10 THINGS I LIKE ABOUT MARCH 2011 COMICS (and a couple I’m not too crazy about) Part 2

by KC Carlson

Part 1 of this column ran last week. #1 was Marvel’s Fear Itself and #2 was DC Archive: Sugar and Spike Volume 1.


Genius, Isolated

Genius, Isolated


3. Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth: Yeah, I know I already recommended this a few months ago, but there’s some big news regarding the project, and the news is so exciting, it requires an even bigger recommendation. Due to the discovery of more amazing material in the Toth family archives, the project is expanding into a three-volume set, to be released as individual books. The newly reassembled first 288-page volume will now cover Toth’s early work and career, including his DC art from the 1940s, his amazing work at Standard, incredible Zorro comics from the 1950s, as well as — for the first time — the complete Jon Fury stories that Toth produced while in the army. Rare pages — including unfinished and unpublished work — are also included, as well as art and photographs provided by the Toth family.

Written by Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell, the text will feature material from dozens of interviews with Toth’s friends, peers, and family members. The goal is to provide a wide-ranging look at one of the most influential (and opinionated!) creators of comics. In his later years, Toth became well-known for his amazing (and frequently scathing) personal letters, essays for publication, and letters to the editor — almost all of them handwritten in Toth’s unique lettering style, and many of them illustrated with doodles or sketch examples of what he was trying to convey.

Volume two (scheduled for October) will feature Toth in the 1960s, including an extensive look at his work as a character designer in animation, as well as his return to comics in the 1970s and beyond.

The third volume, and the one I’m most excited about, will be a wide-ranging art book, primarily reproducing hundreds of Toth’s amazing model sheets for Hanna Barbera (Space Ghost, Dino Boy, Jonny Quest, Herculoids, Super Friends, Fantastic Four, and many others), as well as full-color presentation pieces designed to sell the series to networks. A slipcase for all three books will also be available with the third book.

You’re going to hear a lot about Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth over the next year or so, including seeing it listed on a lot of Best Of lists and awards ballots. It promises to be one of the most fascinating, enlightening, and important comic history projects of the year. Don’t miss it. It’s the kind of project worth buying a new bookcase for! Published by IDW.

(By the way, all previous orders for the first solicitation of this book have been cancelled, due to this huge overhaul in its content. Please reorder this on the current order form to guarantee you’ll get one hot off the presses!)

For more Toth this month, check out Fantagraphics’ Setting the Standard: Alex Toth, a 416-page anthology of Toth’s crime, horror, SF, war, and romance work for Standard Comics from 1952-54, including an essay on Toth by Greg Sadowski based on Toth’s letters and interviews. All of the artwork is in full color and restored.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on Genius, Isolated come back on Thursday, January 13 for our interview with Dean Mullaney.)


Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour

Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour


4. Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour: Today, Matt Baker is largely unknown to all but hardcore comic historians, Golden Age fans, and “Good Girl” art aficionados. Which is an incredible shame, as the artist (who died at the age of 37) left behind an astounding legacy of work, including, arguably, the first graphic novel — 1950’s It Rhymes With Lust. Baker is also one of the earliest recorded African-American artists in the field, and his work — including the best-known incarnation of the Phantom Lady — is much admired and influential. Despite being inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2009, little is known about him, and few are aware of his work. That’s about to change with the publication of Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour, written by Michael Eury (Dick Giordano: Changing Comics, One Day At A Time, Captain Action: The Original Super-Hero Action Figure) — a 192-page hardcover history of the artist and his work. Published by TwoMorrows and highly recommended.


Ruse

Ruse


5. Other Marvel Goings-On: A blast from the past: Crossgen, last seen in 2004 before going out of business (and ultimately bought by Disney), is being revived as an imprint of another Disney-owned company, Marvel Comics. Beginning in March, two Crossgen titles are being revived as four-issue miniseries. Ruse is written by its original writer, Mark Waid, with art by Mirco Pierfederici, and covers by the original Ruse artist Butch Guice. Sigil, one of Crossgen’s first series, is being revived by writer Mike Carey and penciller Leonard Kirk. Hope this leads to more Crossgen projects in the future! . . . Spider-Man (or at least Ultimate Spider-Man) is no more, he has ceased to be, he’s shuffled off the mortal coil and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible! (Or, if we need to spell it out, he’s dead!) It happens in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #156, and original Ultimate Spidey artist Mark Bagley is back just in time to pencil this momentous issue. Word on the street is that the death is for reals! And yet the book isn’t being cancelled. Watch for writer Brian Bendis to really show off his Spider Lore expertise with this storyline! . . . Artist Alan Davis teams with Young Avengers writer Allan Heinberg for a special Avengers: The Children’s Crusade – Young Avengers one-shot, featuring a new, alternative Young Avengers team. Is this not Marvel’s most entertainingly convoluted series ever? (At least since the original Excalibur series?) I love it! . . . Amazing Spider-Man #657 features a special tribute/follow-up to the fallen Fantastic Four member from the “Three” storyline, for a very private wake . . . Annihilators #1 is the first of a four-part mini featuring some of Marvel’s star-spanning heroes in a special 48-page, two-feature title. Up front is the new Annihilators team of Silver Surfer, Beta-Ray Bill, Gladiator, Quasar, and Ronan vs. the Dire Wraiths! In the back are the wacked-out adventures of Rocket Raccoon and Groot the, uh, walking, talking tree! Both series are written by the cosmic team of D ‘n’ A (Dan Abnet and Andy Lanning), with art by Tan Eng Huat and Timothy Green II. There are two covers — one of which is an awesome Rocket Raccoon & Groot cover by Mike Mignola! . . . Marvel Annual crossovers are back as Uncanny X-Men Annual #3 (this month’s listings), Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier Annual #1 (next month), and Namor: The First Mutant Annual #1 (soon) all combine to tell the tale of “Escape From the Negative Zone!” . . . Venom is starring in his very own ongoing series beginning this month. Is that possible? I guess those billions and billions of miniseries all just blended together in my head . . . Peter Milligan is writing a new five-issue weekly miniseries called 5 Ronin featuring Wolverine, Psylocke, Punisher, Hulk, and Deadpool(?) in a story set in 17th century Japan. Sounds wacky to me, but the various covers (by David Mack, David Aja, John Cassady, and others) are absolutely gorgeous. But you’ve already read about this in Roger’s interview with Milligan last week (and if not, go check it out!) . . . Don’t forget FF #1 — a new beginning (of what we assume is the old Fantastic Four title, although considering what’s happening in the book, FF may have a whole new meaning now!). It’s by the same great (old FF) creative team of Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting.


Comic Book Marketplace

Comic Book Marketplace


6. Zines: One of my favorite magazines about comics history makes a special one-shot comeback this month. Comic Book Marketplace returns with a look at the fascinating history of the Atlas/Seaboard line of comics, which for a short period in the 1970s managed to briefly lure many of comics’ top talents away from Marvel and DC. Atlas itself reformed last year to release new versions of The Grim Ghost and Phoenix, and more projects are promised in 2011. The Comic Book Marketplace Special features a reprint of Howard Chaykin’s cover for the original Scorpion #1 from 1975 . . . Also returning from limbo is The Comics Journal #301, now recast as a 624-page book of criticism, interviews, debate, commentary, and history. Al Jaffee and Joe Sacco are interviewed, and Robert Crumb’s Genesis is dissected by a panel of six critics, among other features . . . Also super-sized this month is Alter Ego #100, a 160-page edition featuring an interview with writer/editor Roy Thomas on his DC Comics projects in the 1990s (All-Star Squadron, Arak, and Captain Carrot, just to name a few), plus all the regular magazine features.


Superstar: As Seen On TV

Superstar: As Seen On TV


7. Superstar: As Seen on TV: I’m so glad that IDW is keeping these great Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen projects from the wonderful, lamented Gorilla line in print. (Their other Gorilla project, Shockrockets, was reprinted last year.) Superstar, a hero literally powered by popularity, was sadly the last comic published by Gorilla. This volume reprints that one-shot, plus a short story featuring his brother, as well as a feature detailing the complete development of the character with lots of never-before-seen artwork, including character designs by Alan Davis and Paul Ryan. As I mentioned earlier, Stuart Immonen is currently drawing what will most likely be Marvel’s hottest series this year (Fear Itself), and Kurt Busiek has some amazing new projects just around the corner, one of which will make fans of Superman: Secret Identity (another great Busiek/Immonen project! although currently out of print — Boo, DC!) very happy. Busiek is also the creator of the devastatingly brilliant Astro City, which has happily survived all the recent Wildstorm shakeups and will continue at DC.


Jimmy Olsen #1

Jimmy Olsen #1


8. DC Round-Up: The big news at DC this month is that they’re holding the line at a $2.99 cover price for all of their standard, monthly, 32-page comic titles — plus bringing back lettercolumns in the near future! First, there’s a little cleanup to do from some of their popular, displaced back-up features . . . The recently dumped Jimmy Olsen back-up from Action Comics is being collected and finished in Jimmy Olsen #1, an 80-page book reprinting the stories from Action Comics #893-896 with an additional 30 new pages by Nick Spencer, RB Silva, and DYM. Considering that this was one of the better stories DC did last year, I hope the creators (and Jimmy!) get a shot at a ongoing title! . . . Another displaced back-up feature gets wrapped up in Giant-Size Atom #1, a 56-page one-shot continued from Adventure Comics . . . Former Milestone character Xombi returns to the DC Universe in a new ongoing title by writer John Rozum (Xombi’s co-creator, with Denys Cowan) and artist Frazier Irving promising contemporary urban horror . . . There are not one but two Super-Flash team-ups this month. Superman meets Barry Allen in Superman #709, and Superboy races Kid Flash for the first time in Superboy #5 . . . Darwyn Cooke illustrates a story for Vertigo’s House of Mystery #35 . . . Three new megastories are currently gearing up at DC this month: War of the Green Lanterns, Road to Flashpoint, and Reign of Doomsday. I wish I could get excited about any of them, but the anchor books for the first two (Green Lantern and The Flash) have both been running very late, and well, not really up to their usual high quality. (Perhaps writer Geoff Johns is overwhelmed by his new corporate responsibilities?) I’m not very excited by the prospect of them being either good or on time. Reign of Doomsday features DC’s most boring villain ever — Doomsday. Being an unstoppable engine of destruction is a great quality for video game foes, not so much for comic books, especially when they keep bringing him back over and over and over again. Besides, this era of the Justice League of America is the worst lineup of characters since the infamous Detroit-era of the series. So a boring team of heroes vs. a boring villain just isn’t my idea of an exciting comic book. Sorry DC, boring fight books are a dime-a-dozen, so not even worth it for holding the line at $2.99. The low cover price IS appreciated — it’s just better stories would be even more so.


Godzilla: Monster World

Godzilla: Monster World


9. Godzilla: Monster World #1: I’m not 10 years old any more, but my inner child is all over Godzilla: Monster World #1 — mostly for the promise that for the first time in comic books, lots of the other beloved (really?) Toho movie monsters will be showing up with him! So. Very. Cool!!! I’m guessing that there will be lots of destruction and lots of RRRRRRROWWWWWWLLLLL-ing going on, so that will probably be enough plot for most of you! I will miss the most appealing aspects of the Toho flicks — the horrible/comical out-of-sync dubbing of the American versions. Although if anybody in comics could manage to pull that off in print, I’m guessing that the mad genius of Eric Powell (The Goon) would be the one to do it! Powell is writing the RRRRRRROWWWWWWLLLLLs for Phil Hester to illustrate, so a good time is probably guaranteed for all. Alex Ross is providing a variant cover — and checking off another icon on his Icon Checklist. (“Superman. Check. Captain America. Check. Godzilla. YIPPIE!!!”). It’s from IDW. For best results, check your brain at the door.


Godzilla #24

Godzilla #24


(For my money, the very best Godzilla appearance in comics has got to be Dum Dum Dugan vs. a temporally reduced-in-size Godzilla in a (more-or-less) boxing match in an NYC alley in the pages of Marvel Comics’ 1970s late, lamented Godzilla, King of the Monsters title (which was, essentially, a Nick Fury-less S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. Godzilla series). One of my favorite covers of all time comes from the last issue of the series — it depicts Godzilla walking off into the sunset (after obviously destroying a city). I get a lump in my throat — or is that heartburn? — every time I think about it.)


Fighting American

Fighting American


10. The Round-up: I’d also recommend the Fighting American collection from Titan Books, but Bob Greenberger beat me to it! Don’t miss his look at Howard Cruse’s The Complete Wendel coming soon! . . . Hellraiser’s not really my kinda thing, but if you can look at that guy without literally getting a headache, then you should check out the new series from BOOM! (as well as Westfield’s contest for a chance at a 1-in-50 cover, signed by Clive Barker himself!) . . . Fans of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse should check out Dark Horse’s Dollhouse: Epitaphs. I had a kinda love-hate thing with the show (loved most of the characters, hated the concept), so I feel uncomfortable with a full-out rave on the sight-unseen comic version, but I don’t want all you Dollhouse/Whedon fans to miss out hearing about it! . . . I don’t know how many serious romance comics fans are left out there, but Agonizing Love: The Golden Era of Romance Comics – a 208-page full-color softcover anthology of vintage romance covers, advertisements, advice columns, quizzes, and complete stories from the late 1940s and 1950s — looks like it might be a massive sob-fest. Just in time for Valentine’s Day!

KC CARLSON is not really mad at anyone. He just wants better comic books. Is that really so much to ask? He works, thinks, and acts alone, so if you think he said something dumb here, it’s not really Westfield’s fault. Also, if used incorrectly, he may cause dry skin.

Marvel Godzilla cover from the Grand Comics Database.

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  1. KC’s January Previews Thoughts » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] up on last week’s column, KC this week at Westfield wanders through the rest of the January Previews catalog. He quickly covers the Toth book, another on Matt Baker, Marvel, DC, magazines, and more — [...]

  2. JennyN Says:

    Thank you so much for highlighting the Toth and Baker books. Both are now too little known – especially Baker – and both were terrific (and often subtle) artists. Here’s hoping this is just the beginning of serious revivals for them.

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