Archive for ‘Comic reviews’

April 27, 2014

They came from the mailbox!

It’s true! In the mail, with a stamp and everything!

CopyThis01I’ve been going through my collection of minicomics lately, and found myself bemoaning the loss of the network of active self-publishers from the good ol’ days of the SPCE scene. Then, out of the blue, D. Blake Werts’ Copy This! #1 appeared in my mail, attempting to fill that very void. Needless to say, it really struck a chord with me! A high-quality 40-page mini, it kicks off with a Steve Willis essay and a long interview with Dan W. Taylor. Its second half is filled with updates on a number of well known and new (to me, at least) minicomic creators, including Ed Bolman, Brad Foster, Andy Nukes, Rick Bradford, Matt Feazell, and more. Blake has a second issue in the works already and would love to have more cartoonists join his revived “paperNet”- you can contact him at bwerts (at) vnet.net to get an e-mail version of his questionnaire or just to find out more.  You can also get a sample issue for $2 each; email Blake for mailing address.

McKay2014-1Coincidentally, Billy McKay, one of the artists slated for an update in Copy This! #2 just sent me his newest comic: Peculiar Paper People #1. It’s a beautifully-produced collection of Billy’s surreal stories, mixing newly-colored past work and brand new stories in a 16-page full-color digest. It has the same high production level Billy’s always brought to his work, even if it has less of a hand-crafted feel than many of his older comics. You can get if for just $2.00 from Billy’s etsy shop or from P.O. Box 542, N. Olmsted, OH 44070.

April 14, 2014

50 cent finds: Don’t try this at home

AtomicRabbitAtomic Rabbit & Friends #1 (ACG, 1996) is a fairly generic compilation of old Charlton funny animal heroes originally published in various comics from the 1940s & 50s. It features characters such as Atomic Rabbit/Bunny, Atom the Cat, Atomic Mouse, and– best of all– Superdog!

Why best of all? Because this story, by Ellis Holly Chambers, features the must inexplicably bizarre origin story ever! And remember, this is from the medium that brought us “criminal falls into a vat of acid, and survives to be trained by monks to use his shape-changing powers”…

Check it out following this break:

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July 24, 2013

The pleasures of Batman ’66– both the comic book and the TV show

Since I’ve been enjoying “Batman” on Me-TV lately (more on that later), I was looking forward to the new Batman ’66 release– “DC Comics reimagines the classic Batman TV series in comics form for the first time! These all-new stories portray The Caped Crusader, The Boy Wonder and their fiendish rogues gallery just the way viewers remember them.”

Written by Jeff Parker, it does a fairly good job of evoking those episodes, though he [SPOILER ALERT] missed a few of the obvious elements from the show: the Batphone call from Commissioner Gordon, the costume change down the Batpoles, and the Batmobile racing towards Gotham City that started nearly every episode. And the impossible-to-escape deathtrap. And the two-part storylines. He did touch upon these elements, but tweaked them in such a way that I don’t really think did a proper job of paying homage to the original. [END SPOILER] About the only thing missing was the voice of the narrator (who I think counts as a “character” in the show) setting the scene; Parker’s script had minimal narration, far too little for a comic meant to be paying homage to the classic television show. Still, aside from an overly-jokey ending (the show did not have a laugh track, after all), the characters sounded pretty-much on key.

66panelRichard Case’s art also does a nice job of capturing the look of the show’s mainstays, particularly his Bruce Wayne and Riddler. His scenes with the unmasked heroes in the Batcave were particularly reminiscent of the show! Unfortunately, his coloring job to fake off-register coloring was more distracting than anything else. It’s almost like he didn’t understand how comics are colored in the old CMYK scheme, and thus how they were off-register (hint: it’s not because the black line work was repeated with a blue plate that didn’t line up).

And it’s a particular shame, too, because when done well (as in Erik Larsen’s backup stories in the latest Savage Dragon or in Mike Sullivan’s “Tales of the Infinite”) slightly off-register Ben-Day dots can be a beautiful coloring scheme.

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May 12, 2013

Getting up to speed

DCE2013AWhile I’m normally a sucker for “comic characters reading comics” covers (see?), I feel kind of bad for the Justice League on the cover of the recent DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2013. It doesn’t really seem to me that they’re having fun reading these comics, but studying them to get up to speed on their own increasingly-convoluted continuity…

This recently-released catalog is (per the back cover copy) “an expansive look at our rich backlist collection created by the best writers and illustrators in the industry. This catalog can be use as an important resource for new fans seeking a starting point, as well [as] a look back at our impressive backlist for the most fervent DCE enthusiasts.” I know I’ve been hard on DC about their “New 52” initiative (both in this blog and in face-to-face conversations), but it seems like they’ve thrown out their own history for the short-term sales boost it’s given them. For all the talk of their “rich backlist collection,” that impression is definitely reinforced with this catalog.

Of the 147 titles spotlighted in the essential/DC Comics categories, only five feature material originally published prior to 1986, with just one of those dating from before the Silver Age. They entirely ignored the Jack Kirby & Will Eisner collections, their extensive Archive series and Showcase reprints collecting well-regarded work from the majority of their history. Shazam! went entirely unrepresented. Legion of Super-Heroes were only mentioned in a rundown of all New 52 titles. Wonder Woman merited a grand total of three entries on a “Women of DC Comics” spread, featuring her rich history dating clear back to… 2010. (As a caveat, these characters were given somewhat better representation in the ISBN listings at the back of the catalog).

As a starting point for new fans, it didn’t fare much better:

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March 25, 2013

50 cent finds: KC Fan Con #37

50centaCraig Klotz, the driving force behind kcfancon.com and Lawrence’s Free State Comicon, also puts on nice one-day shows in Kansas City that give me a chance to fill in my “want” list. This show’s success story: Shazam! #35 – now that I’ve got all those issues, it’s time to start working on the World’s Finest issues featuring the World’s Mightiest Mortal! But shows like this aren’t only about finding those few comics I’ve been waiting to add to my collection for years– it’s also about digging thru longboxes full of quirky and cheesy (and occasionally fantastic) comics to find issues that appeal to me in that moment…

Dazzler #10-11 (Marvel, 1981): I thought it was ridiculous for a disco-garbed heroine on roller skates to fight Galactus when I saw these on the stands 30+ years ago … and it turns out they are every bit as preposterous today. Reading these issues (by Danny Fingeroth & Frank Springer) did inspire me to reread Rom #26-27, though, since these issues led directly into that storyline (it was a busy couple of months for Galactus, as he was the villain in both stories simultaneously). Those Rom stories, by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema have aged much better…

50cent2eFlash #249 (DC, 1977) & Action Comics #554 (DC, 1984): Both covers featured cartoonists drawing heroes to save the day!

The Hidden Killer (DC, 1998): Superman and a demurely-costumed Wonder Woman team up with Unicef for landmine eradication. With Ed Barreto artwork!

Marvel Two-in-One #39 (Marvel, 1978): Now I can finally find out how that Matt Murdock/Daredevil story I found at last year’s Planet Comicon ends!

Big Bang #19, 21 (Image, 1998): I’m a big fan of the Big Bang comics, but rarely stumble upon issues I’m missing. The “Origins” issue features a Jeff Weigel story, and I’ve always enjoyed his artwork in this series.

The ClanDestine Preview (Marvel, 1994): While I was expecting an informative peek at these characters I’m unfamiliar with, in addition to the beautiful Alan Davis artwork I got a bonus: a checklist to all his published comic work up until that point!

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November 20, 2012

Thank you, Tim Corrigan!

Small Press Comics Explosion #6 (7/1986)Today, I received the sad news that Tim Corrigan is retiring from publishing small press comics. I credit Tim with getting me involved in the world of small press, making it possible for me to network with other cartoonists and setting me on the path I’ve followed for decades.

It was in the summer of 1986 that I first discovered his Small Press Comics Explosion, a kind of Factsheet Five for the comics set. SPCE made it possible for me to sample comics from around the country, introducing me to the likes of Matt Feazell, Graham Annable, Matt Levin, and many others who took obvious joy in making their own comics their own way rather than shaping their work to appeal to Marvel or DC. It was amazing to see the things that more experienced cartoonists were able to do in the medium of handmade comics, and it inspired me to stretch my own creativity in new ways. Most importantly, it allowed me to collaborate with cartoonists I never would have met otherwise in the pre-internet age when I had no cartooning peers of my own to work with locally.

But as important as Tim is to me as a rallying point for small press comic creators and an entry into that world, he was also a darn good cartoonist. He was equally adept at drawing Kirby-esque action as at silly superhero satire. Plus, he was a really good writer; his action comics were well-crafted, and his humor comics were actually laugh-out-loud funny. In fact, I’d been waiting until his (announced) hiatus was over to run a review of the only comic I subscribed to: Tim Corrigan’s Comics and Stories. While I won’t be getting any more manilla envelopes with new TCC&S issues, it was a treat I really looked forward to every month. And I do mean every month: from Sept. 2006 until earlier this year (taking off only an announced 6-month period in 2011) he produced a lovely anthology comic each and every month. For me it was a perfect small press digest, not only to enjoy as a reader of quality comics, but to aspire to a publisher myself.

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April 23, 2012

50 cent finds: Inexplicable

Ponytail #17 (Charlton, 1970) was a fun 50-cent find at the recent Friends of the Lawrence Public Library book sale. I hadn’t heard of it before, but Lee Holley‘s Ketcham-esque artwork looked like fun and crisp cartooning worth picking up. Turns out Holley had actually been an early Ketcham ghost (doing the Sunday strips), eventually graduating into “Ponytail”, his own feature that ran daily (eventually including Sundays)  from 1960-1989. During that time he (and/or his own ghost artists) also produced some comic books, published by both Dell and Charlton.

As entertaining as the comic was (and it was a fun little comic, nicely drawn with a number of short stories), I also got a kick out of the advertisements, so different from those of the boy-centric comics I grew up with. For instance, this comic had ads for hairpieces, brow liners, and nail care items that rarely shared space with the “moon monsters” and Charles Atlas ads I remembered.

But then there was also this ad, placed in a wholesome kids comic that readers of all ages would have known from their Sunday funnies. Its inclusion is, just, well… inexplicable:

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March 31, 2012

50 cent finds: Planet Comicon 2012

I’m at an odd point with my comic “want” list. I’ve already got the majority of back issue comics I want for my collection, and the rest are either too hard to find (I’m talking to you, Farscape and Savage Dragon), too pricey for their reading value (Hulk #102), or both (Aparo’s backups in the Ditko Captain Atom comics from the 60s). Still, a 50 cent box is hard to pass up– especially if it’s not dominated by early-90s Image and Marvel output– and I found some fun titles waiting for me at last weekend’s PlanetCon

Marvel Mystery Comics #1 (Marvel, 1999): Though a hodge-podge of stories from various golden age comics, it featured better restoration results than many of their “commemorative” reprints have had.

Batman #526 (DC, 1996): Picked up because of the JH Williams III artwork. While serviceable, it showed none of the design sensibilities he’s become so well-known for, and that would be on much better display in the following year’s Batman Annual #21.

Marvel Two-in-One #37-38 (Marvel, 1978): I’m a sucker for a good team up comic, and these issues (teaming the Thing with Matt Murdock then Daredevil) promised to be an entertaining two-parter. Though it tied in directly with the contemporary “FF no more” storyline, it turned out to be a three-parter. I’ll probably never figure out why the Vision is brought in to wrap it all up…

Super Dinosaur #1 (Image, 2011): I figured this was a good chance to give it a try, since I haven’t sampled it yet. Who knows, maybe it’ll be as good as “Axe Cop”!

Hulk #155 (Marvel, 1972): This copy wasn’t in the best of shape, but it’s always exciting to find a Hulk issue I’m missing to add to my collection.

Marvel Super-Heroes #34, 42-44 (Marvel, 1972-74): And it’s even more exciting to find these Hulk reprint comics, which seem harder to find than the originals! It’s really comic-geeky of me, but I enjoying comparing the original comics to the reprints (and to the Essentials, since they’ve passed MSH covers off as the original Hulk covers)…

Oni Press Color Special 2001 (Oni, 2001): It was okay, but it mostly reminded me how little I like Brian Bendis’ writing, in his tedious “parody” Powers story.

Hercules #9 (Charlton, 1969): While I may not stumble upon a lot of old Aparo artwork in the 50 cent range, I did with this title that featured his “Thane of Bagarth” backup strip.

Battle Classics #1 (DC, 1978): A Kanigher/Kubert military reprint, published as part of the brief “DC Explosion”.

Little Dot Dot-Land #42 (Harvey, 1969): As I get older, I find myself drawn to old kids comics. Not out of some kind of nostalgia (I “graduated” pretty quickly to DC and Marvel), but for the simplicity and clarity of their artwork, something I wish I could pull of better in my own work.

Heroes & Legends 1997 (Marvel, 1997): I enjoyed the earlier one (a take on Fantastic Four Annual #3, using an all-star cast of past and then-current artists), but this Avengers story doesn’t have as many hands involved. Still, with Buscema, Ditko, Kane, and Palmer involved, it can’t be all bad!

Skeleton Key v. 2 #3 (Slave Labor, 1999): I only recently stumbled upon the fact that Andi Watson did a second volume of the series! Gives me something new to look for as I finish it out…

50centeBatman #644/Detective Comics #811 (DC, 2005): Picked these up for the Jim Aparo obituary that was supposed to be in them. Sadly, DC didn’t give him the kind of biographical send-off they used to provide when their stalwarts died. Still, it was a good drawing– retouched from, oddly enough, one of the first Brave & Bold issues I ever owned (#113)…

Doc Savage #16 (DC, 2011): I always enjoyed this character, and with DC no longer using the rights to the man of bronze, it’s unlikely to ever be collected in a trade edition.

I didn’t spend all my time bottom-feeding through the back issue bins, though. I picked up a few Amelia Rules! and Futurama comics I was missing, the latest issue of Bobby Bierley’s Yellow, a few nicely-priced trades, a Shazam! treasury from 1973, and a Brian Hurtt sketch in my copy of The Damned. All in all, a pretty good time, though next year I really should get an artist alley table for the show…

January 24, 2012

A look at my pull list … and what I love about those titles

For this round of reviews, I thought I’d take a look at my pull list from AstroKitty Comics & More. These days I have (for me) a surprisingly long pull list of titles that come out regularly. As I mentioned in an earlier post, most of these titles are relatively new, even if the creators have been around for a long time. The best thing about looking at my pull list is to see that all of these comics excite me, and I’m really glad whenever I get the latest issue to read!

Reed Gunther (Image) is the newest addition to my list, added at the same time I dropped The Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Men, which never really gelled for me. After four issues the characters seemed less defined than in the first issue, and the writers just kept heaping more characters and concepts into the mix. I was bored and uninterested in the title. In stark contrast to that is Reed Gunther, a comic I’ve been following ever since Astrokitty owner Joel Pfannenstiel suggested it, in part because of the appreciation creators Shane and Chris Houghton showed retailers who supported it. It’s the all-ages story of a bear-riding cowboy, with plenty of old west action, a monster now and again, nicely developed characters from Shane and some really fluid cartooning from Chris. I realized that I was enjoying this comic so much more than Firestorm— or many of the other comics I pick up on a whim– that I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss any future issues.

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December 28, 2011

19 ways to read One Soul, why a screenplay isn’t a script, and new favorites

I’ve written a few reviews over the past month that I want to get out of my system before the new year. Hope you don’t mind me sharing…

One Soul, by Canadian writer/artist Ray Fawkes, tells the story of one soul as it passes through 18 different incarnations. The book came my way after reading a lot of good pre-publication notices, so while I knew a bit of what to expect, I was still pleasantly surprised by it. Using a 9-panel grid, Fawkes gives an impressionistic glimpse of each life in every spread. While the characters’ personalities are only briefly sketched out, the arc of their stories still manage to convey a full sense of a life lived. By reading across the grid, the reader discovers nice synergies as the different lives find similar experiences. Fawkes presents this well through the occasional repeated layout (p. 14/15) or designed spreads (p. 52/53) that often pack greater impact than the script alone conveys. Additionally, thanks to his strict use of the grid, the reader can also drill through the book, following the story of each life from its beginning to its (often unexpected) end, watching the grid gradually darken as lives come to their end. While the grid did fall apart a bit at the end for me, it’s still highly recommended for readers wanting to experience a different storytelling structure; less so if you prefer a thorough insight into your characters.

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