08 January 2010

This and that, and the Always Popular Other Thing II.

Hello, TWC readers! Been a while, I know. I'm not doing a whole lot of writing about anything these days at present, and that includes comics. But in the interest of not making Chris Allen (who admittedly is worth any five other writers, no doubt about it) alone provide content, I decided I'd take up a microscopic bit of slack and cobble together one of those helter skelter type listy blog postish things, with my thoughts on a few comics-related topics, and pass it on to you. And if you're reading this, then no one objected. So:

ITEM! I haven't been completely silent in the last couple of months; I did manage to cobble together a personal best of 2009 and the decade 2000-2009 at my sadly neglected blog. Some of my selections are not the usual suspects. Go read 'em if you dare, I mean, like!

ITEM! One of the many things about the Comics Industry As We Know It Today that leaves me scratching my head is why in god's name DC (and to a lesser extent, Marvel) continues to kill trees to publish comic books that everyone and their grandmother knows won't sell worth a damn, and will last a year maybe if the stars and planets align just so. And this is no indictment of the quality of these books, far from it. Many of them are well worth your time, but they feature unknown or obscure characters, along with not-quite-household-name creators, so your average X-fan or mega-event junkie doesn't want to know, and more importantly doesn't care. So your Blue Beetles, Magogs, Simon Darks, Manhunters, and so forth come and go, and their passing is marked by the occasional "You know, that was a pretty good comic. Too bad nobody bought it." type remark from some august comics commenter in a Tweet or message board post, and then it's soon forgotten, a la Trouble Magnet, Relative Heroes, Body Doubles, Trigger, and so on. Another such title, recently concluded as of its 12th issue, which came out just yesterday, is The Mighty, by Peter J. Tomasi, Pete Snejbjerg, and Chris Samnee. And y'know what? That was a pretty good comic. Too bad nobody bought it. One of what seems to be a plethora of "What if Superman was really an evil asshole"-type storylines out for fanman consumption right now, this one wisely focused on this particular Superguy's Jimmy Olsen analogue (name of Gabriel) and his struggle to solve not only what happened to his predecessors in the official "Alpha" (the Bad Supes' name in this) military/police/civilian liaison organization, but also his gradual realization that Earth's protector hasn't got anyone's best interests in mind but his own, and how to keep his own head on its shoulders (as well as that of his wife's) if Alpha finds out that he suspects. When we do find out what's what, it works on a couple of levels: not only do we root for and sympathize with the mostly likable Gabe, but it also almost achieves a Miller/Moore sort of gravitas as far as the problem of what to do when the superperson ostensibly looking out for you doesn't necessarily have your best interest in mind. At first, it was ably illustrated by the underrated Snejbjerg, but he mysteriously bailed after a handful of issues, and the decision makers wisely chose to tap up-and-coming Samnee, who brought it home in fine fashion, sticking to the mood and feel his predecessor established, but surpassing him as far as expressiveness, dynamic action and staging. The question remains-- was the "throw enough shit at the wall" theory in effect? Did they honestly think that the comics-buying marketplace would go for this? Was it a personal favor to Tomasi, who's been a good DC soldier for some time now? Does he have incriminating photos? Were they thinking that Snejbjerg is one of those "fan-favorite" artists because of his impressive run on Starman and the little-read (but not bad) Vertigo minseries Light Brigade, also with Tomasi? Why did this come out under the aegis of DC Comics, when it had nothing to do with their usual mainstream continuity clusterfuck and more closely resembled a WildStorm title? We may never know. I suppose this willingness to sail these tiny paper boats out on the vast uncaring fanman/woman lake is preferable to putting out yet another Batman, Superman or Green Lantern title (they do plenty of that as it is)-- it still shows that they're at least willing to try and get some variety out there. But how much longer can this go on?

ITEM! Looks like the great Brother Voodoo as Sorcerer Supreme experiment is over before it really began. Now why exactly should you care, I hear you ask, and I understand your skepticism...but even though I'm guilty of not buying his book (I'm sorry, screw Bendis, I'm a Doc Strange fan) I do have an affinity for the fringe DC and Marvel characters, a club of which Jericho Drumm is definitely a member, and even after all these years, I still like seeing these characters come back and be used in new stories-- that is unless they're treated with condescension and scorn. So while on some level I was pleased to see Brother V pop up in stuff like Marvel Divas and in his own book, it's too bad he couldn't sustain it. I guess it's true-- the market just doesn't seem to want to support a magic-user based title, any more than it does the War or Western genres. Too bad for them.

ITEM! You guys all know that the title Girl Comics is meant to be ironic and tongue-in-cheek, right? Anyway, the first two covers have been great, especially Jill Thompson's, and I'm looking forward to this coming out.

ITEM! Giffen's Doom Patrol, the latest attempt to perpetuate the licensed property I mean give us a worthwhile take on the venerable super-team, is actually pretty good and indeed worth your while to check out. Giffen plays up the anti-social, misanthropic side to the characters, even more so than Grant Morrison did (his were positively warm and fuzzy compared to the surly Giffen DP), and all the rancor makes it surprisingly compelling, never more so than in the recent Blackest Night tie-in, which was by far the most interesting of any of what I've read to date, an admittedly incomplete sample set. By comparison, the enervating Blackest Night: JSA #1 was one of the worst superhero comics I've read in many a moon, full of bland, uninspired, excessively Photoshopped artwork and cliche-spouting characters, all going through the motions in predictable fashion. At first, I was mildly interested in the whole BN hoohah, since it did seem to have the courage of its convictions at least, but since the early issues it seems to have devolved into a showcase for the novelty of dead supercharacters coming back to harangue their living former friends and loved ones, as well as being preoccupied with wretched uniforms and color coding, often coming across as something conceived by an eight-year-old playing with action figures in his sandbox. Yes, I had a sandbox, why do you ask? Anyway, the most depressing thing about it is that once again, Doug Mahnke is being wasted.

ITEM! Here's a belated observance of the passing of the great illustrator David Levine, whose work I first saw as a child in an illustrated version of Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He was a caricaturist without peer, and I liked his fine-line, exaggerated style very much.

ITEM! I've been buying Love and Rockets for a long damn time now, since 1992 or so, and most of you who know me know it's been mainly for Jaime Hernandez's work and not so much his brother Gilbert's, for reasons mostly art-related although I do find Jaime's more grounded Hoppers stuff more palatable that Gilbert's often surreal and chaotic Palomar and Luba stories. But this Troublemakers looks kinda interesting, mostly, I must admit, due to the underrated Rick Altergott's cover. I understand it's a sort of Pulp Fiction type thing, apparently featuring illustrated versions of the movies that his character "Fritz" Martinez has starred in. I haven't seen any recent reviews of it; I originally saw it solicited for June of 2008, and a more recent CBR feature, with preview pages, says it was scheduled to come out last month. So I guess the upshot is that despite my preference for Jaime, I think I'll pick this up when I see it, if I see it.

AND THEN: No more and then! Thanks for reading, and I'll try not to be so DC/Marvel-centric next time.

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Blogger Alan David Doane said...

The Troublemakers is a great crime comic, with Beto's unique point of view along for the wild ride. You'll like it, methinks!

January 8, 2010 4:01 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

I agree with Alan. Troublemakers is a fantastic con story.

January 8, 2010 6:36 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Mahnke is being wasted on Blackest Night. Hopefully he's finally making some good money, and finding new fans.

January 9, 2010 10:35 PM  
Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

I KNEW you weren't dead, just crazy, picking the Pussycats over the Jets after the Jets had stomped them the week before.

January 11, 2010 6:10 AM  
Blogger Johnny B said...

Rog: Well...I thought the Bengals were tanking in week 17, and would show up this weekend. WRONG

Phil: I hope so too!

Scott, ADD: I plan to read it soon, and we'll see!

January 11, 2010 10:02 AM  

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