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Monday, November 26, 2007

Yearbook Stories 1976-1978 -- Top Shelf co-publisher Chris Staros became well-known in comics thanks to his Staros Report, an engaging and highly personal fanzine/checklist of his favourite comics that he published in the 1990s. In addition to his reviews and commentary, he also included some value-added autobiographical comics which were fun to read. The material collected in Yearbook Stories, which originally appeared in the 2001 SPX Anthology, are as much fun as his previous efforts.

There are two tales, one longer one illustrated by Bo Hampton in lush black and white, and a shorter one drawn by Rich Tommaso. "The Willful Death of a Stereotype," the Hampton-drawn story, is about Staros attempting to reinvent himself by running for 6th grade class president. Of such stuff are Afterschool Specials made of, but thanks to Hampton's brilliant artwork and Staros's forward-driven narrative, "Willful Death" becomes something special. Great, truthful little moments and a genuinely reflective conclusion leave the reader with real insight into Staros's personality -- hell, even into his inclusive vision of comics. Good autobio comics tell you something about their creator while they entertain you, and "Willful Death" does both.

"The Worst Gig I ever Had" is the pleasant after-dinner mint of the book, a short story about the weird things that can happen to high-schoolers who form a band. Tomasso illustrates the story in an inky sort of Paul-Grist-Meets-Kevin-Huizenga groove, and it ends on an amusing note that would shock and awe the Staros found in the previous story.

Top Shelf has priced Yearbook Stories at a hugely reasonable $4.00. It's a nicely-formatted slightly-larger-than-digest-sized pamphlet that will make for a good stocking stuffer for anyone you know who's into comics, or just a fun and thoughtful addition to your own reading pile. And given that it's subtitled "1976-1978," I hope there may be more issues to come. I'm sure Staros has more stories in him, and we could use more comics like Yearbook Stories.



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