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Kirby, Rob (editor) – Pratfall




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


Brunton, Tessa – Second Banana



Second Banana

How much trust should you place in an older sibling while growing up, especially if that sibling really seems to have their shit together? This is the story of Finn (Tessa’s older brother) taking her under his wing after their older brother left the house. He also left his comics, books and Dungeons and Dragons stuff, which enabled Finn to introduce her to all of it. I’m more than a little jealous of somebody who was able to grow up knowing about H.P. Lovecraft and all of the various monsters from D & D (crikey, the dreams she must have had as a kid), but let’s leave that aside. Tessa’s main problem was that she put total trust into Finn, who mostly didn’t abuse it, but it left her unable to tell when he was wrong (or possibly just messing with her). For example, he told her that putting a light bulb in your mouth would create a vacuum, causing it to explode, sending shards of glass careening down your throat. She believed this right up until college, but it sounds like the other things he taught her came together to make a decent trade-off. Her only regret was that Finn became more skeptical of supernatural things while he grew up and he passed that on to her, and it’s disheartening to see the world only as it is and not as it could be. Eh, she says it a lot better than I ever could, and I’m already getting a bit too far into spoiler territory. I’d just like to add that you’ll get a hell of a lot out of this book if you either had an older sibling who tried to teach you about the finer things in life or if you were that sibling. After all, they didn’t know everything, but they were extremely unlikely to let you in on that fact. There’s also a short piece on the end about the “Dyatlov Pass Incident,” which Emi Gennis actually covered in one of her recent comics. But hey, genuine mysteries like that are always rare and interesting, so it was good to see a different perspective on it. $3


Brunton, Tessa – Passage




Hey artists, I have a rare rhetorical question for you all that I actually wouldn’t mind an answer to: when somebody says that they thoroughly enjoyed your book/comic/whatever, is it an insult or a compliment for them to say that what they really wanted was to see more? I’d think of that as a compliment, but maybe it’s an insult to the idea of your comic as a complete thing by itself. Either way, and with no insult intended, the only thing I didn’t like about this book was that it felt like a part of a larger whole. Not that it wasn’t complete by itself, it just felt like this could have been 32 pages in the middle of a graphic novel and it would have fit in just fine. This is Tessa’s story of her life when she was roughly 12 and a rite of passage that had been planned for her older brother. Her brother (Finn) had been retreating from the family more and more as he got older, so his dad and a few of his friends wanted to get together to throw him a sort of rite of passage ceremony. Tessa shows brilliantly how her parents had given up many of the trappings of a conventional life years ago, wanting only to exist in their own space with their family, so they thought it was important to let Finn know that his gradually pulling away from them was OK, but they also thought it was important to give him a few pieces of advice before he got too far away. It’s tricky to describe the narrative of this comic, as it bounced around a bit between Tessa and Finn and their parents effortlessly, but it never felt scattered or unfocused. Tessa is becoming a woman but is still forced to deal with her mother’s habit of treating her like a child, their dad had quit his job and loved goofing around with his friends (but still seemed to be an attentive and focused father from what we see here), their mom had her quirks like painting in her studio without showing the art to anybody but was also incredibly devoted to her children, and Finn had moved his stuff into a gazebo in the backyard to highlight his separation from his family. This comic comes down to being able to recognize the times when you’re effortlessly happy and to enjoy them while they’re happening, and who can’t get behind that? The art is layered and complex, far behind the abilities of a non-drawing human like me to fully document but trust me, there is plenty going on in every panel. Her two page spread of her house growing up is a real thing of beauty. There are plenty of tidbits in here that make me want to see the rest of the story, although at least one of those tidbits suggests that she may not be comfortable telling any more. Either way this is a hell of a comic, and looking around online I see that it was rightly nominated for a few awards. I can also see that she’s working on a longer story and has a few older comics available, so there’s still plenty to look forward to from her/go back and read. $6.50


Leunig, Matt (editor) – The Bridge Project



The Bridge Project

Just so it’s clear, as of 10/07/09 that website is still “under construction”.  Well, it does lead to a fair amount of samples from Matt and other places to learn about this book, so it’s better than most “under construction” websites, and this book is new enough that it might really be under construction.  I’ve just become jaded from seeing that warning on countless websites only to have the construction never start.  Anyway, how about the book?  This is an anthology with a unique goal: team up on cartoonist living in Portland with one living in San Francisco, let them do their thing and see what comes out of it.  Some of these stories just have one person drawing, some of them mix both artists in, but the mildly surprising thing is how well all of this works.  Collaborations can be a tricky business, but Matt seems to have found the magic formula.  This did take a couple of years to put together, so I guess technically he did have time to work some bugs out.  Stories in here include The Forlorn Hope (by Shannon O’Leary & Ryan Alexander-Tanner, dealing with the infamous Donner party), The “The Bridge Project” Project (by Peter Conrad, the only solo piece in the book due to Peter’s partner crapping out on him), Nerd Prom (by Carolyn Main & Jesse Baggs about cartoonists in relationships getting along a little too well at a convention), Shanghooked (by Graham Annable & Scott Campbell), Lost Intersection (by Matt Leunig & Seamus Heffernan, the heart of the book), Jumpers (by Sina Grace & Susan Tardif, about a long distance relationship disintegrating), Future Jerks (by Jonathan Hill & Calvin Wong about, um, vegan jerks in the future), Dark Matter (by Tom Lechner & John Isaacson, dealing with an especially creepy invasion), The MVPs (by Josh Frankel & Greg Means, it’s about star basketball players yearning to make comics), and The Doppelganger (by Tessa Brunton & Vanessa Grunton, it’s all about the various evil twins we have all over the place.  All that and there’s still room for a couple of short pieces by Rina Ayuyang & Erika Moen (an untitled piece about trying to fit in in Portland), Mari Naomi & Rachel Mendez (Inga and the Whales, a heartbreaking tale (almost certainly an urban legend) about a whale thanking its rescuers), and David Chelsea & Two Fine Chaps (that’s really what they’re called, it deals with David’s uncle having a stroke).  It’s packed, is what I’m trying to say, and there’s really not a weak piece in the bunch.  Graham Annable is always worth the price of admission to me and his piece on the sea serpent was brilliant, there were some damned useful tips in The Doppelganger (if you ever run into yours, that is), Peter Conrad was far too nice in not naming the slacker that promised him a script for months, and the center of the book by Matt & Seamus, dealing with a few people and their relationships over the years, was a perfect place to do some artist swapping.  So now that I’ve mentioned how great the content was, I at least have to mention the layout.  No table of contents, but that was made up for by the inclusion on the bottom of every page of the artists.   It seems to be the norm not to mention that on the page in anthologies, and it bugs me every time it’s not included, so kudos to Matt for that.  It’s an impressive achievement, here’s hoping this didn’t scare him off editing anthologies altogether and he can keep this concept going with other cities.  And did I mention this is a measly $9.95?