Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #41 by Drew Barth
A Short Break
This week we’re going to take a break from the spooks—although there are some spooks in the comics I’m going to mention—and shift our focus to boxes. Everyone remembers Loot Crate from a couple years ago and the various comic-related paraphernalia they would include monthly. Very rarely, however, would they include actual comics. There have been a few comic-specific subscription boxes in the past, such as Comic Bento, but they were mostly a blind grab of already published collections. But then 2016 happened and Zainab Akhtar started to produce a quarterly comic box known as ShortBox to be delivered directly to your mailbox. The main difference is ShortBox publishes all of the material included in their boxes—these are stories you can only get from ShortBox. And the quality here is absurdly high.
As always, five new graphic novellas were included and include genres like slice-of-life, horror and memoir. What’s great about all of these stories is they stand independent of the other works included in the box—there is never a theme so each book is vastly different in its tone and subject matter. Anything from friends navigating a Swedish labyrinth to find the ultimate storage solution in Lissa Treiman’s Minötaar to the logging of devastation and recuperation in At the Edge of the Stream at Dusk by Jen Lee to the retelling of a classic myth tinged with anxiety in Cry Wolf Girl by Ariel Ries can be found in the most recent ShortBox. That and a nice bit of candy as well. Opening the box every few months is like getting the newest McSweeny’s—you don’t know what’s there but you know it’s going to be good.
As a medium, comics needs more things like ShortBox as a way of making well-made and curated work accessible to a broader audience. Much of the work in this quarter’s ShortBox is fantastic, but there really aren’t many avenues for publication due to their non-traditional sizes and lengths. And since the number of anthology publications is dwindling in the US, there would normally be no way for these stories to get into our hands outside of conventions. So having a publisher that is focused on both the creation and distribution of these pieces is a necessity for different and more innovative work to make it to a broader comic audience.
But what makes ShortBox such a wonderful thing in comics is Akhtar and her team’s commitment to publishing the best work the medium has to offer on a consistent basis. Story, art, and even paper and binding feel solid throughout and at no point does any aspect of the box feel as though it had been cobbled together at the last minute. Everything in the ShortBox has so much time and dedication and love put into it that it feels like a necessity to anyone interested in comics or even just smaller publishing houses. Receiving one of these boxes every quarter is an absolute delight and I can only hope it continues well on into the future.
Get excited. Open the box.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.