I love anthologies. It's like having a meal with lots of varied cooking to taste. Of course, some dishes are more to one's taste than others, but there are always small gems to enjoy (metaphors are best mixed), and it's always interesting to discover new artists.
Queerbait #1 is Tony Smith's baby. In this first issue, he writes or draw a good part of it, in a variety of genre and styles--though there's a predominance of super-hero-themed stories. Let's see those first:
Smith and artist Brian Brinlee begin with Prejudice & Pride, where a newly outed hero must face the reaction of the people. With a name like "Flaming Arrow", the public should have suspected something... But this isn't played for laughs, far from it, and it works not too badly, as does the art, which tends toward mainstream realism, though it can be a bit stiff.
Smith and Filipe Goncalves's The Closet is one of my favorites in this issue: at bedtime, a young boy is scared that there's a monster in his closet... but out comes his father, donned in a gaudy, colorful costume. A cleverly written conversation between father and son follows, with an original take on the parallel between secret identities and closetedness. Very moving, with Goncalves's cartoony art working wonders on this whimsical but serious story.
Steve MacIsaac's contribution is only tangentially related to the super-hero theme, but in a way that should connect with every gay reader. An adult gay man ponders on the idea of changing his appearance by hiding In Plain Sight, just as Clark Kent/Superman does with his glasses. MacIsaac's storytelling is, as often, sparse and highly effective. Another intelligent story.
Smith and Rick Withers's story Emancipation is as dark as the first story was full of hope: a teenager has a violent meeting with his former super-hero mentor, with an abusive relationship being hinted at. Withers has a dynamic style which works well with the rythm of the story, which manages to tell much by mostly showing. Quite well done.
Nicholas Eliopoulos gives us a weird story of a young hero meeting his future self from our time, who warns him of the bleak, conservative USA to come. Eliopoulos has an opinion to share, and he doesn't pull any punches doing that. His minimalist style is quite different from what's in the rest of the issue, and it's fun to see such a style among more realistic ones.
The last super-hero offering is a preview of Pride High, a comic I've recently reviewed.
A number of contributions have nothing to do with super-heroes: Agata Laguniak writes and draws a few one-pagers showing two female friends, one straight and one lesbian. These are good reflexions on friendship, with a very realistic point of view (and amateurish art).
Henry Kujawa does a fun little tale of men and dinosaurs, with a young guy being saved by a man from the jaws of death. He then proceeds to thank his savior. There's a feeling of the more explicit pages missing here... Art is a bit rough, but it reads well.
The artist known as Lynx Delirium does a wordless and dream-like tale of love among stone creatures. I don't know if it's part of something larger, but it was certainly intriguing.
We'll finish with Tony Smith again, this time also doing the art in a photo-realistic tale done on computer. Adam & Steve: Benediction is a quirky story, with the eponymous characters just out of the garden of Eden (which enables the author to draw his characters naked), discussing the dangers of the real world, wondering how two lovers like them will be received. It's funny and feels a bit like something out of Neil Gaiman.
This first issue of Queerbait is a very good example of what anthologies can offer, as I said above. Tony Smith seems to intend to publish more issues, if in a less expensive format, and I think that's a very good thing. Variety in gay-themed comics is as important as it is enjoyable.