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Mitchell, Brian John (editor) – SPACE Anthology 2012



SPACE Anthology 2012

I just now realized that this was different from the PANEL set of anthologies put out by Ferret Press, the ones that I love pretty much every time (which is saying a lot for an anthology). Is there a feud of some kind going on, or are there just too many stories for them all to be contained in one anthology? Or hey, maybe it’s because the PANEL anthologies tend to stick to one theme, while the only theme of this one seems to be “people who were at SPACE in 2012.” Whatever the case, this is a damned solid anthology, and if you find yourself wondering if you really want to pay $20 for an anthology, remember that a good chunk of the proceeds go towards keeping the same price for the yearly convention and generally funding all aspects of the thing. Think of it as a donation to a worthy cause where you come out of it with a fairly hefty anthology that also happens to be mostly in color. I always thought that seeing The Accidentals (by Mike Carroll) in color would be a revelation, and it looks like I was right. If only he could afford to put them all out like that! Ah well. Stories in this one include a John Steventon piece about the eventful birth of his daughter, a battle for the fate of the universe that came a little too late by Jon Michael Lennon and Thor Fjalarsson, an utterly unique vision of the afterlife by Leslie Anderson, a Christmas alone for a bear by Shawn Smith, an uneventful conquering of the world by Bob Corby, Kathleen Coyle and Jason Young’s piece on Kathleen’s first time seeing Return of the Jedi as a young child, Brian John Mitchell exploring the meaning of it all (he also edited this whole thing), Mari Naomi’s attempt to square the image in her head of her grandfather with the horrible stories that she was told about him after he died, Mike Kitchen’s hilarious take on the attention span of iPad users, Steve Myers and his tale of reality blending with fantasy, Matt and Jeanie Bryan’s unique take on a ruined date, Kel Crum’s computer virus, Kris and Mary Lachowski’s piece on a bizarre half dream half reality conversation, Blair Kitchen’s superhero who’s having a really tough time saving the damsel in distress, a sneak preview of Dave Kelly and Lara Antal’s tale of the Night Watchman (probably not what you’re thinking, but maybe you nailed it!), another great Homegrown Alien tale by Joe Davidson, a one page shortie by Ray Tomczak, and a brief bubbly piece by Maryanna Rose Papke. The color was done really well, and it was great to see some of these characters done how they were “meant” to be done (for all I know the creators were perfectly content for these stories to always be in black and white but couldn’t resist the chance to change it here). It’s a nice pile of stories and seemed to be really representative of the work of these people, which is why this thing exists in the first place, right? $20


Young, Jason – Veggie Dog Saturn #6


Veggie Dog Saturn #6

Has anything contributed more to creating small press comic artists than long lines for more established creators at comic conventions? This issue is an origin story of sorts for Jason, as it details his first big comic convention in Chicago, where he was finally able to meet his hero (Bob Burden of “Flaming Carrot” fame). But it was the mini comics of Paul Koob (“Hamster Man”) that seemed to make the biggest impact on his life at the time, and he only happened across that table because the lines for the people that he really wanted to see were too long. Anyway, this comic starts off with Jason tensely waiting out a bomb scare at his place of employment when he was 16. The comics that he wanted to get signed were in the pizza place and, even though nobody thought that the bomb threat was real, he still theoretically risked his life just to grab his comics before they left on the trip to Chicago. Off he went with his older brother and a few of his friends (although the afterword mentions that the contingent that actually went off to Chicago was shrunk for dramatic purposes), and Jason did a really fantastic job of building up Chicago after he had seen it (mostly in the background for Cubs and Bulls games on WGN) for years. The reality matched his dreams, as they had a hotel room on the 30th floor of the convention center and he got a hell of a view of the city. From there he goes on to describe the experience of finally getting to a gigantic comics convention, and there’s no sense of my ruining any of that. It’s a thoroughly engrossing story, one that will no doubt seem familiar to just about anybody reading this review, as most of you must have gone through a similar experience to cross over to the small press stuff. Except for those of you were awesome enough at 11 to start off buying Fantagraphics books, and I honestly think that you people missed out a bit, as it’s hard to value the really great stuff unless you have at least some background in the crap. I was wondering why there aren’t more origin stories out there, but it’s probably very similar for a lot of people. Still, an anthology with this theme would most likely be fascinating. Just saying… $3

Young, Jason and various artists – Veggie Dog Saturn Special


Veggie Dog Saturn Special

I do love the collaborative comic. There aren’t too many of them, what with so many people scrambling just to put out their own comics on any semblance of a schedule, but they’re pretty much always a ton of fun. This is a collection of stories that are written by Jason (except for the story that was written by Brian John Mitchell and illustrated by Jason) and drawn by the people that you’ll see listed in the “tags” section, or I’ll get to them as I continue rambling on about the book. Pretty much all of them have other comics listed on this site if you get curious about them, and they’re all very much worth you getting curious about if you’ve never heard of them. Things start off with a story illustrated by Kurt Dinse about a gigantic bully from grade school who would steal bits of food off all the trays of kids who didn’t eat quickly and how that affected him in later life. Well, it’s told by a very old man, so I’m guessing maybe some of these aren’t literally true. That part was a little vague in the introduction. Hey, as long as the story is entertaining, who cares, right? Next up is the story of a house party (illustrated by Jason Martin) where the bands show up and the author steps in to play a little guitar. PB Kain is next with the shame of depositing large chunks of money to the bank on a regular basis and how he’s sure that the tellers think he’s a drug dealer (when he actually works at a comic store). Chris Hoium has a story about a brief conversation of the worst things that people had done to their grandma, Carrie McNinch illustrates a piece on the dangers of having too much store credit at a tattoo parlor, Joe Grunenwald remembers a friendly neighbor who would show projected cartoons when he was a kid, and Eric Shonborn shows what happens when pranks involving a label maker go horribly wrong. There’s also the piece illustrated by Jason Young and written by Brian John Mitchell, dealing with an implausible vomit configuration that I couldn’t help but sample below. It’s a pile of fun, in other words, and if you’re a comic artist/writer out there who would like to do something like this yourself, Jason does mention in the introduction that literally every person he asked to be in this said “yes,” so maybe your hypothetical project wouldn’t be as hard to get off the ground as you may think. $3

Mitchell, Brian John – Cops and Crooks #1 (with Jason Young & Eric Shonborn)


Cops and Crooks #1

Brian has this listed as a #1, but in this case I don’t get it.  I suppose, if I squint my eyes just right, this could be the perfect beginning of a series.  Or it could be the perfect example of a self-contained comic.  Ah, who cares?  He has a half dozen or so other series that he’s juggling, so either way works for me.  This is the story of, well, cops and crooks.  This has to be close to the shortest flip book around, as half of it deals with a cop and the other half deals with a man who wants to kill all cops and destroy the system.  The cop had a rough but decent life, as his father (also a cop) was killed when he was four years old, but he was raised by a bunch of different cops on the force, with them taking him on their family vacations and generally doing all the things that a father should do.  The other guy had a completely different experience, as his father was taken away by cops before he was even born, so he has, quite naturally, hated them ever since.  There’s also the distinct contrast of the artwork, as Jason Young (I’m guessing the Veggie Dog Saturn Jason Young?) has a clean line with everything seeming to be sweetness and light, while on the Crooks half Eric Shonborn perfectly captures some scratchy (but still intricate) rage.  Like I said, this could go either way in terms of it being a series.  I could see them both eventually crashing into each other, or this just being fine all by itself as a commentary of the intrinsic nature of cops and crooks.  Either way, as always, I’m on board, and you should be too.  $1

Young, Jason – Veggie Dog Saturn #4


Veggie Dog Saturn #4

I made a conscious decision ages ago not to show wraparound covers (although I’m sure you could find examples of me breaking that “rule”), mostly because it’s a nice reward for the people who actually buy the comic.  Covers like this make that decision seem stupid, as the marching band following that leader is a wonder to behold.  Well, like I said, if you buy it then you get to experience it too!  The last issue of Veggie Dog Saturn was a travelogue/retelling of a crisis, this time around Jason is back to a bunch of shorter pieces.  Either way is fine with me as long as the stories are entertaining, informative or at least embarrassing, and Jason wins on all counts here.  Stories include getting hit with a rock in the head as a kid (and the excessive amount of blood compared to the severity of the wound that followed), a childhood lesson in using rare spacemen toys as currency and how the market collapsed when his brother got a paper route, a friend he knew as a very small child but lost touch with very early on (possibly due to a racist bank/doll in his house, something that his mother kept around not even knowing it was racist), pooping in the bathtub, and his first experience with a swimsuit magazine.  Oh, and there’s the sampled strip, which I can only hope is completely true.  Jason is also starting up a podcast, because what other medium would such a talented visual artist want to go with?  I’m sure it’s lovely and I’ll check it out soon, but get back to work on the comics!  Issues like this are a vivid reminder of what a talented artist the guy is, and also a reminder that when I rule the world I’ll be chaining such people to their drawing desks.  So I guess it’s best that he get this podcast business out of the way now…  $2

Grunenwald, Joe – Post-Script



This comic does not get off to a promising start.  I love that cover, but “buyer beware” indeed, as it’s from Jason Young (of Veggie Dog Saturn fame).  The first page of the comic, the first thing that anybody standing at a comic store or at a table at a convention is going to see, is a flat image of a villain and hero getting ready for some kind of battle.  No background, the movement lines on the hero looked more like smudges than anything else, and the costumes of both of these two are simple as can be.  Nothing to catch the eye, that’s what I’m trying to say.  Luckily for Joe I’m one of those people who just tries to get a variety of comics at cons more than anything else, and luckily for me the comic gets a lot better after that first page.  This is ostensibly a comic of a typical action scene, one in which the villain uses a few underhanded tricks, tries to hurt a few innocents and ends up safely back in jail by the end of the comic.  What makes it unique is that the fight itself is silent and the text we see throughout is a heartfelt letter from the mother of the villain trying to figure out what went wrong with him over the years and whether or not it was her fault.  It’s a haunting piece, made all the more impressive because it’s told over such a ridiculously stereotypical fight scene.  Every one of those villains (assuming they were real, but in this case let’s just go with the actual villains in the world) had a mother and the vast majority of them tried to do the right thing by them, but some people are bound to turn out bad.  Like I said, the art is a bit rough, but it gets better as the comic goes on, and it’s a unique enough idea that it’s worth taking a look.  No website, but Joe does have an e-mail if you’d like to drop him a line.  Do people still say that,  “drop them a line”?  If not, they should.  That and “new-fangled”, that’s also a good one.  Can you tell it’s a weekend?  I’m stopping now.  No price, but a buck or two should do the trick…

Young, Jason – Veggie Dog Saturn #3


Veggie Dog Saturn #3: Jason’s Quest

There’s one glaring problem with this comic that didn’t occur to me until I had finished reading it and was scanning the cover for this review: what exactly is Jason’s Quest?  It would make sense with a different cover, but that one makes it look like he’s desperately searching for either love or sex, and this book doesn’t seem to have anything of the sort.  This comic begins with Jason, about to “celebrate” his 31st birthday, freaking out about the fact that the degree he was going for was something that would probably end up making his life miserable (looks like some kind of advertising degree, and Google “Bill Hicks Advertising” to get the perfect quote for that (nothing personal to Jason)).  There was also the fact that “all he had to show for it” was a few comics very few people have seen.  Maybe in a calmer moment he saw that the sum of our lives is not just the things we produce and consume but the effect we have on those around us, or maybe he didn’t.  Works for me anyway.  Jason, on the spur of the moment, accepts an invitation from some friends to go bike riding in Toronto after the semester is over, and the rest of the comic deals with Jason’s lost ticket home, a friend who lost a passport, the other people in the hostel, a naked bike ride (consisting mostly of middle-aged people), and all of the calamities that come with being far from home and without a solid home base.  It’s a hefty thing at 30 pages, there’s a suitably bleak ending, and there’s even a more uplifting message on the color strip of the back cover: maybe sometimes you should take some advice from your cat.  That won’t make sense to most of you and that’s fine, but believe me, his ending message is excellent.  I’ve seen plenty of these travel comics in my years of running this website and this is one of the better ones.  There’s a moment when he “figures it all out”, but there’s nothing preachy about it and it’s the kind of quiet conclusion that’s perfect for this story.  Good stuff, that’s what I say.  $3

Young, Jason – Francis #2


Francis #2

I could have sworn that I got more than one issue of this… Anyway, this is the story of a very confused young man dealing with his emerging sexuality. He thinks that he’s gay until a female friend goes down on him at a party, then he’s all kinds of confused. There’s not much in the way of introspection here. It’s a pretty straight-forward story of a boy cheating on his boyfriend and most of the story is spent while intoxicated in some way. I liked the art, but it did look a little rushed at times. Maybe the messy lettering contributed to that, I don’t know, but the story was short and fascinating. Send the man an e-mail, I think it would be better to have the whole 3 issue series but this one is self-contained. Oh, and the pages are pink like the cover (all three were different colors), I just didn’t want to give me scanner a chance to screw things up…

Young, Jason – The Paramour Maiden


The Paramour Maiden

Note: this may be the same guy as the other Jason Young listed on this site, but with no way to confirm that, they both get their own pages for now. As for the comic, this is relatively small mini, tightly compacted into an even smaller mini. Which is all well and good most of the time, provided you don’t try to adventurous panel layout that Jason does while also melding conversations that go up and down when they’re really going the traditional left to right. Take a look at the sample, you’ll see what I mean. It’s a needless distraction is all I’m saying, as the story itself is more than good enough to hold your attention. It has a mad scientist (two of them, actually, but mad in different ways), a cowboy overseer who doesn’t take “guff”, a genetically engineered mermaid and countless giant monsters. What’s not to love already? The giant monsters come to get the new monster, the mermaid, which completely derails the other plot with the other mad scientist and the overseer. Giant monsters do have a way of making one forget about the little things though. Worth a look, if you don’t mind panel styles that don’t make much sense. Oh, and if you don’t mind sending money snail mail. Get an e-mail account my good man!

Young, Jason – Veggie Dog Saturn #2


Veggie Dog Saturn #2

I’ve read many, many comics over the years, but this one might just win the prize for having the title and cover image have as little as possible to do with the contents. Not that that’s a bad thing, as this is a thoroughly terrific story about Jason’s one and only night as a limo driver, and that does happen to be a great cover, just thought I should point that out. Jason has only ever worked one job in his life, at a comic store (the lucky bastard… or wait, maybe not so much), and when he gets the chance to drive a limo around for a night, well, why not? Things go well for the first half of the night, Jason is having an excellent time, making money, getting paid to do homework, and then decides to end the night at a Steak and Shake. This leads to a group of teenagers offering him money to drive them around for a few hours, and what could possibly go wrong with that? It’s impressive that it works as a heartwarming little tale about kids scrounging enough money together for a prom limo AND as a rowdy misadventure involving a group of assholes. Most comics would go with one or the other, but Jason takes the whole mini and really makes it work. I know, in this modern age, that people may not like not having an e-mail address to click on, but he has a few other quality books available too, you know. Send a few bucks in the mail, the old fashioned way, and get some decent comics. $2

Young, Jason – Veggie Dog Saturn #1



Veggie Dog Saturn #1

Fans of reviews done in chronological order must have a hell of a time with this site.  On this page alone I reviewed #2 first, then another comic, then #1, which made me realize (through matching e-mail addresses) that both Jason Young’s on this site really were the same person.  Any of you antiquated thinkers assuming that reading something top to bottom will make any sense as a whole better find some other website.  So how about this comic?  I’m glad that I read #2 first, as this one was OK, but #2 was where the man had me thoroughly engaged for the whole story.  It’s mostly because of subject matter, as this one is all about Jason getting over a failed relationship and trying to start another one up after months of zero interest.  The end of the relationship seems to be a mutual thing, but unfortunately he had met his ex through a mutual friend, so she remains a part of the picture.  As for his new love interest, it turns out that she has an excellent reason to not want to be dating him, but it takes him quite a while to find that reason out.  Jason could have used a bigger comic here, frankly, as this is the sort of story that cries out for a range of facial expressions.  He chose story over expressiveness, so while the backgrounds and people still look great, it’s damned near impossible to read faces.  An odd complaint, granted, but it’s all I have this time around.  It’s a good story, all too familiar to anybody who has had an ex stick around the social group after a breakup and to anybody who ever wanted to start dating again with someone who just wasn’t into them that way.  Oof, what an awkward sentence.  Well, that’s why they pay me the big bucks…  $2