Stay Warm with the Sun and Sand Comic Anthology

A scuba diver sits on the edge of the boat and then dives into water.

After a streak of below zero temperatures in Chicago in the midst of the pandemic, I’m feeling the need for some escapism. Fortunately, I’ve got a little bit of warm, pandemic-free Florida weather sitting on my coffee table, in the form of the Sun and Sand Comic Anthology.

Sun and Sand was originally set to be distributed on Free Comic Book Day, which was of course canceled due to the pandemic. Radiator Comics and Black Josei Press created a website for the anthology so it could still be read for free, and recently began taking requests for print copies, asking that readers cover only the shipping cost in order to receive the comic. I first read the anthology online and then requested a print copy, and it’s a fun, lighthearted read in both media. Online, the inks are a bit clearer – in my copy, the lettering in “Who Ate My Croquetas?” is a dark blue with a red shadow, and is a bit hard to read, but in the online version it’s a clear blue – but print version was risograph printed on a thick, sunny yellow paper that gives each story an added warmth and vibrancy.

Sun and Sand Comic Anthology

Jamila Rowser and Neil Brideau (Editors)
Black Josei Press and Radiator Comics
May 2020

A giant person with pigtails wearing sunglasses reads a book and soaks their feet in the water at a Florida beach.

Each artist shows off their fun, unique chops, but the most beautiful piece in the anthology is “As Above, So Below,” by Jamila Rowser and Carina Vo. In this almost wordless, three-page story, the reader follows a scuba diver into the water’s depths. Together, we see beautiful coral and turtles, and even receive a couple fish kisses. The entire anthology is colored in reds, blues and yellows, but in the print version these colors have a texture granted by risograph printing that give this comic a special depth. In the online version, I liked that scrolling downward to read carried us downward along with the scuba diver, but in the paper version readers can really fall into the colors and, thus, the beautiful underwater world that Rowser and Vo reveal.

Like a sweet, sunny day, Sun and Sand’s comics also bring lots of gentle laughs and smiles. “Who Ate My Croquetas?” by Isai Oviedo, is more densely colored and invokes film noir’s signature chiaroscuro lighting to set the mood for a very serious mystery. A horrible act has occurred – someone stole the narrator’s croquetas! (If you, like me, do not know what croquetas are, don’t worry – I already did the Googling. They’re fried and breaded treats typically filled with ham.)

A red string, conspiracy theory board shows the pictures of the four croqueta theft suspects.

In three brief pages, Oviedo profiles a crew of suspects who might have stolen the treats, and then beckons the reader to guess at the truth. The culprit’s confession is hidden in a small, sideways panel on the bottom of the final page, invoking memories of games in the back of old comics, or activity books. This silly parody’s greatest strength is the specificity of each suspect, clearly all archetypes of South Floridians – the health nut constantly on a juice cleanse, a jock casually grilling up a crocodile in the middle of a lake, and the narrator’s kind abuela who insists that he’s too skinny and needs to eat.

While overall the tone of the anthology is lighthearted, there are subtle commentaries on climate issues and capitalism throughout, such as the mention of “new high-rise building constructions despite high-rising sea levels!” in Neil Brideau’s jaunty catalog of South Floridian creatures in his comic, “Critters.” However, the third story in the anthology, “Natural Scheme of Things,” by Estrella Vega, breaks the mold.

This gorgeous three page comic reflects on Florida’s humid, often uncomfortable climate, and the presence of humans in a swampland forced into to being hospitable for human life. Vega uses the limited color scheme of the anthology brilliantly. While many of the comics use the dark blue for their linework, Vega’s is red, and the blue shading of the water slowly engulfs people, buildings and cars as imagined rising sea levels re-take the swampy state.

3 panels 1. a person 2. a crocodile, 3. 4 people, all sweating under a hot sun.

It’s unfortunate that Sun and Sand was blocked from its original distribution plan, but I’m grateful that, as a Chicagoan, I was able to access this love letter to South Florida first online and now in print. Laugh, reflect on climate change and enjoy these beautifully colored and lettered comics either online on the Sun and Sand website, or in print by using this form to request a copy.

Alenka Figa

Alenka Figa

Alenka is a queer librarian and intense cat parent. They spends their days reading zines and indie comics, and twittering about D&D podcasts @alenkafiga.