The first volume of a print-only, ad-free, hardcover “comics and culture quarterly,” Full Bleed is nothing if not ambitious. Collecting comics, essays, interviews, and fiction, it’s a hefty, well-designed thing from the Portland-based branch of IDW. The publisher’s best known for its oversized artist editions, which reproduce the work of comics greats like Jim Steranko and Mike Mignola, and licensed books like Star Trek and My Little Pony.
Full Bleed aims to be something bigger. “I like comics. I like long interviews. I like punk rock,” co-editor Dirk Wood writes in his introduction. “I like history. I like learning about other cultures. I like great stories, and I like great art. I like being surprised, and reading about things I’ve never heard of. I’m placing a bet there are a few more people who feel the same way.”
Wood’s curiosity echoes throughout Full Bleed, which includes a comics-focused interview with Stephen King, Abdulkareem Baba Aminu’s examination of comics’ misrepresentations of Nigerian culture, an interview with musician Carla Bozulich, the first chapter of Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Steve Beach’s creepy comic about a Nazi U-boat’s ominous cargo, and Shawna Gore’s appreciation of the late horror artist Bernie Wrightson—accompanied by a generous helping of Wrightson’s gorgeous, haunting art.
Even if some of the pieces seem unnecessary—e.g., a tribute to The Sopranos that feels like every other tribute to The Sopranos—others offer a surprisingly effective punch. There’s a touching story from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency producer Arvind Ethan David about his friendship with Douglas Adams, and “Teenage Boy,” Erin Nation’s comic about experiencing second puberty due to hormone replacement therapy.
The centerpiece, though, might be Gavin Edwards’ previously unpublished, predictably bonkers 2006 interview with Alan Moore, creator of Lost Girls and Watchmen, who rails against an industry that exploits his work (“At this point I would say that the mainstream American comics industry is the single thing that poses the biggest threat to the comics medium”) and discusses the repercussions of his decision to become a magician and worship the ancient snake god Glycon. “I struggled physically with the demon to remove it to a safe distance, at which point it was a green and red fog hanging in the air above the bed where I was lying,” Moore says. “I pushed my hand into the middle—it felt like cold spaghetti. I remember winding it around my hand in the way that you would a fork. I then pushed this awful, cold, writhing spaghetti through some sort of veil and it was out of our dimension. Please be aware that I know how mad this sounds.”
Other than good, interesting stuff, there’s no unifying theme here, but that adds to Full Bleed’s haphazard charm—while some pieces complement each other, others contradict. (The contradictory bits might be fitting for the project, actually: “If you’re like me, you think the internet has basically ruined America,” said Wood in his promo video for Full Bleed’s Kickstarter—which asked the internet for money.) It all adds up to something more than the sum of its parts.
It’s also something that might face some challenges: At $25, Full Bleed isn’t cheap, and America’s increasingly insular comics market isn’t terribly supportive of anthologies. 2017 saw the demise of two other local publishers’ anthologies: Milwaukie’s Dark Horse Comics ended their latest iteration of Dark Horse Presents, while Portland-based Image Comics printed the final issue of their inventive, promising Island.
But true to its name—a reference to the printing process that ensures ink goes all the way to the edge of a page—Full Bleed feels intent on reaching as far as it can, spreading beyond comics and introducing good work to lots of readers. That’s a pretty great idea, and if this first volume is any indication, they’re on the right track.