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
Jury Rigged Comics #3: Adaptations
In case you were wondering, yes, this comic features adapted stories from other sources. Sean gets into it all in the intro, although he mostly doesn’t mention what they’re adapted from. Ah well, I guess this means I have to judge the comic all by itself and not on the source material, which is how it should be anyway. The first two pieces are drawn by David Beyer Jr., with the first dealing with the unbreakable promise of a samurai and the second dealing with Thor trying to trick a giant into giving him back his hammer. Mythical Thor in the modern day is always funny to me (yes, I know that he has his own comic, but Marvel Thor is just barely mythical Thor) and, much as it pains me not to spoil it, the setting Thor winds up in is even funnier. Trust me on this one. The samurai piece is also fun, if maybe a bit predictable. Or at least it was predictable to me, as I have read all comics and stories ever and it’s all predictable to me. Next up is Ark, done entirely by Sean, and this is what brought it all crashing down, at least briefly (it’s a very short story). There’s an asteroid, see, and it breaks entirely through a planet. It lands on another planet, and everything I say from here is sheer guesswork, as I have no idea what happens next. It looks like it either smashes through many people, killing them brutally, or the asteroid turns out to have been filled with eyes, ears, and other squiggles. If I wasn’t away from home at the moment I’d go back to the issue of Spudd that had this story drawn by another artist to make a bit more sense of it, but my instinct is saying that this story was better off left alone. Marginalia (drawn by Brent Bowman) is up next, and it’s fantastic. It’s the story of a Sean reading a used book in school and not thinking all that much of the notes in the margins until he gets to the very end and, again without spoiling, it is indeed a fantastic ending. It details the story of a brute of a dentist who would pull teeth out by hand, how he married a wealthy woman and couldn’t keep his temper in check. Finally there’s essentially the famous speech from Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet, but as told to a toddler, so there’s no cursing involved. It is an engrossing and hilarious piece of work (text, not comic), which makes this book four for five on the really excellent content. I’d say that makes it worth taking a look, wouldn’t you?$2
Panel #13: Superstition
This group of Ohio folks keeps going strong, and naturally superstition is the perfect choice for their thirteenth anthology. Before I get started on the actual comics I wanted to talk about the peripherals fora bit. First, the production design of these things has always been top-notch, and this one is no exception. They sent some other issues along, and I was so impressed that the gushing has carried over to other reviews. Not that there’s anything wrong with this one, but they have an uncanny ability to top themselves in this department. This one was done by Brent Bowman, I wonder if he’s the one who has done all the covers?Â Ah, what I wouldn’t give for a photographic memory. Anyway, A+ on that end of things. There is also always an introduction that both lays out the point of the book and manages to be genuinely funny, which is tricky but they manage it. Well, Tony Goins manages it this time around. Then at the end of the book you have the author bios, which are also always amusing and informative. What I’m trying to say with all this build up is that by the time I get to the first comic I’m already smiling and impressed, and when I finish the last comic there’s another page of bios to put that smile right back on my face. Maybe all of the content has been lousy and it’s all a diabolical trick on their part. Let’s check over these stories again to make sure… nope, they’re good too.Â Damn. So! Stories in here areÂ two pages of baseball superstitions by Sean McGurr and Tony McClurg and a declaration of fidelity to the Cleveland Indians, Molly Durst & Brent Bowman’s tale of exactly what happens if you go around killing spiders in your home, Molly Durst tackling the broken mirror superstition, Tony Goins & Tom Williams with their take on the evil eye, Dara Naraghi & Andy Bennett with what looks like a small piece of a larger story about the Twilight Order and psychic parasite, the page I sampled by Sean McGurr & Tim McClurg and the tale of how picking superstitions as the theme managed to prevent the book from ever being made by Craig Bogart. Oh sure, it actually did get made if you want to quibble about it, but it’s a funny take on what could have happened. The only minor complaint I have is that having no page numbers makes having a table of contents significantly less convenient, but there were only so many stories in this one anyway and I was able to puzzle it out.Â Other than that everybody out there should support this crew, as they’ve been consistently putting out two quality anthologies a year for ages now and deserve some love. They don’t seem to have this listed at the website, or any of the recent Panels for that matter, but I’m sure an e-mail to the proprietor will get you a copy. How much it will cost you is another question.Â $5?
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 #6: Music
Well, here it is, the last of the Panel books. For those of you who read webpages like normal people (i.e. down from the top), this obviously isn’t the last of the Panel books, just the last one that I’ve gotten to as the designated rambler about such things. So, no new Panel reviews until 2008, when there will be a new one (right guys?), loosely held together by another mystery topic. Once again, the presentation for the book is fantastic, as this one is packaged like a record (kids, ask your parents. They were kind of like a DVD, but bigger and more resistant to scratches). First up is Muted, a story by Tony Goins and Dan Barlow dealing with a young woman trying to get used to being suddenly deaf who gets a chance to try to physically see music. Next up is Effigy by Tom Williams (if my crappy memory is correct, I think he’s in all of these books), in which a young woman tries to come to terms with an old, lousy relationship with a musician. Andy Bennett has Jackie Plays Piano next, a piece about a blind woman who plays the piano to feel. Craig Bogart breaks up a book that’s starting to feel maudlin with the next story about homeland security trying to deal with a plane that’s sure to crash due to the excessive number of musicians onboard. Dara Naraghi has a piece with text and pictures next about an outdoor techno music festival, which sounds roughly like hell on earth to me, but Dara manages to make it seem fun. Finally Sean McGurr and Tim McClurg have Man In The Mirror, a cautionary tale about bringing dates back when you have to deal with a roommate. Overall I didn’t think it was the strongest Panel of the bunch, but it’s up against some pretty tough competition and there’s still plenty here to recommend it, particularly the first and last stories and the Craig Bogart piece. $3
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…
Panel #3: Space
That cover is a whole lot cooler if you can see the woman whose arms are wrapping around the cover, but what are you going to do? This is an anthology from creators in Columbus Ohio with a loose theme of “space”. That can be taken many different ways, and is in a wide variety of stories. Dara Naraghi & Tom Williams have a fantastic story of the juxtaposition between space exploration and war. Glenn Brewer has a good shortie about, um, well, read it for yourself. Sean McGurr & Steve Black take Zeno’s Dichotomy Paradox and run with it (literally). Tony Goins & Andy Bennett have the highlight of the book with a story about a random hookup at a party and what happens when you run into that person randomly the next day. Or at least what happened that time, but it’s just a frank and honest take on the whole thing that it became my favorite in this book. Craig Bogart has a giant smashy alien, and Dansen Stahl & Tim McClure have a wraparound for many pages about unintentionally interlocking conversations on a busy city street. Really the perfect anthology, as nothing was anything less than interesting, which leads to a great reading experience overall. Check it out, they have other anthologies from past years available too, and I’m curious about them now. I think I was kind of harsh on at least some of these people in their individual comic, but now I feel compelled to pick up some other issues and give them another chance (everybody should know by now that I’m always willing to read other issues from people I previously panned, as that’s the only way I’m going to have an informed opinion about anybody, as it’s impossible to discard someone based on one book). OK, ramble over, here’s the website, it’s $3, check it out!
Mini Ring King (with Tim McClurg & Steve Black)
Yeah, this should probably be on one of the Various pages, but those things are too huge already and Sean was kind enough to send it to me, so he gets the honors. Just in case you were ever interested in that sort of “inside Optical Sloth” logic, and shame on you if you were. There are a few stories in here, as well as some lovely pinups of some old wrestlers by Tim McClurg. First up is a story about a soon-to-be-dead boxer, appropriately called Specter. Next is a silly story called Vowel Boxer about, well, boxers who shout vowels as they punch, which didn’t do a thing for me until the punchline, then I loved it. Finally there The Wrestler of Wyagoth, about the quest of man in general to overcome a Lovecraftian cast of monsters. Good stuff overall, worth it just for the pinups if you were a fan of wrestling back in the day, and the stories aren’t too shabby either, although the whole thing goes by in a blur. Hey, how much plot can you have with wrestling being the theme, right? $2
Class of 2006 #1
Hm, is something still considered a comic if there is no actual art, just quotes from students accompanied by unassociated pictures of random students? Oh well, I’ll leave that for the philosophers to figure out. Sean works as a grader for the standardized tests that students are forced to take to avoid being “left behind”, and he decided to put together a few books with some of the dumber quotes from students. It’s a fairly depressing compilation, if you think these people are the future of the country, or kind of funny if you’re a hopeless cynic like me. It’s mostly simple errors like misspellings or grammatical mistakes (look around this site for two minutes and you’re sure to find plenty of those), with some real whoppers about mistaken history. It’s a fun little peek into the brains of the youth of today. $1
Jury Rigged Comics: Leftovers
That’s usually an instant warning sign, when somebody puts out a book of stories that weren’t good enough to put in the regular series. Luckily in this case they really are still good stories, so don’t worry your pretty little heads about it. First you have the first attempt by the Chinese to travel to the stars way back in the early 16th century (drawn by Adam Walmsley). The art is downright gorgeous and I’d never heard this story before. Then you have the near-war over bridges in Cleveland and Ohio City in 1837 (drawn by David Beyer Jr.). Fascinating stuff again, as how many of us know any of the history at all of our state and/or town? In other words, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a throwaway issue, nothing to see here and please move on. There are stories worth reading in this comic, and that’s all any of us can ask for. $2
Jury Rigged Comics #1
Here’s another first effort from somebody out of Columbus, Ohio. Must be something in the water out here. Anyway, this is a collection of stories with a variety of different artists. The first one, Snow Tires (with Leon Briones), is about someone selling his car but trying to keep the snow tires when he sells it. I know, it sounds boring as can be, but it’s not a bad story. The second is As Seen on TV (with Rich Molinelli), and it tells the story of a young paramedic who gains some unwanted fame by having a rescue on the television show Rescue 911. The last full story is Mentor: What’s in a Name (also with Leon Briones), which is the story of a young superhero trying to come up with a name and learn the ropes of the business. Then there’s a tiny, tiny preview of Zero Point (I say tiny because there’s one page of art and one shrunken page of script) and an essay about his personal history with comics. For a first effort, it’s not bad. It’s good, when writing, to use “it’s” instead of “it is”, at least every once in a while, just to make it sound like people are really talking, but that’s a minor quibble. There’s nothing here to set the world on fire, but there are three solid, interesting stories, so you could do a lot worse. It’s $2, send Sean an e-mail if you’re interested.
Panel 9 From Outer Space
That’s right, a 3-D front and back cover. Nothing 3-D on the inside though, so those of you who can never seem to get the 3-D to work (like me) don’t have to worry about missing anything on the inside. Also, kudos to the joke in the title, and to those of you who don’t get it, take heart: there is a level of dorkdom you haven’t yet achieved if the title is lost on you. The theme this time around is science fiction in general, and it starts and ends with fake news pieces about 1957 and 2057 by Sean McGurr & Tim McClurg. The 1957 piece is all about hope for the future, with nuclear-powered cars, peace in Israel, competent government relief efforts and the flash in the pan that was “The Cat in the Hat”. The 2057 piece, naturally, is about how crappy things have gotten since then. The second piece here is Donkey Punch by Tom Williams, a story about a corporate exploration team who crash lands on a planet full of angry ninja women. Dara Naraghi & Andy Bennett are up next with a silent tale about a little boy who finds an alien in the woods and helps free it from a collar… but was that a good thing? Octopeye, by Steve Black & Sean McGurr, tells the tale of our future giant octopus overlord and our attempt to pacify him with what appears to be one of his illegitimate children. Monster Trucks And Baby Mammas by Tony Goins & Craig Bogart is the least fantastical tale of the bunch, as it deals mostly with white trash people sleeping around and/or trying to kill each other. Or maybe it seems more fantastical to people who didn’t grow up around that kind of nonsense, who knows? Finally there’s a one page shortie by Dara Naraghi & Tim Fischer called Love Ninja 8 which is, naturally, about ninjas using their love techniques to fight. My favorite had to be the Tom Williams piece for the sheer mayhem involved, but once again this is a solid anthology all the way through. The lack of a Matt Kish piece is depressing, but it’s a testament to the strength of the rest of these people that that lack wasn’t even noticeable until after I was done reading this issue. $3