When Frank Miller picked up the award at the Eisners ceremony for 300, he was near tears. Frank Miller: The big guy. The guy who draws no nonsense, no holds barred, take-no-prisoners gritty urban noir comics was there ready to weep in front of hundreds for winning the Harvey Award for 300. Explaining it was a book he was incredibly proud of and a story he had always wanted to do, you had to feel good for the guy.
Not just that, but because the book was good. Historical fiction, lavishly told. No censored nudity, no covered up blood. This was the real story of a bloody war told as real as it could be done. You couldn't do this in movies. You might be able to do it in a novel. But only in a comic book format do the two combine to make for an amazing presentation.
Dark Horse finally got around to printing a collection of the 5 issues in hardcover format last week and the result is quite possibly the finest book of the year. It's definitely the best compilation put out this year.
It's got it all. The paper is a heavy glossy stock. The hardcover has the graphics printed right onto it - no dust jackets. For $30, you're getting three times the value of your standard weekly DC hardcover original stories. I mean that qualitatively as well as quantitatively.
Here's the kicker: it's printed sideways. Did you notice in the series how all the story pages spread out over two pages? Were you really annoyed at how the staples got in the way? This compilation prints those two facing pages on one sheet of paper. No fold down the middle. No staples. You get a graphic novel that is the standard height of a comic book, but twice as wide. And as powerful a ride as you thought the story was the first time around, you haven't seen anything yet. This is storytelling in true cinemascope. Those two page splashes really stand out. It's a completely new read for you now.
So if you got one of those gift certificates from a loved one for Christmas for your local comics shop and don't know what to get, here's a possibility. Congratulations, again, to Frank Miller for the Harvey and to Dark Horse for this excellent presentation of the material.
Diamond Distributions' PREVIEWS is now out for books shipping in the month of March 2000. (It's also, by the by, the month of my 24th birthday. March 3rd. Write it down now. You may need it later. ;-) Anyway, there are some interesting things contained therein. Let's look at a few.
DC: The most shocking listing is on page 58. There's a TOM STRONG action figure coming out. How'd they get Alan Moore to agree to this? I guess it goes under the same umbrella as ABC does, but it sure seems to be pushing the line of merchandising. I'll assume Moore is getting properly compensated for these.
On the next page is the ad for the new WildStorm title GEN-ACTIVE. It's an anthology series for assorted characters in the WildStorm Universe. It also contains a story inked by Derek Fridolfs, who I did an interview with this month. You should see that interview in next week's Pipeline2.
DC's specialty, the trade paperback, has some interesting permutations this month. First is the BATMAN BLACK AND WHITE mini-series collection for $20 on "oversized pages," whatever that means. It was an interesting and eclectic series if you missed it the first time around, and probably worth a look if you didn't.
PLANETARY: ALL OVER THE WORLD AND OTHER STORIES is the $15 collection of the first six issues of Warren Ellis' excellent series, with great art by the up-and-coming John Cassaday.
The SON OF SUPERMAN hardcover reviewed here a couple of weeks ago drops ten dollars in price for the softcover edition at $15. At that price point, you might want to look at it. I wouldn't be ecstatic about it, but if this is your sort of thing, it's now much more reasonable.
It also goes to show that if you're just interested in the stories, skip the hardcovers. The less expensive soft covered editions will be out shortly.
The superlative John Byrne mini-series, SUPERMAN & BATMAN: GENERATIONS gets a $15 collection for its 192 pages. (For those keeping track, that's nearly 100 more story pages than the SON OF SUPERMAN paperback at the same price. It's also a much better story.)
Image Comics offers up two CGI-themed comics in March. The first is J.U.D.G.E. #1, by ESPers artist Greg Horn. This one is done in painted watercolors and computer graphics. The second is Dan Fraga's GEAR STATION, which utilizes computer-generated backgrounds and more traditional pen-and-ink characters. Three pages from each series are shown on pages 102 and 103.
GEAR STATION ends up resembling an animated movie, with painted backgrounds and characters on "cels" up front. J.U.D.G.E. looks like a fully painted photo realistic book. GEAR STATION is more in the realm of fantasy, where J.U.D.G.E. is more accurately described as science fiction, or science-fantasy at the very least.
Personally, right now I like the look of GEAR STATION a little more. Maybe I'm just more prone to enjoy "animated" stuff than painted stuff. It might just be because I fear losing Greg Horn's excellent line work he displayed in ESPers to the technical wizardry on display in J.U.D.G.E. Or it could be because J.U.D.G.E., on the surface, appears to be a "good girl" book, with Horn taking full advantage of his girlfriend to pose for the comic. This isn't inherently wrong. Check out SOMERSET HOLMES sometimes for an example of how this can work. It was published in TPB format by Eclipse comics in the late 1980s. And I should point out that the pages on display from this book (and those on Horn's web site) show this book to be more than just gratuitous T&A, the likes of which Image once publishes in the now-cancelled EXPOSURE.
Dark Horse solicits for THE HAUNTED MAN, a three-issue mini-series by Gerard Jones and Mark Badger. Judging by the previews on it, this might be the first good-looking thing I've ever seen Badger draw. Anyone remember those awful EXCALIBUR issues he drew?
Their big push, though, is on SUPER MANGA BLAST! #1, a new manga anthology. I have to admit; I might just give this a shot. I've never bought any manga before, aside from GON. I've just wanted a relatively inexpensive way to sample some different stuff of the manga art form. This looks like it could be my chance, for $5 for 128 pages.
The final issue of SIN CITY: HELL AND BACK is being pushed back a month so Frank Miller can finish the extra-sized extravaganza of a last issue, as usual. I like the SIN CITY stuff, so I'm hoping he pulls this one together well. I'm more than happy to grant the guy leeway; he's earned that much. But this latest series has me curious as to just what the heck is going on, and not in a good way. I just want some sense of definite direction. Hopefully, I'll get that when the series is finished.
Marvel Comics' big push is on the X Titles. I've been reading X-MEN regularly again for about a year and a half or so. But this is as excited as I've been for them in that time. March signals both the return of Chris Claremont as X-MEN writer, as well as Warren Ellis as "Plotmaster" on the second string mutant titles. There are some impressive previews shown in this book.
Ellis' books can be summed up as being "Matrix"-ized. Gone is the spandex. In comes the black leather. It's almost to the point where you won't recognize these people from their previous incarnations. GENERATION X looks mostly the same, actually, and I suppose it'll just be a new direction they'll be headed in. X-FORCE gets a lineup revamp and a complete change of costumes and focus. Boomer (or whatever she's called these days) wears leather everywhere except her mid-riff. Remember the days when she was more of the annoying blonde type? Wow… Rob Liefeld used her as a fashion plate, altering her costume every chance she got. Now she's neo-punk all the way.
Astonish Comics, on page 211, solicits for the much-anticipated HEROBEAR AND THE KID #2. I point that out now so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle. It was the hit book of the San Diego Comic Con this past summer. Let's hope its slow schedule doesn't kill the interest in it.
Awesome Comics: First of all, try reading their two page ad across pages 217 and 218. Is it possible? Look at that font on the bottom left side. What a horrible font to use in an ad!
Second, it's not a joke: Awesome really is putting out a comic called "MAGIKMON". Is this the Jamaican version of the popular fantasy Wizards of the Coast game? No, it's an attempt to capitalize on the POKEMON fad, although it may be aimed at a slightly older audience. Do you think the fad will last through March? Sadly, it probably will. Each issue comes with a bound-in Magikmon trading card. Whee!
Fantagraphics' THE COMICS JOURNAL #222 features an interview with Erik Larsen. If anyone is equipped to poke a hole in TCJ's smug elitist attitude, I think it's Erik. Can't wait to see this one.
I'm struck by how much of the rest of PREVIEWS is taken up with pathetic T&A comics. ::sigh::
This is by no means an exhaustive look at PREVIEWS. For that, buy one yourself. I'm done helping these people advertise for this month. =)
Yes, there are people who want to land themselves copies of the trade paperback of Chris Eliopoulos' DESPERATE TIMES, as per last Tuesday's surprise Pipeline contest. Thanks to Chris E.'s generous donation of a couple extra copies, I can happily announce we have four winners. This made choosing winners a lot easier, too. =)
Congratulations go out to John Lundquist, Alex Minor, Tony Ta, and Tom McManamon!
Alan Moore is in no way involved with "Fighting American," as mentioned in last week's review of DEATHBLOW BY BLOWS. It's "The First American" he writes for America's Best Comics' TOMORROW STORIES.