Thursday, December 08, 2011

Jerry Robinson, R.I.P.

Sorry to hear about the passing of Jerry Robinson.  I enjoyed meeting him at a local convention four years ago, and got to thank him for his book COMICS: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF COMIC STRIP ART, which I used to take out of the library all the time back in the 1970s, as well as the early Batman comics with Bill Finger and Bob Kane, including a role in the creation of such essential early concepts as Robin and the Joker.

I also always enjoyed this rather oddball pin-up he did for SUPERMAN #400 [1984].

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Photo Finish

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Photo Finish
Sugar & Spike #2 [1956]
6 pages
Reprints: Sugar & Spike #96 [1971], The Best of DC #47 [1984], The Sugar And Spike Archives #1 [2011]

Yes, that's right, the long-awaited reprint of Sheldon Mayer's classic should be in comic stores today, and no doubt shipping from other sources soon after. If requesting it from a comic store that doesn't have it in stock, tell them to use order code JAN110334, use ISBN-10 1401231128 or ISBN-13 978-1401231125 for other sources.

Among many highlights of the book will be this story from the second issue, where Sugar's mother hires a photographer to get a decent photograph of her alone and not crying.  You see, a traumatic early incident with a joke camera has left Sugar with a fear of cameras, which is only abated by the presence of Spike making funny faces. Spike hears the fuss and comes to Sugar's rescue, and various misunderstandings occur until the photographer finally manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

A great little story, one of the best of the over 400 Sugar & Spike stories Mayer wrote and drew (and may we one day have a whole shelf with books collecting every single one of them). Mayer was especially on his game with the body language in this story, in that page above I especially like Sugar lecturing the photographer for daring to pull a camera on her, her affection towards the photos of Spike and her excitement at him coming to the rescue.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mrs. Plumm, A. Shutter, cousin Alvin (flashback)
Damage: various photography equipment, Mr. Shutter's nerves
Sugar's treatment of Spike: Extremely affectionate, for once

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

IZNOGOUD par Goscinny et Tabary

IZNOGOUD is a long-running comedy series created by René Goscinny and Jean Tabary, published in France beginning in the 1960s, continued by them until Goscinny's death in 1977 and then handled by Tabary solo. I'd heard about it some twenty years ago, and being a fan of Goscinny through ASTERIX (avec Uderzo) and LE PETIT NICHOLAS (avec Sempé) I was curious, but apparently at that point there was nothing readily available in English. It was only after Tabary's recent passing that I found out British publisher Cinebook had been publishing English editions of IZNOGOUD since 2008, with eight books in print. I decided to try the first three, despite the fact that I wasn't that impressed with my most recent foray into reading old Goscinny as an adult, a few volumes of LUCKY LUKE (avec Morris). I ended up liking this a lot more. It's no ASTERIX, but then asking anything to be as good as a series I fell in love with over 30 years ago is a tall order.

Iznogoud is the star of the series, the evil Grand Vizier of Baghdad in some vague non-historical "Arabian Nights" period (and all the cliches that entails, including genies and flying carpets), serving a good-hearted Caliph. Apparently the series actually began starring the Caliph, but soon after Iznogoud emerged as the star with his schemes of taking power, or as he constantly says "I want to be the Caliph instead of the Caliph". The only other regular character so far is Iznogoud's aide Wa'at Alahf, who often tries to talk Iznogoud out of his schemes, but reluctantly goes along, usually hindering as much as helping.

Unlike ASTERIX and LUCKY LUKE, each book contains several short stories, most of them 8-10 pages, with one 20-page epic in the third book (apparently in the post-Goscinny period there were longer stories). All of them involve Iznogoud coming up with some elaborate scheme to take power (up to and including plots to assassinate the Caliph), with everything constantly backfiring on him, despite the fact that he has the Caliph's full trust (as apparently the only person in Baghdad who doesn't know about Iznogoud's desire to be Caliph).  I suppose the repetition could get tiresome after a while, but it's still fresh after these fourteen stories (which aren't published in any particular order, and range from at least 1963 to 1972 based on the signatures), with endless variations on the theme, including time machines, magic frogs, election fraud and trips to the desert, the beach and the ocean. I especially like the plan to leave the Caliph to die of thirst in the desert in the first book, which has a lot of unexpected turns, and the story in the third book where Iznogoud finds an obscure law which allows anyone to challenge the Caliph to a fight, which has a great twist.

The books aren't perfect, of course, especially if you aren't that fond of puns, and of course the unfortunate bits of racism you see in a lot of old comics (seriously, some of that stuff was acceptable even into the early 1970s?). But there's a lot to recommend them, and Tabary's art is especially good, coming pretty close to matching Uderzo in his prime. I think I'll probably get at least a few more of the books.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Horse Sense

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Horse Sense
Sugar & Spike #9 [1957]
4 pages
Reprints: Coming soon...
Dedication: Dana Brown (age 9), Idaho

The Wilsons take the kids to an amusement park, even though Mrs. Wilson isn't sure they're old enough even for the "kiddy section".  Of course the kids manage to get loose, and soon find a baby pony. Of course, it being a baby means they can talk to it, since baby-talk is the same for all species, and the three of them go off on a little adventure around the park, which ends up being quite costly for the Wilsons.  That'll teach 'em to pay more attention when taking care of the kids.

Cute little story, I especially liked the presence of a lot of one-shot people (and animals), which gave Mayer a chance to show off some of his other cartooning skills.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mr. Wilson, Mrs. Wilson, a pony, various park employees and visitors

"Boy! I wish my mommy was a baby pony! She doesn't understand a word I say!"

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

FEYNMAN by Ottaviani&Myrick

Jim Ottaviani & Leland Myrick

Jim Ottaviani has been doing comics about science and scientists for over a decade now, with various artists and mostly published through his own GT Labs imprint. I've been reading them for almost as long as he's been publishing them, and they've been consistently entertaining and educational. And none more for me than the sections in TWO-FISTED SCIENCE [1997] that dealt with physicist Richard Feynman. Those stories led me to read several of Feynman's own books, which were a delight and which I've gone back to many times over the years.

So I was more than a little excited to learn, at the 2010 Toronto Comic Arts Festival, that he was working on a new full length comic book biography of Feynman with artist Leland Myrick, to be published as a full-colour hardcover by First Second.  The pages I saw at the time looked really good, and when the book was formally announced it was right up there on my list of most anticipated books of 2011. Fortunately I ended up waiting significantly less time for it than I expected, as Ottaviani had advance copies at the 2011 TCAF a few months ago, and I was fortunate enough to win one. The book is now in general release, and I highly recommend it, both to those new to Feynman and those who are already familiar with his history.

For those who are new to him, Richard Feynman (1918-1988) was a physicist who worked on the atomic bomb in the 1940s, won a Nobel Prize in the 1960s and played a key role in the investigation of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in the 1980s. He also led a colourful life outside of those highlights, and was able to tell his stories in an engaging irreverent and eccentric style. Ottaviani adapted several of the stories, mostly dealing with the 1940s, in TWO-FISTED SCIENCE. This longer work allows him to expand on those stories and add a lot more, building up a fuller picture of Feynman's life. 

Even with 272 pages, Feynman's adventures were numerous and varied enough that Ottaviani can only hit the highlights, but he does a good job of picking the stories, giving enough of the context and letting Feynman's own words tell the story with the artwork. In addition to the science, there are stories of Feynman growing up, falling in love, losing his first wife, his friendships, the politics of the various situations he found himself in (from the secrecy of the atom bomb research days to his life in academia to the Space Shuttle investigation). For those who never heard these stories before, there's enough to be satisfying and extensive notes pointing out where you can find out more, and for those who have heard them before it's a nice refresher to see them in a new context. In particular the stories really come to life with Myrick's artwork, which is expressive and gives a nice feeling of the various times and locations.

I will admit that, twenty years removed from my last math/physics classes (and having used very little of that stuff in the interim), I found the brief parts of the books that deal with the actual details of Feynman's research a bit rough going, especially the first time through the book.  However, the book answers that problem through some advice that Feynman gave to his younger sister.

And indeed I picked up a bit more the second time through, and maybe someday I'll understand it all. Anyway, you don't need to have any aptitude for the physics to appreciate the bulk of the book, and even those brief bits where you do there's some visually interesting stuff to pick up each time through.

The publisher has a long excerpt of the book and more information over here.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Thumbs Up!

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Thumbs Up!
Sugar & Spike #1 [1956]
2 pages
Reprints: Sugar & Spike No. 1 Replica Edition [2002], upcoming Archive

A little taste of what you'll see in the upcoming SUGAR AND SPIKE ARCHIVES, the second story from the first issue. Kind of an interesting look at Mayer's technique, as the basic gag of this story is the same as that used in the cover to this issue. With three times as much room to play with it, Mayer adds some nice visual bits, including the kids playing in the trashcan in the park, and also makes a lot more hay out of Spike's incredulity that Sugar was able to find a new and painless way of scamming some candy from her mother.
Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mrs. Plumm, Mrs. Wilson, Mr. Wilson
Damage: Not much, maybe Spike's pride and his faith in the power of books...

"They kept pulling my thumb outa my mouth, so naturally, I kept putting it back in!"

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Speech Lessons

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Speech Lessons
Sugar & Spike #8 [1957]
6 pages
Reprints: None (yet)
Dedication: Wayne Posz (age 8), Indiana

A classic look at the eternal failure to communicate theme that the series featured, this time the kids put some clues together and realize that their parents don't actually understand their baby-talk. Naturally their solution is to try to teach them, starting with the easiest word they know, "GLX", meaning "Hello". When that doesn't have the result they expect, they attempt to reconcile the various reactions they get to the word to figure out what it means in grown-up talk, but their perfectly logical conclusions only get them in more hot water.

Lervly story, especially the baby logic, and some wonderful expressions on the kids.  This also features one of my favourite S&S scenes ever, a bit where Spike helps Sugar escape from her playpen "prison", only to wind up in it himself, with the final reveal that they can just lift it up and get out anytime.  Throwaway bit that isn't even referred to in the dialogue, just a cute visual to enjoy on a second level to the main plot.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mrs. Wilson, brush salesman, various neighbours
Damage: Many, many dishes, a fruit bowl and a plant
Punishment: a sentence in the "pokey" (a playpen) and various trips to the corner

"I think that when we're talking good, clear baby-talk to them, they think we're just making silly noises that don't mean anything!"

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Archive imminent

Just a quick reminder that Sheldon Mayer's SUGAR AND SPIKE ARCHIVES Vol. 1 is on the way from DC, probably with a cover looking like the one to the right.  September 14 is the currently advertised date for it to be available in comic stores, which can probably still order a copy for you using order code JAN110334. Other retailers should have it around then as well, use ISBN-10 1401231128 or ISBN-13 978-1401231125.

You can find a listing of previous posts about the series over here, in particular these entries on stories which will be in the upcoming book:

Sugar & Spike #1 [1956] - Thumbs Up!
Sugar & Spike #1 [1956] - Busy Corners
Sugar & Spike #2 [1956] - Photo Finish
Sugar & Spike #6 [1957] - Winter Sunday
Sugar & Spike #6 [1957] - Cats? Meowch!
Sugar & Spike #8 [1957] - Speech Lessons
Sugar & Spike #8 [1957] - Trip to the Zoo
Sugar & Spike #9 [1957] - The Fix-It Machine
Sugar & Spike #9 [1957] - Horse Sense
Sugar & Spike #10 [1957] - The Big Word Mystery
Sugar & Spike #10 [1957] - Beach Nuts

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

GNATRAT LIVES [2011] by Mark Martin

You kids might not remember, but back in the mid-to-late 1980s there was a boom in the direct sales comic book market of black and white parody books, mostly attributable to the phenomenal success of the Laird and Eastman's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As you'd expect, the boom quickly led to a glut, with a lot of books of at best marginal quality crowding out anything with merit, and that led to a bust.

I missed seeing most of that first-hand, only getting back into comics around the time of the bust.  But I heard the tales, and in those tales one of the things you would hear is that among the books of the boom times one that did have merit was Mark Martin's Gnatrat.  Certainly Martin's other work made that easy to believe, so eventually I tracked down:

DARERAT [1987]
THE ULTIMATE GNATRAT [1990] (collecting the above three with a lot of new pages, including the ending and a comic explaining the boom/glut/bust from Martin's perspective)

Five publications from five different publishers.  As you can tell by the covers, the series is largely a Batman parody, with particular emphasis on Frank Miller's work, especially in the first book, and some of Miller's Daredevil/Elektra later, and the first Tim Burton directed Batman movie in the final comic.

Anyway, all that is prelude to mentioning that, after two decades, Mark Martin returns from his Nascar career to his roots with the self-published Kickstarter supported one-shot GNATRAT LIVES (available now directly from Martin). This is a full-sized 48-page comic which includes the 24-page "Gnatrat Lives" story and the 24-page "Buddy Cop Comix", which is Martin's variation on a 24-hour comic (in this case 24 1-hour pages done over a few days).  With the covers that comes to 51-pages of Mark Martin in all.

The Gnatrat story picks up directly from the ending that appeared in THE ULTIMATE GNATRAT book, and is an enjoyable romp in the classic Gnatrat vein, with Martin's detailed artwork (which can probably be described as Walt Kelly crossed with Harvey Kurtzman, with a big injection of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth). In a clever move, the Kickstarter supporters of the book are listed in a four page sequence where each gets a minor character, each with a unique Mark Martin design, named after them, which really shows off Martin's skills.

The "Buddy Cop Comix" story has a much looser version of Martin's style, as you'd expect from a 24-hour comic, but it's also a fun little story, playing off all sorts of variations of the "buddy cop" formula, including parodies of MEN IN BLACK, X-FILES, ROBOCOP, TURNER AND HOOTCH, THE ODD COUPLE (via one of the TV leads other roles) and others. Also very enjoyable, with a lot of quick twists and clever connections and callbacks.

So two very fun full-length stories, well worth picking up a copy here.

[update, since I wrote this review Martin has announced publishing plans for the remainder of the story and other new material, plus another chance to be a character in the story.  See the link for details]

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Upcoming Comics - BROOKLYN DREAMS by DeMatteis&Barr

Despite the fact that I already own the book in its two prior formats, the original 4-volume serialization from 1995 and single volume 2003 softcover both from DC's Paradox Press in their digest format, I'm very tempted by the upcoming hardcover edition of BROOKLYN DREAMS by J.M. DeMatteis and Glenn Barr coming out from IDW in a few months. It's an enormously entertaining book that definitely stands up to and rewards multiple readings, and I'm sure I'll want to revisit it many times in the next few decades, so the more durable binding will be nice. And if that 6.625” x 10.187” trim size is correct, this will be considerably larger than the extant editions, which will make it much easier to read the tiny lettering and appreciate Barr's artwork.

Brooklyn Dreams HC
J.M. DeMatteis & Glenn Barr

The complete critically acclaimed saga is re-collected in hardcover for this collection of J.M. DeMatteis and Glenn Barr's Brooklyn Dreams. Celebrated by fans and critics alike, and long out of print, don't miss this chance to own a book that many say will change your life.
$39.99  384 pages  6.625” x 10.187”

Sunday, August 07, 2011

EC - Pirate Gold (Kurtzman)

Back when I used to post more frequently on this weblog, a regular feature was a series of posts about the EC comics of the 1950s.  A listing of those posts is over here (though it looks like some of the image links are broken). Anyway, with the recent news that we're finally going to get a series of EC reprints I can really get behind, creator/genre themed rather than full issue reprints, I thought I might restart them, and see how far I can get before the new reprints start.

Pirate Gold
by Harvey Kurtzman
Two-Fisted Tales #20[#3] (1951)

The first book that the new reprint series will be rolling out will be devoted to Harvey Kurtzman's stories for TWO-FISTED TALES and FRONTLINE COMBAT, specifically those he wrote and drew himself and those drawn artists other than his regulars like Jack Davis, Wallace Wood and John Severin (usually with Will Elder), who will get their own books.  That includes this Kurtzman solo story, "Pirate Gold", an historical adventure set around 1800 about a man found drifting at sea, with only vague memories of who is. Eventually, with great anger and violence he puts it all together and jogs his memory, and heads out in search of vengeance and treasure.

Still very early Kurtzman, I'd say he hadn't quite found his voice yet (and in TWO-FISTED would really find it when doing war stories rather than adventure yarns like this). His art has advanced beyond his writing at this point, especially the layouts which have a few clever bits.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

In retrospect, maybe not funny in quite the way it was intended...

Recently been taking advantage of the high Canadian dollar and some sales to try to pick up most of the back-issues I'm interested in. Among other things, I've managed to finish my run of the Giffen, DeMatteis & Co. Justice League run from 1987 to 1992 (with returns in 1998, 2003 and 2005, and one more later this month), including all the side-bits (Annuals, the Quarterly series, etc.).  Comes to about 120 comics in all (plus I tossed in a few things like INVASION, some SECRET ORIGINS stuff and more). About a third of this stuff is new to me in my current (re-)reading, and I'm mostly enjoying it, at about the half-way mark now.

One new bit to me which reads kind of odd in retrospect, this bit from JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA #35.

Boy, that Beetle sure was a lousy judge of character...

(spoiler alert)

Monday, August 01, 2011

Upcoming Comics - Barks Duck comics

The latest iteration of the Carl Barks created Duck comics for Disney is in a line of hardcovers that are going to be published by Fantagraphics.  Looks pretty good, I look forward to checking them out.

(update: and look here for an updated cover design and some sample pages to see what the colouring will look like).

Walt Disney's Donald Duck Vol. 01: Lost in the Andes HC
by Carl Barks

The first volume in a series of affordable, full-color hardcovers collecting the complete works of 'the Good Duck Artist'! Carl Barks' Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics are considered among the greatest and most timeless artistic and storytelling achievements in the history of the medium. Yet until now, his works have only been reprinted in random comic book iterations or high-end collectors' editions. For the first time, read the complete works of one of the medium's greatest artists in affordably priced hardcover volumes perfect for parents and children alike, meticulously restored and recolored to ensure the very best reproduction Barks' work has ever received. Barks began drawing the comic book adventures of Donald Duck in 1942, and he continued for the next 30 years, creating some of the most memorable comics and characters ever put to page. This first volume contains over 200 pages of vintage Barks from 1948-1950, including the title story Lost in the Andes, Barks' personal favorite, wherein Doanld and his nephews embark on a Peruvian expedition to solve the mystery of where square eggs come from. Also featured are the Golden Christmas Tree, Race to the South Seas, and Voodoo Hoodoo, as well as over a dozen other strips and stories. Lost in the Andes also features an introduction by noted Barks scholar Donald Ault, and detailed commentary/annotations for each story at the end of the book, written by the foremost Barks authorities in the world.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Upcoming Comics - Tezuka's PRINCESS KNIGHT

Another Osamu Tezuka book on the schedule from Vertical in October, this time the very attractive 1950s work PRINCESS KNIGHT. Should be a quite a contrast with some of the bizarre 1970s material they've been publishing, like the imminent BOOK OF HUMAN INSECTS. Second volume follows quickly in December.

by Osamu Tezuka
Set in a medieval fairy-tale backdrop, Princess Knight is the tale of a young princess named Sapphire who must pretend to be a male prince so she can inherit the throne. Women have long been prevented from taking the throne, but Sapphire is not discouraged and instead she fully accepts the role, becoming a dashing hero(ine) that the populous is proud of. The playful cartooning style is comparable to that of Disney, à la Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Considered by many as one of the first major shojo works, and one from the godfather of manga, Princess Knight has been long considered one of Tezuka's most popular works worldwide.
Softcover, 5x8, 384pgs, B&W $13.95

Friday, July 29, 2011

On the legal news of the day...

And you can't find it either in the no-talent fools
That run around gallant
And make all rules for the ones that got talent
And it ain't in the ones that ain't got any talent but think they do
And think they're foolin' you
Bob Dylan, Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie, 1963

Well, not good news on the legal front, as a judge handed down a summary ruling siding against the Jack Kirby heirs in their attempt to terminate the transfer of copyright on the characters Kirby created between 1958 and 1963 that were published by Marvel, including The Fantastic Four, Thor and Hulk. I don't have any legal expertise, so I don't pretend to understand all the legal issues involved, and my bias on the case is probably obvious. I imagine there'll be some type of appeal, which may reverse the whole thing, or at least let it get a full hearing in front of a jury. Despite what some people may say about judges dealing in facts, they very much do deal in opinion, they just happen to be opinions backed by the force of law. And as successful appeals and split Supreme Court verdicts repeatedly demonstrate, judges given the exact same evidence can come up with polar opposite decisions.

But there's no question that the latest decision, like many prior ones for similar cases, raises the hurdle for the side I favour in this case, and it may well be that the law as written isn't on the side of creator rights (from what I've read in the decision, this judge seems to think that, absent any supporting written contracts from the period, the onus should be on the Kirby estate to prove that the work was not work-for-hire as then defined, not on Marvel to prove that it was).  Sometimes, as a Mr. Dickens once wrote, "the law is a ass".  And as young Mr. Dylan observed almost fifty years ago, at the tail end of the period in question, it's the no-talent fools who make rules for the ones that got talent.  And as for "ones that ain't got any talent but think they do", well, 'nuff said.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Upcoming Comics - Dorkin's MILK & CHEESE

Pleasant surprise that Evan Dorkin is coming out with a comprehensive 240-page hardcover collection of his MILK & CHEESE series late this year from Dark Horse.  A great comic, one of my favourites of the 1990s, and it would be up there in the top 10 list of reprints for this already crowded with quality year, even before you get to all the great extras (see below) and the bargain $20 price.  Ordering code through comic stores is AUG110049.

Dorkin has some notes on what's going to be included over here.  Key bits:

- The book will feature over 80 pages of comics that have not been collected before.
- There will be a 24-pg color section featuring all the color M&C strips, a cover gallery, pin-ups, merchandise art, trading cards, etc.
- There will also be a 24-pg B&W supplemental section featuring pin-ups, t-shirt designs, and other art, etc.
- The book will include the rare 1997 M&C Special Edition 16-pg mini-comic featuring the expanded "Darth Vader Overdrive" strip and extras.

Upcoming Comics - Creator-themed EC collections

One of the best major publishing announcements in a while, Fantagraphics has announced that beginning next year they'll be publishing collections of the classic 1950s EC comics, with black and white hardcover collections with stories selected based on the creators, and then further subdivided by genre. The usual collection strategy for EC up to now has been to reprint the books by title, and for me this is a welcome change.  This is as close to my ideal EC reprint line as I could realistically expect.

The first four books announced are collections of Kurtzman written war stories (those he drew himself and a few drawn by non-regular EC artists like Gene Colan, Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Alex Toth and Ric Estrada), Wallace Wood's suspense stories, Jack Davis's horror stories and Al Williamson's science fiction and fantasy stories.  A great mix, with four great creators (plus a sampling of some other big names in the Kurtzman book) and hitting all the major genres as well.  I'll definitely get all of those, and look forward to the future books (especially the Graham Ingels books).  At the size these books are, there's enough material for about 40 to 50 volumes, a good solid decade of publishing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

TEEN ANGELS & NEW MUTANTS by Stephen R. Bissette

TEEN ANGELS & NEW MUTANTS is a recently published book by Stephen R. Bissette which examines in depth (as in 400 pages in depth) the early 1990s series BRAT PACK by Rick Veitch and later related works in Veitch's "King Hell Heroica" (which I discussed briefly over here after re-reading a few months ago prior to reading TEEN ANGELS).  The book began as a supplemental essay to appear in a planned but unrealized deluxe edition of BRAT PACK, but grew far beyond that as an independent publication.

Bissette places BRAT PACK in the middle of a web of historical contexts, tracing the strands further back than you'd expect, into some dark recesses of pop culture and history, and also tracing them forward into the present day and the types of work that have followed, either directly or as independent spawns of the zeitgeist it reflected. Bissette is probably uniquely qualified to author such a study, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the key aspects of pop culture threads (in particular exploitation cinema and comic book history) and a first-hand knowledge of the personal threads, thanks to his long personal and professional connections with Veitch.  That connection comes in especially useful in the most interesting aspect of the book to me, the long gestation and evolution period for the book, in particular a look at the initial proposals for the series and negotiations for it to be published by DC.

Overall it's a very enjoyable book for anyone interested in comics history, whether they've read BRAT PACK or not (though you definitely should). It's a fascinating read which will add dozens of movies and books to your list of what to watch and read and might make you look at some old favourites in a different light.

(for those who haven't read BRAT PACK, or need a refresher, an appendix helpfully supplies a synopsis of it and the rest of the Heroica, including notes on changes made between the original serialization and the subsequent collections.  You can also download a free PDF of the first issue here)

As you'd expect if you've read BRAT PACK, one of the major strands to trace involves comic book history, in particular the history of the teen side-kick in comics.  Bissette goes into that in depth, including several characters even I've never heard of before (some of whom, fortunately, are in the public domain so I should be able to check out a sample of their adventures when I have the time). The other major aspect of comic book history that Bissette explores is the controversy in 1950s comics embodied by Fredric Wertham and leading the the self-censoring of the industry via the Comics Code.  Bissette looks at the full range of Wertham's writing, both before and after his most famous work SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, and presents an even-handed assessment of the Wertham's methodology, aims and conclusions that you don't always get from a more casual look at comics history.

In addition to comics history, the book also looks at the wider evolution of the teenager in pop culture iconography in the 20th century, with an emphasis on cinema. As you'd expect if you're familiar with Bissette's film writing, he doesn't restrict himself to the Hollywood mainstream (although that's all thoroughly covered), but includes key examples from international and underground works as well, examining key breakthroughs in those areas and how they paved the way for later mainstream exploitation of the same themes. There are also similar examinations of key works in prose, and most surprisingly to me were the extensive notes on the pop music industry and how the use and exploitation of teen and younger celebrities in that field echo the aspects of comic book culture that Veitch was parodying in BRAT PACK.

To me, the most fascinating thread that Bissette follows is the personal one, tracing Veitch's own journey in comics and how it informed the eventual creation of the "Heroica". As Bissette explains, Veitch has had a unique career trajectory which has very much made him a nexus of many of the key events in comic book history for the last few decades, with work in the undergrounds, breaking into the mainstream while one of the students in the first class of Joe Kubert's school, working on some of the first fully creator-owned books published by Marvel, then as one of the key creators in the innovative DC books of the 1980s which led to the creation of Vertigo, and then in the 1990s having a variety of roles in things like Tundra, the self-publishing movement and more.  Bissette was, of course, alongside Veitch for many of these events, either as an active participant or an observer, so he can speak about them as an insider, adding a lot of colour and detail to the events. Especially interesting is the look at the evolution of BRAT PACK, thanks to Bissette's examination of some early proposals and documents in the negotiations which almost led to it being published by DC's Piranha Press imprint. Of course Veitch's later problems with DC made that arrangement impossible, and very much informed how the series changed from those proposals.

Bissette absolutely makes the case for BRAT PACK as a major (and unfortunately under-rated) work, and uses it as a hook to examine many other interesting aspects of pop culture.  Hopefully this will be only the first of many books of comic book history and criticism that he publishes.

(Bissette also has a helpful page of supplemental information, ordering info, reviews and comments on the book over here)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Upcoming Comics - Zulli's FRACTURE

Hopefully this time for sure, Michael Zulli's THE FRACTURE OF THE UNIVERSAL BOY is set to come out from Eidolon Fine Arts.  From the sounds of it this edition will be quite a step up in production quality from the previously solicited version, well worth the modest increase in price.  Been looking forward to this one for a long time.  First I've heard it's part of a trilogy...

If ordering from a comic shop, the Diamond order code is JUL111105.  The ISBN is 9780983513803, though it doesn't seem to show up on the listings of the major booksellers yet, but should soon.


After twenty odd years making art and comics, Zulli believes that there are universal truths to be found amid the struggle and calling to make art, and indeed, to life itself. Often brutal, sometimes a bit funny, and always surreal as it examines life from a different perspective, The Fracture of the Universal Boy is Zulli's personal reflection on love, life and art; and both the damage done and the possibility of transcending even the most dire and difficult of times. Part one of a three graphic novel set called The Dream Suite, Zulli's The Fracture of the Universal Boy is the beginning of a journey we all take in one way or another."

Gene Colan, R.I.P.

Comic book artist Gene Colan has passed away. Mark Evanier has some initial thoughts here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Linkses, and a few words of mostly disinterest in the DC shuffle

Jim Lawson is posting his dinosaur comic PALEO: LONER (a continuation of the 8-issue series he previously published).

Speaking of thunder lizards, a Tyrant illustration used as a beer label by Steve Bissette.

Evan Dorkin draws J. Jonah Jameson in the original Spider-Slayer robot.

Tell Donna Barr how you're going to die, and she'll draw it for you.

Comic book sales for May 2011, not too surprisingly, down. Seems like a good time for a reboot.  As you've probably read everywhere else by now, DC is releasing 52 first issues in September.  The only one of the books I'd consider getting in the serialized version, if I was going to a comic shop on any regular basis, is the new Superman series written by George Perez, mostly from a two-decade old affection for his work on Wonder Woman, and my interest is tempered down more than slightly by the costume redesign, which seems very inelegant compared to the classic version. I suppose if I hear really good things I might pick up a collection down the line. A few of the other books I might check out if my local library gets copies of the collections, but many of them I don't know if I'd read even if they're free.

A lot has been made about the almost complete lack of any female creators in the line, which is definitely a problem.  One other thing that sticks out, as far as I can tell only one of the 52 books is being written or drawn by anyone who had a hand in creating the character or concept (RESURRECTION MAN written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who I believe co-created the character, and not counting the occasional member of a team book who may have been created by the current writer or artist).  Obviously for most of the classic characters the creators are deceased or retired, but there are a few more modern characters whose creators are still active, and I guess it just seems a bit sad that in 52 books they didn't find room for at least one brand new concept.  I guess such a thing would be a hard sell in the current market, and almost sure to be among the group of the titles to open with weak sales and swift cancellation.

More importantly, though, SHOWCASE PRESENTS GHOSTS VOLUME 1!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Upcoming Comics - The Bible by Mayer&Co

I should get around to posting about stuff that actually came out that I've read someday. There's some good stuff. Until then...

Here's something I wasn't expecting. A hardcover reprint of the 1975 book of Old Testament stories by Sheldon Mayer, Nester Redondo and Joe Kubert, published by DC in their old tabloid format. I wonder if someone saw the sales on Robert Crumb's GENESIS and figured if they could get even a fraction of that it would be worthwhile. Anyway, enjoyable comic, definitely worth a look.  Wonder if we'll ever see the material prepared for unpublished follow-up volumes.  Mayer and Redondo did at least some work on a New Testament book.  And despite the cover, the published book didn't get as far as Moses, although I don't know if any work was done on continuing the Old Testament story.


For the first time ever, DC reprints the 1975 comics adaptation of the Bible, featuring the earliest chapters of the book of Genesis, including the stories of The Garden of Eden, the Flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah! Don't miss this once in a lifetime hardcover edition!

64pg.Color Hardcover $29.99
On Sale February 29, 2012

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Upcoming Comics - Amelia Rules v7 by Gownley

Good to see that the new format for Jimmy Gownley's AMELIA RULES series is continuing at a steady pace (plus new printings of all the books with a new consistent trade dress).  The seventh book, a 160-page original volume, comes out in September.

Amelia Rules Vol. 07: The Meaning of Life... And Other Stuff
by Jimmy Gownley

Some things in life seem so broken, they can't possibly be fixed, and just about everything is falling apart for Amelia. Aunt Tanner is away on tour; Amelia's spending more time in the principal's office; Joan's dad is injured just before he is supposed to come home; and Amelia's friends all seem to be moving in different directions. Amelia thinks G.A.S.P.'s clubhouse is beyond repair, but Turnip Brain says that when that happens, you need to pick up the pieces and make something new. Soon, Amelia sees the wisdom in Turnip Brain's words and realizes that things are not always as they seem and that the glue that allows us to make new things out of the old is love.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Upcoming Comics - Severin Fraggle Rock reprint

Pleasant surprise, Archaia is reprinting the Fraggle Rock comics done by Marie Severin and Stan Kay for Marvel in the 1980s, and at a very reasonable $10 for four issues.  I wrote about one of the included issues here long ago, and as you can see there Severin really did a bang-up job on the artwork, which will be good to see with better printing than 80s Marvel offered.  Hopefully there'll be a second volume soon (which would wrap up the 8 issue series), as those later issues are significantly harder to find and pricey.

Fraggle Rock Classics Vol. 01 SC
(Writer) Stan Kay (Artist) Marie Severin
Archaia Entertainment and The Jim Henson Company are proud to present a new reprinting of the original Fraggle Rock comic book series, which first debuted in 1985. Look back into the history of your favorite Fraggles with stories such as The Magic Time Machine, The Trouble With Being #1, The Monster That Could Be Anything and The Doozer Who Wanted to Be a Fraggle. Digitally remastered and beautifully bound in softcover for a new generation of Fraggle Rock fans, this series will make you want to dance your cares away-80s style!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Imagine how depressing it is now...

Seventy years old now.  Happy Birthday, Mr. Dylan.

Cartoon by Charles Schulz from forty years ago, of course.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I shall become a bat...

I'm not one for buying comic book based statuary, but I have to say that I'm tempted by this item coming out early next year.  Not $90 tempted, but close...

There's something to strike fear in the hearts of the superstitious and cowardly. That's a statue of the Bill Finger and Bob Kane creation Batman based on the work of Sergio Aragones, for those not familiar with the character or the artist.

This ain't too bad, neither:

Again, not $75 of interest, but not a bad rendition of the Len Wein / Bernie Wrightson creation Swamp Thing, based on the artwork of Gary Frank, who I don't think has any history with the character yet (but with recent publishing news that might change), but is a solid artist.  I sometimes regret not getting the earlier Swamp Thing statue based on Michael Zulli's painting of the character.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A reminder from a possum

A timely reminder to any fellow Canadians who may be reading this, Election Day is today. Unfortunately no Pogo on the ballot, and though I'm not sure I can entirely agree with the sentiment of the poster if you're planning to vote Conservative or some fool thing, high turnout is always good.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter and some links

Still surprises me that the Milton Caniff's work is so popular that there's a whole day set aside to celebrate Steve Canyon's sidekick, Happy Easter.

Meanwhile, all Steve gets is a big hole in Arizona named after him.

Ty Templeton makes sure we don't forget the true meaning of Easter, violence and rabbits.

A Walt Kelly Easter cover.

A little seen Swamp Thing cameo by George Perez.  Hey, Swamp Thing was there at the first Easter.  Sort of...

Beanworld fan The Naimis presents Beanworld Easter Eggs created with something called an Egg-Bot. 

Rick Veitch draws Doctor Strange.  That has nothing to do with Easter.  Well, Veitch did write a story about Swamp Thing at the first Easter.  Sort of...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Upcoming Comics - Sergio Aragones Funnies

Hm, I don't buy a lot of on-going comics, but here's one coming up from Bongo that I'm really tempted by...

By Sergio Aragones
Matt Groening proudly presents an all-new monthly series by the world's most famous and most honored cartoonist, Sergio Aragonés! Each issue offers an assortment of autobiographical anecdotes, perplexing puzzles, slap-happy short stories, as well as Sergio's unique and hilarious pantomimes and gags. With this new series, the world's most beloved cartoonist continues to prove that humor is truly a universal language!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

King Hell Heroica by Rick Veitch

The "King Hell Heroica" is the collective name for an unfinished series of inter-connected super-hero comics created and published by Rick Veitch, starting with BRAT PACK in 1990 (retroactively Book Four) and continuing through THE MAXIMORTAL (Book One) before ending, for now, with two issues of the BRAT PACK / MAXIMORTAL SUPER SPECIAL in 1996/1997.  The specials outline the projected full Heroica at the time, including two more books set between the existing books (BOY MAXIMORTAL (Book Two) and TRUE-MAN, THE MAXIMORTAL (Book Three)) and several more specials providing a meta-textual bridging structure and final conclusion to be collected as Book Five of the Heroica.

I read BRAT PACK as is came out and got the collected edition of THE MAXIMORTAL several years ago, but somehow missed the two Specials and didn't have too much luck finding them.  The recent publication of TEEN ANGELS & NEW MUTANTS, Steve Bissette's book-length treatise on BRAT PACK, gave me the impetus to finally pick up the collected edition of BRAT PACK (which is heavily revised from the original serialized version I'd read) and as fortune would have it I was able to find the Specials as well.  So, before getting to TEEN ANGELS I decided to (re-)read the published Heroica.

I guess there are multiple choices of where to start.  I chose to go with the published order, and start with BRAT PACK.  Originally a five-issue series, the collected edition makes several changes (dating back to the original collection in 1992, and which I see are helpfully outlined in an Appendix to TEEN ANGELS).  The major changes are some new scenes between each of the chapters, and a complete overhaul of the final chapter, with a new script and many art changes.  It's very odd reading the new stuff after living with the original through two decades and several re-readings.  I can see why Veitch made the changes, and I never was that happy with the original ending, always feeling that Veitch uncharacteristically pulled his punch at the last minute.  Plus the new ending makes the whole story fit better in the larger structure of the Heroica, if it's ever completed.  It's going to take me a while to digest the changes, but I think they're an improvement overall.

Anyway, I'm sure most people reading this far already know the general concept of BRAT PACK.  It's a cynical look at teen super-hero sidekicks, with ersatz versions of all the common archetypes that have populated American comics since the 1940s.  That's a rich field to plant a cynical take in, starting with the whole idea of adult heroes taking underage children out to fight crime, moving through the homoerotic overtones that many have found in the Batman/Robin relationship and culminating in the ultimate expression of cynicism, the "vote to kill Robin" gimmick published by DC not long before the original publication of BRAT PACK.

It's a variation of that last bit that Veitch opens with, a radio show in the city of Slumburg where the teen heroes of the city are mocked and vilified, leading to their death at the hands of Doctor Blasphemy.  The series then follows the recruitment and training of the inevitable replacements at the hands of the adult partners. A very dark and funny take on decades of super-hero cliche, even with the original ending it's always been among my favourite of Veitch's works. And as cynical as it seemed then, I think the path that super-hero comics have taken in the last two decades have pretty much vindicated Veitch's cynicism, to the point that parts of it no longer even feel like parody. Fortunately in the revised version, that final punch is no longer pulled, making it still vital and biting in this more cynical world.

It's not all about the parody, of course. Veitch creates some strong characters in his variations on the archetypes, with some really strong designs and artwork, and as he often is in his work he uses page design and structure to good effect, in this case often dividing two-page spreads into four half-pages, one for each sidekick, using the parallel structures to compare and contrast their stories.

THE MAXIMORTAL was originally serialized in seven issues, which I didn't read (partly because I'd heard of the major revisions made to BRAT PACK in the collection).  I don't think there were any similar changes made in this series, except that the originals were in colour, while the collection is in black and white.  I'm sure the colour was well done, but I don't miss it, and this fits in better with the rest of the Heroica.

The Maximortal of the title is True-Man, the Superman analog of this universe, who plays a minor but key role in BRAT PACK (moreso in the revised version).  His story winds up being intertwined with many aspects of the 20th century history, from an explosion in remote Russia to the development of the atom bomb, plus stories based on the history of super-hero comics, with fictionalized versions of the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (hopefully Veitch has fixed the spelling of "Shuster" in his closing essay in later printings).

I always thought MAXIMORTAL was a more uneven work than BRAT PACK.  It definitely has moments of brilliance, and gets points for never giving you what you expect, but overall it never felt like a cohesive work.  I suppose part of that might be that it's not, with those two book in the series left to do.  Still, there are some great parts, and I like the book overall.

And that brings us to the stories that are completely new to me, the two Super Specials.   These stories add an additional meta-textual level to the whole series, while also serving as bridging material between the books.  The first one expands on the ending of BRAT PACK, in particular the villain Doctor Blasphemy, while also looping around to provide the introduction to THE MAXIMORTAL, and the second bridges the gap between the end of that book and the beginning of the as-yet-unpublished BOY MAXIMORTAL.  Again, I have to commend Veitch for never doing what you'd expect, but have to withhold judgment on whether all of it works since, even more than THE MAXIMORTAL these are bits of an unfinished whole.  I am glad I finally tracked them down, though.

Well, those are some quick initial thoughts.  Look for more in a week or so after I finish TEEN ANGELS.

[took a bit longer than expected, but here's the TEEN ANGELS review.  Makes me want to re-read the entire Veitch catalog leading up to the Heroica before my next re-reading, after which I may get to that follow-up post]

Friday, April 01, 2011

Happy Sheldon Mayer Day

94 years ago today, Sheldon Mayer was born. How do Sugar and Spike feel about that?

It's always about the cake with kids, isn't it?  This year, of course, in addition to the cake his virtual kids can join us in celebrating the upcoming release of SUGAR & SPIKE ARCHIVES v1.  Just don't let the kids get too close to the book unattended, they'll probably try to eat it...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


BONE: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS is the latest available format for Jeff Smith's epic fantasy comic first serialized from 1991 to 2004. It's a lot less ambitious than the just announced upcoming colour One Volume hardcover editions (ranging from $150 to $1000), but that also makes it much more affordable.  This version, which appears to only have been released by the Canadian branch of Scholastic so far, is the first of three volumes and gathers the first three Bone books (OUT FROM BONEVILLE, THE GREAT COW RACE and EYES OF THE STORM, collectively known as "The Valley, or Vernal Equinox" in the One Volume edition) in colour and in hardcover, slightly larger than the previous Scholastic releases (almost but not quite back to the page size of the original comics).

I was pretty happy with the black and white One Volume Edition of Bone, that'll still always be my favourite way to see the artwork, though I was quite happy that the work was getting wider exposure in the colour books and thought the colouring by Steve Hamaker was very well done. When I saw that this version of it was a ridiculously cheap $16 I decided to check it out.  At worst it would make a good gift for a kid at some point. Well, it looks like I'll have to pick up another copy if I want to give it as a gift, because this is definitely the most satisfying format I've seen to actually read the book.  Much more comfortable to hold than the One Volume edition, and the larger image size is definitely a plus.

Hopefully they won't take too long to release the subsequent books, and after that I'd definitely be in the market for the various spin-off books in a matching format.  This is also the format I'd most recommend to anyone curious about trying the series, with the best balance of price and quality.  I don't know if the other branches of Scholastic are planning to release the series in this format, but they should.

(note the cover has a red foil Bone logo, which doesn't come through in the scan)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Upcoming Comics - Michael Zulli's FRACTURE

Update on one of the books on my 11 anticipated comics of 2011 post, Michael Zulli's FRACTURE OF THE UNIVERSAL BOY.  The softcover edition solicited to comic shops through Olympian Publishing was canceled, if you ordered that.  There will be a hardcover edition from Eidolon Fine Arts.  Right now you can order a signed copy with a signed print for $45 from the book's Kickstarter page (which has already reached its funding goal), along with getting your name in the book, with other editions and premiums for higher prices.  I assume ordering information for an unsigned edition without the print will be announced soon.

Several pages of art from the book at the Kickstarter page. Still really looking forward to this, glad it's managed to come back from whatever setbacks there were. Steve Bissette and Neil Gaiman both report having read advance copies from Zulli and speaking highly of it.

Upcoming Comics - Joe Simon autobiography

Upcoming from Titan, who have been publishing some great golden age S&K reprints authorized by Joe Simon and the Jack Kirby Estate, Simon has a 256-page hardcover autobiography coming out. 

Joe Simon: The Man Behind the Comics

In his own words, this is the life of Joe Simon, one of the most important figures in comics history and half of the famous creative team Simon and Kirby. Joe Simon co-created Captain America, star of this summer’s anticipated movie blockbuster, and was the first Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics (then known as Timely, where he hired Stan Lee for his first job in comics). He recounts the near-death of comics, the Congressional witch-hunts of the 1950s, and the scramble for creators to survive. In the process he reveals what it was like to bring comics out of their infancy, as they became an American art form.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dwayne McDuffie, R.I.P.

Just heard that writer Dwayne McDuffie passed away.  I first heard about it from J.M. Dematteis's post, and it's confirmed just about everywhere else.

While I read a few earlier things from him, the first time I really noticed McDuffie's writing was on the 1993 launch of the Milestone comics line, where he was one of the co-creators, co-owners and head writer of the launch books (writing ICON and HARDWARE solo and co-writing the first few issues of STATIC and BLOOD SYNDICATE). That was a great launch, with all four of the books being very good, with frequent moments of excellence throughout their runs.

McDuffie was also one of the earliest comic professionals to be active in the first on-line communities that I participated in, and I was always impressed by his frequent candor and quick wit.

On the strength of the Milestone work I picked up some of his earlier work.  I especially enjoyed the three DAMAGE CONTROL series he created at Marvel with artist Ernie Colon, a clever concept (a company that specializes in handling repairs after super-hero battles) well realized and integrated into the Marvel Universe, showing a real understanding of the characters while writing them in a sharply different context and style.

He was also one of the writers on a new version of the character Deathlok, co-writing a mini-series and writing about half of the first two years of an on-going series.  There were some uneven bits, but there were also a lot of clever ideas and real heart in the series, and you can see the seeds of some of the ideas that would later be more fully realized in the Milestone work.

He also did an amusing 4-issue storyline in DC's THE DEMON in 1992, playing off the presidential election that year, and with some really good scenes with Superman.

A lot of McDuffie's work in the last decade has been in animation, probably most notably various incarnations of the Justice League cartoon, but for me most importantly four seasons of the STATIC SHOCK cartoon, bringing the character from the Milestone comics to the screen.  I really liked the show whenever I saw it (unfortunately for some reason it only showed sporadically up in Canada), and there were several great episodes, including the McDuffie scripted "Static In Africa", which featured the debut of a new hero named Anansi.

To close, a bit more on one of the Milestone books, the one I pulled out to read when I heard the news.  ICON #42 [1997] is the last issue of the series, and has always been one of the most remarkably beautiful super-hero comics that I've ever read, and has only grown moreso with time, it's able to bring a tear to my eye even on a good day, and re-reading it today I had to stop a few times to keep it together.  It features Raquel Ervin, the super-hero Rocket and partner of the title character, having to deal with the death of her grandmother (and is dedicated to who I assume is McDuffie's own grandmother, who passed away shortly before it was published). As much as I loved it when it first came out, I don't think I really understood it until my grandfather passed away two years ago and it was one of the first things I read after that. McDuffie manages to weave together elements that are heartbreaking with elements that are funny, and most of all elements that are real, into a perfect package. And then, in the middle, he puts in something that shouldn't work, a bit that strikes right at the heart of the super-hero genre that this story is almost entirely outside of, and he makes it work. I can't really describe it in a way that does it justice, but read it if you get a chance.

The issue closes with her great-aunt remarking on how much Raquel looks like her grandmother at that age, and saying "She ain't all of her gone, neither".  So looking at the wealth of comics and cartoons with McDuffie's name on them, I'll just echo that.

He ain't all of him gone, neither.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Valentine Cards 1967

Valentine Card feature page from SUGAR AND SPIKE #69 [1967], by Sheldon Mayer.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Busy Corners

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Busy Corners
Sugar & Spike #1 [1956]
6 pages
Reprints: The Best of DC #47 [1984], Sugar & Spike No. 1 Replica Edition [2002]
Dedication: None

One of my favourite Sugar & Spike stories is from the very first issue, this story that introduces Sugar's Uncle Charley, her mother's younger brother, a traffic cop who frequently visits to play with his niece, who adores him because "he's only grown up where it shows".  Spike is initially jealous, but is quickly won over by Charley's charm.

This story sets the pattern for most of the future Uncle Charley stories, where his ideas of how to handle children infuriate Sugar's mother, then seem to work, and then ultimately backfire because for all his trying, the children don't really understand what he's saying, but love him anyway.

Among other things, this story has the first appearance of one of my favourite lines, one Mayer liked enough to use a few times over the years.  "If people don't want their things busted, they shouldn't leave 'em lying around on the ceiling!"

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mrs. Plumm, Uncle Charley
Damage: one new chandelier and everything on the living room table
Punishment: Two trips into an increasingly crowded corner

"What's he talking about?"
"I don't know, but pay attention or you'll hurt his feelings!"

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Little Giants

The Chronicles of Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike

Little Giants
Sugar & Spike #27 [1960]
6 pages
Reprints: The Best of DC #47 [1984]
Dedication: Mrs. Marjorie Lane (age 21 plus), California

Spike is a bit of a pest while his mother tries to talk to Sugar's mother.  Sugar's mother suggests something that she learned from the baby-book that works for Sugar, letting the kids play as giants in a miniature world.  They decide to let Spike try it, and then Sugar explains her interpretation of the toys, and how she feels about their mothers ignoring them. All of this serves to dissipate the anger the kids have, though perhaps not for the reason the adults think.

This was among the earliest Sugar&Spike stories I read, through the 1980s digest reprint, and not really one of my favourites back then.  Not sure why, but I do like it a bit better now, especially some of Sugar's dialogue when explaining things to Spike.  There are also some clever bits in the art which are much easier to appreciate at full size.

Characters: Sugar, Spike, Mrs. Plumm, Mrs. Wilson
Damage: Hopefully the dolls are waterproof
Punishment: The dolls get treated harshly
Sugar's treatment of Spike: He gets a doll smacked out of his hand and yelled at a bit, but suffers much more from the coffee dumped on his head

"Whenever I'm in the mood to play with it, I make a real pest of myself until she gets it out"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sugar&Spike - FLRJ!

Oh sure, I like the "GLX", and always get a chuckle out of "SPTZL", and don't mind "GLAAH" one bit. Even the lesser known "SHMZL" and "GLBSH" I have affection for. But my favourite bit of Sheldon Mayer created baby-talk, by a long shot? No competition, it's:

In case you have trouble with Spike's accent, here it is from Sugar:

Ah, FLRJ! I don't know what it means, but it's a word the kids usually use when they're upset and arguing. Whatever it means, I suspect when they say FLRJ that's one of the rare times they're lucky their parents don't understand the baby-talk, because that would be a one-way trip into the corner.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sugar&Spike - Unused 1971 book proposal

Back in 1971, Mayer did some material as a proposal for a book collection of comics as THE POCKET-SIZE TREASURY OF SUGAR AND SPIKE STORIES.

It didn't come out, of course. Too early, I guess. Just had to wait another 40 years. Still, a nice cover. This copy of it is from COMIC BOOK ARTIST #11 [2001] from TwoMorrows, a flip-book issue with one side devoted to Sheldon Mayer (guest edited by Bill Alger) and the other to Alex Toth (an artist who Mayer hired back in the 1940s). You should try to find a copy if you're interested in Mayer's work. TwoMorrows is sold out of the print edition, but has a digital version available.
Weblog by BobH [bobh1970 at gmail dot com]