Posts Tagged ‘Peter Milligan’

THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (11/17/10 – Small Lives)


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

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Here we have an image from one of the highlights of this week’s releases: Fantagraphics’ The Littlest Pirate King, an English edition of the 2009 album Roi Rose by the redoubtable David B., himself working from a Pierre Mac Orlan prose story (from 1921, I believe). It ‘s a lovely presentation, as thin (48 pages), tall (8.5 x 11.25″) and comparatively costly ($16.99) as the hardcover album format tends to demand; it’s no surprise, perhaps, that the slightly altered title and solicitation copy (“…a magical yarn that can be enjoyed by young and old alike”) motion toward the Young Adult or children’s books market, a potentially safer space for works in this or similar format(s).

Yet there’s also an appreciable difference between what we’ve seen of David B. in English and what we’re about to get. If this is the kid-friendly Beauchard joint, its calling card is the artist’s interest in depicting animated panel-to-panel ‘action,’ as seen above. There is a great interest here in impactful representation: huge sea creatures, sloshing waves, thick shadows and rich colors, dictative of mood.

The iconographic style typically deployed by the artist — at least in the body of work available to English-only readers — sinks into a manga-like diminution of detail, like how a character might become chibi for the purposes of delivering a joke, though for David B. it’s to blend individual forms into masses of activity, gradually shrinking in the bottom two tiers as each panel leaps forward in space and time. In closer views, the skeletal nature of David B.’s undead cast allows for some dramatic use of shadow (panel 1), while otherwise conveying the mass of humanity that is the undead. No anonymous zombies here, yet it is an effort (and damn effective) at fixed depiction, which rests this younger-targeted piece that much closer to the mainstream of genre comics art.


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THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (10/20/10 – Veterans United)


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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This scene comes courtesy of WildStorm-affiliated colorist Jonny Rench, who died this past weekend at the age of 28. I recalled him easily from the work pictured above, the 2007-08 miniseries The Programme, written by Peter Milligan and drawn by C.P. Smith. I can best describe Smith’s art as ‘heavy realism’ in the shadowed, deliberately posed manner of Jae Lee, whose own work typically divines much impact from its interaction with colors by José Villarrubia or June Chung; Rench colored Smith on the first five of twelve issues. In keeping with the broadly satirical nature of Milligan’s drug-kissed scenario — seeing literal Russian superpowers rise up to gift an uncertain terrorism-era America with the certainty of national competition — Rench blasts most all displays of superhuman force with garish, fuzzy, sickly colors. Otherwise, Smith’s photo-still figures are bathed in one or more hue.

It’s one of the more peculiar-looking longform series to see release from DC/Marvel in a while, enough so to wedge the visual team’s names in my memory. And it’s unfortunate my recall should be sparked again by such sad news, but there you go.

Onto the upcoming works:


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THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (4/7/10 – Dangerous Duos & Conflicts of Interest)


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

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For reasons far too exciting to reveal on the internet, I spent part of my Easter Sunday reading the new Titan Books edition of Tank Girl: The Odyssey, initially published by Vertigo in 1995. That was also the year of the infamous movie adaptation – indeed, writer Peter Milligan also scripted the Official Comic of the Movie around the same time, with artist Andy Pritchett. But The Odyssey boasted a little something extra: franchise co-creator Jamie Hewlett drawing 96 pages of story, which I believe still ranks as the longest sustained comics narrative he’s ever done.

Appropriately, it’s in many ways a comic about resurrection – most immediately by the fuzzy quality of the “remastered” art, which looks different enough from the bonus strips in the back that I wonder if there was some problem with the source materials. The story is also troubled, but in a more appealing way; Milligan notes in a new introduction that his script acted to invoke Ulysses — specifically its recurrences of mythic archetypes on the din of the everyday — as a means of imposing some personal sense and structure on Hewlett’s & Alan Martin’s also-loud and rather closed-off Tank Girl aesthetic.

But an established, popular comic strip comes with specific expectations, and Milligan’s initial crack at the first issue was heavy enough with Homeric and Joycean allusions that an editor urged him to scale things back on rewrite. This is symbolized in-story by Tank Girl getting annoyed with the “filthy rotten modernist omniscient voice” in the captions and shooting it to death; the character thereafter narrates in her own words. I guess it isn’t too surprising, then, that the book as a whole comes off as not all that different from a collection of Martin/Hewlett shorts – it’s a work of vignettes, some of them pretty funny and excellent, and roped tighter to each other than usual for Tank Girl, but still never accumulating into something greater plot-wise, all (fairly shallow) literary nods aside.

However, it does make for a striking piece of metafiction: eternally recurring mythic-literary structures as an apologia for comic book work-for-hire, from a writer often known to calm his voice for franchise assignments. “I’ve probably got loads more stories to have told about me, by all sorts of different peoples,” remarks Tank Girl in the midst of an explicative caption denouement on locating the epic in our everyday lives; clearly, it’s also about accessing bits of relevant culture — including the more freshly-relevant stuff of movie-ready comics — to inform the present.

Yet Milligan is neurotic – he inserts himself into the narrative as a character called O’Madagain, red shirt-clad to ensure his archetypal status as eventual cannon fodder, and increasingly assertive on the story, destroying a cyclops with eyes blessed by God and deflecting hails of bullets with his bare hands. He has sex with Tank Girl, in the tank, in the midst of a project unusually laddish in attention paid to female characters’ nude bodies. It’s all a put on, literally – eventually O’Madagain’s wig falls off and his corset pops and then he craps his pants and admits that all this fictionsuiting is a rather pathetic attempt to distract himself from the suspicion that he’s a pitiful sad sack and, impliedly, that he’s accessing culture for masturbatory, prestigious ends. And he’s not even the originating creator – Hewlett also appears in the story as O’Hell, a tag-along who’s secretly Tank Girl’s father. These circumstances lead to perhaps the only instance of a confronting-their-creator story in the history of collaborative English-language comics where the artist functions as the confronted author. It’s not exactly Animal Man – Hewlett grovels before a naked Tank Girl, shouting that she’s the only decent thing he’ll probably ever create, begging to ride her coat tails just a little more. She shoots him in the heart, and as far as I know that’s the last of her comics he ever drew.

“You might not like what I’ve become. I might not like what I’ve become. But that’s life.” At its broadest, where it works best, it’s all about culture resurrected and enduring, not so much in the ‘superheroes are our modern myths’ sense but in that it’ll always be a few steps ahead toward divinity than us mucky, dumb animals. Sure, Milligan & Hewlett are playing a little — the enclosed head shot assures us that Peter Milligan isn’t really withered and toothless, while the in-story Hewlett’s tiny eyes and blue hair can’t help but evoke 2D of Gorillaz — but in suggesting humankind as lustful, confused things that aren’t evolving to jack shit, staggering among continuing figments of narrative, they predict that even the most owned among it will inevitably break free from control, and tread away.

And now, upcoming purchasable items with prices affixed to the end.


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The McCarthy Paradox


Monday, January 21, 2008

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Readers of Comics Comics may know (but more likely don’t) that Frank and I share a fondness for the British cartoonist Brendan McCarthy. Frank reviewed his book, Swimini Purpose, in our first issue. I only knew a little bit about him, but Frank knew and knows a lot, and has shared much. Anyhow, I like McCarthy for some of the same reasons I like Steve Ditko — he combines a nuts-and-bolts drawing ability with a genuinely eccentric vision of human distortion and psychedelia. When he draws astral planes they seem solid, constructed and utterly believable. He doesn’t dabble in flat-planed, cartoony, Peter Max-ian psychedelia (a type I love) but instead sets out to make a “realistic” psych-world. Just like Ditko. That made him the perfect cover artist for Peter Milligan’s Shade the Changing Man and a wonderfully off-kilter realizer of mainstream visions. It also, like Ditko, left him without a good match for his abilities. One needs a special kind of writer (like Milligan or some of the 2000 A.D.) guys to capitalize on those kind of abilities: sci-fi, surreal, and a bit silly. Perfectly British. Like that other great stylist, Steranko, one gets the feeling from reading the occasional interview and his previous web site, that lately McCarthy believes his own hype a bit too much and, as of late is proudly (and depressingly) doing storyboards and the odd comic book cover, as well as a disappointing issue of SOLO. Without strong content the stuff kinda turns to mush (like the drawing above). Remember The Stone Roses second record? It’s like that. So much talent, but not entirely sure how to use it. Anyhow, he has started a blog, and it’s a good way to keep up with his evolving vision. I hope he’ll hunker down, tighten up, and make something worthy of his talents. Presumptuously enough, I have my fingers crossed. It’s a fan’s lament, and not really fair (because who I am to have unrealistic expectations?), but isn’t that what fans are for?

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Stop Gaps


Thursday, July 6, 2006

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Here’s the problem with running a magazine and a blog: there’s just not enough time. I’m in the midst of closing my Brian Chippendale and Julie Doucet books and editing the next Ganzfeld. Things are hectic. That said, I have been meaning to write a lengthy blog entry on some new Manga and Scott Pilgrim. So much so that I keep carrying the books back and forth from home to office and back again, looking for the spare hours to sit down and write. I expect to find them over the weekend. Until then, here’s a totally lame list format blog entry.

Current Comics Reading List (from memory):

Enigma by Peter Milligan. This odd 90s relic from Vertigo Comics is, well, really odd. I hope to write about it extensively when I’m done.

Sub-Mariner in Tales to Astonish. Bill Everett rules.

I tried to read Civil War from Marvel, just to see…like dipping a toe in the ocean. Man, what a drag. Superhero comics these days are so dour. This is no exception. Kinda boring and short on any real appeal or insight.

Monologues for the Coming Plague: A remarkable new book from Anders…it has the kind of light hearted philosophical heft of William Steig books from the 40s and 50s. Searching, funny cartoons.

William Steig original drawings at Adam Baumgold Gallery. 13 original drawings from The Lonely Ones. These are more lush, striking and daring than I ever imagined, and I already loved the book. Steig, like Steinberg, burns so bright on the page.

Power of 6 by Jon Lewis. One of my favorite cartoonists from the early 90s boomlet returns with this superhero comic. It works–funny, exciting, and authentic. It’s so nice to see his drawings again.

Various Paper Rad mini-comics. I’m combing through for some old material for an upcoming Paper Rad digest book.

Eddie Campbell’s Fate of the Artist. I’m not sure what to think yet. Campbell is a fascinating cartoonist, and this oddly formatted tome is no exception. But I’m still reading it and wondering about it.

Oh, and also various issues of Alter Ego. Hmm.

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