Thursday, October 12, 2017

Comics Lust 10/14/2017

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/wounded weekend warrior Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). A couple of weeks ago, I was sick and my puppy executive team did a marvelous job of nursing me back to health. This week, it’s Tulip’s turn to receive a little TLC when she started limping Wednesday afternoon. After a quick trip to the vet, and thankfully no broken bones, she’s on anti-inflammation medication and taking it easy watching the latest episode of FOX’s television show Gifted. Anyhow, Reverse Obie is here with some snacks, so grab yourself a pumpkin ale or a strong ginger ale, tune in to Gifted, and after that check out some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

Modern Times, Modern Monsters (Part 1)

Way back in the first chapter, I took a look at some comic book takes on the Universal Monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy, The Werewolf. This time, we’re looking at some of the monsters from the ’70s to now, so long as they aren’t wrapped in bandages, stitched together by a mad scientist, able to turn into a bat, or inflicted with lycanthropy. We’re looking at something new.

I already know I’m going to be mentioning Swamp Thing quite often throughout the course of Comics Lust, but that’s because of the monumental impact the character has had on my life. The first incarnation of Swamp Thing appeared in a standalone tale in the pages of House of Secrets #92 (written by Len Wein and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson for DC Comics in 1971), where the character Alex Olsen was betrayed by his friend, Damian Ridge, and seemingly died in a lab explosion, leaving Alex’s wife, Linda, at Damian’s mercy. But Alec does not die and is instead transformed into a swamp monster. Fans loved this story so much, DC decided to have Wein and Wrightson bring the character into the present with his own series in 1972’s Swamp Thing #1.

In this series, our forlorn hero is now botanist Alec Holland whose lab is sabotaged with a bomb that douses him in his secret plant formula which ignites and sends the burning Holland plummetting into the nearby swamp. He later crawls from the muck to seek vengeance on those who tried to kill him, but more importantly, to try to restore his lost humanity. The series is again steeped in horror with the occasional superhero run-in, but it’s issue #10, where the Swamp Thing meets the misshapen monstrosity Anton Arcane and his Un-Men, that I was first introduced to Wrightson’s oh-so-gorgeous art. This is also the day that I learned that not all artists are the same. The series ran for 24 issues before being canceled.

Almost a decade later, The Saga of the Swamp Thing saw the return of my beloved character only this time written by Martin Pasko and illustrated by Tom Yeates. The book progressed as a series of predominately standalone issues focusing more on the horror elements, some of which I still absolutely adore, but it was the introduction of writer Alan Moore to the series in issue #20, and artists Stephen Bissette and John Totleben that turned a very-good horror title into a must-read comic that is still one of my top-five comic book series of all time. I will not spoil the immediate twist that Moore introduces into Alec’s world, but it is something that forever changed the character, and completely blew my mind at the time. Moore left the series with issue #64, but not before introducing the mysterious John Constantine to the world in issue #37—Constantine would go on to star in his own book, Hellblazer, in 1988 for an impressive 300 issues.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing—eventually shortened to Swamp Thing–ran for 171 issues before being canceled and during that time included such talents as Rick Veitch, Nancy Collins, Grant Morrison, and Mark Millar, among others on writing duties. A third volume by Brian K. Vaughan came out in 2000, a fourth in 2004 by Andy Diggle, and fifth volume that I very much enjoyed written by Scott Snyder and artist Yanick Paquette when DC started their ”New 52“ initiative. Finally, a six-issue mini-series from creator Len Wein and illustrated by Kelley Jones came out in 2016, that I have not yet read that I desperately need to get my hands on.

Now, DC was not the only one with a swamp monster in their comic book stable, Marvel had one of their own: Man-Thing. He also predated Swamp Thing by almost two years. Man-Thing, created by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, was once Ted Sallis, a biochemist who creates a special serum that he hopes will mimic the Super-Soldier Serum that created Captain America, and who injects himself with the serum because of evil forces, crashes his car in the swamp, and is reborn as the crimson-eyed, root-faced Man-Thing. Sound kinda familiar? Just remember that Man-Thing came first…oh, and that Conway and Wein just so happened to be roommates at the time of publication. Thankfully, no one was sued.

I had a few Man-Thing comics lying around and it seemed as if he was popping up in plenty of the comics I had in my growing comics pile, but it was the Power Records Man-Thing: Night of the Laughing Dead reprint of Man-Thing #5 that I regularly listened to and read to freak myself out on a regular basis. For those not familiar with the deep catalogue of Power Records, the company took popular comics from Marvel, DC, and other publishers that they reprinted on heavier stock paper and that included a 45 rpm record that had voice actors, sound effects, and a score so you could read the comic as you listened along. My brother and I LOVED these things and had a ton of them, but Man-Thing: Night of the Laughing Dead was probably a bit more than we should have been listening to. The story concerned a clown at the end of his ropes who commits suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and comes back as a ghost who haunts the swamp. There’re some bad guys causing grief to some not so bad guys, creepy carnival folk, and of course, a hulking muck-monster whose touch burns those who know fear. I can still hear that spooky carnival music in my mind, but more than anything, the Mike Ploog art completely blew me away as did his lovely swamp backdrops. Man-Thing was the perfect complement to my love of Swamp Thing and I often imagined what would happen if the two ever met.

The Steve Gerber written issues are leaps and bounds my favorite Man-Thing stories, and the best way to get a heaping dose of his take on ol’ Ted Sallis is through the recently released Man-Thing by Steve Gerber Complete Collection: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. But for those who want to get an even deeper exposure to this tragic character, the following books will keep you busy for a good long while:

Just remember, “He who knows fear, burns at the touch of the Man-Thing!”

Continuing with my very early years, I fell completely in love with Jack Kirby’s The Demon (1972) before I ever read any of the 16 issues in the run. At the time, DC frequently placed ads within their own comics, and it was there that I saw the glorious first issue of the yellow-skinned, tiny-horned, crimson-eyed, webbed-earred Etrigan the Demon. I desperately wanted this comic, but I would have to wait until my early teens before I stumbled across a battered collection of the issues at a nearby yard sale. Etrigan is a literal demon who was magically linked to a human, Jason Blood, centuries prior by none other than Merlin the Magician. Man and demon switch places when necessary with Blood only calling on his demonic counterpart in the direst of situations. To my great excitement in 1987, my hero Matt Wagner wrote and illustrated a dark, mysterious four-issue mini-series that I still reread on a regular basis. Action Comics Weekly #636–641 had an Etrigan feature that I have not read, and the demonic rhymer also had his own series for 60 issues and two annuals that, for a time, featured Garth Ennis on writing duties. There was even a short-lived ensemble of characters with Etrigan at the center titled Demon Knights, which ran for 24 issues before being canceled (written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Diogenes Neves, 2011). More than anything, Etrigan and Jason Blood continue to live on as occasional supporting characters in a multitude of books, with one of my absolute favorites being in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing #25–27 and also in a few early issues of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.

Given that DC created a swamp monster character (Swamp Thing) after Marvel created a swamp monster (Man-Thing)—which came after yet another swamp monster known as The Heap in 1942’s Air Fighters Comics #3 (written by Harry Stein, illustrated by Mort Leav, published by Hillman), it stands to reason that Marvel would see The Demon and come up with a demon of their own, or rather, they would bring to life The Gargoyle. The Gargoyle is an orange-skinned, tiny-horned, crimson-eyed, webbed-earred, tiny winged gargoyle. When the elderly Isaac Christians sells his soul to a demonic collective known as the Six-Fingered Hand in return for their help in saving his dying town, the result is Christians being transferred into the body of a gargoyle meant to do the Six-Fingered Hand’s bidding. The Gargoyle joins The Defenders to defeat the demons and Christians becomes a member of the superhero team. The Gargoyle was created by J.M DeMatteis and even had his own four-issue mini-series, The Gargoyle (written by DeMatteis, illustrated by Mark Badger, 1985) that I still very much enjoy.

We haven’t even touched on any of the indie comics monsters, but that will be for next time when we look at a certain hero with a massive red right hand, a supernatural group of monsters that I will have finally been able to read before we return back to Marvel to check under the hood of a certain flame-headed stuntman.

This Week’s Reading List

The Dying & the Dead #6 (Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Ryan Bodenheim, colored by Michael Garland, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics) After some fairly substantial delays, The Dying & the Dead appears to mostly be back on track. Thank goodness for that. Last issue was mostly a flashback war issue that had almost no link to the supernatural elements that initially drew me in with the prior four books. I still have zero clue as to who these stark-white, immortal beings are, but for a comic of this caliber, I’m happy to wait and see. Oh, and I still love love love Bodenheim and Garland’s stunning art. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Mister Miracle #3 (Written by Tom King, illustrated by Mitch Gerads, lettered by no idea as there is no credits page in this issue, published by DC Comics) Yup. Still no clue what the heck is going on other than Scott Free (Mister Miracle) seems to be descending further into depression/madness with each passing moment, but dang if this book is not gorgeously written and illustrated. I can’t wait for issue four. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Black Science #32 (Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Matteo Scalera, colored by Moreno Dinisio, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics) All Grant McCay wants is to bring his family and his life back together, but given Kadir’s treachery and Grant’s past arrogance, that might not be possible…not to mention the millipede death cult or the interdimensional space ghosts that are fighting for dominance of Earth because of the scientists’ actions. Still great. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Paper Girls #16 (Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matt Wilson, lettered and designed by Jared K. Fletcher, flats by Dee Cunniffe, published by Image Comics) The girls are separated once again, but at least they’re no longer in the Stone Age. Unfortunately, the year 2000 might not be that big of an improvement. Thankfully, it looks like their biggest fan might be able to Help them out. Yup, this is still great, too. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Royal City #6 (Everythinged by Jeff Lemire, lettered by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics) I have not read this issue yet, but given how much I have enjoyed reading the first arc, and my trust in Jeff Lemire, it’s a safe bet I’m going to like this issue a whole heck of a lot.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Comics Lust 10/07/2017

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/replicant reformer Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Yup, It was my birthday on Thursday and you know what that means: eating cake, burgers, fries, cookies, and a mint chip ice cream cake all washed down with a DIPA and a Treat Yo’ Self-sized bourbon barrel aged pumpkin coffee porter. I spell this H-E-A-V-E-N-L-Y. Toss in some Over the Garden Wall (streaming on HULU, definitely check out this beautiful cartoon) and the pilot episode of Gifted (love it thus far) and you have one heck of a great birthday. Oh, yeah, the Donist World office (Mom’s basement) was closed Friday to keep the festivities rolling and to see the masterful Blade Runner 2049 (which is now one of my all-time-favorite sci-fi movies). Anyhow, grab yourself a pumpkin ale or a strong ginger ale, turn on some ’80s-style synthwave, open your tome-sized Werewolf by Night Omnibus, and check out some great comics while you’re at it. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

Hey Hey We’re the Zombies!

I want to say that because it’s the beginning of October, it’s the time for spooky comics, but for me, scary comics are a year-round event. This goes doubly so when it comes to monsters. I don’t care if they have fangs, or claws, or scales, or if they’re big as buildings. They can come from the farthest reaches of outerspace or from the darkest depths of the ocean; I’m in. Today, however, we’re staying on land. Rooted. Grounded. Six feet under, to be precise. This genre is by no means dead but is rather evergreen. Whether it shambles or moves with a hunger-driven fury, we’re talking about…zombies.

You cannot have a proper conversation about the undead without talking about the most popular zombie franchise in the world. I am, of course, talking about the amazing The Walking Dead, published by Image Comics. Written by the now immensely wealthy Robert Kirkman, originally illustrated (first six issues) by Tony Moore and then by Charlie Adlard who has—as of this writing—illustrated over 160 issues in the series, The Walking Dead has become not just a smash hit as a comic, but also in the world of television, toys, merchandise, and video games. I count myself among the fans of the television show, which is now in its seventh season and includes different characters and only loosely follows the source material, but it is the comic book that introduced me to lead character Rick Grimes. It’s the comic that I return to again and again when I want to be scared, emotionally scarred, and freaked out all at the same time.

Now, I was a little late to The Walking Dead series, but after taking a peek at the first trade while passing time in a now dead bookstore chain, I immediately ordered the four available trades and powered through them through them once they arrived on my doorstep. I was in agonized love. I HAD to get the next installment the moment it came out, and then the next, and the next, and the next. I immediately cared for Rick, Carl, Shane, Maggie, Glenn, Michone, Tyreese, and the many many others who come into the story and who, more often than not, forever left the series in the most violent of ways. At one point, I had my wife, my brother, and about four of our friends reading the book, and although none of them are still following along—my wife tapped out during the brutal chapters concerning the Governor—there was a brief period of time that some non-comic readers were excited to be reading comics; it was kind of nice.

For those who have just recently escaped from their ’80s-style bomb shelter, The Walking Dead is a Night of the Living Dead style of zombie. Meaning, they are slow, shambling, rotting corpses that are frightening enough on their own, but when two, three, tens, or hundreds show up, that is when things become utterly terrifying. But the zombies aren’t necessarily the worst this world has to offer. It’s the other survivors that pose the biggest threat: the ones who have cast aside the morals of their former world to gather power, to survive at any cost, and to take what they want from whoever crosses their path. The term “the walking dead” does not mean the dead who have risen with their ungodly hunger, but rather it refers to the still living whose days are numbered until they too die and turn into a flesh-eating monstrosity; there are plenty of threats living and undead eagerly wanting to help the cast of characters find their ultimate end. If you have been holding off on reading this powerful and compelling series, then you simply must pick up the first massive compendium and see for yourself why this comic has taken the world by storm. Be warned, though, it will not be an easy ride, but as devastating as certain events are you won’t be able to turn away or resist seeing what comes next.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I now really, really, really want to read the old Marvel Comics Tales of the Zombie, but it is of course currently out of print. This story originally appeared in a 1973 black and white magazine that ran for ten issues and an annual and featured partial nudity, some profanity, and was a lot more graphic in its violence as it was able to skirt the dreaded regulatory Comics Code Authority. Originally based off of a short story from the ’50s by Stan Lee and artist Bill Everett, the zombie idea was resurrected by fan-favorite-of-the-bizarre Steve Gerber along with co-writer Roy Thomas who told the story of Simon Garth, a man brought back from the dead to seek out vengeance upon those who wronged him. Artist Pablo Marcos illustrated the first few issues of the magazine before a rotation of different artists and writers took a turn at telling Simon Garth’s story. I am committed to finding and reading Tales of the Zombie in the very near future. The search is on.

On the flip side of the zombie coin is the fast flesheater. Forget the moaning, groaning, shambling mass of decay slowly making its way towards you. With this new type of zombie, they are fast and they do not tire, and I have seen no better example of this breed of undead than in the unnerving 28 Days Later. Originally a fantastic movie (one of my favorites), and with a possibly even scarier followup film called 28 Weeks Later, the comic focuses on the time between the two films as a survivor from the first film, Selena, returns to the UK in an effort to help save a lost team from the infected, US forces, and impending doom. Not everyone will make it out alive. Written by Michael Alan Nelson, illustrated by Declan Shalvey and Alesandro Aragon, published by Boom Studios, this tense 24-issue thriller works perfectly on its own, but is made even better if you’ve already seen the movies. I anticipate coming back to this some day soon.

For those who can’t be too long apart from their capes and tights and superheroes, there is an option: Marvel Zombies. A double bonus for fans of The Walking Dead is that the first mini was written by none other that Robert Kirkman. Now, I have little experience with this fan-favorite pocket universe of series, but from what I did read the gist is that an alien virus brings the dead back to life, infecting numerous deceased heroes and villains, who go on to infect living heroes and villains, who then try to infect everyone else, all while retaining their powers and abilities. What I did read of the series was quite fun and a nice break from the usual events and continuity challenges, and something I might eventually return to. Here are the books that comprise the Marvel Zombieverse:
I’m certain I missed something in the Marvel Zombieverse list above, but given the vast amounts of material out there, there’s plenty to work through before you scramble to find the odd one-shots and specials I managed to omit.

My first real foray into the world of zombie comic books came in the ’80s with the arrival of the monumental Deadworld comic from the Arrow/Caliber publishers and written by Stuart Kerr and illustrated by Vince Locke. Where as most zombie stories have the dead rise as a result of humanity meddling where it should not, Deadworld opted for more of a supernatural explanation. Of course, there were your regular zombies decimating the world while pockets of surviving humans struggled to survive, but this series had brutal, towering four-armed monstrosities and an unnerving, highly-intelligent, motorcycle-riding Zombie King commanding them all. Like The Walking Dead, which followed many years later, major characters in this series died and suffered throughout the course of the story. I somehow lost track of the series given the many jumps from publisher to publisher and there was even a reboot at one point. The best way to get the full Deadworld experience is through Calibers’s nine Archive Editions and then move onto the reboot with IDW’s Deadworld Omnibus. Just thinking about this series from my youth has me eager to see how it all ended and how it all began anew.

For those not wanting to take a gnarly plunge into a massive series, it’s always possible to find a short zombie story or storyline in one of your own favorite existing comics. Marshal Law (written by Pat Mills, illustrated by Kevin O’Neill, published by DC Comics), my favorite post-apocalyptic anti-hero comic, is a humorous, sarcastic critique of the superheroes and their nonsensical stories and featured zombie heroes in The Hateful Dead. I will definitely touch upon the good Marshal in another chapter, as I love all of his appearances, but just know he gets to slap some zombies around and it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Speaking of fun, and another title that will get a couple extended mentions in the future, is The Goon, which sees the goonish Goon and his pal Frankie fighting the Zombie King, zombie mobsters, fishmen, robots, hobos, and all sorts of oddball characters in a humorously written and gorgeously illustrated series by superstar Eric Powell. Finally, with the dreaded holidays rapidly approaching, you might just want to see what happens when Jolly Ol’ St. Nick has to take on the wicked dead with guns and knives and whatever comes to his mittened hand in The Last Christmas (written by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, illustrated by Rick Remender, published by Image Comics). There are plenty of other fine zombie books out there, but those are for another day.

The Week’s Reading List

Strikeforce: Morituri Volume 1 (Written by Peter B. Gillis, illustrated by Brent Anderson, published by Marvel Comics) I really don’t know how this gem got by me back when it came out in 1986, but after hearing some of my comic book buddies heap tons of praise on the series, coupled with a massive digital sale at Amazon, I decided to give it a shot; I’m glad I did. After an alien invasion pummels the Earth, humanity decides to strike back with a might of their own. Through the Morituri process, carefully chosen soldiers are given immense strength and endurance as well as other random abilities. This is good. This is great. There’s only one drawback: the process will kill the host at some point before a year has passed. Anderson’s art is stunning, the story and characters are compelling, and the mystery of never knowing when a hero’s time is over creates tremendous tension throughout. It’s startling when one character can be saving the day one moment only to have their life extinguished immediately afterwards. I have heard the last third of the series whiffs after a creative team change, but I definitely need to see what happens up until then.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Comics Lust 9/30/2017

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/burrito aficionado Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). It’s been kind of a meh week this week. Nothing good, but nothing bad, so there’s that. If anything, my puppy executive team and I continue to strive toward maintaining our status as a Fortune 320,000 company. We are, however, excited for October to bring its pumpkin flavored goodies which we intend to consume while we read the Werewolf by Night Omnibus I bought for the office (Mom’s basement) as an early birthday Treat-Yo'-Self; I’m so excited! Anyhow, grab yourself a pumpkin ale or a strong ginger ale, turn on some ’80s-style synthwave, and check out some great comics while you’re at it. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

Something Borrowed, Something Weird (Part 1)

One of the best things about comic books is that they can be anything you want them to be. Open one and you have superheroes who wear their underwear on the outside of their clothes, another will lead you to the mysteries of outer space, while another the ocean’s darkest depths. You can have love, drama, comedy, crime, dragons, anything. But there are those certain days when I don’t want anything that’s too realistic, grounded, or that overly pulls at the heartstrings. Comics are a means of escape. A way to visit new worlds while leaving all your worries behind, and there is no better way to do that than to embrace the utterly strange, the comically bizarre, and the wonderfully weird.
Now, I am going to have to ask you to bear with me as I try to describe what some of these books are actually about as one in particular just baffles the mind, which I mean as a compliment of the highest order. You would generally expect the more oddball offerings to come strictly from the indies, but the Big Two have a few doozies up their sleeves to keep you scratching your head but smiling the whole time.

Chew is one the craziest, funniest, most interesting comics I have ever had the good fortune to read and is written by John Layman, illustrated by Rob Guillory, and published by Image Comics. Essentially, a large portion of the Earth’s population was decimated by a deadly avian flu resulting in a ban on eating chicken and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) becoming the number one governmental agency. Follow me thus far? Okay, here’s where things get different…Tony Chu, a police detective investigating murders and underground chicken dinner joints, uses his abilities as a cibopath to catch the worst of the worst. What is a cibopath, you say? Well, a cibopath is a person who gains a psychic impression from anything they eat; anything except for beets. So, if Tony takes a bite of an apple, he can see the person who picked it or tell the general climate of the orchard, as well as any other specifics pertaining to that apple. If he were to take a bite of steak…let’s just say he prefers to be a vegetarian. Where Tony’s gift really comes in handy is on homicides, where one smallish bite of a victim can tell him plenty about the killer. Gross, but there you have it.

Be prepared for the unconventional, as Guillory’s art on Chew is outlandish and unlike any other comics on the stand, but startled as I was at first, it grew on before I finished the first issue. Part of the charm of this book is taking the time to enjoy the many sight gags tucked away in the backgrounds of each installment. You honestly never know what to expect from issue to issue as aliens, deadly luchador chickens (this being Poyo!), vampires, and a whole host of other weirdos with confounding food-based powers weave their way in and out of the story. Layman’s writing is wacky yet sincere and never comes off as trying too hard; this is just how his wonderful brain actually works. As nutty as the comic might be, there is a compelling story with strong characters and a few shockingly heartbreaking moments that make this series an absolute treasure if you can past the occasional gross parts. The good thing if you have not yet read this must-read series is that after 60 issues, 3 Poyo specials, and a Chew/Revival crossover, Chew has ended exactly how its creators intended and on their terms. This is one I will definitely reread every couple of years or so.

Just because something is classified as being “weird” does not mean it has to be wacky or cartoony—although that can be part of the allure—it can be ethereal, thought-provoking, a general thing of beauty. So it is with the lovely Tale of Sand. This hardcover treasure from publisher Archaia Entertainment is based on the recently discovered screenplay from none other than Jim Henson and his collaborator Jerry Juhl and is brought to life by artist Ramón K. Pérez. It is a surreal, dreamlike tale of precious few words prefacing some larger-than-life sound effects that perfectly envelope you in a desert landscape through which our hero encounters one oddity after another. With little dialogue to read, you would expect to breeze through Tale of Sand, but the majority of your time with this work of art will mostly be spent lingering over Pérez’s line work, masterful storytelling, and drinking in the otherworldly colors that make you an inhabitant of this magical world. Turning each page filled me with a bit of guilt over having to leave so soon, but the draw of seeing what was to come next trumped that feeling every time. Thinking about this one…let’s just say I know what I’m rereading this afternoon.

The sci-fi, psychedelic, space romp Space Riders is a different kind of beauty altogether. Written by Fabien Rangell, Jr., illustrated by Alexis Ziritt, and published by Black Mask Studios LLC, Space Riders is ultimately a revenge tale as Capitan Peligro seeks vengeance upon the man who betrayed him and left him to die. Joined by a sexy ’80s-style robot and a mandrill-humanoid warrior, Capitan Peligro and his crew roam the cosmos in his skullship the Santa Muerte where they encounter space Vikings, green-skinned warrior women, and monstrous god-like beings. Rangell, Jr.’s story is positively bananas and Ziritt’s glorious art, both line and colors, evoke a blend of ’70s comic book sensibilities with blacklight trippiness. I discovered Space Riders this summer and completely fell in love with the story, look, and production of this amazing comic. I can’t wait to get my hands on the follow-up trade, Space Riders: Galaxy of Brutality, which cannot come soon enough.

Hooded vigilantes, skull-faced crime fighters, luchador detectives, and a scantily-clad, masked woman with a bullwhip all grace the bizarre world of Tarantula. Yet another mindbending team-up between Rangell, Jr. and Ziritt, only this time from Adhouse Books, Tarantula is the modern equivalent of watching a cult-classic film on my ’80s favorite Nightflight from back in the day. The colors are primarily flat throughout with occasional halftone dot patterns and intentional color plate shifts, and the pages are actually given a yellowed effect to such an authentic degree that the less observant might mistake this oddball offering as a recently unearthed treasure from the past; it was published this past June 2017. As for what the story is about…I’m not sure other than Tarantula and her band of weirdos fighting other bands of weirdos in order to stop a bunch of Satanists. What I do know is that this smaller-scale hardcover is every bit as fun as its sister book Space Riders and that any newly born fan of one will surely find their way to the other.

Remember when I mentioned that the Big Two have occasionally gotten their weird on? Well, Marvel was king when—thanks to the wicked-sharp mind of the immortal Steve Gerber—Howard the Duck became a household word among the groovy, the trippy, and those looking for something outside of the usual capes and tights and fisticuffs crowd. Howard, a cigar-chomping, partially-clothed, trash-talking duck looking to make a buck, originally appeared in the pages of Fear #19 (written by Gerber, illustrated by Val Mayerik, 1973) which spotlighted the almost-as-bizarre Man-Thing. Howard then went on to appear in Man-Thing #1 (again by Gerber and Mayerik, 1974) only to seemingly perish midway through the story. Distraught fans of the gruff waterfowl did not have to mourn too long, as Howard ended up being alive and plummeting between strange, magical worlds only to appear on Earth in a backup story in Giant-Size Man-Thing #4, then again in another backup story of Giant-Size Man-Thing #5 before graduating to his own comic in 1976, all written by Gerber and gorgeously illustrated by Frank Brunner.

Wherever Howard appeared, madness followed. Within the pages, you would find such characters as Garko the Man-Frog, a vampiric cow known as Bessie the Hellcow, the Deadly Space Turnip, and the ultra-weird Kidney Lady (don’t ask, just read it). You also found social commentary, pokes at the comic book industry, and digs at our political system where Howard made a bid for the presidency. Even crazier is when Howard actually does go crazy and spends some time in an asylum that is not quite on the up and up. Howard the Duck is something I always noticed as a kid, but never picked up in favor of more conventional and kid-appropriate fare. I don’t think I could have followed this rather adult comic book at the time, but now as an adult, I can better pick up the nuances of Gerber’s storytelling and I too have joined the cult following Howard the Duck so richly deserves.

I definitely saved the weirdest for last, and you’d be hardpressed to find a weirder comic anywhere that works as well and is as beautifully illustrated as Ryan Browne’s God Hates Astronauts. It originally began as a webcomic and quickly gained fans through rampant word of mouth before Browne ran a largely successful Kickstarter campaign that ultimately put a now rare hardcover edition—chockfull of extras and goodies—onto the top of my favorite bookshelf. Lucky for all, there is a trade of the webcomic as well as two additional trades of the 10-issue God Hates Astronauts comic series that followed from Image Comics. Now, what the series is about…ummm…okay. You see, there’s this dysfunctional group of superheroes known as “The Power Persons Five” who are charged with stopping farmers from launching manmade rockets into space, but they never actually do this. Instead, they bicker with one another as they fight a super-pugilist who trains a bunch of battling bears. One hero’s head gets beaten until it grows to the size of a giant beach ball, only to have his head pop, only to have it replaced by a flaming ghost-cow head. There’re misshapen cowboys, something called Craymok, a mustached Anti-Mugger, and King Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger—a bipedal Tiger who is always eating a cheeseburger. I will say that the story makes almost no sense and that you honestly never know what to expect with each turn of the page, which is all part of the charm. If something in the world’s got you down, God Hates Astronauts might be just what the doctor ordered.

I have barely scratched the surface of the “Weird” category, but we can look forward to exploring more from Ryan Browne, Marvel, and Image in the near future. Heck, I bet I can even scare up something from DC while I’m looking around for the next installment of “Something Borrowed, Something Weird.”

The Week’s Reading List

Saga #47 (Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, coordinated by Eric Stephenson, published by Image Comics) With this penultimate issue to the eighth chapter, Saga continues to be a fantastic read. Here we not only catch up with The Will, we gain a brief glimpse of his childhood and the events that led him to become a contractor. The final splash-page is simply beautiful. I still adore this series. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Southern Bastards #18 (Written by Jason Latour, illustrated by Chris Brunner, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics) Although there’s often a lag between issues, Southern Bastards is always worth the wait. Latour and Jason Aaron are so in tune with each other I didn't even notice Latour wrote this issue that focuses on Roberta Tubb and her dealings with Materhead; it ain’t pretty. Brunner stands in as artist and I have zero problems with that as his style fits perfectly on this exceptional crime comic centered around college football. I can’t wait to see what happens next! VERY HIGHLY RECCOMMENED!


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Comics Lust 9/23/2017

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/pancake fanatic Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). <blah> Something happened Sunday night/Monday Morning that made me ill to my stomach and kept me from doing anything except binge-watch the last eight episodes The Flash Season 3. It’s not exactly my style to sit around all day doing nothing, but I guess my body was telling me to slow down and chill out for a change. Luckily, I had my puppy executive team to help me out and to explain the finer points of the show—I actually think they just wanted to watch The Flash versus doing any kind of work, but I guess they needed the day off, too. Anyhow, rest up and drink plenty of liquids to avoid any kind of illness that’s going around, and check out some great comics while you’re at it. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

Bring on the Bad Guys (Part 1)

Who says the villain can’t carry his/her own story? Or that without the hero leading the charge a comic cannot be every bit as compelling when the evil-doer takes the spotlight. It’s not an easy thing to do, to be sure, but throughout the years and in the right hands, some titles have managed to be quite successful and a heck of a lot of fun to boot.

Suicide Squad is a much-loved comic from 1987 centering around supervillains that ran for 66 issues, an annual, and the Doom Patrol and Suicide Squad Special. Written by John Ostrander and illustrated by Luke McDonnell, this incarnation of the Suicide Squad made their first appearance in the six-issue, limited-series event Legends #3 (plotted by Ostrander, scripted by Len Wein, and illustrated by John Byrne) before gaining their own series. The story is essentially about the team created by top-level federal agent Amanda Waller to take on the most dangerous of missions and to combat the largest threats to the world. These missions are tough, some might say impossible, others suicide. Only the bravest of the brave or the foolhardiest fool would dare take on these assignments, and oftentimes, Waller’s end goal is too morally questionable to enlist Earth’s mightiest heroes to take up the task. Waller needs people who have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, so she conscripts the worst of criminals forever locked away in inescapable prisons to do her bidding with the promise of a reduced sentence, but if they step out of line at any time a flick of a switch will end their life before even their impossible mission can. The original team consists of Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, Enchantress, Captain Boomerang, Plastique, and Mindboggler and continuously shifted as, true to their name, some characters never made it back. Even though the series was eventually canceled, it spawned a Deadshot four-issue mini-series, a 2001 12-issue series, an eight-issue 2007 series, the New 52 version ran for 31 issues, and DC’s recent “Rebirth” shift currently has Suicide Squad rapidly approaching 30 issues as well. The exploits of these bad guys have been so popular as to deliver them to the silver screen with 2016’s hit Suicide Squad film adaptation featuring Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Enchantress, El Diablo, and Katana. The original comic book series, however, is definitely worth your time, and one I need to go back to in the near future.

As enjoyable as Suicide Squad may be, the similarly themed Secret Six, written by Gail Simone, captured my heart from start to glorious finish. Now, there was a Secret Six kicking around in the late ’60s, but the series that ultimately spun out of DC’s Infinite Crisis event is the one most near and dear to fans of villains taking the lead. Comprised of Deadshot—who apparently is so notorious in his wrongdoings that he gets a spot on any bad-guy team—Catman, Scandal Savage, Rag Doll, Cheshire, and Darkseid’s stray Parademon are gathered by a shadowy “benefactor” known only as Mockingbird to go on the shadiest, most dubious of missions that neither heroes nor many villains condone. What drew me in most to Simone’s series is her ability to humanize these oftentimes terrible individuals and give some a shot at redemption while showing how difficult just such a road can be. Rag Doll is completely deranged, Deadshot a total d_bag, and Catman—a character previously used as the butt of many a Batman joke—an occasional noble character. The thing about the Secret Six is that there are always six on the team, but that elusive sixth spot has a tendency to be vacant whether because of characters dying, quitting, or being fired. Such notable characters as Mad Hatter, Bane (the ultimate Batman villain is great in this series), the mysterious Jeannette (wait until you find out about her!), Knockout, among others grace the series for various lengths of time. The main problem with reading the whole Secret Six saga is trying to piece together the order of things, which the 2015–2016 trade releases do fairly well—omitting only the Birds of Prey material—but here is the reading order for those who want to read this fine series piecemeal:

There is also a 2015 release, New 52 Secret Six that I have not read that ran for 14 issues, but I think I will reread the material from 2005–2011 before taking a look at the most recent stuff.

The great thing about DC Comics is that although Suicide Squad and Secret Six are their most highly regarded “bad guy” team books, the company took plenty of other plunges into the villains-as-stars arena throughout the years deserving of mention. 1976’s The Secret Society of Super Villains (written by Gerry Conway, illustrated by Pablo Marcos) ran for 14 issues—one of which I had in my treasured stack of comics as a kid—and boasted an impressive roster of villains (Grodd, Sinestro, Star Saphire, Floronic Man) with plenty of heroes (Captain Comet, JSA, Green Lantern) to keep them busy. Even before The Secret Society of Super Villains, in 1972, DC was heavy in their reprinting and repackaging phase with the release of Wanted: The World’s Most Dangerous Villains, which pulled bad guy related stories from such titles as Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and others. Kobra (written by Steve Pasko and illustrated by many different artists, including an issue by Jack Kirby) also came out in 1976, ran for seven issues, and followed the exploits a treacherous cult leader. The year before that, Denny O’Neil and Irv Novick released The Joker, following the Clown Prince of Crime as he fought good guys and bad guys alike for nine issues.

Jumping ahead to the early ’90s, one of the more successful solo-villains (going purely off of number of issues released) to carry a comic all by his lonesome for many issues over multiple years is Slade Wilson, better known as Deathstroke the Terminator. This is where I once again fall into the shadowy realm of regret, as this is a series I sadly have not read…but I desperately want to read. Created by Marv Wolfman and John Byrne, Deathstroke first appeared in The New Teen Titans #2 and became so popular he got his own series in 1992 that ran for 61 issues and four annuals. Since his debut, Deathstroke has become a force to be feared in the DC Universe and has had three followup series over the years: Deathstroke #0–20 (2011), Deathstroke #1–20 (2014), Deathstroke #1–23 (2016, ongoing). This is one I hope to catch up on in the very near future.

If we are going off pure popularity, then it is hard to argue against Harley Quinn being DC’s most popular supervillain to hold her own comic of all time. Although her first appearance was not even in a comic book, but rather the phenomenal Batman: The Animated Series, Harley has gone onto multiple solo series, multiple team series, movies, cartoons, and has gone on to inspire cosplayers around the world to imitate and expand on her instantly recognizable look and style. Although my experience with the Clown Princess of Crime is fairly limited, I love Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, and Chad Hardin’s humorous and exciting 2014 run. Here are a few good places to start for your Harley needs:

At this point, I’ve only trained my eagle eye (with corrective lenses, of course) on DC comics for which I haven’t even mentioned a certain cat burglar written and illustrated by two of my all-time-favorite creators, or a certain spacefaring ringbearer. I also haven’t touched upon the other half of the Big Two, or one of my favorite indie villains by one of my personal superstar creators, but that will have to be for another time!

The Week’s Reading List

Descender #24 (Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, lettered and designed by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics) You already know that Descender is one of my top books on the stands, right? I already have a soft spot for sci-fi space opera, but when you mix an ’80s tone with oh-so-lovely watercolored art, I’m a goner for sure. Despite all the nervewracking madness of the “Rise of the Robots” storyline thus far, we take a sidestep back to check in on Driller and his new companion, Mizerd, as they make their way across a treacherous swamp planet. Dang…I love this comic. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Future Quest Presents: Space Ghost #2 (Written by Jeff Parker, illustrated by Ariel Olivetti, lettered Dave Lanphear, published by DC Comics) I already loved the 12-issue Future Quest, but my main complaint—aside from delays and artist shifts—was that there were too many characters running around. Here it’s just Space Ghost, his gang, and one of the Herculoids exploring a freaky cavern and it is a heck of a lot of fun. Beautifully written and illustrated, I am excited to see what comes next. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

X-Men Epic Collection: Second Genesis TPB (Written by Len Wein and Chris Claremont, illustrated by Dave Cockrum and John Byrne, published by Marvel Comics) If you claim to love the X-Men but have not read the first adventures of the team comprised of Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Banshee, Cyclops, Marvel Girl/Phoenix, then you have not properly experienced the X-Men. I read all of these stories ages ago, but this collection was just too good to pass up. You have the first appearance of the new X-Men, guest appearances by Iron Fist and Spiderman, and the start of Claremont’s legendary run all in one volume. It doesn’t get much better than this. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!