The latest anthology from Vancouver’s Cloudscape Comics Society celebrates our relationship with wildlife of all stripes, while spotlighting the work of some of Canada’s best up-and-coming female creators, with lush illustration and socially relevant stories.
The resurrection of the comics anthology is at hand. Thanks to crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo and the growing reach of digital platforms, the historically maligned anthology has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years.
With projects such as Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream and Occupy Comics not only reaching funding goals but absolutely crushing them, it’s easier to attract top creators – and, by extension, consumers – to buy into the artistic vision.
Crowdfunding also allows prospective publishers to test the waters and tweak their product while it’s still in development, greatly increasing the quality of the finished publication and its ability to reach a willing audience. Vancouver’s Cloudscape Comics Society has tapped the crowdfunding well in the past to great effect, with savvy fundraising campaigns for anthologies such as Waterlogged and Giants of Main Street.
With each successive offering, the production and story quality of Cloudscape’s anthologies has improved exponentially. Their latest collection celebrates society’s relationship with the myriad other species inhabiting our planet with some of their best work yet. With only a handful of storytelling guidelines, the editors have allowed their contributors all but free rein in the style and genre of their nine-page tales.
Despite a definite leaning towards the realms of fantasy and myth, there’s a little something for every funny-book palate here. From twisted tales of super-critters a la Captain Carrot, in Ian Boothby and Toren Atkinson’s uproarious ‘Eye! Eye! Eye!’ to Ian Thomas and Jeri Weaver’s poignant cautionary tale of conservationism, ‘A Grandmother’s Tale’, the stories in Mega Fauna all share one thing in common: an extremely high level of graphic storytelling.
There are so many excellent entries in this anthology that it’s difficult to choose only a handful to spotlight in a review. Some of my personal favourites include Kris Sayer’s ‘Gruff’, a wonderful, beautifully illustrated romp through the fairy tale of the Billy Goat Gruff; ‘Temple Dog’, an insightful, heartfelt story of the little elephant that could, set in a Buddhist temple, by Angela Melick and Everett Patterson; and ‘Truly Wondrous’, a whimsical flight of fancy if there ever was one, written by Shevon and Renuka Singh, with art by the fantastic Reeta Linjama.
Truly, I could go on and on. Closing out the anthology is a lushly painted tale of a librarian sphinx by Eric Johnson, whose work should be gracing the covers and pages of far more books than it currently does. What’s most refreshing about Mega Fauna, though, is the sheer number of female creators contributing stories and art to the anthology.
Over half of the creators involved in the book are women. Typically, I try not to review comics based on the gender of its creators – good stories are good stories, after all. I couldn’t help but be struck by the depth of female talent in this top-notch roster of contributors, though.
Along with Weaver, Melick, the Singh sisters, and Linjama, readers are treated to wondrous works of art by Ksenia Kozhevinikova in ‘Romulus and Remus’ and the exquisite line work and rich detail of Chenoa Gao in Bevan Thomas’s ‘Hunt the Unicorn’. It boggles the mind that such a population of visionary female creators can be found in one province.
All of the stories are kid-friendly but are told with such wit and craft that adults won’t feel left out. One of the best anthologies of the year so far, Mega Fauna is a true joy to read for anyone who loves wildlife of all shapes, sizes, and origin.
Mega Fauna goes on sale at the Cloudscape store on May 25th.
Various (W/A) • Cloudscape Comics Society, $25.00.