Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Donald Duck, Jack of all Trades

Looking at a bunch of old Disney covers for something, lots of good ones, but this one really cracked me up.



Of course, the colour scheme on this cover doesn't match the usual way of telling the nephews apart, but the kids seem happy so I assume Donald didn't screw up.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Morning Mayer 3

Though his earliest stories were by Howie Post, Doodles Duck is one of the DC funny animals most associated with Mayer.



Here he is with Gus the Goose, a frequent foil for him, from Leading Screen Comics #62 [1953] by Sheldon Mayer.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The problem with modern comics...

They just don't hold the promise of excitement like the classics...



What kid doesn't want to read about exciting shoe polishing action?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

LIGHT OF THY COUNTENANCE by Moore/Johnston/Massafera

LIGHT OF THY COUNTENANCE was an odd short story written by Alan Moore in 1994 (and put on-line over here with his permission) and published in the 1995 anthology FORBIDDEN ACTS. Like a lot of Moore's work, it's a bit odd and experimental, part short story, part essay, poetic in spots. I read it back in the 1990s, but it didn't have much of an impact, then I read it again a few months ago and found it worked much better. I think the biggest difference was that in the interim I've heard many more recordings of Moore's voice, enough that I can now read it with an approximation of that voice in my head, which improves the rhythm immeasurably. It also helps that with the growth of the internets it's much easier to hunt down what a stray reference Moore makes refers to.

Anyway, like most of Moore's short prose, the story has recently been adapted to comics by publisher Avatar, with Anthony Johnston as usual handling the adaptation and Felipe Massafera doing the art. The 48-page comic features the full text of the story (there don't seem to be any additions or deletions) and adds appropriate imagery to create a quite entertaining new thing which I think I like better than the plain story.

As the covers of the comic version make clear, this is a story about television, so the visuals have a lot of room for a variety of images, and they're well chosen throughout to evoke various eras of what was then 70 years of history. Massafera's art is very well suited to what's being done here. He reminds me in a lot of ways of the work Alex Ross was doing back in the 1990s, when it was new and exciting and often applied to projects where that style made sense. That heavily photographic style makes perfect sense for this story, where the whole point is the depiction of a world which reflects a version of reality but isn't quite real.

The story begins with an extended sequence about a character in a long-running soap opera (the apparently fictional "Jubilee Terrace", which seems to pretty much be "Coronation Street"), with a litany of some of the twists and turns of her life on the show mixed with the life of the actress playing the character, all as part of a larger theme of "Television" as a sentient entity which loses itself in the roles that it plays. Within the world of possibilities that provides, Moore picks at some key aspects, not all of them original (the television as modern religion was pretty much a cliche even in 1994), but very cleverly expressed, in particular a few bits about television as a substitute for real experience and the sometimes unwieldy marriage of art and commerce required to sustain the medium:

The Imagicians have procured transfusions of green blood to aid in my regeneration; dollars in their millions and their hundred millions come from Cereal Emperors and Automobile Dukes; Grand Viziers of Candy; Burger Kings and the Electric Generals, Renaissance monarchies, they indulge the Virtualchemists and from their sponsorship eight parts in ten of my sustaining wealth is drawn.


Moore also pulls in some weird bits from the history of the invention of television, including some things about a psychological references to a schizophrenic delusion about an "Influencing Machine" that predates television by a few years. Not an original connection by Moore, of course, but artfully expressed in here: "Five years before my birth into this world did bedlam saints foretell my coming"

And actually, the more you look at Moore's work, you can see how this story, as minor as its original publication was, fits in to a lot of the things that he had explored before this story and ever since. Notions of "ideaspace", the fabric of fiction, self-awareness, echoes of ideas rising and falling through time. A line from MIRACLEMAN to FROM HELL to LOEG to PROMETHEA (and a lot more stops between) would pass straight through this story.

Anyway, a surprisingly good adaptation of a entertaining minor work by Moore, well worth checking out.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Morning Mayer 2



12-year-old Scribbly learns the problem of people having expectations in this early panel by Sheldon Mayer from Dell's THE FUNNIES #11 [1937].

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Upcoming Stuff of Interest

Took a look at the solicitations for the next few months worth of comics (May to July PREVIEWS, stuff coming out from July to about November). Of course, there's a lot of good stuff that Diamond doesn't carry, I'll post about a few of those in a bit.



BEANWORLD HC VOL 03: REMEMBER HERE WHEN YOU ARE THERE - US$19.95 - [JUL090078]
In what's going to be a good year for comics, this may be the book of the year for me. Long after the original 21 issue run of Beanworld wound up (which will already be reprinted in two matching volumes before this one comes out, the already available WAHOOLAZUMA and the imminent A GIFT COMES), Larry Marder returns with a 212 page original story winding up the "Spring" cycle of his world's chronicles. The only thing that is better news that that is that Summer is underway.

ALEC SC YEARS HAVE PANTS LIFE SIZE OMNIBUS - US$35 - [JUL091081]
640 pages of Eddie Campbell's tales of "Alec MacGarry", some previously collected, some only printed once in various obscure places, some appearing for the first time in this book. I've got most of this stuff already, but with a chance to get it all (and the new stuff) in one handsome book, my only question is whether I should get this or the $50 hardcover version.

AL WILLIAMSON'S FLASH GORDON: A LIFELONG VISION OF THE HEROIC HC - US$44.95 - [JUN090913]
AL WILLIAMSON'S FLASH GORDON: A LIFELONG VISION OF HEROIC SC - US$29.95 - [JUN090912]
At 256 pages, it encompasses Williamson’s three stints of depicting Flash in comic book format: the legendary King Comics stories from the 1960s, the 1980 adaptation of the Universal Flash Gordon motion picture, and the Marvel Comics miniseries of 1994". Again, my only really issue is, hardcover or softcover?

THE TOON TREASURY OF CLASSIC CHILDREN'S COMICS HC - US$40 - [JUN090668]
A 352 page anthology edited by Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman, including work by Carl Barks, John Stanley, Sheldon Mayer, Walt Kelly and more. Sheldon Mayer is the key one there for me, being one of my favourite cartoonists of all time, and with only the smallest amount of his work being readily available, so it's great to see him side-by-side with those others. Lots of other stuff I'm looking forward to in here, either old favourites or intriguing looking stuff that I'd never heard of before. The type of book I'd have loved to stumble on in a library at age 8, and will happily read at an age several multiples of 8.

GRIMWOOD'S DAUGHTER HC - US$12.99 - [JUL090942]
Reasonably priced hardcover of the short fantasy story by Jan Strnad and Kevin Nowlan which ran as a back-up in DALGODA back in the 1980s. Nowlan is re-drawing a few pages at the end.

TEZUKA'S BLACK JACK TP VOL 07 - US$16.95 - [JUN091097]
I haven't been paying attention, are they only doing hardcovers for the first few volumes? A shame, those looked nice. Anyway, I'm in the middle of volume three right now. Not my favourite Tezuka work, often the stories end just as they're getting interesting, but enjoyable stuff.

TROTSKY: A GRAPHIC BIOGRAPHY HC - US$16.95 - [JUL090885]
Rick Geary does a biography of Leon Trotsky "from his boyhood in the Ukraine to his fallout with Stalin and his moonlight romance with Frida Kahlo". In other words, the logical follow-up to his run drawing GUMBY. Anyway, Geary by definition is worth taking a look.

BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED BY ROBERT CRUMB HC - US$24.95 - [JUL091141]
While I'm not the biggest fan of Crumb, I've enjoyed some of his work, and found a lot of it interesting, and am curious what he'll do with this. The various samples that have appeared online certainly look very nice. Also available in a $500 deluxe signed edition, which you can order now for only $315!

ROSE GN GRAPHIX ED - US$10.99 - [JUN090804]
Jeff Smith and Charles Vess doing the prequel to Smith's BONE series, now in a smaller and cheaper edition to match the recently concluded colour editions of BONE. Really great comic, I liked it slightly better than most of the actual BONE series, so good to see it getting some wider exposure.

JEFF SMITH'S LITTLE MOUSE GETS READY HC - US$12.95 - [MAY091009]
And Jeff Smith's latest book, for the Toon Books imprint. I've read most of the books in the line, and there's been some entertaining stuff designed for early readers. Smith's work should be good, really spotlighting the Walt Kelly influence on his art, based on the cover.

TORPEDO HC VOL 01 - US$24.99 - [JUL090950]
New edition of Enrique Sanchez Abuli's Spanish crime comic, with art by Jordi Bernet and (for just the first two stories) Alex Toth.

STARSTRUCK #1 - US$3.99 - [JUN090953]
Fondly remembered old 1980s series by Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta returns, this time as a 13-issue series with all new colouring and various other new things.

TINY TYRANT VOLUME TWO: THE LUCKY WINNER - US$9.99 - [JUL090875]
As I've mentioned before I really liked these stories by Parme and Trondheim when First Second first published them in one smaller edition. Hopefully these new larger, thinner collections will do well enough that they'll continue to the remaining tales of "Le roi catastrophe".

USAGI YOJIMBO HC YOKAI - US$14.95 - [JUL090054]
USAGI YOJIMBO SPECIAL EDITION HC - US$95 - [JUN090896]
USAGI YOJIMBO #122 - US$3.50 - [JUN090039]
USAGI YOJIMBO #123 - US$3.50 - [JUL090055]
Lots of stuff from Stan Sakai to mention. Of course, the regular USAGI series continues to come out, consistently excellent as always. In addition, Fantagraphics has a deluxe reprint of the books from their days publishing the character, two volumes, 1200 pages (with colour cover gallery and other bonus material). But most exciting of all, YOKAI is an original fully painted Usagi hardcover by Sakai. All the fixings for some good rabbit stew.

TMNT COLLECTED BOOK TP VOL 01 - US$29.95 - [MAY090981]
While I've read a fair bit of the later Ninja Turtles stuff when other creators I was interested in worked on it (Rick Veitch, Michael Zulli, Mark Martin) I never read too much of the original Laird and Eastman stuff until the recent free reprint of #1. It was okay, enough to get me to consider this volume, collecting the first 11 issues and 4 early one-shots in one 544 page book.

GRANDVILLE HC - US$17.95 - [JUN090027]
A new book from Bryan Talbot, which is about all I should have to say. Video "trailer" over here.

FAHRENHEIT 451 GN - US$16.95 - [JUN090928]
An adaptation of the Ray Bradbury story by Tim Hamilton, looks pretty good and the story should work well in comics form. Hamilton did a good job with TREASURE ISLAND a few years back.

CAT BURGLER BLACK GN - US$16.99 - [JUN090909]
A new book from Richard Sala published by First Second. Sala's work is always interesting, if somewhat perplexing, and the publisher always puts together an attractive package.

GROO TREASURY TP VOL 01 - US$24.95 - [JUN090037]
The earliest adventures of GROO by Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evaniér in one thick, affordable 336-page package. Hard to say no to even if you already have one or two copies of most of the stories already. Now where's my Groo/Conan crossover?

BILLY BATSON AND THE MAGIC OF SHAZAM #6 - US$2.50 - [MAY090208]
FLASH CHRONICLES TP VOL 01 - US$14.99 - [JUN090208]
BATMAN CHRONICLES TP VOL 08 - US$14.99 - [JUL090228]
SHOWCASE PRESENTS ECLIPSO TP - US$9.99 - [MAY090192]
SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE FLASH TP VOL 03 - US$16.99 - [MAY090193]
SHOWCASE PRESENTS HOUSE OF SECRETS TP VOL 02 - US$17.99 - [JUL090242]
QUESTION TP VOL 05 RIDDLES - US$19.99 - [JUL090237]
SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING HC BOOK 02 - US$24.99 - [JUL090294]
A few noteworthy things from DC, almost all reprints. I was enjoying Mike Kunkel's CAPTAIN MARVEL series (as I like to call it), sorry to see him gone from it for now, and will pick it up again when he comes back (or I'd pay double if he gets back to HEROBEAR). Of the non-Kunkel issues, I'll take a look at #6, with art by Stephen DeStefano. Also looking forward to a lot of cheap b&w reprints in the SHOWCASE books (good to see some thinner volumes, and the bigger volumes with only a small price increase), and some not-quite-as-cheap-but-still-not-expensive colour reprints in the CHRONICLES books (which I really need to get caught up on. Batman is up to volume 8?). And good to see the O'Neil/Cowan run on THE QUESTION continue, though I'm kind of bugged that they don't seem to be including the annuals. Oh, and that SWAMP THING, probably won't get it, but I mention it because just to note that if anyone is looking for an "... and meet the sun" moment the first few places to spot-check are
(a) see if the "Just say Uncle" dialogue appears when Arcane reveals himself
(b) check if a pin-up is awkwardly flipped (as seen in the image above) and inserted into the story to make sure the double page spreads come out right
(c) the cover of #29 (if included), see if it looks like the original or like this
(d) check if they restore the "Crisis" crossover pages removed in previous reprints
(e) look for some weird edits in the Gaiman introduction (if it's included at all), including a reference to "Steve Moore".
Man, DC has a bad history with reprinting this run of comics... And of course, could just fix all those and add all new screw-ups. Still, some great comics if you don't have them in any other form.

WESTERN GN - US$12.99 - [JUN090671]
Newest themed anthology from Accent UK. I liked a lot of the stuff from their previous ZOMBIES, and there are a lot of sample pages over on their website that look good, including a page from Steve Bissette's story.

WEASEL PATROL GN - US$9.99 - [MAY090625]
Never read these comics by Ken Macklin and Lela Dowling (from a back-up in FUSION and a one-shot, both from Eclipse), but I like Macklin's DR. WATCHSTOP and Dowling's work from a few other places, so it's worth a look. Preview available here.

NEXUS SPACE OPERA ACTS 3 & 4
- US$4.99 - [MAY091015]
The conclusion to the return of NEXUS by Mike Baron and Steve Rude. An enjoyable series, a shame about the delays in it coming out and other circumstances, I certainly hope that Rude finds suitable format that will allow him to continue doing comic book work.

BEASTS OF BURDEN #1 (OF 4) - US$2.99 - [JUL090015]
Mini-series by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, both of whom have frequently done work I enjoy. Haven't read the short stories from various Dark Horse anthologies that introduce these characters, but I'm sure they won't be essential to enjoying this, so I might make it one of those increasingly rare new comics I buy in this format.

COMICS REVUE PRESENTS OCT 2009 - US$16 - [JUL091179]
The long-running comic strip reprint showcase changes format in the face of the changing market, as explained over here.

POPEYE HC VOL 04 PLUNDER ISLAND - US$29.99 - [MAY090847]
CAPTAIN EASY HC VOL 01 SOLDIER OF FORTUNE - US$35 - [JUN090893]
COMPLETE PEANUTS BOX SET 1971-1974 - US$49.95 - [JUN090892]
A few comic strip things from Fantagraphics that look good. Man, Peanuts will get into the stuff that I was reading in real time in the newspapers starting with the volumes out next year. Weird.

LONE RANGER COMIC STRIP COLLECTION HC - US$39.99 - [JUL090807]
Hey, Russ Heath and Cary Bates comic strips from the 1980s. A whole lot of them.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Morning Mayer 1



by Sheldon Mayer
from Funny Stuff #57 [1950]

They don't call him Dizzy for nothing.  This is an early Dizzy Dog story, his look would change a bit, but he wouldn't get much smarter.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

BLUEBERRY GIRL by Gaiman and Vess

BLUEBERRY GIRL is a recently released hardcover book featuring Charles Vess illustrating a short poem written a while back by Neil Gaiman for a then-pregnant friend of his. The poem itself isn't too bad, not nearly as mawkishly sentimental as I'd expected, though getting close at times (and I'm sure in certain moods I'd think it went over that line). I was more interested in it for the illustrations by Charles Vess, as it's been a while since I've seen anything major new from him. Not surprisingly, some gorgeous work in here. There's not really a story, so it's just painted images of what the poem evokes, young girls exploring various gentle fantasy realms, accompanied by hosts of animals of all sorts. It's always great to see this much Vess work in one place, and so well produced.

The video below has Gaiman reading the full text of the poem, along with some rather oddly animated segments of some of the Vess illustrations. The quality doesn't nearly do justice to Vess' art, of course, but the text actually works better read out loud.



Anyway, well worth taking a look at, and probably a good gift for a mother expecting a baby girl in the near future if she's a fantasy fan.
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