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Various Artists – Cringe




Quick, think of the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you. Now imagine yourself writing and drawing a comic story about it. That right there should make you cringe, which means you’re in luck, as that’s what this anthology is all about! This book has right around 30 small press artists, some new and some who have been around for awhile, who are willing to share some shameful incident from their past. I don’t think anything in here will get anybody put in jail, but it’s hard not to cringe while reading some of these. I’m not going to review every story because there are so damned many of them (and for a measly $8!), but the highlights include Shaenon K. Garrity wetting herself while out with a group of other cartoonists (including a big name guy, but I won’t spoil the surprise; I particularly loved the way she ended her strip), Sam Spina’s unfortunate method for drinking a rum shot when he met the Bacardi girls, Adam Pasion’s particularly gruesome retelling of an incident involving a finger in the eye, Geoff Vasile dodging a bullet (not literally), Chad Essley and his series of embarrassing moments (hard to top the one where he volunteered to breakdance at school on stage), Fred Noland’s theories on some crayons he used to own, Chad Woody and his racist former roommate, Box Brown and his former habit of eating light bulbs (it’s not quite as life-threatening as it sounds), Stephen Notley and his experience of being “that guy” at a comic convention (you know the one, the guy who gets up to ask a rambling and pointless question and has no idea how to get out of it once he gets started), and Sam Henderson’s experiences with having seizures while surrounded by strangers. It’s a damned fine mix of stories, and at a ridiculously cheap price. Save yourself the embarrassment of not owing this anthology of embarrassment! Ugh, I feel dirty for saying that. I’ll let myself out… $8


Various Artists – Hic & Hoc Illustrated Journal of Humour Volume 2: The United Kingdom



The Hic & Hoc Illustrated Journal of Humour Volume 2: The United Kingdom

Hey look, anthology reviews on back to back days! Readers in the future, never mind about that comment, but for today I can compare the two, and I’m happy to say that this one got every single little thing right that made me cranky about the last one. Clear and legible table of contents, the pages are numbered, and most of the strips had the name of the artist on the bottom of the page. Yep, my only complaint here is that they managed to put together an anthology of U.K. cartoonists and left Rob Jackson out of it, but maybe he lives somewhere else and I’m just confused. OK fine, so they got the basics right. What about the quality? Pretty much top-notch all around, which is always at least slightly rare for an anthology with this many people in it. Highlights include a chopsticks dilemma by Luke Pearson, putting all of the eggs in one basket by Lizz Lunney, the wisdom of using egg whites instead of cream by Philippa Rice, the fantastically destructive Skull Force by Jack Teagle, one seriously destructive romance by Luke Pearson, a great example of a comic about nothing that ends up being pretty damned great by James Downing, a horror show called Dream Leader by Joe List, an excellent way to turn the tables on door to door salesmen by Joe Decie, deciding who you would like to survive the apocalypse along with you by Stephen Collins, video game monster advice by Dan Berry, judging someone from their shoes by Lizz Lunney, “I Was Attacked by some Naked Children” by Isaac Lenkiewicz, being stuck as a conscious fossil by Kristyna Baczynski, terrible story ideas that Gareth Brookes has been given over the years, and the Death Train by Lizz Lunney. Huh, I seemed to like Lizz Lunney’s work quite a bit, but there’s a pile of great stuff in here. Check it out, support both Hic & Hoc and the idea of getting more international anthologies going over here in the U.S. $12


Gennis, Emi (editor) – Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends



Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends

You should have a pretty easy time knowing whether or not you’d be inclined to like this book from the title alone, and I’m happy to tell you that the contents more than live up to it. Emi has been doing mini comics on this theme for a few years now, and she took her chance to edit this anthology and ran with it, doing a really fantastic job of picking out/accepting these stories. I should say up front that I have no patience for those stupid “ghost hunting” shows with the shaky cams and the loud noises and won’t believe that aliens have visited us until I see solid proof (which is not the same thing as declaring that no other life exists in the universe), but overall this isn’t that type of book. These are all, as Emi says in the introduction, unsolved mysteries, so the reader doesn’t get the satisfaction of getting the story neatly tied up in a bow by the end. Instead you’re left wondering what the hell happened for these 32 stories. If you’re a naturally curious person and/or at all interested in the weird and bizarre then you’ve probably already stopped reading this and ordered a copy. For those of who are too polite to quit reading in the middle of the review (and it’s OK if you do, I’ll never know), subjects include a mysterious gelatinous goo that rained down on a town, the monster with 21 faces, an unexplained shower of meat from the sky, an arcade game that quickly came and went in 1981 under mysterious circumstances, a tumor that was bigger than the carrier, Gef (of which I will say no more but this may have been the most intriguing tale in the book), that weird hum in the air that some people can hear all the time, the Nain Rouge and his continuing destruction of Detroit, the money pit of Oak Island (which some bored billionaire should look into), creepy kids with black eyes trying to enter homes, the Leatherman and theories of who he might have been, unsolved murders at a campsite, the former Prime Minister of Australia vanishing while swimming, the missing body of Addie Mae Collins, why 9 campers in Siberia ran from the safety of their tent (sometimes barefoot) and why they never went back to it, two bodies and their lead masks, Rasputin (an oldie but a goodie), Frederick Valentich and the UFO that seemed to by toying with him, D.B. Cooper and his disappearance (it’s an ever funnier story to anybody who watched Justified this season), a bridge where 600 dogs have committed suicide, the Axeman, and a serious skeleton in the closet of Orson Welles (possibly). DC comics used to do a series of “Big Books” on various subjects, and after seeing this I’d suggest that they start it up again and put Emi in charge. Not every story was perfect, granted, but good luck not having several of these stories haunt your dreams. Also good luck on not taking to the internet to learn more about them, as I already know how I’m spending the rest of my afternoon. And look at that pile of talent in the tags section! Why would you possibly need any more convincing to check this out? $12