If you browse the comics section at Push/Pull, you might find a Post-It note affixed to the front of a minicomic here or there. These are the local equivalent of staff recommendation tags, only all the Post-Its are written by owner Maxx Follis’s son, and they are completely adorable. One Post-It on a book called The Age reads “It has amazing twist. —Sean.” A recommendation stuck to another book, I Think Our Friend Dan Might Be a Dolphin, by James Stanton, says “Funniest commic of 2015 — Sean, 8.” (The 5 on 2015, best of all, is backwards.)
Sean is on the right track: I Think Our Friend Dan Might Be a Dolphin is pretty goddamned funny. It’s narrated by someone who is just starting to recognize the warning signs about his friend Dan: “I first noticed the blowhole stains when I ran into him at Hot-Wing City last Friday.” It goes on like that, getting weirder and weirder along the way until you turn to a shot of Dan, drawn in Stanton’s impeccably cartoonish linework, with each of his tail fins crammed inside a gaudy running shoe. If you’re not amused, you’re probably a little bit dead inside.
Another funny comic at Push/Pull: How Baseball Works, by B. Lehmann. In it, the players try to explain the rules of baseball to the readers in as simple language as possible. A pitcher looks at us on the first page, explaining that “I’m gonna throw this ball real fast and my intention is that the batter tries to, but doesn’t hit it, three times and he’s out.” The first base coach adds, “I’m gonna tug my ear and then make tootley dootley hand signals.” It goes on from there.
Not all of the books are funny. Push/Pull founding member Seth Goodkind’s Predators and Prophets: A Comic History of Pacific Northwest Cults collects short strips identifying some of the highest-profile cults from the region. Illustrated in Goodkind’s dense, inky, hyperrealistic style, these profiles of Rancho Rajneesh, the Love Israel Family, and the Indian Shaker Church are a little bit creepy and entirely fascinating. It’s the kind of book that makes you wonder: are colorful cults weirdly specific to this part of the world, like serial killers? Or is Goodkind just really good at research?
Some of the comics veer more toward good old-fashioned zine territory, as with Bunny Lee’s Confusing Costume: Liberated Fashion Zine. On colorful pages packed with handwritten prose, Lee describes how “Life was vexing before I learned how to speak through fashion.” To her, fashion is bright and colorful and expressive — though she’s bothered when people say that she dresses like a child. Later, she urges her readers to remember that they’re “morally compelled to be confusing,” to challenge the “assumptions others may make about you.” It’s a bright and energetic encomium to individual style, and it comes with a mix CD featuring songs like “Vogue” and “The Humpty Dance” and Rufus Wainwright’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” You can’t read it without feeling waves of gratitude that people are still sending messages like these out on the rafts of Push/Pull’s shelves.
These are not mass-market stories; the books that Push/Pull carry often have print runs in the three or even two digits. They’re tiny, personal monuments to a moment in time, a wall full of love letters just waiting to jump into your arms and go home with you.
Previously, in our Booktore of the Month series: