Review: Czkaj’s R2-D2 strikes back; Bangs & Beard Diary offers a whole new ‘He says/She says’

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Bangs & Beard Diary

Melinda Tracy Boyce and Aaron Whitaker are cartoonists living in Los Angeles. They’re also a couple and collaborators in an interesting way, as this collection culled from their web diary comics shows. This is a friendly shared flip comic from Birdcage Bottom Books featuring the two, with a front cover on each side letting you know which person’s diary you are about to read.

What’s interesting about the pairing of diaries is that they sometimes present different perspectives of the same event, something most notable in each’s cartoon about an exchange during a nighttime walk on July 4, but on display in other circumstances as well, such as going to craft shows and visiting Boyce’s family.

Whitaker’s diaries tend to be focused more on his own thoughts and how he perceives little moments, while Boyce’s go outside herself, are more likely to incorporate encounters with other people or take into account viewpoints beyond her own brain. They’re both very likable, the presentations low key. Of the two, I think Boyce’s spoke more to me, because of her interest in other people and her cartooning style, which is more full and expressive.

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R2-D2  Is An Indie-Rocker

Let me take you back, way back, to the early/mid 1990s when zines were everywhere, indie rock ruled college radio, self-published comics were all the thing, and Star Wars was a pretty dead franchise that seemed as far, far away as the universe it portrayed.

Jef Czekaj’s mini comic, R2-D2 Is An Indie Rocker — which at some point was distributed by Highwater Books — reflected that reality in a hilarious and smart way, following the silly adventures of your favorite droid with his band, Hypertruck. It lasted six issues, the final being named after the band in order to fall under the litigious radar of George Lucas, I suppose.

So how surprised was I when, after 20 years, a new issue of R2-D2 Is An Indie Rocker showed up in my mail box. And how much more surprised was I after reading it and discovering that it was if these 20 years had never happened?

Actually, that’s not entirely true. This new issue of R2-D2 features a lot of time travel, which means some hanging around in the 21st Century, which Czekaj couldn’t have done very effectively with the story if these 20 years hadn’t passed. But the style, the presentation, the humor, and even the accessibility are like no years have passed for R2-D2 and his band, Hypertruck.

In this issue, the band is called upon to prevent a horrible future from ever happening. A series of very particular circumstances have lead to shoegaze becoming the dominant philosophy in our culture, and the only way to prevent that from happening is to either enact a plan that means murder for My Bloody Valentine frontman Kevin Shields, or a back-up one that has something to do with Bill Murray and Lost In Translation.

But, oh, it doesn’t end there, and Czekaj twists his science fiction hilarity around all sorts of music in-jokes as Hypertruck discovers what the future holds for their favorite musicians, careening towards a shock ending that makes the case for more issues, surely.

At the end, Czekaj promises one in 2031, and I’ll certainly hold him to it.

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