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Brand New, You’re Retr – Oh: Graeme does more books.

Graeme McMillan

Honestly, I’m really running out of books that I’ve read recently. I mean, I could say something about the three volumes of Essential Spider-Man that I picked up at Wondercon (especially as they have some great John Romita, Gil Kane and Ross Andru art, and Harry Osborne grows a great moustache), but I should probably finish reading them first. So, instead, a random assortment of spined joys:

MY DEAD GIRLFRIEND VOLUME 1: I have this problem with the way that (I seem to remember, although I may be wrong) Tokyopop forces their OEL creators to structure their books, with each volume being one act of a larger story told in the three-act structure (Meaning that Volume 1 is Act One, Volume 2 is Act Two, and Volume 3 is Act… Oh, you get it already): It makes the books seem very inconsequential. I remember having the same feeling about Becky Cloonan’s “East Coast Rising” as I did about this book, that there wasn’t really any payoff by the end. And, yes, it’s part of a series and all, but when you’re paying $10 for a 128- (or however long it is) page book, then I don’t think it’s too much to ask for something that feels slightly more worthwhile than your average #1 of a 32-page comic book. And I’m kind of annoyed that I feel like that about this book, because lack-of-ending aside, I really enjoyed it – Eric Wight is an amazing cartoonist who gets to really play around with his art here, pulling off a mix of styles that somehow all manage to work in the same world without too much visual disconnect, even when Peter Gallagher shows up to play the father of the hero; there’s something about his art that manages to be retro and contemporary at once that helps keep things interesting to look at. The writing is loose enough to feel natural, but tight enough to carry the reader through some pretty expositionary moments without seeming too rough or losing your attention; it’s definitely a book aimed to a teen audience, but done with enough skill and humor to have something to offer those of us who’re almost twenty years outside the target demographic. As I said, I enjoyed it a lot; it’s just that I finished the book immediately wanting to read the next one and find out what happens next – which is the sign of a Very Good book – and wishing that there had maybe been a little more meat on this one.

MAKING COMICS: The third book in Scott McCloud’s “[Present Participle] Comics” trilogy, but it really feels like a sequel to “Understanding Comics” in both quality and content (I actually went back and re-read “Reinventing Comics” because I enjoyed “Making…” so much; “Reinventing” hasn’t dated well – as could be expected for a seven-year-old book that tried to predict the future of technology – but it’s a more scattered, more theoretical-based work, and doesn’t really fit with the other books, feeling less certain of itself, and written for a different audience and purpose. Still worth reading, if you haven’t, though). For all his modesty in the start of the book, McCloud knows perfectly well how do to good comics; what makes his book work so well isn’t just the information that he’s trying to give, but the method which he uses to impart said information. Like “Understanding,” this is a joy to read, and even if you know half of this stuff, the presentation makes connections you may not have as well as acting as a good refresher. Excellent.

SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD: THE BATMAN TEAM-UPS VOLUME 1: Yes, that is an astonishingly long title. But it’s worth it for the stories contained herein, because, man, Bob Haney really managed to take advantage of DC’s lack of ability to do anything with Batmania in the late ’60s. Sure, there may be other reasons for his being able to get away with everyone calling Batman “Batguy” and the rest of the wonderfully dated attempts to be contemporary that Haney filled this book with, but I’m going with that one as the most likely. The result is something that reads like “What if Terry Southern wrote Batman?”, and fits in perfectly with my love for things like The Magic Christian (talking of Southern…) and the Monkees movie Head. DC purists probably hate the way that Haney completely fucks around with character in service of his goofy plot – especially when Wonder Woman and Batgirl both fall in love with Batman at exactly the same time and start fighting over him, letting the bad guy get away – but there’s such a shameless lovability about the whole thing that is unavoidable, and perfect for this kind of cheap and cheerful format, especially with some great Neal Adams art towards the end. Very Good.

I start out by talking about the awesomeness that is late 60s Spider-Man and end by talking about late-60s Batman. I don’t know if that is incredible planning or proof that I read far too many campy books from before I was born. At least tomorrow I’ll be back to talking about this week’s books like I normally do on Sundays…

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