Damn, now that’s how you put together a fantastic anthology. The stories in here are of various lengths, but it gets going with a 20 page story by Eric Orner dealing with his coming to terms with his sexuality, dating a woman in college, having a right wing nut of a father and generally not having much of a source to educate himself about being gay. The social progress this country has gone through in the last five years on this front has been staggering (it’s like the majority of the country realized all at once that they were being homophobic assholes and all decided to stop and pretend like it never happened), but it’s stories like Eric’s that remind the youngsters that there were very few options when you were growing up gay in the 70’s and 80’s. The closet was a lifesaver back in those days. Anyway, I’m rambling, and I haven’t even gotten to the other 32 (!) creators in here. Highlights include (and I don’t think there’s a single actively bad story in here, for the record) Annie Murphy’s story about her elderly closeted relatives and wondering what their lives were like, Marinaomi’s first time being an awkward threesome, Ed Nuce and the rules of survival at death metal shows, Dylan Edwards and his childhood friend who referred to his Transformers toys with headlights in robot form as women to try to even out the gender imbalance, Justin Hall’s story about dating a man with (unbeknownst to him) serious mental issues while Justin just thought the guy was trying to work out his life, Jennifer Camper’s hardboiled detective story, Terrance Griep’s most painful wrestling injury, Edie Fake’s hilarious two pages of jokes told by somebody trying to pay to get into a sex show, Steve MacIsaac’s coming face to face with his childhood bully and the unlikely way the conversation ended up going, Andy Hartzell’s story of Pvt. Manning (in his own words) talking about his potential gender reassignment surgery on top of trying to come to terms with his conscience about all of the awful things he knew that the U.S. was doing around the world, Carrie McNinch’s first summer love, and Sasha Steinberg’s triumphant tale of a drag queen buying panty hose. That’s right, I somehow didn’t mention Howard Cruse (who’s been at this for decades and who at least partially started gay comics in general), Craig Bostick, L. Nichols or Rob Kirby, all favorites of mine. So that should tell you the level of quality you’re going to be getting here, right? Oh, and since I’ve been cranky about it in past anthologies, I should mention that Rob does everything right in editing this thing. Creator names at the top of every page? Brilliant! Check it out and enjoy, but set aside an afternoon for it, as this here is a hefty pile of stories. $29.99
Society is breaking down! Cats living with dogs! Cats being turned into helicopters! And an anthology named “Three” is publishing more than three stories in an issue! Granted, only one of those examples is a real cause for concern, but I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which one. This issue contains four longer stories and a couple of one page pieces. Well, the first page is just nine images for nine different artists, so that’s more of an author bio page without words than a story. The first story is “Love Lust Lost” by Ed Luce, depicting three different silent adventures based on the three names in the title. Oh, and it’s also about those three guys on the cover, so take a moment and decide in your head which character goes with which story. The answer may surprise you! Next up is a story by Matt Runkle and Janelle Hessig in which they manage to get right up next to the stage for a Dolly Parton concert. They went in awed by her existence and managed to leave with even more respect for the lady. From here we go to the type of story that never, ever works: the comics jam. In this case nine artists take turns doing three panel strips, with the condition being that something bad has to happen on each last panel. I’m far too lazy to go through this strip by strip, but check out those tags below to see the people who participated. Oddly enough, for once this type of thing worked beautifully. Sure, it veered off the narrative tracks here and there, but the next person in line always pulled it together. Shit got real when the Peanuts gang also got involved, leaving my favorite strip of the bunch a tie between Howard Cruse (with Charlie Brown finally getting to kick something) and Ellen Forney (with the best final panel in a pile of great final panels). Marian Runk steps in for a one page story about the birds in her yard and her concern for them before we finally get to pretty much the entire second half of the book, “Fly Like an Eagle” by Carrie McNinch. I’ve been reading her comics for years but have never seen more than a passing reference to her “origin story.” Turns out that she was kicked out of her school while in ninth grade and forced to go to a private religious school. She starts off surprising herself by picking up a couple of friends easily (basically because they both also got busted for drugs in their old school), but that kind of thing can be especially volatile in those early years. The rest of the story deals with her gradual acceptance that she is never going to like boys “that way” (including her attempt to use a hilariously wrong library book for help in learning exactly what she was), her progression through various kinds of drugs and finally a damned sweet ending. Once again this anthology is doing pretty much everything right, and this time around you even get more stories. Which you’d damn well better, as this is $.25 more expensive than the last issue. Calamity! $6.50
Are there any homophobes who read small press comics? I’d like to think that the level of open-mindedness needed to read and support small press stuff would weed out those assholes, but just in case there are, I’d like to scare them off: there’s gay stuff in here! There, that should have scared them off, now the adults can talk. This is the second issue of what has been (so far) a damned good anthology with three stories each. All that color doesn’t hurt anything, but it also wouldn’t help anything if the stories were lousy. First up is a piece by Sina Evil and Jon Macy detailing a slightly awkward but also magical night in New York between cartoonists. Our hero the narrator has never been penetrated before, but things are going so well that he has to give it a try, caution be damned. It’s a great story about not being able to properly read the signals and knowing when to hold onto something and when to let it go. Next up is the story by Jennifer Camper and Michael Fahy, and this one gets a little tricky. Our hero meets the man of his dreams, but this man was recently a woman and he still hasn’t had the full surgery to complete the change. Then our hero’s sister comes to town and it turns out that she played a role in the past of her brother’s lover. There’s also a pregnancy in there somewhere but I’m not going to say where. Finally there’s the story by Craig Bostick and Michael Kelly which varies back and forth (with the color coding telling you which is which) between a traveling musician and a male prostitute that the musician falls for. Sort of. Also with violence! Each story is wildly different from the rest, but they all go back to relationships at some level. Sounds like a good recipe for a successful anthology to me. Oh, and if the people who sent me this review copy are wondering, the reason this one took so long for me to review had nothing to do with my usual losing/misplacing of the comic, and was instead due to the fact that this comic was making the rounds among my friends and I couldn’t get it back. So sorry about the lack of a timely review, but it was for a good cause. $6.25
Last Cry For Help #4
At least I think it’s #4 (unless I missed one somewhere, there’s no number in here). More goodness from Dave, Souther, Craig Bostick, Beppu, Ron Rege, Dan Moynihan, Cole Johnson, and one person that I should know but can’t figure out and it’s bugging the hell out of me so let’s just leave it, OK? This is a tall issue with glossy pages, so I have to assume that Dave has made a lot of money recently, so more power to him! What’s there for a reviewer to say about this book anyway? If you like tales of love and loss, then there’s not much better than Dave Kiersh, and this is a collection of stories of that theme from a bunch of the greats, so where could you go wrong? My favorite issue of the series so far, I’m going to guess that it’s $4 because of the fancitude, contact info is all around you!
It’s nice to see Craig tackle a serious subject. Not that I haven’t liked the light-hearted stuff, but I’m always looking for range in people. This is the story of the lead singer of one of the early punk bands in Los Angeles or, as the cover calls it, “The Life and Death of a Germ”. When the worst I can say about a book is that it’s too short, I guess that’s a winner. Still, when you reference 6 different books or articles for your comic, it would be nice if it was longer than 12 pages. Other than that, it was well done. It was a tragic tale, but the details of a lot of it were skimmed over. I would have liked to see more about the man and what drove him. The art was great, as always, and it’s a cheap book at $2. Check it out if you have any interest in the history of punk. Look up there for contact info!
Fuchsia Galactica Summer Special
One thing Craig has no problem with at all is cover design. That’s just gorgeous. The inside is pretty good too, keeping the “all ages” feel that I talked about in his other book. Not that it’s his only other book or anything, just the only other one that I’ve seen. Fuchsia is apparently an intergalactic singing sensation, so most of the stories in here are based off of that fact. There are also a few stories in here about “Soupy -n- Crackers”, two kids who are so precocious that it’s obnoxious, but I guess it fits the idea of maybe getting kids to read this. Fuchsia’s stories involve her getting tricked into performing with a bunch of star imitators, her cat trying to take over the spotlight, and Fuchsia going on vacation with her manager to Venus. Some pretty funny stuff in here, although if you’re incredibly jaded it might be a bit too sunny for you. Hey, I liked it, and the art is gorgeous. Check out the website for more samples so you know if it’s for you, or just send Craig an e-mail. This one is $3…
Go-Go Girl #3
Another random submission, and it’s another good one. This is the one issue I’ve read, so I’m going to be making a few assumptions here, but the stories are all about one female character and her friends. Apparently she’s horny and drinks alone at bars, everything else is a mystery. Topics dealt with here are hypnotism, child bullies, falling off of bar stools and dates with rock stars. It has an “all ages” feel to it, even with all the drinking and what-not. Probably because it’s a fun read and it extremely good-natured. The art is crisp, the stories are quick and funny, and the layout (look at that cover!) is just incredible. A solid book, I’m looking forward to seeing more. Check out his website or just send him money at: 7 Weld Hill St. #2R, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130.