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!


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