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June 19, 2012


Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Anything Goes!

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Here's a thought to put into perspective the 1980s' adherence to the comic book series as the standard mode of publisher: the 1980s were a time when a publisher might put together a run of six comic books to raise money, as opposed to going into such a project hoping to lose as little as possible. Such was the case in 1986 when Fantagraphics published this series to support its then-current, Michael Fleisher lawsuit-related legal bills. Anything Goes! was an anthology of short comics by sympathetic friends and faithful publishing partners gathered into one place and framed by exhortations/humble thank-yous from Gary Groth. While Anything Goes! features some sterling work, it may be most useful for the snapshot it provides of the alt-comics landscape a bare six to eight years before that milieu locked in as its own thing. In the mid 1980s, alt-comics was more of an aspiration than a scene. Genre artists stand more than comfortably beside those working in what we think of as more literary modes. Working in color seems a tremendous novelty. There are a few artists, including holdovers from the late underground period, we don't think of at all anymore.

Anything Goes is probably most famous for the second issue's Alan Moore/Don Simpson (with Pete Poplaski and Mike Kazaleh) short story "In Pictopia" -- a mournful, "Roger Rabbit"-style look at the comics world that makes its points by placing various characters' overlapping lives into abstract, careerist terms. It's a smart, tight, mournful work, although once people start to do comics this unabashedly nostalgic and despairing, there are soon enough comics of this type it's difficult to see work like "In Pictopia" with fresh eyes ever again. The sentiment, if not the rigor of its craft and its relative elegance, feels of the time. Other highlights include work from Los Bros Hernandez, covers from Stan Sakai and Neal Adams and Frank Miller, a smart-looking, classic contribution from Gil Kane, and short entries from Dave Sim and Bob Burden. There's a Dan Clowes comic in here, and one from San Antonio radio and television broadcaster turned Charlton workhorse Pat Boyette, and neither feels out of place.

I was surprised when looking at this series to discover that I read -- and still own -- every issue. My memory was that I bought one or two and left the others on the stands. In fact, I bought issue #2 three times somehow; it's a really good book, but that seems a bit much. I had little to no interest in whatever specific predicament Fantagraphics found itself, although I remember the backstage gossip aspect of the comics industry was always fun to see whenever it seeped out in those pre-Internet times. I generally supported free speech the way just about every kid in high school does, and didn't like the thought of any comics publishers I liked going out of business for any reason. I believe this was the comic that put Los Bros back on my radar in terms of paying closer attention to what they did (I was already buying Love & Rockets, but it hadn't yet captured my attention the way it would a few months after this series' final issue); it was also the comic that got me buying The Comics Journal on a devoted basis. It more than served its purpose.
 
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