A Month of Self-Published Comics: Shirtlifter #2-3

This month I am posting a review of a different self-published comic book each day for the rest of the month!

Today I'm featuring Steve MacIsaac's Shirtlifter #2-3.

According to the Urban Dictionary, "shirtlifter" is a term meaning "An active homosexual male," and the characters in Steve MacIsaac's Shirtlifter comics certainly meet that definition.

The first issue of Shirtlifter up for review is a collection of various short stories by MacIsaac that originally appeared in various anthologies. About half of them are autobiographical. What I especially enjoyed about the various stories is the impressive array of artistic styles that MacIsaac tries out on the different stories.

As for the stories themselves, they are a clever mixture of different storytelling approaches. I liked the short, slice-of-life tales the best, even the ones that were fictional. There's one story about safe sex that was especially engaging, I thought.

Here are some samples of two of the stories from the volume...

A story about internet dating...

And a fictionalized account of an encounter on a subway in Japan...

MacIsaac engages the audiences really well in the stories in Shirtlifter #2.

Shirtlifter #3 is a little different. It's two bucks more (and larger for the extra money - $11 instead of the $9 that Shirtlifter #2 was), but the format is one long-form narrative by MacIsaac split into three chapters, with one-off stories mixed between the three chapters. The one-off stories are by other creators.

I actually enjoyed the other creators' work more in Shirtlifter #3 than MacIsaac's story. Fuzzbelly has a really great short story that is an examination on the very idea of gay erotica, and how Fuzzbelly decides he would rather depict "actual" gay sex than the somewhat absurdest nature of erotica. It's a fun, cute tale with equally fun, cute artwork.

Justin Hall creates an engaging character quickly in his short story depicting a con artist making his way across the country, leaving spent men in his path. Hall's artwork was not exactly my cuppa, but his characters were very believable and interesting.

As for MacIsaac's main story, a long-form examination of his life "unpacking" into his new home in Vancouver and his odd relationship with a married traveling salesman, I was less impressed. MacIsaac's artwork seemed stiff at times, with his characters rarely seeming as though they were actual people who could interact with each other. I get the idea that these are built guys, that's fine, but they barely seem able to move! That's just the characters, though, his storytelling with his art was quite good. He tells a story with his art impeccably. However, that story has its ups and downs - what I think it really needed most would be a bit of an editor - the narrative did not have as much of a focus as I would have wanted. It was almost like it was just showing what actually happened, which is fair enough, but "what actually happens" is not always the same thing as an interesting narrative - that's why you really need to edit your plot, even if you're striving for "authenticity." You don't have to change content, just how it is delivered to the reader.

Shirtlifter #2 - Recommended.

Shirtlifter #3 - Hmmmmm...I'd Recommend the two short stories. I don't think I'd recommend the main story (it is not BAD by any stretch of the imagination, but nor do I think it is good - it was just "all right"), and I don't know what that does for the work as a whole - I guess I would say Slightly Not Recommend, if only because it's three chapters of "no" versus two chapters of "yes."

Check out Steve's website here.

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