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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

PALEO by Lawson returns, now with TYRANT seasoning

I was already pretty happy to see that Dover Comics & Graphic Novels (fast becoming my favourite publisher) was coming out with a collection of Jim Lawson's PALEO series, which ran for 8 issues from 2001 to 2004, with a collection of the first six issues in 2003. At the very least it would probably mean that I'd finally get a print edition of the 72-page "Loner" story that Lawson published on-line in 2011, and since I knew from experience that the original issues or prior collection weren't easy to find it meant that a lot more people would get a chance to read it.

The level of anticipation just jumped up when I found out that the book also includes two more completely new stories, never seen in print or on-line. And both of them are drawn by Lawson, like the rest of the book, but written by Stephen Bissette. Yes, the creator of TYRANT writing new dinosaur comics. And they're fairly long stories, over 30 pages each based on the table of contents. So with "Easy", "Floater" and "Loner" that means we get the equivalent of more than five new comics which alone is worth the $20 cover price. Having them in addition to the previous eight comics for that price is a bargain.

For those who haven't had the pleasure, PALEO is a dinosaur comic set in what is now Alberta, 70 million years ago (the Late Cretaceous), looking at a variety of dinosaurs and other animals interacting in those prehistorical times. It's a brutal and non-sentimental look at their lives, with no characters safe from injury or death. Each story is a standalone vignette, getting into the head of a different animal (or sometimes multiple animals), none of them given names but otherwise well realized as characters. And the art is definitely the best of Lawson's career.

The book should be out in a few weeks, and is highly recommended.

And another division of Dover has another interesting book coming out a few months later:

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

An old naming question

Wow, I've lived long enough to see DC announcing a reprint of the 1982 DARING NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERGIRL series? That can't be right...

Does bring up something I've always wondered.


In that period, DC launched
(also miniseries like SWORD OF THE ATOM and SHADOW WAR OF HAWKMAN)

So basically any time they launched a book with a #1 that was based on a property they'd published before, they'd add some sort of descriptor instead of using the simpler basic title (three of them would eventually revert to the simpler title, SUPERGIRL, FIRESTORM and SWAMP THING, after they cleared the number the earlier volumes reached. The other two never matched their predecessors before being cancelled or otherwise renamed). They wouldn't use such descriptors for new titles, or when they restarted a book with the old numbering (I think BLACKHAWK was the last time they did that).

So was that just a marketing thing, since the descriptors were a Marvel thing (Amazing Spider-Man, Mighty Thor, Uncanny X-Men) and Marvel was kicking their ass in sales, or was it that they for some reason didn't want to re-use titles, and confuse the issue with more than one SUPERGIRL #1. Which seems like a quaint concern now that we'll probably see the sixth or seventh SUPERGIRL #1 soon enough, and Marvel is willing to publish two different #1's for a book in the same year with the same creative team and logo.

No, seriously, these are two different books published in the same calendar year...

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Unfinished Comics - TALES OF THE CLOSET by Ivan Velez Jr.

This is one of the most frustrating of all unfinished comics, for several reason. Primarily because of the quality of the work, which is very high. Also because it came so close to the ending, with only one issue left. And then there's the nature of the ending to the (planned) penultimate and (so far) final issue, with multiple cliffhangers. It also doesn't help that the creator has indicated at various times an intention to finish up, and taken steps in that direction, but for whatever reason it hasn't come together. And finally, as well as being a very good book, it has the potential to be an very important book, which is somewhat mitigated by a lack of both an ending and availability.

I'm talking, of course, about TALES OF THE CLOSET by Ivan Velez Jr., which saw nine out of a planned ten issues published from 1987 to 1993 by the Hetrick-Martin Institute, a non-profit LGBT youth outreach program in New York. It tells the story of a group of eight very different LGBT teens who meet in their Queens high school in the mid-1980s and navigate the complications of life (including the general complications of growing, the specific complications of growing up queer and the melodramatic complications thrown in their paths as part of being comic book characters). I've written about the book a few times before (here and here), and everything I've said before stands. It's a remarkably densely plotted drama which has an educational mission, but never one that gets in the way of the storytelling. In fact, Velez manages to walk a tightrope of having the the story and the education elements reinforce each other, making the lesson that much more likely to take since it's so ingrained in the story.

As I've said, Velez has indicated a few times over the years an interest in completing the story (and if I recall correctly even in doing more stories following the characters into adulthood), going so far as to reprint the first three issues in a collection in 2005. Unfortunately, that only seems to have gotten out the first of four planned volumes. I believe he's also made digital editions of the existing story available on some platforms in recent years, although nowhere that I can find right now. Hopefully one of these days everything will come together to get at least the ending, and the entire thing can be released in one handy well produced volume. It comes to 329 pages for the extant story, say about 50 or so for the ending, add in the covers and a few extras (Velez did a few stories for GAY COMIX, I'm not sure if any of them fit thematically with TOTC, if they do that would be a nice addition), toss in some notes to put it in the context of its time and you have a nice 400-450 page book which belongs in every high school library and would certainly be on my bookshelf. 

Unfinished Comics - SWEENEY TODD by Gaiman & Zulli

With the recent publication of an ending to Stephen Murphy and Michael Zulli's THE PUMA BLUES, and barring last minute complications the impending continuation of Mark Buckingham and Neil Gaiman's MIRACLEMAN Golden/Silver/Dark Ages trilogy, the mind naturally turns to other unfinished and given-up-hoping-for comic book works.

The first that comes to mind is SWEENEY TODD, seeing as how it's an intersection of the now finished/finishing works, drawn by Michael Zulli and written by Neil Gaiman. Intended to be serialized in Stephen Bissette's horror comics anthology TABOO, it never got further than setting the table, with a "penny dreadful" teaser insert in one issue (with an introduction by Gaiman, some artwork by Zulli and some of the Victorian research material), followed by a 26-page prologue. There was also a gorgeous painted poster. Bissette also conducted an interview with Gaiman and Zulli in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #972 [1992] which details their ambitions for the project, well illustrated with Zulli's artwork including the image posted here.

So will we ever see more? I wouldn't bet on it, but that's a step up from what I'd have thought a few months ago.

Friday, November 27, 2015

THE PUMA BLUES by Murphy & Zulli

THE PUMA BLUES was a comic book created by Stephen Murphy and Michael Zulli, originally published from 1986 to 1989, leaving off unfinished after 23 issues of what it appears was going to be at least 36 to tell the whole story. Mere weeks ago, THE PUMA BLUES - THE COMPLETE SAGA IN ONE VOLUME was published by Dover, collecting not only 485 pages of the main story from the original series (plus some extras), but also a new 40 page ending by Murphy and Zulli, something I'd long ago given up hope of ever seeing (for me personally the wait wasn't quite as long as it was for some, since I read the book through back issue purchases starting sometime in 1990, I think just after Zulli's THE SANDMAN #13 was published, quickly getting all of the issues, so it was still a 25 year wait for me).

The book is ostensibly a science fiction story, with the main narrative starting in the far off future world of the year 2000, where the star of the show, young Gavia Immer (scientific name for the common loon) is stationed by the army in the quarantined Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts, where among other things a species of flying manta rays have evolved, to great governmental curiosity. From this starting point we get all sorts of reflections on the environment, the nature of reality and human consciousness, conspiracy theories, alien visitations, the impending apocalypse and more. This is told in some very experimental ways, including one issue which is mostly following a puma around the reservoir, with only pictures and sound effects, others which are mostly presentations of experimental documentaries made by Gavia's father and another issue where most of the text is an existential poem. So, y'know, not an easy book to read or describe, but an absolutely beautiful one to look at and experience.

I don't want to say too much about the ending just yet, until more people have had a chance to read it, but I will say that it's mostly satisfying. Not completely, but a 40 page story to complete what would probably have been 260 or more pages was never going to be, and Murphy and Zulli are obviously in a completely different place now. There are a lot of elements in the new pages which couldn't have been in the original plans, references to real-world events of the last quarter century, and I'd be fascinated to know how much of the overall arc of the finale was in the original plans. It definitely gives you something to think about, whether you've been waiting decades for it or the whole 525-page work is new to you.

In addition to that 525-page main story, the collection also includes "Act of Faith,,,", a short 4-page story by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette and Michael Zulli first published in #20, one page from a Murphy, Zulli and Bissette interlude story "Pause" from the same issue, a mini-comic "#24 1/2" by Murphy and Zulli, an introduction and pin-up by original publisher Dave Sim and an afterword by Bissette which gets into a lot of the comic book industry politics which overshadowed the last year of the book.

Anyway, worth picking up, and an absolute bargain at only US$30 SRP for a hardcover brick of a book. It's on the list of stuff I'll write more about if I ever get around to posting here more.

And hopefully if the book does well, the publisher (Dover) can be persuaded to do a PUMA BLUES COMPANION volume, with a complete cover gallery of Zulli's gorgeous full-colour covers, the complete "Pause" story and other miscellaneous stuff (I assume at least some work was done on #24 back in 1989, which would be interesting to see if it's available).

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Murphy Anderson, R.I.P.

Comic book artist Murphy Anderson passed away at age 86. I'm mostly familiar with his work as an inker, and was a big fan of his work on various artists, in particular Curt Swan. He also did full art on a few things, and those are also very enjoyable.

A few words on the images I picked. The first one was published in BLUE BEETLE #2 [1986], but was drawn over 40 years earlier, even before Anderson was working professionally in comics, as he explains in that issue. The other three images are from three issues of SECRET ORIGINS (#8 - Doll Man, #19 - Uncle Sam and #21 - Black Condor) from 1986/7, three stories he was specifically chosen for as a tribute to artist Lou Fine, who drew the characters in the golden age (and as Anderson himself explains in the text box on that Doll Man page). Those were some gorgeous and entertaining stories, especially the Uncle Sam one, easily among the highlights of that run of SECRET ORIGINS.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Good Miracle Monday

A quick reminder to remember to set a place at the table for Superman tonight, the classic Miracle Monday tradition, as seen in this story from SUPERMAN #400 [1984] by Elliot S! Maggin and Klaus Janson.

Next year in Metropolis!

And if for some reason you've never read them, pick up Maggin's two Superman novels, LAST SON OF KRYPTON and MIRACLE MONDAY, or better yet, pester someone at DC to reprint them.

(Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Herb Trimpe, R.I.P.

Herb Trimpe, long-time comic book artist, primarily working at Marvel from the 1960s to the 1990s and best known for his long run drawing THE INCREDIBLE HULK (including several major issues, such as the first appearances of Wolverine), passed away at age 75. I especially enjoyed his work on GODZILLA in the 1970s.

Here are a few images from lesser known stories that Trimpe wrote as well as drew. The self portrait is from STREETWISE [2000]. The "Lotsa Yox" page (inked by Wallace Wood) and the splash page from "Token" are from Flo Steinberg's BIG APPLE COMIX [1975] and the "Skywarriors" page is from SAVAGE TALES #1 [1985] (the "Skywarriors" feature ran in the first four issues of that magazine).


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