3+3 = Great
(This Stripped column originally appeared in the August 6-12, 1998 Long Island Voice. Click on the artwork for a larger image.)
by Beth Hannan Rimmels
Not traveling to any conventions this summer? You owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of the Trilogy Tour II Book.
If you've been asleep for the past year, the Trilogy Tour debuted last summer when Jeff Smith (Bone), Charles Vess (Book of Ballads and Sagas, as well as Stardust) and Linda Medley (Castle Waiting) decided to travel together to Heroes Con in Charlotte, N.C., Chicago Comicon (now Wizard World) and Comic-Con International San Diego and do a joint exhibit. (SPX '97 in Silver Spring, Md., wasn't an official stop, but all three were there. Vess and Medley shared a table; Smith was placed elsewhere to accommodate his fans.) The tour went well, the self-published trio had fun and fans who might only know Bone were exposed to two other great all-ages fantasy titles. So rather than just repeat last year's routine, Vess, Medley and Smith decided to double the fun by adding Mark Crilley (Akiko), Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother) and Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo). These three release their creator-owned titles through other publishers (Crilley and Thompson through Sirius, Sakai through Dark Horse.)
I've raved about Thompson and Crilley before, but I've been remiss in not praising Sakai's rabbit ronin. I blow hot and cold on anthropomorphic titles, but only a fool would dismiss Usagi Yojimbo as a Ninja Turtle knock-off (though the Heroes on a Half Shell have crossed paths with Usagi a few times). The stories are hauntingly good while remaining true to the spirit of feudal Japanese culture. Sakai takes his work very seriously, as the meticulous preparation of the art for "The Guardian" in Trilogy Tour II Book shows. The story itself is simple and a theme that has been done before, but Sakai makes it feel fresh.
All six stories are self-contained introductions to the creators' works, though "Rose" is a Smith-Vess collaboration rather than a Vess solo piece. (It's a teaser for a prequel miniseries to Bone that Smith will write and Vess will illustrate.) Seeing Smith's creations rendered by someone else is interesting and very appropriate here. Rose is Gran'ma Ben from the current series, shown as a young, red-haired princess being trained to fight.
Vess' work is gorgeous as usual and the use of color seems right for these characters, usually rendered in black and white. (Smith's own two-page short in the collection is the only B&W piece). While there are still great dangers at the time of "Rose," much greater darkness will come in years between this tale and Bone #1. Maybe I'm overanalyzing, but it seems fair that Smith's world would be less vibrant in the aftermath of the fall of Atheia. Only the Red Dragon looks exactly the same, though you can believe that this bold young woman would still be able to drive off a pack of rat creatures and win yearly cow races in her old age.
Thompson's "Tea for Orson" reintroduces characters from Scary Godmother: Bloody Valentine Special. It takes place in the "Fright Side," where Scary Godmother lives and Hannah is a regular visitor. I'm campaigning for a Scary Godmother story for each major holiday.
I've held off writing about Castle Waiting because I can't do it justice. It's a wonderful blend of whimsy, imagination and real consequences all told in Medley's definitive style. "Sweet Temptations" is a story very much on the periphery of Castle Waiting, but in five pages it manages to hint at Medley's ability to surprise and delight.
Crilley's "Gozmaturk" does much the same for Akiko. The only problem is it leaves me aching for color in the monthly series, which is unlikely to happen since Crilley painted this effort. Crilley's drawings always fascinate with his detailed use of shadows and lines to convey a depth most comic-book art can't show, but somehow he manages to lose as little of the latter as possible in adding color.
Crilley also managed to add the icons for each of the Trilogy creators into his backgrounds. OK, I recognize Ted the Bug, Poog and a Fright Side creature, but can anyone explain Vess, Medley or Sakai's icons? I don't get it.
In more serious news, The Trilogy Tour II gang will also hold an auction for a serious cause at the San Diego show. On July 18, Karen Shaffer (a.k.a. Mrs. Charles Vess) was in a car accident and broke her neck. She has since had major surgery to repair the vertebrae that snapped out of alignment and her prognosis is very good (there is movement in all her limbs but no control or strength). However, her recovery requires six month to a year in a rehab center, which is very expensive. Complicating matters is the fact that as freelancers, neither Shaffer nor Vess have healthcare, which is why this fund- raiser is being organized.
The items to be auctioned will be displayed at Vess' tree booth starting August 12 until August 15. The exact time and location of the auction on Saturday is still being determined but information will be available in the Trilogy Tour II area. Items being auctioned include: a brand-new, painted-especially- for-Karen's-auction Star Wars painting by Dave Dorman; a Shadow/Rocketeer image penciled by Michael Wm. Kaluta and inked/colored by Dave Stevens; the original manuscript of the novel Good Omens, contributed by Neil Gaiman; a Shadow/Batman full-figure drawing, penciled by Michael Wm. Kaluta and inked/colored by Bernie Wrightson; a Shadow/Margo full-figure image, penciled, inked and colored by Michael Wm. Kaluta; plus items contributed by Matt Wagner, Geof Darrow, Ken Kelly, Scott Dunbier and many more. Other auctions are being held at this weekend's RebelCon and September's DragonCon. Info on the latter will follow in upcoming Stripped columns.
Column © 1998 Long Island Voice. Trilogy Tour II cover art © 1998 Charles Vess. Trilogy Tour II logo © 1998 Linda Medley, Stan Sakai, Jeff Smith, Jill Thompson and Charles Vess.