Judge Dredd’s Crime File 1 (August 1985)

Judge Dredd's Crime File #1

Judge Dredd’s Crime File has three stories in this first issue, all written by John Wagner. They all have good art–John Byrne, Ron Smith, Colin Wilson–they all have slightly different art. Wilson’s future landscape is more stylish than Byrne’s, for example. Ron Smith is the most rounded for what Wagner’s trying to do with the differing stories.

The most significant thing about these stories in relation to Judge Dredd is the lack of Dredd. The second story, with the Smith art, has the most Dredd–it’s about these alien plants people are growing but the plants turn into little alien monsters. Dredd is investigating. But in the first story, the one with the Byrne art, Wagner goes way more into the game of the future than Dredd’s quelling of a footballer-like riot.

The third story–Wilson’s–has some guy going crazy and shooting up civilians. It’s about urban plight in the future. It’s not Dredd’s story (even though the guy ends up gunning for Dredd in a very cheap action movie revenge manner).

For the unfamiliar Dredd reader, Crime File might seem an odd collection of stories but it’s actually some of Wagner’s best work.

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, John Byrne, Ron Smith and Colin Wilson; colorist, John M. Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

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The Comics Fondle Podcast | Episode 27

I’m stunned to discover Vernon and I managed to get TWO episodes out in one month. We certainly thought we were behind, which got us to hunker down and talk about some rather good comics.

These are the books we talk about.

  • Providence 3
  • Auteur 3
  • Minimum Wage 4
  • Dark Corridor 1
  • This Damned Band 1
  • The Fiction 3
  • Airboy 3
  • The Spire 2
  • Kaijumax 5
  • Hip Hop Family Tree 1
  • 8house Arclight
  • The Island 2
  • Beauty 1
  • Letter 44 19
  • Lazarus 18
  • Rebels 5
  • Velvet 11
  • Sons Of Anarchy 23
  • Copperhead 9
  • Casanova 3
  • Cluster 5
  • Injection 4
  • Eltingville Club 2

Then we talk about some problems with indie books before wrapping up with a discussion of the best comic book writers working today.

you can also subscribe on iTunes…

Manifest Destiny 16 (August 2016)

Manifest Destiny #16

Talk about not much of an issue… Dingess’s pacing never impresses on Manifest Destiny but I think he might have set a new record for himself.

The comic has five or six scenes–plus a flashback–and reads in just a few minutes. The most interesting part has to be the Sacagawea sequence, which has the flashback to her youth when she starts the warrior’s path (to fend off the white man), and just shows how wasted she’s been in the comic. It’s like Dingess has been saving her for something awesome from the second issue but it’s gotten to the point there’s no way there can be enough pay off.

Speaking of pay off, during the rest of the issue–which involves the blue bird people–Dingess hints the monsters might have come from another world to ours. Kind of boring, actually. The Americas being a mythic place of violent megafauna? Interesting. The Americas being invaded by monsters from another dimension? Cop out.

As always, it’s an amusing enough read and the art is spot on. Something about the content makes me not want to give up on Manifest Destiny having real potential but every issue convinces me I need to adjust my expectations.

CREDITS

Writer, Chris Dingess; penciller, Matthew Roberts; inkers, Stefano Gaudiano and Tony Akins; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editor, Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Providence 3 (July 2015)

Providence #3

It’s so good. It’s so painfully good. Not just in how Moore gets to all the somewhat familiar Lovecraft moments. Again, the disclaimer–I haven’t read Lovecraft, just read or seen Lovecraft-inspired stuff–so when I recognize something, it’s because it looks like In the Mouth of Madness all of a sudden.

But Burrows goes away from the traditional 1920s cities to a rural town, which raises these questions about how things are going to develop. Moore’s script, Burrows’s visuals, they engage the reader to ask more theoretical questions. If Moore’s actually doing some kind of “prequel” to Neonomicon (which is fast getting to be the dividing point in Moore’s post-ABC career, from Top Shelf eccentric to redefining horror comics), how much does it connect? Is it an actual connection or just Moore enthusiastically showing off tonal connections for the equally enthused Moore reader?

Of course, Moore never makes it feel like a fan club newsletter. His connection with fandom, just as it was back in the Swamp Thing days, puts craft and work above all else. Story, both in writing and in art, is king.

So, as a comic, Providence is great.

Except it’s not just a comic because Moore’s got more of the protagonist’s diary (in prose). The comic’s third person, the diary is first person. The differences, which Moore still somewhat uses to shock but not much… well, those differences change Providence again. Moore’s not satisfied with making “horror comics” a real genre, he needs to break it into an entirely different genre.

And never makes it seem like showing off.

CREDITS

A Lurking Fear; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Island 2 (August 2015)

Island #2

Simon Roy starts a story this issue. Some sort of futuristic thing with the plants having grown over everything and people living a savage existence. With cannibalism, he hints, but also secret replicators and lasers. It’s cool. It’s really well-done. It’s just too soon to tell if he’s got anything amazing up his narrative sleeves. With Roy’s level of detail–it’s gorgeous art–it’s hard not to think style above substance, but he’s so careful with the content… maybe it’ll be something great.

And Emma Rios finishes up her mind-transfer story. It’s okay. The art overly stylized–black and white but with different colors for the black depending on scene (and not dark colors, like light red)–but Rios’s panel compositions and her panel transitions are amazing. The story’s kind of bleh, but the structure of the visual narrative makes it worthwhile.

I forgot to mention the Ludroe story about the cats and the skaters. It’s back. It’s dumb. I think I liked the art more this time but the story’s even stupider. I’m definitely not the audience for it.

CREDITS

Contributors, Will Kirkby, Ludroe, Simon Roy, Emma Rios and Robin Bougie; publisher, Image Comics.

The Fiction 3 (August 2015)

The Fiction #3

The Fiction only has one issue left, which is sort of good. Pires doesn’t exactly run out of ideas this issue–it’s just once he gets his regular cast together it does remind all of a sudden of Unwritten and then it’s hard to think of Fiction on its own.

Also because it’s almost over. It goes one more issue, so reading this issue, it feels like the grand setup for the finish. Pires does maybe four flashbacks, one flash forward and then two asides with the evil monster thing running the otherworld place. It’s even got a hard cliffhanger with the three good guys about to face off with their evil friend.

Like I said, while Pires might not entirely be out of ideas, it really seems like he let the impulse run its course. It’s an eighties cartoon all of a sudden.

The comic’s not compelling exactly when it needs to be most compelling.

CREDITS

Where the Sky Hangs or Four Years Gone; writer, Curt Pires; artist, David Rubín; colorist, Michael Garland; letterer, Colin Bell; editors, Jasmine Amiri and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Birthright 10 (August 2015)

Birthright #10

As usual for Williamson–and easily the most frustrating thing about his writing–the issue reads too fast. This issue of Birthright is some female bonding and a lengthy fight sequence. At the end of the fight sequence comes a big surprise. And it’s a good big surprise, but it’s not good enough to forgive the issue taking place over five minutes.

Especially since Bressan is wasted on a slow fight scene. Bressan’s an imaginative artist and instead of letting him visualize cool things, this issue has him visualizing a scene out of an eighties fantasy action movie. Released by Cannon.

Speaking of which, as a compliment, Williamson and Bressan should search out a licensee for the property who’ll honor that eighties vibe.

I really like Birthright. It just never fully delivers. Maybe Williamson’s just writing for the trade (and the YA audience in book stores), which would be smart. It’s an incredibly accessible book and one with a wide range of potential reader.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Williamson; artist, Andrei Bressan; colorist, Adriano Lucas; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Mike Williamson and Sean Mackiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Peanuts (July 1952)

Peanuts

Funny thing about this Peanuts collection, which contains two hundred and forty strips (of a possible four hundred and fifty or so), is it doesn’t open with the first Peanuts cartoon. The cartoon, introducing Shermy, Patty and Charlie Brown, with Shermy saying how much he hates Charlie Brown, doesn’t appear. In fact, whoever picked the strips for this collection made sure no ones ever too mean to Charlie Brown.

Charles M. Schulz had a certain pattern in the early days of the strip. He rewarded regular readers with themes and new variations on said themes, either involving Patty and Charlie Brown or Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Peanuts, in this collection, feels cohesive. Even though there’s no connection between strips–other than Violet appearing and Schroeder not just appearing, but learning the piano and starting to walk (and talk)–the collection presents the strip in some particular ways.

There’s an adult humor to Peanuts, a comic strip often about nothing, often with some very open punchline panels where Schulz just invites the reader to reflect back on what’s come in the previous three panels (this collection arranges the strip into squares–two by two, instead of four across–which also changes reading behavior). But the collection never pushes the adult humor aspect of the strip. Instead, its subtle, running beneath the more easier Snoopy jokes.

This collection does have some of Snoopy’s initial forays into a more human existence, like a satellite antenna for better TV reception.

It’s an awesome introduction.

CREDITS

Cartoonist, Charles M. Schulz; publisher, Titan Books.

Howard the Duck 5 (October 2015)

howard5Oh look, Chip Zdarsky crapped out enough Howard issues for the first trade. Andrew did a good job taking the relaunch’s debut to task even before reading the original Steve Gerber series, and I would like to add my two cents now as someone who grew up on them and holds Howard very close to my heart.

What Marvel has let happen to Howard hurts, bad. Howard isn’t Spider-Man or the X-Men. He’s not yet another beefcake in colored underwear who’s fought dozens of other pro wrestlers under the auspices of hundreds of writers and artists since 1963, standing in line to be played in live action by a Hollywood prettyboy as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thousand-year reich. He’s a unique icon with a very short history. And half that history has been a disgrace because Marvel doesn’t know or care what to do with him. Also sprach Zdarathustry.

I’m not opposed on principle to the series being written by someone other than Gerber. I don’t doubt it could be done competently. However, Andrew’s descriptions from the first issue of the comic as “soulless” and “mercenary” and that “(Zdarsky) doesn’t care” all fit the bill pretty well. “Fit the bill,” by the way, is exactly the level of humor Zdarsky aims for, just so he can acknowledge his own ironically unfunny duck puns. The scripting really does tap into the same vein as the movie, of which Zdarsky has admitted some fondness towards in interviews.

All that a post-Gerber Howard would require to succeed is very simple: a point of view. A writer with an opinion on the world who could use the absurdity inherent in a cartoon duck living amongst us as the ultimate outsider – a minority of one, to quote Gerber’s second issue – and thereby as a mouthpiece for commentary on our own “world he never made.” The big problem with that is that every Marvel property, especially since Disney’s acquisition of them in 2009, is now having every rough edge shaved down in the name of family entertainment. With a few rare exceptions like Deadpool – who has never had a family friendly image – or Guardians of the Galaxy – who were too obscure for close corporate scrutiny – no Marvel movie is going to be about anything except CGI fight scenes punctuated by formulaic melodrama.

The Disney factor is an especially cruel irony for Howard, who was forced in the early 80s to start wearing pants forevermore when the company threatened lawsuit against Marvel for his alleged similarity to Donald Duck. It sounds like a joke, but to quote Gerber just once more,  “Life’s most serious moments and most incredibly dumb moments are often distinguishable only by a momentary point of view.”

James Gunn included a quick Howard cameo in the Guardians of the Galaxy film because, presumably, he was a fan and Marvel didn’t object. Comic books are so marginal compared to movies that this one brief cameo relaunched a Howard comic, like a piece of bait thrown into the waters to perhaps catch some future movie buzz. Apparently Chip Zdarsky took the job solely for the opportunity to write jokes around other Marvel characters because there has literally not been a single issue so far that stars Howard, solo, in his own title. He’s a second banana in his own series to She-Hulk, Spider-Man, the Guardians, Doctor Strange, etc, etc. Just look at the cover. They’re not even pretending to be interested in the titular “star.” The fact Howard is a comedic character has been taken as license to reduce him to a harmless LOLrandomWTF mascot for Marvel, their preferred role for him. He’s cranky, but impotently so. No content, no opinions. He’s a stooge. A eunuch. A sitcom foil for a snarky sitcom version of Marvel Comics.

Chip Zdarsky is very much a talentless sitcom writer at the Big Bang Theory or Family Guy level of glib nerd-pandering pap. Every issue so far abandons whatever the last issue was about to shoehorn in more cameos and banter for short attention spans. Actual exchange from this issue: Mr. Fantastic – “Johnny! What’s the situation?” Johnny Storm – “I said ‘I got this!’ And then I didn’t get this, okay?”

(Laugh track)

I suppose Marvel told Zdarsky at some point early on that, understandably, they’d like to see another book similar to The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Squirrel Girl is funny in a way that’s simultaneously sincere and deconstructive of Marvel super hero tropes, incorporating Marvel’s big cast of characters and throwing plucky, carefree Squirrel Girl up against guys like Kraven the Hunter and Galactus. That works for two reasons that don’t apply to Howard: 1) she was created in the early 90s era of grimdark edginess as a deliberately lighthearted counterpoint to industry trends of the times, and 2) however goofy her squirrel powers may be, they are still superpowers. Zdarsky is totally hung up on Howard’s lack thereof, having his cape cameos take endless potshots at his powerlessness. The final insult of this “arc” is Howard’s discovery that his Beverly Switzler surrogate, a tattooed hipster named Tara, actually has superpowers too, and in light of this he happily declares himself her sidekick.

What the everloving duck? (Haha, see what I did there?) (Self-aware conversational parenthetical asides are funny, right Chip?)

Plus, writer Ryan North clearly cares about making Squirrel Girl’s alter-ego Doreen Green empathic. Howard, who is he who is, is too busy sharing page time with the rest of the Marvel universe to have anything resembling a fleshed-out personality.

Joe Quinones’ art, Rico Renzi’s colors and especially Joe & Paolo Rivera’s inks are all nice to look at, though Howard’s tiny-eyed, pseudo-photo-realistic redesign is merely one more indignity. At this point I’ve lost count.

Chip Zdarsky’s Howard the Duck is smug, shallow, lazy, unfunny and disrespectful to the original in every conceivable way. It does for Howard what Space Jam did for Bugs Bunny – makes you wish he could rest in peace rather than be whored out by cash-grabbing hacks.

CREDITS

Super Hero Battle for the Fate of New York and Possibly the World; writer, Chip Zdarsky; artist, Joe Quinones; colorist, Rico Renzi; inks, Joe Rivera with Paolo Rivera, letterer, Travis Lanham, editor, Wil Moss, assistant editor, Jon Moisan; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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