*Give a holler for the Big Ecstasy of


Strangehaven #17 (with thoughts on momentum)

A Nightmare on Elm Street Special #1, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Special #1

Smoke #1 (of 3) (murders and satire; not bad at all)

Kid Eternity #1-3 (of 3), Seven Soldiers - Zatanna #2 (of 4) (featuring one of Morrison's more underexamined miniseries, a worthy read)

Yeah, that’s them all right.

*This is interesting, if somewhat old. Writer Thierry Smolderen (of the “Heavy Metal” favorite “Gypsy”) and artist Jean-Philippe Bramanti have been working since 2000 on a sort of fantasy biography of Winsor McCay, titled simply “McCay”. Three albums are out right now, none of them released in English. At least, not in print form. It seems that on the book’s site, housed at the lovely Coconino World, you can read what feels like most of Tome 2 and a heavily condensed digest version of Tome 1, in English. Plus, there’s roughs and sketches provided for much of Tome 3. It’s a weird, compelling work, mixing biographical detail like McCay’s early education in perspective drawing and his affinity with the carnival with some really odd stuff, like murders in the Fourth Dimension. I like Episode 3 of Tome 2 the best, with the occasional irrational jump in character positioning, and that great ending, endless whirling through electric dreams. Bramanti’s art is excellent, reminiscent of David Lloyd in its heavy shadow, with touches of Eddie Campbell’s painted work. I don’t know if the story ends with Tome 3, or if more is to come.

Plus, on the same site, a small but potent collection of full-color “Little Sammy Sneeze” episodes; it’s one of my favorite McCay strips, adamantly formula-based as it is (that’s its great strength!). Check out the hottest tiny tot fashions of the 1904 season! The color work is absolutely marvelous: Checker has put a lot of Little Sammy back in print in the US, which is great, but only in b&w, which is not. That's taken care of here, but unfortunately for this presentation, the dialogue has all been translated into French, and half the fun of these comics is enjoying McCay’s eccentric way with dialogue, which achieves something of a fantasy-documentary feel (in that it’s not at all ‘natural’, but it’s also mundane enough to simulate the unadorned passing of life), as everyone goes about their day’s business, the environment largely fixed and unmoving from panel to panel, all of it unprepared for the allergic payload delivered by Little Sammy in each penultimate panel. And hey! Watch out for the big cross-over event with McCay’s “Hungry Henrietta” on page twelve of the non-Flash presentation! Crisis on Infinite Heralds!

*Hmmmm, what is Alan David Doane getting at? Hmmmm. Next week…

Concrete: The Human Dilemma #6 (of 6)

You know what I liked most about this issue? I got to savor a good, serious letters column. A letters column of the caliber you used to see in “Cerebus” and the like, back in the day. No gibbering and shouting about golden manbabies or praising in a style best described as a cross-pollination of Harry Knowles and all of his Talkbacks, all at once. No, here we have frank criticism of the weaker points in the “Concrete” foundation, chat about lettering methods, discussion on eugenics and media labeling, some minor spoilers for future stories (Chadwick describes to us how the final “Concrete” story will begin, though he has no intention to create and publish it anytime soon), even an announcement I’ve never heard before: Dark Horse is already planning a second reconfigured “Concrete” trade titled “Concrete: Heights”, due in September, obviously meant to compliment the upcoming “Concrete: Depths”, due in July. I believe both books will be compiling the “Concrete” shorts and single-issue stories into series-based chronological order (as opposed to production-based chronological order), along with a sprinkling of rarities and non-Concrete trinkets. It’s a very serious letters column.

Too bad Chadwick never got around to answering the last batch of “The World Below” mail, like he said he was going to way back when. Time washes things away, I guess.

Also, we get the conclusion of this story, and the whole thing is reminding me more and more of “Fragile Creature” the more I think of it. For one thing, a certain area of concern is brushed away about as casually as a similar problem was back in that earlier miniseries. The ‘plot’ here is more-or-less over, so we get to enjoy everyone’s reactions to the latest character developments. There’s more than a little melodrama lathered on, with characters screaming bloody revelations at others and cars racing through the LA traffic. Someone on the Comics Journal board, in a conversation relating to “Concrete”, noted that Chadwick essentially pulled a major character retcon in “Strange Armor”, retroactively inserting a greater sense of emotion and sensuality into Maureen (granted, this sort of thing had been building since, well, “Fragile Creature”, but now Chadwick has plugged it in right at the start); thus, he jokingly referred to the scientist we see here as ‘Post-Crisis Maureen’. Well there’s yet more development for her, as her scientific curiosity becomes hopelessly intertwined with a certain maternal concern; I think it’s a pretty natural development for the character, her earlier obsession with biologics now blended with more completely with emotion. Your mileage may vary.

I’ll look at this series as a whole later on, maybe in a slightly different format. For now, it’s enough to say that if you liked the media examination of prior issues, then hopefully the character bits were enough to carry your attention too, since that’s what we’ve got here. It’s not a definitive conclusion; Chadwick leave a remarkable amount of stuff up in the air, though the ‘new’ characters as introduced in this series are largely ushered off the stage. Everyone else lied crumpled by machines, bleeding in a chair, pondering, always pondering. Given Chadwick’s “The Matrix Online” workload, who knows when we’ll see more of this? As rushed as some of the character art looks, as soapy as some of the character interactions have gotten, I still hope it’s sooner rather than later.