Defiant reminisce - IN THIS POST.

*But first.


a few disorganized thoughts on Final Crisis #2 (of 7)

more organized thoughts on the comic and movie of Wanted


The Programme #12 (of 12)

at The Savage Critics!

*And speaking of which, did you know that Savage Critics contributor Abhay Khosla has just released Twist Street Vol. 1? It's a 308-page, print-format collection of his sporting webcomic Left Field, with exciting author's comments and a letters page and everything. Order it here for $14.00, and take it to your place of worship.

*Gee, what a bunch of various.


Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko: I'm on kind of a J.G. Jones kick these days; he hasn't done a lot of interior art, so I'm trying to go through literally all of his comics. And his first published work was in issue #7 of Dark Dominion, a 1993-94 Defiant series created by Jim Shooter & Steve Ditko. You can sense the latter's presence over the setup: a man can phase between planes of perception, seeing the problems that plague our lives -- fear, anger, annoyance -- as literal demons to squash. If the ATM is jamming up, he'll see a little critter sticking out. If my car is going down the highway, he'll see a black bear-sized monster with its legs wrapped around the rear bumper, throwing up devil horns with both hands as my steering column shakes when I hit 55 mph. Ditko didn't do much art, though - his drawings only graced "issue #0," which was actually a trading card set. I mean, I can get a set off eBay for $2.50 now, but god - I can only imagine how annoyed I'd have gotten back then. "Shit! This asshole's hands again..."

Er, anyway, I think this Blake Bell-written hardcover art book/career survey has been forthcoming since I started this site up, so it's nice to see it finally hitting the shelves. Fantagraphics is the publisher, 9" x 12" is the size, 216 pages is the length, and $39.99 is the price. Intro here, video here, preview here.

Dororo Vol. 2 (of 3): Introductions out of the way - now to get down to some serious killing. Osamu Tezuka and Vertical will show you how. It's $13.95, and 288 pages. You owe yourself this. Also in manga bloodletting this week, Dark Horse has your 320-page Kazuo Koike/Goseki Kojima dose with Path of the Assassin Vol. 12 (of 15): Three Foot Battle, for the usual $9.95.

Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1 (of 3): Mike Mignola and Richard Corben - truly they are the peanut butter and chocolate of our comic book gas station candy rack of July 2, 2008. This is a tale of Hellboy from 1956, and I wouldn't want to know a thing more. Still, I'll tempt you. Man, when was the last time Corben had two series going at the same time?

Hellblazer: Fear Machine: Good, good - Vol. 3 of the complete Jamie Delano, finally out there. Collecting the long storyline from issues #14-22, 240 pages for $19.99. I wrote a bunch about Delano and this series last week. Also from Vertigo: the fourth and final issue of American Splendor: Season Two.

Astonishing X-Men #25: The dawn of the Warren Ellis/Simone Bianchi administration of the prestige X-book. Feast.

Ralph Snart Adventures #1: Huh. This appears to be back. From creator Marc Hansen, 24 b&w pages for $2.95.

Lucky Vol. 2 #2: Huh. This appears to be a second installment of Gabrielle Bell's pamphlet-format series from Drawn and Quarterly. The prior issue was a nice blend of autobiography and fantasy storytelling, and this one looks to mix a travelogue with found anecdotes. I love her character designs. It's $3.95 for however many pages it is.

Water Baby: Another Minx book, this one noteworthy for the presence of writer/artist Ross Campbell, which at least means that every soft/sinewy body will seem coated in a thin layer of perspiration and ready to tear off everybody else's clothes at a moment's notice. Also: gory monster visions. I can't say this is an excellent work -- being the ambling tale of a punkish surfer girl who got her leg eaten by a shark and now can't get rid of her gross ex-boyfriend -- but it's surely more fluid and unpredictable than anything else DC's teen girl line has cooked up. It's $9.99 for 176 pages.

C'est Bon Anthology Vol. 5: The newest installment of this anthology of international comics and stories, this time $17.95. Contributors here. Found in Diamond's all-holy Merchandise section, along with the Serenity Mal Reynolds Stunt Pistol Replica, which I think is now cool to keep in your underwear drawer down in D.C. after Columbia v. Heller.

Fat Chunk Vol. 1: Robot: Meanwhile, here's an all-new anthology, an inclusive project masterminded by Bear creator Jamie Smart and heavy on internet talent. Each book will be themed, and fat. Contributors and previews here. From Slave Labor Graphics, 144 pages for $12.95.

Turning Points: Little Rock Nine: Being a new kid-targeted graphic novel from Marshall Poe & Ellen Lindler, all about school desegregation in 1957. Published by Simon & Schuster; $7.99 for 128 pages. Preview here.

Lore: Premiere Edition: Ok... ah, this is an unexpected 288-page oversized omnibus hardcover for a 2003-04 series from T.P. Louise & Ashley Wood. One that switched to an illustrated prose format halfway through its 2003-04 run, and never released its final issue in the pamphlet format, mind you. I actually rather liked it - it's a funny little thing about folkloric creatures running around and a woman coming to grips with her awful magician father. I don't think I'll need to drop $75.00 on reliving the magic, but here it is for the fans.

The Complete K Chronicles: But if you're gonna demand a soft cover and comedy in your omnibi, Dark Horse is waiting with 500 pages of Keith Knight's much-admired strip for only $24.95. Have a look. Note that the publisher also continues its webcomics reprint efforts with Wondermark: Beards of our Forefathers, a 96-page, $14.95 landscape-format hardcover edition of David Malki's Victorian clip-art whimsy. Samples.

Frank Bellamy's Robin Hood: No muss, no fuss - just 144 pages of early (1956-57) Swift Robin Hood strips from the British comics giant. From Book Palace Books; $24.99.

Savage Dragon #136: Aw, good ol' Dragon. Always worth a mention. From now-former Image publisher Erik Larsen, who wants more of this stuff out there.

Batman #678: Oh no, Batman is ruined! In a different way than the other Grant Morrison book!

Jonah Hex #33: With guest artist Darwyn Cooke.

Punisher War Journal #21: Neon shootings. Artist Howard Chaykin is also writing Squadron Supreme 2 this week, the start of a six-issue miniseries drawn by Marco Turini.

Dark Tower: The Long Road Home #5 (of 5): Latex gothics. I think there's three of these series left to go?

Tor #3 (of 6): Old-timey Joe Kubert animals.

The Legion of Super-Heroes #43: Shit, Jim Shooter - he has something this week too. Ditko fuzzied my mind!

Stan Lee Presents: Election Daze: But really, why waste any time and money fretting over frivolities like comic books or health insurance when you, partner, may personally purchase, peruse or, perchanse, purloin a pulsing packet of pert political parody from motherfucking Smilin' Stan fucking Lee? That's right, True Believers: your $9.95 has a new god, and it's a 96-page book of politics-related photographs with fresh dialogue added by Stan the Man himself. Kind of like this:

But even better. See the official MySpace! Face front; Excelsior!



And now: a motion picture from the comics.


This made some money, so you're going to be hearing more about it after the weekend's through.

I liked it good enough. Then again, I've never really hated the 2003-05 Mark Millar/J.G. Jones comics series as much as some people have; sure, it was wildly inconsistent and more than slightly irritating, very much one of those faux-edgy works where in-your-face slurs are always dutifully counterbalanced with strong characters of the slurred type, and there's just enough clever bits of business that you feel a longing for the work to cohere in a way which it, naturally, doesn't.

A lot of people did get upset over the now-infamous final two pages, wherein the story's lead character, having risen to prominence in the supervillain cabal that secretly rules the world, gloats to the reader over how shitty his or her ineffectual life must surely be. Certainly enough that Brian K. Vaughan felt the need to address the topic (in terms of book-burning!!) in his introduction to the collected edition.

Personally, I suspect a lot of the problem stemmed from the patchwork, anything-to-please tone Millar adopted for most of the story, starting it out as a giggling assault on liberal sensibilities -- in which the sensitive, animal-loving pacifist lead character, granted entrance into the no-laws world of total evil that is his birthright, quickly discovers the inherent joy to murder, rape, racism and miscellaneous rudeness -- and then quickly folding the plot up in a schema of tiered badness, Our Hero on the kindly end, before dumping a sticky bucket of father-son sentimentality over the whole thing then spinning it around to declare "ho ho, looks like someone forgot the primary character is a horrible bastard!"

Shit, there's even a fake ending in which the non-hero recites what most readers probably want him to do -- learn a lesson from his adventure and work on rebuilding a moral life -- then throws up some devil horns right in said reader's face. It's kind of funny as a prank, I guess. It worked. And Millar was a bit ahead of the curve in casting his villains (er, the bad-bad villains) as nostalgists bent on shifting their comic book world back to an older, 'better' time, an aspect later adopted by DC's 2005-06 Event series Infinite Crisis.

I don't think much of it was insightful, though, or even terribly entertaining. It's tough to pull much out of Millar's attempts at subverting the superhero-friendly hero's journey arc when he spends so many pages on rote intrigues, typical guns-blazin' anti-hero action and silly/darker/at-least-drawn-differently analogues to All Your Marvel/DC Faves. Having the kindly mentor character mention that he likes fucking little girls doesn't amount to much beyond confirming that inserting immoral characters into a familiar plot structure results in a less moral species of familiarity. Whew!

And as for the grand message, that the wicked and cruel have killed the superheroes and built this shitty world we live in, one in which the worst always triumph best, and we don't even see what they look like while fucking us in the ass unless we're reading the right comic books and even then we'll do nothing because we're but sheep, True Believers - well, it strikes me fitting enough for an in-story world, beholden to certain story structures, in which the hero returns with an elixer that's actually poison, but it's too futile to act as much of a call to action.

I know I'm supposed to stand up and shout "no, Mark Millar, I will be the superhero you implicitly demand via your puckish ass-fucking motif," but I'd actually rather he turn off the waterworks about how invincible the nasties are, because that's about as juvenile as any super-stuff pre-1986.

Still some laughs though. Look at that shitty banner - like he's won a spelling bee! Gets me every time.

Anyway, now that we're 10,000 words in, I'll confirm that the story written by Wanted the movie is a different one. That's notable, since another major aspect of the comic was its near-overwhelming desire to get itself picked up by Hollywood. It may yet arise as quintessential among such comics, all celebrity likenesses and blockbuster-style action; Tom Spurgeon related his (abridged) reading experience as "like walking in on a singer focusing all her attention on a record executive in the front row."

Well, it did get picked up, and it looks like the film might be a blockbuster, but all those rough edges have been smoothed right down. Gone is the rape and racism, plus most of the gratuitous murder. Obviously the superhero genre commentary is chucked out the window, along with all the specific superhero tropes. They didn't keep any of the involuntary celebrity cast - and really, casting Halle Barry as the Catwoman character was in retrospect the best joke of the comic, if an unintentional one.

What remains is a fairly lean plot about an ancient league of assassins who pass down their awesome killing traits via genes, killing people through the ages at the behest of Fate, played by the lotto ball assignment machine from Minority Report in mythic weaving drag. James McAvoy is saved from his shit life by Angelina Jolie, and he totally ought to track down Thomas Kretschmann, the man who probably killed his father unless there's a plot twist, but first he must train hard and carry out missions so as to accomplish action scenes. Morgan Freeman is the frowning man in charge of the assassins, and music sensation Common plays some guy.

The success of the film, frankly, is in its deviation from the source material. All of the superhero analogues are gone and the rote intrigue is kept to a minimum, leaving director Timur Bekmambetov (of the Russian horror-fantasy films Night Watch and Day Watch) to focus with all the passion of fetish on guns-blazin' anti-hero action. There's a great, childlike spirit behind a lot of it -- if you just swing your gun in the right way of course the bullet will curve -- and while some bits overdo it with the shaking camera and yelling (a long highway chase gets grating in that way) it's surprisingly oozy and effective, even after a million shots of cgi bullets knocking each other out of the air. Funny too - when Our Hero's gun gets stuck in a man's eye socket he just keeps on marching, using the fellow as a human shield while blasting through the back of his head.

Er, it's sort of mandatory that you like goofy, over the top action and gory fights. I doubt the plot will hold your attention otherwise, although I found it to be more focused and effective than that of the comic (from which several lines are quotes, and various scenarios are taken). It actually tones down the father-son sap, which was nice, and it bears none of the stretch marks of flailing at subversive social/generic comment. The turns in the story (as it is) are fairly well navigated, if never mind-blowing. Brains do get blown out, but you know what I mean.

Yet there's still a lingering hint of the source's angry spirit, somewhere in the stripped down chaos of double-crosses. If you're simply itching to read a political message into it, I believe the executive summary is: 'leaders who cite providence in starting profitable conflicts on faulty grounds = bad, zealots who're willing to put it on the line for mass-casualty suicide attacks in the name of faith = also bad, but kind of respectable if you think about it, you know?'

And yeah - there's a variation on that special ending. And blessed be - it's just what I'd have liked to see in the comic, an exhortation that relies not on sputtering declarations of impossible odds, but cold, nasty leading-by-example action (with a little help from an ally named "J.G. Millar" - oh the flattery!). Sure, Wanted-the-Movie may not have so extensive a world domination fabric to work from, but it knows its kicks and it gets 'em with little fuss. In addition to the money, which puts it one up on Wanted-the-Comic.


Infinite Final

*I should have a review of something or other up at some other site in a short while, but I also read Final Crisis #2; I must agree with some other folk that this really, truly is shaping up to be Seven Soldiers 2 right now.

There's plenty of basic plot-to-plot connections, obviously, but what really gets me is that -- being The Day Evil Won and all -- its execution functions as a reversal of one of the core themes of the prior series, that the best evolution in a superhero universe can happen among those at the fringes, the C and D-listers. Unencumbered, under the radar, they can accomplish the grandest good by bettering themselves and trusting into the wider (DC) universe to soak the light in. Bury the works of evil in the coat of many patches, cast a spell to resolve the plot - modular action.

This new series is also modular, in a way - I love how every black-bordered first page (thus far) makes a focused statement that's 'answered' in a bad or scary way on every last page ("Man." to "Aww, man." in issue #1, "STOP!" to "RUN!" in issue #2). But here it's the bad guys, the dastards of Apokolips, slipping themselves into new skins to bring ruin to the DCU - death by a thousand scratches! Evilution! Since they're Fourth World characters they're obscure to start with by default -- I mean, not Darkseid, not quite... but is anyone itching to put him in a movie? -- and since they're wicked they accomplish their transformation not through some dumb journey but by stealing the skins of other marginal characters. A terrible revamp for Terrible Turpin, who's tough-guy lines have gotten florid:

"Who knew the sound of breath whistling through smashed cartilage could be such a turn-on?"

It helps if you've read the Final Crisis Sketchbook, and therefore know that Turpin as seen in this series is "Jack Kirby as drawn by F. Miller," which possibly spells it all out right there.

It also helps if you've read the Fourth World books and Seven Soldiers, granted, although I don't think there's anything too tricky in here. I haven't found any of this to be very hard to follow, and I'm someone who was turning DC Universe #0 around in my hands to see if I had it upside-down. It's also telling -- and funny -- that Seven Soldiers got to serve as this shadow series to Infinite Crisis, this shadow Event, while an outbreak of evil revamps, the triumph of Zachary Zor, is a five-alarm world-breaking comic book Event of Events in Morrison's world.

Although it is seven issues, don't you know.

Anyway, I thought issue #2 was a lot more fun than issue #1, particularly with the (excellent) Japanese superhero scene; poor Shilo Norman has to find even more obscure heroes now, a lost Fourth World dude and a hodgepodge of foreign outlooks (comics from Japan, tee hee). All the while, the evil influence brings about a souring of the superhero world... great compression in this thing. Nice, harsh location cuts.

And then there's that odd taste of self-awareness, even a little tiredness - Superman hoping the Martian Manhunter will be revived sometime in the future, Lex Luthor acting utterly bored at the death of some expendable superhero (in an Event comic! *yawn*). Like Didio implied, these characters have seen it all. Is it good for the health of DC comics, rather than the DC Universe? Hell, I don't know. And while I'm aware that if things get so bad they board up the windows it'll mean less chances for people like Grant Morrison to write comics, I still find it awfully tough to shift my focus onto what's Good For the Industry when I'm trying to interface with a particular work - my problem, folks.

But, you know, maybe I'm the second-most ideal reader for this particular thing. With a comic like this I guess the DCU hardcore superfan will forever be #1, but I have read every Grant Morrison DCU comic, and there may be nearly as much playing to that audience in here as well. Odd to be catered too.

And doubly odd it always feel ready to be done with this, on every page, even as they get better. Like Morrison said in New York, even if this isn't the Final Final Crisis, it's his Final Crisis, and I'm ready for that. Bring on Warcop and Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye (if we must have a sequel) and all the rest. Bring 'em all.

And Christ, does anyone know what Frank Quitely's doing next?


What did I do?

*Can you tell I was distracted with my breaking car?


RPLC #4 (a comedy-of-all-stripes review special, featuring Cryptic Wit #2, We Lost the War but Not the Battle, Angry Youth Comix #14, Injury Comics #2 and Yam: Bite-Sized Chunks)


Column #17 (on The Horrorist and other Jamie Delano affairs with one John Constantine)

At The Savage Critics!

*You'll recall that last week got a little messed up with Diamond's list coming out late; now it looks like a few items got shuffled around. Pertinent to readers of this site are the NBM books Ordinary Victories: What is Precious and Bluesman, both of which are now out this week. And speaking of missed books, if you haven't got them already, Diamond is offering again Nick Abadzis's Laika (from First Second), as well as Drawn and Quarterly Showcase Vol. 3, which has some nice stuff from Matt Broersma, along with Sammy Harkham and Geneviève Castrée.

But anyway...


Good-Bye: Drawn and Quarterly's third (and I believe, for now, final) hardcover collection of Yoshihiro Tatsumi stories, this time covering works from 1971-72, and finding the artist moving into some longer, ever-more balefully pulpy tales of people in cities. It's $19.95 for 208 pages. Sneak peek here. D&Q's 2009 Tatsumi book will be a brand-new work, the artist's 810-page autobiography, A Drifting Life.

Gantz Vol. 1: But I'm not kidding myself - this is probably the 'big' manga release of the week, and Dark Horse has it. For a while this was considered to be one of those 'holy grail' series, very popular in scanlations but with limited hope of licensing, in this case due to explicit content concerns. Well, now your $12.95 will get you 224 pages of big-time boobs 'n bloodshed, as writer/artist Hiroya Oku's plot sees a team of troubled dead folks pulled together into skintight uniforms to pull off deadly missions, guns blazing. Decompressed to the extreme, but the action can get dazzling. And since it's still ongoing, with Vol. 23 released in Japan just last month, Dark Horse is unlikely to run out of stuff to present so long as the fans stay hungry. Preview here.

APPLE Vol. 1: That's A Place for People who Love Entertainment to you, although you might also be tempted to call it publisher UDON's $34.95 manhwa answer to the manga/illustration anthology Robot. However, this full-color, 264-page production looks to be firmly steeped in the Korean gaming scene, with few established comics folk in sight. Still, it sure looks candied.

The Prince Valiant Page: I can't say I've been keeping up with Mark Schultz's & Gary Gianni's current version of the venerable Prince Valiant newspaper strip, but admirers will no doubt enjoy this Gianni-centered 9" x 12" hardcover art book, featuring 112 pages of process and result. From Flesk Publications, priced at $29.95 (a slipcased limited edition will run you $10 extra). Found in Diamond's helpful Merchandise section, alongside some dapper Wolverine Enameled Cufflinks - you won't think $49.99 is too much after you've nailed that big Pentagon contract!

Native Americans in Comic Books: A Critical Study: A $49.95, 223-page prose book from Michael A. Sheyahshe that will tell you about what the title says. Features interviews with Terry LaBan, David Mack, Tim Truman, John Ostrander, Mike Grell, Steve Englehart, Rachel Pollack and others. Published by McFarland; info here.

The Discworld Graphic Novels: The Colour of Magic & The Light Fantastic: Don't ask me how these 1992-93 comics adaptations of Terry Pratchett's first two Discworld novels are, as I must confess I'd never even heard of them until now. But I bet somebody will want a $24.95 hardcover collection of both. From writer Steven Ross and artists Scott Rockwell (Colour) & Joe Bennet (Light); published by Doubleday.

Demo: Being a new, $19.99 printing of the 328-page collected edition for Brian Wood's & Becky Cloonan's 2003-04 series about young people with strange powers, now from Vertigo. An all-new six-issue second series will follow. Here's my review of the old AiT/Planet Lar edition.

No Hero #0 (of 7): This is the new Avatar series from Warren Ellis & Juan Jose Ryp... yes, you're right, their last series (Black Summer) still has an issue to go yet. This is one of those $1.00, 16-page things that nonetheless provides the important first chapter for the story. It actually looks to be something of a thematic sibling work to Ellis' & Ryp's prior series, finding a team of drug-powered '60s radical superhumans giving way to something different in the near-future. Have a b&w look.

The Programme #12 (of 12): Concluding this Wildstorm series from Peter Milligan & C.P. Smith, all about wounds from the Cold War spilling out all over our modern times. Looks like a good day for patriots. Wildstorm also has the $29.99 Ex Machina Deluxe Edition Vol. 1, in case you'd enjoy owning issues #1-11 again in hardcover.

The Immortal Iron Fist #16: Concluding the Matt Fraction/David Aja run on this Marvel series, co-writer Ed Brubaker having checked out two issues ago. Stare through your tears. Fraction also has Thor: Ages of Thunder - Reign of Blood #1 this week, with pencils by Khari Evans & Patrick Zircher. Other Marvel highlights include a double-shot of Mark Millar with Fantastic Four #558 and Marvel 1985 #2 (of 6), and a Joss Whedon finale with Runaways #30

What If…This Was The Fantastic Four?: A Tribute to Mike Wieringo: Both a tribute to the late Wieringo and a benefit project for The Hero Initiative, this $4.99 book sees the artist's final, incomplete Marvel comics story finished by (or written testimonials provided by) the likes of Art Adams, Jeff Parker, Mike Allred, Barry Kitson, Alan Davis, Stuart Immonen, Cully Hamner, Humberto Ramos and others. More here.

B.P.R.D.: The Ectoplasmic Man: One question I've gotten a few times is whether the new reader needs to start at Vol. 1 of the collected B.P.R.D., seeing as how it's still a bunch of scattered short stories at that point. My typical answer is no, you can easily start at Vol. 3 (wherein the firm creative team gathers and the main plot begins) without missing anything insanely compelling, although you will miss the introduction of vaporous medium Johann Kraus, one of the series' main characters. But now it looks like I don't even need to equivocate that much, since here we've got an all-new expanded origin one-shot from writers Mike Mignola & John Arcudi and artist Ben Stenbeck. Peer into the other world, and thank the movie tie-in gods.

All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder Vol. 1: The American classic, now in its first hardcover. It's $24.99 for all extant issues (#1-9), 240 pages in sum. I really want to see what the mainline review outlets make of this.

Final Crisis #2 (of 7): More final than ever before.




*A... a new column? Do they still make columns? Looks like it's all true, and it's all about Jamie Delano's work with a man named Constantine, special emphasis on The Horrorist. Do have a look while I sort my Paul Chadwick Dazzler collection; only one issue left, and I haven't paid more than a dollar total!



The Golden Age of Reprints: An Empire of One Thousand Years

*Anticipation Dept: Whenever Fantagraphics puts out a new book trade catalog I immediately start flipping through for reprints. I can't help myself - I'm definitely glad that, say, Deitch's Pictorama (a paperback collection of new illustrated stories by Kim Deitch and his brothers Simon & Seth) is due in September for now, or that John Kerschbaum is getting a Petey & Pussy hardcover published, but I tend to get most excited over the new old stuff that makes up a significant portion of Fantagraphics' market identity these days. They do it well.

It looks like one of the upcoming books was already announced a week or so ago: a new $22.99 hardcover collection of Blazing Combat, a 1965-66 war comics magazine from Warren Publishing, edited and almost entirely written by a young Archie Goodwin, with an art stable loaded with the likes of Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood, Alex Toth, John Severin, Russ Heath, Al Williamson, Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall and Gene Colan.

It took more than a bunch of artists from the EC war comics too - despite being published during the popular opening deployments of the US ground war in Vietnam, the magazine cast a decidedly rueful eye on combat, inspired by the works of Harvey Kurtzman from the decade prior. And while many stories were set in the midst of past conflicts, the title did not shy away from a little contemporary material; issue #2 featured an Orlando-illustrated story titled Landscape, depicting the toll the Vietnam conflict exacts from a peasant farmer, which supposedly prompted Army post exchanges to cancel all future orders. The series didn't last past its fourth issue.

Fantagraphics' book won't be the first made from the material, but it will apparently contain some historical supplements (of course!), as well as reproductions from the original negatives - the standards have gotten high.

But sometimes it's just content that gets me - they've also got coming (also in December) an all-in-one softcover collection of Sam's Strip, a semi-legendary 1961-63 newspaper metacomic by Mort Walker & Jerry Dumas, concerning the adventures of a newspaper strip character who owns and operates his space on the funnies page, leading to all sorts of formalist gags, plus cameos by contemporaneous and vintage strip characters (the Yellow Kid, Charlie Brown, etc.). Oddly, it didn't catch on!

Some past-promised things are coming. That Joost Swarte collection (Modern Swarte) is back on the schedule for October, and Trina Robbins' Nell Brinkley book (The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley's Cartoons From 1913-1940) is due in January 2009.

The new year will also bring a sequel-in-spirit to Fanta's hugely successful Fletcher Hanks collection, one with a broader purview (and a different editor, Greg Sadowski): Supermen! The First Wave of Comic-Book Heroes (1939-41), collecting 176 pages of pre-WWII capes 'n tights affairs, including Will Eisner's action-packed (and legally actionable) Wonder Man, Simon & Kirby's Blue Bolt, Basil Wolverton's Spacehawk (there's a collection of Wolverton's Bible illustration coming too), plus stuff by Jack Cole, Ogden Whitney, Dick Briefer, Lou Fine, Charles Biro and, of course, Fletcher Hanks.

That's an awful lot of stuff, stretching awfully far into the future, and that's just one publisher, bless their archivist hearts. Sure took the sting off of hearing that Gemstone's Floyd Gottfredson Library project is being delayed, probably into next year...


They're all pamphlets except the last one.

*Realy fine last few days for me. Enjoyed a nice, sleep-inducing sickness, spent an hour and a half riding a bus from work to my home 25 miles away, didn't so much as look at a comic, least of all right something cohesive - great stuff. But I felt good this morning and my vehicle was mostly fixed, so it was back to my daily regimen of driving down the highway to work at 75 mph with folks riding my bumper and passing on the right in gaps.

Hm? Why don't I drive in the right lane? Shit, I'm not doing 65 with those slowpokes.



Cryptic Wit #2 (Gerald Jablonski; self-published, 32 pages, $5.00): This thing is goddamned excellent, but also very, very particular - Jim Woodring wasn't horsing around when he declared Jablonski's work possessed of "that alarming glass-hard veneer of isolated intellect that distinguishes the product of the bona fied lunatic." He meant that as praise; indeed, he wrote it in the foreword to Jablonski's first solo publication, the Fantagraphics-produced Empty Skull Comics from 1996. Then came the self-published Cryptic Wit #1 in 2002, and here we are in the present, lovely place.

Jablonski has made one major change to his comics approach for this issue: everything is now in blazing full color. Considering the sheer density of the man's work -- that cover above functions exactly like a typical page, minus the big title -- it's a very careful, nuanced job, even subtle at times, with nary a single Herrimanesque shifting background clashing with the characters in dialogue. There is some slight fuzziness to those teeny-tiny letters, maybe more a result of the printing than anything, but overall it's a standout effort.

And if you've never known any of this artist's efforts, be aware every comic is exactly one page long. There are only three types of comics: (1) Howdy, a corpulent fellow with fuzzy round ears, arguing with his nephew Dee Dee over the latter's choice in music, a conversation that inevitably turns toward the fact that Dee Dee's teacher at school is literally an ant; (2) grizzled Farmer Ned narrating exciting talking animal tales from the barnyard, of all places; and (3) a human boy and an alien/mutant boy fighting one another, sometimes in godly or psychedelically twisted forms. There are generally 24-30 panels per page. Types (1) and (2) are loaded with wordplay and witty exchanges, with some jokes repeating from story to story with slight variations. Type (3) often engages in loud formal play (the kids are only playing, you see). Endings seem dictated mainly by formulaic repitition and Jablonski running out of space at the bottom of the page.

It's wonderful, hypnotic work, good and bad jokes alike developing bizarre power through the sheer gale force of the artist's vision, page after page of effortlessly twisting speech bubble stems (mustn't forget those!) and disarmingly precise miniature renderings of fire-breathing dinosaurs and tipped milk jugs. A few smaller, newer motifs can be picked up by longtime readers - there's a lot of intergenerational conflict in this issue (differing values, experiences), and maybe a touch more self-reference, with Howdy & Dee Dee jokes leaking into the barnyard stuff, and Farmer Ned going on for upwards of five panels about how great (or possibly underwhelming) his story is going to be. Lots more Farmer Ned in general, actually, perhaps because his basic structure is more pliable...

Aw, but why am I going on? If any of this sounds even slightly interesting, follow the link above and get ready for an old-school, 'sending money in an envelope to a P.O. box' experience. Either your head or its ache will thank me later.


We Lost the War but Not the Battle (Michel Gondry; PictureBox, 32 pages, $5.99): Say, this is some kind of 'popular person from another art form does a comic' thing, right? He's even kind of a celebrity guy with the moving pictures and popular music commercials, eh? But, in keeping with Gondry's homey, let's-build-stuff! ethos, you can rest assured that every page -- from drawings to letter to colors -- were personally crafted to the fullest extent of handmade whimsy.

There's certainly a winsome appeal to Gondry's curly graphics, and anyone who draws their own back-of-issue merchandise ad gets a smile from me. The story, however, is also about what I've come to expect from the solo Gondry (more solo than usual, this being a comic), chock-full of knotty thematic threads and some determined immaturity, this time with an added splash of over-the-top misogyny, underplayed narratively so as to become disquieting nonetheless.

It's all about a fellow with no personality who subsumes his artistic impulses in the work world and stifles his son's creativity, but then he and three friends -- one of them dead, not that it stops him -- are forced to serve as the Greater Paris military since they lied their way out of compulsory service decades ago and the real army is busy trying to impress America by blowing shit up. Their mission: stop an invasion of hott Communist babes! Blood is spilled, sexual organs are unveiled, and Mia Farrow appears to fuck the main character, which I think is funny?

Not to ruin anything, but after winning the battle they lose the war because the sexy girls are cunning, and then they force all the men to choose between prison or (*gasp* *choke*) domesticity in exchange for sex which they just deny anyway after a while but then the main character and his son escape the city by popping out of a giant vagina, taking a living (male!) clitoris with them, and then they all live together doing arty and philosophic things with no gurls in sight while Paris becomes slaves of sexy rock. Friendship may go beyond death, but I guess it doesn't last long in the face of boring cohabitation aka no freedom! At least PiL-era John Lydon knows the score throughout.

A broad, fable-like message is discernible, with the lead character and his son moving from a world of guns, war, labor, conflict and apparently all sex, to be 'born' into a new world of... finer things? Gondry doesn't really distinguish much between zones of living, although he does just enough to posit the new world as better than the old one that he seems less thematically ambivalent than simply not inclined to give much of a shit for his narrative. I guess some readers might find it to have a dashed-off appeal, maybe like something scratched out while upset over some romantic issue, but I found the approach to be unsatisfyingly pinned between twee metaphor and ambling dirty jokes, its underlying frustrations registering as little more than petulance. Not enough horselaughs for $5.99 either.


Angry Youth Comix #14 (Johnny Ryan; Fantagraphics, 24 pages, $3.50): Now this, on the other hand, is more than worth its price in pure mirth. But there's more! One thing that's often overlooked in comments about Ryan's work is the dedication he has to his style's evolution, in terms of both pure visuals and broad content.

As such, this newest issue sees the artist's signature series move further than ever into straight-up horror/exploitation territory, without losing a lot of ground in comedy. Boobs Pooter is back, this time unveiling The World's Funniest Joke: getting a guy to trip in a puddle of extra-slippery shit, which sets off a chain of events that utterly ruins his life, eventually leading to his stalking the streets as a bearded, cybernetic Rape Tank in search of kicks and revenge. But can anyone stop Boobs Pooter, the hilarious star of "Drabble the Movie" and other hits whose every action prompts crippling laughs in nearly everyone who isn't actually crippled in the process?

It's impressive seeing Ryan take a simple idea -- physical comedy isn't funny to people getting hurt -- and contorting itself across genres in such an intuitive way. Classic squirm images like a huge tube getting shoved into a man's penis are shortly followed by a nurse pulling a long cord of shit out of the man's ass, slinging it against the ceiling and zipping around crying "Look at me! I'm Spiderman Woman!" while knocking machines over.

All of it is paced neatly, with uniform 12-panel grids and rhythmic scene breaks, and room left for more ready-flowing conversational humor than I recall seeing from the artist. It's slick, something that I've found keeps Ryan's content from getting unbearable, and now it seems he's more eager than ever to push back without losing any force of attraction. Fascinating work.


Injury Comics #2 (Ted May w' Jeff Wilson & Jason Robards; Buenaventura Press, 40 pages, $4.95): The kickoff story in this new issue of May's collaboration-focused series is pretty wonderful, tracking a few vivid hours in the life of teenage metalhead Jeff (the story's co-writer) circa 1983 as he moons over the girl he's dating ("She was wearing braces. Our kiss tasted like metal!") and visits a local carnival. Events of great temporary consequence occur, but nothing so urgent that the story can't stop for a few panels to watch a nerd get pantsed before breezing away. Tons of well-observed details, and nice graphic flourishes, like a long-haired guy's metal sense tingling when he hears Witchfinder General in an approaching car. May draws great shitty teenagers, the shittier the better.

It all sort of steamrolls the second story, part two of the series' ongoing serial about cyborg powerhouse Manleau and his battles, the kind of thing more prone to leaning on double entendres or wacky visual gags (like a Slade pinball machine) atop some decent fight pages (finished by Robards from May's layouts). It's entertaining enough, but kind of tinny; it could have used a dose of the weirdness suggested by that great-looking cover. But I'm mostly picking at stuff here - this is a good, half-great comic, and worth looking for.


Yam: Bite-Size Chunks (Corey Barba; Top Shelf, 88 pages, $10.00): I am close to 100% the opposite of the ideal reader for Top Shelf's expanding line of wordless all-ages cutie-pie comics - I mean, god bless its many fans and rousing success, but I don't think I'm reading another Owly without a shotgun barrel kissing the nape of my neck.

Still, I'd call this the best of the bunch so far, in that Nickelodeon Magazine veteran Barba's got a considerable grasp of manga-informed iconography, set in some deftly rendered fantasy locales. There's a nicely varied sense of humor at work too, from the very sensible sight gag of the cover to a little story in which Yam (the kid in the jammies) sees a turtle with a cheeseburger for a shell, so he eats it, then a turtle with a pie for a shell, so he eats it, then one with a toilet for a shell, at which point Yam smiles bashfully at the reader. It's funny because Yam is about to take a big shit inside a living being!

Similar fun courses through these collected stories, and even when a new, longer story eases into the good values rhythm of children's television, with Yam learning to help people out and not blow off his friends and stuff, it's at least taken with the sort of fancy that'll allow the lil' hero to climb inside other people's dreams, dragging imagination into reality and digging into others' subconscious. I can enjoy that thought fine today, in all its hope and determination.



It's still the 11th at Diamond. Well, not anymore if you're just reading this now.

*Curse our futurist flaw.


Pocket Full of Rain and Other Stories

God's Cartoonist: The Comic Crusade of Jack Chick (not a comic but a documentary film on the infamous despoiler of park benches and lunch counters)


B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs #1

At The Savage Critics!

*Sadly, it looks like Diamond is way too cool to post this week's confirmed shipping list at the stated time, so I'm going off the Midtown Comics list this week - take everything here with an extra pinch of salt, although I expect all of the front-of-Previews stuff will actually show. I might not even know for myself on Wednesday, since my vehicle's in the shop and I don't know when I'll get it back. Or how much I'll have to pay for the pleasure. Guess it's finally time to cash in those Comics' Greatest World pogs...


Pocket Full of Rain and Other Stories: In which Fantagraphics collects all remaining back-catalog books by the ever-fine Jason, including some unseen humanity. Review here.

Cat Eyed Boy Vol. 1 (of 2): New Kazuo Umezu! Little more needs be said! And VIZ isn't fucking around - $24.99 will get you 544 pages of mid-'60s horror tales, all of them somehow featuring a little monster child that straddles the worlds of demons and humans. I do believe the second book is due out later this month, so prepare yourself for burial. In other manga updates, Naoki Urasawa's Monster creeps toward a climax with Vol. 15 (of 18), and I continue to be hopelessly behind.

Ordinary Victories: What is Precious: Being the second and final collection of Manu Larcenet's much-admired series about "small things, rare moments, banal sadness and an ordinary guy who’s just trying to live the best way he can." It's 128 pages, and $15.95. From NBM, which also has a collected hardcover for Rob Vollmar's & Pablo Callejo's Bluesman, weighing in at 224 pages for $24.95. Exciting video preview here, although you can look at many pictures too.

Yoshitaka Amano’s Mateki: The Magic Flute: I think this is the first bookshelf-ready release of Radical Publishing, a 128-page, $29.95 hardcover in which the popular illustrator gives his visual interpretation of Mozart's classic; as always, anything Amano does is at least worth flipping through. Apparently there's already an anime adaptation in the pipeline, bringing the circle just a little farther around.

Drawing Words & Writing Pictures: This is First Second's contribution to the How to Make Comics genre of books on the form, a chunky, 304-page landscape-format softcover, priced at $29.95 and significant for being authored by Jessica Abel & Matt Madden. It's structured as a full-scale educational course on comics creation, and therefore begs some comparison to Ivan Brunetti's 2007 Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice (which came bundled in with Comic Art #9). The latter is a more personable, individual work, while the First Second book has a lot more room for illustration, detail and digression. It's certainly a very thorough thing, although maybe best used as part of an enthusiastic teacher's sit-down class, where the best bits can be isolated and emphasized. Read some of it here.

Sardine in Outer Space Vol. 5: Also from First Second, another 112 pages of all-ages exploits. This time the young cast discovers My Cousin Manga, which has to turn out better than Asterix's encounter, right? Note that this volume follows the departure of co-creator Joann Sfar, leaving Emmanuel Guibert as sole writer/artist. Read a full story here.

Postage Stamp Funnies: Being a deluxe slipcased set of three hardcover volumes collecting Shannon Wheeler's gag panels from The Onion and elsewhere. But Dark Horse also respects the premium so many of us have on space these days -- I'm almost down to keeping books in the fridge, a la Schizo #3 -- so it's a 3 1/2" x 2" deluxe slipcased set, retailing for $9.95. Samples.

RASL #2: More of Jeff Smith's sci-fi/action series, if it actually shows - Smith's site has it pegged for next week.

My Inner Bimbo #5 (of 5): Yep, it may have taken more than two years and the addition of multiple co-artists, but here's the conclusion to Sam Kieth's (and Josh Hagler's) (and Leigh Dragoon's) miniseries from Oni. Can anything be sorted out? Time will tell, dear reader.

World's Finest Deluxe Edition: I don't see any terribly noteworthy pamphlets from DC at all this week, but there is this $29.99 hardcover collection of a 1990 miniseries from writer Dave Gibbons and artist Steve Rude, one of many comics series I'd totally forgotten existed. Bound to look nice. And I'm sure there'll be some interest in Y: The Last Man Vol. 10: Whys and Wherefores, the final collection of that popular Vertigo series.

The Punisher MAX #58: Third-to-last. Note that writer Garth Ennis also has War is Hell: First Flight of the Phantom Eagle #4 (of 5) out this week, as well as Streets of Glory #5 (of 6) from Avatar and Dan Dare Oversized UK Edition Vol. 1 from Virgin (collecting issues #1-3 in what should approximate a European album format). Somehow I suspect that more attention will be paid to Wolverine #66, reuniting the Civil War team of writer Mark Millar and penciller Steve McNiven for the start of an eight-part tale of Wolverine in a dark future where Evil Has Won; Marvel assures me it's "the most important WOLVERINE story of the 21st Century," which doesn't sound like a vote of confidence for the next 90+ years of Wolverine comics. Also out: a $24.99 softcover edition for Neil Gaiman's & John Romita Jr.'s Eternals.

Kick-Ass Director's Cut #1: Not to put too fine a point on it, but whenever I see a comic book proclaiming itself a "Director's Cut" when there's no director, nothing to cut, and no changes made to the content of the core work so as to analogize the effort to a movie-style Director's Cut, I just mentally substitute "Director's Cut" with "OH PLEASE GOD WE WISH WE WERE WORKING IN A DIFFERENT MEDIUM WE WISH WE WISH WE WISH." That doesn't leave a lot of room for the cover art though. Anyhow, this looks to be issue #1 of Kick-Ass with Mark Millar's script and various bits of John Romita Jr.'s un-inked and preliminary art in the back. It's $3.99. If they'd gone all the way and reprinted the whole thing in JRJR pencil format (like DC did with Jim Lee for issue #1 of All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder) they might have had me...

**UPDATE 6/17: Ok, Diamond's list is out now and there's only a few noteworthy changes. First, both volumes 1 and 2 of Cat Eyed Boy are out this week, presumably because VIZ wants Umezu out of their warehouse. Dark Horse has the collected $17.95 softcover for The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, the popular superhero thing created by Gerard Way. Simon & Schuster has both hardcover and softcover editions of Hope Larson's anticipated Chiggers ($17.99 and $9.99, respectively). And RASL #2 is actually coming out (preview here), as is everything else I listed above. NOW YOU KNOW.



It Had to Happen - The Jack T. Chick Documentary

God's Cartoonist: The Comic Crusade of Jack Chick

Like my pious aunt often says, nothing starts a weekend off right like the waxy nightlight luminescence of Jack T. Chick's smooth-faced God staring out from your computer monitor, even if drawn by another artist. Feel free to thank me in concealed cash or gift cards.

This is a new film on dvd, and I was kind of shocked to realize that it's apparently the first of its type - considering the long-term ubiquity of Chick's famous giveaway comic tracts, you'd assume that someone would have thought to make a feature-length documentary on the topic before now, but it appears that Kurt Kuersteiner is the first director to put something together. I don't know if the popular rental sites will have it; hell, I just read the press materials and I don't even know of the disc is region coded or not (I doubt it), but it's definitely NTSC, and definitely available for $17.95 (plus $2.00 postage) in the US, through the film's homepage.

Kuersteiner is also the author of a book on the artist, 2004's The Art of Jack T. Chick, to which this film is essentially a companion piece. The book was notable mainly for access; Kuersteiner remains one of few writers to have actually met and interviewed Chick, and his tour of the artist/publisher's facilities offered a unique glimpse into the world-unto-itself that apparently is Chick Publications. There's precious little of that in the film, save for some fleeting shots of tracts flying off the presses. Truthfully, there's little at all in the film that will be new to devout Chick readers, despite its one special coup: an honest-to-God, first-ever sit down chit-chat with famed tract artist Fred Carter.

But mostly it's a 77-minute overview, strolling through the Jack T. basics (biography! conspiracy! controversy!) via talking head interviews with enthusiasts like Robert Fowler (author of 2001's The World of Chick?), Dan Raeburn (who dedicated the second issue of his much-admired comics criticism zine The Imp to Chick), Hal Robins (comics artist and radio show host) and the Rev. Ivan Stang (co-founder of the Church of the SubGenius), all of whom approach the topic with varying levels of fannishness, sarcasm, disgust and smugness. Interspersed are comments by Chick admirers like "Cowboy" Chaplain Dann (a fellow comics tract artist and specialist in witnessing to Native Americans and prisoners) and Kent "Dr. Dino" Hovind (founder of the Dinosaur Adventure Land creationist theme park), plus actual Chick-published writers Rebecca Brown and David Daniels.

There's also a pair of long, rescored clips from Syd Garon's & Rodney Asher's excellent 1997 animated adaptation of Chick's Somebody Goofed, and a partial animated version of the quintessential This Was Your Life, but mostly the movie is unadorned talk, framed and paced like a subdued television production. Some of it will be handy or educational talk for those who're more casually interested in Chick, but I can't say the film's construction does much to enhance the experience; the picture's loose, ambling structure and piecemeal coverage of its topics seems to presume that the subject matter's inherent fascination will carry the day.

Luckily, I think there is a lot of inherent fascination in the topic, and the True Believer contingent of the interview subjects has a clarity of voice and purpose that proves compelling - it's little surprise that most of the disc's bonus interview extracts focus on those subjects, letting Hovind elaborate on his distrust toward the federal government (subsequent to the interview he was imprisoned on tax offenses), or allowing Brown describe a literal visit to Heaven, where the dead pets of the devoted wait to speak with their masters like people.

And even the most well-read Chick maniac will enjoy hearing audio recordings of the late(?) John Todd, whose inside scoop on the Illuminati's conspiracy of witchcraft informed several comics prior to his incarceration on sex offenses (although he claimed to have been set up by the late Sen. Strom Thurmond after unveiling his Masonic ties and souring his relationship with Bob Jones University). There's also prime video footage of the infamous Alberto Rivera, whose purported experiences formed the crux of Chick's Roman Catholic-based conspiracy masterplan as presented in his and Carter's comic book series The Crusaders. Rivera's widow Nury is interviewed, and she and Daniels (himself an inspiration for the newest Crusaders issue, on the topic of Mormons) suggest historical precedent for these seemingly wild claims, like the machinations of fascism, or the empire-caliber abuses of the Catholic Church throughout history - I doubt it'll win many fresh converts, but it does suggest a grounding for such inclinations.

The Fred Carter interview, meanwhile, is very short, perhaps out of necessity - he seems nervous on camera, and speaks rather softly (and I might as well point back to my last Chick post and confirm that no, the religious guy in Oops! is not a self-portrait). But while he also doesn't say anything that determined Chick scholars couldn't at least guess, it's nice to hear him talk of first discovering Chick, another artist interested in overtly Christian comics. He's gently self-depreciating about his art, as shy alternative cartoonists tend to be, and generally comes off as a sweet guy.

For what it's worth, Chick himself doesn't appear on camera (of course), although his voice is heard in vintage audio tapes - it'll only play into his mystique, I'm sure. But while there's little revelation to be witnessed in this film, I do think it ably illustrates how Jack T. Chick is not a solo act, in terms of either production or belief. He is part of a society -- several, actually -- that supports and inspires him, and affects his beliefs. At its best, Kuersteiner's film magnifies these threads that are the stuff of Chick's accomplishment, suggesting that even men who claim the touch of the divine are weathered by this Earth, and that even iconic, unknown artists are prone to influence and human inspiration. But then, isn't it among Chick's messages too that we are all, totally, mortal?


Pardon the fuzz; best I could do.

Pocket Full of Rain and Other Stories

This should be out in stores soon. It's a new softcover from Fantagraphics, 160 b&w and color pages for $19.99, collecting early work by the cartoonist Jason. Upon its release, Fantagraphics will have brought the Norwegian-born artist's complete library thus far to the English language.

Which isn't the same as his complete works, mind you. Jason (given name: John Arne Sæterøy) has been a professionally-published cartoonist since he was a teenager in the early '80s, but this collection features nothing created prior to 1992 - one would get the feeling that the artist would rather leave the rougher stuff to yellow away in old magazines, if he didn't essentially admit to it in the book's annotations. Nothing wrong with that, for sure, but it does mandate some caution on the part of the commentator - this is a very strong package of stuff, and you might well close the book assuming that Jason was some crack-of-lightning prodigy, as opposed to a man with a decade's experience already behind him.

But he wouldn't be the first comics artist of note to make a splashy 'debut' after years of off-and-on work, and judging from comments made at a 2002 San Diego Comic-Con panel -- transcribed in The Comics Journal #253, June 2003 -- there wasn't enough of an active comics readership in Norway to support extended comics works anyway, even given the thin page counts of the 'European' album format, which is how the 44-page Pocket Full of Rain was first released in 1995. It won the artist some acclaim, and prompted the creation of his one-man anthology series Mjau Mjau, in which many of his subsequent works would be serialized; it also prompted the artist to make some rather drastic changes to his visual approach.

Yes, that's indeed Jason, loading the page with dynamic panel formations, dramatic perspectives and some sort of shaved ape riding a bike. The artist had done some work with anthropomorphic animal characters already, even that early on, but it perhaps makes sense that he'd go for a 'realistic' drafting style for such a major work. He was unsatisfied with the results -- at the San Diego talk he deemed his lines "a bit stiff and dead" -- and displeased with a process that yielded so few pages after 18 months of work.

He'd continue to produce some short stories in the style for the first few issues of Mjau Mjau, but all further extended works would employ his rapidly-cohering blend of funny animal characters and sleek, unassuming panel grids. Hell, the quasi-wraparound cover of this new book is actually a group image of the Pocket Full of Rain cast, revised into Jason's contemporary style.

However, I found the story's similarities with Jason's later works to be quite striking. Already his grasp of pacing is very fine, if, to my eye, heavily influenced by Love and Rockets: scenes break in the middle of a page to little loss in narrative clarity, time expertly darts forward (backward?) and adjoining, temporally displaced panels suggest tone through their positioning.

It's impressive, though Jason is already better when adhering to more precise movements - there's a bravura pair of pages early on, each an eight-panel grid, wherein Jason carefully steps us through fragments of a conversation between friends, conveying the emotional necessities of the talk through isolated exchanges (just as panels can convey the illusion of movement through frozen moments), and bouncing the timeline hard into the future at the very end, for punctuation.

The writing also bears many of Jason's favorite themes and tropes, to be refined later on. There's an aimless young man, the prospect of pure, healing love with a good woman, a troubled assassin, and a surreal setting marked by genre conventions interacting and colliding - all typical tools of the artist. And the plot's as easy to summarize as any: a young sketch artist runs into a lovely woman and falls head over heels, without knowing the danger posed by her crazy, clingy killer ex-boyfriend. Can love survive?

Yet Jason's visual style prompts an atypical effect. As in, say, Hey, Wait..., the story's characters exist in a strange place where zombies and aliens walk around as freely as anyone else; but as you might imagine, presenting the 'normal' characters as cartoon animals makes for a much smoother, iconographically intuitive setting. When the 'normal' characters look, er, normal, the reader is forced to consider deviations from the norm.

An artist like Jaime Hernandez (again, likely a key influence) can exploit this effect for comedic or fantastic impact, but Jason seems less sure of his approach, often burying his unreal sequences in an odd, half-symbolic pretense, in which the story's characters seemingly violate the 'rules' of realism so as to reveal their inner states before snapping back to the story's reality. So, the two lovers might suddenly opt to go for a picnic on the moon (because they are so in love), even going so far as to comment on being unable to see the Great Wall of China - because they exist in a 'realistic' visual world, we have to trust that they're just having a regular picnic somewhere, but Jason deliberately veils the story's reality with a type of fantastical overlay, which he quickly removes.

It doesn't end there. A dangerous character might suddenly find his human head replaced with that of a wolf, or the characters might pop into a superdeformed cute style, but this is not the shorthand of manga - one gets the feeling that Jason is really trying to press into the formal aspects of the medium, if sometimes for no obvious purpose beyond jangling realism's illusion. There's a whole subplot about a marked man being saved from death by an ostridge and subsequently journeying around the world, all for the questionable purpose of adding a fable-like aspect to the story's climax, one that Jason himself doesn't seem terribly interested in anymore by the time it's needed.

One eventually wishes for the simplicity, the assurance of the artist's later, integrated cartoon world, a place without such fuss. You can all but see droplets of sweat on the page by the end.

There's something to be said for unfettered ambition, though. There's a romantic quality to Jason's lunging against the nature of comics, swapping and matching elements and adopting the trickiest aspects of older artists, classic comics. Jason is an obvious film buff -- favorites include Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismäki -- and there's something to the bold fusion of this early work that makes it seem connected to some of the movies of that time, the love for genre and youth, and the determination to synthesize the qualities of a video-studied past and mix shit up.

And, as always, Jason is aware of the fleeting nature of all those feelings, as a soon-to-be characteristic melancholy sets in over the final pages.

That's not the final pages of this book, of course - Fantagraphics has another six sections of stuff for you, ranging from one-to-two-page gag stories to early genre/style/homage mash-ups, from a stalled newspaper strip to experiments in 'literary' funny animal comics, from color images to stark, haunting shorts (my favorite). Together with the title story, they depict a restless, eager cartoonist, brushing against the possibilities of seemingly every incarnation of the form and making it so he can do it all. Maybe so he'll be able to choose what to do later.

As, it seems, he has done.


It's no cooler at night.

*Oh well, something tells me there just may be hotter places on this planet.


Interiorae #1-2

Plus my MoCCA 2008 post.

And a look at Haunt of Horror: Lovecraft #1 (of 3) at The Savage Critics.

*A few long-brewing projects coming soon...


Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean: This is the new, $16.95 softcover edition of Douglas Wolk's book of essays, profiles and theory. Perfect reading for the beach, where I may soon be hallucinating myself to be if this heat keeps up.


The Complete Little Orphan Annie Vol. 1: Will Tomorrow Ever Come?: Ok! It may have gotten delayed for a while, but now it's time to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and plunk down $39.99 for the first nine storylines (1924-27) of Harold Gray's classic, with some biographical bonus material by Jeet Heer. I don't think the prime, adventurous, political material started up until the '30s, but I suppose IDW deemed it best to start at the beginning.

Reich #3: Wait a second... issue #2 came out through Diamond? Er, anyway, I guess this is issue #3 of Elijah Brubaker's comics biography of the (in)famous Wilhelm Reich. Preview here. Issue #4's already done -- I bought it at MoCCA the other day -- so it'll probably be along to stores soon.

Freddie & Me: A Coming-of-Age (Bohemian) Rhapsody: This 308-page, $19.99 book by Mike Dawson has been getting a lot of attention, and now the Direct Market will have the Bloomsbury USA edition for North America. It's about the author's life amidst the music of Queen. Have a look. A long interview about the book is here.

Superior Showcase #3: The newest edition of AdHouse's pamphlet-format superhero anthology series, this time boasting an all-new Street Angel story by Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca, plus contributions from Laura Park and Dustin Harbin. A photo parade preview is here.

Robots: No not the manga thing with the girls; this is a 204-page, $15.99 anthology from AccentUK, focusing on a topic you'll never be able to guess. Features the participation of Kieron Gillen, Leah Moore & John Reppion, and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, among others. Huge stack of stuff here.

One-Pound Gospel Vol. 1 (of 4): Sometimes, series by popular manga artists fly off the drawing board and onto store shelves, one after another, dozens of volumes stacking up over the years. And sometimes, projects get lost in the shuffle. Hence we have this series by superstar Rumiko Takahashi -- a sporty romantic comedy about a hard-eating boxer and the nun who wants to get him on the right track -- which started off in 1987, inspired an Osamu Dezaki-directed anime OVA in 1988, and sparked some fan following upon its initial VIZ serialization, but didn't actually finish its Japanese serialization until 2007, despite being only four books long. Now it's done, a live-action television drama has run earlier this year, and the contemporary VIZ is ready to present a proper 21st century manga edition, priced at $9.99.

B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs #1: Being the first of four one-off pamphlets spinning out of a two-parter that ran in the MySpace version of Dark Horse Presents; it looks like it'll mostly be a gap-filling project, with this particular segment having Roger the Homunculus look into secrets established all the way back in the first Hellboy storyline, Seed of Destruction. With pencils by special guest Herb Trimpe; see it here.

Charlatan Ball #1: This is a new ongoing Image series from writer Joe Casey, he of the now-finite Gødland, this time with animator Andy Suriano providing the art. It's about a low-rent stage magician who's whisked away to a place where real magic can be commanded; exploits ensue. Scaled back to 24 pages and priced at $2.50, for your pleasure. Image has a bunch of comics out this week, including Madman Atomic Comics #9, Jack Staff #17 and Elephantmen #12.

Eternals #1: Back to the well? Back to the well. Granted, Neil Gaiman's and John Romita Jr.'s 2006-07 revival of the Kirby concept did mostly function as a continuity spit 'n shine, so it makes some sense for an ongoing series to follow up on the new status quo. Charles & Daniel Knauf (formerly of Iron Man) are the writers, and Daniel Acuña is the artist. Here it is. On the other hand, the whole thing does seem to have prompted a softcover release of what Marvel has now dubbed Eternals by Jack Kirby, which will see the first of two $24.99 volumes out this week; sure beats the $75.00 for the omnibus hardcover prompted by the Gaiman miniseries. And if it's that JRJR guy you're crazy about, this week also has a $29.99 softcover omnibus for the Mark Millar-written Wolverine: Enemy of the State.

The Punisher MAX: Little Black Book: It's another one-off special for The Punisher MAX, and you know what that means - a prose crime writer taking the franchise out for a spin. This time it's Victor Gischler -- of books titled Shotgun Opera and The Pistol Poets, and the upcoming Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse -- joined by Jefte Palo on art, for a tale of Frank's accomplishment of shootings inside a fortress of monied decadence, if I've got the preview right. In other Marvel pamphlets, I'll probably get Captain Britain and MI: 13 #2, since the first one was fun enough. Issue #2 of Sky Doll is also out, if your interest was piqued.

Narcopolis #3 (of 4): Delano writing the future. Pre-view.

Local #12 (of 12): Wood writing the present.

The Programme Vol. 1 (of 2): In case you've been waiting for the trade of writer Peter Milligan's and artist C.P. Smith's Wildstorm series about Soviet superheroes popping up in our difficult contemporary world, prompting the activation of real (flawed) American heroes, here's the first one. This is kind of an interesting series, first in that it's got some of the most garish visuals I've seen in a DC-affiliated comic -- enough so that it actually gets kind of fascinating, even as it still falls prey to the stiffness that affects a lot of current heavy realist superhero character art -- and also due to Milligan's hellish determination to poke at the festering political and racial wounds that marked the war between the superpowers that were the US and the USSR, lest we feel the ambiguities of a War on Terror are altogether fresh. I can't say it's always successful, but it's the kind of work that remains compelling among its shortcomings, and unafraid to tumble far over the top in pursuit of its booming themes...



Twenty-Three Fragments of MoCCA, 2008

(as always, all quotes are paraphrased for ease of reading, all impressions are recalled through the prejudice of time passed, and all events are recounted strictly from memory; I did not carry a notepad, and this is not news)

I. "Ah, New York City!" I said, gesturing toward a patch of weeds wilting in the Saturday heat. They were all that was around, save for the melancholic loading dock of a nearby warehouse, and an odd, onion-domed building in the distance. If you squinted far across the river, you could spot a little man-made gray.

"Skyscrapers and everything," replied Chris Mautner, spirits still high.

Our train, however, remained disinclined to move; this came after our sluggish chug through southern Pennsylvania, the conversation next to me in the aisle between two men in caps about how the brakes were pulling, and the 20 or so minutes added on to our Philadelphia stopover so unspecified things could be done to the train, like adding new brake pads or putting out a fire - I still don't know.

At least the air conditioning worked. At least I wasn't riding alone. At least I had access to rail service, the price of which hadn't noticeably risen in the last year, which is far better than can be said for gas or airfare. Chris declared that his favorite filmmaker was probably David Cronenberg, and I replied that mine was likely Andrei Tarkovsky, although watching his movies was a bit like attending Mass, and you had to be in the mood. Over the horn, the engineer informed us that 'single-track work' was being done, and we had to wait for exactly six trains to pass us before we could move again.

There may have been some Biblical significance at work there, but I wouldn't really start contemplating my own mortality until we got out under the sun.

II. It was fucking hot on Saturday; actually, it was hot enough to dissuade fucking. But the temperature inside the Puck Building -- after we stood in line outside waiting for groups of people to exit, sign #1 it'd be busy -- was pretty decent, given the crowd. It was a little after one in the afternoon, so the show had only been open for two hours, but it was busy.

The MoCCA festival, in case you haven't been there recently, is split up into four rooms in the Puck Building; three are on the ground floor, and one is way up on the 7th floor ballroom. There's always a line to use the elevators, so Chris and I decided to hit the upper level first. I noticed there were ushers by the pertinent exits, barking that there were more comics upstairs - a better effort than last year, but I know I'd be a liar if I said I had any plans to ride up there again after the first go-around, hence the early visit.

III. No sooner was I in the elevator than terrestrial form of Neilalien materialized. We called each other by our one-word names, like superheroes tend to do (when they're in an elevator at a comics festival). Kevin Church was also there to say hello, and he later handed my his card, which has an image of his face on it. I thanked him on behalf of my headboard, and we both laughed, although deep inside we knew I wasn't joking.

IV. It was warmer on the 7th floor; there was some AC going above the actual ballroom, enough that it was noticeably cooler than the foyer, where Fred Hembeck and other unlucky fundraising sketchers were planted, although the sun still glared pretty hard through the windows. Chris and I decided to split up.

I made my first purchase about five steps into the ballroom, where the Heritage School -- a New York public high school with an arts-heavy academic mission -- was promoting an 84-page, student-made anthology. Worth noting: the teachers' introduction is drawn in a subdued, indy comics-ish style, while every single one of the students' comics works in a shōnen manga idiom. The title? Manga Mania.

I'm telling you - manga sales can cool down a lot (and it looks like they will), but once the cadence is instilled across a generation, the obligatory 5% that can't let go of comics will insure that it doesn't vanish from the American art. Not for a long time. Probably not before we're dead. You and me, reader!

Hey, I warned you how the heat got me thinking.

V. I headed over to what I thought was the Image table (I was wrong) and met Ivan Brandon, of NYC Mech and the 24Seven anthology, plus several projects at Marvel (like a currently-running Marvel Comics Presents serial). I've been posting at his message board for a while, so it was good to put a face to the name. The heat didn't seem to have gotten to him, although it was still early in the show. We talked a bit about the 'Scandinavian corner' of the 7th floor, which was back again for the year's show, and how it was impressive to see so many people pack up and hop a plane all the way over to display some comics. Not every show can boast that appeal of its exhibiting publishers.

VI. The 'Scandinavian corner' this year consisted of three Norwegian publishers: Jippi Comics, No Comprendo Press and Dongery Forlag, although I believe they were carrying works from Finnish and Swedish artists as well. The showcase English-language book was Angst Vol. 2, a fatter sequel to the three publishers' joint 2007 Best of Norway sampler (which I bought at last year's show). I also picked up No Comprendo's 1997 No Comprendo Comics sampler (in English), and Seldon Plan #1, an English-language minicomic by Linnette Barkley & Martin Ernstsen. As you can tell, my command of world languages is formidable.

But the most exciting thing in that corner was the awesome galley for Soft City (blurry samples here), a long-lost book the artist Pushwagner composed from 1969-75. And by 'lost,' I mean the original art was literally lost with the artist's luggage for decades before turning up in Olso in 2002. It is strikingly contemporary stuff, sinking rows of delicate human forms and towering city structures deep into an unforgiving horizon - I was told the book will be out in Europe next week, but simply couldn't be completed in time for the show, which I think it may well have stolen. Keep an eye out for talk of this one.

VII. I did not, however, manage to see Norway's most renowned cartoonist, the great Jason, who was signing downstairs at Fantagraphics' table. I was told that the line to see him was a real mob scene, and I imagined Kim Thompson riding a horse up and down the show floor, cracking skulls with a truncheon while pondering how to best translate the pop culture references in the artist's latest work - since it's Jason, you know there's always a 'latest work' cooking.

I didn't pick up any of Fantagraphics' show debuts, since I try to observe the sacred small-press comics show rule of thumb: don't buy anything you can easily buy outside the show. Given the rise of easy internet shopping and PayPal, I'm not totally convinced that there's much of anything you can't somehow get outside the festival, but there's different levels of 'easy'; with its relatively strong Direct Market and bookstore penetration, most Fantagraphics books fall into the easy-easy category, and I usually wind up buying Ignatz titles I'm missing or recent back-issues of pamphlet series.

But I have read the new Jason book, Pocket Full of Rain and Other Stories, a 160-page collection of early works, including the eponymous 1995 graphic album (the artist's first extended comics work, featuring -- *gasp* *choke* -- human characters) and assorted stories from early issues of the artist's one-man anthology series Mjau Mjau, and it kind of kicked my ass.

Maybe I was going in with a faulty perception, seeing as how Jason had been getting comics published since he was a teenager in the early '80s, so he had over a decade of off-and-on pro work behind him before his full-scale album 'debut,' but man - there's some very good stuff in that book. Real nervy, I'm Not Even 30 Years Old and I Can Do Fucking Anything and Everything genre/style/history of the form fusion, reminiscent to me of some of the movies that ruled the day in the mid-'90s, only comics. You want to look at this book when it's in stores.

VIII. The new Meathaus anthology, Meathaus: SOS, looks pretty. Like a deluxe manga anthology or one of the old SPX bricks, except dripping with color.

IX. As I located Chris and prepared to head downstairs -- it was already well after 2:00, and we wanted to catch Frank Santoro's panel at 3:45, and the whole place was due to close at 6:00 -- I ran into Sean T. Collins, who had a new minicomic anthology at the show, Murder, featuring stories written by him and drawn by Matt Wiegle, Matt Rota and Josiah Leighton, some of which have run on Top Shelf's website. Sean seemed pleased with the air conditioning by his table (the Partyka table), which was no small triumph at the show, particularly as deadly solar rays began setting my shirt on fire. That's why I dress in layers, even with the heat index above 100.

X. I haven't read the Center for Cartoon Studies' Sundays 2 anthology yet, but it did come with its own handy custom bag, so it'll always have that. I tried to gauge which of my books would go best in which of my bags -- I'd brought one to the show, and Forbidden Planet had handed another out at the entrance -- but it all started to feel like those sliding tile puzzles I hate more than crime, and I didn't want to lash out in the elevator (because many people are stronger than me).

XI. At this point, my recollection of events begins to blur, as Chris and I were struggling to move with a little more speed. I picked up a stack of items at the Sparkplug Comic Books table, including issues #2-4 of Elijah Brubaker's Reich (which I guess will show up in Direct Market stores eventually, though I think Diamond has only released issue #1) and Matt Furie's (awesome) 2006 Boy's Club. Somewhere along the line I ran into Tom Kaczynski, and got his new Ransom Strange minicomic, Voodoo Economics.

I also really liked the looks of the stuff at the Closed Caption Comics table; I picked up their new anthology, CCC7, a 48-page b&w and color pamphlet with a silkscreened cardstock cover, newsprint guts and lots of striking images, and a pair of Erin Womack's newspaper tabloid comics, Folk Wars and The Crystal Depletion (and How We Tried to Stop It). Only later would I find out that contributor Ryan Cecil Smith was also the artist on one of Frank Santoro's new Cold Heat specials.

XII. And, as narrative luck would have it, we then happened upon the Picturebox table. As usual, the place was stocked with new and old minicomics by nearly everyone associated with the publisher, just as the table was manned by nearly everyone associated with the publisher. I saw Dan Nadel sell someone a copy of Art Out of Time he was putting into a box behind the table.

I shook C.F.'s hand, and he drew a picture on my copy of his new Core of Caligua mini, collecting four surreal 'everyday sci-fi' comics. Gary Panter was there too, and I finally got a copy of his 2003 mini The Asshole. He was immersed in conversation with Frank, who'd brought pretty much his whole line of Cold Heat books, including his Castle Castle lil' sketchbook and all of the Specials I'd been missing: #3, with Dash Shaw; #4, with Jim Rugg; and #5 with the aforementioned Smith.

PictureBox also had not-mini comics debuting, including Lauren R. Weinstein's very large (10" x 15.5") The Goddess of War Vol. 1, and filmmaker Michel Gondry's We Lost the War But Not the Battle, which keeps getting labeled a minicomic even though it's a publisher-branded $5.99 color pamphlet with a barcode on the back. There was also the usual selection of great imports, including the somewhat dazzling lark of Tales from Greenfuzz #2 by British artist Will Sweeney, a segment of a visually searing, possibly defunct all-ages story that PictureBox will be publishing, completed, as a 2009 book. Call it a preview. There was also a King Terry 'Secret Notebook' type of art book I couldn't afford; maybe at SPX!

XIII. Oh, I also bought a $3.00 newspaper tabloid comic by Ken Kagami titled SnooPee, which was 16 pages of Charlie Brown and Snoopy undergoing sexual transformations and pissing a lot, sometimes onto each other. I knew then that the burning spirit of MoCCA was at hand.

XIV. I stopped by Justin J. Fox's and Marcos Pérez's table, and confirmed that they did indeed spot me fleeing last month's New York Comic-Con like Snow White rushing away from the huntsman through the enchanted forest. Justin has a large new landscape-format book out titled I Dreamed of You and Mr. Eybyaninch, the first in a series, and it really shows off some vivid, curling linework. I liked the looks of it.

XV. Big-time publishing news: First Second looks to have a nice slew of things coming up, starting with the August arrival of Eddie Campbell's & Dan Best's The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard; I've been told by someone with a copy that it's a funny, whimsical work, loaded with formal play. I'd either not realized or forgotten that Pantheon was doing a David Heatley collection, My Brain is Hanging Upside Down, which looks to be about half reprints from McSweeney's, Kramers Ergot and MOME, and half new stuff. Chip Kidd's Bat-Manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan project will be 352 pages at $29.95. Jiro Kuwata's artwork looks nice.

XVI. But that wasn't the best publishing news I ran across at the show. No, the best news would have to be that NBM has licensed David B.'s 2005 Futuropolis collection of dream comics, Nocturnal Conspiracies, for a North American release in December. Holy shit, let me hang my Christmas stocking now. Also: the second in NBM's Forever Nuts line of selected newspaper slapstick reprints is due in November, this time showcasing Frederick Burr Opper's Happy Hooligan. Nice choice. Also: their catalog? Full of porn. Good times waiting for the train.

XVII. What was the 'buzz' book of the show? No goddamned clue, and I wasn't looking anyway. But I can say that Lynda Barry had a million-strong line waiting for her as she sat at Drawn and Quarterly's table, and I expect that meant something.

XVIII. Time was running out. It was nearly 3:30. The Bries table taunted me with all sorts of goods from the magic realm of Belgium. It was pretty crowded. A woman asked if they took credit cards. "We don't," chirped the young lady behind the table, "but there's an ATM outside so you can get more money and give it to us." I eventually settled on the 2005 tome The Hero's Life and Death Triumphant, an all-etching work by Frédéric Coché. The woman (not behind the table) told me the book looked good, and asked me if any tables at all accepted credit cards. I told her PictureBox did. I started to wonder if she was someone I knew, and I attempted to look for a nametag, and I think she began to suspect I was trying to check her out.

XIX. Chris and I tried to leave. We then met Ed Cunard and said hello (and sadly not much more). We ran into Douglas Wolk, who looked like the heat and the crowd were getting to him. Bill Kartalopoulos happened by, as did Heidi MacDonald. It was really hot on the street. We couldn't find the MoCCA building itself, probably because MoCCA doesn't have a building, it has a floor in a building, and there's no inflatable Spider-Man crawling up the exterior. Eventually we looked up the address in the show program, and spotted Bill Kartalopoulos opening the door, so we slipped in behind him like we were trying to stow away on a ship or something.

XX. I think I might make it a habit to see only one panel/spotlight per show from now on; maybe the isolated nature of my experience helps, but I've had good luck choosing my one panel for the NYCC (Grant Morrison's spotlight), and now this. We were 10 or 15 minutes late, and didn't get any of Frank's handouts. No matter - Frank's presentation was just about everything I attend these functions in order to see, a heady blend of theory and urging and profane eruption.

He declared that the 'mark-making' focus of young cartoonists ought to be bolstered by intuitive page designs, presenting a malleable grid with which to conjure pages. He talked about how comics is such that conventional aspects of painting are taken as avant-garde, and how the feeling of beauty can be belie underlying mathematical formulae. He did not restrain his enthusiasm for the works of his collaborators Shaw and Rugg. At one point he called on me to give him the name of the artist who did The Drifting Classroom (there might be seven to nine panels on those pages, but don't your eyes fly?); I'm pretty pleased that invoking the name of Kazuo Umezu was my participation in the event.

Near the end of the presentation, he asked for questions. Someone near the front began saying something, which wasn't quite audible over the air conditioner. One of the MoCCA staff began to look for a microphone, while Frank began to react to what was said.

"Are you who I think you are? You're Tucker Stone!"

Frank often speaks in hyperlinks; it's amazing to hear. A staffer finally handed Tucker the microphone.

"I was going to ask how big your dick was."

As the talk ended, a man in front of me turned around and told me that he enoyed reading this very site. That meant a lot to me. I felt like a million bucks.

XXI. So Chris and I walked back to the Puck Building with Tucker & Nina Stone, who are a fine couple of folks. We wound up chatting for the better part of an hour, hopefully not to Alvin Buenaventura's dismay, since we were near his table the whole time. They're a very smart, funny couple (as you can tell from their site), and their company was perfect for winding down the day's events.

It's meeting people that appeals to me the most about shows like MoCCA's, in that a solid chunk of the east coast blogging/writing contingent manage to attend, and there's often a personal connection evident between the artists and the items they're (let's face it) selling to the crowd. I noticed there seemed to be so many individuals behind tables as collectives, whether grouped by publisher or project or art gang - consolidation seemed prevalent, although maybe it was always like that, and I just wasn't that those shows (or any, prior to 2006). Still, I feel an immediacy of person behind many of the works, an overriding intimacy that beats the commerce of hype that seems to rule at the 'larger' shows.

There's no way the MoCCA show is perfect, oh gosh no. The Puck Building seems to stretch under the size of the thing, and splitting off many of the events into the MoCCA facility surely turns some away from participating in the formal 'appreciation of comics art' aspects (necessary as it may be from a space standpoint), implicitly reinforcing the most commercial aspects of the show setup. But there remains a community aspect that I appreciate, and at least a willingness to cast the capitalist net out into world comics in a way that like-minded shows maybe can't, for location or whatnot.

XXII. And then I turned around to look at the Buenaventura Press table, huge stack of imported items and all. Charles Burns stood off to one side, chatting with some appreciative soul. Sometimes the best things in life are free, and Alvin handed me a tear sheet from the newest issue of the revived Arthur Magazine, in which Buenaventura debuted a full-blown color daily comics page, just like in your local newspaper (er, save for the color, probably), except with funnies provided by Kevin Huizenga, Dan Zettwoch, Ted May, Anders Nilsen, Al Columbia, Matt Furie, Souther Salazar, Tom Gauld, Jeffrey Brown, Helge Reumann, C.F., Tim Hensley and more. Find it at your local Arthur supplier, or download it here; it's on page 4.

XXIII. The day ended without incident. Chris and I got sandwiches at a local stand. The train stayed moving all the way back. There was a lot to read, but I slept.