The Girly Comic Book Volume 1 – not your usual anthology…
Edited by Selina Lock
Published by Factor Fiction
The Girly Comic is an irregular anthology with no other guiding principle than having every strip feature a female lead. Like Selina Locke says in the introduction, despite initially thinking about making it a comic by women, the overwhelming majority of writers and artists submitting work proved to be male. So, instead of rejecting stuff based on the lack of a second X chromosome, she opened the anthology up to make it a girl-centered, girl-positive comic written and illustrated by anyone.
That’s the only real limitation on submission though, as you’ll discover when you open up this huge (276 pages), impressively put together hardback collection of the best of the first nine issues with a stunning cover by Des Taylor. With stories covering seemingly anything and everything from out and out comedy, touching autobiography, fantasy, science-fiction, love stories, sad tales of loss or death or abuse, strange tales of female private eyes and much, much more; the scope of the stories included in this collection is beyond impressive, it’s almost too wide ranging and, given that, with 70 strips here, the average runs to just under 4 pages, reading too much of it in any one sitting can be a jarring and somewhat scattershot experience. Far better to treat it as something to dip in and out of over the course of several nights to best appreciate both the variety and quality within.
(Terry Wiley’s Surreal School Stories – just one of the many highlights in The Girly Comic Book)
I’m not usually a huge fan of anthologies; never really have been, not in prose, not in comics as I find myself feeling let down by the poor strips and wanting more of the better strips. Neither feeling is particularly satisfying. Which is why I approached this with a little trepidation. But the very nature of it worked in my favour. The very short strips, the refusal to stick to one theme, the deliberate clash of styles from strip to strip all made it a surprisingly satisfying experience.
Of course there are strips I didn’t like, of course there were strips that didn’t connect with me; with 70 different strips that was inevitable. But what was great about it was that the number of hits seemed far higher than some of the other anthologies I’ve read in the past. I found myself enjoying the different styles and the feeling that each new strip could and would bring some completely different reading experience.
(My Dead and Me, cracking autobiography from The Girly Comic Book by Lee Kennedy)
Inside The Girly Comic Book you’ve a varied mix of writers and artists; industry pros (John Stokes, Mike Collins, Simon Fraser, Martin Millar), “indy” creators of note (Lee “Inner City Pagan” Kennedy, Terry “Sleaze Castle” Wiley, Garen “Rainbow Orchid” Ewing and Jeremy Dennis) and many of the best talents from the burgeoning UK self publishing and small press scene.
But there’s far too much good work inside the Girly Comic Book to make mention of it all here, but for starters; how about some work by some familiar names? Terry Wiley’s fantastic and much missed Surreal School Stories, which, along with Sleaze Castle is a book I’d really love to see reprinted somehow (Terry, Terry? Are you listening Terry?). Lee Kennedy has a series of her warm and funny autobiographical strips that never fail to impress. Garen Ewing, whose Rainbow Orchid is coming out from Egmont later in 2009 has a great little 6 pager; Sword Of Truth which tells a tale of one famous actress’ earliest steps in his superb “Ligne Claire” style:
(Garen Ewing’s signature Ligne Claire style from Sword of Truth from the Girly Comic Book)
Or, if you’re after something from a slightly less familiar name, there’s just as much for you in here in a great variety of artistic and literary styles. Like these two for example….
(Sylvia’s Path: Fitness Fanatic by Barry Williams and Toby Ford from The Girly Comic Book)
(Spon by David Goodman from The Girly Comic Book)
The Girly Comic website has a lot of sampler strips for the book as well as some original Girly Comic webcomics, some of which I’ve linked to in this review. But I’d encourage any of you interested in picking up the book to visit and see what you think – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The sheer breadth of styles and topics means there’s just got to be something here for you. But The Girly Comic Book is far more than your usual comic anthology, so I’d imagine you, like me, will be flicking through the pages finding new, exciting and interesting strips from the start to the end of this very impressive collection.
The Girly Comic Book Volume 1 is available from Factor Fiction here for the very reasonable price of £15.
Richard Bruton is now feeling in touch with his feminine comics side