Panel #15: The Movies
It’s difficult to tell from that cover scan, but this comic comes in a DVD case. Yep, the Panel folks keep stepping up their game, threatening to finally quit fooling around and design an anthology that is utterly perfect, negating the need for anybody to try again. Of course, if they ever do get there I’ll be the last person to point it out to them, because if I did they might stop putting out anthologies, and nobody who likes comics wants that to happen. So, right off the bat, the DVD case. That cover is pretty great (I particularly enjoyed the “Special Appearance” blurb followed by a couple of new names) but the back cover is pretty sweet too, featuring panels from the comics and a nice synopsis. It houses a regular comic, not some strange hybrid of the two, so don’t be alarmed. The “Chapter Selections” are neatly laid out on this back cover and the bios of all the artists and writers is again a high point. Fine, isn’t there a comic in here? Yep, and it’s over 60 pages at $5, which makes it very cheap considering all the bells and whistles. Well, I guess the only expensive bell and/or whistle would be the DVD case, and they probably found them in a landmine somewhere, as all DVD cases will outlast us multiple times over. Still, kudos. Highlights? There’s Brent Bowman with movie posters for theoretical movies that never got made (oh, to live in the universe where Kubrick directed “Lord of the Rings”), Sean McGurr & Tim McClurg with a simple but accurate description of the many assholes you’ll run into at a theater these days, Craig Bogart remaking an old Panel story by Andy Bennett, Dara Naraghi & Dan Barlow going through the excruciating process of making their own movie (and the hilarious premiere night), Tony Goins coming to the logical conclusion that you’d be better off just making a comic, Sean McGurr & Brent Bowman telling the story of Sean’s (or maybe Brent’s) fear about terrorists at the Spiderman 2 premiere in 2004 and Ross Hardy with a tale of various Star Wars characters locked in a drunken card game and talking about the films. The Matt Kish pieces were a bit of a highlight, as usual, but odd as they were both written by other people (Dara Naraghi and Sean McGurr respectively), even though they were both explicitly about Matt. The first was his reaction to the awful (hypothetical; we should be so lucky) Spudd 64 adaptation and the second was Matt illustrating some of the classic lines from Star Trek 2, which wouldn’t seem to require much of a writer at all, but what do I know? I think the man is on the right track and that he should immediately start drawing more of his interpretations of famous movie lines, but I’m biased enough to wish that Matt would also draw a running commentary of my life. I left out some pieces for no good reason really, as there wasn’t a terrible piece in the bunch, just a few I enjoyed slightly more than the others. Buy this, why don’t you, these people need to know that what they’re doing is seen far and wide and that people want them to keep it up. $5
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?
Panel #11: Work
The Panel crew is at the point where they could coast. They have a solid, consistent group of contributors, a near-limitless capacity to come up with new subjects for the individual issues and (I would hope, anyway) a group of people who will check out any future issues. And still they manage to keep everything fresh, starting right away with the packaging. Yes, that is a plain old interoffice envelope, familiar to any of us who have spent any time in an office, signed apparently by all the creators. Inside of this envelope is a series of individual mini comics (and one printed on a large sheet of paper), meaning that they can all be sold by the creators individually at cons or whatnot. To top it all of is the “memo” inside, an introduction to the comics, using all the appropriate buzz words like proactive, impactful and synergistic. An instant work of art, and I haven’t even mentioned any of the comics. The big sheet of paper is Broken, a silent story by Brent Bowman of a repairman witnessing the end of a relationship. Next is All in a Night’s Work by Dara Naraghi & Matt Kish, another silent tale about a day in the life of a henpecked knight, and you know I’m going to love anything that gives Matt the chance to draw dragons and various odd creatures. Pyramid Scheme by Brent Bowman & Sean McGurr is a tale of a man trying to convince his friend of the validity of his pyramid scheme, and this comic is actually shaped like a pyramid, although this point I think they’re just flaunting their creative awesomeness. Craig Bogart is up next with A Strange Farewell to Reginald Everbest, in which the people of a town don’t show enough respect when the town mortician dies, leaving the dead to rise up and do it themselves. Molly Durst has Wink! Wink! An Interview Gone Wrong, in which the interviewee has a nervous twitch that makes him wink, but I’m not going to spoil the punchline. Finally there’s Goby by Steven Black & Tim McClurg, another silent piece, and the one that made the least sense to me. There’s a little fish, see, and it gets thrown back after getting caught by a fisherman. Then said fish is swallowed by an octopus, which gets captured and cut up, which reveals the fish, which then transforms into a mermaid, and then time moves forward about 50 years, bringing a snail onto the scene… Sorry, that one lost me. It looks gorgeous though, and that has to count for something. The fact that this is still going strong at #11 is impressive as hell to me, as is the fact that you can pick up just about any issue of this series at any given con and expect a quality anthology. $4 and worth every penny…