10 THINGS ABOUT JUNE ’11 COMICS

by KC Carlson

Please note the subtle title change. This is one of those rare months where I actually couldn’t find 10 new things I liked – although there is still plenty to talk about. Let’s get to the Good Stuff first…

Caniff

Caniff


CANIFF – Oh, man… Another incredibly important biography of yet another incredibly important artist? When do Bruce Canwell and Dean Mullaney sleep?

Seriously, it’s long past time that Milton Caniff’s life and career be examined in the same depth that his work is already afforded. Caniff’s three classic newspaper strips – Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon, and Male Call – have been extensively reprinted. Now The Library of American Comics recounts and examines the entire career of the man frequently called “ The Rembrandt of the Comic Strip” in a massive 360-page monograph (look it up!).

Produced with full access to Caniff’s extensive personal archives at The Ohio State University, and with the cooperation of the Caniff estate, this oversized (11” x 11”) book not only covers Caniff’s incredible career, it also reproduces hundreds of comics, illustrations, pencil sketches, and drawings from the original artwork – many not previously reprinted.

Fuzzy-headed IDW cartoony promotion guy says: Caniff is the definitive visual biography of one of the most revered artists of the American 20th Century.

Former Westfield subscriber Kurt Busiek has this to say about Caniff… Well, actually Kurt can talk for hours about Caniff, and I have a deadline, so… Trust me, order your copy of Caniff now, before Kurt buys all the copies that he can get his hands on!

UPDATE: Here’s a link to Meanwhile: A Biography of Milton Caniff by R.C. Harvey that Kurt Busiek mentions in the comment section.

Forgotten Fantasy

Forgotten Fantasy


FORGOTTEN FANTASY – Sunday Press Books, who brought us beautiful Little Nemo in Slumberland, Krazy Kat, and Sundays With Walt and Skeezix volumes, is back with Forgotten Fantasy: Sunday Comics 1900-1915, a 152-page, 16” x 21” hardcover collecting complete runs of Kinder Kids and Wee Willie Winkie (both by Lyonel Feininger), Nibsy the Newsboy (by George McManus), and The Explorigator (by Harry Grant Dart), plus some of Windsor McCay’s Dream of the Rarebit Fiend and other strips. These are some of the most beautiful (and largely forgotten) Sunday comics ever produced. Highly recommended.

Robert E. Howard: The Battle For the Legacy of Conan

Robert E. Howard: The Battle For the Legacy of Conan


HOWARD YOU DOING? – I’m not really a big fan of Conan, or any barbarian, but I love the behind-the-scenes stories of popular characters and how they move from publisher to publisher and medium to medium. So I’m thinking that I’ll need to check out Hermes Press’ new 224-page monograph (I told you to look it up!) Robert E. Howard: The Battle for the Legacy of Conan. Not only is it a history of the Conan creator, it’s also the inside story about what happened to the character after Howard’s death. It’s a complicated story of the legal battles which led to Conan becoming the hero of pulps, paperback books, comic books, and films. Written by Tom Stewart, the book also is packed with rarely seen photographs and reproductions of artwork and covers featuring the famous barbarian.

Hero Comics 2011

Hero Comics 2011


CREATOR SIGHTINGS – The original Sandman creative team of Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith, and Mike Dringenberg is reuniting (although probably not for a Sandman story) for IDW’s Hero Comics 2011, the annual benefit comic for the Hero Initiative. The issue also features a new Chew story by John Layman and Rob Guillory and new covers by Adam Hughes and J. Scott Campbell . . . Dark Horse Presents #2 continues featuring work by Howard Chaykin, Richard Corben, Paul Chadwick, and Carla Speed McNeil, adding new stories by Patrick Alexander, Sanford Green, Robert Love, Geoff Darrow, Michael T. Gilbert, and David Chelsea. Covers are by Neal Adams, Sanford Green, and Fabio Moon . . . Rocketeer Adventures #2 features an all-star line-up including stories by Darwyn Cooke, Mark Waid and Chris Weston, and Lowell Francis and Gene Ha. Plus two new pin-ups by Geof Darrow and covers by Dave Stevens and Alex Ross! . . . I love the fact that anthologies are back in a big way! (Just wanted to say that.) . . . Eric Powell’s The Goon is back on a regular schedule, and apparently he’s P.O.ed about sparkly vampires. I can get behind that! . . . Legendary Silver Age artist Ramona Fradon (Aquaman) is getting her feet (and brushes) wet all over again with a new undersea adventure in Spongebob Comics #3!

Secret Society of Super-Villains

Secret Society of Super-Villains


I’M WAITING FOR THESE TRADES – The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1 Starring Shade the Changing Man and Captain America by Dan Jurgens (w/Andy Kubert and Jerry Ordway) collections will both soon be looked at in detail by Bob Greenberger, right here at the blog. . . . I have a perverse affection for the Secret Society of Super-Villains (now being collected in a 208-page hardcover), but I’m not sure how well their stories will hold up now that they’re thirtysomething years old . . . Similiarly, Showcase Presents: The Trial of the Flash really took its sweet time getting to the point. (It’s comics’ first example of Decompressed Storytelling, even if writer Cary Bates didn’t know that at the time.) But classic artist Carmine Infantino returned to the character for most of the storyline and almost 600 pages for only $20 is a pretty good deal . . . I’ve seen far too many reprintings of the material in The New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 1 in my lifetime, but for those of you who have never read this Marv Wolfman/George Pérez series before – it is easily one of the best runs in comics and a must read for any serious DC fan. Hugely influential in terms of storytelling and characterization, this was the only book in comics that could stand toe-to-toe with the classic run of Uncanny X-Men in the landmark 1980s. This 464-page hardcover is essential reading and highly recommended . . . Marvel is re-collecting the wonderful Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale “colors” miniseries Daredevil: Yellow and Hulk: Gray in new trade paperback editions. Personally, I can’t wait for Captain America: White. I sure hope it’s out in time for the movie . . . Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson’s Astro City is gearing up for another new series of fantastic adventures, but while we’re waiting for that, DC’s putting out a fresh new reprinting of the very first, groundbreaking miniseries, Astro City: Life in the Big City – available simultaneously in both hardcover and trade paperback editions. Astro City is all slice-of-life stories about fantastic people and places. You don’t often hear the word “lyrical” used in conjunction with superhero comics. Now you have. Featuring a new cover by Alex Ross – the regular cover painter of the series . . .

Kirby: Genesis

Kirby: Genesis


SPEAKING OF BUSIEK & ROSS – You’ve already read about their new project Kirby: Genesis in this great interview with Kurt Busiek right here at the blog, so I’m here to remind you that it’s now time to order the first issue (or “issues” as the case may be – since it’s a Dynamite book and there are at least six different covers: three by Ross (two of them interlocking), and one each by Ryan Sook, Paul Renaud, and Dale Keown). Since you read the interview (you did, didn’t you?), you know that details about Kirby: Genesis are scarce, but we do know that the basic concept is about bringing together a number of post-Marvel and DC Kirby Koncepts (like Captain Victory and Silver Star) to produce the kind of cosmic epic that would do Kirby proud. Busiek and Ross are plotting, Busiek is scripting, and Ross is painting covers, laying out pages, and producing all kinds of new artistic endeavors (like fully-painted panels!). Jack Herbert’s artwork is multi-faceted itself, both solo and in conjunction with Ross. Looking for the cosmic? It’s right here in Kirby: Genesis, baby!


Veronica Presents: Kevin Keller

Veronica #207 AKA Veronica Presents: Kevin Keller


DUELING ARCHIES – No, you’re not going to have to worry about Jughead talking about your “real pretty mouth” or anything unnerving like that. It’s just that this month Dark Horse is soliciting Archie Archives Volume 2, featuring 232 pages of choice stories from the early 1940s in a beautiful hardcover – including Archie Comics #3-6, among others. Meantime, over at IDW, they’re combining the two previously published Archie Americana: Best of the Forties volumes into a new volume – the 216-page hardcover Archie: Americana Vol. 1: The ‘40s. Now, if I was a bettin’ man, I’d wager that some of the stories from this era will probably be in both volumes – and ain’t that a fine kettle of fish! So, pick yer poison – because it’s all great stuff! . . . If you’re looking for some interesting modern Archie magic, look no further than Veronica #207, the first of a miniseries featuring Riverdale’s newest resident – Kevin Keller! Kevin is Archie Comics’ first “out” gay character in the history of the company, and he’s making a big impression. His first appearance in Veronica #202 sold out quickly and became the first comic in Archie’s 60-year history to go to a second printing. In this new miniseries, readers will learn more about Kevin’s background before he arrived in Riverdale, such as growing up as an “Army brat”, as well as the strong bonds he has with his father. Having read the first story, I can say that Kevin is a very cool character and his friendship with Veronica is both funny and touching. Archie has introduced a number of new characters over the past few years (maybe too many), but I can see already that Kevin will be a very welcome character into the core group of friends.

15 Love

15 Love


I DUNNO, LOOKS KINDA VANILLI TO ME… – I understand that a lot of folks are quite confused at Marvel’s new solicitation for 15 Love, an all-ages book starring 15-year-old “Mill Collins” in a miniseries featuring “TEENAGE TENNIS ACTION AS ONLY MIGHTY MARVEL CAN DELIVER!” (And the general consensus is “What Th’–?!”) What Marvel isn’t telling us: “Mill” Collins is actually Millie Collins (aka Millie the Model), recast as a teenage tennis star. They’re also not telling us that 15 Love is a project developed during Bill Jemas’ reign as Marvel publisher (circa 2003), originally targeted to teenage girls. It’s probably been sitting in a drawer since then, as Jemas left the company shortly thereafter.

Actually, it doesn’t look like too bad a project, given that it’s written by Andi Watson, a top indy artist and writer (Breakfast After Noon, Slow News Day). You may be more familiar with his scripting on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the teenage Namor series for Marvel (also produced during the Jemas era). Covers are by Sho Murase and interior art is by Tommy Ohtsuka (Marvel Mangaverse) and has a deliberate anime/manga feel. So, 15 Love – innovative take on a classic character or raiding the “vault” for summer product? Me, I’m always happy to see Millie in any form (although, this is pretty bizarre), and I like Andi Watson’s stuff, so I’m giving this a “what the hell, it looks more fun than swinging a dead cat” kinda chance. Although with three issues at five bucks a pop, this might be better ultimately collected – assuming that it makes it that far.

Mystery Men #1

Mystery Men #1


MYSTERY MEN – I can’t wait for Marvel’s version of Bob Burden’s classic spin-off (and major motion picture!) from his Flaming Carrot series! Can’t really understand why all this is CLASSIFIED… Wait!… What? You mean that Marvel’s new Mystery Men title doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with either Flaming Carrot OR the really popular cult movie? Oh… that’s different. Never mind.

Best of luck to both Bob Burden and Universal Films in their upcoming trademark infringement lawsuits. (I.E., expect either this gets resolicited under a different name… or it’s Burden’s luckiest day!)

Flashpoint #2

Flashpoint #2


TWO BIG F’s! – FLASHPOINT vs. FEAR ITSELF – Where’s my calculator? Lemme see, DC’s got 22 different Flashpoint tie-ins this month. 16 of them are the first issues of three-part miniseries. All but one of them (Flashpoint, itself, which is $3.99) are priced at $2.99, and a lot of them are being done by folks I’ve never heard of (and I know a lot of people…). Oh, and all of DC’s regular non-Flashpoint series are still running during the length of this Event. That’s a lot of comic books!

Fear Itself #3

Fear Itself #3


Marvel’s turn: They’ve got 19 books this month that will have some sort of Fear Itself banner on them. Nine of them are associated with either new titles or stand-alone miniseries, leaving the other nine to be crossovers with regular titles. Seven of them are priced at $3.99, 11 are $2.99. Believe it or not, the Fear Itself event is actually a small percentage of Marvel’s total titles – since it’s summer, time once again to flood the market with comic books, including some other minor events. Sigh.

The thing is, both companies are expecting retailers (and by extension, many retailers are asking us, the fans) to try to figure out how to pre-order all of this stuff – without seeing a single issue of either Event, other than some concept art, a few unlettered pages, and a couple of “Prelude” issues that the companies better hope are not completely representative of the actual thing. And DC’s Flashpoint is centered on a title – The Flash – that is currently running late – not that this hasn’t ever stopped either company.

Then there’s the implied content of the Events themselves. Marvel played the “death card” recently, announcing that a “major Marvel hero falls… The shock ending to end all shock endings…” in the pages of Fear Itself #3. (As if death ever stops any modern-day superhero for longer than it would take to blow their nose!) DC’s Flashpoint revolves around the development of yet another set of alternate versions of their most popular characters. At least I think it does – who can really tell from their inane one-line descriptions of their Flashpoint books? (“FLASH FACT! They experimented on him in a lab for years!”) DC has apparently given up trying to create the next Superman or Batman. Why bother when they can re-create the originals over and over again, and then reconfigure their entire fictional universe to give each and every one of them their own Universe? Wowzers! Soon, 52 Universes ain’t gonna be big enough…

Deadman and the Flying Graysons

Deadman and the Flying Graysons


The really frustrating thing is that each of the two mega-Events have some potentially really interesting things going on within them. Flashpoint has some fascinating talent on tap: the 100 Bullets team of Azzarello and Risso on Batman: Knight of Vengeance, George Pérez on Secret Seven, Abnett and Lanning on both Wonder Woman and the Furies and Lois Lane and the Resistance, Rags Morales on The Canterbury Cricket (who?). And I love Cliff Chiang’s cover to Deadman and the Flying Graysons #1. Too bad he isn’t doing any of the interiors.

Fear Itself: The Deep

Fear Itself: The Deep


I think the Fear Itself: Fearsome Foursome of Nighthawk, She-Hulk, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Howard the Duck in search of an overwrought Man-Thing will be fun. (Watch for Roger’s interview with writer Brandon Montclare tomorrow.) Nick Spencer on Secret Avengers and Iron Man 2.0 will be a writer to watch. I’m curious how the original Alpha Flight actually can be rebuilt – since most of them are DEAD. (See what I mean about that death thingy?) And two former Defenders (Dr. Strange and Sub-Mariner) in Fear Itself: The Deep? Hmmm…

Both anchor series have A+ creative teams: Fear Itself has Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen, Flashpoint has Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert. Fear Itself #1 hits the racks this week. Flashpoint starts in ernest in May. Soon we will know more and can order more confidently in the future. Here’s to both projects being big winners! Comics could use a big winner today. And here’s hoping the fans can somehow share in those victories – without being driven to the poorhouse from over-saturation! Readers, as always: choose carefully!

Wonder Woman #612

Wonder Woman #612


AND FINALLY, SOME GOOD NEWS – The “real” Wonder Woman returns in Wonder Woman #612. And just in time, because TV is calling. Those of you that left over utter confusion or contempt, you can come back now!

KC CARLSON: Not getting invited to any DC or Marvel Convention parties this summer…. Special thanks to Kurt Busiek – latest nominee for Best (unknowing) Supporting Appearance in a Westfield Column. Don’t forget to vote at your favorite comics awards this summer!

10 Things is sponsored by the word monograph and the number “a lot” (as in “There are a lot of Event crossovers and tie-ins this month.”).

WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.

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  1. Kurt Busiek Says:

    >> Seriously, it’s long past time that Milton Caniff’s life and career be examined in the same depth that his work is already afforded >>

    It’s only been four years since RC Harvey’s 952-page biography of Caniff from Fantagraphics.

    Nonetheless, Caniff was a freakin’ genius, and deserves lots of coverage. And this seems to be largely a retrospective art gallery of Caniff’s work over the years, so it’s going to be terrific on its own terms. I’ll certainly be buying this, and looking forward to luxuriating in its contents.

    And thanks for guest-starring me! Not to mention the plugs for KIRBY: GENESIS and ASTRO CITY!

  2. KC Says:

    Hi Kurt,

    Oh, good point about the Harvey/Fantagraphics book! I had to backburner that one at the time (due to poverty), and it just slipped my mind since then. I’ll be looking for that as well! And Roger is putting a link in the column for other Westfield subscribers to follow up on that book as well.

    Thank you for reminding me, and for teaching me so much about Caniff at Baltimore several years ago!