THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (4/21/10 – Rise of Slovenia & the Return of Dave Cooper)
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I just think adding superheroes to something instantly makes it more interesting. I have a friend who says every movie should either be a Spider-Man movie, or at least have Spider-Man in it. [Laughs.] I thought it was such a brilliant quote. It kind of is true, in a weird way. Have you watched a low-budget British movie, you know, about a guy who’s unemployed trying to make ends meet, and how does he feed his family now that the coal mine’s closed? If you suddenly had Spider-Man in it, you’d be a little more interested. [Laughs.] If that guy had super powers or a costume or something. On some craft level, I think there’s an element of truth to that. I just find that superheroes instantly make a story more interesting.
-Mark Millar, to the AV Club
This happened once. From 1966, the year of Batmania and The Monkees, I give you:
That’s right, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo. It’s real, it’s here, you can Netflix it. One hour and twelve minutes. And if you don’t nod your head a little bit when the guitar line kicks in as he swings that cape around toward the camera then buddy, you know a different Silver Age than I.
And yes, according to legend, director Ray Dennis Steckler — best known for 1964′s The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, but prior to that a cinematographer on legendary writer/producer/director/star Timothy Carey’s brain-searing, Frank Zappa-scored The World’s Greatest Sinner — was supposed to be making a perfectly normal ultra-low budget suspense picture, except after a while he got bored/panicked with the project’s development and, as I’d hope we’d all do in that situation, put together a pair of superhero costumes from stuff off the rack at Sears and finished the shoot in style. Someone has a gorilla suit? BOOM – action scene. A parade scheduled that week? They crashed the parade in costume and stole the footage for a set piece. However, the corollary legend, that Steckler didn’t want to pay to fix a fairly evident grammatical error in the title, is apparently not true – it was a little chant one of his kids started saying, so damn it, that was title.
Rat Pfink a Boo Boo is a lot like Kick-Ass, in that they’re both about superheroes in a ‘real’ world that obviously a total fake. But Steckler’s picture accomplishes this by purely cinematic and almost certainly accidental means, in that it ‘answers’ the completed footage of the crime movie it was supposed to be with acutely improvised capes ‘n tights antics, sprinkled with barely-relevant home movie footage cut A Hard Day’s Night-style to songs by leading man Ron Haydock, a rockabilly crooner supporting himself by writing scores of disreputable adult novels (and a few comics scripts for Warren magazines on the side, under the pseudonym Arnold Hayes). All boundaries between reality and fiction and art and assemblage are obliterated by the movie’s frantic lunge toward saleability, and by its effort it exhausts itself into a shambling heap of genre suggestion – if the Batman show was a slickly professional, comparatively desexualized variant cover of, say, Mike & George Kuchar, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo doubles right back to source material, the old Batman serials, transmitted in the form of a child’s daydream, half-understood real world anxieties careening into romper room escapades set to whatever’s on the radio nearby, pretty much. Like, there’s no sync sound or anything.
Wasn’t that last shot the end of The Warriors? I don’t think this has quite the same appeal – actually I suspect most people will find it to be lethally inane if not completely unwatchable, but there’s something to be said for a hard-headed exploitation film that does literally everything wrong, to the point where its very commercial intent is called into question. Pair it up with straight-arrow bullshit like Jerry Warren’s The Wild World of Batwoman from the same year and the difference is plain – Steckler is coming from a deeply goofy, weirdly personal place, committing to film the most inexplicable longbox find of your entire convention season.
Anyway, I’m confident that any of the fine artists listed below would be proud to have their work deemed the Rat Pfink a Boo Boo of comics of 2010. Immortality isn’t pretty, but it lasts.
The Culture Corner: An interesting experiment in Golden Age of Reprints presentational engineering, this new 160-page landscape-format Fantagraphics hardcover collects all of the great Basil Wolverton’s crackpot daily advice strips as seen in the pages of Fawcett’s Whiz Comics, 1945-52, presented in comparison with Wolverton’s original pencil roughs for what looks like every installment. Samples; $22.99.
Bloom County: The Complete Collection Vol. 2 (of 5): 1982-1984: Another 304 pages of vintage Berkeley Breathed, in the now-familiar enormous IDW size and presumably containing additional annotations for the tricky ’80s references and scattered comments by the artist; $39.99.
The Art of P. Craig Russell: Note that this appears to be a reissue of the 2007 Desperado Publishing edition of the same content — basically a 256-page overview of the works — now up in the front of Previews since Desperado has become an imprint of IDW; $49.99.
Greetings from Cartoonia: Basically a 220-page special issue of the Slovenia-based international comics anthology Stripburger, originally published in 2009, premised on the idea of a cartooning ‘homeland’ providing a dozen stories from a dozen artists — full list here — each one centering their contribution around an element of someone else’s homeland. Top Shelf is handling the distribution. Samples; $20.00.
KENK: A Graphic Portrait: And a multimedia affair. Spectators to the interaction of comics and cinema will want to hone their eyes on this Pop Sandbox release, a 304-page softcover comics biography from writer Richard Poplak and artist Nick Marinkovich, the latter working in tandem with conceiving producer Alex Jansen and filmmaker/designer Jason Gilmore to photocopy, alter and arrange frames of video footage, pertinent photographs and various source materials dealing with Igor Kenk — a charismatic Toronto figure (born in Slovenia, oddly enough) notorious for hoarding contraband in apparent preparation for societal collapse — into a pictorial narrative, with an interactive project and an animated film to come from the same raw stuff. Brings to my mind the Waltz with Bashir book-of-the-movie, though my understanding is this comic, arriving first, should prove more individual. Homepage here; $25.95.
MOME Vol. 18: The centerpiece of this Spring 2010 edition of the Fantagraphics house anthology is, without question, the return of Dave Cooper to comics, with Vice and Street Carnage co-founder (and minicomics artist) Gavin McInnes along as well. Also featured are new works by Tim Lane (of Abandoned Cars) and Joe Daly (Scrublands, Dungeon Quest, The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book), a new Cold Heat story by Ben Jones, Frank Santoro (who is a contributor to this site) and Jon Vermilyea, and assorted ongoing concerns by T. Edward Bak, Ted Stearn and Renée French. That really is a nice lineup, and I haven’t even mentioned everything. Contents list and preview; $14.99.
Captain America: Who Won’t Wield the Shield?: One of those humorous one-off anthology deals Marvel occasionally puts out in relation to some prominent storyline, this time noteworthy for the presence of the newly prolific Brendan McCarthy (of the current Spider-Man: Fever and Vertigo’s upcoming House of Mystery #27) teamed with writer Matt Fraction for an occult-themed short. Also featuring Jason Aaron & Mirco Pierfederici on Forbush Man and Stuart Moore & Joe Quinones on Deadpool. Preview; $3.99.
Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead: A sneaks-up-on-you sort of collection here, originating toward the beginning of co-creator Warren Ellis’ career in professional comics writing, with a near-future police detective/exorcist strip planned with artist Steve Pugh for the short-lived Blast! magazine. As time passed, Pugh got to working with the character, eventually spinning her off into work scripted on his own, from Ellis’ original concepts, primarily manifested in a 2009 Radical Comics miniseries pulsing with neon hues. This 136-page softcover collects that series, plus various other items of interest from the property’s history. Many images here; $14.95.
Do Anything Vol. 1: Jack Kirby Ripped My Flesh: Swinging the pendulum waaaay over to Ellis’ side (he also has a new issue of Gravel this week with artist/co-writer Mike Wolfer), here’s a 48-page, Jacen Burrows-covered Avatar collection of his online serialized essay, a widely-enjoyed tour of buzzing creative connections, vivified historical incidents and influential figures gone personalized; I suspect it reads particularly well in one gulp; $5.99.
Crossed: Family Values #1 (of 6): A softcover collection of the original Garth Ennis/Jacen Burrows people-stripped-of-inhibitions-as-zombie-hordes miniseries was recently released, and a $32.99 hardcover is due on Wednesday, and it turns out the movie rights have not only been picked up but Ennis has already drafted a screenplay, so it probably won’t be that startling to see a spin-off on the shelves, although the presence of David Lapham now marks I believe the first time Ennis has allowed another writer to script alone on one of his creator-owned works. The artist is one Javier Barreno, and the subject matter is a family cracking the fuck up. I wonder if Lapham’s gonna try and top the tender family scenes of the original Crossed debut? Preview; $3.99.
Garth Ennis’ Battlefields: The Firefly and his Majesty #2 (of 3): His name’s right in the title of this one, so here’s more WWII tank-hunting from Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra. Preview; $3.50.
Kingyo Used Books Vol. 1: Being the latest print output for Viz’s SigIkki line of alt-flavored manga for older audiences serialized online then released in handsome softcovers. This one appears to be a suite of slice of life tales in which people come to terms with things via the intervention of (authentic) manga series from all over, profiled between segments. This gives the series a certain educational character around here, but from the samples I’ve read I’m gonna have to issue a red flag warning for potentially incendiary heart-warming. Artist Seimu Yoshizaki is still working at it now, with the Japanese vol. 10 due out in just over a week; $12.99.
Vagabond VizBig Vol. 7: Another huge 640-page doorstop that has Takehiko Inoue sword fighting comics inside! Covering vols. 19-21 of the VizSmall editions. As I’ve mentioned before, the series is due to end this year, so this particular iteration will probably wrap around vol. 11 or so; $19.99.
Real Vol. 8: After that, it’s possible Inoue might devote his fill attentions to this side project, an ongoing competition drama set in the world of wheelchair basketball. As of now, we’re right behind the new-ish Japanese vol. 9; $12.99.
RASL Vol. 2: The Fire of St. George: The next big ‘n tall (12″ x 9″ or so) softcover collection of Jeff Smith’s dusty open-spaced parallel dimensional drama, although maybe half of these 112 pages are devoted to scientific and character backstory; $15.00.
100%: Just a new Vertigo softcover edition of my personal favorite Paul Pope work, a big cast romance comic — reconfigured in part from Pope’s Smoke Navigator manga and a proposed addition to his European-styled Escapo project, which starts to sum up the cosmopolitan makeup of the visual style right there – flitting through massive future shock settings in search for security, sincerity, sex and caring. Now with whatever sketches, designs, etc. were included with the most recent hardcover; $29.99.
Joe the Barbarian #4 (of 8): Grant Morrison & Sean Murphy continue into the world of hallucination/imagination; $2.99.
Hellblazer #266: Peter Milligan & Simon Bisley conclude with the world of old-tyme punke rock. Next storyline sees the return of primary artists Giuseppe Camuncoli & Stefano Landini and signature Milligan character Shade the Changing Man; $2.99.
Comic Heroes Magazine #1: Your thing about comics for the week – um, I had literally no idea a new magazine on superhero-ish culture stuff was launching, but this appears to be a quarterly UK effort from Future Publishing, spun out from the long-lived sci-fi/fantasy publication SFX. A sparse homepage promises Judge Dredd-related content and free magnets along with the no doubt emphasized movie coverage; $19.99.
Shinjuku: Your illustrated prose book for the week, a future bounty hunter vs. demons scenario by comics writer/music video & feature film director mink (Christopher Morrison) filled out with 100+ new images by the always flip-worthy illustrator Yoshitaka Amano, he of Final Fantasy and Vampire Hunter D and The Sandman: The Dream Hunters and lots of other pursuits. Preview; $29.99.