October 9th, 2004

smokin'

This and that

Okay, it's probably time to start posting something, anything, to move that zombie arm photo down a bit on your monitors. The undead drawing arm is healing up rather nicely, I can now work at the board without much discomfort and even better, without caramel-colored pus squirting from my pressed bandages all over my Kid Blastoff pages. Yuck. Sarah's posted on her blog re: these really handy new bandages that are on the market, waterproof little numbers that aid healing and really did the trick. So, if you fall down the stairs and rip yourself up just below the point of needing medical attention, seek these first aiders out, they do the trick. I have a lovely sheen of new, pink, raw itchy skin and no signs of bad scarring. yet.

Otherwise, we're just working as quickly as we can, cleaning up after our misbehaving cats, and watching Sarah's stomach expand and contract like the victim in a cheap 80's Roger Corman Alien-rip-off. Baby X has been on the march as of late, and is she doesn't stop kicking her mom around so badly she's going to be grounded the moment she arrives.

By hook or by crook I've picked up a number of comics-related items recently, which some of you might be interested in. Two books are from Fantagraphics, the Mischevious Art of Jim Flora, and Romance WIthout Tears (which came out in late 2003). The former is by WFMU's own Irwin Chusid, a nice compendium of cover art and illustration by JIm Flora with overview and interviews. Flora was/is an influence on artits such as Gene Deitch and Tim Biskup and I'd seen his art in books of jacker art and liked it very much, so this book is more than welcome. His art was also used on last year's WFMU t-shirts. I half expect a number of Mocca and SPX offerings to bear his design influence in 2005.

The latter is a collection of interesting/entertaining 50's romance comics written by Dana Dutch (unknoiwn to me before reading this), for the Archer St John house. The deal is Dutch's stories didn't feature the typical crying moron who simply must have a man by stories end, the heroines have their mopiness and heartbreak, they make mistakes, throw themselves at men, treat "nice" guys guys like crap, suffer peer pressure and all, but they're not castigated for it, as the back cover copy notes, "they always have a sense of self worth and are in charge of their fate". The stories have some dated fun qualities as these teens wonder about how much necking they should let their dates get away with, whether they should check into a hotel witha date, or go into a bar. Holy sheesh. But the stories are surprisingly naturalistic and thought through, and the art is generally good, most of it done by well-known Phantom Lady/headlights maven Matt Baker, so some folks might want this volume for that alone, if nothing else. A lot depends, of course, on your tolerance towards the romance comic genre in general.

Duh, I forgot another Fantagraphics book -- The Complete Peanuts volume 2 is starting to show up here and there, hither and yon, la dee da. I got my copy (with the slipcase for volumes 1 and 2, to boot), while twiddling my thumbs at New York is Yawn Country this past Sunday. What else can anyone say about early Peanuts or this project? You're either in or out. If you're out, you're way out, buster.

How about some non-FBI stuff? Sure. A nifty collection of Tezuka color pin-ups and covers just came out, called Tezuka's SF Heroes or something like that. Sparse Japanese text, purty pictures of children with guns, robot children, giant gold robots, crazy stuff like that there. Astro-Boy, Blackjack, the Wonder Three and other members of the Tezuka-verse. You know the drill, if you like Tezuka (and his studio) and you grab whatever you can that pops up with his name on it, Previews presumably carried this and presumably it can be had by decent comic shops for customers that ask for it.

A friend of mine at Marvel -- hell, my only friend at Marvel -- graced us with a copy of the "Essential"...Super-Villain...Team-Up. Words fail me. Actually, no they don't. This, my friends, is an ass-thick collection of mind-numbingly half-assed overwritten and underdrawn ding-dong comics from my childhood. Essential? To whom? Tom Brevoort and Ralph Macchio already have all the original comics, in bags and boards, most likely. I'm only a third of the way through this, as I'm only reading this during bathroom stints (appropo, methinks), and if nothing else it's a prime example of why Roy Thomas absolutely stinks as a writer (a hackneyed overwrought style marked by grandiose Stan Leeisms that would cause the Man himself to wince, diarrhea of the descriptive caption, trite and dated SF homages and an overall patina of smug, pretentious fanboy horsehockey), and how childhood nostalgia makes people deify crappy comics. For thrill-seekers who find cruddy comics entertaining -- and, hell, I certainly do -- this might prove to be grand entertainment, indeed (as Roy the Boy and his ilk might have put it). The book collects non-essential Amazing Adventures issues, the wonky Super-Villain Team-Up series, and several related crossover issues of the Avengers and the Champions (a second-rate team of second-rate characters by thrid-rate creators, of course, I loved this book as kid), featuring a bitchy Dr Doom and his ongoing dalliances and alliances with other hammy Marvel villainy. It's heel vs heel, folks, as the Red Skull, the Hate Monger (oh, excuse me, Adolf Hitler), the 'tweener Sub-Mariner and other classic copyrighted jobbers piss and moan about losing to the Avengers and the FF while stabbing each other in the badly drawn back. Not the stuff of legend, but it's fun (and unintentionally funny), to see young fervent writers at 70's Marvel approach this as if it was pure epic myth, or at least Ancient Roman intrigue. The utter pretentiosness of the writing is a panic, I fell for this stuff as a zit-scratching eleven year old, but holy joe, this is not Essential stuff by any stretch of the word. Probably the most interesting aspect of the book is the snapshot of a specific point in comics history, second-tier characters and ideas, outmoded story-telling techniques, dated references, and most importantly, you get a fascinating look at the hodgepodge of 70's Marvel staffers and freelancers hacking away on these oddball books -- energetic but unformed young up and comers, uninspired bullpenners, and talented veterans in a career fog or downward spiral. The roster includes a burgeoning George Perez, early Marvel Jim Shooter scripting AND penciling (!), a faltering and out of place Mike Sekowsky, an interesting pairing of Johnny Craig inking John Buscema (with not too-shabby results), Wally Wood's pretty but stiff take on Doc Doom during his flirtation with the House of Ideas, fellow EC stablemate George Evans proving superheroes were not his forte, Gene Colan proving yet again that histrionic super-heroics wasn't his forte either, Marvel stalwarts like Herb Trimpe (inked by Jim Mooney in a style that can only be described as moribund), and George Tuska, perfunctory page-fillers like Jack Abel, Larry Leiber, Bob Hall, and Don Perlin, early Keith Giffen (his Kirby silly-puttying phase), Carmine Infantino looking plain wrong in a Marvel book, and the absolute horror men call Arvell Jones (a phantom creator whose sub-fanzine art I couldn't stand even when I was a kid). Maybe Comic Book Artist can find something nice to say about this sort of stuff, but even they'd need a few drinks. It just goes from the ridiculous to the ridiculouser. These brainache-inducing comics feature justly forgotten characters (The Shroud. Wow. The Shroud.) and, I'm sorry to say, justly forgotten creators (the aforementioned Jones, someone named Owen McCarron who helped hack out an amazingly wretched bunch of amateurish pages). Cripes...I could write about this crazy book for hours, it's senses-shattering, as they used to say. There's some okay stuff from the Buscemas, Perez is young, game and works hard and has okay inking, Wood's stuff is attractive, and there's an interesting plot bit where Vic Von Doom's mother fixation leads him to butt heads with Satan (!) once a year...but it's pretty much car wrecks and pilot error all the way. true, it's exhiliratingly bad, so you might want to check this out for that reason alonbe. If nothing else, it'll blow your mind if you have any lingering kind thoughts towards these comics from your kidhood. So, bottom line: If you want to see the Shroud call Namor, "Subby", read this book. If you want to see four color luminaries like Arnim Zola the Bio-Fanatic and the "Diabolical" Dr. Dorcas talk to themselves (or rather, shout to themselves), steal this book. If you want to know the sound an elephant makes when the Sub-Mariner throws it at a member of the Circus of Crime (okay, here's a freebie, it's "Blomb!"), buy this book. If you want to read Stan Lee-inspired hoo-ha plots with Ed Wooden dialogue, chart the early fanboy professional over-use of slavish continuity and see a lot of truly awful art slapped out by a legion of hacks, uninspired stalwarts and exhausted veterans -- find a friend at Marvel to give you this thick wad of travesties. Lo! A piece of crap shall find thee!

As far as my own stuff goes, here's a few things to take note of:

Hellboy: Weird Tales volume 2 shipped this past week, it features the ten pager Sarah and I did, as well as several pages of my sketches and layout material in the supplemental section.

DHC has also released the giveaway ashcan edition of "Stray" that first appeared in the Hauntings book, check with your comic shop as to whether or not they ordered it and what their policy is on handing them out. Some shops are waiting until Halloween, some are simply giving them away now as they see fit.

Finally, speaking of amateurish writing and art, Milk and Cheese #1 has just been reprinted yet again. I actually forgot about it until I saw copies of the new pressing at the Book Country signing. Like a bad penny, the Red Skull, and Rob Liefeld, this damned thing just keeps turning up. Who would have thunk there's be an 8th printing of this thing? Not me. I would have kept more copies of the first printing otherwise. Somehow, after all this time, someone out there keeps picking this book up. Thank you, someone out there. I promise a M&C #8 one of these days, honest.

Okay, that's far too much ungrammatical yammering about comics for anyone. I better get back to work. Type at you soon, effendi.