Truth Zone Antics: Thoughts on Portrait and Simon Hanselmann’s Recent Feud/Roast Comics
Simon Hanselmann is one of alternative comics’ foremost gossipmongers and roasters; his Truth Zone comics, using his Megg, Mogg, and Owl characters, are comics as criticism; they show his take on recent events, his opinion on specific creators and their work, and goings-on throughout the small part of the comics world he occupies. Hanselmann has recently gotten back on the kick of making these comics, starting with an Comics Workbook Truth Zone takedown of All-Time Comics (titled “Small Time Comics”) the questionably executed superheroes line from Fantagraphics, and Portrait is another series of these comics, poking fun at creators and publishers alike.
Hanselmann’s reactions to recent goings-on in the alternative comics are generally sour, disapproving, and wryly funny. I had a few laugh out loud moments, including Hanselmann dragging The Comics Reporter, and Owl’s moment of crisis when being compared to Tillie “Diesel” Walden is fantastic.
I think folks that aren’t paying attention to alternative comics are going to be left with some head scratchers here. This is truly inside baseball, and for a casual reader these comics are not going to make a lot of sense. I learned about a hobo wedding, for example, and while some of the strips had subjects I immediately recognized, others left me scratching my head or finding out the scoop from them. There’s some bigger stuff here – Hanselmann takes shots at the Steven Universe tumblr fandom and the general public’s reaction to Pepe the Frog. He even lampoons himself for the way he underprints his minicomics.
Hanselmann’s critical eye seems to land more often on the twee side of alt comics, which means he isn’t punching up; some of these comics are downright mean, and to some degree that’s going to turn people off. Of course, Simon Hanselmann is an asshole, but that’s not a unique trait for alternative cartoonists. You have to be somewhat of an asshole if you’re going to do roast comics like these. That said, if you’re going to be an asshole, you better also be funny. There’s nothing worse than a lame roast, especially a lame roast comic. Both Portrait and Hanselmann’s webcomic cross that hurdle with ease, although I think it’s “Small Time Comics” that takes the cake.
As I’m writing this review, there has been a recent exchange of roast comics – #simoncomics2017, started by Alex Schubert, who does the comic Blobby Boys with Vice and Koyama Press. Schubert’s roast of Hanselmann was meh, but Hanselmann’s shot back was absolutely brutal. You can find the thread on twitter, but it illustrates my point.
Certainly these comics aren’t going to be something that everyone enjoys, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Portrait to readers who liked Megg, Mogg, & Owl but who aren’t entrenched in the comics “scene.” Still, for Hanselmann fanatics and for readers who shake their head at the drama of the moment, Portrait will be a welcome read.
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