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An intimate sitcheeation: Douglas v. June 24 and such

Brian Hibbs

DETECTIVE COMICS #854: As I was at the comics store this past Wednesday, a gentleman going through his very full pull-box announced that he wanted them to stop reserving Detective and Batman for him, because he “didn’t think it was right that Renee Montoya was the Question now,” and was going to “boycott the Batman titles until they bring back Vic Sage as the real Question.”

Dude was twice my size, and I try to avoid adding to the general poor behavior that comic book store clerks have to deal with. But I wanted to ask him: just what do you read superhero comics for? Do you actually not like enjoying them? Seriously, this is the best-looking superhero comic book there is right now–I will bet you that people are going to be talking about this in a few decades the way they talk about Steranko’s Captain America. It’s “fun” and “pulpy” and “thrilling” and tightly constructed as a story, and it hits its engaging-action-adventure marks in a way I wish every mainstream comic did. And you know why you don’t get to read it now? Because you want some character to be exactly the way he was twenty or forty years ago. (By this point, I was not really asking inaudible questions so much as inaudibly haranguing him. I realize I’m setting this guy up as a straw man, but I did hear him with my own ears.) Is there something wrong with your old Vic-Sage-is-the-Question comics? Can you not go back to them and read them if you want to squeeze out a little more of what you think in retrospect that they made you feel once upon a time? Or OH WAIT did you slab them all or something? And so on.

Anyway, I also like the fact that both Batwoman and the Question have older men as their “filthy assistant” types, I admire how unobtrusive all the deep-continuity stuff is (Mallory showed up back in 52 #11; guess she wasn’t Kate’s girlfriend after all!), and I wish Ask the Question were an actual Web site. EXCELLENT.

PAPERCUTTER #10: This Greg Means-edited series is a consistently interesting-to-better-than-interesting bridge between the minicomics and bigger-than-minicomics worlds–Means has a great eye for emerging cartoonists, and Papercutter seems more tilted toward storytelling than some other anthologies of the moment. This issue, actually, has a center-spread by the emerged-and-then-some Jesse Reklaw, whose Ten Thousand Things to Do is my favorite minicomic of this year so far and makes me wish I were as productive and self-observant as he is. But its two main stories, 15 pages apiece, are by Damien Jay and Minty Lewis, who’ve mostly been minicomics people so far (although Secret Acres has just published a book of Lewis’s PS Comics). Jay’s “Willy” is a companion piece to his recent mini The Natural World, a surprisingly compassionate little supernatural story set in a medieval village. Lewis’s story “Hello Neighbor” has basically the same premise as her other Fruit Pals stories: the interactions of lonely, depressed characters made weirdly hilarious by the fact that they’re all drawn as ligne claire pieces of fruit with arms and legs. This one’s about a slightly maladjusted, too-helpful apple who gets invited to dinner by one of his co-workers, a kiwi (whose family are all named “Kiwi” too). The whole thing’s VERY GOOD, and like most issues of Papercutter, it made me want to seek out more comics by everybody in it.

CEREBUS ARCHIVE #2: The title isn’t exactly accurate–this is, more specifically, the Dave Sim archive, and its first few issues are apparently going to be going through his professional career before Cerebus. This one takes us through about half of 1975: a six-page sci-fi story, a five-page horror story, a few letters from Gene Day, a caricature of Cher, and rejection notes from Marvel, Warren and Playgirl, all annotated by Sim in a gently self-mocking mode. (He notes that “hopefully at some point in 2009 I’ll be able to release the complete Comic Art News and Archives 1972-1975 as the first volume of Cerebus Archives” …yeah, I’d sort of rather see that anthology of all the uncollected Cerebus stories, if you don’t mind.) I find it fascinating as a self-portrait with 35 years’ worth of hindsight, and I bet I’d feel that way about any successful cartoonist’s early-years-of-bitter-struggle collection. But I can’t imagine many people who don’t care about Sim’s work as much as I do wanting to bother with his combing through his juvenilia. It’s OKAY so far, and I hope he gets to the good stuff soon.

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