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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bits of Toth - The Fox

From Toth's unusually productive period in comics around 1983, he did a bunch of covers/pin-ups for Archie's Red Circle line, mostly featuring the Black Hood, plus two stories featuring The Fox, a character he had kicking around for a while. Lotta' stuff to love on this page, the shadows on the first panel, the guy being pulled right off panel then dragged into the shadows, the very funny last panel.

Hey, does it strike anyone else as weird that there's been no mainstream press on Toth's passing, not even a short wire story? If you search Alex Toth on Google News right now you get one short bit from Comic Book Resources (which gets his age wrong), one very brief mention on an Italian site and several reference to a high school baseball player. I would have thought that Toth would have rated something in the mainstream press, for his animation work if nothing else.

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Dork #11

DORK #11
by Evan Dorkin

Presented in the much-maligned and unfashionable 'pamphlet' format, Dork #11 features over 200 fun strips and single-panel gags within its panel-drenched, ink-soaked pages. Some humorous in effect, others, well, we're not so sure. But who cares? Containing more diverting bathroom reading bang for your buck than any other comic, Dork #11 is the funnybook bargain of the year! Unless, of course, it isn't.
24pgs, B&W $2.95
JUN062814 Amaze Ink (Slave Labor Graphics)

Hm, new Evan Dorkin comic? Where's that list of signs of the Apokolips? Anyway, Dorkin's stuff is always a hoot, a veritable laugh riot and many other completely unhip expressions. Also, much more disturbingly, these things are coming out. Way outside my price range, but JUN062812 if they're not outside yours.

Bits of Toth - Sandman

This is probably the most extreme that Toth ever took "economy of line" for a commercial job, right to the edge of the "black cat in a coalmine" level. Just enough to work (click for the bigger scan, there actually are a few details there in the hat and mask). That's the original gas-mask wearing Sandman, of course.

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Usagi Yojimbo #96


Dig, dig, dig. Poor, insane Jodo is digging holes all over town. Boss Hamanaka, Jodo's father, is dead, and his vast fortune is nowhere to be found! Gangs vying for control of the community wage an impending war just as Usagi arrives on the scene! And there's another samurai, mysteriously observing everything from the sidelines, who may enter into the fray-or maybe he's waiting for the town to be torn apart! Internationally acclaimed storyteller Stan Sakai presents the first installment of the two-part "Hamanaka's Treasure" this month in Usagi Yojimbo!
On sale August 30, b&w, 24pg, $2.99

Consider this your monthly reminder that USAGI YOJIMBO exists and shouldn't be taken for granted. Sounds like this story might be partly inspired by Kurosawa's movie YOJIMBO.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bits of Toth - UFO

I think this 3-page story, from THE COSMIC BOOK #1, published in 1986, might be the last actual comic book story that Toth drew. It's dated 1984, and the other later stuff I've seen (mostly various stuff for DC, plus the second Bravo story) is dated 1982/1983. After that all I've seen from him are covers/pinups and illustrated letters. Can anyone identify anything later? Also, was there an animation strike or something in the 1983 era that led to Toth's brief return to comics?

Anyway, a very odd little story, very whimsical and funny look at UFO sightings, and with that odd cadence that you also see in Toth's handwritten letters/essays that have graced many a fanzine.

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Enemy Ace Archives v2

Written by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert,
Art by Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Frank Thorne and Neal Adams

Death stalks the skies above Europe once more in this second volume of THE ENEMY ACE ARCHIVES, reprinting the classic adventures of World War I German fighter ace Hans von Hammer from the pages of STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES from 1969 through 1976!

on sale September 6 • 196 pg, Full Colour, $49.99 US

I'm glad to see this, a good amount of Kanigher/Kubert is always good stuff. I'm kind of pissed they're stopping at 1976 with just 196 pages. Another 126 pages would finish up the rest of the Kanigher stories (150 if you include the Balloon Buster stories the Enemy Ace appeared in), including some art by John Severin, Dan Spiegle and Howard Chaykin. I suspect those stories are going to be unreprinted orphans now.

Bits of Toth - The World's Finest team

A pair of pin-ups that Toth did in the mid-1990s. The Superman one is nicely whimsical (I love how he put a readable expression on the face of every dog), and a great composition on the Batman one (as well as a nice tribute to the next generation of Batman animators who were heavily influenced by his work of the 1970s). I think that might be my favourite Batman by Toth, above the more famous BATMAN BLACK AND WHITE cover that came a few years later.

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Kickback by David Lloyd

KICKBACK Hardcover

Joe Canelli is a crooked cop working in a corrupt police force. Joe is haunted by nightmares of powerlessness. When his partner is brutally murdered and he's betrayed by his colleagues, it appears that Joe's nightmares are coming true. With his back against the wall there's only one thing he can do-turn against the criminal network that he once embraced.

Kickback is a fast-paced, action-filled, noir-style, 96 page crime thriller from the co-creator of V for Vendetta, David Lloyd.

On sale August 16, Hardcover, 96pg, Full Color, 7" x 10", $12.95

Well, I was just saying recently how much a shame it was that Lloyd's work since VENDETTA was so rare (and mostly HELLBLAZER related), so I'd he a major hypocrite not to be interested in this. 96 page original colour comic written and drawn by Lloyd in hardcover for $13? I'm completely there. Looks like it might be an interesting story as well, and it's a stricking cover image.

EC - Enemy Assault (Davis)

Enemy Assault
art by Jack Davis, story by Harvey Kurtzman
Frontline Combat #1 (1951)

A Korean war story here, told first person by an American soldier in the trenches near enemy lines. Lots of good "grunt" talk from Kurtzman in the narration, like "If you want to know if a man is scared, ask him to spit! The inside of my mouth is bone dry!". The soldier sees all his own men killed in an attack, and is alone in the trenches with a Chinese soldier. They talk as they wait to see which side ends up taking the battle, and it turns out the Chinese soldier knows English because he'd worked for an American businessman in Hong Kong and traveled to New York with the businessman, living not far from where the American soldier went to school. They exchange baby pictures, but then when the war finally catches up to them the American shoots the Chinese soldier to protect another American.

Great moody Davis art throughout this story, using a lot of static camera angles separated by seconds in time to depict the sudden nature of some of the action, and Kurtzman keeping his words to a minimum at key parts to let the art do its work.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Bits of Toth - Lone Hawk

One of Toth's 1960s stories for Warren, this one with Archie Goodwin writing, and featuring a short biography of Canadian First World War ace pilot Billy Bishop, contrasting his career with the ends of many of the other pilots of the war. A gorgeous story, as you'd expect from Toth's affinity to aviation stories, just look at that tonework for the clouds and how clear the storytelling is.

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Charlton Spotlight #5


The issue all true Charlton fans have been waiting for! Living legend Joe Gill talks to interviewer Jim Amash about his career in comics from the Golden Age to the Bronze and beyond, with behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the artists, editors, and publishers Joe knew during his 30+ years and tens of thousands of pages of Charlton stories.

Mark Burbey and Gene Phillips take in-depth looks at the origins of the Gill-Ditko action-heroes Captain Atom, Blue Beetle and The Question; Steve Skeates tells the story behind a story that began as a DC Phantom Stranger adventure and became a Charlton Dr. Graves tale with Marvel-ous overtones in "Graves Acting Strangely"; Ron Frantz recalls his 1980s collaborations with Gill, Ditko, McLaughlin, Toth and (almost) Harlan Ellison; and Steve Skeates returns with a personal memoir of his early Dr. Graves and Thane of Bagarth work with the late, great Jim Aparo. Plus: a detailed look at the 1970s Charlton "text stories experiment" by Ramon Schenk and new installments of Nicola Cuti's Weirdlings cartoons and Howard Davis's With Pen & Brush, all wrapped inside a special Joe Gill cover painting by ex-Charlton writer-editor Nicola Cuti.
Magazine, 80pgs, B&W $7.95
JUN063525 Argo Press

Been meaning to try this magazine for a while, and this issue looks like a great place to start. I'm especially looking forward to the full story behind that Dr. Graves story. Didn't realize it was a Phantom Stranger story at some point. That would have been interesting.

Bits of Toth - Wonder Woman

I'm not sure there was any other artist who DC would have let get away with having Wonder Woman say "Mama spank". God bless them for letting Toth do so.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Thoughts on Toth

Ah, Alex Toth. I'm sure I first encountered Toth's work long before I knew the name, from his TV animation work, in particular the 1970s Super Friends series that I know I watched. The first comic I can recall seeing his work in was the 1983 SUPERMAN ANNUAL #9, featuring a team-up of Superman and Batman against Lex Luthor. Apparently the story was done for some foreign publisher originally, and showed up in the annual. Anyway, a real eye-opening story. The main Superman and Batman comics of the time hewed very close to a house style that was a combination of Curt Swan and Neal Adams, a style I did like then and still like now. This story was one of the first non-reprint stories I saw that veered sharply away from style, in ways almost counter to it. I liked what I saw, in part because one of the strengths Toth has is an ability to get down the essence of a character, and while he didn't draw Superman like Swan or Batman like Adams, you could see what made the character work in his art, and that makes you appreciate both his work and those of other artists.

Still a lovely story, by the way, and I don't think it's ever been reprinted. A shame.

Kept encountering his work sporadically over the next decade, and hearing more about him as well. His work was invariably a highlight of whatever reprint collection it would be included in, and he seemed like an interesting guy. Anyway, it wasn't long before I was specifically seeking out his work.

So much interesting stuff. He worked with a lot of interesting people over the years, always doing a good job of realizing their scripts to the fullest potential. Robert Kanigher was a frequent writer for him back in the 1950s, and they re-teamed for a few stories in the 1970s that were highlights in the careers of both men. "Soldier's Grave" is perhaps the most remarkable of those stories, pretty close to perfect as it tells the story of a poor old Egyptian man who joins the army in order to feed his family.

Also of note among their stories in that era are "The Tally", "The Glory Boys", "White Devil... Yellow Devil" and "the Mask of the Red Fox". Special stories all, and "White Devil" in particular is like a little lesson in storytelling.

Among Toth's mentors in comics was Sheldon Mayer, one of my favourite comic book creators. He would frequently mention in his letter/essays some aspects of Mayer's involvement in his early days, the very tough but invariably useful advice and criticism, always with a great deal of affection. Mayer and Toth would work on two stories together in the mid-1970s. "Is a Snerl Human?" is one of my favourite short stories ever, an oddly affecting parable. "Who Is Haunting the Haunted Chateau?" is a nice little war/ghost story, with some clever little bits of storytelling.

Toth had a few interesting collaborations with Archie Goodwin. A few stories for Warren back in the 1960s, I especially liked the two in BLAZING COMBAT, "Lone Hawk" and "Survival". They did a few more for DC in the 1970s, both returning to the aviation theme, with a Batman story "Death Flies the Haunted Sky" and "Burma Sky", which I've seen on more than one list of the greatest comics of all time, and I'm not disagreeing.

So much more worth mentioning. He only did a handful of stories for Kurtzman's war comics at EC, but those are interesting. I briefly talk about one here. His Zorro comics are a lot of fun, and the still-in-print Image edition of them is one of the best $13 you'll ever spend if you don't have a copy yet. BRAVO FOR ADVENTURE, of course, that's some interesting stuff, and proof he had some writing chops as well. He did a lot of unfortunately unreprinted work in the 1950s, pick up some of Eclipse's SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT books of the 1980s for a taste. A lot of covers and pin-ups over the years, almost always a highlight of whatever project they appeared in. There's HOT WHEELS, now there's a book that was much better than it had any right to be thanks to Toth. And that's only scratching the surface.

I think I'll probably go on a bit of a Toth kick for the next week or so, posting various pages that leap out at me while re-reading some stories. Of course, you don't have to wait for me, go over here and look around.

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Phoenix v8 by Tezuka

by Osamu Tezuka

The everyman Benta has become an unwilling samurai who witnesses the senseless killings and the replacement of one brutal regime with another even more so. Civil War: Part 2 explores the folly of man's hunger for power, the futility of war and the desire for eternal life.

Softcover, 5x7, 338pgs, B&W $15.99

That won't be the cover, of course, it'll be another generic Phoenix image. Anyway, it looks like this book will have the conclusion of "Civil War" and then go back and include the short "Robe of Feathers" story that they skipped between v5 and v6. I'm not sure I like the games with the order, but I guess that's what made sense with the page counts, and I'm glad they're not skipping a full story like they seemed to be.

Oh, yeah, Tezuka's masterpiece, yadda yadda yadda, fun but strange stuff, yadda yadda, essential reading, yadda.

Alex Toth, R.I.P.

Hm, for some reason the short post I wrote mentioning Alex Toth's passing last night seems to have vanished. I'll write more about his work later, but here's a nice example from an earlier post.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Good God is in His Heaven...

...and good comics are in the stores.

I was expecting the first book, and it's even better than expected (it is indeed the 7x10 full size format, not the 5x7 digest format that the original solicitation had). Six Barks classics for $11? This truly is a golden age. Can't wait for the second one.

The second one, though, floored me. A high quality hardcover collection of all three of the SUPERMAN: THE DAILIES books by Siegel and Shuster and various others, originally co-published by DC and Kitchen Sink? 966 large strips, plus copius supplementary material? 560 pages in all? And with a cover price of just US$20 (and discounted down to $13 on place like Amazon)? All available evidence is that this book should not be able to exist in this form on this planet, and yet it does. I have no idea how I was unaware of this fact until yesterday, but there you go.

Seriously, if you're not interested in getting both these books at these prices, I'm not sure why you'd be reading this weblog.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Gumby #2

by Burden, Geary, & Oliff

Bob Burden and Rick Geary once again take the reader deep into Gumby's world, as only these two can. This time, Gumby hops a ride with some hobo's in search of his pal Pokey, only to land smack dab in the middle of "The Town With No Fun!" It is a guaranteed great time for everyone, young and old.

32pgs, Full Colour $3.99
JUN063516 Wildcard Ink

More Burden/Geary, just a month after the first issue. It'll be good to have a regular dose of Geary, and that looks like a great cover.

Hey, who is that faceless man?

352 page paperback novel coming in November.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

End of season TV round-up

A few comments on some of the TV I've been watching lately, including a lot of end of season and end of series shows (literal end of series and effective end of series in that I won't watch them next year).

THE WEST WING finally came to a close. The last scene was pretty good, kind of telegraphed, but a good callback to one of the best episodes from back when it was a good show. I was briefly worried that they were going to end it with the new President, which would have been insulting. Otherwise, the show pretty much limped to a conclusion, and I don't really accept this as the end, since as far as I'm concerned these haven't really been the same characters I've been seeing for the last several years anyway. I've still got the first four seasons on tape, and it really was so much a better show. I wonder what the odds are that Sorkin will be allowed to stick around on his next show?

LOST finished up it's second year, which will probably be the last I watch on a semi-regular basis. I still like some aspects of the show, but the average episode (apparently any not shown in sweeps months) is kind of weak, and I'm more convinced than ever that they're mostly making it up as they go along. A shame, as there is some potential and some of the cast is really good. I might watch the first few of the next year to see how quickly and cheaply they're able to restore the status quo.

PRISON BREAK ended up a bit better, and is pretty much at a point where they can't go back to the status quo, so I'm really curious about what format the second year will bring, and how long they can keep it up. It's still a pretty dumb show, but if you go in expecting that it's not a bad 44 minutes.

THE OFFICE probably had the best season ending, although I'm kind of dreading that the next season will start with Jim returning to Dunder-Mifflin six months later after his boat sinks during a round-the-world trip, and finding a new romantic lead. Hopefully not played by Kristie Alley....

THE DAILY SHOW and THE COLBERT REPORT have been pretty good lately. They're on repeats this week, and I always miss them when they're gone. I'm enjoying Keith Olbermann's COUNTDOWN on MSNBC, although it's kind of frustrating how obvious it is how to make it a better show. Let Olbermann do more sports features, drop the Hollywood gossip stuff. And expand it to two or three hours and get rid of some of those other dead-weight MSNBC hosts.

A few TV shows on DVD have popped up at bargain prices recently. I picked up the first two sets of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and first two seasons of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. I always enjoyed that Batman show (not so much the later versions), but have only seen about a third of the shows, and those not in years, so it's been a lot of fun watching those. AD I think I mentioned before I somehow never watched until the recent third and (shortened) final season. I'd watched the earlier ones on borrowed tapes a few months back, but it's been great seeing them on proper copies, and the commentary tracks and deleted scenes are a lot of fun.

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Alex Toth Doodle Book


A new look inside the mind of one of comics' greatest creators! This collects 20 years worth of doodles, sketches and roughs from Space Ghost creator Alex Toth, never before in print. Also features "director's commentary" by the artist on some of his classic comics stories, and correspondence full of insights on storytelling.

Softcover, 256pgs, Black&White $19.95
JUN063296 Octopus Press

A big chunk of Toth at a reasonable price is always of interest, and not likely a book you're going to find easily a few years down if you miss it. The link above has a short preview of some of the interiors if you need more to sell you on it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Battler Britton #2

Written by Garth Ennis; Art by Colin Wilson; Cover by Garry Leach

Tempers flare in the wake of repeated clashes between the Yanks and their newly arrived Brit Associates. As Battler tries to create a new camaraderie, both camps display heroism in the face of death — and for one of their number, it's too close a call!
32pg. Color $2.99 US

On Sale August 2, 2006

I'm not sure I'll get this, since I've rarely thought much of Ennis's writing, but I do want to say that I love the Garry Leach covers (especially for #1, see the link above). There's also a PDF preview of the first issue up at that link, and while it's too disjointed to give a feel for the writing, I really like Colin Wilson's art in it. Might be enough to get me to try it.

Speaking of Colin Wilson, does anyone know if the second and third chapters of his INTO THE SHADOW OF THE SUN series was ever published in English? I have the old Eclipse/Acme edition of the first book, RAEL, but I've never seen any hint of the others (I'm pretty sure Eclipse never published more, checking Cat Yronwode's site with a list of all Eclipse books).

Sixty Five today...

I'm not sure how Linus and Charlie Brown (have you ever noticed you can't just call him Charlie?) would react today.


If you can, take a listen to Dylan's radio show.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Facts in the Case... by Zulli/Gaiman

Written by Neil Gaiman, art by Michael Zulli.

Come, come and hear of the strange and terrible tale of Miss Finch, an exacting woman befallen by mystery and abduction deep under the streets of London! This is the first comics adaptation of Gaiman's story "The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch," which saw print only in the U.K. edition of Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions and was recently interpreted for his Speaking in Tongues CD. The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch is a "mostly true story" that combines the author's trademark magic realism with Zulli's sumptuous paintings, and has been newly rewritten for this hardcover. Join a group of friends, with the stern Miss Finch in tow, as they enter musty caverns for a subterranean circus spectacle called "The Theatre of Night's Dreaming." Come inside, get out of the pounding rain, and witness this strange world of vampires, ringmasters, illusions, and the Cabinet of Wishes Fulfill'd.

56 pages, $13.95, in stores on Oct. 25.
JUN060039 Dark Horse

Boy, that Zulli cover really makes me miss THE PUMA BLUES. Is 16 years past the statute of limitations for hoping a non-completed comic book series makes a return to reach a proper conclusion?

Anyway, I might take a look at this. I think I read the short story and don't remember it being too noteworthy, and I'm not crazy about that thin hardcover format Dark Horse uses for their books adapting Gaiman prose stories to comics. On the other hand, I do miss Zulli's art. Unfortunately most of his more recent forays into the comic book field haven't been things I was that interested in for anything but his art. Which I guess this falls close to.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Showcase Presents Batman v1

Written by Bill Finger, Ed "France" Herron, Gardner Fox and John Broome; Art by Bob Kane, Carmine Infantino, Joe Giella, Sheldon Moldoff and others; Cover by Kane

The spotlight's on Batman in this volume featuring Detective Comics #327-342 and Batman #164-174! The Dynamic Duo take on some of their most enduring Rogues Gallery members, including Penguin, the Riddler, and the Outsider in these classic Silver Age stories from the era of famed editor Julius Schwartz!

DC Universe 552pg. B&W Softcover $16.99 US
On Sale August 30, 2006

I've been wondering when they'd finally do a Batman collection in this format, and what era they'd choose to start with. I was kind of hoping for something that would include the Finger/Sprang stories of the 1950s, but this isn't a bad choice. I've read a few stories that would fall in this collection, and it's fun stuff. Later stuff, especially after the TV show began, would get progressively more silly, making the O'Neil/Adams era a breath of fresh air (and I wouldn't mind a series of big fat collection starting with that era, even though a lot of it has been reprinted, since there are a lot of unreprinted O'Neil stories I'd like to read), but I look forward to reading more of the earlier stuff.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

EC - Close Shave (Crandall)

Close Shave
art by Reed Crandall, story by Otto Binder
Weird Science-Fantasy #27[#5] (1955)

This is one of my favourite Crandall stories from EC. Some really great detailed artwork which tells the story nicely, despite sometimes being weighed down by the lengthy captions. Binder had some imaginative plots, but he can lay on the florid prose at times.

This story opens with Jay, in his solar apartment, breaking up with his fiancee Vida, claiming he's not the man she thinks he is. She tries to figure this out, thinking back on their relationship and how she was attracted to his devotion to social justice, like discrimination against aliens like the ape-like Ganymedians.

As she ponders the situation, news breaks that some Ganymedians had been passing as humans by shaving off their hair, and could inter-breed with humans, and they're being stripped of their rights. Vida returns to Jay, expecting him to lead the fight against this, and he finally reveals he's one of those "passing" Ganymedians. Vida reveals that she's one of them as well....

But of course, what makes it art is the final twist, the fact that Vida is lying, and is in fact human.

A nice parable, alluding to some of the issues of the 1950s without being too preachy, and a few nice twists. I do think it would be better with less florid captions, but still good, and some amazingly detailed art by Crandall.

BAREFOOT GEN by Nakazawa

I just finished reading the new editions of Keiji Nakazawa's BAREFOOT GEN (HADASHI NO GEN) published by Last Gasp. That ending still chokes me up every time, and still stands as one of the biggest emotional punches I've ever read in a comic book. The books should be fairly common in libraries right now, so I highly recommend you see if your local system has a set if you've never read the series before.

I'm really looking forward to the future volumes featuring work that hasn't been published in English before. Has there been any word on when those will start coming out?

As I mentioned before, the major change in these editions compared to the previous editions is that these have about 150 pages that were edited out before. Essentially three complete side storylines as Gen deals with other survivors and their stories, as well as a few other short scenes.

The first long part cut was the most important, since the set-up of the storyline was featured in the original books and then just dropped. This time around, we get the rest of the story of Mr. Seiji, the artist who was injured in the A-Bomb attack and was neglected by his family, treated like a pariah, and who Gen was hired to take care of. It's good to get the rest of that story, as depressing as it is, especially since there are a few bits that flesh out Gen's interest in art and using art to tell the story of what happened to Hiroshima so it's not forgotten, echoing Nakazawa's own work.

The next long cut was when Gen and Ryuto go out to the country to bring back Gen's brother Akira. Turns out they had a bit of an adventure on the way, encountering two other children who were begging to get food for their mother. It's an interesting story, the most important aspect of it is that now we have a source and a story behind the wheat that Gen plants in the ruins of his home.

The third "new" storyline deals with the girl at Gen's school who also lost her hair. We now find out a bit more about her, and her older sister, who has to resort to prostituting herself out to American soldiers to get by. The subject matter makes it easy to understand why the editors of the original edition chose to leave that out, but it's an interesting look into other aspects of the aftermath of the bombing.

The books definitely do read better with these missing scenes restored, especially the first one. There are still a few points which seem a bit oddly jumpy which I'd assumed where cut scenes before, but those are the same in both editions, so it might just be Japanese storytelling.

Anyway, a very high recommendation for all four volumes, and keep an eye open for the rest.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Life of Scrooge Companion

by Don Rosa

You asked for them, and here they are... the pre-chapters, the post-chapters and the in-between chapters of Don Rosa's Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck! Included in this companion are the stories "The Cowboy Captain of the Cutty Sark," "The Vigilante of Pizen Bluff," "The Prisoner of White Agony Creek," "Hearts of the Yukon" and "Sharpie of the Culebra Cut." Finally rounding out the collection are two slightly unusual takes on Scrooge's life: "Of Ducks and Dimes and Destinies" and "Dream of a Lifetime" in which the Beagle Boys invade Scrooge's subconscious mind (!) and wreak havoc during dream-versions of the various "Life of Scrooge" chapters.
208 page colour softcover, $17

Well, here's the book to beat for most highly anticipated book in the next set of solicitations. The first book is excellent stuff, and I think a lot of this stuff has only appeared in those over-priced Gemstone anthologies in English before this, some of them serialized across several issues.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Complete Peanuts cover list

Nat Gertler has a tentative list of cover subjects to the COMPLETE PEANUTS series from Fantagraphics:

1. 1950-52. CHARLIE BROWN
2. 1953-54. LUCY
3. 1955-56. PIG-PEN
4. 1957-58. SNOOPY
5. 1959-60. PATTY
6. 1961-62. SCHROEDER
7. 1963-64. LINUS
8. 1965-66. CHARLIE BROWN
9. 1967-68. VIOLET
10. 1969-70. SNOOPY (FLYING ACE)
11. 1971-72. SALLY
12. 1973-74. WOODSTOCK
14. 1977-78. CHARLIE BROWN
15. 1979-80. FRIEDA
16. 1981-82. SPIKE
17. 1983-84. LINUS
18. 1985-86. FRANKLIN
19. 1987-88. LUCY
20. 1989-90. CHARLIE BROWN
21. 1991-92. MARCIE
22. 1950-52. CHARLIE BROWN
23. 1995-96. RERUN
25. 1999-2000. CHARLIE BROWN.

Seems a bit heavy on Charlie Brown (six covers, three of the final six) and could use at least one more Snoopy (none in the last 15 volumes). I'm not sure Spike and Frieda deserve covers, either, but that's okay.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Interesting news...

At the tail end of this interview about the move of his series STARDUST KID to Boom Studios, J. M. DeMatteis mentions that:

next year, Boom! will be reprinting several projects that I originally did for Vertigo: Seekers Into The Mystery, Mercy and The Last One.

I don't recall liking MERCY all that much, and SEEKERS is probably charitably an interesting failure (with moments of greatness), but THE LAST ONE, with art by Dan Sweetman, was one of the best books I read in the 1990s, in particular the second issue, and seemed to sadly pass into history without much notice. It'll be good to see it get a second chance to pick up some readers.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

EC - What the Dog Dragged In (Kamen)

What The Dog Dragged In
art by Jack Kamen, story by Ray Bradbury & Al Feldstein
Vault of Horror #22[#11] (1952)

Actually this is one of the unofficial and uncredited adaptations of a Bradbury story that pre-dated EC actually making an agreement with Bradbury after he called them on it. Bradbury's original story is titled "The Emissary".

I'm assuming that the Bradbury story made a bit more sense, but in this version we have Betty, a blind wheelchair bound woman who lives alone and sends her dog out to run errands like shopping. Yeah, I'm not quite sure how that works, either. One day the dog runs into the street and gets hit by a car. The driver, a rich man (but lousy driver) named Roger takes the dog to a vet and when he's better the dog leads Roger back to Betty. They continue meeting, with the dog being sent out to fetch Roger every few days, and Roger and Betty fall in love, but just after Roger asks her to marry him his car gets hit by a truck. Told you he was a bad driver. Betty is left wondering what happened to him, until months later the dog vanishes for a few days and returns, apparently having dug up the rotting corpse of Roger, who is now for some reason a zombie. Or something.

Like I said, didn't make a huge amount of sense. Kamen does some good work on it. I'm kind of amused by all that detail in that great drawing of the wheelchair on the title page, given the field his son found fame and fortune in.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Random movie thoughts - Return to Me

Watching GROSSE POINT BLANK a few days back got me in the mood for my other favourite movie starring Minnie Driver, RETURN TO ME, the 2000 romantic comedy directed and co-written by Bonnie Hunt. It was one of those movies that I didn't think I'd be interested in when it was in theatres (widowed man falls in love with a woman who got a heart transplant from his late wife? Wow, does that sound like it's in bad taste), but fortunately eventually tried on home video. Turned out to be one of my three or four favourite straight romantic comedies of all time (not that that's a big list), and it actually handled a premise that seemed doomed to tastelessness in a delicate, inventive and respectful manner while still bringing the funny.

One of the things I've noticed about romantic comedies is that the much-vaunted "chemistry between the leads" is one of the least important things determining how well the movie works. It's important, no doubt, and Driver and David Duchovny definitely have it, but for those I like, I think a strong supporting cast is even more important. The supporting cast provides a context for the characters, adds dimensions, makes them more than just the "cute couple destined to get together". Knowing they have other family and friends, and lives beyond the basic premise of the movie, makes you care about them more. They also provide vehicles for a lot more variety in the jokes to work on the "comedy" aspect of "romantic comedy". This movie has a great supporting cast, led by Carroll O'Connor as Driver's grandfather. Now, I grew up on ALL IN THE FAMILY, so it's normally hard for me to see O'Connor as anything but Archie Bunker, but within seconds of his first scene in this I didn't see Archie at all. Another surprising standout was James Belushi, who I normally can't stand, but I really liked here. Lots of other good characters, each with a key part to play, illustrating aspects of the leads larger lives while playing out their own little story arcs.

As usual, it's not enough for me to like a movie, I have to grouse about how the movie illustrates what's wrong with Hollywood. In the six years since the movie came out, why has Bonnie Hunt not written or directed anything other than some episodes of her TV show? This movie would seem to show that she knows how to write a strong story, full of humour, how to get the best out of her actors, how to use music and everything else you need. Yet her career since then seems to be a fairly uninspired TV show and some acting gigs where I'm sure she's the only thing worth watching (two CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN movies?).

I could say the same thing about a lot of the rest of the cast. Minnie Driver I already mentioned seems to have mostly vanished from noteworthy work since then. David Duchovny, I don't know what he's doing now, but he's always shown a certain affable charm in some bits of X-FILES and his recurring role as himself on the LARRY SANDERS SHOW, but it really come out in this movie, and seems to be underused in his other work.

I'm also kind of disappointed that the extras on the DVD are as sparse as they are. There's a commentary track by Hunt and co-writer Don Lake, which is a lot of fun, other than that just a music video and one deleted scene. The commentary mentions a few other bits that were cut that I'd like to have seen. I did really like the one cut scene they did include, some of the supporting cast singing Danny Boy. It's a perfect scene, but at the same time it makes perfect sense to cut it from the body of the movie, since it's more of a distraction at a crucial point.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Time Bandits #1 [1982]

Time Bandits #1 [1982]

Despite a knowledge of semi-obscure comics that I sometimes scare myself with, and which effectively crowds out many more useful things from my head, there are actually comics I would be interested in that for some reason I know not of. That's where the oft-maddening comics weblogosphere corner of the interweb sometimes comes in handy, like a few months ago when Mike Sterling of Progressive Ruin fame mentioned there was a comic book adaptation of the movie TIME BANDITS done by Steve Parkhouse, David Lloyd and John Stokes. I should add that I did know the adaptation existed, but the cover is by Ed Hannigan and Al Milgrom, so I had no idea who did the interiors.

I'm a big fan of the movie, but not of comic book adaptations of movies in general, so it takes a certain level of interest in the creator to get me to buy one, and Lloyd is in that range. He's of course best known for V FOR VENDETTA, but unfortunately as far as I know he's done under a dozen full comics (half of them HELLBLAZER related) and a few short stories since then. TIME BANDITS actually precedes V (it's dated the month before V debutted in WARRIOR #1. As far as I know Lloyd's work prior to that was on Marvel UK stuff like Doctor Who and Nightraven).

The adaptation is only 48 pages, and a lot of the charm of the movie is in Terry Gilliam's insane visuals and the quirky actors (David Warner as Evil always cracks me up), so the book would probably read a little jumpy to someone unfamiliar with the movie, but for those who have seen the movie it serves as a nice cheap summary of the story, the key scenes, the best bits of dialogue and the visuals, especially from those days when home video wasn't so common. Parkhouse (who I'm mostly familiar with as an artist on such things as the BoJeffries Saga) does a good job of picking out the key bits to include and compressing them, and Lloyd and Stokes do a good job of staying within their styles but still evoking the key visuals. It fails a bit in the more spectacular visual scenes, which I attribute to a lack of space. The giant who carries the boat on his head is relegated to two pages of seven panels each. I'm sure if they had twice as many pages they could have done a splash page of him that would have had the same effect as his scene in the movie. As it is there's only one splash page in the whole book, oddly enough the opening page showing a suburban neighbourhood.

Anyway, I'm not going to call it some sort of forgotten classic, but it is a nice chunk of work from a key but unfortunately non-prolific modern creator, and can often be found for around the original $1 cover price or less, making it a huge bargain these days.

Doctor Who catchup

Was just catching up on some of the latest season of DOCTOR WHO.

Spoiler warning for those who plan to watch this stuff in the future (don't know when it'll broadcast in Canada, probably over the summer, and probably not in the US until next year).

The first episode of the season picks up where "The Christmas Invasion" left off, with the latest Doctor and Rose heading off for the future, where they encounter a few of the characters from the first season. It's a mediocre episode overall, but the new Doctor isn't bad. Really cornball resolution though.

The second episode is set in Victorian England, with Queen Victoria herself appearing, and with werewolves. There are like three facts in that description which convinced me not to watch it.

The third episode is the return of both Sarah Jane Smith and K-9, the robot dog, which probably makes it either the most anticipated or dreaded episode of the season, depending on how they do. The good news is that K-9 comes off pretty good (I never quite understood why Sarah had a K-9 unit, though). All downhill from there, unfortunately. Now, you have to realize that Sarah is the definitive Doctor Who companion to me, the one on the earliest episodes I saw and still my favourite. And the acress, Elisabeth Sladen, did a fine job with what she was given (and looks great). Unfortunately, the script was like the worst sort of fan fiction. Seriously, I can't believe just how awful the characterization in this episode was, especially the dialogue between Sarah and Rose. Couple of good moments between the Doctor and Sarah, but that comes down mostly to the fine work of the actors, not the script. Every little bit struck a note of just not getting it. And the actual sci-fi plot, aliens taking over the staff of a school for nefarious reasons, was generic to the point of insulting.

I pretty much give up on the series now, and just to put another nail in that coffin, looks like it's back to Victorian England or thereabouts next episode. No thanks.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Happiness is...

...blowing up a hillbilly duck with a booby-trapped cake.

Some people have odd ideas on the meaning of "Happy".

And check out the plewds on that duck.

Friday, May 05, 2006

My Collection - SUICIDE SQUAD [1987 Series]

Suicide Squad [1987 series]
29 issues [1987 - 1992]
1 - 14, 17 - 20, 22 - 27, 30 - 31, 59, 62 - 63

This title borrowed the name of an old short-lived Kanigher/Andru/Esposito concept, and a few characters (Rick Flag), but added various things. The basic concept was that the government was running covert operations that included a work-release program for super-villains, letting them earn their freedom by going on deadly missions. It was written by John Ostrander throughout (with Kim Yale in the second half) and various artists.

I know it's a pretty well regarded series in some on-line circles, so I'm probably not going to win too many friends by saying, despite having about half the run (it went to #66) I'm not a big fan of SUICIDE SQUAD. Didn't hate it, obviously, but didn't love it either. I sampled it when I got back into comics, starting with #20 because it had a nice cover with some old-school Flash villains (or "rogues", as we cognoscenti call them). It was okay, nothing great, and I picked up a few more issues later, but then it began a crossover with such winning titles as CHECKMATE, so I didn't want to bother.

Later on I saw a run of most of the first 19 issues in a quarter bin, and since I'd heard a few good things about the book by then, and part of it crossed over with some JUSTICE LEAGUE stuff I did read, I picked them up. Parts of the first year were pretty good, but I don't think I even finished the issues in the teens. Or at least they don't look too familiar. Picked up a few more on the cheap later, although none of them made much of an impact.

Recommended issues, I'd say that up to #8 is some good reading, solidly setting up the premise of the series and the characters in a variety of situations.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - May Previews summary

Lots of good stuff in the wall of art from the May solicitations for stuff due in July and later (the solicitation period seems to be spreading, so some of these are scheduled as late at September and many will probably actually come out later). Check here for the Kirby, six publications from Marvel.

Book of the month, I'll go with the LITTLE LULU colour special. Non-reprint highlight I'll go with the return of CASTLE WAITING. Cover of the month I'll go with Dave Gibbons' ACTION cover, though that Rick Geary cover on GUMBY is some good eating, too.

Images link to my posts on each individual book.

Weblog by BobH [bobh1970 at gmail dot com]