Saturday Random Curator

*Hello all, slow day, not much to say, sleepy times, rainy. I’ve got no money to spend and nowhere to go but there’s some localized flooding anyway so my options are fortunately limited. I walked to the corner café and got a bowl of this really good ham and beans soup for two dollars and even then I felt kind of guilty because that’s still a bit more than I ought to be spending on things like soup when I have cans of soup at home already.

*Some ok comics deals recently, just to prove to you all how atrociously skewed my financial priorities are at the moment. I spent $18 yesterday on two discounted books, the Glenn Dakin collection “Abe - Wrong for all the Right Reasons” from Top Shelf, which I found for six dollars, and “Missionary Man”, a color collection of Frank Quietly (and Garry Marshall) drawn material from “2000 A.D.”, written by Gordon Rennie. That was twelve dollars. After I read it, we’ll see if I’d have been better off saving the cash and buying soup without guilt. I almost spent twenty bucks on DC’s recent collection of another “2000 A.D.” story, “Shimura”, which gets to have the amusing fun of being listed in certain online stores as a ‘Morrison/Quitely’ production, even though the Morrison in question is Robbie, and Quitely provides just under 30 out of the book’s 200+ pages of art. He co-created the character, though, so I guess his top-billing on the cover is deserved.

*Some really surprisingly cheap books I’ve been tracking down online: back-issues of “Taboo”, that classically troubled deluxe horror comics anthology created by Steve Bissette and John Totleben (the latter of which quickly divorced himself from active participation), which released ten volumes from 1988-1995. It was quite an industry hellraiser back in the day, and a victim of many customs busts beyond the US, but if “Taboo” is remembered at all today, a decade after its passing, it’s probably as the original home for Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s “From Hell”, although there were several other serials presented between those covers. Some of them stalled then mutated, like “Throat Sprockets”, written by no less than “Video Watchdog” publisher Tim Lucas, with art from a variety of talents like David Lloyd of “V for Vendetta”. The project was later revamped and published as a prose novel. Others, like Jeff Nicholson’s “Through the Habitrails” (admittedly more of a series of vignettes than a serialized single-unit) eventually saw its own collected publication, albeit to lesser acclaim than Moore and Campbell’s vaunted work. One of the "Taboo" serials, Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s “Lost Girls” is still awaiting collection (this summer says Top Shelf, really, cross-our-hearts, pinky swear). Even some of the one-offs, like Charles Burns’ “Contagious”, found themselves echoing through later work like “Black Hole”. Of course, there’s always something like Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli’s “Sweeney Todd”, which simply died with the anthology itself, only back-issues existing to point to what could have been. I don’t have any of the “Sweeney Todd” issues (it doesn’t help that one of them, Volume 6, only features this material in a shrink-wrapped external booklet that apparently wasn’t included with every copy, only pre-orders), but I do have one of the “Lost Girls” chapters (that’s Vol. 5), the first, and it looks like some interesting stuff, far more glossy and worked-over visually than Gebbie’s work on “Tomorrow Stories” ever seemed to be. The “Taboo” chapters were later collected into a standalone book by Kitchen Sink, and then an all-new second issue came out, which is much more difficult to find, perhaps prohibitively so given that a complete edition is supposedly forthcoming in short order.

The thing is, “Taboo” itself isn’t very difficult to find at all. I have Vols. 5, 8, 9, and the unnumbered ‘Especial’, and most of them were purchased hovering around the $10 mark, after shipping. Of course, these are all lovely trade-type book productions, with firm spines and no ads and all that. And I suspect that this format has greatly aided the survival of “Taboo” as an inexpensive used-purchase option. Most volumes of it are listed on many online book sites, for easy pricing perusal. Despite print runs of as low as 6000 at times, there seems to be little difficulty in locating copies around. Perhaps the deluxe format has been good to “Taboo”, a lack of disposability creating a new undead existence on the 'Like New' pages of the internet. Ready to rise from the grave at your proper incantation, unlike the more ephemeral chunks of comics' past, requiring eyes of newt and blood wrung from cloth sewn from the wool of black sheep and eBay and dumb luck.

Vol. 5 is the best so far, with both the initial “Lost Girls” plus some gorgeous work by Zulli (adapting a Ramsey Campbell story, “Again”, all about s&m and the secret revulsions of aging) and a truly distressing 2-pager by S. Clay Wilson, adapting a dead man’s letter detailing his sexual exploits (fantasies?) to the comics form. Plus, for historical purposes, you get the infamous ‘Tour of London’ chapter of “From Hell” in its very first appearance, including a short preface by Moore in which he acknowledges the debt the work owes to Ian Sinclair’s “Lud Head”, an admission I don’t recall hearing from Moore himself in the collected edition, or anyplace else for that matter, although other writers have noted the connections between the works (although Moore's book would be hardly the first one influenced - I know of Sinclair's standing and interests, and I‘ve been meaning to get into his stuff for the longest time; maybe this will prompt me).

Very much worth hunting down, and not a difficult or expensive hunt at that.