So, after reading lots of stuff on the interweb about Stephen Colbert's comedy bit at the White House Correspondents Dinner, about how scathing his criticism of Bush was, if it was out of line to do what he did with Bush sitting a few feet away, I decided to download a copy. You can also read a transcript here.
I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.
I have to say, I just don't see it. There are a few barbs about the war in Iraq, the one above probably being the most harsh. Given the situation, that's nothing. Someone with the responsibilities that Bush has and who has messed them up so badly should have people saying things a hundred times more harsh than that to his face, not in a joking manner, every day.
I mean, it's like the movie "Rocky." All right. The president in this case is Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed is -- everything else in the world. It's the tenth round. He's bloodied. His corner man, Mick, who in this case I guess would be the vice president, he's yelling, "Cut me, Dick, cut me!," and every time he falls everyone says, "Stay down! Stay down!" Does he stay down? No. Like Rocky, he gets back up, and in the end he -- actually, he loses in the first movie.
I liked that bit. And it's completely fair (it's also funny in a meta sense because Mickey was played by Burgess Meredith, who also played the Penguin on the old Batman show, and Jon Stewart's impersonation of Cheney is based on Meredith's Penguin. Waugh!!). Except that Rocky is admirable for all his losing, while Bush...
The greatest thing about this man is he's steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man's beliefs never will.
That's one of the best lines in the bit, and it might be seen as harsh, but in a good-natured way. Harsh would have been tying that in to Bush's failure to stop the attacks of 2001, or the inept reaction to the hurricanes of 2005.
So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write, "Oh, they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!
Another contender for best line, and again completely fair and good-natured.
Look, by the way, I've got a theory about how to handle these retired generals causing all this trouble: don't let them retire! Come on, we've got a stop-loss program; let's use it on these guys. I've seen Zinni and that crowd on Wolf Blitzer. If you're strong enough to go on one of those pundit shows, you can stand on a bank of computers and order men into battle. Come on.
Is it crossing a line to point out that, in an unprecedented move, many now-retired Generals directly involved in the Iraq war are calling for the SecDef to resign? I don't think so. And to tie that in to another controversial policy that the administration defends?
The next section is shout-outs to a few people in the audience, on both sides of the political aisle. A few of those were actually far harsher than anything Colbert said about Bush, including calling John McCain on his sell-out to the religious right and greeting Scalia with the same "Sicilian" gestures that Scalia himself used.
Mayor Nagin! Mayor Nagin is here from New Orleans, the chocolate city! Yeah, give it up. Mayor Nagin, I'd like to welcome you to Washington, D.C., the chocolate city with a marshmallow center. And a graham cracker crust of corruption. It's a Mallomar, I guess is what I'm describing, a seasonal cookie.That's the best joke I've heard about Nagin's rather unfortunate (but understandable) metaphor of a while back.
He ended with a video of himself as White House press secretary, using clips from actual press questions. That was almost all mocking the press secretaries and the media, not Bush. Helen Thomas is pretty funny in that as well.
Maybe it's my raging liberalism, but I thought Colbert was entirely within bounds for what he was hired to do, and in fact erred on the side of being too polite. No real mention of the hurricanes and Bush's inept handling of those. No mention of Bush's failed domestic agenda (social security reform, medicare reform, immigration reform, rising gas costs). No mention of Bush's many personal issues (acknowledged drinking problem, unacknowledged drug rumours, proven drunk driving arrests, speaking problems, falling down a lot more than is normal). Only minor joking references to issues of law-breaking by Bush's administration (wire-taps, CIA leaks). No specific criticism of the role of his own decisions in the problems in Iraq. Let's face it, Bush got off easy.
And in fact, despite some press reports, Bush didn't seem too upset (see photo uptop), and neither did Laura Bush.
Now, if you want to talk about crossing the line, let's talk about Bush's "comedic" turn, coming just before Colbert, where Bush did a speech with a Bush impersonator (Steve Bridges) standing beside him as his "inner thoughts". Among other things in that skit, they said point blank that Cheney (not attending the dinner) was drunk when he shot a guy in the face. Could you imagine the hue and cry if Colbert had said that? There were a lot of other lines of questionable taste, though I can't find a transcript and don't want to watch it again. One was quoting the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. (an American hero who knew how to talk) but mis-attributing it.
The most interesting thing was that Bush's skit, while much more offensive (though not topping his "looking under the cushions for weapons of mass destruction" trainwreck of a few years ago) and much less funny got much more laughs from the crowd than Colbert's often genuinely clever bit. Which I guess only goes to show you that the White House Correspondents and their guests are by and large a bunch of ass-kissing toadies.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
art by George Evans, story by unknown
Piracy #5 (1955)
Gorgeously illustrated story by Evans this time, as the first mate on a ship, Mister Hurd, recounts the reason for his strange attitude. Seems back on the first ship he served as an officer on there was an encounter with a hurricane, leaving them with little food and no fresh water other than the Captain's keg. The Captain refuses to give the crew any water, and they eventually mutiny. Circumstances end with Hurd on a small raft with the Captain, who still refuses to share any of his water, until Hurd finally snaps.
Of course it turns out that there was no fresh water in the keg, and pretending there was was just the Captain's odd way of giving the crew hope. Yeah, I don't get it either. Anyway, Hurd is rescued, but always felt guilty for his actions.
Odd story, and with that irritating second-person narration that you hate so much. Great art by Evans, though, especially the details on the ships and the storytelling on the second-last page, which has a lot of panels without dialogue (a lot of the rest, like many EC stories, sometimes buries the art under heavy narration and dialogue).
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Doctor Fate [1988 series]
30 issues [1988 - 1992]
1 - 10, 15 - 16, 18 - 24, 29 - 31, 33 - 37, 39 - 41
This is the longest series Doctor Fate ever had, following up on the take of the character (Lord of Order battling Lords of Chaos) introduced in an earlier mini-series by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. DeMatteis returned for the series, joined in art by Shawn McManus, with the two and some fill-in artists doing the first 24 issues. Following that, William Messner-Loebs wrote the series with various artists until it was cancelled with #41.
I was just getting seriously back into comics in late 1988 when this series started, so I was trying a lot of new things, and one book I was enjoying was the DeMatteis scripted JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL. I also really liked McManus's artwork and always liked Fate's design. The first few issues were fun, so I kept reading for a while, dropped it, picked it up again a year later for the end of the DeMatteis/McManus run, dropped it again, picked it up late in the Messner-Loebs run, just in time for the cancellation. I picked up some back-issues from both runs later.
I think I'll eventually pick up the DeMatteis/McManus issues I'm missing. I like a lot of stuff in those issues, even if other parts are irritating. DeMatteis played parts of it as pretty broad comedy, including a demon with a yiddish accent, a wacky neighbour and a wisecracking Lord of Order among the supporting character. A lot of that worked, although not quite all. He also mixes in a light version of the mysticism that he explores in some of this other work (MOONSHADOW, SEEKERS). The first half-dozen issues do the best job of mixing those, the later stuff works less well, but McManus's art does get better. Messner-Loebs run is hard to define from the bits I've read, but it had a pretty gentle touch and is worth taking a look at.
USAGI YOJIMBO #95
by STAN SAKAI
Five years ago, Usagi dodged a bullet when the mysterious assassin Shizukiri was willing to accept an expected bounty rather than engage the rabbit ronin and his fellow wandering samurai, Gen. Shizukiri's reputation as a ruthless, unbeatable opponent was well established even before he became the only hired sword ever to stare down our long-eared hero, but now his formidable skills are up against Karma itself! When beggars hire him to kill a high-ranking samurai, Shizukiri becomes tangled in a fateful and unexpected plot. Will his skills preserve him, or is Karma truly inescapable? Find out, when master storyteller Stan Sakai presents Usagi Yojimbo #95!
On sale July 26, b&w, 24pg, $2.99
The covers for the last few solicited issues of USAGI have been some of Sakai's strongest in a while, with evocative layouts and really good use of colour. I'm hopeful the interiors will match up (well, not the colour, of course...).
ACTION COMICS #841
Written by Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza
Art by Pete Woods
Cover by Dave Gibbons
An event trilogy guest-starring half the DCU kicks off in an issue featuring a stunning cover by Dave Gibbons (WATCHMEN)! Superman is back - but is it really him? As Earth faces a powerful new menace, Superman contends with heroes wary that he might not be who he says he is. Guest-starring the Teen Titans, Nightwing and Firestorm!
On sale July 12 - 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Just wanted to say I really like this Dave Gibbons image (though not so much the whole cover in the link above). I'm not going to pick up this book, although I'm still considering getting the Busiek/Pacheco SUPERMAN that also begins in July. It sounds like Busiek wants to do something in the vein of the Schwartz-edited era that I grew up on.
But man, does Gibbons drawing Superman ever look nice...
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
LITTLE LULU VOLUME 11: APRIL FOOLS TPB
by JOHN STANLEY and IRVING TRIPP
Learn why generations of readers have considered Little Lulu one of smartest, cutest, and funniest comics ever to hit the shelves in the newest volume of Dark Horse's ongoing effort to collect this seminal all-ages classic in a library of affordable trade paperbacks. Lulu Moppet is the true-blue daughter of Main Street America, clever and sweet, mischievous and generous, an eight-year-old hero for anyone who ever wanted to bring home a gorilla, scare the pants off of ghosts, and outwit every grownup in sight. In this volume, comics geniuses John Stanley and Irving Tripp are at their very best, crafting tales guaranteed to thrill kids just as much as they crack-up their parents.
On sale August 9, Softcover, 200pg, b&w, 6" x 9", $9.95
MAY06 0029 Dark Horse
Maybe a bit overshadowed by the colour special solicited this month as well (but coming out a month later), still want to note another volume of the bargain priced classics from Stanley and Tripp.
art by Graham Ingels, story by Al Feldstein
Tales From the Crypt #23[#7] (1951)
A nice example of the early EC horror, with Ingels doing a great job creating the mood with shadows and layouts, while keeping the actual extreme bits of horror off-panel.
This is the story of Anna, a wealthy young heiress living with her uncle, who falls in love with and secretly marries her chauffeur, Tony. Since she's underage, her uncle will disown her and annul the marriage if he finds out. Of course the uncle finds out, and keeps the lovers apart, causing Anna to waste away and die. Off panel, Tony kills the uncle in revenge, and visits Anna's body in the mausoleum with a doll he'd won for her at a fair. Unfortunately he gets locked in, and no one hears his cries until he's found dead a month later. Oddly he's only been dead for a day, as he was able to survive by resorting to cannibalism. Tasteful comics, weren't they? He finally died having been poisoned by the embalming fluid, meaning each of our trio of characters directly or indirectly killed one of the others, as the Old Witch explains in the conclusion, full of awful puns about getting "choked up" over the "meaty little tale".
As I said, a nice example of Ingels' skill at creating atmosphere, with a lot of panels in dark shadows, in the rain and the wind. He keeps the gore off-panel, which wouldn't always be the case, but gets the point across nicely in some of the facial expressions.
PLASTIC MAN ARCHIVES VOL. 8 HC
by Jack Cole
The Pliable Paladin returns for another round of body-bending action in THE PLASTIC MAN ARCHIVES VOL. 8! Reprinting the Plastic Man stories from POLICE COMICS #72-77 and PLASTIC MAN #9-10 (1947-1948), this 204-page volume also includes an introduction by acclaimed writer and longtime Plastic Man fan Harvey Pekar.
on sale August 16 - 204 pg, Full Colour, $49.99 US
Whoever picks the cover images for the PLASTIC MAN ARCHIVES is doing a great job. Not only is the art great (as you'd expect from Jack Cole) but the choice and layout of images works better with the generic Archives cover format than any of the other series. And of course good to see this getting as far as eight volumes. Does anyone know how many more Cole's work would fill? 1948 is getting close to the end of his run, isn't it? It'll be interesting to read Pekar's introduction, too.
Random Comics Theatre
Clan Apis #2 
This is the only issue of Jay Hosler's 5-issue series about the life of a bee I have, though not for lack of trying. I never did see the series while it was coming out, but caught a short story Hosler did in the 1999 SPX book and really liked it, so when I saw a copy of #2 a while later I picked it up. Never did find any others, so I eventually got the collection instead.
Neat "jam" cover on this issue, which Hosler explains inside. It's about two dozen bees, most of them drawn by kids in Hosler's family, and a few by various comic creators (Paul Chadwick, Stan Sakai, Tara Tallan, Mark Crilley and Marc Hempel). Fortunately Sakai has completist fans, so check here for more.
The 28-page story in this issue is "Swarm", and opens with our hero, the bee Nyuki, making the transformation from larva to fully grown bee. We learn about the inner workings of bee culture along with her as she gets a crash course when shortly after her birth there's a swarm, when half the hive leaves to establish a new colony, and the mechanics of that are explained to her. Nyuki then goes off alone on an ill-advised solo flight, leading to a great cliffhanger ending.
I'm more impressed with Hosler's work every time I look at it, as he combines education with entertainment quite effortlessly, never talking down to the target audience, and with a real gift for natural dialogue. Plus his art is a real treat, very expressive body language for the bees and clean detailed backgrounds. Retroactively one of my favourite books of the 1990s.
Monday, April 24, 2006
GIRL GENIUS VOLUME 5
by Kaja Foglio, Phil Foglio, & Cheyenne Wright
All-New Material! Adventure, romance, and mad-science! Agatha Heterodyne is the last heir to the "Maddest of Mad Scientist" families, and on the run from the current ruler of Europe. In a fairy-tale castle on a mountain pass, she finds herself at the center of an evil plan to bring back one of the deadliest enemies of recent history. Available in Softcover and Hardcover editions.
SOFTCOVER - SC, 112pgs, Color $19.95
MAY06 2781 Airship Entertainment
HARDCOVER - HC, 112pgs, Color $32.95
MAY06 2782 Airship Entertainment
Good to see the Foglios have made the transition to serialized-on-line-then-collected with their series. I'm still a few books behind, myself, but it's always fun stuff. Now if only we could get some BUCK GODOT books...
DETECTIVE COMICS #821
Written by Paul Dini
Art by J.H. Williams III
Cover by Simone Bianchi
Gotham's wealthiest citizens find themselves victimized by the mysterious new villain Facade as a story arc by new DETECTIVE COMICS creative team of writer Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series, BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME), artist J.H. Williams III (PROMETHEA, SEVEN SOLDIERS) and cover artist Simone Bianchi (SEVEN SOLDIERS: SHINING KNIGHT) begins!
Operating with a gang trained to pass as members of the cities' elite, the masked mastermind's crimes baffle the police and leave members of Gotham society fearing for their lives. It's up to Batman to use a "facade" of his own, that of socialite Bruce Wayne, in order to bait the villain's underlings and discover the true identity of their elusive leader.
On sale July 6 - 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
As I mentioned before, I'm looking forward to trying Dini's Batman, but maybe not until it's collected (though I wish they'd bring this thing back into print first). Could be promising. I'm glad to see the artist, for the first storyline at least, was switched, as I like Williams much more than the previously scheduled artist. Don't much like the cover (not by Williams, of course), though.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
ARTHUR ADAMS, SERGIO ARAGONÉS, BOB BURDEN, PAUL CHADWICK, ADAM HUGHES, FRANK MILLER, TONY MILLIONAIRE, CARY NORD, ERIC POWELL, STAN SAKAI, MATT WAGNER, CHRIS WARNER, JOSS WHEDON, MIKE MIGNOLA (Cover), and many more!!!
Eric Powell draws Star Wars, Adam Hughes draws Hellboy, and Joss Whedon makes his artistic debut - that's just a smidge of what's included in this 25-cent gift to all the fans who've supported Dark Horse Comics through our first twenty years!
Dark Horse Comics is proud to present Dark Horse Twenty Years, a collection of original art by a distinguished list of Dark Horse creators, past and present. Every page holds a different piece, each showcasing a character from the company's history of great original and licensed properties. Instead of drawing their own creations, these jaw-dropping talents have traded characters, each offering an unexpected take on one of the icons of Dark Horse. Legends of comics drawing the characters you'd never expect. You won't see this much talent in the same place for another twenty years!
On sale July 5, Full Color, 24pg, .25¢
Hm, at least three pages I want, a few more I wouldn't mind having, I guess that'll make it worth a quarter. Not crazy about that cover, though, but I never did quite get Mignola.
JUSTICE SOCIETY VOL. 1 TP
Written by Paul Levitz and Gerry Conway
Art by Wallace Wood, Joe Staton, Ric Estrada, Keith Giffen and Bob Layton
Cover by Brian Bolland
Collecting ALL-STAR COMICS #58-67, plus the origin of the JSA from DC SPECIAL #29! Witness the continuing adventures of The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Wildcat and the rest as they are joined by younger heroes Robin, Power Girl and Star-Spangled Kid!
on sale August 2 - 224 pg, Full Color, $14.99 US
I've got a couple of these, and it's a pretty good 1970s team book, much better than Levitz's recent return to the team. Plus all the artists do good work back there, I'm especially fond of Staton's art from the era. I'm kind of dreading the first half of the book, Conway written stuff that I haven't read before, but the good stuff should out-weigh that, and I hope it does well enough that we get a second book finishing the ALL-STAR series and with the later short run that appeared in ADVENTURE COMICS.
Mark Evanier reports that Dick Rockwell, best known as longtime assistant/ghost to Milton Caniff on the Steve Canyon strip, has passed away at age 85. See Evanier's post for more on his career. I seem to have lost them at some point, but I recall really being impressed with the last few large format volumes of Kitchen Sink's reprinting of Canyon strips of the mid-to-late 1950s. Rockwell's comic book work after he got the Canyon gig was sparse, of course, not surprisingly a few of those examples were for the aviation themed BLACKHAWK book, including a 1983 story during Evanier's run, and the page below is from a 1989 story with John Ostrander.
CASTLE WAITING VOLUME II #1
by Linda Medley
The award-winning series returns! The first issue of volume II is a giant oversized issue that includes the last two, long out-of-print self-published issues of Castle Waiting (#15 and 16), which began a new storyline.
Before deciding on her living quarters in the tower of Castle Waiting, Lady Jain receives a tour from "the Beakster" of every sprite-filled corner. In the counting room, she is transported, through a series of flashbacks, to her childhood. Sister Peace looks for a housewarming gift while Chess gets a shoe repaired.
64pgs, B&W $5.95
MAY06 3127 Fantagraphics Books
According to Medley's site, she's planning to have the book on a regular six-week schedule (with later issues being regular sized, this one just thicker to get the two reprint issues between the collection and the new stuff out there). Let's hope so. I've been re-reading the original series recently, and it's still a wonderful book, with new stuff to pick up every time. Every six weeks would mean enough for a second collection in just about two years (though I think this is one of the books I'll happily buy both the serialization and the collections).
Also see her site if you want to pick up a signed version of the upcoming collection, with a colour bookplate and original sketch. $50 postpaid seems like a pretty good price for that, limited to just 100 copies.
The Screaming Woman!
art by Jack Kamen, story by Ray Bradbury & Al Feldstein
Crime SuspenStories #15 (1953)
Kamen was the most frequent adapter of Bradbury's stories at EC, drawing about a quarter of them. His work fit the subject matter of this particular story nicely, one of those creepy Bradbury pieces which looks at the darkness underneath the bland uniformity of 1950s suburbia. The story features young Margaret, who hears a buried woman screaming while on the way home with some ice cream. At home she has no luck convincing anyone that she's telling the truth.
There's some parenting skills for you...
Margaret doesn't give up, despite many obstacles in her way, until she's lucky enough to find the one clue that would convince her father, the lyrics to a song the buried woman (who happened to once be engaged to Margaret's father) sings that no one else would know.
It's a very odd story, since the behaviour of the parents seems oddly cold and cruel even before they have any reason to think Margaret is making it up. There's also the conspicuous dropping of the song clue in the dialogue which seemed forced. Still, the Kamen art does do a good job with the setting and the characters, and there are some good bits of scripting that serve to add to the creepiness.
MARVEL MILESTONES: MILLIE THE MODEL & PATSY WALKER
Written by STAN GOLDBERG & DAVID KRAFT
Penciled by STAN GOLDBERG & DON PERLIN
Cover by STAN GOLDBERG
See "How Millie First Met Chili!" - and learn how "You, Too, Can Be a Model!" Plus: fun pages, fashion pin-ups, movie madness and much more - from MILLIE THE MODEL #100 (January 1961). And in DEFENDERS #65 (November 1978) Millie offers Patsy Walker - Hellcat - a modeling job!
48 PGS. $3.99
Might be worth picking up, I like that old Stan Goldberg artwork, and that's a cute cover. I kind of wish they filled it with more Goldberg or similar stuff rather than that 1970s DEFENDERS reprint, but I guess they think the super-heroes will bring in some sales.
Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children [1989 series]
30 issues [1989 - 1992]
1 - 30
Perhaps not technically a comic book, this series by Dave Louapre and Dan Sweetman was usually more profusely illustrated prose fiction, but with the artwork being more integral to the storytelling than most illustrated prose. It was published by DC's Piranha Press line, their only on-going series (they mostly did one-shots, a few mini-series). Each story pretty much stands alone (except #13, which is a sequel to the story in #1 about clowns on the run. The two were later reprinted with a new third chapter as A COTTON CANDY AUTOPSY), though there are a few recurring settings and references to other stories.
Louapre's writing is hard to describe, it's an art sort of quasi-fantasy/horror filled with odd bits of sarcasm and cynicism, and yet with flashes of hope popping up at the oddest points. But not that sissy kind of hope, the kind of hope which only serves to mock you. Sweetman's art is also unusual, very dark, with a lot of tight hatching and heavy ink wash effects, all reinforcing the cynicism of the writing.
I didn't pick up the book when it started, not having heard much about it. A few months later, having read a few other Piranha Press books and being intrigued by some of the ads I'd seen for it I tried an issue, I think it was #3 ("Diary Of A Depressed Tap Dancer"), and liked it well enough to pick up some more. Among those was #6 ("Happy Birthday To Hell"), a real break-through issue and maybe still my favourite. I can read it whenever I'm feeling down and it picks me right back up. And I can read it whenever I'm up and it brings me crashing right down to Earth. It's that kind of thing. I kept reading for the rest of the run, missing a few issues (especially around the hiatus, between #18 and #19, when they toyed with changing the format, releasing a single one-shot with three stories of various lengths before returning to their normal format with a more open cover design that emphasized the story titles rather than the series name or issue number). I did pick them all up eventually.
This is a book I want to write some more about when I get a chance, but for now I'll just list a few favourites:
#6 - Happy Birthday To Hell
#8 - Die Rainbow Die: A Story Of Hope
#12 - Beneath The Useless Universe
#25 - Legion Of Ogs
There's a website for the series with quite a bit of material, including a few animated shorts by Louapre and Sweetman (one of which is BROKEBACK CIRCUS, so updated fairly recently), and which mentions that they had a reprint book lined up but the publisher went out of business so they're shopping it around again. So keep hope alive, ugly children everywhere, but be prepared to be crushed by it. Cause it's like that.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
SWAMPMEN - MUCK MONSTERS OF THE COMICS
Since the first appearance of The Heap in 1942, beasts from the bayou have captured reader imaginations and have been a staple of the horror genre, whether under the guise of such characters as Swamp Thing, Man-Thing, Solomon Grundy, or even Marvin the Dead Thing! Some of these nightmarish hulks have also found their way beyond comics, into novels, live-action TV series, toy shelves, cartoon shows, and even major motion pictures. Now, authors Jon B. Cooke and George Khoury reveal the mysteries behind these fascinating beasts, exploring the origins of these creatures through dozens of fascinating interviews with the creative talents behind the comics, including Steve Bissette, Steve Gerber, Mike Ploog, Rick Veitch, John Totleben, Val Mayerik, and Alan Moore! Cover by Frank Cho!
Softcover, 8x11, 200pgs, $24.95
MAY06 3445 TwoMorrows Publishing
I think this is the third or fourth time TwoMorrows has scheduled this book, so we'll see. It seems like it'll be an entertaining enough book, and I like most of the creators interviewed. Gerber and Bissette interviews, in particular, are always worth reading, and I look forward to the Ploog and Totleben interviews for other perspectives of those eras and their collaborations.
Henry and His Goon Child
by Harvey Kurtzman
Weird Fantasy #15[#3] (1950)
Some nice early Kurtzman, in this story about a radio shop owner designs a robot, who he contemptuously refers to as "Goon Child", steadily improving it to do all his work, treating it as a slave. Soon enough, it gains intelligence and begins to improve itself without Henry's help...
...and takes over from him, forcing Henry to do all the work and refer to it as "Mister Goon Child". So let that be a lesson to you kids, treat your robots well, or they well enslave you. Or something.
Love the early Kurtzman, especially the stories that displayed a light touch, a lot of humour and a sarcastic streak that directly led to the creation of MAD a few years down the line.
CARL BARKS' GREATEST DUCKTALES STORIES VOLUME 2 TP
by Carl Barks
Accompanying the release of Disney's DuckTales TV series on DVD, Gemstone collects the vintage Carl Barks Scrooge adventures that DuckTales adapted to animation! This second volume wraps "The Giant Robot Robbers," "The Golden Fleecing," "The Unsafe Safe" and more with a previously unpublished Barks cover design, inked by Andrew Pepoy. Scholarly texts by Chris Barat and Joe Torcivia ground the stories and TV show in Disney history.
Softcover, 7x10, 144pgs, Full Colour $10.95
MAY06 3151 Gemstone
Companion piece to the first volume, solicited a few months back, a good selection of Barks' adventure oriented stories. Highly recommended, especially if you've never read Barks and wonder what all the fuss is about. I'm not sure that trim-size is right, the first was solicited as a digest sized 5x7, not a full size 7x10. These books would be an incredible bargain if they are indeed 7x10 for $11.
Random Comics Theatre
Marvel Fanfare #41 
As I mentioned before, MARVEL FANFARE was an odd mixed bag for its 60 issues. #41 is a pretty decent issue, featuring in the lead a full length Doctor Strange story written by Walt Simonson and drawn by Dave Gibbons. I'm assuming this was done as an inventory story for the regular book, but it's kind of lucky it wasn't used there as the painted colour would have looked pretty muddy on Marvel's regular newsprint comics of the time, but works on the high-gloss FANFARE paper.
Anyway, anyone who read WATCHMEN knows that Gibbons has a strong visual affinity for the Ditko work of the 1960s, and of course Simonson has pretty good bona fides in the field of capturing the more cosmic and epic aspects of 1960s Marvel, so it works out to a good combination for a slight fill-in.
The 20-page story "...Perchance to Dream" has Doc sensing an invader in his Sanctum Sanctorum. The invader vanishes when confronted, so Doc uses his magic to trace the intruder back to a mystic city. While there he confronts various perils, including images of Nightmare and Eternity, before realizing that the whole city is built on an immense being of such power that it can manifest these things while still sleeping, and it's now waking up.
A good premise for a fill-in, as it gives a lot of room for Gibbons to play with the visuals, both visiting some of the classic Doctor Strange imagery (no Dormammu, though...) and some new stuff. There are some very strong visuals on the dreaming giant. You tend to forget just how strong an artist Gibbons is, and it's a bit of a shame that his only major work as an artist since WATCHMEN seems to be that GIVE ME LIBERTY stuff, which I don't much like. Other than that you have to be satisfied with scattered bits like this and every now and again a cover.
Two pin-up sections round out the issue. Mike Machlan, who usually inks, provides pencils of what I guess are some of his favourite silver age Marvel scenes and concepts (Avengers #2, FF #5, a generic Steranko-style SHIELD image, etc), inked by a variety of people (including John Romita on the page of Spider-man and his supporting cast). Not bad looking. Bill Reinhold provides some more generic pin-ups, which are decent, and his Iron Man is very nice, with the armour wired up to various tech doo-dads. Editor Al Milgrom also provides his usual illustrated intro to the issue, as well as an illustrated plea for letters.
Friday, April 21, 2006
JONAH HEX #9
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Art and cover by Tony DeZuniga
Classic Jonah Hex artist Tony DeZuniga returns to the character he helped define! Haunted by the accidental death of a young girl, Jonah Hex returns each year to place flowers on her grave. And each year a killer tries to avenge the young girl's death - by murdering Jonah Hex!
On sale July 6 - 32 pg, Full Colour, $2.99 US
It's good to see DeZuniga being a part of this revival of the character. I've been reading his work on the recent reprint of the 1970s series and I like his work a lot more than the regular artist of this one, and this cover is probably the best this series has seen so far. Haven't liked the writing of the new series too much in the issues I read, though.
LITTLE LULU COLOR SPECIAL TP
by JOHN STANLEY and IRVING TRIPP
In rich, vibrant color for the first time in a half-century comes a guffaw-inducing selection of Little Lulu's landmark adventures!
Little Lulu is one of the truly great all-ages comics, with a monthly series that lasted four decades, the zany high jinks of eight-year-old Lulu Moppet and her lovable pals are not only classics of children's literature, but an indelible part of American popular culture. Her razor wit will tickle your brain and her sweet generosity will win your heart - Lulu is the All-American girl!
Experience the highlights of Little Lulu's illustrious comedy career as they were meant to be seen - in luscious full color!
On sale September 13, Softcover, 208pg, Full Color, 7" x 10", $13.95
MAY06 0030 Dark Horse
Excellent. I've been saying since they started these reprints that I hoped they'd publish some of the work in colour. I'm a big fan of black and white reprints, especially if they're made from quality reproduction sources, but there are a few Lulu stories where the colour of certain objects is central to the plot, and those are just distracting in the black and white reprints. Plus, $14 is a great price for 200 pages in colour, especially if that trim size (7x10, as opposed to the slightly more compact 6x9 of the regular books) is correct.
I do have to wonder, though, for this and the GREMLINS book, September release in the May solicitations? First the standard two month lead time for solicitations isn't good enough for Dark Horse so they go to three (and DC just followed) now they seem to be going to four months?
World's Finest Comics [1941 series]
30 issues [1969 - 1986]
187, 207 - 209, 212, 227, 231, 250 - 255, 262, 265 - 274, 276 - 280, 323
Long running DC anthology book, starting with #2 after the first issue came out as WORLD'S BEST COMICS. Always featuring Superman and Batman, first together on the cover but with separate stories inside, then later, when page counts shrunk, starting to team them up every month in 1950s for most of the rest of the run (with a brief period as a Superman / other heroes team-up book). I read it in the early 1980s for a while, when it was a double-sized "Dollar Comics" with four or five stories each issue. Nothing spectacular, but the lead stories were decent, the Captain Marvel stories by Bridwell/Newton were an interesting take on the character and there were some Green Arrow stories by Trevor von Eeden that looked interesting. Just after I dropped it the book went to just a regular 36-page comic with only the Superman/Batman story.
Picked up a handful of back issues through the years. #250 - #255 primarily because they have Creeper stories by Steve Ditko. Some of the earlier stuff features some interesting old reprints, plus some nice Dick Dillin art on the lead stories.
Not too interested in many back-issues at the prices they seem to be these days. I still need one more with a Ditko story, and wouldn't mind a few of the old 100-page issues full of reprints if I ever see some cheap.
No particular highlights among what I have, since each issue is such a mixed bag. The Creeper stories by Ditko are a little odd but fine, good minor Ditko. The Von Eeden Green Arrow stories are good looking, a few of them are decent reads, the Bridwell/Newton Captain Marvel stories are worth a look, including their "New Monster Society" serial.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
SCOUT VOLUME 1
by Timothy Truman
Originally published in 1987 and created by Timothy Truman, Scout featured the Native American hero, Emanuel Santana, and his one-man war against oppressive governmental forces in a post-apocalyptic United States. Now, this revered and powerful series is re-mastered and presented to a new generation! This volume features the first 7 issues of the series, all featuring the writing and art of Truman, remastered and recolored for this volume! Plus, Truman provides a new original cover!
Bonus features include: an introduction by John Ostrander, an afterword - in the form of an interview - with creator Tim Truman, plus an original cover gallery.
Softcover, 168pgs, Full Colour $19.99
MAY06 3036 Dynamite Entertainment
A bit of a surprise, I hadn't heard this was coming out, and certainly not from a publisher otherwise doing media licensed comics with a dozen covers each. Anyway, really good stuff, with great artwork and an intersting story. I hope the reprint means that Truman intends to return to the world of Scout and those long-promised follow-up stories to WAR SHAMAN.
THE GREMLINS Hardcover
ROALD DAHL (Writer), ARTISTS AND WRITERS GUILD, INC. and THE DISNEY STUDIOS (Artists)
Published in 1943 and long unavailable, Dark Horse Books is proud to present this landmark book from the author of such beloved tales as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda. Digitally restored, this remarkable presentation of Dahl's classic story, lavishly illustrated by the artists of the Walt Disney Studios, will delight readers of all ages!
The Gremlins is the story of Gus, a British World War II fighter pilot, who during the Battle of Britain turned to look out on the wing of his plane only to see an amazing sight: a little man, no more than six inches tall with horns growing from his head, drilling a hole in the plane's wing. Gus was the first man to ever see a Gremlin, and what happened after that would change the war, and the world, forever.
Bought by Walt Disney to be produced as an animated motion picture (and considered to be the first story featuring the mythical airplane-sabotaging creatures known as Gremlins), the project was ultimately shelved and is reprinted here for the first time in over sixty years.
On sale September 13, Hardcover, 56pg, Full Colour, 8 3/8" x 11", $12.95
MAY06 0019 Dark Horse
A bit out of left field for Dark Horse, but good to see. I know even horribly beat up copies of the original book go for hundreds of dollars, so I'm sure this will make some people happy (or maybe not, if it causes the originals to drop in price). I enjoy Dahl's writing, and like the look of the characters, so I'll check it out at some point. I understand that Walt Kelly did some short bits with the characters in some Dell comics back in the 1940s as well, wouldn't mind seeing those reprinted somewhere.
art by Bernard Krigstein, story by Carl Wessler
Valor #2 (1955)
Some later Krigstein work this time, on another story set in ancient China, which is a theme that fits some of the influences in his art. He seems to really delight in the details in the ornate backgrounds and clothing, and uses an interesting open style with some sparse inking which works well with the colour.
This story is set in what we call 1122 BC, where we meet the poets in the Teahouse of the Lotus Bud in mourning for the recently deceased Emperor, only to find that the new Emperor has outlawed poetry or any other idle waste of time. The poets protest and are beaten, except for one who hid during the battle. They cast that one out, and attempt to reason with the Emperor, only to be killed by his army. Soon after, the Emperor is approached by an attractive young woman who claims to admire his beauty, and who he takes alone into his chamber. Turns out "she's" that "cowardly" poet (in quite a remarkable disguise given how Krigstein draws him) and kills the Emperor and slips out.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
I watched David Cronenberg's A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE the other day. I had read the comic book by John Wagner and Vince Locke that it was "based" on a while back, posted some thoughts about it here. Short form was that I thought the book had a decent enough story with some interesting twists, but was more worth reading as a showcase for some spectacular artwork from Locke than anything else. I wasn't that eager to see the movie, since I knew it changed a lot, and I'm not a huge Cronenberg fan (couldn't get through CRASH or NAKED LUNCH, didn't much like EXISTENZ. THE FLY was pretty good, though, and I remember being a little freaked by SCANNERS as a teenager), but some people I tend to listen to did say some good things about it, and I was able to borrow a copy for free.
I really didn't get it. Cronenberg's directing skills I can't question, the movie looks very nice, and the actors are mostly good, but for the most part the film left me cold. There were a few scenes were it came alive, and it took too long to get to the first one, generally the action bits (the diner scene, the high school fight) but other than that it felt like watching a tv-movie with an absurdly over-qualified director and cast. It also all seemed a bit tame for a movie by Cronenberg with the word "violence" right there in the title. Why didn't he pull the trigger and show the kid being shot in the opening scene?
What really gets me is that I think the original story, for all its flaws, would have made a far better movie in almost every respects, and even a better Cronenberg movie if he was willing to go all the way. Instead this just borrows the title, the basic set-piece of the diner scene and set-up about a small-town diner owner with a secret past and parts of the later farmhouse confrontation. The story that was put in place of the original is inferior in almost every respect, and doesn't even hang logically in the end. Why even bother to option and adapt a story if you have so little interest in the original?
Well, such things remain a mystery to me, and I'm not sure why this movie got as much praise as it did. I'll stick with the book in the future.
I just got the sixth volume of Osamu Tezuka's PHOENIX translation published by Viz. I was expecting it to be "Robe of Feathers", and set in the past, as the previous volume was "Resurrection" and set in the future, and every list of stories I've seen always alternates past and future and has "Robe" after "Resurrection". Instead, this book is "Nostalgia", set in the future.
Am I missing something? Is Viz skipping "Robe of Feathers" for some reason, or moving it around? Is this related to the long gap between volumes?
THE WEST WING ends in a few weeks. The show is a pretty pale shadow of its former self, but from about 2000 to 2003 it was my favourite new show on TV, and the momentum from those years, along with the generally outstanding cast kept me watching for three additional years, as painful as they sometimes were (I never checked the credits but I think there must have been one writer on staff who understood how to write it after creator Aaron Sorkin left, so it would shine whenever he/she got to script). Anyway, I'll stick it through to the end, but at this point I'm more looking forward to Sorkin's upcoming STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP in hopes he can capture the magic of SPORTS NIGHT and the early WEST WING again.
I don't write much about new TV on this weblog, so might as well take this chance to do so. Starting with US network shows from this grid.
Sunday is pretty dead after THE WEST WING ends. I liked GREY'S ANATOMY as mindless medical drama for a while, but it wore thin pretty fast. I may try THE SIMPSONS again. Last few times I watched haven't been that good, but every now and then I hear praise for a random episode.
Monday has PRISON BREAK as a guilty pleasure. Often as dumb as a rock, but not without charm. However, after the recent several month long break with a cliffhanger, only to return to the status quo right after, I think it's worn out its welcome. I might watch out the season, doubt I'll watch much of the next.
Tuesday is a grave of shows I used to watch. NCIS was entertaining dumb crime drama for a while, but got repetitive and a bit too cute. HOUSE was a semi-decent disease-of-the-week medical drama its first year, but almost unwatchable now. LAW & ORDER SVU is wildly uneven, so I avoid most weeks since the chance of a decent drama isn't worth the risk of a preachy trainwreck.
Wednesday, I think I'm close to over LOST, skipping a few episodes in the last month and not missing them at all. I'm pretty sure they have no master plan. LAW AND ORDER is usually okay, though never great, so I watch it about once a month.
Thursday is THE OFFICE, which is great stuff. Can't get enough of that. I watched MY NAME IS EARL for a while since it's in the same hour, but I think I can live without. Used to like WITHOUT A TRACE briefly back when it was about the cases they were working, but as soon as they started trying to develop lives and plots around the characters I bailed.
Friday I liked NUMBERS for a while, and like the idea of math based crime solving, but the second season the quality of the writing has been pretty uneven and the math has gotten increasingly either completely out of left-field or completely superfluous.
Saturday, nothing of interest.
Doesn't leave a lot, THE OFFICE is the only network prime-time show I watch and unabashedly enjoy.
Off network prime time, I enjoy the DAILY SHOW / COLBERT REPORT combo. They don't always hit, but there's something funny in every episode, and sometimes they're gut-bustingly funny. The only other talk show I ever watch is LETTERMAN, that about once a week on average. The show tends to coast a lot on regular bits that aren't funny, but I can take it in low doses. I have to confess a bit of an affection for CELEBRITY POKER SHOWDOWN, which can be mind-numbingly dumb at times, but entertaining with the right combo of celebrities. Can't watch it live though, I tape it and fast forward vast bits, cutting the two hours down to about 45 minutes max. I'm looking forward to the new season of DOCTOR WHO, whenever they decide to show it. Can't stand most TV news, though word that MSNBC will start morning repeats of Keith Olbermann's COUNTDOWN has me considering adding MSNBC to my cable lineup.
Y'know, I pay way too much for cable given how little I actually enjoy (most of which is available free with a good antenna).
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Most of the sea-going creatures considered it an honour to help Aquaman on his missions...
The turtles, though, sometimes they thought he was just taking advantage.
(JLA #10, 1962, Fox/Sekowsky/Sachs)
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Thursday, April 13, 2006
art by Jack Davis, story by Al Feldstein
Shock SuspenStories #1 (1952)
The war SuspenStory for the debut issue of this EC sampler title comes from Davis and Feldstein. Colonel Henderson's troops are cut off from headquarters because the Germans have cut their lines. At the same time he's told by one of his captains that his son, Lieutenant Henderson, is a coward. He reacts, naturally enough, with denial, insisting that his son be put in charge of the mission to restore their lines to HQ. The son of course runs off and abandons his men at the first sign of the Germans, so a court-martial is convened and the son in quickly convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad. The father tells him that the guns will be loaded with blanks, and they'll be breaking camp right after the execution, so if the boy plays dead he'll be able to get away. That allows the boy to face the squad as something other than a cowardly mess as the very real bullets take his life. That's one cold father...
A good story (based on an anecdote in a Bennett Cerf book, according to the EC index in TALES OF TERROR) and some spectacular artwork by Davis. I especially like the title page, with a 2/3 page shot of the cowardly soldier in full panic mode and the final image of him dying with a smile on his face.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
This is a thing of beauty. Someone find me a video link to a story about this.
Joey Fatale, the 4-foot, 4-inch New Yorker who heads the all-dwarf KISS tribute band MiniKiss, is denying published reports that he tried to sneak past security last month at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to confront a rival band leader, 4-foot "Little" Tim Loomis of Tiny Kiss, for allegedly ripping off his idea for such a group.
Loomis, a former drummer for MiniKiss, was performing with Tiny Kiss, which includes three little people and a 350-pound woman, on St. Patrick's Day at Beacher's Madhouse, a Las Vegas variety show, when the incident occurred.
[edit, someone sent me a link to this, MiniKiss in Vegas. Not too clear, but it gets the idea across, and since everyone else on the interweb is posting videos I might as well]
[okay, got rid of the embedded version, follow the link if you're interested]
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Okay, looks like that's it for the current solicitations. Turned out to be quite a few interesting things, especially when you add in the Kirby, which I did to make the wall of art below look a bit more impressive.
Weapon heavy month, with four gun covers, four sword covers and two more with assorted military equipment.
Cover of the month, SOLO #11 by Aragones, just beating out Kubert's ROCK cover. That's old school, baby.
Most eagerly awaited new comic, again SOLO, beating out GREASE MONKEY.
Reprint of the month, ESSENTIAL FF v5. Non-Kirby division, ELONGATED MAN.
Most pleasant surprise, the book of early Eisner, followed by Jerry Robinson's update on THE COMICS.