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Mike Riley: I Taste Sound

Baltimore art guy makes comics for the questionably sane

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I Taste Sound

By Mike Riley

Lowside Syndicate

If you fear a little bit for Mike Riley’s state of mind, you’re not the only one. The title of the Baltimore native and Hexagon Space co-founder’s comic collection, I Taste Sound, already hints at something a little bit nuts. Which is what this collection is, really.

There’s some definite funny stuff in here, especially for regular readers of comics, who will appreciate his wordplay. The book is divided into four, um, chapters: “The Crass Menagerie,” “Semi-Proverbs,” “Gross Domestic Products,” and “Miscellanus” (yeah). There are some guffaw-worthy concepts, like the comb-over eagle, the bipolar bear, and the emu kids at the mall. There’s also the F-shirt, a shirt with both sleeves on the same side; the commemorative plate tectonics, a commemorative plate all broken up in fault lines; and the fondon’t, which is much too hot to eat.

And there’s some truly clever material as well. Our favorite is perhaps the frame of a guy blowing on a dandelion, with the caption, “I wish there weren’t dandelions all over the yard,” which made us LOL for real. Or maybe it’s “Occam’s Depilatory Foam,” with the product slogan, “The smelliest solution is usually the correct one!” which shows that this guy actually is pretty smart. (The wildly pretty paintings, drawings, and digital illustrations on his Flickr page—most composed in an entirely different style than his comics—demonstrate same.)

But then there’s some really crass stuff, the kind his inner 10-year-old boy just had to include, like his take on “Dogs Playing Poker,” which features scrotums; some buttcheek jokes; and a frame of two horses getting it on with a guy in the background proclaiming “I’ll have what she’s having,” which really kinda messes us up in all sorts of ways.

The drawings themselves are messy and bright, almost like Riley drew them drunk or with his non-dominant hand (one page, in fact, says it was drawn with his foot, and we doubt he’s kidding), and plenty of it is disturbing or gross or just plain stupid. But even some of the stupid ones are funny—one frame depicts 18th-century-style soldiers playing fife and drums with a speech bubble reading, “Rock that shit, homie!”; another shows an Amish man holding a goose up to his ear with the heading “Amish Cellphone”—and you may find yourself laughing in spite of yourself. It’s clear that, except at its most crass, this stuff is pretty smart—and so is Riley—and the scale tips just enough in favor of clever over crap to make it worth flipping through.

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