Friday, November 24, 2017

Comics Lust 11/25/2017

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/turkey-taster Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Well, Denizens, the Donist World corporate office (Mom’s basement) was closed for Thanksgiving and Friday as an active recovery day from the bounty of turkey, bourbon-barrel-aged beer, and pumpkin pie we merrily consumed. To be honest, we’re still a bit sluggish today, but we’re powering ahead to bring you the next installment of “Comics Lust” for your reading pleasure as you try your dagburned best to avoid yet another awkward conversation with Uncle Seth and Aunt Edna. (Don’t worry, they should hopefully be leaving by late afternoon today…please let them leave today.) Anyhow, good luck dodging those relatives who seek to make your life miserable, drink some water (hydrating is good), go for a nice walk, and round out the afternoon reading 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 2)
Big 2 Superhero Comics for Those Who Like the Movies

Comic books are in our blood. We read tons of ’em, we love ’em, they are our obsession. So, it makes sense that we want to share our love of the medium with anyone we can: significant others, siblings, friends, co-workers, and possibly even our parents. One thing I’ve noticed over the past ten years is an increase in the number of people who are thrilled by the Marvel and DC movies yet they have never cracked open a comic book to experience that which made the movie possible. The stalwart champions of comics that usually come to our minds when we want to bring someone into our world usually goes straight to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Everythinged by Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, colored by Lynn Varley, published by DC Comics, 1986), or more likely, Watchmen (Written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons, published by DC Comics, 1986), but as monumental as these works are they might be considered “next level” comic books for those who’ve only visited the cinema or streamed at home; don’t worry, though, your recipient should be ready for those by the second or third round of gifting. When someone raves about Thor: Ragnarok or Wonder Woman, you gotta be ready to drop some Thor or Wonder Woman truth on them while the spark is fresh.

Speaking of the Thor: Ragnarok movie, The Mighty Thor by Walter Simonson Volume 1 (Everythinged by Walt Simonson, published by Marvel Comics, 1983) is a great way to ride the lightning of the God of Thunder’s popularity that will return them to the idea of Ragnarok, bring back the villain Malekith from Thor: The Dark World, and give them some alien action with the awesome Beta Ray Bill. Simonson’s entire run is a blast showcasing his gorgeous art and an exhilarating story with massive stakes that make the book difficult to put down. Your friend will probably have some questions but that’s when you jump in to save the day and get some conversations started. If you REALLY want to style-out your friend, you can literally go big with the recently released The Mighty Thor by Walter Simonson Omnibus (or get it for me; that thing’s lovely) or point them in the direction of the second volume releasing in January to keep the love going. Come to think of it, you could also start them out on Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 1 - The God Butcher (Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Esad Ribic, published by Marvel Comics, 2012) for a story that also has huge stakes, glorious art, and that will carry them into the Lady Thor issues, all of which are a fantastic jumping off point for Thor’s further adventures.

Since I also mentioned the fantastic Wonder Woman movie, fans of the film can easily slide into Wonder Woman by George Perez Vol. 1 (Written by Len Wein, Greg Potter, and George Perez; illustrated by George Perez, published by DC Comics, 1987) which not only retells the origins of Diana, but also Paradise Island, Steve Trevor, Ares, and so much more. The story is great on its own and more than stands up to the test of time—I just read this volume a few months ago—but I have to be honest that Perez’s masterful art is the main draw for this series. You can’t help but feel Wonder Woman’s joy upon seeing the outside world for the first time, her smile stretched across her face in wonder at something new. You also never doubt that she can hold her own in a fight as she battles her way across cityscapes, the bluest skies, and backdrops of wondrous myth. There are two volumes currently available unless you’re feeling really generous and kick down the Wonder Woman by George Perez Omnibus Vol. 1. If you want to delve even deeper into the Princess of Power, this time with the writer taking the lead on the series, then Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka is also a very safe bet as Rucka perfectly inserts Diana into the modern world as a diplomat from Themyscira. Princess Diana is a symbol of hope and strength not just for girls, but for everyone, and the runs by these two creators more than deliver that hope through great art and story.

If we’re going to talk superheroes, then it’d be positively criminal not to bring up The Batman. Now, there are plenty of great Batman stories out there, but if I was going to introduce someone to the comics of the Dark Knight after they had watched Batman Begins an/or The Dark Knight, I would have to go with The New 52’s Batman (written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Greg Capullo, published by DC Comics, 2011). We don’t have The Joker (yet), or The Riddler (yet), or any of Batman’s extensive villainous nemeses, but rather the new and unnerving Court of Owls. Fans of the films will be right at home with Snyder’s writing as it slowly and steadily ratchets up the tension while dancing along the edge of horror. Capullo’s expert storytelling, character design and acting, and detailed backgrounds capture one’s attention and refuse to allow you to look away. (Man, I really need to reread this phenomenal 12-issue storyline.) After that taster, I would definitely follow up with Batman: The Black Mirror (Written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Jock and Francesco Francavilla, published by DC Comics, 2011). Originally published in Detective Comics #871–881, you will probably have to attach a note saying that this Batman is not Bruce Wayne, but rather Dick Grayson (aka…Robin/Nightwing), and that Dick is standing in for Bruce for reasons I don’t remember and that don’t really matter to the story. Again, this is an expertly told and freakin’ stressful as all heck tale that is both scary and unnerving. Jock and Francavilla alternate on art depending on which character we are following, and both artists deliver some of the most stunning and memorable work on a Bat-title I have ever seen. I know plenty of Batman fans will take umbrage with what I’m about to say, but Batman: The Dark Mirror just might be my favorite Batman tale of all time.

The Avengers movie…yeah, I never thought I would see the day. I mean, I’ve been flipping through the comics since before I could read, but as a kid, I never thought there would be a movie, or that it would be so gosh-darn good. But recommending or gifting a comic to someone who has only seen the movie? Wow. Yeah. Not an easy thing to do given just how much continuity there is out there. I would, however, feel good about starting someone out with The Ultimates (Written by Mark Millar, illustrated by Bryan Hitch, published by Marvel Comics, 2002). Back when I was buying this in issues, it was utter torture to wait for new issues of this series I so completely loved. Millar’s dialogue is sharp, humorous, at times badass, and when mixed with Hitch’s “widescreen,” thrilling splash pages and art the scope of the story is too large to describe. Readers will quickly identify most of the characters with their movie counterparts as well as see some parallels between the stories. Dang, this is a fun series. But then comes your friend’s dreaded question: Who’s this Thanos guy? Okay…well, they’re just gonna have to go with the flow here when you hand them the worthy-of-worship The Avengers Versus Thanos (Mostly written by Jim Starlin, mostly illustrated by Jim Starlin, published by Marvel Comics, ) trade. This collection holds most of my top-five-favorite-comics material concerning Thanos and Adam Warlock as well as stories about Captain Marvel (the original one) and a whole host of other characters not (yet) found in the movies, but it will definitely give them a sense of who Thanos is and why he is very bad news for The Avengers. You will probably have to do some handholding on this one as your friend works through the comic, but that just means they’re interested.

There are just too many great kick-off points for the ol’ movie to comics transition, and I’ll cover some more in another chapter down the road.

This Week’s Reading List

Weirdworld: Warriors of the Shadow Realm TPB (Written by Doug Moench; illustrated by Mike Ploog, Pat Broderick, and John Buscema, select stories painted by Peter Ledger, published by Marvel Comics) This week there were no books in my pull. I know, I know, there is one particular massive event that I did not pick up, but I’m going to wait to get that one in trades at some point down the road. I did receive a Kickstarter series that I am thrilled to finally be able to read, and there is a certain massive tome that I am steadily making my way through, but I won’t be talking about either of those until I have finished reading them. One rather substantial collection that I just finished and have been wanting to read since I first saw the ad back in the ’70s was Weirdworld. Originally appearing as a short, black and white story in the magazine Marvel Super Action #1, the ad I saw was actually for Marvel Premiere #38, which was a colored expansion of the black and white tale. Elves, swords, scantily-clad women, and a hideous sea serpent as illustrated by the great Mike Ploog called to me, but, alas, finding that comic just wasn’t in the cards for this here Donist. It’s probably for the best, though, as attempting to gather the various stories of this magical world would have driven me mad. Also included in this collection are the following: Marvel Fanfare #24–26 (1986), Marvel Super Special #11–13 (1979), and Epic Illustrated #9, 11–13 (1981). I don’t understand the order in which the material is presented in this trade, but each of the chapters is standalone and do not need to be read in the order of their release. The first story predates the animated The Lord of the Rings and Wizards films as a source of fantasy adventure and each tale of lost homes, evil wizards, monsters, and quests is just as thrilling today as they were back then. Ploog’s art kicks off the story and believe me when I say it is gorgeous, and so is Broderick’s, but it’s when we get to Buscema’s lovely line work and freakin’ Ledger’s fully and painstakingly painted pages from the Marvel Super Special issues where I became even more spellbound than I initially was. Moench has written many comics throughout the years that I wholeheartedly love, and Weirdworld is right up there with the rest. If you’re in the mood for some swords and sorcery action, then you need to get this collection as soon as you can! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


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!