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
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
Ah, the collection of three different comic artists, it just doesn’t happen enough.Â Sometimes bigger anthologies can get unwieldy, but one with one three people gives them all room to tell a story, and this one even manages to be full color!Â Well, Joey’s story is full color, the other two are yellow and blue respectively.Â Eric Orner is up first with the bulk of the comic, dealing with his time in Israel, his reluctance to learn the language (he was sure that he was going to be transferred out at any time), his time in gay bars and meeting guys for sex online, and a charming piece of English graffiti that he kept seeing around town. Joey Alison Sayers is up next, and while my ego is not big enough to think that she started using “Alison” because I mistakenly called her “he” on an old review, I do think that her inclusion of a middle name is a new development.Â For those of you keeping track of such things, and shame on you for being so obsessive, you imaginary obsessive you. Her story deals with a landscaping job and the awkward question asked by the owner of the house.Â My sample will give that question away, but the ending to that page was too good to pass up, and the strip gets better from there anyway.Â Finally there’s the piece from Robert Kirby that deals with his constant desire as a child to be hidden and/or invisible, his chance meeting of a three-legged dog and his anti-climactic “running away” from his boyfriend at the time with only a Visa card and $67. Each piece had plenty to offer, and that story from Eric could be a comic all by itself. If you enjoy a great anthology but sometimes get overwhelmed by the sheer number of names attached, I’d say that this comic was made for you.Â Sure, it’s a little pricey at $6.25, but I did mention all that gorgeous color, right?