As the year at work started off with a cascading series of problems, I have been in a bit of a reading slump , not able to focus on reading and getting distracted even from stories that I’m actively enjoying. I’ve started a number of books and haven’t completed any of them, and it’s definitely me rather than any judgement on the books. Hopefully I’ll get back to those later and be able to enjoy them when I’m in the right mindset.
But one of the things I enjoy doing is browsing the comics section of Kickstarter. There’s always a wild array of possibilities there with stories that couldn’t or wouldn’t or just haven’t found a way into mainstream graphic novel publishing, at least not in the US. I semi-regularly support the stories that catch my eye and then just wait to see what shows up as a surprise gift to myself however many months later.
Last week while I was moping around not able to read anything much, one of the projects I supported was fulfilled and I received a package that contained two thin volumes that were each short enough that I could just sit down and read them in one go:
Cotton Tales, Volumes 1 & 2
by Jessica Cioffi, AKA Loputyn
These beautiful books full of ethereal images tell a gothic story of a boy who has woken from an injury with no memories in a mansion that’s haunted by a ghost and there are a huge number of rabbits that only he can see. The world has magic in it, but it’s unclear what is real to that world and what isn’t. And everyone he meets has ulterior motives and hidden histories.
It’s a fairy tale story with a simplicity that let me read and enjoy it within a day and break my streak of unfinished books. I’m also looking forward to seeing if there is an eventual volume 3, although volume 2 does end with a satisfying conclusion even as it sets up for the next stage of events. Volume 1 ended with much more uncertainty so I’m glad I got these both at once.
Having enjoyed these books so much, reminded me of another Kickstarter comic that I’d received some time back and then never got around to completely reading:
Elements of Fire
edited by Taneka Stotts
This more hefty book is a limited-palette graphic novel (black, white, and red) anthology of 23 stories with lengths ranging between two to sixteen pages each. The first couple of stories reminded me of why I hadn’t completed this before: they weren’t bad, just not to my taste: one high fantasy and one overly twee. But this time I persevered and I am so grateful that I did because the third story blew my mind! It was so good and so beautiful both visually and conceptually. And then there were twenty more stories!
With any anthology there are going to be better and worse stories but this is really an amazing collection. I loved more stories than I didn’t and now I’m a bit embarrassed for having set it down for so long. The artists made some amazing and fascinating choices with how to use the restricted palette to best effect, and created vast and complex worlds in just a few pages each.
Each story is unique — Stotts did an amazing job of curating a wild diversity with this collection that went above and beyond the stated intent of diversity in having all creators of color. It really shows a diversity of cultures and styles and approaches to the art of graphic novels.
While they all very good, my favorites — the ones where the stories and the art combined to touch my heart — were:
- Cactus Flower by Sara Duvall
- Pulse by Der-Shing Helmer
- Hearth by Jaid Mandas and Marisa Han
- Preta by Chloe Chan and Nina Matsumoto
- Meta Helmet by Deshan Tennekoon and Isuri Merenchi Hewage
- Caldera by Jemma Salume and Taneka Stotts
- Firestom by Melanie Ujimori and Chan Chau
- Home is Where the Hearth Is by Veronica Agarwal
I highly recommend this anthology to any and everyone to see which stories and images touch them. Because all of the stories are skillfully written and drawn: after that it’s a matter of personal preference.
This anthology also really presses home why I browse Kickstarter so much more often than I step into any comic bookstore anymore. A good comic book store will have an “Other” section in addition to their Marvel and DC, but they necessarily cater to the masses in a way that Kickstarter doesn’t have to. Plus each comic is a unique creation of love by an artist rather than a business decision by a corporation, so even when they wind up not to my taste (which happens sometimes), I never regret supporting them.
It was also wonderful to sit down with some books and actually read them, cover to cover, and have a sense of completion that I’ve been missing in the last couple of months.