Edited by Gary Clap and Kirk Campbell
Ok, anthologies… always slightly strange. At their very best, they provide a fertile ground for new comic artists to show their work. At worst the limited page count means what you get is mostly lightweight and a bit rubbish. I think the best I’ve ever seen in terms of the former would have to be the New British Comics and Birdsong/Songbird anthologies (those are the first couple that come to mind anyway), where there were so many new names that have since become favourites.
Dirty Rotten Comics surely has the feel of that New British Comics, a much bigger thing sure, 100+ pages, 40+ artists contributing, but a good number to look at in more detail, always a sign of a good anthology.
The big thing about Dirty Rotten Comics is the openness of it, a sense of inclusivity. You might have seen the short piece a while back announcing a call for submissions for issue 5, and the people behind the anthology have been doing that since issue 3. They essentially are looking to publish, promote and support artists with a vision. What that vision is, well, that’s the thing open to interpretation. The issue is wide open in terms of content, and pretty varied with regards to an artistic style, so it could well be that it’s simply a case of what Clap and Campbell get through that they reckon works gets into the issue. And frankly, that’s not a bad way to go about things.
Sure, as you expect with 40 different artists, all working to a limited page count, personal opinion and taste is going to mean everyone has different favourites, everyone has some they love, a number they’ll like, a number they’ll dislike and a few they’ll wonder just what the hell they’re doing in the anthology in the first place. Thankfully with Dirty Rotten Comics, the quality and range is such that there are many more in the like than the dislike pile. And a goodly number of strips in the very good, need to look into more pile as well. So, time for a quick run through of the good ‘uns…
The whole thing opens on a really cutting, brutal one-pager from Matthew Dooley, Trainers. A little optimistic on the part of the worker maybe, but it needs that to let the final panel really hit home as hard as it does, with a hateful little shite all nice and easily drawn…
(Matthew Dooley – Trainers)
Next, and somewhat different from his usual style, rougher and looser, Tim Bird contributes Where The Crow Flies, a peaceful, gentle meditation on escape and flights of fancy. It’s a gorgeous little strip, but could easily be overlooked, skipped over too quickly amongst so much else.
(Tim Bird – As The Crow Flies)
Another familiar name to the blog, David Ziggy Greene is here as well with an unusual tale of bizarre burglary, trepass and a very strange, very disgusting form of social protest. And all in his very recognisable, free-flowing style.
(David Ziggy Greene – Le Crime Parfait)
Bethan Mure‘s delicate, sketchy art comes through here in a couple of pages of delightful diary comics, A Week (Or More), her ideas here disjointed, fragile, similar to her lovely comic I Think That I Am Finally Coming Home, but here in cute animal form..
(Bethan Mure – A week or more)
Danny Noble‘s Ollie And Alan Get Bored is a standout here, utterly over the top, her two main characters beardy, hairy and bored after a day out wing-walking on a glider, telling tales of green Cadillacs, Brachiosaurus taxis and all done nekkid as the day they were born. Very cleverly done, very silly, loads of fun.
(Danny Noble – Ollie and Alan get bored)
With a spidery, thin, thin line style, Evan Androutsopoulus‘ wordless Aurinkolahti is gorgeously simple, all about watching the flow of the lines on the page create a narrative of sorts, as a man goes for a walk. So simple, such an impact, very probably my favourite thing in here.
(Evan Androutsopoulus – Aurinkolahti)
Jey Levang‘s A Quite Ordinary. But Not So Typical Morning is a real contrast to much of what’s come before, very much a light story, in a far more traditional style to much of what’s been seen thus far, but it’s certainly good, as a young stroppy teenage demon discovers the rumours about those fictional ‘humans’ may well be true..
(Jey Levang – A Quite Ordinary. But Not So Typical Morning)
Sarah Crosby brings us The Job Centre, a lightweight looking piece, her cartoony style hiding a darker message, satire at its best…
(Sarah Crosby – The Job Centre)
And finally, another new name, James Wragg, whose style on Afterlife reminds me heavily of Rob Davis’ look, rougher, nowhere near the quality, but there’s a certain style to it, and a very well observed, witty tale of life and death.
(Afterlife – James Wragg)
So, anthologies. Weird ones. Too often disappointing. But not Dirty Rotten Comics. The best thing about it is that I can pretty much promise you that you’ll read it and will disagree with me on at least some of those highlights and question my opinion for not including your favourite. And that’s just as it should be.
You can see for yourself at the Dirty Rotten Comics shop.