Friday, July 5, 2013

Musical Anthologies: As You Were and Henry & Glenn: Forever & Ever

As You Were #1, edited by Mitch Clem. This "punk comix" anthology is at times loose, sloppy, unfocused and self-indulgent. At other times, it's charming, funny, fascinating and visually striking. The astute reader can draw their own conclusions as to how this relates to punk rock itself. The theme of this issue is "house shows", a particularly insular topic that lent itself to self-indulgence. Thankfully, the anthology starts out strong with a typically charming preamble about house shows from Ramsey Beyer. Anthony Sorge's story about a basement haunted by the ghosts of mosh pits past was funny and drawn in a cartoony style that added to the humor. Kim Funk's autobio story about his band following up an obnoxiously sexist group (including the prerequisite rape joke) is full of righteous outrage, as they happened to be in the rare environment where a queer band was supported by the audience and those running the show. The other band and their GG Allin-shirt wearing superfan got kicked out. The raw simplicity of Funk's style was perfect for capturing the events of that night. Clem himself contributes a fantastic autobio story about feeling lonely living in a new city, feeling awkward being around new friends that have known each other for a long time, and feeling uneasy in punk scenes. This led him to skip an acoustic house show, which happened to be the Mountain Goats (aka John Darnielle solo) doing a show in someone's living room. It's an incredibly revealing and sad story that is still entirely wrapped up in music.

From there, things start to break down a bit. Andy Warner's "Whisper" is a highlight that amusingly reveals the kind of sonic blast that can interrupt intimate moments. However, Josh P.M. Frees' "My Parents' House" is an example of the self-indulgence I referenced earlier. Complete with photos and multiple, self-satisfied references to a particular group house, this story meanders even as it tries to be poignant. It still had the potential to really get across meaning and feeling, but Frees repeated the same points on why this place was awesome several times and did more telling than showing. The anthology did finish strong, with Bill Pinkel's "The Frowning Of A Lifetime", which was about a guy playing show "cop" by physically picking up a woman who was drunk and bumping into others without fully understanding what went on or respecting her space. It gave a lot more thought to one's own actions than most of the stories in this book. Finally, Emilya Francis' "69 Gay Street" succeeds in getting across that poignant sense of belonging with a more restrained sense of storytelling and a lovely grey-wash over her delicate line. I'll be curious to see if Clem can keep this anthology going and what subject he chooses next.

Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever #2, edited by Tom Neely. America's favorite couple returns after a first issue that sold a jaw-dropping 71,000 copies. Considering that this is a simple lark in the grand scheme of Tom Neely's career, it must continually amuse and frustrate him that this is the most financially successful comics project of his career. That said, Neely has recruited absolutely stellar work for this series, in addition to doing his own stories. The comic simply looks great from beginning to end, and even the filler (like the pin-ups) all add value to this tight and lean collection of silliness. To reiterate the concept, this series imagines macho rockers Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig as lovers, living in suburban bliss (more or less). While the stories are totally silly and fictional, there are still sly nods to reality. For example, in the first story done by Neely, it begins with Danzig getting back to doing comics again, this time doing a pitch-perfect pastiche of Jack Kirby's 70s comics. Juxtaposing that against the Dan DeCarlo style he uses for "reality" is especially funny, particularly when Danzig starts having a hissy fit. The central joke of this strip is that Glenn's mother, whom Glenn had kept locked away, is an abomination because she's a very nice Christian, buying them lots of supplies because they won't make it through the Rapture.

Mark Rudolph's heavy-metal fantasy story about Glenn undergoing a very domestic sort of quest is hilarious, thanks to his gift for caricature and spoof. Will Elder style eye-pops (like a framed crochet with an upside-down cross that says "Unbless this Mess") only add to the fun. The real stunner in this issue is Josh Bayer's thunderous "Same Time, Next Year", which captures his unique ability to nail historical events while creating an outrageous and fictive structure. In his trademark swirly, cluttered and yet entirely clear style, Bayer takes us to several key years in the relationship between Rollins and Danzig as they go through career and personal ups and downs. Bayer takes us into the future where they apparently have to fight aliens and then deal with the mutations brought on by a nuclear holocaust. Yet, he ends the comic on a heartfelt and earned moment that's a callback to the beginning of the story. Throw in some pin-ups by Katie Skelly, Tom Scioli and Andy Belanger, along with a funny back-page story by Max Clotfelter, and you have an item that a lot of people will want to get their hands on.

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