A brief intro to precede the proceedings: I envision Live Area as a column devoted to thinking and writing about comics in an elastic and ever-changing way. One size doesn’t fit all for comics, so neither should an exploration of them. To start things off, this installment of Live Area will be comprised of capsule reviews of comics I’ve read and enjoyed recently. Without further fanfare:

Snake Creek by Drew Lerman

A laissez-faire peanut-shaped cartoon named Roy and a bespectacled-and-bearded existentialist named Dav live the vagabond life in Snake Creek, a surreal land populated with ugly birds, various disembodied heads, racketeering gangsters, foolhardy mayors, and yappy dogs. But the heart of Snake Creek, a collection of the strip’s first year, is the evolution and eventual marriage between Drew Lerman’s scracthy-but-stylized line and his writing’s linguistic hijinx. Lerman’s pen swirls and jukes across the page with a frenzied hatching that never becomes oppressively claustrophobic the way other hatch-heavy comics can be, and that’s due in part to his equally energetic writing, itself a loopy and free-wheeling examination of the cosmic joke of existence.

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Rock Me on the Water

I am sold out of the the initial printing of Rodeo #1. I am very humbled by this. There is so much stuff out there today that the fact people even found my stapled zine of black and white drawings feels like a minor miracle to me.

If you’d still like to read it and haven’t yet, don’t fret: Wig Shop still has copies for sale, and I’m proud to announce that you can now also purchase Rodeo from Domino Books. This is what Domino head-honcho and artist Austin English has to say about the book:

This is an extremely solid and satisfying ‘debut’ comic. Salazar presents us with what on first glance might appear to be a well oiled 90s alternative one man anthology comic: strong central story, some crackling short comics, etc. But Rodeo is far more elastic than stodgy nostalgia for Eightball style comics. The emotion and storytelling on display in ‘Medium Brew’ are unique. More importantly, Salazar doesn’t miss a beat in conveying exactly what he wants to convey: he has set this comic up to serve his vision, there’s hardly any obstruction that youd normally see in an ‘issue one’ out of nowhere zine. This is a thrill to read and should be a very strong series as it continues. 

And if you somehow miss out on copies from those two places, rest easy knowing that there will be a second printing when Rodeo #2 drops. I want to devote all of my off-time and energy to creating the best comic I can, so while it is gratifying to run a webstore and print up books in my basement studio, it takes valuable time away from drawing and writing.

And, yes!, Rodeo #2 is in the works as we speak. What I have done is in no shape for public viewing, but when it is, you’ll see it.

You Should’ve Shut Your Door Better

FoxTrot by Bill Amend for May 06, 1997

Rodeo #1 has received another positive review, this time from venerated comics critic Rob Clough at High-Low Comics. Here is a brief excerpt, including a comparison to Bill Amend and his strip FoxTrot, which is huge for me since it was a favorite of mine when I was a kid:

It’s always a pleasure to get a mini in the mail from an artist with whom I’m not familiar, only for it to turn out to be excellent. Such is the case with Evan Salazar and his one-man anthology, Rodeo. The art style is somewhere between Dan Clowes’ Eightball and Bill Amend’s Fox Trot.

Each one of these stories, including the funny-creature Socratic dialogue “Critters” strip on the back, deals with an existential crisis of some kind. For Abigail, it’s a lifetime of dealing not just with abandonment, but with an aspect of her life that made no sense. For the janitor, it was trying to live up to his identity of a writer in the face of literal garbage. For the cat, it was realizing that freedom wasn’t exactly what she hoped it to be. They’re all searching, probing, cleaning, and there are no clear answers. This is a small, unassuming comic that asks a lot of big questions.

A Rabbit Freezing on a Star

Rodeo #1 received a very flattering review from critic Ryan Carey over at his comics site Four Color Apocalypse. It’s incredibly thoughtful and generous. Here are some choice lines from it:

[Rodeo #1] reflects an authorial sensibility informed chiefly by “big-picture” concerns such as alienation, longing, and emotional and physical upheaval, but nearly as committed to drawing out the “little” things that actually make live worth living : dreams, quiet moments of deep poignancy, innocence, and emotional connection. […]

This is smart, sophisticated, emotionally resonant storytelling that honors its characters and gracefully eschews the numerous traps of easy irony available to it that lesser cartoonists would no doubt succumb to. Stunning, I believe, is the word I’m looking for. […]

I want more Evan Salazar work, and I wanted it before I was even through  reading this. What he’s crafted with Rodeo #1 isn’t simply one of the finest debuts of the year — it’s one of the finest comics of the year, period.