Edited by Indie Spinner Rack
Evil Twin Comics
Despite of the absurd amount of talent currently floating around in the alternative comics scene, it seems that quality anthologies are perpetually few and far between. Ask anyone with a bit of knowledge about the scene to recommend a good collection, and they’ll likely point you in the direction of Fantagraphics’ Mome anthology. However, for all of the title’s strengths, it’s always felt extremely cliquey, and as such, isn’t exactly the best book for providing a decent cross-section of up-and-coming talent in the scene.
The Best American Comics collection goes a ways towards offering the aforementioned ever important cross-section, however, it’s largely lacking in another key element of a quality comics anthology: the exposure of up-and-coming indie comics artists (granted, this largely depends on the editor of any given edition, but the chances that a good sampling of artists will appear who work the nightshift at Kinko’s to scam free copies, is slim to none). Names like Alison Bechdel and Joe Sacco might prove obscure to those whose knowledge of the comics has deemed Image’s output the weird and fringey outskirts of the medium, but for folks like us, dear reader, those names are some serious A-list hall of fame fodder.
Then there’s Flight. In the past, I’ve ventured to call the book something along the lines of the best anthology of independent comics on the market. It’s a seemingly hyperbolic statement that I stand by. Currently in its fourth, beautiful volume, the thing should be on the display shelf of every indie comics fan in the country, if not framed on their wall.
The latter half of that last comment was meant entirely as a lavishing of praise upon the book, but, at the same time, points to something of a problem: there’s a lot to be said for the anthology that’s designed to be tossed into backpacks and passed between friends. It’s a void that Flight doesn’t fill. The thing is a minor work of art, and while the book’s $25 price point hardly seems like a giant sum of money amongst those who regularly pickup graphic novels from their local comic shops, $20 seems like a pretty good cutoff for those seeking a gateway into a brave new world of comic bookery.
Awesome, the first anthology by those superstars of comics podcasting, Indie Spinner Rack, does that one better, with a $15 cover price. As for the other points, well, one would be hard-pressed to think of a group of tastemakers more suited to the task of assembling a cast of talented up-and-coming cartoonists than the duo behind ISR. Aside from a couple of exceptions—relative well-knowns Renee French, Roger Langridge, and Nick Bertozzi (who contributes an awesomely goofy ISR origin story) instantly spring to mind—the names that litter the contributors’ pages are a virtual cross-section of the best below-the-radar artists working in the alternative comics scene today.
Alec Longstreth’s “Imagine a World Without War” does a lot with a funny—if decidedly thin—Highlights Magazine-esque premise. Andy Ruton delivers the quintessentially adorable Owly strip. Neil Swaab pushes his own self-imposed limits of Mr. Wiggles’ fucked-uppedness, while Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier bookend the proceedings with their own goofy homage to ISR’s cohost.
The hosts themselves, meanwhile, understandably saw fit to recognize their own comic creating ambitions in the volume. Charlito proves himself to be very capable in the cartoon form with “ _ _ _ _,” while Mr. Phil offers up the less visually complex, but far more emotionally deep “Secrets and Lies.”
Awesome is a somewhat uneven collection at times—I found myself skimming through a handful of the included strips after a few unenticing panels—but really, isn’t that sort of the point of the comics anthology? To serve as a sampler for the medium? In that respect, the book dutifully does its job, proudly showcasing the work of a lot of terrific artists, and in the end should see its way into a well-loved backpack near you.