Every so often life reminds me that I’ve been meaning to reread all of Shirley Jackson’s work, especially since I mostly read her stuff way back in high school. She holds a unique place in the literary world for a variety of reasons, and it seems like a character flaw on my part that I’m not more familiar with all of her work. Sure, I know The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House (and the first movie adaption of it, The Haunting), but other than that I’ve just read a few scattered short stories. Well, if you’re a better person than me and are already familiar with her works, this book is for you. And if you’re like me and are a bit lacking in your Shirley Jackson knowledge, this book is also for you. If you’re an incurious dullard on this subject, you’re off the hook, I guess. So! Like the title implies, this is an anthology with various artists writing adaptations of her works, with a few of them showing various times of her actual life. Annie Murphy starts things off by showing various quotes from Shirley about her life and her beliefs. Colleen Frakes then has a tale about her own childhood and how her experiences with critics resembles the reaction Shirley got when The Lottery first came out (if you haven’t read any Shirley Jackson stories at all, at least read that one). Oh, and I almost forget to mention the introduction by Robert Kirby, which is especially helpful to people with only a passing familiarity to her work (like me). In other words there’s a lot to like here, and I don’t want to go through it piece by piece (because of my undying belief that being surprised by the stories is half the fun of anthologies), but highlights include Asher & Lillie Craw’s examination of places and food in her stories, the various Shirley Jackson archetypes by Robert Kirby and Michael Fahy, W. Woods with an adaption of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Ivan Velez Jr. with his experiences with oddities and real life and how they connected to his experiences with Shirley’s work, Eric Orner’s tale of the death of a friend and how it related to the Shirley Jackson book he was reading at the time, Rob Kirby with a story of how Shirley once freaked herself out when a red liquid started dripping from the cabinet, and Dan Mazur’s combo adaption of a few of her stories starring Shirley as the witch. So yeah, there are a whole lot of great stories in here, and that’s with me only having a passing knowledge of her work. Imagine how much more you could get out of this is you already knew and loved her! $16.95
Full disclosure time: I think astrology is nonsense. Relatively harmless nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless. It’s fortune telling but made for everybody who was born within the listed month, as if every human in every 12 month period shares the same characteristics, but told in such a way that it could apply to just about anybody regardless. I have occasionally given a sign other than my own to somebody who asked me (at a party or bar, usually) and have delighted in their going on and on about my various characteristics that fit me perfectly while belonging to a completely different astrological sign. I just wanted to make that perfectly clear before I started discussing this book, which is edited by a person who does get a lot of enjoyment out of astrology. 12 cartoonists also offer their takes on their signs, with only a few of them being even slightly skeptical. I could have used more of that, but it’s already pretty clear that I’m biased, so I’ll move on. Rob starts in the introduction with his own history with astrology and what it’s meant to him over the years, but he’s also clear that he doesn’t expect everybody to buy into it and encourages opposing viewpoints. He also provides a detailed description of the various signs and some of the other qualities associated with them, in case you were curious and/or needed context. So now that that’s out of the way, how about the stories? The highlights for me included Whit Taylor’s tale of the struggles of being a Gemini, Tyler Cohen eventually coming around on being a Cancer, Cara Bean (with my favorite piece) of Aslan coming down from the heavens to explain being a Leo to her, Rob Kirby going into specifics about being a Virgo and his experiences both with it and discussing astrology with other people, Rick Worley as one of the few skeptics in regards to being a Libra, Aron Nels Steinke on leaving a movie early (and also how his being an Aquarrius mixed with his wife being an Aires) and Marnie Galloway on being a Pisces (and the most righteously skeptical of the bunch). If you are interested in astrology, even a little bit, there’s a lot to love about this book. If you’re not even a little interested in it, like me, there’s still some great artwork, a few skeptics and an insightful peek into the minds of people who take all this seriously. And if you’re short on money, at least you get an awful lot of comic for $10.95.
Society is breaking down! Cats living with dogs! Cats being turned into helicopters! And an anthology named “Three” is publishing more than three stories in an issue! Granted, only one of those examples is a real cause for concern, but I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which one. This issue contains four longer stories and a couple of one page pieces. Well, the first page is just nine images for nine different artists, so that’s more of an author bio page without words than a story. The first story is “Love Lust Lost” by Ed Luce, depicting three different silent adventures based on the three names in the title. Oh, and it’s also about those three guys on the cover, so take a moment and decide in your head which character goes with which story. The answer may surprise you! Next up is a story by Matt Runkle and Janelle Hessig in which they manage to get right up next to the stage for a Dolly Parton concert. They went in awed by her existence and managed to leave with even more respect for the lady. From here we go to the type of story that never, ever works: the comics jam. In this case nine artists take turns doing three panel strips, with the condition being that something bad has to happen on each last panel. I’m far too lazy to go through this strip by strip, but check out those tags below to see the people who participated. Oddly enough, for once this type of thing worked beautifully. Sure, it veered off the narrative tracks here and there, but the next person in line always pulled it together. Shit got real when the Peanuts gang also got involved, leaving my favorite strip of the bunch a tie between Howard Cruse (with Charlie Brown finally getting to kick something) and Ellen Forney (with the best final panel in a pile of great final panels). Marian Runk steps in for a one page story about the birds in her yard and her concern for them before we finally get to pretty much the entire second half of the book, “Fly Like an Eagle” by Carrie McNinch. I’ve been reading her comics for years but have never seen more than a passing reference to her “origin story.” Turns out that she was kicked out of her school while in ninth grade and forced to go to a private religious school. She starts off surprising herself by picking up a couple of friends easily (basically because they both also got busted for drugs in their old school), but that kind of thing can be especially volatile in those early years. The rest of the story deals with her gradual acceptance that she is never going to like boys “that way” (including her attempt to use a hilariously wrong library book for help in learning exactly what she was), her progression through various kinds of drugs and finally a damned sweet ending. Once again this anthology is doing pretty much everything right, and this time around you even get more stories. Which you’d damn well better, as this is $.25 more expensive than the last issue. Calamity! $6.50
King For a Day
Silent comics! If I scared you away, you should come back and finish the review. This one is fantastic, not one of those silent comics where you have to try and figure out whether it actually meant something that you missed or whether the point of it was to mean nothing all along, which would mean that your first impression was correct. Anyway, this is the story of a man who goes out for a stroll to start his day. He waves to a girl he likes (who barely acknowledges his existence), gets crapped on by a bird, gets laughed at by some kids due to the aforementioned crapping, and finally trips over a rock while chasing the kids and knocking himself out. From there we get into “is it a dream?” land (yes), as he’s woken up by a song leading him to a crown halfway buried in the ground. He puts the crown on his head, undergoes a brief metamorphosis, and that’s when things start to get crazy. From this point on everybody treats him like a king, collecting other items that add to his regal appearance, including some kind of royal holy book. Things start to get a bit ugly later when the book… ah, but now I’m saying too much. The question of whether or not the whole thing was a dream does come up again later, and there is a damned sweet panel to finish things off, but I’m not going to tell you what happens. I can rarely “hear” most panels of a silent book, but Robert has done an excellent job of letting the readers know exactly what you’re listening to in each panel, which is also an impressive feat when there are no words involved. If you’re a fan of comics that improve your day, you should give this one a try. No price listed and it’s brand new, so… $3?
Are there any homophobes who read small press comics? I’d like to think that the level of open-mindedness needed to read and support small press stuff would weed out those assholes, but just in case there are, I’d like to scare them off: there’s gay stuff in here! There, that should have scared them off, now the adults can talk. This is the second issue of what has been (so far) a damned good anthology with three stories each. All that color doesn’t hurt anything, but it also wouldn’t help anything if the stories were lousy. First up is a piece by Sina Evil and Jon Macy detailing a slightly awkward but also magical night in New York between cartoonists. Our hero the narrator has never been penetrated before, but things are going so well that he has to give it a try, caution be damned. It’s a great story about not being able to properly read the signals and knowing when to hold onto something and when to let it go. Next up is the story by Jennifer Camper and Michael Fahy, and this one gets a little tricky. Our hero meets the man of his dreams, but this man was recently a woman and he still hasn’t had the full surgery to complete the change. Then our hero’s sister comes to town and it turns out that she played a role in the past of her brother’s lover. There’s also a pregnancy in there somewhere but I’m not going to say where. Finally there’s the story by Craig Bostick and Michael Kelly which varies back and forth (with the color coding telling you which is which) between a traveling musician and a male prostitute that the musician falls for. Sort of. Also with violence! Each story is wildly different from the rest, but they all go back to relationships at some level. Sounds like a good recipe for a successful anthology to me. Oh, and if the people who sent me this review copy are wondering, the reason this one took so long for me to review had nothing to do with my usual losing/misplacing of the comic, and was instead due to the fact that this comic was making the rounds among my friends and I couldn’t get it back. So sorry about the lack of a timely review, but it was for a good cause. $6.25
Ah, the collection of three different comic artists, it just doesn’t happen enough.Â Sometimes bigger anthologies can get unwieldy, but one with one three people gives them all room to tell a story, and this one even manages to be full color!Â Well, Joey’s story is full color, the other two are yellow and blue respectively.Â Eric Orner is up first with the bulk of the comic, dealing with his time in Israel, his reluctance to learn the language (he was sure that he was going to be transferred out at any time), his time in gay bars and meeting guys for sex online, and a charming piece of English graffiti that he kept seeing around town. Joey Alison Sayers is up next, and while my ego is not big enough to think that she started using “Alison” because I mistakenly called her “he” on an old review, I do think that her inclusion of a middle name is a new development.Â For those of you keeping track of such things, and shame on you for being so obsessive, you imaginary obsessive you. Her story deals with a landscaping job and the awkward question asked by the owner of the house.Â My sample will give that question away, but the ending to that page was too good to pass up, and the strip gets better from there anyway.Â Finally there’s the piece from Robert Kirby that deals with his constant desire as a child to be hidden and/or invisible, his chance meeting of a three-legged dog and his anti-climactic “running away” from his boyfriend at the time with only a Visa card and $67. Each piece had plenty to offer, and that story from Eric could be a comic all by itself. If you enjoy a great anthology but sometimes get overwhelmed by the sheer number of names attached, I’d say that this comic was made for you.Â Sure, it’s a little pricey at $6.25, but I did mention all that gorgeous color, right?