The Double Dark, Smashy, Dive-Like-a-Porpoise, Zombie, Headmen, Soldiers Fighting Dinosaurs, I Say, I Say, Super Family Edition
by KC Carlson
MARVEL COMICS: The two big giant things this month at Marvel are the same ones that you’ve been hearing about for months: Avengers vs. X-Men and all of the Avengers movie tie-ins, the loopiest of which appears to be the five-part weekly Hulk Smash Avengers series, which looks back at the long history of Hulk vs. Avengers battles. Each issue covers a specific decade of publication history, produced by an all-star line-up including Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz, Joe Casey, and Michael Avon Oeming. Covers are by Lee Weeks. It’s Smashariffic!
OTHER MARVEL TIDBITS: Avenging Spider-Man #7 features a night out for Spidey and She-Hulk (the original green one) by the wife/writer and husband/artist team of Katherine and Stuart Immonen. So it probably won’t be a typical night out . . . This month’s Marvel Masterworks offering is The Defenders Volume 3 — notable as the beginning of Steve Gerber’s classic run on the title. The book is jam-packed, as besides the regular Defenders issues, there are three issues of Giant-Size Defenders, two tie- in issues of Marvel Two-In-One, and three Atlas-era stories reprinting the first appearances of Gerber’s most memorable Defenders foes, the Headmen! Not for the literal-minded! . . . The long-sold-out New X-Men Omnibus is back for a new printing. The 1,120-page hardcover volume collects all of Grant Morrison’s acclaimed run as writer on the book, featuring art by Frank Quietly, Ethan Van Skiver, Leinil Francis Yu, Phil Jimenez, Chris Bachalo, and others . . . Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov take on Nick Fury in a new MAX series called (wait for it…) Fury MAX! The series features stunning covers by Dave Johnson. It’s set in the post-WWII era where a young Fury is running out of battles. I’m sure that something else will come up . . . Speaking of Fury, he and his pals (and Howard the Duck) are a big part of the new five-part zombie-fest Marvel Zombies Destroy! Are you ready for Ducky’s Dozen!? (As well as five issues of Nazi zombies!) . . . The Exiled one-shot is part one of five, with the rest of the story appearing in and crossing over the New Mutants and Journey Into Mystery titles. Long-time readers will recall that the New Mutants and Loki have a long history of conflicts . . . By the looks of the cover to Secret Avengers #27, the Scarlet Witch (and the Phoenix?) aren’t the only long-time-gone characters making a reappearance in AvX. Kree, I just don’t know what to think anymore…
ARE YOU SEEING DOUBLE? Yes, you are! Marvel has an unprecedented 25 titles shipping two issues this month — only one of which is regularly scheduled to be this way (Amazing Spider-Man). While Marvel’s rapid-release plan may be exciting for casual readers, fans of regular, ongoing, long-term creative teams are dealing with the frustration that many of these titles will be saddled with “fill-in” artists and/or writers, maybe not this month, but at some point soon, or in the recent past. For example, Chris Bachalo is on both issues of Wolverine and the X-Men this month, but only after a long string of issues drawn by other artists, so Bachalo could work ahead on these crucial AvX tie-ins. Am I crazy? Do regular, consistent, long-running creative teams no longer matter in the modern era? Or are epic runs by creators (Fantastic Four by Lee and Kirby, Ultimate Spider-Man by Bendis and Bagley) a thing of the past? Discuss.
While we’re at it, what about books like DC’s Brightest Day which required five to seven different pencillers (and countless inkers) to produce on a twice-monthly schedule? Is artistic inconsistency an acceptable trade-off for having more issues packed into a shorter amount of time?
Speaking of multiples, with his recent imaginary marriage to Valerie (of Josie and the Pussycats fame) in Archie #633, Archie Andrews is now on his third imaginary wife, all at the same time. (Betty and Veronica star in Life With Archie, of recent protest fame.) Who would have thought America’s Favorite Teenager would wind up a trigamist?!?
DC COMICS: The biggest news this month at DC is the debut of six new New 52 titles, including the return of the popular Batman Incorporated title written by Grant Morrison and two series set on Earth 2. (Old-school Earth-Two fans shouldn’t get too excited, though, since it’s a different alternate Earth by that name.)
I had high hopes for the James Robinson-written Earth Two (featuring the Justice Society), although recent DC propaganda has been discussing how “dark” the series is. Is “dark” the only gear that the current DC can operate in? You’d think with 52 different titles to work with, there would be more diversity of storytelling. But “dark” (or “seamy”) seem to be the only choices offered in many of the titles. Sad that.
I’m probably a little more upbeat about the new Worlds’ Finest title, staring the Earth-Two Power Girl and the Huntress, produced by a trio of old pros — Paul Levitz, George Pérez, and Kevin Maguire. Longtime fans of Levitz’s amazing work developing these two characters decades ago are now finally getting the title they wished for way back then. And these two artists are perfect for it. (Although I hope that they at least toss an occasional alternate cover Joe Staton’s way as a nostalgic treat.)
I’m curious about the new Dial H series, as I’m a huge fan of the original concept, silly as it was. (And yes, I was responsible for including the H-Dial in the Legionnaires series that I edited for DC in the 90s.) But this new take by China Mieville and Mateus Santolouco just screams “dark” to me. Maybe that won’t be such a bad thing, as it has two big mitigating factors in its favor — the series is edited by Karen Berger (who developed “dark” for DC with her Vertigo line) and displays amazing covers by Brian Bolland. As much as I liked the old, silly Robby Reed stories, I was also a fan of the decidedly “dark” 2003 H.E.R.O. series by Will Pfeifer and Kano.
Also new at DC this month is the revival of the G.I. Combat title and the “War That Time Forgot”/soldiers vs. dinosaurs concept, updated for this new title by J.T. Krul and Ariel Olivetti. This anthology title will also feature rotating back-ups spotlighting DC’s classic war features the Haunted Tank and — beginning in the first issue — the Unknown Soldier by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Dan Panosian . . . The Ravagers is a new super-team book with characters recently featured in both Superboy and Teen Titans. Fairchild (originally from Gen-13, but more recently known as “Red” in Superboy), brother and sister Thunder and Lightning, Ridge, Beast Boy, and Terra are on the run — pursued by Rose Wilson and Warblade, who both want them dead! It’s written by Howard Mackie (Ghost Rider, X-Factor) and Ian Churchill (Supergirl, Cable).
ALSO NEW: The long-awaited Batman: Earth One, an all-new 144-page graphic novel by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (Superman: Secret Origin) is now available for ordering. Set in the same universe as the best-selling Superman: Earth One, this new graphic novel offers fresh insight to the oft-told origin of Batman and the history of his first year as the Dark Knight. But why is Alfred Pennyworth determined to put an end to the Batman? Superman: Earth One was a near-instant sell-out. Don’t miss out on this new chapter of a new world . . . From the sad demise of Art Baltazar and Franco’s incredible Tiny Titans comes Superman Family Adventures — an all-new monthly all-ages comic with the same unique wackiness Art and Franco are known for. This series features all the classic Superman elements and characters (including Superman, Supergirl, Superboy, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Krypto! Plus all the silly and not-so silly villains!) reinterpreted for a younger audience — and beloved by the old one! A new era of awesome awesomeness begins!! . . . Smallville is not dead. The TV series lives on in the new ongoing series Smallville Season 11, by writer Bryan Q. Miller and artist Pere Perez.
ALSO OLD: My pick for archival collection of the month is the unlikely titled Showcase Presents Showcase collecting the first 21 issues of this historic Silver Age series, which introduced so many of DC’s great characters (The Flash, Challengers of the Unknown, Adam Strange, and Rip Hunter, Time Master). All of their early adventures are reprinted in this volume along with the seldom (or never!) reprinted adventures of Fireman Farrell, Kings of the Wild, The Frogmen, Manhunters (not the ones you’re thinking of), and Space Ranger. Add in the first two comics starring Lois Lane — and you’ve got Showcase Presents Showcase. Bob Greenberger will be here on Wednesday with more details!
ARTISTS REPRESENT!: There are a lot of great artist retrospectives available this month. First up, Big John Buscema: Comics and Drawings is a big 328-page full-color (and b&w) hardcover jam-packed with great artwork — including pages from The Avengers, Thor, Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer and, of course, Conan. This is the first American publication of Big John Buscema: Comics and Drawings, a special edition of a fine art catalog created for an extensive exhibition of Buscema’s work. It’s from the hard-working folks at IDW . . . Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture: A Career Retrospective sounds like a wonderful hardcover collection of the popular and multitalented artist. Work from his E.C. days, Mad, Humbug, and Trump magazines, movie posters, album covers (I own The Cowsills’ Greatest Hits because Davis illustrated the cover!) — plus early work from his college days and archive pieces that Davis doesn’t even remember! 192 color and b&w pages from Fantagraphics . . . Nick Cardy (now in his 90s with no signs of slowing down) has a new collection out — Wit-Lash — spotlighting his design sense and humor in his work. Each book also comes with a DVD featuring a sit-down interview and a Cardy sketch tutorial. You can get either a basic signed copy, or a Previews exclusive signed/sketch edition. 48 full-color pages (with DVD) from Eva Ink . . . BOOM’s got The Other Sides of Howard Cruse, a 228-page b&w hardcover, drawing from the last 25 years of Cruse’s distinctive work and career.
Not a retrospective, but an all-new work, The Lovely Horrible Stuff is a whimsical graphic essay about personal finance and money. It’s by Eddie Campbell, published by Top Shelf, featuring his trademark blend of research, anecdote, autobiography, and fantasy with emphasis on “the lovely horrible stuff” — from the imaginary wealth of Ponzi schemes and television pilots to the stone currency of the Micronesian island of Yap . . . Also not a traditional artist retrospective but a must-have for many collectors will be David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again Artist Edition from IDW. If you’re not familiar with this line of reprints, they are reproduced at full size (12” x 17”) from the original art, and the results are fantastic. This will be the largest Artist Edition yet, weighing in at 200 pages! It collects Daredevil #227-233 (the “Born Again” storyline, written by Frank Miller). Previous Artist Editions like Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer and Walter Simonson’s Thor sold out almost instantly. If you need this — do not wait!
GETTING RESPECT: Long overshadowed by their peers (the likes of Chuck Jones and Friz Freling) in the Warner Brothers classic animation era, the McKimson brothers have never really gotten their due historically. A new 288-page hardcover biography called “I Say, I Say… Son!”: A Tribute to Legendary Animators Bob, Chuck, and Tom McKimson will go a long way towards righting that injustice. Robert (Bob) was an amazing animator, extremely important in defining the final “look” of the embryonic Bugs Bunny, as well as one of the great directors, creating Foghorn Leghorn, the Tazmanian Devil, and Speedy Gonzales. He was literally one of the last guys at the studio, directing the very last official Warner Brothers cartoon — the seldom seen Injun Trouble starring the forgettable Cool Cat.
Tom (the older brother) was a skilled animator and illustrator, creating the original design of Tweety Bird for Warner, and after retiring from animation in 1947, illustrating the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner comic books for Dell. He eventually became art director for Dell’s parent company Western Publishing. Charles (Chuck, the younger brother) was also an animator at Warner. He worked with Tex Avery before becoming lead animator in brother Bob’s unit. He also ended up at Dell Comics, winding up as art director for their comic book and coloring book division. This new book is written by Robert McKimson Jr. (with an introduction by John Kricfalusi) and will be heavily illustrated with original drawings, reproductions of animation cels, and other works all provided by the McKimson family and other archival sources.
THE (ILLUSTRATED) COMIC BOOK HISTORY OF COMICS: The amazing, inspiring, infuriating, and utterly insane story of comics, graphic novels, and manga has now been collected by IDW. Previously published as the six-issue Comic Book Comics by the Action Philosophers team of Fred van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, The Comic Book History of Comics takes an irreverent — but accurate — look at the lives and work of Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner, Stan Lee, Alan Moore, Fredric Wertham, Herge, Osamu Tezuka, and many others, as well as the crazy industry they all worked in — comics! This series kept me interested in the medium during a bleak period where 90% of comics kept letting me down, just by making me laugh at how stupid everything in comics really is. (You’d think I’d know that after working at DC for most of a decade.) Well done, gentlemen. As for the rest of you — something not to be missed. A 224-page b&w trade paperback collection from IDW.
OTHER INSANELY INTERESTING STUFF: The first volume of Fantagraphics’ Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge (the second Disney Ducks volume by Carl Barks) is now available for ordering. It features four amazingly great full-length Scrooge stories — “Only a Poor Old Man” (the first big starring story), “Tralla La La”, “Back to the Klondike”, and “The Secret of Atlantis” — and over two dozen shorter and one-page stories. The first volume in this series (Donald Duck) was simply amazing, and this first Scrooge volume looks even better. If you haven’t read Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge, you haven’t read comics. 240 pages of fully restored and wonderfully recolored art and scads of supplementary material about how the comics were created. Supremely highly recommended . . . John Byrne returns to straight-up superhero comics with Trio #1 featuring new characters Rock, Paper, and Scissors! (What, no Lizard or Spock?) All-out action from IDW . . . Also from IDW, Bernie Wrightson delivers the beginning of a long (long!)-awaited sequel to his acclaimed 1983 Frankenstein project. Frankenstein Alive, Alive! will be serialized as a 32-page comic. It appears to be in b&w, but it’s actually scanned in color to show off the subtle, detailed brushwork of Wrightson. Script is by frequent Wrightson collaborator Steve Niles, and each issue will also include supplemental material and a serialization of the original Mary Shelley prose story . . . Other classic reprints to check out this month include Chris Claremont and John Bolton’s Marada the She-Wolf from Titan (Bob Greenberger will have more details soon) and Doug Wildley’s Rio: The Complete Saga — including the final, unfinished, and unpublished Rio story. (Wouldn’t be surprised to see Roger chime in on this one soon.) . . . I haven’t been following much of First Second’s output, but that’s going to change with Arne Bellstorf’s 208-page hardcover b&w graphic novel Baby’s in Black. With the (pre-fab) Beatles in Germany as background, the real story here is the doomed love affair between proto-fifth Beatle Stu Sutcliffe (John Lennon’s best friend) and photographer Astrid Kircherr. This is well-covered ground for many Beatles fans, but it lends itself perfectly to a relationship-driven graphic novel.
KC CARLSON: You know, 10 Things is a pretty stupid title for this column since I usually talk about 20 or more things every month. Just sayin’. Oh, well, c’est la vie.
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.