Every so often, usually because of mailing lists I’m part of or reviews I’ve done, I get one of these meme questionnaires popping up in my In box. This week, because as you read this I’ll be in the midst of the swirling vortex of crazy that is the Emerald City Comic-Con, I decided to take the one I got on Monday and apply it to comics, thinking that would make a fun column. So here you go.
The book I’m currently reading?
Adventures of Superman by Gil Kane.
I really like these creator-based books DC is doing. This particular one, though I wouldn’t call it a career high point for anyone involved, nevertheless has a bunch of enjoyable work in it. Obviously the common factor is that all the stories are penciled and largely inked by the late Gil Kane, but the writing is good too. In particular, there’s a big chunk of Marv Wolfman’s run from the early 1980s (including the revamp of Brainiac) a couple of fun one-offs from DC stalwarts like Bob Rozakis and Martin Pasko, and even an odd but interesting story from Mr. Kane himself.
I pre-ordered this far enough in advance that I got it for about half-price. If I’d paid the full retail of $39.99, I don’t think it’d be worth it, but for a twenty-dollar hardcover it’s very cool, and since I missed these at the time, they’re all new to me.
The last book I finished?
Planet of the Apes Volume Four, by Daryl Gregory and Carlos Magno.
I really liked this ongoing, and was faithfully buying it new in trade– that’s my compromise when I like a new series but am trying not to clutter up my office with more longboxes full of stuff. I enjoy the Planet of the Apes series-of-mini-series Boom! is doing, and I get those trades too, but I’m going to miss the regular ongoing. Erin down at my comics shop said the title wasn’t doing well for them, and that she had to order this particular collection especially for me, in fact, because they’d stopped carrying it. Pity.
It appealed to both my old-school Apes fan and my inner continuity geek, as the storyline featuring human ‘silents’ and also the secret machinations of the telepathic human mutants appeared to be attempting to reconcile the various versions out there of the chronology of the series.
It’s a little thing, but it pleased me. Mostly because in my youth I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out how the timeline of the movies matched up with the TV show and the cartoon. (I gather that someone has actually written a book detailing how it all works out, but I’m too cheap to pay the twenty-five bucks the guy’s asking for it.)
The next book I want to read?
Probably one of these two.
Native American Classics is another terrific collection from Tom Pomplun and the folks over at Graphic Classics. This one’s definitely breaking new ground, as I don’t believe anyone’s ever given these stories the Classics Illustrated treatment before. This volume presents adaptations of early stories and poems by Native American writers including Charles Eastman, Zitkala-Sa, Alex Posey, E. Pauline Johnson and George Copway. The art, as always, is a splendid array of talent, featurinhg well-known comics artists like Tim Truman and Terry Laban alongside newer folks like Weshoyot Alvitre and Jay Odjick.
Two very cool things about this book. The first is that every effort has been made to see to it that it’s actual Native American folks working on the stories wherever possible– both writers and artists. That’s a nice touch.
The second item is sad news, but nevertheless leads to something admirable. The press info I got with this tells me that “just weeks after completing his art for On Wolf Mountain for Native American Classics, Robby McMurtry was tragically killed in a shooting at his home. The editors have dedicated the book to his memory. Publisher Eureka Productions has pledged $1 for each book sold in the month of March 2013 to the Robby McMurtry Scholarship for the Arts.” Once again Eureka Productions shows it’s one of the class acts in small-press indie comics. There’s more information at the Robby McMurtry site.
The other book is a new hardcover edition– well, new to me, it’s been around a while– of Tarzan: The Lost Adventure, posthumously completed by Joe R. Lansdale. It was originally published as a four-issue prestige format mini-series from Dark Horse, so that “First Time in Print!” bit on the cover is something of a misrepresentation.
I haven’t read it since it came out in 1995, though, and my original issues are buried in a longbox somewhere, so I’m happy to have the hardcover novel to pull off the bookshelf whenever I want. This one’s a nice book to have just as a book, anyway. It’s got a new dust jacket featuring painted art by Disney artist Dean Williams, and is illustrated throughout by Thomas Yeates, Charles Vess, Gary Gianni, and Michael Kaluta. I know some of those guys didn’t work on the original Dark Horse edition, so I’m very much looking forward to sitting down with it.
The last book I bought?
X-Men: Beauty and the Beast, by Jim Shooter, Ann Nocenti, and others. It was a brand-new hardcover for, like, four dollars, and it has pretty much all the Dazzler stuff I’d ever want in one convenient reprint collection. I’m not terribly interested in the current Marvel or DC offerings, especially since they insist on canceling the books I genuinely like, but I can’t get very upset about it when it’s so easy for me to go back and pick up beautiful hardcover editions of stuff I missed the first time around. Often for super-cheap, like this one.
The last book I was given?
Tom Green at Titan Books sent them to me for review. So here’s my short take on each.
Tank Girl: I am totally not the audience for this book, but nevertheless I did like it a lot, particularly the kineticism and sense of fun that Jim Mahfood gives the art.
It’s raunchy and rude and in-your-face, but it’s also smart and funny. The anything-goes, punk-rock sensibility of the thing would wear out its welcome in a hurry if you were going through a whole stack of these books, I imagine, but after wading through a couple of super SERIOUS DC superhero crossovers, it’s a nice little palate-cleanser. Even when I thought Martin’s writing was a little off (and let me stress again I’m probably a lot stodgier than the target audience) the art saved it– Mr. Mahfood is clearly having a great time here and it shows.
Johnny Red: This is another hardcover collection of strips from the British comics weekly Battle, much like the Major Eazy collection I was looking at not too long ago.
Since these comics originally ran as short chapters of a weekly serial, the pace is a bit choppy to read in a single sitting, but I nevertheless enjoyed the book a great deal. Johnny Red is a disgraced RAF pilot who finds a new lease on life flying for the Russians and helping them fight the Nazis on the eastern front.
The stories from Tom Tully are taut and compelling enough, but the art is the star here.
I love how Joe Colquhoun somehow manages to combine the facial expressions and caricature approach of the best underground artists like Sheridan or Crumb with the no-nonsense hardcore military accuracy and eye for detail of someone like Sam Glanzman.
It’s a combination that makes for a story that at once feels operatically important and harshly realistic, even though the plots are often just barely flirting with absurd– and I mean on a Robert Kanigher level. It doesn’t matter. The art sells it.
Which was the last book you borrowed from the library?
Well, we don’t really do that, because we live in a library. But we do sometimes get movies. The last one was Journey to the Center of the Earth, from 1959.
I like this one a lot because, first of all, James Mason, and second of all, because it’s the version that the Filmation cartoon was based on.
What was the last translated book you read?
Zorro, by Isabel Allende.
And then Matt Wagner translated THAT one to comics!
Which worked out great, because Wagner’s is actually better.
Which so-far unpublished book are you most looking forward to reading?
They contradict each other– there was even a little bit of a fan squawk about it– but I don’t care. I’m jazzed for both of them.
And there you have it. If you get a chance, do come and see us at the show– we’re at table N-11 in Artist’s Alley, towards the back. (And please know that I’m genuinely pleased to see you, even if I look a little scattered. It’s been kind of crazy trying to get this year’s con trip put together.)
Everyone else, I’ll see you next week.