The Infernal Wally and Harvey and Gene Alien Zombie Archie’s Girls “Forbidden” Prequel starring Buck O’Rue Edition
by KC Carlson
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: BEFORE WATCHMEN: A lot of conversations are going on all over comicdom right now, especially among the “art vs. commerce” types, and they take on two main points — Can these new “prequel” stories to one of the greatest “stand-alone” series/graphic novels in comics history be the equal (however you want to describe it) of the original? And is it “heresy” that DC is attempting such a thing without the blessings of Watchmen’s original writer/creator, Alan Moore? (Who at one point reportedly agreed — in 1985 — to write his own prequel to Watchmen that never came to pass, as Moore (and Gibbons) and DC could not come to terms over content.) The definitive answer to the first one is obviously several months away, and the second one is clouded with murk. Is DC/TimeWarner exploiting Watchmen (and/or Alan Moore — the two seem one and the same in many recent arguments) for further mega-profit? Was DC underhanded or deceptive in previous negotiations with Moore over rights and profits? I don’t know the definitive answers to these (or even that there are definitive answers), but if you want to read more about the subject, Wikipedia entries on both Alan Moore and Watchmen offer the basic background, and this article from CBR is a good round-up of Moore’s current thoughts about Before Watchmen and the situation in general.
Bottom line, if DC was being totally exploitative about this project, they could have gotten one of their editors (or DiDio himself) to write them and a couple of interns/art students to draw the various series. As it is, it’s a really good line-up of top-of-their-game talent: Darwyn Cooke writing and drawing Minutemen (6 issues); Cooke teaming with Amanda Conner to write Silk Spectre (4 issues), with Conner on art; Brian Azzarello and J.G. Jones on Comedian (6 issues); and J. Michael Straczynski and Andy & Joe Kubert on Nite Owl (4 issues). These are all debuting in June, and later on we’ll see Dr. Manhattan (4 issues) by J. Michael Straczynski and Adam Hughes; Ozymandias (6 issues) by Len Wein and Jae Lee; and Rorschach (4 issues) by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. Each Before Watchman issue will also contain a backup feature, Curse of the Crimson Corsair by Len Wein and John Higgins (original Watchmen editor and colorist, respectively). This stellar group of talent is what’s making the decision to buy or to pass extremely difficult. Original Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons is not participating, but he has given his blessing to the project. I’m thinking that everyone knows Alan Moore’s reaction to all this by now…
So, what will you do? Who’s watching the Watchmen, this time?
MORE MOORE: There’s some new Alan Moore-written material coming in June, with the release of the latest 80-page chapter of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Volume III): Century #3 (of 3), illustrated by Kevin O’Neil. Publisher Top Shelf is also re-listing all of its in-print Alan Moore projects. Need a copy of From Hell as a gift?
ALIEN: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY: Bob Greenberger’s going to have more on this soon, but I have to chime in briefly on this book, the one that I’m most excited about this month. This first appeared in 1979 in conjunction with the now-iconic Ridley Scott film, written by Archie Goodwin and illustrated by Walter Simonson (and lettered by John Workman – one of the first-ever Simonson/Workman team-up!). It’s one of the best and most-faithful film-to-comics adaptations ever published. (And it includes scenes originally cut from the film!) Long out-of-print, and originally published by Heavy Metal, I found my copy accidentally at a newsstand (I think the graphic novel format was so new at the time that this got really weird distribution), and I immediately fell in love with it. I’ve never seen a comic project capture the same edge-of-your-seat atmosphere the original film projected. Alien is what an excellent film comic should be. It’s offered by Titan Books in a standard 64-page full-color version and a deluxe 96-page Artist’s Edition 14” x 17” B&W hardcover shot directly from Simonson’s original artwork. This features many extras, including Goodwin’s complete annotated script, Simonson’s original color try-out pages, and new interviews with Simonson and Workman. Don’t wait — this may sell out quickly! Highly recommended!
THE “LOST” STEVE GERBER PROJECT THAT TIME FORGOT — Over 20 years ago, Marvel announced that Steve Gerber had written a Man-Thing graphic novel to be illustrated by Kevin Nowlan. It never came out. Nowlan got distracted by other things (I blame the Macarena), and it just never got done. Apparently, now it’s finished — and Marvel’s going to publish it under the name Infernal Man-Thing as a three-issue miniseries beginning in June. It’s an odd name. Whenever I hear the word “infernal,” I want to grab my rifle and go blast some “revenooers”! And who knows with a Steve Gerber project — it may just be about that! (After all, he’s partially famous for writing about elves with guns!) This particular story revolves around the mystery of the “Screenplay of the Living Dead Man” which is plenty to make my spine tingle. Why Marvel isn’t publishing this as a graphic novel is a mystery to me, since it was intended to be that way — and I’m pretty sure that it will eventually end up that way anyway. (Getting people to buy the same stuff over and over again in different formats is a comic book industry specialty!) No matter what format you choose — don’t miss the project that Marvel calls “the story no one thought existed!” Gerber Lives!
MARVEL BITS: We haven’t even seen The Avengers movie yet (can’t wait!), but Marvel’s already gearing up for their new Spider-Man film. (No wonder the Marvel Universe has issues with time.) There’s going to be an Amazing Spider-Man: The Movie tie-in project starting in June, and also that month is the highly “CLASSIFIED” Spider-Men five-part miniseries. Current speculation is that it’s the first official meeting of the MU Spidey (Peter Parker) and the Ultimate Universe’s Spider-Man (Miles Morales). Supporting evidence is that the latter’s regular artist, Sara Pichelli, is also the artist on this project. Of course, Bendis is writing . . . Thunderbolts is “ending” with issue #174, to be replaced by Dark Avengers beginning with issue #175. Well, that certainly explains what the last few issues of both Avengers and New Avengers were really all about. Jeff Parker continues as writer as does Declan Shalvey as artist. . . . Apparently, there’s a wedding in Astonishing X-Men #51. I’m such a sucker for June mutant weddings… Things That Make Me Giggle: Marvel’s official name for its collection of all the previous Marvel Zombie miniseries is the Marvel Zomnibus! Well played! . . . In other omnibus news, the New Avengers Omnibus collects Brian Bendis’ initially controversial run on the New Avengers. Both Omnibuses (Omnibusi?) are at least 1,200 pages long (doubling as murder weapons) and feature gaggles of talented artists.
THE ART OF BETTY AND VERONICA — Normally, I’d be all over this book, if either IDW or Dark Horse was producing it. Both companies have been doing an exemplary job of designing, polishing, and producing some wonderful collections of classic Archie material over the past couple of years. But this book is being done by Archie itself, and that’s making me nervous about the end product, since this is their first attempt at doing a really nice art book.
Archie has been doing a lot of their own collections recently — of their more current material — which usually just entails assembling several current issues and recycling previous art for the cover. That’s fine for what it is, but a serious art/history book requires a lot more, and Archie, as usual, is really skimpy on providing the actual details of what the book’s going to include. The solicitation material makes this sound like a typical Archie-produced collection, focusing more on a selection of stories about pop culture trends and trivia, rather than a great collection of exceptional story and art. If it’s really an art book (the word IS in the title), I’d also expect to see a fair amount of history/background about the artists who have produced the work within — something that Archie has consistently fallen short on, historically emphasizing their characters over the talented artists and writers who create the stories. Bottom line, I’d like this to be a better book than the disappointment of the recent Best of Archie, which looked (and read) like it had been slapped together in a couple of days.
Craig Yoe, who wrote and produced the great IDW volumes Archie: A Celebration of America’s Favorite Teenagers and The Best of Archie’s Mad House, is involved with this book, which makes me more enthusiastic — but in order to find this out, I had to get out my magnifying glass to see his name on the cover, as it was not mentioned anywhere in the solicitation copy.
I think Archie Comics has been producing work exclusively for teens and pre-teens — a usually non-critical demographic — for so long now that they often don’t know what to do for a more serious, older audience — especially one who loves the characters and the history just as much as the kids do. But in a different way. It’s time that the company started officially recognizing their creative talent — especially the classic artists who built and made the company what it is today, rather than just leaving that to their publishing co-partners.
THE E.C. ANTHOLOGIES: The first two volumes of Fantagraphics’ long-awaited E.C. anthologies are now available to order. “Came The Dawn” and Other Stories collects 240 pages of largely Wally Wood-drawn supernatural/horror and crime stories from Tales From the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear, and Crime SupenseStories, many of them written by Al Feldstein. “Corpse of the Imjin” and Other Stories presents the cream of Harvey Kurtzman’s legendary war stories from Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat in its 240 pages. Both volumes are lavish hardcovers, packed with extensive essays and notes by EC experts. Both are must-have volumes for comics historians and fans of powerful storytelling alike. Highly recommended.
BOOK NOTES: The Invincible Gene Colan hardcover is available again and is a special one-time only printing (due to the vast amount of Marvel material being made available by special arrangement). It’s a 128-page look at Colan’s long and amazing career at Marvel, compiled and edited by historian (and family friend) Clifford Meth. And it’s published by The Hero Initiative, so all proceeds will go to comic creators in need . . . Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero is a new 448-page hardcover about the the history of the iconic hero by best-selling author Larry Tye (Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend). Larry interviewed me and dozens of others associated with Superman, and I’ll be curious if he used anything we talked about . . . A couple of interesting Disney books this time around: Walt Disney & Recollections of the Disney Studios 1955-1980 is a history of Disney’s live-action films during this period (including Old Yeller, Mary Poppins, The Love Bug, and many others) plus information on the actors who starred in them. Dave Smith’s Disney Trivia From the Vault includes 232 pages of Disney Obscura from Smith’s long-running “Ask Dave” column from the Disney Channel Magazine. Questions deal with the films, characters, theme parks, and more . . . Classic Comics Press has a real obscurity in The Adventures of Buck O’Rue, a comic strip produced by legendary Disney employees Dick Huemer (Fantasia story director) and Paul Murry (artist of Mickey Mouse comic book stories) while they were on hiatus from the studio in 1951-52. It’s a lighthearted (and long-lost) send-up of the Great American West.
DOESN’T FIT ANYWHERE ELSE: Back Issue #57 features Bob Greenberger’s career-spanning interview with former DC Comics president and publisher Jenette Kahn. Want to know some DC secrets? Don’t miss this interview! . . . Prophecy is the name of a new seven-issue Ron Marz-written miniseries featuring a team-up of many Dynamite characters, including Vampirella and Red Sonja. Roger will have more on this one soon . . . Another interesting team-up book this month is Moonstone’s Danger-A-Go-Go, a 100-page team-up of Kolchak, Sheena, Honey West, and Derek Flint. Yeah, baby! . . . Other than Zomnibus, my favorite title of the month heads the latest installment of Terry Moore’s “how to” series — How to Draw Funny. It’s much harder than you think, because you need a completely different set of drawing skills to effectively accomplish what everyone thinks should be easy. (It’s not.) Terry’s one of the best guys I know to be teaching this. Recommended for non-artists as well! . . . There’s one other giant-size Artist’s Edition this month — Groo the Wanderer! IDW reprints 114 pages of Sergio Aragones’ bumbling barbarian at the size that the actual comics were drawn. (It also may be the first time you can actually see all of the jokes!)
SOMETHING NEW: KC’s BOOKSHELF: Beginning this month, I’m including a handy checklist of the leading comic strip and classic comic book collections being offered. I find that this is one of the fastest-growing and most personally satisfying areas in current comics publishing, and I fear these books get lost among the many new ever-fighting and now-frequently horny superhero comics being published. If I had unlimited funds, this is what my bookshelf would look like every month. I’m going to try to list all the newspaper strip collections offered as well as the best of classic comic book and graphic novel collections. These projects are at least 20-30 years old and/or somewhat historically important. Enough yakking — here’s the list!:
Newspaper Strip Collections
The Adventures of Buck O’Rue (Classic Comics Press)
Captain Easy Volume 3 (Fantagraphics)
Flash Gordon & Jungle Jim Volume 2 (IDW/LoAC)
Leonard Starr’s Mary Perkins On Stage Volume 10 (Classic Comics Press)
X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan Volume 4 (IDW/LoAC)
Classic Comic Book Collections
Alien: The Illustrated Story (Titan Books)
Archie Archives Volume 6 (Dark Horse)
The Art of Betty and Veronica (Archie)
“Came The Dawn” and other stories (EC Horror anthology) (Fantagraphics)
“Corpse of the Imjin” and other stories (EC War anthology) (Fantagraphics)
Hulk: Heart of the Atom (collecting classic stories of the Hulk’s lost love, Jarella) (Marvel Comics)
Jack Jackson’s American History: Los Tejanos and Lost Cause (Fantagraphics)
Mad Archives Volume 4 (includes the transition from color comic to B&W magazine!) (DC)
The Manara Library Volume 3 (stories by Federico Fellini) (Dark Horse)
Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Tales of Suspense Volume 4 (Lee, Kirby, Ditko, and more!) (Marvel)
Marvel Masterworks: Iron Fist Volume 2 (Claremont & Byrne) (Marvel)
Showcase Presents: Rip Hunter, Time Master Volume 1 (art by Alex Toth, Joe Kubert, Nick Cardy, and others!)(DC)
Wonder Woman: The Twelve Labors TPB (DC) Preview by Bob Greenberger coming soon.
KC CARLSON: Typing since 1960 (or so). Boy, are my fingers tired.
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.