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“Decency.” COMICS! Sometimes They Do Not Bring Me Out In Hives!

John Kane

Look, we all know that last time John read some comics released this century it all got a bit hairy. John would like to point out that this was not out of malice, low blood sugar, jealousy, his piles flaring up or sunspot activity. No, difficult as it may be to believe, John maintains it was the result of those comics not actually being all that good. Think of it as being a bit like John was showing you that sometimes he and Comics would argue but it didn’t mean they didn’t love each other any less and it certainly wasn’t your fault. John can see why Doctor Doom talks like this – it’s fun. Anyway, this…

Due to the lack of a scanner all pictures are stolen from other people. That’s what I’m reduced to. I hope you are all proud.

(Note: Doctor Doom was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Or Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, whichever floats your boat. The important thing is to get both names in there. It’s free and respectful, Marvel.)

Art by Gilbert Hernandez, Amy Reeder, Peter Bagge, Chrissie Zullo, Johnny Craig and Joelle Jones
Written by Gilbert Hernandez, J. Torres, Dan Braun, Peter Bagge, Alisa Whitney, Archie Goodwin and Jamie S. Rich
Lettered by Gilbert Hernandez, Amy Reeder, Peter Bagge and Nate Piekos of Blambot®
Dark Horse Comics, $4.99 (2013)


CREEPY is a horror anthology comic so it’s a given that it’ll be a mixed bag but this issue kicks itself in the head from the off by kicking off with The Gilbert Hernandez Show and so everything after that is done no favours whatsoever. Oh editors, you never put Elvis on first. Hernandez’ tale is haunted by the phantom sounds of a thousand readers’ eyes revolving as his statistically gifted heroine grits her teeth through her lower back pain and bounces through a story as trashy and daft as all get out. By the final full page reveal said fun parched eyes will be revolving so fast that dogs from miles around will be howling at the resulting sound. The only way this nonsensical and nasty strip could have been improved would have been to slather it with hot pinks and crystalline greens a la Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond. Ayup, fear fans, that’s the toxic territory we’re in here and while there does not actually exist a monograph called Basket Crepes: The Nearly Edible Imagery of Frank Henenlotter if you wish one did you’ll enjoy this magnificently shameless embracing of schlocky horror by a man so gifted he just doesn’t have to care anymore.


“…like a gingerbread man!”

After that, Amy Reeder illustrates a story about a pining husband and his inadvertent contribution to the locally sourced fishing industry. This one is mainly notable for Amy Reeder’s art being far better than it was on her BATWOMAN stint. Then there’s one about how a lady’s monthly cramps might be hunger cramps because women are unknowable monsters who prey on men. I’ve made it sound really misogynistic there because I wanted to see who reached for their buckled hat and flaming torch. And now I know, don’t I? Now we all know. Alas my New Puritans it’s far more mundane than all that; the tale isn’t terrible but is too derivative and tamely delivered to work as a terror tale. Filling in the cheap content reprint slot there’s Johnny Craig joint from an old CREEPY. It may be from the ’70s CREEPY, but could just as well have come from a ’50s EC Comic which is fine and dandy by me but might not be by you. I feel quite tremulous merely mentioning EC Comics on The Internet as currently any conversation involving them seems to devolve rapidly into a fucking chimps tea party where the winner is whoever gets the most shit in Eddie Campbell’s hair. The final story reads like someone excorcising the baggage of a bad relationship through the medium of words and pictures; with the pictures not quite sleazy enough to do the job justice. Throughout the book there’s a drizzle of Peter Bagge strips which, if you are a Peter Bagge fan, I guess you’ll like. Like I said, it’s a horror anthology so if you like horror anthologies what with their customary blemishes and surgical scars and all then this one was GOOD!

Art by Ross Campbell & Ulises Farinas
Written by Joe Keatinge
Coloured by Owen Gieni
Lettered by Douglas E. Sherwood
Glory created by Rob Liefeld
Image, $3.99 (2013)


Ah, Glory. What a fine comic this is. Sales aren’t so hot so I hear. That’s most likely because Glory is a female character who hasn’t been designed with the aim of appealing to the lowest portions of the lowest portions of fandom. She’s a bit butch, this lass and no mistake. Glory doesn’t so much look like she’s built like a brick shit house as she looks built out of brick shit houses. A sturdy pile of at least five on top of which sits a creepy wee Barbie head but with Action Man’s scarring. Flesh may be on display but the flesh on display has the bluish-marbled sheen of freezer burned meat. Fancy your chances, chaps, and Glory will snap it off and feed it to you. Which is refreshing. What’s also refreshing is the jumble of outrageously gory issue(s) long fight scenes and convincing character interactions the series has managed to deliver thus far . The splatterhouse fight scenes are by Ross Campbell, who gives the offally antics a Darrow/Quitely/Burnham/Burrows burnish of detail; a level of detail which explicitly testifies to the relish with which the task is attacked. With GLORY Keatinge and Campbell (et al.)  have built a sweet story of friendship, a brutal story of family and a comic that’s basically just all round engaging entertainment. Although I greatly enjoyed Keatinge’s effective deployment of undercutting (pancakes, anyone?) his savage and serious buildup I think I most enjoyed the issue which flash forwarded to a point in the narrative where everything looks to have gone tits up. Now we’ve jumped back and the suspense is doubled; nice one. I enjoyed this stratagem when I first encountered it in the WARRIOR SUMMER SPECIAL in 1982(ish) where Alan Moore did it in Marvelman. I don’t know if Alan Moore did it first and nor do I care because what’s important is that Keatinge deploys it at least as well as The Magnificent One; meaning GLORY is GOOD!


1982 – That was certainly a special Summer!

Of course a lot of you won’t be familiar with Marvelman due to the reasons outlined so smashingly in Padraig O’Mealoid’s fascinating, informative and wholly necessary investigation into the history of Marvelman. An investigation which promises to reveal who actually owns Marvelman. This, of course, is a bit of a cheeky maguffin as the ownership of Marvelman is beyond doubt. Why, as any fule kno, Marvelman is owned wholly and totally by Marvel©™, man! Oh sure, sceptics call this into doubt and wave at the fact that Marvel©™ has released nothing Marvelman related except for a bunch of insanely overpriced reprints of the Mick Anglo strips and a bad Joe Quesada poster. Now while these Anglo reprints are certainly of nostalgic interest (which is of more interest than the Joe Quesada poster) they are not the Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman material; i.e. the only material anyone cares about. Hataz fixate on this as though it proves something and yet these Hataz fail to take into account Marvel©™’s publicly stated position that they are taking their time so that when the MM stuff appears it will be done right. I mean, let’s face it perfectionism is a major, if not the defining trait, of Marvel©™. After all they do a perfectly good job of (and seem perfectly happy doing so) of denying Jack Kirby any credit or compensation for his co-creator role in the creation of the IPs without which no one at Marvel©™ would have a job. Oh, you thought I was going to do that thing where someone looks at Marvelman and has the shit shocked right out of them like brown toothpaste from a tightly squeezed tube by the bloody remarkable fact that in the last 30 odd years Marvelman has dated somewhat. But I didn’t. Probably will do at some point though!

Art by Russ Braun
Written by Garth Ennis
Coloured by Tony Avina
Lettered by Simon Bowland
Dynamite, $3.99 (2013)


Garth Ennis once popped up in one of the Dynamite back pages to bemoan the fact that no one read this here comic and that writing the series was pretty much a thankless and financially fruitless task. Since the contents of Dynamite back pages don’t exactly inspire credence I thought Garth Ennis was just being a drama queen because he seems that sort doesn’t he? A bit flaky; no good in a firefight; dress as a lady as soon as the lifeboats are struck; you know the sort. Seriously though, who believes anything comic creators say anymore? No, no, no, their wives just say they do; it’s part if the matrimonial pact. Anyway, I had a look at the sales figures and this comic is the #300 best-selling comic. That means people find that there are 299 comics better than this one. At first I thought this meant that readers would much rather read a bad super hero comic than a good war comic. Then I realised these were sales to Retailers. So really Retailers were happier ordering bad super hero comics rather than good war comics. Then I realised the “super hero” and “war” were red herrings and basically retailers were okay ordering bad comics rather than good comics. And at those deep discounts and attractive retailer incentives who can blame them! I guess everyone’s okay with comics being a giant Ponzi scheme? Do they generally work out well those things? Ha ha ha, only joking. I know nothing about retailing and I’m sure it’s all fine! Say, while I was enjoying myself reading comics (or, if it was a Tuesday, enjoying myself staring into space silently weeping) my long suffering partner pointed out that there had been a programme on TV about the Hindenburg. Apparently the Hindenburg worked really well. Until suddenly it didn’t.


Everything was going so well!

So, this comic no one is reading? Turns out it’s pretty great. BATTLEFIELDS is basically a banner under which Ennis and his various (and variable but very good at the least) artists deliver three part story arcs. Sometimes these arcs are stand alone and sometimes they involve recurring characters. There’s usually a good reason if the characters don’t recur. Death, I’m talking about death there; happens a lot in war, so I hear. Obviously raised on British war comics of the ’70s Ennis synthesises the chippily anti-authoritarian swagger and honest violence of these with modern sophisticated storytelling to create (along with his artists) some of the best comics (apparently) barely anyone is reading. They also usually have covers by the divine Garry Leach (and maybe one fine and shining day he could do some interiors?), Leach is of course the man who first drew Alan Moore’s reinvention of Marvelman and is one of the few people who give cross hatching a good name. I’m getting off the subject now, but let’s be clear here – Marvel own Marvelman, Padraig O’Mealoid! MARVEL! Also (SPOILER!) Marvelman may have dated a bit in the last three or so decades. OMG! KIMOTA! Anyhoo, this issue of BATTLEFIELDS kicks off a new three parter involving Anna Kharkova; she being a female Russian pilot previously featured in an arc you need not have read to enjoy this comic. All you need to enjoy this comic is to read it.



Because, yes, despite the fact that comics is a primarily visual medium this comic, one which consists for the most part of two people in a room talking, is pretty great. It’s pretty great because the words coming out of the characters’ mouths are not bland pap; you know, the kind of page filling sub-TV blather dependant on some weird mutual non-aggression pact between the reader and the writer. These words here have content, these words here have substance and within these words a world unfolds. Admittedly it’s a world consisting primarily of a Quonset hut populated by two people but, still, it’s a world. Unfortunately for all involved it’s a world within a world and all that divides the two is wood, tin and glass which is little use against the irrevocable intrusion of the larger, madder and infinitely more savage world which is the world at war. It’s fine work in the words department is what I’m saying. The staging’s good too with both Ennis and Braun working with very little to convey the passing of time in an unobtrusive but effective fashion. It’s mostly Ennis’ show given the confined cast and setting which means Braun isn’t given much to work with. Then again Braun is given the human face to work with and that is everything a decent artist needs; he proves to be a more than decent artist by the way. So, this issue was engaging, effective and intelligent and I’m going to go all the way up to VERY GOOD! Should you have the temerity to doubt my words then you’ll have to read it won’t you now? Check. And mate.

Oh, and because there is no podcast this week here’s some thoughts on the latest Big Ticket Thinks in Recentville:

1) There is no question to which the right answer is arming Brian Hibbs. We “don’t want any more trouble like you had last year in the Fillmore District“, Brian Hibbs!
2) I won’t be buying anything by people who actively seek to deny other people equal rights. You do what you want. That’s how that Freedom stuff works.
3) Jerry Ordway is a good artist and yet he’s still basically turning up at the WalMart parking lot at 6 in the morning hoping someone will pick him to go in the back of the truck. Nope, nothing wrong with this industry.
4) Howard Victor Chaykin is starting a new series about General George Custer in the next issue of DARK HORSE PRESENTS – aw, yeah! You’ll miss him when he’s gone you know!

Now go and fight like the mad dogs you are! But only fight about what’s worthwhile – COMICS!!!

11 Responses to “ “Decency.” COMICS! Sometimes They Do Not Bring Me Out In Hives! ”

  1. ‘The important thing is to get both names in there. It’s free and respectful, Marvel.’

    er why? I don’t expect the car I buy to have the designers name, I don’t expect to have the architect of my house credited on the wall.

    Seriously if we credit them shouldn’t the creators of every character seen in a book get credited as well? In some cases that would mean the credits would be longer than the book given how small comic books are these days! I notice you don’t credit the creators of the other books you review.
    For F***ks sake if memory serves me right Battle didn’t even credit the current writers and artists.

    ‘Jerry Ordway is a good artist and yet he’s still basically turning up at the WalMart parking lot at 6 in the morning hoping someone will pick him to go in the back of the truck. Nope, nothing wrong with this industry.’

    It’s called freelancing and I hardly think you can compare Jerry Ordway financial plight with some day labourer who earns barely enough to surive.

    Why is it only Marvel/DC who are the problem. What about all those creator owned comics. Surely some of them can also give him work?

  2. @Brad Manners:

    Hi! Well, if you disagree with ‘The important thing is to get both names in there. It’s free and respectful, Marvel.’ then you disagree with it. I said it was free and respectful to credit the creators. I stand by that. I don’t know why that would be such an upsetting thought to you. I don’t see how anyone loses out there. Feel free to enlighten me there; no joke.

    Fair’s fair, I’m not really au fait with the automobile industry but I would guess that it’s not an area I’d be looking to to lead the way on creators’ rights. I could be mistaken, in which case I apologise to all the good, good people in the automobile industry.

    I don’t credit the creators of the other books because they are the same people I have already named in the credits because they created those books. Well, that’s the idea. If I have missed someone then I apologise. Sometimes I’m tired when I do this and I could have missed a credit. Let me know; I’m always open to improving this stuff.

    I think you are most probably right that Battle didn’t credit the writers and artists, no. But it was the 1970s “for F****’s sake”. Do we really want to be turning the clock back 40 years? The reprinters of the Battle material credit the creators so I guess they agree with me. Give them a bell and let them know it’s not necessary. However, I’d guess they’d agree it is respectful and free and you might not react well to that.

    Well, I kinda think I can compare Jerry Ordway’s plight to anything I like if I think the humorous hyperbole might make people stop and think about the situation for a second. But I am pleased you are so concerned with the migrant workforce. I would not have guessed you were so big hearted from your other comments. Mind you, I never said it was “Marvel/DC” who were the problem; the “Industry” is what I said. But I’m glad you aren’t going to let anyone kick around DC or Marvel. They need all the help they can get. DC, Marvel and the day labourers of the world have you in their corner at least.

    I wish you well and thank you for your spirited interest in these areas.

  3. I’m confused – none of these comics were drawn by Gil Kane. What’s happened to the John (UK) I used to know?

  4. @S: I can only apologise profusely my minimally monikered one! Due to the lack of a scanner the “How Many Ways Can John Say “Gil Kane Is Awesome” Before Everyone Hits Him” posts have hit a slight delay. I did, however, scan some Gil pics in before disaster struck and I may be able to cobble something together for next time. I regret your expectations were not met but I shall endeavour to make up for it later. But then they all say that don’t they? Cheers and in the meantime I hope you have a nice weekend!


  5. HI John,

    I totally agree with your assessment of Battlefields by Ennis. Nobody in current comics writes as passionate and believable war comic like Garth. Two problems with sales however, I like to share, and mind you, these are only my opinions as a retailer for seventeen years. Check with Hibbs on these if you like.

    One, war comics. I have had little to no luck selling war comics in my store, no matter how good they are. They seem to be regulated to a few fans in their thirties and up that actually used to read them when they were younger.

    Two, Dynamite comics. This is a label that maybe fond of Ennis, but certainly not retailers. They are the apex of speculate comics, with millions of variant covers, lowest common denominator themes, and feature quite possibly the worst on time publishing schedule perhaps only slightly better than porn publishers. Being published by Dynamite puts Ennis in a ghetto that some retailers will not venture into anymore.

    Despite these frailties, I loves me my Ennis war comics. I just wish my customers did too.

  6. @Vernon Wiley: Hey, now! Thanks very much for your considered and informative response. I am glad you noticed I was asking a serious question in amongst all the nonsensicality.

    (I don’t usually bother Brian Hibbs except when he leaves the Savage Toilet Seat up but I’m sure he’ll chime in should he so wish. Anything I write about retailing is pure-d shite from my own head alone.)

    That stuff about Dynamite is stuff I had no idea about. I just thought they could do with better artists but your comments put a new complexion on matters. Also, I did not realise War comics were a (possibly) generational thing, that’s worth noting and I thank you for that particularly. Me and you then for BATTLEFIELDS it is! Have you read DARKIE’S MOB? You’d like that, I betcha. “AAIIIIEEEE!” indeed.

    Thanks again for the keen insights and my best to you!

  7. John my boy:

    Fully agree with you on Ennis’ BATTLEFIELDS, and hope by now you have found issues 1-3 dealing with Her Majesty’s armoured corps during Korea. Despite the repellant transliterations of liverpudlian accents, it was great.

    Also, I lucked accross five of the six issues of Ennis’ Virgin Comic DAN DARE lurking in the 50 cent bin. Great stuff that, which is double praise as I have no emotional historic connection to that hoary staple of English comics.

    And last, if you were planning to drop by for a cuppa, now is the time:


    Gemorrah’s own HOWARD VICTOR CHAYKIN is coming to town to explain why we are all ninnies for not being able to buy Black Kiss 2 at 7/11.

    All the best.

  8. “Well, I kinda think I can compare Jerry Ordway’s plight to anything I like if I think the humorous hyperbole might make people stop and think about the situation for a second. But I am pleased you are so concerned with the migrant workforce. I would not have guessed you were so big hearted from your other comments. Mind you, I never said it was “Marvel/DC” who were the problem; the “Industry” is what I said. But I’m glad you aren’t going to let anyone kick around DC or Marvel. They need all the help they can get. DC, Marvel and the day labourers of the world have you in their corner at least.”

    Maybe people don’t like being condescended to and shrieked at in the middle of a review, you ever think about that?

    John, you are clearly more morally upright and caring than any person who has ever enjoyed a Marvel comic, that sin of sins. Hell, I don’t know how you sully your virtuous soul by posting on the site of a man who… gasp… SELLS THEM. Really, how better are you than the rest of us? I wish I could go back in time and find my eight year old self and punch him in the face for enjoying Spider-Man, that’s how deep your effect on me is.

  9. @Corey (Ottawa): Bonjour! Well, my LCS failed to get me #2 (glares icily at LCS) but I have BATTLEFIELDS on standing order so I read (most of) that Tankies one. In fact, I wanted to scan in that pic of the Korean guy getting mulched while the C-word comes out of the tank riding over him but my scanner played up and so I did the one about yon Russki lass instead. Way aye, mon that fella wassna a scousah, eyewozza Geordie! Although given the ridiculous amount of impenetrable regional accents this tiny place has per square inch we can let you off over any confusion.

    I need to check that Dan Dare out, right?

    HA! You lucky Canucks! His Satanic Majesty Howard Victor Chaykin in a church! “He just started talking about Wallace Wood and then the font BOILED OVER!!!!” It’ll be like the closing minutes of The Medusa Touch! I’m still looking for a reasonable set of BK2 as there’s no sigh of a collection being solicited. It will be mine. Eventually. I could go Digital, I guess…nah. Cheers, sir!

    @Dan Coyle: Hey now! Sure, we’re agreed that Brian Hibbs is a force of pure Evil but other than that…“Maybe people don’t like being condescended to and shrieked at in the middle of a review, you ever think about that?” No, I don’t. I think “Did that make me laugh?” and if it did it goes in. And if it really didn’t work you tell me about it and I bear that in mind next time. Although I know you won’t condescend to me or even shriek at me while you do it.

    Yeah, maybe I was unclear so to clarify: I don’t have a problem with people who sell, buy and read any comics from Whoever Inc. That’s up to them. Free Will and all that sexy mad jazz. Yet, I do have a problem with the companies who make, sorry, publish the comics and the way they treat the people who make, sorry, actually create them. Obviously, in these reduced days this slight expression of modest concern when humorously expressed does make me appear a kind of Living Saint within whose towering moral shadow all others find themselves cowering. So it goes.

    Using my awesome powers of Holy-Than-Thou Self-Righteousness (from being bitten by a radioactive egotist) I took the liberty of going back in time and giving 8-year old Dan Coyle karate lessons so be careful back then. Don’t hurt yourself!

    Thanks for all your magical insights and highly illuminating reactions and the very best to all of youse!


  10. This comment section has really confused me. I thought John was on his game in this one delivering his best lines yet. I thought the line that would get the outrage was the one about Mr. Brian not having a gun in case he has similar trouble again. (BTW – That one was written *really* well, John!)

    I never thought someone would take issue with raising the idea of equal credits to creators. Like, just saying, “Spider-man, created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko” would be free, it’s not even implying Ditko deserves a few more dollars, and it would do a world of good towards soothing feelings. Someone found the other side of that and went off, though. I’m impressed by that. I thought that was the least controversial thing ever said, but it seems to some people even implying Ditko, Kirby, Siegel, Shuster, and all those old guys even showed up to work one day is bad.

    Also, how is it bad to point out that an industry that signs industry titans to exclusive contracts and then never gives them any work is maybe not working the best? I know we all enjoy laughing at Byrne since he’s really become the cliche “get off my lawn, you damn kids” guy, but he has a point when he talks about how vets like himself, Stern, Ordway, etc are brushed to the side and never given any work. There’s gotta be a way to give these guys some work if you’re signing them to exclusive contracts.

    None of this is an indictment in any way on enjoying books by Marvel and DC. If that’s your cup of tea, I can testify there are people employed in that industry doing their absolute best to make entertaining books. One of my friends is an editor at DC, and while I am not a fan of the books they edit, they work damn hard at delivering the best product they can.

    I kinda wonder if people are bristling at the MarvelMan section above. I think that’s less an indictment on the quality of the books Marvel makes and more a statement on how poorly Marvel has handled that whole thing. The entire fiasco reeks of bureaucratic red tape, an executive who wanted to make a big announcement to win the PR war for the day, and a lack of respect for their customers. Marvel and DC can employ people doing their best to make good books while the companies generally act like jackasses.

    That was a lot of words. John, I highly enjoyed this article. I think it’s one of your best yet. I love the line about Glory not being built like a brick shithouse but being built out of brick shithouses. BTW – Glory is an awesome book no one talks about. It smashes the Bechdel test while giving a twist to the superhero tale and looks beautiful each issue.

  11. @Chris Hero: That was indeed a lot of words, but they were wise words and good words. (Overly generous as ever too, natch!) I am glad you used your Secret Decoder Ring to glean the True Meaning of my words. Or maybe you just actually read it rather than skimmed it. You’ll get nowhere in life actually reading stuff, young man! I thank you for your clarity, sanity and of course the ever-(too)kind words. Cheers!

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