Too Much Cool Stuff – Not Enough $$$! – August ‘09

SugarShock cover

SugarShock cover

by KC Carlson

Long-time Westfield readers might remember that I used to do a regular recommendations column back in the days when our computers still ran on coal. For those many thousands of generations of comics fans who were born since then, I’d like to explain, for a second or two, how my recommendations work, since there’s no real overt logic at work here.

I tend to stay away from the real blockbuster stuff. That stuff is always way-overhyped and, frankly, you’ve already made up your mind if you’re buying or not months ago. These columns are often about upcoming products that don’t get the big push, or about quirky items that pique my interest. I’m an old guy, so my choices tend to run towards the historical or comic-culturally important as opposed to some new collection that’s announced even before the storyline wraps up. Sometimes a new project will remind me of an old project or creator, so I might talk about that. Or, more often than I would like, something really goofy (not the dog – or whatever the hell he is) will pop up and I… MUST… MOCK… IT! Although, I am getting better at controlling myself as time marches on.

Anyway, bottom line – I’m generally talking off the top of my head here. Hopefully, these columns will regularly appear the Monday following the week that the Westfeld website gets updated with the hundreds of monthly new items.

And off we go…

Abe Sapien cover

Abe Sapien cover

In reaction to fans’ comments (possibly including mine) about endless multi-part storylines, Dark Horse has announced a series of one-shot, done-in-one stories featuring some of their best-known characters and creators. Starting in October, their One-Shot Wonders line will feature books staring B.P.R.D.’s Abe Sapien, Star Wars: Invasion, and Sugarshock – written by Joss Whedon and winner of an Eisner Award for Best Web Comic (where it originally appeared at My Space Dark Horse Presents). In the coming months, we’ll be treated to special one-shots of Conan, Buffy, Hellboy, The Goon, Star Wars: Purge, and Dr. Horrible – spinning out of Whedon’s breakout internet and DVD cult sensation! Yay, one-shots!

There are also a lot of great humor comics out this month to tickle your funnybone, and by no coincidence whatsoever,

Groo The Hogs of Horder #1 cover

Groo The Hogs of Horder #1 cover

Dark Horse has some of the best of ‘em. There’s the debut of a new Groo mini-series – Groo: The Hogs of Horder – by Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier, a new “classic “ collection of Little Lulu – Miss Feeny’s Folly and Other Stories – by John Stanley and Irving Tripp, and a pretty nifty 60th Anniversary collection of everybody’s favorite friendly ghost – reprinting both First Issues (long story) of Casper the Friendly Ghost in a handsome, fully restored full color hardcover collection. Or, if you just want something to sit on your desk and look funny, look no further than the Herbie vinyl figure (complete with lollipop!), Gladstone Gander in the most-excellent Uncle Scrooge Classic Character series of figurines, or, of course, everyone’s favorite comic book shop owner (next to Sherill, of course) – The Simpsons Comic Book Guy figure! Classics all!

Casper and the Spectrals #1

Casper and the Spectrals #1

Speaking of Casper, there’s an all-new version of the the ghostest-with-the-mostest in Casper and the Spectrals #1 from Ardden Entertainment in October. I’m not so sure about the character redesigns (Hot Stuff as Sk8er Boi? Wendy as… well, I dunno, but it’s interesting that her classic hoodie is now back in style. Not so much the footies, tho…), but my pal Todd Dezago is writing it, so it stands a pretty good chance of being at least interesting (and funny!). BTW, this is not the first time Wendy has been redesigned – check out this cover from Wendy and The New Kids On The Block #1 (of 3) from 1991, courtesy of the Grand Comics Database. Hope this makeover works out a little better for you this time, cutie!

Speaking of Mr. Dezago, he and everyone over at Perhapanauts Central have been scrambling to get back on a fairly regular schedule, and the new Perhapanauts Halloween Spooktacular #1 looks like a great start! With three stories, drawn by regular ‘Naut Craig Rousseau and special guest ‘Nauts Rich Woodall and Fred Hembeck and all written by Todd, this special one-shot will have four, count ‘em, four covers! Including one by Mike Ploog! But the best news is that you don’t have to buy four copies of the book to get them! All 4 covers are included with each and every copy! Just another special treat by the creators of the best comic book about Cryptozoology out there!

Bart Simpson Comics #50

Bart Simpson Comics #50

And speaking of Sergio Aragones (as we were a couple of ‘graphs back), he’s also showing off his unique style of cartooning in Bongo’s Bart Simpson #50, where he becomes a regular featured writer and artist. Interestingly, his drawing style on the Simpsons is not that far removed from the embryonic Simpsons shorts that first appeared on the Tracey Ullman Show back in 1987 (which spun off the cartoon into its own series) and also not unlike creator Matt Groening’s first drawings of America’s most dysfunctional family. One to watch for.

Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck HC

Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck HC

I’m also very curious to watch Boom! Studio’s acquisition of the comic book rights to the classic Disney comic books (Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck and Friends, Mickey Mouse and Friends, and Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories). Based on the fantastic success Boom! has had with their Muppets and Pixar comic lines, I am expecting great things! I’ve been already impressed with their modern-looking cover designs for the Disney books and am very happy that the books are now more moderately priced. But Boom! hasn’t forgotten about the Disney collectors either – this month sees the announcement of a first-time, gorgeous hardcover collection of Don Rosa’s wonderful The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Vol. 1, as well as a hardcover collection of Disney Christmas Classics stories.

Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s twisted comic book history continues in Comic Book Comics #4. This new issue covers the rise of Marvel Comics (with a Stan Lee and the Marvel Bullpen cover), the underground comix revolution, and this history of Tintin. Not your normal comic book.

Bloom County Complete Library Volume 1

Bloom County Complete Library Volume 1

In terms of upscale presentations of classic newspaper strips, IDW is right there at the top of the very best, and it’s a pleasure to announce the first volume in a relatively recent classic newspaper humor strip – and a personal favorite – Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County: The Complete Library Volume One. The first of five volumes, this book includes every strip from December 8, 1980, through September 26, 1982, in chronological order and put together with IDW’s exacting production standards. Most strips were shot from either printer’s proofs or Breathed’s original artwork, and Sunday pages will be presented in color. In addition, there will be occasional context pages, discussing topical matters with which the strip often dealt. While I’m typing this, my stuffed pals Bill the Cat (one of the most horrible stuffed animals ever made and a previous *Ack!* Westfield Newsletter cover feature a bazillion years ago) and giant Opus are watching over my typing, eagerly awaiting – with me – the first volume of this great series. [And, hey, editor/designer Dean Mullaney, don’t forget about the Billy and the Boingers flexidisc – one of the “greatest” fake bands in the history of fake bands – for the appropriate upcoming volume!] Bob Greenberger will take a closer look at this series here at the blog very soon. Watch for it on Wednesday!

DC Library Shazam and the Monster Society of Evil HC

DC Library Shazam and the Monster Society of Evil HC

DC Comics contributes to this month’s “theme” of great classic humor with their collection of the extremely historical original Captain Marvel storyline in Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil, a part of their DC Comics Classic Library line of archival hardcovers. Clocking in at a massive 272 pages with a 25-part storyline, The Monster Society of Evil was the longest continued story of the Golden Age. It introduced Mr. Mind and several other classic Captain Marvel villains, and it is generally considered to be the very first villain-team-up (of ongoing villain characters) in comics. Written by Otto Binder and illustrated by C. C. Beck, and previously only collected once – in a non-DC, very limited edition – The Monster Society of Evil is one of the true milestones of the original Captain Marvel’s run, and of the Golden Age as well.

Act-I-Vate Primer HC

Act-I-Vate Primer HC

Those of you who like your comics a bit on the alternative side should be on the lookout for IDW’s Act-i-vate Primer, a new anthology title with 16 all-new stories by some of the top creators in the business including Nick Bertozzi (The Salon), Dean Haspiel (The Alcoholic), and Roger Landridge (The Muppet Show comic book). Also of interest on the indy front is The Best American Comics 2009, the fourth collection of the series. This year’s collection is edited by Charles Burns and includes work by the usual suspects (Crumb, Spiegleman, Ware, Millionaire, Lutes, Clowes, Panther, Bagge, Pond, G. Hernandez, and many, many others). Superhero fans will most likely be lost here, but these books are great for those fans who love the artform and are ready for, and open to, a larger world beyond capes and fights.

Created and Produced by Total Television Productions

Created and Produced by Total Television Productions

Animation fans will be very interested in Created by Total Television Productions, a new paperback by animation historian Mark Arnold covering a long-lost, largely undocumented chapter of animation history: The “lost” work of TTV, the production company responsible for the great 1960s TV cartoons Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo, King Leonardo, and the Go-Go Gophers, among many others. It’s touted as a companion to the excellent The Moose That Roared, an incredibly in-depth history of the Jay Ward cartoons (Rocky & Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, George of the Jungle and many others).

Finally, a recommendation that I hope will start a dialogue in the comments section below. I want to wholeheartedly recommend the X-Men: Asgardian Wars hardcover because of the great artwork of fan-favorites Paul Smith and Arthur Adams (as well as the actually fun X-stories of Chris Claremont) but I have a problem in doing so, based on potential production quality issues. You see, I remember that when these issues were first published, it was the dawn of the age of Flexographic printing for comics, and the good folks at the long-gone Sparta, Illinois, printing plant were still working out the bugs in this seemingly too-tough-to-be-tamed printing technique. Early comics printed with this system featured artwork with thin black lines (like Art Adams’ work!) being broken or not printing at all, too-bright color values, and the occasional splotchy printing with huge areas where color dropped out completely. (For other horrible examples of early Flexographic comic printing, see DC’s original printings of Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 and Who’s Who In the DC Universe #1 & 2.)

X-Men Asgardian Wars HC

X-Men Asgardian Wars HC

Many of the early bugs with the Flexograph had to do with the fact that they stopped printing with traditional metal plates and replaced them with a more flexible plastic printing plate, which tended to not hold its shape (or details) under the heat of high-speed presses, leading to the problems mentioned above. Anyway, in the early days of Marvel’s first book collections (admittedly decades ago), the company took a lot of criticism for not upgrading their printing standards for their new book collections, including often printing from poor quality color seps or film, and not updating their production techniques (like recoloring or re-separating). A lot of the early Marvel trade paperbacks are not of high print quality. Since then, I’ve seen great advancement in their standards for their high-end books such as the Masterworks and Omnibus series. But I don’t buy a lot of their regular trades and collections. Have they improved the production quality in those as well – especially those with material more than 10-15 years old? Knowing how bad the original printings of these comics were back when they were first published, I’m concerned that the print quality should be of a higher standard here, especially in a $35 hardcover collection. Readers, please help me set the record straight regarding Marvel’s current collections.

CREATOR WATCH:

Drawing Down The Moon cover

Drawing Down The Moon cover

Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess will probably be the most breathtakingly beautiful book published this month, filled with the rich fantasy art of Vess. This 200-page hardcover collection (shipping in December) is published by Dark Horse.

Greg Rucka’s newest creator-owned title – Stumptown – begins in October from Oni Press, illustrated by Matthew Southworth. It looks to be another great detective noir story from Rucka, featuring a female P.I. lead who’s down on her luck and hoping that her new case is a way out of the hole.

Mike Grell returns to provide the artwork for the upcoming Warlord #7 and 8. It’s Grell’s first interior work on the title since its recent revival. Hope Grell gets along with the current regular writer on the series – Mike Grell! Speaking of Grell, his Jon Sable, Freelance storyline Ashes of Eden #1 is finally in print from IDW in October!

Mark Wheatley’s Frankenstein Mobster garnered big buzz when it was serialized a while ago. Now collected as a 264-page trade paperback, this volume also includes additional story pages, lots of behind-the-scenes information, and a huge gallery of Mobster art from the industry’s top A-Listers, including Adam Hughes, Mike Wieringo, and Bernie Wrightson. Watch for Roger Ash’s great interview with Mark about this very project, coming soon to the blog! [It will be up tomorrow – Roger]

Since it’s been a couple of years, you might like to be alerted to the fact that Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s long-awaited final issue of Planetary (#27) is scheduled to ship in October from WildStorm. Hope there’s a recap. I’ve read several hundred comics since then…

Pride and Prejudice HC

Pride and Prejudice HC

MADE ME LAUGH – The mock-Cosmo-style cover to Marvel’s hardcover collection of (non-Bullpenner) Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. (“How to CURE your BOY-CRAZY SISTERS!”) Genius!

KC CARLSON: Buying and reading comics since 1960. (Yikes!)

Purchase:
Abe Sapien
Star Wars: Invasion
Sugarshock
Groo: The Hogs of Horder #1
Little Lulu: Miss Feeny’s Folly and Other Stories
Casper the Friendly Ghost 60th Anniversary HC
Herbie Vinyl Figure
Uncle Scrooge Comic Character Statue #5: Gladstone Gander
Simpsons Classic Character Statue #5: Comic Book Guy
Casper and the Spectrals #1
Perhapanauts Halloween Spooktacular #1
Bart Simpson Comics #50
Uncle Scrooge #384
Donald Duck and Friends #347
Mickey Mouse and Friends #297
Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #700
The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Vol. 1
Walt Disney’s Christmas Classics
Comic Book Comics #4
Bloom County: The Complete Library Volume One
DC Library: Shazam and The Monster Society of Evil
Act-i-vate Primer
The Best American Comics 2009
Created and Produced by Total Television Productions
X-Men: Asgardian Wars
Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess
Stumptown #1
Warlord #7
Jon Sable, Freelance: Ashes of Eden #1
Frankenstein Mobster
Planetary #27
Pride and Prejudice

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