Floating World Comics- Art & Originality

Since starting For the Love of Indie I have been introduced to some incredible publications that I was hitherto unaware of. One such publication is the incredible and entirely unique Floating World Comics.

FWC is a publication and an alternative comic/book shop for all ages in Portland. Under their umbrella you’ll find some truly incredible talent putting out books that are entirely different from one another with unapologetic stories and some serious passion behind them.

From publications featuring the horrific world of Cowboys and Insects (written by David Hine, drawn by Shaky Kane), the curvy pin-up women in Jonny Negron’s Selected Works, or the darkly comedic look at pageants in Menorah Horwitz’s Miss U.S. of Heya, Floating World has proven itself as an artistic driving force in the world of creator owned/independent content. Let’s discuss some of their current titles:

The Willows is a tale of terror based on H.P. Lovecraft’s favorite short story by Algernon Blackwood (that’s pretty high praise). This adaptation is written by Nathan Carson with art by Sam Ford and it’s terrifying.

Here we have the story of two women traveling down the Danube (river, in case you don’t know) deep in the Hunagrian wilderness. When they rest/are stuck on a sandbar they start to feel their sanity slip, as their entire environment feels alive and invasive, not necessarily with creatures that these travelers have seen before.

Ford’s art is remarkable with line work that uses shadows with Corben-like intensity for some truly scary, stark illustrations. The environments give the reader a feeling that if they look long enough, they will see something in the brush as well. Carson’s text is true to form with the story from which it is adapted, but the dialogue is perhaps less esoteric than it originally. Even though the series is only two issues, we wind up rooting for these two women due to Carson’s compelling characterization. Much like Alien, this book leaves you with a sense of dread and claustrophobia, as even though they are surrounded by the great outdoors, they are at the mercy of their sandy lodgings. You can get issue #1 here and #2 here.

The best way to describe Carlos Gonzalez’s art is hypnotic. Reading Test Tube and Scab County were shocking experiences that I couldn’t take my eyes off, and Gates of Plasma follows that trend, but at a far larger scale.

Clocking in at over 300 pages, Gates of Plasma shows us an abstract science fiction (more or less) story where Gene, a truck driver, meets Laura, a woman of mysterious [and gooey] origins who is unknowingly a part of something bigger. Laura learns she has the ability to make two beings join minds and share feelings/experiences through a secretion from her body. Throw in a corrupt corporation with an absurd ritual, a consistently shirtless CEO, some otherworldly beings, and bizarrely skilled (and in my opinion horrific) assassins and you might get a gist of what this title is about.

Gonzalez has an art style that is entirely his own, while the images range in their complexity they are all entirely full with original characters with distinct voices and mars on the page that add further stimulation to this world. This is my favorite of Gonzalez’s books. His story has a ton to it and you take from it what you want. I highly suggest it for any David Lynch fans in particular. You can get Gates of Plasma here. Also, for real, the assassins scared the crap out of me. You’ll see.

Hooooooooo boy. All Time Comics is an absolute powerhouse. The Bronze Age of comics is being celebrated with stories written primarily by Josh Bayer (a favorite of mine) and art by Benjamin Marra, Herb Trimpe (RIP), Noah Van Sciver and Bayer himself. The impressive list could go on for days if I mentioned every cover artist and back matter artist (we’ll get there).

This tome collects the stories of four different vigilantes that reside in Optic City: the powerful Atlas, the unstoppable Crime Destroyer, the vicious Bullwhip, and the brutal Blind Justice. This fearsome foursome each get their chance to shine as they take on the colorful and purely violent villains of the city, some with very ambiguous motives, some very much from the “MWAHAHA” era, all of them enjoyable to watch (and watch get their asses kicked). Each story feels like it’s building to something, but at the end of the day you’re looking at some classic gritty superhero stories with some of the most impressive names in modern independent comics.

Bayer has brought into focus an incredible project that is true to the era from which it is derived from in dialogue and set up. Everyone involved is clearly in love with comics and what came before, and they all work to bring that feeling of nostalgia and purely good superhero stories to the forefront. The back of this book is page after page of comic reviews, opinions, a memoriam to Herb Trimpe, and fake advertisements, both paying homage to comics of yore but also providing a few nods and laughs to the previous material in the book with even MORE talent (including another favorite artist of mine, Hyena Hell). You get a stunning amount of content in a [frankly] perfectly curated package, and I can’t WAIT to read more, especially with Josh Simmons joining on writing. You can buy volume one here.

From the mind of Charles Forsman (whom you may know from Revenger or The End of the F***ing World) comes my favorite of Floating World’s books to date, Slasher.

In Slasher, a repressed office worker named Christine finds release from witnessing acts of violence and has developed a sexual attraction to a skinny young man named Joshua who posts videos of himself cutting different areas on his body. Before they know it Christine is on her way to meet Joshua and while Joshua tries to deal with his mom, who is keeping him “sickly” for her personal and financial gain. When Christine finds that simply witnessing blood isn’t enough to please her, she decides to draw some first hand, but it isn’t be her own.

It is rare for me to read a book that is entirely unpredictable. From cover to cover I had no idea where this book was going to go, and the result is a shock on every page turn, with clever characterizations and genuine unease under the lens of a darkly erotic horror story. Charles Forsman is so damn good all the time, and with a story like this I’m so glad he drew it himself so we got the purest version of the experience. Not to mention I think his expressions are really well… expressive. If you want to read about a gimpwear (not sure if that’s PC, sorry) clad murderer with some unhealthy sexual interests, you can get Slasher here. I recommend you do.

In case you can’t tell, I quickly became a massive fan of Floating World Comics. Their titles are just so varied and the content is ALWAYS compelling. Opening themselves up to some very original art and a vast talent pool, the products speak for themselves. If you’re looking for stories you can’t predict, check them out. You can buy more of their books here.