Murphy, Annie (editor) – Gay Genius
Watch out homophobes, it’s an entire anthology full of the dreaded “gay stuff!” I like to think that such people don’t read my site, but it’s always fun to scare off the hypothetical haters regardless. This anthology runs the gamut from fantastic stuff to pretty damned good stuff to stuff that’s just OK with maybe a bad piece here or there, which makes this exactly like every comics anthology that’s ever existed. My favorite piece was the one sampled below by Annie Murphy, which hey wait a minute she’s the editor too! This one tells the story of Babe Bean, a mysterious figure from the late 1800’s who dressed like a man, but this person was tiny and refused (or was unable to) speak, so nobody could tell her gender. Tales of gay folks of any stripe from the 1800’s rarely ended well, which makes this one even more of a delight (um, spoiler alert, no violence to be found here). Annie used newspaper accounts for most of her narration, as Babe captured the imagination of the area for a good chunk of time and the papers were constantly speculating about her origins. But the important parts of this story were the areas where Babe broke through the previously impenetrable gender wall to gain access to exclusively male clubs and events. This is listed as a “Part 1” even though it’s not listed in the back of the book as something that is ongoing, which is a shame. I’d love to read about the missing years between the start of the story and the end of it, even if the newspapers moved on and there would be a lot of speculation involved. Other stories in here include tributes to a couple of different deceased friends (by Matt Runkle and Ellery Russian respectively, as they both regret losing access to these people at such a young age), LeRoi Newbold’s story of thinking she got AIDS from a female friend after they had “fake sex” when they were 9 and how she figured out who she was in her early teens (complete with terrible spelling/grammar that makes perfect sense in the context of this story, told from the perspective of a confused kid), the various tales of different butches from Elisha Lim, Clio Reese Sady with her story of the first FTM transgender gathering in 1986 (it’s fascinating to see these people struggling just to come up with terms to describe what they were going through, as they were literally making it up as they went along) and Samantha Jane Dorset with her entreaty for marines to quit the service (with a nice story about one who did and who later became a mentor for other confused marines). You can see from the various tags that there are plenty of other stories in this anthology, but what fun is it if I go through them one by one? You already know that Edie Fake is a consistent delight, and the format of this book allows full color when appropriate, so a good chunk of these stories really stand out visually. It’s worth a look, even for you jaded folks who think you already know all about any possible stories in here. Believe you me, you almost certainly don’t know everything in here. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the many different definitions of genius in the back, many of which I’ve never heard before. $20
Various Spark Plug anthologies – Orchid
And to think that I was regretting saving this one for last. After that Bogus Dead book in the middle of the week I was pretty sure nothing else was going to touch it, then along comes this book. In my opinion. there are two ways to make a great anthology. You can either have a lot of pieces, fast and furious, and you’ll come away with a good impression of the book as long as the majority of them are solid, or you can have a book with only a select few, long pieces. Orchid is comprised of seven long tales adaptations of gothic stories. The only one that didn’t do anything for me was Poe’s “The Raven”, and that’s mostly just because I’ve seen so many adaptations of it at this point in my life that I just don’t want to see it again. A personal problem of mine, granted, but that doesn’t change the fact that everything else in here is creepy and good. Kevin Huizenga (the back says that he “used to do a comic book named Supermonster”. Please don’t tell me that he’s done, that’s one of the best series out there and I only just found out about it!) has the longest piece, a disturbing tale about the power of visions. Here’s a list of the other names, and let me know if you need and more convincing: Lark Pien & Jesse Reklaw, Ben Catmull, T. Edward Bak, David Lasky, and Dylan Williams. It’s only $8 and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Get this and Bogus dead and your anthology needs for the year should be pretty much met. If the website still isn’t working, you can send money to: Spark Plug Comics P. O. Box 10952 Portland, OR 97296-0952.
Various Spark Plug Anthologies – Bird Hurdler
A free sampler of some cartoonists you publish?Â What a great idea.Â And not just your average sampler, as the stories in here are self-contained, not just bits of stories to show off the artwork.Â They even have more available!Â It’s a good thing to be this impressed before I even get to the contents.Â Stories in here include Julia Gfrorer’s (and I would love to hear how that’s pronounced) story about getting killed by the chief man-witch and having to babysit for his child, Andrice Arp’s tale of a creep on an Amtrak train getting shot down, Zack Soto’s quiet piece about a relationship falling apart (told as an actual physical beating), Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg’s story of a cat trying to figure out the treat it got on Thanksgiving that was the best thing ever (and its sorrow at never being able to get said treat again due to the ethical constraints of its vegetarian owner), Farel Dalrymple’s piece on a botched magic spell and a girl who beats up boys on a regular basis (the only story that was a “part 2”, but it held up fine by itself) and a silent sleepy story by Theo Ellsworth.Â On the Spark Plug website they say that it’s available for $.01 and postage, but I’ll bet if you ordered a healthy stack of comics from them and asked politely they’d probably throw a copy in for you.Â Or maybe Nerd Burglar is better (as it’s also free), but I haven’t seen that one yet and this one if fine by itself.Â Any time I get a story told from the perspective of a cat I’m happy, as I’m apparently slowly turning into a middle aged woman.Â I still only own one cat though, so all hope isn’t lost for me yet…