Today we will be doing something a little different than our typical comic reviews and taking a look at Stuck in the Gutters, a digital anthology magazine that features comic strips and essays about comic collecting, reading, the creative process, and a lot more. Created and published by editor Leo Johnson, you can pick up issues of Stuck in the Gutters at Gumroad for a “pay what you want” price, which is pretty darn cool, and while you’re doing that…ehem…after you’ve done that, you can head on over to the magazine’s official Patreon account and give Leo and his team some much needed praise in the form of monetary donations! So then, let’s get into Stuck in the Gutters #1!
Kicking off this issue is a short comic strip called Fancy by Stu Perrins with art by Brian Burke. And wow, what a great way to start this this first issue. Fancy reads like a comic strip you might see in the funnies section of a newspaper (do they still have those?), and it features a man dressed in a Freddy Krueger costume who is talking to a dilapidated sock puppet, which really means he’s just talking to himself, about a costume contest. It ends with a little joke involving the iconic clawed glove that Freddy wears in the Nightmare on Elm Street series of films, which while I’m trying to avoid too many spoilers, might already be giving away too much.
Next up we have an essay by Josh Flynn called “Superheroes,” which in my opinion is the best essay this first issue of Stuck in the Gutters has to offer. For the sake of space, we will be glossing over some of the features in this issue (there are just too many!), but I’d like to speak at length about this one in particular. In “Superheroes,” Flynn tells the real life story of a childhood plagued by a dysfunctional family life in which the only escape was through superhero comic books. Daring adventures and heroic deeds were the exit from a broken marriage and a chemical affinity that rocked a young boy’s household. There’s some really dark stuff in this essay which might be tough to swallow for some, but it is Flynn’s own ability to overcome these hardships that gives “Superheroes” its silver lining. Incredibly moving, “Superheroes” is an excellent indication of what Stuck in the Gutters can do, and it’s work like this that can provide inspiration for those in similar situations to push forward and never let go of their heroes, whoever they may be.
Concerning some of the other essays in this issue of Stuck in the Gutters, we get “Thor and Wonder Woman: Modern Mythological Heroes,” a nice write up about the recent Wonder Woman and Thor runs in which Rudy Trevizo analyzes those characters’ relations to their mythological counterparts, and how comic writers and artists use characters like Thor and Wonder Woman to illustrate the power of myth and the influence it can have on real life figures and events.
Then there’s “Strange Love or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Breaking into Comics” and “Using Comic Influence in Your Work,” by Jeremy Holt and Tyler Hallstrom, respectively. These essays relate more directly to the comic’s industry, and in Holt’s essay we learn a bit about his journey into comic book writing and some of the obstacles he encountered along the way. Holt goes into detail about some of his earliest lessons, which is a good source of information for fledgling writers, although Holt is careful to mention that everyone’s journey is different and that his shouldn’t necesarrily be the template for every writer looking to break into comics.
In “Using Comic Influence in Your Work,” Hallstrom gives us a look at how artists can draw inspiration from their heroes, such as Jack Kirby or Todd McFarlane, and what sets their work apart from the rest. Again, excellent information for anyone starting out and looking to get into comics, or if you are simply in need of a refresher course (we all need them sometimes!).
Now onto my personal favorite comic strip in the first issue of Stuck in the Gutters (but they’re all great, I promise!). The War by Josh Trujillo with art by Alex Diotto is a short comic that takes place in a world where clowns were forced to relinquish their big red noses and floppy shoes in the wake of the “War Against the Clowns,” and are now subjected to menial jobs to support their families. While all of this sounds like the synopsis for a prime-time sitcom, nothing about The War is especially amusing. When a clown who is working as a cab driver picks up an impatient customer he laments about the war and how it has affected clowns and their loved ones, going on to explain that since clowning lacks any political interest in today’s world, it therefore holds no value to society. During the ride, the passenger pays the clown no mind, and instead texts incessantly on his cell phone, finally offering the clown driver a “one star” rating after exiting the cab for no apparent reason other than the man is so distracted that he is unable, or unwilling, to see the plight of another. Fantastic work on this; it’s really telling of the world in which we live, where material fixation is becoming more widespread while the human connection suffers as a result. We’re all here in this together, and I think that’s what The War is trying to convey. Brilliant stuff.
It really wasn’t easy to leave some stuff out here guys, so I’d like to at least mention some of the other pieces in Stuck in the Gutters before we wrap this review up. Jess Camacho, Alex Mansfield, and Jideobi Odunze provide excellent essays with regards to our favorite past-time, while Dan Hill and Ryan K. Lindsay give us a little banter on the Nick Fury story Fury MAX: My War Gone By. Some comics I didn’t really get to mention were Far Future by Paul Jeter where the perfect society attempts to uncover the magic of artist expression, and Man From Space by Marc Jackson which is a bizarre and amusing story about paying off a debt the old fashioned way – with a mafunctioning space rocket!
There are so many cool little things in Stuck in the Gutters that you’re just going to have to check it our for yourselves, so as your attorney (writer not licensed to practice law) I advise you to head on over to their website where you can learn a lot more about the magazine and get linked up with the aforementioned Pateron and Gumroad accounts. It’s worth mentioning that Stuck in the Gutters is open for submissions so if you would like to do a little scribbling of your own (with lower and uppercases or those other things some people call “colors”), you can get more information about that at the website. What are you waiting for, go check it out!
What did you think of Stuck in the Gutters? Let us know in the comments section and on our Twitter page!