Beginning a review with a true confession may not the best approach to take though I will anyway. I remember a conversation with Paul who was my best friend at the time. We were cutting through the old Treasure Island parking lot on Broadway in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood (AKA Boys Town) and bisexuality came up. Why I don’t remember though I do recall we’d just cruised a guy and he scolded me for being so obvious about it. Paul unequivocally believed that people were either gay or straight and he thought that anyone claiming to be bisexual was simply fooling themselves until they realized they were gay. At the time I was impressionable and I both looked up to and lived through him. So I simply believed Paul’s projection of his own sexual identity on others was correct, though I adopted a less militant tone about it. This fact from my past is I’m not proud of and sadly it took some time before I realized Paul’s and my hypocrisy on the matter. How could I tell people who I thought they could fall in love or have sex with if I refused to let straight people do the same to me? What right did I have? The simple answer is that I didn’t.
Apparently a lot of people still think the way Paul and I did. Judging by replies, many exasperated and a few ugly, to a recent Linked In topic titled “Why Bisexuals Stay In the Closet”, a lot of people are really tired of being forced into neat, little categories. How dare some people make learning and remembering facets of other people’s lives do difficult by not accepting simple labels for who and how they love? Can you imagine? Right. More and more people are speaking up about their lives while a relatively select group took the opportunity to tell their experiences and undoubtedly voice some aggravation by lending their time and talent to stories in the Anything That Loves anthology. Hey, if putting faces to people’s life stories worked in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington where same sex marriage was voted on so why not here in the hope for better understanding and acceptance?
Inside this 200 paged volume you’ll find work from familiar names such as Ellen Forney, Maurice Vellekoop, Erika Moen, and LGBT comics pioneer Roberta Gregory as well as a host of writers and artists who may be less familiar or brand new to you like Tara Madison Avery, Powflip, and Lena Chandhok. Stories range from autobiographical to fictional slices of life and adventures in imaginary places under the sea and a fantasy world, and run in length from single page strips like Margreet De Heer’s work to Leanne Franson’s playful 18 pager featuring Bi-Dyke Liliane. Typically my experience with anthologies is that they can be hit or miss. Not so the case with this one. Every story illuminates facets of the lives of non binary folks and their hopes and searches for love and recognition while dispelling widely held misperceptions. Yes, some stories drew me in more than others which was due to individualized choices in presentation and not the voices expressing the content. There is some nudity and sexual activity as you might imagine with a book that talks about sexuality, but look elsewhere if you’re searching for pornography. Truly even the piece with characters who have a latex fetish is a love story.
A few words about the production side of the book. A great majority of the contributions are in color and the Color is crisp, clean and nicely saturated on paper with a slight sheen. The book is perfect bound as I think all softcovers are. This means the book won’t lay flat on a table but the sewn binding alternative would increase the cover price. Thankfully art doesn’t disappear into the inside gutter along the spine. Punctuating the book with endpapers is John Lustig’s keen comedic dialog in panels of art appropriated from old Charlton romance comics. Missing from the book is a contents page. Yes, credit is given at the bottom of each story and a section of bios follows at the end of the book and the back cover includes a list of names.None of these makes looking up some of the stories that pique my interest easy to do. Yes, I am old fashioned, somewhat lazy, and a Cranky McCrankpants.
Time for me to be transparent. This review was based in part on a PDF copy provided by the publisher. I also backed the publisher’s Kickstarter project pledging at the award level for a print copy which was also used for this review.
Sample pages of Anything That Loves can be found at the publisher’s site here.
The following is a list of of the writers, artists, and colorists whose work appears inside: Kate Leth, Agnes Czaja, MariNaomi, Alex Dahm, John Trujillo, Dave Valeza, Zoe Chevat Ashley Cook, Caroline Hobbs Bill Roundy, Lena H. Chandhok, Sam Saturday, Ellen Forney, Maurice Vellekoop, Stasia Burrington, Kevin Boze, Erika Moen, Adam Pruett, Jason A Quest, Leanne Franson, Jason Thompson, Jumana Al Hashal, Vanessa Giulings, Sam Orchard, Powflip, Margreet De Heer, Nick Leonard, Leia Weathington*, Conley Smith, Melaina, Randall Kirby, Roberta Gregory, Steve Orlando, Walter Rodriguez, Victor Ochoa, Tara Madison Avery, Mike Sullivan, Amy T Falcone, Dave Valeza, John Lustig, Jon Macy, Tania Walker