THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (9/9/10 – Another Thursday Trip)
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Just a little end of summer traveling for your enjoyment; it was no doubt a pertinent theme for Schrier, whom I believe mailed in the issue’s final pages to Rip-Off Press from his work with the Peace Corps in Afghanistan circa 1971 or so.
Not much else to say, although hopefully I’ll have recovered some vocal function by this weekend’s Small Press eXpo, in which I and Tim will be participating in the Bill Kartalopoulos-moderated How We Judge comics critics panel with Johanna Draper Carlson, Gary Groth, Chris Mautner, Ken Parille and Caroline Small. That’s Saturday at 3:00; I’m told there will be a lot of added excitement this year with the addition of volunteers and/or Miss Maryland Teen USA hopefuls positioned under the floor to saw out holes around our seats if we aren’t sufficiently insightful. The rest of the weekend’s programming features Dan participating with Brian Ralph, Paul Lyons and Tom Devlin in discussing the Fort Thunder Legacy (again moderated by Bill K., Sat. 5:30) and Tim moderating a talk between Frank and Jim Rugg on “auteurial work that shows the influence of commercial comics” (Sun. 4:00), among other fine events. Come on down (up, over, through) and say hello.
As for new funnies:
Cuba: My Revolution: Your original hardcover comic for the week, a Vertigo graphic novel scripted by painter Inverna Lockpez, an autobiographical fiction set amidst a young woman’s decaying faith in the revolutionary ideal. Art by Dean Haspiel, part-colored by José Villarrubia. Preview; $24.99.
VENT Vol. 1: Being a new 224-page color anthology from the gaming-manga style specialists at Udon Entertainment, although it might be more accurate to call it a Japanese-style “mook” (i.e. a magazine/book), in that it purports to feature art tutorials and articles in addition to new comics and illustrations. I also suspect the publisher’s experience in releasing the Japanese/Korean color comics anthologies Robot and APPLE may have informed the project, although I don’t think there’s any translated material on tap.
That actually underscores Udon’s connection to a both highly pertinent and somehow mostly forgotten aspect of our manga-in-America past: the anime-informed comics boomlet of the late ’90s, those dog days of a crashed mainstream. Actual manga was around then in English translation, as it had been for over a decade prior, but it’s crucial not to underestimate the influence of Japanese animation on American manga fandom; sometimes it’d be the smaller, already niche-oriented anime industry dictating manga releases in the U.S., where the comics market had proven tough to break into while anime enjoyed a fairly established fanbase. As a result, it wasn’t too surprising that the creator-oriented, visuals-first realm of Image served as a hothouse for slick color comics poised to capture the glossy feel of anime images while working in some big impact male-targeted manga pacing – Image imprint Dreamwave Productions specialized in this, although Wildstorm eventually served up the quintessential hybridization of Joe Madureira’s never-finished Battle Chasers, which blended Jim Lee/J. Scott Campbell-descended fantastical stylings with a type of anime illustration aesthetic as processed through Japanese gaming production art (and increasingly sophisticated cut scene graphics, courtesy of the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn), all in the service of a plot reminiscent of console role-playing games.
These were very popular comics in their day, which proved to be somewhat short; the tenor of manga fandom right now seems to value ‘authentic’ Japanese material above combination aesthetics, although Udon (founded in 2000) continues to work in a colorful gaming-informed mode, where the focus is perhaps a bit more relaxed; it’s often said anyway that the potential anime talents of this generation have been swallowed up by the better-paying video game world. As for these domestic artists, I immediately recognize at least one name from those older times: Long Vo, of the once-Image-affiliated Studio XD, connected to Udon and active in gaming, and present at the publishing nascence of even younger talents like Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley, who began his print-format career there laying down letters and sfx. See how it all comes together? List of contributors and samples here; $39.99.
The Simon & Kirby Superheroes: But if it’s a huge anthology of 100% authentic vintage comics you want, I doubt you’ll do better this month than a 480-page, 7 1/2″ x 11″ Titan Books hardcover brick of apparently every non-Marvel/DC superhero collaboration the titular team produced between 1940 and 1960, with added appearances by Mort Meskin & Steve Ditko, and even a little unpublished material. Authorized by Joe Simon & the Kirby Estate; introduction by Neil Gaiman. No doubt a compulsive flip-through; $49.95.
From Shadow to Light: The Life and Art of Mort Meskin: WAIT WAIT – did someone say “Mort Meskin”? Because there just might be a completely different book devoted just to him this week. Fantagraphics presents a 220-page, 9.5″ x 12.25″ hardcover career overview by Steven Brower (w’ Peter & Philip Meskin), no doubt with many illustrations included. Introduction by Jerry Robinson. Excerpts; $39.99.
The Complete Harlem Heroes: And then, of course, there’s British science fiction strips of the late 1970s. Devised by Pat Mills and scripted by Tom Tully, Harlem Heroes was in fact among the debut serials in the spanking new 2000 AD, a sporting comic about a Globetrotters-like future basketball/martial arts team that works tenaciously to win the big championship despite most of them dying in a bus accident. This 320-page collection also includes the notoriously violent near-immediate sequel series Inferno. Art by Dave Gibbons & Massimo Belardinelli; $25.50.
Conan: The Newspaper Strips Vol. 1: Nope, I hadn’t realized there was one of these either, but I tend to forget exactly how big a property Conan got to be in the ’70s. Apparently swords were swung on the funnies page from 1978-81, with writing by Roy Thomas & Doug Moench and art by John Buscema, Ernie Chan, Alfredo Alcala, Rudy Nebres, Pablo Marcos, Alan Kupperberg and Tom Yeates. This is “vol. 1,” although I can’t seem to find information as to the strip’s total duration. Samples; $34.99.
X-9 Secret Agent Corrigan Vol. 1: I do, however, recall this long-lived secret agent/detective strip, established by Dashiell Hammett & Alex Raymond in 1934 and run in some form or another until 1996. This IDW release focuses on a single creative team, however: artist Al Williamson and writer Archie Goodwin, who remained paired on the strip for over a decade, starting in 1967. The first two years of the partnership and duly covered; $49.99.
Creepy Archives Vol. 7: Speaking of Goodwin, this edition of Dark Horse’s Warren reprints line (#33-36) sees his brief return to the b&w horror magazine as an associate editor, as well as the debut of one Richard Corben. With Tom Sutton, Pat Boyette, Reed Crandall, Ernie Colon, Jack Sparling and others. Preview; $49.99.
Mighty Samson Archives Vol. 1: More Gold Key reprints from Dark Horse, this time featuring a Savage Land hero written by Otto Binder and (mostly) drawn (for now) by Frank Thorne, although I think Jack Sparling (him again!) is in here too. Covers issues #1-6 (1964-66). Samples; $49.99.
Twin Spica Vol. 3 (of 16): Continuing this sweet-natured, cutely-drawn blend of struggle-to-succeed dramatics and hard science as Japan seeks to reach the stars. From Vertical; $10.95.
Gantz Vol. 12: This is exactly the opposite of Twin Spica. Soon to go monthly(!!); $12.99.
Whispers in the Walls #2 (of 6): Continuing the revived Humanoids release of this David Muñoz-written moody horror series. Humanoids, of course, is the North American branch of French comics publisher Les Humanoïdes Associés, and has been spending its time experimenting with different release formats, including free English-language webcomic releases of Bouncer (a well-executed, pretty much straight-on Old West gunfighter series by Alejandro Jodorowsky & the fine François Boucq, picking up from the French tome 3 since the first two were collected in print a few years ago when Humanoids was teamed with DC) and Unfabulous Five (a Jerry Frissen/’Bill’ funny luchador series from 2008-10, spun out from a separate anthology series, Lucha Libre, partially published by Humanoids and Image), plus the conclusion to Jodorowsky’s & Juan Giménez’s The Metabarons in a wide softcover format matching prior DC/Humanoids releases of earlier chapters, except with brighter printing. They’re also planning a France/U.S. near-simultaneous release of an all-in-one hardcover compilation of Jodorowsky’s & Moebius’ The Incal, with the original colors restored following an ill-advised ’00s modernization – it looks nice. But for now, we have a comic book miniseries; $3.50.
I Am Legion: Oh, and also a complete hardcover edition of this 2004-2007 Fabien Nury/John Cassaday WWII horror series, re-lettered and widened from prior comic book releases, i.e. a partial 2004 publication from DC/Humanoids and a complete 2009 publication in association with Devil’s Due; $29.95.
Spider-Man: Fever: Collecting Brendan McCarthy’s recent return to longform comics, a sparkled digital glow saga of Dr. Strange venturing to liberate Spider-Man from danger beyond the veil of everyday reality. In case you missed the comic book release. Also includes the Lee/Ditko Spider-Man/Strange team-up from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2, which provided inspiration for the story; $14.99.
Starstruck #13 (of 13): Wrapping up this IDW re-presentation of the sprawling Elaine Lee/Michael Wm. Kaluta space venture; interested parties are directed to the six-issue 1985-86 Epic comic book iteration of Starstruck for further material left uncovered by this project; $3.99.
Weird War Tales: One of several war-themed one-offs DC is releasing this month, this one an anthology notable for a story by Darwyn Cooke and an appearance by fantasy comics veteran Jan Strnad, whom I can’t recall seeing a new script from in a little while; $3.99.
B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – New World #2 (of 5): Mignola, Arcudi, Davis; $3.50.
Batman and Robin #14: In all candor, last issue was the first time I actually got the menacing poisoned camp aesthetic writer Grant Morrison has been prone to attribute to this series, and that’s entirely due to the energetic digital efforts of Frazer Irving, he of sickly washed color and hung, smooth faces; $2.99.
Batman: Odyssey #3 (of 13): Is Batman narrating this thing naked? I mean, I hope he is. Note that Diamond and DC itself are now disregarding DC’s previously stated plan to split the project into dual six-issue miniseries, instead presenting a single run of issues, although Diamond has it going to #13 instead of #12. Preview; $3.99.
glamourpuss #15: Finally, I’ve found that it’s interesting to look at this Dave Sim project as a hugely assertive act of curation, not just collecting favorite photo-realist comic strips and telling their history, but inking them himself — what firmer and more ‘comics’ an act is that? — and thus incorporating them completely into his highly personal historical narrative. Along with the fashion jokes; $3.00.