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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

The Wasteland [1989] (Random Comics Theatre)

Random Comics Theatre

The Wasteland [1989] 

THE WASTELAND is a one-shot comic of single page comics by Dan Sweetman and Dave Louapre, published in 1989 by DC's short-lived Piranha Press imprint in the first year of its brief existence. The publisher was already several months into Sweetman and Louapre on-going title BEAUTIFUL STORIES FOR UGLY CHILDREN (the imprint's only on-going book) when this came out. Louapre's foreword is deliberately oblique on the source of the comics (being more concerned with the seemingly persistent comparisons of the strip to Garfield, instead of the obviously preferred Family Circus pedigree he aspires to), except to note that they were created over a four year period. Checking around, it seems they appeared in publications like FANGORIA and THE L.A. WEEKLY.  The result is 124 single panel comics, plus cover and foreword.

Other than the aforementioned Family Circus, the most obvious comparison for the comics is to the work of Gahan Wilson, in particular his gag strips for magazines like PLAYBOY and THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION. There's a similar macabre sensibility, especially in looking at the more mundane aspects of normal life and giving them a dark twist, often predicated on a small bit of wordplay. That kind of work might be best known today from probably also Wilson-influenced newspaper strips like The Far Side and Bizarro, although taking it in a more extreme and explicit direction than you can in syndicate-approved comics.

Like any such collection, it doesn't always hit, but there are a number of excellent strips which I remembered vividly ever since I first read this some 30 years ago, even if I didn't always remember this is where I read them (one particular strip I always think of when I hear expression "leisure suit"). Sweetman's art goes through a few phases, as you'd expect from a four-year creation process (I don't think the strips are presented in anything resembling the order of creation), a lot of places you can see him settling into a few of the many styles he'd use for BSFUC.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

John Lewis, R.I.P.

Few things can spoil a day more than waking up to hear that John Lewis passed away. Far from the top of any list of his accomplishments over 80 years was the comic book work that he did in the last decade of his life, the autobiographical MARCH, published in three volumes from 2013 to 2016 with collaborators Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell  I wrote a bit about the first one back here, and will just add that the later ones are even better, it might be the best comic of the past decade. His earlier prose memoir WALKING WITH THE WIND is also highly recommended.

(a free sampler with excerpts from all three volumes of MARCH is available here, along the full volumes available half-price right now, and you can probably read them here if your local library offers digital books through Hoopla or here if they offer them through OverDrive)

And of course it's literally impossible to say any words about him better than his own, here's a bit from the aforementioned MARCH, of Lewis's speech of August 28, 1963 in Washington. A 23-year-old man gave that speech almost 57 years ago, and it's still relevant today.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Linking around

Links around the internet

So, Evan Dorkin, Roger Langridge and Ed Solomon are getting together to do BILL & TED ARE DOOMED, a prequel to the unlikely third installment of the film series (co-written by Solomon, co-creator of the characters) that is theoretically going to be released later this year. I'm not sure if I ever saw the second film, and haven't seen the first one all the way through since it was released, but I did enjoy the comic book adaptation of the second film and follow-up original series that Dorkin did back in the early 1990s, and Langridge is always fun and a great choice for the artwork (see link for his cover to #1).

Mark Evanier has been filling the newly open time in his schedule he'd usually be spending moderating comics and animation panels at now-cancelled conventions with moderating comics and animation panels on-line. His YouTube channel is here, including discussions with Sergio Aragones, Scott Shaw!, Leonard Maltin and others.

Brian Hibbs presents his look at the 2019 sales of comics recorded through BookScan, which is always interesting. Basically a lot more young readers and a lot more Japanese comics than the direct market is able to sell (or at least that the direct market chooses not to buy from Diamond).

Mike Sterling, most likely to be the last comics blogger standing in the end, goes over some of his on-line history here. He's also raising some money for some medical bills over here so check that out.

Lars Ingebrigtsen, who previously did re-readings of comics published by Fantagraphics, Eclipse and Pacific recently finished up the same for Marvel's Epic imprint, reading everything they published over the course of seven months. Man, that must have been a lot to take. I mean, there are undeniably some gems in there, some of the best comics of the 1980s, but there's also a lot of stuff best left forgotten. Anyway, should join the previous series of posts as a valuable resource.

Discussion between Dave Sim and Todd Klein about comic book lettering, as part of a discussion about the use of some Cerebus pages in an upcoming Klein book about the history of comic book lettering. In other news, Todd Klein has a book called "The Art and History of Lettering Comics" coming out next year. Anyway, it's always interesting when Sim steps away from some of  his other obsessions and talks about the craft and history of comic book creation, and the posts have some good examples of some of his more ostentatious displays of virtuoso lettering.

Speaking of lettering, Harry Mendryk returned to his excellent Simon & Kirby Blog for a detailed seven post series about the lettering in those classic golden age comics, in particular the work of Howard Ferguson and Ben Oda.  Start with part 1 here.

And reminder, check out updates of various comic book weblogs over here. I'm only intermittently able to add links to that list, but this appears to be one of the times when I can, so if you have any recommendations feel free to let me know, either here to tweet to @bobh1970 (note it must have a compatible RSS feed, which some newer platforms don't seem to provide)

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Random Realities 2020.07.07

So, in the interests of this not being solely an obituary and TV weblog...

Fanzine cover this time is a nice painted Magnus by Bruce Timm, podcast recommendation is he daily news satire The Last Post, then a quick look at a young adult comic set in the 1970s, SUNNY ROLES THE DICE and, okay, maybe this is a TV weblog now because some discussion of THE SIMPSONS.

On the Fanzine Cover Files, lets look at something more recent than most of the previous entries, COMIC BOOK ARTIST #22 [2002] and its painted cover of Magnus Robot Fighter by Bruce Timm.

CBA was the first general interest comics magazine that TwoMorrows launched after a few years of publishing the more specialized JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR, running 25 issues from 1998 to 2003 under editor Jon Cooke, who then relaunched it from Top Shelf for the second series, then returned to TwoMorrows with the renamed COMIC BOOK CREATOR, still on-going. Most issues took a particular publisher or artist or genre and present a variety of interviews and articles on that theme. Usually very interesting, with a few mis-steps.

This issue obviously has a focus on Gold Key Comics, and that makes Magnus the natural choice for cover feature, maybe the best known original property to come out from the company. The feature was created by Russ Manning in 1963 and drew it for 21 issues, often reprinted over the years, and has been revived numerous times since, with mixed results.  The artist is Bruce Timm, best known for his animation work on various DC properties, starting with BATMAN - THE ANIMATED SERIES in 1992. It's a great looking image, combining his style with Manning's designs, makes you wish there was a Magnus cartoon.

Lots of good reading and rare art inside, including a 1969 interview with Manning, a talk with Dan Spiegle (co-creator of SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON, the other best known Gold Key original, and artist of many more books from the publisher), Mark Evanier explaining the whole Dell/Western/Gold Key thing and his own experiences working there in the 1970s, Mike Royer on working with Manning and more. As far as I know there's never been a dedicated book to the history of Gold Key, so until that comes along this will have to do (still available digitally from the publisher).

On the podcast recommendation front, The Last Post is a spinoff podcast from the previously (and still) recommended The Bugle, coming out daily (actually daily, not that lazy five-days-a-week that most people try to pass off as daily) since the beginning of this year. And what a year it's been. It's hosted by Alice Fraser, one of the most frequent of the rotating guests of The Bugle, and features most of the Bugle regulars as guests. It's a hilarious 10-15 minutes a day of the bizarre goings-on of a parallel dimension (listen to a few and that'll make sense). Just the number of variations that Fraser has done on an ad for half a glass of water is amazing.

SUNNY ROLES THE DICE is a comic from last year by  Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, the third book in their series about Sunny Lewin, a middle school girl growing up in 1977 suburban Pennsylvania.  I haven't read the previous two books yet, but after this I definitely will. The Holms are best known for their BABYMOUSE series for younger readers, which seemed entertaining but not really my speed.

In this particular book, seventh grader Sunny has to deal with her worries about fitting in to what teen society sees as cool (or "groovy", in the vernacular of the teen magazines that dictate trends of the time), as well as her introduction to the decidedly non-groovy world of role playing games.  I'm about six years younger than the character, and was considerably less groovy when I got to her age in the 1980s, but living in a similar suburban world just a few hundred miles north, so there's a lot of nostalgia baked into the book, and most of the themes are pretty timeless.

Really enjoyed it, I'll definitely be reading the previous two books and any future ones soon, and maybe after that give BABYMOUSE another look and check out some of the other Holm work over the years.

Let's see, slowed down a bit on the television from early pandemic days. Been watching some early MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW lately, which is a joy. I also have Disney+ for a month, mostly to watch HAMILTON (which I have and will again, and might get a separate post). There's not much else on there I'm that interested in that's not available elsewhere, other than THE MANDALORIAN, which I'll probably watch before the month is out. What I have been watching is THE SIMPSONS. Now, if I set my DVR I could probably get a dozen SIMPSONS episodes every day on there, but I haven't done that in a while, I think it's been a few years since I watched a complete episode. Now with almost all 31 seasons available, I figured I'd take a look at them, starting with what seem to be the consensus highlights of the run, which are pretty much all in the first 10 seasons. I think I've probably seen about half of those before, and they're pretty decent so far. Maybe after that I'll take a look at what seem to be the better later episodes, which will almost all be new to me.

If anyone has any recommendations on what else might be worth watching on Disney+, I'm open to suggestions.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Carl Reiner, R.I.P.

Wanted to just quickly note the passing of Carl Reiner at age 98 earlier this week. At this point a lot of people who know his work a lot better than I do have already spoken of his work. I suppose my first encounter with him was on repeats of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, which he created and worked on from 1961 to 1966. It was less frequent on the syndication circuit than many of the other shows I watched, but I enjoyed it when I saw it, and in recent years I've been revisiting it (I've seen about half of the episodes so far), and frequently I see something that brings back a rush of memories. While some sitcoms from the 1950s, like I LOVE LUCY and THE HONEYMOONERS, remain enjoyable, they very much are period pieces. THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW is probably the earliest that still feels thoroughly modern, and very much set the template for many of my favourite later shows.

The next big thing I probably knew from him was something I didn't even realize was from him until after he passed away. Turns out he directed the movie OH, GOD! in 1977, starring George Burns and John Denver. Not sure when I first saw it, but it was definitely on TV frequently for a while, and I remember loving it and watching it several times. Haven't seen it in decades, which I'll rectify soon. I did know about several of his other movies, especially those with Steve Martin in the 1980s, and enjoyed those.

In the mid-1980s, there were a few weekend shows on the radio locally which played comedy bits, stand-up clips, songs and the like, and one of my favourites of those were the Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks "2000 Year Old Man" skits. Just loved those. Didn't realize until now that there was an animated TV special made of them in 1975, which is a lot of fun, and should be embedded below

Although, looking at it, I remember that my local library had a book based on the concept, and looking around quickly I see that it was illustrated in the same style as the animated special.

Anyway, a remarkable talent, I'me looking forward to revisiting a lot of his work for years to come.
Weblog by BobH [bobh1970 at gmail dot com]