THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (9/1/10 – Wild Dreams)


by

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Above we see Marshall Rogers, among the ‘star’ superhero artists of the late ’70s/early ’80s, at his most transformed. This is from Cap’n Quick & A Foozle, his one and only longform project as a writer/artist, although Rogers actually took the credit of Director; this was, I suspect, partially in homage to the Warner Brothers cartoons that provided no small inspiration, but it also highlights Rogers’ understanding of himself at the head of a band of collaborators, including scenarist/colorist Chris Goldberg, and additional colorists René Reynolds & L.J. Chapin. As you might guess, there’s a lot of emphasis on color in this thing, ranging from odd, hazy translucent effects to washed-out blue & green over pencil shading, to – ah, see above. I don’t think Eclipse would publish anything quite so anxious and out-there again until Floyd Farland, Citizen of the Future.

Rogers, of course, was from a different time than Chris Ware. He was a popular Batman artist, still perhaps most-remembered as such today, and the genesis of the Foozle character came from frequent writing collaborator Steve Englehart’s disputes with DC as the comic book Direct Market matured to accommodate multiple alternative publishers – ‘alternative’ in the sense of functioning as a fantastical comics writer’s alternate option. Englehart took some unused DC scripts and converted them into creator-owned works: a planned Madame Xanadu run with Rogers became the never-finished initial storyline for Scorpio Rose, while a Superman/Creeper story got re-worked into a loose-limbed adventure for a mystic woman and a talking bird-like thing (a Foozle) in the debut issue of Eclipse magazine (1981). Englehart then renounced his co-ownership of the Foozle, which Rogers spun off into his own serial in the comic book-format Eclipse Monthly, with faintly confused kid adventurer Cap’n Quick. The serial ran for the first four issues of the anthology (1983-84), then moved into two issues of its own series, which appeared in ’84 & ’85.

There was never much of a conclusion to the series – then again, it never seemed prone to concluding. It was as if Rogers had stepped outside of his body, like his & Englehart’s Coyote, and realized that this would be his only extended comic series with which to do anything, and then stuffed every possible notion or idea he had into its small confines. There’s over a dozen characters, all of them struggling for dialogue-heavy space, with Road Runner visual gags sitting uneasily beside E.C. Segar-inspired ill-tempered questing. There’s world politicians presented as rodents — like the signal of political satire isolated from any substantive source — and fast-talking salesmen and early ’80s video gaming (several Q*bert references!) and Mel Blanc imagined as a sonic-voiced demigod.

And more than anything else is Rogers’ efforts at pushing his ‘stylized naturalism’ into vivid cartoon mobility; this was a running theme of his Eclipse period, and seemingly a challenge for the observational artist, so that his efforts worked themselves into a type of psychedelia:

er, you might want to click this, make it bigger

This is from Coyote, still the best F-bomb dropping, full frontal nudity superhero comic about the son of a were-beast and a psychic vampire foiling a gas mask & leather-clad interdimensional skeleton’s plot to undermine America’s morale by poisoning Hollywood stars with radioactive Oscars. The dance between perceptions is a decoration of movement, almost a fetishization, communicating in distinctly controlled circles & tones an ecstasy suddenly allowable away from the demands of corporate franchises.

Its realization is eccentric, and I think limited, but Rogers kept pushing; you can see the Cap’n Quick image as a descendant of Coyote’s, I think, with color shooting repeated pencil drawings through the clouds – this collaboration, then, was the artist’s most successful flight from tangible reality, which would bear down quickly enough again.

Meanwhile, years later, and also long ago:

The Wild Kingdom: Being a new 6″ x 8″, 108-page Drawn and Quarterly hardcover collection of work by Kevin Huizenga, I think expanded from material seen in issue #4 of his Or Else series, and possibly elsewhere. Preview; $19.95.

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories: Manga’s been around in English longer than I have, so it’s helpful to realize that this much-anticipated 288-page hardcover Fantagraphics collection of assorted short comics by Japanese girls’ comics pioneer Moto Hagio is functionally (if not intentionally) a corrective of sorts. Prior to this, Hagio was presented as a pioneer, yes, but specifically — in terms of comics actually translated, I mean — as a vanguard agent of manga sci-fi via Viz’s releases of her popular space cadet danger serial They Were Eleven (now easiest to obtain as a four-issue comic book miniseries, 1995, trust me on this) and an additional bookshelf collection of genre pieces, A, A Prime (1997). Whispering beneath it all was the understanding that the artist was additionally an early practitioner of shonen-ai, the depiction of lovely boys in lovely love, though the works’ marketing-friendly (maybe marketing-necessary) genre slant coded these concerns.

This, however, is a new gold-hued Hagio for a Golden Age of Reprints in the mighty manga manner, spearheaded by editor/translator Matt Thorn, who worked on the Viz releases and sought to fill out Hagio’s importance in the Comics Journal’s 2005 shojo manga issue (#269). The collection’s title story, then, both announces the book’s curatorial intent and teases the past understanding of Moto Hagio: it’s the only sci-fi piece among ten selections (1970-2007), and — amusingly, given the great expansion of the audience for yaoi work — the only story to hint at same-sex attraction. The “Drunken Dream” refers literally to the tragic separation of two lovers across multiple lifetimes, but also describes the state of Hagio’s story, a barely-together, abruptly-concluded narrative plainly more interested in evoking sensations of exquisite heartache and romantic frustration than delineating psychological realism or building suspense – this fantasy environment is emotive, faded and crumbling in color.

The other nine stories are b&w, but proceed in much the same way – pioneer Hagio’s identity here, now, is that of a super-direct communicator of torment in the absence of love and the thrall of art. She is not a subtle worker — remember, some of this work is squarely aimed at children, rarely suggesting any poetic image or lingering character motivation that won’t eventually be spelled out via dialogue or narration — and some stories lapse into a self-pitying rapture, only kept from falling to pieces by artful visual compositions. A near-wordless vision of a ghostly woman watching a boy grow to a man (inevitably capped by a tearful confrontation!) borders on saccharine, while a double-barreled blast of soap opera sees a suicidal girl hauled off death’s doorstep by a rough but handsome man who *gasp* turns out to be her new biology professor, resulting in detailed, evolution-themed educational segments (not unlike the learning bits in Golgo 13 or a Kazuo Koike manga) inevitably lashed to Our Heroine’s Dark Secret. “I wonder if humans will evolve into angels?” she muses, probably gauging the reader’s appetite for comics of this tone.

That said, the best of these works find Hagio catching her her thematic groove early and following it with disarming propulsion. A rough-hewn story of a little girl sitting out in the rain while every grown-up in the vicinity roils with offense over her deviation from societal norms evokes near-Ditkovian levels of self-assurance in the face of assumed (il)logic, while a 50-page saga of an iguana girl — or, a girl pictured as an iguana, in recognition of hers and her mother’s neuroses — deftly sketches out a whole biography of low-self esteem with a sly, rather stinging sense of humor absent from the rest of the collection. It’s here that Hagio’s aching poetics, her drunken dreaming, registers best. Samples; $24.99.

Apollo’s Song Vols. 1-2 (of 2): And if that’s not enough vintage(-ish) manga for you, here’s Vertical’s new two-volume edition of Osamu Tezuka’s energetic, possibly improvisatory, and deeply, deeply odd 1970 exercise in narrative sex education for boys, following a mean kid who can’t love through many alternate lives of ruined romanticism. Featuring man-to-man erection chat in the midst of genocide, a visit to a top-secret sex pasture for animals, and futuristic vistas of a city choked with headstones. Maybe not the place to start with Tezuka, but certainly somewhere to visit. I reviewed it here; $10.95 (each).

The Anthology Project Vol. 1: I only know what I hear on the internet, and I hear this compilation of new shorts “collects the comics of artists unified by their delirious pursuit of compelling narrative and notable artistic work in the medium of sequential art. Its humble intent is only to delight.” Worth a look? Contributors, samples; $24.99.

The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects: I’ll cop to a sentimental attachment to the 2002 one-off that provides the title for this new hardcover – it was one of the first comics I picked up at random when I started ‘following’ comics again, because I’d heard of Mike Mignola, though the whole Hellboy thing seemed daunting. I immediately thought all the big-ticket cartoonists took time out to do silly, energetic funny comics of this type every so often. Mignola, at least, didn’t do another, although Dark Horse is promising 50 pages of all-new stuff in a similar vein, so maybe it’s bookshelves that get the ephemera now. Plus: that one story he did with his daughter, posted here; $17.99.

Hellboy: The Storm #3 (of 3): Ah, it’s not Hellboy itself is all-doom, all the time, although this climactic Duncan Fegredo-drawn storyline (split in half, so its last three issues will form a later miniseries still forthcoming) will probably see some hurt. Note that Mignola also co-writes a second issue of Baltimore: The Plague Ships out this week; $2.99 (for Hellboy, Baltimore is $3.50).

King City #11 (of 12): Apparently thought to be out the other week, but Diamond says it’s now – the penultimate installment of Brandon Graham’s sprawling urban fantasy. Preview; $2.99.

Sky Doll: Lacrima Christi #2 (of 2): In which Marvel’s presentation of Alessandro Barbucci’s & Barbara Canepa’s satirical anime-informed fantasy finishes up, in that I think they’re out of periphery material to put into comic books. With short stories by Enrique Fernández, Afif Khaled and Gradimir Smudja; $5.99.

Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics: Finally, your book-on-comics for the week, a 224-page Abrams ComicArts art book/tribute to the veteran artist, with text by one N.C. Christopher Couch. Available in finer bookstores or your local comics consulate; $35.00.

Labels: , , , ,

16 Responses to “THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (9/1/10 – Wild Dreams)”
  1. Ahem. I will have all these Marshall Rogers for sale at SPX. Joe, your check is in the mail for the advertisement.

  2. Brian Nicholson says:

    Oh shit I will buy those Cap’n Quicks

  3. Evan Dorkin says:

    I think Cap’n Quick was a girl, actually. Iirc. Haven’t looked at those books since racking, selling and reading them back in the day.

    • Huh, I’d never noticed this before, but the story itself goes out of its way not to assign Cap’n Quick a sex – there’s a joke in the first chapter about how he/she can’t use a urinal, but I thought he was just too little to know what to do. Sporting one of those ’80s shaggy haircuts too… could go either way. Internet searches are inconclusive. I’ll edit the post to remove my gendered response…

  4. Alistair says:

    I loved the Eclipse stuff and Rogers’ Cap’n Quick was one of my all-time favourites, it actually showed me the way to looking at things other than the Big Two. Coyote and Scorpio Rose were two faves as well.

  5. UPDATE: I allowed my attention to flag this morning after plucking the Jerry Robinson book out of Diamond’s “Merchandise” section, and thereby failed to notice a fellow item of interest – Random House’s Three Rivers Press release of Julia Wertz’s new book, DRINKING AT THE MOVIES, a 192-page chronicle of a year by the FART PARTY creator:

    http://www.fartparty.org/

    Funny the things you find tucked away among the Sonic the Hedgehog bobbleheads and Atari playing cards. I’m betting the book will be funny too; $15.00.

  6. mateo says:

    I have one of those Cap n Quick books (a middle issue, I guess 2 of 3 from the info above, although when I read it, I had no idea how many there were to be, and where, if anywhere, the story was going). Aside from being pretty lost as to what was being communicated, I was intrigued by the execution, specifically the color artists. I always wondered how the pages looked pre-coloring, because the color seemed such a whole with the art. The above scan is a perfect example. It simply doesn’t have the look of collaborative art, I would love to see the pencils before they were worked over.

    Joe- perhaps a bobblehead of the week feature? I have a pretty kick-ass Julian Wright doll from a Hornet game I went to a year or two ago. ‘

  7. Brian Nicholson says:

    I just remembered that Frank had talked somewhere about showing these comics to Ben Jones, Ben going nuts for them, and a little axiom of Ben’s: “Long live cartoons, death to comics”

  8. Marc Sobel says:

    Cap’n Quick is another forgotten masterpiece. The Eclipse non-superhero line is full of them. Rogers did some amazing work in the 80s. Despite Kim Thompson’s review that TCJ reposted recently (which really mostly focused on Don McGregor’s overbaked prose), I always thought his work on Detectives Inc. was great, too. But Cap’n Quick is awesome, like a Heavy Metal kids story or a Disney character if Moebius had done it. Too bad he never finished it, but it was too dense for it’s own good. Did Rogers ever discuss why he gave up? Was it poor sales? At any rate, it’s always great to see some attention being paid to these lost classics.

    • Oh, Thompson got into some heavy, illustrated detail, strongly criticizing Rogers’ art in DETECTIVES, INC. – twelve paragraphs’ worth of stuff! But, it was on the second page of the review, which was puzzlingly bisected right down the writing-art critique border:

      http://www.tcj.com/history/mcgregors-detectives-inc-artless-prating-emotionalism/2/

      Sorry if I’m misunderstanding, or if you’ve read all that already, but this isn’t the first time I’ve heard someone mention that review as mainly focusing on McGregor, which isn’t really accurate… I think the second page was somewhat hard to find (and the review seems to ‘end’ at the bottom of page one by quirk of rhetoric).

      As for CAP’N QUICK, Eclipse apparently pulled the plug due to low sales:

      http://mrogers21.tripod.com/interview/misc_comjour100.htm

      He mentions three issues — and I probably should have clarified this in my post! — but the third issue is simply titled THE FOOZLE and reprints the Englehart-written ECLIPSE magazine stuff in (new) color; I personally consider it a one-off. There was also over half a year’s gap between issues #1 and 2, and the issue #2 we got didn’t bear an awful lot of resemblance to the material previewed in the back of issue #1, suggesting there might have been some trouble sorting things out… Rogers mentions the project gestating for a long while, with a lot of work going into the colors…

  9. Marc Sobel says:

    Also, wasn’t Scorpio Rose finished by Englehart and Todd McFarlane when Coyote was revived by Epic? I could be wrong about that.

    • The character was revived as a back-up feature in the Epic series, but the final Englehart/Rogers issue never manifested; the first Image COYOTE trade (which is an all-Rogers special, also compiling his extant SCORPIO ROSE) includes breakdowns and a plot summary for the third issue as a supplement…

  10. Marc Sobel says:

    Thanks Jog. I hadn’t seen the second half of Kim’s review. I feel kind of stupid, but I’m glad I’m not the only one who missed the link.

    At any rate, I think Kim’s overly negative toward Rogers, but then the book’s story is so tedious, from what I remember, I can see why. It’s hard to argue with the few scenes he singled out as particularly bad, but there’s a lot of good, dramatic storytelling in other sections. The use of color to juxtapose simultaneous scenes and control mood was well done (though this may have been McGregor’s call, or colorist Tim Smith).

    I also didn’t have a problem with the over-rendering of the backgrounds, and in fact, that’s one of the things I liked about the artwork. There was a clear sense of realism that matched the urban setting of the story. I can see where Kim is coming from with his comments about the stiffness of the character and their facial expressions, but I also think this is an exaggeration. There are ten panels with clear poses and expressions for every one awkward one (no, I didn’t actually calculate it). It didn’t bother me that much (it’s nowhere near as bad as many modern, photo-referenced comics like Ex Machina), but it’s a fair criticism. I definitely agree that the covers were terrible for the series. For some bizarre reason, they just blew up individual panels.

    Anyway, thanks for these great 80s series reviews, I’m really digging them. I might ever write one myself.

  11. Rob Clough says:

    For a good time, head over to steveenglehart.com. Not only is there a listing of every comic he’s ever written, he annotates everything as well! He also talks a lot about his involvement with the Batman movie series, which, according to him, was far more extensive (at least in inspiration) than anyone else has ever talked about.

    I wouldn’t call Coyote a great series, but it was certainly consistently and entertainingly deranged. Can’t think of a single superhero-(ish) series like it. I feel like 1-800-MICE is its distant cousin, however.

    Back to Englehart, it’s interesting to see how far ahead of the game he was in terms of the video game/comics mix that’s so prevalent today. He was a game designer in the 1980s for Atari, and later designed games based on some of his Malibu comics. He’s also done children’s books, novels and has also drawn & colored comics. A very interesting guy.

  12. [...] anthology book. Around the corner I chatted with Frank Santoro. I really should have gotten those Cap’n Quick & a Foozle books he was selling, but it was early and I didn’t want to blow my whole wad up front like [...]