Comiculture Anthology (2005)

I started reading this collection knowing nothing more than that SilverBullet editor Keith Dallas really enjoyed this book. Dallas seems to have good taste, but I pride myself on my independence. I make up my own damn mind about what I like and what I don’t like, and I’m not going to rave over something my editor likes just to get on his good side (for one thing this is an unpaid gig anyway, so it’s not like being on his good side gains my extra cash).

But in this case Dallas and I are in total agreement. This is a great collection of stories.

The book grabbed me with its cover, of a lovestruck King Kong looking through the window of a highrise while a gorgeous woman lies in her bed, puppy at her side, reading comics. What a girl! She’s the girl of every fanboy’s dreams; Kong chose right. I chuckled, opened the cover, and found that the cover was part of a story, continued inside. I’ve never seen this idea before, for a cover to lead into a short little tale inside. It’s a very cute little twist-of-the-tail story, and really made me chuckle. It also put me in a great mood for what came next.

Comiculture contains seven long stories and three shorter ones, along with the cute cover yarn. Each one is different from the one before it. We get a travelogue from Kenya, a supernatural romance tale and a pirate yarn, among other stories. It’s such a treat to read a whole slew of stories from different genres in one convenient, high-quality collection. Each story is well-done and successful in achieving what the creators intended to do.

Take “Suffer the Salt,” the pirate story, written and illustrated by Chris Burnham. It tells the tale of a Christian pirate who is confronted by a heathen member of his crew. The crew member has gone native and worships the gods of the exotic islands that the pirates visit. As punishment, the man is punished with a keelhaul, an intensely frightening punishment that is discussed at great detail. The story is spooky and intriguing. Burham’s art is wonderfully moody, and his writing is clear and moves quickly. I want to find more comics by him.

I also want to read more stories about the erstwhile and inept witches of Don Hudson’s “Love Works Its Magic.” This funny supernatural romance tale tells the story of three girls, high school losers, who want desperately to be witches. They’re so inept they might actually know what they’re doing. Hudson’s story is light and fun. His art, though, is what makes the story really special. It looks like nothing more than the work of Marvel Comics legend John Buscema inked by fellow legend Tom Palmer. The two men were a pair of master creators; to see artwork like theirs grace such a fun little story adds a whole extra level of interest to the tale.

Marie Javins presents a wonderful travelogue of her visit to Kenya. Javins left her job as an editor at Marvel to travel the world, and has the spirit of one who’s seen a lot of the planet and knows how to deal with places that are very different from American cities. Readers learn about Nairobi (or “Nairobbery” as it’s sometimes nicknamed) because everyone there seems to have a scam. In her four pages, Javins provides readers a real feel for the place. She’s very talented at telling good stories and at helping readers to walk in her shoes. Hudson illustrates this story as well, with a looser, more cartoony style that takes the edge off of the story.

Jessica Wolk-Stanley’s “I Loved a Zombie” is, as the title suggests, an offbeat romance tale illustrated in a cute angular style reminiscent of Andi Watson’s comics. This is a wonderfully fun little yarn, full of humor and a post-modern wink towards old-fashioned romance tales.

The only story I really didn’t care for in the collection was Buddy Scalera and Alan Evans’s fantasy adventure tale “Clarissa: Down the Rabbit Hole.” I have to admit I’m a little prejudiced against fantasy adventure tales with cute creatures and beautiful girls, and this story didn’t do anything to dissuade me from my judgment. That doesn’t mean than Scalera’s story is bad (it’s just fine for what it is) nor that Evans’s art is bad (he actually does a wonderful job with a story that begs for color), but the story just didn’t work for me.

Readers also get a spooky werewolf story from Don Hudson and Vince Evans; a cute take on elderly super-heroes by Alex Zamm and Graeme Callander, an intriguing two-pager, beautifully drawn, by Mark Cooper and Allen Gladfelter, and cute one-pagers by Kerry Callen and the ubiquitous Buccellato, respectively.

Keith Dallas was right about this book. Comiculture Anthology is a winner of a book. There are some wonderful and unique stories by some intriguing creators. After reading this book, I jumped online to order more comics by these creators. You can’t get a better endorsement than that.


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