Friday, August 3, 2012

Funny Aminals Volume 3: Hush

Of the few CCS-related anthologies that have published more than one volume, Jeff Lok and Bryan Stone's Funny Aminals has been the most uneven in terms of production values and content. The third volume, subtitled Hush, is easily the tightest and best-looking edition to date. In part, I think that's because the editors chose from a wider pool of CCS-related artists, including a number of current and recent students. It's a substantial book at 64 pages yet doesn't outstay its welcome, with only a few pieces that might have been omitted. There was a sense that the contributors for the most part tried to bring their "A" material to the table, rather than hurriedly submit something, which is not an unusual occurrence for unpaid, self-published anthologies.

The book takes as inspiration funny animal comic books, a source that gives the artists a lot of latitude as to what kind of stories they chose to tell. Some tell stories in the original spirit of the comics that were once as commonplace as super-hero comics are today, while others take their cue from the underground comics that subverted these tropes. A good example of the latter is Matt Aucoin, whose "Floplins and Fuzzwumps", while silly and scatological, is superbly drawn and paced. This is probably the single best piece I've ever seen from him in terms of both storytelling and draftsmanship. G.P. Bonesteel similarly ups his game with his one-page strip "Chalk", which brings a silly premise to life with lively figure drawing of two lizard creatures. The anthology wisely leads off with Denis St. John's "The Devil's Magic", a hilarious and elegant story about a sinister-seeming anthropomorphic goat magician whose actual magic may be mundane, but still enormously impressive to his audience. It's a great-looking story with a strong undercurrent of humor throughout.

Other strong pieces included Andy Burkholder's "ZZZZZZZZ", a surreal piece filled with sharp and angular imagery; the joyfully loose "Bedtime for Boozy" by Colleen Frakes; Stone's delightful forest farce "One Year"; Jeremiah Piersol's ant vs anteater battle "Ant defEaters" (featuring his thick line deployed in a cartoony manner); Lok's bulbous figures and absurd horror in "Sal's" (the image of a sentient, bouncing pig's head is a hard one to shake); Donna Almendrala's silly Eastwood-as-chimp story "The Good, The Bad and the Chimpanzee" and the inimitable Dane Martin with "The Wise Old Bird's Paranoid Ballet". In his ratty, frantic, claustrophobic style, Martin once again tells a story of someone yearning desperately with the prospect of something wonderful at the end of his journey, only to find a bullet for his troubles. I'm excited that he's doing a series with Chuck Forsman's Oily Comics, because this is an artist whose work needs to be more widely seen. His presence is precisely the sort of change of pace that makes for a good anthology, and while many of the comics in Hush can be described as lightweight, there's a strong level of craft and care at work here that makes it worth a look.

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