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Tuesday, December 31, 2013


DAN SPIEGLE: A LIFE IN COMIC ART is a recent book by John Coates about the now 93-year-old artist whose career stretches back to a long stint on the Hopalong Cassidy comic strip from 1949-1955, followed by a long stretch as one of the main adventure artists for Western Publishing until the 1980s, working on many film adaptations, Tarzan stories and his co-creation SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON. I'm mostly familiar with his work from the 1980s, where he drew long runs on BLACKHAWK and CROSSFIRE (both with Mark Evanier) and the "Nemesis" backup feature in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (with Cary Burkett). While he hasn't been as active in mainstream comics since the early 1990s, he has stayed busy with several projects (a lot of which I didn't know about until I read this book), as well as doing commissions for fans (his art agent's site is here).

The bulk of the text of this book is a recent long interview of Spiegle by Coates (plus a reprint of an earlier short 1972 interview by Dan Gheno), which provides a timeline for the illustrations.  There are some great recent drawings in the beginning where he provides the layout for the chicken farm his family owned in 1930 and the pharmacy his father opened in 1934. Those show a great flair for realism and establishing an accurate sense of place that served him well in the type of comics he'd draw. There's nothing too deep in the interview, a few amusing anecdotes but mostly just Spiegle doing a professional job, sometimes on scripts he wasn't that enthusiastic about.

It was good to see a lot of examples of his pre-1980s work, which I'm only slightly familiar with. It would be great to see some sort of reprint of some of the best of those (as far as I know the only real reprint has been some over-priced books of SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON stories, which I hope Spiegle is getting something for, although he didn't even know they existed until Coates mentioned them). I'll definitely need to get a few more samples of that stuff. It was also interesting to see bits of his more recent work, including a TERRRY AND THE PIRATES strip and a western story published in a 2011 book that I didn't know about.

In addition to the interview, the book also has a few short essays by Spiegle, his wife Marie and their children, which gives a nice peek as the part of his life off the page, pieces by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones about how they went from fans of his work, without knowing his name, to friends and colleagues.

There's also a good selection of his recent work on commissions for fans, featuring samples from all the big highlights of his career. I especially like a few of the Blackhawk pieces.

Overall a very enjoyable book, although unfortunately far too short to really give more than an overview of a career as vast as Spiegle's. I know it's given me a few books I have to dig up.

Friday, December 27, 2013

RAGEMOOR by Strnad & Corben

RAGEMOOR collects a four issue 2012 series by Richard Corben and Jan Strnad. It's Loveraftian horror, and sometimes I'm kind of tired of comics going to the Lovecraft well too often, but few do it as effectively as Corben. There wasn't that much new in the writing, but it was an effective vehicle for some creepy Corben images. I'm not quite sold on the grey toning on the artwork, which seems to be an attempt to replicate on a computer what Corben used to do with an airbrush. I think I'd have preferred pure black and white.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

SAGA v1 & v2 by Staples & Vaughan

SAGA VOLUME ONE and SAGA VOLUME TWO collectively reprint the first dozen issues of the currently on-gong series by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan.  I read the first issue when it came out and thought it was okay and figured I might check it out later, but was a bit surprised at how enthusiastic fans of the book seemed to be. Vaughan's usual trend always seemed to be that his books didn't live up to the promise of his first issues. Anyway, these two books are a nice and pleasant quick read. Staples artwork is definitely the highlight, with a lot of imaginative and distinctive designs and crystal clear storytelling. For the most part Vaughan holds up his bit, with a few stumbles (I especially don't like his tendency to do the big cliffhanger ending, often with a much less satisfying resolution, which probably works better reading the book serialized with a month between cliffhanger and resolution). The biggest problem is that his writing seems vast and expansive on the surface, but so far seems to be a mile wide but about an inch deep. It's quite possible that he's thought through a lot of his concepts and will reveal those things in time, but a dozen issues in and there's not much evidence of that, and given his history (including my regrettable and I'll admit somewhat inexplicable decision to watch every episode of UNDER THE DOME this past summer) I'm not sure I have faith in that. At this point the Staples art still makes it worth reading, and if I can get future volumes from the library or buy them for $5 digitally (both of which I ended up doing for these two) than I'll stick around.

Friday, December 13, 2013


MIND MGMT v1 - THE MANAGER collects the first 7 issues (1-6 & 0) of the currently on-going series by Matt Kindt. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I'd read the first issue back when it came out, and wasn't really that taken with it. I liked the artwork, and the whole package was very well designed and stylish, but I don't think I got enough of the story. Fortunately the "#0" issue (made up of three short stories) was available free digitally, so I tried that and it made the series look much deeper and more interesting than I thought, so I figured I'd try it again with a bigger chunk. It still starts off a bit slow, but slightly more satisfying knowing the bits of backstory presented in the short stories, but by the third chapter it really picks up, once all the concepts are in place, and it's suddenly a fast moving and intriguing adventure.

The basic story here is that a writer named Meru is investigating a flight from several years ago where all the passengers and crew lost their memories. The trail leads her to similar occurrences, and eventually into a massive secret world of paranormal activity and conspiracies that she may have been involved in all along. I look forward to reading the future issues and seeing if any of this resolves in a satisfactory way (and sprawling stories of conspiracies and secret organizations do have a history of not paying off, which having LOST co-creator Damon Lindelof writing the introduction kind of underscores). I'll also have to try some of Kindt's other comics.

It's also one of the best designed books I've seen in a while, which is very nice compared to the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all school that applies to most modern comic book collections. You get the feeling that every aspect here was carefully considered, and it doesn't look like any other book.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


THE ROCKETEER: HOLLYWOOD HORROR is a collection of a recent 4-issue series by Roger Langridge and J. Bone, continuing the adventures of the Dave Stevens created character. I thought Langridge did a decent enough job on the story, adding a few more pop culture references to the mix that Stevens started, but I'm really not sold on Bone's cartoony art style for the series. I don't expect or even want an artist on the series to slavishly copy Stevens' art style, but I think I'd prefer someone to at least be on the same side of McCloud's pyramid. Overall pretty unsatisfying, but to be fair I'm not sure I'm the market for non-Stevens Rocketeer stories. I did think the Walter Simonson covers were terrific, though.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


CONAN - QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST. [VOLUME 13] collects some of the recent comic book adventures of the Robert E. Howard barbarian, these ones by writer Brian Wood, with Becky Cloonan drawing the first half and James Harren drawing the rest. I'm a dabbler in the whole Conan thing, getting the urge to read something every few years, and this one looked interesting. Generally I like my Conan in the "John Buscema inked by Ernie Chan" school, so this artwork definitely took some getting used to. Cloonan was just growing on me by the time her story was over.  Still not sure it works completely, but I'd like to see her style on a more traditional Conan story (one not set mostly on boats, that is). Harren had more typical Conan stuff to illustrate, and did fine with it. I didn't care for Wood's writing as much. As I understand it, the first half is a pretty direct adaptation of the first part of the Howard story of the title, while the second half is an original story filling in the period before the end of the story, which will be adapted later (and which I'm pretty sure I've read in the Buscema/Chan version in a previous dabble into Conan, in Marvel's CONAN #100). That first half is okay, but unclear at points. The original half, that didn't really read like any Conan I'm familiar with. There's some weird and infeasible robbery and escape plan, and then some generally implausible plot twists. Not very satisfying at all. Hopefully my next foray into Conan (which will probably be the long-delayed, still unscheduled GROO/CONAN crossover) is more enjoyable.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


SPUMCO COMIC BOOK collects some stories created for a 1990s anthology from animator John Kricfalusi and his studio. Kricfalusi is best known for the cartoon REN & STIMPY. I don't think I've ever sat through a complete one of those cartoons, so obviously I'm not the target market (so obviously this is a library one). For the most part I thought the stories were over-long for their simplistic plots, had too many gags that would have worked better animated (and even there would have been pretty cliché at this point) and just weirdly gross, but not in a good way. I think I might have genuinely laughed twice while reading the book, which is a pretty low success rate.  If you love REN & STIMPY or think characters like George Liquor and Jimmy The Idiot Boy are inherently funny than it'll probably work for you.

Monday, December 09, 2013

AUGUSTA WIND by DeMatteis & Gogtzilas

THE ADVENTURES OF AUGUSTA WIND collects a 5-issue series by J. M. DeMatteis and Vassilis Gogtzilas, the first storyline in what's planned to be a longer story about the title character. Dematteis has had a few go-rounds with the all-ages fantasy genre before, including ABADAZAD and IMAGINALIS, and if you liked those (and I did) you'll probably like this (which I also did). It's hard to describe quickly, so maybe it'll get a longer post later. Gogtzilas is a pretty interesting artist. I guess the quick shorthand way to describe his work in American comics terms would be Sam Kieth as inked by Bill Sienkiewicz, but there's a whole lot more going on. Not the easiest book to read, both the art and story require you to slow down and pay attention, but there's a lot there to reward you if you do.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

MARCH - BOOK ONE by Lewis, Aydin & Powell

MARCH - BOOK ONE is the first part of a three-part autobiography of John Lewis, written with Andrew Aydin and drawn by Nate Powell. Lewis is a long-time member of the US congress, but long before that he was a leader in the civil rights movement. In this first book he lays the foundation for his future life with stories about growing up in Alabama and how he became aware of the wider world, the changes that were coming and the role he could play in them. This first book only brings his story up to 1960 and the desegregation of lunch counters in Nashville, with the iconic "march" of the title still years away and just shown briefly in the prologue. A great story so far, and effectively told, it seems to be doing well that I hope the later volumes follow quickly. Until then, I guess I could read Lewis' older, more traditional memoirs. And Nate Powell's other books look pretty interesting.

Saturday, December 07, 2013


SUPERMAN VOLUME 1 - WHAT PRICE TOMORROW? collects the first six issues of the current SUPERMAN series, part of the publisher's "New 52" branded reboot of 2011.  This was the only one of the launch books I was really interested in, since it was written by George Perez who I'll always have a soft spot for. Mostly for his art, of course, which isn't seen much in here (just the covers and some breakdowns), but also some of his writing. It starts off pretty good, one of the more readable of the "New 52" things I've tried (my library's gotten a lot of them, most didn't leave much of an impression, a lot of them I stopped halfway through). Nothing spectacular, but solid single issue stories which build up a menace and also try to establish some of the new backstory. It all falls apart a bit in the second half, but you can't really blame that on Perez.  I didn't really follow all the behind-the-scenes stuff, but I gather he didn't feel he was getting to tell his story the way he wanted, and left the series after these issues to just draw. There's also some mild chaos with the art, with first-issue artist Jesus Merino only drawing three chapters, the other three drawn by Nicola Scott. Both are okay, I actually preferred Scott's work. She seems to come closest to making the ill-advised current version of the costume for Siegel and Shuster's creation work. I'll have to keep an eye out for her work on something else interesting in the future.

Friday, December 06, 2013


GODDAMN THIS WAR (PUTAIN DE GUERRE) is the latest translation of Jacques Tardi's work into English, this time a six chapter chronicle of World War I, one for each year from 1914 to 1919, from the perspective of a French foot soldier. It starts off a bit slow, but picks up quickly as all of the insanity and stupidity of war being to wear on the already cynical narrator. That's also seen in the art, which starts off with a lot of bright colours with the shiny new uniforms and green fields, but quickly shifts to more muted tones, with occasional use of brighter colours. Definitely worth reading, especially the last chapter, which breaks format and mostly just tells single panel stories about people caught in the war. A few bits of the script seemed off, like the comparison of backed up ambulances to "cabs in a New York traffic jam", which I'm not sure is a metaphor a French soldier in 1918 would make, but I might be wrong, and those are minor issues. Probably my favourite of the Tardi books I've read.  This edition also includes a long year-by-year chronology of the war by Jean-Pierre Verney, heavily illustrated with photographs, which I haven't read, but a quick glance at the photos is an interesting look at the research material Tardi would have had for his story, and I'm sure supply some welcome material for those interested in the background of the battles shown from the foot soldier's point of view in the comics.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

ETHEL & ERNEST by Briggs

ETHEL & ERNEST: A TRUE STORY is a 1998 book by Raymond Briggs, telling the story of the life his parents shared from their meeting in 1928 to their deaths in 1971, most of that time spent in the same house they bought shortly after their marriage. This was a great book, one of the best I've read in years, I'm sorry it somehow took me fifteen years to get around to reading it. I've read some of Briggs' children's books before (and in fact found this one while looking to get a copy of one of Christmas books as a gift), but not his handful of adult books. I'll be sure to remedy that soon. He does a great job weaving the history of England in the mid-20th Century with the lives of his parents, with a lot of interesting observations about the social and technological changes they faced, bits that are amusing when you know where history will lead, lots of unexpected callbacks, some of them very subtle. The story is told in a lot of short anecdotes, sometimes only a few panels long, but each building on the last to make a complex portrait that'll break your heart as it leads to the inevitable end. And the art is just gorgeous, evoking the period perfectly.

Been a while...

Hm, lots of virtual dust.  It's been a while.  Maybe I'll see if I still have any desire to post here, or should scrap the whole thing. Well, I guess I'll leave it up because there might be a handful of links out there to some posts, and it would be rude to leave them hanging...

Here are a few of the things I've read in the past month or so, mostly sitting in a pile waiting for me to either stick on a bookshelf or return to the library, that I might write about soon (a few of the posts are already written, actually, but I figure I post so infrequently I might as well spread them out). If anyone is still reading, feel free to let me know if there's anything below you'd like me to weigh in on with a quick ten minute review:

EC creator-based anthologies (Kurtzman, Williamson, Wood)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Rick Geary has carved out an interesting niche for himself in comics, building up a library of true crime books, starting in 1987 with A TREASURY OF VICTORIAN MURDER (looking at three cases), continuing with the Victorian era in 1995 with JACK THE RIPPER and then seven more books focusing on individual cases until 2007, and then moving on to the next century with THE LINDBERGH CHILD in 2008 and subsequent books.  The 2011 release THE LIVES OF SACCO AND VANZETTI is thus the 13th overall book in the overall series, and the fourth with the "A Treasury of XXth Century Murder" banner.

For this installment, Geary looks at a 1920 armed robbery in Massachusetts that left two men dead,  and the subsequent arrest, conviction and 1927 execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti for the crimes. The case was very famous at the time, with quite a few people convinced the decision was a miscarriage of justice. I'm mostly familiar with it from the Woody Guthrie album BALLADS OF SACCO AND VANZETTI, which as you might expect falls squarely on the "miscarriage of justice" side.

Geary, as is his wont, takes a much more clinical look at the case, first presenting the armed robbery and subsequent police search that led to the arrest of Sacco and Vanzetti, then detailing the backgrounds of the two men from their births in Italy through their immigration to the US and involvement in radical anarchist politics before moving on to the trial, the long appeals process (and the questions about the trial process in Massachusetts that were raised there), the eventual execution and aftermath.

This was a very entertaining book, maybe my favourite of the series. It does a great job of evoking the era, outlining the issues involved and keeping it all a good read as well, and Geary's art has been consistently excellent for decades.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

More Library Comics

Some more stuff recently read from the library. Exhausted the currently available 20th CENTURY BOYS, not that eager to finish it up. Took a look at the new edition of ADOLF to see if it'll be worth an upgrade. Kind of liked Alan Moore & Co.'s TOP TEN, less so the related books. And not as impressed with the second FATALE book.

Sitting around waiting to be read, THE HEART OF THOMAS, THE UNDERWATER WELDER, THE NEW DEADWARDIANS and some more DC "New 52" books.

Friday, April 12, 2013

ON THE ROPES by Vance & Burr

ON THE ROPES is the new book by James Vance and Dan Burr, a continuation of the story of Fred Bloch  from their earlier book KINGS IN DISGUISE.

KINGS was serialized in six parts from Kitchen Sink in 1988-1989, and collected, along with a short story from DARK HORSE PRESENTS #42, in a single volume in 1990. In that 1990 book, Vance outlines the genesis of the book in a stage play he wrote in 1979:
The result was a bizarre pastiche of Depression-era leftist melodrama called On the Ropes. Set in 1937, it was crammed with characters drawn from the icons of that period:  WPA artists and performers, labor agitators, messianic Communists, sociopathic strikebreakers, and the inevitable tough-but-tender-hearted female journalist. To make things more frenetic, I threw in an escape artist with a death wish, and more onstage violence than any two Jacobean tragedies.
Fred Bloch was a secondary character in that play, and Vance's desire to expand the character led him to write KINGS IN DISGUISE, first as a play, and later as a comic, featuring the character in 1932, a poor boy from California who winds up on a journey across the early Depression-era America with a hobo named Sam who claims to be the King Of Spain in disguise.

KINGS was a great book, so I was glad to hear that Vance had decided to go full circle and return to the ON THE ROPES story for a sequel, presumably greatly modified since Bloch is definitely the main character now (but all the elements described above are present), along with Burr on the artwork. Maybe slightly wary in addition to glad, since the track record of creators returning to a beloved world after decades away isn't great, but maybe somewhat surprisingly I always lean towards the optimistic side.

This might be one of the few times that such a return results in a superior book to the original. I'm not prepared to say that definitively yet, since I've only read it once, but it definitely stands with the original. The writing is sharp, capturing the various "icons of that period" in a complex story involving real events of the labour movement of that era, not sugar-coating some of the harsh realities of that time.

Burr's artwork is definitely much improved from the already high quality he showed back in the 1980s. His characters are a lot more natural and less stiff than in the earlier book, and the facial expressions get a lot of emotion across in more subtle ways than they did before.

Definitely worth taking a look at, whether you've read KINGS IN DISGUISE or not (it was republished a few years ago in an inexpensive updated edition with an introduction by Alan Moore. I didn't pick it up before, but seeing how nice a package W.W. Norton puts together I'm tempted to upgrade). Vance mentioned in his introduction to KINGS that the evolution of the story included a brief attempt to write a story of Fred Bloch fifteen years after these events, so maybe someday we'll see another book. Hopefully in less than a quarter century.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Carmine Infantino, R.I.P.

I'll add some more on my appreciation of Carmine Infantino's work later, but for now here's an issue of THE FLASH that he signed for me at a convention a few years ago.  It was nice to have a chance to tell him how much I liked his work.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Newly acquired books 2013.04.04

Minimal number of additions to the vast Four Realities Archives, aka the stacks of printed paper which will one day bury me, since the last post three months ago. I'm really  hoping to minimize the effects of that burying, so there are also a few digital acquisitions below.



The second of the new series of creator themed EC collections, this features Wood's 26 crime and horror stories published from 1950 to 1954. Some great stuff, like "Confession", I've read about half this stuff before, and I'm looking forward to the rest. Really looking forward to the Al Williamson volume, which is running a few months late.

Dave McKean's wordless "erotic graphic novel" from a few years ago, I never picked it up before because I wasn't sure I'd like it. I loved CAGES, but what I loved most in it was the dialogue. My plan was to wait for a softcover or for the library to get a copy, neither of which has happened, so I finally broke down and picked up the hardcover. Seems pretty enigmatic from a quick leaf through, have to see how it actually reads.

The latest issue of the long-running magazine, now apparently coming out once every year or two with a very thick package.  I usually just leaf through my brother's copy of TCJ, but I got a copy of this one since I'm quoted a bit in an article about the Mouly/Spiegelman edited TOON TREASURY, specifically about one of my five favourite topics, Sheldon Mayer comics.  Interesting selection of features, with interviews with Maruice Sendak and Jacques Tardi, comics by Joe Sacco and Lewis Trondheim and articles on a variety of comics. I really don't like the distracting formatting used for the text on some of the articles (an article on Robert Crumb is made to look like a set of old typewritten and photocopied sheets, an article about the 1950s public backlash against horror and crime comics is made to look like old newspaper articles taped in a scrapbook), which only makes them harder to read without adding any real content. It'll take a while to get through everything interesting in here, but then it'll probably be a longer while before the next issue.

THE COMICS V23 #9 [2012]
THE COMICS V23 #10 [2012]
The two most recent issues of Robin Snyder's long-running newsletter, the most recent issues feature Ron Goulart's on-going biography of Artie Saaf, whose work I'm not too familiar with. I mostly know him from some of his 1970s work for DC, but he had an extensive career Golden Age career for publishers like Standard. I don't know if much of that stuff has been reprinted in modern times. #9 also included the first installment of Steve Ditko's THE FOUR-PAGE SERIES, with five essays on a variety of topics, which continues in...

Five more essays by Steve Ditko, co-published by him and Robin Snyder. “Honoring Or Dishonoring” has some interesting bits about some

DITKOMANIA #90 [2013]
The latest issue of the magazine devoted to... um, what's it devoted to, again? The answer's on the tip of my tongue. If only the title made it obvious... Anyway, this issue is mostly taken up by an in-depth article by Ron Frantz on his publishing experiences, including several books by Ditko, some published and some planned but unrealized. Fascinating stuff, including some previously unseen images of Ditko character designs for a project with Jerry Siegel.

Got caught up on the two latest issues of the magazine devoted to... oh, I did that joke already. Anyway, content is back to normal after the break in format with #58, and back in the regular sized magazine format after a few years as a tabloid. A few good Kirby tribute panel discussions in these issues, lots of great artwork, #59 has an unpublished 1970s SOUL LOVE story and a lot of Kirby collages in full colour, #60 has a 1950s JIM BOWIE story

James Vance and Dan Burr's brand new follow-up to KINGS IN DISGUISE, coming about 25 years after that series was published, but moving the story of Fred Bloch up just five years to 1937. Just read this yesterday, after re-reading KINGS IN DISGUISE last week, and it's definitely a worthwhile follow-up to the original, and might even be better than the first book. I'll try to write a longer post about it soon.

And new digital, from Bob Burden Comics I picked up digital copies of the first two FLAMING CARROT books. I already had the first one in print, but never had any luck finding the second one at a reasonable price, so $15 for the pair was a pretty good deal. Especially since the second book contains most of the Carrot stories I was missing. And I can't deny that I'm tempted by hardcover editions of both books Burden has available right now.

Other than that the new digital stuff I've gotten has been the usual free stuff.  Marvel had a somewhat botched free digital comics offer, I managed to get a few things from that I haven't had a chance to read yet, most notably FF ANNUAL #1 by Kirby and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 by Ditko.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Continuing library adventures

Continuing some comic book reading from the library, more 20th CENTURY BOYS (pretty good), a six-volume adaptation of THE STAND (tiring, some good bits, don't get the ending), the memoir MY FRIEND DAHMER (very interesting if disturbing) and the second volume of HEREVILLE (a good read, but not really written for me).

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

--Link-- Ditko reprint Kickstarter

As I write this, the Kickstarter for the new edition of THE DITKO PUBLIC SERVICE PACKAGE is about six average backers from reaching its goal, with three weeks to spare. So now is the time to act if you want to be able to say you helped put it over the top, instead of being a bandwagon jumper.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Stompin' Tom Connors, R.I.P.

Possibly the best possible music to listen to while driving on a Canadian highway. Farewell, Stompin' Tom.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Around the web

Bob Rozakis has some great details about the 1978 Superman Movie Contest that DC Comics ran, and some related anecdotes.  The comics with those contest questions are among the earliest comics I have clear memories of (I was 8 at the time), so it's interesting to read more about it.  Great Christopher Reeve visit to DC story in there, too.

James Vance has the first in-store sighting of ON THE ROPES, his new sequel to KINGS IN DISGUISE reuniting with original artist Dan Burr, officially on sale next month.

Pat Mills presents the new Kevin O'Neill cover to the upcoming MARSHAL LAW book being published by... DC? Is that right? DC?

Steve Ditko has some new essays. Keep an eye over here over the next few days for more details.

Eddie Campbell presents some of his "Rules of Comprehension" for comics.

Todd Klein looks at the history of the THOR logo, three parts, starting here.

Steve Bissette on the original comic swamp monster, The Heap, including some cover roughs from his brief history with the character on an unlikely comic. That cover isn't as bad as Bissette makes it out to be, but it's definitely one of the weaker covers from an artist who's done some classics.

Top 1000 single issues and Top 1000 trades in the direct market, 2012, courtesy of John Jackson Miller.

Comic sales reported through Bookscan, 2012, courtesy of Brian Hibbs.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Yet more courtesy of the library...

Continuing some reads from the library. This time, 20th CENTURY BOYS, intriguing so far, LOCKE & KEY pretty decent, better art than story, "New 52" SUPERGIRL some good bits but weak overall and SUPERMAN: GROUNDED, holy hell, I didn't know comics could be this bad.

Monday, February 04, 2013

More From The Library

Some other recent readings.  CARTER FAMILY very good, FATALE pretty solid, DEMON KNIGHTS less so and recent Charles Burns inexplicable but intriguing 2/3 of the way through.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Four From The Library

Been picking up a bunch of things from the library lately.  Sitting here unread right now are multiple volumes of LOCKE & KEY, THE STAND and 20th CENTURY BOYS (hopefully the last issue of that will be out by the time I catch up), plus THE CARTER FAMILY,  FATALE, several of DC's "New 52" volumes and some recent Charles Burns books.

Some things I have read, or finished with, below the jump.  Summary, LEO GEO and STONE FROG good, LEAPING TALL BUILDINGS gorgeous yet awful, CREATIVITY OF DITKO, good comics, many available in better forms, one decent feature, borrow a copy if you can.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Movies - THE BIG YEAR (2011)

I don't know if it was just having seen a great Wes Anderson movie less than a day earlier or what, but I couldn't help but think while watching THE BIG YEAR (2011) that it felt like what would happen if a Wes Anderson style screenplay were somehow handed to a completely average, non-adventurous mainstream director.

I didn't know too much about the movie going in, just that it was about bird watching enthusiasts and it starred  Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin, three actors who have done some great movies in the past, but also put out a lot of fluff between the good ones. And I think Kevin Pollak mentioned it once or twice on his talk show, so I knew he was in it, and is usually entertaining.

I think I would have to say that I liked it overall, but the script really seemed to be fighting against the direction throughout. Everything in the script was quirky, from the premise to the plot to the characters to the settings. I couldn't help but to picture how someone like Wes Anderson would interpret all of it, the exact opposite of what the actual director (David Frankel, for the record, who I'm only familiar with from THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA) chose to do. The film makes all the safe, mainstream choices in how to tell the story, how to handle the music cues. That ended up turning it into a good film that was nothing special, and I was left with the feeling that if it was bolder it could have been a great film. Or possibly a spectacular failure, but either way something memorable. I mean, the script has a remote Alaskan cabin where birders go to spot a few rare birds at a particular time of year. In a Wes Anderson movie, that cabin would just look like nothing you'd seen before, but if he succeeded look exactly right. In this movie, it's just a cabin in Alaska.

So I'm not sorry I watched it, and it was pleasant to see Wilson, Black and Martin all doing better work than a lot of their choices, but I'm not sure I'd ever watch it again.

A few recent things... (mostly movies)

Just wanted to throw up a few things I posted on Facebook for some reason, just to have them in a place where I can find them in the future. Just a few movie/tv thoughts (THE HOBBIT, MOONRISE KINGDOM and a few Sherlocks) and some images I wanted to save.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A few quick links.

A colour Milk&Cheese image by Evan Dorkin.

James Vance announces two long-awaited books coming from him in 2013, ON THE ROPES, the sequel to KINGS IN DISGUISE with artist Dan Burr and the final OMAHA THE CAT DANCER book with Reed Waller and the late Kate Worley.

Steve Bissette's been posting some Swamp Thing head sketches he did recently.  Here's a good one, along with an article on some vintage movies and related comics.

A couple of good histories of the now defunct COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE from some people who were there, Maggie Thompson and John Jackson Miller. I quickly went over my relatively brief time as an occasional reader of the publication over here.

More than you probably thought you needed to know about Charlton artists, courtesy of Nick Caputo, over here and over here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Newly acquired books 2013.01.15

Figured I'd start posting briefly about books as I get them, even though I won't finish reading some of them for a few months or even years. Or in rare cases, I never will. First some print stuff, and then some free digital stuff below.


COMPLETE NEMESIS THE WARLOCK #3 [2007] is the third and final volume of the adventures of the Pat Mills / Kevin O'Neill creation published in the pages of 2000 A.D. from 1980 to 1999, featuring the last three books:
8 - Purity's Story (art by David Roach)
9 - Deathbringer (art by John Hicklenton)
10 - The Final Conflict (art by Henry Flint, final chapter by Kevin O`Neill)
Plus an assortment of painted stories by various artists.

Other than the various works by Alan Moore, Nemesis The Warlock is the only 2000 A.D. feature I have more than a passing interest in.  The few dozen Dredd stories I've read have been enough for me to get the idea, and nothing else has really captured my imagination. But Nemesis always seemed intriguing, and after reading all the Mills/O'Neill MARSHAL LAW I could find, I picked up the first book a few years ago, got the second soon after, but had trouble finding the third for some reason. That's resolved now, but I'll probably go back and re-read the whole thing from the beginning before I get to this one.

POGO - THE COMPLETE SYNDICATED COMIC STRIPS #2 [2012] continues Walt Kelly's comic strips, with both daily and full colour Sunday pages from 1951 and 1952.  I'll have to try to ration this out, since they only seem to be publishing a book a year, and with every two volumes coming in a slipcase, I'm tempted to wait until two more come out to get #3 and #4 in a set. Oh, I'm kidding myself that I have that kind of self control...

ESSENTIAL BLACK PANTHER #1 [2012], I'm always somewhat reluctant to pick up anything from Marvel for various reasons, but I figured waiting until almost a year after the book comes out works out nicely. I've always been curious about Don McGregor's 1970s run on Jack Kirby's creation, the "Panther's Rage" storyline, highly praised by some people whose opinions I respect, and this seemed like my best bet to get it. It helps that this also reprints most of the Kirby/Royer run on the series. Kind of wish they squeezed in those last two issues, but then I wish the colour reprints didn't continue beyond Kirby's last issue. Just leafing through, Billy Graham's art seems pretty sharp, Gil Kane's single issue looks great, even Rich Buckler as inked by Klaus Janson looks better than most of the his work I've seen.

By the way, I've joked before that I can count on finding at least one typo or production error in any Marvel book within five minutes of picking it up.  The table on contents for this one lists "P. Craig Russel [sic]" as the inker on one issue. Hopefully that's it for this book...

SHOWCASE PRESENTS WEIRD WAR TALES [2012], the latest of DC's big black&white reprint books, with the first 21 issues of the series launched in 1971, I've got a backlog of these I want to buy, and a backlog of those to read among those I've bought, but this one I had to get right away. Launched by editor Joe Kubert as primarily a reprint title for the 1950s DC war books, he also included some new framing sequences and a few new stories by Sam Glanzman (including a USS Stevens story), Russ Heath and others. Then Joe Orlando takes over with #8, and it becomes more of a war book in DC's mystery line (as opposed to a mystery book in the war line under Kubert), including a lot of work from the Filipino artists then becoming regulars in Orlando's other anthology books, such as Tony DeZuniga, Alex Nino and Alfredo Alcala. Their work always looks especially good in black and white. Sheldon Mayer also contributes a few great stories, one drawn by Alex Toth, and there's a memorable early Walter Simonson story in there. I have about half these issues, so I'm glad to have this book so I no longer have to look around for reading copies of the others.

And on the digital side...

Comixology gave me a copy of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover's BANDETTE #1 for free after I filled out a survey. It's a cute enough thing, mostly thanks to the art, and the other two issues so far are only $1 each, so maybe I'll check them out.

Marvel generally makes three or four comics a week temporarily available for free on Comixology, mostly first issues or first chapters of storylines. I justify downloading them since I figure free to me must cost them some amount of money, however minuscule. They generally remind me modern Marvel comics aren't written for me. Most interesting thing this week is a Hulk issue drawn by Steve Dillon. Haven't read it yet.

As I've mentioned before, I find the iVerse interface inferior enough that I'd only buy something there if there wasn't a choice. That hasn't happened yet, but the closest they've come is with some of Rick Veitch's work. BRAT PACK (the revised version) is available in five chapters, with the first free and the others $1, so if I didn't have the collection and the original issues, $4 for the series would be a bargain. Check it out if you've ever been curious. Veitch also has an anthology called BONG, the first free issue includes the Peanuts parody "Nutpeas", "The Tell-Tale Fart" (with Steve Bissette, scanned from the original art), a new Subtleman story continuing from the last RARE BIT FIENDS (previously seen as a webcomic) and the first chapter of ABRAXAS AND THE EARTHMAN, the classic story seen in EPIC ILLUSTRATED. If I didn't already have the ABRAXAS book published in 2006 that alone would be worth buying #2 for $1, though I'd prefer to buy just an ABRAXAS digital book for $5 or so.

[and to update, there are a few presentation problems with BONG which I asked Veitch about, and you might want to wait to see if those are fixed before getting anything but the free issue]

The British children's comic THE PHOENIX launched a digital edition. I wasn't that interested in the contents, but the app is done by Panel Nine, and I'm always interested in what they do in terms of format, so I checked out the sample issue. Pretty well done, and some of the content made it tempting to subscribe, while most of it was professional but obviously not for me. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I missed the bargain price subscription offer. It was worth checking out to see how they handled double page spreads, which hasn't been an issue in the previous Panel Nine books. They came up with the first really elegant solution to the problem I've ever seen. Maybe not quite perfect, but definitely a path forward.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Just some quick thoughts as a placeholder on a book I might want to do a full review of later.

I was kind of disappointed by Sean Howe's recent MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY. I guess my expectations were a bit high, since it was pretty heavily praised by quite a few people whose opinions I respect. I guess overall it's okay for what it is, a breezy pop history of the publisher, with a special emphasis on a few items of special interest to the writer. I guess I've read too much about the stuff I'm interested in, since there wasn't that much I learned about comics I liked, and just some trivia I've already started to forget about the comics I don't care for.  Howe seems to like 1970s Marvel a lot, whereas my history of Marvel in the 1970s is "Jack Kirby left, Steve Gerber and Gene Colan did some interesting work both together and separately, Jack Kirby came back for a little while and soon after Gerber and Colan were gone. And Steve Ditko came back towards the end of the decade, drawing characters he didn't create". Howe seems to like Gerber, so it was cool that his work got a significant amount of attention. In comparison to their importance, I thought the 1960s got way too little room, there's a lot more you can get into there that I've read about in interviews with and articles by the people who were there, and the later eras got too much, and a lot of the wrong stuff was emphasized from those eras (the entire Epic line just seems to get a few passing references). And overall I think the book was too kind to a few individuals, presenting their stories in a "their side, everyone else's side, you figure out the truth" manner. I will say I took a certain joy in Tom DeFalco's telling of Jim Shooter's final days in charge.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Movies - LES MISÉRABLES (2012)

On a whim I went to go see LES MISÉRABLES today (am I the only one who always wants to translate that and call it THE MISERABLES).

I'm not really big on musicals. I think the only ones on my list of favourite movies would be THE WIZARD OF OZ, WEST SIDE STORY (the bits without Tony and Maria whining) and WILLY WONKA. And I suppose THE MUPPET MOVIE would qualify. Other than those, I would re-watch stuff like BRIGADOON, THE MUSIC MAN, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, MARY POPPINS or SWEENEY TODD if they were on. That's actually more musicals I like than I was expecting, especially considering I haven't actually tried to watch most of the others considered classics... But still, not a whole lot of heavy dramatic stuff there.

Friday, January 11, 2013

On the BONE hardcover trilogy...

Jeff Smith's BONE in convenient colour hardcover trilogy form

A few people have asked me about the three volume BONE collection I mentioned in my year in review post, so I figured I'd post a bit more about it.  You can also check out this post from two years ago when I got the first volume.

First off, that's red foil on the cover logos, so the books look much nicer than the scan.

As I noted back then, I believe Scholastic Canada is the only branch of the company to release the books in this format so far, publishing one a year from 2010 to 2012. They include all the covers to the nine-volume colour books, and the first one has a "Possum Interlude" short story, with Smith doing his best Walt Kelly style artwork, which I assume appears in the second Scholastic Graphix book but doesn't appear in the black&white BONE ONE VOLUME. I haven't seen the more recent colour ONE VOLUME.

Here's how the various editions look side by side, with copies of the Graphix hardcovers borrowed from the library:

And here's a comparison of the same page in each edition:

For those interested in numbers, the vertical height of the image areas are 190 mm on the Graphix edition, 198 mm the ONE VOLUME edition and 217 mm on the "Trilogy". And not pictured, but the original comic book serialization pages were 230 mm and the Ipad edition via Comixology has pages 173 mm high. So the "Trilogy" edition is by a good margin the largest currently available edition (unless the colour ONE VOLUME is bigger than the b&w version).

And the reading experience is generally better. The paper quality and binding is the same as the Graphix edition.  I love the ONE VOLUME version, but the thin paper required to make a 1300+ page book practical means I have to constantly check that I didn't flip two pages at a time. The individual books are also lighter than the ONE VOLUME version, and lay open on a table better.

And the best part is probably the price.  At $40 cover price, and often heavily discounted, the ONE VOLUME b&w softcover is still the cheapest way to read the series. The "Trilogy" versions are $27 dollars each, discounted to about $17 on major Canadian retail websites, so you can probably get the set for $51. The Graphix editions look like they're $13 softcover, $23 hardcover now, so a set of those would be $117 or $207, minus whatever discount you'd get.  On Comixology the series would cost $86 for the nine collections, or $108 if you got the 55 individual issues for some reason (that might be the only way to get the original Cartoon Books covers, but you can find scans of those on-line pretty easily). And the colour ONE VOLUME is $150, sometimes discounted to as low as $90. So the "Trilogy" version, in addition to being the best way to read the series in colour, is also the cheapest.

So, bottom line, very highly recommended set if you want to read BONE in colour. The ISBN of the first book is 1443104809, you can get it at Amazon Canada or Chapters and should be able to find the other two there easily enough. Looks like shipping to the US would be about $14 for the set on either of those sites, which still makes it only $65 total. Or urge your local branch of Scholastic to release the books in this format.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

State of My Digital Comics Union, January 2013

So, as I mentioned, last year was the year I really got into digital comics. So some rambling thoughts on that.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Looking back on 2012

Couple of days late, but year in review time, I guess.  As usual, here for the Ditko and here for the Kirby.

Other than that, kind of a slow year for me in terms of new comics. It was the year I really went digital, after getting an Ipad.  Print first, though...

USAGI YOJIMBO only had two issues before it went on hiatus so Stan Sakai could draw 47 RONIN. I'm not too interested in the latter, might pick it up when it's collected, and might take this opportunity to switch to either collections or digital for USAGI when it comes back. Not an easy decision to make, since I've been reading the book for over 20 years, and with back issue purchases have 198 consecutive issues, plus specials and such, and it's not a matter of quality since the book is still top notch. We'll see, still a few months before I have to decide.

ROB HANES ADVENTURES #13 came out, the first issue in three years, which was a pleasant surprise. Enjoyable issue with two complete stories by creator Randy Reynaldo.

Only one issue of SERGIO ARAGONES FUNNIES came out from Bongo, and the planned GROO/CONAN series didn't come out. Hopefully Aragones' health problems are all in the past and he can get those back on the schedule for 2013.

Picked up a couple of issues of Paul Grist's MUDMAN, and they were enjoyable enough, though I prefer JACK STAFF and KANE. Unfortunately, like just about every Grist project, it's fallen into a black hole of lateness, so I think I'm definitely going to digital or collections for that one.

Mark Crilley got out one book of his BRODY'S GHOST series.  Good stuff, but I do wish it was coming out a bit faster. That really does seem to be a common problem with just about every new serialized comic book I'm interested in.

Alison Bechdel's ARE YOU MY MOTHER?, the long-awaited follow-up to her 2006 book FUN HOME, was pretty good. Maybe a bit too much about the process of writing, too "meta" as the kids say (do they still say that? Did they ever?). I want to re-read the two books sometime to fully form an opinion on them.

DOTTER OF HER FATHER'S EYES by Mary Talbot and her husband Bryan was entertaining, about the relationships between James Joyce and his daughter and between Mary Talbot and her father, a Joycean scholar. Still, I keep hoping every new Bryan Talbot book will live up to SUNDERLAND or ONE BAD RAT or ARKWRIGHT, and so far the last few haven't. I guess that's the problem when a creator has set the bar so high with earlier projects that just "very good" becomes a letdown.

The only other new thing I've picked up is Hunt Emerson's adaptation of DANTE'S INFERNO, but I haven't gotten around to reading that yet.

Couple of new things I'd probably be buying if I went to a comic shop more often (I think I made fewer visits to comic shops in 2012 than in any year since I started going to them  in 1988).  Linda Medley made a surprise return to CASTLE WAITING and had three issues wrapping up the second book. I kind of want to get them, but at this point I'll just wait for the revised second book with the whole story.  JOE KUBERT PRESENTS has some nice looking work from the man in the title, plus some new USS Stevens work by Sam Glanzman. If I was seeing it that would be hard to resist, but as it is I'm hoping for a nice collected edition. Ideally one of the Kubert material, along with more of his later work not available in other books, and the Glanzman stuff as the ending for a complete USS Stevens book. But I'd take just a collection of the anthology. And ADVENTURES OF AUGUSTA WIND is a pretty intriguing looking book from J.M. DeMatteis, which I'm sure I'll buy in some form eventually.

Spent a lot more on reprints, as usual.

CORPSE ON THE IMJIN AND OTHER STORIES BY HARVEY KURTZMAN, I just got and haven't had a chance to read, but just a gorgeous looking book. It's good that someone finally cracked the code on how to do a proper EC reprint series.  Who knew you needed an Enigma Machine to figure out "creator themed collections, split by genre for the more prolific creators". I'm definitely going to pick up the Wallace Wood suspense story book. And I'm disappointed to find out, according to what I just checked, that the Al Williamson book that was supposed to come out last month is delayed a few months.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD (BOOK 3.5) is a nice little collection of some of Larry Marder's colour stories to prepare for Book 4: Something More, coming... eventually.

It was pretty nice to see a reprint of the Goodwin/Simonson ALIEN - THE ILLUSTRATED STORY movie adaptation. I'd found a copy of the original a few years ago, but it was a bit fragile, so the fresh edition is welcome, and it's good that new people get a chance to discover it.

BONE - THE EPIC CONCLUSION is the third and last of Scholastic Canada's three volume colour hardcover reprint of Jeff Smith's comic. This is my favourite way to read the story now. Nice large pages, good paper, good binding, comfortable in the hand. And a really good story.

I need to catch up on some Osamu Tezuka. I got BARBARA a few weeks ago, but haven't got around to reading it. I think both volumes of the new edition of ADOLF are out, and I'll have to see if I want to replace my old 5 volume version.

I picked up GRENDEL OMNIBUS #1, which has all the Hunter Rose solo stuff by Matt Wagner and various artists, all in black, white and red. I think I prefer the colour version of DEVIL BY THE DEED, but the other stuff, most of which is new to me, has been pretty good, as I work my way through. Haven't decided if I'll pick up the later books.

DOUG WILDEY'S RIO - THE COMPLETE SAGA might be the book of the year. All of Wildey's published Rio stories, with as much as possible newly shot from the original artwork, plus two unpublished stories, one finished and one pretty far along but never completed, which means you get some nice looks at Wildey's pencils and work process. He seemed to work really out of order, with the ending of the story fully done while earlier stuff is still just sketched out, sometimes sketched panels on the same page as finished panels.

SHOWCASE PRESENTS SEA DEVILS #1 and SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE LOSERS #1 are two welcome big thick black and white reprints from DC, with a lot of Russ Heath in the first, and John Severin in the second.

And it was good to see DC reprint THE BIBLE by Sheldon Mayer, Nester Redondo and Joe Kubert.

And, somehow I missed this, the second POGO comic strip collection by Walt Kelly came out, and a copy is now on its way to me. A lot of other good comic strip reprints came out, but I'm way behind on almost everything.

I guess that's enough on comics.  I'll get to the digital stuff in another post.

In movies, I've mostly been trying to make time to re-watch some old favourites and stuff that I should have watched years ago but somehow missed. I mean, re-watching THE USUAL SUSPECTS, FIELD OF DREAMS, WEST SIDE STORY, THE GODFATHER, WILLY WONKA, TIME BANDITS, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THAT THING YOU DO (that was just December) makes me wonder why I'd ever want to see a new movie again. But I did see a few.

LOOPER was a nice diversion, with a few clever bits, all of which completely fall apart once you start thinking about what's going on, even more than most time travel stories, but pretty good as long as you can avoid that trap.

RED TAILS had some decent bits, enough to be worth seeing, but was a pretty uneven movie overall. A shame, as the Tuskegee Airmen story is pretty interesting, and could have led to a much better movie. Not that I think very many more people would have seen it if it had been a better film.

CHRONICLE wasn't too bad.  The "found footage" conceit was kind of strained, especially in the early going, but it led to some pretty clever visuals in the second half. Some very good effects in the super-powers and their "real-world" consequences.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES wasn't, I guess, a bad movie, but it wasn't a very good Batman movie. A shame, as I thought Nolan had a pretty valid interpretation of Batman from the first two movies, but after this I think I was reading in some things that weren't there and ignoring some things that were. Glad to see the end of this version of the character.

When I saw THE HOBBIT a few weeks ago, I walked out of the theater thinking it was one of the worst movies I ever saw. I've softened a bit on that, but I still think it's far from good, and is so far inferior to the LORD OF THE RINGS movies that it's hard to believe most of the same people are involved. Won't be going to see the next two (at least not in theaters), and overall I'm just confused that most people seem to like it as much as they do.

On the other hand, I've been hearing for months that JOHN CARTER is really good, but Disney screwed up the marketing (deliberately or otherwise), and dismissed that. I've now seen it on DVD, and I'll say now that I was wrong. I thought it was a great movie, something I'd never expect from the handful of ads I saw, and now really wish I'd seen it on the big screen with an audience. I can't remember the last new action/adventure movie I saw that worked as well as this, with good pacing, a plot reasonably faithful to the source, if I remember correctly (it's been a while since I read Burroughs), with changes that made sense, rather than being gratuitous, funny bits that were actually funny (as opposed to every attempt at humour in THE HOBBIT), solid special effects, mostly good acting. The movie they put out clearly was not the movie they were selling. No clue if that was deliberate or just run-of-the-mill incompetence, but I'm kind of upset now that the chance of a sequel seems remote.

On TV, I think KEY AND PEELE is a pretty great sketch comedy show, and may be my favourite show now. I liked the final season of COMMUNITY for the most part, uneven but more good than bad, and always watchable and re-watchable. I liked some of the episodes of LOUIE a lot this year, in particular the story with Robin Williams (as a character) and the one with Marc Maron (as himself), and parts of the "Late Night" plot. Almost caught up on BREAKING BAD, which has been pretty spectacular. MAD MEN is still good, but not as good as it was.  DEXTER, already on a long downward spiral since the Trinity Killer season, went right down the drain, so I think I'm done with it. Still enjoy THE COLBERT REPORT and THE DAILY SHOW, though I skip over huge chunks of both (about half the interviews, and most of the field pieces on THE DAILY SHOW). I watch THE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON sometimes, and mostly enjoy what I see.

The only music I bought this year was the new Bob Dylan album, TEMPEST. And that was the first time I bought an album digitally, which makes sense since I don't think I've touched any of my CDs in over a year. A couple of good songs on there, but that title song, a 14 minute song about the Titanic, is kind of ridiculous. If Dylan of old did an epic song about the Titanic, it might be about hubris, or class, or something bigger than a boat sinking. This is a song about a boat sinking.
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