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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Complete Peanuts 1961-1962

by Charles M. Schulz

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - EC Archives


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

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

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Dark Horse 20 Years



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

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

Friday, August 18, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Absolute Sandman

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

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

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

on sale November 1 612 pg, $99.00 US

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

The Fate of the Reader

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Little Lulu v13


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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 17, 2006

FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Ragmop by Rob Walton

by Rob Walton

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

Big Bang Inc AUG063113

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

Rock humour by Kubert

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Showcase Presents Unknown Soldier

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Random Cool Covers - Kull by BWS

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

Upcoming Stuff of Interest - Swamp Thing : Infernal Triangles

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

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

on sale November 22 176 pg, $19.99 US

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

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

Thursday, August 10, 2006

EC - ...For Posterity (Wood)

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

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

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

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

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