Saturday, March 31, 2007

And this is why Eddie Campbell is brilliant...

Sayeth Eddie Campbell:

Here's a single panel comic of a man raising his hat. The most comic part of it is that his head is still stuck in the hat.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Complete" Alan Moore Future Shocks

Before this turns into the EC Weblog...
(which would have been a great idea for a separate weblog)

COMPLETE ALAN MOORE FUTURE SHOCKS was a 200 page book that came out last year, with 49 of the stories that Moore did for 2000 AD back in the 1980s, the ones that don't fit into his major series that had their own books (SKIZZ, HALO JONES and D.R. & QUINCH). Unfortunately it runs a bit short of the "Complete" of the title, with nine stories missing by my count, which they have to be aware of since you can find that out from their own website. A couple of the exclusions are both odd and frustrating, including his first 2000 AD story ("The Killer in the Cab") and his second, which is the first with major future collaborator Dave Gibbons ("The Dating Game"). Plus a bunch where he writes a few of the major non-Dredd 2000 AD characters, like Rogue Trooper, Ro-Busters and ABC Warriors (kind of odd that he never actually wrote Judge Dredd).

21 of the stories didn't appear in the two collections published in the 1980s, so for the most part were previously unreprinted or only seen in those ugly colour comics of 2000 AD reprints we used to get (TIME TWISTERS, etc). It's an interesting mix, a few very clever and with flashes of wit you expect from Moore, while on the other end a few are formulaic and dull.

Mister, Could You Use a Squonge? (prog 242, art by Ron Tiner)
A cute little story with some decent gags about some plastic jellyfish serving as "exo-brains" causing a plague of insanity on Earth, although the punchline depends on a rather improbable bit of staging that kind of ruins it.

A Second Chance (prog 245, art by Jose Casanovas)
Wow, this is probably the most disappointing story in this book. Fortunately only two pages, but come on, the last man on Earth after a nuclear war finds the last woman. His name is Adam and hers is... Mavis. Get it? You thought it would be Eve, but it's Mavis!

Twist Ending (prog 246, art by Paul Neary)
Goofball little story about a reporter trying to test out a theory that a science fiction writer is actually an alien, as suggested in one of his own stories.

Salad Days (prog 247, art by John Higgins)
Hinges on a really bad pun to update the already strained wordplay that makes the TWILIGHT ZONE episode "To Serve Man" work. Which is brilliant for a two-pager, and Higgins artwork sells it wonderfully.

The Beastly Beliefs of Benjamin Blint (prog 249, art by Eric Bradbury)
Almost works as a clever short story with the images taking on a whole new meaning in relationship to the text when you get to the last panel, except that the eye can't help but jump to the last panel early, giving it all away. With a different layout, a pageturn in the middle, it might have worked better.

All of Them Were Empty (prog 251, art by Paul Neary)
This is a similar "last panel flips everything around" twist, but works better since the image doesn't make it obvious what the twist is until you read the captions. Not as clever a twist, though.



The Bounty Hunters! (prog 253, art by John Higgins)
Excellent little story about the search for a fugitive who can disguise himself as anything, including a nice little resonance with Moore's later Green Lantern Corps story "Mogo Doesn't Socialize". And Higgins art again is a highlight, some of the best in the book.

Return of the Thing (prog 265, art by Dave Gibbons)
A really disappointing little thing. These two-pagers don't really seem to be Moore's strength.

Skirmish (prog 267, art by Dave Gibbons)
A slightly better two-pager, this one about an alien invasion thwarted by unlikely quarters. I particularly liked how the sound effects were used in this one, reminding me of those cute little sound effects Moore used in SWAMP THING.

The Writing on the Wall (prog 268, art by Jesus Redondo)
Back to form on the two-pagers, although I will say that I always like Redondo's artwork on these.

The Big Day (prog 270, art by Jesus Redondo)
A pretty decent little twist ending story about a prophet leading his people to the coming of their gods, marred by the fact that it's a two-page spread with some of the lettering and art almost lost completely in the binding, including the most clever bit of dialogue. I hate it when that happens.

No Picnic (prog 272, art by John Higgins)
And it happens again in this story. where it's also hard to figure out what order to read the panels in. Would a little bit of production to at least keep the lettering legible be too much to ask? Anyway, not a great story either, this one a theory on the origin of the Easter Island heads.

Dad (prog 329, art by Alan Langford)
I think I'm missing something in this one. So "Dad" is the computer, making this a 2001: A Space Odyssey riff? Or something else?

Buzz Off (prog 331, art by Jim Eldridge)
Odd little mostly silent story about house flies, who it turns out are little tiny flying ships. Very strange.

Look Before You Leap (prog 332, art by Mike White)
Another not-as-clever-as-it-wants-to-be short, this one about a hunter who catches a bird using a decoy, and then sees a woman in distress. You can see where that's going.

Einstein (prog 309, art by John Higgins)
Very nice little story about aliens coming to Earth in the far future, after humanity has wiped itself out, and using their technology to bring back key humans from history as part of an intergalactic zoo. They include two Einsteins among the returned, who together figure out what's going on and lead a massive escape and uprising. The dialogue between the two Einsteins as they try to figure out how they were brought back (and why they're coloured blue) is an inspired bit of writing.

Going Native (prog 318, art by Mike White)
A kind of predictable time travel story, with the title pretty much giving it away when you found out the premise is a time-traveller gone back to find out what the missing link in human evolution was. The scripting really sells it, though, with the whole thing being told in narration without dialogue, and a nice sense of nostalgia and melancholy.

The Startling Success of Sideways Scuttleton (prog 327, art by John Higgins)
I mentioned this story once before from a previous reprint, and I still really like the scripting as a good showcase for Moore's gifts in that area. The artwork looks much better in this printing, too. I decided to check this time, and indeed one pound coins were introduced around the time of the 1983 publication of this story, so that explains the ending.

Hot Item (prog 278, art by John Higgins)
This is what Moore calls a "list" story in his introductions in the 1980s reprint books (sadly not included in this one), where he takes an absurd situation and runs down a variety of equally absurd consequences of it. In this case its a future where entropy has run wild, and the energy of the universe is running down, so everything is much slower. A lot of clever little sight gags and science so bad it should be criminal, and a really goofy ending.

Dr. Dibworthy’s Disappointing Day (prog 316, art by Alan Langford)
Decent little story which really plays well with the comic form, since the text itself is very plain and simple, while the real story is going on in the pictures, as we see shifts in timelines that the text ignores.



Abelard Snazz: The Return of the Two-Storey Brain (prog 209, art by Mike White)
Snazz is a character in eight stories that finish off this book. Seven of them were in one of the previous books, but this one wasn't included then because Moore later discovered he'd unconsciously lifted some ideas from R.A. Lafferty. Apparently the compilers of this collection didn't mind so much, so here it is. Anyway, Snazz is a character based on the disconcerting image of a man with two rows of eyes, on the logic that that means two brains, but a tendency to come up with solutions to problems that are overly complicated and only cause more problems. He's a really maddening character, and I'm not quite sure I like him, but there's goofy stuff in every story, and this is no exception. In particular I liked the use of a panel super-imposed on a giant sound effect in a few places here.

So a decent collection overall, even with the omissions and production problems on a few stories, and well worth picking up even if you do have the previous books (all of those 28 stories are also here, with highlights including "The Hyper-Historic Headbang" (Alan Davis), "The Wages of Sin" (Bryan Talbot), "Chrono-Cops" (Dave Gibbons), "The Reversible Man" (Mike White), "The Last Rumble of the Platinum Horde" (John Higgins), "They Sweep the Spaceways" (Garry Leach), "Grawks Bearing Gifts" (Ian Gibson), and many more. Also included are the covers for the two of the tales which got the cover slot and short biographies of Moore and the various artists.

EC - Confession (Wood)

Confession
art by Wallace Wood, story by Al Feldstein
Shock SuspenStories #4 (1952)

Nice little drama with a man driving down a dark street when he sees a woman lying on the ground. With no phone nearby he drives off to call an ambulance, but just as he drives off a police car comes up and he gets arrested for a hit-and-run. The police take him in and try to get him to confess, and get even rougher when they find out that the woman was the wife of police lieutenant.

The grilling continues for hours, even as the lieutenant rejects possible exonerating forensic evidence. Eventually they get a confession, and of course we find out that the lieutenant had killed his own wife and used the opportunity to frame the hapless driver. See what kind of confessions you get with torture?

Knowing that there's a twist ending in these stories makes them kind of obvious sometimes, but along the way this time there's some great art by Wood, especially of the shadowy interrogation room.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

EC - Grave Business (Ingels)

Grave Business!
art by Graham Ingels, story by Al Feldstein
Haunt of Fear #10 (1951)

Heh, "Grave Business", and it's a story about undertakers! How do they do it!

The Old Witch first establishes the underhanded dealings of the undertaking business, in the form Ezra, who manages to convince a widow to spend all of her insurance money on an overly lavish funeral which is almost all profit for him. And he's far from alone in this, as his partner has learned from him, and at a convention of undertakers they all brag about their markups and corrupt dealings.



So of course Ezra gets in an accident, and is completely paralysed so everyone assumes he's dead. His body is taken to his partner, who decides that he'll take advantage of the situation to make enough money on Ezra's funeral to buy his share of the business from the estate, to the point of skipping the embalming which would have revealed that Ezra was alive. So in ironic justice for how he treated the dead, Ezra is buried alive.

A decent enough story, although a bit predictable, and with a lot of odd bitterness toward the funeral industry. Ingels really goes to town on some of the faces, nicely showing the cruelty of the characters making money from taking advantage of death.

Friday, March 23, 2007

EC - Kill (Kurtzman)

Kill!
by Harvey Kurtzman
Two-Fisted Tales #23[#6] (1951)

A little morality play set in the Korean War from Kurtzman in this story, as we first meet Abner, an American soldier who's always sharpening his knife and eager to use it against a Chinese soldier.




Meanwhile, on the other side, is an equally creepy Chinese soldier named Li feels the same way about the machine gun he lovingly takes care of. No surprise then as Abner meets Li on the battle field, and they manage to kill each other and lay dying next to each other, and we get a lecture from Kurtzman about how we should "regard no man's life cheaper than your own".

Lots of great little bits of storytelling from Kurtzman here, especially how the scene introducing Li echoes the images from two pages earlier of Abner. A bit preachy there at the end, but an interesting contrast to the gung-ho nature of many war comics.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

EC - Revenge (Krigstein)

Revenge
art by Bernard Krigstein, story by unknown
Aces High #2 (1955)

One of Krigstein's more conventional stories in this one, as a US pilot in the First World War falls in love with a nurse while recovering from injuries. Unfortunately, she dies in an attack from the German pilot Von Rustow, in a nice little cinematic sequence.



Our hero vows vengeance, but his superiors refuse to put him back on combat duty until he's fully recovered, but puts him in an observation plane instead. Of course he ends up encountering Von Rustow anyway, and with some tricky flying manages to ram him, killing them both.

Not the most realistic air combat story, but Krigstein does a good job with a few of the sequences, keeping it visually interesting enough that the more cliche story elements don't overwhelm it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

EC - Cave Man (Craig)

Cave Man
by Johnny Craig
Crypt of Terror, The #19[#3] (1950)

This is the story of Homer Perry, a curator who has worked for years on a display that will make his career, but just before he's finished there's a discovery of an intact frozen caveman which overshadows his own work, which he's not even able to finish as he's pulled to prepare a display for the caveman. In his bitterness he decides to destroy the caveman by thawing him out, but to his surprise finds out this brings the ancient man back to life, whereupon he goes on a rampage and kills Homer.



After the rampage, and confused and frightened by this new world, the unfrozen caveman becomes a lawyer... oh wait, I mean refreezes himself in his display, leaving everyone to assume Homer went crazy with jealousy and destroyed the exhibit.

Cute little story, but it takes too long for the caveman to unfreeze and then it doesn't last long enough.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

EC - The Flying Saucer Invasion (Feldstein)

The Flying Saucer Invasion
by Al Feldstein
Weird Science #13[#2] (1950)

An odd bit of alternate history in this Feldstein effort from the early days of the New Trend, as we follow the eyewitnesses to several flying saucer sightings beginning in 1948, some from some not so reliable witnesses.



But others included air force pilots. Reaction varies around the world, but the US government does whatever it can to convince the witnesses that what they thought they saw could be something else, from a tornado to a balloon to an alcoholic delusion, and firmly disproves the existence of flying saucers by early 1950. Several months later an observatory catches sight of an incoming invasion of thousands of flying saucers. Just goes to show you never can trust the government.

Nothing too great in this one, as they were still working out the best way to do their twist endings at this point, and it doesn't quite work here, and the flying saucers are kind of bland looking.

Monday, March 19, 2007

EC - Link-Up (Severin/Elder)

Link-Up
art by John Severin & Will Elder, story by Harvey Kurtzman
Two-Fisted Tales #26[#9] (1952)

This is part of a special issue of TWO-FISTED which had tales of the "action at the Changjin Reservoir" in the Korean War the previous winter. This story follows a group of frontline marines through a night, with the focus on one soldier named Pop who keeps complaining about wanting to go home.


The Easy Company reference is kind of cute, in retrospect, although this was actually published years before another publisher made Easy Company famous. Anyway, the battle rages through the night, until they sun rises and the army backup arrives and they see the bodies piled up. Pop meanwhile still wants to fight, and has to be dragged away by medics.

An interesting little story, especially for one published so quickly after the events in question. Some great images of the grungy battleground conditions by Severin and Elder.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

What's wrong with this cover?

Hint, look at the box where the UPC code goes.




Awfully generous of Marvel to offer ad space to the competition right there on the cover like that.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

EC - African Scream (Wood)

African Scream!
art by Wallace Wood, story by Al Feldstein
Panic #2 (1954)

Hitting all of the pop-culture touchstones of the 1950s, this story is a parody of the 1951 movie AFRICAN QUEEN, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Or in this case, "Yogert" and "Heartburn", traveling on a steamboat in Africa, fighting Germans in the early days of World War One.



I'm not familiar with the original movie, but there's enough background in here that you don't need to be. It's typical of Wood's Mad/Panic work of the era, with a lot of weird random background jokes and really good cartoony versions of the celebrities being parodied. I also thought that the script did a good job of capturing Hepburn's distinctive voice.

EC - Camera (Severin)

Camera
art by John Severin, story by Colin Dawkins
Extra #1 (1955)

One of the things that EC tried in the later days, continuing into some of their "New Direction" titles, was adding a few on-going characters to their books. One of them was "Slick" Steve Rampart, intrepid globe trotting photographer appearing as John Severin's contribution to the short-lived titled EXTRA.



In his debut adventure, Rampart is off to a diplomatic conference in Geneva, where he hopes to get a photo of the elusive General Marcus. He notices some odd behaviour in one of the other photographers, so he follows the suspicious character, breaks into his room to find out what's up with his camera and getting beaten up for his troubles. Later he sneaks back and does something with the camera, and the next day reveals that the fake camera was actually a gun, part of a plan to shoot the General and start a war. As an extra bonus, the photo taken by the switched camera provides the evidence they need, and the would-be assassin gets shot by his own rigged camera.

It's not a bad set-up for an ongoing series, though of course it didn't last long enough to really develop. Some nice work by Severin, not his best, but even lesser Severin is always worth a look.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

DUNGEON by Sfar/Trondheim

I wasn't sure what to expect from Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim's book DUNGEON - TWILIGHT VOL. 1 - DRAGON CEMETERY when I took it out of the library recently. I really liked Sfar's THE RABBI'S CAT, but wasn't as impressed with his VAMPIRE LOVES, and what little I'd read from Trondheim before (some issues of NIMROD) didn't make much of an impression on me one way or another. And then I realized that despite the "Vol. 1" right there in the middle of the title, this was actually the middle of a long saga (or the beginning of the last act, after the earlier EARLY YEARS and ZENITH, with some other side stories. Or something, I'm still not clear on it all. Here's English language publisher NBM's page on the series).

Fortunately it stands on its own as a good place to start, and turned out to be a really fun fantasy adventure. Fast moving, funny at times, with a lot of surprises as we follow an old and blind dragon warrior named Marvin going to his death, gaining companions like a seeing-eye bat and a young warrior rabbit also named Marvin (in honour of the dragon Marvin's younger exploits). Along the way they run afoul of an overlord duck named Herbert, a former companion of Marvin. And all that only scratches the surface of some of the weird concepts and characters that populate the book. And somehow it all works, with clear storytelling, fun scripting and some amazing character and setting designs.

I'm definitely going to have to read some more of this series, and see if I can figure out what exactly is going on. There's a lot of intriguing stuff in here.

ABADAZAD v2 by DeMatteis/Ploog

Ages ago I mentioned reading the first volume of ABADAZAD in its new prose/comics hybrid format. It was enjoyable stuff, and I was eager to get around to reading the second book, THE DREAM THIEF, which continues the story beyond what appeared in the original comic book format. I'm happy to say that it was more than satisfactory after all this time.



The first half of the book finishes up what appeared in the comic, although with a few major changes that I think really improve from the previous version. Kate's departure from the Floating City with Wix felt a bit unsatisfactory and abrupt in the comic, as if the creators were just in a hurry to get along with the big quest, and it all works a lot better with some of the additions made in the new version.

After that we get some new stuff, as Kate finally has her meeting with the Waterlogged Warlock and we get some interesting background on what's really going on in the larger story and start Kate on the heart of her quest right. Lots of interesting goofiness, and some more great designs of the characters by Ploog.

The next book, THE PUPPET, THE PROFESSOR AND THE PROPHET, should be out in the not too distant future, and finally introduces Professor Headstrong, one of the most intriguing looking characters (as presumably DeMatteis and Ploog also think, since he was on the first cover of the comic series way back when). Should be good.

Hip as they come...

The Combat-Happy Joes of Easy tore into the Nazis like teenagers wolfin' up a six-foot long hero sandwich after rockin' and rollin' at a hullabaloo party!




Ah, DC in 1966, so very sure they were hip and with-it. And so very, very, wrong...
Weblog by BobH [bobh1970 at gmail dot com]