Friday, March 29, 2013

Heroclix Comes to the Library

I'm not sure how many Heroclix fans we have reading Graphic Novel Universe, but if you've never played and are in the Anne Arundel County, Maryland vicinity, think about stopping into the library tomorrow for our very first Heroclix program! It's from 10:00AM to noon at the Severna Park Library in Severna Park, MD.

The program is targeted for beginning players ages 8 and up. My two friends and Heroclix experts Trip and Eric will be on hand to teach you all the basics. (Experienced players are also encouraged to join us.)

We'll have a couple of door prizes and other fun stuff supplied by the great folks at Third Eye Comics in Annapolis. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Three Mild Temptations

Glancing at the Collected Editions Library release schedule, I don't see an awful lot of collected editions coming out this week that are must-haves. Actually, I don't see any, which is good, since I'm pretty backlogged right now. But I could be persuaded to take a look at these three:

Superman vs. Zod is a pretty safe buy and this week's biggest temptation. Reason #1: I've been a big Zod fan ever since I saw Terence Stamp play the character in the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies. He's one bad dude. Reason #2: Ten bucks. Although most of these stories are from the 80s, one of them is a Geoff Johns story from 2007.

All-New X-Men Vol. 1: Yesterday's X-Men has an interesting premise: the original X-Men from the 60s (the ones I grew up with) have been brought into the present. I'm not the biggest Brian Michael Bendis fan, so I'll probably wait to see if the library buys this one. 

Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary isn't a graphic novel, but it's graphic novel-related, sort of. This volume weighs in at a slim 96 pages, but it's a DK book, so you know it's going to look great. This might be a lot of fun for someone like me who mainly knows only TOS and TNG. I'll borrow it from the library before it gets too abused.  

So.... Let me know what you're looking forward to this week.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Marvel Masterworks: Captain Marvel Volume 1

Marvel Masterworks: Captain Marvel Vol. 1 (1967-69/2013)
Roy Thomas, Arnold Drake, Gene Colan, Don Heck
Collecting Marvel Super-Heroes #12-13, Captain Marvel #1-9
Trade Paperback, 246 pages, Marvel Comics 
ISBN 9780785167563 
Retail price $24.99
Amazon $???

In late 1967, Stan Lee handed Roy Thomas the “assignment” of writing the tales of a new character (of sorts) named Captain Marvel. But, as most comics fans know, Captain Marvel had been bounced around for many years, the subject of much controversy as to who really owned that character and his name. (all of which is explained in the Roy Thomas introduction.) 

Fortunately, Thomas had learned a thing or two from Lee, including how to plot an interesting story, how to create subplots, the creation/adaptation of not one, but multiple alien races, and every now and then, a little romance (if not love triangles). Thomas took Lee’s own idea of an alien race called the Kree from the pages of the Fantastic Four (issues #64-65, to be exact) and developed it into a character named Mar-Vell, a member of the Kree who has come to Earth perhaps to save it, perhaps to destroy it. Thomas adds a little complexity into the mix by making Mar-Vell’s superior officer, Yon-Rogg, a man plotting to kill Mar-Vell and steal away his girlfriend, Medic Una. (I’m not making these names up, honest!) 

While the names may sound ridiculous, Thomas’s stories create tension on multiple levels with Mar-Vell trying to survive attacks by Yon-Rogg, keeping his Earth identity a secret from Carol Danvers (head of security for a missile base), and ultimately to find out whether or not Earth should be punished for destroying a Kree sentry. While the fight scenes are pretty standard (and sometimes sub-standard) for the time, Thomas keeps things moving while Gene Colan’s art elevates the book to near-greatness, at least for the first six stories. (Thomas and Colan yield to the team of Arnold Drake and Don Heck [inked by Vince Colletta] starting with Captain Marvel #5.) Colan was a master at portraying the dark sides of characters wrestling with moral ambiguity. You see it a lot in the way he draws eyes, frequently hiding the irises, but also in his characters’ body language and point-of-view angles. If nothing else, reading this collection makes me want to seek out all of Colan’s work.

Yet the Drake/Heck combination works well also; I have no quibbles with their product. The entire collection is one large story arc, something rather unusual for an untried character at the time. There’s much, much more to say about Captain Marvel and the directions he took after this volume, but that story will have to wait until I’ve read Volume 2. If you’re a fan of Silver Age superheroes, you really can’t miss with this first volume of Captain Marvel.   


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Don't You Wish All Classes Were This Cool?

The other day I found out about an online course at Ball State University offered through the Canvas Network: Gender Through Comic Books. You can read more about it here, but be warned: you'll be tempted to sign up for the April 2 - May 10 course.

There's really no reason not to: it's free. Sure, you'll have to have access to the course reading list, which may set you back a bit, but you can read these comics digitally or probably get some of the trades from your local library.

Me? I'm going to give it a shot, even though my next Library and Information Science course starts the same day. Two of my co-workers are also signed up for the free online course. How about you? What do you think?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thor Omnibus Volume 2 - Cover Revealed

Okay, so this isn't really breaking news; the cover for The Mighty Thor Omnibus Volume 2 has been common knowledge for awhile, ending my previous speculation, but I thought I'd post it here for the sake of completeness. I guess it's a pretty good choice, coming from Thor #147, showing Thor and Loki slugging it out, with Odin fuming in the background. You can just hear him spouting, "You @#%&* kids! Stop that! Can't I get some sleep around here?" 

Anyway, the Amazon price is pretty sweet, if you're inclined to pre-order. As far as a variant cover and artist, I haven't heard anything yet, but this Kirby cover (Heck, practically any Kirby cover) is just fine with me.  

I have a somewhat related question. I own a handful of the Marvel Omnibus editions (and none of the DC Absolute editions, at least so far) and enjoy them, but they're just too heavy to read comfortably unless you're sitting at a large table or desk. They're certainly no good for reading in bed. (Who wants a concrete block sitting on their chest?) So do you buy Omnibus editions? Will you continue to? I pre-ordered this one because the price is very reasonable and getting these same stories in the Marvel Masterworks editions would not be cost-effective. For a long time I was looking for the Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 2, but figured out quickly that I could get the same books in the Marvel Masterworks editions much cheaper, plus they're easier to handle. 

So... Your thoughts on the Marvel Omnibus (or DC Absolute) editions???

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Well, it was a nice try. I tried downloading some titles, but no go. Maybe Comixology will try again. More here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

DC Showcase Presents Hawkman Volume 1

DC Showcase Presents Hawkman Volume 1 (1961-66/2007) - Gardner Fox, Joe Kubert, Murphy Anderson, et al.
Trade paperback, 560 pages, DC Comics
ISBN 9781401212803
Retail price $16.99

Back in January, I decided to take up Chris Marshall’s challenge over at Collected Comics Library to adopt a comic book character or creator in 2013. I chose Joe Kubert, an artist I’d had very little exposure to over the years. So a few months ago, I picked up DC Showcase Presents Hawkman Volume 1, knowing that Kubert didn’t draw all the stories in the collection, but that was okay; I had some vague memories of reading Hawkman as a kid, so I figured why not? 

Like the Marvel Essentials series, the DC Showcase series brings you mammoth phone-book sized editions of black-and-white comics for a pretty reasonable price. If you’re on the fence about a character or title, this series is a good way to get your feet wet without spending a whole lot of money. 

Realize, however, that although these stories were first published in the early 60s, this is not the first appearance of Hawkman. He was originally a Golden Age character dating back to 1940 with Flash Comics #1. Hawkman has a much-recycled and convoluted history. In the Golden Age, he was the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince. In the 1980s and beyond, other Hawkman characters appear (sometimes with different names) and disappear, but the Hawkman in this volume is Katar Hol, a policeman from the planet Thanagar. Katar and his wife Shayera (a policewoman) have come to Earth to capture an escaped criminal from Thanagar (all of which is related in the volume’s first story, “Creature of a Thousand Shapes!” from The Brave and the Bold #34). After solving the crime, Katar and Shayera decide to stick around and learn about Earth police procedures while posing as museum curators Carter and Shiera Hall. 

                 Kubert art

Most of the stories involve some detective and/or science work, but are mostly backdrops that provide a springboard for Hawkman and Hawkgirl to do their thing - catching the bad guys. The Gardner Fox stories usually aren’t that great, but they’re Silver Age fun and if you can put yourself back in that early 60s era, you’ll have a good time with this volume. But the real reason to buy this collection is the Joe Kubert artwork. Although Kubert’s contributions stop after page 162 (of 560), those first 162 pages are stunning, even in black and white. Kubert’s world is one of darkness, which is reflected in the characters, particularly the villains, who appear far more sinister and cold-hearted than those drawn by Murphy Anderson. Kubert also has an impeccable eye for bodies in flight, a skill he developed to an extraordinary level on Enemy Ace several years later. (I’m looking at pages 129 and 130 from “Masked Marauders of Earth” from The Brave and the Bold #43 as just one example.) The perspective and angles of his point of view panels give a real sense of wonder to the world of Hawkman. 

               Anderson art

You miss most of that when Murphy Anderson takes over on page 163. Anderson’s a fine artist, don’t get me wrong, but he has a different set of skills. In his hands, Gardner Fox’s stories are, for the most part, drawn as run-of-the-mill comic book stories. There’s not the same sense of wonder, the same tone of underlying darkness, the same risk-taking that you have with Kubert. One of the biggest gripes I have with Anderson is his overuse of long vertical panels. Kubert uses them sparingly; Anderson all the time. I don’t mean to slam Anderson. Again, he’s a fine comic book artist. His biggest problem is he followed Joe Kubert. (You want to be the guy that follows the guy that follows Kubert!)     

I plan to keep this volume, but will probably limit myself to re-reading only the Kubert-drawn stories. If anyone has read the Grant Morrison run or the Geoff Johns omnibus, please let me know what you think. 


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Action! Mystery! Thrills! Comic Book Covers of the Golden Age 1933-1945 (2011) - Greg Sadowski, ed.

Action! Mystery! Thrills! Comic Book Covers of the Golden Age 1933-1945 (2011) - Greg Sadowski, ed. 
Trade paperback, 208 pages, Fantagraphics Books 
ISBN 9781606994948
Retail price $29.99

One look at the cover of Action! Mystery! Thrills! might be enough to turn off many potential buyers. I mean, come on, you’ve got swastikas and hooded fiends surrounding a young woman about to be sacrificed. Not exactly PC.... We learn from the inside of the book that this is one of the rarest of comic book covers drawn by Alex Schomburg from Suspense Comics #3, April, 1944. Okay, I get that it’s rare, but editor Greg Sadowski still could’ve used a different cover. 

The front cover not withstanding, Action! Mystery! Thrills! reproduces nearly 200 covers the Golden Age of comics, featuring many characters we’ve all seen (Superman, Batman, the Human Torch, Captain America, Goofy, Donald Duck) and many we probably haven’t. I’m no purist, so I don’t know whether these colors exactly match the originals, but who cares? The covers are a combination of stunning, silly, laughable, horrifying, lurid and sometimes jaw-dropping art from a period when comic books were finding their audience largely through trial and error. 

After a brief foreword by Ty Templeton, readers are treated to a parade of covers, followed by thumbnail images of each cover with a brief bit of text about them, the comics themselves, and their creators.  

Part of the fun of Action! Mystery! Thrills! is in discovering some of the ploys publishers used on their covers to try to attract the buyer’s attention. Many included contest announcements like “Win a Double Barrel Daisy Air Rifle” or “Cash Prizes/Monthly Contest.” Others, to avoid confusion from comics that were serials or reprinted newspaper strips, would tout, “Complete Features” or “All New Comics.” Plus you can’t help but chuckle when you read some of the featured character names like Rang-a-Tang the Wonder Dog, Rex Dexter of Mars, Bob and Swab, and many others.     

As we get closer to WWII, the covers get very racist and sometimes misogynistic. You can also see the infancy of horror elements that would come to the fore in the years following the war. Action! Mystery! Thrills! is a fine representation of the comics covers from those years. Comprehensive? Probably not, but again, I have such a limited amount of experience with comics of the Golden Age, that’s for someone else to decide. If you’re remotely interested in comic book history, pick this one up. The $29.99 price is a little steep, but you can probably find a copy on-the-cheap online or at a remaindered bookstore.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Incal Classic Collection (2012) - Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius

The Incal Classic Collection (1981-89/2012) 
Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius
Hardcover, 308 pages, Humanoids 
ISBN 9781594650154
Retail price $44.95

You won’t get very far into The Incal before you realize the impact of this French comic from the 1980s. You’ll notice its influence in comics and well beyond (especially in the film The Fifth Element). Though mostly, the story, and especially the art, will leave you with an open-mouthed “Wow....” 

The story is grand space opera, beginning with a B-grade private detective named John Difool falling from a enormous skyscraper with multitudes looking on. But this isn’t a suicide attempt; Difool was pushed. But by whom? And for what?

You might just stop right there, saying, “This sounds stupid. I wouldn’t shell out $45 dollars for this; I wouldn’t even shell out $5!” Okay, you may have a point. But indulge me and read a bit further....

It’s not much of a spoiler to tell you that Difool is rescued (but I won’t tell you by whom) and that he has come to possess a strange object called the Incal, an object that everyone in the universe is looking for. While on the run from just about everybody, Difool discovers a “concrete seagull Deepo, who is given the ability to talk by the Incal, the Metabaron, a dynamic swashbuckling mercenary, Animah and Tanatah, two beautiful sisters who represent light and dark, and Kill Wolfhead, an anthropomorphic wolf who works for Tanatah. Their adventure takes them from the highlight techno city planets, to an undersea planet, to a forest of crystals to subspace.” (Ron Richards, iFanboy

Yes, the story is crazy, absolute madness. But you’re reading The Incal primarily for the flat-out stunning artwork of Moebius (who, sadly, passed away last year). That doesn’t mean there’s not good stuff in the story. Difool gives us a hero (or more properly, an anti-hero) who’s selfish and arrogant, another fallen creature in a fallen world who can’t seem to stop being true to his fallen nature. But the quest for redemption is strong in The Incal, even if the worldview in it is sometimes dark. 

The Incal is not for kids. Although the violence isn’t all that graphic, the book includes some nudity and sexuality. Again, the selling point is Moebius and his art, which is both dynamic and detailed, especially when displaying the emotions of his human (and non-human) characters. Moebius has a scope that’s vast, yet believable in the context of a space opera. Plus the colors are absolutely gorgeous.  

My only quibble with The Incal is that the text is very small and sometimes it’s not clear where the word balloons (word boxes, in this case) should be attributed. (This hardcover edition has no dustjacket. It includes a bookmark ribbon.)        

Although Amazon is sold out of this graphic novel, Humanoids will be publishing a third printing next month. If you enjoy European comics, or if you’re just looking for something different, you’ll want to pick up The Incal before it goes out of print again.  


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Indisputable Evidence That I Was a Batman/SF Reader at an Early Age

While I'm catching up a bit, getting ready to post a couple of graphic novel reviews soon,  I thought it might be fun to pass along a little evidence that I've been a Batman/sf reader since, oh, around age 3 or 4. My brother - several years older than me - always had lots of cool books on his shelf, just waiting on my grubby little hands (and pen). I'm sure this was not the only time my creative urges resulted in the defacing of one of his books. (Sorry about that, bro!) Thanks to my brother Bob for providing the pictorial evidence and the text for this post!


I’m guessing that these footnotes to the E.R. Burroughs novel were made circa 1966.

The novel in question:

(Photos are attached in a larger view format for historical accuracy.  Red BIC pens, relatively new on the then market, add a certain flair to these annotations.)

The #2 photo seems to be merely practice for #3; the artist honing his craft, as it were.

The #3 photo is the main event, showcasing the blossoming skills, both editorial and artistic.

In #4 (page 71) the reference to “Ron” is a bit unclear but perhaps ties in somehow with the missing “a” in “Batman.” 

The significance of the editorial license taken with this edition has changed over time, enhancing rather than detracting from the value of this tome.