Friday, November 03, 2017

A Love of the Fun of Comics

The Charlton Arrow Vol. 2 #1 (Charlton Neo, 2017, $7.99)
When I was younger, before I really became interested in Marvel superheroes and the wave of independent comics of the '80s, the province of younger comics readers was Harvey, Whitman/Gold Key, Archie, or Charlton—as well as the Modern reprints. Harvey and Archie trafficked in cartoony child and teen fare like Richie Rich and, well, Archie. Whitman and Gold Key published a hodgepodge of licensed comic strip and TV comics. And Charlton was weird! Haunted, Doctor Graves, E-Man, and a wide array of other genre comics of all kinds. E-Man became one of my favorite '80s indies at First Comics and later Comico, both much, much missed.

So a new Charlton anthology book helmed by Mort Todd, former editor in chief of Cracked magazine; featuring new E-Man material by Nicola Cuti and Joe Staton; and co-published by AC Comics, publisher of public domain reprint editions such as Crypt of Horror and Men of Mystery? Worthy of a read, for sure.

While not necessarily entirely the Charlton I knew given the titles I read and limited exposure to previous Charlton anthology books such as Charlton Bullseye, the Arrow is a fun and playful comic offering much promise. The new E-Man material, which drew me in, is very well done, written by Cuti and drawn by Staton. Michael Mauser—once featured in his own comic, as well as a joint with Ms. Tree—gets married, and E-Man and Nova Kane travel to Hawleyville, where Nova makes amends with her sister, who works for Samuel Boar. Nothing good will come of that!

Other stories feature Paul Kupperberg's Colonel Whiteshroud, Monster Hunter; Roger McKenzie and Steven Butler's Ditko-esque Mr. Mixit; Kupperberg's Edison Corliss's Industrual Steam and Ironworks; and McKenzie's Frank Miller-hued Dead Reckoning. The comics remind me of Chris Ecker and the Big Bang Comics a little—more the self-publishing aspect (Megaton, Ramm, etc.) than the retro superhero homage. There's a solid group of friends and like-minded creators involved in this project. The love—and fun—shows.

My one criticism of the comic might be that the heavier stock glossy paper and bright color palette makes for an occasionally glaring read. Matte paper and a softer, more nuanced palette might be easier on the eyes—at least mine—and perhaps still hew true to the title's precursors.

Availability: For this issue, check your local comic shop. Nurses, Monsters and Hotrodders #1: Charlton Comics Silver Age Classic Cover Gallery is also available, as are issues from the first volume: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, and #6Charlton Arrow Vol. 1 is also available online via Comixology.

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