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
When they say this is 18+, they are not fucking around. Just a warning to all you sensitive souls out there. This is a collection of stories about Dads, featuring that list of names on the cover (seriously, click on it to check it out if you want, I’m not going to type them all here). As you might expect, very few of these stories are positive, and most of them aren’t true, but they are funny stories.Â Highlights include Neal Blanden’s story about not being able to visit his mother for the last two months of her life because his Dad was seeing another woman, Dexter Cockburn (a hilariously fake name) and his story about a Dad helping out with an “adventure club” and his noticing how one of the girl members has blossomed, Glenn Smith and his litany of Dads throughout history, Julie Doye and her Dad’s new teeth, Anton Emdin with his “Deadbeat Dad” strips (which, if there were any justice in the world, would be in newspapers across the globe), Mike Diana playing with the concept of a Dad and his two-way mirror, Ryan Vella with the shortest “Tales From the Crypt” story ever, Chris Mikul with one of the few seemingly true stories in the book, and Lark with a brilliant bit of father/son bonding. There’s also an accurate table of contents (I bitch when it isn’t present, so I should praise when it is, right?), a series of reviews on other minis, and plenty of other fair to great stories in here that I haven’t mentioned to save you some surprises.Â No idea on the price of this thing, as the website doesn’t have a listing, but I’d have to say at least $7 for the fancy front and back cover and the sheer size of the thing. Contact the website, why don’t you, and you should also go there because the guy apparently spends a lot of time reviewing comics and such, which I clearly think is a good use of free time.
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…
The good news? This is huge and quite possibly my favorite comic that Josh has done. The bad news? It won’t be done until 2050. Seriously. He’s doing one page of this a month so, assuming we all live so long, that’s about when he thinks he’ll wrap this story out. Ambitious, to say the least, but I hope he at least has the decency to throw us another one of these big books every five years or so. This is the story of Jessica Farm on Christmas Day, waking up to learn that there’s a pile of presents waiting for her downstairs. This news is blunted somewhat by the fact that her father, who is portrayed as a shadowy monster, is waiting for her and things aren’t going to go well for her when she does open those presents. So she drops completely into a fantasy world of her toys, a tower and a lover, and the creepiest closet I’ve ever seen. Christ, every bit of this, from the reluctant guardian of a closet, to a mariachi band that seems to exist only to serve her, to her lover who wants more than she’s willing to give, to… well, I’ve already probably said too much. There’s no rush to get this if you’re looking for any sense of closure, obviously, but I really think that he hasn’t done a better comic than this. $4
All About Fuckin’ #10
It’s the last issue of his anthology comic about fucking, and he’s certainly put together a nice final issue. All sorts of folks with pieces in here including Caesar Meadows, Nick Jeffrey, Mike Diana, Jeff Brown, Jennifer Sleepwalker, Zack Soto, Thomas Herpich, and plenty more that I hadn’t heard of. It’s 80 pages long, so there’s a lot of fucking to see here.. This is much more diverse than the other issues that I had seen, which makes it a much better comic. Josh has a series of “Little Known Sexual Practices” that’s worth the price of the book right there, but there’s a ton to see here. I’m guessing it’s around $5 because it’s so huge, but you might want to find out from the man himself. Contact info is up there, and I think everybody reading this knows that they have to be mature to read this…
All About Fuckin’ #9
Geez, that cover was creepy enough before my scanner decided to turn it into a rainbow. This is one of those cases where the title says it all: it’s all about fucking. It’s a collection of art and pictures from various artists with messages about all manner of fucking and all kinds of violence that is associated with fucking. There’s not much to it besides that. Maybe one comic story in here, and none of the pictures are exactly intended to titillate. It’s an interesting concept, for those of you who want to see sex made as ugly as possible in some cases, but some of pictures certainly made me think. E-mail the man for info, he puts these together on a fairly regular basis…
Here’s the last issue of Happy (he’s concentrating on putting one big book out a year instead, as most people seem either unable or unwilling to keep any kind of a regular series going), so enjoy it! In here is the last part of the Cirkus storyline, which has kind of an anticlimactic ending, but I can’t see how else it was going to end. More incredibly odd and/or offensive things happen, a visual smorgasbord, if you will, and then it’s over. Next is a series of monster pictures, showing how they’ve lost all power in the modern day. Then you have a tract about females in general, which I thought was a rambling piece that didn’t touch some of his previous rants, although a few good points were made. Finally you have a short story about dental floss (sort of) and another, better rant about how comics are the best thing in the universe and everybody who reads/writes comics is much better than everyone else. His tongue was just slightly in cheek for this one, in case you were wondering. So it’s $3.50, these issues are all going to be collector’s items one day (assuming that people are reading anything at all in ten years, but then maybe they’ll be collectors items as one of the last examples of naked people anywhere!), so buy them while you can!
For those of you who hated his mini a few years back about his time traveling with a “circus” (scroll to the top of the page to see what I’m talking about), well, this is a continuation of his travels, so don’t bother. For those of you who thought it was all too confusing to keep up with, I think he does a much better job in here of putting everything together. Hey, it is a story about a wide array of people doing a variety of things, you know, and he has to try and squeeze in a reaction or two of his own here and there. ots of the things you’d expect a traveling show to encounter are in here. Venereal disease, licking a dog’s butt, Sasquatch, a clown, pies, fights, and a lot of drinking. Which only scratches the surface, really, but why go on? If this is the kind of thing you’d want to read you already know it, and if you hated the other mini you probably won’t give this a chance no matter how much I tell you to (although you really should pick it up). I liked it, so should you! $3.50, contact info is around here somewhere…
Is it too much to hope that eventually comics will gain widespread acceptance? See, there are probably plenty of people who just don’t care, and I’m usually one of them. But I was struck last night by the fact that this is exactly the kind of comic that has all the potential to be read by all kinds of people and loved but just doesn’t quite pull it off. I should make one thing clear before you start to draw conclusions: I loved this comic. Absolutely thought it was one of the best things I’ve read in months, a whole lot better than the first issue. That being said, his 7 page intro to his autobio tale about a day at the baseball park with his Dad was sure to turn off everybody who didn’t have an in-depth knowledge of autobio comics. Does that matter? Should anybody ever cater to the possibility that non-comics people might pick up an issue? No, pretty much never, in my opinion, but this is just the kind of thing that cements the fact that comics are going to keep their tiny audience and probably go no farther. I don’t want to spoil anything because everybody should really buy this, but I think this issue by itself should establish Josh as a name in comics, whatever that means. I laughed out loud more than a few times. He raised a lot of good points about how self-absorbed autobio comics are, but… well, decide for yourself. Helping Hand was the highlight of the book but, again, I’m not going to tell you what it’s about. And no, it doesn’t have anything to do with a elephant, bunny or chicken. Read it!
This is what is known as a “mood comic”, at least in my own personal dictionary. I still think that there will be a time and place when I enjoy this comic quite a bit (or even a time, a few hours or a few days from now, when I laugh at loud at something in this), but I’m writing this review right now, and right now I’m disappointed. Hey, it just didn’t strike me as all that funny. Blame the fact that I just woke up and am too sober to appreciate it if you want, but there you go. This is the single happiest goddamn book on the planet, that much is true. The first story involves the happiest planet in the world with all the happy rabbits who live on it, the second has a high school student get up and explain why the dorks aren’t popular but that they’re OK too, and the third one has two people in love basically talking about that fact. If you think this all sounds funny, maybe you’re right and I just wasn’t reading it right. And there’s more to all the stories, obviously, but I’m not going to give anything away. It’s an OK book, basically, but I was expecting more after the last thing I saw from him. Still, e-mail him if you want or order this from Top Shelf. If you e-mail him he might have some other stuff available too, so go with that. If I change my mind about this in the next few days I’ll tack something on to the end of this, OK?
Cirkus New Orleans
Remember how everybody was doing autobiographical stuff a few years ago and most of it was just plain dull? It’s hard to write about yourself when you have a boring life, after all. Well, Josh Simmons doesn’t have that problem. This is auto-bio done by a guy who knows some extremely interesting people who have a variety of outrageous habits. Oh yeah, and they’re in a traveling “circus”. Kind of like the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, except he talks about things that I’m pretty sure were never done by those other guys. This is one packed book… layers of artwork and words all over the place. You could probably read this three times before you get everything he was trying to say here, and even then you might not get it in the order he was trying to say it. I read on one of the message boards that this was one of the better books of the year, but I don’t know if I’d go that far. Well, I guess it depends how long the list of best books is. If it’s ten books, hell yeah this is up there. If it’s five books it might have a hard time cracking that list, but it’s still a damned good read. Interesting real life stories are hard to come by in comics outside of Dennis Eichorn, so take advantage of this while you can. Before I get any e-mails, yes, I am aware of the works of Chester Brown, Joe Matt and many others. Most of these people who do those stories well have moved on to fiction, so that doesn’t apply to them any more. Stop arguing with me, just buy the damned book. Get it from Top Shelf or e-mail Josh to see what he has around.