WARNING: Contains French.

*Next Monday's version of this is gonna look different.


Jin & Jam #1, Sleazy Slice #3 and Rumbling Chapter Two (all pamphlets, all the time)


*You might not know it, but we're coming up on an anniversary soon. A five-year celebration. Not right know, not for a few months, but soon. And there's a lot of stuff tied up in it - dreams, capitalism, culture. Comics too. Lots of comics; more than anyone wanted to read at the time.

Remember DC/Humanoids? Yeah, it was that long ago.

I refer, of course, to the 2004-05 publishing arrangement between DC Comics and Humanoids Publishing, the American branch of Les Humanoïdes Associés, the famous French publisher of Métal Hurlant and other things that could appeal to DC's readers. It didn't last long, but holy shit did those softcover books rush the shelves, multiple French albums in nearly every one, thousands of pages of European comics suddenly available.

I don't think folks kept up with many of them. There wasn't much in the way of advertising, or even organization; stuff just kept spilling out, until it stopped. Humanoids is teamed with Devil's Due these days, and they're playing it much safer: a few pamphlet-format series at a time, 'name' artists only. It's so easy to keep track of. You'd have to be a fool to take on all that DC stuff.

Well you know what? Wednesday is April Fool's Day, and I'm in a very foolish mood. So's Tucker Stone; we share space on two websites, and we talk about foolish things sometimes.

And that's totally what's happened here, and here's what we're gonna do, 'cause we liked the DC/Humanoids days, we liked that potential, and we don't think anyone totally dove in: starting sometime this Wednesday, and continuing for two weeks and change, Tucker and I are going to somehow hit every book released by DC/Humanoids.

It's a team-up, an old-fashioned joint effort, a study of a bountiful calamity that could only be called... Désastre Hurlant!!

It'll be so much fun, at least until I blow the schedule. You might get a full review on Tucker's site one day. You might get a bunch of small reviews on this site another day. On another day, on anothe site (like, um, Sunday at The Savage Critics), you might get a conversation between the two of us. It'll be easy to follow, back-and-forth. All we're planning to skip is the pre-DC Humanoids stuff -- sorry fans of Negative Exposure, one day your ship will come in! -- and any of the comic book-type stuff, which was mostly stuff later collected into trades and I Am Legion, which Devil's Due is publishing right now anyway. Or Lucha Libre, which was with Image. And I'm probably going to fool with the format once or twice. This is a lot of equivocation, and I should stop.

Why are we doing this? I have no idea. But we are! And there's a lot of meat in here! Some books are classics, others are total crap! Shit, a bunch of these series never even finished! There's ideals at play! Misconceptions! Headaches! What japes! BE THERE!!

*It won't just be BD for me for two weeks, though. I do plan on getting through at least one fresh U.S. release per week, and obviously keeping up the weekly feature you're about to read -


Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941: And what's more all-American than a 192-page collection of 20 Golden Age superhero stories, all of them pre-WWII, as far as U.S. involvement goes. By the thesis of project mastermind Greg Sadowski, those were the wild days, when the genre swang and spat in every direction, violent and unconsidered, and red with desire to rip new, fast entertainment from on-the-sleeve media influence and rollicking no-rules storytelling. A compelling case; inspiring, even. My review is here. Published by Fantagraphics at $24.99; nice sample story here, slideshow preview here.

Dungeon Zenith Vol. 3: Back in Style: Ah, speaking of France! Plenty of people have looking forward to this one, NBM's latest 96-page, $12.95 softcover collection of the Joann Sfar/Lewis Trondheim comedy-fantasy-adventure creation; this time we get the (as of now) final two volumes of the 'present' iteration of the series -- not to be confused with the 'future' of Dungeon Twilight and the 'past' of Dungeon: The Early Years -- which also see Trondheim hand the art duties over to one 'Boulet' (Gilles Roussel). Previews en français can be accessed here and here.

Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye #1 (of 3): Speaking of a long time coming, here's a big 40 pages of anticipated stuff for $3.99. Actually, I'm more cautiously optimistic about this than anything; the original 2004 Seaguy miniseries is tied with The Filth for the valuable title of 'my favorite Grant Morrison-written work of the 21st century thus far,' but unlike that longer, dirtier Vertigo work, Seaguy is absolutely a product of its time for me. Morrison was just off his contentious run on New X-Men at the time; he'd severed ties with Marvel, which already seemed to be tripping over itself to undo or nullify some of the more substantive changes Morrison had included in his future-focused run ("Wolverine. You can probably stop doing that now."), and had sort of holed up in Vertigo to play with new ideas.

Seaguy was the first result, a bracingly downbeat superhero story spiked with absurd humor and broadly devoted to demonstrating how a small man might only glimpse the grand corruptions of the world before becoming absorbed by lulling comfort culture. Applied specifically to superheroes, it became a cruel parody of rote genre thrill rides and would-be mythic tropes, climaxing with its hero getting all the good developments revamped straight out of him, and his concept reset to the corporate-pleasing status quo. Our only prayer is that the little things he accomplished while he was interested might spread out one day to make the society better, possibly without his knowing what was done anymore. It was revealing stuff, maybe the most conflicted expression of Morrison's professional relationship with the superhero genre. It got so when people started asking me what Seaguy was 'about' -- somehow, its mix of metaphor and comedic non sequitur won it a grossly overblown reputation for opacity -- I'd tell them it was about writing New X-Men. Which is probably not entirely accurate, but it does get to the heart of things.

In all candor, it took me a while to realize Morrison wasn't joking when he said he wanted Seaguy to be a trilogy; the promise of further adventures in the midst of the original's wonderfully ambiguous ending seemed like the perfect final joke, since what's a worse hell for a superhero than to keep on living forever, always reset to some dictated 'optimal' state? Actually having a sequel strikes me as possibly gilding the lily, particularly since Morrison's spent part of the half-decade's interim whipping up a massive exploration of arguably the same themes (Seven Soldiers). Will Seaguy remain a forum where Morrison's anxiety can run rampant? Eh, at least the jokes should be sharp, and Cameron Stewart's always a pleasure. The preview below this interview is pretty great too, so here's hoping.

Still I Rise: A Cartoon History of African Americans: This is an updated edition of a 1997 book from writers Roland & Taneshia Nash Laird and artist Elihu "Adofo" Bey, starting their story in 1618 and moving right up to the present day over 240 pages. I don't know anything else about it, but I'm sure it's worth flipping through at least. From Sterling; $14.95.

Alan Moore: Comics as Performance, Fiction as Scalpel: Being a new volume of Magus scholarship from Milan-based author Annalisa Di Liddo and the University Press of Mississippi, vowing to explore how Moore "employs the comics form to dissect the literary canon, the tradition of comics, contemporary society, and our understanding of history," while pinpointing his crucial thematic threads: "the subversion of genre and pulp fiction, the interrogation of superhero tropes, the manipulation of space and time, the uses of magic and mythology, the instability of gender and ethnic identity, and the accumulation of imagery to create satire that comments on politics and art history." Coverage of Skizz is promised. It's a 192 (or so) page softcover, priced at $22.00.

Boody. The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers: Nothing like a well-placed bit of punctuation to catch the eye. One day, everyone featured in Dan Nadel's 2006 oddball comics survey Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969 will have a book of their own, save for the folks who had their entire surviving catalog presented in Art Out of Time itself. We're now another step closer, thanks to Fantagraphics and Craig Yoe, and their bottomless desire to bring 144 pages of work by the deranged Golden Age funnybook artist into this world as a $19.99 showcase; do note, however, that the 20 Boody pages from Art Out of Time are repeated. With Sparky Watts, Dudley and all your favorites, including a deeply, deeply odd short (which I first encountered in RAW Vol. 2 No. 2) concerning rustic gal Babe's journey to the top of Mystery Mountain, whereupon centaurs mount kidnapped women and ride them around for sport. There's a dozen or so references to the glue factory. You will doubt your sanity. Sample story here, preview slideshow here.

Ho! The Morally Questionable Cartoons of Ivan Brunetti: Also in Fantagraphics collections this week, here's a 112-page, $19.99, Patton Oswalt-introduced omnibus compilation of Ivan Brunetti's excellent, take-no-prisoners gag panels, culled from the books Hee! and Haw!, and various anthologies. Here's what you're in for; page 10 is a personal favorite of mine. Have a slideshow.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo Vol. 2 (of 3): A 208-page continuation of artist Mahiro Maeda's manga adaptation of the television anime he directed himself, from the Dumas classic. It's not often you see this much multimedia involvement by one guy, and Maeda has the added benefit of a minimalist, eccentric comic style that occasionally swings for mega-splash power-of-the-gods-and-machines psychosis in the manner of Philippe Druillet, sort of. I couldn't call it great, but I sure wish more anime tie-in manga would put in this much effort.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: This, on the other hand, isn't a manga at all; it's an $8.99 Little, Brown release of Nagaru Tanigawa's 2003 light novel (illustrated by Noizi Ito), the spark that ignited the still-strong Haruhi inferno. Many, many sequels followed, along with a much-adored 13 episode television anime and a billion other things. I'm not gonna spend any time explaining Haruhi - if you know it, you really know it, and if you're just curious it's probably better you go in not knowing anything, although your final level of enjoyment may well depend on how much of your brain matter is currently saturated with anime otaku fandom bullshit. At least that's how it went with the show, which I found to be thoughtful about its genre and fairly smart and comfortably above average as far as anime about a guy surrounded by pretty girls go, but not terribly relevatory, or even particularly deep. Hey, don't mind me, tomorrow I'm gonna drop my money on Shigurui: Death Frenzy; I knew the dude who directed Texhnolyze would find work again!

The Boys #29: Man, you know I'm all right with this series, it's a solid little comic month in and month out, but I think we're all ready for the final issue of this X-Men parody storyline about now. So here it is; hope it builds to something. Preview. I hear you can also get issue #1 of Preacher for $1.00 this week; note that those new 350-page hardcovers are due to start in June.

glamourpuss #6: Dave Sim, moving on.

Universal War One - Revelations #1 (of 3): Of course, while DC/Humanoids might be firmly in the past, let's not forget that Marvel's association with French publisher Soleil is still putting along, translating popular genre albums to English and the pamphlet format. This new 'miniseries' is actually just the final three volumes of Denis Bajram's 1998-2006 time-travel-in-outer-space suspense series, since Marvel (I suppose) felt it'd be worthwhile to break things in half. If it's even this far along, that's probably an ok sign, right?

Captain America Comics 70th Anniversary Special: And finally, if somehow the tome on top of this list didn't give you enough '40s ferocity to keep you regular, here's a $3.99 ode to the comic that Sadowski takes as symbolic of the domestication of the superhero concept, put in the service of a national struggle and made icons of a particular heroism over iterations of a plural good. Simon & Kirby are present, although Marvel also has a new story by James Robinson & Marcos Martin (w' colorist Javier Rodriguez) on tap. Are you ready to be stirred? Don't ask if it'll shake ya.


Something big is coming...

*But first, some old fashioned comic book comics; the first one'll show up in stores, at least. Links are for browsin' & buyin'.


Jin & Jam #1 (Hellen Jo; Sparkplug Comic Books, 36 pages, $5.00): I liked this a lot, although I admit it's got some stuff going on (stuff I particularly liked) that maybe isn't going to be all that apparent to a ton of readers. That's not to say the work's surface qualities aren't nice; at its simplest, it's an energetic prelude-and-chapter-one, all about a pair of San Jose teenagers who bond over smokes and snacks and getting into fights with other girls and generally being happy and shitty. A slice of life with lots of shouting and sneering, and just a little bit of tenderness, conveyed through a visual style that's fine with tossing up a school of fish floating through the air, when the time's right. Perfectly fine.

But the comic also functions as a fairly specific homage to the mangaka Taiyō Matsumoto, and his 1993-94 anti-heroic action saga Tekkon Kinkreet (or: Black and White); Jo even goes so far as to announce her affinity with an opening quote ("We can beat 'em... just you 'n me!"), although even a quick glance at her art reveals a strong Matsumoto influence. But Jo strips away the mythic-generic undercurrent from Matsumoto's work, and transposes streetwise fighter Black's and giggling playactor White's two-fisted adventures in Treasure Town to a mostly realistic venue for less faux-heroic romping and clashes.

Basically, Jo takes part of Matsumoto's subtext and makes it pretty much the whole story (so far), cleverly converting seinen action stuff to something that seems especially personal to her, even as she slips in a few direct cites to the manga, like the Smurf hat seen above, or the aforementioned image of fish. Jin & Jam aren't on a mission to protect San Jose or anything, but its grittier confines are still a good playground, and there's still (momentary) enemies to fight, and while they have other friends and stuff, and you can presume they do all have parents or guardians somewhere in town, their primary shared life's experience at the moment is being cool and impressing each other.

Yet Jo's girls don't get the allegorical credit of Matsumoto's boys - Jin's potential abandonment of San Jose's town o' treasure comes from nothing fancier than wanting to go to college and make something of herself, while the constant presence of SAT flashcards and Christianity in her life anticipates the taking of White by forces of adult authority. No word on Jam's dark side; I suspect it may not involve a minotaur or a labyrinth, though I'm sure it exists!

The visuals are also more grounded, sometimes to the point of awkwardness; Jo's character designs are nice, and she's got a good eye for vivifying situations through creative lettering (perfect for not-really-fantasy-action), but her fights sometimes tend to pose rather than snap, leading to moments where her ideas -- like, say, allegedly conjoined twins who occasionally pop apart in the middle of a fight, only to click back together like like a magnet to a fridge -- appear to be outrunning her chops. Still, I'm confident future chapters will improve, and I'm fascinated with where this 'sitting down for a smoke with a beloved comic' of a comic might go.


Sleazy Slice #3 (ed. Robin Bougie; self-published, 64 pages, $6.00): Hey, remember last week when I took note of Jamie Delano's Avatar series Rawbone for its excess? Yeah, well, things are relative, and its semi-major comics publisher brand of 'sleaze' has nothing on a thick cut of extra-small press sex 'n violence like this. Editor Bougie is probably better known as the man behind the pamphlet-format oddball movie zine (and FAB Press book) Cinema Sewer -- which has a new issue available at the above link, including a two-page comic with art by this comic's cover artist, Jim Rugg -- but the stories collected in Sleazy Slice are more akin to the stuff of an anything-goes underground anthology or involved fetish webcomics, which is to say they go far beyond what you'd expect from exploitation flicks or obscure live-action porno.

The centerpiece of this issue -- located at the issue's center, even! -- is a new 26-page story by Josh Simmons of House and Jessica Farm. The title is Cockbone, and, sure enough, it involves a fellow with a literal spine in his penis, which is possibly the reason why his semen imparts a euphoric state on those who consume it. And consume they do - poor Bonecock services his whole family, tucked away and blissing out while the world-at-war goes to hell and nourishment becomes scarce. Our Man is a gentle giant, first seen goaded by his brothers into shooting a dog for meat and laffs, but the family fun ends when a sexually transmitted disease demands Bonecock and his mother/lover journey into the outside world.

The art here is highly reminiscent of Chester Brown's work on Ed the Happy Clown, positioning small characters inside dense, sometimes askew panel arrangements, all the better for sedating the gory sexuality at hand into a sort of absurdity, although Simmons is not as interested in overt comedic fantasy. Rather, his dazed hero (w' enhanced appendage) is a naif caught up in parental struggles, just as his world is beat down by a conflict few seem to have control over. And while he shows a heart of steel, it's ultimately futile in Simmons' fallen world, even with the eventual introduction of magic - all the good ones are slaves to disease, sexual, metaphorical and otherwise.

There are a few happier stories elsewhere in the comic, although none of them are quite as interesting, and violence generally intrudes somehow - there's no doubt someone out there will find the work 'useful,' to borrow the friendly manga term, but the main sensation I felt was curiosity over what odd thing might show up next. A silly bodily-functions-as-aliens-piloting-a-ship depiction of anal sex? A pig-horse on centauride gangbang in a cowboy story? A possibly biographical one-pager about a prostitute's oddest client? It's really a bit old-timey in its bottomless desire to present anything, while the visual standard is actually a bit higher than average for an all-porn effort these days.

For his part, Bougie (who gallops his cartoon smile through this and Cinema Sewer like the cheeriest Food Network host ever condemned to hell) saves the most bombastic art assignment for himself, translating the bovine exhibitionist fantasies of one "Petra" to comics form with adept tactility; I won't ruin any of the surprises, but it's definitely the most effective militant vegan quasi-furry lesbian lactation-cum-rape & forced cannibalism specialty comic I've encountered since they cancelled Blue Beetle. You probably won't see this one on your friendly neighborhood New Releases rack, though, so get thee to the link above if you're liking what you're thinking.


Rumbling Chapter Two (Kevin Huizenga; self-published, 32 pages, $3.00): Being the continuation of the serial Huizenga began in Or Else #5; some people seemed stunned when Huizenga announced that Drawn and Quarterly series' cancellation, but I kinda suspected something was up when I got to the Coming Soon page listing the contents of issues #6-24. Curious readers may be interested to know, however, that this simple minicomic does contain issue #6's promised "record reviews," in that the serial chapter is framed as a historical record being viewed from the future, set off from the main story by the minty green paper used for the cover as seen above.

Rumbling is Huizenga's comics adaptation of a prose story by Italian writer Georgio Manganelli, from his 1979 collection Centuria: 100 Ourobic Novels. I haven't read the book, though I understand that the hundred stories contained therein don't run more than 40 lines apiece, packing ideas and evocation into dense language (here's a review by Harvey Pekar); I expect that kind of prose could prove inspiring to a cartoonist with Huizenga's interest in manipulating time and playing with word-picture interplay, and the continuing comic is indeed delicately furrowed with portals across its timeline and extended dips around particular moments.

The serial's general plot has cast Huizenga everyprotagonist Glenn Ganges as a weary prisoner of a conflict between religious forces in a foreign land; this chapter steers things toward a more specific contemporary U.S. culture war allegory, its nuance steeped in the artist's depiction of scientific reason and religious faith as not so much at war as uneasily sitting beside one another while religion battles other religions and reason shuns the uninvolved. As a result, Ganges, a would-be historian, winds up taking a job as a foreign presence a faith-based society, although he mostly sits around with his nose in a book until a Big One breaks out, at which point he becomes trapped and left to scavenge for items while telling his story - the metaphor is plain.

Given the texture of the language, I presume it's Manganelli drawing equivalence between religious and scientific struggles, a conceptually tidy but socio-politically unconvincing conceit which Huizenga mostly pushes to the back in favor of detailed sequences in which the lost at sea Ganges observes or interacts with religious culture in various states, as if in preparation for arrival of the present as the categorizable past. The particulars get a bit cute in melding Christian and Islamic traditions, but Huizenga has ample opportunity to showcase his typically firm grasp of everyday conversation among risk-adverse persons of different backgrounds, ranging from a busy mother's careful but nonetheless confusing explanation to her child as to why God doesn't talk to Ganges to Our Hero's own blithely obnoxious enthusiasm over riding in a real-live pickup truck.

Of course, this introduction of observational realism does then beg the question of why everyone in this society seems to believe with likeminded violent fervency. Perhaps Ganges isn't much of an unbiased scribe; the framing sequence admits as much in warning the reader that accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed, and future chapters may well shine more light on this "history of the new last days" (which that final Or Else also promised of #6, with arguable accuracy). Huizenga's authorial stamp allows no certainty, least of all from his title, which sometimes rumbles its way across the top of a page, halfway out of sight, marking all work beneath it as its own while behaving like a proper sound effect, omniscient and omnious. If there is a god, it's not a happy one.


A desperate entreaty.

*Are there any other kinds?


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

At The Savage Critics.


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

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


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

At comiXology.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A full week of links to me.

*Finally, my most intimate thoughts on the feature film Punisher: War Zone can be revealed. On R1 dvd, as of last Tuesday. Also: scenes from my childhood. Can Spidey escape this mess? Find out.

*Second post to follow here shortly.



This blog is getting to be like a small dog barking at its reflection in a mirror.

*I have a short guest review in Tucker Stone's regular comics roundup this week, in re: issue #1 of Jamie Delano's & Max Fiumara's new pirate comic Rawbone. I liked it! Sweat-soaked, grimy exploitation comics, devoted to seemingly nothing other than soiling today's popular romantic notions of old-timey buccaneering, albeit in the most sensational manner possible. Nothing revelatory, no, but good bad times. I think this is what the academics call 'keeping comics evil.'

*And maybe I can sneak some substantive content onto this site in between now and tomorrow afternoon's linkpost to yet another (longer) piece on yet another site. You never know!


What in god's name...

*New column! By which I mean my Savage Critics column! You remember...?

This one deals with Smurfs, specifically the 1965 book King Smurf, by creator/artist Peyo and writer/editor Yvan Delporte. It's one of the only bona-fide Smurf comics to have made it to English, which always strikes me as a little odd; the Smurfs were a hell of a lot more popular than Tintin (just to name another Belgian icon of the funnies), but so little of the original material made its way over. I suspect that was part of the toll of extreme popularity, though - the Smurfs were so hot they could only be a 'fad,' and what's a fad if not for selling all kinds of shit? Who needs the original comics?

Not a lot of critical writing around (in English) on the stuff either, as you can guess. I only found out about how wild this book was supposed to be when Kim Thompson started raving about it in the translation notes to that Lewis Trondheim serial that ran in MOME; and where better a place to find useful tips than the translation notes?

King Smurf really is something too - a kid-friendly anti-authoritarian screed in the form of a slapstick adventure, dripping with acrid political satire. If you thought the Smurfs were nothing but sunny days and songs, take a look at the early stuff. If you can read French, I guess. Hope you enjoy the column.



The now-expected second Monday post.

*Am I used to this?


Cold Heat #5/6 (of 10) (the return of Ben Jones' & Frank Santoro's pulsing PictureBox action comic, better than ever, if limited in print run and only available online)


A Drifting Life (the big new Yoshihiro Tatsumi autobio manga brick, coming soon from Drawn and Quarterly)

At Bookforum!

*Not really too much due, but some odd surprises -


My Mommy is in America & She Met Buffalo Bill: Hit the alarm, we've got a Fanfare/Ponent Mon sighting! And this time it isn't manga, or even manga-related, but a 120-page, $25.00 book from 2007 by writer Jean Régnaud & artist Émile Bravo, the latter of whom has contributed several pieces to MOME (including a semi-legendary 'trick' story in vol. 8), and just recently picked up an "Essentials" prize at Angoulême for his work with the Marcinelle-style Belgian comics ur-character Spirou in Spirou et Fantasio, Le journal d'un ingenu. This particular book got an Essentials designation last year; it's an anecdotal work based on Régnaud's childhood, in which comical antics gently wash over a boy's curiosity as to why his mother isn't around anymore. Review by Bart Beaty here; preview here.

The Adventures of Blanche: Oh, this should be neat - a Dark Horse hardcover collection of the great Rick Geary's 1992-2001 adventure series about a Kansas pianist (loosely based on his grandmother) who runs into trouble in various locales (New York, Hollywood, Paris) in the early 20th century. It's $15.95 for 104 pages (er, it was an intermittent series); preview here.

Drinky Crow's Maakies Treasury: Titled to helpfully tie in with the Adult Swim animated series, this is a 272-page, $29.99 hardcover omnibus edition of three prior collections of Tony Millionaire's long-lived weekly strip (2003's The House at Maakies Corner, 2004's When We Were Very Maakies and 2005's Der Struwwelmaakies), covering half a decade of the strip's life. Still in that lavish 12" x 5" landscape format, designed by Chip Kidd. PDF preview here; slideshow here.

American Flagg! Definitive Collection TP Vol. 2: More of the Howard Chaykin classic, in the form of a 256-page $19.99 Image softcover. It's basically the second half of that big hardcover brick that came out a while ago, so it collects issues #8-14, including the end of writer/artist Chaykin's introductory megastory and a pair of added issues with guest artists James Sherman, Pat Broderick & Rick Burchett. As before, the colors are entirely redone, since the available source materials demanded it.

C’est Bon Anthology Vol. 6: The latest in this Sweden-based comics anthology, particularly noteworthy this time around for the presence of the very excellent Olivier Schrauwen, he of My Boy and MOME vol. 12. That'll be worth a peek. It's $17.95; list of artists here.

Tor: A Prehistoric Odyssey: A DC hardcover collection for writer/artist Joe Kubert's 2008 loving ode to his '50s caveman character. Indulgently narrated in more-or-less the manner of a genuine genre piece from half a century ago, but gosh can the 82-year old Kubert still draw the beasties and things. It's 160 pages for $19.99.

The Complete Just A Pilgrim: And in other contemporary hardcover reprints news, Dynamite brings us a 240-page, $29.95 collection of all material from Garth Ennis' & Carlos Ezquerra's 2001-02 post-apocalypse western, originally published by Black Bull. I totally missed all of this the first time around.

Alan Moore's Light of Thy Countenance: You've gotta hand it to Avatar; they apparently managed to rack up some nice sales by releasing that colorized edition of The Courtyard right before the Watchmen movie came out, and now it's just after the second weekend and here comes an all-new comics adaptation of one of Moore's prose stories, this time a lil' ditty about television from the 1995 Nancy A. Collins/Edward E. Kramer horror anthology Forbidden Acts. Brought to panels by Antony Johnston, with painted color art by Felipe Massafera; 48 pages for $7.99.

Rawbone #1 (of 4): Being a new Jamie Delano series, a no-doubt nasty thing about 17th century pirates and religion and suffering on the high seas and all of that. Art by Max Fiumara; from Avatar, $3.99.

Hellblazer #253: And speaking of the house Alan Moore & Jamie Delano helped build, here's more from the new run of the peer, Peter Milligan.

Age of Bronze #28: Hey, it's an issue of this. Eric Shanower, as always.

Mysterius: The Unfathomable #3 (of 6): Jeff Parker, Tom Fowler and sparkling magic.

The Zombies That Ate the World #2 (of 8): Guy Davis, care of France. This issue should be more Metal Hurlant stuff from a few years ago.

Azrael: Death's Dark Knight #1 (of 3): This has something to do with Battle for the Cowl, but it might be particularly worth a look for the presence of the always-interesting Frazer Irving on visuals. Have a look; I love that stuff.


The now-expected Monday afternoon link to a review I wrote for somewhere else.

*Yoshihiro Tatsumi is getting an 800+ page autobiographical comic published by Drawn and Quarterly this year. It's titled A Drifting Life. Here is my pre-release review, from the pages of the newest issue of Bookforum.

And don't miss Comics Comics editor Timothy Hodler on Amanda Vähämäki's The Bun Field, Best American Comics Criticism of the 21st Century editor Ben Schwartz on The Art of Harvey Kurtzman & the two-volume Humbug, and Bookforum managing editor Nicole Rudick on vols. 1 & 2 of the Fantagraphics creature illustration series Beasts!

Hope you enjoy it!


"I felt the everlasting light of our dreams"

Cold Heat #5/6 (of 10)

That's right, Cold Heat is a comic book again, and I'm pretty glad.

You might remember the first time I reviewed parts of this series, back in 2006. Even then, with only two of twelve planned issues on the stands, the series had prompted some controversy; Diamond had initially refused to carry it at all, on decidedly vague grounds, and reactions to the content were decidedly mixed.

Things didn't get easier afterwards, with only two additional issues released before publisher PictureBox opted to wait until the entire work was finished, with plans to release everything at once as a single book. Meanwhile, a series of minicomic 'specials' from various artists launched for convention and online sale, eventually attaining the Hellboy-like quality of passing out the main series in issue count. A website was eventually launched, and the four extant issues are now available free online.

The collected edition is still forthcoming, but writer Ben Jones (of Paper Rad) and artist Frank Santoro (editor at large of Comics Comics, which I also contribute to) are still plugging away, and I have to wonder if the rapidly worsening state of the pamphlet-format alternative comic in North America didn't just egg them on to try and finish their series as a comic book comic, albeit shorn of two issues.

As such, here's an honest-to-god new issue of Cold Heat. Or, actually, a 48-page two-in-one bumper book, available online only and strictly limited to 100 copies. It's $20.00, which is where the average Marvel comic should be in 2011. The production values are roughly the same as the first four issues, except now the interior stock is glossy; there's no text pieces, or anything at all besides the story (which stretches onto the inside covers) and a few pages of intended cover art.

And, like I mentioned above, I'm glad this stuff is back in pamphlets, even though I know the limited, pricy nature of the effort underscores the difficulty of working with the format in 2009; truly, this stuff's for the die-hards, while the bookshelf is the de facto 'mainstream' target, which is pretty damned ironic for a project that continues to occupy a purple twilight middle between some Tokyo noise outfit's personal dōjinshi from the non-porn corner of Comiket and the greatest floppy you ever exhumed from the '80s boom bins under the gaming table at your local Direct Market retailer.

In other words, Cold Heat continues to be as unpretentious and straightforward as a crazy fantasy comic about a hallucinating teenage ninja girl teaming up with her presumed-dead rock idol dream crush and his space alien masters to battle a demonic corporate-political drug cult can possibly be, while remaining 101% devoted to an aesthetic vision that values delicate modulations of emotional subjectivity over notions of firm representation.

It's tempting to try and divine some 'statement' on genre comics from that kind of approach, but I see the series as far closer to the near-homemade types listed above, the 'amatuer' manga and the b&w kids with reckless access to a wide world; it's fantasy comics with ideals, and the rigor to follow its visual concepts straight on through, to match visual form with story content top to bottom, front to back.

Blue and purple/pink are the center of Santoro's colors - cold and heat. Castle, teenage ninja girl heroine, is constantly tossed around by such emotional contrasts, her very face gaining and shedding detail with each fresh sensation, her eyes expanding and contracting like lungs. Manga readers know the eyes are the windows to the soul, and if there's any really noticeable shift in the artist's style since issue #4 it's his increasing use of Japanese comics iconography, from fat rivers of tears to characters' occasional retreat into a nearly superdeformed big-eyed style. It's no mechanical chibi-means-punchline application, though; Castle's head is almost always in some sort of flux, to the point where even minute variations suggest some deeply personal cough of emotion.

Slashing lines are a big motif, sometimes filling characters when they're angry (although they're apt to transform to outright doodles when moving fast), but eventually taking on a grander significance. It soon becomes obvious that ordered visual patterns, generally represented by diagonal lines radiating from a diamond-shaped source, represent the presence of literal alien power in the human world, which is otherwise constantly shifting under Santoro's approach. Characters might be scribbled in with colored pencils for a chase, then drawn clear-lined in relaxation and washed over with solid hues, then left to wander against sooty background renderings, all the better for omnious serenity, with Santoro occasionally dropping in labels for objects or characters that might otherwise get lost.

So, it's striking when a fixed pattern arrives, and appreciably uncanny, because Castle's world is always conflicted and changing, all hormones and terror and rapture. The second half of the issue (so: issue #6) feeds off of this interplay between malleable humanity and divine diamond power as the plot erupts into what might be called a Frank Santoro rendition of a shōnen manga-style chapter-length fight scene, a splash-heavy epic with a drooling U.S. senator in spiked underpants waving an uzi around while a crystal starship descends from the heavens and characters are bathed in mysterious blood and a head gets crushed and faces turn so quickly they have to be drawn several times in the same space.

But total chaos is averted through the artist's use of rigid diamond forms as a backdrop for the human action, the presence of the unearthly in human space, and the ultimate resolution of the conflict, or as resolved as it can get with four chapters to go. By issue's end, the attentive reader will notice that Castle is beginning to manipulate the crystal power (hmm, maybe it's as Moebius as manga?), refracting it off of her body and eventually beaming it out into a more chaotic, human form, to possibly miraculous or disastrous ends. This turmoil is purely visual, its own saga of war pulsing through the personal vendettas and quests that Castle encounters, absolutely fucking luxuriating in glowing spectacle while deepening the heated conflict going down.

As before, writer Jones is somewhat easy to lose track of under the sheer visual wash of Santoro's art; the fact that he wasn't involved in the series' extensive line of specials probably doesn't help.

Still, it's worthwhile to point out how easily Jones' plotting mixes in with Santoro's art, how his conversational, punctuation-light dialogue seems the perfect output for Santoro's ever-changing human characters and how the overheated contortions of the story are entirely accomodating of blue-pink emotional roil. Hell, one of Castle's major motivations is the simple desire for her favorite band not to stop making music, and what's a better launching point for a hot-cold teenage riot than that?

Of course, one of the crucial themes of Jones' own art (particularly with Paper Rad) is the assembly of childhood miscellany into spiritual revelation, and more than a little of that begins to shine through here, as noise music and part-time jobs and mistake sex all take on a world-shaking import, like they often do in the teenage adventure comics. Except, the particulars here remain distinctly personal, through the comic's very determination to take some leave of visual reality. Don't call it naïve; this thing just looked a little deeper into the stuff of crazy pop comics, and came out with something evocative of adventure straight from the eyes of Direct Market heroes, rather than just their bodies, as we usually see.

Too bad we won't be seeing it in the Direct Market itself, home to some personal conflict of its own these days, not until it's grown a spine and an ISBN, like all the wild comics do when they grow up.


Floppies on top.

*As always, one in under the wire.


The Rocketeer (touching on the soon-to-be collected Dave Stevens classic, but honing in on its roommates in serialization)


Watchmen (all your lovable favorites, in their first motion picture)

At comiXology!

*Calm down. Cooool down.


Special Forces #4: Goddamn right Kyle Baker's snappin' mad Iraq War/action-comics-on-the-Iraq-War two-for-one satire goes up top in commemoration of another 32 color pages; prepare for a culmination of neon desert bloodshed as per the Frank Miller paradigm, since this one closes out the introductory storyline. Future issues will shift the focus of the endeavor to Afghanistan, much like in the real world. Really, this may wind up as the best thing Baker's done in the 21st century. Why not read issue #1 and issue #2 for free? New one's still only $2.99. From Image. Big preview here.

The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack: No, this isn't one of those blank books with a licensed property on the cover that Dark Horse sells on occasion; it's the publisher's second and final-for-now hardcover collection of Nicholas Gurewitch's much-loved, quasi-retired humor strip. Many people will want it, even though I'm pretty sure it (re-)reprints stuff from the prior collection. Larger though: 11" x 8 1/2". Featuring 'lost' strips, a few sketches, a chat with Wondermark creator David Malki! and an introduction by screenwriter Diablo Cody. More samples here; 272 pages for $24.95.

Jack Kirby's The Losers: Yet more Kirby, yet more from DC's omnibus effort. Now we're into one of the more controversial (in its day) projects from the King's post-Fourth World period, specifically issues #151-162 (1974-75) of Our Fighting Forces, in which the Robert Kanigher-created team of hard-luck WWII troops gets caught up in some high-impact, often fantastic struggles against vivid, teeming odds. Introduction by Neil Gaiman; 240 pages for $39.99. Looks nice.

Be a Nose!: A 'hardcover' project that I believe is actually a band or shell or something surrounding three Art Spiegelman sketchbooks, reproduced from the years 1979, 1983 and 2007. Probably worth a look, but don't break it or they'll charge you. From McSweeney's; $29.00 for not one, not two, but three books. Animated preview here.

Appleseed Vol. 4: The Promethean Balance: First released in 1989, this still stands as the last completed volume in Masamune Shirow's probably-never-to-be-seen-again unfinished sci-fi opus of a girl and her mostly-machine guy, and their peacekeeping adventures in a human-robot society. As with vol. 3, it's mostly a self-contained piece, finding Deunan (girl) and Briareos (mostly-machine guy) at odds with terrorists smack in the middle of the city. Non-stop tactics, yards of metal textures and guns guns guns - they don't make 'em like this anymore. Actually, Shirow don't make 'em at all. It's in the right-to-left Dark Horse digest format, 216 pages for $14.95; preview here.

The Mask Omnibus Vol. 2: You remember those old comic book movies, don't ya? Like, 1994? Movies meant more comics, so here's a 386-page, $24.95 doorstop of color Dark Horse funnies about a green face thing that makes you both crazy and bloody unstoppable. Featuring some stuff from early adopters John Arcudi & Doug Mahnke, plus Evan Dorkin's & Peter Gross' The Hunt for Green October, Rich Hedden's & Goran Delic's Southern Discomfort and Bob Fingerman's, "Sibin's" & Bernard Kolle's Toys in the Attic. Virtually none of this has appeared in collected form before, which tells you something about the lull in the streets after the film is out and the parade's gone by. Have a look.

Tilting at Windmills Vol. 2: Oh, some guy wrote this, and he sells comics and stuff, so it's a book about that!

The Amazon #1 (of 3): Being an issue-by-issue Dark Horse representation of a 1989 Comico miniseries that showcased the emerging talents of writer Steven T. Seagle and artist Tim Sale, albeit here with new colors by Matt Hollingsworth. A reporter sets off to the jungle to investigate logging sabotage, and maybe encounters spirits and stuff. Could be something. Preview here.

B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #3 (of 5): Guy Davis. I hear the shit starts to go down in this one.

Captain Britain and MI13 #11: Versus vampires and shit.

Punisher: Frank Castle MAX #68: This storyline isn't doing it for me.

Top 10 Season Two #4 (of 4): This was better than expected, though. Note that writer Zander Cannon plans to continue the revivied series with a one-off special later this month, drawn by manhua artist and French market veteran Da Xiong.

Charlatan Ball #6: Final installment of the introductory storyline for this odd lil' Image thing (24 pages, $2.50) from Joe Casey & Andy Suriano. Take a peek, then peek more.

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1 (of 3): Yes, it certainly is the new Batman affair for the flower of Spring. Writer/artist Tony Daniel will tour the garden of combat, green from superheadliner naiveté. Some will pay, yes, $3.99. Pencils! Colors!

Saga of the Swamp Thing #21: Special Edition: You won't quite find blood in extraordinary quantities in this $1.00 reprint of 1984's swampland finest, but it is the famed debut of the Alan Moore, Stephen R. Bissette & John Totleben team, and basically the dawn of a new approach to corporate-owned fantasy character properties. Some movie might have a thing or two to do with it, but keep in mind that Vertigo is launching a whole series of deluxe hardcover repackagings of the Moore-written Swampy content; amusingly, while one of the selling points of the first hardcover is the inclusion of the oft-neglected issue #20, a deck-clearing exercise that was Moore's official debut (with penciller Dan Day in place of Bissette), the publisher has opted to preserve the classic "second time's the charm" approach for the 100 cent sample. Which makes sense, seeing how it's good and all.

Sandman Mystery Theatre Vol. 7: The Mist and Phantom of the Fair: Sure, Vertigo has other trades out this week -- they're kicking off a big Transmetropolitan re-release, for instance, now with six issues in vol. 1 -- but only one of them's got 200 pages of the aforementioned Guy Davis rockin' it 1996 style for $19.99. Two tales of mayhem in the Golden Age, from writers Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle. Hey, I mentioned him above too; small world of comics.


Well, this is unexpected, eh?

*Watchmen review, tra-la! Features comments on the transformative nature of the movie adaptation, and why a lot of the oft-stated complaints of smothering fidelity to the comic don't really work for me; if anything, the adaptation's problem is that it picks & chooses from the comic in a jarring, ill-fitting manner that undermines its effect as a singular work. Surely its sense of humor (yes! it does have one!) is an awfully different thing. I also managed to slip in an Emanuelle reference -- remember, one 'm' means unauthorized! -- so I'm pretty happy. The Jodorowsky quote up top comes from his afterword to the third and final Epic/Marvel edition of The Incal, btw.

There's also stuff on adaptation in general in there; Andrew Hickey recently sent out for suggestions on alternative movie plans for the comic, and it's seemed so obvious to me since they took the serum away that Watchmen could only properly be adapted and directed by Peter Greenaway, the Welsh-born legend of willfully aestheticised shock and taxinomical anality, as his follow-up to the visible success of 1989's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. The Moore & Gibbons narrative would exist primarily in the background, since, as we all know, the cinema is inferior to literature in regards to narrative, and must embrace qualities of 'still' visual art to meaningfully flower.

As such, emphasis would be placed on cataloguing iterations of superhumanity through visual representation. By way of example, Rorschach's attributed settings (the Apartment, the Prison) would be redolant with citation to painting from the Italian Baroque period, instantly suggesting the 'spiritual' nature of the hero's drive through such Catholic-born imagery yet critiquing the Objectivist source of his mission via ironic analogy to the religion of empire. In contrast, Nite Owl II, while likewise Baroque in his lair, would showcase greater fealty to the so-called "genre work" (one of many quiet puns to be included) of the Dutch Golden Age, that leading movement toward areligious naturalism and, thus, the character's more pliable humanity.

Both, of course, as human actors, will move in the same higly formal manner: that of their greatest artist, Steve Ditko. Each gesture shall be a Ditkovian pose, uniting them as superhuman brothers and departures from 'human' (polite) society, the crux of the Moore/Gibbons genre critique. Every superhero shall pose, and their conversation would serve the 'plot' second, and ideology first; ''realism' is not the answer, as only interrogation of the form can grip the cinema's power and affect the intellect. Only Dr. Manhattan, the 'true' superhuman, may walk freely and naturally, his nude form itself properly proportioned in the 'classical' godly image, as fortuitously was the Moore & Gibbons intent - contrast to Ozymandias, his monuments and sprawling architecture dwarfing him as but a human. Likewise, the camera must linger on the (frequent) nudity of Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II, their imperfections beautiful and their bodies soft, yet their posture like wood before the steely relaxation of the always-nude Manhattan.

There would be no 'main' characters, although some 'story' progression would be conveyed in puzzle form through the defeat of 92 villains, the Comedian being the first; some will be obvious, some less so. Always, the heroes will be bloodied by their overt encounters with villains (in Prison, on the Streets), although their wounds always heal, while fallen foes become framed in exact citation to classical portraiture, truly simple humanity 'sealed' by aesthetic by artists-superhumans. As you have already guessed, Ozymandias is the 92nd villain, both reinforcing the (fearful!) symmetry of the work -- through the Comedian's status as likewise superhero yet also the first villain -- and offering some conclusion as foe that cannot be bested, the presence of Uranium (atomic number 92) as the everlasting fear of the Cold War and, paradoxically, the defeat of Ozymandias' effort for peace symbolized by himself.

And, obviously, Ozymandias would unleash the squid thirteen minutes ago, but you could have figured that out on your own!

Rated NC-17.

Barring all that, the other perfect adaptation would be directed by Richard Kern in 1986, at his home after purchasing issue #1 upon its release, and it'd mostly be five minutes of him jerking off to Silk Spectre II in Super 8. Look, it's Cinema of Transgression, ok?




*ONE. Kevin Huizenga's new minicomic is available for order online at the revived USS Catastrophe store; it follows up on the primary serial from the final issue of Or Else, so keep your copy handy.

*TWO. Brendan McCarthy's old strip from Sounds, The Electrick Hoax, is now excerpted at his site. The beginning and ending are presented, with a little stuff in between. Written with Peter Milligan. I do believe a young feller named Alan Moore (composing as: Curt Vile) started writing and drawing a strip or two right after Milligan & McCarthy left. Good reading.

*THREE. Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer is totally getting reprinted by IDW in October.

Yeah, when I mentioned that series on Monday? I had no idea about this news. Scott Dunbier is editing the project -- a plain vanilla hardcover and a 100-page heavier deluxe edition are planned -- with Laura Martin on board for a full-scale revision of the work's coloring.

I presume that last bit's intended at least partially to invest some consistency into the work's hues (although there could be source material problems too, I dunno); while loved by many, The Rocketeer was somewhat infamous in its day for slow production, slow enough that various technological leaps were made as the story went on, prompting their eventual inclusion in later chapters. Remember, this was a 'series' that ran from 1982 to 1995, to the end result of precisely 111 pages of story. It went through four publishers -- Pacific, Eclipse, Comico and Dark Horse -- and two way-out-of-print collected editions -- The Rocketeer; Eclipse, 1985 (that's Eclipse Graphic Album Series Vol. 7) and The Rocketeer: Cliff's New York Adventure; Dark Horse, 1996 -- not counting the Peter David/Russ Heath movie adaptation.

Boy, I saw that movie in theaters (one of the few, the proud) when I was nine, and I loved the hell out of it. Didn't know a damn thing about any kings of the rocket men or Rondo Hatton or anything of the little nods 'n winks toward serial adventures - just a guy with a jet on his back. Good stuff. Kind of afraid to see it as an adult; haven't.

Looking at the comic as an adult, however, I'm really struck with the history. And I don't just mean the 1938 setting, or the late Stevens' famous affinity for mid-century pin-up artwork (the story's nudie model female lead is based on Bettie Page, a concept element that had to go once Disney rolled out the silver screen monies).

No, I mean the project's positioning of the costumed comic book hero as a deliberate throwback to derring-do of an earlier time, something young artists like Howard Chaykin (with The Scorpion) and Michael Wm. Kaluta (DC's initial revival of The Shadow) had been pursuing in the mid-'70s, away from the baggage of the faded superhero genre. The Rocketeer comic had been planned since 1981, positioning it just a ways past underground-mainstream 'bridge' comics like Star*Reach (which Stevens contributed to), at the head of one of the earlier Direct Market-savvy small genre publishers.

Hell, it even started out as a back-up feature in Mike Grell's Starslayer, a sword-swingin' swashbuckler IN SPACE series - there's your cheeseball past-future throwback right there, a genuine DC refugee of the genre sort that'd find much purchase on those baby comic shop shelves!

Oddly for a comic about flying, those Rocketeer pages are awfully dense. No doubt part of that's due to Stevens' love for old adventure strips and busy vintage comics and the like, but I often find myself associating such compression of knowing visual homage and stylized dialogue with the work like-minded (content-wise) artists like Chaykin & Kaluta were doing around the same time in American Flagg! and Starstruck. Not that Stevens' style was exactly like those -- although Kaluta eventually started doing page breakdowns for Stevens in the early '90s, so he's a better comparison than most -- but I think there's a similar attempt made at an overwhelming effect, here a veritable dive-bombing of adoring period detail and whimsical-dramatic splendor. It's handsome, and almost relentlessly so!

It'll probably go over well today, I think. Despite all these notions the work brings up on reflection, it does manage the fairly impressive feat of not seeming very old as you read it, and I'm sure that feeling will only intensify with Martin's unified coloring. Plus, you know... first time ever collected under one cover.

Fussy bastard that I am, however, I will sorta miss all the accompanying art you get collecting the whole affair, spread out over all those series and anthologies. The back-up features, the features Stevens was backing up... like many heroes of the Golden Age, the Rocketeer rarely flew alone. Obviously, there's Mike Grell:

Black & purple was big in space in '82.

Later on, Comico's two issues of The Rocketeer Adventure Magazine brought the oft-mentioned Kaluta, with writing & colors by the great Elaine Lee:

Space of a different kind!

And then there was Pacific Presents, with space given to the great one himself:

That's right, it's goddamned Steve Ditko, whipping up some early '80s adventures for The Missing Man, one of his legion of self-made superheroes. The Missing Man had debuted as a back-up in a different legend's title, Jack Kirby's Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers, at which point Mark Evanier was scripting. Robin Snyder would later take over the dialogue, but Pacific Presents #1 had the privilege of being sheer Ditko (albeit with Steve Oliff on colors and "Cody" on letters) and all-astonishing, well beyond the Missing Man's already striking neon tube nightmare character design of disembodied cartoon limbs.

It's a special device that aids in his struggle against crime, here portrayed by rival gangs, one with a blatant feudal theme (henchmen complain about their costumes in-story). The real star, however, is the gang's Queen Bee, a dazed, tragic young woman in a mesh leotard and stripey underclothes, eyes forever hidded under harsh bangs, a pair of bee wings on her back and a powerful drone forever escaping her throat, curdled musical notes swarming around always.

She used to be a musician, since her hum could drive almost anyone to tears or ecstasy, or a place where both meet freely. She used to be in love with a guy, and wanted only to make the cash to buy a place for them both to have. Ditko never explains her abilities, or her costume, since there's no need; she's art exploited, a fine eccentric put to wicked use. The King of the gang couldn't be moved by her hum, but he knew he could profit, so he tried to kill her lover and trick her into thinking he was looking for the mystery assassin, when he was only collecting dough and consolidating power.

It's primal, cutting Ditkovian stuff, talent led astray to debasement, its icons idiosyncratic but intuitive, from the greasy hair-crown of the villain to the musical fog surrounding the Queen. It goes without saying that the Missing Man puts things right, slamming evil and reuniting the lovers with the aid of his oddball super-team, but the weird hurt that hangs over the proceedings is lasting, tinged with a defiance that excellence will ultimately rise, and affect.

Just look at that. That last fucking panel, man. It's 180 degrees away from the kind of comic Dave Stevens was making, such a polished and coiled slick throwback machine, and very fine for it! Ditko's something else, something wholly out of time, something only ever and forever Ditko. It was great to see in the same comic, where it was sort of a back-up, but always longer than the main feature, and, at least here, more lasting in impact.

You can't have that in a book, obviously; it's be nonsense, against every expectation of the publishing culture. But the comic book culture - it has its virtues, there in the bins. Steve Ditko may dive again, but don't forget him, not while reading the newly whole Rocketeer in October or while sitting down this weekend for a little Watchmen; those Charlton characters didn't come from just anywhere.


As always, my plans have overcome me.

*I was hoping to get a second substantive post up in the past few days, but I kind of got caught up in researching the topic, and -- as usually happens with my comics 'research' -- I wound up buying a bunch of stuff online and revising and rethinking and etc. Still should be up and about in the next few days, though. Keep me in your dreams.


Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941

Good book, though.

*Huh, here's some decent upcoming release news - DC has apparently amended their Final Crisis collection plans, so that the proper Final Crisis hardcover will now contain the Grant Morrison-written Superman Beyond 3-D and Submit tie-ins, thus more-or-less copping to their integral role in the basic functioning of the narrative. Well, I guess they could have lost Submit, although it'd look kinda silly having only one Morrison tie-in left out. This isn't anything really new for Morrison, by the way - his 1998 DC One Million crossover used its JLA tie-in book as a de facto fifth issue of the main series, which was included in the eventual trade, along with other necessary items.

Note however that the Batman tie-in issues are not included, as they've already been scooped up by the Batman: R.I.P. hardcover, which I notice has a rather fancy display positioning in various Borders bookstores (or at least had one a few weeks ago); I had my problems with the stuff, plenty of 'em, but it does give me a smile to see such an odd fucking comic getting the sweetest mainstream push among recent genre pieces...



Kabuki Vol. 7: The Alchemy: In all candor, I haven't been a steady admirer of David Mack's signature series (ongoing off and on since 1994); the early material struck me as a lot of firm intent unsupported by execution, a mass of cultural-emotional-mythical notions hovering precariously on its toes just above a Bad Girl-worthy female assassin premise. It soon became apparent, though, that Mack planned to use the concept come hell or high water to accommodate virtually every formal/thematic notion that occurred to him, culminating in the dizzying series of allusive word-picture associations that was vol. 5 (Metamorphosis), the series' prior all-Mack storyline, and a glittering contraption of intuitive artifice comparable in the abstract to the Alan Moore catalog, except composed in script and page by the same hands.

This new Icon hardcover -- collecting the newest miniseries, 2004-07, 320 color pages for $29.95 -- sees things growing yet more self-referential and digression-prone as Kabuki hides out, hooks up (in the meeting of minds sense) with Mack's own stand-in character from Powers and takes a job as a singing costumed character at a theme park, all for the eventual sake of unlocking the secrets of creativity, forging a vivid aesthetic life and bringing about the creation of her own story, literally the series' own prior storylines, as stories, inside the story itself, thereby counteracting the villainous elements of the story prime. It's sort of Promethea running over a longbox full of Shi back issues on the highway and crossing its lane head-on into What It Is and the resulting embers forming something guiltlessly eye-catching, albeit miraculously lecture-prone; if it sounds like it's gonna annoy the hell out of you, it probably will, but how many other Marvel-published series this decade sported a climactic Charlie Rose interview? Click around here for all the info and samples you can hope for.

Sam's Strip: The Comic About Comics: Your Golden Age of Reprints treat 'o the week, a 208-page all-in-one Fantagraphics collection of Mort Walker's & Jerry Dumas' 1961-63 daily newspaper strip about characters fully aware of the rigors of putting a daily newspaper strip together, from the inside. With special guests from all across funnies history, all manner of jokes-on-the-form, and a general tone of happy self-reference that proved a teensy bit much for papers in the early '60s, hence this tome's all-in-one status. With all the trimmings. Big PDF preview here; details and slideshow here.

Little Nothings Vol. 2: The Prisoner Syndrome: The second NBM English-language collection of Lewis Trondheim's autobiographical webcomic, covering trips, honors, mild catastrophes and grave observations in ink and watercolor. Breezy and quick-witted like an optimal weekly newspaper strip. Big preview here (go to the bottom and scroll up); 128 pages for $14.95. While we're on topic, don't miss the official A.L.I.E.E.N. game either; never has the injury to the eye motif translated so smoothly.

Barefoot Gen Vol. 7 (of 10): Bones Into Dust & Barefoot Gen Vol. 8 (of 10): Merchants of Death: The latest in Last Gasp's slow but steady English-language editions of Keiji Nakazawa's Hiroshima-and-afterwards saga. Vol. 7 sees Gen eager to get an eyewitness account published, only to encounter censorship under the US occupation. Vol. 8 sees said occupation winding down as the Korean War dawns, leaving many an opportunity for cashing in on the demand for weapons; can Gen's pacifism hold up in a nation aching for economic recovery? Each are $14.95 for 260 (or so) pages, and probably worth your time.

Erotic Comics Vol. 2 (of 2): A Graphic History from the Liberated '70s to the Internet: Being the second half of editor Tim Pilcher's illustration-lavished hardcover survey of dirty dirty smut throughout sequential history, compiled with aid from Gene Kannenberg, Jr. Expect a breezy, 192-page tour of American, European and Japanese developments of every inclination. With visuals by Dave Stevens, Frank Thorne, Tom of Finland, Milo Manara and others - hey, did you know Manara recently finished off the third (and supposedly final) volume of Borgia, his popesploitation filth history with Alejandro Jodorowsky? I think Heavy Metal is due to translate it this summer. Foreword by Alan Moore; from Abrams Comic Arts, $29.95.

Brush With Passion: The Art & Life of Dave Stevens: On the other hand, if you want to stick with one artist only, there's always this 288-page, $39.95 retrospective art book devoted to the late pin-up enthusiast, storyboard artist (Raiders of the Lost Ark! Thriller!) and creator of The Rocketeer. Edited by Arnie & Cathy Fenner, with an Introduction by Jim Steranko and comments by Michael Wm. Kaluta, William Stout and others. I was recently flipping through Dark Horse's old Eurocomics-and-others series Cheval Noir when I came across a letter (in one of its ultra-rare letters pages) excoriating Stevens' issue #1 cover art as exploitative of women; I do believe the missive featured the first reference to EZ Rider ever made in an anthology collecting the works of Jacques Tardi, but then again I don't have every issue of RAW. Also: it all went down under Stevens' second cover. From Underwood Books.

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei! Vol. 1: This might be something - an ongoing shōnen manga satire about a suicidal schoolteacher who imparts on his charges only the most cynical, bleak lessons about Japanese culture, language, history, politics, everything. Begun in 2005, currently up to vol. 16 in Japan; winner of the 2007 Kodansha Manga Award, shōnen category, which basically means that the publisher thought it was the best series of its type being published by them in that particular year. From mangaka Kōji Kumeta, who also does gag comics. Del Rey is the publisher; $10.99 for 192 pages.

No Hero #4 (of 7): Superheroes bleed potential for you.

The Boys #28: They bleed and bleed some more.

Sub-Mariner: The Depths #5 (of 5): Peter Milligan.

Agents of Atlas #2: Jeff.

X-Men: First Class Finals #2 (of 4): Parker.

The Age of the Sentry #6 (of 6): JEFF PARKER. NICK DRAGOTA.

I Am Legion #2 (of 6): John Cassaday, via Europe and devilry in WWII. This issue should bring us up to the point where the DC/Humanoids deal left off back in the day.

Jersey Gods #2: This looks pretty. Glen Brunswick, Dan McDaid, Image, $3.50.

Madman Atomic Comics #14: Starting up a new vision for the series, in which every issue shall strive to tell a self-contained story for the foreseeable future. This one's got two of 'em, actually, with the non-Allred half handled by no less than Darwyn Cooke & J. Bone.

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #4 (of 8): Mignola 'n Fegredo, with Davis on the back-up. As usual, Hellboy is visual spectacle first and foremost, but there are moments where Mignola's incessant evocation of world myth & fable mixes into something resonant - I did like the Origin of Gruagach the Wee Warthog bit an issue or so ago, for instance. I also like that writer Mignola is starting to play around with the sheer span of time he's been working with, reintroducing a young supporting character as an adult and such. Hopefully this issue will satisfy, since the miniseries is now going on hiatus until it's all finished and ready for monthly release; also as usual, the larger Mignolaverse will no doubt plow forward on its own.