Tuesday, February 28, 2006
The Fin, by Bill Everett, from (oddly) COMEDY COMICS #9, 1942, as reprinted in THE GOLDEN AGE OF MARVEL v2, 1999.
35 issues [1993 - 1996]
1 - 35
BLOOD SYNDICATE was one of the four books that launched the Milestone line in 1993, the one team-book among their line, featuring members of various street gangs who band together (but still fight among themselves) after they get super-powers in the Big Bang which also gave Static and others powers. It had a rougher start than the other books, I think I remember hearing that the intended artist fell through at the last minute, so the first four issues had four different pencillers, which isn't the ideal way to start a book, even if they all were pretty good artists. Fortunately, one of those four, ChrisCross, stuck around and was the regular artist for most of the rest of the series, starting off a bit rough but quickly getting his footing.
The writing for most of the series is by Ivan Velez, co-writing the first storyline with Dwayne McDuffie and then solo for all but three fill-in issues. Velez was a new name to me, not having heard of his TALES OF THE CLOSET series until later, but he was really good, especially with the characterization, and also the use of a lot of the super-powers. A lot of well-developed characters who were fun to read about month-to-month, like Fade, Brickhouse, Third Rail and of course Dogg.
The first half of the run is the best, though it's hard to pick any particular issue, since it's one of those team books that flows from issue to issue, with subplots building each issue, cliffhanger endings and all that. The second half had some good stories as well, but a few pacing problems, partly because of a line-wide crossover that got in the way, and some fill-in issues that really missed the mark, and generally because the book seemed to be treading water. I think there was some talk of a few spin-off mini-series for some of the characters that never came out, so maybe there were developments planned for those that the series was waiting for, or stories it was setting up never came to pass. It ends pretty well, although a bit abruptly.
by JOE KUBERT
Writing, drawing, and editing a monthly Tarzan comic-book series in the 1970s, Joe Kubert was able to illustrate the adventures of his childhood hero and produce some of the most inspiring pages of his career. Dark Horse Comics is proud to present this final collection in a series of Joe Kubert's complete Tarzan comics. Tarzan: The Joe Kubert Years Volume Three features an incredible, four-part adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1934 adventure novel, Tarzan and the Lion Man. Tarzan attempts to protect two beautiful actresses and a Hollywood production crew from the many dangers lurking in Africa's jungles... and from a deranged geneticist who calls himself "God." This volume also includes previously unpublished pages of Kubert's original Tarzan notes and thumbnails from the early 1970s, the Tarzan stories "Moon Beast," "The Magic Herb," and "Ice Jungle," and a Korak, Son of Tarzan, tale, "Leap into Death," which was inked by Russ Heath.
- Introduction by Joe Kubert!
- This volume features previously unpublished pages of Joe Kubert's original Tarzan notes and thumbnails from the early 1970s!
- A great reference for students of comics art and the human form in action!
- Represents a key period in Kubert's career, when he was juggling roles as Tarzan's editor, writer, and artist.
On sale June 28, Hardcover, 216pg, Full Colour, 6 1/4" x 10 1/4", $49.95
MAR060044 Dark Horse
Always good to see another collection of Kubert's work. I have serveral of these, including most of the chapters of "Lion Men" and the story inked by Russ Heath, and it's really exciting stuff. One good thing about Dark Horse's reprints of it is that it got me to dig out my old issues. Still a bit pricey, but I might still pick these up someday. It'll be especially interesting to see his thumbnails.
Monday, February 27, 2006
by S. Clay Wilson; with an Introduction by R. Crumb
THE ART OF S. CLAY WILSON is the long-awaited career retrospective of the most extreme of the Zap cartoonists of the late 1960s. A self-described "graphic agoraphobe," Wilson draws manically dense scenes of lurid mayhem that rank among the seminal works of underground, counterculture American art. It's all here, from the classic chronicles of the Checkered Demon to salacious stories about the pirates, prostitutes, and poets that inhabit Wilson's divinely depraved world.
Hardcover, 9x12, 192pgs, Full Colour $35.00
MAR063635 Ten Speed Press
I mostly know Wilson from some of his work that Steve Bissette ran in TABOO, where it was often the most visually disturbing work in a book devoted to the visually disturbing, I've also read some of his older underground work, including some of the Checkered Demon stuff. I'm not sure my stomach could take 200 pages of his work in lurid colour, but I'm glad it's being published.
art by John Severin, story by Harvey Kurtzman
Mad #9 (1954)
This is a pretty strange story from Kurtzman's MAD run. I think it might be one of those that made a lot more sense to people living in that era than it does a half-century later. The first page, with sixteen entries in the "Bop Dictionary", explaining, loosely speaking, a lot of the expressions used in the story, is pretty funny. Each of the next five pages presents a "Bop Joke", none of which make much sense, but I'm pretty sure they're not supposed to. It's the way they tells them, you see. Severin's art is mostly what sells it, with this weird world of hep cats, cubes and hollywood-eyes.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
by Rick Veitch
Corporate exec Chad Roe had the "perfect" modern life. But the trophy wife, the prestigious job and the pills have always threatened to overwhelm him, and things go from bad to ugly when one night of debauchery hits the sobering light of September 11, 2001.
Comics iconoclast Rick Veitch (SWAMP THING, Brat Pack) writes and illustrates a graphic novel as singular in its execution as it is in the events it portrays. Half the height of a standard comic, told in landscape format with over 350 pages of story, Can’t Get No features Veitch inventing a poetry unique to the medium to tell the story of a man and nation torn by tragedy.
Reeling from the financial collapse of his business, Chad Roe descends into a night of depravity, only to wake up a “marked” man – literally – his body covered in a permanent tattoo. But Chad will be only one of the many whose lives are forever changed after that Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001. Instead of picking up the pieces, he takes to the road, heading straight into the shell-shocked heart of America on a desperate search for salvation.
7.25” 5.5” 352 pg, B&W, $19.99 US
Veitch can be a pretty hit or miss kind of guy for me, so I'm going to have to leaf through the finished book to see if this looks like something I want to read. Parts of it seem intriguing, but I'm far from sold on it, especially the "9/11" stuff.
Plus if he's working with DC/Vertigo I'd rather see Swamp Thing meeting Jesus...
by Frank King
Chris Ware has edited and designed this new 400 page hardcover volume of Walt & Skeezix, collecting the Gasoline Alley strips by the great American cartoonist Frank King from 1923-1924. King was the first cartoonist to have his characters age in real time and have modern storylines. In Book Two, Baby Skeezix is kidnapped, Walt’s courtship with Phyllis heats up and cools down, and Walt makes a bet with his friend Avery to see who can cross the North American continent first. There will be a new eighty-page introduction by journalist Jeet Heer exploring the strip’s Chicago background and the attraction that King and other cartoonists felt for the Grand Canyon.
Hardcover, 9x7, 400pgs, $29.95
MAR063183 Drawn & Quarterly
I enjoyed the first book quite a bit, and it got a lot better towards the end, when the continuity and the real-time aging aspects became a bigger part of the strip, and the art kept getting better, so the next two years of the strip should be a good read.
35 issues [1980 - 1986]
4 - 6, 9 - 16, 18, 21, 23 - 30, 32 - 34, 37, 41, 43, 47 - 49, 55, 58, 60, 65, 68
Ah, the main DC digest title, lasting for 71 issues total. I was a big fan of the format in the early 1980s, although distribution on them was always a bit spotty on the newsstands, so I missed quite a few, and later on the supply of them dried up completely, so half of the ones I have I picked up later. Unfortunately somewhere in the last decade the price on the few you can find has gone up, and the print quality wasn't really meant to last 25 years, and a lot of the stuff has been reprinted in better formats, so it's hardly worth picking up the rest. Objectively these are pretty cruddy reprints, with the bad paper, bad printing and the pages often being chopped up to work in the smaller size (frequently they'd stat on slightly larger lettering, covering some of the art), but they make up for it in variety, with a great sampling of some of the best of DC's past, the first place I ever saw most of the 1950s and 1960s DC classics.
Sugar & Spike stories, plus the various Funny Stuff issues with a few Mayer stories in each. That stuff is gold, and I'm glad they managed to do as many of them as they did. I recently got the last few of those I was missing, the only digests I was still actively searching for.
Also of note, the first places I saw favourites like Infantino's FLASH, Kubert's HAWKMAN, Kane's GREEN LANTERN, all sorts of stuff like that. I just loved the fact that you never knew what would come next in these, with an issue sampling the pre-hero adventure features in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD followed by a sampling of Lex Luthor stories through the ages.
I previously posted about one especially odd issue, featuring the Super Jrs.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
by Rick Geary
A scandalous secret affair in 19th century Scotland between an upper class woman and a gentleman of lower standing ends in his murder by poison!
Hardcover, 6x9, 80pgs, B&W $15.95
Geary is a great artist, very pleasing and unique style and some great storytelling, and I'm glad to see that he's found a comfortable niche to do a graphic novel in every year or so that fits his style and interest. I've read about half of the previous volumes, and look forward to getting the rest (although they're all so thin I keep wondering if the publisher will do an Omnibus Treasury of Treasuries of Victorian Murders or something).
Yeah, I pretty much agree with Swamp Thing's assessment there.
This is one of those "what were they thinking?" comics. It's a one-shot from Vertigo taking a lot of the characters that were around when the line launched (Swamp Thing, Shade, Black Orchid, Animal Man, John Constantine and Robotman from the Doom Patrol, most of them not being published at the time, plus a few cameos like Zatanna and the Phantom Stranger) and tossing them into a story about them facing the end of the world when the year 2000 begins.
Of course, the actual book takes about a third of its pages telling us the story of some unrelated and uninteresting character who crashes the rather unlikely party thrown by John Constantine which brings the characters together. I'd think if you had that many formerly headlining characters you'd want to have some fun with their interactions rather than devoting so much of the book to some new nobody. As it is the whole thing becomes a bit of "oh, look, it's that guy from that thing. And there's that other guy from the other thing. And look, they're talking to each other in this thing". It all just seems a lot less fun than you'd think having all these characters should be.
And while I stopped reading about most of those characters long before DC stopped publishing them, so I can't comment about how well their handled or if anything plays cleverly off their stories on where they'd be several years after their cancellation, nothing struck me as too profound. Shade says strange things, Robotman is a smart alec. Eh, overall just a wasted potential idea. I'm just glad I paid a lot less than cover price for it.
Friday, February 24, 2006
JOHN STANLEY (Writer) and IRVING TRIPP (Artist)
Like all great "comics for kids," be it Charles Schulz's Peanuts, Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, or Carl Barks's Scrooge McDuck, these stories by John Stanley and Irving Tripp are legendary for their ability to delight both children and adults alike with their wit, insight, and outright hilarity. Witness two of the medium's masters at the very pinnacle of their talent and skill in these gut-busting stories featuring the smart and sassy, generous and gregarious, absolutely one-of-a-kind eight-year-old Lulu Moppet and her lovable cast of neighborhood troublemakers!
On sale June 14, Softcover, 200pg, b&w, 6" x 9", $9.95
MAR060034 Dark Horse
As I've mentioned before, these LULU reprints have been an excellent read at a great price. I have to say that I didn't have much confidence in Dark Horse's ability to make a go of this, and thought we'd be lucky to see two or three books, so getting up to ten volumes in under two years, with no sign of slowing down, well, I'm happy to be proven wrong on something like this.
On the other hand, Dark Horse can't spell "Schulz"...
35 issues [1984 - 1989]
1 - 9, 11 - 14, 31, 37 - 39, 43 - 45, 49 - 63
This was the series that DC launched as one of their first direct market only books with the popular Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen team carrying over from the original series. Since it was direct only, I didn't buy it originally, but the LSH was one of the first books I checked out when I got back into comics, just as Keith Giffen was making his return with #50. I actually have pretty mixed feelings about that last year of the book, and was pretty close to dropping it if it wasn't going to be cancelled anyway by the end.
Along the way I did pick up some of the back issues when I could find them fairly cheap (I also have some more of them in the newsstand market reprints). Some of them are a lot of fun, and the art was generally nice, but I really do think that Levitz peaked on the book on the first half of his long run and very little of the second half compares well. Some of that has to do with the contortions the LSH history went through thanks to other changes in the DC Universe, but ultimately Levitz isn't blameless in that either. Still good enough to keep, and readable enough that I'd buy the stuff I'm missing someday.
#1 - #5, the big series opening battle against the Legion of Super-Villains, a really good example of the best of Levitz's writing, both in plot structure, building tension and characterization. Also some really good artwork by Giffen, although it's kind of a shame his involvement decreased so rapidly during the story. One of the reasons I think DC's big direct market only launch for both TITANS and LSH at the time was so misguided is that the artistic side of the creative teams that launched the books took off so quickly.
#13 is a nice example of the single issue spotlight on a team member that Levitz would do every now and then, this one with Timber Wolf going on a mission to fulfill a wish for a dead team-mate.
#37 - #38 is one of those stories that tried to make sense of the changes in DC history and the effects on the Legion, but probably made the whole thing worse, but was pretty fun to read, even (maybe especially) without the Superman issues it crossed over with.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
by Greg Irons
This retrospective book spans Greg Irons' artistic career, from his earliest dance posters, to his groundbreaking science fiction and horror comix, to his innovative and colorful tattoo art. Greg Irons was one of the elite among poster artists who worked for Bill Graham’s Fillmore Ballroom in San Francisco during the Age of Aquarius, designing posters for Chuck Berry, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother, and Paul Butterfield. This book reprints his finest psychedelic posters in full-color, as well as complete comic stories from Slow Death Funnies, Legions of Charlies, Deviant Slice, Yellow Dog, Thrilling Murder, and many other underground comic books.
It also includes rarely seen album cover art for Jerry Garcia, Blue Cheer, Jefferson Starship and other counterculture musicians. Extras include never-before-seen pages from his private sketchbooks and journals, personal photographs, and works in obscure publications.
Softcover, 8x10, 240pgs, PC $24.95
I'm mostly familiar with Irons from his work in the underground comic SLOW DEATH and one collection of his early work that Rip Off Press published in the 1980s. He's got a great raw, gritty style, an obvious influence on a lot of later artists I like, and of course died way too young. It's good to see him getting a major retrospective, it'll be interesting to see all the aspects of his career. I wasn't even aware how many of those distinctive psychedelic posters were his work.
art by Jack Davis, story by Al Feldstein
Shock SuspenStories #2 (1952)
Interesting political story from EC, clearly a response to the whole "Red Scare" of the early 1950s America, as a crowd watches a parade of soldiers just returned from Korea. Some of the crowd react negatively to one man, who seems to have a sneer on his face as the soldiers go by, and then doesn't remove his hat as the American flag goes past. They decide he must be some sort of America hating communist foreigner, and start beating him, proud of their defense of their nation. Unfortunately, the man's wife soon returns and reveals he was an injured member of the army unit that just passed by, whose face was reconstructed so his smile looked like a sneer, and who was blinded in the war so couldn't see the flag.
A well intentioned story, I guess, but it does seem to side step the fact that the crowd would have been just as wrong killing the guy if he had been an America hating communist foreigner.
by Osamu Tezuka
Japanese comics godfather Osamu Tezuka tells the story of Buddha's life like it's never been told before. The progenitor of manga as we know it, and the inspiration for countless artists, Osamu Tezuka continues to elicit the deepest awe with his sweeping grasp of the human condition. This life of Buddha is one that all ages and persuasions can enjoy.
Softcover, 5x7, 400pgs, B&W $14.95
MAR063136 Del Rey
Looks like they've decided not to make the paperbacks of the series thinner and with different breaks between the books than the hardcovers had, as they had scheduled a few months ago. That's good, it didn't make much sense to me, although I guess it would have been nice to have some quality Tezuka in the under $10 price point, where most of the pop manga dwell (ASTRO BOY was down there, but I didn't like it too much). Anyway, really good, weird but wonderful stuff if you haven't been picking up the hardcovers.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
A collection of Carl Barks adventures that were adapted to the popular DuckTales cartoon show. This volume features "Back to the Klondike," "Land Beneath the Ground," "Micro-Ducks from Outer Space," "Lemming With the Locket," "Lost Crown of Genghis Khan," and "Hound of the Whiskervilles."
Softcover, 5x7, 144pgs, Full Colour $10.95
Good to see a good thick collection of classic Barks (with a second volume coming soon after, according to the Amazon listings, so if your favourite long Scrooge adventure isn't up there it's probably in the second one). These are being released to tie-in with the recent DVD release of the cartoon series, which is a pretty good show as far as TV animation goes, especially the ones I saw that used the Barks stories (although they always replaced Donald and added some original-to-the-cartoon ducks). Anyway, all those are classics, and "Lemming With the Locket" is a particular favourite.
Written by Darryl Kravitz, Scott Peterson and Scott Cunningham
Art by Scott Neely and Vince Deporter
Cover by Robert Pope & Scott McRae
While on the trail of the mysterious Science Ghoul, Scooby-Doo is accidentally duplicated, and joins the team! But just who - or what - is Scooby-Two? Plus, the gang investigates a haunted clubhouse, and comes face-to-face with a ghost coach on the baseball field!
32 pg, Full Colour, $2.25 US
This is one of those things I'm really only listing because I really like the cover. Very simple, effective even at a small size, makes you wonder about the story. I'm actually not a huge fan of any incarnation of the Scooby-Doo cartoon, but I pick this up every few months when I see an issue and enjoy it. The character designs are nicer than the limited animation and annoying voices of the cartoon, and the stories are sometimes fun, with several complete stories in every issue.
He's not in this issue, but I especially like Joe Staton's occasional work for the title (see some other recent issues). Also pretty impressive that it's still going strong after 108 issues. LOONEY TUNES is also going strong at #138, but oddly though I like those cartoons I haven't liked the comic as much when I've sampled it.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
by J. P. Stassen
The 2000 winner of the Goscinny Prize for outstanding graphic novel script, this is the harrowing tale of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, as seen through the eyes of a boy named Deogratias. He is an ordinary teenager, in love with a girl named Bénigne, but Deogratias is a Hutu and Bénigne is a Tutsi who dies in the genocide, and Deogratias himself plays a part in her death. As the story circles around but never depicts the terror and brutality of an entire country descending into violence, we watch Deogratias in his pursuit of Bénigne, and we see his grief and descent into madness following her death, as he comes to believe he is a dog.
Told with great artistry and intelligence, this book offers a window into a dark chapter of recent human history and exposes the West's role in the tragedy. Stassen's interweaving of the aftermath of the genocide and the events leading up to it heightens the impact of the horror, giving powerful expression to the unspeakable, indescribable experience of ordinary Hutus caught up in the violence. Difficult, beautiful, honest, and heartbreaking, this is a major work by a masterful artist.
Softcover, 6x9, 96pgs, Full Colour $16.95
MAR063221 First Second
Hadn't heard about this one before, but any publisher that's going to be doing a new Eddie Campbell book in the near future (and hey, has just announced another Campbell book for 2007, The Black Diamond Detective Agency) automatically gets some attention for their other releases, and this seems like it'll be an interesting book. There are several preview pages up right now, and the art looks really strong, and it's good to see some acclaimed international comics get wide release in North America.
New occasional feature here, I'm going to let my computer randomly pick a comic from my collection for me to re-read when I can't think of anything else to talk about or just want to add some variety to my reading list and the weblog. Well, semi-randomly, if it's something I've read recently, or that belong on another weblog or series of posts (so no Kirby, Ditko or EC) or something I'm too embarrassed to admit I own (so no, um, I guess I can't say) then I'll pick something else.
First spin of the wheel:
Wasteland #11 
Wasteland was an odd horror anthology title, with all the stories written by John Ostrander and/or Del Close, illustrated by several regular artists and the occasional guest artist. I'm always kind of surprised it lasted as long as it did, 18 issues, as it had a lot of uncommonly sick stuff and dark humour that you don't normally expect from a DC comic, especially way back then.
David Lloyd, a regular for the first year of the book, draws the first story this issue, "Embryo". His work in general is among my favourite in the series, especially since I don't think there's nearly enough David Lloyd work out there. He also tended to get the more depressing, completely lacking in humour stories in the book, which suits his style. This one has a son contemplating his relationship with his rather monstrous father on the father's deathbed, so that's quite a downer. Despite the nice art, I thought this story was just a little too bleak to really work.
"Revenge of the Swamp Creature" is the second story, part of a series of supposedly true (but take that with a grain of salt) stories from the life of Del Close, this one on the set of THE BLOB (and including a mention of his role in the SABLE TV show, which I didn't even know existed). Not a bad little story, although I got the idea that I was missing something at the end. Don Simpson, another regular, does the artwork for this one.
"Dissecting Mister Fleming" has art by Ty Templeton, I think his only story in the series. It's a pretty gory story that starts with a kid watching his father dissect a teacher alive on the gym floor, and goes down from there, so as you'd expect there's a lot of playing off the dichotomy of Templeton's open, cartoony art style and the subject matter. Definitely my favourite story in this issue, although you really need a strong stomach for it.
Another main series artist, William Messner-Loebs, wraps up the whole thing in a cover, not really one of his best, but okay.
by Alison Bechdel
This breakout book by Alison Bechdel takes its place alongside the unnerving, memorable, darkly funny family memoirs of Augusten Burroughs and Mary Karr. It's a father-daughter tale pitch-perfectly illustrated with Bechdel's sweetly gothic drawings and—like Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis—a story exhilaratingly suited to the graphic memoir form.
Meet Alison's father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family's Victorian house, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with male students and a family babysitter. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter's complex yearning for her father. And yet, apart from assigned stints dusting caskets at the family-owned "fun home," as Alison and her brothers call it, the relationship achieves its most intimate expression through the shared code of books. When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescence, the denouement is swift... graphic... and redemptive.
Hardcover, 6x9, 236pgs, B&W $19.95
MAR063248 Houghton Mifflin
I've enjoyed some of Bechdel's work (her Dykes to Watch Out For strip), so it's good to see her doing a longer form work from a mainstream publisher. The more recent Dykes strips I've read seemed to be more constrained by both the format and the history, so she should do well with a long work starting from scratch.
Monday, February 20, 2006
36 issues [1976 - 1997]
196, 214, 235, 247, 249, 347, 368, 377, 393, 397, 400 - 401, 403, 405 - 425, 450 - 451
This HULK series took over the numbering from TALES TO ASTONISH, of course, and continued until 1999 when someone thought a new #1 was a good idea. I remember reading it a few times as a kid, but don't have those anymore. Most of the run I own is from Peter David's long run as writer. I tried it a few times early on, as the Hulk kept changing colours and personalities, and liked aspects of it, but it didn't really click for me until Gary Frank came aboard as the artist, with the Hulk green and intelligent, and it lost me again almost right away after Frank left (I used to have several other issues from before and after Frank's run, but they were pretty easy to get rid of).
A few noteworthy issues among those I have:
#368 is a really good one-shot with Sam Kieth on guest-art and a good sample of Peter David's take on the character at the time.
#413 - #416 is a good sampler of the Gary Frank era, with an entertaining story of the Hulk in space, using the supporting cast of the time and various other Marvel Universe concepts.
by Linda Medley
This long-awaited hardcover edition collects the beginning chapters of Linda Medley's original graphic novel series, including all the stories from THE CURSE OF BRAMBLY HEDGE through SOLICITINE. The series garnered considerable critical acclaim, a number of industry awards, and inclusion in the YALSA Recommended Reading List.
CASTLE WAITING tells the story of an isolated, abandoned castle, and the eccentric inhabitants who bring it back to life. A fable for modern times, CASTLE WAITING is a fairy tale that's not about rescuing the princess, saving the kingdom, or fighting the ultimate war between Good and Evil--it's about being a hero in your own home.
Featuring an introduction by Jane Yolen.
Hardcover, 6.5x8, 448pgs, B&W $29.95
It's good to see CASTLE WAITING finally making its way back, and hopefully this format (and it is a handsome looking book) will get it some attention and get some new stories published (check Medley's site for the first few pages of what would be the as-yet-unscheduled next issue, plus several other stories including the full original first issue of the on-going series. I'm assuming that Medley's site is correct that it'll run up to "Solicitine", not including the "Interiors" story that began in the last two issues of the prior series, contrary to what the Fantagraphics site says). Anyway, I really enjoyed the original graphic novel and first series, it's some great light fantasy with a good mix of character bits, funny bits and clever bits. I managed to miss most of "Solicitine" when it first came out, so most of that will be new to me.
Update: Medley just posted that the on-going series will indeed return this summer, and has more preview pages of the new work.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
KAZUO KOIKE (Writer) and GOSEKI KOJIMA (Artist)
Path of the Assassin, called Hanzo no Mon in Japan, is the story of Hattori Hanzo, the fabled master ninja whose duty it was to protect Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ieyasu was the
shogun who would unite Japan into one great nation. But before he could do that, he had to grow up and learn how to love the ladies!
As the secret caretaker of such an influential future leader, not only does Hanzo use vast and varied ninja talents, but in living closely with Ieyasu, he forms a close friendship with the young shogun.
- Published in original Japanese format and unretouched which keeps the art intact.
- This is a fifteen-volume story starring the legendary ninja and Kill Bill reference Hattori Hanzo.
On sale June 28, Softcover, 320pg, b&w, 4" x 6", $9.95
MAR060017 Dark Horse
Wow, didn't know the LONE WOLF guys did yet another long series. What is that, something over 50 volumes of 300+ pages each? I know Koike wrote some other stuff, but did Kojima ever do anything that wasn't in the whole samurai genre? I'll have to try a volume or two of this at some point. I enjoy their work, but it does get a bit too repetitious to read 4000+ pages about the same character, much of it in swordfights. This one seems like it might have some character bits worth reading a few books.
Interesting that unlike LONE WOLF and SAMURAI EXECUTIONER Dark Horse isn't flipping this one left-to-right (I assume that's what they mean by "original Japanese format"). You'd think they'd want to keep it consistent within three closely related books.
"Kill Bill reference Hattori Hanzo", I don't know if I should be amused or sad...
art by Wallace Wood, story by Wallace Wood & Jerry De Fuccio
Two-Fisted Tales #34[#17] (1953)
This story is a nice showcase for Wood's artwork, with a middle ages setting that allowed for some elaborate costumes and a lot of silent segments (including three full pages of combat with just brief captions or dialogue on the top tier). The story is simple enough, with one knight accused of killing another, and asking the Duke for trial by combat to prove his innocence. That sets the way for the three pages of Wood drawing the battle, and the finally ending that proves right doesn't always make right, and the illusion of honour is often more desirable than the fact of it.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
by Osamu Tezuka
At the end of the Heian Period (12th century), a hunter named Benta comes to Kyoto in search of his abducted assistant, Obuu. Obuu becomes the attendant of a powerful man of the time, who is searching for the phoenix. Meanwhile, Kyoto is driven into civil war, and their world is thrown into chaos and confusion.
Softcover, 6x9, 424pgs, B&W $15.99
MAR063510 Viz Media
That won't be the actual cover, of course, but I kind of like how it looks. Certainly more than the generic Phoenix images that Viz is putting on these books. Anyway, good to see that the long gap between v5 and the upcoming v6 was an aberration. The historical chapters of PHOENIX have been my favourite of Tezuka's work, so it's good to see we'll get another thick volume of that soon. And with only three to go after this (or less, if any of them are shorter ones that will be combined), hopefully PHOENIX will be all available in English by sometime in 2007.
...but somehow I now find myself in the market for one.
Score one for the power of advertising.
(on the other hand, I don't think I'd pay the cover price of over 10 new comics for it, which is what this would have cost in 1963. I guess in today's terms that would put the price at between $25 and $30)
36 issues [1994 - 2000]
1 - 30, 50 - 51, 56, 69 - 70, 0
This version of Superboy was probably the best thing to come out of that whole "Death of Superman" thingee back then. The series lasted up to #100 a few years back, and I think the same character, with a different costume, is the Superboy still hanging around at DC right now, although who knows what's going on there in the next few months.
I didn't really expect to like the series that much when it launched, but I had liked some of Karl Kesel's writing before, and Tom Grummett's artwork looked nice. It wound up being a pretty good monthly read, nothing groundbreaking but a nice mix of short adventures, cliffhangers and a large supporting cast, including Dubbilex, the DNAlien from Kirby's 1970s run on JIMMY OLSEN. The use of the Hawaii setting was also good, at least different from the New York and New York stand-ins so common in comics.
#4 has some nice artwork by Mike Parobeck doing a version of the book in the style of the Superman/Batman animated shows of the era.
#8 has a nice old Superboy vs. new Superboy, with some nice tributes to the original version, and one of the better things to come out of DC's "Zero Hour" crossover.
Written by Jerry Siegel, Jerry Coleman, Bill Finger and Otto Binder
Art by Curt Swan, Wayne Boring, Al Plastino and Kurt Schaffenberger
Cover by Swan & George Klein
The second Showcase spotlighting the Silver Age exploits of Superman features ACTION COMICS #258-275 and SUPERMAN #134-145! The Man of Steel faces off against a wide array of threats, from the impish Mr. Mxyzptlk to the deadly alien Brainiac to the utterly incomprehensible Bizarro.
576 pg, B&W, $16.99 US MAR060299
I love that cover. What a great choice for this volume, much better than the one they picked for the first volume. I've getting close to done with that first volume, hopefully finishing just before the SUPERMAN FAMILY volume reprinting the early JIMMY OLSEN series comes out, which should last me until this one. This one should be a lot of fun, with a fair number of Jerry Siegel stories that are always entertaining and more Curt Swan art than the first volume (though SUPERMAN FAMILY will have the big Swan motherlode, with over 500 pages of 1950s Swan pencils). And of course me am always hating some Bizarro.
Friday, February 17, 2006
by J.M. DeMatteis & Mike Ploog
This book marks Mike Ploog's first return to regular comics in years! Prepare for a wonderful all-ages story that features dozens of creatures and fantastical settings. If you like smart, literate, and lavishly drawn stories that can charm a nine year-old as well as adults, Abadazad will thrill you to no end!
Kate and her brother Matt are growing up in the big city, and life isn't always easy. They find refuge in the world of Abadazad - a series of books written over 100 years ago by classic author Franklin O. Barrie. Kate and Matt spend hours reading the Abadazad books, and know every character. One day, Kate takes Matt to the fun fair. He steps onto a carousel, goes around once, twice - and then disappears. Though Kate and her mother search for Matt for years, they never find him. Finally, Kate tells her mother they must give up looking - but on that very day, Kate meets an old lady, Martha, who also loves the Abadazad books, and seems to know more about them than anyone. Martha tells her that Abadazad is a real place, but Kate doesn't believe her - until a mysterious blue globe arrives at Kate's door, and Kate sees her brother trapped inside it. Now Kate knows what she has to do: she must go into the real Abadazad and find her lost brother, no matter what dangers it might hold.
Hardcover, 6x9, 144pgs, Full Colour $9.99 MAR063249 Hyperion Books
ABADAZAD BOOK 2: THE DREAM THIEF
by J.M. DeMatteis & Mike Ploog
Fans of old-school children's fantasy from authors such as L. Frank Baum (The Wizard of Oz), C.S. Lewis (The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe) and Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach) will get a kick out of this latest installment of Abadazad!
Hardcover, 6x9, 160pgs, Full Colour $9.99 MAR063250 Hyperion Books
I'm not absolutely certain, but I think these are actually illustrated juvenile novels based on and going beyond the shortlived comic of a few years back. The comic looked really good, although a lot of the charm was Ploog's storytelling, so I might take a look at these, depending on how much Ploog art there actually is. Maybe see if my library picks up copies. DeMatteis can be pretty hit-or-miss with me, and I'm not sure how his prose will read (the prose passages in the original ABADAZAD comics were kind of strained, but they were meant to evoke a certain quaint style, which I don't imagine he'll use for the actual series). Pretty good price for a hardcover illustrated short novel, depending on how many illustrations there turn out to be. It'll be interesting to see how it does in the mainstream book market, as it's an odd mix of traditional and postmodern concepts.
Here's an interesting old interview with DeMatteis with a bunch of concept artwork by Ploog from before the comic series launched. I'd forgotten they'd originally planned to have another artist draw the "real world" segments.
I just got around to reading Will Eisner's last book, THE PLOT, an attempt to bring the refutation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a treatise used to incite anti-Jewish sentiment for the last century) into a popular form. It's an uneven but entertaining book, I thought. I've always had a mixed reaction to Eisner's non-Spirit "serious" comics, certainly admiring the storytelling and technical skills he brings, but often finding the melodramatic style and exaggerated characters a bit off-putting. Of those I read, only TO THE HEART OF THE STORM really worked for me throughout.
This book is quite different from his previous graphic novels, depicting Eisner's interpretation of historical events starting in mid-19th century France and moving to Russia and around the world. The first half of the book traces the origins of "Dialogues in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu", a French pamphlet used to criticize Napoleon III, and the attempts of certain Russian factions to block reform and modernization contrary to their own interests by using the Tsar's distrust of Jews, and how they merged in the creation of the "Protocols", purporting to reveal a vast Jewish conspiracy.
That all works very well, and is the best part of the book. Eisner drops a lot of information and dramatizes it well, not always realistically but effective and entertaining. It's a shame that towards the end of that section he just summarizes various other events in a quick text page, as it would have been interesting to see how he would have drawn that.
The next section of the book drags, unfortunately, as Eisner devotes about two dozen pages to the proof, discovered in the early 1920s, that the "Protocols" are indeed fake, mainly by comparing selections of them to the earlier "Dialogues in Hell" while a character reads along and makes some observations. It's hard going, especially since both of the source texts are pretty dull, and I can see why Eisner might have wanted to include them to give the book some scholarly heft, but it's not very good comics.
The final section picks up slightly, as he traces the wide dissemination and influence of the "Protocols" through the 20th century and beyond, starting with their use in the rise of Nazi Germany, despite clear evidence of their falseness and repeated attempts to debunk them once and for all. It's all short vignettes, and some work better than others, at times Eisner stages the scenes so that it feels more like the characters are talking to the reader than anyone around them in an attempt to get a lot of information in a short space.
Overall it's a book worth reading, but I think Eisner kind of tried to do too much, and might have better served the material by focusing on the first third more. The middle didn't really benefit from being done as comics, and the point of the last part probably could have been made more elegantly.
I'm not sure it all matters, though, as Eisner seems to avoid the point that the reason the fact that the "Protocols" are fake never takes, especially in the modern day, is that the actual text is irrelevant. Very little of what appears in the excerpts he selects has any bearing on modern anti-Semitism, and I doubt many of the widely disseminated copies are read at all. It's just a pretext for the hate, not the cause. I was going to tie this around to the current furor over those Danish editorial cartoons, but don't really have time to do the additional research. I think the connection is obvious enough, though. Anyway, while I can understand Eisner's desire to do a popular debunking of the "Protocols", and think the book is overall an artistic success, I'm not sure it'll actually convince anyone who needs convincing, if that was his desire.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
art by Bernard Krigstein, story by Al Feldstein
Crime SuspenStories #22 (1954)
This is one of my favourite of the EC crime stories, a clever tale about a banker, somewhat bored with the routine of his work, who accidentally finds a way to skim off some extra money from the account of an elderly customer. He uses increasing amounts of the money in order pursue a lavish lifestyle, until everything, as it must, comes crashing down, although with a few patented EC twists along the way.
Krigstein does a good job on this one. While not one of the stories where he did his experiments with multiple panels and the like, there's still some good storytelling, especially in the set-up on the first page showing the banker's daily routine.
A Daily Show clip on the matter.
A Father's Advice
Mark Beaufoy, 1902
If a sportsman true you’d be
Listen carefully to me. . .
Never, never let your gun
Pointed be at anyone.
That it may unloaded be
Matters not the least to me.
When a hedge or fence you cross
Though of time it cause a loss
From your gun the cartridge take
For the greater safety’s sake.
If twixt you and neighboring gun
Bird shall fly or beast may run
Let this maxim ere be thine
“Follow not across the line.”
Stops and beaters oft unseen
Lurk behind some leafy screen.
Calm and steady always be
“Never shoot where you can’t see.”
You may kill or you may miss
But at all times think this:
“All the pheasants ever bred
Won’t repay for one man dead.”
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Sunday, February 12, 2006
"Have you heard the news?" he said, with a grin,
"The Vice-President's gone mad!"
"Where?" "Downtown." "When?" "Last night."
"Hmm, say, that's too bad!"
"Well, there's nothin' we can do about it," said the neighbor,
"It's just somethin' we're gonna have to forget."
Check cartoonist Jay Hosler's site for a couple of funny Darwin cartoons, among others, and you could do worse than pick up his SANDWALK ADVENTURES graphic novel about Darwin, one of the best comics of the last decade.
From LITTLE LULU: SUNDAY AFTERNOON
And they say EC was a bad influence on kids.
I did notice that Dark Horse's weird release order has made the Amazon listings a bit of an adventure, with two books each labelled volume 1 and volume 2, and no volume 4 or 5.
(shown at right, a cover to a later issue, #928 (Aug 30, 1991), with Groo by Sergio Aragones)
Thursday, February 09, 2006
37 issues [1987 - 1993]
1 - 11, 13 - 38
The first version of Stan Sakai's still on-going series, later published by Mirage and now by Dark Horse. Usagi had of course appeared in several issues of the anthology books ALBEDO and CRITTERS before the first issue, as well as a one-shot special reprinting his earliest stories the previous year.
I started reading the book sometime in 1990, I think after reading about it in one of the AMAZING HEROES preview issues. After a few months of getting the new issues I was also looking for all the back issues, although quite a few of them proved hard to find. I did eventually pick up the tradepaperbacks for those issues, so I was less interested in buying them, but still kept an eye out for them. I found most of what I still needed in the last year, except that elusive #12.
Pretty extraordinary series, as Sakai quickly got into the pattern of alternating long epic stories with a patch of shorter bits, mixing lots of drama with humour and a wide selection of Japanese mythology and history. And while he still does great art to this day, I think the peak of his work is probably around the middle of this series, from "Dragon Bellow" through "Circles".
Some noteworthy issues:
#13-#18 - "The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy", the first really epic UY story, and maybe still the best, especially the ending.
#20 - "A Kite Story", a good funny single issue story using some Japanese culture and history.
#38 - "The Last Ino Story", a touching story that also has a lot of Usagi/Gen interaction, which is always a highlight.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
art by Harvey Kurtzman, story by Al Feldstein(?)
Weird Fantasy #13[#1] (1950)
TALES OF TERROR Feldstein says that this story might be one of the Gaines/Feldstein stories, though he isn't sure. If so it would be one of the only ones drawn by Kurtzman. In terms of story it's always hard to tell how much leeway to give EC stories with major cliches, since in some cases they're the ones who came up with the cliches, or at least were among the first to use them. The twist ending in this one is the case, with an exploration spaceship landing on a world with the ruins of a once advanced civilization of giants, now reduced to savages. Yeah, you can guess the rest.
Kurtzman's art rises above the story, especially the early part of the story with some good use of close-ups and sound effects to make the launch dramatic and the pages of the crew of the ship getting used to zero gravity. I also liked the panels of the now-savage aliens, which has some funny bits.
Hulk: Hulk am next step in evolution because God wanted Hulk like this. Hulk getting hit by rays was no mistake! It was all in God’s plan! That’s why Hulk have complex features like rest of animals, but Hulk also have more muscles and more brains!
Bruce Banner vs The Incredible Hulk on Intelligent Design by Mike Powers via the Palaeoblog
[original link no longer valid, changed to archive.org Wayback Machine mirror]
Monday, February 06, 2006
First up there is from a house-ad which ran on the back of some DC books the month the series launched. It's a very nice, simple design with a great tagline.
Thanks to Eric of www.vicsage.com for providing a scan of the elusive promotional poster, which is in fact different from the house ad. It's a gorgeous Cowan/Magyar image, very detailed and with great colouring. They should use that as the cover of a tradepaperback when we finally see one.
Next is the cover to AMAZING HEROES #108, December 15, 1986. The two Charlton relaunches from DC got the cover, with their respective creative teams handling each character. Really like that Cowan/Magyar image of Vic, makes me wish they'd done a few covers together, much as I like the Cowan/Sienkiewicz covers. I put a closeup of just the Question image up there. Inside is a 5-page article on the relaunch, with some quotes from the various creators, including mentioning a few story plans (Vic getting involved in the Wayne Foundation, leading to a confrontation with Batman, a STAR Labs story involving science ethics) that were never realized.
Over two years later the Question returned to the AH cover on #163 in April 1989. Extensive interview with Cowan in this issue, as well as a detailed article about the history of the character, the themes and fan reaction to the revamp, including a 2-page profile of Vic Sage and his public history that was really well done. You can read more about it in this comment from Dwight Williams from when I posted the cover before.
Next is a painted retail poster for the "Fables" crossover featuring Batman, Green Arrow and the Question by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz. Had a copy of this on my wall for the longest time, and it was much admired, though I always had to explain who the Question was. Also up there is a line-art version of the same image used in house-ads for the story.
Following that is something from the only evidence I have that DC once planned a tradepaperback of the first five issues of the series, titled THUNDER OVER THE ABYSS, from an issue of DC's promotional material of the time. The image they used with the promo was a re-coloured panel from #5, apparently it was going to have a painted cover by Cowan. I wonder if the cover was ever actually done?
Last is part of a large jam image that was included in the hardcover HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE collection in 1987, as well as a postcard in that issue that could be sent in to buy a separate poster. Among the over fifty characters and over fifty artists is the Question as drawn by Denys Cowan. Go here for an image of the full poster, including a certain Question inspired character.
Any other promo images or merchandise for the series I missed? Let me know.