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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Superman vs. Ali

First, let me be clear, there is no way I'm buying this, especially at $250.

Still, I can't say I'm not tempted...


Just for fun, here's Joe Kubert's original for the image, adapted by Neal Adams for the published book.


Ali, bomaye! Ali, bomaye!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

EC - The Thing In the 'Glades (Williamson)

The Thing In the 'Glades
art by Al Williamson, story by Al Feldstein
Tales From the Crypt #31[#15] (1952)

This is an early story from Al Williamson for the EC books, featuring drama deep in the everglades.  It's his only story for CRYPT, as he was mostly in the sci-fi/fantasy books.

A sheriff investigating some bloody bodies found deep in the woods, obviously not killed by an animal.  There are some rumours about the old hermit Ezzard, and some strange noises from his cabin, but no evidence.  With another body comes an eyewitness, enough to get Ezzard to admit to the existence of his secret deformed son.

All that leads to a violent chase, ending sadly in quicksand.  Kind of a sad story, since the kid really is an innocent victim of some horrid parenting.

Some really gorgeous work by Williamson on this one, with the lush setting, especially in the chase on the last few pages (and as previewed in the splash image).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Superman and the unheard Word of God

So, I was ordering a couple of books from a British bookstore, and looked at what else they might have that would be worth ordering to lower the average shipping charge.  One of the things I noticed was a hardcover SUPERMAN ANNUAL from 1983, with an original Brian Bolland cover (good, but not great):


...obviously reprinting a favourite story of mine, the 3-part Len Wein/Jim Starlin story from DC COMICS PRESENTS #27-29 [1980-1981], teaming up Superman with J'onn J'onzz, Supergirl and the Spectre in a story introducing the villain Mongul. I really liked that when it came out, and in my defense, I hadn't read enough older comics at the time to realize Mongul was a poor man's Thanos, and Thanos was a poor man's Darkseid.  Anyway, said story has never been reprinted by DC, except for the final chapter  in a collection I don't really want to buy, so I figured it would an interesting novelty, certainly worth £1 plus shipping.

For the most part the book is okay.  The paper has certainly aged better than the originals.  They did understandably cut out a page of mostly recaps from two of the stories.  More seriously, they seemed to have some problems with anything printed in sold colour overlays.  Like this image of Supergirl which is a pretty poor tracing of the original:




And much more seriously, this must have been perplexing to British reader, at the climax of the story:




And a page later:




Ah, the giant white-space voice of God strikes again.  Given what was done with the Supergirl image, I'm guessing this wasn't a change made to address the religious sensitivities of the Church of England, but rather a production issue with the lettering appearing in blue rather than black for those two panels.  If anyone has been wondering what was going on there for a quarter century:




and:




Actually, while I really liked these stories, I never really liked the direct intervention of God in the finale, so I think the Brits might have had the right idea, if for the wrong reasons.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic

Al Williamson was a big fan of Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon comic strip back when he was a boy, and the obvious influence of that work led his career to intersect with the character multiple times in the last half-century. All of the major intersections, as well as many minor ones, are collected in the gorgeous volume AL WILLIAMSON’S FLASH GORDON: A LIFELONG VISION OF THE HEROIC from Flesk Publications, a large 9x12 256-page book published last year.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Cool old Oscar moment



Kind of surprised I could only find this in a low quality version from a Japanese show. Although in looking for it I did also find this version:



Songwriters Annette O'Toole and Michael McKean singing the song. Neat. I have to get that McKean/Guest/Shearer UNWIGGED & UNPLUGGED concert movie.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

MEANWHILE by Jason Shiga

I found a copy of Jason Shiga's BOOKHUNTER in the library last year, and really enjoyed it, so it was good to see that his newest book got the deluxe release treatment from a major publisher.

The 80-page full colour hardcover MEANWHILE is the book in question, and its conceptual hook is summarized by the blurb on the cover "Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities."  Yes, it's a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style story, but in a unique comic book form, with the panel progressions being led through the page by various "tubes" that split off depending on your choices, and the transitions through pages being accomplished by a clever series of tabs on the edge of the book.  Despite the complexity of the work, the system is very intuitive for the most part, reading quite naturally after a few pages (in fact, after my first go-round with the book for about a half-hour, I picked up another comic and it took me a few pages before I could stop looking for tubes to lead me to the next panel or page. I thought for a second that the damn thing had broken by brain).

To read my digression about CYOA books, continue below.  To skip it, click here

Now, to backtrack a bit on a personal level to the "Choose Your Own Adventure" thing, I see from the prestigious internets that said series of books debuted in 1979.  I'd have been about nine at the time, and I recall being quite taken with the concept early on, reading several of the books. The concept really just captivated me for a while, probably less to do with the quality of the writing than the structure. I recall that after a few books I wound up trying to deconstruct one of them, creating a primitive flow-chart tracing all the page references to see exactly how it worked, where the loops were and if I was managing to read every combination. Perhaps not surprisingly, after I had done that the books had lost all their mystique, and I quickly moved on to something else. Encyclopedia Brown or The Great Brain or Danny Dunn or something, I don't recall exactly what order those things come into my life.


Shiga manages his odd format very well, managing to play around with it in some ways that manage to surprise in delightful ways.  Of course, given my history with this type of story (aren't you glad you didn't choose to skip that part?), after I'd read about a dozen of those 3,856 stories I was taken with an urge to do some deconstruction, which proved quite a bit harder than with the "go to page 75" format of the old books.  The format makes it inevitable that as you read you'll see something intriguing in a panel that's from a path not taken, and while it would be possible to get there by starting over and making different choices, sometimes it's even more intriguing to discover how to trace the tubes backwards in time.  And sometimes that might lead you to find out that there are things hidden in plain sight.

As for the story, young Jimmy has to choose chocolate or vanilla ice cream, and depending on which he prefers might end up encountering a scientist with three different devices: a time machine, a Killitron 2000 and a mind-reading SQUID.  Hi-jinks ensue.  Sometimes.  Other times it all ends in tears.

The one thing that remains consistent is that it's a great little book (well, I did find one combination that had some structural flaws, but the other 3,855 seem solid).  If you like Scott McCloud (in particular this or this) you should definitely give it a try, and you can see some other interactive comics by Shiga over here (some adapted for the web, some just descriptions of the low-run self-published print versions or abandoned experiments.  Check out the photo of the author with a 5-foot-square print version of MEANWHILE from 2004).


Oh, some unfinished business down below. Ignore it...







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