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Saturday, December 30, 2006

2006 Comics highlights

I'm sure a lot of the best of 2006 I won't get around to reading until later years, and I didn't get around to writing on this were weblog about a lot of them that I did read, but here's a list of a few highlights I got or look forward to getting.

The publication of Osamu Tezuka's PHOENIX finally continued after nothing in 2005, with at four volumes out this year, "Nostalgia", two volumes of "Civil War" (with "Robe of Feathers" included in the second) and "Strange Beings / Life". One more story, "Sun", of an unknown number of volumes, still to come. I really do need to get caught up on these, but I can say that "Nostalgia" was some strange-ass shit.

Or at least I thought so until I read Tezuka's ODE TO KIRIHITO, which brings Tezuka strange-ass shit to a whole new level. I'm still trying to figure that one, more thoughts on it soon, but parts of it were definitely brilliant, if disturbing.

Big year for Tezuka, as I think the last bits of BUDDHA came out early this year (or maybe late last year). Another one I haven't gotten around to catching up on yet.

Awful lot of Jack Kirby stuff came out, some of it long overdue. Some good Ditko as well.

The loss of Alex Toth this year was mitigated slightly by the publication of DEAR JOHN - THE ALEX TOTH DOODLE BOOK, a great collection of some of his letters and sketches and notes on stories.

Linda Medley's CASTLE WAITING returned with both a gorgeous collection of the earlier material and a new series picking up where she left off. Both are recommended.

USAGI YOJIMBO continued at its regular pace, with some good short stories, and is getting close to the symbolically major #100 issue of the current series.

Mark Martin returned with a new series, RUNAWAY COMIC, which was a welcome dose of high-energy insanity, which you can also sample on his blog (where the current storyline has Steve Bissette losing his head).

And more insanity with Bob Burden returning to GUMBY, and bringing Rick Geary along. Seems to have fallen behind schedule almost out the gate, so I've only read #1, but I hear #2 is out now and even stranger, so hopefully a lot more to come in 2007.

And is mentioned recently, it was good to see Ploog and DeMatteis return to ABADAZAD in a new format this year. Looking forward to seeing the story move to new ground in the future.

Lots of big comic strip reprints. Two volumes of COMPLETE PEANUTS, the second WALT & SKEEZIX, the first volume of POPEYE, a big cheap SUPERMAN: THE DAILIES book back when a movie with a similar character came out. Lots of classic reading in those.

And a lot of comic book reprints of note, as well. DC really bought into its SHOWCASE line of thick b&w reprints with about a dozen volumes and came out with a lot of stuff I never thought we'd see reprinted, like over 500 pages of early Haunted Tank stories, early Jimmy Olsen, Elongated Man. Marvel's similar ESSENTIAL line also continued with a few major releases but mostly concentrating on their slightly less interesting (to me) 1970s books. We also got some nice inexpensive Disney reprints of Don Rosa's "companion" stories to his LIFE OF SCROOGE series and Carl Barks stories that inspired the DUCKTALES cartoon (although the colouring wasn't great in the Barks books). And it was good to see some of Walt Kelly's earlier work from the OUR GANG comics reprinted, although I'm not sure I'll be back for a second taste. I'd rather see Kelly in his prime with some POGO books. And of course we got a lot of LITTLE LULU reprints by Stanley&Tripp, including one book in colour. And the new series of hardcover colour EC reprints began, so those will be tempting me for a while.

A few major original works by major creators caught my eye. Alison Bechdel's FUN HOME is getting a lot of year-end list attention, and I'll just say that they aren't wrong. Eddie Campbell's THE FATE OF THE ARTIST didn't entirely work for me, but the parts that did worked very well, and even not-quite-there-Campbell is worth reading. David Lloyd's KICKBACK was a good crime drama, a bit light maybe and with a few flaws, but with some great artwork. Scott McCloud makes his "... COMICS" series into a trilogy with MAKING COMICS, which I'm still trying to wrap my head around. The first time through I wasn't that impressed, while acknowledging that I really wasn't the target for a lot of it, but a few things stuck with me, and I think I need to go through it again more slowly.

Well, that's some of the interesting stuff that came out. As I said, I tend to be behind on these things, so I'm sure a lot of them I'll only find out about around 2010.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Season's Greetings

But that wasn't enough. They wanted reassurance, they wanted guarantees. They wanted to know they wound not be forgotten, even after the season was over; to be certain that someone would answer their needs when nobody else cared to listen. When the clock struck nine, and the security guards ushered everyone out to the street, they still held Iggy aloft, pawing at his jolly red suit and barking out their wishes, like Yuletide terrorists caught up in the frenzy of a hijack. For that's what he was, Iggy knew - a hijacked Santa, at the mercy of the people with the lists. It seemed, now, that asking just wasn't enough. They had their Santa and they were going to keep him, much like the people in fairy tales capture leprechauns and hold them until they tell where their pot of gold is hidden.

From "The Santas Of Demotion Street", Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children #16, 1990
Dave Louapre and Dan Sweetman

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

ABADAZAD v1 by DeMatteis & Ploog

A couple of years a failing comic book publisher put out three issues of a fantasy series by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog called ABADAZAD. Now a few years later it returns, with the same creators, now owned by Disney and published as a series of small hardcover books with a mix of prose, comics and illustration.

The series is about a 14-year-old girl named Kate who finds herself drawn into a fantasy world called Abadazad, which she knows as a series of early 20th century fantasy novels (in the vein of Oz and Wonderland) but now finds out were inspired by a real and much more complex world. In this world she hopes to find her long-missing and presumed dead younger brother Matt, who's been kidnapped by the villain of the realm, the Lanky Man.

In the original most of the story was straight comics, narrated by Kate, with a few pages of text taken from the supposed Abadazad novels. In this new version the narration is presented more explicitly as Kate's enchanted diary (a story element in the actual tale), where the illustrations (even of events she wasn't there for) appear by magic. Some parts of the story are still told as straight comics, and the samples of the "novels" still appear, though shorter than they were originally.

The first two books were published recently, THE ROAD TO INCONCEIVABLE and THE DREAM THIEF. The first one pretty much retells the first two issues of the comic book, and I guess the second (which I haven't read yet) continues with the third issue and beyond into previously untold segments of the story.

I enjoyed the first book, though maybe not quite as much as the original comics. That might just have been caused by reading the comics first, and maybe it'll work better when it gets to stories original to this format. There were just a few bits where I missed the Ploog artwork visually realizing the concepts on some of the longer prose passages. But as I said, that's mostly just comparing to the original, and for the most part the book is heavily illustrated enough for any fan of Ploog.

Anyway, I should have the second book soon, so more on the series when I do.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

EC - Telescope (Davis)

art by Jack Davis, story by Carl Wessler
Tales From the Crypt #45[#29] (1955)

Here's a tasteful little image from a late period EC horror story.

And a little boy saw that in 1955 and decades later came up with the idea for turducken.

Anyway, that peculiar image came about as the climax of a story about the lone survivor of a sunken ship who finds himself washed on the shore of a completely deserted island. Well, deserted except for the rat that also found its way to shore on the other end of the same plank. Thus begins a rivalry between the two as the man slowly starves, and the rat waits for him to die. One nice scene has both the man and the rat regurgitating some distasteful seaweed that washed ashore. Finally on the verge of collapse the man is able to knock down a gull that had just caught a fish, and I think you can see where this is going. The rat gets to the gull first, drags it out to sea, where the man follows and is attacked by a shark, which is caught by some native fishermen who get a surprise. That would make me lose my taste for fishing.

Bizarre little story, Davis' art has a lot of nice touches as the man gets increasingly desperate and crazy, and plays off the perspective nicely, making the rat look huge and a proper rival in some panels and small and distant in others.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

EC - The Wall (Craig)

The Wall
by Johnny Craig
Haunt of Fear #15[#1] (1950)

EC changed GUNFIGHTER to HAUNT OF FEAR with this first "New Trend" issue (adjusting the numbering a few issues later with #4) and leading with this heavily Poe-inspired story by Johnny Craig.

This is the story of Neal Harper, whose once happy marriage to Clara was strained by the arrival of the cat Snooky, who Clara spoiled to the anger of Neal. Neal finally snaps one day, and attempting to kill the cat accidentally kills Clara. He decides to seal her body behind a brick wall in the basement, and after he finishes the wall is unable to find the cat and figures it was behind the wall.

Then, in classic Poe fashion, he begins to have nightmares about his dead wife and the cat, and when he tries to take a drink to calm his nerves...

...delivers a classic spit-take when he hears the cat. The soon constant sound of the cat drives him crazy, so he puts a hole in the wall to reach in and kill the cat, only to have his arm trapped by the cat's claws. His screams bring the police, who tear down the wall only to find that nothing was holding Neal's arm at all (as the cat then walks in with kittens) but revealing the dead body.

Not the most original story, but fairly effective, and has a lot of the EC crime comics staples of disposing bodies and justice delivered by a guilty conscience.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dave Cockrum, R.I.P.

I was sorry to hear that Dave Cockrum passed away, at the far too young age of 63 after several years of illness. I enjoyed quite a bit of his work over the years. Here are a few examples from books I pulled out to re-read today.

Sky-Wolf was a pretty fun attempt by Cockrum and Marv Wolfman in 1984 to do a Marvel version of the Blackhawks (which I think they were briefly slated to do at DC a few years earlier, following a Batman team-up they did together. That became the Evanier/Spiegle revival, which Wolfman briefly edited and Cockrum drew some covers and backup stories).

One of the last regular gigs that Cockrum had was a long stint on Claypool's SOULSEARCHERS AND COMPANY, which had a lot of opportunity for him to show off some of his expressive humour work and lots of outlandish creatures and situations.

And of course there's X-MEN. One of the few times I regularly read the book was during his second stint as artist in the early 1980s, which had a lot of fun stuff, including the very goofy #153 "Fairy Tale" issue. It wasn't until years later that I read reprints of his original run, which was also fun.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

My Collection - DARK HORSE PRESENTS [1986 Series]

One of the series of posts I was doing here that kind of fell by the wayside the past few months was a look at each series that makes up my over-large comic collection, in roughly the order of how many issues I had (an order that's been changed somewhat by recent purchases). Previous entries in the series are here. Anyway, a few months ago I'd gotten as far as this...

Dark Horse Presents [1986 series]
30 issues [1988 - 1999]
25, 29 - 30, 32, 39 - 40, 44, 46 - 47, 66 - 67, 70, 77, 82, 86, 96 - 98, 100 [1], 100 [2], 100 [3], 100 [4], 100 [5], 101, 114, 118 - 120, 138, 148

This anthology was Dark Horse's first comic book, running until #157 in 2000, and always a good sampling of whatever kind of stuff Dark Horse was publishing at the time, with a mix of single issue stories and continuing pieces. I was, obviously, never a regular reader of the book, usually only picking up an issue or two in a row if something caught my eye.

Those multiple #100 issues, by the way, was how they celebrated reaching that milestone, with five issues worth of material, all self-contained, so it made a good sampler of what was going on at the company at the time.

I can't judge a lot of the contents since there are so many single chapters of longer stories, but the there's a nice variety of art in them, and a few of the longer pieces look good enough that I should really find out if there was ever a collection of them published. The most interesting stuff in most of the issues I have is the Eddie Campbell stuff (more easily available in his self-published books now) and the Concrete stuff by Paul Chadwick (all reprinted in various books, I suppose).

Some other random noteworthy stuff:

It's far from brilliant, but the "Bob the Alien" comics by Rich Rice that appears in several issues still cracks me up.

Not sure what else he's done, but someone named Gary Davis has a few stories that I have loose chapters of ("Delia and Celia" and "Paleolove"), and the artwork in them is gorgeous.

Rick Geary's random short stuff is always interesting, if sometimes creepy.

#118 - #120 feature a three-part "Hectic Planet" story by Evan Dorkin, continuing from his old "Pirate Corps" series. Don't think we've seen the characters again in the decade since, or even a reprint of this story.

#120 also has one of the last times I've seen Al Williamson doing full art on a comic book story, instead of just inks, on the great "One Last Job", written by Mark Schultz.

Friday, November 24, 2006

HELLTOWN by Dennis O'Neil

HELLTOWN is a recently released novel by Dennis O'Neil, a prose version of the story of Vic Sage, the Question, that O'Neil wrote in comics form back in the late 1980s. As I've mentioned before, that series is one of my favourite comics, so I had to check this out. It's a little odd, parts of it work really well, some work well because they resonate and expand on stuff in the comics. Other parts would probably work better to someone not as familiar with the original comics, as the prior knowledge only makes the differences more distracting. Overall I did enjoy it, but I'd probably suggest that anyone interested check out the first year of the comic (which I wish they would reprint, but back issues aren't that hard to find at a reasonable price) before reading the novel.

For the most part this story follows the first four issues of the comic, with the major change being that while the comic book had Vic Sage already having long since adopted the Question identity and being an established reporter, in the novel he's freshly returned to Hub City at the beginning, and becomes a reporter and meets the supporting cast and only adopts the Question mask and identity after his encounters with Shiva and Richard and (in a greatly expanded role) Batman. It also borrows some later story elements (most notably the buried alive story), as well as adding a lot of new stuff that veers pretty sharply from the original story.

I can see the reasons for this, especially the increased Batman, but I probably would have preferred an adaptation that hewed closer to the source material. I liked the feeling in the original that there was a long prior history of the characters and the Question identity, and don't think the character suffers at all from not having an origin, and the storyline works better as a turning point than a beginning.

The parts of the book that do work, in particular the scenes with Vic interacting with Richard and with Aristotle Rodor, are really good, O'Neil at the top of his game stuff. If you're a fan of the original comics it's worth reading the novel for those alone. Some of the other characters don't come across as well as they did in the comics, in particular Myra kind of gets the short end of the stick since her best scenes came later in the series, and I'm sorry that Izzy O'Toole doesn't find his way into the novel at all. So a bit of a mixed bag, overall, but solidly entertaining.

Jerry Bails, R.I.P.

Mark Evanier reports that Jerry Bails, one of the founders of comic book fandom, passed away last night at age 73. I had a few passing e-mail exchanges with Jerry a few years ago, and he was never less than helpful in getting me some information I needed. More than that, I really respect the passion he put into his appreciation of comics, especially in terms of making sure that the uncredited creators of the early days got their due, got their names associated with their work and remain known to this day. Thank you, Jerry.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Linking around

A few comic book related links you might want to check out.

Steve Thompson's BookSteve's Library has a page from WONDER WOMAN #2 featuring a photo of the creator's behind the book, including editor Sheldon Mayer.

Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin has some thoughts and images of Richie Rich's excesses.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Random TV musings

Will get back to some stuff on comics soon, I suppose.

Before that, I noticed that one of the last of my infrequent posts in the past few months was saying good things about STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP. I won't retract what I said, I still think the pilot was some real good stuff, but wow has it gone downhill since. I still like the occasional scene, and the acting is mostly pretty good, but that did not turn out to be the show I was hoping for. A lot of the characters just don't seem to exist in any sort of reality, just being there to deliver lines that set up some point that the script is trying to make, and even those points come across as either vague or uninspired or ludicrous. I think I'm pretty much done with the show for now, maybe I'll check back in a few months from now to see if they find the talent of the guy who wrote SPORTS NIGHT and THE WEST WING.

Otherwise on TV, I still think THE OFFICE is pretty good, although I'm glad they finally wrapped up the split office thing and brought Jim back to Scranton. Though that does put a pretty large cast in one location. I do like a lot of the new cast (in particular Ed Helms' character), so it'll be interesting to see how those new interactions work out.

I still watch PRISON BREAK for some mindless fun, although it's gotten on thin ice the last few weeks. I think they just have too many episodes to fill for the amount of story they have, so it take forever for something to happen, which also tends to draw more attention to some of the more glaring plot holes. I think it's supposed to be going on a mid-season break soon, so I'll see if I still care when it comes back.

And I'm mostly enjoying the DAILY SHOW / COLBERT REPORT combo, except that for the most part the interviews on both shows lately haven't been too interesting, and I find myself fast-forwarding through a lot of them after a few minutes. Not sure if they've changed or I'm just a bit tired of the shtick, but the early part of each show is still pretty solid.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Reminder from Okefenokee

A gentle reminder to American readers of this weblog. Pogo doesn't run in mid-term elections, of course, but hopefully you can find someone almost as qualified. Or maybe not...

POGO © 2005 OGPI

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

EC - We Ain't Got No Body (Ingels)

We Ain't Got No Body
art by Graham Ingels, story by Al Feldstein
Vault of Horror #28[#17] (1953)

The Old Witch introduces this story with some comments about the other hosts stealing her "Grim Fairy Tale" idea, as well as her editors complaining about rival publishers. Going to the main story, it starts right off with the walking dead body confronting its murderer. We then get the backstory about three men throwing a fourth off a train some time earlier in order to get his insurance money. The train cut off his head and hands and feet, which weren't found at the scene. What was left was enough for the insurance claim, but then the other body parts return, steal the body of a mannequin and get their revenge on the killers.

Of course, that's not the end. After getting revenge the body parts abandon their makeshift body and make their way to the cemetery to dig up the grave where the body is buried and reunite in a touching scene.

Some great Ingels art in this one, with very tight, almost claustrophobic layouts. The last page, with the body parts moving on their own, making their way to the grave and digging, is one of my favourite bits in any horror comic, as well as being an obvious influence on a lot of the 1970s artists who came after Ingels, one very directly.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween

Returning to regular posting... eventually.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Quick catchup

Haven't had much to post recently, so no point in doing detailed looks at the solicitations. Mostly for my own later reference, here's a list of most of the stuff that caught my eye for the most recent solicitations.

September Previews (November and later release)
CASTLE WAITING VOL II #3 (Fantagraphics Books)
GIRL GENIUS OMNIBUS ED #1 (Airship Entertainment)
JACK STAFF #14 (Image Comics)
USAGI YOJIMBO #98 (Dark Horse)

Highlight of the month, PHOENIX, always a lot of fun, and getting close to the end.

October Previews (December and later release)
AGE OF BRONZE #24 (Image Comics)
CASTLE WAITING VOL II #4 (Fantagraphics Books)
GUMBY #4 (Wildcard Ink)
USAGI YOJIMBO #99 (Dark Horse)

Most intriguing bok is Bryan Talbot's ALICE IN SUNDERLAND book, though I need to spend some time looking at those preview pages on the site.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Studio 60

Caught the first episode of the new Aaron Sorkin created TV show STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP, the only new TV show of the season I was really looking forward to (the US debut is later tonight, but the Canadian channel shows it on Sunday). I'm a big fan of Sorkin's previous shows, SPORTS NIGHT and THE WEST WING (which really got worse after he left), and this new one is sort of right in the middle of those two. Backstage at a TV show again, this time a live sketch comedy show which is nothing like SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (it's on Friday night), but this time a one-hour drama instead of a sitcom, and bringing over a few regulars from WEST WING.

Good start so far, with the two main characters, the writer/producer team brought back in to rescue the show after the creator doing a NETWORK on live TV, being set up well in the first episode, complete with a lot of hints at the background and baggage that'll lead to interesting plot complications down the line, as well as a good solid grounding of what their relationship to each other is, which is where a show like this will stand. Also a good large cast with a lot of talent and potential (a few I'm not sold on, in particular the people playing the network higher-ups, and it'll be hard enough for the show to justify having network higher-ups involved in the day-to-day production of the show). Mostly it's good to hear some real Sorkin dialogue again, as opposed to the pale shadow of it that most of the last few years of THE WEST WING provided.

Well worth checking out.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - August Previews summary

Yeah, I know I'm behind on this and most other things. Anyway, kind of slim pickings for this group of solicitations, especially considering half this stuff I probably won't buy right away, since I already have most of the contents in some other form. Still, some good stuff. Book of the month, surprise of the month and cover of the month is to the unexpected reappearance of RAGMOP.

Friday, September 08, 2006

EC - The Maestro's Hand (Feldstein)

The Maestro's Hand
by Al Feldstein
Crypt of Terror, The #18[#2] (1950)

Some early EC horror from Feldstein, with Feldstein showing some of his plotting inspiration with a copy of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" with a skull and candle on the splash page. This is the story of Doctor Hellman, a surgeon who had lost the love his fiancee Virginia to a talented pianist. For some reason, when the pianist cuts his hand, Virginia takes him to her ex for treatment. The Doctor decides the best thing to do would be to take revenge and amputate the hand, leading to the suicides of both the pianist and Virginia (both mentioned in a rather off-hand way in the captions). Hellman goes off to a cabin to forget the whole sorry mess, but finds a package with the amputated hand, which of course attacks him.

Hate it when that happens. Anyway, Hellman struggles in vain against the hand, finding that trying to burn it or lock it out don't work. Eventually he's choked by the hand, but when his body is discovered there's no hand, and it was all a product of his guilty mind. Hey, just like in that Poe story!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Complete Peanuts 1961-1962

by Charles M. Schulz

Launching into the 1960s, Schulz adds another new cast member. Two, in fact: The obnoxious Frieda, of "naturally curly hair" fame, and her inert, seemingly boneless cat Faron. The rapidly maturing Sally, who was after all just born in the previous volume, is ready to start kindergarten and not at all happy about it. Linus' life is particularly turbulent in this volume, as he is forced to wear glasses, sees the unexpected return of his favorite teacher, Miss Othmar, and coaxes Sally into the cult of the Great Pumpkin (with regrettable results). Snoopy, meanwhile, becomes a compulsive water sprinkler head stander, unhappily befriends a snowman or two, and endures a family crisis involving a little family of birds. Plus baseball blowouts (including a rare team victory), Beethoven birthdays, and plenty of dubious psychiatric help for a nickel. This book collects 730 daily and Sunday comic strips, the vast majority of which are not currently available in any in-print Peanuts collection, and many of which have never been reprinted since their initial appearance in papers over 50 years ago. New introduction by legendary jazz pianist/vocalist Diana Krall!

Hardcover, 8.5x7, 344pgs, B&W $28.95

Frieda I always found kind of annoying, but the rest of the book should be good stuff. I remember reading some of that Linus stuff in some older books, the glasses and teacher story, and the early Great Pumpkin stuff, and it was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - EC Archives


Star Wars creator George Lucas kicks off the full-color, chronological, hardcover presentation of the EC Comics line with a foreword introducing readers to the wonders of Weird Science. Included are stories by Al Feldstein, Bill Gaines and others with art by legendary illustrators such as Wally Wood, Harvey Kurtzman, Joe Orlando, Jack Kamen, Feldstein and others from the first six issues of this pivotal comic book title!
Hardcover, 8x11, 212pgs, Full Colour $49.95

I was a bit doubtful, but this series looks like it could be pretty impressive if done right, and it certainly is off to a good start, with some good big mainstream names doing the introductions and looking to get a lot better distribution than previous EC reprints. Hopefully they'll be able to keep them in print for a while, since I'll probably want to pick up many of them eventually, but a $50 book (even with a decent discount) every month is kind of hard to fit in the budget.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Dark Horse 20 Years



Over the course of its two-decade publishing history, Dark Horse has blazed a trail through the comics industry, setting the precedent for creative freedom and creator rights while consistently delivering the most daring and cutting-edge graphic storytelling. Now celebrating our twentieth year, we take a look back at the writers, artists, and characters who have made Dark Horse the international publishing presence its become, and a look ahead at the up-and-coming talents who will influence generations to come. Dark Horse Comics, twenty years down and we’re only getting started!
- A one-of-a-kind collection featuring the industry’s top writers and artists!
- Over 400 beautiful pages!
On sale Dec. 13 Full Colour, 400 pages $24.95 HC, 9" x 12"

Boy, I hope that's not the actual cover. And I kind of wish they had given some idea of what the book will actually contain. Not a bad price for the page count and format if the contents do turn out to be interesting, so I'll take a look when it comes out, or if they put some sort of preview on their website. I did like a few pages in the recent DARK HORSE TWENTY YEARS pin-up book, in particular Sergio Aragones drawing Conan.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Absolute Sandman

Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Steve Parkhouse, Kelley Jones, Charles Vess and Colleen Doran
Cover by Dave McKean

THE SANDMAN, written by New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman, was the most acclaimed comic book title of the 1990s. A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama and legend are seamlessly interwoven, THE SANDMAN is also widely considered one of the most original and artistically ambitious series of the modern age. By the time it concluded in 1996, it had made significant contributions to the artistic maturity of comic books and become a pop culture phenomenon in its own right.

Now, DC Comics is proud to present this comics classic in an all-new Absolute Edition format. The first of four beautifully designed slipcased volumes, THE ABSOLUTE SANDMAN VOL. 1 collects issues #1-20 of THE SANDMAN and features completely new coloring, approved by the author on the first 18 issues, as well as a host of never-before-seen extra material including the complete original Sandman proposal, a gallery of character designs from Gaiman and the artists who originated the look of the Sandman, and the original script for the World Fantasy Award-winning THE SANDMAN #19, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," together with reproductions of the issue'’s original pencils by Charles Vess. Also included are a new introduction by DC President & Publisher Paul Levitz and an afterword by Gaiman.

on sale November 1 612 pg, $99.00 US

Can't really see myself buying this (though I might pick up the cheap new colour reprint of #1), but the pencils from Vess do make it tempting to hunt down a cheap second hand or remaindered copy at some point. I'm assuming that the new colouring will at some point be used in future editions of the softcover books (it didn't seem to get any fanfare, but I noticed that the latest softcover edition of WATCHMEN uses the updated colouring that Gibbons and Higgins did for the ABSOLUTE edition last year). If they do, I might pick up the updated softcovers of the first three books at some point, especially if I can con someone into overpaying for my first prints (I'll even throw in the slipcase. Anyone?).

The Fate of the Reader

The Reader got up one morning and realized that there was a new Eddie Campbell book that he had picked up a few weeks ago and didn't get around to reading for various reasons. He'd been reading Campbell comics for almost two decades, which is nothing compared to how long Campbell had been creating them, but still a long time. This newest book was both a departure and a continuation for Campbell. It was in a direct line from his long-running autobiographical work, which had begun as the veiled autobiographical "Alec" stories, and lost the veil in the books HOW TO BE AN ARTIST and AFTER THE SNOOTER. This book, though, was quite different. Full colour for the first time. Created as a complete book rather than a collection of short stories. Published by a mainstream publisher with wide distribution for the first time (the Reader had actually seen big stacks of it in several bookstores).

So it was kind of a disappointment to the Reader when he finally got around to reading the new book. Oh, he liked it well enough, but it didn't hold a candle to the books in its lineage, in particular the original Alec stories and the brilliant AFTER THE SNOOTER (the Reader wasn't as big a fan of HOW TO BE AN ARTIST, but it was still better than the new book). Parts of it, the bits told in traditional Campbellian comics form (only now with colour) were up to the Reader's opinion of the earlier stuff, but a lot of the book plays with a few other forms. A short bit narrated by photos of Campbell's daughter talking about Campbell. Several pages of fake comic strips interspersed with vague allegorical connections to the main story. Several bits of straight text with a few illustrations. Those didn't work as well for the Reader...

This third person stuff is kind of awkward to write, and probably worse to read. I'll stop now. Anyway, I wish I could be more enthusiastic about this book. The parts of it I liked, which amount to about half the book, I liked a lot. Even the other parts I could, for the most part, at least see what Campbell was doing and appreciate the effort, even though I think those bits would have been more effective as straight comics (the fake comic strip bits I really didn't like at all, and I think whatever point they had flew right by me). Maybe I'm just an old fogey, but a lot of the time experimentalism like that just doesn't appeal to me when what I want is straight comics.

I don't want to sound too down on the book, since I do still recommend picking it up. A lot of it works well, and I can't really blame Campbell for setting the bar so high with his earlier work, even if I wished some of that work got the attention this one did. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does next.

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Little Lulu v13


The good times never end for this gaggle of suburban heroes mastering the treacherous terrain of school, the beach, and of course, Main Street. Junior detective Tubby tackles a case, Lulu regales the troublesome tot Alvin with a tall tale of the wicked Witch Hazel, Annie gets even with the fellers from the clubhouse, and much more!

Collecting issues #54-58 of the Dell Comics’ series Marge’s Little Lulu, originally published between November 1952 and March 1953, this brimming volume features some of the funniest comics in known captivity—don’t miss it!

On sale Dec. 13 b&w, 208 pages $9.95

I'd let several volumes of this series pile up over the last few months, and been slowly catching up with a story every day. It's hard to keep yourself from just plowing straight through and reading a whole 200 page book in one sitting, the stories are very breezy and addictive. As usual, kudos to Dark Horse for managing to get many thousands of pages of this stuff available in such an affordable format.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel

FUN HOME is a recently released comic from Alison Bechdel, of Dykes to Watch Out For fame. For this one she goes autobiographical, exploring her relationship with her father, telling a lot of other family stories along the way.

This was an excellent book. I'd re-read a lot of the DTWOF books over the last few months, since this book was announced, and while those are all pretty consistently great, this is really a level above those (although a few of the longer back-up stories that Bechdel did in addition to the strips in the collections provided a hint of what she would do with a more open format). It's a pretty structurally complex story, with a lot of jumps back and forth in time, but the art and words are clear enough that it's never hard to follow. The narrative also depends a lot on literary references, to writers like James Joyce, Scott Fitzgerald and Albert Camus. Those are important to understanding the relationship she wants to explore, and at times they're a bit overwhelming if you aren't as familiar with the works as the characters are, but for the most part Bechdel does an admirable job of providing enough context and key quotes from the works that you can still come away with enough background to understand the story even if there is some subtext you might miss.

I was a little worried when getting close to the end that Bechdel wouldn't be able to finish the story in a satisfactory way, and just kind of trail off to a stop instead of a proper ending, which seems to be common in a lot of longer alternative comics. I was glad to be proven wrong, as the ending nicely ties in to the beginning and nicely touches on some of the major themes from throughout the book.

The art might even be more accomplished than the writing. A lot of the book revolves around the Bechdel family home in a small Pennsylvania town, and has one of the best senses of place that I've seen in comics, with a lot of attention paid to little bits of geography and architecture that make it all seem real. She also has to draw a lot of characters at various ages through more than twenty years of real time, and manages that with a lot of minor touches without making it seem like she's drawing from some photographic references.

Highly recommended, one of the best new comics I've read in a while.

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Ragmop by Rob Walton

by Rob Walton

Is nothing sacred… again? The internationally acclaimed, no-holds barred science fiction/political satire and Eisner-nominated series is back in a definitive graphic novel presentation, completely revised and updated with over one hundred pages of new story and art. How will the insanity resolve itself? Underneath the laughs there is a serious story being told about corporate corruption and United States imperialism.
Softcover, 464pgs, B&W $29.95

Big Bang Inc AUG063113

This was a fun book from the mid-1990s. A bit uneven sometimes, but a lot of frantic energy and very witty dialogue, plus some excellent artwork. Good to see it finally getting a proper ending and all. The link above has lots of sample pages from the book if you wnat to see if it's for you.

Rock humour by Kubert

He rightly didn't do it too often, but the occasional humourous war covers that Joe Kubert would do for the DC war books are a nice break from in the routine. Here are a couple of good ones.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Showcase Presents Unknown Soldier

Written by Joe Kubert, Bob Haney, Frank Robbins, Robert Kanigher, David Michelinie and Archie Goodwin
Art by Kubert, Jack Sparling, Gerry Talaoc and others
Cover by Ken Barr

Assuming a wide variety of disguises to battle the Nazis, the Unknown Soldier plunges deep behind enemy lines in this 560-page black-and-white SHOWCASE trade, collecting stories from his first appearance in STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #151 to issue #190.
on sale November 22 560 pg, B&W $16.99 US

I've got a scattering of these, and it's pretty good stuff. The art should look really good in black&white as well. One of the best looking SHOWCASE books has been the Haunted Tank volume, which practically looks like it was drawn for black&white, unlike the super-hero stuff which still looks good but always seems to have something missing.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Random Cool Covers - Kull by BWS

I'm not the biggest fan of Barry Windsor-Smith around, but I have to say that I really like the one-two punch of this pair of 1985 covers taken together. Not unlike the effect of the issues of Smith's MACHINE MAN mini-series covers from the same era.

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Swamp Thing : Infernal Triangles

Written by Rick Veitch, Jamie Delano and Stephen Bissette
Art by Rick Veitch, Alfredo Alcala, Tom Mandrake and others
Cover by John Totleben

Collecting issues #77-81 of the series that helped to lay the foundation for the Vertigo line, this volume follows the Avatar of the Green and Abby as they prepare for the birth of their child — only to have an alien intelligence rip the Swamp Thing away from his home just when he's needed the most. This collection also reprints the 41-page "Distant Cousins" story from SWAMP THING ANNUAL #3, featuring the all-ape adventures of the DCU's most famous anthropoids.

on sale November 22 176 pg, $19.99 US

I'm surprised, but pleasantly so, that this series is continuing. Other than THE QUESTION this is probably the best uncollected DC series of its era. I do wonder if they've even decided what they're going to do with the end of the next volume (the last statement from Veitch I've seen is pretty old, but indicates as of that point they hadn't asked him to return and do a real ending).

I wish they had taken more care with the placement of the annuals for this run. Annual #3 should have been in the first Veitch collection, literally taking place right after #65. Annual #4 (the Bissette scripted one) will be even more out of place if they include it in the next issue among the time travelling stories (whereas Annual #5 will fit among those, assuming they don't skip it because it's already reprinted in the Neil Gaiman odds-and-ends collection). Ah well, that's nitpicking, just good that they're being reprinted in some form.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

EC - ...For Posterity (Wood)

...For Posterity
art by Wallace Wood, story by Al Feldstein
Weird Science-Fantasy #24[#2] (1954)

This story begins as a pretty routine flying saucer story, with two young prospectors out in the mountains seeing a mysterious ship. Going to explore, they find the small space ship with an open hatch and go in to explore, only to have the ship close up and take off far into space. They naturally assume that the aliens who abducted them will dissect them, but instead they find...

They've been taken to a planet full of beautiful women. I knew there was a reason they had Wallace Wood draw this story. Anyway, it turns out that this is the future of Earth, after an atomic war destroyed civilization and made the men all sterile. Fortunately, they found a way to use radio-active substances to allow women to reproduce, but only female offspring, and now that they've run out of the substance have used they're newly developed space and time travel device to bring in men to continue the species.

The two men are, of course, happy to help out, and are then returned to where they were taken from, thinking it was a dream until they see evidence to convince them otherwise.

Bit of a silly story, maybe more than a little sexist in some ways (though the women did seem to manage quite an advanced rebuilding of civilization without men around). Wood is definitely at the top of his game by this point, though, which makes it much more effective.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - July Previews summary

Slimmer than normal selection for noteworthy books this time, but then I didn't get much of a chance to look in depth, so I'm sure I missed some stuff. Cover of the month is probably whichever cover they choose for the PHANTOM STRANGER book. That run had some nice covers.... Book of the month is Tezuka's ODE TO KIRIHITO if it lives up to what I've heard about it.

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - LOEG: The Black Dossier


Written by Alan Moore; Art and Cover by Kevin O'Neill

Acclaimed writer Alan Moore once again joins forces with artist Kevin O'Neill for THE BLACK DOSSIER — a stunning original hardcover graphic novel that is the next chapter in the fantastic saga of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN!

England in the mid-1950s is not the same as it was. The powers that be have instituted some changes. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen have been disbanded and disavowed, and the country is under the control of an iron-fisted regime. Now, after many years, the still youthful Mina Murray and a rejuvenated Allan Quatermain return in search of some answers — answers that can only be found in a book buried deep in the vaults of their old headquarters — a book that holds the key to the hidden history of the League throughout the ages: The Black Dossier. As Allan and Mina delve into the details of their precursors, some dating back centuries, they must elude their dangerous pursuers who are hellbent on retrieving the lost manuscript…and ending the League once and for all.

THE BLACK DOSSIER is an elaborately designed, cutting-edge volume that includes a "Tijuana Bible" insert and a 3-D section complete with custom glasses, as well as additional text pieces, maps, and a stunning cutaway double-page spread of Captain Nemo's Nautilus submarine by Kevin O'Neill. Don't miss what's sure to be one of the most talked-about books of 2006!

America's Best Comics 208pg. Color Hardcover $29.99 US

I'm not always interested in a lot of Moore's current work, since about the time FROM HELL ended, but LOEG (or, as the cool kids call it, LXG) is one that I still get some enjoyment from, and I'm glad to see it being released in a more logical single volume this time around, given the schedule the serialized versions wound up following. Not sure I want to pick up the hardcover, though, but I'll be there for the eventual tradepaperback. Or watch the movie version...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger


Written by Bob Kanigher, Dennis O'Neil, Gerry Conway, John Broome, Len Wein, and others
Art by Carmine Infantino, Curt Swan, Nick Cardy, Jim Aparo, Murphy Anderson, Neal Adams, and others

Over 500 pages of supernatural phenomena with tales from the Phantom Stranger and his skeptical counterpart Dr. 13! This volume reprints Showcase #80 and spooky tales from The Phantom Stranger #1-21.

on sale October 18 544 pg, B&W $16.99

The SHOWCASE books have been pretty great so far, and this looks to continue that trend (a few more months and we'll get to the first one I plan to skip), with a good mix of 1950s reprints and early 1970s originals, with some great artists.

I especially love that Aparo cover I used above, which probably won't be the cover used for the actual book.

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Usagi Yojimbo #97


Discover the secret of “Hamanaka’s Treasure” in this conclusion to the two-part adventure presented by internationally acclaimed storyteller Stan Sakai! All hell has broken loose in a small town after the death of crime boss Hamanaka. The two remaining factions of his gang are vying for control of the community, but it’s the townspeople who are suffering the most. The tension comes to a head just as our favorite rabbit bodyguard, Usagi Yojimbo, arrives upon the scene!

On sale September 27, b&w, 24pg, $2.99

Looks to be an excellent run of stories coming up. I wonder if there's anything big planned for #100 (considering #100 is actually #160something).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - E-Man: Recharged

by Cuti, Staton, & Webb

E-Man, the pure energy being from the stars, returns to comics in this all-new, full-color, extra-sized story. The original creators reunite E-Man with his girlfriend Nova Kane and their arch-nemesis, The Brain from Sirius. It's all-out action, adventure, and fun in the proud E-Man tradition.
32pgs, Full Colour $3.99

Digital Webbing JUL063100

Several pages of previews over on the site linked above. I have a soft spot in my heart for E-Man going back to the original Charlton series, and Staton's art looks as sharp as ever. This also reminds me that there are still a bunch of back issues of the series that I need.
Weblog by BobH [bobh1970 at gmail dot com]