I have reservations about the practicality of getting comics printed using Kickstarter, but I’ve backed a few, and some of them have truly impressed me. When they do, I like to say so. Sleep of Reason, despite its ship date slipping nearly half a year, probably wouldn’t exist without crowdfunding. It features indie creators and indie creatures alike, with a high-concept format that demanded more from its contributors than zombie and vampire adventures.
The 360-page anthology, named after a haunting Francisco Goya etching, is the brainchild of editor C. Spike Trotman of Iron Circus Comics. It features 26 stories by as many cartoonists in a handsome black and white softcover featuring a color cover by Michael DeForge. I didn’t recognize many names in the table of contents, but by the time I reached the back cover, I was ready to seek more work from several of them.
What makes a story horrific? For far too many cartoonists, it means familiar monsters or some other genre cliché. Not that there aren’t many good stories featuring ghosts and serial killers, but what if you asked someone to create something scary from scratch? In Sleep of Reason, you end up with a few original monsters to think about next time you turn out the lights, but many more of the stories explore more existential dreads. What if everything you tried to eat was covered in mold and filth that only you could see? What if a child misunderstood the meaning of death?
The artwork swings wildly from the clean work of longtime pros to the darkly energetic cartooning of enthusiastic novices. In many instances the creators seem to be placing their own fears on display in metaphorical breakdowns of body issues and social anxieties. Body horror — or horror prominently featuring the destruction of the human body — is a common theme in the book. Characters deform and harm themselves in fits of psychoses, or perhaps they are visited by something more supernatural and dreadful.
The packaging of Sleep of Reason is nothing special. It’s a simple softcover, almost like 5 or 6 trade paperbacks put together. But the insides are reproduced well, with strong blacks and clean whites, and care has been taken to keep the lettering clean and free of errors. Like most Kickstarters, Sleep of Reason appears to be a labor of love, and I’ll probably sign on to Trotman’s next Kickstarter. But I’d rather see a pre-order.
Sleep of Reason on GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19484947-the-sleep-of-reason
One of my favorite things about anthologies is learning about new writers and artists. Here are some links to the websites of several cartoonists I discovered in Sleep of Reason.