January Meeting Recap: You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife edited by Kel McDonald and Andrea Purcell

Chosen by J.J. Pionke, notes by Kelli Trei.

The January 2022 meeting of the U-C Comics Colloquium discussed You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife edited by Kel McDonald and Andrea Purcell. This anthology captures different artist and author takes on the concept of the afterlife.

Cover image of You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife. There is a skeleton in the background in grey overlaid with pale mushrooms and bright red flowers in the foreground.
Cover Image: The Mushrooms and Moths depicted glow in the dark.

Forward by: Caitlin Doughty. Caitlin has written multiple books on the subjects surrounding death and has an incredible YouTube channel, Ask a Mortician: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi5iiEyLwSLvlqnMi02u5gQ.

Contributors to the Anthology: Holly Adkins, Ahueonao, Jordan Alsaqa, Shae Beagle, Luyi Bennett, Sally Cantirino, Se Case, Danielle Emile Varona Chuatico, Angela Cole, Dani Colman (Jackie Crofts, Rhandi Fisher, Grace Fong, Casey Gilly, Ale Green, Karoline Grønvik, Maddie Kathleen, Laura Ketcham, Megan Lavey-Heaton, Jeremy Lawson, A. ‘Miru’ Lee, Kirstin Lee, Juliette G.M.M. Lopez, James Maddox. Isabelle Melançon, Oliver Northwood, Rhiannon Rasmussen, Fanny Rodriguez, Nadia Shammas, Lisa Sterle, Raina Telgemeier, M.Cat.White, Letty Wilson, James F. Wright, Cheryl Young

This comic was published in March of 2021 and was part of a Kickstarter campaign by Iron Circus Comics. It is safe to say the topic of death has been on many minds in the wake of the global pandemic. It certainly was on the minds of the attendees, and in the wake of our collective COVID exhaustion, we embarked on a lively discussion about the anthology as well as death itself.

Some stories in the anthology flourished in a graphic form: Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld was one such story that was captured well by this medium. There was welcome humor found in many of the stories as well, such as Funeral in Foam by Casey Gilly & Raina Telgemeier. The group discussed at length the repetition present among many of these stories: through companions explaining death, the notion of letting go and moving on, and even within the concepts of an afterlife. While we appreciated the idea that much of our experience and experiences with death may be quite similar, we felt more BIPOC experiences of grief and death were missing.

Shows a panel from "Inanna's Descent to the Underworld" in which the character Ninshubur is offering supplication to her mistress Inanna. Panel is in greyscale.
From Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld, by Ahueonao, page 21

What this work did more than anything else was open our group up to a lovely conversation surrounding our own feelings about death. Where might we want our bodies to go, perhaps a body composting facility, cremated and scattered, laid with others we once knew? We contemplated how we wanted to be remembered, if at all, and what honoring someone in death ought to look like. This meeting produced a spirit of kinship as part of such a complex and personal conversation, and I enjoyed our ability to discuss and share what our own short story might reveal about our connection with death.

Further reading recommended on the theme of death by members of the group were the following:

Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch

The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

The group also created a Spotify list comprised of our ‘funeral songs” or music we listened to when we contemplated death. Feel free to listen here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5Xf1qV333eZU03bAKTR9PO?si=310e9ac3b8c9429e

November Meeting Recap: Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

Chosen by Kelli Trei, notes by J.J. Pionke

The November, 2021 meeting of the U-C Comics Colloquium discussed Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá.  This Eisner Award winner came out in 2011 and was based on a limited series from 2010.  The book is a meditation on the meaning of life and how life happens to us when we aren’t thinking about it or looking for it.  Beautifully drawn and colored, each chapter evokes the story and emotions of the life of Brás.  The chapters are loosely connected but also end in Brás’ death each time, making for an examination on life and death.

A scene from Daytripper showing a father telling his son about life and death
A panel from Daytripper (p. 218) in which Brás talks to his son about life and death.

The group focused on a variety of topics, including but not limited to, misogyny, sexism, racism, magical realism, patriarchy, the presence of family and how the main characters are and are not involved, and the meaning of life.  There was a spirited debate about culture and time, especially since the stories of the book take place in South America and the book came out 10 years ago.  We also discussed how death played out in the book and how sometimes the deaths were entirely contrived and sometimes they were not.  While there is a lot of problematic events within the book, the overall feeling from the group, for the most part, was that the book was gorgeously drawn and colored and that the story/ies, in their magical realism, narrate the many lives of Brás in ways that delineate that life is essentially what happens when you aren’t paying attention.