by KC Carlson
CONVENTION TIME! The books on the list this month are scheduled to ship beginning in June, but a great many will be hitting in August, just before comics’ biggest phenomenon — Comic Con International: San Diego — or just COMIC-CON! as most people hysterically refer to it. Traditionally, publishers save their best book projects to release right around Comic Con. That unfortunately causes an overall glut, and often fans miss something important. I know I always miss a book or three that I want — and I frequently forget to go back and find them later.
Because of the increased amount of product flowing though the pipeline at this time, we want to make our recommendations easier for you to completely digest. So this week Collected Thoughts will look at many of the biggest and most interesting projects of the season, with more next week!
SPOTLIGHT OF THE MONTH
Marvel Famous Firsts: 75th Anniversary Masterworks Slipcase Set featuring Marvel Masterworks: Not Brand Echh Volume 1 and Avengers 75th Anniversary Poster by Alex Ross (Marvel Comics): In case you haven’t heard, Marvel is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year (and next) in a really big way! In September, Marvel is presenting one of its largest collections yet — a massive boxed set featuring hardcover editions of its 10 mightiest Marvel Masterworks collections (the first volumes of Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, Invincible Iron Man, Mighty Thor, and X-Men), plus the all-new and much-demanded Not Brand Echh Volume 1 collection and an Avengers 75th Anniversary Poster by Alex Ross — signed by “Smilin’” Stan Lee himself!!! (This artwork has already been seen as a variant cover for Avengers #25 and a standard Marvel poster earlier this month. Of course, not signed by Stan.) All of the books will feature redesigned cover treatments with interlocking spine artwork featuring all the characters. And the slipcase for the books is designed to look like the original Avengers Mansion. This set is currently scheduled to be available in September.
If you can’t afford the big box set or want to pick-and-choose your favorites, Marvel is also making new printings of all the Masterworks editions featured in the box set available for single purchase beginning next year, with the traditional silver frame covers. Here’s the schedule:
January 2015: Fantastic Four Vol. 1 and Incredible Hulk Vol. 1
February 2015: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 and The Mighty Thor Vol. 1
March 2015: Captain America Vol. 1 and Daredevil Vol. 1
April 2015: Avengers Vol. 1 and Invincible Iron Man Vol. 1
May 2015: Doctor Strange Vol. 1 and The X-Men Vol. 1
June 2015: Not Brand Echh Vol. 1 (New!)
WHO SAYS A COMIC BOOK HAS TO BE GOOD?
Speaking of which, Marvel Masterworks: Not Brand Ecch Volume 1 is going to be worth the wait. I was beginning to think that this series might never be reprinted, as (you will find out if you buy this volume) Not Brand Ecch was a parody comic. Marvel didn’t just make fun of themselves, but they also took pokes at other comic book characters (especially those from DC — which Stan playfully called “Brand Echh” in the early Marvel lettercols and fan pages, until he calmed down and started referring to them as the “Distinguished Competition”). Since corporations today seemed to have replaced their sense of humor (or fairness) with litigation, I assumed that many of these stories were long “suppressed”, despite parody supposedly being legally protected. Most likely, what probably kept these stories so long out of print were editorial fears that today’s younger readers wouldn’t understand all the very dated cultural references from the 1960s. (Exacerbated by the even older cultural references within the stories, referring backwards to the 50s, 40s, and occasionally even further.)
These fears, if they existed, would be reasonable. Like much humor, these stories made most sense in the era when they were created, and today’s readers might not get all the parodies. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there actually was an annotated guide to all the cultural references in the back of this Masterworks volume? It would be like footnotes for comic books! Awesome! (Sorry, my inner comic geek researcher is salivating at the thought.)
Anyway… the most forgotten thing about Not Brand Echh is that it isn’t just superhero parody. When the book doubled in size, beginning with issue #9, parodies about current movies, TV shows, and pop culture in general were added. Some of the best things in this series happened when genres smashed together. For example, the now-iconic album cover for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was recreated featuring the Marvel Superheroes (and special guests) by Sgt. Fury writer Gary Friedrich and Marvel production manager/cartoonist John Verpooten.
This series also answers the musical question for younger comics readers “Why is Marie Severin held in such high esteem by older comic book fans?” Answer: Not Brand Echh (and her coloring for the classic EC era comics). She’s all over this title, writing and drawing and coloring.
Severin was Marvel’s head colorist until 1972, when she began doing more drawing and inking (which looked amazing over her brother John’s pencils — see Kull the Conqueror). She parodied the early Marvel staff with cartoons posted around the Marvel Bullpen, just to make her co-workers laugh. She also did a lot of work in Marvel’s Special Projects division, notably drawing comic strips (a panel per sheet) of Spider-Man and Hulk toilet paper. (A real product.) She, also notably, co-created (with Steve Gerber) the Doctor Bong character in Howard the Duck.
Other frequent artists on Not Brand Echh included Tom Sutton and Herb Trimpe. Both were often criticized for their “straight” superhero work, but they excelled here. This series was also notable for art experiments, as when Marie Severin penciled over Jack Kirby layouts (a combination seen nowhere else). Writer Gary Friedrich provided layouts for Trimpe and others. Plus, big guns like Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Jack Kirby, and Gene Colan loved to contribute, parodying their characters. And of course, artists and writers who loved humor — like John Severin, Ross Andru, Arnold Drake, Jim Mooney, and Stu Schwartzberg — also flocked to the book. Surprising credits include Phil Seuling (the “father” of Direct Market distribution), Bill DuBay (from Warren Comics: this is his only Marvel credit), and Ronn Foss (‘60s fan artist and former Alter Ego editor).
As for the book itself, most of the superhero stories were set in the “Marble Universe” where the rotating cast included Spidey-Man, The Fantastical Four, The Inedible Bulk, The Mighty Sore (Son of Shmodin), Ironed Man, Sunk-Mariner, Scaredevil, Dr. Deranged, Giant Sam and Wisp, Captain Marvin, the Revengers, the Echhs-Men, and espionage agency S.H.E.E.S.H., which is run by Knock Furious.
The actual “star” of the book was Marvel’s fictitious office gofer Irving Forbush (who, beginning in 1955, was frequently referred to in early Marvel text pages and later credits). His first major appearance was in Not Brand Echh #5, which was also his origin story, introducing his costume (red long johns with a sewed-on “F” and a cooking pot, with holes, for his head). He lives with his maiden aunt (Auntie Mayhem), and all of his victories are purely accidental. He has no real superpowers. He goes by the amazingly clever name of Forbush Man.
The characters met (and usually fought) characters like Stuporman (his origin is in #7); Gnatman and Rotten; Magnut, Robot Biter; Green Globule; the Gizzard; Sandyman; Scarlet Wench; Slicksilver; Yellow Paw; Dr. Bloom; Magneat-O; and the Blunder Agents, as well as other evil miscreants. The series ended at #13, although Forbush Man was seen occasionally (especially in What The–?!, a late ‘80s parody book). He even teamed up with some of the NBE “schmeroes” in the pages of the cult classic Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Apparently all these characters still exist in the Marvel Universe, as in 2005, Marvel revealed that they live on Marvel Earth-665. Frightening… Frightening…
This Masterwork also includes the silly material from Scaredevil Annual #1, Fantastical Four Annual #5, Sgt. Furious Annual #4, Revengers Annual #2, and Amazing Spidey-Man Annual #5 (or their real-world versions… I forget which). So now it’s all in one place!
Who says a comic book has to be good? Not Brand Echh! 456-page color hardcover w/choice of dust jacket — original marbleized format (variant) or standard New Coke version (silver design). Available in June 2015. Only Forbush Man himself could have dreamed up that one!
Absolute Batman: Haunted Knight (DC Comics): Collecting all the Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale Batman stories that aren’t actual Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory stories, but related to them. Batman: Madness #1, Batman: Ghosts #1, and Legends of the Dark Knight Special #1 (aka “Choices”) are all connected to The Long Holloween, and the events of Catwoman: When in Rome #1-6 parallel the events of Dark Victory. All of these stores have been reprinted and collected multiple times, but this is their first appearance in the wonderful DC oversize Absolute Edition format, which is the preferred way to showcase Sale’s evocative and detailed art. 336-page slipcased oversize (8.25” x 12.5”) color hardcover. Available in October.
Brightest Day Omnibus (DC Comics): The theoretically lighter follow-up to DC’s Blackest Night event. (How could it not be?) At the end of that series, 12 deceased DC (say that 12 times fast!) characters were mysteriously returned to life. They were Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Firestorm, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Deadman (missing the point of the character entirely), Jade, Osiris, Hawk, Captain Boomerang, and Zoom (no longer a Professor, because that would be square, man). This is their story, as told by Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi and illustrated by Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado, and others. These characters must discover the mysterious reason for their return and uncover the secret that binds them all together. (Love? Continuity contracts? Crazy Glue?) Originally published over the course of a year, this volume collects all 25 issues (#0-24) of this popular miniseries. Also features the return of Swamp Thing and John Constantine to the mainstream DC Universe. 696-page oversize (7.25” x 10.875”) color hardcover. Available in August.
Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Omnibus (Marvel Comics): Collecting Stephen King’s Dark Tower: The Gunslinger series, written by Peter David and Robin Furth. Art by Sean Phillips, Luke Ross, Michael Lark, Laurence Campbell, Alex Maleeve and Richard Isanove, Collects Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: The Journey Begins #1-5, The Little Sisters of Eluria #1-5, The Battle of Tull #1-5, The Way Station #1-5, The Man in Black #1-5, Sheemie’s Tale #1-2, Evil Ground #1-2, and So Fell Lord Perth #1. Packaged as a two-volume slipcased set. The second book is a companion volume packed with fascinating bonus material and apocrypha. 732-page and 352-page slipcased oversize color hardcover. Parental Advisory. Available in September. Westfield will also include a free copy of Steven King’s Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born Hardcover with this Omnibus!
Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen: Artifact Edition (IDW): First off, the difference between an Artist’s Edition and an Artifact Edition is that the Artist’s Edition only reprints complete stories, and an Artifact Edition does not (because all of the original art is not available). However, extras such as advertisements, portfolio pieces, color guides and other material may be included in Artifact Editions. As in this one, devoted to one of the greatest and best-known graphic novels ever. Thanks to artist Dave Gibbons, we can now learn new things about the Watchmen artwork from these high resolution scans, shot in color from Gibbons’ original art and reproduced at actual size. This is the closest that most of us will ever come to seeing the original art of the groundbreaking series. 144-page oversize (12” x 17”) B&W (but scanned in color for detail) pages. Available in July.
Deadpool Minibus (Marvel Comics): It says Minibus, but it’s the same physical size as other Omnibus volumes, albeit a bit thinner than some, due to the fact that it collects Deadpool miniseries all written by Cullen Bunn. Which ones? Well, drop the gun, and I’ll tell you! How about Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #1-4, Deadpool Killustrated #1-4, Deadpool Kills Deadpool #1-4 (which you would think should make the book much shorter…), Night of the Living Deadpool #1-4, and Deadpool vs. Carnage #1-4. It says in the original solicitation that this is a blood-soaked volume, and if that’s true, we’re probably going to have to double-bag these to keep the blood from soaking into your other comics. And some of the blood will probably soak out of the sturdy cardboard boxes we use to ship to you, alerting the authorities, who will probably come here and throw Sherill and Brook in jail, casting all the rest of us into a power vacuum, with all us shooting each other in the struggle to control Westfield. If your box is late next month, well… you can probably guess what happened. Well played, Marvel. Well played… The artists? Oh, yeah… Everything is penciled by Dalibor Talajic, Matteo Lolli, Salva Espin and Ramon Rosanas with a cover by Michael del Mundo. 480-page oversize color hardcover. Available in September.
Love and Capes: The Complete Collection (IDW): Collecting all 24 issues of writer/artist Thom Zahler’s beloved, touching, and awesomely funny account of how a superhero (The Crusader aka Mark) and a “civilian” (Abby) meet, date, fall in love, get married, and struggle to make it work. Special guest star: a baby! And for once, nobody cares if the ending is given away: Love conquers all! This series has romance, humor, and better versions of a mysterious vigilante millionaire and a super-powered tribal warrior princess than you get with the brand names. Great stuff, particularly for those with a sense of humor about those superhero conventions, like secret identities and alternate universes, we’ve read about for years. 676-Harvey nominated pages. B&W softcover.
Oz Omnibus (Marvel Comics): Writer Eric Shanower has long been the driving force of faithful and graphic adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, and now teamed with fresh, exciting artwork by Skottie Young, you’ll think that these wonderful stories are fully animated. This is a beautiful and fun book to share with the whole family — especially the little ones, who might actually learn how to read while enjoying it! Collecting Wonderful Wizard of Oz #1-8, Marvelous Land of Oz #1-8, Ozma of Oz #1-8, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz #1-8, Road to Oz #1-6, Emerald City of Oz #1-5, Marvel Illustrated: Wizard of Oz Sketchbook, and Oz Primer. 1,096-page oversize color hardcover. Available in September.
Starstruck Treasury Edition (IDW): Basically a straight reprinting of the original (and amazing) graphic novel by Elaine Lee and Michael Wm. Kaluta — but now at a larger (9.25” x 14.25”) size, and moderately priced! 72-page oversized color softcover.
NEW (like, not reprinted) STUFF
Chicacabra (IDW): Tom Beland, best known for his multiple Eisner-nominated series True Story, Swear to God (the book that men loved but were too embarrassed to buy, it says here) is back with an all-new graphic novel. Isabel Sanchez, a typical high school girl in Puerto Rico, could be like any other girl… except for the creature who lives inside of her that’s a ruthless killing machine! Featuring Chupacabras, Vejigantes, fist fights, and weed! I anticipate symbolism! 200-page B&W softcover graphic novel.
Diary of a Girl Next Door: Betty (Archie Comics): The first Archie release in the very popular all-ages cartoon diary format! (Think Diary of a Wimpy Kid.) Tania Del Rio and Bill Galvan tell the story of Betty Cooper’s first year of high school — a tumultuous time of peer pressure, study anxiety, and rapidly fluctuating social structure, especially when former BFF Veronica creates drama by deciding they can’t be besties any more because social status means everything in high school! Meanwhile, besides her class load, Betty is also juggling extracurricular activities from dog-training to peer mediation to BMX competitions. Betty can do it all, but can she get by without a little help from her friend? 224-page diary-sized (5.5” x 8”) B&W hardcover. Planned to be the first of a regular all-ages series.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Raccoon & Groot — Steal the Galaxy! Prose Novel (Marvel Comics): Written by fan-fave Dan Abnett, this is the tale of the wildest characters in the Marvel Universe: Rocket Raccoon (a battlin’ chatty raccoon) and Groot (a walkin’, talkin’, fightin’ tree who only actually says one thing — “I am Groot.” Apparently, it’s all about how he says it.) During a spaceport battle, the pair encounter a loony android Recorder on the run from the alien Badoon. Add in the ruthless Kree Empire and the Nova Corps, and then you’ve got a situation that Groot would call “I am Groot.” Rocket Raccoon and Groot: Saving all of existence — again! 304-page hardcover novel. NOTE: Novels have no drawings in them. You have been warned. Available in July.
Seconds: A Graphic Novel (Ballantine Books): By Bryan Lee O’Malley, creator of the massively popular and NY Times best-selling book series, and bonkers film, Scott Pilgrim. Seconds is a story about second chances. It’s also a complex and novelistic standalone story about a young restaurant owner named Katie who, after being visited by a magical apparition, is given a second chance at love and to undo her wrongs. Executed in Bryan’s bold and quirky style infused with his subtle, playful humor. 336-page color (6” x 9”) hardcover.
Thanos: The Infinity Revelation (Marvel Comics): This is the much anticipated original graphic novel, written and drawn by Jim Starlin, starring Marvel’s next big movie star, Thanos. Since his latest return from oblivion, Thanos feels… incomplete. Recognizing an imbalance in the universe, the so-called Mad God would put both things right. A new quest, a once-sworn enemy at his side, a confrontation with the Silver Surfer and the galaxy’s mightiest heroes, the Annihilators. An odyssey that will change everything — a tale of death and rebirth that will transform the Marvel Universe all over again. 112-page oversize hardcover graphic novel. Available in August.
NEXT WEEK!: More classic comic book and newspaper strip collections including John Severin’s EC war stories, the first appearance of the Phantom Blot!, battlin’ Tarzans, battlin’ Batman and Joker collections, and Barnabas Collins in black & white. (Scary!)
KC CARLSON: Working in and around comics for several billion years. Oh, my sacroiliac!
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.
Classic Not Brand Echh covers from the Grand Comics Database.
Sgt. Fury 2-page spread came from here.