Byrne, Brendan (editor) – Toenail Clippings #3

Website (where you can buy them, under “Anthologies”, alphabetical by title)

Toenail Clippings #3

One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed about myself since I became a comic “reviewer” is my reaction to anthologies. Back in my innocent days I would be excited to see one, happy at the chance to be able to find the one or two good stories in a book that would point me in the direction of new people that I should be looking for. Now my reaction is dread, because how in the hell are you supposed to recommend anthologies to people? They’re none of them 100% good, and none of them 100% bad. The main thing to look for is whether or not the book entertains you all the way through even though there are a bunch of people doing stories. It helps to have a balance too, unless you’re going for a theme. Some funny stories, some serious ones, some that strike you as sheer poetry, maybe even a little mayhem thrown in. This one, to quote other glowing reviews of other things (I haven’t seen any other reviews of this), has it all. I was going to review all the issues today but then I realized that I would be in bed by the time I finished the whole thing, so the other two will have to wait for another day. I will say now though that they are both exceptional, with #2 being slightly stronger. I’ll figure out why when I review them both, but that’s what struck me from reading them just now.

This one, however, I can talk about at length. I had a hard time holding it to just two samples, but I don’t want to give too much away. It opens up with Steven Weekes’ Tales From the Planet Erk, which is altogether too short for my liking, mostly because I found myself guffawing a couple of times while reading this, and I didn’t even know I could do that. Here. I’ll give you one example of the story, you can figure out for yourself if you want to read it after seeing this:

Brendan Byrne holds down the fort with some of the more serious pieces in the book, and if any of you thinks that’s a bad thing after a funny story, you’re completely wrong. There’s an art to making an anthology and even funny books need some reflection on life and past happenings. It helps that Brendan apparently has the literary ability of a skilled writer, granted, but it makes the whole book much more even. Paul Jennings then draws the last e-mail he received from his friend Charlie, which might seem like an exercise in futility until you read the actual e-mail. Brendan gets a funny piece in next with Love in the 31st Century, with robots talk about their troubles with women. You know, I was going to run down this entire book, but I don’t like analyzing stuff like this. I have to say though that I think Gavin Beattie is a fucking genius, or at least he has the makings of one. That skateboard sample is his, and he has a strip in every issue where one man gives another a picture of the Pope doing various embarrassing things. Funny, funny stuff. If we’re all lucky he’ll get chained to a drawing table some time soon and be forced to draw comics for our amusement. Are there weak pieces at all? Um… not really. Not in this one, anyway. Maybe the butterfly story? That’s only one page and it’s not bad, it just doesn’t stand out much. In case you haven’t gotten it yet, I was completely won over by this.  I hope Brendan doesn’t mind me using so many samples, and I apologize if it seems like I’m gushing, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen a really good anthology. Go to the homepage if you haven’t seen enough samples yet and get a subscription. That’s what I’m going to do, as soon I can figure out how much these cost in American dollars…

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