It is to my painful discredit that I did not discover Nate McDonough’s long-running series Grixly until recently. Fifty-four issues!?! And every comic within a wholly worthwhile and satisfying read?!?!? It’s a one-man anthology of short strips with a lot of autobiography but a playful assortment of other stuff in the mix. These two latest issues were either released simultaneously or close to it.
Issue #53 is devoted to McDonough’s Longboxes series in which he details his career as a dude who scours local sales for comic books he can flip on eBay. These stories are essential for anyone who has a similar love/hate relationship with grubbing through water-damaged cartons of old newsprint. McDonough lovingly portrays the eccentric, often obnoxious, characters and situations he encounters on the hunt. The secondary-market of comic book hustlers is full of clueless assholes who McDonough shows in all their ugliness but with an edge of empathy for people just trying to get by in a world gone wrong. These stories go deep: the joys of finding lost treasure, ethical conundrums in a cutthroat marketplace, alternating affection and distaste for the raw stuff of this economy. It’s all there. Episodes of Longboxes appear in previous issues of Grixly and are ongoing.
Issue #54 is the non-Longboxes counterpart with a mix of autobio, wordless observation, and miscellaneous drawing. There are pieces about art classes, depressing strip club ads, doing karaoke to songs by the band Live — it’s all over the place and it’s all compelling. McDonough expresses cynical viewpoints throughout that recall the “fallen world” indie comics of the 90s and early 00s, but he also has a level of self-awareness that many of those comics never attained.
The writing is sharp and purposeful. Nothing in these comics feels like a guy grinding out the next issue just to keep those issue numbers rising.