I hate recommending things to people. It's an uncomfortable responsibility. What if they try my favorite dentist/barber/restaurant and hate it? What if they read a book or see a movie I recommend and not only hate it but think I'm an idiot for loving it? I'd feel like I owe them their money back. Maybe do some chores around their house to make up for it.
Still: here are some low-cost, low-risk things I'll go out on a limb and publicly vouch for, with the understanding that tastes differ and caveat emptor.
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After five years of work, Cameron Stewart has finished his Eisner-Award-winning webcomic Sin Titulo. I would've been reluctant to recommend it before, since Stewart took a few very long breaks from the comic to do paying work, but now that it's complete I can do so enthusiastically. "Sin Titulo" isn't for everyone--there's some gore and nasty language in its 160 fast-paced pages--but I began following this noir horror mystery a few years ago and it became one of a few bookmarks I religiously clicked even when months passed between updates.
Sin Titulo follows Stewart's young hero Alex as he visits his grandfather in a nursing home, learns that he died a month earlier, goes through his effects, and finds clues to a mystery that lead to a beautiful young woman, a brutish thug who is probably a little more (or less) than human, and a peaceful beach that seems to be accessed, Matrix-like, via telephones and radios. Alex becomes a classic man-on-the-run wrongly accused of horrific crimes, while at the same time trying to figure out how he's managed to thoroughly screw up his life.
Honestly, I'm not sure if Stewart's climax actually explained everything--or anything--but I don't mind ambiguity and found the story very satisfying.
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My pal Mike Lynch and three of his cartooning compadres recently published the third issue of their 16-page comic book Raconteur, whose mission statement is "True stories from cartoonists who don't usually do this type of thing."
I'm cheating a bit, since I reviewed an earlier issue of Raconteur back in June, but Mike, David Jacobson, John Klossner and Jeff Pert--all single-panel cartoonists whose work appears in top magazines--keep putting out good work so I have no problem continuing to recommend it. Each issue has four four-page slice-of-life stories with humor and heart. All three issues are available here. I admit I feel some warm fuzzies giving a few bucks directly to artists whose work I enjoy as encouragement to keep making more. If they offered subscriptions I'd subscribe.
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I'm also cheating a bit in recommending this next work because I haven't seen it yet. But I have faith.
My friends MK Czerwiec and Mita Mahato, both cartoonist/artists I got to know through our graphic medicine conferences, have published a zine titled Ivy. They've set up a blog about it here and an Etsy store here. In addition to work from MK and Mita (who does wonderful multimedia storytelling with paper cutouts and such), this issue contains a piece by our mutual friend Sarah Leavitt, author of the graphic novel Tangles.
What especially interests me about Ivy is that MK and Mita were inspired to create it after studying their way through Ivan Brunetti's book Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice. They figured the only way to really know if Brunetti's book was any good was to see if they could follow it to actually make a comic. They assigned themselves homework, shared their results, and put out a book. That's wonderful! As I say, I don't even know what's in it, but I know the people and they deserve some support. Just look at that spaceship on the cover; that beauty's worth a couple of bucks by itself.
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Someone taking all three of my recommendations would be out less than 11 bucks (Sin Titulo is free, each Raconteur is $5.99, and Ivy is $4.50). Even if my taste stinks and you hate them, you'd be fortifying your karma. I don't give refunds.