So much to read, linked right from this post.

*Good afternoon fellow travelers! All-new, all-different column is now up and ready to roar. And what a roar! Just a cursory glance at recent superhero-themed discussion reveals that action is back, talk is out! Thus, in an effort to provide a more pleasing column experience for everyone, I have inserted an action scene into this week’s column; it’s really smooth, you’ll hardly notice the subtle shift in tone. Truly a seamless comics column experience. I also talk about how Alan Moore convinced me not to write about DC’s recent business moves by not working on “Tom Strong” anymore. They’ll all be talking about this column come next year’s awards season, but you can get ‘on the bus’ right now!

*Free Comics Department, Open for Our Business Day: One of the more curiously memorable artifacts of early 21st century alternative comics was “uberbabe”, a four-issue series of stylishly-designed square comics packages with contributions by a slew of lesser-known creators, released beginning in 2001 from sugarlab, a "progressive entertainment and consumer goods company". The brainchild of company founder/comic creator/primary writer Lisa Voldeng, the series was illustrated by Fish Griwkowsky (also a co-writer on issue #1), Gerry Fournier, and Rebecca Dart of “Rabbithead” and “Blood Orange” fame. But that’s not even mentioning the slew of designers (Melina Chen Lew and Jack Duckworth among those I can name right now) who gave the series its lasting impression on those who saw it. Issue #1, for example, contains twelve comics pages printed in black and white on a fold-out sheet of glossy paper, which fit into an elegant black cover, six inches square, emblazoned with the icon of a plane. Future issues expanded to seven inches square; issue #2 came in a record sleeve with a mini-poster, issue #3 with endpapers and blue coloring. And that’s not all: the official site has t-shirts and underpants and posters and everything.

But what about the stories?

Well, now you can see for yourself, though you’ll have to sacrifice some of the design pleasures along the way. The “uberbabe” team has released the entirety of their upcoming one-volume collected edition "uberbabe [same as it ever was]: the lost books of everything [or something], volume 1" online in PDF format, with a nine track soundtrack album (over an hour of music) by DJ Cody Lee Williams and Elad Marish thrown in through the magic of MP3 and Weed format. It’s under a creative commons license, though no derivative works can be produced from the comic. It’s all in anticipation of the deluxe hardcopy release this summer, eleven inches square on glossy paper and the album included too, and surely looking pretty.

It’s a curious work, sometimes maddeningly unclear in its original serialization, although now there’s an ongoing text accompaniment that fluctuates between spelling things out a bit too much and adding extra layers of obfuscation. The PDF forces you to scroll across the pages to see them all (at least at any readable resolution), which is a bit of a bother. It’s largely a strange journey through difficult times in history, with curious and powerful women affecting sometimes mystic change; the final chapter plunges into the modern-day with some standard-issue George W. satire, discussion of the necessity of the idea of superheroes, a nice name-check for “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things”, and what sort of resembles the beginning of a more typical plot, but then Jesus and an androgynous frog-person show up and the book ends. One can sense an unsteadiness with the more placid dialogue scenes, and a tendency to have characters talk in awkward philosophical declarations erupts (getting especially sticky in chapter 4). But the art is pleasing, on the whole, and the book has a definite energy emanating from its pages, even faux-pages on your monitor, the safety of the package design stripped away. Lord knows there's ambition to burn in this place. Give it all a look.

And it should be noted that I found out about this free digital release on (where else?) the magical mystery Comics Journal Message Board, where there soon was born a discussion of file formats and the theory of digital pre-release, which you should brush up on too.