Another Tribe: Supertalk #1 and #2

Posted by on August 11th, 2010 at 5:34 AM

Rob reviews the first two issues of the anthology Supertalk, published by Eric Watkins (Birdcage Bottom Books).

It’s been difficult trying to pin down just what the new anthology Supertalk is trying to do.  Both issues feature roughly the same roster of artists, so it’s clear that it’s trying provide a showcase from a certain select group of artists.  What they and their stories have in common is what seems to be  entirely vague, which is what made reading these comics slightly maddening.  There’s somewhat of a tendency toward the fantastical and/or grotesque, as in the comics of Matt Rota, Victor Kerlow, Nick Sumida and Anuj Shrestha’s “Red Dream”.  These were the most interesting stories to simply look at in the collection, especially Kerlow’s ramshackle line and use of grays, Shreshta’s tidy line and unfussy storytelling, the sheer grimness of Rota’s work and the ways in which Sumida worked humor into a post-apocalyptic story.

JT Yost did some of the humorous short stories he’s best known for, matching funny drawings with solid gags in a story about the quotidian dealings of pigeons & dogs, and then a slightly more didactic story of a baby giving a lecture to her father about not knowing the true, darker meaning of nursery rhymes.  Adam Kidder’s “Fundar the Barbarian” strips are mostly notable for his sheer commitment to carrying out a stupid premise (a barbarian seeking fun), adding a bit of Joe Daly-style weirdness to the mix.

Where the anthology fell down a bit came with the autobiographical and slice-of-life material.  None of it stood out as very interesting, and Tory Sica’s “Looking Up” in the first issue felt uncomfortably close to exactly the sort of thing that Craig Thompson does (down to even the style of lettering).  In an anthology with a number of short stories without any kind of discernible them or guiding editorial hand, those short stories that have a certain quietude about them have to find some way to make an impression.  In Supertalk, those such stories were decently crafted and competent, but they were ultimately forgettable.

Supertalk would be better served with a tighter editorial focus, fewer one or two page stories, and a commitment to finding a purpose.  For example, if its main purpose is to serve as a showcase for a group of local talents, then the anthology should provide biographical information (or at the very least, links to the artists’ websites).  More attention should be paid to the way stories are arranged so as to provide a better flow for the reader.  Stories that purport to have more than one chapter should be avoided.  Decisions should be made about questions of design; the anthology was printed on cheap paper but at a decent size, suggesting that at least some attempt was made to make the art look better.  In a marketplace overflowing with quality anthologies, Supertalk needs to find a way to stand out.  There are pieces of a consistently interesting anthology here, but it has a long way to go.

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