January 13, 2011

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Curls Studio Presents Carnival Anthology

Written and Illustrated by Various Creators including Carolyn Belefski and Rafer Roberts
Self-Published

Lots of things can happen at a carnival, if only you know who to ask. Watch as 11 different creators or creative teams tell stories as varied as they are interesting with the carnival as their theme.

I picked this one up at SPX after hearing about it a little before the show. It features a lot of creators who are at the annual show, sometimes with their established characters, sometimes with a new idea. Most of the stories are only two pages long, which allows for a lot of different ideas, but does hurt storytelling a bit. Overall, it seems like the writers have a bit of trouble telling a complete story in such a short space. I wonder if maybe half the ideas but twice the length might have worked a bit better.

This does not mean there aren't a lot of good moments in the comic. Belefski's opening and closing device, which gets a bit more space than the others, develops well and is a cute way to tell a "what if" story with a built in reset button. The story is right out of an old horror comic, even if the illustrations look much brighter. It also shows to me the value of giving the creators a bit of room.

A few of the stories do a good job with the two pages, however. A A Vrooman's A2Alien makes the best of a possibly bad situation in a story that fits well within the two pages. Gyro and Scoot from Terry Flippo has a style that jumps out at the reader and tells a quick tale of values that finishes up within the time frame and needs no further explanation. As happy as Flippo's tale was, Nick Destefano's story is sad. Still, the entire point is gotten across in the two pages, as we see how important a little thing can be to one person.

The best story belongs to Rafer Roberts, however, who shows how to tell an entire story in 18 panels. It's a tale of dark comedy with a complete beginning, middle, and end--all with no words. I know I'm a little biased towards Roberts, but if someone asked me to demonstrate condensed storytelling, this is the kind of work I'd want to point to. Roberts' creepy style adds to the atmosphere, with long, sketchy lines everywhere. This story has the staple fold, and it's well deserved.

Overall, the Carnival Anthology packs a lot into a relatively small set of pages, and there's a lot to like about the tales you'll see within. Not all of the stories are perfect, but in an anthology, I never expect them to be. All of the comics relate well to the theme (which was a nice touch), and this is a good way for you to sample some mini-comics creators to see if you'd like to find more from them. I wish there were more anthologies like this with a solid foundation. I'd certainly buy them! You can find a copy of Carnival Anthology at a comics show or grab one from the website for the book. Fans of mini-comics or the atmosphere of the carnival won't be disappointed!