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“No! It’s ANGRY!” COMICS! Sometimes They Bow Before The King (Of R’n’R).

John Kane

Good Day! Jolly Good Day! Over here we are shortly to be having a Jubilee shindig! You don’t get one so I gave you this instead. It’s all over the bally shop but some of it is about comics. You have been warned and so my hands are clean but look at the state of your fingernails!

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ALL STAR WESTERN #9
Art by Moritat, Patrick Sherberger and Dan Green
Written by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Coloured by Gabriel Bautista and Mike Atiyeh
Lettered by Rob Leigh
DC Comics, $3.99 (2012)
Jonah Hex created by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga
Nighthawk created by Robert Kanigher and Charles Paris
Cinnamon created by Roger McKenzie and Dick Ayers

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I have my concerns about this book. These concerns have nothing to do with the art what with Moritat and Bautista delivering the usually fine performance; said performance being so fine that it hardly matters that the backgrounds are a smidge perfunctory. And despite the plots being a bit woolly what with all this editorially mandated crossover bullhockey (Ooo! The lady in the cape! Some owls!) at least here they contain the always entertaining idiocy of Caucasian Americans worrying about immigrants lowering the tone of the place and generally letting the side down. It’s not even that on a page turn it’s “three weeks later” and we’re in Gotham instead of N’Orleans, because I understand they want to get on with this interminable owl shite. And yet, part of me, the beautiful, dreaming part no doubt, misses the days when Jonah wouldn’t be able to go from one town to another without ending up nailed to a cactus. And I miss El Papagayo turning up to taunt him. I miss El Papagayo he’d be all like, “Senor, Hex! Why must you always make life so hard for yourself, my friend! Come out from behind that rock and embrace me and my gang of toothless well armed vermin! Do you no longer trust your good friend, El Papagayo, Senor Hex! You hurt my heart, my friend! Why, Paco here has brought some smelly badgers! tell him, Senor Hex, tell him we don’t need no steenkin’ badgers!” Actually, it probably isn’t the absence of El Papagayo either.

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No, it’s more that Jonah’s becoming a guest star in his own book; it’s just too crowded and in order to stand out from the crowd I fear Jonah’s going to become more of a caricature than a character. The book’s focus has shifted from the lovable asshole with the melty face to being more of an attempt to reposition DC’s mouldy old oaters in more viable iterations. I’m all about that because I have a fatal fondness for DC’s western heroes. I have no idea why but there it is. Some people are like that about The Batman; my way is cheaper, I win. I’m also quite okay with the view that there are no bad characters just bad writing. But I’m not quite convinced that the way to go is to give these characters aspects more suited to superheroes. So I’m not convinced that the missing ingredient for Nighthawk and Cinammon’s success is their possession of a pair of lucky charms which stop them dying and make them strong, super strong in fact.

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But I just hamstrung my own qualms by saying there aren’t any bad characters, so I guess the problem is the writing. In which case I’ll bounce back and say it’s just too workmanlike. If you’re selling something to an audience – put your back into it, get some enthusiasm going! Well, it’s workmanlike when it isn’t hat stampingly poor; as when Bruce Wayne’s bat-ancestor mentions there is poison ivy someplace. Wait, poison ivy! Do you see?!? DO you see?!? Next issue we’ll hear some joker released some penguins from Gotham Zoo but he keeps denying it because he’s two faced! This is what Jonah Hex needs! Next issue it’s Bat Lash; let’s hope he hasn’t got a steam powered skidoo or some such daft shit. At the moment ALL STAR WESTERN is GOOD! but it’s on thin ice, muchachos!


RAGEMOOR #3

Art by Richard Corben
Written by Jan Strnad
Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot®
Dark Horse Comics, $3.50 (2012)
Ragemoor created by Richard Corben and Jan Strnad

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This one’s the third issue of four so you might, given modern trends, expect it to basically sit there picking its nose and inspecting the results until the next issue. After all, you’re this far in so why bother trying. But this is Corben & Strnad and they’ve been doing this a while which, I guess, means they are old or some weak and totally lame shit like that. In comics folk always underestimate the old guys don’t they? News just in: Steve Ditko’s still doing good comics. Youth will never understand that you only get old by surviving. This is largely because Youth is an abstract noun and is therefore unlikely to have cognitive functions.

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Humourless pedantry aside, let’s face it; put Matt Fraction and Richard Corben adrift in a lifeboat and three weeks later the copters are going to be picking up one fat comic artist. Fraction’ll just turn his back to sneak a look at his reflection in the water and Corben’ll be on him like a liver spotted threshing machine. Wait, I was on about a comic, I think. So, yeah, this comic doesn’t just piss complacently about, no, this comic sets back on its haunches, tenses its muscles until they thrum with the collective kinetic energy of the previous issues and prepares to, next issue, hurl itself straight at your throat. Despite the fact that the creators involved probably get twinges in their knuckles when the weather turns cold RAGEMOOR remains VERY GOOD!

SCALPED#58
Art by R.M. Guera
Written by Jason Aaron
Coloured by Giulia Brusco
Lettered by Sal Cipriano
Vertigo/DC Comics, £2.99 (2012)
Scalped created by R.M. Guera and Jason Aaron

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In two issues this series will end. In two issues the fix will be in. In two issues people will refer to this series as Jason Aaron’s SCALPED. I have but a brief window of opportunity to attempt to correct the course of the critical conversation as it puts the pedal to the metal and hurtles straight into The Cult of The Writer. Only a soulless canker of a man would deny that Jason Aaron’s writing has been solid and decent throughout. It’s probably more impressive the less knowledge you have of the ‘7os cinema he has mined so well the series. But, alas, homage is everywhere now and I know I for one require more to ensure I see out sixty issues. SCALPED gave me more in spades, and it gave it to me in the form of the art of R.M. Guera.

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R.M Guera is the star of the show here. It’s the attention to detail, I think, that is Guera’s true strength. That’s quite a strength considering the fantastic way his faces veer into and out of controlled caricature, his body language ranges from subtle to hysterical and his environments from the grubbily realistic to those of opulent excess and all of this, all the while, strengthening rather than destroying the suspension of disbelief; drawing the reader in rather than pushing the reader away. Christ, it’s the stuff of wonder. Christ, I write about comics like old people trampoline. Look, here’s R.M. Guera drawing a scene in a supermarket. It’s just a scene in a supermarket but, but, look:

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And how about those colours, ey? Brusco’s colours are a special kind of magic as well throughout the book. Check out the night scene I lifted above. Be soothed by the smooth blues and then startled by the pop of the lime green FX! Giulia Brusco gets a cheek chuch for coloring cojones and no mistake. What a wonderful, wonderful book SCALPED has been on a visual level. It’s a bloody shame that the aspect that lifts SCALPED up to VERY GOOD! is, I’m guessing, the aspect that’ll receive least play once it ends, and the artists who worked such wonders will reap the least of any future benefits; career and reputation-wise. But before that happens, before the fix kicks, in I’m going to point out that R.M. Guera is EXCELLENT!

Those of you who read this and were not insensate from drugs or currently being attacked by a maniac will have picked up on the subtle fact that I’m a little distracted. That’s because this weekend is Jubilee weekend! We get an extra Bank Holiday on Tuesday to celebrate Good Queen Bess. I’m no Royalist but I do recognise that the tourist industry is pretty much the only industry we have anymore, so she’s okay on that score, and also I’m anyone’s for a free day off work. Fickle? You have no idea, pal. You have no idea. So I am eager to join my fellow countrymen in the heat of the streets, swigging binge and watching as the middle aged men with their Celtic tattoos blistering in the heat bellow at their shrink wrapped wives about how Sandra in accounts understands and how he never wanted this, never wanted any of this and the discarded children weep beneath the Union Jack bunting. England, my England!

Oh please, despite all your protestations to the contrary you’re all quite keen on the whole Royalty business, aren’t you. my American friends. Oh, you claim otherwise, you do:

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Image from The Steve Ditko Archives Vol.2 (Ed. Blake Bell, Fantagraphics Books). Art by Harry Belafonte Jnr. No, it’s Steve Ditko for Goodness Sakes! Keep up, no lollygagging at the back!

But you’re just fooling yourselves. You protest too much, methinks. Look, you’ve had at least two Kings: The King of Comics (one Jack Kirby by  name) and this raunchy dude:

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The King and American Royalty were on my mind because when I am not reading comics I am looking at enthusiastically typed and photocopied documents held together with staples produced by fans of things. Probably while they waited for The Internet. Documents such as THE ELVIS COLLECTOR #1 (edited by Major I.R. Bailye). This fragment of forgotten fandom was brought home to me courtesy of my very own Priscilla, who knows only too well that when it comes to The King there’s no fool such as I.

Reading the photocopied love letter to The King my eyes settled on this:

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From The Leicester Mercury; date unknown, author pseudonymous.

Sadly “The Realist”, despite his fantastic English language skills (“overdressed to a point of fantasy“!!), is incorrect as Elvis Aaron Presley touched down briefly on British soil. However, I still think his points remain valid despite this factual inaccuracy. Yet, it did make me realise that sometimes people can be blinded to the essential truth of an article if the author undermines himself with inaccuracies. A bit like an article on comics in The Wall Street Journal perhaps. The one where he’s wrong about why comics aren’t popular anymore (the world’s just moved on and the price has risen in line with the Greed Index; that’s really why) but is right about Avengers comics being less like something you’d use to attract new readers and more like something you’d scrape off your shoes before going indoors. Poo, I’m talking about poo there. Usually animal  but, given the state of Cameron’s Big Society, there’s a queasy possibility it could be human. Um.

In closing let me just say that, being all crepey of skin and feeble of mind, I am only too well aware that at any moment my stinking and aged frame could just drop dead, and sometimes I wonder how I would like to be remembered. It turns out that I would like to be remembered like Elvis. No, not as a mother fixated, voyeuristic pill popper with strange ideas about chimp management. (People tend to forget the Divine Voice these days, which is their loss.) Rather:

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From The Leicester Mercury; date unknown, author pseudonymous.

Yes, “preferable to Hitler“. I think the “Real Realist” is right in that that’s all any man would want in the end. So, have a smashing weekend and if you think of me, think of me, at least as being “preferable to Hitler“. Like Elvis. Like The King. God Save The King! God Save The Queen!

Farewell for now, my foreign chums, and remember: if you can’t have a Jubilee then have some COMICS!!!

4 Responses to “ “No! It’s ANGRY!” COMICS! Sometimes They Bow Before The King (Of R’n’R). ”

  1. I’ve always thought you were better than Hitler.

    I mean, not by much. But still.

  2. You are so right with El Papagayo, John :-) He will surely miss his buddy out in the west where Hex belongs. Sales seems to suggest that he is wrong though and people are really liking seing Hex dragged into the superhero continuity. Because everything has to be about the superheroes. I used to buy the Hex trades, one of the few cases where they managed to win me over, and hope they will complete the series.

  3. John, I’ll agree with S, I’ve always believed you were better than Hitler.

    That neon green sound effect really is striking. It seems an odd color choice for a gunshot, but it definitely works. I have to ask, because I’m not well-versed on who does what with comics, are sound effects put in by the penciler or the letterer? Or does it vary depending on the people involved? Like, if your penciler is Marcos Martin, you let him handle sound effects, but if your letterer is John Workman, you trust him to take care of it?

    If we gave Matt Fraction a weapon of some sort, would that improve his odds? Or would he dither about hinting at secret meaning behind the weapon that Corben would simply snatch it from his hands and resolve things that much faster?

  4. @S: Thanks, Dad!

    @AndyD: Well, I guess if folks are buying it then that’s best for old Jonah. Ah, it just seems really flabby now compared to the earlier run. Glad you enjoyed those issues at least. Mind you if they stuck Bernet on it that’d shut my nasty yapper right up.

    @CalvinPitt:Cheers, Mum! Hey. it’s sweet you think I’d know who does what viz a viz lettering. These days I think it depends, as you say. I’d say Guera drew the FX there and some artists do that much(it’s the fun bit) and leave the letters in bubbles to the letterer. (The artists will hopefully build in enough dead space to accomodate the letters, if they are decent sorts.) But, yeah, you’d probably leave Martin or Workman alone, I’d guess.

    Even with a weapon Fraction would probably waste precious seconds telling Corben he was acting out of character and…uck!

    Thanks to all, and God bless you each and every one!

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