Ready for another killer tomorrow.

*Fourth of July should be nice.


Detective Comics #854 (J.H. Williams III: more than just a pretty draw)


Batman (that's right, just "Batman" - it's the 1943 movie serial that gave the character his silver screen start and drained the blood from pundits' faces for decades after)

At comiXology.

*No Gotham for seven days at least. I have a medical restriction.


The Comics Journal #298: Man, only two issues until the big Siege of Asgard prelude. Until then, we'll have to make do with the always-fine Bill Randall's feature essay on the alternative manga anthology AX, coming soon in cherry pickin' anthology form courtesy of Top Shelf. Interviews this issue concern Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá, Nicholas Gurewitch and Trevor Von Eeden (artist of DC's Thriller!). Plus: selections from Percy Crosby's Skippy, a preview of Jirô Taniguchi's A Distant Neighborhood (upcoming from Fanfare/Ponent Mon) and oh so much more.

And -


Far Arden: The debut graphic novel by Kevin Cannon of Big Time Attic, a $19.95, 400-page(!) Top Shelf hardcover that got its start as a wildly ambitious battery of monthly 24-hour comic drawing efforts -- albeit often not 24 hours all in a row -- forming a massive, improvisation-heavy 288-hour comic (the results remain online), and later expanded yet further for print publication. It's a tale of adventure, with a grizzled sea dog questing toward the promise of an island paradise. Preview here; interview with Tom Spurgeon here.

Syncopated: An Anthology of Nonfiction Picto-Essays: Yeah, "picto-essays" means "comics," just so you know. Your big publisher lit comics project of the week, a Villard anthology of new "memoir, history, journalism, and biography," edited by Brendan Burford, King Features Syndicate comics editor and self-publisher of three prior editions of the series. Nice lineup, including Paul Karasik, Nate Powell, Nick Bertozzi, Dave Kiersh and more. A $16.95 softcover, 160 b&w pages.

Greek Street #1: Nice! A $1.00, 40-page first hit of writer Peter Milligan's new Vertigo ongoing, a repositioning of bloody sexual Greek tragedies in contemporary London, with artist Davide Gianfelice of Northlanders. Extended advertisement here.

Voice of the Fire: Golden Age of Reprints... FORM OF PROSE!! This, of course, is Alan Moore's 1996 prose novel, newly reprinted by Top Shelf in softcover form at $14.95; it's one of the Magus' very best works, a cycle of 12 stories spanning nearly six millenia of history in Moore's home town of Northampton, following mystics, patsies, madmen, witches, frauds, nobles and severed heads as they navigate the eternal flux that is the pursuit of the true nature of this human life. People will tell you otherwise, but I'd recommend you read each story in order; Hob's famous Bronze Age dialect might slow you down up front, but there's a rewarding effect to teaching yourself to read again -- to see the world again for the first time, at Moore's dawn of time -- that resonates through the rest of the work. Samples are online, including Neil Gaiman's full Introduction and a few of José Villarrubia's color plates.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Newspaper Dailies: Vol. 2 1930-1932: But as far as comics go, how about a big ol' 9" x 11.5" hardcover chunk of ye olde sci-fi funnies, six complete stories for $39.99, with an extensive Introduction by Ron Goulart. From Hermes Press.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: Being the official one-off manga prequel to director Mamoru Hosoda's 2006 anime feature film about a silly girl who gets limited time travel powers and runs into steady-building emotional trouble; it was sort of nice, maybe? Woah, woah, wait a minute - didn't this come out in English the other year? No, you're thinking of CMX's two-volume release of A Girl Who Runs Through Time, a 2004 shōjo manga take on Yasutaka Tsutsui's original 1967 novel, which Hosoda's anime serves as a sequel-but-mostly-a-remake to. So yeah, this is the tie-in manga to the anime, a prequel to a sequel that's a remake, the whole affair spanning three mediums. Art by Ranmaru Kotone, whom I've never heard of. From Bandai, $10.99 for 200 pages. But if it's a prequel, does she even leap through time at all?!

POP Wonderland: Thumbelina: Ahhhhh ha ha ha ha, holy shit it's the Moetan guy! Er, POP is a guy, right? I read somewhere that he was. Oh boy, you see... Moetan started out in 2003 as this zany series of English study guides aimed at Japanese otaku, adorned with all the cute lil' gals it takes to make the money. The whole thing quickly got out of control (seriously: this is a commercial for English study books), spawning audio CDs, video games and a 13-episode anime television series in 2007. Now Dark Horse brings us the super-slick flavor of POP in wholly kid-friendly storybook form, with writer Michiyo Hayano adapting beloved fairy tales to serve the illustrations. This is just the beginning; there's six of these in Japan. It's $16.95 for 32 pages. Gaze!

Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #1 (of 5): Only the latest Hellboy universe project from writer Mike Mignola, this time delving back into the 19th century for some occult mystery with Sir Edward Grey. The artist is Ben Stenbeck, of last year's origin one-off B.P.R.D.: The Ectoplasmic Man. Preview.

The Muppet Show #4 (of 4): Concluding this widely-enjoyed Roger Langridge miniseries with a focus on Miss Piggy, as expected. Don't lament the series finale too hard; a second four-issue run from Boom! is due in short order. Preview.

Batman and Robin #2: Morrison & Quitely, keeping it regular. Peek.

Crossed #6 (of 9): Well, nothing horrible happened last issue, so they're probably saving it up.

The Boys #32: Spoilaz in here. It's probably going to be interesting to see how this series deals with notions of 'death' and the threat thereof; Ennis pretty explicitly cast the idea of mortality into doubt early on in the book, just as a basic element of superhero worldbuilding. You can die, but that doesn't mean you won't come back in at some point, whether you want to or not, in an especially degraded form. This is part two of the "oh shit, game is changing" just-past-the-midpoint storyline, so Dynamite also has vol. 4 of the collected softcovers this week, We Gotta Go Now, covering that X-Men story and its direct aftermath from issues #23-30 for $19.99.

Brat Pack: Or, you can always head back to one of the fonts: Rick Veitch's 1990 wallow in the dumb, dirty world of the grim 'n gritty. No niceties in this friendly old classic; Veitch presumes up front you've grasped the essence of late '80s 'mature' superheros, and indeed how gross and doltish it got, and thus seizes the style by the neck and attempts to mash it so far down into the manure that maybe it'll pop out the other side, Loony Tunes style, into a better place. Marvel over 176 big pages of a horrible superhero quartet subjecting their hapless kid sidekicks to countless atrocities, in detail, all in the service of running the most head-slapping carryovers from old superhero times through the dark paces. Often repulsive, arguably reactionary, but not without a sense of humor, and strangely endearing at times; unlike The Boys, this is very clearly the product of affection, if more for the ideas behind superheroes than the stories and industry around them, a tone that comes through better in the work's subsequently published prequel, The Maximortal. From Veitch's own King Hell Press; this new softcover edition sports an original cover and a $19.95 price tag. The entire first chapter is here, featuring the famous death of Jason Todd parody. They really don't stay dead, huh? Wait - Jesus Christ, that actually was a motif in Brat Pack too! Like, specifically so! Huh...

Savage Dragon #150: Gosh, look at that. One hundred and fifty from Image founder Erik Larsen. The first issue of this I owned was #3 from the initial Malibu-handled miniseries, 1992. I was 11 years old then; my great aunt bought it for me, as my unwitting induction to the Image Revolution. She passed away recently. A few months back. Bought me my first comic, actually, a Mickey Mouse thing with Floyd Gottfredson reprints, back when Gladstone had 'em. Boom! has 'em now, if not necessarily Mickey; they don't publish that anymore, for all the properties shuffle and reconfigure. Yet here's Erik Larsen and his Dragon, that last smooth strand from here to now. For Image that seems improbable, given what happened, but the kids expected miracles back then, feats and immortality. She always had taste.


Buckle up old chum, THIS IS WHERE WE LIVE FOREVER.

*My newest column is up at comiXology, orbiting the infamous silver screen debut of the Caped Crusader, 1943's 15-chapter serial Batman. Topics include: vintage comics reprints; saggy tights; the films of Louis Feuillade; WWI; WWII; that superhero history book Grant Morrison is writing; those two issues of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Bryan Talbot did in 1992; '40s men in '40s hats; the Yellow Peril thru history; Batman planning for everything; and the 1951 jungle adventure film Bowanga Bowanga: White Sirens of Africa, which is basically one colored projector lens and a rumba record away from being a Joseph Cornell picture.

In case you were curious, the serial was released on R1 dvd in 2005, to coincide with the home video edition of Batman Begins. "See how Batman really began," read the case, and oh boy did that feel a bit wry after my viewing. I do plan on getting to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen eventually, probably in a two-for-one piece with G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, so that I'll have a month and a half to properly assess its cultural legacy.

Anyway, I really like how this one turned out, and I hope you like it too.



The Silent Detective

Detective Comics #854

You don't need me to tell you that the visual aspect of Marvel or DC comics tends to get overlooked when it comes to online discussion. What's that old stereotypical review structure? Four paragraphs on the plot followed by one for the art? Or is it five for the plot? Either way, it's clear that the pictures typically don't receive the same attention as the words -- to the extent the elements are separable in a medium that demands their co-mingling as the basis of storytelling -- and there's reasons for that beyond simple discomfort with analyzing the technical aspects of drawing.

For example, there's the particular appeal of shared-universe superhero comics as individual windows to a continuous, sort-of consistent, never-ending master story; like it or not, that's the power behind the superhero throne, the engine of the pamphlet format's prevailing financial hits and its very generic uniqueness, encouraging storylines that 'matter' and plot beats groom as much for salivation as satisfaction. This condition, however, doesn't encourage discussion of sheer visual quality, because its primary virtues are Event and Correlation, which, in the abstract, exist apart from forms.

But even superhero series that thrive away from these mechanisms (or non-shared-universe genre-or-thereabouts work) tend to attract the most attention for their place in the continuity of their writers' works; just for fun, go back to all your favorite Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye posts and check how much space is devoted to Cameron Stewart. Hell, start with mine, they're right down with the worst of 'em).

And then there's even simpler troubles; a lot of superhero art just doesn't warrant a lot of discussion, and the serial format -- though obviously not superhero-exclusive -- makes it hard for frequent commentators to find substantive things to say about perfectly competent, nondescript work, while self-contained books proffer the option of evaluating even uninspiring visuals as a closer-to-equal part of the closed experience. Put simply, sometimes "looks nice, doesn't fuck up" really is the most you can say without contorting yourself into suffocation, and the knot only gets tighter with each new chapter. Could this mean... waiting for the trade?!

It's funny though, because superheroes tore away from pulp characters with the might of visceral, two-fisted pictures behind them, and now the structure, economics and possibly the very appeal of the genre works against focused appreciation of the visual aspect.

That's why artists like J.H. Williams III are God's gift to superhero picture talk. These are pages that slap you in the mouth and say "holy shit, I am here." While other superhero pages sit at the bar chatting dryly amongst themselves, the Williams page storms into the room with a bouncer still clinging to one ankle, knocking down tables and fetching a whiskey bottle to smash over the head of some clown that looked at it wrong. Or maybe the whiskey was crap so the bottle was the real target; philosophical questions abound. Either way, I trust it's not denigrating to note that the excellence of Williams' art also manages an excellence at steering attention to its excellence, enough so that the commentator feels like an idiot not devoting copious space to its many other self-evident strengths.

And just look at that page above! I don't want to come off as saying Williams' material is without subtlety -- some of his work with writers like Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis is marvelous at drawing out added layers of meaning, quietly, through purely visual means -- but he does occasionally flatten a thinner script via blast force of style (see: his last Detective Comics issue, #821). None of that here - this is fun, witty stuff, with fine contributions by letterer Todd Klein and colorist Dave Stewart, of whom more will be said later.

But really, check out all that's going on above. Obviously the most striking bit is how Williams' uppermost establishing panel gives way to tight middle segments depicting Batwoman caressing the poor thug from chin to shoulder, after which the entirety of Gotham City vanishes into the sun with Our Heroine's embrace, but I also love the little triangle splashing down into the bottom panel. I love that it functions as both a fourth middle panel, creating an in-out-out-in sequence, and an out-of-sequence glimpse of Batwoman's emotions, also leading to the eruption at the bottom, which, by the way, takes the shape of a bat. Super power!

And that's not all:

Here's the next page, which uses exactly the same layout to conclude the sequence with reversed elements. The longshot pinning of Page A is the burning embrace of Page B. The middle three panels tilt the perspective away from Batwoman as the dominant force. The likewise double-motivated triangle replaces that extreme, personal close-up with the POV of a totally different character, Batman from way above, and the concluding bat-symbol thus becomes Batman's presence, rather than an externalization of Batwoman's power. Page A starts far, then gets close and hot; Page B serves to cool, while removing the focus from Batwoman to the more familiar, looming hero.

Almost every 'superhero' page in this comic is like that, often crashing across double spreads for maximum exhibitionism. It's not enough for Batwoman to take on a gang of villains; inset panels must transform into red-tinted lightning bolts raining from the sky. Perversely, it's not a quick read at all, since these vainglorious layout do everything to grab your attention as soon as you turn the page and force you to linger on their contours, even as, say, a panel of Batwoman getting into costume is shaped as an arrow, guiding you to the next image in a way that draws screaming attention to the obvious act of reading in sequence.

It's crazy! If Morrison & Frank Quitely are trying to instill some of the old camp in Batman and Robin, Williams threatens to draw camp from the very idea of the superhero action comic, which strikes me as far more daring.

And yet!

The out-of-costume scenes are totally different. Kate Kane's daytime life is strictly squares and rectangles. If Batman chides Batwoman on her flowing, distracting red hair in those eye-catching super-layouts, the wig coming off (yep, it's a wig) causes the pages to straighten as well. If superhero writing is often powered by 'momentism' -- the pursuit of moments that most keenly encapsulate the iconic status of superhero characters -- Williams' storytelling not only agrees, and indeed casts superheroism itself as superficially nothing other than attention-grabbing instances, but contextualizes such momentism as the active desire of this new, young Batwoman, a wordless motivation, the flailing for a gravitas she can't have yet built. A common superfoe, as you are surely aware.

Speaking of which, you should probably be aware that writer Greg Rucka's plot is near-comprehensive superhero introduction boilerplate, if snappily executed. She's unlucky in love! Here's a hint at the pain in her past! New villains, but not too new! Maybe it helps to have read 52! Yes, Batwoman is still after those crazies to subscribe to the (literal) religion of crime, now led by a goth lolita Alice of a woozy underworld wonderland. She's actually pretty amusing for her five panels, but she's nothing compared to the Alfred character, Kate's pop (as in apparently her actual dad), a vaguely Frank Castle-like military guy whom Williams gives an amazing dead stare whenever he's not looking directly at weapons.

Still, such light, basic plotting might be just fine to let the visual concepts establish themselves. And I don't know who's idea it was for Kate to flash a distinctive V for Vendetta grin on her solid white face while father shows her the artillery, but it was just the right touch for a scene transitioning from the fundamental calm of life to the vicious cabaret of fantasy hair and special effects.

It's gradual, the costuming. The panels remain staid (in fact mirroring an earlier 'tour' of Kate's living quarters), but Dave Stewart changes. You've no doubt noticed the coloring effects at play: grimy paint effects and blasts of washing color for the superhero moments, with unfailingly bold hues for the plainclothes parts. Williams may step away from the latter, but Stewart assures us that these scenes are gently artificial as well; there is no real life for Kate Kane, just shifts in tone, as the superhero colors begin to take hold in her Bat-lair, her preparation climaxing with the aforementioned arrow panel. Move right along.

And the comic glories in this. It's new, for an old thing, and long-awaited. And it revels in that feeling. Not just Williams, the whole visual aspect. Batwoman isn't just white, she's bright, her always-blinding face (the issue's key visual constant) and her gleaming outfit often a touch lighter than every person around her, save for when Alice arrives to sear the environment as a veritable walking source of lumination. I didn't see these superpowers on Wikipedia, and I don't know if they'll last for the next creative team, but here their glow compels further consideration of the novice superhero mystery: how to be seen?

If nothing else, we're assured the hero and her villain are the most vivid actors on the small location rented for them. They'll have other parts, and life will go on, but this short and mad time will soon pass away, wordless and unacknowledged, as art often is in this place.


I wasn't just sleeping, although my four hours a night is indeed precious to me.

*Nope, there was no nothing last week, since I wound up working on several projects that either won't see print for a while or can't be posted yet because they're not large enough for the voices to stop. One of them, however, god willing, should be up in the Savage Land tomorrow or Wednesday, and it's big!

I thought about setting up a Twitter account for a while (Tom Spurgeon's had one since May??), just to get something out, but I can barely keep anything under 1400 words, let alone 140 characters. Moreover, I dunno if the internet is itching for my up-to-the-minute impressions of Herogasm, specifically that it's sort of funny, in that I laughed at the abortion clinic bit even though the whole 'getting high off superhero sex leftovers' routine was done earlier and better in James Kochalka's Super F*ckers. Oh my god, I just wrote that sentence and meant it. Superhero decadence is a hell of a thing.

Plus, you know, the Kochalka series had a really secure visual identity, while the Ennis book... doesn't. It probably needed either an Ian Churchill to hard sell the smutty aspect or a Rick Veitch to make everything as disgusting as possible, and while I thought John McCrea could do the latter, his co-pencilling stuff with Keith Burns seems trapped in some awkward border region between Dicks and a nondescript DCU fill-in arc. And I understand what's happening, that it's supposed to look like middle ground superhero work that's slightly off, the better with which to transmit the filth, you see, but the problem is it never seems so much irreverent as ill at ease. And this ain't comedy of awkwardness; you've gotta have conviction.

Ahhh, look at that. You see what I mean? Fuck it, maybe I should devote a Twitter account to hilarious and thought-provoking Youtube links. They've got the best of cinema up there, and scenes from my own life. Yeah...


Low Moon: New Jason, from Fantagraphics. All I need to know. This one's a 216-page, $24.99 hardcover collecting Norway's finest's New York Times Magazine western serial (online here) along with four all-new short stories. Slideshow; preview. This guy's a treasure.

The Actress and the Bishop: Wasn't expecting this - a $3.99, 32-page b&w Desperado pamphlet collection of Brian Bolland's oddball humor strips from the pages of A1 and elsewhere. A very inexpensive alternative for those who missed/can't afford the 2005 Knockabout hardcover Bolland Strips!, which collected this material along with other funny bits. Yeah, search this out.

Detective Comics #854: Right up top so you don't miss it. Starting the long-awaited Greg Rucka/J.H. Williams III run on the venerable Bat-book, now starring Batwoman for an initial four-issue storyline. It's $3.99, but also 40 pages, and you get a Cully Hamner-drawn back-up story (starring the Question) with the deal. Swoon!

Faust Vol. 2: Being the second of Del Rey's cherry-pickin' compilation editions of the otaku culture-informed Japanese literary magazine (with manga); 2008's domestic vol. 7 ran a brisk 1240 pages, so something tells me there may be enough material out there for a third English edition, should demand warrant. The manga section of this one has some nice-looking stuff, including a new 56-page story by FLCL and Q-Ko-Chan: The Earth Invader Girl artist Ueda Hajime and annotated sketchbook samples from elusive Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo. Words too. It's 432 pages for $17.95; here's my review of vol. 1.

A Treasury of XXth Century Murder Vol. 2: Famous Players: Rick Geary, doing that Rick Geary thing. This one's 80 pages on the unsolved shooting of Silent Era Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor; certainly no lack of players here. From NBM, as always; it's a $15.95 hardcover. Preview here.

Remake: New from AdHouse, and one of the talked-about MoCCA books I didn't manage to pick up. It's a 144-page, $12.95 collection of robot fighting comedy from Lamar Abrams. Enjoy beatings and chuckles via this preview.

Prayer Requested: Hmm, a Drawn and Quarterly debut by illustrator Christian Northeast, from the petit livre line of lil' books of art. This one's a 96-page, $15.95 color collection of 'found' prayers transformed into images. Have a look.

Black Jack Vol. 5 (of 17): Vertical may never tire of Osamu Tezuka, and here's another 320 pages of testimony for your $16.95. You know, I've heard whispers that some episodes of this decade-running series may not be all that great. In fact, some of them are possibly kinda bad! To that I say: THANK FUCKING GOD, POP THE CORK, because that means we're diving deep into Tezuka's insane prolificacy for a closer look at the high-speed creations of a man who couldn't possibly be great every time, like c'mon now. The Astro Boy diehards already carry this burning truth in their hearts, but here we see the contortions of production for the broader audience of the so-called '70s Golden Age. Yes we will know him better; it's part of the fun of these things.

Sayonara, Zetsubo-Sensei Vol. 2: Or, Goodbye, Mr. Despair, with the connotation of teaching on the Mr., a la Goodbye, Mr. Chips. That's a bit of explaining to do as far as manga titles go, but this is a damned internet-popular franchise as far as I can tell, albeit with much focus on the successful, still-running anime adaptation (ooh, they did a Mignola homage). The domestic manga's currently up to vol. 17, and likewise ongoing. It's an ensemble high school comedy with infusions of social satire and surreal antics, headed by a suicidal male teacher and boasting a formidable cast of eccentric girl students. The artist is Koji Kumeta, working in a sleek, iconographic style fit to accommodate his often-dense arrays of info and graphics and charts. Some find it off-putting, but I like it fine. I can't find a preview, so:

Although that one's especially zesty. Here's something more typical:

Tiny signs, footnotes explaining things, manga references, characters addressing the reader, string bean limbs and visual aids - hope you like translation notes, since there's 11 pages of 'em in here in teeny tiny font size, and that's after the five pages of story commentary by Kumeta himself.

Still, even while the Japanese-specific humor has you scratching your head and flipping to the rear, there's some good, visceral laffs tucked away, often stemming from Kumeta's talent for stupid-clever concepts -- Commodore Perry arrives to commemorate the 'opening' of Japan to the West by attempting to open a swimming pool, library books, girls' legs, boys' flies, people's hearts, etc. -- and piling on complications until seemingly banal scenarios climax with, say, gossiping apartment complex housewives revealing the secrets of the cosmos. Don't mind the boys' comics teenage cutie fan service (Kumeta tries to put it in quotes but whoops, it's still there!); this is oddball manga of disarming and possibly wide appeal. From Del Rey; $12.99 for 170 pages.

Mushishi Vol. 7 (of 10): Meanwhile, in sadder Del Rey manga news, it looks like this excellent Yuki Urushibara series about a teacher-doctor-shaman who knows the wild, primal stuff of life in a timeless world has been sent back to the slow boat - vol. 8 apparently isn't due until February 2010 (and it's been forever since vol. 6, if not necessarily forever-from-now since this and Zetsubo-Sensei have been in bookstores for a month and a half now, but... you know what I'm saying). Sure, good things take time and all that, but it'd be a real shame if this translation sputtered to a halt two books from the end. Reminder: we're past the anime, so these are all-exclusive stories. Only $12.99 for 234 pages.

Gantz Vol. 5: Oh well, at least Gantz is clear through vol. 8; even at 228 pages a shot ($12.95), Hiroya Oku needs his room. As in, vol. 26 just hit Japan last week. I'm not even caught up on these Dark Horse editions. Charming as ever.

Empowered Vol. 5: Holy shit, there's five of these? Holy shit. Adam Warren, man. Dark Horse, 208 pages, $14.95, rips, tears. Look.

Cerebus Archive #2: Further nuggets 'n commentary from the house of Sim. The toll is $3.00.

Viking #2: This Image series had a fun, eye-catching first issue, and you gotta love those oversized pamphlet proportions. Only $2.99 for 24 color pages too. From writer Ivan Brandon & artist Nic Klein.

Dark Reign: Zodiac #1 (of 3): This is your Joe Casey alert for the week. I failed shamefully at taking note of Peter Milligan's The Trial of Thor comic last week, so I'm trying to scan these various Marvel things closely. Joe Casey alert, him and Nathan Fox and José Villarrubia. Preview.

Patsy Walker: Hellcat: A Marvel series plenty of people liked, from writer Kathryn Immonen & artist David Lafuente. Plus: a Marvel Comics Presents serial with artist Stuart Immonen. All in softcover for $16.99.

Ultimates by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch Omnibus: Also a Marvel series plenty of people liked, for a while. Scooping up both Millar/Hitch series with the sketch version of Series 2 #1 and that 2005 Annual Steve Dillon drew. A mere $99.99 to relive the very essence of mainline superheroes in the early oughts, for better or worse.

JLA: The Deluxe Edition Vol. 2: More hardcover weight related to the Grant Morrison run, 320 pages for $29.99. This one collects the fan-favorite Rock of Ages (Initial Crisis?) storyline, the virgin misadventures of quintessential oh-my-god-this-new-villain-just-kicked-every-superhero's-ass-HE'S-SO-COOL wonder boy Prometheus, and... JLA/WildC.A.T.s, which I'm sure we'd all miss on principle if it wasn't here. Hey, someone out there likes it, don't let me bring you down.

All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder Vol. 1: I say "might as well throw in the stray issue #10 while you're at it," but hope endures as the American Classic hits softcover for $19.99 at that clean issue #9 break.



A full week of passion beckons.

*This doesn't look like much, but that damned festival pushed last week's version of today's post over to Wednesday anyhow.


The Sky Crawlers (a new R1 dvd release of Mamoru Oshii's 2008 theatrical anime; a world of cold fighter jets, arrested development and sorry, looping time as a metaphor for wounded art - Seaguy is duly referenced)

At comiXology.

*Oh gee, well here's a surprise up front -


: Holy shit, it's a new Jack Katz comic!! It's... it's 100 pages long! Yeah... Jesus, yeah - Jack Katz the pre-Code horror guy and all-around funnybook hand, who divorced himself from the mainstream in '74 to spend 12 years on a massive, dense, idiosyncratic fantasy opus, The First Kingdom, one of the original post-underground 'bridge' comics. Man, I had no idea this was coming. It's about a dead man and his insanely large fortune, left to an unknown-to-the-family woman who speaks no English, and the intrigue that follows an insurance investigator's arrival. Published by The Hero Initiative, for the benefit of longtime cartoonists in need of health care; Hero's Charlie Novinskie serves as co-writer, going by the cover. It's $14.95. Jack Katz. Boy.

Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?: Being the new book by Brian Fies, the artist behind the noted 2004 webcomic memoir Mom's Cancer (published in hardcover by Abrams in 2006); there was some excited chatter around that one, mostly owing to nobody having heard of Fies before or seen any of his art, although his work showed some intuitive grasp of comics storytelling. Here, he covers over 35 years of father-son relations in the face of advancing technology and shimmering ideals, with authentic photographs and faux-'period' adventure comics mixed in. It's 208 color pages, hardcover, and also from Abrams; $24.95, preview here.

The Fart Party Vol. 2: The next collection of funny autobiographical comics by Julia Wertz, following her travels around the U.S. and tossing in a few never-before-seen strips. Introduction by Nicholas Gurewitch. From Atomic Book Company; $13.95 for 200 pages.

Nexus: As It Happened Vol. 1: In which the long-lived Mike Baron/Steve Rude creation kicks off a new, low-priced reprint campaign from Rude Dude Productions that'll basically track Dark Horse's Nexus Archives series, but with everything in b&w and sized 6" x 8.5", at a $9.99 cover price. Less Nexus Essentials than manga-style, but it's an option; first one's 216 pages, collecting the 1981-82 magazines and issues #1-4 of the comic book series.

Wonton Soup Vol. 2: The sophomore outing for an Oni Press series featuring outer space cuisine and intergalactic truckin'. Creator James Stokoe has an eye-catching style going; only $11.95 for 192 pages too. I'd flip through it; have a look.

20th Century Boys Vol. 3 (of 24): Naoki Urasawa, still chuggin' along. This really is a fun, lively series with a type of depth -- a sweetly moody sense of adults sorting out their formative choices and attitudes as kids and adolescents -- that's missing from a lot of fantastic suspense-driven comics of this sort. Still early too; plenty of time to hop aboard.

Elephantmen #20: Concluding artist Marian Churchland's run on this Richard Starkings-created vignettes-from-the-future Image series with a look at hippo detective Hip Flask's human trainee Vanity. I'll miss that soft coloring. Have a look.

Madman Atomic Comics #16: Penultimate issue for the Image incarnation of Mike Allred's creation; this one's all about the music.

Phonogram 2: The Singles Club #3 (of 7): And speaking of which - Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie, with shorts drawn by Leigh Gallagher and Lee O'Connor. Big week for Image; peek.

Hellblazer #256: Peter Milligan, new storyline, yes.

Mysterius: The Unfathomable #6 (of 6): Jeff Parker, Tom Fowler, Wildstorm, gone.

Sleeper: Season One: Very handy, this. A shiny new Wildstorm trade collecting the complete 2003-04 superhero espionage series from Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (later of Criminal) into a 288-page, $24.99 package. Samples. Expect a second brick compiling the sequel series shortly.

Incognito #4 (of 6): And look at that! The new Brubaker/Phillips superhero series, a crime thing from Icon, right on the same day! I think Brubaker might have some Marvel superhero thing this week I heard about on the news, but then they had a story about chihuahuas barking at a mountain lion and I forgot all about it. Those chihuahuas were barking!

Herogasm #2 (of 6): Fun and games from Garth Ennis & John McCrea; preview here. DC also has Hitman: A Rage in Arkham this week, a $14.99 reissue of vol. 1 for a prior Ennis/McCrea experience, for those who're truly insatiable.

Starman Omnibus Vol. 3: Golden Age of Reprints? Why not?! Yet another $49.99 brick of this beloved James Robinson-written DC series, its 432 pages covering Starman #30-38, Starman Annual #2 and Starman Secret Files #1, with Tony Harris presiding over art by various hands. Note that this volume also collects a complete spin-off, 1997's The Shade #1-4, boasting no less than Michael Zulli, Gene Ha and J.H. Williams III & Mick Gray on individual issues.

Batman: The Black Casebook: Meanwhile, this isn't so much a product of the Golden Age of Reprints as some hopefully fun tie-in antics for your $17.99, as Grant Morrison introduces 144 pages' worth of ye olde Batman, Detective Comics and World's Finest Comics stories that informed his pre-Batman and Robin run with poor lost Bruce Wayne. And hey - you never know what the future may hold.


Two Against the Modern World

*New column is up. This one peers into two recent works that decry an art prone to repetition, through a wider critique of societal self-preservation and the comfy heroes that champion it by default: the irregular comic book project Seaguy and the new-to-R1 2008 anime movie The Sky Crawlers, from director Mamoru Oshii of Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor and Urusei Yatsura, among many other endeavors. Let me know what you think!



It's gotta be done; it's gotta be fast.

*Read my two-part MoCCA report below. Because it totally killed the time I had for this.


Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #3 (of 3) and Batman and Robin #1 (two from Grant Morrison)

MoCCA Part 1 (manga, firearms, Elmo)

MoCCA Part 2 (lots and lots of books)

*Okay, this week only: TOP FIVE FORMAT.


The Color of Water: Being the sequel to Kim Dong Hwa's The Color of Earth, a strange, lovely, quite deeply underappreciated piece of comics-as-poetry from a major publisher. I guess part of the problem is that manhwa tends to get lumped in with the poppier side of manga regardless of content; worthwhile exceptions in English can probably be counted on your fingers. But First Second really has something here - a series of carefully modulated chapters tracking points in a young rural girl's growth, each one layering on visual and textual metaphors relating flowers and plants and natural growths to the beauty and wonder of female sexuality as understood by mothers and daughters. Sweet, bucolic, unfailingly sex-positive, unafraid to seem silly (and indeed, sometimes more than a bit silly, sure); it's kind of marvelous. To be followed by The Color of Heaven, later this year; 320 pages for $16.95. Preview here.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: More from Abrams ComicArts, this time a $40.00, 11 1/4" x 10 1/2" hardcover tribute to the legend of war and satire, fully authorized and with many rare items. By Denis Kitchen & Paul Buhle; more here.

Detroit Metal City Vol. 1: Just a little comedy here, folks; Kiminori Wakasugi's been running this since 2005, a gag-laden saga of a dainty young lad who really wants to write silly, frothy pop songs, though his massive true talent is in hardcore death metal. Can young Soichi keep his flouncy life in order while living a double life as Johannes Krauser II, titan of rape & genocide and master of the teeth-only guitar solo, whose devout fans literally take him to be a demon from hell? A font of anime (Studio 4°C! the director of Mushishi!), tribute albums and a live-action film (Gene Simmons! the dude who played L!), still ongoing. Vol. 1 is 200 pages for $12.99.

Anna Mercury 2 #1 (of 5): Only the newest in Avatar's line of small-scale, entertaining Warren Ellis-written projects. This one's a sequel (really?!), with returning artist Facundo Percio. The standard $3.99 for color.

Final Crisis HC: I could cheat and make note of Flash: The Human Race, a $14.99 softcover collecting the end of the Grant Morrison/Mark Millar joint run on the series (going from #136) and the whole of Millar's solo tenure ('till #141), but I wouldn't dare. No, just be on alert for this 240-page, $24.99 hardcover collection of all the Grant Morrison-written comics content -- not counting the Batman tie-ins, which are in the Batman: R.I.P. hardcover -- for this thing that was an Event. It had its moments; I'll just say that.



MoCCA '09: The Tourist

(back to part 1)


VII. It was almost 2:30 when the 69th Regiment Armory came into view. Amazingly, there was still a line stretched all the way around one corner of the block; I really hoped it wasn't another fire alarm mishap, or a capacity problem, or people being turned away because they were too cool, which would definitely pose a problem for me and my gym bag of untranslated manga.

As it was, the line for tickets just happened to be that fucking long. In fact, as I'd find out later, the show hadn't even opened until 12:00 or so for a variety of reasons; "delayed books" was quoted to me. Luckily, I'd spent my morning time uptown oohing and aahing at doorways and trees. Even better: I'd pre-ordered my ticket online, so I got to walk to the front of the queue and state that I was on the list. I was sternly instructed to get a handstamp, a formless red thing that looked like I bumped the back of my palm off a table and wiped away in about two hours. Nobody checked me anyhow.

The first thing I noticed about the Armory: big. High ceiling, wide. Looming, even. But open too - you could see basically the entire show in one glance. I think there was a program, but I never found it, and I didn't really want or need one, though I'm told a bunch of folks somehow got omitted from the listings.

The second thing I noticed: it was exactly like the old venues they used to have for wrestling shows back when I was kid. My heart soared as I imagined Paul Karasik & David Mazzucchelli reuniting to land the Doomsday Device on Adrian Tomine. That's what City of Glass was all about.

Mazzucchelli already had a massive crowd formed for debut copies of Asterios Polyp; I said hello to Frank Santoro and Dash Shaw, but I didn't get in line myself. There were other things I wanted to find.


Pushwagners Soft City (Pushwagner)

Take this, for example. A huge, thick, 160-page look-at-me book just sitting around at MoCCA with no fanfare, no line, no nothing. Seems almost scandalous in a place like this, where the attentive patron can walk in with a 3/4 shot at guessing all the 'buzz' books without looking at a damned thing, based strictly on preliminary heat. But my history books tell me scandal isn't foreign to an Armory Show, thank god.

So yeah, I always hope I'll run in to something great at these shows from someone who didn't think to alert the online comics press at all, just shoving off and getting it out there; with table prices going up, there's less and less of a chance for smaller, less savvy artists to manage such surprises in the wake of well-financed (for comics), careful publishing entities.

I wouldn't say this book entirely fits that bill, but only because I was told it'd be finished soon at last year's MoCCA. It's an English-language tome from Norwegian publisher No Comprendo Press -- the web presence of which is minimal -- collecting sequential work by the artist Pushwagner, who initially completed the project in the mid-'70s, only to have the original pages lost in a suitcase until 2002, when the whole thing turned up in Oslo. It's now a $35.00 oversized softcover, in b&w with spot color, and I have no idea how you might order it.

But what astonishing work! Very simple on first blush: a panorama of conformity, with office drones waking up in the morning to their Stepford wives, driving off to labor at the behest of a captain of industry while the brides 'n babies consume what they're told. The burning eye of the sun rises at the start of the book and sets at the end, so that the cycle might begin again. Odd, unreal, parodic dialogue occasionally punctures the happening; the word 'soft' is the charm telling of the comfort of this life.

Pushwagner mostly works in images: sprawling, towering single and double-page splashes, pitting simple humans against mighty towers of power and commerce. Page after page we zoom in on terrible drives to work, traffic lights some of the only color in the world; violent fantasies occasionally mark the environment, ineffectual. But while the people are tiny, and similar, their hand-drawn state quietly reminds us of their humanity, latent here, boomed out by the noise of society's mechanisms.

Powerful allegorical worldbuilding here. These jpegs are just details; the book won't even fit on my scanner. I'd urge you to check this out, but I'm not sure how you can do it. Keep it in mind anyway; you never know what you'll run into.


Angst: The Best of Norwegian Comics Vol. 3 (various)

As usual for MoCCA -- new layout be damned -- there was a whole row of Scandinavian tables against the wall. And, as usual, I was happy to pick up the new Angst; it's a sort of national promotion anthology, with no credited editor, published jointly between the aforementioned No Comprendo, Jippi Comics and Dongery. Many of the same artists as seen in prior editions are included; the impression is that of a small scene, but one of variety, ranging from the careful detail of Martin Ernstsen -

-to the happy mayhem of one Øystein Runde.

Handy things, these, although I suspect some of the artists would rather be represented in a forum not so bound by implication of national identity as its driving force. Sadly, I wound up missing out an another good-looking one, From Wonderland With Love, a very attractive collection of comics from Denmark. Do follow that link, check it out; I think Diamond might have it eventually.


VIII. My bag was already getting heavy, and I'd hardly had a chance to look around. Why was I sweating?

I ran downstairs to use the men's room, hoping someone would do the honor of a Duchamp joke. It didn't work out just then, but I understand Gary Panter managed as part of the next day's programming, held in the only readily open room without toilets also downstairs. Same went for Saturday.

It was easy to fall in love with that lower level; it was totally a reformed dungeon, all crumbling stone facade and ruined paint, like the old music room in my high school basement back in the day. There were vintage weapons behind glass, and entire halls roped off FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL ONLY. I presume that's where they keep the guns and ammo, but fuck that; I'm all about love from now on.

Oh, I also dug how you had to pass by military recruitment posters on the way down to the bathroom or programming. Nice touch, that.

Upon returning to the main floor, I started to notice that the temperature wasn't really changing all that much regardless of where I was in the building. "The air conditioning must be way up and quiet," I thought, unaware at the time that there was apparently no air conditioning in the building whatsoever, save for the programming room, and it was probably a massive stroke of luck that it just happened to be 15-20 degrees cooler outside than for MoCCA 2008, where people were frying eggs on the CBLDF fundraising table in spite of all modern convenience.

The PictureBox table was right in front. It was mobbed, and Dan Nadel said as much, at which point I found myself trying to keep out of the way of his business, although it was pretty clear he wanted to talk more and I didn't know what to do. People swarmed. I whacked someone with my bag, but totally not on purpose.


Multiforce (Mat Brinkman)

And this was maybe the fastest-moving PictureBox publication of them all that day, a $15.00, 11" x 16.5" pamphlet collection of Brinkman's Paper Rodeo feature, 2000-05.

For those who loved the near-wordless monster society observation of the artist's Teratoid Heights, this is a mutant version of that, a chatty, all-over everywhere tour of a wildly detailed fantasy landscape, full of talks and encounters. Nearly all the Fort Thunder books released in this gradual second flowering have shown a keen emphasis on society, and this one brings Brinkman's love for jagged, melty creatures more into line with the dispersed conversations of something like Brian Chippendale's Ninja, but with a special focus on consuming, identifying spaces, every page a new world.

And they're big pages; up above is 4 of over 30 panels from a sample sheet; you owe it to yourself to see them all in person. I picked up two copies, one of which was for Chris Mautner. "I just know Chris'll love this," I thought, bending the pamphlet horribly while shoving it into my bag.


Cold Heat Special #9 (Frank Santoro & Lane Milburn)

Wouldn't be an alternative comics show without one of these puppies. The side-story/fever dream freakout Cold Heat minis are now on the cusp of matching the projected issue length of the main series (issue #7/8 of which is due at SPX in a few months), and this one -- a small pamphlet with b&w covers and two-color innards -- even reunites series co-creator Santoro with Closed Caption Comics' Milburn, he of last issue, thus creating the appearance of a regular team. The story has heroine Castle looking around in a castle, and there are horses.


1-800-MICE #3 (Matthew Thurber)

And yeah - a third issue for Thurber's funny, surreal series, which picked up a few devout readers back in the day. This one's in more of a large minicomic format, all white paper and such, but the content's just as we left it. It doesn't seem to be available online at the moment, but keep checking the PictureBox site.


Epoxy #1 (of 3) (John Pham)

Then, of course, there's Frank Santoro's longbox.

Already a beloved staple of cons otherwise lacking in bags 'n boards, it's an exciting selection of doubles from the Santoro archives (new every time!) promising all sorts of goodies from god knows when. Supposedly there was Shaky Kane stuff that'd already sold by the time I got there; I've left my eventual purchase in-bag for the illustration above, so as to best convey Santoro's enthusiasm for putting things together (really though, you need him standing there hand-selling). A stray copy of Jimbo #4 bore a label reading "GARY PANTER INVENTED YOUR STYLE." The various Brendan McCarthy comics actually grew in excitement, until an issue of Paradax declared "BRENDAN MCCARTHY KILL KILL KILL."

This is not to be confused with the random smatter of stuff generally found at the PictureBox table, such as Real Deal. I'd actually found issue #3 of that in a back-issue bin at a local shop; the store owner looked at me in disbelief as I brought it up, like I'd snuck the comic into the store with me to play a joke and hilariously give him my money or something.

Anyway, Epoxy #1 was released in 2000, this was Pham's comics debut, at least as far as the non-minicomics world was concerned. 'Twas an olde tyme self-published one man anthology pamphlet, with three stories spread over 64 pages. Fantagraphics is releasing Pham's current series, Sublife, which doesn't bear nearly as much Euro-kissed manga influence as the stuff of yore. Now if only I could track down #2...


IX. Next up was the always-swell Bries table, home of Belgium's finest English and Dutch-language comics (they have themed anthologies too). I heard a lot of nice things about Red Riding Hood Redux, a set of five small books by Nora Krug concerning the old folk tale, very nicely designed. In fact, somebody with a big publisher was complimenting the Bries table on their book designs as I walked up and started fingerprinting everything.

"Would you like a bag?" I was asked when I'd finished.

"No. I've got bags."

It must be great to fly all the way over from Belgium for really scintillating conversation.


The First Book of Hope (and) The Second Book of Hope (Tommi Musturi)

These are Bries' editions of small, 48-page landscape-format comics by Finnish artist Musturi, also the mind behind the art comics anthology GlömpX. They're works of careful, page-by-page pacing, modulated to maintain a reflective tone. A lovely, duotone color cartoon approach accompanies (and sometimes raises irony from) a man's narration of lingering anxiety; I expect Chris Ware comparisons exist somewhere, although Musturi's steady-beating narrative draws less attention to itself, remaining as quiet as puffs of breeze over thoughts. I'm told a third issue is due in a few months.


X. Around that time I ran into Sean T. Collins, who explained most of the situation surrounding the show's late start. It turned out the panels were late too, which all but assured I couldn't catch the Fletcher Hanks show before I had to run back for my train.

It's always good to see Sean at these things. I also ran into Douglas Wolk and Neilalien, the later of whom scoffed at my upcoming 5th anniversary of blogging - but a spring chicken! A veritable poking egg! I dug through my bag to show everyone what I bought, thus bending Chris' copy of Multiforce well beyond recognition.

I didn't get to see all the books that were recommended to me. A fair amount of people were excited over Kazimir Strzepek's The Mourning Star Vol. 2. I love Tom Gauld's work, but I sort of ran out of money before I could reach The Gigantic Robot.

Ditto for Jerry Moriarty and The Complete Jack Survives; that's a Buenaventura Press book (so is Gauld's), which means I'll probably find it easily in stores or online or something in the near future and thus and maybe shouldn't be buying it at a show, but I make exceptions for artist signings. However, Moriarty was literally walking away as I arrived -- and the Buenaventura credit card machine had a $50.00 minimum -- and I let it go for later. It was great just seeing the RAW veteran there, at his first-even signing, tall and lean with long strands of sliver hair falling against his face, like a corollary wizard out of Tolkein, the kind that isn't on the page yet somehow manages to seem there.


You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation! (ed. Paul Karasik)

Moriarty is also a suspected Patient Zero for the Fletcher Hanks effect, having originally suggested the Golden Age auteur's work for reprinting in RAW lo those many years ago. These days Hanks is as well-known as any comic book artist of the period, mainly through the efforts of Karasik and his Fantagraphics-published megahit 2007 collection I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! I mean, when Stardust gets a prominent cameo in Alan Moore's & Kevin O'Neill's newest outing for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, you know the culture has been duly fucking saturated.

Well, IT ENDS HERE, as they say in the funnies. It's pretty fun flipping through this companion volume and seeing how it mirrors the first book: black cover in place of white, Fantomah in place of Stardust, etc. Karasik even starts the book with the final panel from his comics-format essay that closed vol. 1, and then proceeds to laungh into just what that first book lacked: a prose introduction packed with historical context. Special emphasis is placed on sorting out what Hanks isn't -- an 'outsider' artist, basically; he had formal art training, which he occasionally excelled at, and he ran in the same circles as some early comic book folk -- from the stuff that really does make him unique, like his career-spanning insistence on writing and drawing everything himself, not a universal quality in the pre-WWII comic book world.

Then it's off to the remainder of the Hanks library, although Karasik notes that some 'variant' versions of existing stories were published in places with re-drawn figures, so it's implied there may be some off-model Hanks still floating around out there. The editor also admits up front that you can track the decline of Hanks' raw funnybook power as the chronological tales move forward and page layouts become uniform, and action comics motifs become more codified. I'd also add that the first volume was pretty clearly intended as a 'best-of' project, leaving this subsequent stuff feeling a bit like leftovers. Nothing reddens the cheeks and gets the sniffles going like Stardust pounding the crap out of some dastard and turning him in to the space authorities. GAH!

But once you've got the bug, there's no getting rid of it. You'll want this, and you'll see it through 'till the end, at which point Karasik presents a reproduction of no less than Hanks' Certificate of Death. 'The end' indeed.

Fantagraphics had some fun offering show patrons good reason to buy early; while supplies lasted, your purchase got you an exclusive minicomic reprint of a Fantomah story in b&w -- it's a coloring book, you see -- with a Charles Burns portrait reproduced from a Believer cover. Something must have worked; the book sold out.


XI. I think I might have been the last one to get his book signed that day; right after he finished my sketch, giggling over how weird it was coming, Karasik stood up to fill in for the absent Gary Groth at the Arnold Roth/Al Jaffee panel, which was pretty obviously behind schedule. I said hello to Mike Baehr, manning the table, but I didn't stay long; it was getting pretty late, and I hadn't even made a complete run of the floor yet. I stuffed the book in my bag, and the rapidly increasingly head caused Chris' copy of Multiforce to wrap around it like a young marsupial embracing its mother, which just didn't make sense.

Moving across the room, I ran into my old friends Justin J. Fox and Marcos Pérez; they were in very good humor, particularly when I described myself as a full-time free spirit blowing across the Mountain Laurel bush of this life on Earth. I'm not sure if it was the button-down shirt or the gym bag full of comics that did it.


I Dreamed of You and Mr. Eyebyaninch #2 (Justin J. Fox)

The second in Fox's series of landscape-format books, b&w and hand-stitched and 30 pages. Not a show debut or anything, but still! Fantastic journeys to the interior, doomed romance, clowns in mouths, talking creatures and sharp teeth - all curled and crossed in wide format. The lettering's aces too.


XII. It was 4:30 or so by then, and quickly becoming obvious what I wasn't going to be doing. Finding Tucker & Nina Stone and Matthew J. Brady, for instance. Attending many panels at all, if any. Buying even 1/5 of the European comics I liked and probably won't be seeing sitting around in person again for another year.

That last part really bugged me, so I took another look at that side of the room. I still regret not picking up some Finnish or Romanian stuff. On the plus side, though, I ran into Andrei Molotiu, editor of Fantagraphics' upcoming Abstract Comics: The Anthology, one of the books I'm most anticipating at the moment. A preview copy was available for perusal; it's a lovely book to hold and flip through, full of varied contributions from major 'names' -- Robert Crumb, Gary Panter, Lewis Trondheim, Patrick McDonnell, James Kochalka -- and new faces alike (not to mention comics bloggers Derik Badman & Noah Berlatsky). Andrei was very excited about the project, and for good reason.


Nautilus (Andrei Molotiu)

Plus, he had a new solo book for sale ($20.00) from Danish publisher Fahrenheit, an oversized album format hardcover collecting three pieces: Expedition to the Interior (from Blurred Vision Vol. 4); 24 x 24: A Vague Epic (a fittingly titled suite of 24 titled one-pagers subdivided into 24 panels each); and [otherwise untitled]. A compact, attractive introduction to the artist's work.

I also got a sketch, prompted by a word of my choosing: gallop. I don't have the slightest idea why I chose that, although maybe it's best such things come straight out of you with no consideration. Maybe my limited time was getting to me? This is just a detail below, by the way; Andrei wound up drawing all the way across two pages.


Reykjavik (Henrik Rehr)

This was another book from the same publisher in the same tall, deluxe album format; Rehr was selling it for a startling $5.00. It's a single piece, a black-to-white storm of churning aquatic visuals, still every so often for primal creation forms -- roots, tendrils -- to hang in the depths. Strikes me as a creation myth, tiny square panels of activity gradually battered off into what could be called fingerprints. Potent.

The artist wiped sweat from his brow as he sketched. Oddly, while drawn in much the same style as the splashing images of the book, the completed forms seemed more like licks of fire. Could have been the white background. Or the room.

"And now," he said, handing me my book, "I'm having a drink."


XIII. There was a bottled water machine by the programming room downstairs. A Poweraide machine too, priced at $1.25, which wasn't bad at all; Sean theorized that the Armory wasn't built with bilking people for their comfort in mind, and thus showed cracks in its armor of convention expectations. Probably right; if they'd wanted to drive people to buy stuff from the heat, there'd be more than two machines anyway.

I also took the opportunity to ask Sean where Kate Beacon was; it seems she wasn't listed in the program as an exhibitor (neither was Brian Wood), although I didn't know that. I just can't find anything. And I was terrified that I was going to call her 'Kate Bacon' by accident and thus precipitate a calamity. Beacon. Beacon! you fool!


Never Learn Anything From History (Kate Beaton)

Of course, then I found out her name was Beaton.

Look - she drew me a little man:


XIV. I'd been told Tim Hodler had arrived, so I rolled back over to the PictureBox table. It's funny, those conversations; we can all probably agree that MoCCA is primarily a consumer show. There's programming, yes, better positioned compared to the last few years', but it's mostly people walking around and buying things from folks behind tables. Comiket, only way smaller. It's not a promotional show, where the primary trade is anticipation over forthcoming products; NYCC, for instance. No, there's more of a human connection here, but it's the connection between money in one hand and items in the one across. That's the anatomy of the place, the flow of blood.

Conversation, that other human contact, stands little chance in such an environment unless you're moving around with friends from your side of the table. I usually do, although this time I didn't. I was mainly focused on the other side, the artists and merchants, busy busy. Stuffing my bag good and tight; it was starting to kill, and it was really, really hot by then. Weight and heat; books that look right, that you've heard about, but the funny thing about 'buzz' books is that they're anticipation too. Solidified, condensed, but people don't have time to read the damn things ahead of time. Not usually. They become promises, from one person to another; a separate communication, one for the sales floor, divorced from the communication of art.

You've got to extend the festival if you want something else. The money's getting tighter, and more of it's necessary. If you're attending, you stick to the programs, you look for the receptions, you go to the things afterward; there's your talking to people. In one place - the collection of everyone is the 'festival' aspect, although I could be too kind here, mistaking people gathering for something specific to one year, one place, one event.

I wouldn't be there. I'm a tourist, becoming absorbed by the urban, unfamiliar surroundings, whisked away down the vessels of the floor. It's like wandering around in NYC, but in a large room with a lot of things to buy. When the time comes, I'll leave. People will go to bed, and I'll be gone. People will sing, and I'll be gone. I felt like I needed a camera. A shirt to mark the occasion. A shirt to soak up my sweat. Oh my arm started to ache, from all of the things I bought.

Um, none of that was in my conversation with Tim. We talked about Batman and Robin #1 and Pluto and stuff. Sean was there, and Douglas for a while, and Neilalien. Tim did take a picture of that. It was nice. I dug through my bag one last time, and noticed that Chris' copy of Multiforce had become a meticulous origami duckling. Maybe I should give him my copy.

It was time to run, wrap it up.


George Sprott (1894-1975) (Seth)

It was almost the end of the day, the line was short; I had to. Seth's jacket was on the whole time. He kept a little circle of tools to sketch with; I like how the color scheme kind of matches the book cover. Typical!


Windy Corner Magazine #3 (ed. Austin English)

Found at the Sparkplug table; last thing I got, glad I didn't miss it. Windy Corner is a really nice pamphlet-format magazine of and about comics art, nurtured by English, an artist and perceptive critic (he used to do the Comics Journal's minicomics column). Lots of color images in this new one, which includes comics by Sakura Maku, Frank Santoro on Gipi's Garage Band, Vanessa Davis in conversation with the great Carol Tyler, and helpful illustrations by folks like Molly Colleen O'Connell:

Get it from the Sparkplug site if you missed it at the show; 80 pages you won't regret for $11.00. The internet gives you time and space. Appreciate.


XV. And that was about the end, at 6:00. The place stayed open later than usual, I'm told, to make up for the snafus. The Fletcher Hanks show was just getting started, down in the cellar. Likely hipsters strolled up and down the streets, and I waved while thinking of Elmo. I bought a coffee, stepped around a man laying on the sidewalk, and walked off toward Penn Station.

Penn Station was a long, agonizing way off, and my bag really started to hurt. Soon I was switching arms over and over. Pausing. Giving people pause. After eight or so blocks I dropped the whole thing and faced the wall, struggling to put my shirt back together and my bones where they belonged.

In passing, I caught the eye of a woman. She was staring, but not oddly. Regarding me as unique landscape, but land nonetheless. Like I was meant to be there. Like I'd blended in as a visitor so perfectly I when then, for an instant, like something native, belonging. My sight lingered as she passed. I smiled.



"My god," I whispered, "she thought I was pissing."



I. As usual, I didn't wake up until I was 45 minutes out of bed, and then I panicked on the highway, and of course I got to the station too early.

II. So there were two teenage girls sitting next to me on a station bench. One of them was looking at her feet, swinging to and fro in flip-flops. The other had a streak of hot bottled near-purple plunging vertically down her head, and a polite if mildly ironic smile on her lips.

"It's okay," she cooed, "lots of fun. C'mon, fun!"

A nice scene; good to see kids still urge friends to see them off on the train, going to god knows where. A job interview in Philadelphia? Relatives in Trenton? Did she have a new minicomic ready for the MoCCA festival in New York, and she forgot to alert the internet, and suddenly she's uncertain as to the very fact of her existence?

"Fun! Fun!" chanted the streaky girl, unable to grant such high-functioning clichés their suggested book value. It's hard being 17 these days.

Me, I was serious as high mass in a blackout at the sounding of trumpets. It was the first comics show I'd ever attended without any friends traveling along, and indeed my first trip to New York City entirely alone. It's a dangerous place, Manhattan; my 8th grade teacher always told us not to look up at the skyscrapers, or someone nearby would steal our wallets before we peered back down. I guess there's daily prizes, tokens in exchange, etc. All I saw last time were small town girls and beaming families purchasing items.

But the dangers I knew of were real, if different: I'm talking hipsters. That's right, the insidious, KAOS-like force that's been not-so-secretly behind every sub-par comic book, overrated movie and unappealing book design of the last decade, not counting superhero stuff, although maybe they're just especially stealthy with those.

And it's more than that! Hipsters are like locusts, terrorists and postmodernism combined; last year someone from Adbusters declared them literally the end of Western civilization, and I could just imagine what they'd do to a lonely boy like me. God, they'd surround me in their shirts and pants, politically unmotivated, forcing me to listen to music I find unappealing and not inviting me places. Usually I'd have Chris Mautner around to ward them off with silver crosses and other Capcom merchandise, in the event they somehow appeared, possibly in the form of shades or multi-headed dragons in tight pants.

Not this year. It looked like it was just me and my Beretta 92FS. I patted it under my shirt and it whispered "comics" in my head. Too bad I wasted all my ammunition last night during that dream about people lining up to use my apartment toilet.

Hey, no problem: MoCCA's in an armory this year. There's gotta be some bullets somewhere.

III. Alright, no, I'm joking; I didn't really bring a gun on the train. That's silly. And dangerous too.

I mean, someone's gotta to be selling one somewhere in NYC.

IV. It was overcast as the train pulled in, but omens were good; that house in Newark with three doors and no steps was still standing, unchanged, like the Statue of Liberty, only made in America and better. Fuck the subway, I was walking.

Not to MoCCA; not yet. Living in a hollow pumpkin in a field of weeds instills certain feelings about large metropolitan areas. There's a thrill in discovering anonymity by virtue of overwhelming human traffic. It's not just that the architecture affects you -- the old buildings and the tourist places and the franchise restaurants and the shitty shops and all -- but that it absorbs you, so that you're part of some fanciful abstraction, the 'will' of the city itself, supplicant and sure. To vanish there is to fade from labor, from worry, from a kid driving by on the way to the ice cream place and firing an air pistol and plugging the guy in front of you instead.

Fucking ecstatic is what I'm saying. I wanted it. So what if strolling down Madison Avenue doesn't mean a thing these days? If I'm there, I might as well. Let the noise have me, alone and absorbed!

First, however, I needed to shop for some comics, in anticipation of shopping for comics later.

V. And what better place to go than Kinokunya Books? I might have missed it last year, and I totally couldn't find it on Google Street View because I kept turning my guy in the wrong direction and my supervisor was yelling something about expedition, but old fashioned 'writing important things down on a post-it note and putting it in my pocket' served me well, just like when making small talk.

I was pretty impressed walking in off 6th Avenue; Kinokunya is a lot bigger inside than it looks from the street, with a 'general Japanese publication needs' level right from the door, a specialty concerns floor downstairs, and a big ol' escalator to nerd heaven planted way in the back. Those ink drawings Takehiko Inoue did on the walls? One's at the top of the up escalator, and the other's on the way down.

Quickly, I found myself lost in the Japanese-language manga section, which is slightly larger than a well-stocked Borders' English-language comics corner (and there's a ton of English-language stuff too). Did you know that color Yoshitoshi ABe serial from Robot has a trade collection out? Or that Japanese art books start at $55.00 or so? I opted to start feeling around by recognition, getting the hang of the place.

Behind me, two girls in costumes discussed how kids today were ruining manga. A camera crew set up to record a show by the cafe. Everything was in shrink wrap. No problem.


Takemitsuzamurai Vol. 5 (Issei Eifuku & Taiyō Matsumoto)

This was the most recent Matsumoto stuff I could find, a collection from his current ongoing series, the title of which translates roughly to Bamboo Blade Samurai. It's noteworthy for having won an Excellence Prize at the 2007 Japan Media Arts Festival; a sixth volume came out in Japan in April, but I didn't see it around.

As you can see, this stuff's a definite departure from the Matsumoto work currently available in English (Tekkonkinkreet, Blue Spring, those ultra-successful big money editions of No. 5); the characters are stylized in a manner evocative of various woodblock prints, while their environment is sliced and ripped into striking panel organization. This is a samurai comic through and through, from the art, and it seems the content has prompted Matsumoto to adopt a subtler poise.

Well, not entirely subtle, no. I don't know anything about writer Eifuku, and I wonder how the process of collaboration has affected Matsumoto's approach; it seems no less 'free,' but distinctly more self-controlled, if you get what I'm saying. There might be an interesting give and take between the writing and the art; the visuals seem heavy on artifice, self-evidently built up in places from strips and scraps of texture, almost like collage. It's lovely, but playful, and an entirely on-the-level script could draw some special power from that.

Lord knows when we'll find out for ourselves, aboveground. VIZ still has Matsumoto's solo Gogo Monster set for November, and I reckon they'll feel it out from there.


Tesoro (Natsume Ono)

Ono is probably best known (if at all) for her 2005-06 series Ristorante Paradiso, a Rome-set romantic drama from the pages of the beloved Manga Erotics F (motto: "Standards Up, Pants Down"); a television anime adaptation just began airing this past April. Her newest series is an NYC police project called Coppers, serialized in Kodansha's monthly Morning 2 anthology, aka: the one that's free online (click the purple orb; Coppers doesn't seem to be around this month, though).

This, however, was published under the auspices of Shogakukan's 'alternative'-flavored magazine IKKI (the extremely fresh and alternative spelling of comix is employed!), which VIZ recently launched in English-speaking environs as a source for online serialization of VIZ Signature offerings. The English IKKI will eventually get around to serializing Ono's ongoing Edo period drama House of Five Leaves (six volumes thus far), while VIZ preps a January 2010 all-in-one print release of her 2004-05 webmanga series not simple, from the now-defunct online magazine Comic Seed!

Tesoro, however, is not on tap for a North American release at the moment, although it gives a nice overview of Ono as a visualist. As the cover indicates, it's a collection of short stories produced over the course of 10 years; some of them are featured on her homepage, while others hail from parts unknown to monolingual prats like myself.

Nonetheless, it's clear that Ono is an appealing visualist, fine with the subtleties of facial expression while cartooning human forms broadly. Some works are inky and composed in squat, almost superdeformed style, while others veer away into doodles.

Many additional drawings are included, suggesting an extensive variation in style. She's done some BL stuff too, if I'm not mistaken, and samples I've seen online from other projects suggest a more 'realist' approach in her arsenal. I find a lot of this stuff to be really appealing on a visceral level -- very warm and sweet -- so I'm looking forward to witnessing the push VIZ is preparing for her.


Golgo 13 Vol. 150 (Takao Saito & Saito Production)

Alright, yes, I'm a nerd. I bought vol. 150 of Golgo 13, I guess because I figured Wolverine might show, being an anniversary issue and all. There's a whole G13 section at Kinokunya, going up to the most recent vol. 152. This thing's been going on so long the dust jacket flaps do nothing but list the names of prior volumes, in teeny tiny type.

Someone out there has all this shit memorized. Someone hit on the head in 1969.

Anyway: Duke Togo. I love him, you love him, we all love him, and his comics are just as much fun in Japanese as they are in English.

Aw hell, you can forget that stuff. Duke is a man of action, after all, and there's three huge stories in here, 2002-03. This book came out in 2008. Golgo 13 the serial is half a decade ahead of its collected editions. All praise the Saito Pro assembly line!

Story #1 is your typical extensive Top Secret Mission, this time seeing Duke hired to destroy some Very Important CIA Documents by carrying a huge weapon around and shooting his way through a fireworks display.

Exciting stuff, but not nearly as excellent as Our Man's natty dress sense! Yep, it's the 21st century and G13 is rocking the ascot under his black vampire jacket.

Better still: that's an art error. The ascot only appears in that particular panel, one presumes because some mad, beautiful fool at Saito Pro decided that this particular scene simply could not pass without proper gekiga action hero attire coming into view at least once. I salute you, HERO.

Meanwhile, in Story #2, Duke encounters trouble in a more casual manner.

This one's a jungle thriller, in which various competing factions struggle over a cache of valuable materials. It's also the kind of story where Duke is the only one left alive at the end, and he couldn't care less about the folly of man's greed. A Swiss account's all a real man needs.

Finally, Story #3 pits Golgo 13 against this excellent dude:

Amazingly, that's exactly how I looked that day in the Kinokunya bookstore, albeit without the gun, and fearful because of it. From what I can make out, the plot has something to do with timing and hitting targets with just the right delay; two characters draw a chart for the reader at one point. I appreciate the gesture, but I'm nonetheless confident that the most vital motif beams through regardless of tongue or culture.

Duke is Awesome. And everyone knows it.

As a special bonus, colorful advertising slips fall out while you flip through your book. I think this one's some cell phone dating service, which is great, since Golgo 13 readers are probably too busy catching up on tens of thousands of pages of back issues to manage face-to-face contact anyway.

Thanks, Golgo 13 - looks like you've pulled off the impossible hit of love into my heart.


VI. I spent way too long in that store. Way too long, and I didn't care.

It was almost 1:00, and the sun had gotten to blazing. I'd bought a lunch at the Kinokunya cafe: a chicken-themed bento box and a supermarket-quality spicy tuna onigiri, with a green tea frap that actually tasted like a milk tea. I sat in Bryant Park and ate. A parade went by - seriously. All of my books went into my handy gym bag, over my shoulder. Easy.

I'd go up Broadway, over to Park Avenue. Down to Madison Square, in the way a tourist can be led.

Before all that, though, there was Times Square. Everyone's made a hundred jokes about that place, naturally; how it's Disney World, how it's all garish and fake and dumb. They don't let you out of the womb without making a few of those, I think.

I'm not sure about all those jokes, but I am sure Spongebob Squarepants and Elmo were standing in the fucking middle of Times Fucking Square that particular afternoon, along with an expansive score of tourists sitting in color-coded folding chairs, right out in the street. Was it seat day? Was a concert happening? I was confused. So many

Oh my god.

My mind raced. Think, Jog - this is 42nd Street. A former nexus of trash entertainment and porno pleasure collected from all over the globe. Cultural resistance against the prevailing American mainstream, a subversive bulwark of minority, countercultural expression veiled as titilation for the bourgeois bold. And all these people, sitting here, in this place... awash in a tradition of good sleaze, sitting and staring, smiling and inactive, some of them dancing in an unappealing manner...

Jesus Christ, they ALL must be HIPSTERS!!

I flew into a blind panic, thrusting my hands under my shirt and wishing Bethany (my gun) was there so I could shoot my way out. Someone had to help me. Someone trustworthy. Bright, successful, respectful of people.

"Elmo! Elmo! I need a handgun, Elmo! A handgun! A handgun! A handgun! A handgun! Elmo, a handgun for protection! Elmo! Elmo... Elmo like handgun? Er, bullets nom nom danger vanish? Elmo? Elmo?!"

He looked at me then, but Elmo's face was full of sadness. I was immediately overcome with shame, even though I'd sincerely believed that Elmo's World placed a premium on personal security. No matter; I was being ridiculous, and everyone knew except me. My eyes began to water.

Then Elmo vigorously rubbed a bald guy's head and it was so funny we laughed and laughed, staggering and grabbing our sides, tears of anxiety chased by broiling streams of revelry and I fell right to the ground laughing and so many people were there with me, grown adults grasping each other just howling and curled in sandals and t-shirts into fetal positions and then ribs literally started exploding from laughter, pop pop popping hard in writhing pockets of flesh like unventilated microwave suppers, dozens of bodies bursting piece by piece in peals of hysteria in rhythmic procession like music and young children started dancing, actually dancing in the streets, 10, 12-year old kids to the beat of their parents' sides erupting like champagne corks under a tablecloth up and down Times Square, New York City, skin melting in chuckles through the folds of a hundred chairs on asphalt and souls rising to the sky and then a hurricane of pigeons from seven blocks around whirled upward into a cyclone shitting cherry blossoms, perfumed pink petals commemorating the ephemeral grace of the formless, shameless, bodiless hilarity that engulfed us all and Elmo, oh oh Elmo, oh yes my Elmo, you're no Grover, no, but today you'll do.


(forward to part 2)

(random images taken from Rakia, by Masao Yajima & Boichi, running wild in Kodansha's Morning)