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Reactor Girl #6
posted August 20, 2007


Creators: Anne Bernstein, Vincent Delbaere, Laurent Cilluffo, Jeff Evans, Gary Dumm, Joe Zabel, Dylan Horrocks, Paul Hunter, Eric Searleman, Eric Theriault, Adrian Tomine, Michel Vrana
Publishing Information: Tragedy Strikes Press, comic book, 32 pages, February 1993, $2.50
Ordering Numbers:

Reading long out-of-print anthologies can give you a better snapshot of a time period than just about any array of graphic novels or stand-alone comic book titles. Those works tend to have a longer shelf life, with more successful artists, of the kind that continue to shape the field far outside of their initial publication date. Anthologies give you a broader idea of who was out there working, both those that hit, and those that didn't. The sixth issue of Reactor Girl, edited by Michel Vrana at about the point Tragedy Strikes Press transmogrified into Black Eye Press, contains several cartoonist who have done significant work since: Adrian Tomine and Dylan Horrocks contribute short stories featuring a much less streamlined art style than what they would eventually develop; Gary Dumm and Joe Zabel work on a story that looks exactly like every other Gary Dumm and Joe Zabel since the beginning of time; and cover artist Laurent Cilluffo showcases the abstract style (think of John Porcellino, Jordan Crane and Rian Hughes sharing a page) that would later cause little hearts to float and pop from the cranium of critics like Bart Beaty.

Perhaps more fascinating are the people you barely remember, like Anne Bernstein's slice of autobiography that's visually interesting but sometimes simply fails to scan, while the Erics Theriault and Searleman contribute a pair of shorts. Only Paul Hunter's story of a pair of creative arsonists, "Points 2 Remember," feels totally out of place, with its sudden shifts in perspective and stylized, fantastic and unconvincing plot line. The overall sense one gets from the comic isn't so much pleasure from the stories, although the Evans/Dumm/Zabel, Tomine and Bernstein stories offer varying levels of pleasure and the Horrocks and the Cilluffo (with Vincent Delbaere) works are dense and compelling. The feeling I had when I put down the comic was one of regret that anthologies like this don't exist anymore. I can't imagine anyone being able to spend a couple of years putting together a readable comic from two- and five-page comics shorts. Not anymore. We live in an age of six figure book contracts and squarebound anthologies (RAW really did beat Weirdo in the end). A comic book, ragged and scruffy, and designed to hold smaller stories, intending to introduce new artists that are actually worth being introduced to, that's no longer on the table. Is it right as a reader to miss the days of lesser economic opportunity?