by KC Carlson
PICK OF THE MONTH
The Bojeffries Saga (Top Shelf): Just your average tale of an eccentric British family of vampires, werewolves, monsters, and other creatures, including a baby that puts off enough thermonuclear energy to power all of England (and Wales!). Do you like the Addams Family? The Bojeffries will kick their arses!
This is no ordinary “saga”. The tales span decades and include a Christmas story, a chapter written as light opera, and other insane bits. Originally created by Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse in 1983 for the legendary UK Anthology Warrior, the unconventional series had to be outstanding to compete with the likes of its anthology-mates: Marvelman (soon to become Miracleman) and V For Vendetta. It was soon my favorite, since I was instantly taken in by the sheer insane audacity and quirkiness of the series. I was heartbroken when Warrior unceremoniously ceased publication, leaving all their features (at least temporarily) unfinished.
Thus began the equally eccentric publishing history of the Bojeffries, next landing in the also late and lamented Dalgoda series from Fantagraphics in 1986, and then jumping to Atomeka Press’ anthology A1 (and its bizarre A1 True Life Bikini Confidential special) between 1989 and 1991. In 1992, Kevin Eastman’s Tundra Press collected the existing Bojeffries material, plus a handful of short illustrated stories (and a recipe) in The Complete Bojeffries Saga. It quickly sold out.
In 2004, some early reprints were re-presented in the A1: Big Issue Zero as a sampler for an A1 relaunch in 2005 — which never happened — along with an announced (and previewed) three-issue A1: Bojeffries Terror Tomes series — also not appearing.
At this time, Parkhouse suggested that there would be no more Bojeffries stories. in 2008, artist Kevin O’Neil contradicted this when he mentioned that Moore was taking breaks from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century to finish the finale of the Bojeffries Saga, which was subsequently announced for publication by Top Shelf, making us all crazy for the next five years waiting for it to happen.
Apparently, in March 2014, it’s actually going to happen. The Bojeffries Saga will be published by Top Shelf, with all the previous material included, as well as an all-new 24-page story. Moore definitively explains (kinda) in an 2009 interview with Forbidden Planet:
“Yeah, I have written a final Bojeffries –- well, I don’t know if it’s a final -– but I’ve written a kind of, it wouldn’t hurt if it was the last one, although maybe me and Steve will want to do some more with them.
“What we’re going to do is, we’re going to collect up, with Top Shelf, all of the Bojeffries material that’s appeared to date, and we’re going to cap it all off with a twenty-four-page story called “After They Were Famous”, which is the Bojeffries in 2009, existing side-by-side with culture as it is now, as opposed to culture as it was in the eighties and the early nineties.”
So now you know as much (or less) as we do. Cross your fingers (or talons or whatever) for March 2014!
MARVEL’S ALL-NEW AND NOT-SO-NEW GRAPHIC NOVELS
Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business is an all-new original graphic novel written by Mark Waid and James Robinson with painted art by Gabriele Dell’otto with Werther Dell’edra. After 50 years (publication time) this book introduces a long-lost member of Peter Parker’s family — a sister he never knew about! And, in confrontation with the Kingpin of Crime, does she turn out to be his greatest ally — or the one that damns him? 112-page oversize color hardcover graphic novel.
Not quite new, but “new to paper” is Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted, a 168-page graphic novel previously available online as Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted Infinite Comic #1-13. It’s written by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour and pencilled by Yves Bigerel and Paco Diaz. Wolverine is Public Enemy #1 in Japan and on the run from the authorities — and it’s all Sabertooth’s doing. The secret Book of the Hand stands revealed and the Silver Samurai, Sunfire, and the mysterious Osen (who has connections to both Wolverine and the Hand) all enter the fray as uneasy alliances and mutual foes. It’s ninja vs. ninja with a nation’s fate in the balance. 168-page color hardcover.
QUINN YOU BEAT THIS?
DC is spotlighting the recent revamping of the ever-popular Harley Quinn character with two cool collections of her classic stories. First up is DC Comics Presents: Harley Quinn #1 collecting Batman: Harley Quinn #1, Joker’s Asylum II: Harley Quinn #1, and stories from Batman: Gotham Knights #14 and 30, Countdown #10, and Batman Black and White #1, by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Ronnie Del Carmen, Joe Quinones, and others, including a cover by Alex Ross. That’s a 96-page color softcover. Then, in March, there’s a new Harley Quinn: Welcome to Metropolis collection reprinting issues #14-25 of the extremely fun HQ series by Karl Kesel and Terry and Rachel Dodson. That’s a 288-page color softcover. Plus, check out the new, designed-by-Bruce-Timm Batman Black & White Harley Quinn Statue this month (shipping in May 2014).
THIS MONTH IN CLASSIC COMIC BOOK COLLECTIONS
Airboy Archives Volume 1 (IDW): First collection for this wonderful 1980s revival of the Golden Age aviator series, originally published by Eclipse Comics. Well-written by Chuck Dixon, and with art by Timothy Truman, Stan Woch, Ben Dunn, Tom Lyle, and others, this series revives the classic Airboy, Valkyrie, and Skywolf characters in high-flying, nail-biting adventures. Collects the first 16 issues, plus the back-up Skywolf stories which began in issue #9. Bob Greenberger will have more details soon, right here at the Westfield blog. 308-page color softcover.
Cannon (Fantagraphics): Wally Wood’s legendary Cold War spy comic strip is collected again, but this time — due to the discovery of newly unearthed source material, combined with Fantagraphics’ usual fastidious production and design — it will be the biggest, baddest, and best-looking Cannon collection yet! Unburdened by the usual syndicate censors and editors, since it was originally published in the US military newspaper Overseas Weekly for two-and-a-half years in the 1960s and distributed worldwide, Wood pulled out all the stops. He produced a thrilling and salacious Cold War spy serial run amok with brutal violence and titillating sex, all in an effort to boost morale and support our troops! John Cannon is the perfect agent, the exploitative American answer to James Bond. Initially brainwashed to be “the perfect assassin” for the Red forces, Cannon is eventually rescued and brainwashed (again) by the CIA until he has no emotions whatsoever. Filled with men’s men and women with no clothing allowances, Cannon is classic Wally Wood. 292-page oversize (10.75 x 7.5) B&W softcover.
EC Archives: Weird Fantasy Volume 1 (Dark Horse): More digitally remastered classic EC science fiction comics by Bill Gaines, Al Feldstein, Harry Harrison, Gardner Fox, Jack Kamen, Harvey Kurtzman, and Wally Wood! New foreword by Walter Simonson. Collects Weird Fantasy #13-17, plus #6. 216-page color hardcover. Available in April 2014.
The Simon and Kirby Library: Horror (Titan Books): The latest in this exemplary series spotlighting the early work of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. This time up: their scariest and oddest comic book work from Black Magic (which was displayed during the Senate Committee on Juvenile Delinquency, back in the the 1950s) and the experimental Strange World of Your Dreams, featuring odd stories of dream analysis and astrology. Much of this work has never before been collected, nor presented as beautifully restored by the S&K Museum’s Harry Mendryk. Recommended. 320-page color hardcover. Available in March 2014.
Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex Volume 2 (DC Comics): Classic Hex fans (especially Wayne Markley) will be overjoyed by this new collection of Jonah Hex stories from the 1970s. Jonah deals with forces of the supernatural, a shotgun wedding (no, not to a shotgun), as well as deadly battles with both U.S. troops and Native Americans alike. This is the classic era of Jonah Hex, featuring work by writer Michael Fleischer and art by Dan Spiegle, Dick Ayres, Tony Dezuniga, and others — including José Luis García-López, who proves the cover. Collects Weird Western Tales #34-38 and Jonah Hex #1-22. 544-page blood-spattered B&W softcover.
Avengers: Falcon (Marvel Comics): Designed to complement the Falcon’s increased visibility in upcoming animation and film projects, this is a collection of his earliest appearances, including his origin. Bob Greenberger will have more details soon, right here at the Westfield blog. 216-page color softcover.
The Chronicles of Conan Volume 26 (Dark Horse): Collecting Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian #199-205 and Conan Annual 12. 232-page color softcover.
Crime Does Not Pay Archives Volume 7 (Dark Horse): Collecting #46-34 of the popular 1940s true-crime comic title. 280-page color hardcover.
Marvel Masterworks: Daredevil Volume 8 (Marvel Comics): Collecting Daredevil #75-84 plus Black Widow material from Amazing Adventures #1-8. Features work by Gene Colan, with John Buscema, Don Heck, Barry Windsor-Smith, Jon Romita (cover), Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, and others. 312-page color hardcover.
Marvel Masterworks: Fantastic Four Volume 10 (Marvel Comics): Collecting FF #94-104, closing out Jack Kirby’s active contribution to the book, although this collection also includes the completed original version of the “lost” FF issue by Stan & Jack. Also features art by John Romita and Ron Frenz, as well as essays about the Stan & Jack era. 288-page color softcover.
Zero Hour and Other Stories (Fantagraphics): Featuring 22 of the best of artist Jack Kamen’s stories from the classic EC science fiction titles. 168-page B&W hardcover.
THIS MONTH IN CLASSIC COMIC STRIP COLLECTIONS
Popeye: The Classic Newspaper Comics by Bobby London Volume 1: 1986-1989 (IDW/LoAC): It was big news when former underground artist Bobby London (Dirty Duck, Air Pirates) took over the Popeye syndicated strip in 1986. He went on to produce six years of acclaimed material, not only updating the strip to reflect current pop culture, but also creating a wonderful homage to Elzie Segar’s original Thimble Theatre storytelling and characters. Roger Ash will soon have an interview with The Cartoon Art Museum’s Andrew Farago discussing the strip and this project in-depth. 344-page B&W hardcover, the first of two volumes.
Walt Before Skeezix: 1919-1920 (Drawn & Quarterly): Collecting the earliest comics from Frank King’s beloved Gasoline Alley strip, focusing on the adventures of Walt Wallet and his friends before Walt finds baby Skeezix on his front steps, and his life (and the comic strip) changes forever. These entries offer a fascinating time capsule of life in the days when early automobiles shared the roads with horses and buggies, as the country evolved from rural farm communities into an urban, industrialized society. Designed and edited by Chris Ware. 400-page B&W (w/color) hardcover.
Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy Volume 16 (IDW/LoAC): More classic stories and crazy characters including Rughead, Oodles, George Ozone and his wild boys Neki and Hokey, “Nothing” Yonson, Joe Period, and policewoman Lizz. Also features the first return of a previous (and presumed dead) character — Mumbles! Plus, one of Gould’s best and most mature stories, starring Flattop Jr. 260-page oversize (11 x 8.5) B&W hardcover.
Prince Valiant Volume 8: 1951-1952 (Fantagraphics): Fantastically produced collection of Hal Foster’s legendary comic strip. 120-page oversize (10.25 x 14) color hardcover.
Annihilation Omnibus (Marvel Comics): In the last few years, Marvel has done a great job reviving and pumping a lot of new energy into their “cosmic” characters, including the Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, Silver Surfer, Galactus, and Thanos, the Mad Titan. Keith Giffen and later DnA (Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning), as well as other artists and writers, built upon cosmic concepts originally created by Jim Starlin beginning in the 1970s. This new volume collects the original Annihilation storyline from 2006 featuring these works: Drax the Destroyer #1-4, Annihilation: Prologue, Annihilation: Nova #1-4, Annihilation: Silver Surfer #1-4, Annihilation: Super-Skrull #1-4, Annihilation: Ronan #1-6, Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus #1-2, and Annihilation: Nova Corps Files. Primarily written by Giffen and DnA, with art by Mitch Breitweiser, Scott Kolins, Ariel Olivetti, Mike McKone, and many others. Cover by Gabriele Dell’otto. Heroes fall as Annihilus rises! Also features Quasar and Gamora. 880-page oversize color hardcover. Available in May 2014.
Jack Kirby New Gods Artist’s Edition (IDW): Thanks to the Jack Kirby Estate, “The King” now has his first IDW Artist’s Edition, presenting six complete issues of his groundbreaking New Gods series (issues 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, and 8) originally published by DC Comics. If you’re not familiar with the Artist’s Edition format, it’s a meticulous reprinting from original artwork at its original size (in this case 12 x 17), revealing amazing, never-before-seen details of the original art — blue-line pencil constructions, editorial notes, paste-ups and corrections, and other ephemera. Technically, it is B&W work, but since it’s actually scanned in color, it reveals amazing “under the art” detail. Ideal for artists to study and for everybody else to enjoy, these editions are often the work’s ultimate reprinting. Highly recommended. 176-page oversize hardcover. Available in March 2014.
X-Men Adamantium Collection (Marvel Comics): Following up on their popular, super-sized and slipcased Wolverine Adamantium Collection from last year, this year’s version is an up-to-date collection of the Uncanny X-Men’s greatest and most popular stories. From their debut to the original (and young) characters’ recent arrival in the present-day Marvel Universe, this book is the best of the X-Men’s first 50 years! Collecting X-Men #1 (1963 origin by Stan & Jack!), #57-59 (attacked by Sentinels by Roy Thomas and Neal Adams), and #141; Uncanny X-Men #142 (with #141, “Days of Future Past” by Chris Claremont and John Byrne) and #500 (mutant exodus to San Francisco by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Greg Land, and Terry Dodson); Marvel Graphic Novel #5 (“God Loves, Man Kills” by Claremont and Brent Anderson); X-Men (1991) #1-3 (the return of Magneto by Claremont and Jim Lee) and #30 (Cyclops and Jean Grey’s wedding by Fabian Necieza and Andy Kubert); New X-Men (2001) #114-116 (Cassandra Nova’s deadly attack by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely); Astonishing X-Men (2004) #1-6 (a cure for mutation? by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday); and All-New X-Men #1-5 (teens through time by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen). Cover by Alex Ross. 720-page oversized slipcased color hardcover.
BOOKS ABOUT COMICS
American Comic Book Chronicles: 1965-1969 (TwoMorrows): I’ve already beta read this volume, thanks to author John Wells, and this one’s even better than his first volume (which was dedicated to 1960-1964). The late 1960s in comics were a particularly schizophrenic period of comic book history. You not only had great expansion and experimentation but also saw heartbreaking declines in sales as publishers tried everything to avoid raising cover prices just three pennies, from 12 cents to 15 cents. Marvel Comics was finally freed from their restrictive distribution deal, doubled production virtually overnight, and was well on the road to dominating the comic book market and passing the mighty (but declining) DC Comics, who — despite a big push in Bat-sales due to the amazing popularity of the 1966 Batman TV show — found themselves behind the times of expanding pop culture, as well as coping with major behind-the-scenes changes in their management and operations. DC is best-known in this era for their commitment to experimentation, creating a bunch of quirky characters (such as the Creeper, Bat Lash, Angel and the Ape, and Brother Power, The Geek) who were all fun, but ultimately sales-challenged. Upstart Tower Comics (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents) and Charlton, the little-comic-company-that-could, are also fully documented.
Despite attempts to expand the market, overall sales (except for Marvel’s) continued to slip, and smaller publishers and once-popular genres of comics were starting to fade away. Westerns were mostly already gone, with romance soon to follow, but the saddest thing to watch was the flood of comic books aimed specifically at kids that were beginning to disappear, largely because of the behind-the-scenes schism between the once dynamic Dell comics (who began a long downhill slide during this era) and upstart dynamo Gold Key. This is also the era where the once 100% kid-friendly genre of superheroes gradually became more sophisticated (read: mature) which is also fully documented by Wells here, although that trend wouldn’t really reach its zenith until the 1980s.
Wells’ writing is both lively and sly, packed with facts without becoming overwhelmed in unnecessary detail. He covers with great enthusiasm both the four-color characters and their histories, as well as the fascinating (and occasionally frustrating) personalities who create the comics. With two separate volumes for “his” decade, Wells takes advantage of his extra space to also document projects tangential to mainstream comic books, including the growing number of B&W magazines and early self-publishing projects of this era, as well as mentioning the major events in the world of comic strips, which he has an obvious passion for.
Usually, comic book histories concentrate on specific eras, or publishers, or genres, or characters, or creators. TwoMorrows’ American Comic Book Chronicles covers them all in this groundbreaking series of history books for everyone. And Wells is one of their best documenters (so far). As I mentioned earlier, I’ve already read this book, and I can’t wait to read it again, this time packed with hundreds of well-chosen comic covers and other examples of the best artwork comic books have to offer. 224-page color hardcover.
Marvel Encyclopedia: 75th Anniversary Edition (DK): 75 years of Marvel history is disseminated in this latest edition of DK’s popular comic book encyclopedias. This already overstuffed book gains 16 pages of material on new characters and revisions to older ones, with other updates also included in this fully revised, extended, and updated project. Packed with great artwork from throughout Marvel’s long history. New forward by Stan Lee. 432-page oversize (10 x 12) hardcover.
KC CARLSON: Planning ahead for my eventual kidnapping, I have now learned how to type while trapped in a big black bag. I can also now play croquet in a big black bag. Take that, National Olympic Committee. (Croquet was last an Olympic event in 1904. I was there.)
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.