Friday, September 23, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Apocrypha Now

by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler (Top Shelf)

Mark Russell is back with another installment of his humorous summaries of religious texts (with illustrations by Shannon Wheeler). For those unacquainted with the previous Top Shelf book God is Disappointed, I recommend you read it, but only if you like to laugh. Out loud. Literally. As ignorant as I am of religious writings, despite years of church going as a youth, I was basically, if not entirely, unaware that there was stuff that actually got cut OUT of the bible. I had no idea the Good Book had such good editors. The reasoning behind these omissions, as Russell explains in the introduction, is they were just too off-the-wall to be taken seriously. Seriously? This is the bible we're talking about, after all. Its chock full of murder, mayhem, infanticide, incest, talking snakes, immaculate conceptions, resurrections, and all that. Forgive me for not thinking that the appearance of a unicorn would put it over the top. That's just an example, there are no unicorns in this book. Sorry unicorn nerds.

Russell likens the Ancient World to a dance-off where each tribe tried to impress the other with their religious stories. Deemed too batty even by biblical standards, these outtakes were lovingly compiled in the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha is to your average Christian as Tolkien’s Silmarillion is to casual Lord of the Rings fans: if you're into that world it's nice to know these stories exists, even if you will never, ever read them. If I was a bible fan, I guess I would liken it to the lost Clash album that was considered too all over the place (by everyone but Mick Jones) to release.

Russell puts his sharp wit and keen sense of funny into giving the gist of these lesser known Words of God and Shannon Wheeler once again lends his talents by contributing his spot on cartoons. (Wheeler’s work will be familiar to you if you read the New Yorker and/or are familiar with his long-running Too Much Coffee Man comics series.)

Religion has always bored me to tears, but these books I can handle. So, if the Bible ain't your bag, but you'd still like to learn what all the fuss is about, Apocrypha Now is a good alternativeChris Auman

Buy both books in a boxed set. The perfect Christmas (yeah, I said it, Christmas) gift for that special Christian in your life!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Cavemen 4 Trump

I wonder who Ogmund "Og" Ogg is supporting in the 2016 Presidential race?

Illustration by Mike Dixon.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Classic Woodrows Albums: Naked


(Woodrow Hill) 1981 

The follow-up to the Drunk LP. Twice the power, four times the fun! Thirty-seven songs including: "Naked," "Tube Sock Toby," "Marvy's in the Jug Tank," "Been Naked," "Freak Patrol," "Röt Güt," "Buck Naked," "Caught in the Raw" and more!!!

Visit the Woodrows' Discography Page on for more great albums!

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads

Nick Hayes [Abrams Comicarts

For those who may be unfamiliar, Woody Guthrie was an American folksinger and songwriter who is responsible for writing "This Land is Your Land" and about 999 more songs. He was also considered a bit of a rabble rouser (agitator?), a socialist (commie?) and political commentator who gave a voice to tens of thousands of migrant workers and impoverished farmers during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl period of the 1930s.

Nick Haye’s beautiful and moving graphic novel Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Balladschronicles Guthrie’s early years on the move from Okemah, Oklahoma to Pampa, Texas and to the Cisco Mountains in search of silver. If you’ve read John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath or Woody’s own autobiography, Bound for Glory, or are just familiar with the Dustbowl Era in American History, this depiction provides another perspective on the journey that saw thousands of Midwestern families, like Steinbeck's Joads, traveling from the Midwest and Oklahoma in particular, to California in search of jobs and opportunities that did not exist. 

Hayes recreates the language of the American Midwest in the early 20th century and captures well the look of grainy black and white Depression-era photography. He expertly employs sepia tones to create the feeling of a different time — a time when color was a luxury few could afford. Hayes also builds an emotional bridge for the reader to connect us to a time we've never known. He portrays a period of American history where food, jobs and hope were hard to come by. As Woody traveled around the country in search of work and opportunities to play his music, he learned he couldn’t rely on the government certainly, but neither could the church be trusted to give him a bowl of soup when he was down and out and willing to work for it. Everyone was suspect in that world, authority was to be questioned and nothing made sense.

Hayes uses alliteration to create prose that is poetical and lyrical. He details the conflict that is sometimes man versus nature, man versus man, and man versus god from one chapter to the next. Woody battles the system, he battles the authorities, he battles poverty. All the conflicts he encountered in a hard world acted like a whetstone to sharpen Woody but without making him bitter. Instead, the hard times inspired him and instilled in him the heart of a crusader. Haye's panoramic page layout depicting the landscape and Woody's dreams/visions/hallucinations are beautifully rendered and provide a good counterweight to some of the injustice of the times.

Hayes past work includes an update of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem, The Rime of the Modern Mariner. He is also a contributing cartoonist to the Guardian newspaper and the New Statesmen magazine in the UK where Hayes lives and works.
 —Chris Auman

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Classic Woodrows Albums: Duality


(Woodrow Hill) 1981 

Er, ah, um, this one is a little arty—even for '80s new wave! But it is The Woodrows, after all, so you know it's the bomb. A double LP concept record that explores the duality of man. Includes: "Whispers," "Soul Bared," "C'est Bon, Baby," "Whispers II" and many more. Don't worry, nobody else gets it either! SO ESOTERIC! You don't want your cool friends to see this one in your record collection!

Visit the Woodrows' Discography Page on for more great albums!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Classic Woodrows Albums: Pumped


(Woodrow Hill) 1981 

Ain't nobody gonna give the Woodrows shit. Not any more! After the boyz watched Conan the Barbarian twenty-eight times in a row they came down with a severe case of Schwarzenegger Fever. These former ninety pound weaklings pump out ninety minutes of sweaty, rippling riffs: "Woodrow's Gym," "Let Me Pump You... Up,", "Pummeled," "I'm a Biceptual," "I Ain't No Dumbbell, You Moron,", "Tight Tush Toby," "All Pumped Up," "Twelve Pack Abs" and more. Great workout music!

Visit the Woodrows' Discography Page on for more great albums!