Thursday, 31 May 2007

Eisner’s Army

We were chatting about the instructional comics Will Eisner drew for the US Army, when one of the guys at Forbidden Planet in Newcastle told me that Eisner’s booklet on maintaining the M16 rifle was still available in the UK from Soldier of Fortune. So I ordered a copy, thus, no doubt, ensuring my place on MI5’s database of potentially dangerous nutters.

It’s a little thing, 32 pages, about 7 inches by 5. It was one of the last bits of work Will Eisner did himself for the US Army, though other hands are apparent in the art throughout, and the cover is recyled from a 1966 edition of PS: The Preventive Maintenance Monthly.

I’m sure it’s an efficient piece of instructional literature, but, though interesting as a curio, it is disappointing for anyone hoping for sequential art (to use the Eisnerism). For the most part, we just get individual gag drawings, and some close up, diagrammatic sequences, like those on the left of the sample pages below.

Rather more satisfactory, from the point of view of comics fans, are the posters and comic strips that Eisner did for Army Motors in the Second World War and for PS Magazine after he left The Spirit in the 1950s.

There are some good examples at Mike Lynch’s blog and at Comicartville. Savour them. We are unlikely to get a series of reprint volumes.

Pictures, pages and panels
The M16A1 Rifle: Operation and Preventive Maintenance, US Department of the Army, July 1969

Joe Dope “How Free-Turn-In Works/Hairnet” by Will Eisner. PS: The Preventive Maintenance Monthly, US Department of Defense, date unknown, reprinted in Will Eisner’s The Spirit issue 33, Kitchen Sink Comix, February 1982

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Miller’s Spirit, Take One

Frank Miller: When you’re dealing with something you’ve created, be very protective. If you love it, if it’s still an alive and ongoing thing …
Will Eisner: Well, you have to resist the temptation of having a movie made.

(from Eisner/Miller: A One-on-One Interview Conducted by Charles Brownstein, Dark Horse Books, 2005)

So far as Frank Miller goes, I’m in the camp that feels that his hard-boiled macho self-parody stopped being funny around the time of his second or third Sin City story. So, despite his friendship with Will Eisner, the news that he was to direct a Spirit movie was not altogether welcome.

And yes, this is old news. But I’ve just reminded myself that Miller has done creative work on The Spirit before. Back in 1981, when he was still the hot young writer/artist on Daredevil, he took part in “The Spirit Jam” that I mentioned yesterday, pencilling two pages to a Denny O’Neil script.

Just as Miller borrowed from Eisner’s Spirit for Daredevil, he has here borrowed what looks a lot like Josie’s bar from Daredevil and put it in The Spirit. The big plate glass window is doomed, of course.

The Spirit Jam” pages were basically just a brief bit of slapstick done for the fun of it. But I still prefer them to the brutal mess used to promote the movie as if it was part of the Sin City franchise.

Panels and pictures
Panels by Denny O’Neil (writer), Frank Miller (penciller) and Terry Austin (inker) from “The Spirit Jam”, Will Eisner’s The Spirit issue 30 by Will Eisner, Kitchen Sink Comix, July 1981

Promotional poster by Frank Miller for the film Will Eisner’s The Spirit, 2006

Tuesday, 29 May 2007


More inconsistency from your humble blogger.

A while back, I praised Darwyn Cooke for not getting hung up on pastiching the superficial aspects of Will Eisner’s style on The Spirit.

Then I saw this cover for the hardback collection of the first six issues of Cooke’s revival. Apparently, it was used as promotional artwork before the series began, but I missed it then.

I love the way that it captures the feel of the colour covers that Eisner did for Kitchen Sink’s Spirit magazine, particularly this one.

Inside that very issue, Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman discussed Eisner’s colour technique, concluding that he still had a lot to learn, because he was essentially drawing in colour rather than modelling in paint.

Personally, I rather prefer the texture of Eisner’s colour drawing to the more painterly, fully rendered covers that Warren Magazines had sometimes used during their Spirit series, like this one (none of them featured rain, so the comparison is inexact).

Eisner’s own finished art seems to me to give a better feel for what’s inside – a virtue that many comics’ covers lack in these days of specialised cover artists.

Incidentally, the title of this post is a Kurtzman coinage, taken from his contribution to “The Spirit Jam” from issue 30 of the Kitchen Sink magazine, which featured the work of some fifty different comics writers, artists and letterers on one extended story.

Covers and Panels

Cover art for The Spirit Volume 1 hardback, by Darwyn Cooke, DC Comics, scheduled for release in September 2007

Cover art for Will Eisner’s The Spirit issue 31 by Will Eisner, Kitchen Sink Comix, October 1981 (scan taken from the Grand Comics Database)

Cover art for The Spirit issue 10 by Will Eisner (pencils) and Ken Kelley, Warren Magazines, October 1975 (scan taken from the Grand Comics Database)

Panels by Harvey Kurtzman from “The Spirit Jam”, Will Eisner’s The Spirit issue 30 by Will Eisner, Kitchen Sink Comix, July 1981

Monday, 28 May 2007

Reviews: Action Man ATOM, Criminal, Hellblazer

Action Man ATOM Alpha Teens On Machines issue 23 “Deadly Shadows!” by Ed Caruana (script and editor), Jack Lawrence (pencils and inks), Jason Cardy & Kat Nicholson (colours) and Alex Foot (lettering), Panini Magazines, 16 May 2007, 12 pages of strip (out of 36), £1.99

All I knew about this comic, when I picked it up out of a desire to see what was available by way of adventure comics in the UK these days other than 2000AD and superhero reprints, was that it was based on a line of toys by way of a French animated cartoon. The toys, by the way, are unrelated except by name and manufacturer to the Action Man military dress-up dolls of my youth (this was the brand name in the UK of the US GI Joe dolls, themselves long since replaced).

The plot involves the Alpha Teens protecting an old enemy, now in prison, from a group of ninjas who are killing members of his old covert operations unit , to which the father of one of the teens also belonged. The story is rather confusingly told, and no-one has any identifiable characterisation. I assume that the French animated cartoon adopts an anime style, as the fight scenes contain a lot of striking of poses and shouting of random nouns. As a result, not much actually happens over the course of the twelve pages: this is manga pacing without the space needed to make it work.

The artwork also seems to fit to an animated cartoon template, with blocky, simply-delineated figures against minimal backgrounds. There aren’t any technical errors that I noticed in the art, but it seems merely functional.

With only a third of the comic given over to the strip proper, there is a lot of filler. Some of this is useful. The story doesn’t explain who the Alpha Teens are, but this is set out in an introductory page. There’s another recap page before the story starts, and a two-page bio of the ninja leader, Dragon. The rest is made up of quizzes, reader art, posters, and the worst advice on drawing cartoon characters that I have ever seen. Obviously, this isn't intended for middle-aged men, but even as a child I recognised this sort of stuff as being mere ballast. Taken as a whole, this comic is poor value for money.

Criminal issue 6 “Lawless” part 1 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, with colours by Val Staples, Icon/Marvel, May 2007, 26 pages, US$2.99

Soldier Tracy Lawless is released from eighteen months’ solitary confinement for doing something that the army wanted covered up, only to learn that his kid brother Rick has died in the meantime. Breaking out and deserting, Lawless sets out to find out what happened to his brother, by infiltrating the small-time gang of criminals to which Rick belonged.

The most notable thing about this story is Brubaker’s control of a narrative which uses multiple levels of flashback without ever becoming confusing. Characters and situations are sketched in with the same economical ease that typifies Sean Phillips’ starkly shaded artwork. These are the opening panels.

The reader is also grabbed by the throat right from the start.

My only complaint is that Brubaker makes things too easy for us. Lawless kills two men in the course of this issue. One is a mafia bagman who threatens Lawless’ own life. The other – whom Lawless kills so that he can take his place as the driver in his brother’s gang – is established as scum by a sequence in which, after having sex with a prostitute, he refuses to pay her and beats her up instead. That is just a little too convenient a way to allay the consciences of readers who are being asked to empathise with a murderous protagonist.

But, overall, this is compelling stuff that will probably not allow me to wait for the trade paperback collection.

Hellblazer issue 232 “Wheels of Chance, Systems of Control” by Andy Diggle (writer), Leonardo Manco (artist), Lee Loughridge (colourist), Jared K Fletcher (letterer) and Casey Seijas (editor), cover by Lee Bermejo, Vertigo/DC Comics, July 2007, 22 pages, US$2.99

John Constantine begins to pull himself together and reclaim his past, as he plots to break the bank at a casino with his bluff-and-willpower style of magic. Diggle provides another solidly characterised story, racking up the tension even though no immediate threats to life, limb or sanity are involved. Manco once again populates the pages with real-looking people in real-looking places, all solid shapes and smokey shadows.

But this comic also reveals me to be a hypocrite. For all my sneering at fans and writers who want to bring back their favourite version of the Legion of Super-Heroes or whatever, I did get a little thrill from seeing Constantine once again as Alan Moore and company originally created him, his clothes as sharp as his brain, rather than the scruffy drunk that Jamie Delano and John Ridgway turned him into. It’s a shame that no-one told cover artist Lee Bermejo.

For similar, “my version of the continuity is better than yours” reasons, this is my panel of the week.

Take that, Hollywood!

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Obligatory Star Wars 30th Anniversary Post

Back in the 1970s, even blockbuster films took six months to cross the Atlantic. So by the time Star Wars opened here in Britain, the publicists knew how well it had done at the US box-office, and made a big effort (by the standards of the day) to hype it in advance.

One part of this was a big, fat magazine with the Hildrebrandt poster art on the cover, which went on sale a couple of months before the film opened outside London. In some ways, this made a bigger impact on me than Star Wars itself, because it included a lavishly-illustrated potted history of science fiction in the cinema, putting the 1950s movies and Flash Gordon serials I already knew from TV into context, and introducing me for the first time to the likes of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

I liked the film Star Wars well enough, but I never really got sucked into the phenomenon. I lost interest in the sequels about half-way through The Empire Strike Back, and I never bought the toys or the comics.

Which presents a bit of a problem when writing about Star Wars in a comics blog. What I do have to hand, however, is “Star Roars”, Mad magazine’s parody (or first parody – I imagine that others have followed over the years).

“Star Roars” used the first Mad art I remember seeing from Harry North. North was a British cartoonist who had been drawing sitcom adaptations (such as On the Buses) for Look-In. Just as Star Wars started the trend of filming American movies in Britain, its parody was an early instance of British talent working on American comics.

Fittingly, the British publication of “Star Roars” ended up with a transatlantic flavour.

Notice that, although the speech balloons have been adapted for British readers – “Electricity Board” (as we had before privatisation), “£4 million” – the bill in George Lucas’s hand remains American – “$4,000,000”.

Such attempts to pretend that comic strip reprints were really British always baffled me as a child. I remember a reprint of a Casper the Friendly Ghost story in which Casper visits what is clearly drawn as New York, but which is referred to in the captions as “London City” (the phrase itself is an oddity – it’s just “London”, “London Town” if you want to be twee, or “City of London” if you are referring to the financial district, but never “London City”.)

To this day, children are told by the English-language editions of the Tintin books that Captain Haddock’s home at Marlinspike is somewhere in England, even though the local police look like this:

Similarly, when the British free newspaper Metro reprints Nemi by the Norwegian cartoonist Lise Myhre, the references are Anglicised.

It all seems rather pointless. Our sympathies are surely not so narrow that we only want to follow stories set in our own countries – as the international ubiquity of Star Wars itself demonstrates.


Superman’s Metropolis by Randy Lofficier, Jean-Marc Lofficier and Roy Thomas (script), Ted McKeever (art) and Bill Oakley (letters), DC Comics, 1996

“Star Roars” by Larry Siegel and Dick de Bartolo (writers) and Harry North, in Mad British edition issue 191, Top Sellers Ltd, 1977

The Seven Crystal Balls by Hergé, 1948, English-language edition translated by Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, Methuen Children’s Books, 1962

Nemi by Lise Myhre, Metro newspaper, 2006

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Heart on My Sleeve

Kevin Church has started the hue and cry for Bully.

Chris Sims has a cure for Vertigo.

And Mercury Studio wants to know which side you are on.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Of Scarecrows and Schoolboys

The upcoming two-part Doctor Who story on BBC TV, based on Paul Cornell’s novel Human Nature, features spooky walking scarecrows, sinister schoolboys and the Doctor turned into a human being.

By a curious coincidence, the final TV Comic story about the second Doctor featured spooky walking scarecrows …

… while TV Comic’s first story about the third Doctor featured sinister schoolboys.

And did the Doctor turn human? Not exactly, but it was at this point that the Doctor turned into a Time Lord, gaining a specific world and culture after seven years as an undefined, mysterious traveller in time and space.

And before that, he had sometimes been human too. More about that next week.

Doctor Who by Roger Noel Cook (writer – attributed) and John Canning (artist), TV Comic issue 936, 22 November 1969, this panel reprinted in Doctor Who Classic Comics issue 20, 25 May 1994

Doctor Who by Roger Noel Cook (writer – attributed) and John Canning (artist), TV Comic issue 947, 7 February 1970, reprinted in Doctor Who Classic Comics issue 4, 3 March 1993. Colour added by Louise Cassell for the reprint.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Angus and Amazons

I never saw any of the comics work of the illustrator Angus McBride, who died earlier this month (notices can be found on the Look and Learn, Bear Alley and Down the Tubes blogs). And while I would certainly have seen his illustrations for the educational children’s weekly Look and Learn - I didn’t only buy it for The Trigan Empire - I don’t think I knew his name then. But I have seen and enjoyed a lot of his military history illustrations, especially for Osprey publications. He had a rare knack of combining detailed accuracy with fluid and dynamic brushwork and composition.

So, with the Amazons still attacking DC’s version of the United States, I thought that I might post McBride’s reconstructions of the real thing.

(Sarmatian Amazon clashes with Graeco-Scythians, west of the River Don in the northern Caucasus foothills, fourth century BC.)

Herodotus, father of history (and father of lies) tells us that the Amazons were neighbours of the Scythians (or Skythians). His near-contemporary, the fifth-century BC writer Hippocrates, specifically identifies them with the Sarmatians.

The Scythians and Sarmatians were both stock-herding peoples who lived mainly in the steppe lands north of the Black Sea. They were noted for their skills with horses and bows. Their women seem to have ridden and hunted and probably even fought alongside their men. Certainly, archaeologists have found graves where female bodies were buried along with weapons, though it is possible that these were markers of status rather than actually used in battle.

(Amazon and Scythian horse-warriors attack Theseus outside Athens during their legendary invasion of Attica. [Based on] A fifth-century BC representation of possibly a Mycenean scene.)

Whatever, these steppe peoples were a marked contrast to the civilisation of Ancient Greece, which was so misogynist that Spartan men were mocked as hen-pecked for allowing their women-folk to actually speak in public. Even if the Scythians and Sarmatians did not give rise to the myth of the separatist tribe of Amazons, they must surely have contributed to the Greeks’ understanding of it.

(1. Sindo-Meothic nobleman, 5th C. BC
2. Scythian nobleman, 5th C. BC
3. [Centre] Scythian noblewoman, 4th C. BC)

So far as I know, the look of these “real" Amazons has never had any influence on the world of Wonder Woman. Maybe after the next Crisis and reboot?

Tim Newark Women Warriors: An Illustrated Military History of Female Warriors, colour illustrations by Angus McBride, Blandford, 1989

Men-at-Arms series, 137: The Scythians, 700-300 BC, text by Dr E V Cernenko, illustrations by Angus McBride from reconstructions by Dr M V Gorelik, Osprey Military, 1983

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Review: Dr 13 – Architecture & Mortality

Dr 13 “Architecture & Mortality” part 1 by Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Patricia Mulvihill (colourist), Jared K Fletcher (letterer) and Bob Schreck (editor), 16 pages of strip, in Tales of the Unexpected issue 1, DC Comics, December 2006, US$3.99

Dr 13 “Architecture & Mortality” part 2 by Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Patricia Mulvihill (colourist), Jared K Fletcher (letterer) and Bob Schreck (editor), 16 pages of strip, in Tales of the Unexpected issue 2, DC Comics, January 2007, US$3.99

Dr 13 “Architecture & Mortality” part 3 by Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Patricia Mulvihill (colourist), Jared K Fletcher (letterer) and Bob Schreck (editor), 16 pages of strip, in Tales of the Unexpected issue 3, DC Comics, February 2007, US$3.99

Dr 13 “Architecture & Mortality” part 4 by Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Patricia Mulvihill (colourist), Jared K Fletcher (letterer) and Bob Schreck (editor), 16 pages of strip, in Tales of the Unexpected issue 4, DC Comics, March 2007, US$3.99

Dr 13 “Architecture & Mortality” part 5 by Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Patricia Mulvihill (colourist), Jared K Fletcher (letterer) and Bob Schreck (editor), 16 pages of strip, in Tales of the Unexpected issue 5, DC Comics, April 2007, US$3.99

Dr 13 “Architecture & Mortality” part 6 by Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Patricia Mulvihill (colourist), Jared K Fletcher (letterer) and Bob Schreck (editor), 16 pages of strip, in Tales of the Unexpected issue 6, DC Comics, May 2007

Dr 13 “Architecture & Mortality” part 7 by Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Patricia Mulvihill (colourist), Jared K Fletcher (letterer) and Bob Schreck (editor), 16 pages of strip, in Tales of the Unexpected issue 7, DC Comics, June 2007, US$3.99

Dr 13 “Architecture & Mortality” part 8 by Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Patricia Mulvihill (colourist), Jared K Fletcher (letterer) and Bob Schreck (editor), 16 pages of strip, in Tales of the Unexpected issue 8, DC Comics, July 2007, US$3.99

Dr 13: Architecture & Mortality is a hymn to the unfettered imagination, with a crabbed rationalist as soloist.

Dr Terrence Thirteen, “the Ghost Breaker” was created back in 1951. He investigated supposedly supernatural occurrences and exposed them as frauds with the relentlessness of Scooby-Doo and his gang of meddling kids. But, as with Scooby, the stories began in time to allow the supernatural to become real.

Starting in 1969, Dr Thirteen became a guest character in the adventures of The Phantom Stranger. In his solo stories, he was the hero, debunking superstition and deception. In The Phantom Stranger, he was a blind fool, providing specious rationalisations for events that we, the readers, were clearly shown to be paranormal. This set the pattern for his later appearances in the DC Universe. What respect could be accorded to a man who believed only in science, in physics and mechanics, in a world occupied by Dr Fate, and Zatanna, and the Spectre – and Superman, for that matter?

At first, Architecture & Mortality seems to be heading in the same direction. Dr Thirteen is made to seem more and more ridiculous as he encounters some obscure and outré characters from the corners of the DC Universe – Andrew Bennett from I, Vampire, Anthro the cave boy, the pirate Captain Fear (now a ghost), the Primate Patrol (Nazi gorillas), omniscient boy Genius Jones, the Haunted Tank, and Infectious Lass from the Legion of Substitute Heroes. His every pompous pronouncement is immediately undermined. He faints, runs out of money, is splattered with ape vomit and phantom horse-dung.

But gradually, it becomes clear that these are not random encounters. The characters are being brought together by the four Architects – thinly-veiled versions of Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid, the writers of DC’s year-long weekly series 52 - who have been charged with rebuilding the universe, leaving no place for this group of oddballs.

The ending denies the Architects power to define the continuity definitively: the DC Universe has been revised before, and will be again. So long as there are stories to be told about them, even the daftest characters will survive. And even when there are no new stories, the old ones exist to be re-read and rediscovered.

In the very way he tells the story, Azzarello takes as far as he can this argument for following imagination wherever it will go, regardless of the rules laid down by editorial directive or even narrative logic. Architecture and Mortality throws in all sorts of unconnected ideas on the grounds, we must assume, that they seemed like fun at the time. Funky Flashman as a car dealer, selling used Batmobiles? In it goes. A group of characters spontaneously quoting “The Theme from The Thomas Crown Affair”? Fine. Want to show Dr Thirteen’s daughter Traci emulating Lucy van Pelt? Why not?

It doesn’t all work. Some of the jokes fall flat (particularly the attempts to fit the phrase “I, Vampire” into the conversation). I have already posted about why I think the heavy use of quasi-phonetic spelling for accents is a bad idea. I think it is deliberate that the anecdotes with which Dr Thirteen introduces each chapter are leadenly told – he is a man with no imaginative flair – but it does become a little wearing. But this is to carp. There are so many shafts of whimsy and humour shining on every page, that these shadows can easily be overlooked.

This exuberantly erratic story is grounded by Cliff Chiang’s art. Pitching his style somewhere between Curt Swan and Edgar Jacobs, Chiang is particularly impressive in his figure work and expressive faces. Unlike so many comics artists, this is someone who knows how bodies fit together, how clothes hang, and how expressions form.

His weakness comes when forced to deal with larger scenes. Sometimes, as here, the various elements of his composition don’t hang together, but float separately in space.

But it’s still a striking image and, throughout, we never lose our understanding of what is going on.

Overall, Dr 13: Architecture & Mortality is a whimsical delight with a serious - and sensible - point to make about comics. I’m not sure how often this trick could be repeated before growing stale, but I’m glad to have seen it at least this once.

For its initial publication, Dr 13 was hidden in the back of the double-feature comic book Tales of the Unexpected, behind the muddled, nasty and unreadably ugly version of The Spectre which hogged the covers. Fortunately, DC has announced plans to release Dr 13 as a trade paperback in September, at which point there will be no remaining excuse to ignore it.

Covers and Panels

Cropped version of the cover for the paperback collection of Dr 13: Architecture & Mortality, art by Cliff Chiang, DC Comics (taken from Comic Book Resources)

Star Spangled Comics issue 122, art by Leonard Starr, DC Comics, November 1951 (scan taken from The Grand Comics Database)

Other panels from the comics under review.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Don’t Talk to Me Like That

Using customised spellings to indicate that a character is speaking in a strong accent is a comic device as old as standardised spelling (or is that “standardized”?). Perhaps even older: consider Shakespeare’s Captain Fluellen in Henry V, praising “falorous” men, and eating “pread”. And it has been used in comics for ages. Here’s the Yellow Kid on a visit to Scotland, with his shirt emblazoned with R F Outcault’s idea of Brooklynese.

Lately, Joss Whedon has been using customised spelling to give accents to some of the Slayers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, but that seems to be an attempt to add colour rather than raise a laugh.

The champion user of funny accents recently has been Brian Azzarello in the Dr 13 series in Tales of the Unexpected.

I really don’t like it.

For one thing, it badly affects the pace at which the comic can be read. When reading words, we don’t normally pick out every letter: we see the shapes of words and grab the most likely candidate from our vocabularies – like predictive text messaging software, only a thousand times more efficient. It’s why we stumble over unfamiliar names, and why proofreading requires such concentration. And when we run across something like this …

… we are back in infants’ school, spelling out the individual sounds of the letters one by one and piecing them together. Our fourth-gear cruise through the word balloons crashes down to a first-gear crawl.

For another thing, using customised spelling for accents implies that there is one particular accent which is the correct way to read regular spelling. In British literature, that has traditionally been the educated middle-class accent known as “received pronunciation” or “BBC English”. Accents presented in customised spelling are usually a way of laughing at foreigners and the poor. When the novelist and Scottish Nationalist Alasdair Gray has the voices of his Scots characters presented in standard spelling and his English characters in customised spelling, he is making a strong political point.

And Azzarello does indeed seem to be using customised spelling to make the Spanish Captain Fear into (even more of) a joke. But I have yet another, practical problem with it all.

Brian Azzarello presumably pronounces standardised spellings in one of the many and varied American accents. I pronounce them in one of the many and varied English accents. We have different ideas about how letters and combinations of letters should sound. That’s why dictionaries use a special phonetic alphabet, whose sounds are internationally consistent, to indicate pronunciation. But the accents in Dr 13 aren’t in the phonetic alphabet, and, sometimes, the way they read to me makes no sense at all. This, for example, is how an avatar of Grant Morrison speaks, but even with the knowledge that it is supposed to be a Scottish accent, I can’t work it out.

“Ercu”? Anyone?

So all this is a bit of a blot on Dr 13’s copybook. But, as I hope to show in a later post, it is a very large and interesting copybook otherwise.


“The Yellow Kid in Edinburgh” by R F Outcault, New York Journal, 13 February 1897, reprinted in R F Outcault The Yellow Kid: A Centennial Celebration of the Kid Who Started the Comics, Kitchen Sink Press, 1995

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight issue 1 "The Long Way Home" part 1 by Joss Whedon (script), Georges Jeanty (pencils), Andy Owens (inks), Dave Stewart (colours), Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy (letters) and Scott Allie (editor), Dark Horse Comics, March 2007

Dr 13 “Architecture & Mortality” part 3 by Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Patricia Mulvihill (colourist), Jared K Fletcher (letterer) and Bob Schreck (editor), Tales of the Unexpected issue 3, DC Comics, February 2007

Dr 13 “Architecture & Mortality” part 4 by Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Patricia Mulvihill (colourist), Jared K Fletcher (letterer) and Bob Schreck (editor), Tales of the Unexpected issue 4, DC Comics, March 2007

Dr 13 “Architecture & Mortality” part 6 by Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Patricia Mulvihill (colourist), Jared K Fletcher (letterer) and Bob Schreck (editor), Tales of the Unexpected issue 6, DC Comics, May 2007

Monday, 21 May 2007

All the Colours of Hell

A quick question: what colours do you associate with the Nazis?

Black, white and red, perhaps, after the colours of their flag, or the uniforms of the SS. Brown, maybe, for the Brownshirts. Or the greenish-grey “feldgrau” of the German army.

But how about shocking pink? Or yellow? Purple? Orange?


I’m sorry, you have just failed the job interview for DC Comics.

P.S. Two new and unrelated villainesses called “Blitzkrieg” appearing within a few months of each other? Don’t the editors talk to each other at DC?

P.P.S. Yes, that second picture shows people being dismembered. It’s a Geoff Johns comic, of course.

Panels (some cropped)

Catwoman issue 66 “Catwoman Dies” part 1 by Will Pfeifer (writer), David López (penciller), Álvaro López (inker), Jeromy Cox (colourist), Jared K Fletcher (letterer) and Nachie Castro (editor), DC Comics, June 2007

Justice Society of America issue 3 “The Next Age” chapter 3 by Geoff Johns (writer), Dale Eaglesham (penciller), Ruy José (inker), Jeromy Cox (colours), Rob Leigh (letterer) and Eddie Berganza (editor), DC Comics, April 2007

Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe issue 2 “Baron Blitzkrieg”, art by Rick Hoberg and Romeo Tanghal, DC Comics, April 1985

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Reviews: Local, Satan’s Sodomy Baby, X-Men First Class Special

Local issue 9 “Wish You Were Here” by Brian Wood (story), Ryan Kelly (art) and Douglas E Sherwood (letters), Oni Press, May 2007, 22 pages of strip, US$2.99

Our protagonist, Megan McKeenan, learns of her mother’s death, and travels to the town of Norman, Oklahoma, where her mother and father first met at University. On the way, she reminisces about the freedom to run away that her mother allowed her, contrasting it with the domestic constraints that her mother accepted for herself. Ultimately, she restages with her boyfriend a photograph of her mother and father which she associates with her mother’s loss of freedom and acceptance of responsibility.

Assisted by solid, weighty art by Kelly, Wood tells a well-constructed, emotionally-real story, though I am not sure that I agree with the next issue blurb that it was “in the end quite uplifting” – rather, it seemed to end on a note of resignation. Perhaps if I had read the previous eight issues it would have seemed different, but this was a case of sampling the periodical to see if it is worth waiting for the trade paperback collection. It looks like it is.

Satan’s Sodomy Baby by Eric Powell, Dark Horse Comics, April 2007, 22 pages of strip, US$3.50

Undeniably crude – not only in subject matter, but in execution, with Powell’s artwork looking more rushed than normal – this special one-off story of The Goon is nonetheless laugh-out-loud funny. It opens with a turpentine-sniffing hillbilly mounting a pig and builds to an exorcism involving a giant-dicked baby demon, a shotgun and a very large wooden mallet.

The pacing and style are similar to a typical issue of The Goon. Only the content has been changed to offend the innocent.

X-Men First Class Special issue 1, Marvel Comics, July 2007, US$3.99
Features: X-Men “The Museum of Oddities” written by Jeff Parker, art and lettering by Kevin Nowlan, 6 pages
X-Men “The Soul of a Poet”, written by Jeff Parker, pencils by Nick Dragotta, inks by Mike Allred, colours by Laura Allred, lettering by Blambot’s Nate Piekos, 8 pages
X-Men “A Girl and her Dragon”, written by Jeff Parker, art by Paul Smith, colour by Pete Pantazis, lettering by Blambot’s Nate Piekos, 14 pages
X-Men “Magneto in ‘The Key’”, “Men Fear the Blob” and “The Mental Might of Marvel Girl”, written by Jeff Parker, art and lettering by Colleen Coover, 1 page each
Cover by Kevin Nowlan, edited by Mark Paniccia

A one-off filling the gap in the publishing schedules between the end of the mini-series and the start of a new ongoing series in June, the X-Men First Class Special features a number of amusing and delightfully inconsequential stories by Jeff Parker and some sympathetic artists (though I regret to say that Paul Smith’s art here is rather insipid compared to his work on Leave it to Chance. Kevin Nowlan, fortunately, is on better form inside than on the cover). Normally, I wouldn’t review this comic so soon after covering the last issue of X-Men First Class, but I couldn’t resist posting this, surely the panel of the week.