Sunday, March 15, 2015

COMICS READING FOR FEBRUARY: “Down with the sickness”

I SPENT much of February sick, including nearly two weeks in bed, so I got a lot of reading done.

* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

*****     Watchmen, Miracleman, V For Vendetta
****      From Hell, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Fashion Beast, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (first two series)
***        Axel Pressbutton, Tom Strong
**         Promethea
*           LoEG: Century: 1969
DUD (or lower) any of his non-comics stuff

1. Lorelei Presents: House Macabre #1 (StarWarp Concepts, 2015) **¼
Writers: Steven A. Roman & Dwight Jon Zimmerman /Artists: Uriel Caton & Chuck Majewski, Lou Manna, John Pierard, Juan Carlos Abraldes Rendo (interior); Louis Small Jr (cover)
Sexy succubus plays hostess to several uninspiring House Of Mystery-style tales with “twist” endings. Not awful. You can buy the comic in digital or hard-copy formats from
2. The Collector #21 (Bill G. Wilson, 1970) -**
3.-6. Rocket’s Blast Comicollector #141, 142, 148, 150 (James Van Hise, 1978-79) **
Writers/artists: various
I bought a bunch of comics fanzines from the 1970s/early 80s for a buck each at Elizabeth’s in January. I’ve slowly worked my way through all of them and I will write my bloggy thoughts on them down the road.
But I do want to list a few here, because some zines ACTUALLY featured comic strips and I think that makes them count as comics.
The Collector’s editor and publisher Bill G. Wilson wrote and drew Hyperman, a sub-standard, three-pager featuring his hero posing against black backdrops, confronting a generic bald villain and knocking him out. I don’t know how, but Wilson managed to “write” and “draw” an eight-panel strip where every single panel bears no logical relationship to the panel that precedes it. What’s even more incredible, he somehow managed to get industry veteran Don Newton to ink this abortion. Maybe ‘cos Newton started out as a contributor to RBCC in the 60s, he felt a sense of obligation to a new generation, perhaps.
RBCC (which is much easier on the tongue than its clunky full name) had a couple of semi-regular strips. Pertwillaby Papers by Don Rosa (#141, 142, 148, 150) was a pseudo-intellectual sci-fi fantasy mash-up that was horrible on most levels. Pertwillaby is a cocky, naive young scientist who gets caught up in crazy adventures (travelling to the centre of the earth or travelling back in time to King Arthur’s Court) with a motley crew of friends and ne’er-do-wells. While Rosa’s cartoony art is fine, it’s his writing that lets him down. He gives Pertwillaby huge chunks of fake science bullshit to spout that fills up large portions of every panel. Most of the supporting characters talk in accents, making it a challenge to decipher their speech balloons The worst culprit is the Nazi scientist Prof. Viktor Smyte. Rosa also uses Smyte’s character to make several offensive gas oven jokes that really should have been excised by the editor before publication. Anyway, I can only assume editor Van Hise indulged Rosa because he contributed so many other more entertaining items to the fanzine. But still...Pertwillaby Papers was the shits.
The other semi-regular strip was Twilight Of The Heroes (#141-142), written and drawn by Ron Wilber. Ostensibly it’s a pre-Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe story where a bunch of DC and Marvel heroes are murdered one by one by a mysterious villain. Wilber uses the strip to fulfil his two fantasies in life: to see the two big companies’ characters fight alongside each other (Sub-Mariner with Aquaman, Batman with Captain America, etc) and to draw Wonder Woman topless. He “succeeds” on both counts. *clapclapclap*
#141 also includes a remarkable eight-page tale titled The Secret Files Of Dr Drew, reprinted from Rangers Comics (c.1949-50). It was written and drawn by Jerry Grandenetti, but at first glance it looks like it was the work of Will Eisner. Not surprising, really, as Jerry ghosted on The Spirit in the late 40s. Beautiful, pre-Code spookiness.
#142 celebrates Spielberg’s new movie with a short strip titled Close Encounters Of The Nerd Kind (Writers: Jim Jones & Ronald Wilber/Artist: Ronald Wilber), which looks at an alien masquerading as a human who plays an alien on a TV show. Cute idea.
#148 has the fascinating first instalment of The Mutant Handbook, an illustrated essay about the X-Men, written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Scott McLeod.
#150 has a special Fred Hembeck strip titled The Fred Hembeck No One Cares About, detailing his painful attempt to be a non-humorous superhero artist, which ended in one brutal meeting with hack DC inker Vince Colletta. Looking at his original “serious” art, I’m glad Mr Hembeck stuck with the funny stuff.
That same issue has Inside The RBCC!, a bit of whimsy by Wilber to celebrate the milestone issue.
There’s also The RBCC Artists’ Jam, starring Hembeck, Rosa and a few future superstars like Marc Hempel, Hilary Barta, RC Harvey, Kerry Gammill, Dennis Fujitake, Bret Blevins and Steve Bissette.
Bissette also contributes a one-page artists’ profile that’s the most professional artwork in all the RBCCs I read.
There’s a bonus Pertwillaby Papers centrespread which isn’t half-bad, because it features Giger’s Alien murdering most of the cast.
Finally, Jim Kuzee contributes Future History Comic Chronicles, a bit of sci-fi fluff that was pretty far off the mark about what would become of Marvel and DC in the future of “2000”.
7. The Black Vortex: Alpha (Marvel, 2015) ***½
Writer: Sam Humphries/Artists: Ed McGuinness with Kris Anka, Mark Farmer, Jay Leisten & Mark Morales
The new X-Men/Guardians Of The Galaxy crossover at least has a sense of humour to it, which makes it far more readable than the usual X-Men tosh. I don’t like the new demonic look of The Beast, though.
8. The United States Of Murder Inc. #6 (Icon, 2015) ****
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
9.-14. C.O.W.L. #2-7 (Image, 2014) ****
Writer: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel/Artists: Rod Reis (interiors #2-7), St├ęphane Perger (#4), Elsa Charretier (#6); Trevor McCarthy (cover)
15.-35. Marvel Masterworks: The Fantastic Four Vol. 1 (Marvel, 2009) & Marvel Essential: The Fantastic Four Vol. 1 (Marvel, 2008) *****
- originally published in The Fantastic Four #1-20 & Annual #1 (Marvel, 1961-63)
Writer: Stan Lee/Artists: Jack Kirby & friends
This is kinda weird. Without a doubt, this is a classic superhero comic told by the industry’s two biggest legends. But there’s no doubt that re-reading them 54 years later does reveal some...shortcomings to the title. Lee focuses so much on dumb intra-quartet bickering that it wears thin pretty quick. Invisible Girl is depicted as truly feeble and worthless. The team’s origin is just so fucking dumb. Did NO-ONE notice that a scientist, his girlfriend and her 16yo brother were stealing a space ship to ‘beat the Commies” to outer space. Isn’t that a criminal offence?
Surprisingly, Kirby’s art comes across as quite primitive (compared to what he went on to produce in the mid-to-late 60s), not helped by some shoddy inking by the likes of Dick Ayers and Sol Brodsky (the one exception comes in FF #13 when the inking is handled by Steve Ditko, who does a “Wally Wood” and stamps his own inimitable style to Kirby’s pencils).
And while I should appreciate the relative diversity of super-villains on display in these first 21 issues (as opposed to, say, Fawcett’s Captain Marvel, which featured Dr Sivana practically every issue), there’s still waaaaaay too much Sub-Mariner and Doctor Doom in these early issues.
That said, I KNOW that these were revolutionary stories back in 1961, so I need to look at them from that perspective rather than my jaded 2015 perspective.
And y’know, if I do that, these stories fucking rock.
36. The Woods #10 (BOOM!, 2015) ***
Writer: James Tynion IV/Artist: Michael Dialynas
37.-38. The New 52: Future’s End #40-41 (DC, 2015) ***¾
Writers/artists: various
40.-45. Outcast Vol. 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him (Image, 2015) ****
- originally published in Outcast #1-6 (Image, 2014-15)
Writer; Robert Kirkman/Artist: Paul Azaceta
46. The Mystery Play (Vertigo, 1994) ***¼
Writer: Grant Morrison/Artist: Jon J. Muth
One of Grant’s more pretentious, obscure comics. An escaped lunatic masquerades as a cop while attempting to solve the murder of “God”, the star of a small-town passion play. Yep, pretty pretentious.
47. Neil Gaiman’s Only The End Of The World Again (Oni Press, 2000) ***½
- originally published in Oni Double Feature #6-8 (Oni Press, 1998)
Writers: Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell/Artist: Troy Nixey
48.-51. Fury: My War Gone By #10-13 (Marvel, 2013) ****
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artist: Goran Parlov
52. Barbarians And Beauties #1 (AC Comics, 1990) *
Writers: unknown/Artists: Joe Orlando & Wally Wood, John Giunta, Sid Greene, Larsen
Old Avon reprints from the early 1950s. Unremarkable, dull stuff, even the Captain Science strip featuring some primiive Orlando art inked by Wood.
53. The Age Of Heroes #3 (Image, 1997) **¾
Writer: James D. Hudnall/Artist: John Ridgway
Innocuous B&W sci-fantasy that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Warrior magazine 15 years earlier.
54. Vertigo Double Shot: Young Liars/House Of Mystery (Vertigo, 2008) ****
- originally published in Young Liars #1 & House Of Mystery #1 (Vertigo, 2008)
Young Liars: Writer/artist: David Lapham
House Of Mystery: Writer: Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham/Artists: Luca Rossi, Ross Campbell (interior) Sam Weber (cover)
House Of Mystery is genuinely disturbing. I’ll try to buy the first volume one day. I already have Young Liars Vol. 1 – the first issue was excellent.
55.-58. The Squidder #1-4 (IDW, 2014) **¾
Writer/artist: Ben Templesmith
I love Ben’s artwork but he proves once again that he can’t write very well.
59.-63. God Hates Astronauts #1-5 (Image, 2014-15) ***¾
Writer: Ryan Browne/Artists: Jordan Boyd (interior); Ryan Browne (main covers)
64.-67. Imperial #1-4 (Image, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Steven T. Seagle/Artist: Mark Dos Santos
If you had to choose to be the world’s only superhero and have the best girlfriend in the world, what would you choose? Surprisingly, the working-class schlubs in this miniseries gives up God-like powers for some chick. Go figure.
68. The Mighty Thor #199 (Marvel, 1972) ***½
Writer: Gerry Conway/Artists: John Buscema & Vince Colletta
The very first comic I ever owned. Distribution in Australian newsagencies was so spotty in the 70s, however, that I never saw Thor #200.
69.-76. Caper #5-12 (DC, 2004) ***
Writer: Judd Winick/Artists: John Severin (#5-8); Tom Fowler (#9-12)
Fun crime reads and Severin’s art is a joy to behold, but these final eight issues aren’t a patch on the opening arc.
77.-80. Justice Society of America #1-4 (DC, 2007) ***½
Writer: Geoff Johns/Artists: Dale Eaglesham (pencils) & Art Thibert (inks #1) & Ruy Jose (inks #2-4); Alex Ross (cover)
I gave up on the previous JSA series, but I finally picked up the start of the second modern-day run of my fave super-group, some reason. It was alright, but I doubt I’ll pick up the rest of the run, especially as it’s all been retrospectively erased by the New 52.
81. Justice League United #10 (DC, 2015) ***
Writer: Jeff Lemire/Artists: Neil Edwards, Jay Leisten & Keith Champagne
82. Justice League 3000 #14 (DC, 2015) ***½
Writers: Keith Giffen & JM DeMatteis/Artists: Andy Kuhn (interior); Howard Porter (cover)
83. Guardians Of The Galaxy #24 (Marvel, 2015) ***¼
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Valerio Schiti
The Black Vortex crossover continues. Not sure what to make of it so far.
84. Image Firsts: Wytches #1 (Image, 2014-15) ***¾
Writer: Scott Snyder/Artist: Jock
This is pretty damn horrifying. I’m gonna have to buy the first trade when it comes out.  
85. Wild’s End #6 (BOOM!, 2015) ***½
Writer: Dan Abnett/Artist: LNJ Culbard
An interesting take on the War Of The Worlds mythology comes to a somewhat abrupt end, as if Abnett got word that sales were poor and decided to wrap up the storyline before the series was axed. This issue felt very rushed.
86. Guardians 3000 #5 (Marvel, 2015) ***¾
Writer: Dan Abnett/Artist: Gerardo Sandoval (interior), Alex Ross (cover)
87. Southern Bastards #7 (Image, 2015) ****
Writer: Jason Aaron/Artist: Jason Latour
88-89. She-Hulk #11-12 (Marvel, 2015) ***½
Writer: Charles Soule/Artists: Javier Pulido (interior); Kevin Wada (cover)
So this series wasn’t axed after all. It was always meant to be a 12-issue maxiseries. That’s a relief – still, shame it’s gone. Series ended a bit flat, but it’s nice to know that She-Hulk and friends will still have a supporting role in the new Howard The Duck series.

90. Savage Sword of Criminal (Image, 2015) *****
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Sean Phillips
This loving homage to Marvel’s B&W magazine line in the 1970s is glorious. Phillips slips in and out of his usual Criminal art style (which is the main story set in the 70s) to the more psychedelic, Spanish/Filipino-styled barbarian artwork we saw in Conan and even the Warren B&W titles. Phillips even apes a Joe Jusko-style cover. This is a fucking masterpiece.

91. The Castaways (Absence Of Ink Comic Press, 2002) ****¾
Writer: Rob Vollmar/Artist: Pablo G. Callejo
I read about this graphic novel in an ad in Farel Dalrymple’s Pop Gun War comic. Looked intriguing and I found a cheap copy at Lone Star ( Set in America during the Depression, it’s about a boy who leaves home on a quest to make money to send home to his struggling family. Along the way, he befriends an old black hobo and learns the brutal reality of riding the rails in the 1930s. It’s a short, harsh-but-beautiful tale. A forgotten gem that deserves to be rediscovered by a larger audience.
92. Marvel Superheroes #7 (Marvel, 1991) ½* (for Steve Ditko’s art)
Writers/artists: various
This 100-page anthology sums up all that was horrible and shitty about Marvel (and DC) in the early 90s. Grim, bitter superheroes...psychotic supervillains...brutal deaths of innocents...inept writing and shitty art by no-name talent, most of whom I’ve never heard of (Barry Dutter? Larry Alexander? Gary Hartle?)...blurgh. Naturally, to sell the thing to gullible punters, the lead story stars the X-Men. Then there’s crappy back-up tales featuring C-grade superheroes like Cloak & Dagger, The Shroud (partially redeemed due to Ditko’s pencils, the only decent thing in the whole comic) and Marvel Boy. The latter tale was the only reason why I bought the bloody thing because it features a pro wrestling storyline. I’m such a mark for pro wrestling...
93.-96. Power & Glory #1-3, Power & Glory Holiday Special (Malibu, 1994) **
Writer/artist: Howard Chaykin
Howie tries to do an “adult” superhero yarn, which boils down to soft-core sex scenes, a tranny bad guy and pedo jokes. Also, Chaykin just isn’t a very good writer, even though the idea of a government-made, fake superhero for marketing pruposes is interesting. His art is nice, but overall Chaykin’s yarn is a FAIL.
97.-99. Hercules Unbound #1, 7-8 (DC, 1975-77) **
Writers/artists: various
All for the Wally Woods inks, man. All for the inks.
100. Evaristo: Deep City (Catalan, 1986) **¾
Writer: Francisco Solano Lopez/Artist: Carlos Sampayo
Cops’n’crime short story collection set in Argentina. Lots of brutality, official corruption and unexpected pathos. I feel these Argentine stories have lost something in the translation, but Sampayo’s B&W art is gorgeous. And hell, I only paid $1 for it.
101. Sex #8 (Image, 2013) DUD
Writer: Joe Casey/Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Well, after finally reading the final issue of the first arc, I can safely say that this is THE MOST OVERRATED COMIC BEING PUBLISHED TODAY. And Joe Casey is a self-absorbed shithead with an overblown opinion of himself, his writing ability and his “place” in the comic industry. This final issue was boring and anticlimactic, probably a bit like having sex with Casey. Luckily, it was over quickly...which is probably a bit like having sex with Casey as well. Utter shit.
102. Drawn And Quarterly #9 (Drawn And Quarterly, 1992) ***½
Writers/artists: various
A mixed bag of an anthology, starring the likes of David Mazzucchelli, Peter Kuper and Seth. The highlight is Michael Dougan’s “Kentucky Fried Funeral”, a grim, blackly comic tale of the author’s time working in a funeral home while suffering a relationship (and mental) breakdown. I mean, I assume it’s autobiographical.
103. Merchants Of Death #1 (Eclipse, 1988) *½
Writers/artists: various
Middling war and action tales from Euro-creators, plus an out-of-place spy yarn written by a young Kurt Busiek.
104. Breckinridge Elkins: Mountain Man (, 2010-14) ****
Writers: Robert E. Howard (original story) & Gary Chaloner (adaptation)/Artist: Gary Chaloner
This is a 30-page online story adapted from the original book by the creator of Conan the Barbarian. It’s a classic tall tale about a backwoods bumpkin in rural America, a case of mistaken identity, a bare-knuckle fist fight and a bunch of gun-toting, trigger-happy cowboys. It’s funny and silly, but Chaloner’s art is a joy to behold. I’m glad he finally got around to finishing it. It was reprinted in Savage Sword #7-9 (Dark Horse, 2014).
105. Heavy Metal Vol. XVII No. IV (Metal Mammoth Inc., 1992) ***
Writers/artists: various
Richard Corben, Garry Leach, Bill Sienkiewicz, Rick Geary and a complete edition of Serpieri’s Druuna: Creatura. And yet, the mag is still kinda...meh.
106. Weirdo #10 (Last Gasp, 1984) ***½
Writers/artists: various

Crumb! Bagge! Beaut underground-style goodness!