Monday, August 20, 2018

Dennis the (British) Menace

Beano #3560 (DC Thomson; Nov. 13, 2010; £1.35)
When I was much younger, thanks to two generous pen pals, I became intrigued by British comic books. Other than the British Marvel reprints I could sometimes come across, purely British titles such as Beano and Eagle—and later, 2000 AD—reminded me more of Japanese manga than American comics. Though much thinner each issue than the Japanese news-pulp phone books, the British titles were anthology titles, featuring multiple shorter stories, often in serial form, and featuring different artists and writers. They were weekly. And you could subscribe by giving your newsagent a cut-out coupon that basically said, "Save me a copy every week." (This was before the direct market in the States, and before pull service, so it kind of blew my mind.)



Beano, the presumably most popular title mostly targeting younger boys, was doubly intriguing because it featured a character named Dennis the Menace. But not... our Dennis the Menace. While the American Dennis the Menace created by Hank Ketcham in the early '50s is a portly overalls-wearing all-American boy with a slingshot and nuclear family complete with working father and stay-at-home mother, later appearing on television—the British Dennis the Menace, with rugby shirt and mussed hair, is more along the lines of Donald Rooum's Wildcat comic strips appearing in the anarchist paper Freedom since 1980.


Friday, June 08, 2018

Esoteric Time

The Shell of the Self of the Senses #26-27 (self-published, March-April 2018, $10)
Limited to a print run of 80, Ron Rege, Jr.'s monthly minicomic experiments with the form in terms of size and shape, and content—artwork, as well as storytelling and narrative. #26 is a very small, 40-page mini collecting a series of glyphs drawn in 2012 and featuring notes from a lecture Dr. Stephen Hoeller gave about the Krotona Theosophical community active in the Hollywood Hills in the early 20th century. "There is time, and then there is esoteric time." The glyphs are just slightly more than doodles and remind me a little of Almine's timemaps and sigils.



#27 is a little closer to a standard minicomic. The eight-page digest is a sampler of sorts featuring playful pixies, interstellar energetic angels, folk dancing, family life, and holistically extensive hair. I just love Rege's artwork—even when it's experiment and sketchbook rather than comic narrative and story. This is a monthly experiment worth supporting.



Availability: You can subscribe to Rege's monthly minicomic for $10/month. Last year, Fantagraphics published two Rege books: The Cartoon Utopia and What Parsifal Saw. The Weaver Festival Phenomenon was also recently published.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Patchwork Anime

Robotech #9 (Titan, June 2018, $3.99)
Following an initial run written by Brian Wood, the new Robotech adaptation published by Titan is now written by Simon Furman. The comic is still drawn by Marco Turini, whose near-realistic portrayal of the characters helps make this modern retelling of the patchwork anime quite compelling. In this issue, Azonia and Breetai discuss the escape of the Micronians while, on the SDF-1, Thomas Riley Edwards is in custody and under suspicion.



Bron, Rico, and Konda have infiltrated the batlefortress posing as Micronians, and Breetai lets off some steam while Lisa Hayes and her crew receive an SOS. Rick Hunter and several other Veritech pilots go to Mars to see what's what and are attacked. Breetai viciously pummels Max with a piece torn from his own battloid, in the end again capturing a handful of Micronians—including a blinded Hunter.



It's a little disorienting coming back to the series midstream, having read the first few issues—and having seen the anime up to this point—before taking a break, so I recommend reading it as a run from the beginning. Regardless, the series continues to be an intriguing and worthwhile update and adaptation of the classic anime.

Availability: Issues #1-4 have been collected, as have #5-8Robotech: The Macross Saga is also available on DVD.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

A New Number Six

The Prisoner: The Uncertainty Machine #1-2 (Titan, June 2018, $3.99)
When I first learned about this comic, published in part to help celebrate the TV show's 50th anniversary, I was excited—but expected it to be a straightforward tie-in comic or adaptation of the show. Imagine my surprise when I read the first two issues and realized it was not an adaptation, but an all-new story occurring in the Village—and in the present day! This comic is much better than I was expecting, and that's a pleasant surprise.



Written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Colin Lorimer, with #1's cover by Mike Allred, the series focuses on a new Number Six, an MI5 agent named Breen who is framed as a traitor and forced to go on the lam after a mission gone wrong in the Middle East. His partner Carey captured, Breen returns home to a new assignment: Go to the Village and "liquidate" Carey.



It's not entirely clear whether Breen's arrival at the Village is planned or otherwise, but there we find him, wearing the characteristic black jacket with white piping. #2 opens with another hallucinatory flashback—a Milligan hallmark—this time to childhood, as the Village's proprietors try to get to Breen's memories. He evades his escorts and finds Carey's cabin before attempting an escape. Rovers take on a double decker bus, and the issue ends with a bang after Breen eats some cheese with a strange texture.

I look forward to #3, and reading the comic inspired me to watch the first episode of the series again—TV at its finest.

Availability: A collection of this comic series will be published in October. An unpublished comic by Jack Kirby and Gil Kane (!!!) will be published next month. DC published a graphic novel titled Shattered Visage in 1991. You can also get the show on DVD.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Mysterious Black Box

Green Lantern: The Animated Series #0 (DC, January 2012, $2.99)
"True Colors" Written by: Art Baltazar and Franco, Illustrated by: Dario Brizuela, Colored by: Gabe Eltaeb, Lettered by Saida Temofonte, Edited by: Kristy Quinn.

Drawn in the style of the 2012-2013 cartoon aired on the Cartoon Network, this comic book is a TV tie-in and erstwhile gateway for younger readers. Hal Jordan and Kilowog find a ring, but it's a red ring—and draws the attention of Red Lantern enemies.



Kilowog captured, Jordan finds the energy source, a quantum refractor. He then finds Kilowog, in chains. He rescues his friend and opens the mysterious black box to find that it holds a creature that feeds on ions and atoms. The creature released, all is well in the end.

The issue's story is about as long as a cartoon episode, and the pace is similar—but the comic doesn't totally read like TV. Of special interest is the "Draw Your Own Hal Jordan, Green Lantern!" page—which goes from shape-based character design to overly 3-D rendered animation. Fans of the cartoon might see it in the comic—and fans of the comic might turn to the cartoon, which aired weekly. Personally, I'd rather watch the Justice League cartoons.



Availability: This issue was collected in Green Lantern: The Animated Series. The cartoon is available on Blu-Ray: Green Lantern: The Animated Series.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Hal Jordan Is Not Your Enemy

Green Lantern #2 (DC, December 2011, $2.99)
"Sinestro, Part Two" Writer: Geoff Johns, Pencils: Doug Mahnke, Inks: Christian Alamy and Keith Champagne, Colors: David Baron, Letters: Sal Cipriano.

Hal Jordan is understandably upset because his ring has chosen Sinestro as its next wearer. Sinestro suggests that Jordan, while given the opportunity to change the world for the better, has squandered his chances. Regardless, he grants Jordan another ring—a ring slaved to his own. After demonstrating how Lanterns can use their rings to save the many rather than the few (p. 15 is very cool), Sinestro is attacked by Gorgor of Korugar, there to kill Sinestro and "win the right to control the Corps!"



Sinestro slays the would-be leader and asks Jordan for help: "The army I build has enslaved my homeworld, Jordan. And you're going to help me destroy them." The issue ends with a five-page "special sneak preview" of Batman: Noel.


Friday, June 01, 2018

Yalan Gur Interferes

Green Lantern #19 (DC, December 1991, $1.75)
"Lantern's Light" Written by: Gerard Jones, Lettered by: Albert De Guzman, Colored by: Anthony Tollin, Edited by: Kevin Dooley.

Chapter One—Pencils by: M.D. Bright, Inks by: Romeo Tanghal.
This 38-page issue is a special 50th anniversary issue in which Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, returns. In this five-page chapter, former architect John Stewart questions why the Guardians selected him as a Lantern, mourns the loss of his wife—and fellow Lantern—Katma, and considers his place among other Lanterns such as Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. He sees a vision of Scott and decides it's time for him to return to Earth in search of answers.



Chapter Two—Art by: Pat Broderick.
This is an amazing chapter in the book, nine pages of art by Broderick, excellent in its own right and very well suited to portraying Jordan's visit to Myrg, where he finds that Scott's cab-driver buddy Doiby Dickles has become king. The result is a recreated Brooklyn, complete with Ebbets Field and Kishke King, as well as "40,000 feudal alien warriors watching a ball game!" I need to learn more about Broderick. His art seems like it'd be at home in an underground or independent comic, and has more going on than much of mainstream superhero work.

Chapter Three—Pencils by: Joe Staton, Inks by: Art Nichols.
I also didn't know Staton drew Green Lantern! In his chapter, Gardner is also visited by Scott—and goes to find Scott's children, who suggests that the Harlequin or Thorn might know where he is. Stewart and Gardner pair up, joining up with Jordan and Dickles to visit Harlequin. Scott has left a message for her, too, as well as his lantern.



Chapter Four—Pencils by: Mart Nodell, Inks by: Romeo Tanghal.
I didn't know who Mart Nodell was, but I was struck by his comic art, which—like Broderick's—seemed equal parts underground and mainstream. Imagine my surprise when I learned that he... created the Green Lantern during the Golden Age of the '40s! His nine pages are absolutely wonderful, detailing the gathered Lanterns's trip to China, where Yalan Gur interferes with local politics in an attempt to mold the development of the human race on Earth. The Guardians intervene, eventually trapping him in a lantern that was to become Scott's. Gur's abuse of his position on Earth led to the very origin of the first human Lantern!

Chapter Five—Art by M.D. Bright and Romeo Tanghal.
Bookending the issue, this five-page chapter telegraphs the ongoing search for Scott. On the whole, this is a very fun read, even if you're not a standing reader of the series. The connection to the history of the comic is solid, and there are several strong artists present: Broderick, Staton, and Nodell. Very cool. The issue ends with a two-page piece by Mark Waid, "Strange Schwartz Stories: A History of Green Lantern." That is also very much worth reading.

Read Also: Green Lantern #45, Green Lantern #18, JLA #55, and Justice League Quarterly #5.

Availability: This issue hasn't been collected. You can read more of Nodell's work—including Dickles!—in The Golden Age Green Lantern - Archives, Volume 1. Some of Staton's run on the book is included in Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 3.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fandom at Its Finest

Marvel Tales #146 (Marvel, December 1982, 60 cents)
"The Man Called Electro" Written by: Stan Lee, Illustrated by: Steve Ditko, Lettered by: Art Simek, Colored by: Andy Yanchus.

Yep, this is the same comic as Spider-Man Classics #10, reprinted 12 years prior. I actually prefer the Marvel Tales reprints because of the color and paper combination—the palette is closer to that of the original comics. Also, later reprints are often reprints of earlier reprints—rather than the original comic. (For example, check p. 1 of this issue and of Spider-Man Classics #10, and look for the reprint notice caption box. In the latter comic, they kept the box but nixed the text!)



The letter column is awesome... people commenting on 1960s comics based on the '80s reprints. This is fandom at its finest.

Read Also: Marvel Tales #145.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

As Perfect as Comics Can Be

Spider-Man Classics #5 (Marvel, August 1993, $1.25)
"Nothing Can Stop the Sandman!" By: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Coloring: Andy Yanchus.

This comic reprints Amazing Spider-Man #4, a 29-page story that introduces the Sandman. After being frustrated by a handful of hoodlums who've "got larceny written all over you" but don't actually commit a crime, Spider-Man approaches a man climbing up a fire escape ladder—only to meet the Sandman. His mask torn in the scuffle, Peter Parker has to get away so he isn't recognized.



The Sandman robs a bank, and a news announcer recounts his origin on the TV news. On the run from the police, the villain hides in a nearby high school, where he again meets Spider-Man, who tricks and traps the criminal.

Lee and Ditko's early Spider-Man issues are about as perfect as comics can be. They've been reprinted widely over the years, and this series—while worth reading—is no better than the Marvel Tales reprints. Chris Marrinan contributed a new cover for the newsstand, and the original cover is reproduced after the story. The new cover doesn't make the comic any better, and the color-paper combination is not as strong as Marvel Tales.

Regardless, what a comic!


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Early Adventures

Spider-Man Saga #1 (Marvel, November 1991, $2.95)
Written: Glenn Herdling, Colored: Renee Witterstaetter, Cover: Steve Lightle.

Herdling's the guy to write this summary comic, for sure. Even though he was more of a Hulk fan than a Spider-Man reader, he first encountered Spidey in Marvel Team-Up #27—and later served as Jim Salicrup's assistant on the Spider-Man books. As such, he researched all of the character's early adventures in Marvel Tales and Marvel Masterworks, as well as via the Official Marvel Index to the Amazing Spider-Man.



This issue, the first of four, covers the history of the comic up to #100. More similar to The Marvel Saga series' design and layout than Secret Invasion Saga, the comic combines summary text and exposition with panel reproductions. The art draws on work done by Steve Ditko, John Romita, John Buscema, Don Heck, Fred Hembeck, and others.

Overall, it's an easy read. While slow and patchy in parts—not all years of a comic's run will be important or interesting years, and not all runs have key issues—the panel reproductions are particularly worthwhile. My one recommendation for future Saga projects is that panel art be credited with issue number references. Comics like this could inspire back issue sales, as well as digital comic sales.

I don't think a comic like this would work today, however; such information is more freely available. But as a way to catch up on a character's history, as a way to dive right in, this is a wonderful resource. Regardless, I'd rather read the actual comics.

Availability: This comic has not been collected. We recommend Amazing Spider-Man: Official Index to the Marvel Universe.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Nanotech Warsuits

The Shield #1 (DC, November 2009, $3.99)
"Kicking Down the Door, Part 1" Script: Eric Trautmann, Pencils: Marco Rudy, Inks: Nick Gray, Colors: Art Lyon, Letters: Sam Cipriano.

While I was aware of DC's 1991-1992 Impact Comics line of MLJ comics licensed from Archie, I missed the late 2000's license, which revived the Shield—now named Joe Higgins—and another hero, the Web. In this first issue, the Shield skydives into the Al-Hadidiyah Mountains on the border between Bialya and Kahndaq. He tries to approach a village undetected, but is ambushed by a young soldier.



The soldier takes the Shield to the mullah, who directs him to the stronghold of the insurgents—and asks him to leave the village alone. "Our culture is in ruins... but at least the Americans have brought us comic books." The Shield encounters a small team of Americans who've gone missing, and they fire on him—just before Magog shows up.

The comic addresses some interesting ideas: Superheroes as threats and killers rather than saviors, nanotech warsuits, and the use value—or lack thereof—of cultural propaganda. This issue also includes a 10-page backup story featuring Inferno (interesting!), written by Brandon Jerwa and drawn by Greg Scott; as well as a six-page preview of REBELS Annual: Starro the Conqueror #1.

Availability: This issue was collected in The Shield Vol. 1: Kicking Down the Door.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The History of the Skrulls

Secret Invasion Saga (Marvel, April 2008, free)
This freebie context setter would have been useful while reading New Avengers: Illuminati and Incredible Hercules #120—and will be useful to anyone exploring or revisiting the Secret Invasion event from a decade ago. Written by John Rhett Thomas based on research done by Jeph York, the 32-page synopsis incorporates exposition in the form of a briefing compiled by SHIELD's Maria Hill for Iron Man, combined with reproduced art from the original comics.



The text is laid out in pretty horrible computer typography, but it's still interesting reading. The issue covers most of the history of the Skrulls, at least in terms of how it relates to the Secret Invasion storyline. The artwork, a mix of new and old—with some original work for the framing introduction—has been edited and recolored, so it's not entirely true to the original publications. Artists range from John Byrne to Jim Cheung, with plenty of creators in between.

Similar in style to Marvel Saga, this kind of approach to a forthcoming event is an interesting idea, akin to best-of books like Wolverine Vs. the Marvel Universe.