Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

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Mongrel
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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Mongrel » Sun Nov 20, 2016 2:57 pm

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Thad
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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Mon Jan 02, 2017 1:37 am

I'm quite enjoying Hillbilly by Eric Powell. It's 4 issues in (and I'm sure there'll be a trade soon now) but they're all done-in-one; you can pick it up anywhere.

It fuses a few different genres. It's got a real classic fairytale vibe to it (Brothers Grimm etc.) but it's set in Appalachia, in some hazy and indeterminate mythical period that seems to correspond to anywhere from the seventeenth to early twentieth century, depending on what any given story requires.

And the hero, Rondel, is the classic loner hero archetype, in the cowboy/samurai/barbarian/etc. mold; he drifts from one adventure to another and walks away, alone, in the end.

And it's a horror comic. Rondel uses the Devil's Cleaver to fight witches and other assorted supernatural menaces.

It's a great, atmospheric book, of the type I'd like to see more of.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Sun May 28, 2017 1:52 pm

Royal City has Jeff Lemire back to his magical realist roots; it's a bit like a less-Canadian Essex County.

It's the story of a factory town that's seen better days, and an estranged family that's reunited (but, so far, not brought back together) when Dad has a stroke. It's also got a ghost in it.

Lemire said in the backmatter of #1 that he hates the phrase "slice of life" because he thinks it's a synonym for "boring"; I would propose that leisurely and relatable are better synonyms. Plus, he's writing and drawing, which is great; as much as I like him as a writer, I like him better as an artist.

The first three issues are out; you can support your local comic shop, buy them from Image, Comixology, or wherever, or wait for the trade, which will collect the first 5 issues, come out in August, and sell for $10 (which is half-price compared to the individual issues, which have a $4 cover price).

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Sun Nov 26, 2017 2:10 pm

Astro City #49 is a done-in-one that introduces The Resistor, a liberal protest-themed superhero. It briefly touches on immigration, white supremacists, healthcare, voting rights, the Keystone XL, attacks on the press, and a variety of other timely socioeconomic issues. But because it's Astro City, it's not about those things. The big issues are there, but the focus, as usual, is on the little people, on individual characters and their relationships. In this case, it's about a reporter and her relationship with her father.

But it's also a superhero origin story. And it's also a story about the moment we're in, and the power of ordinary people against the darkness.

It was a good read. Perhaps not as emotionally resonant as last month's issue (which involved a dying dog), but Astro City continues to be one of my all-time favorite books.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Thu Dec 21, 2017 11:07 am

The first issue of X-Men: Grand Design, by Ed Piskor (Wizzywig, Hip-Hop Family Tree) is out.

The hook is, he's adapting the first 280 issues of X-Men as a 6-issue miniseries. He wants to take one of the most tangled and confusing superhero series and make it accessible to somebody who's never picked up an X-Men comic before.

He's got a ways to go (the series is on a twice-a-year schedule, so if there are no delays the last issue will be out in June 2020), and I haven't even finished the first issue (these are 40-page comics and, as you might expect from the amount of information he has to go through, those pages are pretty packed). But so far, he is succeeding. I can legitimately say that this is the best entry point to X-Men I've ever seen. It's fucking gorgeous, and it manages to take a famously convoluted history, rearrange it so it goes in chronological order (starting, where else, with WWII), and make it not just coherent but narratively compelling.

I'm only up to the part where young Charles Xavier is introduced to his new stepbrother, Cain Marko. But I'm far enough along to know that this is something fucking special.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Wed May 16, 2018 12:20 am

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck (collected in The Don Rosa Library volumes 4 and 5) is every bit the stone-cold classic its reputation suggests.

If there's one caveat, it's this: while the series stands on its own, you'll get a lot more out of it if you've read the original Barks stories that it references, the most important of which are Christmas on Bear Mountain, Only a Poor Old Man, Back to the Klondike (collected in Only a Poor Old Man), and Voodoo Hoodoo (collected in Lost in the Andes).

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Wed Sep 26, 2018 12:59 am

Slayground is Darwyn Cooke's fourth Parker adaptation, and I think it might be his best. (And the first three are damn good.)

It fits the format the best. Cooke's Parker books alternate between comics and prose narration. Slayground leans heavily on the former; it's got a lot more show and a lot less tell. And its setting is perfect: Parker is cornered in an amusement park (closed for winter); the only way out is through the front gate, but first he has to get past mobsters and corrupt cops who are after his score. What follows is an extremely satisfying series of setups and payoffs: Parker sets traps, and then he springs them.

It's a short one, so the book contains a second story: The Seventh. It's a lot heavier on the narration than Slayground, but it's also got a damned interesting setting: Parker chases a target through a construction site.

Again, all the Parker books are great, but this may be the best. And it's standalone. (So's the third book, The Score.)

Cooke planned to adapt more Parker books, but from what I've read it sounds like they never got past the planning phase. I'd love to be wrong and for it to turn out he was far enough into the next one when he died that it could eventually be completed and released -- but it doesn't look like that's the case. It's a damn shame.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Tue May 28, 2019 12:58 am

Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson's Beasts of Burden is back, in a miniseries subtitled The Presence of Others. While it helps if you've read the previous books, this is a perfectly good jumping-on point; if you've never read a Beasts of Burden comic before, this one will get you up to speed.

Beasts of Burden is an eldritch horror series featuring talking animals* who fight the forces of darkness. Dorkin says in the backmatter,

[Reviewers] also tend to bring up The Incredible Journey, Buffy, and Stranger Things, and I get that, too, but I'm older than most reviewers, so, for the record, I had Watership Down, Poltergeist, and The Exorcist in my head while plotting the first Beasts of Burden story for Jill Thompson to illustrate back in 2003.


In this story, a family of paranormal investigators comes to Burden Hill to look into the strange goings-on. I was expecting the usual comic book formula: the newcomers and the protagonists misunderstand each other and spend the first couple of issues at odds before realizing they're on the same side and uniting to fight their common enemy. So I was pleasantly surprised when none of that shit happened and the Wise Dogs immediately showed up, within the first few pages, to introduce themselves to the humans, explain what's going on, and skip straight to the "realizing they're on the same side and uniting to fight their common enemy" part.

Anyhow, always nice to see this series back, and I'm looking forward to more. If you've never read it before, this is a perfectly decent place to start, though if you've got a weak stomach, it might be a good idea to give it a miss; it is a horror comic.

* it's the "animals like in our world, but they can talk" type of talking animals, not the "all the people are animal-people" type. Jungle Book, not Talespin.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:37 pm

I started reading that Jeff Lemire Humble Bundle with Gideon Falls. It's fucking great.

It's a horror comic. It's violent, but the horror comes less from the violence than the mystery; the sense of dread that Something is Wrong.

We get two stories, playing out in parallel: a schizophrenic man named Norton Sinclair obsessively collects detritus he finds in the city streets, insisting it's important somehow; meanwhile, an alcoholic priest named Father Fred Quinn arrives in the small town of Gideon Falls and finds himself in the middle of a murder mystery. Both men have visions of a sinister black barn.

There's some definite Twin Peaks influence, and I get a hint of Dark Tower and Legion in a couple of places, too.

Lemire is the writer; Andrea Sorrentino is the artist. I'm not familiar with Sorrentino's previous work, but I quite like his style here; his figure work is a lot different from Lemire's. He's clearly working from photo reference, but not in a way that's overbearing -- it reminds me a bit of Charlie Adlard back when he was doing X-Files, or maybe Bryan Hitch in his early days before he went all-in on populating his comics with obvious likenesses like Samuel L Jackson, David Tennant, and Sarah Palin.

The layouts feel more like Lemire's work, riffing on themes he's used in other books like Trillium -- particularly pages that juxtapose Fred and Norton's stories in adjacent panels and show one of them upside-down. I'm curious whether Lemire actually roughed these out, or merely described them in his script.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention Dave Stewart, one of the best damn colorists in the business. The man's a chameleon, and it's amazing how adaptable his flat palettes are, from brightly-colored classic superhero books like New Frontier to a foreboding horror book like this one.

The bundle included the first two trades. The third hasn't been released yet, but I expect I'll be picking it up once it is.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Fri Jul 05, 2019 12:24 pm

Mad is going reprints-only.

Fuck. That's terrible.

Evanier shares more thoughts: his own, Paul Levitz's, and Joe Raiola's.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Grath » Fri Jul 05, 2019 2:50 pm

(There's a bunch of commentary on this over in Obituaries because we're good about putting things in the right thread.)

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Mon Jul 08, 2019 1:15 am

Sigh. Didn't see it because I was at Brontokon and avoiding politics for the weekend, and FFS guys I love Mad but it is not a person. The obits thread is for people, and sometimes pets. Let's try and keep a sense of proportion here. When Al Feldstein, Jack Davis, Duck Edwing, and Nick Meglin passed, that was a topic for the obits thread. When Jaffee and Aragones finally do, that will be too. Mad going all-reprint is sad, but it is not the same thing as someone dying.

Evanier notes that there already appears to be some backpedaling; now they're talking about doing an annual issue of all-new content. At least it's something.

I chatted with Brent about this a bit and I think that, while the magazine industry is certainly in trouble, the issue has been compounded by DC's revolving door of an org chart.

It also occurred to me that, a decade ago, when we were wondering which publisher would be the first to go all-reprint, everybody was betting it would be Archie. And that got me thinking -- for Christ's sake, if Archie, of all things, can figure out a way to be hip and relevant to a modern audience, Mad sure as hell could, if there were competent people steering the ship. (Brent did not think much of this theory. I don't think he believed me when I tried to explain how successful Archie has become over the past few years -- and Riverdale is certainly part of it, but I'm talking about the entire line; the comics were resurgent before Riverdale even premiered. And while stuff like Afterlife and Riverdale that take Archie in a deliberately subversive direction have certainly gotten a lot of attention, the Waid/Staples relaunch was also a success, and it was a much more conservative take -- it conceded to modern sensibilities in terms of serialized storytelling and art that strayed from the house style, but it was still an all-ages book that treated the premise sincerely and unironically.)

At any rate...I probably haven't bought a Mad in 20 years, so I guess I'm part of the problem. I defer to Evanier on the recent issues with the publication. I have seen a number of Mad tweets over the past few months and they seemed pretty sharp; I definitely get the impression there are/were still plenty of sharp people onboard. (I know Bill Morrison, formerly of Simpsons Comics, was the EiC when Mad moved to Burbank, though I gather from Evanier's posts that that didn't last long.) This strikes me as corporate incompetence at least as much as the results of a changing periodical market. I'm hoping somebody figures out something to do with Mad, and sooner rather than later.

Or at the very least, I hope this frees up Aragones to do more Sergio Aragones Funnies.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Brentai » Mon Jul 08, 2019 11:13 am

For the record, what I did believe is that Archie's "success" is mostly a stubborn refusal to die in any visible way.
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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Lottel » Mon Jul 08, 2019 9:42 pm

Nah, people just wanna fuck Archie characters more
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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:10 pm

Brentai wrote:For the record, what I did believe is that Archie's "success" is mostly a stubborn refusal to die in any visible way.

But it's not, though. It's Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa having some very marketable ideas about how to take Archie in directions no one ever has before* and management being willing to listen to him (which probably looked pretty risky in 2013, though at this point "do whatever Roberto says" is a pretty well-proven business strategy). And sure, a lot of it is self-aware subversion (the horror comics, Riverdale), and some of it is just the usual sales gimmicks (relaunch with a new #1, then revert to the old numbering a couple years later), but the bottom line is that it's selling because talented writers and artists are making comics people want to read. No, we're not talking DC or Marvel numbers (Archie #1 was a top-ten book, but, yeah, sales gimmick), but having multiple books consistently in the top 200 every month is pretty good, and having two successful TV series is better. And I don't know what their grocery store checkout line / Scholastic school sales numbers are, but I bet they're making a whole lot more money there than in the direct market.

Archie coasted on recognition and inertia for a long time. But it isn't anymore. If it had just kept doing what it had been doing, it would have ended up like Mad.

And I have to figure that if Mad had had better management, it could have ended up like Archie.

(I was wrong about MADison Avenue, though; Mad moved out of that office twenty years ago.)

* the 1990 TV movie absolutely does not count

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:17 pm

I haven't even mentioned Vertigo going away (well...officially going away; I've talked about how DC's been laying off or alienating nearly everyone responsible for its success for years). It may not be as symbolically significant as Mad, but it's part of the same problem: a revolving door of DC management not understanding what they have or what to do with it.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby beatbandito » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:49 pm

As a people who don't read comics I'm sad to hear that. Vertigo's logo was always high on the spines I would go to first at Barnes & Noble.
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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Wed Jul 10, 2019 10:26 pm

With Barnes and Noble being bought out by a private equity firm, I wouldn't count on seeing the Vertigo logo or shopping at Barnes and Noble a year from now.

But do give Berger Books and Black Crown a look. Those imprints are run by Karen Berger and Shelly Bond, respectively; they're the two editors most responsible for making Vertigo what it was.

I feel like I've said this before, but Berger's probably one of the most important editors in the history of American comics. I don't think it's a stretch to put her on the same level as Bill Gaines and Stan Lee. If all she'd ever done was bring V for Vendetta over from the UK, she'd be important. If all she'd ever done was ask Neil Gaiman to write Sandman, she'd have a legitimate claim to transforming American comics forever. But Fables, Y: The Last Man, Hellblazer, Invisibles, Preacher, 100 Bullets...yeah. Vertigo's the most important thing to happen to American comics in 30 years, and DC killed the golden goose. They offered the creators less and less favorable terms until the creators all went to other publishers, then they laid off Berger and Bond and left them to go to other publishers, and for years Vertigo's been nothing more than what you said: a logo on the spine of some collections of amazing comics from years past. Changing that logo to "DC Black Label" doesn't really change anything, I suppose; the talent's already gone. (I mean, Gaiman acting as ringmaster to a new Sandman universe is nothing to sneeze at, but as important as Sandman is, it was only part of Vertigo's success.)

Lord knows I don't always agree with what Marvel does. But Disney knows exactly what it has and what its value is -- it had better; it spent $4 billion on the acquisition. Warner's increasing corporate meddling with DC has shown a total lack of leadership and competence. Put it this way: Warner executives know a lot about making movies, and not a lot about making comic books. And their approach to DC movies is to put Zack Snyder in charge, and leave him there. That's the industry where they're operating at their peak level of competence. And then there's the comics division.

And that was before the AT&T purchase.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Thu Jul 18, 2019 1:12 am

I finally got around to reading The Maxx (by Sam Kieth and William Messner-Loebs), and I'll say one thing for it: it's unique. I've read a lot of comics, but never one quite like this.

Whatever its faults, lack of ambition ain't one of 'em. It's a comic that combines the aesthetics of '60s Witzend and '90s Image to tell what initially appears to be a superhero story but is actually about trauma, loss, shame, and the various coping mechanisms people use to deal with them, set against a mystical/psychedelic/surreal backdrop.

And trigger warnings all over this comic, because quite a lot of the plot deals with rape, and the back half has all sorts of nasty stuff, including child abuse.

When I say "back half" -- the series is divided into two major arcs. The first arc wraps in issue #20; #21 has a "ten years later" time jump. It's somewhat jarring that this major break occurs halfway through Volume 5 in the Maxximized collected set.

I feel like the first major arc is more satisfying but the second is more interesting. The first 20 issues tell a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end, but it's light on character development; Julie and Maxx never really feel like fully-realized characters so much as a series of reactions to things that happen to them.

The last 15 issues, which focus more on the characters of Sara and Mr. Gone, are more interesting in terms of character development, but also are much more disturbing than those first 20 issues, and suffer from a rushed ending that leaves a number of dangling loose ends. (When you get to "Hi kids, Mr. Gone here. Here's a story of Mickey, Dude and the only guy who ever scared the hell out of me. He's called... well you'll meet him soon enough." you can just go ahead and skip to the next issue. It tells a fucked-up story, as promised, but then it just abruptly ends with no resolution and is never addressed again. The following issue picks up a completely different story, which also never gets resolved and cuts to Gone explaining to everyone that everything is about to end; the following issue is the last of the series, which more or less resolves the main storyline but leaves various subplots as shaggy-dog stories that never really amount to anything. Gone speckles the fourth wall as he addresses the other characters and tells them that there's no time and it's more important to get emotional closure than a rational explanation. The final issue feels rushed not just in terms of story but in terms of production; there's one panel where two narrative boxes appear in the wrong order, and another where Gone is listing off the characters and says Mark's name twice; I'm pretty sure one of them was meant to be Maxx.)

It's a mindfuck, and there are some images that I'm not going to be able to get out of my head easily. I'm glad I read it, but if I were to recommend it I'd add, well, all the caveats discussed above. It's a weird damn book, and upsetting, but I think it's a pretty special one, too.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Wed Oct 02, 2019 11:18 pm

Discovered at the comic shop today that the Young Justice comic -- the one based on the cartoon -- is being reprinted; issues #0-#13 are collected in Volume 1: The Early Missions. I haven't read it yet, but I've been meaning to for years, because Weisman is one of the writers and has stated that it's canon.

(Not that being canon necessarily matters -- the Superman Adventures comic written by Scott McCloud was fantastic -- but it doesn't hurt.)

The success of Young Justice season 3 is certainly responsible for the comic going back into print, so that's great to see. I'd love to see the comic relaunch in some form (though they'd have to call it Young Justice: Some Kind of Subtitle, as there's another, unrelated Young Justice comic running now).

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