Friday, December 31, 2010
2010 in comics
A brief overview of comics in 2010, including the stuff I bought and read, stuff I bought and still have sitting in the metaphorical to-read pile, stuff that came out that I still have to buy (some of it on order and coming in the mail), stuff I borrowed and read in whole or in part and stuff that seemed interesting. The Ditko over here, and the Kirby over here.
SHOWCASE PRESENTS DIAL H FOR HERO
SHOWCASE PRESENTS SECRETS OF SINISTER HOUSE
SHOWCASE PRESENTS SGT. ROCK #3
SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE DOOM PATROL #2
SHOWCASE PRESENTS OUR ARMY AT WAR #1
I do still love DC's Showcase Presents format, big thick books of black and white reprints. The one from the year I'm most happy about is the one I don't have yet, OUR ARMY AT WAR, in my hands this time next week, post office willing. 500 pages of early 1950s war comics. I'm in the middle of reading a whole bunch of them, including those released this year, usually reading a story from each every week. DIAL H is goofy fun, with great Jim Mooney artwork, I'd have loved it at age 10, I still like it a lot at age 40. SINISTER HOUSE is mostly journeyman early 1970s stuff, with occasional artistic standouts including Alex Toth, Alfredo Alcala and Sam Glanzman. The SGT. ROCK book is all Kanigher/Kubert so far, about half new to me, and naturally great. Really looking forward to the Kanigher/Heath stuff coming up towards the end of the book. DOOM PATROL has some quirky stories by Arnold Drake that amuse if I'm in the right mood, but the Bruno Premiani art is the real star. There were also WORLD'S FINEST (Superman/Batman team-up) and LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES volumes out this year, which I'm sure I'll pick up eventually.
The latest single-volume reprint of Osamu Tezuka's work published by Vertical, a thick 700-page hardcover, looks really impressive. Still waiting until I have the time and am in the right mood. Also from Tezuka this year, several volumes of BLACK JACK, which I need to get caught up on, and thinner 2-volume versions of APOLLO'S SONG and ODE TO KIRIHITO. I really need to catch up on all the Tezuka stuff available, and re-read a lot of it. And this BOOK OF HUMAN INSECTS thing coming up looks bizarre.
AMELIA RULES - THE TWEENAGE GUIDE TO NOT BEING UNPOPULAR
AMELIA RULES - TRUE THINGS (ADULTS DON'T WANT KIDS TO KNOW)
Jimmy Gownley returned in a big way in 2010, with two long original books featuring his character Amelia McBride and her friends and family, picking up right where the serialized version (also available in several collections) left off. I write about the first one over here, the second I hope to get around to writing about soon, but it's even better. And another volume due in September 2011.
Softcover edition of the previous hardcover reprint of the 4-issue war comics series Archie Goodwin wrote and edited with some great artists back in the 1960s. Still amazing stuff, very well reproduced, I just leave it lying around to flip to stories at random.
TALES OF THE UNCANNY - N-MAN & FRIENDS PREVIEW EDITION #1
A preview of Steve Bissette's upcoming return to his share of the 1963 characters, I wrote about it over here. No word yet on exactly when we'll see the actual book, but it's one of my most anticipated 2011 releases.
BEASTS OF BURDEN - ANIMAL RITES
A very well designed large hardcover of the Evan Dorkin / Jill Thompson series about domestic pets who get involved in the supernatural. The series began with short stories in some anthology comics, which led to a 4-issue series last year. All of that material is collected in this book. Evan Dorkin's stories are very different from the material I know and love from his solo projects, but still very entertaining, a nice mix of humour and horror with some good work distinguishing the characters. Jill Thompson's painted artwork is some of the best of her career.
MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER VOL. 1
This just came out from Dark Horse, I should have my copy soon. It's a softcover reprint of the first seven issues of the original series from the 1960s by Russ Manning. Gorgeous work from the samples I've seen of it before, really looking forward to this and hope we get more volumes. I thought the previous hardcover reprints were criminally overpriced, but this format is right up my alley.
BRODY'S GHOST #1
First of six books in a few series by AKIKO creator Mark Crilley. A good start, with a nice fantasy set-up for some ghosts and adventure storytelling with a Japanese flair, really looking forward to the rest.
AGE OF BRONZE #30 - 31
Eric Shanower's ongoing historical fiction about the Trojan War continues at its regular pace. Gorgeous artwork, as always, and I just got a prior issue I had missed so I can read them now, I think it's a good time to go back to the beginning and re-read the whole series.
Still waiting for my copy of this collection of the 1980s jungle girl adventure series created by Steve Perry and Paul Chadwick. I read the stuff in the original 3-D version years ago, and will appreciate having a clearer 2-D version, along with the new prose story by Perry with illustrations by Steve Bissette.
DONG XOAI, VIETNAM 1965
A new book from Joe Kubert, about a true story early in the Vietnam War. Still sitting in my to-read pile, waiting for the right mood to strike me. I leaf through it every now and then, and it does look gorgeous, but the story-telling style seems a bit odd. More on that when I finally read it and can tell you if it worked.
Jason Shiga's wild and crazy experimental choose-your-own-adventure comic, I wrote about how it almost broke my brain (in a good way) back here. Still a delight that I pick up from time to time just to play around with. Shiga's next book is out in a few months and firmly on that most anticipated books of 2011 list coming on January 1.
A DISEASE OF LANGUAGE
From Eddie Campbell and Alan Moore, a softcover edition of the surprisingly difficult to find hardcover collection of a few years back. This collects The Birth Caul and Snake&Ladders, two Campbell adaptations of Moore's "performance art" pieces, along with a great interview of Moore by Campbell that ran in EDDIE CAMPBELL'S EGOMANIA. Handsome looking book, still sitting around waiting for the right mood to re-read all that stuff.
THE TOON TREASURY OF CLASSIC CHILDREN'S COMICS
A spectacular collection of comics from the 1930s to the 1960s selected by Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman. The big four that those familiar with comics would expect art well represented, with multiple stories by Carl Barks, Walt Kelly, John Stanley and Sheldon Mayer (an especially welcome inclusion). There's also great stuff by Jack Cole, Harvey Kurtzman, Dick Briefer and a few dozen more, including a few names I'd never heard of before.
JOHN STANLEY LIBRARY THIRTEEN GOING ON EIGHTEEN VOL 1
JOHN STANLEY LIBRARY MELVIN MONSTER VOL 2
JOHN STANLEY LIBRARY NANCY VOL 2
JOHN STANLEY LIBRARY TUBBY VOL 1
A whole lot of reprints of Stanley's comics for Dell. Always enjoyable, I especially enjoyed some of the stories in THIRTEEN as a very entertaining variation on the teen comic format.
FOLLOW YOUR ART
A new collection of autobiographical travel related stories from Roberta Gregory, most never before published, available from her directly. In the to-read pile as I'm waiting to get a few issues of NAUGHTY BITS I need (after filling most of the holes in my collection through Gregory), and will read it after I read all of her older work. Very attractive book, though, and good to see her publishing something new.
A collection of the first three volumes of a European funny animal comic about a hard-boiled private eye cat. I thought the art was really good, for the most part, but had a lot of problems with the writing. I'll have to re-read it sometime and see if I like it better or can put my finger on what I didn't like.
AL WILLIAMSON ARCHIVES #1
AL WILLIAMSON'S FLASH GORDON - A LIFELONG VISION OF THE HEROIC
A pair of books published by Flesk, celebrating the work of a great who sadly passed away in 2010. I wrote about the Flash Gordon book here, and it remains one of the best looking books in a year of great looking books. Kind of wish I'd sprung the extra few dollars for the hardcover. The ARCHIVES is a collection of sketches from Williamson, which looks great, but I wish there was some more text to give context to the images.
THE MUPPET SHOW COMIC BOOK - ON THE ROAD
The third collection of Roger Langridge's comics based on the classic Jim Henson series of the 1970s, I wrote about the first two here, pretty much all the same applies to this one. Unfortunately the run of comics has ended or is ending soon, but that still leaves quite a few more for me to read after this one.
THE UNWRITTEN VOL 1 TOMMY TAYLOR AND THE BOGUS IDENTITY
THE UNWRITTEN VOL 2 INSIDE MAN
The first two collections of the on-going fantasy comic by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. I was pleasantly surprised by this, after not thinking much of the premise (and after I stopped reading the previous Carey/Gross collaboration for Vertigo, LUCIFER, about half-way through). For the most part it reads pretty well, and has some clever ideas. Can't say I think too much about some of the digressions between the main story, but maybe they'll turn out to be important later.
THE CBLDF PRESENTS - LIBERTY ANNUAL 2010
The annual anthology to benefit the CBLDF, edited by Larry Marder of Beanworld fame this time around. Sadly 2010 was a mostly fallow year for Beanworld after a good 2009, but there are some beans in Marder's 2-page story in here. In addition to the Marder, some Evan Dorkin (Milk & Cheese return), Don Simpson (Megaton Man returns), Jeff Smith and others under a nice Dave Gibbons cover.
THE CULTURE CORNER
A collection of the half-page humour feature that Basil Wolverton did for Fawcett's WHIZ COMICS from the 1940s and 1950s. Very odd, as you'd expect from Wolverton, with a lot of word-play and sometimes grotesque visuals. This book includes not only all the published pages in colour, but wherever available also includes Wolverton's pencilled layouts which were sent to the editor for approval, printed opposite the published strips. But wait, there's more. There are also dozens of additional layouts that were rejected, either by Wolverton or his editor, which are also included. Plus examples of a few similar features Wolverton did. Very nice comprehensive package.
LUCKY IN LOVE
A new book from Stephen DeStefano, of 'MAZING MAN and HERO HOTLINE fame, along with co-writer George Chieffet. Just read it recently, haven't quite absorbed it yet, it's an interesting contrast of style and content. Unfortunately it's also just the first half of a story which won't be concluded until, it says, 2013. And I've read comics for long enough not to be too optimistic about a promise of a follow-up that far in advance coming out on time. Anyway, interesting book, more when I've had a chance to re-read it.
CASTLE WAITING VOLUME 2
A collection of Linda Medley's excellent comic, still not sure I can recommend it for the reasons mentioned here, but still some great stuff. Hopefully we'll have word on Medley's future plans sooner rather than later.
JONAH HEX - NO WAY BACK
No, you didn't imagine it, there really was a Jonah Hex movie, so there was an original hardcover comic for Hex as well. The story wasn't too good, but it was good to see Hex's co-creator Tony DeZuniga drawing the story.
THE QUESTION - PEACEMAKER
QUESTION NO. 37 [BLACKEST NIGHT]
The first finishes up the collection of the 36-issue Dennis O'Neil / Denys Cowan run from the 1980s. The weakest part of the run, but still some enjoyable comics. A shame DC was so short-sighted in the reprint strategy for the series, not including the annuals and just overly lackluster design. Early this year there was also that "#37", tying in with DC's big crossover. Apparently Vic Sage is dead, someone else is the Question, Vic comes back as a zombie and... Fuck, I can't do it. There are some good moments in the comic, which was co-written by O'Neil and pencilled by Cowan (with inks by Bill Sienkiewicz who inked many of the original covers), but there's just such a tonal conflict between what made the series special and the big crossover of the year.
An early comic from Yoshiro Tatsumi, mostly interesting as a sample of the type of work he was doing during the days he writes about in his very impressive look at the early days of Japanese comics in A DRIFTING LIFE published last year. On its merits not too special, although there are some interesting moments of youthful energy from a young artist figuring things out as he goes.
ROB HANES ADVENTURES VOL. 0
A collection of Randy Reynaldo's stories featuring a modern day soldier-of-fortune, heavily inspired by the classic adventure comics of a half-century ago. This book has the issues published as ADVENTURE STRIP DIGEST in the mid-1990s, bridging the gap between the mini-comic run (reprinted as ROB HANES ARCHIVES) and the currently on-going ROB HANES ADVENTURES, which is up to #12. Very entertaining stuff.
COMPLETE MILT GROSS COMIC BOOK STORIES
Impressive looking big, thick book, I have to get around to reading it.
A great new collection of Mark Schultz's XENOZOIC TALES comic of the that ran from 1987 to 1996, featuring just the main stories (not the Steve Stiles illustrated back-ups) from the 14-issue run, almost all of it with film freshly shot from the original art, plus some new illustrations. It's a gorgeous book, definitely the best presentation the work has ever gotten. Fascinating to see Schultz's progression as an artist, from the very gritty EC-inspired early work to the increasingly illustrative later stuff. Not sure how much I believe it, but the ending even promises more Xenozoic tales in the future, which would be nice since it ends just as the story is beginning to come together.
THE VIKING PRINCE
A nice hardcover collection of all the stories drawn by Joe Kubert featuring the character from THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD in the 1950s, as well as a later crossover story with Sgt. Rock, with various writers starting and ending Robert Kanigher. Just got this one, haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I already know from a few prior reprints that I love this stuff. I've also been tempted by the similar reprint of the Broome/Anderson Atomic Knights. And that reprint of the early Superboy stories.
SIEGEL AND SHUSTER'S FUNNYMAN
A book about the short-lived feature that the creators of Superman worked on, both in comic books and comic strips, after they were fired from their more famous creation. Unfortunately the book only includes a handful of stories, following lengthy essays about Jewish humour and the precedents for super-heroes in Jewish culture.
DC UNIVERSE - ORIGINS
Well, it was fairly cheap, so I got this collection of 2-page origin stories of various DC characters, reprinted from a few different sources over the last few years. A lot of different artists, a few quite good, keep it visually interesting. The writing is mostly journeyman stuff, nothing too special, but a few inspired moments brighten it up. Sometimes bizarre to read how different the interpretations of the characters have gotten from what I remember.
A light but engaging comic by Eddie Campbell and Daren White, definitely needs a re-read before I comment too much on it, but definitely worth reading.
Surprisingly, my library got copies of this huge collection of DC's anthology comic of last year. Then it was published as a folding newspaper page, collected it was slightly smaller but much better overall. The comics themselves weren't that great, of course. I don't think any of the fifteen 12-page features were wholly successful, although several of them had good points. Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez's art on Metal Men, with Kevin Nowlan inks, was great in that large size. The Kamandi story, done in a Prince Valiant format by Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook, was pretty solid. Mike Allred's artwork fit Metamorpho pretty well, and the way he and Neil Gaiman played with the format was amusing at times. Joe Kubert's always nice to see, although I was surprised nothing in his Sgt. Rock story really used the format.
ART IN TIME: UNKNOWN COMIC BOOK ADVENTURES, 1940-1980
A companion book to the earlier ART OUT OF TIME, also edited by Dan Nadel, had some entertaining little seen comics. It's always good to see some of Sam Glanzman's KONA, and some really nice stuff by Pat Boyette, Pete Morisi, Mort Meskin, Bill Everett and others.
USAGI YOJIMBO SPECIAL EDITION #1
USAGI YOJIMBO #126 - 134
Stan Sakai continues with his regular USAGI comic like clockwork, and it's been very enjoyable with some strong short stories. Meanwhile, Fantagraphics finally got out the long-promised deluxe edition of the early years of the series (the first 38-issue series and various short stories). My copy is on the way, I'm really looking forward to it, more when I have it in hand.
GRIMJACK OMNIBUS #1
Nice affordable compact volume of the first 400 or so pages of the John Ostrander / Tim Truman science fiction adventure series from the 1980s. I mostly got it for the early stories that ran as back-ups in STARSLAYER, but it's good to have the rest. A much nicer format than the previous reprints.
SERGIO ARAGONES' GROO - THE HOGS OF HORDER #3 - 4
MAD'S GREATEST ARTISTS - SERGIO ARAGONES
After some small delays the latest Groo series by Aragones and Evanier concluded. Still good stuff. Still no word on the promised Groo/Conan crossover, or the GROO TREASURY reprint of the early years of the comic. But there was a great hardcover collection of just a fraction of Aragones's nearly 50 years of work for MAD. Funny stuff, I keep picking it up and reading a few pages, amazed at how consistent he is and how well he captures each era as he was living it.