And to think that I was regretting saving this one for last. After that Bogus Dead book in the middle of the week I was pretty sure nothing else was going to touch it, then along comes this book. In my opinion. there are two ways to make a great anthology. You can either have a lot of pieces, fast and furious, and you’ll come away with a good impression of the book as long as the majority of them are solid, or you can have a book with only a select few, long pieces. Orchid is comprised of seven long tales adaptations of gothic stories. The only one that didn’t do anything for me was Poe’s “The Raven”, and that’s mostly just because I’ve seen so many adaptations of it at this point in my life that I just don’t want to see it again. A personal problem of mine, granted, but that doesn’t change the fact that everything else in here is creepy and good. Kevin Huizenga (the back says that he “used to do a comic book named Supermonster”. Please don’t tell me that he’s done, that’s one of the best series out there and I only just found out about it!) has the longest piece, a disturbing tale about the power of visions. Here’s a list of the other names, and let me know if you need and more convincing: Lark Pien & Jesse Reklaw, Ben Catmull, T. Edward Bak, David Lasky, and Dylan Williams. It’s only $8 and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Get this and Bogus dead and your anthology needs for the year should be pretty much met. If the website still isn’t working, you can send money to: Spark Plug Comics P. O. Box 10952 Portland, OR 97296-0952.
There are some reviews that just write themselves. Look, I’ll give you the part of the lineup (that way part of it is still a mystery!) for the anthology, OK? Neil Fitzpatrick, Souther Salazar, Josh Simmons, Paul Hornschemeier, Marc Bell, Dylan Williams, and Scott Mills. The idea here is that everybody picks up after everybody else, in whatever manner they see fit. For example, Dylan Williams has a short story about a man in a bar, complaining about music, until he sees “Me and My Demon Speeder are Gonna Win This Race” written on the bathroom wall. Marc Bell picks up right there, with a character that only Marc Bell could draw, in a race, on something that looks like a demon speeder. Some of the transitions are smooth, some of them aren’t, but this book is a tremendous experiment regardless. Yes, I know it’s been done before, but this book is $10 and hefty, so it’s nice to see it being done on a larger scale. My only beef is that the pages aren’t marked, so it’s hard at times to tell what artist is drawing certain pages. Still, a minor thing, and something that could probably be remedied with a trip around my website, looking at samples from everybody in it, if only I wasn’t so damned lazy. Here’s hoping the contact info above is correct, it’s the only address I have…
Before I get started, let me make one thing completely clear: this book is beautifully done. I don’t know if you can tell from that scan or not, but the cover was completely hand-sewn for each issue, with a different pattern on each cover. The toughest part about buying it was deciding which cover I liked the most. David couldn’t even tell me how long it took to put an issue together because he said it was a process that had many steps. That’s dedication, folks. I should also mention that his girlfriend (?) Nami Biggs designed it. Anyway, the actual comic. It’s good stuff, an anthology with a couple familiar names and a couple of unfamiliar ones. Really, if the pages were all blank I’d still say that you should buy this for the cover alone, but the stories range from good to great. I think I might have misjudged Dylan Williams too, if the one issue I read was a tiny part of a much greater whole like this story suggests. Hey, I’ll change my opinion when I read more of them, OK? David’s story is the longest in this volume and is projected to be much longer. It’s good so far, but I like seeing the whole thing with stories like that. Other names include Chris Wright, Scott McKibben, Jonathon Russell, Michael Bonfiglio, Michael Hall, Carrie Golus. and Lance Simmons. Contact info for all is included and, seriously, get a copy of this. You won’t regret it. E-mail David, I’ve heard that #5 is out now too.
Reporter: Little Black Now Available! $8
If you thought that things were starting to come together after reading the first four issues of the Reporter series but hadn’t seen any of the scattered smaller stories, you haven’t seen anything yet. This book touches on just about everything that’s important, further fleshing everything out. Every time I read any of his books I want to read the other ones right away just so I can see how everything is coming together. The character guide at the start of the book is invaluable too. Usually I just ignore things like that, with this book I found myself constantly referencing it to make sure I knew who they were talking about. We get to see a lot more of Sylvia, find out what The Sloth’s story is, see the bandaged men in a quiet moment… There are all kinds of wonderful little stories in here. Some are as short as a page, the last one in the book is almost a full length comic at 17 pages. Look, just buy them all. Otherwise you won’t know everything that’s going on, and I get the feeling that you really have to know everything. Check out the new website!
Reporter #6 Now Available! $4
This seems to be a page full of rants, doesn’t it? It’s purely because I see this as something that has serious potential to be read over and over again, something that rewards careful reading… and something that doesn’t come out nearly often enough for this impatient brain to deal with. Just wanted to make that perfectly clear. This issue is essentially a series of philosophical discussion, done with a new hire, Adam Jones, as he wanders around an office party. He manages to annoy everybody he talks to, but the conversations along the way are fascinating, dealing with making a living at what you love (and how, if you can’t make a living, it must be because you’re not any good at it), religion, and politics. And yes, I probably should be more descriptive, but when a book is a series of conversations, detailing the exact direction of those conversations kills more than a bit of the mystery. I have no idea how this fits into the grand Reporter picture (although Dylan does insist on the inside cover that it all does fit together), but it’s a fairly compelling book on its own. I noticed looking around the page that I never got around to reviewing Reporter #1. Maybe in a few weeks (which sometimes translates to “a few years” around here) I can get around to that, read the whole series for the first time in years and get a more complete picture of where this might be going. Hey, this page is already fragmented enough, why not have a complete series review under the first issue? $4
Reporter #5 Now Available! $3
You know what I miss about reading comics? Being able to go to the store every month and reading a new installment of a story. Granted, that was back when I was reading mostly genre crap, but dammit, I knew that every month (give or take a week) I would be getting another installment of Quasar or whatever the hell it was. The list of people in the small press world who keep anything remotely approaching that kind of schedule is tiny, and it’s something I don’t think about all that often, to be honest… until I come across something like Reporter. The last time I read a new issue of this was three years ago. Granted, this didn’t JUST come out, and it’s my fault for not reading it when it did, but even so, I’m not seeing any new books on the website either. Look, if you have a potential epic like this, I know there are plenty of things in the world to distract you from doing another issue, but have a little sympathy on the poor readers you’ve hooked into really enjoying this story. OK, rant over, and this isn’t just about Dylan (obviously, as he’s running Spark Plug Comics along with putting these out and living some sort of, you know, life), it’s just a pet peeve I have with the small press books in general. Oh yeah, the comic. This is the story of an African-American group of soldiers in a war of some kind. It’s never explained much more than that, and this is basically them walking through enemy territory. An OK issue on its own, it remains to be seen how it fits into the big picture, which could always make it a much better issue. Still, not much to latch onto as my only dose of Reporter in so long, which explains the bitch-fest above. $3
Reporter #4 Now Available! $3
Note from 7/7/02: I’m a moron. I read some of the other issues and this issue makes perfect sense to me now. I’m just going to leave this review up in case anybody out there thinks that I know what I’m talking about. This should disprove that theory…
If there was one name that was repeated to me over and over again from all corners of the small press world, it was Dylan Williams. Everybody said that I just had to put him on my page, that his Reporter series was possibly the best mini going (depending on who you ask). So, naturally, I had extremely high expectations for this, and I’m sorry to say that they weren’t met, at least not in this issue. It’s the story of an armored car robbery, with a slight twist: it’s a silent issue. The previous silent comics that I’ve seen were pretty slow and the silence accentuated the mood. It’s a bold move to make an issue about a robbery silent, but it just didn’t work for me. I read it twice today and I still don’t know exactly what happened. I think I finally figured out where everybody involved is now and some of what happens, but it’s still kind of a blur. Were parts of it flashbacks? Which parts? There aren’t any breaks, and it’s really hard to tell what’s happening when. I feel like there’s one simple element that I’m missing to bring the whole thing together, but until I figure that out this issue is going to remain a disappointment. Keep in mind, though, that I’m still going to buy the other issues of this series, mostly because everybody thinks so highly of him. And, I feel obligated to point out again that I’m the only person out there who doesn’t think of this guy as the Jesus of the small press scene, and that’s based on one short, silent issue. To say that he’s not worth checking out is ridiculous. All I’m saying is that this isn’t the issue to start with. If I experience a moment of absolute clarity and this whole thing comes together, I’ll let you know and apologize for being a moron. Until then, go with one of the earlier issues and see what you think. E-mail the man or send him $3 for a sample issue at: PO Box 10952 Portland, OR 97296-0952.
Reporter #3 Now Available! $3
Remember back in my review for #4 (which, in my defense, was the only issue that I had) when I said that I just didn’t see what all the fuss was about? Well, I was thoroughly, completely and utterly wrong. This story is what they call a rich tapestry. It looks like everything is eventually going to come together and make sense, but I honestly don’t even care if it does because the individual issues are just a blast. #1 was a great setup for some of the characters and what’s going on. I don’t have #2 yet, but #3 tells the story of what happens after the robbery in #4 (and you wonder why I was confused) and Adam’s role in it. The whole thing was wonderfully done, right down to his internal dialogue when he finds… um, at some point in the story. Trying not to give anything away here, OK? This one is a bit pricey at $3, but has that ever stopped you before? Seriously, I guess it probably has on a few things, but this is well worth it. I’m going to get #2 as soon as I have enough money to buy some stuff from USS Catastrope and I can’t wait to see what all the short stories are about, how they all tie in with everything else. I’m thoroughly hooked now. Dylan Williams, get to work!
Reporter #2 Now Available! $2.50
Is it OK to call something a rich tapestry if it’s only a few issues old? Well, if it is, then that’s what this is. This issue is the one that I’d been missing in the series, and it really didn’t fill in any holes like I thought it would. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. This is all about two people meeting and getting to know each other. The thing is that one of them is a ghost, and I don’t think I’m giving anything away by telling you that because that’s basically the description for the issue on the order form inside the book. It’s possible that I wouldn’t even know that if I hadn’t read said description, as it’s very subtle and understated. Anybody who’s read one of these knows that they’re all essential, right? For everybody else, this is a wonderfully self-contained issue that barely hints at the much larger picture. My only complaint is that the dialogue seems a bit forced at times, but this is about a couple of teenagers. It’s $2.50, do yourself a favor and get the whole bunch of these at once so you can see them how they’re meant to be seen.
Reporter #1 Now Available! $2.50
For fans of comics reviewed in chronological order: or the page for this author, forget it.Â I think I reviewed #4 first, then #3, then #2, then maybe the Little Black book, #5, #6 and now back to #1.Â Oh, and #3 occurs after the events in #4.Â So really, just forget it and enjoy them as self-contained stories for the moment.Â When #7 comes out I’ll read all of these in a bunch and give my thoughts on the whole deal, for now I’m just going back to the beginning.Â It’s instantly obvious that Reporter has its own niche, as the first page has a man, wrapped in bandages, slam his hand in the car door.Â Apparently this isn’t the first time this has happened, and we’re taken (without explanation) right to a diner.Â At this diner a conversation between two writers is happening, one of whom is interviewing the other.Â The interviewee has been recording everything going on around him for years, to the point that he now has a home full of notebooks detailing everything, from every angle, that has been going on around him for years.Â The bandaged man comes back into the picture (after a brief, unexplained appearance by the ex of the interviewer), and it turns out that he had given the interviewer a story, as the interviewer had trouble coming up with his own story ideas.Â The bulk of the rest of this comic is the story he was given, a tale about a giant underwater statue.Â I’m sure I’ve said it before on this page, but I love the fact that this is so clearly a complete puzzle in Dylan’s head and he’s only giving us the corner pieces.Â As long as it makes sense in the end and the stories are compelling in the meantime, I have something approaching limitless patience for this sort of thing.Â If you don’t, well, there are plenty of self-contained graphic novels and the like all over this website, check those out.Â For those of you who don’t mind taking your time for an eventual big reward, I can’t recommend this series highly enough.Â $2.50
Windy Corner Magazine #2 edited by Austin English Now Available! $10
Why on earth would you put out a magazine like this (as it contains brilliant and vibrant colors throughout) and give it a black and white cover?Â Sorry, I just felt the urge to get my one tiny complaint about this issue out of the way early.Â This is more of an anthology than a traditional magazine, if that makes any difference to any of you.Â There are two pieces here that are full of text, one of which is Austin discussing the art of Lois Lenski at length and the other is an interview between Onsmith (interviewer) and John Hankiewicz (interviewee).Â This interview is absolutely priceless, as who in the comics world would you want to see interviewed more than John?Â OK, it’s possible that there are people you’d rather read about, but John’s work contains so much in every panel and every issue that it was greatly informative to see him break down what he’s doing (or trying to do, in some cases), how he manages to put that level of detail and crosshatching into every panel and how his creative process has evolved through the years.Â Then, of course, there’s the comics.Â This begins on the inside front cover with two short pieces by Mollie Goldstrom (contemplative pieces on the outdoors) and quickly moved to three stories by Austin.Â There’s a trip to the Planetarium as a child and his innocent and wide-eyed reactions, the second part of a series called Francis (and I really should have read the first issue before this), and the memory of a trip to the movies with his parents as a child.Â For anybody who complains about the price of these magazines, and they are a bit steep in these times, the fact that Austin’s work is able to be produced in color because of it is worth the price of admission.Â That still leaves two comics: a piece by Fiona Logusch about the entanglements of relationships and how hard it is to get free and an autobiographical piece by Dylan Williams about his mail relationship with Alex Toth, what he learned from him and Dylan’s own progression as an artist through the years.Â As a whole it’s damned near flawless, assuming you’re a fan of the people mentioned above, and why on earth wouldn’t you be?Â Even if you’re not, picking this up and reading this will make you a fan.Â Don’t take my word for it; a glance around this website will show you work from everybody in this issue, then you can make up your own mind.Â $10