Thursday, June 10, 2004

The Day After Comics Day
My promise to forge ahead in the face of super-adversity...

Yes, for those of you who don't know, Wednesday is the day that new comics hit shelves. This is of course barring Monday holidays. Comics ship on Mondays, and so if there is a holiday, the release is moved backed to Thursday.

In more boring shipping news, new releases of DVD's and CD's are released on Tuesdays, but are shipped the week before, usually arriving at a story by Friday. Hence they are unaffected by similar problems. Why am I telling you this...I don't know.

Obviously, if you've been reading this, then you know that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are big days for me. Then there's Thursday, formerly Thor's day, the day after Wednesday. Despite the historic origins of the name, it's not my favorite day. After all, if my highlights for the week are the goodies that come out on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday is one day blocking me from Friday and the weekend, why should I love Thursdays?

Now you could argue similar things about Monday, but I say it's not as bad. True nothing comes out on Mondays, and it is the day after weekend. However, it's a long way from Friday, and I've still got Tuesday to look forward to. Get it?

If you don't, I don't care.

Now I promised I'd talk about comics today. I ran into one snag. I did pick up a couple of books yesterday, but I didn't read either of them. Since I had finished Marcus Aurelius, I was anxious to start my new book and spent my time for reading thusly. Of course I say time for reading like there's an actual block for that in my schedule, truth is that it's usually the ten minutes for reading most people get every day. (I'm certainly hoping you don't need a compass and a road map to catch that one.) Sometimes, I get a little more time, and will stretch out on the couch or in bed with a book or whatever...but there is no "reading time."

Of course, sometimes I wish life was more like elementary school, and we had a reading time. Along similar lines, I've often opined that we should have a nap at work after lunch. Some have claimed that I'm merely copying siesta, but my vision includes the whole kindergarten treatment. I want the mats on the floor. I want the little milk or juice boxes. The whole bit. To me that's not siesta at all. Also, some have said they'd rather have a half hour or so off at the end of the day. I say no. We leave at the same time, but we get a little nap. Who's with me?

Oh yeah. Comics.

I recall that long ago, I had meant to list off the final B-List favorite series which I had amassed en toto. Well, the first two runs of it, after that it was all one-shots, mini-graphic novels, and short series. That series was Alien Legion.

Unfortunately, feeling lazy, I don't feel like looking up any research on the series. Also, though I've read them all, it's been some time. Currently they are sealed away in boxes like all my past comics.

Essentially I can say that it was the Dirty Dozen of space. A team created of a variety of personalities, some good and some bad, and in this case a variety of species as well. Imagine the Mos Eisley Cantina patrons as a space based military squadron...just without the funny looking band. ( I realize that I completely geek out by making that reference without saying what it's from...but if you don't know what it's from, then you've been asleep since about 1977.)

Anyhow, it was always a well-written and very well-drawn series from Marvel's Epic division.

In fact, a lot of my favorite comics came out of that label during that time period. Unfortunately, they've become very difficult to find, but in most cases the artists and writers were able to retain the rights to the things they created. So occasionally they show up as trade paperbacks.

As the Epic line didn't usually carry characters like Spider-Man or the X-men (ok, so Wolverine showed up in a series or two), then they all qualify as b-list. Also the artists and writers tended to be the weirder bunch to begin with or proved themselves to be. Generally speaking, these were concepts that weren't gonna hit mainstream, even ones with popular characters like the mini-series Havok and Woverine: Metldown.

A good for instance starting place would be Ted McKeever's two series for epic, Plastic Forks and Metropol. McKeever's very angular, simple, and often frightening style in these early books is definitely more down the alley of the art enthusiast. Also, his stories were by and large onthe side of the macabre and surreal. Still, well worth the price of admission.

Of course, to some degree, psychotic kitchen utensil stories were all the rage. A personal favorite of mine was Bill Sienkiewicz's Stray Toasters. I can't accurately think of a way to summarize this story. A detective is hired to investigate a series of bizarre murders which end up being the victims of a little boy's giant robot. The robot which was the kid's surrogate parent and featured a toaster for a head had the frighteningly cool name of 'Big Daddy'. The series feature some of Sienkiewicz's most beautiful artwork. If you've never seen it, it's a catch-all of multimedia that tends to be both beautiful and gruesome in the same piece.

Continuing with Sienkiewicz, another favorite Epic series did feature a more A-list super-hero gal: Elektra: Assassin. Again, Sienkiewicz's work is astounding, but this series featured A-list comic book writer Frank Miller. Frank and Elektra first started working together in Daredevil, and Frank's various runs on Daredevil rank up there amongst my favorites. Frank also crafted some of the best stories for characters i always found to be B-list, and who worked better off others, namely Elektra and the Punisher. Both of them are straight-up killers, and frankly that tends to rend the flesh of the super hero universe (on their own in solo efforts outside of the "marvel universe" they do better) and so they work best as supporting characters. This trend continued in this book, as Elektra's unwilling accomplice, Garrett, steals most of the focus of the show. Garrett is a hilariously fun and sloppy character, and much easier to relate to than the icey cool killer Elektra. This is one of those comics that for both art and story, I recommend to non-comics readers.

The final stand out series for me definitely held it's own in the surreal vein. The post-apocalyptic vampire story Blood: A Tale by Kent Williams and J.M. De Matteis was way over my head when I first picked it up as a pre-teen out of a dollar bin. What sold me was the incredibly ugly and beautiful artwork of Williams...and that age, the primarily naked female character. I'm not sure how many people would have found her rendering as enrapturing as I did, but it was there. Anyhow, again, I can't real encapsulate De Matteis's story which is more like the narration for a series of paintings that is occasionally spiked with chunks of plot. Primarily I recommend this book as just something fascinating to look at, though I can't deny that it's existence still relies heavily on the words. "And the sea turned to blood...and the blood gave up its secrets."

I did read quite a few of the books Epic printed based on Clive Barker's Hellraiser. Though the artwork often shined, rarely did the stories raise above S&M satanic junk. Then again, I always figured that if the Marquis de Sade, Anton La Vey, and Aleister Crowley who lived this stuff were such horrible writers then what chance do a bunch of comic book guys have working in spinning off the random evil psycho-sexual fantasy yarn. (Note: This is no poor reflection on Clive's work, which I've quite enjoyed over the years.)

Anyhow, Epic was a valiant attempt at taking comics into an adult world outside of the mainstream super hero vein. Admittedly, DC's Vertigo did much better a few years later, but I would argue that it was largely only because the groundwork had been laid by Epic and perhaps Heavy Metal. The irony to me in that was that I still see many of DC's heroes as relics compared to Marvel's. Though I love the design and concepts behind Superman, his goody-two shoes image fits in fairly uncomfortably in a Punisher/Wolverine world.

So that's my spiel on comics, my first in some time. If someone wants to donate large amounts of cash and/or if someone wants to write letters and letters to the comics companies asking them to improve their work, I'd be happy to buy more and hence talk about them more. As the trend seems to be how many Batman, Spider-Man, and X-books they can release, your gonna have to catch my commentary on them as it comes.


No comments: