Reviews: Crazy Papers and No Formula: Stories from The Chemistry Set, Vol. 1

Sometimes I’m a terrible person. And I don’t even mean to be.

After the ACT-I-VATE panel at Politics & Prose, I exchanged a few e-mails with Jim Dougan and he was nice enough to send me both Crazy Papers and No Formula: Stories from The Chemistry Set, Vol. 1. But then there was job transitions and moving and just general life-related insanity and while every now and then I’d think “Yeah, I really need to write about those comics” something would get in the way and I wouldn’t.

So many apologies to Jim Dougan for the delay.

I find Dougan’s work to be interesting because he’s someone doing indie comics that is just a word guy — he writes and edits but doesn’t draw. There are many people who just write in mainstream comics, but it’s fairly rare in small press stuff. Being much more a word person myself (no, you don’t want to see my drawings), I love that someone like Dougan has found a way to make comics.

Onto the actual reviews!

Crazy Papers

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Crazy Papers — art by Danielle Corsetto
I’m pretty sure I’ve had a night like this. Minus the ending up in jail part, though. Fortunately.

Melanie works in the admissions office of Georgetown University, and her life is turned upside down for a weekend when her friend Amanda comes from L.A. for a visit. There’s a man who’s too good to be true, clueless gangsters/waiters, bar fights, and a mysterious briefcase. It’s a funny, breezy story that does have a core message of breaking the personal boundaries you’ve set for yourself. Yes, Amanda causes all kinds of havoc for Melanie, but in the end, Melanie ends up better for it.

Dougan lives here in D.C. so I enjoy his in-jokes — the bar The First Edition standing in for The Front Page in Dupont, a comment about someone living in Petworth — but I think this story would be fun to just about anyone. I do love that Dougan always treats the D.C. area as a place where people actually live and that not all of us here are connected to politics. This is something we don’t get quite enough of.

You know Corsetto’s work from her webcomic Girls with Slingshots and her playful, animated style is a perfect match for this story. She makes this whole thing too much fun.

No, this comic isn’t going to change your life, but it’s all too easy to relate to and incredibly entertaining.

No Formula:
Stories from the
Chemistry Set, Vol. 1

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No Formula: Stories From the Chemistry Set, Vol. 1

The webcomics collective known as The Chemistry Set is apparently defunct now, but after reading this anthology, I think that’s really a shame. In all honesty, this is one of the more interesting comic anthologies I’ve read.

Is everything here great? No. Certainly, it’s a pretty dark collection of stories (whether it was intentional or not, all the stories involve death in one way or another) but after reading countless thinly-veiled autobiographical stories, it’s pretty refreshing to see people doing something very different. To imply some stereotypes, these are more inspired by The Sandman than say, Jeffrey Brown. And sure, that’s probably a matter of personal preference and personal taste, but I obviously like the former more than the latter.

I think the standout for me where “Red” written by Elizabeth Genco with art by Kevin Colden. It was a story that started out in one place and completely turned in the most awesome way. The use of color was also perfect.

I also loved “Come the Dawn” by Dougan and artist Hyeondo Park (and yes, you know the pair from ACT-I-VATE’s “Sam and Lilah”). It’s maybe a bit more lush than Dougan and Park’s work with “Sam and Lilah” but it’s well-suited to both of them.

There are still a few copies of this book out there (especially if you believe Amazon) and I think it’s worth seeking out. It’s an anthology worth having and has pointed me to some creators I’m going to seek more work from.

So yes, I was much delayed with these reviews, but better late than never, right? And I do want to thank Dougan for sending me these. He’s someone you should be paying attention to.

2 thoughts on “Reviews: Crazy Papers and No Formula: Stories from The Chemistry Set, Vol. 1”

  1. Thanks for the reviews! And please, no worries about the delay, as many were sent these books years ago and I’m still waiting on the review…which is probably not a good sign.

    Anyway, a few words on No Formula. It is indeed a shame that you can’t check out more work from The Chemistry Set, as there was a far greater range of material at the site than is represented in the book. However, the publisher (Joe Pruett of Desperado, who was a mensch for publishing this book in the first place) requested only self-contained stories, and as editor, my goal was to present a book that was as thematically consistent as possible, as opposed to the kitchen sink anthology approach, which can work, but IMO not very often. I’d like to think the book works whether you read it front to back or just dip into it a story at a time. Your mileage may vary, of course.

    There’s a lot of great stuff that didn’t make the cut reasons of fit or theme, though, and for reasons unrelated to quality as such. In the end it did end up a bit dark, but hopefully enjoyable nevertheless.

    Oh, and I love “Red”, too.

  2. It’s dark, but kind of refreshingly so. There’s a point of view and a perspective and I like how it all seems to fit together. Too few anthologies seem to do that.

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