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And now, a short review.

Joe McCulloch

The Bulletproof Coffin #1 (of 6): This is, on one level, a comic about comics. As our own Abhay Khosla recently said: “I don’t know– do you think that’s interesting, comics about comics? Me, not so often.” But me? A little more so. What sets The Bulletproof Coffin apart from the rest of the pop comics-on-pop comics pack is that it positions itself as genuinely radical in embracing some rather vintage, potentially anathematic ideas about self-expression, and thereby carries the potential to upset. It doesn’t particularly play fair either, nor does it seem to even want to – there’s a lip-smacking, facetious undercurrent to much of the commentary in this first issue, nonetheless presented with such eccentricity it registers instantly…  Read More…

Comics!

Joe McCulloch

(both from Viz, both $12.99) *** Biomega Vol. 1 (of 6): It’s the 31st century and a virus from Mars is transforming everyone into mutant zombies; a synthetic human dressed in a black uniform and a black helmet rides his talking motorcycle at 666 km/h into a walled city on a mission to find a teenage girl, whom he almost immediately runs over as she crosses his path, tearing her leg most of the way off, only to have it heal herself in a manner perhaps expected of an Accommodator of the virus from Mars – the dazed girl, however, is also the ward of a talking bear with a rifle who shows up and whisks her away to a…  Read More…

My Life is Choked with Comics #20 (Ver. 2.0): Captain Hadacol

Joe McCulloch

This is a song about Louisiana and some of the people in it. Or outside it. Or nearly anywhere in these United States as the 1950s approached, and superheroes declined as charismatic rogues stood tall, proud like they knew we’d miss them once fatedly laid low. It’s a nostalgic record. Let it play. Can I offer you a drink? This is Hadacol. *** Twelve Percent True (Being a second and updated version of a post of January 31, 2010, amended to include exciting superhero art and duly expanded/adjusted text and formatting.) *** Hadacol was a popular ‘patent medicine’ of the late 1940s that transformed into a full-blown national fad as the century’s midpoint arrived. “A Dietary Supplement,” as you can…  Read More…

Startups and follow-ups, five reviews for 1/13 (sorta).

Joe McCulloch

Orc Stain #1: This is a VERY GOOD Image comic about orcs and stealing and penises and conquest. It didn’t come out this week, but I didn’t get hold of a copy until Saturday, which is okay by me; this is a perfect comic to find, to turn around in your hands and marvel at how 32-page all-story comics still exist at $2.99, in color, out of the front of Previews, embodying in their small confines a pure worldview, like the underground genre comics of 40 years ago, and their ‘alternative’ children going all the way forward. These days $2.99 feels like underground pricing too. Tradition is highly pertinent to the case of creator James Stokoe, still in his mid-20s,…  Read More…

My Life is Choked with Comics #19b: Manga

Joe McCulloch

(Being part 2 of 2 in a series; part 1 is here) *** III. JAPAN, HIDE YOUR WOMEN! I’ll ask it again, this time with feeling – what the hell is manga? Or more specifically, what the hell is manga today, in comparison to Western professional print comics? (from Hanshin, as presented in The Comics Journal #269; art by Moto Hagio) There’s matters of presentation and distribution, of course. I’ve mentioned that before. Manga is digest-sized paperback books, usually serialized far away from Western eyes in terms of venue — anthology magazines, usually — and often time, in that even the most popular current series have to wait several months for translations to finish or licensing terms to play out….  Read More…

From Today, Four Publishers

Joe McCulloch

Batman and Robin #6: Oh yes, I’m feeling like an old-fashioned omnibus review post tonight. It’s entirely possible the above image might just say it all, but I still feel obliged to point out that the image of Batman & Robin to the right is supposed to be what the people in the inset panel to the left are watching on their monitor. I haven’t been quite as upset with penciller Philip Tan’s work this storyline as some folks — his shortcomings are roughly similar to those of Tony Daniel, who didn’t attract half as much disapprobation with his Grant Morrison collaborations, despite something like R.I.P. needing a steadier visual approach far worse than this thing — but there’s no…  Read More…

A Review of Batwoman in Detective Comics Focusing Mostly on the Art

Joe McCulloch

Detective Comics #858 Here we have the fifth issue of the “Batwoman in…” iteration of this title, and the first chapter in a three-part Origin of Batwoman story. Writer Greg Rucka is on for the duration, as far as I know, but be aware that artist J.H. Williams III will be absent for a while following issue #860; Jock steps in as guest artist for issues #861 through #863, while #864 should see Cully Hamner, artist of the series’ backup feature starring the Question, take that character up front while an unspecified artist (maybe Jock, maybe Williams) does a Batwoman backup. After that, issues #865-#869 should round out Williams’ involvement with the series, god and schedule willing. I don’t know…  Read More…

The Political Fursona

Joe McCulloch

Grandville *** [FEDERAL DISCLOSURE NOTICE: It is with great pride and not inconsiderable pleasure that I hereby certify to having procured the consumer product applicable to the consumer product functionality report (“review”) presented hereafter through a genuine and recognized commercial exchange of the common merchant-consumer practice, facilitated by monies obtained via the efforts of mine own labor, or, to seek the recourse of metaphor, that dolorous transubstantiation of sweat and blood into the liquidity which itself ferries the oxygen of the body capitalism. The reader is hereby assured that my subsequent analysis of said consumer product’s satisfactory or unsatisfactory operation is free of that influence or partiality, however potential, as might be assumed from incidental exposure to the siren’s call,…  Read More…

My Life is Choked with Comics #19a: Manga

Joe McCulloch

(Being part 1 of 2 in a series; part 2 is here) *** What is manga? (from Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga; art by Koji Aihara & Kentaro Takekuma) Japanese comics, right? Maybe a collection of recognizable icons – big eyes, speed lines, etc. Flowers in the background, cartoony art. Except when it’s not. How about format? It’s dozens of little books on the shelves of Borders. Naruto. Nana. Death Note. Pluto. A Drifting Life. A different world, an alternate reality – a foreign industry where comics are more popular and more prolific, escapism of an extra-narrative type. More comics for women, more comics for kids, more comics, beholden to their own traditions and biases, maybe intimidating, maybe interesting….  Read More…

Old English #3

Joe McCulloch

Conquering Armies This is a softcover book from 1978, perfect bound and b&w and 64 pages for your post-bicentennial $4.95. It’s big, as in “big as Paul Pope’s old oversized books, like Buzz Buzz Comics Magazine or THB Circus,” or almost as big as that new Seth book, George Sprott (1894-1975), or that recent hardcover he designed, The Collected Doug Wright. You know, the one with the infernally gleaming red cover? Hold that thing up to an adequate light source and you can transform an ordinary bathroom into a scene from Flashdance. Of course, that’s how my bathroom is already, but, like Seth, I’m an old-timey kinda guy. To wit: 1978, big ol’ softcover comic, big like the European albums,…  Read More…

Old English #2

Joe McCulloch

Ashen Victor Here’s a question that comes up every so often: we hear plenty about North American cartoonists inspired by the energy and style of manga, but are there any mangaka crazy about cartoonists from the West? To my knowledge, the answer is “not a ton.” It seems there’s some pretty specific, dominant ideas in Japan about how comics are supposed to ‘work,’ with a strong emphasis placed on visual mechanics. Put simply, Western comics just don’t look right, and to the extent there’s much of a Western comics presence in Japan at all, it tends to dwell on highly individual stylists as self-contained aesthetic forces. Yet some manga artists draw fabulous inspiration from that area. This book is one…  Read More…

Old English #1

Joe McCulloch

Perramus: Escape From the Past #1-2 (of 4) Q: God, what the hell am I going to do with all these old foreign comics I bought in that April research binge? That was addressed to you, God. A: This is a new series of short posts about old English translations of foreign language comics, probably still obtainable through back-issue and/or used book resources. There will be lots of pictures, as per God’s advice. And we might as well start with a veritable legend of sinking into oblivion, Fantagraphics’ late ’80s/early ’90s magazine-sized pamphlet translations of Euro-by-way-of-South-Americomics. The publisher’s five-issue, 1987-90 take on Carlos Sampayo’s & José Muñoz’s Sinner is probably the most prominent of the bunch, but there was a…  Read More…

Désastre Hurlant (T18): À Suivre

Joe McCulloch

(being the final installment of an 18-part series of posts concerning each and every book released as part of the DC/Humanoids publishing alliance, 2004-05; index of posts here and here) JM: Hello all! This is Jog, speaking in the exotic dialect of italics. TS: I’m Tucker, I roll with No Formatting. This is where Jog and I will talk about the Chaland anthologies, the school of the clean line, diacritical markings, and how it’s fun to google By The Numbers and find out the only other person who talked about online happens to be Evan Dorkin. JM: All right, I’m getting the hang of it. Talking to other people, I mean. TS: Portions of this were written while I was…  Read More…

My Life is Choked with Comics #18 – King Smurf

Joe McCulloch

The Politics of Smurfing This is the story of the day the Smurfs became terrorists. *** In 1965, the comics album King Smurf (Le Schtroumpfissime) was released to French-reading audiences. It was drawn by ‘Peyo’ (Pierre Culliford), the artist and animator who had created the Smurfs (Les Schtroumpfs) in 1958 as impish supporting characters for his Johan et Pirlouit medieval adventure series. It was written with Yvan Delporte, editor-in-chief of Le Journal de Spirou, the Belgian comics magazine in which the story had been serialized. In 1978, the Belgian publisher Dupuis licensed an English translation of the album to Random House — sans its original back-up story (Schtroumphonie en Ut) — for simultaneous release in Canada and the United States….  Read More…

Don’t Worry, This Zombie Comic Had a Head Start on the Trend: Jog and a 2/18 comic from half a decade ago

Joe McCulloch

The Zombies That Ate the World #1 (of 8) All right! Early aughts nostalgia, coming in fierce! Some of us do still pine for those bygone days of Les Humanoïdes Associés publishing in English, even if our (by which I mean ‘my’) reading wasn’t nearly as extensive as it should have been, and even after that ill-fated partnership with DC. These days it’s Devil’s Due releasing the stuff, and they’re keeping things pretty conservative – not only are they breaking albums up (and shrinking them down) into $3.50 pamphlets, but they’re focusing keenly on material front-loaded with noteworthy North American talent. Indeed, for now (with this and the John Cassaday-drawn I Am Legion), they’re devoting their energy to stuff DC…  Read More…

Two from a bestseller: Jog on some new hit manga

Joe McCulloch

Oh Naoki Urasawa, how many thousands of comics did you move while I was out for coffee? You all know what I’m getting at, right? I think we’re at the point now where most readers of this site have at least a passing familiarity with the Urasawa name, a font of manga megahits since the mid-’80s – no less than 100 million copies have been sold, which Japan’s Daily Yomiuri helpfully notes is terribly close to one book for everyone in the country. But just four years ago, Urasawa was nearly unknown in the US; the first I’d heard of him was through an essay by our own Abhay Khosla, who surveyed the artist’s works through the still-growing ‘scanlation’ scene…  Read More…

Finally: Manga you can put in your mouth

Joe McCulloch

Oishinbo A la Carte Vol. 1: Japanese Cuisine Yeah, you’ve heard it a hundred times by now: ‘manga’ as often seen in English — a youth thing, a bookstore thing, a shōnen/shōjo thing — is only a fragment of what manga really is. There’s always a few non-porn exceptions, sure – most of them take the form of action or fantasy pieces For Mature Readers, with the occasional history of cup noodles or oddball art project slipping through. Astro Boy once filled us in on the story of Anne Frank, so there’s always that. But it’s still so hard to really get that old joke in Koji Aihara’s & Kentaro Takekuma’s brilliant satire, Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga, that…  Read More…

You already know what happens, right?

Joe McCulloch

Final Crisis #6 (of 7): Oh no, he’s come for my interest in this series! Hang on – let me run for a bit. Get that blood flowing. A little Speed Force never hurt! If there’s one thing about this issue that really stands out to me, a Grant Morrison tragic, it’s how the Doomsday Singularity and its accordant collapse of Earthly reality has resulted in a quantity of infinite Morrisons. Look! The Atoms are shoving off on an emergency trip to a new reality not unlike the Atom 1,000,000 story in the old DC One Million 80-Page Giant, and the Marvel family is pulling off a depowering stunt not unlike that from the Black Adam climax of 52! You…  Read More…

I’m going to tell you some things I’ve thought about saying to several Americans, and various foreigners too: And I didn’t think I’d get the chance

Joe McCulloch

The Winter Men Winter Special God, The Winter Men. Where did this thing start publishing? Atlas/Seaboard? Was issue #1 published on the date of my birth? Be this my destiny to write a spoiler-packed internet review of the final issue? Is this really the final issue? Two and a quarter years after the last one? I mean, that’s pretty remarkable. That it’s here, I mean. A lot of things happen in 27 months – plans change, publishers shift gears. The WildStorm of 2009 is very different from the WildStorm of 2006, far less inclined toward supporting a self-contained quasi-superhero book, or really much of anything that isn’t a shared-universe title or some media tie-in thing. Oddly enough, one of the…  Read More…

A Flock of Reviews: Jog struggles to keep the short stuff short in re 1/2

Joe McCulloch

Final Crisis: Secret Files: Ha ha, well, turns out the real secret here has been ‘what the hell is in this thing?’ And anyone trusting in DC’s original solicitation for “Art by Frank Quitely and various” are gonna be pretty steamed when they notice it’s all various, no Quitely on the inside. Nor is alleged co-writer Peter Tomasi anywhere to be found, although there is some interior content by Greg Rucka & Steve Lieber, who are not credited on the cover. The best I can say is that it all somehow seems too bona fide haphazard to qualify as a bait ‘n switch – I really do wonder what the original idea for this thing was. Anyhow, the vast majority…  Read More…

Back to Hell on 12/17: Jog shouldn’t have sworn an oath with his final breath

Joe McCulloch

Hellblazer #250 (art and color by Rafael Grampá & Marcus Penna; there’s also captions in the actual comic) John Constantine, how long has it been? Just over 20 years since this thing started up? Almost 25 since The Saga of the Swamp Thing? That’s a lot of Silk Cuts, a lot of magic. A lot of politics – there was once a whole goddamned issue (#3) on the Conservative election victory of 1987. But there’s some enduring character to this Alan Moore, Stephen R. Bissette & John Totleben creation too; I often wind up thinking of Eddie Campbell’s parody version in Bacchus, who had the poor barmaid climb all the way to the top shelf, only to make her climb…  Read More…

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