Every so often life reminds me that I’ve been meaning to reread all of Shirley Jackson’s work, especially since I mostly read her stuff way back in high school. She holds a unique place in the literary world for a variety of reasons, and it seems like a character flaw on my part that I’m not more familiar with all of her work. Sure, I know The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House (and the first movie adaption of it, The Haunting), but other than that I’ve just read a few scattered short stories. Well, if you’re a better person than me and are already familiar with her works, this book is for you. And if you’re like me and are a bit lacking in your Shirley Jackson knowledge, this book is also for you. If you’re an incurious dullard on this subject, you’re off the hook, I guess. So! Like the title implies, this is an anthology with various artists writing adaptations of her works, with a few of them showing various times of her actual life. Annie Murphy starts things off by showing various quotes from Shirley about her life and her beliefs. Colleen Frakes then has a tale about her own childhood and how her experiences with critics resembles the reaction Shirley got when The Lottery first came out (if you haven’t read any Shirley Jackson stories at all, at least read that one). Oh, and I almost forget to mention the introduction by Robert Kirby, which is especially helpful to people with only a passing familiarity to her work (like me). In other words there’s a lot to like here, and I don’t want to go through it piece by piece (because of my undying belief that being surprised by the stories is half the fun of anthologies), but highlights include Asher & Lillie Craw’s examination of places and food in her stories, the various Shirley Jackson archetypes by Robert Kirby and Michael Fahy, W. Woods with an adaption of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Ivan Velez Jr. with his experiences with oddities and real life and how they connected to his experiences with Shirley’s work, Eric Orner’s tale of the death of a friend and how it related to the Shirley Jackson book he was reading at the time, Rob Kirby with a story of how Shirley once freaked herself out when a red liquid started dripping from the cabinet, and Dan Mazur’s combo adaption of a few of her stories starring Shirley as the witch. So yeah, there are a whole lot of great stories in here, and that’s with me only having a passing knowledge of her work. Imagine how much more you could get out of this is you already knew and loved her! $16.95
Full disclosure time: I think astrology is nonsense. Relatively harmless nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless. It’s fortune telling but made for everybody who was born within the listed month, as if every human in every 12 month period shares the same characteristics, but told in such a way that it could apply to just about anybody regardless. I have occasionally given a sign other than my own to somebody who asked me (at a party or bar, usually) and have delighted in their going on and on about my various characteristics that fit me perfectly while belonging to a completely different astrological sign. I just wanted to make that perfectly clear before I started discussing this book, which is edited by a person who does get a lot of enjoyment out of astrology. 12 cartoonists also offer their takes on their signs, with only a few of them being even slightly skeptical. I could have used more of that, but it’s already pretty clear that I’m biased, so I’ll move on. Rob starts in the introduction with his own history with astrology and what it’s meant to him over the years, but he’s also clear that he doesn’t expect everybody to buy into it and encourages opposing viewpoints. He also provides a detailed description of the various signs and some of the other qualities associated with them, in case you were curious and/or needed context. So now that that’s out of the way, how about the stories? The highlights for me included Whit Taylor’s tale of the struggles of being a Gemini, Tyler Cohen eventually coming around on being a Cancer, Cara Bean (with my favorite piece) of Aslan coming down from the heavens to explain being a Leo to her, Rob Kirby going into specifics about being a Virgo and his experiences both with it and discussing astrology with other people, Rick Worley as one of the few skeptics in regards to being a Libra, Aron Nels Steinke on leaving a movie early (and also how his being an Aquarrius mixed with his wife being an Aires) and Marnie Galloway on being a Pisces (and the most righteously skeptical of the bunch). If you are interested in astrology, even a little bit, there’s a lot to love about this book. If you’re not even a little interested in it, like me, there’s still some great artwork, a few skeptics and an insightful peek into the minds of people who take all this seriously. And if you’re short on money, at least you get an awful lot of comic for $10.95.
The Jernagen Solution
OK, I’ll just tell you up front that this will be one of those cases where I dance around the substance of the story, as I’d like to leave it as a surprise for anybody reading it. Yes, even though the events of this comic should make it clear where things are headed. It’s based on events from 1898, which is far enough removed that nobody living then is still with us today (or if they are they almost certainly were too young to remember this), so why not leave it a surprise? Even if it is kind of a surprise that you can see coming? Let me just put my dancing shoes away and get down to it. This is the story of a revolutionary kind of technology that was discovered in 1898. A reverend (who claimed to have had a vision from god) and a chemist got together and found a way to extract gold from ocean water. As this would lead to gold being available in almost limitless supplies, they then went out to attract donors so that they could build more facilities and extract more gold. The story is told mostly from the point of view of a local journalist (Dan does a fantastic job on the back cover of going over which bits were real and which bits were based on his best guess, and he had to guess the personality of the journalist) and how he goes from skepticism to belief after seeing the process in action. He also documents the change that occurs over the town, as that much money coming in that quickly would be bound to cause some upheaval. There’s a bit of a twist towards the end, which you probably see coming even from reading this review, but I’m not going to be the one to spell it out for you. This is a thoroughly engaging comic that details a bit of American history that I was completely unaware of, and what better reason is there for a historical comic than that? Frankly, I wish more people did comics based on true events (Emi Gennis seemingly has a near-monopoly on it these days), as your options are damned near limitless. It’s a pricey $10, but it’s also a hefty book, so check it out why don’t you? $10