Bengal, Bill Mudron, Catia Chien, Clio Chiang, Chris Appelhans, Derek Kirk Kim, Dylan Meconis, Enrico Casarosa, Erika Moen, Hope Larson
Released: 30 September, 2004
You may be unfamiliar with the majority of the artists featured in these graphic novel anthologies and that's partly the reason they exist – as a showcase for the emerging talent on the internet and in the independent comic scene. Flight is the brainchild of California based Kazu Kibuishi who gathered together a group of likeminded artists and cartoonists, with the aim of self publishing, and getting their creations seen beyond the online world. As it was being put together, the high quality of the work attracted a major publisher, and 2004 saw Volume one released to much acclaim. Volume two followed in 2005 and work has already started on the next one.
If there are influences to be found in most of the art on show, it's more Miyazaki (Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away) and Moebius (Blueberry) than the usual anime/manga/superhero themes prevalent in a lot of online work. Flight instead concentrates on story and character, with such variety of styles and concepts that should one artist not engage you, the next surely will. Kazu has done a terrific job editing the volumes, and bringing the best out of the talented artists. Standouts in volume one include Kazu's own 'Copper' – a tale of one boy and his dog as they attempt to take to the skies, Khang Le's 'Outside my window' – a delicately watercoloured peek inside a young girl's imagination, and Rad Sechrist's 'Beneath the leaves' – a Disneyesque take on the growing pains of a squirrel (sounds nuts – ha!)
Volume two has the added bonus of twice as many pages and a few 'names' including Jeff Smith, creator of Bone (review coming next month), and the celebrated animator Don Hertzfeldt. An increase in size means an even greater mix of styles from the artists, with many telling their stories wordlessly, allowing the art to really shine. There are too many outstanding pieces to select favourites, although Doug Tenapel's quirky 'Solomon Fix' comes close.
If you've got any interest in seeing what is being created by this new generation of cartoonists/comic book artists, these books are a great way to get up to speed. There's plenty to admire within them and a treasure trove of ideas and techniques that we as readers and cartoonists can absorb and learn from. If you've got a chance to, take Flight!
Both volumes are full colour – Volume 1 (208 pages) can be ordered from Amazon for under 10 pounds. Volume two (432 pages) is about £12. Highly recommended.