Monday, April 14, 2014

Recently Read and Re-Read, 2014.04.14

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Quick thoughts on a few things I've read or (mostly) re-read lately. I'm on a bit of a paper acquisition moratorium lately, with a few key exceptions I want to avoid getting any new print comics until I've made a good dent in reading or re-reading everything I own, and hopefully finding a way to productively discard some of it. I am still getting stuff from the library and digitally, though. I won't write about all of them, of course (especially not the stuff I decide to dispose of), but here are a few from the last couple of weeks.



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Will the Shadow get his body back, 25 years later...

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So, Dynamite recently published a reprint of Howie Chaykin's SHADOW series "Blood and Judgment" from DC in the 1980s, and followed up with the subsequent Andy Helfer/Bill Sienkiewicz "Shadows & Light" story that launched the on-going series.  Now it looks like they're going on to "Seven Deadly Finns", where Helfer teamed up with Kyle Baker for what's probably my favourite Shadow story ever.

Which means we might get more Helfer/Baker in the almost as good "Body & Soul" some time after that.  Which is going to beg the question, the last issue of the series, #19, ends (spoiler alert) like this:


With the Shadow in a similar condition. And because I'm a man who owns too much paper, we were promised this for "Nuts And Bolts" in 1989:

Never published, of course, and instead a few months later we got a more traditional take on the character in THE SHADOW STRIKES.  I don't have the early issues of that book, but I've heard that there's some mention of the abandoned storyline there, maybe a promise of a special to wrap it up? Can anyone confirm? Anyway, now 25 years later I doubt we're going to see a continuation of the story by anyone, much less the original creators. But one can dream. Presumably something must have been written and maybe drawn before the plug was pulled.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Remarks on recent comics (2014.02.21)

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More recently read comics, or if you prefer, graphic novels.  No, no one prefers that?  Okay, comics. In particular, these:



BATTLING BOY (2013) by Paul Pope
HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT (2011) by Luke Pearson
BAD HOUSES (2013) by Sara Ryan & Carla Speed McNeil
PUNK ROCK JESUS (2013) by Sean Murphy
A WRINKLE IN TIME: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL (2012) by Hope Larson, adapting Madeleine L'Engle
STAR WARS. VOLUME ONE, IN THE SHADOW OF YAVIN (2013) by Brian Wood & Carlos D'Anda


And, if you missed them, I recently had slightly longer comments in separate posts on these:

JOE KUBERT PRESENTS (2013) by Joe Kubert (editor)
THE BOJEFFRIES SAGA (2014) by Steve Parkhouse & Alan Moore

Around the web

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Evan Dorkin has a two-part one-shot (or something like that) concluding his long-running ELTINGVILLE CLUB series coming out this year.  Cover to #1 and cover to #2.

Jason Shiga has a new webcomic, DEMON.

Neil Gaiman has a book coming out reprinting his short story THE TRUTH IS A CAVE IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS with illustrations by Eddie Campbell (enough illustrations that Gaiman describes it as "almost a graphic novel".  Time to pull out the old "not a graphic novel, Percy" bit). See the cover here. I've read the original short story, and it's pretty good, not great, and has a couple of visual hooks that Campbell could exploit. While looking for info on that, I found out that Gaiman is apparently also writing HANSEL AND GRETEL with artist Lorenzo Mattotti for editor Fran├žoise Mouly's Toon Books line later this year. That could be interesting.

Brian Hibbs has his annual look at comic sales reported through BookScan.  With the usual caveats about what those numbers actually represent, it's still a fascinating snapshot of a particular market for comics. For direct market figures, John Jackson Miller has your fix.

Todd Klein looks at the connection between a 1942 Stan Kaye Superman drawing and a painting which hung in the DC offices. Part one, part two.

Steve Bissette has a great new colour TYRANT print. Hopefully news on new TYRANT comics soon.

I briefly fell into the rabbit hole of reading about Dave Sim's adventures in trying to get the early editions of his CEREBUS books in print, now that his old printer is gone and his old printing methods are obsolete, over at A Moment of Cerebus. I don't recommend trying to follow the whole discussion, but this post comparing different reproductions of the tonework on one image is kind of fascinating.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

JOE KUBERT PRESENTS by Joe Kubert (editor)

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JOE KUBERT PRESENTS (2013) is a collection of the six-issue anthology published in 2012-2013, edited by Joe Kubert and almost completed before his death in 2012. Each issue includes work from Kubert (both solo and with various collaborators), Sam Glanzman and Brian Buniak.

Sam Glanzman's contributions are a return to his USS Stevens war stories, a staple of the 1970s DC war comics (also mostly edited by Kubert). Glanzman served aboard the naval destroyer in the Pacific during World War II, and used both his own experiences and those he heard from others in a series of back-up features that primarily ran from 1970 to 1977, plus a few subsequent stories in a pair of graphic novels published as A SAILOR'S STORY and short stories in SAVAGE TALES. For this series he did a series of 10-page stories telling a variety of events, from the oddball to the comedic to the tragic, as well as looking at some of the major events of the war. Beautifully rendered work as always, drawing on memories still vivid after over a half-century, and a nice reminder of a major but mostly unappreciated milestone in comics history. Hopefully someday these pages will serve as the conclusion to a full collection of Glanzman's WWII stories. In addition to the six stories, there's also a feature where Kubert comments on Glanzman and shows a few of the actual illustrations Glanzman drew while serving on the USS Stevens in the 1940s.

Brian Buniak is represented in every issue with a serialized adventure of Angel and The Ape, reviving the short lived 1960s feature. I thought the concept was cute enough for a single story, with a sort of 1980s era MAD/CRACKED look to the work, but it wasn't really strong enough to sustain a six part story. The two-page spread of classic chicken-fat in-jokes, slapstick and non sequiturs is pretty cute, with some interesting cameos (pay close attention if you missed it, Mike Sterling...).

Other than those two features in every issue, Joe Kubert himself provided the rest of the material in each issue.

His first story, as seen on the cover, features Hawkman and is set in Africa. It has some really good artwork, evoking both his earlier work on that character and his well-regarded 1970s work on Tarzan but The story is a little bit preachy and disjointed, though.

The major Kubert work is the long-lost series THE REDEEMER, which was scheduled and widely advertised and previewed back in 1983, but never actually published.  This book has some concept artwork and what would have been the first three issues of that series, as well as some preliminary artwork for the future issues, which is as far as Kubert got before realizing he couldn't fit a monthly book with the other demands of his schedule. The concept is a history spanning story of redemption and reincarnation, giving Kubert a vehicle to draw a variety of settings, a science-fiction future and the American west of the 19th century in the two stories he got to and planned stories of Roman gladiators, cavemen and pirates among those planned. It's all a little strange, but an entertaining concept, and good to finally have some closure three decades after seeing those ads for the book.

The other serialized Kubert contribution to the book is "Spit", a series of vignettes about an orphan boy who ends up aboard a whaling ship around 1850, inspired by, as Kubert explains, his childhood fascination with MOBY DICK.  This is probably my favourite Kubert art of the book, mostly drawn in the pencilled style he used for a few of his later major works like YOSSEL and DONG XOAI. His passion for the subject matter really comes though in the art, and I just wish there was more room to flesh out the story.

Kubert also does a short ghost story "The Biker", which I enjoyed, especially the horror elements drawn in that pencil style. Paul Levitz writes what is sort of a Sgt. Rock story for Kubert to draw, and it was far better than I was expecting, and Kubert co-writes a few short stories for other artists that are an interesting change of pace.

Overall it's a nice thick collection with a wide variety of material at a great price, well worth picking up for a sample of one of the greatest comic book artists.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

THE BOJEFFRIES SAGA by Parkhouse & Moore

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Just reprinted by Top Shelf and Knockabout in both print and digital formats (this review from the digital version), the classic Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse creation THE BOJEFFRIES SAGA, featuring the original nine stories, serialized in various publications from 1983 to 1991, and a new 24-page story by The Original Writer and The Original Artist.

The series presents the comic misadventures of the Bojeffries family of the English Midlands, as they try to live a quiet suburban life, despite the fact that the family includes a vampire, a werewolf, an elder god and some other members who are even stranger.

If you don't have all the original stories in one or another of their original printings, this is a must have. Some of the funniest stuff Moore ever wrote, and strong distinctive art by Parkhouse. If only the new 24-page story is new to you, it's still highly recommended. The new story doesn't have any chance of being as dear to me as the originals which I've been living with in my head for over half my life, but it has a lot of funny bits and clever callbacks. Plus you get the classic stories nicely reproduced in the original black&white (with red highlights in the case of one story) instead of the colour of the previous single-volume edition.

The original stories still hold up nicely, even after at least a dozen readings over the years. The highlight, as always, is "Sex, With Ginda Bojeffries", wherein our heroine goes out armed with dating advice from Flirt Magazine to find a man not intimated by her. I won't reveal if she succeeds, but I always enjoy the journey, and can't believe how hard I still laugh at the "premature evacuation" line. Of the rest, I especially liked the vacation special, "Our Factory Fortnight", this time around.

The new story is "After They Were Famous", catches up on the family in the modern day, which finds them estranged from each other in the wake of the unwanted attention from a tell-all biography by son Reth and now dealing, sometimes quite poorly, with 21st century life. Naturally events (in the form of reality TV) conspire to bring the back together.

I was pretty happy with the new story, though I don't expect it'll ever match the original run to me (offhand I can't think of any sort of generation-later follow-up which has). Parkhouse's work hasn't lost a step, although I did find the computer rendered greytone work more than a little distracting at times. It was an odd contrast with the classic linework. Other than that, his faces are expressive and funny, and he does a good job with some of the physical comedy bits. For the script, Moore gets to do some of the playing with language that he's always shown a facility for (though I found a few of his attempts to render accents phonetically a loitile deffacalt to entoiprat). He still shows a good feel for the characters, and gets in a few nice updates to the original stories. I did think the "reality" TV target of some of the parody felt a bit dated (but as I understand, this was scripted a few years ago), but even there he gets off some good gags.

So definitely worth a look.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Remarks on recent comics (2014.02.07)

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That's recently read, not recently published.

Time for one of those semi-regular attempts to get back to writing here...

Some things I've read lately a variety pack of comics from the last few decades:

PREACHER by Steve Dillon, Garth Ennis and others
OMAHA by Reed Waller & Kate Worley with James Vance
GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR by James Stokoe
YOU'RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK by Tom Gauld

Friday, January 03, 2014

THE ROCKETEER: CARGO OF DOOM by Samnee & Waid

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THE ROCKETEER: CARGO OF DOOM collects a recent mini-series of the continuing adventures of the Dave Stevens creation. Yeah, I know I said "I'm the market for non-Stevens Rocketeer stories", but I kind of liked the look of Chris Samnee's artwork, and have occasionally liked Mark Waid's writing in the past, so I figured I'd give it a look.

Samnee is much more to my liking for this material than the artist of the previous book I read. He doesn't try at all to draw like Stevens, but he's close enough on the spectrum that the characters and setting look recognizable. His style is closer to the old adventure strip artists like Frank Robbins and Noel Sickles, which nicely suits the subject matter. Unfortunately, I didn't like the writing as much. It did the required bits of business to get Samnee some neat stuff to draw (airplanes and dinosaurs), and the required bits of thinly disguised period pop-culture homages that characterize the series (a Doc Savage villain and the dinosaurs coming from the Skull Island of KING KONG fame, and I assume the distant villain Trask set up for a sequel is also some pop culture reference I don't recognize), but other than that it didn't really feel like the series Stevens set up.

So I guess what I want is to combine Roger Langridge's writing in the HOLLYWOOD HORROR series with Samnee's art in this one.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

FAIRY TALE COMICS by Chris Duffy (ed)

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FAIRY TALE COMICS is a recent anthology of 17 comic book adaptations of traditional fairy tales, about half from the Brothers Grimm and the balance from a variety of other sources, edited by Chris Duffy as a follow-up to his earlier NURSERY RHYME COMICS (2011). I thought there was some cute stuff in the prior book, but nothing too memorable, as the short length of the stories (mostly 2-3 pages) and the inherent nonsense of most of the source material didn't really work for me, although I'd have no trouble recommending it to someone a few decades closer to the target age group. FAIRY TALE COMICS was much more satisfying to me. Most of the stories are pretty familiar, of course, but a few of them were new to me, and pretty enjoyable.

I think the highlight was David Mazzucchelli's "Give Me the Shudders", one of the more obscure of the Brothers Grimm sourced stories (or at least the only one I hadn't heard before). Really makes you wish Mazzucchelli did more than one book every decade. He packs a lot into the story, with some nice subtle facial expressions and a lot of funny slightly creepy imagery.

Also high on the list, Raina Telgemeier does some nice stuff with the familiar "Rapunzel" story, Ramona Fradon provides some of the funniest scenes in the book in "The Prince And The Tortoise" and Luke Pearson's "The Boy Who Drew Cats" is a great little off-beat adaptation of the Japanese story which will definitely get me to check out his HILDA books.  Same for Joseph Lambert's Br'er Rabbit story "Rabbit Will Not Help", which has me looking forward to reading some more work by him soon.

Really solid book, with more than a fair share of excellent stories, and just about everything else at least interesting and with a distinctive style.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

DAN SPIEGLE: A LIFE IN COMIC ART by Coates

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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

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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

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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.

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