Saturday, November 18, 2017

Comics Lust 11/18/2017

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/pumpkin-lovin’ Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). It’s Amy the Intern’s birthday next week, so my puppy executive team and I are in full lockdown: red light blinking, “Do not disturb” signs hung outside the corporate office (Mom’s basement), and a pyramid of assorted burritos stacked six high as we work out the details of her main gift. Not only that, we are trying to juggle how to even get our mail to receive her presents after some evil moron took a crowbar to the complex’s group of mailboxes late Wednesday evening. Ridiculous. Anyhow, while we get back to planning, pour yourself an early winter-warmer beer or hot cocoa, grab a burrito off the top of your own burrito pyramid, and read 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

The Gift of Giving (Part 1)! - The Comics I Like to Give

The holiday season is upon us once again, and with it comes the deluge of stress, guilt, bickering, awkward dinner conversations, and the feeling of wanting to run home to snuggle up near the heater with a nice glass of wine and your favorite comic book. Ahhhhh…peace, relaxation, zen. Wow, started going dark there for a moment, but I pulled myself back from the abyss; every little thing’s gonna be all right. The holidays aren’t all doom and gloom, though, sometimes it feels good to give a loved one, a family member, a friend, or a colleague something that means a lot to you and that you think they will enjoy. So, today I’m going to give a quick hit list of five trades from the past and five trades for series currently running that I like to give to those who are interested in comic books but might not know where to start. As for already established comics fans…we’re an obsessive lot and tend to have read tons of material already, so best to get a list of things they specifically want to read to avoid duplicating anything.

There’s no order to this list other than starting with five already completed series and following that with five continuing series and knowing that there are way more than just 10 books that I like to give to new comic readers; those titles will appear in subsequent installments.

Now, you might be thinking that I bring up Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing (DC Comics, 1984) every other week and you’re probably right, but there’s a very good reason for that. It has held a solid position in my top five favorite comics of all time since the day I read Moore’s first issue. This is a book I give to those who might like a good horror tale that is also tinged with a love story. The book focuses on the person that was Alec Holland as he finds his place in the world now that he is a monster. There are very brief appearances by superheroes, but this comic belongs to the Swamp Thing and Moore was pretty much given free rein to do whatever he wanted with the book whose sales were in decline before he came aboard. Moore’s run began with issue 20 and really gets going with issue 21, but the beautiful thing is that you don’t need to have read any of the prior material to know what is going on. Couple that with gorgeous art by John Totleben and Stephen Bissette and you have the makings of a masterfully told story that will resonate with readers for a good long while. There are six available trades in this must-read run.

Preacher (written by Garth Ennis, illustrated by Steve Dillon, published by DC/Vertigo, 1995) is also one of my top five favorite comic books of all time and something I think everyone with an open mind and an interest in comics simply must read. It’s also a no-brainer for those who like the television series as the comics are lightyears better than what I have seen on the show, which honestly isn’t that bad. Preacher tells the story of what happens when small-town preacher Jesse Custer is inhabited by a strange and powerful entity that imbues him with the word of God. But it’s so much more. Preacher has an impressive cast of characters: Tulip, the love of Jesse’s life who he has to win back; Cassidy, Jesse’s hard-drinking friend from Ireland who holds a bizarre secret; the Saint of Killers who you will have to learn about on your own; and Herr Starr, a twisted man with his own ideas of how to fix the world. I’m surprised there haven’t been more book burnings of Preacher because of its commentary on God and religion, but for open-minded friends looking for stellar characters and one helluva compelling story this heavenly series belongs on everyone’s best bookshelf. Preacher ran for 66 issues and had a bunch of one-shots, but they are all gathered in six beautiful sets.

Fear Agent (written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Tony Moore and Jerome Opena, published by Image Comics then Dark Horse Comics, 2005) is a sci-fi adventure comic that pulled me in the moment I read the first trade. I immediately switched to floppies because I couldn‘t wait for each new collection to come out; I definitely made the right choice. Fear Agent is the story of Heath Huston who was once your average Texan raising a family but is now one of the last spacemen known as Fear Agents set on ridding the Earth and the galaxy of alien threats. Every issue is a tale of weirdness, loss, and setting things right. Fans of pulpy sci-fi should love this beautifully written and illustrated tale. There are six trades from Dark Horse that might not be in print, but, better yet, there are the two Fear Agent Library Edition hardcovers that I need get for myself. Hint hint hint.

For some reason, I did not pick up the individual issues for the amazing The Vision (Written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta, published by Marvel Comics, 2015) as they were coming out. Looking at the brighter side of life, I was able to power through this I-can’t-believe-Marvel-is-letting-them-do-this-but-I’m-glad-they-are 12-issue series that focuses on the character of the Vision and the android family of a wife and two kids he has built for himself. The Vision and his family move to the suburbs and try to have a normal life, but nothing is normal about an android superhero and his makeshift family attempting to fit in with a society that fears them. There are uplifting moments and even more unnerving moments in this story that is what you get if you mix superheroes with Twin Peaks. There are two trades available, but it looks like a hardcover collecting the entirety of this critical darling comes out in January 2018.

I’m a huge fan of Mark Russell’s sadly unfinished political satire Prez (Written by Mark Russell, illustrated by Ben Caldwell, published by DC Comics, 2015), but I’m just as much a fan of his latest critically-acclaimed 12-issue run on The FlintstonesThe Flintstones (written by Mark Russell, illustrated by Steve Pugh, published by DC Comics, 2016) offers not only political satire, but also commentary on capitalism, religion, economics, consumerism, war, veterans, love, and so much more, all while focusing on the first family of Bedrock. There are plenty of laughs to be found both in the writing and in Pugh’s lovely backgrounds. Given our current awful political climate, The Flintstones is a smart, funny comic to help brighten anyone’s mood. There are two trades available for this series.

Of the current comics seeing release, Descender (written Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, published by Image Comics, 2015) is one I talk about often and is one I have given to at least three friends to read thus far. The story is appropriate for all sci-fi buffs who are ready to fall in love with a large cast of characters and to possibly get their hearts broken on occasion all while enjoying adventures with aliens, robots, monsters, and intergalactic battles. The story is about the boy robot TIM-21 who awakens ten years after massive robots known as The Harvesters decimate much of the populations of the nine planets in the United Galactic Council, and TIM-21 might just hold the answers to the secrets of the dreaded Harvesters. I positively love love love this series both epic story and lovely watercolored art. There’re four trades (a fifth in January) and a deluxe hardcover that I must have (again…hint hint hint) comes out the middle of December.

It’s no surprise that Rick Remender shows up twice on this list as his current creator-owned Deadly Class (written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, published by Image Comics, 2014) is a fantastic comic that we will be able to watch as a television series on Syfy come next year. The story is set in the ’80s and follows the travails of Marcus as he attends a high school for assassins. The story is pretty heavy as it deals with teen assassins, the craziness of adolescence, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The cast of characters is huge and I will warn that you shouldn’t get too close to any of them as life at King’s Dominion does not promote long life spans. I also have to point out that Craig’s high panel count pages add a level of urgency and intensity that you’d be hardpressed to find in very many comics. To date, we have 31 issues, five trades (sixth mid-December), and one hardcover with a second at some point in 2018.

Saga. (Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, published by Image Comics, 2012) Oh, Saga. How I love thee. Okay, straight talk for a second, folks: Saga deals with some occasionally shocking adult situations (sex, nudity, death, drugs, violence) so you don’t want to be giving this one to any kids or work colleagues, but rather only someone you have known for a very long time. Trust me on this. Got it? That said, Saga is a Romeo and Juliet meets space opera series that primarily follows Marco and Alana, each of a differing warring alien species, happen to fall in love and have a baby, Hazel. Hazel is proof of the possibility of peace that those in charge do not want the populace to know about. The cast of characters is huge, no one is safe, the humor will make you laugh out loud, and there might be a moment or two where you actually cry. Saga is a huge success in the world of creator-owned comics and is one that can turn someone who knows little to nothing about the medium into a lifelong fan through Vaughan’s all-too-real and compelling story and Staples’s gorgeous, painterly art. There are two hardcovers and seven trades that your LCS should definitely be stocked up on.

Manifest Destiny (Written by Chris Dingess, illustrated by Matthew Roberts, published by Image/Skybound, 2013) is another one I love and have given to more than a couple of friends. If you know someone who has a particular fondness for history, then this revisionist historical take on the adventures of Lewis and Clark is an easy way to make them smile. Manifest Destiny is a look at what would happen had Lewis and Clark’s task not just been about exploration, but also about cataloging and eradicating the monsters that plague the untamed West. And by “monsters” I mean actual monsters: humongous frogs, giant insects, zombies, minotaurs, etc. The characters are intriguing and the mystery of the terrible arches scattered across the lands leaves me nervously whipping through the pages of this awesome serious. The fifth trade just came out and I read it in one sitting; I can’t wait for the sixth!

Since I’ve already talked about Rick Remender twice, I might as well mention Brian K. Vaughan again, too. Paper Girls (written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, published by Image Comics, 2016) is the book I give to anyone who loves the Netflix original television show Stranger Things as much as I do. You’ve got the ever-retro ’80s, kids on bikes, weird monsters, mysterious outsiders willing to help, and of course forces at work no one understands. The main difference between the comics and the show is that instead of four boys being put in nightmarish situations, you have four girls—paper girls to be exact—who are put in nightmarish situations, time travel, and enter new nightmarish situations. Unlike Vaughan’s other work, Saga, Paper Girls is for everyone provided they can deal with some fowl, yet realistic, language. Funny, touching, exhilarating, and sometimes scary, Paper Girls has something for everyone. You can pick up the three trades or jump right in with the oversized hardcover.

I’ll look at other gift ideas next time. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Read some great comics!

This Week’s Reading List

Descender #26 (written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, lettered and designed by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics) The “Rise of the Robots” event comes to a close and I am SO amped to see what happens next. Seriously can’t wait. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Mage: The Hero Denied #4 (Everythinged by Matt Wagner, colored by Brennan Wagner, lettered by Dave Lanphear, consulting editor Diana Shutz, design and production by Steven Birch, published by Image Comics) Man, I struck gold this week. Kevin takes on Ereshkigal, Mistress of the Underworld and she might very well prove to be more than he can handle. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

East of West #35 (written by Johnathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, colored by Frank Martin, lettered Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics) Death and his son, Babylon, are finally together and taking some time to finally get to know each other as the remaining three Horsemen of the Apocolypse grow impatient. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Black Science #33 (written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Matteo Scalera, colored by Moreno Dinisio, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics) Most of the gang is back together…which is not a good thing as Kadir makes a tragic choice. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Future Quest Presents #4 (written by Jeff Parker, illustrated by Ron Randall, lettered by Dave Lanphear, published by DC Comics) We learn the tale of Space Ghost’s meeting with The Galaxy Trio and how they might not have perished by the evil tentacles of Omnikron. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Bug: The Adventures of Forager #5 (written by Lee Allred, illustrated by Mike Allred, colored by Laura Allred, lettered Nate Piekos, published by DC Comics) Forager’s adventures continue as he crosses paths with none other than OMAC: The One Man Army Corp. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Comics Lust 11/11/2017

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/toy master Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). This week’s “Comics Lust” topic got the Donist World corporate office (Mom’s basement) all excited as I told my puppy executive team all about the the awesome toys and subsequent comics I had growing up in the ’70s and ’80s. Lucky for us, I still have a bunch of those toys securely sealed in a few boxes. The bad news is that those boxes of toys are in the Detached Storage Unit of Doom, a dark, dank, dangerous place filled with all sorts of vermin, massive spiders, probably a ghost or two, and I suspect a chupacabra has nested in there at some point. Put it this way: I used to have a toy lightsaber that could telescope out to about four feet in length, but mice (or the chupacabra) literally ate the entire thing to a nub. This is 100% true. So, yeah, I don’t like going out there, but for the sake of Donist World I am willing to make that treacherous journey. I’ve also been told by our property management company (i.e. Mom) that anything I take out of storage has to go home with us. Fine by me. Anyhow, while I put on my Indiana Jones gear, pour yourself an early winter-warmer beer or hot cocoa, order up some tasty tacos, and read 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

Toys 2 Comics

Although you can find some pretty groovy toys in the few remaining actual physical stores left standing, there were some awesome toys out there while I was growing up during the ’70s and ’80s. Of course, I had loads of Mego action figures/dolls—many of them replacements because my dogs loved to eat them—whether they were Marvel or DC or properties like Planet of the Apes. In fact, there was never a shortage of toy representations of my favorite comic books, movies, and television shows throughout the year. Those toys were essentially marketing vehicles to drive kids to the comics, which has sadly shifted in the past decade or two to movies and television tying straight to toys with comic books being left in the dust. But let’s not go down that road. One trend my brother and I loved back in the day were toys leading us to comics, and boy were there some great ones.

One comic I mention nearly as much as Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s Swamp Thing is Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden’s The Micronauts. Now, where Swamp Thing taught me that not all artists are the same, The Micronauts is the comic book that made me an obsessive reader, a fan, and an avid collector. The Micronauts is something I will return to many times over the course of “Comics Lust,” but what’s important here is that I might never have picked up my first issue (#2 to be exact) had it not been for the toys and their groovy commercials. I started with a Time Traveler I found at Click (an Ohio department store chain from the ’70s), then a die-cast metal Space Glider and Acroyear while on a trip to California, but it was when we returned to Akron, Ohio and I found a lone Baron Karza figure in the toy aisle at Red Circle where I became a Micronauts toy junkie. Man, did I love my Baron Karza figure.

The funny thing is that I didn’t even know there was a The Micronauts comic book until the day I recognized the lovely title treatment on the cover while at the mall newsstand. Here I saw a giant lawnmower set to puree some of the characters I recognized from the toys (Space Glider, Acroyear, Biotron, Microtron) and two new characters (Princess Marionette and Bug). Bug became my immediate favorite with Acroyear taking a very close second, and I was thrilled to find Baron Karza to be every bit the bad guy I hoped he would be. I remember hauling out all my Micronauts toys to obsessively reread each issue as my figures stood dutiful watch over my shoulder. I desperately wanted a Bug figure to join my Acroyear toy so they could oppose Baron Karza’s tyranny, but more important than wanting new toys was my need to have the next phenomenal issue. The Micronauts comic will forever be one of my top five comic books of all time, and one I reread often. Unfortunately, though, because of ownership and licensing with the Japanese toy company, the original The Micronauts is not something you can buy in trade or digital versions, but I STRONGLY encourage you to hunt down all of the Bill Mantlo written issues you can find. Almost four decades later, I’m still eagerly awaiting a damn Bug action figure.

At the same time as The Micronauts was seeing popularity in both their toys and comics (especially with me) another toy had hit the scene and was shortly followed by a comic that is still highly regarded to fans today: Rom. The Rom toy was never really something that interested me as a kid. Yes, it was about a foot and a half tall, had glowing red eyes and a cool ray gun of some kind, but the character was too boxy and had only a couple points of articulation. The comic book, however, was something that definitely caught my eye. Not only did the cover of the first issue have art by Frank Miller-who would later become a hero of mine for reasons I will go into another day—but the title of the comic made the metallic warrior all the more appealing…Rom: Spacenight (written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Sal Buscema, published by Marvel Comics, 1979). A quick flip through an issue or two of Rom: Spaceknight and you find our silvery hero locked in a battle against the Cthulu-looking Dire Wraith monstrosities and exhibiting amazing abilities far greater than his clunky toy ever suggested he was capable of performing. In later issues, he also crossed over with many of the more well-known Marvel superheroes. Two points of bad news, though: 1) I only had a handful of issues because of allowance limitations, 2) like The Micronauts, Rom: Spacenight is tied up with licensing issues that prevent collections and reprints. Looks like I’ll be hunting through those bargain bins along with you.

Now, if you’re talking comics created off of a toyline in the ’80s, then there are two titles that have to be mentioned. One of those titles is The Transformers (written by Bill Mantlo—dang, this guy is still my hero, he did all my favorites—and Ralph Macchio, illustrated by Frank Springer, published by Marvel Comics, 1984). Holy guacamole! My brother and I were fiends for the Transformers toys, with my favorites being Megatron, Soundwave, and Grimlock. Jeff was almost exclusively an Autobot kid, but we’ll forgive him the transgression; Autobots are cool, too. So, imagine our surprise when we found issue #1 of a 4 issue limited-series with a crazy Bill Sienkiewicz cover on the grocery store spinner rack. The series, in conjunction with the toyline and cartoon, was a huge hit and was expanded to an ongoing series, ultimately running for eighty issues in addition to the three-issue miniseries Transformers: The Movie (adapted by Ralph Macchio and illustrated by Don Perlin, Ian Akin, and Brian Garvey, 1986), something called Transformers: Headmasters (written by Bob Budiansky and illustrated by Frank Springer, 1987), and an Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe style comic called The Transformers Universe (written and illustrated by various artists, 1986) that profiled the characters and their abilities. All of these series released over a short period of time and completely rocked our world. There was even a…

G.I. Joe and the Transformers (Written by Michael Higgins, illustrated by Herb Trimpe and Vince Colletta, 1987), which brings us to the G.I. Joe comics that grew from what were originally fairly basic toys that evolved into a powerhouse triumvirate of a toyline, a cartoon series, and a comic book series. As a kid, I leaned toward the Cobra side of the toys with my brother falling predominately on the side of the Joes. I liked the comics and I read Jeff’s new issues as they released, but it really wasn’t until the introduction of the character Storm Shadow that I became a fan. I recently watched a couple episodes of the television show and…let’s just say it doesn’t quite hold up to the test of time, but those original G.I. Joe issues are still freaking fantastic. Written by Larry Hama, illustrated by Herb Trimpe and Bob McLeod, published by Marvel Comics in 1982, the series ran for a monstrous 155 issues. I especially loved issue #21 which is a “silent issue” that is credited as Storm Shadow’s first appearance. Like The Transformers, G.I. Joe also had a bunch of spinoff projects: G.I. Joe Yearbook (written and illustrated by various, 1985), which was a mishmash of previously printed material; G.I. Joe: Order of Battle (written by Larry Hama, illustrated by Herb Trimpe, 1986), which was a Joes version of OHOTMU; and the 28-issue G.I. Joe: Special Missions (written by Larry Hama, illustrated by Herb Trimpe, 1986).

(I’m going to take this moment to breathe a sigh of relief that I decided to cut short this barely-scratched-the-surface look at The Transformers and G.I. Joe, because once these properties move to other publishers, you will need a freaking sherpa to help you navigate the quagmire of different publishers, different titles, and various series, miniseries, maxiseries, and one-shots that have come out. Criminy, just the thought of delving into the ’90s to present gives me a migraine.)

Now, not all toylines created popular comic book series, but there were a few I loved that are worth mentioning. The Saga of Crystar Crystal Warrior (written by Mary Jo Duffy, illustrated by Bret Blevins, published by Marvel Comics, 1983) was a love of mine that crushed my heart with its cancellation after only 11 issues; at least I got a guest appearance by none other than Nightcrawler. I still have my crystalline Crystar figure—complete with helmet, shield, sword, and prism staff thing—and I reread the series a couple years ago and still enjoy it quite a bit; especially those gorgeous Michael Golden covers. Jason Aaron recently tried to revive the Crystar mythos in the visually stunning Weirdworld (illustrated in glorious otherworldly fashion by Mike Del Mundo, 2015), but the characters/property just didn’t catch on. Maybe someday we’ll see more of the crystal warriors and their battles against the magma men, but a couple titles I don’t think we’ll ever be seeing again are the weird Power Lords (a three-issue mini written by Michael Fleisher, illustrated by Mark Texeira and Jeff Dee, published by DC Comics, 1983), or the four-issue limited series Starriors (written by Louise Simonson, illustrated by Michael Chen, published by Marvel Comics, 1984)—which had some lovely Sienkiewicz covers. There was also the four-issue Centurians (written by Bob Rozakis, illustrated by Don Heck and Al Vey, published by DC Comics, 1987), the eight-issue Sectaurs which I wouldn’t mind rereading again some day (written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Mark Texeira, 1985), Visionaries (adapted by Jim Salicrup, illustrated by Mark Bagley, published by Marvel/Star, 1988), and finally the four-issue Inhumanoids (adapted by Jim Salicrup, illustrated by James W. Fry and Joe Del Beato, published by Marvel/Star, 1987). Now, I definitely want to reread some of those great comics and dust off the old toys that inspired them.

This Week’s Reading List

Mister Miracle #4 (written by Tom King, illustrated by Mitch Gerads, lettered by Clayton Cowles, published by DC Comics) Still no idea what’s going on. Still the best new comic of 2017. I love this book and can’t wait to continue on this journey. Orion comes to talk to Mister Miracle as judge, jury, and executioner. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Royal City #7 (everythinged by Jeff Lemire, lettered by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics) Yup, if you are a fan of Lemire’s more down-to-Earth titles, then Royal City is a comic you need to be reading. We learn a bit more about Tommy and what happened to him; things are starting to get rough. RECOMMENDED!


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Comics Lust 11/4/2017

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/Mjolnir-maniac Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Now, this is more like it: cooler weather. No more of this near 100-degrees in October nonsense. No. We’re comfortably working at the Donist World corporate office (Mom’s basement) and steadily working to maintain our position as a Fortune 320,000 company. Although, it’s kind of hard to get any work done as we’re all a bit giddy to see the new Thor: Ragnarok movie. Reverse Obie and Tulip are each wearing helmets fashioned out of La Croix six-pack boxes and taking turns being Thor, while I’ve been told I’m supposed to be the Hulk and forced to wear a shipping box with a scrub brush attached to it for my helmet; I kind of wanted to be Thor. Anyhow, as we goof around and prepare to see this highly-anticipated movie, pour yourself an early winter-warmer beer or hot cocoa, order up some tasty tacos, and read 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

Misty Watercolor Memories

I have spent most of my life enamored with comic books. Initially, that love began solely based off of the imagery as I was too young to actually read and fully comprehend the subject matter of the stories. So, it’s no big shock that when not flipping through comics, a good chunk of my time was spent drawing superheroes, monsters, dragons, and anything of a fantastical nature. I excelled at art throughout junior high and high school whether using pencil, colored pencils, or inks. Then came the day I tried my hand at the watercolor medium and all my hopes and dreams of being a great artist came to a crashing halt. It was a simple scene of a sailboat on the water, but nothing worked. Colors bled together where they shouldn’t have while areas that were meant to be muted came out garish. Everything about the piece was a disaster. I could have pushed through, tried and tried again to become a good artist, but I realized I would never be a great artist; thankfully, I discovered my passion for writing. The point of my little reflection is that it is brutally difficult to become accomplished at watercolors, but there are those rare artists who have mastered the medium. This is why when I see a beautifully watercolored story, I am aware of the lengths an artist has gone through to deliver such stunning work.

I mention Scott Hampton’s The Upturned Stone on a regular basis, not only because of the wonderful Stand by Me/Ghost Story mashup tale or that it fits in with the mood of the Halloween season, but also because of its haunting imagery. The majority, if not all of this must-read graphic novella, is watercolored. It is a dark horror story and the art reflects that, but there are moments that are upbeat and lively with colors shifting into the blues of daylight or with warm oranges to draw the eye. Backgrounds can bleed into the ethereal at times, but Hampton somehow manages to differentiate the many characters giving them distinct personalities and ranges of emotion whereas in less accomplished hands the paper should be drinking up the water and the colors should be bleeding into a muddied mess; that is never the case in this gorgeous book. Hampton’s watercolored art can also be found in the short-lived and unfinished Silverheels (written by Bruce Jones and April Campbell, published by Pacific Comics, 1983), The Books of Magic #2 (a four-issue limited series with a different painter on each issue, written by Neil Gaiman, published by Vertigo Comics, 1990), Batman: Night Cries (co-written by Archie Goodwin, published by DC Comics, 1992), and a host of other Marvel and DC works. I had forgotten about The Books of Magic…looks like I need to revisit that classic series, and Batman: Night Cries is on my “Must Find” list, but The Upturned Stone is the book I will always hold near and dear to my heart.

Watercolored comics made their mark during the industry-changing times of the ’80s when established heroes were revamped, revitalized, and served as a reflection of the darker times of the Cold War. But the shift in both tone and types of stories being told also ushered in a change in the methods used to tell those stories. Advances in printing technologies made it possible to move beyond the use of inadvertently-shifted color plates or limited paper types and allowed a move from ink-hungry newsprint to more versatile—and more expensive—types of paper. Enter Jon J. Muth. One of the earliest (first?), most stunning examples of a watercolored story is Muth’s Moonshadow (written by J.M. DeMatteis, published by Marvel/Epic Comics, 1985), a 12-issue limited series that tells the story of a young boy raised in an intergalactic zoo with plenty of bizarre and satirical moments. As a result of budgetary issues (i.e. my limited allowance), I read Moonshadow a good while after its initial release, but I remember seeing each issue and marveling over how it looked like nothing else on the stands at the time. Muth’s imagery is dreamlike whether depicting grinning moons or cigar-chomping, fuzzy, narcissistic aliens and he succeeded in simultaneously bringing the most fantastic elements down to earth while simultaneously lofting the most mundane moments into the cosmos. Moonshadow is a heck of a ride—not just from a reading experience but also from that fact that reprint rights jumped from Marvel/Epic to DC/Vertigo—and one I need to re-experience the series in the near future, especially once I pick up 1997’s Farewell Moonshadow by the same creative team.

Muth is not only a master of the fine arts, but just si happens to be an expert storyteller as well. He studied stone sculpture and calligraphy in Japan and illustration, printmaking, and painting throughout Europe. He eventually moved on from comic books to writing and painting children’s stories, but not before creating some truly spectacular works such as: Swamp Thing: Roots (written and painted by Muth, published by DC/Vertigo, 1998), The Mystery Play (written by Grant Morrison, published by DC/Vertigo, 1995…which I have not yet read?!), M (based on the Fritz Lang film, script by Thea Von Harbou, published by Pacific Comics, 1990), Dracula: A Symphony of Moonlight and Nightmares (written and painted by Muth, published by Marvel Comics, 1986…also on my “Must Find” list). There’s other Muth comic book material out there, but these—as difficult as they might be to find—are a great place to start. A side note is that I found a recent video of Muth creating one-minute watercolored animal paintings using a massive two-inch thick, bamboo brush that is simply astounding.

Roughly a year after seeing Moonshadow on the stands and not being able to buy it, I came across the first issue of Elektra Assassin written by Frank Miller and illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz (published by Marvel/Epic, 1986), which I simply had to buy. Of course, it was Miller’s name that brought me to the book, but Sienkiewicz’s art was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was exaggerated and oftentimes intermixed with collage and xeroxes, but the watercolors were otherworldly and Elektra was oh so unbelievably sexy; I, too, would have followed Agent Garrett down Elektra’s path of destruction to stop a nihilistic demon from causing a nuclear end to the world through its puppet president. Seeing the presentation of this watercolored masterpiece back in the ’80s and seeing it today, I still cannot fathom how Sienkiewicz got such clean lines or how he depicts such vivid emotion on a character’s face when everything about the medium wants colors to bleed and muddy. I suspect that even if I were able to sit and watch over the man’s shoulder as he painstakingly created each and every panel of this must-read comic, I would still be left in confusion as to how he managed to pull it all off.

Elektra Assassin is not Sienkiewicz’s only watercolored work, in fact he has many not counting the scores of covers he has created over the years, but any fan of Elektra Assassin simply must read it’s sister book, the graphic novel Daredevil: Love and War (written by Frank Miller, published by Marvel Comics, 1986) about Kingpin attempting to save his beloved wife, Vanessa, from a deadly threat, as Daredevil tries to restore sanity to a dire situation. Daredevil: Love and War was created at the same time as Elektra Assassin and utilizes the same style demanding these be read back to back, which is all too easy do with the release of Daredevil/Elektra: Love and War. Other books of note: Stray Toasters (everythinged by Sienkiewicz, published by Marvel/Epic, 1988), Voodoo Child: The Illustrated Legend of Jimi Hendrix (written by Martin I. Green, painted by Sienkiewicz, published by Kitchen Sink Press, 1995), as well as tons of lovely covers. Once you read a painted work by Sienkiewicz you will be hooked; there’s no one else like him.

Because of the time and dedication to form involved in creating a watercolored comic book, it’s no surprise that finding them today is just as rare, if not more so, than back in the ’80s. Descender (written by Jeff Lemire—an accomplished illustrator and watercolorist in his own right, painted by Dustin Nguyen, published by Image Comics) is a mesmerizing space opera of epic proportions and has been my favorite comic hitting the stands for the past couple of years. Descender springs from the day giant robots appear at each of the planets in the UGC (United Galactic Council) and subsequently lay waste to much of the inhabitants before completely vanishing. Years later, robots are hunted to near extinction by Scrappers, and a lone robot boy, TIM-21, awakens to a turbulent universe that will send him on a quest to find his now grown human brother. TIM-21 might also hold the key to unveiling the plans that the mysterious giant robots—now known as the Harvesters—might have in store for all surviving alien races. The story alone is everything I could ever want in a comic book, but Nguyen’s exceptionally beautiful paintings bring this world to life and fill me with the same wonderful feeling that only the best of ’80s comics had to offer. His flowing blues and magentas add mystery and excitement to the farthest reaches of space, while shocks of warm colors aboard otherwise metallic ships create urgency to a scene when needed most. The detail and scanning of each page are so precise you can often see the texture of the paper Nguyen used which adds to the overall impact of the book. I adore this comic. I own the floppies, the trades, and I will be buying the oversized hardcover come December when it is released. Descender is a mindblowing success of not just art but written word and continues to be one of the best series on the stand.

There are definitely more watercolorist worth noting, but those are for another day. For now, the master artists listed above can keep us all enthralled for a good long while. In the meantime, I will prepare myself to once again try my hand at watercolors in the years to come…you know, give myself another chance. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

This Week’s Reading List

Paper Girls #17 (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) Hey, if you’re loving Netflix’s Stranger Things 2 and have not read this fantastic complement to that fantastic show, then you should remedy that immediately. This issue sees the girls attempting to find one of their own while meeting a possible new ally in the year 2000. There’s, of course, plenty of trouble and weirdness abounds! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Lazarus X+66 #4 (Written by Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann, illustrated by Alitha Martinez, colored by Santi Arcas, lettered by Jodi Wynne, edited by David Brothers, publication design by Eric Trautmann, published by Image Comics) Usually, I would be irritated by a break in the regular story, but this six-issue miniseries not only sheds some light on this post-apocalyptic, nightmare of a world, it also moves the story along, setting up events for when the main series returns. Here we follow two Lazari as they work together for their respective families to acquire intel on the nigh-indestructible Lazarus known as The Zmey. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Sorry for the late post, but I had to have lunch and beers at M. Special Brewery and catch Thor: Ragnarok,  which I absolutely loved! Check it out as soon as you can!


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Comics Lust 10/28/2017

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/heat-hater Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). It’s finally cooled down some, but I’m still dressed in shorts and a tank top and my puppy executive team and I had to stick to the shade on our daily business walk-and-talk. It just ain’t right, especially given that Halloween is so close we can practically taste it. And taste it we shall. Reverse Obie has gone out to buy a big bag of pumpkin M&Ms, and Tulip went out to get a couple bottles of Avery Brewing’s Pump[Ky]n ale, which is a pumpkin porter aged in bourbon barrels that clocks in at a whopping 18.8% ABV. Don’t worry, though, this will be for our annual Halloween Extravaganza! Which means we have to agree on a couple good horror movies to watch this evening. I’m thinking Pumpkinhead, Jeepers Creepers 2, or The Witch; I can’t wait. One thing we can agree on is reading a whole heapin’ mess of spoooooky comics. So grab yourself a pumpkin beer or a strong ginger ale, watch some scary movies, 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

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself…and Comics!

I love Halloween. Ever since I was a kid growing up in Ohio, Halloween has been one of my favorite holidays. Sure, Christmas brought some fantastic toys, but Halloween brought the chance for me to become someone else, whether that was a superhero (Captain America, Spider-Man, Iron Man, etc.) or something less noble (Godzilla, a vampire, a devil, a creature from the black lagoon). It also didn’t hurt to get a truckload of candy…not counting that revolting candy corn garbage, of course. Part of the joy of Halloween—and possibly even better—is the time spent preparing for Halloween. There’re scary movies to watch, homes decorated in a sinister fashion far beyond the realm of sanity, pumpkin flavored everything, and best of all scary comic books.

One of the absolute best horror comics of all time is Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s masterwork, Locke & Key, from IDW. For those unaware, Hill is none other than Stephen King’s son and is an accomplished horror novelist in his own right, but as much as I adore his books, Locke & Key is what pulled me in wholeheartedly. To be honest, I came to this comic a bit late in the game—after two trades were already out—but after months of glowing praise, I took the plunge and was hooked by the end of the first issue. It’s the story of the Locke siblings (two boys and a girl) and their mother, who move into the family estate after the children’s father is brutally murdered. It’s at the Keyhouse mansion where the kids discover magical keys that unlock marvelous powers, but a sinister presence looks to free itself from its imprisonment and wreak havoc on those who hold the keys. There’re ghosts, demons, killers, strong family bonds, history, love, loss, sacrifice, bad decisions, and plenty of rough goings. Hill makes you immediately love the characters and Rodriguez brings so much emotion and drama to every panel that there were times I cried in between being stressed out and scared, which was often. This series is a treasure and one to be reread on a regular basis. Thankfully, it is readily available in many different formats and will someday soon be a television series on Hulu.

The Upturned Stone is graphic novel that’s not that easy to get ahold of, yet is something everyone who loves a great ghost story—and I mean great!—must read, is Scott Hampton’s delightfully creepy The Upturned Stone. Originally published in the September 1993 issue of Heavy Metal Magazine (volume 17, issue 4) and then as a lovely 64-page hardcover from Kitchen Sink Press, The Upturned Stone is a cross between the movies Stand by Me and Ghost Story and brought to life on the page through Hampton’s oh-so-lovely watercolors. It’s a story of friendship, of growing into adolescence, and the feeling of childhood slipping away. It’s about the scary stories kids tell one another, of missing children, of places that send chills up your spine, and the lore of the house that is surely haunted. The Upturned Stone is something truly special that I read at least once every year and is a book I have given to many of my closest friends. If you are in the mood for a quick read that will remind you of what it was like to have such a tight-knit group of friends before the steady creep of adulthood caused the inevitable fracturing of those childhood bonds, then look no further than this haunting, lovely tale.

Speaking of magazines, the black and white Warren Publishing magazines that my brother and I would sneak glances at during our days in Ohio when visiting the local Clicks—a large department store of the time—would give us not only chills from the terrifying imagery, but also a fair amount of thrills from the scantily clad, and occasionally naked, beauties found within. At Clicks, we had the holy triumvirate to dazzle us: Creepy (#1–146), Eerie (#1–139), and, of course, Vampirella (#1–113). The thing about these Comic-Code-Authority-snubbing, non-comic-book magazines is that they drew in some powerhouse creators and contained some truly great stories and art. Jumping from one magazine to another, you can find such masters of the macabre as Archie Goodwin, Bruce Jones, and Doug Moench on writing duties, and true harbingers of horror on art such as Richard Corben, Bernie Wrightson, José González, Gray Morrow, Wally Wood, Frank Frazetta, Frank Brunner, and so many others. Even as an adult, some of the stories packed into each issue still manage to freak me out, or at the least fill me with a slight unease from both the written word and lovely inked line. Thankfully, you don’t have to shell out loads of money for the individual issues as Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella all have “Archive” volumes to give you tons of reading material for a good long while. Or, if you would rather dip your toe into these waters with a focus on a specific artist, the Creepy Presents… line of books collects stories drawn by Richard Corben, Bernie Wrightson, Steve Ditko, and Alex Toth to help introduce you to the wonderful world of Warren.

One writer/artist from Warren who went on to make some great horror comics and anthologies is Bruce Jones. In between stints in the Big Two superhero world, Jones put out some excellent material for Pacific Comics and then Eclipse Comics once Pacific collapsed. He had made quite a name for himself at Warren with his ability to give a reader a severe case of the willies, and his indie comics work continued that trend with series such as the following:
Unfortunately, the rights to these great works are a mess and there are no reprints or collections—as of yet—that I can find. So if you happen to come across any of these in a bargain bin, at a flea market, or at a yard sale, be sure to snatch them up quickly.

Moving into the modern age, Scott Snyder has a couple of impressive and freaky series out there that I can say from experience are enough to make you jump at every rustle of the bushes and every shifting shadow you come across as you walk your dog near the spooky, dark, nearby park. Wytches #1–6 (illustrated by Jock, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, published by Image Comics, 2014) offers the most honest to god terrifying interpretation of a “witch”—or rather ”wytch“—I have ever seen or read. These bipedal, misshapen monstrosities dwell in the forest and will promise you what your heart desires at a steep price…as a family finds out. (I have not read this comic since it came out and I just got the chills thinking about it. Time for a reread.) His other story of note is the seven-issue Severed (co-written by Scott Tuft, illustrated by Atilla Futaki, Image Comics, 2011) and is certain to give kids pause about running away from home, and remind adults to be wary of drifters. Both of Snyder’s books are perfect for ensuring you double and possibly triple check that the house is locked up nice and tight for the evening.

One thing that DC Comics has over Marvel is their distinguished horror comics that they were released during the ’60s and ’70s. Sure, Marvel had its share of monster comics, but most of those led to the creation of supernatural characters that expanded a brand; think Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, Werewolf by Night, Tomb of Dracula, etc. DC, however, just wanted to tell straight up creepy stories and somehow dodge the restrictions of the oppressive Comic Code Authority.
I am sure there are a bunch of other short-lived DC series out there, but this is a great place to start; just know that reprints and collections are mostly nonexistent. Thankfully, most of the issues are standalone spooky tales, so picking them up piecemeal from bargain bins is always a good option. If you want more current and readily available frights from DC, you can always dive in with Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing trades, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman trades, the Hellblazer trades, or the modern versions of House of Secrets and House of Mystery.

There are tons more horror comics to tingle your spine, but those are for another day. For now, here are a few others that you can find today and are definitely worthy of your time.
  • Rachel Rising (Everythinged by Terry Moore, published Abstract Studio) A woman rises from the grave in which her murderer buried her, and she begins the process of tracking down her killer. Touching, terrifying, and filled with characters I still love to this day.
  • Revival (Written by Tim Seeley, illustrated by Mike Norton, published by Image Comics) The dead start to come back to life, which might not seem like such a bad thing, but most of them come back wrong. Two sisters try to understand what was happened in their once sleepy and now quarantined town.
  • Manifest Destiny (written by Chris Dingess, illustrated by Matthew Roberts, published by Image Comics) Lewis and Clark might have been tasked with exploring the uncharted regions of America, but what people don’t realize is that they were also given the responsibility of cataloguing and exterminating the monsters that roam out in the wild…that is if the can survive the journey. One of the best books currently hitting the stands.

This Week’s Reading List

Saga #48 (Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, coordinated by Eric Stephenson, published by Image Comics) This week’s reads are all about getting the band back together…most of the band anyways. Here, we check back in with Ghüs and Squire as they head out on an adventure, and the creators end a storyarc without ripping my heart out for once…although, it did almost make me cry. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Deadly Class #31 (Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Jordan Boyd, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics) Again, we get most of the band back together as Marcus, Maria, and the freshmen get close and loose with a little tab of this or that. Meanwhile, the traitor in their midst is offered a new ultimatum by none other than Viktor. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Comics Lust 10/21/2017

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/pumpkin spice queen Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Tulip is finally on the mend, but it is a slow process as—any Fortune 320,000 business owner will tell you—keeping your executive team from running around and jumping on and off the furniture is no easy task. We’re getting there, though. Thankfully, Reverse Obie keeps queueing up episodes of Rick and Morty to help keep Tulip in one place. Unfortunately, productivity at Donist World headquarters (Mom’s basement) leaves a lot to be desired. Anyhow, Reverse Obie is here with some log-sized burritos, so grab yourself a pumpkin beer or a strong ginger ale, watch some scary movies, 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 2)

In the previous chapter, we took a look at some non-Universal Monsters comic books, and with Halloween rapidly approaching I’m still very much in a modern monster kind of mood. The thing about Modern Times, Modern Monsters (Part 1) is that I only mentioned comic books from the Big Two, and they definitely do not have a monopolistic hold on the industry when it comes to great monster comics. The wonderful thing about writing Comics Lust is that although I start each installment with a general idea of the books I want to talk about, as I research and write, I start to remember other titles I want to talk about and ones I haven’t yet read; that was the case with the previous installment. While delving into Swamp Thing, Man-Thing, The Demon, and The Gargoyle, I started thinking about the indies and if there were any comics that not only featured not just a modern monster, but rather modern monsters…plural. Boy, did I ever come up with a doozy.

The Nocturnals is a comic I’ve been wanting to read for many years. I distinctly remember flipping through a battered copy I found at a coffee shop in Saratoga, California and I was instantly enamored by creator and everythinger Dan Brereton’s lovely painted imagery, his intriguing cast of characters—especially the super-cool Gunwitch—and the general insanity that was happening within those beautiful pages. There was a guy who I assumed to be a vampire of some sort, a reptile guy, a man with a flaming head, a furry beastial character, a gunslinging zombie scarecrow, a young girl with a trick-or-treat jack o’lantern, a merwoman, a ghost woman, and a some Lovecraftian nightmares all running around creating trouble. I was in love. I definitely wanted to see more. I should have written down the title. Alas, I forgot to pick up the book when I finally got back to town; good thing I finally remembered.

I bought the first two The Nocturnals volumes, read the first in one sitting, and I am about a third of the way through the second. Needless to say, it surpassed my already lofty expectations from what I saw that one day so many years ago. The first issue adheres to the arrive-late-leave-early style of storytelling, as you are immediately thrust into the action and introduced to the fleeing Komodo (a dragon/human hybrid). From there we learn of secret labs and mafia-style treachery and we begin to meet the rest of the ensemble: Doc Horror (a scientist and possibly a vampire), Halloween Girl (a girl who manifests the spirits that protect her through her toys), the sword-wielding Firelion (a massive man capable of generating flames), Polychrome (a pacifist ghostlike woman), Starfish (a sharpshooting merwoman), The Racoon (a criminally-inclined-yet-sometimes-heroic racoon/human hybrid), and Gunwitch (Halloween Girl’s personal protector and overall murder machine. He’s a zombie scarecrow with a gaucho ball orbited witch hat, twin guns, and a bandolier). In summary: The Nocturnals is everything you could possibly want in a comic book about a team of monsters…it’s Halloween all day every day.

Now, if you want to read Nocturnals the hard way, issue by issue, then you have your work cut out for you and you’ll need to follow the below chronology.
For those who don’t want to wait to put together the pieces of this publisher-hopping puzzle, thankfully there are the two collections that I bought to immerse myself in Brereton’s beautiful, thrilling world. This is what they contain:
  • The Nocturnals HC #1 (Contains “Black Planet” and “Witching Hour,” published by Olympian Publishing)
  • The Nocturnals HC #2 (Contains “The Dark Forever,” “The Gunwitch: Outskirts of Doom,” “Carnival of Beasts,” “Troll Bridge,” and “Spectres,” published by Olympian Publishing)
Even though I am not yet finished with the second collection, I have to track down a copy of Nocturnals: The Sinister Path so I can be completely caught up and ready for whatever Brereton comes up with next for the fantastic Nocturnals.

Here’s the part where I leave many of you aghast and possibly even angry with me. You ready? Okay. I have never read Hellboy from Dark Horse Comics. I know, I know, it’s everything I could ever possibly want in a comic book: Mike Mignola both writing and illustrating, a demonic hero with a massive stone hand who fights all sorts of supernatural threats, Nazis getting punched and decimated as they should be, and years of high praise. So, yeah, this is one of those that has been on my radar for quite some time and one I will eventually pick up in one fell swoop and hammer through in the relatively near future.

Hellboy is the story of a baby demon summoned into the world of man on October 5—my birthday, I guess reading this series is my destiny—by some Nazi occultists for their own evil purposes. Thankfully, the child is rescued by allied forces and Hellboy is raised to adulthood and becomes part of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.). He is an imposing figure with hooved feet, a tail, red skin, a massive stone hand known as the “Right Hand of Doom,” and horns that he grinds down to stumps so he can appear more human. At the B.P.R.D. He meets the half-man/half-amphibian Abe Sapien, and the pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, as well as a host of other fantastic characters.

The chronology and cast of guest writers and artists of Hellboy is one that would need a dedicated post in and of itself and is an invitation to madness if you were to find a box of random issues and tried to piece together the correct reading order on your own. The best way to tackle Hellboy (started in 1994) if you are relatively new to the character like I am, is to not dive into the 57 issues of one-shots and mini-series, but to read the 12 trades, or opt for the larger six Library Editions. From there, go to the two trades that make up the Hellboy in Hell storyline (started in 2012), which is comprised of 12 one-shots and minis. While reading Hellboy in Hell, you can also read Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. (started in 2014), which is still ongoing with three collections gathering up about 15 issues of material to date. But wait, there’s more…there are three graphic novels to read as well: Hellboy: House of the Living Dead (2011), Hellboy: The Midnight Circus (2013), Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea (2017). Or, if you can wait, Dark Horse will begin releasing Omnibus editions starting the summer of 2018, which is where I will finally begin this epic journey; I can’t wait.

And don’t think you are off the hook just yet. Remember the B.P.R.D. I mentioned? There’s also an equally confounding labyrinth of material under the B.P.R.D., of which I have read a couple of the trades and absolutely love what I have read thus far. B.P.R.D. is a massively successful spinoff of the Hellboy series and the issues that I read focused primarily on Abe Sapien and a host of bizarre characters like Liz Sherman the pyrokinetic woman, Roger the homunculus, and Johann Kraus a sentient gas as they take on witches, demons, and all manner of the supernatural. Again, a bunch of mini-series comprises the B.P.R.D. (150 issues to be exact), but you can read them in trade format (30 volumes, 15 of those are part of the “Hell on Earth” storyline), or the omnibus editions (5 of those, with the “Hell on Earth” stories starting to see release December 2017). Maybe do some jumping jacks to get warmed up before tackling these two behemoths.

To wrap up Modern Times, Modern Monsters (Part 2), I want to go back to the monsters of Marvel Comics and to a much-loved hero of my youth: Johnny Blaze from Ghost Rider. Ghost Rider absolutely rocked my ’70s world. Here we have a character with not just a skull for a head, but a flaming skull at that, and his flames also extend to his motorcycle. Stunt rider Johnny Blaze—such a great name!—performs feats of daring for the public while secretly fighting crazy foes like The Orb, a fellow motorcycle rider who wears a head-enveloping eyeball as a helmet that also shoots lasers. Blaze also fights Mephisto, Asmodeus, the Hulk, the Son of Satan, and many other bizarre antagonists. Ghost Rider first appeared in Marvel Spotlight #5 (written by Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich, illustrated by Mike Ploog, 1972), featuring until issue 11 before appearing in his own series that ran for 81 issues, with that 81st issue, written by J.M. DeMatteis, wrapping things up beautifully despite crushing my spirits that there would be no further adventures with for my hero.

Ghost Rider reappeared in 1990 (written by Howard Mackie, illustrated by Javier Saltares and Mark Texeira) only this time with Danny Ketch being a similar-yet-different version of the character who would on occasion have run-ins with the original Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze. To complicate matters, a bulkier more “extreme” version of the Ghost Rider known as Vengeance appeared in the series to cause havoc as he hunted for Zarathos, the demon that once plagued Johnny Blaze. The series ran for 93 issues and two annuals before abruptly stopping in 1998 with issue 93. Thankfully, the story would get an actual conclusion in 2007 with the release of Ghost Rider #94, which reprinted issue 93 with the never-before-seen issue 94.

In addition to these main series, there have been a bunch of other Ghost Rider centric issues and reboots:
Navigating the various incarnations of Ghost Rider and the extensive roster of artists and writers is a massive undertaking, but at least this will get you started. That said, I still have a soft spot for the old Johnny Blaze issues and the now out of print Ghost Rider by Jason Aaron Omnibus, which is starting to call my name for a reread.

There you have it for some monster-helmed comics that are certain to keep you busy until next week’s post about other scary comic book series to carry you through the Halloween season. See you then.

This Week’s Reading List

Descender #25 (Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, lettered and designed by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics) The “Rise of the Robots” event continues as TIM-21 attempts to escape from the clutches of the robotic resistance known as the Hardwire. Meanwhile, Telsa is backed into a corner by a robotic nightmare. Descender is still one of my most anticipated reads with every release, and continues to be an emotional roller coaster with some of the most beautifully watercolored pages I have ever seen. Dang, I love this series. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Mage: The Hero Denied #3 (Written and illustrated by Matt Wagner, colored by Brennan Wagner, lettered by Dave Lanphear, consulting editor Diana Schutz, design and production by Steven Birch, published by Image Comics) Kevin and Magda come to a difficult decision as to what it will take to keep their family safe from the evil of the Umbra Sprite and her deadly daughters. Mostly setup, this issue is still as thrilling as they come. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Atomahawk #0 (Written by Donny Cates, illustrated by Ian Bederman, lettered by Taylor Esposito, design and logo by John J. Hill, edited by Seamus Martin, published by Image Comics) I definitely need to give this issue more of its due props in my next installment of “Something Borrowed, Something Weird,” but what you need to know is this ’70s-esque, space, pinball and heavy metal inspired, love letter to robot greatness is too cool to express in such a short amount of space. The comic is oversized with a matte cover and a $5.99 price tag and it is worth every penny. Bederman is a tattoo artist by trade, and I now kind of want one of his bots adorning my shoulder in a permanent fashion. I honestly cannot wait to see more Atomahawk. Bring it on! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Because I am out of time, I also read the following:

  • Future Quest Presents: Space Ghost #3 (Written by Jeff Parker, illustrated by Ariel Olivetti, lettered by Dave Lanphear, published by DC Comics)
  • Kill or be Killed #13 (Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser, published by Image Comics)
  • Bug: The Adventures of Forager #4 (Written by Lee Allred, illustrated by Michael Allred, colored by Laura Allred, lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot, published by DC Comics)

All of which comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! and are definitely worth your time!