For Those Who Enjoy Being Bound & Gagged
Bound & Gagged (I Will Destroy You): Tom Neely, of The Blot fame, curates this impressive 72 page collection of one-panel gag comics from 33+ alternative and underground creators. Never before has such an impressive array of indie artists been featured in a single anthology, some of my personal favorites include Tom Neely himself, Elijah Brubaker (Reich), Chris Cilla (The Heavy Hand), David King (Lemon Styles), Josh Simmons (Jessica Farm), and Noah Van Sciver (Complaints). Overall, the book is very well put together, with easy to navigate content, including a handy reference guide as to which creators are responsible for which pages. It’s surprising how many lesser anthologies forget this user-friendly component and keep their audience guessing for no apparent reason. I also liked the recommended reading list that includes other projects from all of the creators.
There’s plenty for everyone to enjoy in this book, the standouts for me include the following pieces. John Porcellino’s clever introduction has multiple gags on a single page, and he seems to get the most mileage out of his share of the real estate. David King’s piece has his trademark dour Danny Dutch fellow, a brilliant use of juxtaposition, with the guy in the suit inside an archaic stone dungeon. Chris Wright’s work is always intricate, the kind of pieces you want to stare at for a few minutes in order to take in all of the nuance. Dylan Williams’ thin anemic sketchy lines always belie the complexity of the ideas he presents. Levon Jihanian offers ongoing riffs on The Family Circus, they’re truly disturbing and worthy of consideration because of the visceral response they can illicit. Chris Cilla has perhaps the most visually diverse trio of entries, relying on some deadpan humor that really sings. Jesse Reklaw contributes an impressive trio as well, my favorite being the beautiful color work of the minotaur. Tom Neely… well, I love all of his pieces, but my favorite is definitely on page 50, and it’s my favorite piece in the entire book. It’s full of sarcasm and the type of self-effacing wit that only a confident creator can supply. There’s a brilliant flash of color that pierces the panel border, and we can see his trademark white-gloved, Floyd Gottfredson-inspired, Jughead crown-wearing figure work. I’d love to own the original of this piece, man would it show well all framed up! Josh Simmons’ single page boasts just enough vibrancy and intrigue to leave you wanting more. When is that next volume of Jessica Farm due out? Gabby Schulz was a new name to me, but her two pieces are impressive, particularly the pointed dissent and black humor of the torture page. Speaking of black humor, Ryan Standfest, of Funny (not funny) fame, provides a thoroughly engaging piece, and I’d love to see more projects that he’s involved with. Kaz’s piece on page 52 I loved. It takes the traditional Sunday strip aesthetic and subverts it into something unfortunately more modern and realistic. The only real mistake I found was on page 53, where “convenient” is misspelled as “convieniant,” and actually “convenience” should have been used anyway.
With this anthology, Tom Neely has proven that he’s not just a powerful creator, but that he can “herd cats” too, and effectively manage a group of other talented, sometimes fickle, artists as well. It’s the odd little touches that really make it sing, like all of his marvelous spot illustrations, or like how only the odd pages are numbered. It’s all so very stylish, but doesn’t lose any functionality. The perfect marriage of commerce and art. This approach to an anthology book is deceptively brilliant – the one page contribution. With so many artists, some of whom (we won’t name names) are notoriously slow, one single page gives a high volume of creators a chance to realistically contribute. For the audience, it’s a terrific sampling of the alternative and underground styles out there that they might otherwise be missing out on. Bound & Gagged is highly recommended, and more information can be found at http://www.iwilldestroyyou.com/. I hope you get this in time to catch the release party from 8-10pm at Secret Headquarters in LA tonight! Grade A.