There was no one like Artie Simek (1916-1975), who lettered most of Marvel's Silver Age titles. This terrific short documentary about comic book lettering makes me want to pull out my Ames Lettering Guide and nib pen. Read the rest
Here's a fun fact about Cincy Comicon. It's not in Cincinnati. It's not even in Ohio! It's in Covington, KY. But Cincinnati is close. In fact, I walked from my hotel over the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge this morning before the convention got started and was in downtown Cincinnati in 15 minutes. The bridge is great for walking and biking, with a wide path shielded from motor vehicle traffic. When then bridge opened on December 1, 1866 it was the world's longest suspension bridge. It was designed by John A. Roebling, the same civil engineer who designed the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a beaut:
Once I got into Cincinnati, I headed to a restaurant called Cheapside, which has excellent espresso. I also had a tasty smoked salmon salade niçoise. It's called Cheapside not because the ingredients are cheap, but because it's on the corner of 8th and Cheapside street.
Before I tell you about the convention, here's another important thing. There were some scary bugs clinging to the outside of my hotel window on the 11th floor. I took a photo and called Cincinnati born-and-bred David Pescovitz to tell me what they were, but he didn't know. If you do, please tell me in the comments:
OK, now onto the con! The cool thing about this con is its focus on comic books. I don't go to many cons, but the ones I have gone to seem to give comic books short shrift. Not here! I think one of the reasons is that Tony Moore, co-creator of The Walking Dead comic book series, is one of the organizers, and Tony loves comic books. Read the rest
Coloring DC: Batman: Mad Love Featuring Harley Quinn by Paul Dini (author) and Bruce Timm (illustrator) DC Comics 2016, 7.5 x 11.5 x 0.4 inches (softcover) $10 Buy a copy on Amazon
Over the past few decades the dynamic duo of legacy comic book companies, Marvel and DC, have introduced hundreds of new characters. Most have failed to catch on (sorry, Adam-X, the X-Treme!), and while recently many new characters have garnered acclaim and small cadres of devoted fans, the new Ms. Marvel and Prez have yet to become the next Wolverine.
2016 has seen two major breakthroughs that may pave the way: Marvel’s Deadpool and DC’s Harley Quinn. Both were created in the 1990s and have suddenly become the superhero equivalent of rock stars, with T-shirts and tchotchkes available at every Target and Hot Topic in America. One of them even has their own make-up line (I’ll let you guess who). My dad in his 70s now knows these characters, which I find equally amusing and eye rolling.
Which brings us to coloring books. Okay, maybe not directly, but the ascension of Harley Quinn as a character and the recent popularity of coloring books for adults has created a perfect storm, and now we have Coloring DC – Batman: Mad Love Featuring Harley Quinn, a coloring book written and drawn by her creators Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. This oversized tome contains a few extra stories of DC heroines and villians on the undercard, but the prime material is a reprinting of the terrific Harley story Mad Love. Read the rest
In the March 21st, Entertainment Weekly ran an article called In Search of Pop Culture’s Holy Grails, listing, “some hallowed projects (that) evade(d) our grasp. A guide to our great white whales.” Over two dozen, “lost” projects are listed. But in the FOG! world of pop culture, not everything is lost. So, in the coming weeks, we’re going to uncover a number of those projects, including our first, Jack Kirby’s The Prisoner, which EW describes as, “a comic based on the gonzo sci-fi show. Kirby never finished issue No. 1.”
Read the rest of the issue here. And, as FOG points out, it appears that the issue was actually complete, except for some final lettering and inking by Mike Royer.
[H/t Chris Burke] Read the rest
Dark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini (author) and Eduardo Risso (illustrator) Vertigo 2016, 128 pages, 6.9 x 10.4 x 0.5 inches $14 Buy a copy on Amazon
Batman the Animated Series was perhaps the cartoon of my childhood. I remember watching it when it premiered, and followed it through its entire run. While I’ve loved the movies, and the comics, Batman for me will always be the voice of Kevin Conroy, and the Joker will always be Mark Hamill. I owe my love for Batman to this wonderful show that Paul Dini helped create, which is why I was so struck to read his chilling autobiographical Batman tale.
Like myself and many others, Dini too was hugely influenced by Batman through his childhood. The beginning of the book establishes how comics became a coping mechanism for Dini as he navigated through the world with social anxiety. His lonely but successful life is thrown upside down one night when he was mugged and beaten within an inch of his life.
Dini’s story is all about coming to grips with a world that can be cruel, dealing with demons, and finding a way to overcome. It’s a Batman story that doesn’t take place in the Batman universe. I found it tremendously moving, the artwork beautiful, and I highty recommend it. – JP LeRoux Read the rest
See sample images from this book at Wink.
The Collector by Sergio Toppi Archaia 2014, 252 pages, 8.5 x 11 x 1 inches $23 Buy a copy on Amazon
I was delighted to discover this terrific collection of comics by Italian artist Sergio Toppi. Although I’d never seen his work before, it instantly got my attention and seemed familiar. It combines a flat graphic art style, a swashbuckling sensibility and witty writing that I found irresistible.
Sergio Toppi (1932-2012) was an artist and illustrator from Italy, whose books have been published for decades in Europe but only recently translated and available in the U.S. through Archaia, a division of Boom Entertainment. The Collector won the Soleil D’Or prize for Best Series at the Soliès-Ville Festival. It’s easy to see why.
The book follows the exciting exploits of an 1880’s rogue and dandy, known as “The Collector,” as he travels the globe in search of treasures. Not a seeker of gold or jewels, he collects only artifacts with historical significance. This sets the stage for adventures featuring Hopi Indians in the American Southwest, camel-riding Ethiopians, Mongol tribesmen, warring Irish clans, Maori chieftains and more. Although the artwork is in black and white, it’s most highly folkloric and historically colorful. The separate wide-ranging episodes and characters are knitted back together into a satisfying finale.
Each page is laid out in dramatic fashion with bold layouts. Some pages have conventional multiple comic panels, while others feature free-wheeling compositions, along with other full-page designs, more fine line illustration than comic book. Read the rest
Mean Girls Club by Ryan Heshka Nobrow Press 2016, 24 pages, 6.8 x 9.1 x 0.1 inches $6 Buy a copy on Amazon
If your understanding of what a Mean Girls Club consists of is defined by the 2004 Lindsay Lohan film, then Ryan Heshka’s new release from Nobrow Press (as part of their wonderful 17 x 23 series) is going to blow your mind. In Mean Girls Club, Pinky, Sweets, Blackie, McQualude, Wendy, and Wanda aren’t the popular girls in an Illinois high school, rather they are a gang of sociopaths who revel in murder, mayhem, pill popping, and depraved dereliction. Heshka’s 1950s bombshells start their day with ceremonial insect venom transfusions, snake worship, a pill buffet, and a fish slap fight, then go on to wreck havoc in a hospital, movie theater, boutiques, and the streets, only to finish off by jacking a lingerie truck, kidnapping patients and nurses along the way.
In a nod to the pulps and pin-ups of the past and rendered in fluorescent pinks and inky blacks, Heskha upends the conventional idea of the B-movie Vixen by adding a layer of such over-the-top brutality and vehemence that it transcends the possible, bringing the trope into the post-ironic age where we have lost the ability to discern what we are meant to take seriously.
Is Mean Girls Club to be read as satirical social commentary? Is it just flat out bonkers? Or is it a combination of both? Read the rest
It's only right that Stan Lee's memoirs arrive in comic book form. The 93-year-old ambassador/mascot of Marvel Comics has been in the funnybook business since 1939 - back when they still were called funnybooks. Back then, the medium was seen as silly at best, vile at worst. But today, comics, or graphic novels as some highfalutin folks call them, have attained a status of near respectability. People of all ages read and love them, and their characters generate billions of dollars via their appearances on TV and in films. Lee, along with other key figures, has been at the forefront of this evolution. And though he's interviewed almost daily, it's interesting to hear what he has to say about his career and all the changes he's seen.
Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee, penned with the help of veteran comics writer Peter David and zippily illustrated by Colleen Doran, does a fine job of charting Lee's trajectory to the top of his field. We see how the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle seized Lee's early imagination, making him want to become a writer. And we observe him in his early years at Atlas Comics, the company that became Marvel, and how he, in collaboration with artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, helped create the Marvel Universe.
Lee is often criticized for stealing the spotlight and not giving due credit to Kirby, who co-created the Fantastic Four, Avengers, X-Men, Thor, Captain America and many others, and Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and more. Read the rest
I’m willing to bet that your relationships with significant others aren’t as convoluted or mind-boggling as the ones you will find in Weird Love, a collection of love comics from decades past. I know that because I’m also willing to bet that you are more culturally evolved than your ancestral fictional characters that populated these four-color pages culled from the heyday of making women feel bad about pretty much everything. That’s what makes this collection so ridiculous. Weird Love gives us a glimpse into a time when the needle on the social gauge floated somewhere between “rampant sexism encouraged” and “casual sexism customary.”
While these stories probably weren’t intended to be comedic at the time, the warm blanket of history has swaddled them in ludicrousness. We have no analog for the petty, unflappable dickishness of the men, nor of the frank, almost callous lack of agency of the women depicted in the pages of Weird Love. Soap opera seems only a vague comparison, for soap opera tends to be at least a little self-aware. Nor can you compare it fairly to modern prose romance, for I would have to assume that modern romance writers likely enjoy what they do. The most important thing to remember about Weird Love is that literally all of these comics were written and drawn by middle-aged white men. They were either guys who typically wrote western, crime, horror, sci-fi, and superhero comics and liked doing those, or guys for whom creating comics was just kind of a job. Read the rest
Featuring hallucinatory, psychedelic art inspired by the classic 1960s comic art of Jack Kirby, Space Riders is boldly drawn and beautifully inked in vibrant ultramarine, fuchsia, chartreuse, and the inky blackness of space. Every panel leaps from the page in a dynamic shock of color. Referencing psychedelic rock posters, motorcycle culture, Dia De Los Muertos, and hindu iconography, and presented within the framework of an outer space road odyssey, Space Riders is a pulpy, gritty adventure in intergalactic chaos.
The first four issues of the rare, sold-out, and pricey Space Riders from Black Mask Studios are combined in this hardcover anthology for Local Comic Book Shop Day. Capitan Peligro, pilot of the skull-shaped spacecraft Santa Muerte, has been recently relieved of his duty with the E.I.S.F. and must complete three missions before being reinstated. He's accompanied by Mono, his monk-like baboon first mate, and Yara, a female robotic warrior. They're being pursued by the Vikers, armored viking space bikers, when the crew is inexorably dragged toward a haunted planetoid, ruled by the sultry wizard Dona Barbara. Afterward, they encounter the galactic behemoth An-Anu Gigantus, the Space Whale.
Recalling a more naive time in the Silver Age of comic books, long before the current state of multi-title event crossovers in graphic novels, Space Riders is an archetypical story told and presented simply, wherein lies its appeal. Adventurers travel through space, fight villains, and save the day. Biff, bang, pow! – S. Deathrage
Space Riders Volume 1: Vengeful Universe by Fabian Rangel (author) and Alexis Ziritt (illustrator) Black Mask Studios 2015, 96 pages, 6.4 x 10.1 x 0.4 inches (softcover) $12 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest
Issue #72 of Josie and the Pussycats, published in October of 1973 ran a story in which bikini-wearing Josie becomes possessed by Satan, and has to be exorcised by her bikini-wearing bandmates.
Dangerous Minds has the complete story on its site, along with a synopsis:
In the weirdness that is issue #72, The Pussycats (along with mean-o-nasty non-Pussycat member, Alexandra) ditch their guitars and amps, and head off to pay their respects to Alexandra’s recently departed grandfather at the local mausoleum. For some reason Josie wanders off to some bizarre lower chamber of the mausoleum and is enveloped by an “invisible malignant presence.” After that, Josie goes on a punk-rock style rampage smashing stuff up. When Josie has a psychotic reaction after coming in contact with a copy of the Bible that the clean-cut gang just happened to have lying around, things get really fucking weird (if they weren’t weird enough already).
The art is by Stan Goldberg, one of the better Dan DeCarlo imitators.
There's nothing like an Alex Schomburg Golden Age comic book cover. Feast your eyes on Sub-Mariner #12, Winter 1943. I'm not a WWII historian, but I don't recall the Germans having pink helmets, pink rifles, or pink and green swastika flags.
Stan Lee on Schomburg: "Alex Schomburg was to comic books what Norman Rockwell was to The Saturday Evening Post...When it came to illustrating covers, there simply was no one else in Alex's league." [via] Read the rest
When you are trying to imagine the details of an alternative world, try Moebius. Moebius (one of the pseudonyms for the French artist Jean Giraud) practically invented the now-common idea of a well worn future – that place far ahead that is gritty, patched up, organic, and old and new at the same time. Think Star Wars, cyberpunk, Blade Runner. Moebius is a fabulist. His strange drawings, designs and comics have shaped movies such as The Fifth Element and Alien, and influenced directors such as Fellini and Miyazaki. Moebius was a prolific artist, starring in his own series Heavy Metal, and appeared in many other publications, yet little of his work remains in print in English. Out of all Moebius’ (Giraud’s) work, I suggest this book, 40 Days in the Desert. Long out of print, and rare even when first published, this is an extended visual poem. The version of the book that I have is Japanese, but that is okay because there are no words in this story. It is timeless and eternal and other-worldly. With thin sure lines, this wordless sequence tells a mythical story in some alien place. There are about 100 drawings depicting surreal worlds with an ominous tension. Something is about to happen, or just happened, but you are not sure what. All you know is that you have never seen anything like this, and that maybe it is true. It makes me want to unleash my imagination.