It happens every time:

*Over Thanksgiving I was digging through the bargain bins at a shop around my parents’ home, and I spotted Jim Woodring’s name on a book I’d never heard of before: “Flinch”. It was from 1999, during my little sabbatical from comics reading (I’d just recently stopped receiving visitations from the Scarlet Spider in my dreams around that time and I was deathly afraid they’d start up again if I approached a comics shop). It was a monthly horror anthology series from Vertigo; Woodring was the writer on one of the stories (and while Woodring is beloved by comics fans all the world over for his solo work on “Frank” and other books, he was also a regular scripter on various “Aliens” and “Star Wars” books for Dark Horse). As is common for me in these situations, I immediately began searching around for other issues in the series, and I found one. So for about fifty cents I walked away with:

Flinch #6-7

And it was ok, particularly for fifty cents. A little research reveals that issue #1 of “Flinch” is somewhat notable in fanboy history for being Jim Lee’s first ever work on a DC-owned book. There was also some good talents involved throughout the book’s run, with several stories by Frank Quitely and work from Richard Corben and Bill Sienkiewicz and others. The series lasted from mid-1999 to early 2001, with sixteen issues in total. Horror anthologies do appeal to me, and it’s always good to see one of the Big Two putting out a regular non-superhero anthology book, even if only for a year and one half.

With three short stories per issue, you get the variations of quality you’d expect from an anthology of that size, but the work was generally pretty decent. Issue #6 kicks off with a William Messner-Loebs story with art by Duncan Fegredo, working in his lighter style, reminiscent of Guy Davis, rather than his heavier superhero style. I like Fegredo’s work a lot, and he brings a lot of energy to Messner-Loebs’ jovially disgusting script about a wronged woman who rises from the dead, only to enter into a certain peace with her errant husband and his mistress. And by ‘a certain peace’, I mean that they all have sex, rotting flesh and all. But what will a close-minded society think?! It’s sort of similar to some of, well, Guy Davis’ current work in “The Zombies That Ate the World” over in “Metal Hurlant”, which is also released by DC now! IT ALL FITS TOGETHER!!!

Also on tap is some Ho Che Anderson art (he of Fantagraphics’ three-volume “King”) on an Ivan Velez, Jr. script, a fable-like thing about a morbidly obese boy and his desperate parents. And also a Phillip Hester/Andy Parks story about a man who discovers a secret, selfish way to transform his wife into another person. The theme of the issue seems to be one of happiness and trouble as found through bodily transformation, both natural and unnatural, with a special emphasis on the mystery appeal of the unnatural.

Woodring’s story, with art by Randy DuBurke, shows up in issue #7, and it’s a decent little ‘twist’ thing. What really sells it is Woodring’s ability with dreamlike dialogue, which always shined in his “The Book of Jim” work and promptly got left behind with his wordless “Frank” material. But lines like “It’s the cereal hog! The inventor of the blister pack!” and “Oh, she’s leaning! Don’t snag the sand, sweetheart. Don’t snamp the snand. Oh, god, help me,” will raise a smile in fans of the more dialogue-heavy Woodring outings.

Elsewhere in the issue, current “Nightwing“ writer Devin Grayson and Phil Jimenez offer up a pretty basic story about a homophobe who‘s perusing his gay son through a Pride Parade of some sort; along the way he runs into many people he‘s hurt in his life of bigotry, and he gradually transforms into a withered living corpse. I’m almost certain that EC pulled this sort of story out of the drawer a few times over the years (in different contexts, like racism or something), but I can’t quite remember. And finally, Bill Willingham of “Fables” does the story and art for a tale of a monster-rental service dealing with a frustrated client who’s intended target has learned all of the tricks of battling classic monsters over the years. It might be worth it for “Fables” fans to look through the bins for this, as it seems to cover some of the same subject matter as Willingham’s later series.

It’s nice to recognize so many of these talents working on an Big Company anthology like this, and I can’t help but imagine that a similar regular anthology title like this, with a collection of notable Big Two talents working on off-kilter stories, would be a nice read, if admittedly not as certain a money-maker as another new issue #1 for Established Superhero Character X.