In appreciation of Doc Stearn.
THIS WEEK IN COMICS:
A1 Bloodmoon Special: Mister Monster Worlds War II: Ah, “Mr. Monster”. One of my favorite near-forgotten series from days past. The brainchild of Michael T. Gilbert (though inspired by the lone appearance of a Fred Kelly-created character in "Super Duper Comics #3" from 1947), “Mr. Monster” packed a deft, daft mix of laughs and action in every issue, with gorgeous art; the lettering and colors remain excellent today, but in 1985 the book must have seemed positively decadent. I have several of those 10 early Eclipse issues; Alan Moore wrote a story in issue #3, and it was great seeing subsequent letters columns discussing this strange new British talent. He was not yet ALAN MOORE and there was a level of sentiment that his now-classic run on “Swamp Thing” was overhyped, there at the time of its original serialization. “Mr. Monster” also began running classic (but freshly colored) public-domain short stories to fill out issues where the main tale wasn’t quite long enough. Soon, whole spin-off books arrived just to handle classic reprints (“Mr. Monster’s Hi-Octane Horror”, “Mr. Monster’s Hi-Voltage Super Science”, “Mr. Monster’s True Crime”, etc.) A new generation was exposed to classic horror/sci-fi/crime work by Steve Ditko, Jack Katz, Alex Toth, Basil Wolverton, Jack Cole, and many more.
The character bounced around for a while after the Eclipse series came to an end. Dark Horse released an eight-issue miniseries in the late 80's-early 90's, which was collected in the now out-of-print “Mr. Monster: Origins” trade by Graphitti Designs. The early Eclipse issues were gathered into the also now out-of-print “Mr. Monster: His Books of Forbidden Knowledge, Vol. 1” by Marlowe & Company. TwoMorrows Publishing currently has a collection of miscellaneous shorts for sale called “Mr. Monster: His Books of Forbidden Knowledge, Vol. 0”. More recently, Gilbert scripted a “Mr. Monster’s Gal Friday: Kelly” miniseries for Image (with another short script by Mr. Moore in issue #3). There have been many other one-shots and specials scattered around the comics landscape.
This new release is from Atomeka Press, who also recently put out the “A1 Big Issue 0” and “Bricktop Special” collections, both of them good presentations of material that may have originally slipped through the cracks for many readers. This particular 48-page story, scripted by Gilbert and illustrated by George Freeman, was originally intended as an 8-to-10 page short in Atomeka’s old “A1” anthology, but it grew and grew. It was then slated to be published as a one-shot from Tundra (who I believe also put out their own 3-issue “Mr. Monster Attacks” miniseries), but the company sank before work could be finished. The story finally appeared in “Penthouse Max #3” despite not having any 'adult' material. It will hopefully get better visibility here. I can’t wait to check it out myself!
Ex Machina #4: Last issue, this book began to embrace the wackier side of super-hero politics, and I hope it continues in that direction. Aside from some contrived situations and a little stiffness in the art, the title has been running pretty smoothly. This is the penultimate issue of the current arc, and we’ll apparently learn of Hundred’s connections to the recent murders. Should be decent.
Tom Strong #28: And speaking of writer Brian K. Vaughan, he also scripts the latest “Tom Strong” with Cameron Stewart of “Seaguy” fame on the art. That’s a solid team, and the story will focus on Tom’s robot servant Pneuman. I expect amusement.
Doom Patrol Vol. 2: The Painting That Ate Paris: I think this officially ushers us into previously uncollected territory with Grant Morrison’s seminal run. And I don’t have the money to buy it just yet.
Astonishing X-Men #5: A good superhero comic. Nothing groundbreaking or eyebrow-raising, but it never insults the intelligence and it accomplishes what it sets out to do with efficiency and style.
Black Widow #1: A six-issue miniseries relating the adventures of the redheaded super-spy. Science-fiction novelist Richard K. Morgan remains unfamiliar to me, but every boy and girl in Comics Town knows Bill Sienkiewicz, and that’s enough to give the book some instant promise.
*Neilalien put up a link that shows us how to order the new Grant Morrison issue of “Arthur” via PayPal for $5, shipping included. Neilalien warned us that this could only result in an impulse purchase. Neilalien is right. Rich Johnston didn’t help matters by highlighting Morrison’s exasperation with readers for not 'getting' “Seaguy” from the magazine in question. I’ll be reading the whole thing soon; frankly, I understand Morrison’s puzzlement. And taking the rise of reality television as a symptom of cultural schizophrenia? Makes perfect sense to me!