by KC Carlson
This is one of the weirdest solicitation months for comics in a long time. Can’t really talk about most of DC’s stuff yet — because we haven’t seen much of it yet. I have no idea what Marvel’s trying to do this month — but there sure seems like a lot of whatever it is. And some other stuff is just… odd. Is it suddenly April 1 and no one told me?
To keep with the unusualness of the month (and because it was Labor Day and I didn’t feel much like laboring), this week’s column is a little more, ah… unstructured (let’s call it casual) than usual. Try not to get lost. If you get separated from the rest of your group, stand still, and someone will be along soon to help you out of the ride. Thank you for attending Westfield World.
STRAW POLL… OR STRAW HOUSE?
In one of the sillier stunts I’ve seen recently, BOOM! is planning to publish 10 comic books based on the leading contenders for the 2012 election of President of the United States. Decision 2012: Comic’s Book First Straw Poll features one Democratic contender (guess who?) and nine different Republican hopefuls. Just to show you how crazy this idea is — because things happen so quickly in a campaign — there’s no book listed for the current leading Republican (Rick Perry), but there is a book for another Republican who has already officially dropped out (Tim Pawlenty). Confusingly, there a comic planned for one Republican who has not yet decided to run (and is doing poorly in recent polls anyway): Sarah Palin. But there’s an out — Boom has stated that any candidate’s book receiving fewer than 1,500 pre-orders won’t be printed. Which may explain why there are no creative teams attached to ANY of the comics. (That says to me that no work will be started on any of these until after pre-orders are in.) This may be the first election in history where NOT voting may be beneficial. Besides, they aren’t doing any books based on popular (and perennial) write-in candidates Mickey Mouse, Pat Paulsen, or Ficus Tree!
BOOM! must really be into not revealing creative teams these days, as they’re also not announcing who’s writing or drawing their new KABOOM! Peanuts monthly comic book. It starts in January, with a special $1.00 preview issue offered this month. I suppose that it could be the same creative team who worked on their recent Peanuts graphic novel Happiness Is a Warm Blanket (which was adapted from the recent animated special of the same name), but one shouldn’t assume. Neither solicitation material nor press releases mention a creative team for this project — which may be an error, or omission, or something else. One thing for sure, the comic will not be by Peanuts creator Charles M. Shulz, who passed away in 2000. His name is on the cover mock-up of the preview book, along with a blurb that states “New stories!” — the combination of which might be construed as deceptive. So, what’s up, KABOOM!?
On the other hand, you might think that The Dynamite Art of Alex Ross might be just another Alex Ross art book. It’s actually a very specific Alex Ross art book — exclusively focusing on Ross’s work for Dynamite Entertainment and collecting every cover that Ross has done for the company. Since many of these covers were originally hard-to-find incentives, that makes this book even more special to everyday Alex Ross fans, who may have originally missed out. There are also a lot of special features in the 220+-page, full-color book, including sketches, pencils, design work, a running commentary by Ross, and a wealth of unpublished art. Talk about a title being right on the money…
On another hand, may I suggest that Cartoon Books’ Bone: The One-Volume 20th Anniversary Slipcased Color Edition HC just be called “Big Giant Bone”? The reason why? It’s a freakin’ 1,344-page collection of the entire Bone series!!! You should get this. You’ll really like it. It’s underselling it to say that it’s a modern classic — and one of the very best comics for kids!
A PAUSE THAT REFRESHES
Really? A Thor bottle opener? An engraved Thor bottle opener? Well, I guess you need something to open all that mead and ale.
AROUND THE WORLD
There are a heck of a lot of Tintin books being re-listed these days. You have heard of the Steven Spielberg-directed The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn movie coming this December, haven’t you? (Out in October in the UK! Lucky limeys!) The original Tintin adventure graphic novels by Belgian writer and artist Hergé are considered classics around the world, yet they’re only known to few in America. Find out more about about this wonderful series at the official international Tintin website. Start at the “About Tintin” section. You’ll be glad you did! And don’t miss the “All The Albums” section there, for all the information to get you reading!
FOR SILVER AGE FANS!
Two new books are of interest to fans of the classic comics of the 50’s and 60s this month. First up, travel back to 1961 to find out more about the origins of the Marvel Universe — and specifically about the collaboration of two of Marvel’s iconic creators in TwoMorrows’ Stan Lee & Jack Kirby: The Wonder Years. Written by regular Jack Kirby Collector contributor Mark Alexander, this 128-page book focuses on the details of how Stan and Jack came to collaborate on Fantastic Four #1, the evolution of their working relationship, and their eventual split in 1970. Based on years of research, plus new interviews specifically for this book, Alexander documents the evolution of the FF throughout the 60s, including previously undocumented details about Lee and Kirby’s work together.
If you’re looking for a more general overview of the era, look no further than William Schoell’s The Silver Age of Comics — a 374-page survey of superheroes from the mid-50s to the late-60s. It purports to cover not only Marvel and DC’s characters, but also the output of other publishers, including Charlton and Gold Key, who were frequently overlooked in other histories. Topics covered range from how and why the superheroes pushed out other comic book genres to an examination of the era’s best artists and why their work could be so effective on different strips, as well as a look at how comic books reflected — or didn’t — the changing times and attitudes of the often turbulent era.
FUNNY PICTURE #1
Remember last month when I mentioned how DC’s silly Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite characters were getting their own figurine in a British magazine? This month, it’s Marvel’s turn, as The Classic Marvel Figurine Collection Magazine Special presents none other than M.O.D.O.K. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing). What, you say that M.O.D.O.K. isn’t silly? Bite me, fanboy! With that haircut and fire coming out of his butt?!?
Shouldn’t the Comics Buyers Guide’s 100 Sexiest Women in Comics actually be called something like 100 Sexiest Comic Book Characters, because… uh, do I really have to explain that? Also, shouldn’t the venerable and classy CBG actually be doing something more valuable with its time?
SHAMELESS NON-SELF PROMOTION
Westfield’s own Roger Ash is too shy to mention this himself, but he wrote the epic-length Walter Simonson Thor overview in this month’s Back Issue #53. (I’ve already read it, and it’s great!) The entire issue is Thor-centric, featuring a Tom DeFalco/Ron Frenz “Pro2Pro” interview, as well as a feature on Hercules and an exclusive interview with fantasy writer (and occasional Simonson collaborator) Michael Moorcock. Plus a hammer-swingin’ Thor cover by Walter himself! It’s another must-have issue of Back Issue from TwoMorrows!
Still confused by what exactly happened in the DC Final Crisis? Then check out the Final Crisis novelization by Greg Cox. His previous novels about DC’s other events have done wonders in clearing up cloudy plot points (at least for me)! I’m just sayin’!
FUNNY PICTURE #2
I have nothing to say about the Mr. Potato Head: Star Trek — Kirk/Kor Set. I just wanted Roger to run this picture. I’m speechless. And hungry. Mmmmmm… potato…
WHAT IS THIS?
Speaking of things that aren’t described well (oh, wait, I wasn’t), does anybody have any idea what’s on The Best of Green Lantern DVD being listed this month? I’m guessing that it’s episodes from other DC animated shows that feature Green Lantern. (Wonder if they’ll be gutsy and include that episode of Duck Dodgers where Dodgers accidentally gets Hal’s GL uniform due to a dry-cleaner mixup…?) The other question is whether anybody will care at this point, after the flop of this summer’s live action film? Or is the ploy here is to confuse people who might think it’s part of the new Green Lantern animated show? (It isn’t. That’s not scheduled to debut until spring 2012.) Oh, who knows? It’s just sloppy to have incomplete information. You should buy the animated Batman: Year One instead. That’s brand new and will probably be much better anyway, considering its source material — 1987’s miniseries by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. Plus, it features a new Catwoman short! It’s available in Blu-Ray, Special Edition DVD, and DVD formats. (Editor’s note: While KC is correct that the Previews solicitation for the Green Lantern DVD is sparse, the listing at Westfield is more complete.)
Frank Cho’s got a new book out from Image this month. Guns and Dinos features at least one of Frank’s favorite things to draw (dinosaurs), and it’s only scheduled to be three issues long, so it may actually finish up before the next decade. I think the ultimate success of this book may ride on how much of Frank’s other favorite thing (scantily clad women) is included in the book, but since Cho is trying out what appears to be a new, slightly grittier art style for this series, that may be enough of an attention-getter for his legion of fans. Alas, no monkeys!
SECRET DC STUFF
Not too much to talk about at DC yet, as the NewDCU is only up to soliciting issue #3s and we haven’t seen many #1s yet! Probably the most interesting thing at DC this month is what they’re reprinting — some of which has not been seen by a wide audience. First up is the now-legendary DC Comics Presents: Elseworlds 80-Page Giant #1. Originally published in 1999, it was immediately “pulped” (except for a thousand or so copies which had already been shipped to the UK, making for an instant collector’s edition). The reasons for the pulping were never announced, but speculation included concerns about scenes with babies in microwaves and possiblely unwise implied sexual situations regarding classic DC characters. Since the issue is 100% parodies, it takes on an “anything goes” quality, which may have put many of the classic DC characters in a less-than-heroic light, which was found inappropriate by previous DC management. Now you can be the judge. (I was one of the lucky ones to obtain an original copy back then, thanks to a British friend, and I can tell you that if you love classic parody comics like Not Brand Ecch and Mad, and you have a sense of humor about the DC characters, you’ll love this book as much as I did. Conversely, if you like your superheroes to always be serious, you’ll hate this.)
Chase was a very cool character who never really broke into the DC mainstream in a significant way, but the series has a huge cult following — and frequently dealt with a lot of DC fringe characters (Suicide Squad, Klarion, the Rocket Reds, Mr. Bones) at a time when DC wasn’t using them much. Chase is actually Cameron Chase, a kick-ass agent for the DEO (Department of Extranormal Operation), who investigates superheroic activity, specializing in the weird stuff. Probably the main reason this is getting collected now is because DC is looking to promote hot artist J.H. Williams III (Batwoman). This is some of his great early work for DC. The series was written by D. Curtis Johnson, and this 352-page trade paperback pretty much collects everything the character has appeared in, including her numerous appearances in the DC Secret Files series. Recommended for everybody who loves the dark corners of the DC Universe.
Even more under the radar are Jack Kirby’s experiments in black & white magazines in the early 1970s. Only one issue of Spirit World was ever published, but material for subsequent issues was later used in several of DC’s popular mystery anthologies. Now, all of this mostly unknown Kirby project is being collected together for the first time in hardcover. Bob Greenberger will be covering this book in greater detail soon, here at the blog. He’s also looking at Kirby’s Essential Sgt. Fury for Marvel this month!
MARVEL, AT LAST
In the wake of the conclusion of Fear Itself, Marvel’s digging in and seemingly publishing more titles than ever — including more issues of Fear Itself! Fear Itself #7.1 (Captain America), #7.2 (Iron Man), and #7.3 (Thor) are the aftermath issues for the three main Avengers characters, all of whom went through big changes as a result of this Marvel event. All three look to be special issues of the characters’ regular series, since each is written and drawn by members of their ongoing creative teams (with Adam Kubert stepping in for Olivier Coipel on Thor).
As if that wasn’t enough Avengers for you, Marvel is initiating a Avengers Origins series of one-shots, with five debuting this month (Ant-Man & Wasp, Luke Cage, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, Thor, and the Vision). All are all-new, done by various creative teams. In addition to this, Marvel has a 64-page Point One #1 special featuring some very big names telling seven different stories that set the stage for what they are calling “the biggest change to the Marvel Universe in over 35 years”. Which has to be a major clue to something, because…
The Marvel universe celebrates its 50th Anniversary in the humongous (104-pages!) Fantastic Four #600, written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by a lot of artists (including the return of Steve Epting!). And, yes, that does appear to be the Human Torch on the cover(s)! But that doesn’t mean the FF (Future Foundation) book is going away. They’re starting a four-part story that will parallel the Fantastic Four title.
With all this and even more new one-shots and specials — including the Marvel Handbook guys attempting to tell the total History of the Marvel Universe in just 48 pages! — and puzzling things like Villains for Hire #0.1 (Wha’hoppen to Heroes For Hire?) AND Uncanny X-Men #1 and 2, one thing is fairly obvious: Marvel wants your money! And they want it now!
Want more proof? Not one… not two… but THREE $100+ Omnibuses (Omnibi?) this month! A 624-page John Carter, Warlord of Mars Omnibus (just in time for the movie!), a 1072-page X-Men: Age of Apocalypse Omnibus, and a 728-page Avengers Omnibus, featuring the early Lee & Kirby stuff! As Zaneeta Shinn might put it (from the classic film The Music Man): “Ye Gads!”
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
But before we draw the curtain on this very strange month of comics (and even stranger 10 Things), I left the two most interesting things for last:
Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was looks to be a wonderful 228-page collection of previously unknown (except to hardcore animation fans) artwork by the legendary Warner Bros. animation director Chuck Jones. Jones had a pet project named “Crawford” that very few people today remember, and this book documents the 27-year-long journey of the project. The book is published by IDW, and Westfield’s resident animation expert Roger Ash will kill me if I reveal anything more. He’ll be along soon with all the details.
Our last item also involves a major animation figure (who’s too young to be legendary — yet). Naughty and Nice: The Good Girl Art of Bruce Timm showcases what Timm does when he’s not overseeing the DC animated legacy — drawing pretty girls. Over 350 of them to be exact, 125 of them prepared especially for this book. Timm explores the female form in full color, line, and pencil images, accompanied with commentary by the artist. Besides the obvious subject matter, I also personally love Timm’s eye for design in his drawings, as both that and much of his art style comes from another place in time. As an example, the gorgeous Fifties-style cover of the book itself is like an old paperback book. There are two versions of the book, which is published by Flesk Publications — a deluxe, signed and numbered, limited (to 1,000), and slipcased hardcover edition, and the regular softcover edition. Both are 304 pages. It’s also interesting to note that this item will have no mass market distribution; it’s available only from stores with active Diamond accounts, or from Flesk themselves.
KC CARLSON: Hopes his lisping fictional cousin Pubert doesn’t hurt himself with the Thor bottle opener — or his thumb will be Mighty Thor! Bwahahaha!
As always, should you or any of my KC Force be caught or killed, Westfield Comics will disavow any knowledge of my actions.