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July 13, 2012

Evenings Out

Many artists enrich these two new volumes

It has been said before but bears almost constant repeating: Comic books ain’t just for kiddies anymore.

Certainly, there were the Tijuana bibles of the early to mid-20th century, and then R. Crumb went completely crazy with the adult content. Beyond that, however, all bets were off when Art Spiegelman’s Maus won the Pulitzer Prize, the first comic book to take that illustrious honor and forever changing the meaning of “graphic literature” from porn to pretty pictures.

Then they went gay, and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and won the Eisner Award (a comic industry honor) for Best Reality-Based Work, in addition to garnering Bechdel two other Eisner nominations. She won a Stonewall Book Award for it, a GLAAD Media Award, a Lambda Literary Award and the Publishing Triangle-Judy Grahn Nonfiction Award. On top of that, it was listed as one of the best books of 2006 by a half-dozen or more newspapers, and the London newspaper The Guardian ranked it among the 1,000 Novels Everyone Must Read.

So, one can now read (or review) comics and hold one’s head high. And that’s what we’re doing right here, with two new releases that you must run out and purchase as soon as possible!

The first is Leia Weathington’s The Legend of Bold Riley, a fantasy graphic novel inflected with the sights, sounds and lushness of a fictionalized kingdom that resembles India of old.

Princess Rilavashana SanParite of Prakkalore feels two sensations burning inside of her. The first is a wanderlust, carried in her mother’s blood. The other is a love of women, leading her into valiant quests to save her loves.

Weathington brings a handful of artists with her on this epic journey, each with their own style, so each adventure has a very different feel to it. Weathington’s own art, in the first two chapters, has an insouciance that really captures the character perfectly, along with her caring, supportive family. Jason Thompson’s art with Vanessa Gillings providing the coloring gives an indie feel to the third chapter, reminiscent of a great many esteemed graphic novels. The pathos they bring to “Serpent in the Belly” is quite startling.

Marco Aidala and Chloe Dalquist’s art on “The Strange Bath” again is startlingly different from the chapters before it, providing an odd combination of reality and a dreamlike quality. There is a similarity to Alex Maleev’s art in that it almost seems like Aidala uses photo references at first glance, but on second examination that does not seem the case. It’s rough and smooth at the same time.

For “The Wicked Temple,” Konstantin Pogorelov provides art and color, with additional color by Liz Conley. The art takes on an even more dreamlike feel in this chapter, feeling like a series of impressionistic watercolor paintings.

The final story, “The Golden Trumpet Tree,” has art by Kelly McClellan, whose style most resembles Weathington’s own. It’s a tragic tale of self-sacrifice that leaves our heroine heartbroken but unbowed.

Weathington tells a great story, and her graphic novel, out on Northwest Press next month, will be loved by adults and teens alike.

Next we come to that dirty, filthy liar, Robert Kirby, creator of the anthology title Three, whose third issue is now available.

Three was supposed to feature three creators in each issue. So what does he do for the third issue? He gives us 18 creators! I mean, it’s a multiple of three, but how can one mind take in the awe-inspiring cavalcade of comic stars contained in this volume?

The cover is from Ed Luce, who contributes a wonderful, touching and odd little story, but then inside the cover is a fascinating picture by Michael Fahy! That’s two, and we haven’t even made it to page one, which has a three-by-three grid with art by Craig Bostick, Kris Dresen, Jon Macy, MariNaomi, Eric Orner, Marian Runk, Kirby, Craig Bostick and Sina Sparrow. Now we’re up to 11!

In all seriousness, Luce’s “Love Lust Lost” is a fascinating piece, very different in feel from most of his Wuvable Oaf comics. There is some serious melancholy, tied to obscene cuteness and detached sexual hijinks. Throw in an Akira reference, and it winds up a very powerful piece.

Next up is a two-pager by Matt Runkle and Janelle Hessig dealing with the glory that is Dolly Parton. It’s simply adorable; there is not much that can be said beyond that.

MariNaomi contributes a pinup of a woman eating an apple before the book goes on to “Oh No!” Kirby, being some sort of masochist, created a cartoon jam with Ivan Velez, Jr., Jennifer Camper, Howard Cruse, Diane DiMassa, Ellen Forney and Joan Hilty (and himself, of course), in which an artist does a strip of three panels, ending in something horrible happening, and then the next artist does the following strip of three panels ending with something horrible happening, and handing it off to the next artist. A one-eyed, one-legged African American lesbian gets hit by a car, then a school teacher keels over, while Satan gives birth to Paris Hilton, Velez gets murdered by the lesbian who died at the beginning, Charlie Brown punts Robert Kirby’s head and goes on a killing spree and Peppermint Patty comes out. If there were ever a situation which engendered the creation of the term WTF, this would be it. Just hilarious stuff by some of the top gay cartoonists of the last quarter century.

Marian Runk returns with a one-pager about three birds in her backyard before the book finishes up with Carrie McNinch’s “Fly Like an Eagle,” chronicling the 1978-1979 school year, when she discovered her sexual orientation and the joys of smoking marijuana in Los Angeles during the Carter administration. It’s really a great, funny, warm story that is just a joy to read.

All of the artists in Three, all 3 × (3 + 3) of them, are a simple Google search away, along with their fantastic output. It can be purchased from or




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