Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about, as it says above, “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. So without further ado, let’s get to it ...
Finally ... Miracleman
For the first time in decades, Miracleman is back in print. This is one we've been hoping would come back for years -- even after it was finally announced, more than four years ago, that the legal issues had been worked out and Marvel would be bringing it back in some form or fashion. While this first issue hitting the stands (and digitally) is a good sign, it'll be that fabled issue #25 that Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham completed but Eclipse never published that I'll be really excited to see. Until then, I'm pleased to enjoy "The Original Writer" and Garry Leach's brilliant and influential take on the character one more time. (JK Parkin)
Batman '66 comes to home video
What's THIS? The Dynamic Duo's digital debut? The rights resolved regarding their '60s swashbuckling? The news tweeted triumphantly by a ginger giant, himself a creature of the night? One can only imagine the joy of countless Bat-fans from Gotham City to Londinium and Bessarovia, and all points in between, as they ready the televisual equipment in their own stately manors! Further details are surely forthcoming, so stay tuned to this Bat-site!
Sorry, couldn't resist -- but the announcement that the 1966-68 Batman TV show would be coming to DVD this year is a big deal. The show was a huge hit for its first couple of years, spawning a brief "Batmania" craze and informing not just the general public's perception of Batman, but of comic books as a whole. That perception stood for the better part of twenty years, until shaken by Frank Miller's Dark Knight and the first Tim Burton movie. This made the show poisonous to many fans who wanted to emphasize the seriousness of their hero's thankless mission, so perhaps the long wait has been a mellowing factor. Certainly the recent flood of Batman '66 product seems to have been received well, since it comes after another two decades of dark and gritty adventures. Besides, it’s hard to overstate the show’s influence, whether it’s obvious (like The Tick) or more subtle (like Watchmen’s Nite Owl II costume, meant to look like Adam West’s Batsuit). Actors like Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith, Julie Newmar, and Eartha Kitt also left indelible marks on the “special guest villains” they portrayed.
All that aside, though, Batman remains tremendously entertaining. With multi-layered writing, perfectly-stylized direction, an excellent cast, and some of the period’s best production design, it put Silver Age storytelling in a whole new light. It should be fun to revisit, let alone watch for the first time. (Tom Bondurant)
comiXology: 6 billion pages and counting
A little more than four years ago comiXology didn't exist in its current form, but what a four years they've had. This week they hit a couple of big milestones -- the first being that they've now served up more than 6 billion pages of comics since they launched. And since it's only been about a year since they were touting the fact that they had served up 2 billion pages, that means in the last year people have downloaded 4 billion pages from the comiXology app.
It's not surprising, then, that they had the top-grossing non-game iPad app in the iTunes App Store in 2013 -- curse you, Candy Crush Saga! -- and have continued to grow by leaps and bounds. “In a billion-dollar marketplace with competition between over a million apps, it’s gratifying to rank as the Top Grossing non-game iPad App in the entire iTunes App Store,” comiXology CEO David Steinberger said in a statement. “This past year has been a great year for comics and comiXology!” (JK Parkin)
Turn out the lights, the Fart Party's over
In her autobiographical graphic novels The Fart Party and Drinking at the Movies, Julia Wertz turned an unsparing eye on her alcoholism--but she also made it funny. Now in an essay, punctuated with comics, on the site Narrative.ly she goes much deeper, starting with how depression, illness and alcoholism feed directly into her comedy. In real life and on paper, she writes, she alternates between "cynicism and buffoonery," a combination that makes for great comics but a lousy lifestyle: "However, in real life, those opposing personality dynamics created the classic Janus Mask lifestyle often utilized by chronic alcoholics."
Wertz illustrates her essay with comics in her familiar, cartoony style as well as diary comics and letters that she sent to her studio-mates while she was in rehab. The contrasts are jarring, but they also show the power of combined words and pictures, as she draws the items she buys at the grocery store, contrasts her face in the mirror with her perceived image of herself, and depicts the lineup at medication time at the rehab facility. Her first-person testimony is also an answer to those who would say "Why doesn't she just stop drinking," showing herself doing all the wrong things and knowing she was doing all the wrong things--but still doing them.
The essay ends on a hopeful note. Wertz has found a new outlet for her energies, exploring abandoned buildings, and while she has been taking a break from cartooning recently, she will have a new book out this year and has another in the works. She leaves open the question of whether she can be funny if she's not miserable, but in the end she makes her choice clear: "If being a good comedy writer means I have to be depressed, then fuck it, I quit. The world doesn’t need any more fart jokes anyways." (Brigid Alverson)
Remembering Gary Arlington
Every couple of months, as with every industry, we lose a comic great. Typically the outpouring of tributes is a steady and intense stream for several days. I am afraid that Gary Arlington, who opened one of the first comic book stores, the San Francisco Comic Book Company, in 1967 and who died on Thursday, will not be afforded a generous and steady stream of tributes. When Tom Spurgeon tweeted about Thursday’s passing of San Francisco-based underground comics and comics retail pioneer Gary Arlington, I admitted his passing was the first I had heard of him.
That was regrettable ignorance on my part. It’s a massive failure considering that in 2011 Last Gasp published I Am Not of This Planet: The Art of Gary Edison Arlington. People who knew to appreciate Arlington’s impact on comics tried to warn us as recently as last year how under-appreciated he had become, as noted in this San Francisco Chronicle article, that focused on the book and Arlington’s participation in Laguna Hospital’s Art with Elders program. As stated by the program’s director, Mark Campbell: “He is someone who has lived an incredible life and yet has been shuffled off to relative obscurity without his story really being told."
Relative obscurity does not befit the fellow who ran a shop that “became a meeting ground for early underground cartoonists like Robert Crumb, Bill Griffith, and Spain Rodriguez” and also published “artists like Rory Hayes, Melinda Gebbie, S. Clay Wilson…” (both quotes from Last Gasp’s tribute to him).
The storytellers he supported as well as his own art will hopefully serve to make sure people always appreciate Arlington. With that in mind, I give Arlington the last word on the matter, from this YouTube promo he did for the book: “I’d like to inform all the people on this planet, you’ve been programmed all your life to die. You can live forever and ever and ever…until you get bored.” (Tim O'Shea)