I was going to talk about Mai the Psychic Girl today, but Wally Wood muscled his way in.

*I also meant to buy book 3 of Yotsuba&!, but I couldn’t find a copy anywhere, so I used the money on a volume of Samurai Executioner instead. Roll with those punches!

*(UPDATE: 10/12/05 2:52 AM) Like an idiot, I forgot to mention earlier that issue #271 of The Comics Journal is out today, featuring an interview with Renée French (of the upcoming The Ticking), another interview with Jerry Robinson (of many a classic title), and a nice selection of pre-Popeye Thimble Theatre pages. Also featuring a big San Diego wrap-up by an assortment of folks, noted blogger Ian Brill among them, and a mammoth review by Rich Kreiner of a whole crapload of Brian Michael Bendis books; the latter is also online in an exclusive expanded format, very long and very critical ("The cautionary rule of thumb on the bulk of Bendis' tales... is that a reader does not need so much a willing suspension of disbelief but, as occasion demands, a willful dissociation from waking world reality."). Worth reading.

*Unintended Consequences Dept: My one and only reaction upon viewing a slideshow of that ‘Smurfs get bombed to hell’ UNICEF spot?

Can’t get the theme song out of my head.

*Shit. When was the last time I was



Anyway, this should have gone up yesterday (over here, not at the Galaxy itself where it actually did go up on Monday), but technical problems blocked my posting about it. I’ve got a short thing on various minicomics by Marcos Pérez, all of them available from Cliff Face Comics. Go see.

*Oh hey, Seven Soldiers to be collected in order of original release, not by miniseries. More grist for the ‘just think of it as a big maxiseries’ mill, eh? Honestly, it’s probably best this way, even though I still have my individual issues tucked away by miniseries.

Kid Eternity is a damn neat series, by the way, and long overdue for a trade collection. I guess the intro of my big review is obsolete now. Good thing.

*Well, I had a lovely Columbus Day here in these United States. I was staying with my parents for the weekend, so I’d met up with a lot of old friends.

I spent most of Columbus Day evening in particular at a local bar; it was some sort of open-mic blues night, and a friend of mine kept telling me that he was going to get up and perform on stage (which is to say, in the corner of the room). I must confess I hesitated a bit before agreeing to go, since the prior night had taken me (at the behest of that very same friend) to a nearby club where local bands were playing; as it turned out, I walked in to the sweet sound of a bunch of 19 year-olds doing Metallica covers and I was immediately forced to employ my best Warren Ellis impersonation - they actually did bring me whisky, so it wasn‘t a total wash.

But this was the blues, and I figured it had to be better. So we drove deep into the black night, past the loading docks of several prominent businesses dotting the industrial zone, and emerged near this tiny bar with a convenient motel attached. There were actually people inside, which was a bonus.

I didn’t have any whisky that night, but one of my friends kept pouring me these little blue things, so I kept drinking them. Then a friend bought me something called a ‘Harley Davidson.’ Didn’t know what was in that either, but I drank it.

Oh, hey… shit, I forgot your birthday, didn’t I?” said another friend (he was correct). He turned to the barkeep. “Get him something strong!”

The bartender poured about six or so presumably potent liquids into a little glass.

What’s this one called?” I asked.

No fucking clue.”

I had to wonder why anyone would name a drink ‘No Fucking Clue’ as I poured it back, but I guess it’s not so much worse than ‘Sex on the Beach.’ I mean, drinks are nice, but there’s no comparison. It burned a bit going down, which I’d rather expected from the Harley Davidson, actually. The music started. It was pretty good.

So… you remember [High School Kid X]?” someone asked me.

Yeah, sure. Sort of.”

Yeah… he shot himself last week.”


He got his third DUI in about a year, and I guess… you know.”


My girlfriend was telling me how he was always at [another local bar] drinking just night after night…”

I looked down into the beer I was nursing, and I thought about serving people drinks. Just night after night, laying money down and money down and money down and money down and money down and money down and money down and fuck all. Every every night, taking the money. Lots of laughs from the patron, I guess.

Around that time (this was after the Yankees were put to bed for the evening), someone grabbed my arm. It was a not entirely sober woman wearing a festive balloon animal hat.

C’mon an dance! Iss my BIRTHday!”

No… no thanks…”

She then proceeded to grind her posterior into the side of my friend’s leg while glaring at me.


Switching positions, she did the same to the side of my own leg, as I tried not to spill my beer. She left shortly thereafter to resume dancing with one of the guitarists in the corner, whom you’d think would have had other things to concentrate on.

My friend never got up to perform, by the way. I did get to see this one guy who looked like a cross between Jack Nicholson and Harvey Pekar get up with his daughter and belt out some classic blues numbers. They were amazing - they absolutely fucking lit the place up. I momentarily fell in love with the girl, but nothing was really sticking in my head by that point.

I recall some damn good music, though. Massaging the weakening sides of the interior of my skull as I sat blinking and pivoting.

Damn good music.

Wally Wood’s Lunar Tunes

This is marked on Diamond’s list for release tomorrow, but considering that I bought it at a shop near my parents’ house the other day, let’s not take Diamond’s word as gospel. It’s only $9.95 for a lovely oversized softcover, 48 pages, with flaps but no dustjacket.

Fans of Wally Wood (and I’m certainly among them - my personal Holy Trinity of EC artists consists of Wood, Harvey Kurtzman, and Bernard Krigstein) will most certainly want a look at this, since it represents a largely unpublished example of the beloved artist’s late-period output. Originally intended for self-publication as a single piece, the work was eventually broken into a 10 or 12-page fragment (accounts vary) for posthumous presentation in the 1982 issue #12 of witzend, the Wood-founded comics magazine which by that time was edited and published by Bill Pearson. This is, as far as I can tell, the complete 45-page work, presented as the single book Wood had originally envisioned.

Completed in 1981, mere months before his suicide, the work is strangely reminiscent of vintage stream-of-consciousness underground stories, only devoid of any drug references and decidedly coy with the sex (by way of intent, I expect; Wood could get fairly raunchy when he wanted to), all the better to focus on fractured sights, bizarre happenings, elusive social comment, and gleefully silly gags. This is not the lush, detailed Wood of old; by this point the artist was blind in one eye and left partially paralyzed from a series of strokes, and the visual quality of the work evidences an experiment in alternate approaches, likely with heavy assistance from assorted uncredited helpers. But the resultant work is no less fascinating, no less entertaining.

Set mainly against a bleak, mountain and crater-loaded lunar landscape, the piece utilizes simplified, almost animation-ready character designs, with heavy doses of ink spatter and zip in the background. There’s also extensive integration of photographs into the work, with several planets, spaceships, and mysterious apparitions culled from familiar sources; it’s interesting to see Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday looming out of a desolate valley, and downright fascinating to come across a shot of Wood himself leering downward at a naked female character, who then turns directly to the reader and asks what you're staring at.

The rest of the 'story' proceeds in much the same vein. Basically, bold youth astronaut Bucky blasts off in his spacecraft/time machine to beat the Russians to the moon - the 1969 lunar landing is verily dismissed as a hoax (but as Wood notes in one of the book’s occasional philosophic asides, “Paranoia is simply seeing other’s [sic] motivation’s [sic] too clearly…”). Bucky touches down, only to discover all sorts of odd sights, which basically amount to strange blackout sketches, filled with awful puns and questionable vaudevillian routines (Bucky gets into an argument with an alien trying to sell official moon rocks, a two-headed creature constantly argues with itself, etc.). Your mileage may vary, but I find this sort of thing to be extremely fun. And there’s constant asides, quotes, and tidbits of worldly wisdom scattered around at appropriate intervals.

If your happiness depends on another person you are in trouble. If the other person is a woman you are in BIG trouble.” So goes one of the book’s musings, and one won’t have to work hard to pick up a certain element of frustration to the rest of the book; Wood had by this time separated from his third wife, and was no longer in the mood to mince words. Indeed, for all of its cracked whimsy and throwback appeal, this is an often disconcertingly personal, self-referential work. Twice repeated is the refrain “Never draw anything you can copy; never copy anything you can trace; never trace anything you can cut out and paste in.” One has to presume this is at least partially in reference to the photo-heavy style of the book, rueful in its tone. There’s a moment where Bucky is standing in a spaceship with the never-clothed Nudine, clutching a piece of once-typically detailed Wood machinery. “I don’t explain ’em… just invent ’em!” he declares, a big smile on his face, and the moment is weirdly powerful for the past that Wood's character holds in his very hands.

The story gets more and more fevered as it goes along. Eventually, Bucky is warped back to Earth; our planet is depicted largely through photo collage and detailed cityscapes. Invading aliens nuke the entire east coast of the US while Bucky watches television. He then takes off and drops an asteroid on the alien homeworld, then returns to Earth via his spacecraft/time machine (is this before the calamity? after? does it matter?), and while he’s sort of hailed a hero, everyone is basically anxious to get back to their own business. There’s a gorgeous panel of a California landscape, the sun glaring in a huge sky, with the outlines of Bucky and two passerby scratched out atop. “Hello! I’m Back!” “You been away?”

As a sort of cap to the enterprise, the third-to-last page bears a panel marked 'Famous last words.' It reads: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil: for I am the meanest son-of-a-bitch in the valley.” It’s not the last thing in the story, but it’s what you’ll take away most clearly. This is a bizarre, but unmistakably individual project, a troubled yet entertaining self-tribute to a career damn near finished for good, and I found it to be quite spellbinding. That it’s here is a boon for every Wood fan, though non-fans will absolutely not want to start here; it’s far far away from the glory days, but it’s a compelling portrait of a talent’s struggle to find some new way to fit itself onto the page, to deliver just a few more bursts of expression before such things are no longer possible.