Panel #14: Panel of Horror
I was a little let down with this one. Oh, there are still great stories in here, but with a cover like that and with this crew finally tackling horror stories I probably just had unrealistic expectations. I did enjoy the intro and outro by Brent Bowman, although it could have done with a cringe-worthy pun or two. Dying Chords by (mostly) Craig Bogart dealt with a washed up singer, a never-was singer and how the former was trying to steal the one good song from the latter for a comeback. A an actual surprise ending in a horror anthology is always welcome, so kudos for that. Next up is Country Roads by Brent Bowman, which is one of the strongest pieces in the book, dealing with a man and his relentless quest to hunt down a werewolf. OK, fine, I saw the ending coming a mile away, but I also watch FAR too many horror movies. Molly Durst has the longest piece in the book with Monster Racers, and I could go either way on this one. On the one hand I like her simplistic art and enjoyed the madcap nature of a gaggle of monsters (I believe “gaggle” is the correct term) who are trying to get to a castle before Dracula. On the other hand it’s a story of several monsters traveling from point A to point B and we never even had much of a clue why it was so important to get to the castle first. Tom Williams, as always, saves the day with The Basket, a story of a evil basket and its place in history. Yes, it is just as awesome as it sounds. Finally there’s Healing, the creepiest piece in the book by far,Â by Dara Naraghi and Andy Bennett. It tells the story of a man who has long distrusted doctors but ends up having to go to a dentist. He got back in some considerable pain but decided to take matters into his own hands and ends up going a little bit too far. Like I said, I don’t hate this anthology, but in all honesty I probably wasn’t going to be happy with anything that wasn’t 100 pages long and featured serious gore and/or scares. They still put out a hell of a comic, as always, and you do have to buy this one to keep your collection of Panel anthologies intact, so lucky for you there are still some exceptional stories in here. $4
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?
It’s been fun watching Tom grow as an artist through the years, even if I had to play catch-up on the progress starting a few years ago. This issue has it all in one place though, as the main story here is a perfect example of his frenetic, crazed artwork at its best, and the backup story (actually an earlier version of the main story), shows his artwork as a bit more “by the numbers”, although still showing signs of future brilliance. The story here is that a young man gets his head bitten off by the family dog and makes a deal with the devil to come back to life. In the original story it’s a pretty simple concept, in the new version we get to see a lot more of the area in which this young man lives and bits of his family. The sample below should tell you everything you need to know about his artwork, but there are really few artists working today whose style is more definitively their own than this. Well worth checking out, and if you were looking for a good starting point for his work, this one is perfect. $4
As you can see from the cover page, this is one of them there 24 hour comics. These are pretty much immune to criticism, as they are SUPPOSED to look rushed and sloppy, the plot (when there is one) is obviously going to be rushed as well, and how can you say anything bad about such an obvious labor of love as this? That being said, this was a wonderful comic for anybody who has ever had a really crappy customer service job but has lived to make it to their last day. This is all about a man working his last day for a copy shop (obviously a Kinko’s but I don’t think he ever used the name) and all the stupid, stupid crap he had to deal with on a regular basis. Most of the people reading this can probably relate to stupid folk in the copy shop, as most of the folks reading this probably have made their own comics at one time or another and have either had to deal with it themselves or seen it in action. In other words, another fun 24 hour book, and another book that I really liked by Tom Williams. Here’s a website, this one was $2!
In case you can’t read the top of the cover, the hero of this story is Guston Phillips, Cyclops Cowboy. Guston decides that he wants to free Sisyphos (that’s how he spells it in the comic, although it sure doesn’t look right to me), and spends a lot of time trying to get the man free. Lots of little jokes about Hades and Greek mythology here in general; it’s obvious the man has at least a fair knowledge of the material. An interesting book, and I’m constantly amazed that Thomas is able to keep his book so cheap when they’re so huge, especially with the color covers and all. If you like cyclops and a lil’ baby Achilles, then pick this up for $2! The e-mail address is way up there, just scroll a little bit and you’ll find it…
Looking at the Front Door (written by Sean McKeever)
I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever read any of the Marvel comics that Sean wrote, but this is a good first issue of his “mini comics line”. It’s the story of a man who feels trapped in a smothering relationship (so says the website and it seemed concise enough for me to rip it off), wondering what he can do to change. But then, there are always the good moments to think about too, right? Even when you can feel a relationship on its last legs, it can be damn near impossible to forget about all the wonderful things that bring two people together, and that’s the problem here. It’s a poignant and true theory. I like the fact that the guy’s sick of the situation he’s in but doesn’t have any easy answers on how to change it. At $3 it’s kind of expensive for how short of a book it is, but at least the cover looks great. If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you should check this book out.
Crash Comics #7
Hm, wonder how long ago I wrote that “a week or so” comment regarding this series. Hey, give or take a year, I was right on. This is a complete departure from the other book that I had read, and it’s nicely done. This is a wacky, slapstick bunch of stories about evil children who feed babies to dogs, walk a man around on a leash, trick Death, pimp out grade school girls, and get ripped in half. If you don’t think you’d find any of that funny, well, maybe you shouldn’t read this book. Here, check out the sample.
Look like the kind of thing you’d be into? Because if the answer is yes you’re going to be thrilled with this, if it’s no there’s a lot more of the same in this issue. I’m really curious now to see what this series is all about, as I’ve seen two drastically different comic styles so far. Contact info is up there, or you could just go to The Laughing Ogre if you’re around Columbus like me…
Who likes auto-bio? Anybody who reads this page knows that I do, especially when it’s done well, and this one is done extremely well. It’s told as a letter to an old girlfriend about yet another girlfriend. Confused? Don’t worry, it’s pretty simple. He realizes pretty early on that the two of them don’t have much in common and he confesses to never really knowing what she’s thinking, but sticks with the relationship after graduation basically out of a lack of anything better to do. It’s always been a bit unbelievable to me that somebody could just stay in a relationship when they knew that it wasn’t the right thing for them, but I’ve seen it happen too many times to believe that it’s just fictional. Anyway, this book is well worth a look. He also has a regular series (although this book is from 2001 so that might not still be true) called Crash Comics, which I’m going to be digging into in a week or so, I’d guess. E-mail the man or send him $3 at: 630 Riverview Dr. Apt. #C7 Columbus, OH 43202.
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 #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…
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!
Panel #2: Architecture
Damn, and here I was hoping that this was the first Panel, but one look at that website shows me that this one is, in fact, #2. #1 only had a print run of 300 issues and it doesn’t look like it’s been reprinted since, so so much for that one. Everything else besides #3 looks like it’s available on that website though, for the curious. So how does this one hold up, seeing as how I’m just now getting to it for this website? Pretty well, all things considered. The first piece deals with putting the horrors of the past behind us, in a dark and atmospheric piece by Andy Bennett. Next Dara Naraghi and Adrian Barbu have a nice little piece about figuring out every last angle of a heist… or almost every angle. Then the book veers suddenly into humor (and three cheers for all anthologies that keep the reader on their toes like this), as a series of unfortunate events, chronicled by Dara Naraghi and Tim Fischer, leads to the extravagant home of an intergalactic porn star getting burned down. Next up, Tony Goins and Steve Black have a futuristic story about a crappy future world where everybody gets by on giant suspended bridges and there are constant bombings. The text piece, by Dansen Stahl (with a few illustrations by Tim Fischer), is the biggest misstep in the book. Text pieces are always tricky, but if you’re talking about what is essentially a Revolutionary (that is, American Revolution) group of heroes, isn’t it a much better story in a comic anthology if it’s, you know, a comic? Tom Pappalardo proved to me recently that text in comics can be done well, but I think these two missed a chance for a great comic here. And finally there’s a piece by Tom Williams in which he debates going back to Columbine for a reunion years after the school has been demolished. This is still a pretty solid group of stories, even if it only got better from here. Worth a look if you’ve been following this series and/or these people and want to see what their stuff looked like when they were only relative babies at this business…
Crash Comics #6
Ah yes, the dreaded “it’s still in print but you’re not going to have any idea what’s going on” comic. I think my love for the work of this man is well documented throughout this page, so for this particular comic, I’ll just come right out and say it: without a synopsis of some kind this is damned near indecipherable, something useful only for those people who like pretty pictures alone and/or future comic historians, after Mr. Williams becomes famous. The second story in this book, the bulk of the comic, is part 6 in a series and, with the first five issues out of print… well, good luck with that. It involves telepathically controlled giant fish monsters, a centaur professor, Amazons, a man who can’t die, and Atlanteen guards who ride around on telepathically controlled air bubbles. Right around the time things start coming together even a little bit, the story is over. This is an odd complaint, I know, as anybody reading this in 1999 was probably very happy with it, but this is 2008, and I’m at sea over here. The first part of the comic was great, dealing with the Amish, sudden parental death and living in denial, so it’s not like the comic is all bad. Hell, even the parts that were over my head were still gorgeous. Maybe a little raw compared to his later work, but hey, this comic is early days for him. So if you’re already a huge fan of the man and can’t get enough, it’s worth picking this up, but if you’re just here to see what’s worth getting from him, I’d start with Misa By or any of the last three books on this page and work your way up. $2