Best of 7 | Bill Finger Award, Dick Tracy goes 'meta' and more

Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out.

This week we focus on the Bill Finger award recipients, the latest Dick Tracy storyline a new volume of Eden from Dark Horse and more. So hop into your TARDIS and hold on tight as we travel back in time for a look at the last seven days ...

Kanigher, Mantlo and Mendelsohn honored with the Bill Finger Award

There are many reasons I admire Kurt Busiek--in general for his amazing encyclopedic-scale knowledge of comics history, but for this week in particular because of his partial role (along with fellow Bill Finger Award judges Mark Evanier, Charles Kochman, Jim Amash, Scott Shaw!, and Marv Wolfman) in deciding to grant the Bill Finger Award in a tie to two living writers.

I love awards that recognize the history of the comic book industry. While the Finger Award usually grants one posthumous award and one living award--this year the committee selected Robert Kanigher (posthumous) as well as the tie for both Bill Mantlo and Jack Mendelsohn (both living).

Current industry pros like Greg Pak have helped keep Mantlo's name in the present, despite the fact he has been cared for in a nursing home since a 1992 brain injury. Also Mantlo's role in creating great characters like Rocket Raccoon who plays a major role in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film helps keep his name in the present.

Every time I read coverage about Mantlo's condition, it seems like someone else always comments that this is the first they have heard of his accident. Even though Mike Mantlo, Bill's brother who orchestrates his care, made it clear in February that Marvel has always done right by Bill in compensating Bill for his work--I think donations to Bill's care is always a good thing. So his earning this well-deserved recognition will hopefully inspire more people to donate as a way of saying thanks for all the great stories Mantlo wrote.

In terms of the other living recipient, I love that Mendelsohn is the kind of fellow who after writing comics ended up writing for comedians when he wrote for Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-InThe Carol Burnett Show and Three’s Company.

As for Kanigher, I am ashamed to admit I never realized that he had a hand in the co-creation of both The Metal Men and Black Canary, among many other DC characters. (Tim O'Shea)

It's an Endless World as we know it, and I feel fine

Dark Horse published volume 14 of Eden: It's an Endless World this week, just two and a half years after they published volume 13. While some folks might argue that's a ridiculously slow pace, I would take the opposite tack and commend Dark Horse for sticking with a series that, despite its high quality, is not a big seller.

Eden is a hard sci-fi series set in a world where a virus has wiped out almost all of humanity. I'll admit, I'm only on the first volume, but I'm impressed with the complexity of the storytelling and the richness of the characters. With art that is less stylized than standard genre manga and a story that delves into morality and moral ambiguity, this is one of those manga that non-manga readers should be able to enjoy, especially those who like the more literary strain of graphic novel. (Brigid Alverson)

Stripped goes out to Kickstarter backers

This week I got my DVD copy of Stripped, the newspaper-comic documentary from filmmakers Dave Kellett and Fred Schroeder. It was a Kickstarter project that was successfully funded back in September 2011, and for a self-described "love letter," it was worth the wait. With interviews from some 60 cartoonists, it pulled in a lot of big names -- most prominently Bill Watterson, who gave audio interviews (and contributed poster art) but didn't appear on camera. The subjects talked about everything from their favorite comics to their creative processes and the field's changing economics. To that end, Scott Kurtz and the creators of Penny Arcade largely represented the monetization of webcomics, and a few syndicators talked about their experiences (particularly with Cathy Guisewite, whose submission was literally at the top of everyone's pile, and who got an offer right away). Otherwise, interviewees included Kate Beaton, Keith Knight, Shaenon Garrity, Jean Schulz, Ms. Guisewite, Ryan North, Stephan Pastis, Mell Lazarus, Mort Walker, Jim Davis, Jeff Keane, Jeff Smith, Lynn Johnston, R.C. Harvey, Scott McCloud, and Bill Amend. That's a lot of comics talk crammed into about 72 minutes! While it may work best as a genial overview of these kinds of comics -- there was no comic-book talk, and the only such characters even mentioned were Archie and Batman -- I found it eminently watchable, and a great look at the people who put these features together. You can pre-order it now on iTunes (the expected release date is April 1), so check it out, won't you? (Tom Bondurant)

Dick Tracy goes meta, for a good cause

Dick Tracy (written by Mike Curtis and drawn by Joe Staton) might not be the first place you'd look for comic-strip metacommentary, but the sequence that started March 23 seems to have a couple of different flavors. First is an in-universe newspaper-strip parody of Tracy himself (which is deliberately reminiscent of "Fearless Fosdick," the Tracy parody from Li'l Abner); but more significant may be Tracy's involvement in the search for none other than Little Orphan Annie. Fans of classic comics might remember that Little Orphan Annie ended its 86-year (!) run back in June 2010, and not exactly on the happiest of notes -- namely, with Annie kidnapped and presumed dead. Leapin' Lizards indeed!

Fortunately, Daddy Warbucks and his minions appear ready to reach out to Tracy, so it looks like Annie's ordeal is coming to an end. Annie characters have appeared in Dick Tracy before, and Curtis and Staton even did a don't-say-Batman pseudo-crossover where Tracy fought the Penguin's brother. However, there's nothing stealthy about this storyline. Like the Avengers defrosting Captain America, the Justice League and Justice Society rescuing the Seven Soldiers of Victory, or Fox Mulder and Dana Scully pulling Dale Cooper out of the Black Lodge (okay, that's just my fan-fiction), it pushes all the right buttons. Tracy may have a deadline, though -- Aug. 5 is Little Orphan Annie's 90th anniversary, and there's a new Annie movie set for this Christmas. That reminds me -- hope he remembers to drink his Ovaltine! (Tom Bondurant)

New Herobear and the Kid arrives next month

Looking to April's releases, Mike Kunkel has a new Herobear and the Kid series that will launch next month, which is great news for Kunkel fans and for kids in general. The first Herobear series won an Eisner award when it was originally published in 2002/2003. BOOM! Studios reprinted that original story under its kaBOOM imprint, first as single comics and then in a collected edition. This is one of the best kids' comics out there. Actually, it's one of the best comics out there. Kunkel's style is at once easy and sophisticated, combining a slick, cartoony look with a superb sense of composition, and his stories are just plain fun. The Kid is Tyler, your typical fifth-grade nebbish, whose life takes a turn for the incredible when he inherits a stuffed bear and a broken pocketwatch from his grandfather; the bear becomes a superhero polar bear when he presses its nose, and the watch alerts him to impending danger—such as giant rubber ducks attacking a ship. It's a really fun comic, and it's good news that Kunkel has more on the way. (Brigid Alverson)

PREVIEW: The Flash #81

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