I probably wouldn’t have thought it possible to boil down a 35 year friendship through a relatively short graphic novel, but I would have been very wrong. Marinaomi introduces us to three young girls at the beginning (the story starts when she’s 8): herself, her best friend Harmony and the “competition,” Mirabai. Harmony gradually fades away as the story progresses (if there was any dramatic reason for this I missed it entirely), and the rest of the story is told mostly through single page stories depicting an event from a certain period of time. There are little bits from early in her schooling (including her trying desperately to get Maribai to like her by agreeing with whatever she said, not understanding that she might be testing her), her gradually getting accepted, Maribai standing up for her at a slumber party, her first experiences with booze, and watching as all of her guy friends fell in love with Maribai and not her. From there we see some time gaps as the two communicated less and less, although I’ll let you find out the reasons why for yourself. OK, I’ll spoil one tiny thing, mostly because it happened to me too recently: if there’s anybody in your past who you once loved very much (friend, I mean), and you’re not talking to them now because you assume that they hate you… maybe call them? It might turn out that they thought the same thing about you and that the whole thing is one big stupid waste of time/misunderstanding. Or I guess maybe they really do hate you, in which case you can go right back to not speaking to them. Win/win, really. Anyway, this is a great example of an enduring friendship, one that goes right back to normal after years apart, and all the little things from the past that make up such a friendship. It’s a phenomenal book, and if you’re estranged from any long time friends you really could learn something from this. $9
Hey kids, or anybody who has started reading comics in the last few years? Are you interested in the history of mini comics, why they’re such a source of passion for so many people? Well, maybe not in numbers, but in level of interest and dedication in following certain artists? Your answer is this volume. If you have no interest in the history, away with you! This one can be for the old timers. This is a collection of the best of the “Not My Small Diary” anthology, and if you read small press comics in the 90’s and 00’s, you will recognize plenty of these names. In fact, good luck not getting lost in a Google hole or trying to figure out what so many of these people are up to these days. Notable names include (but are not limited to) Jeff Zenick, Dan Zettwoch, Patrick Dean, Raina Telgemeier, Jesse Reklaw, Carrie McNinch, Sam Spina, Roberta Gregory, Kurt Wolfgang… you know what, there are just too damned many names, and they’re all in the tags, so check that part out. If any of those names made you say “hey, I wonder what they’re up to these days” then this book is for you. These are mostly snippets of stories, but they’re all complete by themselves. Sometimes the stories follow a theme, like notable dates or moments in their lives, but really they’re all over the place. If it seems like I’m avoiding getting into specifics, that is entirely the case. If you were around for all these artists when they first started, you’re going to get lost in this instantly. If not, this is an excellent way for you to figure out what the big deal was about these people all along. I guess it’s possible that it’s the nostalgia talking and that people might not connect to these stories now, but screw that. These are tales of human weakness (and occasionally triumph), and those stories are universal and timeless. Most of the original issues of this series are out of print, so this is your best option all around. The book itself is $7.50 if you see Delaine at a convention, but if not $10 should be enough to cover the shipping, and I really can’t recommend this enough. It’s rare for any anthology not to have a weak story or two, but these are all golden.
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
Has the theme of falling on your face/ass/other ever been the subject of a comics anthology before? I can’t think of one, but it’s such a natural fit. This naturally made me think of various falls in my life, and I kept coming back to one what wasn’t really a fall and also wasn’t me. I was walking with a couple of friends on an icy road years ago. One of these friends is 6’6”, and my other friend and I noticed him start to slide. This is one of those moments when time slows down, but after the fact we would both swear that he had fallen far enough backwards for the back of his head to slide on the ground, but he somehow more or less kept his balance and never did completely fall. Not sure even today if that’s a good story or a “you had to be there” story, but it’s notable that I still remember it maybe 15 years later. Anyway! The point of that story is that it’s impossible to read this comic without thinking of pratfalls you know and love, and Rob has assembled quite a talented bunch here to tell their stories. There’s Carrie McNinch’s story of getting her thumb slammed in the door (and her mother driving away with said thumb stuck in the door), Becky Hawkins and her amazing collection of bruises and cuts (not the mention her ridiculously unlucky landing spot), Aron Nels Steinke almost knocking his eye out, Tessa Brunton’s spectacular rolling fall, John Porcellino’s skateboarding mess, Jason Viola’s trip to Russia and the impression he must have left with some of those people, Noah Van Sciver and his preventative precautions taken to prevent ever being hurt again, Cara Bean’s skiing “mishap”, MariNaomi’s bowling injury (yes, it is possible), the cat of Gabrielle Gamboa taking her eyebrow, Tony Breed getting away with one, Max Clotfelter getting seriously punched, and the causes of Rob Kirby’s various scars from waiting tables. With a list of talent like that I doubt that I have to do much convincing, so just do yourself a favor and pick this up. Then, if you haven’t already, work your way back through the older comics of these folks. You deserve it! $5
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