Current Reviews


SCAD Anthology 2007 & 2008

Posted: Monday, December 1, 2008
By: Dave Baxter

Various, Edited by John Lowe
Top Shelf Productions
EDITOR's NOTE: The SCAD 2008 anthology will be released this coming January and is currently available for pre-order.

“Discovered” and “Pantomime”

Summation for Busy People: Two thick-set anthologies featuring work from up-and-coming artists, both undergrad and graduate, from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Each GN collects a series of stories that fall under a one-word theme: the 2007, released this past February by Top Shelf Productions, was themed “Discovered”, and had to pertain to things or people or something being found. The 2008 GN, coming this January 2009 from Top Shelf, is themed “Pantomime”, and includes only silent, wordless stories.

For Those Who Can Afford Attention Spans: So this past November 2nd I was up in San Fran, attending the APE Con, and spending way too much money on pricey small press books (which I love doing but to paraphrase Idiocracy…ouch, my bills!). Then I came across a table with a few scattered ‘zine-sized mags. Hand-crafted ‘zine’s always perk my interest, so I stopped, at this point in my shopping paying close attention only to those issues that were marked “$1” or “$2”, quite purposefully trying not to show interest in the big thick colorful graphic novels that were sitting, oddly out of place amongst mono-colored ‘zines, off to the side. Then the guy at the table did something astonishing: I bought two or three of his ‘zines, and he shoved one copy of each GN at me saying, “Here, take these, I have a ton.”

Speechless, I walked off with three slender shrunken ‘zines (which I paid for) and two gargantuan 1 pound anthologies (which I did not). These turned out to be SCAD books, or annual collections done by the Savannah College of Art and Design, the third and fourth books, respectively, that they’d produced thus far. Each book collects the polished work of students and/or alumni, and this I must say: if comics survive the death of print, they have a massively bright future ahead of them.

“Discoveries”, the 2007 book available now at the Top Shelf online store, has some of the most incredible black-and-white art I’ve ever seen, far and away the best anthology, visually, outside of the cream of the crop such as Flight and Popgun. Some of the stories, like Cale Ajioka’s “Stomach Ache," push the boundaries of coherent surrealism to the max, offering up a world where a battle scarred Kermit the Frog doll journeys into his owner’s stomach to do battle with the title affliction. This is followed by classic pulp-action tales like Dove McHargue’s “Lord of the Skies," a story of sequential art and entertainment caliber that surpasses most mainstream attempts at the same.

Generally, there are two kinds of stories the SCAD students do well: thickly genre and/or slice-of-life. Jin Woo Kim’s “The Memory” and Ned Hugar’s “The Jung and the Restless," and Joshua Dunlap’s “Jazz Story" are all perfectly paced moments of down to Earth dramatics, affecting and sincere looks into the lives of particular characters. Additionally Isaac Klunk’s “Wake” is a unique approach to musing on the momentousness and the…oddly not-so-momentousness…of attending a funeral. Then “Bluebird” by Nathan Sakulich, a story heavily inspired (it seems) by Chris Ware and the Acme Novelty style, then Megan Gullato’s “Heart of a Fool” which charmed the pants of me with its protagonist and his unexpectedly effective use of rhyming verse. On the genre front, “The Cosmic Tourist” by Aaron Hollander just about steals the entire anthological (I’m making that a word) show, with negative-space art on par with Frank Miller, Mignola, and Rouleau.

But, sadly, many of the artists, for all their strengths as artists and sequential storytellers on the visual front, suffer on the scripting, and while I applaud those few who truly pushed the medium to fresh angles of narrative, these largely failed to achieve any lasting effect. A solid number of students vied to produce some startlingly innovative shorts, but in these their neophyte talent as writers often becomes unavoidably apparent.

This, however, is removed almost entirely in the upcoming 2008 collection, “Pantomime," which, as the title suggests, is a graphic novel filled with nothing but wordless comics. Being such, the covers are chock-a-block with worthwhile stories, all immaculately produced with art that ranges up and down the scale and repeatedly blows the scale to smithereens. Literally every story in this book is worth three times the price of the anthology itself (a mere $9.95), too many to mention one-by-one, but here’s a list of the most unforgettable of these unforgettable lot.

Patrick Reynolds’ “Full Fathom Five” is a masterful look at artistic creation itself as a visual metaphor. Jeremy Sorese’s “And Then the Church Mouse Spoke” wields shades of Daniel Clowes and Peter Bagge in its quiet yet excessive humanity. Ted Hellard is the next cover artist of the coming generation, or mainstream I-take-four-months-to-draw-a-single-book-but-it’s-worth-it kind of guy. Cale Ajioka once again gets mention (as he did for 2007) with “Challenger Deep," a gorgeous and haunting undersea excavation. Brooke Allen and James Hornsby both, bizarrely, do two separate, tin-type stories art-wise, two two-page 18-panel yarns done in silhouette alone, which makes me want a whole collection with artists doing nothing but these. Jason Caffoe’s “Nate the Great” was the most endearing, without seeming to so much as try, and Nolan Woodare needs a hard sci-fi epic to illustrate right freaking now.

Final Word: Two absolutely superb collections of top-notch talent, all of which you are assured to have never heard of nor have been exposed to before. “Pantomime” suffered less foibles than it’s predecessor but, for all of that, I find “Discoveries” to be, after sleeping on them both, the more memorable of the two, for being denser and narrative-wise more adventurous. These books compare with the best of the Image and Dark Horse anthologies, so if you have any care at all for who’s going to be who in the comic book world within the next five years, these books are one of the surest places to start. SCAD is producing phenomenal talent, and for only $9.95 a pop, printed by Top Shelf so with terrifically high printing quality, I predict that I’ll be able to count on one hand the number of anthologies that’ll even be able to compete with these by the end of 2009. My highest recommendation.

SCAD 2007 GN “Discovered” can be purchased at this Top Shelf website page.

SCAD 2008 GN “Pantomime” can be purchased at this Top Shelf website page.

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