Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Memories of Comics Late 1976 to May of 1978

Commentary
By Alex Ness
June 20, 2017

Spending the rewards for having a big newspaper route...


During 1976 I began my paper route.  I was turning 13 and ready to make money.  My often critical father said, before I became an adult that I was good at saving my money, and that was true.  When I began working as paperboy my income skyrocketed from 50 cents a week, to considerably more.  But, even though I had shitloads more money, I put it in bank, except for 2 or 3 dollars per week.

I lied to myself in thinking that I was buying Devil Dinosaur and Machine Man because they were #1 issues.  I still have my copies, and I read the living hell out of them.


I always liked Captain America.  Add Jack Kirby to that, and I am sold.


And I LOVED the X-Men.  I didn't love the newstand at the time, since I missed key issues.


And you can perceive, perhaps, the my Marvel Comics were done by the guy who created Kamandi and Omac, as they can be seen above.  I was also a big fan of DC's Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes. 


From November 1976 to May of 1978 I was loaded with money on a relative scale to what I had previously had for money.  And, entering high school I placed all of my money in a bank.  And by four years later, in May of 1982, I had 80% of the money stockpile still in my account.

And by the time I entered college, I had to pay it all for school and life.  And by the end of first year in college I was ready to withdraw the last money from the account.  And I haven't been good with money ever since.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Why new Doom Patrol comics don't matter.

Commentary
By Alex Ness
June 19, 2017
 
Agari あがり

This is a word that has more meaning than simply translated as Sushi bar Tea.  

When a customer is done eating at a sushi bar they will say to the server, Agari.  It is not simply, GIVE ME TEA, but, instead, I am finished eating, the meal is over, please serve me the end of the meal tea.  That is, it isn't at all what it is.  Asking for tea is different than saying Agari.  Agari means you are satisfied and are done.

The Doom Patrol was a team led by a genius in a wheelchair, and the team was composed of people whose lives were changed dramatically when they experienced terrible accidents.  This was their chance to tempt fate and deny destiny.  They were weird, and reveled in it.


I've read all of the Doom Patrol comics from the beginning to 2009.  And I have to say "Agari." AND, I should have said it when the issue #87 ended. 

I was a fool to think anything after Grant Morrison's run, or Rachel Pollack's run could ever approach what issue #19 to #87 accomplished.  This is opinion, of course, perhaps I am wrong.  Or, my taste was so satisfied that, after the end of the Doom Patrol #87 I didn't ever need more.


I am writing this because my son wants me to read his hero Gerard Way's Doom Patrol.  He says it is great.  I highly doubt it will be.  I am willing to try, however.

But I am already full.

20 years since, I am still satisfied fully.


I did love the old Doom Patrol.  They were more than a team, they seemed to be family.  And the evil doers they fought were not typical super villains.  The team of the Doom Patrol was weird, and so were their adventures, and I loved it.

The 1987 series was normal at the beginning, written by Paul Kupperberg, illustrated by Steve Lightle and Erik Larsen.  It emphasized the past, but, while good, it was not great.  And then it got better.  Starting with issue 19, Grant Morrison's first issue, the whole series took a turn, a few turns, and it was no longer a super hero comic.  It was an impossible to define the genre comic.  Among the many different things encountered, were, a street that is sentient, paintings that come to life, and fears that the Chief was not as benevolent as we once thought.  In fact, what he did was not just gather freaks of horrible accidents and unite them as a team.  He was more than a leader.  I won't reveal what he was... but it was perfect.

The events of this run were painted in such a way that they still linger in my mind.  I've spoken with numerous art teachers and professors, and in each case they said, this is a post modern work of genius.  It might not be to your taste.  It was a perfect fit for my own taste.


2001  I read the series that started with this.

I found it pretty, but horrible, boring, and unoriginal.

The stories felt like the writer and artist had no idea what made the Doom Patrol great.






2004

And then I read this horrible series that seemed to have as its goal regurgitating shit.  It was unoriginal, and a bit like a vanity project to correct errors in previous works.  But, what that author did was pretty much create a pointless work.  It was pretty, put together with care and talent.  But it was a bit like wanting to read William S. Burroughs and instead reading Mickey Spillane.  Mickey Spillane was great, but the cognitive dissonance between your stated desire and what you instead read, is massive.  I might have liked this, if I had never read any previous version of the team, but, as it is, this is a work that had precious little new, different, or worthwhile.  (And, briefly, I think that John Byrne is very talented, and has many skills from his years in the drawing and writing world.  This wasn't his best moment)



2009

And I bought a couple issues of this last series, and I could see it was about to stink.  Again, it was not an empty void, but wasn't able to capture the depths, differences, or intrigue of the early works.










Saturday, June 17, 2017

Another Gallery of a series worthy of being collected

LONE WOLF AND CUB
Art by Goseki Kojima
Written by Kazuo Koike

Artist Goseki Kojima and writer Kazuo Koike created a samurai epic, that resonated with readers.  The samurai story in Japan is one that forms the legends, the myths, and cultural memory of the Japanese.  The story of the samurai, in general, is one that belongs to the past of Japan, just like the myth and legends of the American Cowboy resonates for the American readers.

In this story of the samurai, Lone Wolf and Cub features the path of destiny that Ogami Ittō, the Shogun's executioner must walk.  His honor accused, his personal safety threatened, he is forced to leave his home and castle, and take his child, Daigorō, along with him.  His famed and feared weapon, a  dōtanuki battle sword, Ogami Ittō now follows a danger filled path, fighting ronin, ninjas, bandits and others who challenge him.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Comic Book Publishers Of the Past 3rd edition

Comic Book Publishers of the Past
3rd edition
Alex Ness

Welcome back.

The past editions of this column I've tried to share both important and less important companies.  But in this edition I discuss two very important companies. I say this because in the first case, Kitchen Sink Press, the publisher sold a great variety of artistically important work. In the other, Pacific, it was a company that used the direct market as a way to reach readers, rather than the news stands. The kind of work each published was different than typical fare at the time.

Kitchen Sink Press published both adult works, science fiction, and fantasy works. and combinations of both. Pacific published heroic tales in the fantasy realm, science fiction tales, and some amazing works from creative talents that had decided to escape from Marvel and DC. I liked a great many books from each publisher, but my view of them being important isn't from buying habits. Both became outlets for different works, different than the then current offerings in the marketplace. Kitchen Sink Press was begun in 1970 and named for the publisher, Denis Kitchen. The initial focus was upon underground works, but also, they began reprinting the important the Spirit works from Will Eisner. The last years of the company saw few releases, due to lack of funds. and though it died as a publisher, it could be said that it has not left, since the various formations of the company lived on in different form.

Pacific Comics was born from a comic book store taking advantage of the new direct market and the opportunity to produce non-comic code restricted works. as the market began to grow several of the series begun at pacific moved to other publishers, such as Eclipse, First or Comico. Still, no matter the slowing of output, and ultimate death as a publisher, a distributor and retail outlets, the works published were new for the day.

LINKS FOR THIS EDITION

KITCHEN SINK PRESS
DENIS KITCHEN

PACIFIC COMICS

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Review : BIKER by Mike Baron

REVIEW 6/15/2017
by Alex Ness

BIKER
By Mike Baron
Published March 12th 2013 by Airship 27
Published September 20 2016 by Liberty Island
Review copy provided by Author



I am a fan of Mike Baron's comic book work, but this was my first go at his prose. I should start by saying that this book is about Motorcycle rider culture as much as it is a straight forward tale.  As such I cannot speak to the authenticity of the experience.  I am not a biker, have never driven one, and have only been on a motorcycle the last time 1985.

FROM THE PUBLISHER

" Josh Pratt is an ex-con turned private investigator. Ginger Munz, a woman dying of cancer hires him to find the son she lost as a baby. The child’s father is a sadistic sociopath named Moon who has vowed to kill her, and Josh’s girlfriend Cass, for ratting him out. The trail leads to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and west into a no-man’s land where Josh learns the monstrous fate of the stolen child."

It could be argued that any book about motorcycles and the culture around them will follow certain conventions.   The tough guy with a good streak, the bad guys who can't be trusted, the road's ability to crush souls of the weak...


I am actually happy to say that this work is exciting, mostly free of cliche, and felt fresh and interesting.  The main character feels real, and is likeable, the people in the book feel real as well, when it would be much easier to paint with stereotypes and cliché.  There is a sex scene, which is well done, and, oddly discreet.  There is a flow of dialogue through the work that sounds like life.  He doesn't trim the work to fit the scene, he makes scenes that feel like they might happen, at the same time as the conversations sound accurate.

The pacing of the story is rather fully charged.  The only portions of the book that don't feel real is the secondary cast and officers of the law.  But if taken as a whole I liked almost everything, it was time I am happy to have spent, and it felt like there will need to be sequels. 

Any fan of action fiction would like this, I believe.  It is a scary ride, along with a subtle humor.  Good stuff maynard.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

In the Age of Men who could fly

COMMENTARY 6/14/2017
By Alex Ness

In the days when human flight was young, writers and artists, filmmakers and dreamers imagined the tales of men who could fly, and save their world.


CAPTAIN GRAVITY

From Penny-Farthing Press, Captain Gravity is a black male in Hollywood of the 1930s.  He acquires the mystical Element 115.  With it he is able to control gravity.  Thus, he is able to fly and more.  In the 1930s the Nazis seek the Element 115, and this work touches upon the difficulty of being black in pre-civil rights era America.  The war with the Nazis brings a contrast between overt racism and subtle.  Either way, the story of Captain Gravity is fun.


KING OF THE ROCKETMAN

The 1930s and 1940s movie serial KING OF THE ROCKETMEN is adapted by Innovation. Taking clues from the original, King of the Rocketmen expands upon the themes.  The world of King of the Rocketmen is filled with intrigue, jealous thieves of technology, and murder.   The work is delightfully beautiful. 


THE ROCKETEER

From Pacific comics, Comico, and later Dark Horse and others, Rocketeer is a return to fun versus the dark comics of its era.   Cliff Secord discovers a stolen rocket pack.  He becomes the Rocketeer, and turns around his fortunes.  But doing so, invites intrigue, attention, and danger. Who knows who might be interested, but at the least there are Feds, Nazi spies, and more.  Less serious than it is fun, this is pure adventure.

Monday, June 12, 2017

THE 2017 INKWELL awards


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The 2017 Inkwell Awards Ceremony at Heroes Con Headlines By Legends Joe Giella and Allen Bellman


 (New Bedford, MA/USA—June 8, 2017) Results from the 10th annual Inkwell Awards will be presented at the inking advocacy group’s 7th live awards ceremony at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC. The awards ceremony is scheduled for Friday June 16, 5:00 PM at the Charlotte Convention Center, in room 209-210.

Golden/Silver Age ink artist and famed DC Comics mainstay Joe Giella is scheduled to appear as Guest of Honor. Golden Age and Timely (Marvel) pioneer and penciller/inker Allen Bellman will act as Guest Speaker for one of two Special Recognition Award recipients.


“We are very fortunate to have two living legends from the dawn of the American comic book industry to attend our celebration of inking in the sequential arts”, said Bob Almond, the Inkwell Awards' founder/director and MC of the ceremony. “Together they've inked many seminal works that have influenced generations of professionals and readers alike.”

The Inkwells have five categories: Favorite Inker, the “Props” award for under-recognized professionals, the S.P.A.M.I. for Small Press And Mainstream-Independent work, Most-Adaptable Inker, and the “All-in-One” for the artist who inks his/her own pencil art. Thousands of voters cast their ballots at the group’s website in April to log their support and choose their favorites.

In addition to Giella and Bellman, other speakers/attendees include host and presenter Almond, hostess Hailey Skaza-Gagne as spokesmodel Ms. Inkwell, Inkwell Assistant Director/co-presenter and artist Mike Pascale, and other volunteer staff members. Announced with the publicly-chosen award-winners will be the internally-voted two recipients of the yearly Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award and two recipients of the third annual Special Recognition Award.

Almond added, “We're thrilled to have more award-recipient creators appearing live than ever before, so fans will get to see and hear more of their favorites.”

Other related guests at the Heroes show itself include Inkwell ambassadors Laura Martin, Mike McKone, Cully Hamner and J. David Spurlock. There may also be surprise appearances at the ceremony by member-creators, the award recipients or other supporters. 

As an added bonus, the first 25 non-member attendees will receive a raffle ticket for an automatic door prize. After the event, every ticket holder will win a prize as explained at the ceremony.
 (L-R) Joe Sinnott, Ms. Inkwell Holly Black and Bob Almond at the June 5, 2016 Albany Comic Con (photo by Mark Sinnott)

“We've had record attendance for the last couple years,” said Almond, “and plan to repeat that achievement, especially with our impressive lineup and prizes.”

The Inkwells will be set up in Artists Alley at an as of yet unspecified location to be announced soon at the Heroes Con website, offering (for donations) their recently-released Ms. Inkwell Gallery art book, signed by cover artist Bill Sienkiewicz as well as Joe Sinnott, Bob Almond and Hailey Skaza-Gagne, along with plenty of other Inkwell merchandise to help raise much-needed funds. (The organization will delay the next Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge book until 2018 to celebrate their tenth anniversary.)

Almond concluded, “We can’t show enough gratitude to promoter Shelton Drum and the Heroes Con staff for annually supporting the community and giving fans an opportunity to learn more about and appreciate this often overlooked industry craft and its artists. Looking forward to seeing everyone on Friday and during the con!”


The Inkwell Awards (www.inkwellawards.com) is an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public and promote the art form of comic-book inking, as well as annually recognize the best ink artists and their work. Now approaching it’s tenth year, the organization is overseen by a committee of industry professionals and assisted by various professional ambassadors and numerous contributors. They sponsor the Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship Fund for the Kubert School and host the Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award.



Web site: inkwellawards.com.

 


Friday, June 9, 2017

Comic Book Publishers of the Past, 2nd edition

COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS OF THE PAST
Second Edition  6/09/2017
By Alex Ness

As a continuing feature, I continue considering the publishers of the past.  Sadly, this edition contains some publishers who the industry is bereft by their absence.

Continuity Publishing

Neal Adams was the 1970s most famous and arguably popular artist.  He was paid well and used his power to get certain changes in the industry.  He began a studio with a number of talented artists, all of whom became somewhat clonish in pencils to the Neal Adams style.  When Continuity Publishing began publishing comics they all had a corporate look, and for my experience, seemed to be vehicles solely to show the art of the studio.  The writing was weak, and somewhat bad.  However, I know people who bought every issue. 













Comico: The Comic Company

COMICO was a company that had a number of hit series, and some of the best talents of comics had work appear there.  Matt Wagner, Bill Willingham, Mike Gustavich, Tony Isabella and many more Big Two talents had work there.  Grendel is probably the best remembered since it remains in cycle, but Justice Machine was good, and Elementals featured pencils and words from FABLES creator, Bill Willingham.  Sadly, the company was not consistent and failed, at some point before its fall, to keep quality works coming out.  The various titles that were owned by the creative talents moved on, and at least one big one, Elementals was a subject of copyright ownership fights.


































Cross Generation Entertainment

CROSS GENERATION Comics were born from a millionaire's dream to create more than superhero comics.  Mark Alessi funded and helped develop a comic book universe where the powers were inter related, and the universe was meant to be woven tightly to make every book have more than just a single story.  The company used the studio system to create the comics, and had a look about them.  The stories were genuinely good, and the art was pretty.  But, the thing that held down any bit of CrossGen was the comic book universe aspect.  The times it was used as part of a story it slowed down and felt artificial rather than organic.  Adventure comics, mythological, science fiction and fantasy were all part of the buffet of comics offered by CrossGen.  Mark Waid, Tony Bedard, Chuck Dixon, Ron  Marz and Barbara Kesel all are good to great writers, and despite the limitations of story, they overcame to create truly enjoyable tales.  By the time the end came about, the publisher had spent lots of money, received little for it, and these quality works faded from view.















First Comics

Eclipse and First are my two favorite defunct comic book publishers.  Whereas Eclipse published almost all kinds of genres, Firsts was more focused, on fantasy, superheroes, and dystopian futures.  Mike Grell's Jon Sable was an adult tale of a bounty hunter, problem solver.  Timothy Truman and John Ostrander's GrimJack was a stellar badass.  Howard Chaykin's irreverent American Flagg asked what do we do with our patriotism and failed dreams.  Mike Baron wrote Badger, a martial arts multi personality action comic, as well as the future assassin, Nexus, who was compelled to kill the evil doers his dreams tell him to kill.

First was a comic company with oodles of readable books, and my wife liked two of their creations, Jon Sable and Dreadstar.  I think, if you ask who was reading comics in the 1980s, girls/women were not nearly represented in fandom.  My wife's mark of approval suggests to me that these comics were more adult, more thoughtful than most. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The underappreciated UK wave writers' works

COMMENTARY
6/8/2017
By Alex Ness

This article is meant to give readers a hint what to buy if they are fans of the writers here.  Each of the works offered are good, but, in my opinion, never received the accolades deserved.  Sales are not the same as critical praise.  And critical praise is not the same as a work that is beloved.  I make no distinction here regarding how well or poorly the work sold, whether it was critically approved of, or anything.


WARREN ELLIS wrote Strange Kiss and more featuring a character named William Gravel.  He is SAS, a warrior, an investigator and more.  The tales are vulgar and brutal, but they perfectly depict the horrors he fights against.


Jobremus Bojeffries is a collection of tales from a family that isn't normal.  There's a werewolf, a vampire, and an incredibly old grandpa, nuclear baby.  This a fun work, perhaps slightly silly, but unlike most Alan Moore and quite charming.  If you do like Alan Moore's serious entries you might not like it, but if you like great writing, I think you will.


A woman is murdered but her essence lives on, in the memories of semi sentient plants.  She has become an avatar of the green, similar to Swamp Thing or Poison Ivy.  The art is beyond beautiful here, and the story is intriguing.  Why it isn't beloved, I'll never know.


Garth Ennis is a writer who is powerful when writing political, violent intrigue.  Here he reinterprets the Unknown Soldier as an ultra patriot who has had a hand in counter revolution, anti communist partisan attacks, and a role with CIA as an assassin.  The work is revisionist, and some people hate that, but as a straight forward story it was brilliant.


I was introduced to Dan Abnett's talents through Marvel UK's Knights of Pendragon.  Using superheroes and different kinds of humans, the story tells of a reunited King Arthur's round table.  And through myth and legend tells about protecting the Green.  I loved this book and am amazed to hear Dan Abnett fans say, never heard of it.


Paul Jenkins is famous for his work on Sentry, Inhumans, and Hellblazer.  He is rightly fan appreciated for that.  But while I loved Inhumans, his work on Mythos boiled down the various Marvel legendary characters, and retold their story with a great power, respect and simplicity that is missing today.


As many who read my articles know, I love the work of Jamie Delano.  His runs on Hellblazer and Animal Man.  His recent work for Avatar, Rawbone and Narcopolis are filled with crisp dialogue and themes, along with deadly dark subject matter.  Narcopolis is an amazing consideration of how drugs have been offered to replace things like conscience, honor, thought and more.  It might be true to say, few comic book writers would have the gravitas to make such social commentary.


I love the work of Grant Morrison, and I really like the guy.  When I read his Kid Eternity story it didn't light a fire in me, nor, from what I saw,  most other readers.  But it has improved with each read, and I think it is because of the deft skills of layering meaning that he can accomplish.  Along with the artist on this book, Morrison takes a somewhat silly character and redefines him for modernity.


Mike Carey has written many comics, and as far as I am concerned, all of them good.  So this selection is a smaller work, and not so much under appreciated as unknown.  His story of the Werewolf By Night is perfectly beautiful, dangerous, and has a story rather than a vignette.

I liked it a helluva lot.







Pat Mills is responsible for Judge Dredd, ABC Warriors, Marshal Law, and my particular favorite, SLAINE.  Any of these choices is well worth your read.  But Pat Mills particular variety of story fits perfect with an offering from Marvel, PUNISHER 2099.  The future dystopia where this future version of the Punisher is as dark as Punisher is, and this work thrives upon the darkness.  It really is a good ride.  I recommend it.