Friday, July 7, 2017

0032: No Card Necessary

I've bought anthologies in order to read just one of the stories, and sometimes I find myself enjoying some of the others and sometimes I don't. There was a time when, if I could get them sufficiently discounted, I would buy a comic purely for the cover artist. But there are also very rare occasions when I find myself buying a book that is not primarily comics content, yet for some reason has an original story not available elsewhere. Three guesses what this post is about?

Donna Barr is probably best known for her long-running features "Desert Peach" and "Stinz" but, while that's not unfair given the page count devoted to them, there's a large body of discrete smaller works by her scattered across not only the realm of comic books but publishing generally. One such example is the story "Midnight Library", included as a preface to the hardcover "Graphic Novels: A Bibliographic Guide To Book-Length Comics" by D. Aviva Rothschild (Librairies Unlimited, Englewood, CO 1995; ISBN# 1-56308-086-9). The book itself is an odd duck. It's obvious from the selection that the purpose is not to be a "best of" or recommended reading list. The overall vibe is that it is trying to give the curious newcomer a sense of what is out there, as even-handedly as possible, rather than steering them towards the author's personal taste. The closest parallel I can think of is the original Halliwell's Film Guide, which was able to get the most critical defining elements of a film into as few words as possible, often a single paragraph. Those capsule descriptions were far more informative than the silly and misleading 'star system' ratings favored by the numerous competing imitators. The same could be said of Rothschild, in most cases, although her book isn't nearly as comprehensive as Halliwell's. Her knowledge of some of the backgrounds of the creators or the histories of their works is, by her own admission, inconsistant. It's dead on in some cases and spotty in others. Her critical eye is more reliable.

The story in question is below:
In 2007 the title "The Midnight Library" became the name of Barr's blog, which is still active as of this post. For this reason alone, I have to assume this story must have a special place in her memory, or else she had always like the title and intended to use it for a larger work.

In 2005 it became the umbrella title for a series of Young Adult horror novels (a sort of "Goosebumps" for teens). Since then, it's become the title of a manga series.

I think the first thing I ever saw by Barr was an early issue of an Eclipse Comics anthology called "The Dreamery", which ran Stinz stories. That was in the 80's when I was in the process of dramatically cutting back on comics for college purposes. When I caught up again in the 90's she had already placed numerous stories with numerous publishers. It would be another 10-15 years before I started trying to organize my have/want list of her stories using the internet.

Since the character in this story has the same name as the author of the book, this must have been done specifically for the book. That doesn't preclude it being reprinted elsewhere, but I haven't been able to find it referred to in any of the solicitations for her trades.

I probably bought this copy after 2000, I think. It's possible that I bought it new in the 90's but I don't remember doing it. It's done in an academic style and has no dust jacket and no price printed anywhere on it, although it does have a bar code. Odds are that I found it among discounted books gleaned from the warehouse of a chain store I worked in a few years after leaving comics retail. It's still widely available online, both new and used. Since I bought it, it has become available on Kindle. Is it still available? Beats me. I've got my copy.

Information about Barr works that might have fallen between the cracks is always appreciated. Try as it might, the internet really can't be everywhere.

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Previously on "Sieve Eye Care"...