The content of alternative comics anthologies in the last ten years seems to be veering away from their (potentially offensive) underground roots. Instead, these collections seem to be reaching more towards the art gallery-centric world of the Pop Surrealism movement. For example, Blab! once regularly spotlighted cartoonists like Kaz, Daniel Clowes and Richard Sala. But now it reserves the most space for top names in the alternative art world like Gary Baseman, Mark Ryden and Camille Rose Garcia. All of these creators are equally amazing, but without the often humor driven, obscenely funny stories of someone like Glenn Head, an alternative comic anthology just isn’t as much, well, fun.
There’s something fascinating about seeing your favorite hero doing what they do best, but in a radically altered setting or environment. A big favorite of mine as a kid was What If? from Marvel. In (somewhat) more recent years it’s a real kick to see what DC creators do with the various Elseworlds releases. One that always springs to mind is Gotham By Gaslight in which we see what Batman would be like if he lived and operated in the late 1800’s. Pretty far-out to be sure, but how is the reader to react upon seeing the caped crusader as Raskolnikov, the down and out homicidal elitist in Dostoevsky’s towering classic of Russian literature Crime and Punishment? One way is to laugh out loud and that is exactly the way I reacted to that story and the many others in R. Sikoryak’s new book Masterpiece Comics.