictitious (although based, I’m sure, on any number of folks he’d actually met) comic book critic, Harry Naybors. This comic came out shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, and while anyone who read it at the time would probably second my assertion that it added immeasurably to the sense of overwhelming despair and fear for an unknown future that was already thick in the air at the time, it also served to drag readers forcibly back down into the petty grievances and pointless minutiae that constitute so much of daily modern life, and I remember getting the uncannily accurate feeling upon first reading it that no matter how fucked up the world in general was, most people’s lives, including my own, were probably even more fucked up on a “micro” level than anything the “macro” level could throw at us. For some reason, this made me feel better. Go figure.

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Fast-forward , now, to 2004, which is when, much like this series of write-ups, Eightball appeared again, seemingly out of nowhere, and long after most readers had consigned it to the history books.  But it wasn’t just back, it was bigger — the format for issue #23 was seriously oversized (it was also much more expensive, but in this case we can forgive that), and indeed looked very much like some of the gigantic issues of Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library that Fantagraphics had published in then-recent years (I also think Clowes’ art style in this one betrays something of a Ware influence at times, as well,  but maybe that’s just me), and for the first (and, as it would turn out, only) time, the book was also printed in full color from cover-to-cover (Ice Haven was almost all full color, it must be said, but some of the strips were presented in a two-tone color scheme). The “stand-alone graphic novel” this time around was The Death-Ray, a decidedly intriguing revisionist superhero tale that definitely takes some cues from the author’s earlier Black Nylon, to be sure, but is much more straightforward in its execution even though, once again, it’s relayed by a series of stylistically-different-to-each-other short-form comic strips. I’ve reviewed The Death-Ray previously — specifically in its later hardcover iteration from Drawn & Quarterly — and so won’t dwell on it much here except to say that you should read it and re-read it and re-read it because it’s a multi-layered work that reveals new details to the careful and considerate eye (and, I suppose, mind) on each pass-through. It was the first comic I picked up when I got home after spending nearly two years abroad and , being somewhat at “loose ends” at the time, I was able to sit and devour it for a couple of days — which may just be what it takes to get even a semi– full grasp on all that’s going on its pages. I would refer any interested parties to check out my full review of the book here , as long as you know going in that I still don’t come close to doing it proper justice : https://trashfilmguru.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/tfg-comix-month-daniel-clowes-the-death-ray/ .

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And with that, we really are done here. I promise this time. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it, and I also hope that’s it’s (not to be too fucking grandiose, but) inspired at least a few of you (hell, I’d settle for one of you) to either give Eightball a go for the first time, or to re-visit your back issues and once again appreciate their greatness. I know that I gain new appreciation for the breadth and scope of what Clowes was able to achieve with this series every time I even so much as skim though it for the cliched umpteenth time, and when I sit down to actually read one of the longer-form stories again, or even just a selection of the short-form works, it consistently blows me away. Some of that is down to nostalgia value and always will be, sure, but this became “my comic” in the first place because of how great it was, and it remains “my comic” because of how extraordinarily well it not only “holds up,” but continues to present new ways of looking at it as the years go on. Clowes’ highly-anticipated (and aptly-titled) new graphic novel, Patience, will finally be seeing the light of day this spring, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I end up giving Eightball another complete re-read in the weeks leading up to its release.