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!


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Comics Lust 9/16/2017

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/chicken burrito biter Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). <phew> We had a break in the heat, and with any luck, we can ease into fall, my favorite season, a bit early. Nothing beats getting cozy with my puppy executive team and some amazing comics while drinking a pumpkin ale served in a cinnamon-rimmed glass. So, while we start to plan our spooooky reading list for the month of October, grab a tasty beer or refreshing iced tea, relax, and while you’re at it 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

Chocolate and Peanut Butter: Cross-Company Crossovers (Part 1)

As a kid, I frequently wondered what would happen if Daredevil met Batman, or if Superman fought the Hulk, or if Thanos fought Darkseid. I knew there was a Marvel comics and a DC Comics, each holding the reins to their own stable of characters, but I didn’t understand why they couldn’t frequent each other’s worlds and fight or work together to face the common enemy. The only time such epic meetups occurred was when I busted out my Mego dolls. What I didn’t understand was that Marvel and DC are comic brands vying for an increased market share and that those brands needed protecting and to not be diluted; the customer needed to know which character belonged to which company. I didn’t understand that intermixing of properties involves multipage contracts dictating which company owned what, who would be paid what percentages, what formats were covered by the agreement, whose name would be listed first, what creators would be involved, was there an anti-poaching clause for the talent, movie rights, digital rights, reprint rights, print runs, and so much more. There are so many moving pieces involved in getting my dream Swamp Thing and Man-Thing meetup—I’m still waiting for this one to happen, by the way—that it’s a wonder any cross-company crossovers occur at all, especially when the Big Two are concerned.

But they do happen.

The earliest crossover I remember was the Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man Treasury Edition, a 96-page beast written by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano. For those not in the know, Treasury Editions were giant-sized comics much larger than even most magazines at a 10"x14" format and although they often reprinted popular stories, some contained original content as is the case with Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man. Even during the dark ages of no internet, I knew of Marvel and DC’s first joint venture from 1976 because of the deluge of ads promoting the book in all of the comics I was reading at that time. I would love to check out the first meeting of Spider-Man and Superman as they take on Doctor Octopus and Lex Luthor, but I will probably have to settle for reading one of the regularly-sized—and still pricey—versions lurking out in the wild. There are also a couple of other cross-company, Treasury editions:

When I first saw Marvel and DC Present: The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans #1, I had to rub my eyes to be sure I was seeing things correctly. My brother and I had already been falling deeply in love with all things The Uncanny X-Men, and The New Teen Titans was always on our radar as a comic we wanted to read but was usually the one left on the spinner rack after Mom gave us the dreaded, “I said you could each have one comic book.” The need to own this particular comic-to-end-all-comics, however, forced us to launch a “Please please please please please” barrage on our poor mother before which even her steely resolve stood no chance to deny. Released in 1982, written by Chris Claremont, and illustrated by Walt Simonson, this comic had everything: our favorite X-Men characters, the Teen Titans characters we wanted to know so much more about, Deathstroke the Terminator, the evilest-of-evil Darkseid, and the glorious scourge of the universe Dark Phoenix. We literally reread this issue until it completely fell apart. Thankfully, there is a not-too-badly-priced 1995 reprint version easily found that all comic book fans need to check out.

It would be roughly 12 years until Marvel and DC  once again tossed their properties into the collaborative blender, but the blossoming black and white indie scene stepped into the crossover arena on a few occasions to bridge the gap. Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello joined forces with Dave Sim’s Cerebus the Aardvark in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #8. Then in Mark Bode’s Miami Mice #4, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Cerebus stopped by on the short-lived series. Cerebus the Aardvark met Bob Burden’s The Flaming Carrot in Cerebus #104. The turtles got crazy in The Flaming Carrot #25–27. Then in Stan Sakai’s epic Usagi Yojimbo #10, his samurai rabbit meets Leonardo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Usagi Yojimbo and the Turtles would cross paths a few years later in Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 2, #1–3, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Flaming Carrot #1–4 saw the popular terrapins reunite with a certain combustible-vegetable-headed guy. Man, those were some delightfully weird times.

In the mid-’90s, Marvel and DC once again had their characters collide in a handful of issues, but it was the massive events that garnered the most attention. DC Versus Marvel #1–4 (written by Ron Marz and Peter David, illustrated by Dan Jurgens, Claudio Castellini, Joe Rubenstein, and Paul Neary with issues 2–3 actually titled Marvel Versus DC) was the event I would have fainted over had this been around when I was kid. It is essentially a knock-down-drag-out battle royale of a mini-series where DC characters meet Marvel characters in one-on-one combat. Think Thor versus Captain Marvel, Batman versus Captain America, etc. The mini has been collected, but it is currently out of print and fairly pricey.

Possibly the weirdest collaboration between the Big Two came in 1996 and 1997 when the companies merged a character from Marvel with a character from DC to create such pairings as the JLX (Justice League of America with the X-Men), Dark Claw (Wolverine and Batman), Doctor Strangefate (Dr. Strange and Dr. Fate), and so on. In a more bizarre maneuver, Marvel and DC merged their logos and brands into a fictitious company called Amalgam Comics. Each publisher subsequently released six individual issues for these newly created characters as if they had been around for years. These 12 issues all dropped between the third and fourth issue of the DC Versus Marvel event.

Then, at the end of 1996, the companies released a four-issue mini-series titled DC Marvel Access #1–4 (written by Ron Marz, illustrated by Jackson Guice and Joe Rubenstein), which again pitted hero against hero.  In 1997, following DC Marvel Access, each company published another six issues under the Amalgam name with some new combinations of characters and a return of others from the previous year. To top all of that off was Unlimited Access (written by Karl Kesel and illustrated by Pat Olliffe and Al Williamson). It took me a while to wrap my head around the whole sequence of events for these books as it is all quite confusing, but realizing the effort involved to make this incredibly fun event happen is a daunting thought. I can picture a couple insane accountants from each company still attempting to work through the quagmire of royalty payments two decades later. In an effort to maneuver through this complicated, multi-year, cross-company crossover event, here is the release schedule:
As confusing a roster as this is, and as difficult a task as it may be to locate the scarce issues/collections, what the Amalgam comics offered was a fresh take on superheroes free from the constraints of adhering to continuity. Most of all these Amalgam issues were fun, with the Versus and Access issues giving us comic fans the rare opportunity to settle some disagreements with our friends over who is stronger than who. Okay, probably not, but it definitely got us talking.

One mini-series that I only just learned about is JLA/Avengers #1–4 written by Kurt Busiek and illustrated by George Perez from 2003. How did this get by me? How could I have not known about this? How hard is it going to be for me to track this one down? I have no idea, but I do know I need to read this as soon as possible. I don’t want to know what this one is about until I’ve actually tracked down a copy of the trade, but I’m sure resourceful fans can find a synopsis of what is certain to be one heck of an entertaining book.

There are scores of other cross-company crossover comics out there with many of those concerning Batman and Superman, Predators/Aliens/Terminators, and of course Archie Comics, but those are for another day. Now, to see if I can track down some of the ones I somehow missed out on the first time around. With any luck, Marvel and DC will get around to reprinting or offering some of the more rare comics digitally. Fingers crossed.

The Week’s Reading List

Mage #2 (Written and illustrated by Matt Wagner, colors by Brennan Wagner, lettered by Dave Lanphear, consulting editor Diana Schutz, design and production by Steven Birch, published by Image Comics) Oh boy…I am so loving this comic; the nearly two-decade-long wait was so worth it. Here we see Kevin Matchstick interact with his family and see the toll that constantly moving to avoid the forces of the Umbra Sprite has taken. We also see Kevin attempt to keep his abilities secret from his increasingly observant son. The ending battle and awesome final splash page made me want to give a victorious cheer. The third issue needs to get here quick! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Mister Miracle #2 (Written by Tom King, illustrated/inked/colored by Mitch Gerads, lettered by Clayton Cowles, published by DC Comics) I have to admit I don’t exactly know what the heck is going on in this issue, but I also have to admit that I do not care. I love it! I know that Orion has enlisted Mister Miracle and Big Barda to partake in a battle against Granny Goodness and her forces, but when it comes to who’s pulling whose strings, I’m not certain; which is where King wants us. The intimate moments between Scott and Barda are rough going given their issues from the first issue, but the meetings with Granny Goodness are the definite shocker of the issue. King and Gerads are owning this tremendous book. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Black Science #31 (Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Mateo Scalera, colored by Moreno Dinisio, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics) Grant McKay is back as he attempts to save his children and his world from invading space ghosts and death cult millipedes. One problem: maybe Grant’s children are the ones who will be doing the saving. This issue kicks off the latest chapter of Black Science and continues Remender’s streak of fantastic creator-owned comics. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Rest in Peace, Len Wein

Your body of work gave me a love of comics and influenced me to become a writer. I am so glad I got to meet you. You were taken from this world far too soon.
Image by: Lex Larson


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Comics Lust 9/9/2017

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/overwatcher Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Although it was a short week because of Labor Day, Tulip, Reverse Obie, and I still found ourselves quite busy with our work, side projects, and exercise schedules, but we are here and ready to go and…and…and…ready for a dang nap. So, while we catch some much-deserved shut eye, order a burrito, grab a tasty beer or refreshing iced tea, relax, and while you’re at it check out some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magics 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.

In case you missed the post Introduction to “Comics Lust” where I explained the slight change in direction I’m taking with Donist World, what you need to know is that every week I will tackle a different topic and provide a bunch of comics I have read and recommend, or the names of titles I hope to read in the near future. I will then follow with a brief rundown of the comics I read that week. Cool? Cool. Let’s go.

Comics Lust

Everythinged…The Writer-Artist: Heartbreak

The act of contributing one aspect of the comic creation process—whether that be writer, penciller, inker, colorist, or letterer—is a herculean endeavor in and of itself. But having someone who tackles one or more responsibilities on a book is something not often seen. If that person is both writer and artist, it is truly rare. Show me someone who successfully does absolutely everything on their comic and you have someone quite special, indeed. Whenever I use the term everythinged, I’m generally not exclusively referring to the type of creator who handles it all, but rather I use the term as a general catch-all for someone who is at least a writer-artist.

In this exclusive club, Jack “King” Kirby has to be at the top of the list, but I will save looking at Kirby for later as he deserves a chapter all to himself, which I will write in the near future. That said, Happy recent 100th anniversary to the “King,” and I am definitely eyeing that Fourth World Omnibus that will have all of his work from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, The New Gods, The Forever PeopleMister Miracle, and other goodies coming December 2017.

Writer-artists cover the spectrum of comic book genres, but if you’re in a bit of a mood, then nothing will feed that monster of self-reflection and sadness more than the titles I mention below. I recommend grabbing a pint of ice cream (mint chip is my favorite), grab a box of tissues, and know that things might get a little rough from here.

Jeff Lemire is one of my favorite modern comic book creators. He had his start in the indie scene but has since created a respectful body of work published by Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, and Valliant covering everything from superheroes to sci-fi. The must-read work that put him on the Big Two’s radar is Essex County, a trio of intertwined, real-world tales that strike so close to the heart as to leave readers wiping away the tears. One of the stories centers around a hockey player, and although I loathe sports, I was so drawn in by the character’s story, I could not put the book down. Such is the way with much of Lemire’s comics, especially the ones from smaller publishers. Expect plenty of heartbreak from his writing and cartooning found in the likes of The Underwater Welder, Lost Dogs, Royal City, and Roughneck (which I have not yet read). He also made his mark on DC Comics’s Vertigo imprint with the time and space love story Trillium, the Invisible Man inspired The Nobody, and my personal favorite of all his writer-artist work Sweet Tooth, about a boy with antlers in a post-apocalyptic world where animal-hybrid children might hold the key to mankind’s survival in world that might not be worth saving. Lemire’s work has a tendency to leave me an emotional wreck, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. Any of his books work as a starting point and you can then jump from one to the next.

Terry Moore’s masterwork, Strangers in Paradise , is the only comic book I ever had to briefly set down lest I break out sobbing on a train ride home from San Diego back in 2008. One particular moment in the story was so harsh, yet so overwhelmingly beautiful, so hopeful that I could barely keep myself together. Strangers in Paradise, or SiP as it’s known to its fans, is the story of Katchoo, a woman who has much going for her, who is in secretly in love with her best friend Francine, who’s life is not going so well, but then David arrives and is determined to win Katchoo’s heart. Moore’s art can tell you the emotional weight of the scene with but a few panels detailing a slight shift in a smile or the narrowing of the eyes. His women are also positively gorgeous but all his characters ultimately charm. His work doesn’t end with SiP, as he followed with a wonderful sci-fi epic about a woman who comes in contact with a mysterious metal that gives her special abilities called Echo that delivers its share of gut punches and excitement. He followed that with Rachel Rising about a woman who rises from the dead and attempts to find the man who killed her and left her in a shallow grave. Predominantly a horror title with a fair sprinkling of laughs, Rachel Rising invested me so deeply in its characters that I fell completely in love with them, especially secondary character Aunt Johnny. You can’t go wrong with any of Moore’s books, and I suspect that his newest title, Motor Girl, won’t let you off easy yet will dazzle you nonetheless.

I read Craig Thompson’s 592-page, emotional roller coaster, Blankets, over two days and related to the book almost too much. I was lucky enough to escape the perils of semi-abusive parents bent on inflicting a fundamentalist Christian religion upon my little brother and me, but the rest of this beautifully illustrated book was a warm reflection to much of my own life experiences: my brother and I shared a love of art; I remember the cruelty of other children, of isolation; the melting away of the world and its myriad problems with a first kiss; the abyss of your first love falling apart. Blankets is a rough read, but one I found impossible to put down. Rest easy, though, it’s not all gloom and doom. There’s hope, growth, and a personal acceptance of who you are and being okay with that. I seem to remember going for a long walk after reading this wonderful book in an effort to reflect on my own life and finding joy in the things that truly matter.

Asterios Polyp is the masterwork of David Mazzucchelli, who many know all too well from his legendary illustrations on Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again—both written by Frank Miller. Here, Mazzucchelli, who also teaches cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, handles everything on this beautifully produced book from Pantheon. Asterios Polyp is a middle-aged Architect and teacher who, for better and usually worse, has used his position and status to bring multiple students to his bed, but when a fire burns down his New York City apartment, he takes stock of his life and finds it empty without Hana, the love of his life. Mazzucchelli uses both precise line and flat color schemes to tell the story every bit as much as his characters’ dialogue as he jumps back and forth from the past to the present. By no means an easy read, Asterios Polyp is an essential one, and the physical copy of this treasure rests firmly on the top left of my favorite bookshelf. I think it’s time to give this one a re-read.

Now, I realize there are many more writer-artists out there who could fall into the “Heartbreak” category, but some of the others I was considering also fall more prominently in different categories such as humor or adventure or historical or what have you than in the realm of broken hearts and paths not taken; I will examine them in other chapters. For now, though, pour that glass of wine, turn your phone off, slip into a hot bubble bath, and prepare to be enveloped in lovely art and words all created by one person who will lead you to love and care for their characters to such a degree you don’t to see them suffer. Unfortunately, life is not easy.

The Week’s Reading List

Seven to Eternity #9 (written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Jerome Opeña, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics) This is hands down my favorite fantasy comic book on the shelves, and is tied with Descender (by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen) as my favorite comic series of 2017. Opeña is back on art after a two-issue break to deliver some of the most stunning character work, storytelling, backgrounds, and creature design you will find anywhere else. Hollingsworth’s colors—dang, those mushrooms!—are captivating, and Remender actually turns the deplorable Mud King into a sympathetic character, which is something I thought impossible. It will be a long four months until the next much-anticipated issue.VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: Rise of the Batmen (Rebirth) (written by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Eddie Barrows and Alvaro Martinez and Al Barrionuevo, inked by Eber Ferreira and Raul Fernandez, colored by Adriano Lucas and Brad Anderson, lettered by Marilyn Patrizio, published by DC Comics) Okay, I had pretty much checked out of DC’s Rebirth comics, but ended up buying this Detective Comics trade on a whim. Holy Guacamole! I have been missing out. Batman gathers Batwoman (love what Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III did with her), Red Robin (Tim Drake, who I know little of but totally dig), Clayface (a groovy goop monster who was once a villain and given a chance at redemption), The Spoiler (who is Stephanie Brown, a character I know nothing of yet need to remedy that ASAP), and Orphan (a kind of creepy ninja force of nature who I need to know more about ASAP, as well). Basically, an army of Batmen appear who have been monitoring Batman and the rest of the group and have a mysterious agenda for which no one will stand in their way. Super fun and with high stakes that had me biting my nails throughout. I MUST get the second volume and quick. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Comics Lust 9/2/2017

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). All righty, Denizens, are you ready for an extended weekend? We sure as heck are. Full disclosure: we had Friday off, too. So yeah, the Donist World executive team cut out of the corporate office (Mom’s basement) a little early on Thursday and hit up Rincon Brewery in Isla Vista for some beer and pizza. We stayed up a little later than usual to watch some Arrow on Netflix and had every intention of spending Friday writing the first official chapter of “Comics Lust,” which totally did not happen. Nope. Instead, we watched some TV, spent about three hours cleaning the balcony and the front and back patios, and a lot of time generally putting everything back in order in the aftermath of the dudes painting our complex. We then worked out—ever seen a dog with a six-pack?—and followed up with porch, beer, comics, dinner, beer, and more TV. We basically took a day off from thinkableizing or using our braininesses. It was glorious, but we’re back, we’re refreshed. So, wish the best for Houston and help if you can, grab a tasty beer or refreshing iced tea, relax, and while you’re at it check out some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magics 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.

In case you missed last week’s Introduction to “Comics Lust” where I explained the slight change in direction I’m taking with Donist World, what you need to know is that every week I will tackle a different topic and provide a bunch of comics I have read and recommend, or the names of titles I hope to read in the near future. I will then follow with a brief rundown of the comics I read that week. Cool? Cool. Let’s go.

Comics Lust

Monster Mash

As I mentioned in the Introduction, the monster comics were my jam, my jelly, my peanut butter, and my peanuts; I could not get enough of them. And when I talk about the monster comics of my youth, I am, of course, referring to the Universal Monsters, from Universal Studios: Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy. I should also take a moment to thank my mom for including me in her love of the classic horror films and their extension into the uber-creepy Hammer Horror offerings that I still love to this day. My love of nightmarish creatures didn’t stop there. I also had Godzilla, Gamera, and the mishmash of weirdos hailing from Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot to leave my imagination whirling as if I had done an hour-long session on a Sit ’n Spin.

One thing to remember is that my introduction to the world of monsters happened in the mid-to-late-‘70s. There was no such thing as “on-demand” viewing. There were no movie stores. We only had what happened to come across the antenna. Us poor primitives might as well have been beating rocks and bowing down before the might of a roaring fire compared to what we have available today. We actually had to chance upon a show while we turned the dial of the television—we also did not have remote controls…I know, the horror—or we had to have an ever-diligent parent (love you, Mom!) to scour the newspapers to find exactly when something of interest was on. These were dark times, indeed, but that is where having a healthy stack of monster comics became an essential tool for survival.

I remember having a few creepy comics like DC’s Weird War Tales, The Witching Hour, and The House of Secrets laying around, but my favorite monster comic and one of my oldest memories is of Marvel’s Werewolf by Night #18. In this issue, Jack Russell—no, I am not making his name up—is the Werewolf by Night, and he is pitted against another werewolf, a purple one, that he must battle as he fights to keep his animal side at bay. I loved this comic so much it eventually fell apart in my hands. Thankfully, I also had issue #43, which had Russell team up with none other than Iron Man to combat the horror of the beast known as the Tri-Animan. Having Iron Man appear in this issue, not only confirmed my appreciation of the superhero, it vaulted him to new heights of greatness in my eyes. Many writers and artists took a shot at telling Jack’s story, but Doug Moench and Don Perlin took the reins for most of the series. It has been nearly four decades since I read those comics, and I have the massive Werewolf by Night Omnibus squarely in my sights. I’m also happy to see a collection of three lengthy trades coming out starting in October 2017.

A little less compelling to Young Donist, but of vital importance to monster comics, was Marvel’s cult smash Tomb of Dracula, predominately written by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by Gene Colan. I had a few issues in this 70-issue run, but my favorite thing was the Power Records Dracula: Terror in the Snow comic and 45 rpm record combo that my brother and I played constantly. Dracula was a more complex title than your average seven-year-old could comprehend, but I still appreciated seeing the fanged gentleman in the flowing cape transform into bats and mist and other creatures of the night. What’s even more impressive were the times Jack Russell and the Prince of Darkness crossed paths in what always ended up being a knock-down-drag-out battle royale. If a full-blown comic book series wasn’t enough, there was also two short-lived magazines: Dracula Lives and Tomb of DraculaThree omnibus volumes were once available, but those are long since out of print. Thankfully, like Werewolf by Night, it looks like Marvel will start reissuing this tantalizing tale of terror come October 2017. Now, as an adult, I’m excited to see what all the hubbub was about for Tomb of Dracula; I have a lot of catching up to do.

In the ’70s, Marvel completely had the monster comics genre down, and if you’re going to talk about the Wolf Man and Dracula, then you absolutely cannot forget the third piece of the holy triumvirate: Frankenstein’s Monster. With The Monster of Frankenstein—later titled The Frankenstein Monster in issue #6—writer Gary Friedrich, followed later by Doug Moench, and an assortment of artists including Mike Ploog and Val Mayerik, delivered a tale of a monstrous being who just wanted to have his own place in the world and not to be tormented by men with pitchforks and torches. Over the course of the 18-issue series, our favorite, beleaguered creature ran across Dracula and countless other monsters making this comic a close second to my much-loved Werewolf by Night. Lucky for all of us, we can get the entire series as well as a host of other Frankie appearances in the readily available The Monster of Frankenstein trade paperback.

One title I wish I could have gotten ahold of as a kid was Tales of the Zombie, a black and white Marvel magazine that looks to have been Marvel’s answer to the Warren horror magazines of old. Although I have never read a single issue of the series, I was very much aware of Simon Garth the Zombie, as the character appeared on various sticker cards and even in a kid’s activity book I had. Unfortunately, reading this series means either locating the rare issues or finding a copy of the out-of-print Essential: Tales of the Zombie to get the whole story.

While we’re on the subject of hard-to-find Marvel titles, we have to remember Supernatural Thrillers starring The Living Mummy. I never read a single one of these issues, but man do I wish I did. Hopefully, ol’ N’Kantu makes a return to the land of the living some day in the future.

There are TONS of other monster comics out there, especially when you consider the brilliance of Jack Kirby, muck monsters, giant lizards, giant robots, and the myriad of other things that lurk in the shadows. There’s even a bunch of supernatural heroes and villains out there that are sure to give your grandparents cause to worry for your soul or to suspect you’re playing far too much Dungeons & Dragons or Magic the Gathering. But that, Denizens, is for another section…

The Week’s Reading List

Thanos #10 (written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Germán Peralta, colored by Rachelle Rosenberg, lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles, published by Marvel Comics) I love Lemire. I love Thanos. But I’m probably off the book when Lemire leaves after issue 12. Still, this series is pretty fun. RECOMMENDED!

Deadly Class #30 (written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Jordan Boyd, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics) Man, this series just gets better and better. Craig’s art is gorgeous, and this issue has some of the original class and some of the new class finally come together. It ain’t gonna be pretty. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Saga #46 (written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, lettered and designed by Fonografiks, Coordinated by Eric Stephenson, published by Image Comics) It’s Saga. You know I love it, and I think you do/will, too. This issue is pretty damn heavy, but a new romantic endeavor lifts the mood considerably. Still as great as ever. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Grendel vs the Shadow (written and illustrated Matt Wagner, colored by Brennan Wagner, lettered by Michael Heisler, published by Dark Horse Comics, Inc.) Dude! Denizens! I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved this three-issue mini-series. Pulp, noir, crime, and one of my favorite characters, Grendel…I was born to love this comic. This made me not only want to get all of the Grendel Omnibus volumes but also take look into Wagner’s The Shadow stories. Freakin’ great! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Uncanny Avengers TPB Vol. 1–4 (written by Rick Remender, illustrated by a ton of people, published by Marvel Comics) Rick Remender can do no wrong with me, especially when you look at his mighty volume of creator-owned work (see Deadly Class #30 above, for example). That said, although I very much enjoyed The Uncanny Avengers, there were certain plot points introduced in the third volume that just never materialized. Still, the Apocalypse Twins are awesome, as is the rather demented machinations of the Red Skull. What made this series a struggle for me was the onslaught of rotating artists and rushed work on what should have been a showcase series. Worth reading, but the art could have been more solid and Remender should have been allowed to tell the tale he wanted to tell. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!