by KC Carlson
We’re in the big wind-down to both of Marvel and DC’s most recent events, so there’s lots of Siege and Blackest Night stuff all over the order form. But you’re probably aware of those events, as it seems that’s all anybody wants to talk about anymore. I suppose it’s too much to ask that both of these Events might actually wrap up with a big, definitive ending (just for a change), instead of simply leading into the next Big Mega Mind-Bending Nose-Blowing (sorry, but it IS the cold and flu season!) Thing. Why are publishers and some creators afraid of the words “The End”? Can no one actually write an ending to anything anymore?
When I was editing at DC back in the 90s, several editors, and even a couple of my writers, were horrified at the prospect of actually ending a story. Every story must end with a cliffhanger, Conventional Wisdom (whatever happened to him?) said. Mr. Wisdom also stated that if said mandatory cliffhanger wasn’t firmly in place, readers would have an excuse to stop reading the book. What a great way to sell your readers (or your creators) short! Silly me! I always thought that if we were doing our jobs right by providing excellent stories, amazing artwork, compelling characters that readers actually cared about, and over-arcing situations (as opposed to gimmick-laden cliffhangers), that would be enough to ensure a loyal, faithful readership. Was I naive or what?
No wonder I’m not working in big-timey comics anymore…
Anyway, enough soapboxing! Here are my picks for some of the best stuff of the month – most of which have actual endings!
My personal must-have item this month is Dan DeCarlo’s Jetta, a hardcover collection from IDW of one of DeCarlo’s impossible-to-find series. First published in the way-back 1950s, Jetta is a teenage girl living in the (then) far-off future – of the 21st Century! Her series is filled with fantastic futuristic gadgets, robots, and flying cars, all drawn by DeCarlo, who drew about a bazillion consecutive issues of Betty and Veronica for Archie Comics (and before that, an amazing run of Millie the Model for Timely Comics). DeCarlo is best known for his work on many of comics’ greatest cuties, acknowledged here by this book being the first of a series entitled The Library of Good Girl Art – a title that is slightly inappropriate (or misleading) for the material being presented here.
The term “good girl art”, as it’s been used over the last few decades in the realm of pop culture, has come to imply attractive women being depicted in extremely skin-tight or skimpy clothing, often involved in bondage or other provocative situations. Dan DeCarlo can (and has, including by himself) been described as a Good Girl Artist (all of the girls that he draws are certainly attractive) and has even done some work which would fall into the above definition of Good Girl Art (two volumes of adult pin-up art by DeCarlo have been published by Fantagraphics), but Jetta really should not be considered in the realm of traditional Good Girl Art. Jetta is basically Betty and Veronica in space, a fun teenage strip obviously designed for older kids and young teenagers. I might suggest that IDW consider changing their series title to “The Library of Good Girl Artists” to avoid situations like this in the future.
Back to the good stuff: Dan DeCarlo’s Jetta also includes rare and unpublished artwork by DeCarlo, a gallery of Jetta tribute pin-ups by some modern-day Good Girl Artists including Bruce Timm and Dean Yeagle, and an introduction by series editor Craig Yoe. Plus, all the stories are presented in full-color. (A non-complete Jetta collection in black and white was previously published in 2006 by Airwave.)
Speaking of old cool things, I raved extensively before about Drawn & Quarterly’s John Stanley Library – specifically about Melvin Monster Volume 1. Well, Volume 2 is on the order form this month and consider yourselves raved at again. These classic stories are about a little monster boy who just wants to be good, go to school, and do as he is told, even though his monster family (Baddy and Mummy), friends, and even his pet alligator want to kill him!
I’m very happy to see that Art Adams is returning to a regular feature, namely the new Ultimate Comics X series, written by Jeph Loeb. It’s been wonderful to see the quantum-talented Mr. Adams doing scads of covers and one-off stories over the past few years, but it will be even better to have his richly detailed art to drool over on a regular basis, even if it is on a bi-monthly schedule – probably a wise choice knowing how much effort he pours into each page. I don’t know much yet about what X is going to be about, although those claws on the first issue’s cover are probably a pretty good clue! And I’m not exactly crazy about Jeph Loeb on yet another Ultimate Comics project, as I thought that his whole Ultimatum event was one of the more disjointed, grotesque, depressing, and tedious storylines in recent history. But I admire Loeb for attempting to clean up the mess he made of the Ultimate Universe, and it looks like a large part of that just might be in this new title. With Art Adams on X, at least this new title will look incredible!
Pretty much everything at DC this month is TOP SECRET by the looks of all their black/blank cover repros for many of their key books (which always make me think that the covers haven’t actually been drawn yet). That’s fine, just as long as I don’t have to see any more characters with their arms torn off. Had enough of that, thank you very much!
DC’s official solicitation for Milestone Forever #1 (of 2) reads more like an obituary than sell copy. Unfortunately, that may turn out to be true, as recent appearances by the Milestone characters in various DC titles didn’t exactly set the comics world on fire. It looks like we might be seeing the last of many of these great characters in this two-issue finale. At least it sounds like we’ll (finally) be getting the wrap-up on the incomplete stories from when the original series were canceled back in 1997, and some of the original artists – including John Paul Leon, Mark Bright, Chris Cross, and Denys Cowan – will be returning to wrap up their characters’ stories, as written by Milestone editor-in-chief Dwayne McDuffie. Here’s one of those occasions where “The End” may not be so happy, but at least fans will be getting some closure.
Man, and I thought variant covers were out of control… Just how many variant Hulk characters are running around these days? No checkered ones yet, I see… “You am not color-coordinated! Plaid Hulk SMASH!”
Our pal Kathryn Immonen has two new projects at Marvel this month. First up is a four-part mini based on the cutest li’l mutant since Kitty Pryde, X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back, illustrated by Sara Pichelli. It looks like there’s lots of girl power on display both behind-the-scenes as well as on-the-page as Pixie, X-23, Armor, Mercury, and Blindfold must deal with the hell that is high school. Plus, Pixie has some serious daddy issues when she discovers that he’s one of the most dangerous X-Villains ever!
I’m always a sucker for using superheroes to disguise the revival of a great old comics genre. In this case, it’s the return of romance comics with Marvel Heartbreakers, as well as the return of some fan-fave cult characters like Dazzler, Snowbird, the girls of Nextwave, and the classic Marvel duo of Gwen and MJ – with one of these stories written by the amazing Ms. Imm! (What, no Patsy Walker: Hellcat?!?). Although I gotta ask – who really wants to read sad, heartbreaking love stories on Valentine’s Day? Here’s hoping that at least one of these stories shows the gal getting the guy (or even the gal)!
Some new superhero collections you may not want to miss are listed this month: Marvel’s got a hardcover reprint of The Death of Captain Marvel, the heart-rending Jim Starlin saga that proved that even being cosmic-powered is no escape from death when she comes looking for you. Slightly more upbeat is another collection of George Perez’s JLA classics in the aptly (but unwieldily) named DC Comics Classics Library: The Justice League of America by George Perez Vol. 2 HC. And 2009’s coolest concept is being collected in an oversized (11” x 17.5”) hardcover…
Wednesday Comics will be one of THE books to watch for in 2010, especially for those who are interested in cutting-edge artwork. I’m a little sad that the hardcover is moving away from the original “Sunday Comics Section” format. (I wonder if the book will be put together “as is” (section by section) or with all the stories gathered together as a sequential read. And will it be printed on newsprint to maintain the original format premise?) Regardless, Wednesday Comics will contain all 15 series that appeared in the original – all written and drawn by the cream of the crop of creative talents – plus two additional one-shot pages not in the original series: The Creeper by Keith Giffen and Eric Canete and Plastic Man by Evan Dorkin and Stephen DeStefano. There’s also a bonus sketchbook section and an introduction by series editor Mark Chiarello. Best thing about it? It doesn’t have to be folded in half!
A couple of other books of note this month: The Invincible Gene Colan is a 128-page art collection featuring the very best work of Gene Colan, spanning his incredible seven-decade career. From Daredevil, Cap, and Iron Man to Dracula and Howard the Duck, Gene’s illustrated many of the top characters in comics – even Batman, Wonder Woman, and Archie! This particular book mostly focuses on Gene’s days at Marvel, and besides page after page of gorgeous artwork, the book also features commentary and analysis from Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, John Romita, Walter Simonson, Neil Gaiman, Tom Palmer, and others. It’s published by the fine folks at the Hero Initiative, so profits will be pumped back into fund-raising for creators in need. Because of the nature of this particular book, there will be only this one printing. So if you want it – get it now! – because it won’t be around forever!
Another of comics’ elder statesman is also heard from this month, as Jerry Robinson’s seminal history of comic strips, The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art 1895-2010 is being dusted off and given a complete updating. I’ve had the original on my bookshelf since it was published in 1974, and I have reread it and refer to it frequently. Not only is it an elegant history of the comic strip, it’s amazingly illustrated and designed, featuring hundreds of illustrations and reproductions of the all the classic strips by all the classic creators. It’s a must-have resource for every complete comic library. 296 pages, published by Dark Horse.
It’s always great to see one of your favorite small business establishments return from a mysterious absence – especially if it’s comics’ (and the universe’s) favorite watering-hole, Munden’s Bar! IDW is offering up a 104-page collection of brand-new, never-before-printed stories of my favorite back-up feature (previously seen in the pages of GrimJack), titled Munden’s Bar: Grand Re-Opening. Guest-starring the Frankenstein Mobster, Wolverine MacAlistar, the late Del Close, and Jesus Christ in stories by John Ostrander, William Messner-Loebs, Skip Williamson, Marc Hemple, Mark Wheatley, Joe Staton, and more! So next time you’re passing through Cynosure and feel down-in-the-dumps, stop by Munden’s for a quick pick-me-up. It cures what ails ya!
An interesting line from the solicitation of Spider-Man: The Clone Saga #6 sort of gives the whole game away: “See how the controversial classic SHOULD have ended, straight from the pens of the Clone Saga’s original architects, Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie.” Revisionist history, anyone? Or more to the point, that’s really a long time to drag around that dull axe. As one of the few Spidey fans that’s never read the original Clone Saga – I was busy working at DC at the time, and I was warned away from it by most of DC’s then-assistant editors, who were reading it (“It will make your head explode!” said one, sadly.) – I am curious about all this. But I’m (not-surprisingly) confused: Is this mini-series a “What If?!” tale? Does Spidey marry Betty or did he marry Veronica? I’m so confused!!!
SHORT TAKES – Perhapanauts fans will finally learn the secrets of the mysterious Molly – the Perhaps’ resident ghost girl – in Perhapanauts Special: Molly’s Story, listed in the Image section this month. I’m secretly hoping that it will be a crossover with Casper and the Spectrals, which is also written by the amazing Todd DeZago! (Probably not, though) … The next couple of issues of Invincible Iron Man take place in Broxton, Oklahoma. Isn’t that where Thor lives these days? … BTW, with all the Iron Man comics and collections that Marvel is listing this month, you’d think that there was going to be another Iron Man movie soon … What? Oh, never mind …. BTW, if you like Iron Man, don’t miss Sherlock Holmes! (How many times have you ever seen that sentence in pop culture before now?) … My favorite Doom Patroller – Crazy Jane – returns in Doom Patrol #7 … Hmmm. The cover for Ms. Marvel #50 (the last issue, BTW) sure looks a lot like the cover from the original Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel. I wonder why? … The Pet Avengers return in Tails of the Pet Avengers (gotta love those puns!), a preview of the new Pet Avengers book to begin the following month! Now’s the time to stock up on kibble and chew-toys! … Does anybody besides me think its funny to describe this month’s issue of Wolverine Weapon X as the “perfect jumping on point!” Who would be crazy enough to jump on Wolverine? Oh, wait. This issue is about a new woman in Wolverine’s life. Never mind …
CREATOR WATCH – The Incredible Monkey Boy himself, Frank Cho, illustrates the cover to Hitman Monkey #1, the one-shot (?) origin of the break-out character from this month’s Deadpool title … Superboy returns to the pages of Tiny Titans #25 courtesy of Special Guest Co-Writer Geoff Johns! (Yes, you read that right! Tiny Titans!) … Chris Sprouse and Karl Story reunite for a special story in Human Target #1, written by Peter Johnson, the executive producer of the new Fox TV series … Dan Brereton adds some creepy pencils to Punisher #14, part of the Frankencastle storyline. And if you don’t know what that’s all about by now, you better start tracking down Dark Reign: The List: Punisher – an issue that will live in infamy. (Ew) … Cover of the month: Astonishing X-Men #34. Brrrr. Creepy. (Nice work, Phil Jimenez!)
KC CARLSON: Buying and reading comics since 1960.
But wait! Just as KC is powering down his word processor, Norman Osborn breaks into his office and crushes KC’s hands with a box full of Blackest Night and Dark Reign cover variants! Oh, nos! Will KC ever type again?!? Will Norman ever get a decent hairstyle?!? Will people ever stop asking such stupid questions?!?
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