Panel #19: Green
One thing struck me right off the bat in this 19th (!) installment of one of the better anthologies out there: they really could have raised a bigger stink about this being printed on recycled paper. Or, if that “recycling” symbol on the cover is just for show, they missed a golden opportunity to release this book on recycled paper. Either way, making fun of environmentally conscious folks for their preachiness is just too big of a target to ignore (obligatory disclaimer: I agree with the goals of environmentalists, obviously, but their lack of a sense of humor is quite a target). But hey, at least the paper itself is green. This is the usual pile of short pieces by various Columbus artists, and once again the vast majority of the stories ranged between pretty good and damned great. Things start off with a silent piece by Dara Naraghi and Matt Kish detailing the “life” of a can of soda, and it’s a fantastic example of exactly how many things one piece of trash can affect. Andrew Lee and Ben Smith are up next with a piece about the evils of drugs, as told to a pair of stoners by a cartoon anti-drug man. KT Swartz, Brent Bowman and Dara Naraghi are up next with a story about military training and the dangers of not paying attention to your surroundings. I guess this one was “green” because it referenced the military? Or was it because they were outside? I need to stop taking things so literally. Anyway, the next piece called “Luck of the Irish” by Ross Hardy deals with the death of a leprechaun and the search for his gold, because how could you make a book with that title and not have a story about a leprechaun in it? Finally there’s a space adventure by Tony Goins and Craig Bogart that didn’t do a lot for me (five pages isn’t very much room to jump into a space adventure, but they still managed a few good jokes and some effective shouts of “silence!” by the big baddie), but at least they were nice enough to mention that the space explosions were silent, which is something that most movies don’t even manage to get right. There are also a few full pages spreads, one with that delightful Yoda fellow that is also required by law to be in any anthology with this title. I’d probably rank this somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of quality in this Panel series, but considering the fact that a few issues of this series are among my favorite anthologies out there, “the middle” is still pretty damned good. And they managed to keep it at an affordable $3!
Panel #15: The Movies
It’s difficult to tell from that cover scan, but this comic comes in a DVD case. Yep, the Panel folks keep stepping up their game, threatening to finally quit fooling around and design an anthology that is utterly perfect, negating the need for anybody to try again. Of course, if they ever do get there I’ll be the last person to point it out to them, because if I did they might stop putting out anthologies, and nobody who likes comics wants that to happen. So, right off the bat, the DVD case. That cover is pretty great (I particularly enjoyed the “Special Appearance” blurb followed by a couple of new names) but the back cover is pretty sweet too, featuring panels from the comics and a nice synopsis. It houses a regular comic, not some strange hybrid of the two, so don’t be alarmed. The “Chapter Selections” are neatly laid out on this back cover and the bios of all the artists and writers is again a high point. Fine, isn’t there a comic in here? Yep, and it’s over 60 pages at $5, which makes it very cheap considering all the bells and whistles. Well, I guess the only expensive bell and/or whistle would be the DVD case, and they probably found them in a landmine somewhere, as all DVD cases will outlast us multiple times over. Still, kudos. Highlights? There’s Brent Bowman with movie posters for theoretical movies that never got made (oh, to live in the universe where Kubrick directed “Lord of the Rings”), Sean McGurr & Tim McClurg with a simple but accurate description of the many assholes you’ll run into at a theater these days, Craig Bogart remaking an old Panel story by Andy Bennett, Dara Naraghi & Dan Barlow going through the excruciating process of making their own movie (and the hilarious premiere night), Tony Goins coming to the logical conclusion that you’d be better off just making a comic, Sean McGurr & Brent Bowman telling the story of Sean’s (or maybe Brent’s) fear about terrorists at the Spiderman 2 premiere in 2004 and Ross Hardy with a tale of various Star Wars characters locked in a drunken card game and talking about the films. The Matt Kish pieces were a bit of a highlight, as usual, but odd as they were both written by other people (Dara Naraghi and Sean McGurr respectively), even though they were both explicitly about Matt. The first was his reaction to the awful (hypothetical; we should be so lucky) Spudd 64 adaptation and the second was Matt illustrating some of the classic lines from Star Trek 2, which wouldn’t seem to require much of a writer at all, but what do I know? I think the man is on the right track and that he should immediately start drawing more of his interpretations of famous movie lines, but I’m biased enough to wish that Matt would also draw a running commentary of my life. I left out some pieces for no good reason really, as there wasn’t a terrible piece in the bunch, just a few I enjoyed slightly more than the others. Buy this, why don’t you, these people need to know that what they’re doing is seen far and wide and that people want them to keep it up. $5
The Solar Brothers Volume II
What do you call a comic that isn’t a sketchbook but also isn’t a comic with any sort of linear story?Â Let me know if you come up with something, because that’s what this book is.Â Here’s how Matt describes the contents: “being a record primarily of the extra-planetary inhabitants of the pre-main sequence ternary star system AB Doradus”.Â So, in other words, this is a comic with Matt doing what he does best: drawing completely random but somehow vaguely connected creatures that could not possibly exist in this world but quite possibly should.Â Is that too long to use a description of his work?Â Probably.Â Personally, I miss his Spudd 64 story, but he seems to have gone in the direction of this and drawing an image for each page of Moby Dick (and you should really click on his website to check that stuff if ever read Moby Dick, he has over 250 images up already and it seems to be increasing steadily).Â Usually there would be something here remotely resembling a review, but for this I got nothin’.Â I can’t get enough of his artwork for whatever reason, so picking this up at SPACE was a no-brainer for me.Â If you feel the same way about his stuff then it’ll be an equally easy choice for you.Â If not, well, maybe you should try it out, either through this or some of the old issues of Spudd 64.Â I had trouble picking the sample image, which is the only seal of approval a book like this needs from me.Â No price, so I’m going to go with $4.
Panel #11: Work
The Panel crew is at the point where they could coast. They have a solid, consistent group of contributors, a near-limitless capacity to come up with new subjects for the individual issues and (I would hope, anyway) a group of people who will check out any future issues. And still they manage to keep everything fresh, starting right away with the packaging. Yes, that is a plain old interoffice envelope, familiar to any of us who have spent any time in an office, signed apparently by all the creators. Inside of this envelope is a series of individual mini comics (and one printed on a large sheet of paper), meaning that they can all be sold by the creators individually at cons or whatnot. To top it all of is the “memo” inside, an introduction to the comics, using all the appropriate buzz words like proactive, impactful and synergistic. An instant work of art, and I haven’t even mentioned any of the comics. The big sheet of paper is Broken, a silent story by Brent Bowman of a repairman witnessing the end of a relationship. Next is All in a Night’s Work by Dara Naraghi & Matt Kish, another silent tale about a day in the life of a henpecked knight, and you know I’m going to love anything that gives Matt the chance to draw dragons and various odd creatures. Pyramid Scheme by Brent Bowman & Sean McGurr is a tale of a man trying to convince his friend of the validity of his pyramid scheme, and this comic is actually shaped like a pyramid, although this point I think they’re just flaunting their creative awesomeness. Craig Bogart is up next with A Strange Farewell to Reginald Everbest, in which the people of a town don’t show enough respect when the town mortician dies, leaving the dead to rise up and do it themselves. Molly Durst has Wink! Wink! An Interview Gone Wrong, in which the interviewee has a nervous twitch that makes him wink, but I’m not going to spoil the punchline. Finally there’s Goby by Steven Black & Tim McClurg, another silent piece, and the one that made the least sense to me. There’s a little fish, see, and it gets thrown back after getting caught by a fisherman. Then said fish is swallowed by an octopus, which gets captured and cut up, which reveals the fish, which then transforms into a mermaid, and then time moves forward about 50 years, bringing a snail onto the scene… Sorry, that one lost me. It looks gorgeous though, and that has to count for something. The fact that this is still going strong at #11 is impressive as hell to me, as is the fact that you can pick up just about any issue of this series at any given con and expect a quality anthology. $4 and worth every penny…
Panel X: Sex
Well, it’s about damned time they got to sex. I can see where they’d want to wait until #10 though, so I suppose it’s excused. My instant complaint: there’s surprisingly little nudity here. Except for a few stories, most of it is tastefully covered up. My opinion: if you’re going to have a book about sex you’re automatically going to offend people, so go for the gusto. Plenty of stories in here though. There’s Tony Goins & Steven Black with Dual Cultivation showing two blind people trying to reach a higher state of being through sex. Then there’s Dara Naraghi and Matt Kish Weird Sex Stories with probably the most graphic piece in the book, a foul thing involving alien porn that probably scarred me for life. Dirty Cop by Craig Bogart and Dara Naraghi has one of the funniest death scenes I’ve ever seen because really, why take it with you? Readers of this comic will get that and possibly guffaw, everybody else, well, maybe you should check it out for yourself. I’m still not completely sure what’s going on in Spent, the two page spread by Tom Williams, but I should probably still be offended. The After Kind by Dmitry Sharkov deals with love through assassination, maybe not the strongest piece in the book but not bad for a first contribution. Mr. Love by Tony Goins, Ellen Armstrong, Dan Barlow and Tony Goins (whew) have probably the strongest piece in here, dealing with various cupids trying to make love happen, how some people don’t know who they are yet and how love can actually hinder them from figuring that out. Sean McGurr & Tim McClurg have a short anecdote called Third Moon From Endor, only loosely related to sex but the punchline is worth the ride. Backstage Pass by Dara Naraghi & Andy Bennett deals with a succubus (sp?), but luckily she’s after an asshole, so all remains well with the world. Finally there’s The Garden by Brent Bowman, where all the crazy sex happens. It’s a brilliantly filthy retelling of the creation myth from the Bible, a story I thought was impossible to tell from a fresh perspective at this late date, and how the snake fucked it up for Adam and Eve because he wasn’t included in all the crazy sex. This is $5 and I think it was put out between SPACE conventions, meaning that there’s going to be yet another one when SPACE 2008 hits in a couple of weeks. Kudos to these people and their committment to quality work, I wish more anthologies were as consistently enjoyable as these.
Panel #8: Travel
Once again, nice work with the production value here. As the theme is travel, this is made up like a passport. The usual cast of suspects are brought together here again, which is quickly becoming a good thing in my book. First up, by Sean McGurr & Tim McClurg, is Good Humor, a shortie about a language barrier and ice cream. Next is Random Encounter by Tony Goins about a, well, you figure it out, at a rest stop in Ohio. Craig Bogart’s Fat Man Walking is a delightful story about losing hope in the people of this country, getting it back and then losing it again while trying to walk across the country. Matt Kish’s story is probably my favorite of the bunch (this is becoming a pattern), as he tells the story of a man who gets killed and all the crap he goes through before coming back in Round Trip. Uprooted is a sweet, melancholy little story by Matt Kish & Steve Black about all the places you once lived, who lives there now and what exactly is “home”. Bystander by Dara Naraghi & Andy Bennett is all about pictures of various places around the world that all have the same mysterious man staring at the author. Transcendence by Steve Black & Sean McGurr deals with wanting to leave the physical world and the dangers of doing so (although I have to admit the punch line was lost on me). A Day In West Virginia by Tony Goins & Dan Barlow is about a man who hangs out at a rest stop all day, watching the people, trying to figure out the concept of “home”. And finally there’s Tom Williams, who at this point is literally mailing it in, as most of his Vegass was done on the backs of postcards. Another solid anthology, and if I have to bitch about one thing it’s that some of the pages were awfully light. But that’s just if I HAVE to bitch about something…
Panel #7: Luck
Yes, I do intend to go back and fill in the Panel blanks, but this is the most recent issue, so why not review this one? Once again it’s a solid anthology, and I think three solid ones makes a pattern. Before I get to the comic, kudos on the production value and the intro and bio pages. It starts with a fake chain letter type thing, typos and all, and ends with astrology signs for all the creators that had me laughing out loud a few times, and you can’t beat that. I particularly recommend the Gemini entry about Craig Bogart, if you happen to have a copy in front of you. First up is Luck Pusher by Sean McGurr & Tim McClurg, about the dangers of trying to buy luck off the street from a dealer. Next up is The Ineffables: Dumb Luck by Craig Bogart, which contains the best argument I’ve heard yet against advanced humans from the future coming back and killing the asshole currently in the White House before he damages everything beyond repair. No Such Luck by Dan Barlow is a wordless tale about luck, crime and karma all in one. One In A Gazillion by the inimitable Matt Kish tells the story of the journey of a seed thoughout the universe and its chance of survival. The System by Tony Goins & Tom Williams is probably the strongest of a very strong bunch of stories, about a man in the future whose every move and thought is closely watched by the government and their futile attempts to bring him constant happiness. The Twilight Order: Thief Of Fortune is a futuristic story of drugs and luck, and the effect one has on the other. Seriously, for an anthology, there’s not a bad piece in here, and I continue to regret crapping on some of these people in earlier reviews as it sure seems like they have their collective acts together now. Oh, and it’s a measly $3, available up above or yearly at SPACE, which is one of the better cons in the country and something more people should consider attending…
Panel #5: Myth
I don’t think a scanner can adequately convey how great that cover is. That rip you see is an actual rip in the cover, which leads me to believe that these were either a huge pain in the ass to produce or they’ve found some way to easily tear the covers of all the copies of this issue. Either way kudos, and we’re also treated to different interpretations of the cover inside by all the artists. This issue deals with something I spent a fair amount of time with in the ancient days when I was in school: mythology. Craig Bogart sets the bar pretty high with the first story, a whodunnit it involving Jesus, Hercules and Odin all as suspects as to who murdered a very annoying bird. Next up is The Sun-Mother’s Home by Dara Naraghi & Andy Bennett, detailing a journey by a group of people who have been cast out of their home and the legends they tell along the way about the origin of the earth. Tony Goins follows with a story called America, abiout our future wars, what we have to do to get out of them and how we’re doomed to repeat the same stupid mistakes we’ve been making for years. Glenn Brewer’s story about the origin of the seahorse is gorgeous, although a few of the finer points might have been lost on me (it was one of them there silent stories, all kinds of room for interpretation). Matt Kish has the visual highlight of the book next with what is essentially a series of giant trading cards with various characters from his own Spudd 64 mythology. Tom Williams is then kind enough to wrap thiings up with a story about a guessing game among the gods. Oh, and in case you can’t tell by the scan, this issue is huge, magazine-sized. All in all, once again they’ve put together a solid anthology on another interesting topic.
Panel #4: Home
One of my favorite types of comic is the anthology, the problem being that’s it’s sp rarely done well. The average anthology has a few stories that you like (if you’re lucky), a few you don’t and a bunch somewhere in the middle. Panel, from what I’ve seen so far, is all about the stuff that you like. First up in this one is a wordless story about the average afternoon of a cat by Andy Bennett, which is wonderful unless you’re one of those weird “dog people” I keep hearing about. Next up is a story by Tim McClurg about Chubby, a horribly ugly new restaurant that must pay for existing, or at least it must pay if a bunch of drunk young men can manage it. Then there’s Matt Kish with a wordless tale about the last moments of a dying astronaut, done only as Matt Kish can (those of you who read Spudd 64 know what I mean). Craig Bogart, in probably the best piece of the book, confronts his wasted potential after reluctantly returning home after his father is murdered. Sean McGurr & Dan Barlow tell the story of Sean adopting a baby from China and the fears he has about her growing up, wondering which is her “home” country. Finally there’s Tom Williams, who seems to have too much talent for his own good, breaking up some of the more somber tones of the book with his tour of his apartment, MTV Cribs style, featuring a homeless Sebastian Bach and Tom desperately trying to kill squirrels. Great stuff again, and I have two more issues of this to come to test my theory that these people really have their act together with the concept of the anthology. $3, plus $1 for postage on any of these, but you can see that for yourself by clicking on that website up there…
Anybody out there who has read and loved Spudd 64 has probably imagined it in glorious color, and Matt shows what it would look like in a perfect world with this issue. Well, that and there’s plenty of color pencil sketches of various things from the series, so if you’re one of those people who like to linger over the art, this is the thing for you. And me, as there’s always been something about these characters and these places that has kept me riveted. The color bits of Spudd come from a proposed #0, a bit of an intro to the world of Spudd. If I remember correctly this was $5, which some may think a bit pricey, until you realize that this is all color and a nice companion piece for the series, assuming that the series gets moving again some time soon. Yes, that is my version of a subtle nudge in Matt’s direction, assuming he sees this…
Spudd 64 #3 Now Available! $2
Have I mentioned yet that every cover has a different image or is a different color, or both? And not juts for this issue, but all three? Thought that was worth pointing out, just to show the level of detail that goes into this. So how about this issue? Well, it’s a (mostly) wordless tale, which is a great idea for Matt. Why? Because I could stare at his art for days, so why clutter it all up with all those pesky words? As with a lot of wordless tales, the story is up for a bit of interpretation, but I’ll give it a shot. Spudd goes into space and eventually lands on a planet. He runs into some Sea Monkey looking creatures, who give him some sort of power. He’s a bit freaked by this, so he runs away, right into a giant monster (who doesn’t look all that intimidating because he looks like he’s smiling), and if I keep going I’m just going to tell you the whole story, and what fun is that? Three cheers for a comic with no angst, no autobiographical stuff going on and no silly drama. This one is 100% imagination and comics like this are a lot harder to come by than they should be. Contact info is up there, this is available in the store, and he has a website that he says is going to launch on May 15 of 2005, so don’t bother to click it until then…
Spudd 64 #2 Now Available! $2.50
This reference will only make sense to about two people, but this series reminds me a lot of the one I tried to do a number of years ago, but couldn’t pull off because of my lack of drawing ability. Oh, and the story didn’t resemble this one at all. Trust me, there’s a similarity there, somewhere… Anyway, this comic. It’s huge, about 40 pages, with the first half being the ongoing story and the second half being something of an origin story. I compared this to Beanworld in the last review, and that’s still the closest real thing to compare this to, but he’s quickly building his own unique niche in the comics world. Most of the drawings in here are completely unique, obviously coming from his own brain and not just a rehashing of another comic. A number of people do that, consciously or unconsciously, especially when they’re first starting out, but Matt seems to have skipped that step altogether. This series is fantastic in the most literal sense of the word, and I can see from the level of detail in each image just why there’s a long gap between issues. Great stuff and and I couldn’t recommend it more highly if you like truly bizarre stuff. Contact info is up there, it’s $2.50…
Spudd 64 #1
Before I say anything here, I want you to take a look at the sample:
It’s a bit large, sure, but I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. Look at that detail! This might be Matt’s first book out too, in which case I’m thoroughly impressed. The story here is in its very early stages, as we get to see the birth of Spudd, which is apparently an offspring of a dying… um, giant thing, maybe a ship. OK, some of the finer points were obviously lost on me, but I’m sure they’ll become a lot more clear as the series moves along, and it had better move along! I threaten because I care… Anyway, e-mail him to make sure he keeps at it and to see if he has anything else around. If I had to compare this to anything I’d say it a cross between Beanworld and Neil Jam, but the latter one only because of the giant black eyes…
Spudd 64 #4 Now Available! $3.50
I’m going to give you both of my opinions about this issue, just to confuse everybody. That’s right, I said both of my opinions, as I can’t decide if I should go deeply pessimistic here or totally optimistic. The pessimist in me thinks it’s a terrible sign that, on the fourth issue of a series, Matt has already called in friends to help him out with an issue, for art and for some stories. The optimist in me can also see this as a great sign, as the sheer number of people involved (Steve Black, Leighton Connor, Coly Kegley, Tim McClurg, Sean McGurr, Dara Naraghi, Kyle Wallace and Tom Williams) indicates that Spudd is taking off big time and all sorts of folks want to put their interpretation in before it turns into a huge behemoth of a series, loved by all small children and furry animals. The truth of the whole thing probably lies somewhere in the middle of all that, as usual. What about the actual comic? There are all sorts of full page spreads, mostly by Matt (but not all, by any means), but the main story in here is written by Leighton Connor and drawn by Matt, about Hafez first leaving his people and his brother starting a long search to find him. He also goes into greater detail later about some of the deities involved in the Spudd storyline, which is what’s making me lean towards my optimistic view that he has this whole huge story planned out already and this “jam” issue is a blip on his path to fame and fortune. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fun issue and will serve as a good reference point in the future when this stuff gets (more) confusing, but, speaking purely for myself here, I’ll be happy to see a regular sized issue of Spudd 64 done totally by Matt to keep things humming along at their proper pace. If, two issues from now, we get a “best of Spudd” issue, I’ll know that the pessimist was right all along, but I have genuinely high hopes for this series…