Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Better Late Than Never, I Guess

Comics

Note: I actually had hopes of getting this posted in a somewhat timely fashion. I was kind of proud of actually completing a Previews write up, early in the month, for the first time since I started this blog. But, for some reason, it never happened. However, I'm determined to have more comic-related content here, so I am going ahead and posting it (as originally written) to meet that goal, if nothing else. Since I am posting this so late in the month, I have decided to forego adding links to titles and publisher.

Previews has pretty slim pickings this month. Maybe that means I’ll finally get one of these things finished and posted. Maybe not, but a guy can dream, right? Think of this as nothing more than a few things that came to mind as I looked over this month’s listings. Some of them I will order. Some I won’t. Some I already have. Some just brought out my snarky pundit, for whatever it’s worth.

Dark Horse has another of their wonderful Little Lulu volumes: Sunday Afternoon. I just wish they would include volume numbers, to make it easier to keep up with things. As a long-term Lulu lover, I’ve been getting a great kick out of this series. John Stanley rocks!

DH also has the first new Too Much Coffee Man book in FOREVER, which will make Keith very happy. Me too, especially when it’s combined with a new volume of What’s Michael. I haven’t seen this munch to look forward to from Dark Horse in AGES!

DC continues to mine the aging fanboy nostalgia market with The Wrath of the Spectre tpb, which reprints some genuinely creepy Spectre stories from the 70’s by Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo. For their time, these were some pretty disturbing stories, but I doubt that feeling has held up in the years since their original publication. TwoMorrows stakes its own claim to aging fanboy nostalgia dollars with a book about the THUNDER Agents.

Hoping to hitch a ride on the coattails of the movie (sorry about that), DC is also trotting out their Hitchhiker’s Guide tpb again.

A few months ago, Brian Hibbs stated in one of his Newsarama columns that Image had an image problem (sorry again). He feels that the company lacks a clearly defined identity. Several people took issue with that statement, but this month’s solicitations support his thesis. Mixed in amongst the standard Image fare is this:

SLOP: ANACLETA TP
May 25 • 144 pg • BW • $12.99
written by DAVE CROSLAND & DEBBIE
art & cover by DAVE CROSLAND & DEBBIE
This digest-sized volume is a collection of short stories from underground kingpin DAVE CROSLAND (BAD IDEAS, PUFFED, HEAVEN LLC) and his partner in crime, DEBBIE (Venus Magazine, Spin, tastes like chicken). The book culls the best stories from the five-year run of their out-of-print mini-comic, SLOP, including the Zine Yearbook Award-winning “Patience Gets You Nowhere, Tolerance Gets You Hurt.” It also contains original pinups and rare sketchwork from DAVE and DEBBIE’s art book, Acid Bomb, monthly “Slop” comic strips that appeared on tlchicken.com and all sorts of never-before-seen doodles and goodies. As if that wasn’t enough, SLOP: ANACLETA is rounded out by four brand new, mind-blowing comic shorts. It’s all the humor, drama and social commentary these tenacious Ds could muster, finally collected and available to the worldwide masses!

I know that Image prides itself on being a home for creator-owned work, but that’s too vague a concept to be a core identity. What they need is a series of imprints and lines, kind of like DC does, to at least organize their output a little better. I can see four:

Crappy comics from the Image founders
Lame super-hero comics from other people
The few titles we publish that are actually good
Oddball stuff like Slop: Anacleta that’s probably pretty bad

Moving into the back, Mike Allred is offering another issue of his retelling of the Book of Mormon. I may be alone in this, but I’m finding this series to be fascinating. In my Southern Baptist upbringing, Mormonism was considered a cult, so I don’t know much about their central scripture book at all. It’s pretty hokey and outlandish in places, but no more so than any other scripture collection. Allred’s art suits the story well, and this is obviously a labor of love for him. If I’m going to indulge my weakness for religiously-themed comics, it’s nice to see one done my one of my favorite artists!

Speaking of religiously-oriented works and favorite artists, Vertical has another volume of Tezuka’s Buddha up for release. When they first started this series, I worried that they might fold before getting all eight volumes out. They’re up to six, so it looks like they’re proving me wrong. This is probably the best series being published right now, and certainly the best thing from Tezuka I’ve ever read. (Which says a lot when you realize how much I love Adolf.)

Out of all the other manga, the only thing that looks interesting is Pale Pink from CPM. You don’t see many manga dealing with topics like bulimia and self-esteem issues. I just hope the book doesn’t end up going for melodrama at the expense of serious storytelling. ADV is releasing the original Gatchaman anime series, the one that was bastardized into Battle of the Planets. I have wanted to see this for YEARS, so this is exciting news!

On the alternative side of the comics playing field, Alternative is offering a Xeric winning book by Bishakh Som, called Angel. On the one hand, it sounds interesting. On the other, a solicitation that references Beardsley, Klimt, Gorey, and Jaime Hernanadez may be raising expectations too high for the work to meet. Drawn and Quarterly has the first of their Gasoline Alley collections. At 400 pages, it’s going to be pretty hefty! I hope it does well for them. I’d like to see the King strips completely collected. DQ also has a new book from Luc Giard. I don’t think I’ve seen anything from him since the earliest issues of DQ.

Fantagraphics has a new collection from Johnny Ryan. Oh, joy. They more than make up for that lapse in judgement, however, with new books from Thomas Ott, Jason, and Paul Hornschmeier.

I cannot remember seeing Britsh publisher Knockabout in Previews before, so their solicitation came as a pleasant surprise. A very pleasant surprise, indeed, given the listing of a book from Hunt Emerson! NBM takes on Lincoln’s assassination in the newest Victorian Murder volume from Rick Geary. And Top Shelf rounds out the alt round-up with a new volume from James Kochalka—featuring super-heroes, believe it or not!

And to prove that not every thing in the back of the Previews catalog is worth reading, Dementian Comics has another volume of Stylish Vittles from Tyler Page. I’ve never seen a series with the potential to be so good waste its time on pretense and indulgence the way this one does. The core of Page’s story, a retelling of his first serious relationship, is pretty solid, but he lays out conflicts that aren’t resolved and can’t resist playing all kinds of authorial tricks which bog things down and distract from the story. If he had a good editor, this three volume sprawling epic could have been pared down to one volume of solid story.

Also in the over-praised disappointment category, the new True Story Swear to God trade is solicited from AIT/Planetlar. This one will contain what I consider to be the absolute low point of the series: the protagonist coping with the thought of a hurricane threatening his lover’s home by imagining them both as super-heroes! Thankfully, it’s just for one scene at the beginning of a story, but it almost completely undermines the emotional impact of the rest of the story. It’s a shame that the scenes showing Lily and her friends barricaded inside while the hurricane rages all around them and Tom waits and worries by the phone are undercut by the nonsense that opens the story.

This continues to be one of the most frustrating series I read. It has such potential, but manages to waste a lot of it. Even when they aren’t flying over hurricanes, there still seems to be something in the story that keeps me from totally investing in Tom and Lily and their story. For a true to life story, I often feel like everything is being carefully crafted to place some topics and areas of discussion off-limits to me as a reader. Unfortunately, these are the very things that would make the story much more interesting and realistic.

Of course, every time I think I’m going to drop the series, it has a minor upswing, so I stick around optimistically hoping that the series will start growing into its potential. Needless to say, I usually end up disappointed. Thankfully the recent issues dealing with Tom’s decision to uproot himself from the only home he’s ever known to move to Puerto Rico with Lily have much more emotional resonance than is typical for this series. Which, of course, means I’m still hanging on.

Finally, looking at things more tailored for the bookstore than the comic shop, Marjane Satrpi has a new book, Embroideries (Pantheon) and Puffin has a whole raft of classics as gn’s, including MacBeth and Black Beauty. Keith Knight is putting out another K Chronicles collection too. Pickings may have been slim, but some of them look really nice.

For other opinions on Previews: check out Johanna Draper Carlson, Augie de Blieck, (both de Blieck and Carlson have more favorable opinions of True Story and Stylish Vittles than I do), and Ninth Art.

1 comment:

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