You should have a pretty easy time knowing whether or not you’d be inclined to like this book from the title alone, and I’m happy to tell you that the contents more than live up to it. Emi has been doing mini comics on this theme for a few years now, and she took her chance to edit this anthology and ran with it, doing a really fantastic job of picking out/accepting these stories. I should say up front that I have no patience for those stupid “ghost hunting” shows with the shaky cams and the loud noises and won’t believe that aliens have visited us until I see solid proof (which is not the same thing as declaring that no other life exists in the universe), but overall this isn’t that type of book. These are all, as Emi says in the introduction, unsolved mysteries, so the reader doesn’t get the satisfaction of getting the story neatly tied up in a bow by the end. Instead you’re left wondering what the hell happened for these 32 stories. If you’re a naturally curious person and/or at all interested in the weird and bizarre then you’ve probably already stopped reading this and ordered a copy. For those of who are too polite to quit reading in the middle of the review (and it’s OK if you do, I’ll never know), subjects include a mysterious gelatinous goo that rained down on a town, the monster with 21 faces, an unexplained shower of meat from the sky, an arcade game that quickly came and went in 1981 under mysterious circumstances, a tumor that was bigger than the carrier, Gef (of which I will say no more but this may have been the most intriguing tale in the book), that weird hum in the air that some people can hear all the time, the Nain Rouge and his continuing destruction of Detroit, the money pit of Oak Island (which some bored billionaire should look into), creepy kids with black eyes trying to enter homes, the Leatherman and theories of who he might have been, unsolved murders at a campsite, the former Prime Minister of Australia vanishing while swimming, the missing body of Addie Mae Collins, why 9 campers in Siberia ran from the safety of their tent (sometimes barefoot) and why they never went back to it, two bodies and their lead masks, Rasputin (an oldie but a goodie), Frederick Valentich and the UFO that seemed to by toying with him, D.B. Cooper and his disappearance (it’s an ever funnier story to anybody who watched Justified this season), a bridge where 600 dogs have committed suicide, the Axeman, and a serious skeleton in the closet of Orson Welles (possibly). DC comics used to do a series of “Big Books” on various subjects, and after seeing this I’d suggest that they start it up again and put Emi in charge. Not every story was perfect, granted, but good luck not having several of these stories haunt your dreams. Also good luck on not taking to the internet to learn more about them, as I already know how I’m spending the rest of my afternoon. And look at that pile of talent in the tags section! Why would you possibly need any more convincing to check this out? $12
The Bizmar Experiment
“Bizmar” stands for Bunny Insect Zombie Monkey Alien Robot, and the idea here seems to be to cram in all six things into a two page comic, making this the best idea for an anthology in the history of anthologies. Some names you might recognize from this site: Ben Snakepit, Tod Parkhill, Tom Manning, Stan Yan, George Tautkus, and Brian Morante. There are more people here (check out the website for ordering info and the complete list), but I want to talk about the comics! There’s a wide and completely absurd collection of stories, including all six things working in a pizza shop, a zombie becoming president, Ben going to see Gwar (yes, he does manage to fit everything in), A giant robot that is made up of 5 smaller pieces ala Voltron, renting movies for Halloween, bizarre sex confessions, a surprise party for a zombie, and even more stuff that I’m not going to ruin for you. Look, this is a brilliant idea that’s pulled off to perfection. What more do you want? $3!
Red Curtain #4
This series is officially hurting my brain. I’m going to stick with it until the end though, mostly because there’s only one more issue to go. Whether or not I can manage to read all five of them for the next review is in doubt, as I’m not sure that I could take it. It’d be a weekend thing, some time when I can just lounge and try to make some sense out of this. Honestly, I mostly did this review so I could post the sample below, as I think it sums up everything you need to know about this series, and whether or not it’s something that you think you should be reading. In this one more of the characters die, the flower gets a new pot and any semblance of a story has completely vanished, at least to me. It’s a buck and I continue to insist that these guys do some good work on their own and you should support their other stuff. As for this one, eh, I’ll keep you posted…
Red Curtain #3
You know, I meant to keep reading these thing weekly so I would retain some semblance of a plot, but it got away from me somehow and here I am, a couple of months later, and I once again have no idea what’s going on here. Why don’t I just tell you what you can find in this comic? If you read this you’ll see a bimbo with her hand super-glued to her hip, a two-headed dog cut in half, a fatal sneeze, a serial killer of mimes, a fish with legs, and doom. All kinds of funny nonsense going on, start to finish, but it’s hard to recommend if you want something coherent. If coherent is a second concern to funny, well, go for it. I still plan on reading them all in a row when I get to #5, so maybe it’ll all be clearer then. Contact info is up there, this is a buck…
Red Curtain #2
OK, it might be necessary to review this series in a different way than other series. On a page by page basis, it’s funny as hell. There’s all kinds of random stuff, the dialogue is great, God says “erf” instead of “earth”… all kinds of good stuff. In terms of a bigger picture, I honestly have no idea what’s going on. I mean, at all, not even a little bit. There’s also a synopsis at the end of the book (and if the folks at Young American Comics ever do this again, they should really put these at the start of the book) that really didn’t do much to clear things up. Tell you what: when I get to #5, I’ll read them all in a row and review them like that. Maybe I should have done that to begin with, but it’s too late now! Contact info up there, $1, check it out if you have a VERY short attention span…
Red Curtain #1
If there has ever been a review-proof comic, this is it. You see, this is a story by a bunch of artists from Young American Comics (Parkhill, Bush, Mason, Briedis, Morante and Hunt are listed but there could be more) that’s done in as random of a manner of possible. Different people pick up after reading a panel or two from somebody else, with no idea of where the story is going, and make up something new. It’s passed around until its done, and it’s a five issue series, so it’s hard to say if anything here is going to work out in the long term. In the short term, it’s off to a good start. In here are Miss Cleo, God, an angry flower, a shadowy figure, poo, blue almonds, war, a parrot, and a fat man. In case you were wondering, no, it doesn’t make a lot of sense yet, and it might not ever, but it’s a great idea for an experiment and I’m curious to see where it goes. Taken as one issue, it’s funny, but that’s all that I can really say about it so far. $1, contact info up there!
Wild Penny #5
This is definitely the best issue of this so far. The first story is the origin of one of the characters from The Mighty Offenders, which is a good thing because I had very little who these people were when I read that comic. Then you have the second part of the Panda Warrior story, and I honestly still can’t see the point behind the story, other than the oddity of seeing a giant panda going around threatening people. This chapter was all about him getting hit with snowballs, then it was over. Not to give anything away, but I guess I just did. Oops. The last story is Tod’s from the 2002 SPX anthology. It usually bugs me when people pad other anthologies with already released stories, but this is a really great story that I had forgotten about, so this time it’s OK. No, that’s not consistent at all, but what are you going to do? It’s about Atari banking everything on the release of the E.T. video game and then rushing the thing out in time for Christmas. And if anybody out there has ever played the game, what an awful, awful mess. Contact info is up there, it’s $2. Oh, and Don McInturff wrote and drew the first story (don’t worry, Tod still managed to letter it) and Gabe Hunt drew the second story.
Wild Penny #4
I think Tod Parkhill might do more comics in the course of a year than anybody else in the industry. This is another collection of stories; it looks like this Wild Penny series has three stories per issue. First up you have a couple of guys in Vietnam going AWOL and betting on cockfights (Parkhill & Menez), then you have a story about romance and incredibly shrinking text (Yost), and finally a story about a giant baby (Parkhill). The Vietnam story was pretty funny, the romance story was OK (and it’s hard to fault anybody who can throw in a Tom Waits reference), and the last story about the baby was pretty much pointless, but how much is there to say about a giant baby that gets bigger than the whole world? I think there are better issues than this out there, but it’s alright. $2, contact info up there!
Wild Penny #3
Three stories in this anthology, from three different creative teams. First you have Tod Parkhill & Gabriel Hunt with the cover story, about a panda warrior. That’s probably as ridiculous as it sounds, but it’s done without a hint of irony and has one of the best endings for an action packed story that I’ve seen. The second story is from Tod Parkhill, Briedis (sorry, no first time), and Brian Morante, about a young superheroine called Electrocutie fighting a random large woman in a story that didn’t do much for me, frankly. It was adorable though, which is maybe why it bugged me. The last story is by Tod Parkhill and Rebecca Flowers, about a man who’s weeding his garden for his wife when he’s suddenly stung by a bee in a story that was oddly moving. I say odd because it kind of came out of nowhere, but kudos on that one. Anyway, it’s $2, go to the website and check out everything else they have too.
The Ill-Fated Voyage of the Yacmobile
Hey, when I get to pick the title I’m always going to go with just the better one. Tod had the brilliant idea to cut back on expenses for hotels, flights and rental cars by getting an RV and touring the country. Seriously, it’s such a good idea that you know already there’s no chance of it working out well. Before getting started on this tour Tod decides to take it to Michigan with his fiancee and his cat, as they’ve decided to move there. It’s a comedy of errors from there, if you could call the vehicle systematically falling apart “errors”. This is a fantastic travel journal all around, and this is free as a “thank you” to all the people who helped while this vehicle was impounded and/or in need of repairs. Personally I think he should sell the minis for $1000 each to try and recoup the losses, but there’s probably a lot more to be said for giving these things away…
I’m Just Here For The Pornstars
Here’s another one of those tiny Jack Chick-like comics, another cheapie at only $.25. This one is all about setting up the Young American Comics table, being full of hope at the prospects of having many people discover their comics… only to find that almost everybody who’s at the convention is there either for the pornstars, anime, or to buy action figures. It’s a cautionary tale, I guess, and, after all, WHAT WOULD YOU DO? If you were confronted with spending your last $5 on pornstars and action figures or some independent comics you’d never heard of. Contact info is up there, they have more great comics than I can count on both hands there, which is always a good sign…
Something Happened on the Way to the Market
Here’s another one of the 15 minute shorties, this one about a monkey on his way to the market, as you may have guessed from that title. Well, except for the monkey, as he’s not mentioned until you open it up. From there things get odd, as the monkey is trying to remember what it needs from the store, but then it gets kidnapped. Or it doesn’t, as why would a monkey be going to the store in the first place? Unless, of course, he was going to the store all along! Tod tackles all the deep questions about existence and being in this confusing universe of ours in a short 8 page comic. Or possibly he just wanted a comic with a monkey in it and it went off the rails a bit due to the 15 minute deadline. You make the call!
Do you know that guy? Everybody knows at least one of “that guy”. Constant asshole, ruining everything, always thinking that he’s the best thing in the universe? This is a 15 minute comic (it didn’t say so, but it’s the same size and it’s sloppy, so I’m just guessing) about that guy. He runs into a couple of women at a restaurant and regales them with his tales of success. It’s a funny book, and I think most people will be able to relate to it. Contact info is up there, it’s tiny so I’m sure it’s cheap.
This is a tiny one. It’s all about a guy with a box with a head who sees the “this is your brain on drugs” commercial and is immediately hungry for eggs. The twist is that he also throws in some self-deprecating comments when the situation warrants, like when he can’t draw hands cracking eggs or is obviously having trouble coming up with an ending. It’s only 8 pages so it’s hard to say too much about it, but it’s a fun little book. $.50 maybe? Either that or a dollar, check the contact info on the page and find out, although I’d pick some of his other books first…
The Young Americans #1
Ever wonder what would happen if eight people with super powers were forced to live together in the same house for six months? Yeah, me neither, but it’s not a bad concept. All eight people were just regular young people, but after winning a contest they’re all given super powers, some of which are yet to be determined. This is the first issue of six, meaning that this one is mostly here to set up the characters. There’s still a bit of hijinx, don’t get me wrong. I’m not completely positive what tone this is going to take, which I guess is why there are five more issues of this. It’s a lot of fun though, and the interaction between radically different types of people is fascinating. There’s also a lot of mystery yet here, as the eighth member of their group came in at the very end and there are plenty of powers yet to be uncovered. It’s $2 and well worth a look, contact info is up there. Seriously!
Support Indie Comics, You Dope!
Another tiny one in the Jack Chick style, and I had to check this page to make sure I wasn’t reviewing something I had already done, but sure enough, they’re two separate things. This one is more of a “what if” story, as Tod wishes in a moment of rage about his lot in life that he had never started drawing comics. He wakes up as a married full time employee working in a corporation, when eventually he runs across another employee making illegal copies at work, and I can’t describe any more or I’ll run out of comic. It’s funny, $.25, and worth a look. Contact info is scattered around, I’m sure you can find it.
The Secret Lure of Independent Comics
Everybody out that run into one of those Jack Chick religious comics by now, right? If not, you might want to skip this comic. If you have, this book is a great parody. It’s basically just Tod wandering around, trying to figure out why nobody buys independent comics. He’s eventually offered fame and fortune if he sells his soul, and hilarity ensues. Honestly, this book is too tiny to say much about. It was entertaining, and if that cover makes you nostalgic for those crappy Jack Chick comics, then it’s probably only $1. Contact info is up there…
Curses The Jewel of Denial
The cover’s a bit less creepy with that rainbow effect, isn’t it? It’s books like this that makes me glad the 24 hour comic was invented. I don’t think it could have been done better any other way, although I’ll be the first to admit that the art could have improved. Still, the harried pace of the story fits the rushed look of the artwork just perfectly. There’s a jewel that causes whoever touches it to basically turn into an out-of-control, homicidal monster. The comic follows the progression of the jewel, from the man who finds it, to the man who recovers it from what’s left of #1’s body, to the rat who picks it up from #2’s body, to the cop who picks it up from the body of the giant rat he was forced to kill, etc. Look, as long as 24 hour comics are fun, I don’t have much to bitch about, and this one was a blast. Go to the website and buy this book if you like mayhem. If you like a quiet, thoughtful story, well, you could probably skip it. $2!
The Mighty Offenders #2 (co-written by Tod Parkhill and art by Joey Mason)
I forgot to add those other creative folks in the last review. Sorry about that, I usually try to make all of that stuff clear. Anyway, onwards to #2! I said that this series could turn out to be one of the great parodies, and I still stand by that possibility, but this issue didn’t do too much to push that along. Our heroes have been captured by aliens in regards to that stolen jet pack, and most of this issue is pure mayhem and explosions. Which is fine, but… who are these people again? Please with some sort of synopsis of the previous issues before #3, it would be ever so helpful. Also, I have a tendency to bitch when people are lazy on the backgrounds, but this comic looks like it will never have that problem. Just check out the sample if you don’t believe me. EVERY panel is packed, sometimes to the point where you really have to examine it just to make sure you’re catching everything. All in all a good issue that looked fantastic. And it’s not like most parodies have the most well-rounded characters in the world anyway, so it’s entirely possible that I’m looking for something that will never come. Still, if I didn’t have that one minor complaint about a lack of character development (or even trying to remember who the characters were) then this would be a completely positive and gushy review, and who wants that? $2