AS LONG AS I SPELL SHAMUS CORRECTLY...
I come this week to both praise and bury WIZARD: THE GUIDE TO COMICS. Issue 89, the year-end spectacular issue was published this past week, started off with a tough decision: Which cover to buy? On one was a face-off between Superman and Spider-Man as painted by Alex Ross. On the other was a pen and ink illo of Batman by Jim Lee. I went with the latter. I've seen enough Ross art, I think, that it's all starting to blend together on me now. =) Jim Lee has a remarkable ability which not too many other have. He can draw in that cross-hatching style at the same time creating a sense of three-dimensionality. In contrast, you look at Norm Rapmund's inks over Dan Jurgens in SUPERMAN: THE DOOMSDAY WARS and you can see example after example of cross-hatching done just to fill blank space, rather than to texturalize a space. (I doubt that's a word, actually.) Scott Williams is the best inker Jim Lee
can ever ask for.
But, anyway, onto the interior of this issue: I was impressed by the sheer number of references to Erik Larsen and his book, THE SAVAGE DRAGON. Everything from declaring TSD the "sleeper" hit of 1998 to pointing Larsen out as the writer to look out for in 1999. There's a half-dozen more references, but I won't list them all. I just hope this helps boost sales on DRAGON. I doubt it, but I can hope, can't I?
There's some interesting stuff in this issue, including a delightful interview with Stan Lee. But the highlight of the issue has to be the explanation of how Alex Ross painted over George Perez's pencils for the CRISIS hardcover. It's an amazing pictorial, and a fascinating look into the process.
There is a wonderful 6 page comic by Scott McCloud discussing the use of computers in today's comics. And didja know that Gareb Shamus owns the original art to all twelve of the WATCHMEN covers? Yeesh! The man is challenging Steve Geppi all of a sudden for America's #1 comics fan. Sheesh
On the other side of the coin, they really dropped the ball on the two-page map of the world listing which comics are popular where. They discuss with glee the numbers X-MEN sells in The Netherlands, and Brazil's love affair with SPAWN. But, somehow, in all the hype over the tens of thousands of copies these books sell in those respective countries, it completely misses the MILLIONS PER WEEK books like UNCLE $CROOGE and DONALD DUCK sell in any of the Scandinavian countries. How could they possibly miss this one?!?
Actually, I suppose that on-balance that's a really minor nit-pick. It's probably their best issue in a while. Pick it up.
THE ERIK LARSEN HAT TRICK
Erik Larsen currently has three books on the stands. (4 if you count the covers he helps Chris Eliopoulos do on DESPERATE TIMES, but for the sake of this argument, we won't.)
Until NOVA starts up next year, these three reviews per month will have to do:
THE SAVAGE DRAGON #55 contains more funny for your funny book dollar than any other comic being printed for $2.50 today does. In addition to the stirring 20 page main story, you also get 7 pages' worth of letters column (which is 7 pages more than Vertigo plans to offer across their ENTIRE line now), 2 pin-ups, 2 pages of Megaton Man by Don Simpson and two pages of Desperate Time strips by Chris Eliopoulos. The main story has everything in it you've come to expect from an Erik Larsen free-for-all: Shocking costumes and costume-details (check out Smasher in the third panel of page 10 -- I guess her pants couldn't get much tighter -- or Earth Girl a few pages later), shocking left-hand page revelations, surprise guests, witty dialogue, and some damned-great storytelling. Erik Larsen doesn't get enough credit for his storytelling ability, but it's some of the strongest stuff in comics today.
I also believe Chris Eliopoulos got through an entire issue without misspelling any words! ;-)
Jeff Matsuda draws WOLVERINE #133 over a script from Larsen. It, too, works pretty well. He manages to stick to the script, not confuse the reader, and to draw some rather nice visuals, as well. His style is a little more cartoony than Wolvie has been used to lately, but it's a nice change of pace. Also check out the return of the Larsen-created villain, Powerhouse, here. She was originally used in Erik Larsen's first story in the adjectiveless SPIDER-MAN, and was clearly a precursor to DRAGON's Rapture, despite sharing her name with a character based on a chicken in TSD. This 6-part storyline promises to be a fun romp through the Marvel Universe, as only Larsen could tell it.
The least of his three books right now is AQUAMAN. It's not a bad book, by a long shot. It just isn't as exciting as the previous two. Eric Battle's art is better in this issue [AQUAMAN #51] than the last, but is still murky and often confused. The story is logical, exciting, and makes sense. The characters all act, well, in-character. I've just never had an affinity for these characters in the first place, so I'm still learning them. Maybe I will come to like them -- and this book -- a lot better in the future.
Regular readers may remember a column I did this past summer on Archie Comics. In it, I asked if there was a single creator, like Carl Barks with the duck books, who created and guided the destinies of those characters. The column was recently reprinted in the CBEM, and elicited this answer from Steven Rowe:
Not really; great artists include Bob Montana (who co-created Archie and did the newspaper strip from the 40s to 80s) Bob Bolling (Little Archie writer/artist); artists: Harry Lucey (50s-70s on Archie), Dan DeCarlo Senior (57-presnt), Samm Schwartz (Jughead artist 40-80s, except for 66-70 when he edited Thunder Agents and Tippy Teen and then drew for DC) and writer Frank Doyle (50s-90s, "teenager as a vaudeville sketch").
Thanks, Steven, for solving another of life's little mysteries. You learn something new every week here.
I'm still looking for that compilation of Archies stories from the 1980s. =)/FONT>