Friday, April 22, 2011

Gutter Talk Will Return....Soon

"Davy's on the road again,
Wearin' different clothes again.
Davy's turning handouts down
To keep his pockets clean.
All his goods are sold again.
His word's as good as gold again.
Says if you see Jean now ask her please to pity me."
-Davy's On The Road Again
Manfred Mann's Earth Band

If you've been wondering why there've been no new posts for the last week, it's because, like Davy in my favorite song by Manfred Mann's Earth Band (I actually prefer Springsteen's original version of Blinded By The Light), I am on the road again.  I'm moving.  I spent the better part of the week apartment hunting.  I signed a lease on a new place last night, and I begin moving in tomorrow.
So, things will be in flux for a few more days, thus this blogs hiatus will continue for a little longer.   I should resume posting early in May, however, so it's not like you're getting rid of me that easily.
In the meantime, here, for no reason at all, is a picture of a monkey:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Comics Related Events In Columbus, Ohio This Weekend

It's quite an eventful weekend for comics fans here in the capital of Ohio with a more than full slate of comics related events taking place over the next few days.  
It all kicks off tonight with the debut performance of Available Light Theatre's adaptation of the graphic novel Skyscrapers of the MidwestPerformances continue through Sunday afternoon, with additional shows next Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 
Tomorrow night, Campus area coffee shop Kafe Kerouac hosts a release party for the second issue of locally produced comics anthology Nix Comics Quarterly.  Ken Eppstein, publisher and writer, and several of the artists will be on hand, with original art from the issue hanging on the walls and, I believe, for sale.  The event begins at 7 p.m.
All weekend, every Columbus location of discount bookstore chain Half Price Books will offer an additional 50% off their already low prices on all comic books.  The Lane Avenue store has a couple or three dozen boxes of clearance comics everyday priced from 25 to 50 cents.  Throw in the 50% off and you've got yourself a bargain that can't be beat.  
Local cartoonist group Sunday Comics meets on the third Sunday of every month.  The April meeting is this Sunday at Packrat Comics in Hilliard.  Meetings are open to anyone with an interest in comics. 
Meanwhile, tonight through Saturday, comics of a different sort, the stand-up variety, are on display as Wild Goose Creative hosts the second annual  Columbus Comedy Festival.

Bye, Bye, Booster

Yesterday, I bought my last issue of Booster Gold for the foreseeable future.  That's because, just shy of a year after coming on to the book, writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis are leaving.  Beginning next issue, Booster's creator Dan Jurgens returns to write and draw the series. 
There are a couple of reasons why I'm dropping the series.  Dan Jurgens is one of them.  While I did enjoy the original Booster Gold series, I've not been too wild about most of what Jurgens has written since.  His Superman was ok, though not especially memorable, but I've never been able to forgive him for Zero Hour.
There's also the fact that the next few issues of Booster will be closely tied to Flashpoint, DC's latest company wide crossover event.  I'm not even remotely interested in this so-called event, and plan on avoiding it as much as I possibly can.
Sadly, Giffen and DeMatteis are being taken off of Booster just as they were beginning to hit their stride.  The latest story line, involving time displaced Nazis and Booster returning to the 25th century to stand trial for the theft of the time machine that brought him to our time and the devices that gave him his powers and then meeting and battling across the timestream with a future version of himself called the Perforated Man, has been the best of their run and one of the best Booster Gold stories I've ever read. 
It seems to me that while they may have been writing the character's eponymous title, Giffen and DeMatteis were never really in control of Booster Gold's destiny.  The first half of their run, though fun and enjoyable, reads like they're just marking time while the really important events in Booster's life were unfolding in the limited series Justice League: Generation Lost and Time Masters: Vanishing Point.  In fact, it appears  that from the begininng Giffen and DeMatteis were only meant to be filling in while Jurgens went off and did Vanishing Point.
Considering the great things they did with the Booster back when they did have total control of him during the period following the cancellation of his first series when he was in the Justice League International, it's kind of a shame the pair never really got to strut their stuff on the character's own book.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Available Light Theatre Presents Skyscrapers of the Midwest

Skyscrapers of the Midwest, a graphic novel by Joshua Cotter, is an odd yet haunting and affecting tale of two young boys, depicted as anthropomorphic cats, growing up in the 1980's.  As he writes in his blog, Matt Slaybaugh, founder of Columbus, Ohio acting troupe Available Light Theatre, began to see the possibilities of adapting the comic for the stage shortly after first encountering it in 2008.  Thus, Slaybaugh got in touch with Cotter and began the process of transforming the sequential narrative into a live theatrical experience.
The results of that process are on display beginning tomorrow night as Skyscrapers of the Midwest, the play, written and directed by Slaybaugh, begins a two weekend run at the Riffe Center's Studio Two Theatre in Downtown Columbus.  Appearing in the production are Emily Bach, Acacia Duncan, Drew Eberly, Jordan Fehr, Adam Humphrey, Brant Jones, Leigh Lotocki, Elena Perantoni, and Ian Short.
When I wrote that Skyscrapers, the comic, was odd, that was by no means intended as a slight.  Based on the fact that he included giant robots in the story, I get the feeling that "odd" is, at least in part, exactly what Cotter was going for.  It was those same giant robots that lead me to wonder as I read the book how Matt was going to bring this story to the stage. I'm looking forward to seeing how he pulled it off.  I've been told that the art of puppetry is involved.
Showtimes are tomorrow thru Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., and next Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.  Select performances will be followed by what is called a Talkback.  This is a feature of most Available Light productions during which Slaybaugh and the cast will discuss the show and answer questions from the audience.  Talkbacks allow the audience to get a glimpse of the creative process, while at the same time giving the production company an immediate sense of the reaction to their efforts. 
Available Light employs a unique "pay what you want" pricing strategy for nearly all of its productions, Skyscrapers included.  This means there are no set ticket prices, allowing patrons to pay what they can afford or what they feel the show is worth. As stated on Available Light's web-site, "It’s simply a better world when we can all afford to see good shows, no matter how much cash we’ve got in our wallets on a daily’s about removing the barriers between you and great art"
Skyscrapers of the Midwest promises to be another great show from Available Light Theatre, and I strongly urge anyone in the Columbus area with an interest in either theatre or comics to head downtown this weekend or next and check it out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fiddling Around While Stark International Burns--Iron Man #147

(Once again, I present an installment of what could be the oddest ongoing feature of any comics blog in which I review the 147th issue of a long running comic series.  This time out, it's Iron Man.)
To be honest, I was never a fan of Iron Man, the book or the character.  Not that I had anything especially against the guy, it's just that the basic concept of the character never quite grabbed me.  Now that I think about it, I never got into Milestone's Hardware back in the mid-90's, either.  I guess I just don't dig armored super-heroes all that much.
That said, however, the relatively few Iron Man tales I've read have been fairly decent.  I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed the Silver Age sagas collected as Essential Iron Man Volume Two.  Of course, it didn't hurt that the majority of them were illustriously illustrated by Gene "The Dean" Colan.  I still haven't gotten around to seeing the second movie, but the first one ranks in my mind among the best super-hero movies ever produced, thanks in large measure to the performance of Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role. 
Furthermore, I'd heard quite a few good things, many of them from Jonathon Riddle, who lent me his copy of Iron Man #147 to read for this piece, about the David Michelinie/Bob Layton era of the title.  So I was fairly certain that I wasn't going to hate this issue.
"Holocaust At High Noon" opens with a splash page image of the Golden Avenger facing off against his old foe Whiplash, now powered up and calling himself Blacklash, who has been hired by some Philadelphia mobsters to kill Iron Man's, or rather his alter-ego Tony Stark's, head of security Vic Martinelli as Martinelli himself looks on. All around them, the campus of Stark International is ablaze as a result of Iron Man's initial battle with Blacklash.  Meanwhile, newly hired SI Vice President Yvette Avril, Public Relations chief Artemis Pithens, and a group of children visiting Stark International on a school field trip are trapped in the laboratory where the conflagration began.  
Leaving Blacklash temporarily trapped under a pile of rubble, Shellhead flies off to deal with the flames and maybe save a life or two.  Freeing himself, 'Lash realizes that Stark International is soon to be swarming with police, firemen and other authority types in addition to Iron Man, so he flees to assassinate another day. 
Sure enough, the villain returns bright and early the next morning to take another crack, literally, as his weapons are electrified whips, at Martinelli. I don't think it constitutes too much of a spoiler to reveal that the character whose name is in the indicia of this magazine eventually defeats and captures Blacklash.  Of course, I won't say exactly how, but the issue's cover, shown at the top of this post, does give some indication.  
This issue is penciled by John Romita, Jr. with inks by Layton.  However, the art doesn't quite reflect the distinctive JR, Jr. style that has grown on me over the years since I first encountered it on Uncanny X-Men.  This may be at least partially because this work occurs early in Jr.'s career, though it seems to due mainly to the influence of Layton's finishes.  The art more closely resembles the work by Layton that I've seen in other comics.  Either way, it's a polished, professional product that tells the story  clearly and effectively, which what you want in a comic, especially one heavy on action. 
That's certainly what Iron Man #147 is.  Basically, it's an all-fight issue, but, overall, a pretty good one. I said at the outset that I expected to like this issue, and I wasn't proven wrong.  With a good balance of action, characterization, and even a flash of humor when appropriate, "Holocaust At High Noon" is near textbook example of the kind of comic that Marvel did best during the tenure of editor-in-chief Jim Shooter in the late 70's and 80's.
 *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
By the way, if you're an Iron Man fan, and I know at least one of my readers is, check out the three part series of posts from last year about the "Demon In A Bottle" story line at the blog Bronze Age Babies:

Monday, April 11, 2011

'Tec Support: The Seeds of "Knightfall"--Detective Comics #480

While notable for being one of the first two Batman stories drawn by the late Don Newton (Batman #305 hit the stands that same month), "The Perfect Fighting Machine" from Detective Comics #480 is, in truth, an entertaining but rather unremarkable tale.  According to writer Dennis  O'Neil, however, this obscure little story helped spawn one of the biggest event story lines of the 1990's.  Within the pages of 'Tec #480 lie the seeds of "Knightfall."
But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let me tell you about the story first.
The tale begins in medias res, with Batman already locked in a life or death struggle with a silent, hulking brute who appears to be kicking the living crap out of him.  As he's getting tossed around, Bats thinks, "He's creaming me...and I don't even know his name!"  As the taciturn killer is strangling him, Batman decides it's a good time to try and make friends.  He chokes out the words, "Wh-Who are you?", cuing the inevitable flashback.
In the next panel, we are taken back in time six weeks to find a homely, fat schlub being harassed by a trio of young punks who break his calculator and make him drop his ice cream cone.  Slinking away in tears, he is befriended by a stranger identifying himself as Ivan Angst, who offers to buy the poor kid a new ice cream cone.  Angst is soon revealed to the reader as the leader of a terrorist organization known as Mercenaries, Incorporated, whom Batman has been after for several weeks.
While Batman is bedridden with a fever of 104 degrees, Angst, with all purpose mad scientist Dr. Moon, begins the process of transforming the poor nerd he befriended into a the "perfect fighting machine" of the story's title through a series of surgeries and hormone treatments which render him super strong, nearly invulnerable, and unable to feel pain.  Moon later refers to him as a "gork," which, the doctor explains, is "...medical slang for a living, breathing vegetable!" Angst has plans to create an army of such perfect soldiers. When the process is complete, he decides to test his prototype against the "perfect opponent," the Batman, and issues a challenge to the Caped Crusader via a classified ad in the Gotham newspaper.  Despite not being fully recovered from his illness, Batman accepts the challenge, and the story shifts back to the present where Batman is still struggling to survive the relentless onslaught of Angst's perfect soldier.
Just as he's about to deliver the killing blow, the would be assassin falters and collapses.  Moon declares, "As I feared! The strain was too great! His whole system is collapsing! Not being able to feel pain, he didn't realize anything was wrong--until it was too late!"  The dying giant turns to the one man he believed to be his friend, Ivan Angst.  But Angst, calling him " experiment--that failed!", refuses.  Enraged, the "gork" turns on Angst as the cowardly Dr. Moon flees.  Batman attempts to pull him off Angst, but he fails.  The "perfect fighting machine" kills Angst before dieing himself, with neither Batman nor the reader ever having learned his name.
Back in 1993, while the "Knightfall" story line was running in Batman and Detective Comics, Dennis O'Neil, then editor of the Batman titles, and Julius Schwartz, editor of 'Tec at the time #480 was published, were in Columbus as guests at the annual SF con Marcon.  They also did a signing at the now out of business local comics shop Central City Comics that Saturday.  I got my friend Dave Alkire to give me a ride out to the shop, and gave him my copy (I've long since aquired another) of 'Tec #480 so he'd have something for O'Neil and Schwartz to sign.  When Dave handed O'Neil the book, the writer told us a little story about it.
Denny hadn't felt that the seventeen pages allotted to him for this story had given him sufficient space to fully explore the premise.  Thus, he eventually returned to the idea, reworking it and expanding it.  This new story was called "Venom," which appeared as issues #16-20 of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight in 1991.
"Venom," of course, introduced the titular strength enhancing drug, which was later used by the villain Bane, the prime mover behind the events of "Knightfall."  This story eventually gave us Jean-Paul Valley, a.k.a. Azrael, as the replacement Batman after Bane break's Bruce Wayne's back.
So, "The Perfect Fighting Machine," a little known seventeen page story from the late 70's, is indirectly responsible for giving us not only this:

...but this, as well:
Furthermore, the success of "Knightfall" may have had a hand in inspiring such later abominations as "Emerald Twilight," the story that introduced Kyle Rayner as the new Green Lantern even as it transformed Hal Jordan in a cosmic powered mass murderer. (The latter is  the abominable part.  I actually liked Kyle as GL.)
Despite all that, I still like "The Perfect Fighting Machine."  In fact, I like it even more knowing the unheralded role it played in comics history.  I say "unheralded" because, other than hearing it from Dennis O'Neil himself, I've never come across this info in any comics magazine or on the web.  For all I know, I may be first person, even after all this time, to write about this. 
That's kind of cool, actually, if it's true.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Size Matters--Or Does It?

While I was composing yesterday's post about the first Mini-Comics Day event, I began to think that maybe it was finally time to address an issue raised in one of the comments on the first of my series of posts about the comics of the 1990's way back in February of last year.  The question is "What exactly is a 'mini-comic'?", and the answer is more complicated than you might suppose.
 Felicity Walker led off a rather lengthy response to my essay with:
"Until now my understanding was that mini-comics referred to a specific format--4½×5½ inches, i.e. a letter-sized page folded into eight pages--and not to the smaller print run. I guess it could be both."
In fact, it can be, and is, both.
In general, it strikes me that how a person defines the term mini-comic, or, for that matter, small press, depends on their relationship to the small press comics community.
Having published a few small press comics over the years, the size based definition of a mini-comic is the one that I've usually held to. I've found that it is also the one preferred by many of the other cartoonists I know who  actually produce mini-comics or other types of small press comics.
No less an authority than Matt Feazell, creator of The Amazing Cynicalman and the master of mini-comics, stated during a panel at the Underground Publishing Conference in Bowling Green, Ohio in June of 2000, and I'm paraphrasing here because it was eleven years ago and I wasn't taking notes, that a mini-comic was 4 x 5.5 inches and a small press comic was anything not distributed by Diamond.
The mini-comic is, therefore, just one among a full range of formats of small press comics.  For example, a 5.5 x 8 inch book, the size of a standard sheet of typing paper folded in half, is generally referred to as a digest.  Comics printed on 8.5 x 14 inch, or legal size, paper are, quite naturally, known as legal size.  8.5 x 11 inch books, be they made either by folding a few 11 x 17 inch sheets in half or by stapling a bunch of 8.5 x 11 pieces of paper together at the left edge, are full sized.  Comics smaller that 4 x 5.5 inches are generally called micro comics.  Then, of course, there's the standard comic book size of approximately 6.5 x 10 inches. 
Max Ink among small press comics in many formats, including minis
To those outside the world of small press and mini-comics publishers,  that is the majority of the comics buying and reading population, however, "small press" has come to indicate the smaller publishers of standard sized comic books, including many lucky enough to be handled by Diamond Distribution. "Mini-comic," on the other hand, to the world at large refers to any homemade, photocopied, and hand stapled comic, regardless of size.  Since this blog is aimed at that larger public of comics fans, it is this sense of the term mini-comic that I used when discussing the small press comics of the 90's.  In insider terms, most of the small press comics I discussed weren't  actually mini-comics at all, but were published in the digest format. 
In conclusion, it would seem that perhaps the answer to the question "What is a 'mini-comic'?" isn't that complicated after all.  I guess what everything I've said above really boils down to is "It depends on who you are."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Oh, By the Way--Today Was Mini-Comics Day

Today is, or more accurately, I suppose, since it is early evening in the Eastern Time Zone of the United States as I'm sitting down at my keyboard to type this and I'll probably spend about an hour writing and revising this post, was the first ever Mini-Comics Day.  The idea for Mini-Comics Day originated with  The International Cartoonist Conspiracy. Based on what I've been able to gather from their web-site, the Conspiracy appears to be a somewhat loosely knit organization of cartoonists group in several cities with the seminal Conspiracy cell originating in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The event is somewhat akin to the more established 24 Hour Comic Day, in that the idea is to create a finished comic in the space of a day or less.  There are a few key differences.  First, the comic can be of any length.  Many mini-comics are just eight pages.  Perhaps the most important difference is that participants in Mini-Comics Day are expected to not only write and draw their comic, but publish it as well.  To successfully complete the challenge, you have to run off a few copies.  The number of copies is left up to each individual artist.
Several years before the Cartoonist Conspiracay came up with the idea of Mini-Comics Day, I actually did this.  One day in 2001, just for my own amusement on a day off, I was doing some drawings of various character types with captions giving their name and a brief description, and when I'd completed about a dozen of them, I decided to put them together into a small book. So I came up with a title, Timmy's Guide To Life, Timmy being one of the first drawings in the series; then did a couple more portraits to fill out the book and a front and back cover.  By four o'clock that afternoon, I'd pasted up the book and made about twenty copies.  Later, I did a larger print run and offered the book as a freebie at S.P.A.C.E. or any other comics shows.  I find it interesting that this little book produced on the spur of the moment turned out to be one of the most well recieved and popular things I've ever done.  This year being Timmy's tenth anniversary, I probably should do another print run sometime soon.
Several comics shops across the country, as well as in other lands such as Brazil, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom, sponsored Mini-Comics Day event.  There was, however, no such event held here in Columbus, Ohio.  Which is surprising given the sheer number of cartoonists that this city is home to, many of whom have been publishing their own mini-comics for several years.  The city also hosts S.P.A.C.E., which, by the way  and in case you didn't know, stands for Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo.  Many past attendees (though, as I searched the web just now I was unable to find an example, but I know I've read this somewhere) have cited S.PA.C.E. as one of the few small press shows that still prominently features mini-comics.  Perhaps, if Mini-Comics Day becomes the annual event that its originators envision, there will be a Columbus event next year.  Maybe I'll even try to organize it myself. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

"We Tease Him A Lot, 'Cause We've Got Him On The Spot..."

Around the middle of 1975, DC unveiled its DCTV line, consisting of a quartet of  comics tieing in to television series then currently airing.  The four titles were Shazam!, Isis, SuperFriends, and Welcome Back, Kotter.  

Of these, Kotter seems to me the oddest for DC at that point in time.  The others are more logical choices.  With Shazam!, it was simply a case of re-branding an already existing title.  Isis was a made-for-TV super-heroine created as a companion to Shazam! on CBS' Saturday morning line-up.  The SuperFriends comic was based on an animated show that was, in turn, loosely based on a DC comic, Justice League of America.  DC was a little slow out of the gate with SuperFriends.  By 1975, it had been two years since new episodes of the series had been produced.  The extant episodes, however, had been run over and over on Saturday mornings by ABC, and new episodes would appear within a few months.
On the other hand, Kotter just doesn't really fit into the DC line of 1975.  True, the company had published 109 issues of The Adventures of Bob Hope and 124 of The Adventures of Jerry Lewis (the first 40 as The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis).  However, those titles had disappeared with the passing of the Silver Age at the dawn of the decade.  Humor was, for the most part, notably absent from DC's Bronze Age publishing strategy.  So were adaptations of TV shows.  Those were mostly the province of Charlton, whose 70's offerings included comic books based on The Six Million Dollar Man, Space: 1999, and Emergency!, and Gold Key, who continued to churn out god-awful Star Trek comics, as well as other TV inspired comics.  I'd really like to know what went on behinds the scenes that led to DC pursuing the Kotter license.
The debut issue's story, "So Long, Kotter!", concerned the efforts of the Sweat Hogs to convince Kotter to remain as their teacher at his alma mater, James Buchanan High, after the school board approves his request for a transfer.  The art by Jack Sparling and Bob Oksner finds a sweet spot between portraiture and caricature that effectively captures not only the actors' likenesses, but the personalities of their characters as well.  The backgrounds are a bit sparse and lacking in detail, but, then, so were the show's low budget sets. Elliot S! Maggin, best known for his work on Superman, here proved himself one of the rare super-hero writers actually capable of writing humor.  He turned in an amusing, though not laugh out loud funny, script that nicely recreated the feel of a typical Kotter episode.  
Maggin and Sparling did not remain with the title past the second issue.  Subsequent stories were written by the likes of Tony Isabella, Mark Evanier, Bob Toomey and Scott Edelman and drawn by Ric Estrada and Oksner. 
The first issue is the only one that I currently own.  I picked it up for a quarter at Mid-Ohio Con this past October.  Back in the day, as the kids say now, I also picked up #'s 3, 6 and 7.  The third issue had Kotter competing for the Sweat Hogs' affection and respect with Vinnie Barbarino's mobster uncle.  In #6, the Sweat Hogs somehow find themselves babysitting an elephant.  I seem to recall a scene where they attempt to bathe the pachyderm by running her through a carwash.  "Camp Waterloo" from issue seven featured the Sweat Hogs and their teacher as counsellors at a summer camp, competing in a series of sporting events against their counterparts at a rival resort.  Throw in Bill Murray and you've got Meatballs.
Apparently, comics readers of the era didn't feel that Kotter fit in with DC's line, either, as they failed to buy it.  After ten issues and a tabloid sized Limited Collector's Edition, Welcome Back, Kotter, the comic book, came to an end, thus closing out one of the stranger chapters in the history of DC Comics and the Bronze Age.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Comic I'd Like To See

I was on my break from work, sitting outside smoking and reading a comic book, when I was struck by a thought that I immediately decided to share with the readers of this blog.  That's what blogs are for, after all; to allow people to share any idle notion that pops into their empty heads with the entire world.  Al Gore must be so proud.
Anyway, the comic I was reading was Grimjack #16.  I was re-reading this issue because I finally managed to lay my hands on a copy of #17, which contains the second part of the story begun in this issue.  On page two, a face drawn by Tim Truman struck me as particularly Kirby-esque.  In fact, the character bore a very strong resemblance to Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth.   
This observation, in turn, led me to think that a Tim Truman drawn Kamandi comic would be really cool.  In fact, considering his work with various alien races in Grimjack and Hawkworld, including species of evolved hawks and lizards, I can't think of any artist better suited to render Kamandi's post-apocalyptic world of intelligent, talking apes, bears, tigers, and other animals (other than Jack Kirby himself, of course.)
Who would write this dream comic?  Well, Truman himself would do fine, but I would really like to see his frequent collaborator, and one of my favorite writers, John Ostrander take a crack at the Last Boy On Earth.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Uncollected: Xombi

The first issue of the revived Xombi series gives just enough introduction to protagonist David Kim, his powers and the world he inhabits to allow readers to jump into the story at hand with a minimum of confusion.  If this new series was standing independent of the original Milestone Media Xombi series of the 1990's, that might be sufficient.  However, it appears that's not quite the case.  
According to the Comic Book Data Base, the current story line, "The Ninth Stronghold," takes place prior to the last two pages of Xombi #21, the final issue of the previous series.  Those two pages, I assume, were hastily tacked on to the issue in order to bring some sense of closure to a story that had barely even begun.  Several times in the letters pages of the original series, writer John Rozum stated that he had anywhere from fifty issues to six years (the number, naturally, got larger each time he made the claim) of the series plotted out in advance.  He only got to tell a fraction of the story he had envisioned, as the series lasted a mere 22 issues (#'s 0-21).  It appears that he is using the title's new lease on life to pick up exactly where he left off fifteen years ago.
I think that if DC wants to insure the success of the new series, they should make some sort of effort to bring new readers, or those older fans, like myself, with short memories and who may no longer have copies of the original series on hand, up to speed on the story so far.  I have, since the release of the new Xombi #1, spent several hours over the space of a week and a half digging through about a dozen boxes of back issues marked "X" in the basement of Packrat Comics, past countless unread and unwanted copies of X-Force #1 and all five variant covers of X-Men #1, to uncover most of the old Xombi series up to #17.  For those without the patience or obsessiveness for such a quest, what DC should do; what they probably should, in fact, have done before the release of the new first issue; is reprint the  original series in its entirety.  Two trade paperback collections, containing eleven issues apiece, should be sufficient.  The first would contain issues #1-11, comprising the characters origin and the first two story lines, "Silent Cathedrals" and "School of Anguish."  The zero issue, while it appeared prior to #1, takes place after "School of Anguish," so it more properly belongs in the second volume, along with issues #12-21.    
Xombi was my favorite of the Milestone titles back in 90's, and I'm very glad that it's back and  that Rozum is getting a chance to continue David Kim's story.  I hope that DC does whatever they can, not only reprinting the original series as I've suggested but making an effort to promote the series to new readers and fans of the original, in order to ensure that Rozum gets to tell the full story as he had originally intended.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Comic Book Comics # 5

One of my favorite items in The Onion's look back at the 20th Century, Our Dumb Century, is an article headlined "Siegal, Shuster Sign Lucrative Publishing Contract."  The piece details how Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster signed over to DC Comics "rights to their fantastical 'Superman' character in perpetuity" for $25 and a sandwich.  It's the kind of piece that almost makes you want to cry even as you're rolling on the floor laughing over it.  The sad part is that it's not all that far from the truth.  Siegal and Shuster received a mere $130 for the very first Superman story and all rights to the character, which has netted untold millions for the company  over the last seven decades.
In Comic Book Comics #5, the most recent installment of their six issue comic book history of  the comics industry, Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey detail the struggles of Siegal and Shuster, and their heirs, to gain their rightful due for creating one of the most well known and beloved fictional characters of all time.  Siegal and Shuster's tale, though, is only part of an overview of the history of creator's rights and copyright disputes throughout the history of the comics industry.  Van Lente and Dunlavey also cover the dispute between Jack Kirby and Marvel over rights to the characters he created for them and the return of his original artwork, the case of the Walt Disney Company versus the underground cartoonists collective calling themselves The Air Pirates, the famous court battle between DC and Fawcett over Captain Marvel and the tangled legal web that, until recently, has ensnared the rights to Marvelman/Miracleman. They also touch on the disputes between Joe Simon, Marv Wolfman and Steve Gerber and Marvel and Dan DeCarlo and Archie Comics.
Van Lente's clear, concise text provides an easily grasped introduction to these complex issues.  As the artist, Dunlavey may have the harder task. He has to find a way to somehow illustrate abstract legal concepts.  Fortunately, he is up to the task, with drawings that emphasize and enhance the key points of Van Lente's essay.
This is the only issue of Comic Book Comics I've read so far.  I picked it up because the subject matter was on my mind after re-reading Sirius Entertainment's similarly themed Trademark & Copyright Book.  However, if the rest of Van Lente and Dunlavey's history of the comics industry is as entertaining and informative as this issue, I'm definitely interested in reading more.