by KC Carlson
APARO RULES: Bob Greenberger has already weighed in on what I feel the most interesting book that DC is publishing this month: Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo. Everything he said there goes double for me. What Bob didn’t mention was that beyond the excellence of execution of Aparo’s dynamic, legendary artwork are some of the quirkiest stories that DC ever published. Not only does Batman team up with some of DC’s most popular characters, but Brave and the Bold was also home to some of the more obscure characters at DC (like the Metal Men and Kamandi), as well as some team-ups that couldn’t have possibly fit into DC’s continuity without explanation (like team-ups with WWII-era Sgt. Rock or Earth-2’s Wildcat and Spectre). At the time, many of these stories were ascribed away as happening on the fan-named Earth-B (B for editor Murray Boltinoff, who usually edited DC’s non-continuity books like Ghosts and The Unexpected, and had very little interest in DC’s growing continuity).
Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo collects The Brave and the Bold #98, 100-102, and 104-122. This volume stops just short of one of the real B&B classics — issue #124, which teams Batman and Sgt. Rock and guest-stars Aparo, writer Bob Haney, and Boltinoff!!! While the action in the issue is unfolding, the creators are frantically pacing the story so the good guys win! (Holy forgone conclusion!) The classic cover features a frightened Aparo drawing the cover of the book at gunpoint, while a hooded gunman is screaming “Finish the cover, Aparo! ROCK kills BATMAN — Or I kill YOU!” Classic. And something to look forward to in Volume 2.
DC’s pushing their Flashpoint collections this month, but ask yourself: which project has the biggest chance of still being relevant even five years from now? Aparo is one of the best Bat-artists ever, and if you don’t know that, then you don’t know Batman.
BABY, EVEN THE LOSERS GET LUCKY SOMETIMES: Another quirky DC collection with some great unsung artwork is Showcase Presents: The Losers Volume 1. That series was writer/editor Robert Kanigher’s attempt to form a team with a group of DC’s more obscure WWII characters — all of whom had recently had their series canceled. Captain Storm had lost his leg and his ship in combat before his comic was canceled after 18 issues. Captain Johnny Cloud was a Navaho fighter pilot who ran into bad luck in the pages of All-American Men of War. Gunner and Sarge were ground-level grunts (often with their dog, Pooch) who initially fought in the same comic book series, before transferring to the pages of Our Fighting Forces. All had horrible bad luck during their service. Their worst (and last) mission was memorably chronicled in Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier, but prior to that, they were killed off (twice) in Crisis on Infinite Earths (and in The Losers spin-off special). (Then again, it was recently revealed that they all survived WWII in DC Universe: Legacies #4 — so who really knows?)
This Showcase Presents volume reprints 1970s tales, from the Losers’ first appearance as a team (oddly in a Haunted Tank story in G.I. Combat #138), and then in their own feature in Our Fighting Forces beginning with issue #123, with the first era of the series wrapping up in #150 (as does this Showcase volume). With issue #151, the series continued , but with Jack Kirby taking over both writing and art until Our Fighting Forces #162. Those issues were collected in 2009 as The Losers by Jack Kirby, part of the Jack Kirby Library. In Our Fighting Forces #163, Kanigher returns as writer and the rest of the series (#181 is the last issue) is primarily illustrated by George Evans.
The stories reprinted here constitute the heart of The Losers saga, in which, true to their bad luck, they quickly lose another member (or do they?) and gain a new one — Ona, a female member of the Norwegian resistance movement. The series is one of Kanigher’s best, as instead of a collection of mostly unrelated war tales, there’s an actual narrative thread (and continuity) to this Losers series. It reads very much like a contemporary superhero series. Although the Losers had bad luck (and this point is probably hammered home a few too many times in Kanigher’s stories), as a publishing entity, the Losers were very lucky at one thing — they had a number of incredible artists working on the series. Outside of Kirby, none was so amazing as former Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos artist John Severin. His outstanding run on the series was contained in issues #132-150. Other artists who contributed occasionally were Ken Barr and the team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. Virtually every dynamic cover for this era of the series was by Joe Kubert.
There’s lots of good reading and beautiful art in Showcase Presents: The Losers Volume 1.
IT’S AVENGIN’ TIME!: Marvel’s got a whopping 11 Avengers-related collections on their schedule this month. (You’d think there was a movie or something…) Besides Volume 12 of the Avengers Masterworks (featuring the best of the Steve Englehart era, aka The Avengers/Defenders War and leading into the Celestial Madonna Saga), there are all kinds of new and old collections coming soon to your eyeballs. RECOMMENDED: Avengers: Kree-Skrull War HC, where you can witness the birth of event-style comic storytelling by Roy Thomas and (mostly) Neal Adams. The Avengers 1959 TPB is a kick-ass Cold War story, by the guy who can tell ‘em best — Howard Chaykin. And if you love that, don’t miss the prelude to that story in New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis TPB (reprinting New Avengers #7-13), featuring all-star artwork by Chaykin, Stuart Immonen, Daniel Acuna, and Mike Deodato. Avengers Assemble Volume 2 TPB features the great Kurt Busiek/George Pérez run, with guests Jerry Ordway, Stuart Immonen, and more — now in paperback!
BE WARY OF: Avengers: The Crossing Omnibus, collecting one of the most convoluted (some would say worst (remember “Teen Tony”?) Avengers stories ever. It took five writers to write it. (And a couple more to explain and “fix” it after it was all done. Sadly, those stories aren’t included.) If you must read it, I would think that finding the back issues would be a heck of a lot cheaper than this $100 brick. Personally, I’d get four copies of the new The Thing: The Serpent Crown Affair HC collection (mostly by Mark Gruenwald and George Pérez), a really fun read featuring a bunch of future Avengers and lots of Marvel history, before I’d get Avengers: The Crossing. Just sayin’…
OTHER MARVEL STUFF: By now you’ve probably heard that Avengers vs. X-Men is going to be the next big Marvel Event (starting in April, I believe). Which retroactively makes the current Avengers/X-Sanction miniseries the prelude to that, so adjust your orders accordingly . . . The new Marvel title launch this month is Winter Soldier #1 & 2, which should certainly surprise everybody who thought that character died in Fear Itself. (It seems like most everything bad that happened in Fear Itself has been somehow made right again, now that it’s over. What’s up with that?) Winter Soldier also feels like it may be one Cap-related book too many right now, although I think Winter Soldier is a keeper due to the much-proven awesomeness of the well-tested creative team (Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice) — plus it’s a hopefully permanent place for Black Widow to hang out, which is always a good thing. With Alan Davis starting soon as the regular artist on the main Captain America book, I’m very excited, in an understated British sort of way. (Hoorah!) So I’m guessing that this might not be the best time to get that life-time subscription to the Captain America and Bucky title… Bucky’s dead, man . . . The Twelve #9 & 10 returns (in ‘12) on this month’s order form. For all those fans that have been born since it mysteriously disappeared all those years ago, Marvel is thoughtfully reprinting the first part of the series in both cheap and more expensive formats. Which is good. Now where is Captain America: White???
SEASON ONE: It’s buried in the back of Marvel Previews (in the middle of all of Marvel’s reprint collections), but Marvel’s all-new original graphic novel series Season One kicks off in February with a volume retelling the origin of the Fantastic Four. According to USA Today (but actually a rewritten Tom Brevoort quote from the original Marvel press release), Season One will feature “a new, young generation of today’s comic creators bringing a modern voice and sensibility to tales of classic Marvel heroes and teams.”
Fantastic Four Season One is written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (who in addition to writing Fantastic Four projects since 2004, has script-doctored the Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark Broadway show, and is currently a writer/co-producer for Glee) and illustrated by David Marquez. It retells the origin and early adventures of the Fantastic Four in a new 136-page hardcover graphic novel (although not all of those pages are new. Marvel couldn’t help themselves and threw in a reprint of Fantastic Four #570 by Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham, which the new story will have to compete with). Subsequent new Season One origin re-tellings of Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the X-Men will also be published in 2012.
Hmmm. Superman: Earth One was very successful for DC, was it not?
RALPH WIGGUM: KING OF COMIC BOOKS!: One of my favorite fictional characters is getting his own comic book in February, courtesy of Bongo Comics. (Home of great decision-making!) Who could it be? None other than Ralph Wiggum, the eight-year-old oddball son of Chief Wiggum. Ralph is either a basket case or a zen master of the non sequitur. He might be both sides of the same coin. Ralph’s comic is only the first of a series of Simpson Comics: One-Shot Wonders — but how can Ralph not be popular enough to get his own regular comic book? Just check out these classic Ralph quotes from The Simpsons TV show:
Me fail English? That’s umpossible.
Miss Hoover, I glued my head to my shoulder.
The doctor said I wouldn’t have so many nosebleeds if I kept my finger outta there.
Grandma had hair like that when she went to sleep in her forever box.
Lisa: Players play and managers manage.
Ralph: Do alligators alligate?
I cheated wrong. I copied the Lisa name and used the Ralph answers.
Ralph: (reading his book report) Mr. Luther King had a dream. Dreams are where Elmo and Toy Story had a party, and I went there. Yay, my turn is over.
Principal Skinner: One of your best, Ralph.
Clouds are God’s sneezes.
I choo-choo-choose you.
Your toys are fun to touch. Mine are all sticky.
This is my sandbox. I’m not allowed to go in the deep end.
(Ralph is thrown in a window with a note attached) I’m a brick!
Contributing to Ralph Wiggum Comics is Carol Lay (Way Lay, Good Girls), Mike Kazaleh (Adventures of Captain Jack, Ren & Stimpy), and Sergio Aragonés (Mad Magazine, Groo the Wanderer).
Rumors abound that Ralph Wiggum Comics might not be outrageously funny. That’s umpossible.
MORE ALL-AGES FUN: Creator Ted Naifeh’s charming Courtney Crumrin is being rereleased in newly remastered, full-color hardcover editions from Oni. In the first 144-page volume, The Night Things, Courtney and her family move in with her creepy Great Uncle Aloysius in his creepy old house, where strange and magical things start happening. Naifeh’s got a wonderful art style for this series, which is equal parts cute and creepy, and Courtney herself is amazingly designed — so cute that at first you don’t notice that she’s lacking a nose! Courtney Crumrin will appeal to fans of Scary Godmother and those folks going through Harry Potter withdrawal . . . It was only a matter of time– Adventure Time! — before the wildly popular animated show made its way to comic books! After becoming a viral hit on the internet, Adventure Time was picked up and developed by Cartoon Network, where it has become both a critical and commercial success. A comedy/adventure/fantasy with huge dollops of post-apocalypitc elements mixed with surreal humor, Adventure Time features the twisted adventures of Finn the Human, Jake the talking dog, Princess Bonnibelle Bubblegum, and the evil Ice King, who enjoys kidnapping princesses. Finn wears a ridiculous-looking piece of headgear which he calls his “Awesome Hat”. Jake is a 28-year-old dog with magical powers voiced by the same actor who does Bender on Futurama (John DiMaggio). It’s a very, very, very (very) weird show, and it already has a legion of fans. (Perhaps you saw some of them cosplaying at the San Diego or New York Comic Conventions?) Adventure Time was created by Pendleton Ward, who cites as influences such diverse sources as My Neighbor Totoro, The Simpsons, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, Max Fleischer cartoons, and Dungeons and Dragons. Many of the series writers and storyboard artists have a background in indy comics, so it was probably a forgone conclusion that the series would eventually make it to comics. KaBOOM is the publisher, and the first issue of the comic includes work by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Braden Lamb. Definitely something to check out if you love the weird and have a couple extra bucks this month.
SHORT TAKES: I haven’t been too interested in the Dark Horse Classic Marvel Characters line of statuettes (mostly because I’m not a big fan of the distressed style of the sculpts), but you gotta check out the new Dr. Strange figure — it looks like it jumped right off of Steve Ditko’s drawing board! Easily the most disturbing Dr. Strange figure ever made! (Just to make things even stranger, on the facing page in Previews, there’s a giant blue Domo fluorescent blacklight figure that looks awesome. So all weekend long I’ve been thinking up adventures of Domo and the Doc — the latest (and greatest) mismatched “buddy” combo in years. Watch for the major motion picture for next year’s holiday season!) . . . Finally, fans of awesome Mike Ploog artwork should check out Boom’s new Terror on the Planet of the Apes series. It reprints the amazing gorilla stories originally presented in Marvel’s 1970s Planet of the Apes B&W magazine. Doug Moench wrote some wonderful stories for this series, greatly expanding upon the elements of the original popular films. They weren’t fully appreciated in their time, because of the magazine format, but are due for re-evaluation by a new audience.
KC CARLSON: Getting the snark out of my system before subjecting my family to it over the holidays. Happy Krimble!
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.