A desperate entreaty.

*Are there any other kinds?


King Smurf (the 1965 classic of violent revolution, Smurf style)

At The Savage Critics.


Rawbone #1 (of 4) (pirates from Jamie Delano & Max Fiumara)

A short contribution to Tucker's Stone's Comics of the Weak at The Factual Opinion. And by 'short,' I mean 'one paragraph long.'


Punisher: War Zone (yes, the recent feature film, now on dvd)

At comiXology.


I refer to the two men in the center of the first panel, coincidentally the guys that put the whole image together: José Muñoz (pictures) & Carlos Sampayo (words). I enjoyed this appreciation by Robert Stanley Martin, focusing on their Joe's Bar series of short stories. It got me leafing through some of the scant English translations of that series' parent project, the excellent noir detective affair Alack Sinner.

I don't think it's too hard to place the influence Muñoz's work on that series (especially his earlier, mid-'70s stuff) had on one particular crime comics artist that would embrace high-contrast b&w later on, but that doesn't really do justice to the depth of Sinner. It might have started out as a slightly off-kilter private eye series, but Sampayo gradually stripped away more and more of the conventions of the genre until he was left with scenes from a life as lived through the raw idiom of genre fiction, stories circling resolution and breaking off to track the title character's thoughts.

Muñoz, meanwhile, stretched and curled his art so as to evoke deeply-kept truths through every character's forms; they all looked as they were, and thus the whole world became a wriggling mass of human symbols and emotions incarnate, the perfect compliment to Sampayo's roundabout-yet-intimate tales, prone as they were to blowsy politics and heated statements of purpose. Rarely has a collaboration seemed so unified, so focused on a particular vision, willing and able to become vivified beyond stylized noir graphics into a frenzy of cartoon truths in a dim, cynical human world.

(this one's from Joe's Bar, actually; Catalan Communications released a partial translation of the first album in the '80s, and I think all of the missing stories ran in RAW)

Unfortunately, even the union of RAW and Fantagraphics only managed to produce five issues of a magazine-sized Sinner series, 1987-90, with an added story in an '87 issue of Fantagraphics' house anthology of the time, Prime Cuts (that's issue #4). Interestingly, this presentation ignored the chronology of each story's creation to follow the procession of the character Alack Sinner's life, thus allowing the reader to compare Muñoz & Sampayo's later approach with some of their earliest, most restrained work on the character. I found it to be valuable, the ecstatic texture of the latter art seeming to surround the character then flee as his gritty private eye life pulls itself together, and slowly relaxes into a groove. I think he becomes a cabbie later on?

I don't know; very little of the whole work has ever been available in North America. Actually, after RAW folded in '91, I only know of one other Muñoz/Sampayo work released in the US: their 1991 biographical comic Billie Holiday, released by Fantagraphics in 1993 in lieu of its serialization in the (new) house anthology Graphic Story Monthly, which had also gone under. I can only pray some heroic publisher will rise up to take hold of Casterman's recent two-volume omnibus collection of the entire Alack Sinner saga in French -- also arranged in the order the character lived it, I believe! -- and end this 16-year comics drought. It can happen.

*I'm hoping to get something new up tomorrow; my pile of stuff I want to review is getting seriously obscene. And I know it when I see it.


A Drifting Life: Certainly the big release of the week, this is Yoshihiro Tatsumi's 840-page autobiographical softcover manga opus, covering his deep involvement with the postwar art, 1945-1960. I liked it okay, although it's definitely more of an unassuming type of 'catalog' autobio comic (in which the artist strives to list seemingly everything that happened) rather than much of a deliberately formed dramatic work. Which is fine, although it's a noteworthy departure from every other Tatsumi comic heretofore seen in English, and often rather disaffected in its early pages' talley of home life struggles; all the signifiers of emotion are present, but rarely executed in a manner that stands out from the parade of events, ticked off and marked every so often with happenings in the wider society, boom boom boom.

Still, it does eventually start to cook as Tatsumi gets totally immersed in the maturing manga form; 800+ pages gives you sweep, and a very broad, slightly foggy picture gradually emerges of manga's idealism as the postwar spirit, giving way to new, inevitable struggles, and thus gekiga. And, you know, us English readers aren't exactly suffocating under a pile of first-person accounts of the post-Tezuka artform. Big preview here.

Black Jack Vol. 4 (of 17): And yeah, if there's anything that comes across 110% clear in Tatsumi's story, it's that Osamu Tezuka had a massive impact on every young cartoonist that followed him; he really was a god astride the Earth. So, lucky you that Vertical has another 304 pages of medical mastery lined up this week, as Tezuka's famous surgeon-for-hire continues his episodic exploits. It's $16.95.

Berserk Vol. 28: And, for your relevant exposure to contemporary genre manga for mature audiences, Dark Horse has another 224 pages of Kentaro Miura's ongoing blood-soaked warrior saga. Have a look; $13.95.

Cecil & Jordan In New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell: Meanwhile, back in North America, Drawn and Quarterly also has this 112-page hardcover collection of Bell's various contributions to Kramers Ergot, MOME and Drawn & Quarterly Showcase, containing fantasies, fictions and excerpts from real life. Most of this stuff sees the artist stepped away from the diaristic autobio stuff that's somehow come to define her body of work (even though she's been doing fiction consistently since When I'm Old And Other Stories half a decade ago), although everything, as always, remains grounded and conversational as can be. Sample story here, which filmmaker Michel Gondry recently adapted-expanded-transformed into his segment of the anthology film Tokyo! Wait, how'd we end up in Japan again?!

The Muppet Show #1 (of 4): You know, I'm really holding onto the sides of my head really hard right now, and I totally can't think of a cartoonist more suited to bringing Kermit & company to the comics page than the great Roger Langridge. Boom! Studios may have something here. Just look at this; love those beady eyes. Only $2.99.

Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-Creator Joe Shuster: Being writer-compiler-designer Craig Yoe's new project from Abrams ComicArts, a 160-page, $24.95 hardcover devoted to presenting Shuster's illustrations (and very occasional comics) from Nights of Horror and other mid-'50s bondage-torture fetish pamphlets. I've read this; like a number of Abrams ComicArts' titles, the focus is very much on clean presentation of a lavish number of illustrations.

A breezy, ambling 30-page essay starts it off, circling around its opaque central topic; nobody around today seems to know precisely why Shuster drew the stuff (although financial need almost certainly played a key role), so Yoe mostly tackles the the expected biographical stuff while exploring the odd history of the pamphlets themselves, involving Times Square smut mogul Eddie Mishkin, the famous Dr. Fredric Wertham, teenage killers who flogged victims with those bullwhips you could buy from the ads in old comics, a cache of original art vanishing into the Long Island Sound and the 1957 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kingsley Books, Inc. v. Brown, which actually came down the same day as Roth v. United States. It's fun, if sometimes speculative, and prone to the occasional factual error; from examining the Kingsley decision above, I notice that Yoe both misquotes the opinion of Justice Felix Frankfurter and misattributes language from Chief Justice Earl Warren's dissent to Justice Hugo Black.

The rest of the book takes the form of a gallery of Shuster's art from the booklets in question, presented with short, partial synopses of the stories illustrated. Choice quotes are used as captions, along with the occasional bit of commentary, although there's no detailed critical analysis provided for the work itself; we see spankings, seductions and sometimes naked breasts, with the irregular assurance that yes - some of these people do look like Superman and Lois Lane and others. Nice to flip through, though. See more at the well-stocked official site.

Ted McKeever Library Vol. 3: Metropol: Another Image hardcover devoted to compiling the wiry works of the artist in the title, this time a 424-page, $39.99 b&w presentation of a 1991-92 Epic series concerning the clash of cosmic forces in a soot and metal deadland. The 1992 follow-up series Metropol A.D. is also included. Preview here.

Spaghetti Brothers Vol. 3 (of 4): Continuing this 1995-2007 mob saga from Carlos Trillo & Domingo Mandrafina, new to English. From IDW; 204 pages, $24.99.

Garth Ennis' Battlefields: Dear Billy #3 (of 3): Wrapping up this Dynamite story of affection and revenge, with art by Peter Snejbjerg. The next storyline involves tanks, and frequent Ennis cohort Carlos Ezquerra.

Crossed #4 (of 9): Also, here's Ennis' Avatar series about children being shot in the head, and semi-zombies.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #5 (of 6): Yes, it's Gabriel Bá.

Top 10 Special #1: In which writer Zander Cannon continues the America's Best Comics superhero cop series, this time in a 32-page one-off with art by Chinese manhua artist Da Xiong. Do note that Peter Hogan & Chris Sprouse are set to do a new Tom Strong book soon too, so no, Adrian, nothing ever ends.