As I see it, there are two determining factors that make or break a comics anthology: The creators included and the premise of the book.
In both cases, the Julia Wertz-edited I Saw You… (Three Rivers Press) has rendered itself more or less review-proof, given the huge number of creators involved (just about every reader is going to love, like, dislike and loathe someone included) and the specificity of the premise, making for a highly subjective reception (Basically, you’re either going to dig it or your not).
The almost 100 creators include big-name comics-makers like Peter Bagge, Keith Knight and Jeffrey Brown, sizable-name comics-makers like Sam Henderson, Gabrielle Bell, Jesse Reklaw, David Malki and Liz Prince, and up-and-comers like Kazimir Strzepek, Matthew Loux and, of course, Wertz herself. It’s a veritable who’s who of webcomics, mini-comics and comics-comics creators, which functions quite literally as a who’s who in its appendix, linking to each of the creators’ homepages. In that respect, it’s of great value as a field guide to comics creators.
The premise, as explained in the sub-title, Comics Inspired by Real-Life Missed Connections, are super-short dramatizations, gags or riffs on the missed connection phenomena, mostly through Craigslist. You know, the “I saw you here, doing this, and I thought this” type of messages strangers leave for other strangers, in the hopes that they will see them and make the connection that wasn’t made originally.
Within that premise, the individual creators are given a great deal of leeway. Some are are real missed connections taken completely straight, others imagine funny/scary people making the posts and strange motivations. Some go fairly far afield.
Brown’s is a 12-panel story about why he’s never posted a missed connection. Aaron Reiner writes a funny four-page story in which a missed connection want ad serves as part of the punchline. Kenny Keil offers an imaginary one entitled “Grog See You,” in which an unfrozen caveman posts one for a cavewoman he saw before he was frozen during the ice age.
I confess my own interest in missed connections is somewhere between low and non-existent, but even given my relative apathy for the launching point, the emotion behind missed connections—the sense of instant, probably imaginary connection with a stranger, the longing to know someone you have no excuse to know, the romantic notion of a second chance via a system not entirely unlike a message in a bottle, the alienation of modern life that leads to people not reaching out to those they might like to—are things it’s hard to imagine anyone not relating to.