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 #16: “Sweet” 16
There is a dark, cynical corner of my brain that is just itching to pounce on a crappy Panel anthology, one where they coast on the production value and the content for once. I’m not proud of it, but there it is. This particular issue of panel will be giving that corner of my brain no joy today. Of course, that means that it’s another solid anthology, which makes the rest of my brain very happy. As you can see from that cover this issue was done up like an old school notebook (do kids even use those in class these days? Man am I old), doodles on the back and all. There’s also the usual excellent pile of creator bios in the back, although only a few of the artists had the courage to show their high school photos. For shame! And the content? Yeah, there’s a pile of great stuff in here, and if you thought this would all be tales of woe from high school, this crew should have proven by now that they’re not content with sticking with the obvious. Stories include Tony and Jessica Goins (a married couple) signing up for eharmony.com to see if they would be matched up on that site, Dara Naraghi and Ross Hardy’s silent piece about two girls stuck at a bus stop after their dates got a little too “handsy,” Andrew Lee traveling back in time to tell his 16 year old self what to avoid, Dara Naraghi and Molly Durst’s piece about modern love (making me very happy that the women I date all speak in complete sentences and know how to spell), Tim McClurg’s genuinely sweet piece about how his wife is the only person he remembers vividly seeing for the first time, Sean McGurr and Andy Bennett’s piece on trying to track down a forgotten star of “Sixteen Candles” and KT Swartz and Brent Bowman’s fantastic take on the concept of coming of age. In other words, yes, this anthology is still going strong. Buy it and see for yourself! $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