New Anthologies From CCS: Sundays 3

Posted by on December 9th, 2009 at 6:56 AM

Rob concludes his look at recent CCS anthologies with SUNDAYS 3, edited by Chuck Forsman, Sean Ford, Joseph Lambert & Alex Kim.

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The first SUNDAYS anthology that debuted at MOCCA several years back was the first comic produced by CCS students that I read, and what it occasionally lack in execution it made up for in ambition.  The oversized format of the first volume was designed to mimic the feeling of reading a newspaper’s Sunday comics section.  They weren’t the only ones to have that idea, as the recent Wednesday Comics series from DC indicated, not to mention the number of anthologies that have gone big.  This edition of SUNDAYS went back to its minicomics roots, with three separate minicomics bound by a sleeve (which has a comic inside of it).  Each volume has its own set of editors, and the results from each were certainly quite different.

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The first mini, “Good Morning, Dogburgh” was a complete story by Chuck Forsman and current CCS student Melissa Mendes.  Forsman, who’s become one of the most interesting young artists in comics over the past couple of years, also edited this volume.  This resembles a children’s book more than a comic in that we learn about the citizens of a town entirely inhabited by anthropomorphic dogs, from A to Z.  The left hand of the page has the letter in question and a little quip, and the right hand page depicts the action.  It felt like a tribute to Dr Seuss, though it wasn’t exactly meant for children (under “S”, it’s “Stephanie Stuffs”, depicting a woman stuffing her bra).  The whole theme of this volume of SUNDAYS seemed to be dipping into childhood dreams and nightmares but from an adult perspective, and the first volume felt like it was aimed at reliving preschool years.  It was certainly cute, but it also felt Mendes & Forsman were stretching out the joke just a bit too much.

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The second chapter was edited by Joseph Lambert, who is by far the best draftsman to come out of CCS but someone who is still exploring his authorial voice.  There were two stories here, a bit of fluff about two bored kids on a Sunday afternoon by James Hindle, and a 24-hour comic by Lambert himself.  Despite an emphasis on speed in such a work, Lambert still delivered an exquisitely-drawn story that has the bonus of crackling with a certain loose energy.  There’s also a darkness to this story, about a child who is friends with the sun, that I haven’t seen much of in Lambert’s other comics.  Jordan Crane was Lambert’s thesis advisor at CCS, and one can see how compatible these two were in terms of character design, the expansive use of environment (especially juxtaposed against tiny figures) and an overall sense of both whimsy and dread.

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While the first two books in SUNDAYS 3 were interesting, it was the third volume that really stood out.  Edited by Ford & Kim, it’s a thematically cohesive (but not suffocating) group of short stories from an exciting (if not widely well-known) set of young artists.  Ford set the tone with two teenagers taking a nighttime stroll of their neighborhood with a bottle of booze, a sense of dread creeping in as one of them sees his parents fighting through a window.  Each of the rest of the stories deals with late night walks, the anxiety of the unknown, the darkness beneath the surface of our everyday lives, and the rituals we use to preserve ourselves.  I liked the design touch of introducing each new artist’s story with a mailbox with their name on it, and the way the anthology starts at dusk, works its way through the night and ends at daybreak.

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Lydia Conklin continues her unsettling exploration of the way in which children develop relationships with animals that in some ways are deeper than their affection for other people in “Pinpricks”.  This strip is especially funny and weird because the dialogue of the strip (where an ex-lover returns, only to find himself spurned by the girl who resents his job) is so cleverly contrasted by the visuals: the lover is a miniature horse, the girl is a teenager.  Conklin is steadily smoothing out some of the rougher edges of her drawings while still retaining a vital primitivism, especially in terms of relaying the dream logic of her worlds.

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Blaise Larmee is next with a color piece deliberately scrawled like a preschooler’s attempt at coloring within the lines, with hints of nighttime rituals and deeper, puzzling feelings that were beginning to emerge.  Annie Murphy is up next with a young girl’s description of living in a “hungry house”, replete with ghost cats that lay on her chest, causing her to gasp until she wakes.  Here we enter the nightmare portion of the night, with Murphy emphasizing heavy blacks, mosaic patterns and wavy lines.  John Brodowski takes us from the dark of space down to a girl’s late-night viewing of “Black Beauty”, wishing for a horse to appear.  The connection between the astronaut who dies horrifically to become a shooting star and the girl’s wish is deliberately vague, but Brodowski’s heavily naturalistic line and almost oppressive use of shading elicit a sense of magical realism in effect.  Finally, Kim’s tale of two teens walking to avoid an unstoppable magic creature in the form of a jaguar echoes back to Ford’s opener, as one teen’s ability to make her imagination come alive barely saves them when the sun finally comes up.  It’s a satisfying end to an volume that, on its own, was one of my favorite comics of 2009.

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