Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Prodigal Reviewer Returneth.

You know, I used to write a lot of comics reviews. Almost from the beginning of my blogging days, I did that. Actually, I even did it before I started blogging- in my pre-blog days, I spent a lot of time on the old DC Comics Message Boards, and there was this thread that asked people to post their reactions to comics they'd read the week previous, and I always used it as an opportunity to hold forth about what I had bought. So naturally, even though I didn't really intend to make it such, it was only a matter of time when I started posting them on my then-new blog, back in 2002.

And slowly, I began to get some attention for doing it. I started making the online acquaintance of others who did the same, and eventually my little blog became 75-80% comics content, sometimes more. And I was cool with that. I was actually part, for a little while, of a club...the Comics Blogosphere, as it was called. People linked to me, I linked to them...it was fun and interesting and I even began to get free comics, thanks to many kind publishers like Larry Young's AiT/PlanetLar, Oni, Top Shelf, the fine folks at Fantagraphics, even DC Comics thanks to Alex Segura. I even wrote for other websites eventually, like Alan David Doane's Comic Book Galaxy and Trouble With Comics, the short-lived Pop Culture Shock, and more recently, PopDose, thanks to the redoubtable Jeff Giles.

But, every year, sometimes every week, newer and better and more interesting voices came along and drowned out a lot of others, survival of the fittest in action. Group blogs became the order of the day, then eventually the bigger comics websites skimmed the cream off the top. The comics themselves changed. And I myself changed, I think. Got older, if not wiser, and while I have not stopped reading comics and other forms of sequential entertainment, I have found myself having less to actually say about them. Blogging became a real chore, since it seemed like I no longer had the desire and energy and spare time to devote to it, and I decided to put the by then venerable Bacardi Show on hiatus, as well as limiting my Popdose columns to once a month and even then that became something I put off as long as I could, as honored as I was (and still am) that I was contributing to that awesome site.

It came to a head in October of 2012. Confronted with dear Raina Telgemeier's then-new graphic novel Drama, my brain shut down. I couldn't think of a single damned thing to say about it. It was a very good story with a worthwhile point to make, rendered in Raina's likeable art style...yet I couldn't think of a single interesting way to express that. Of course, this assumes that could ever do that in the first place, not for me to say, so work with me here. I decided that I needed to take a break from foisting my opinions on people, especially since I could no longer adequately express them, it seemed. I apologized to Jeff and requested a hiatus there, too, which lasts to this day. I think I'm still welcome to come back, but who knows.

So now, here we are, June of 2014, and once more I'm entertaining notions of writing reviews of comics I've read. I still don't feel all that confident about it, and I certainly don't want to just do it for the sake of doing it...I've always wanted to be as entertaining as possible, and informative too; I've been reading the damned things since I was four years old, I've seen a lot of things come and go, and surely that counts for something. I want to do this, just to see if I can get over the block and still do it. So here goes...some of the stuff I've read in the last month or so, along with general reviews of titles I've been buying regularly. Wish me luck.
 

Big Trouble in Little China #1
W: Eric Powell (with John Carpenter co-credit) A: Brian Churilla, Michael Garland (Boom!)

The biggest surprise when it comes to this, the latest in a long line of licensed property comics from this and other publishers, is that it took so long to appear. And, as usual with this sort of thing (and bear in mind I have yet to sample the likes of Adventure Time comics, which I understand goes off in a lot of different directions), it tries to hit every. Single. Beat. that made the film, mostly ignored by the general population but solidly in the Cult Status Canon, so enjoyable- and that is part of the problem. Powell (of The Goon fame), picks up from where the film leaves off- a good idea, but hedges his bets by sticking slavishly to the Carpenter/Richter template, and gives the impression that this will never color outside the lines and thus will become a bore. This is hard to believe from such a blank slate character (Jack Burton. I hear you say, smiling, "Who?" but you know what I mean), so the net effect is that it certainly seems like the writer knows how to imitate Richter and may have some definite ideas about where he wants to go...but how far he's willing to go remains to be seen. Churilla illustrates with a cartoonish (somewhat appropriate, I guess, because the film was such a cartoon in its own way) style and does OK by the likenesses, so that's half the battle I suppose. Otherwise, he's competent but unremarkable. It might bear watching just to see where they go with this, but I can't recommend going out of your way to get it. Maybe by the inevitable trade it will show its true colors.  C+

Pretty Deadly #'s 1-6
W: Kelly Sue DeConnick; A: Emma Rios (Image)

Another weird western, full of allegory and symbolism and other heady stuff...but the execution was haphazard and sloppy and while I appreciate ambitious vanity projects- often they become transcendent- this was confusing from issue one and didn't get any clearer as it went on. I will always take a look at anything Rios illustrates- she's quite imaginative in her way- but I can't recommend this at all and that's a shame.  C-

The Sixth Gun
W: Cullen Bunn; A: Brian Hurtt (Oni Press)

Speaking of weird westerns, Bunn's long-running opus seems to be running headlong into some sort of resolution, if not conclusion, and it's been a fairly engrossing trip, thanks to strong characters and Hurtt's always clean and concise storytelling. It's not the first comic I read each month, but I do remain interested in where it's going so that's a positive, I'd say.  B+

Daredevil
W: Mark Waid; A: Chris Samnee (Marvel)

Waid stubbornly resists the current Modern Comics Conventional Wisdom that everything that involves superpowered characters has to be all distanced and ironic and glum and manages to give us that rarest of rare things: superhero adventures that manages to keep a realistic tone yet still manages to entertain, without having to resort to transgression and world threatening hyperpowered menaces and all the lowbrow, clichéd, knuckleheaded depressing schtick that modern comics apparently think they have to give us, whether it's by editorial mandate or sheer lack of imagination on the part of the authors. Even though things often get dire for Matthew Murdock, Waid never wallows in it or plays "top this" with himself and the reader like Bendis did (which made DD such a chore to sit through back in the early 00's) and that makes all the difference in the world- kids, this is superhero comics for adults. Waid never condescends or writes down or goes there to create titillation, and this longtime comics reader appreciates it. He has an equally adept collaborator in Samnee, who adheres to the Toth/Caniff/Wood/Robbins/Eisner etc. etc. school of cartoonish realism and excels as much in drawing faces and places as he does when giving us frenetic action scenes. They couldn't have found a better and more sympathetic artist for what Waid's trying to do. It doesn't get much better these days in genre comics than what Waid and Samnee are providing us, and I hope it lasts a long time. A+

Fables
W: Bill Willingham; A: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, others. (DC/Vertigo)

You know how some TV shows seem to peak early, but then (for various reasons) they carry on, adding and shedding characters right and left and continuing to stay on the air for a lot longer than they probably should, provoking "I can't believe that show's still on the air!" remarks when confronted with that knowledge? Yep, that's Fables, which pretty much said all it had to say when the Big Bad Geppetto storyline concluded a couple of years ago...but since it was one of, if not the best selling, Vertigo imprint titles, it couldn't just go away so it's been given the Gaiman treatment and now is shambling in all kinds of directions towards its final conclusion at issue #150. In for a penny, in for a pound (which is a remarkably Fables-ish way to put it, isn't it?) so I continue to buy- Willingham does still provide fairly clever spins on all these characters, and I'm vested enough in them to stay interested in where it's going. It's just taking an awfully roundabout way to get there. Buckingham still excels on art; he really has developed into a fine storyteller despite not having a really distinctive style to call his own. Leialoha remains his best inker, and even got the chance to do a storyline by himself which of course didn't look anything like his art in the 70s & 80s. Kinda late to get on this train if you haven't already, but hey, all the trade collections are still in print as far as I know so I recommend starting there and working forward. B-

Fatale
W: Ed Brubaker; A: Sean Phillips (Image)

Another long-running series- well, not as long as Fables, for example...but after Sleeper and Criminal, etc., it seems like we've been reading Brubaker and Phillips Comics and Stories for a hell of a long time now. Of course, it's all of very high quality- Phillips is, in my opinion, as good as it gets these days, and Brubaker retains his naturalistic way with storytelling. He must be doing something right, because I generally don't hold the Noir genre in the same esteem as many do...all the seductive, bad news dames and hard nosed mooks that get involved with them in the dark rainy streets of some generalized late 40s-early 50s city just don't really blow up my skirt all that much. Mix it with Lovecraftian tropes, however, and it's just novel enough to make me wonder where it will all end up, and at this stage in the game, I'm really just hoping for a coherent ending more than anything. We will soon see, because it's set to end as well in another month or so.

Moon Knight #'s 1-4
W: Warren Ellis; A: Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire (Marvel)
Trees #1
W: Ellis; A: Jason Howard   (Image)

Mr. Ellis, surely one of the most august personages on the World Wide Interweb, has been a writer whose work I've enjoyed for many years now, beginning with his wonderful Hellstorm for Marvel (I'm due to dig those out again one of these days soon) on through Transmetropolitan and Desolation Jones and NextWave and...well, I can't say I've read everything he's done; there are an awful lot of somewhat generic looking vaguely SF-flavored indie comics series, most of them drawn by (it seems) someone named Ryp (Supergod was an exception; it had a nice apocalyptic fatalism that was fascinating), but I will always at least take a look when I see his byline. For no other reason other than to keep the license in perpetuation (on Marvel's end) and because 1. he's being paid and 2. it amuses him to do so, Ellis has taken on the House that Stan, Jack, Steve, Gene, Don, Larry and Dick Built's perpetual b-list pale (in more ways that one) Batman simalcrum, and for once, we the readers are the beneficiary. Bringing a somewhat bemused yet straightfaced attitude, and stripping away the accumulated barnacles of all the myriad treatments of this muddled character in the last four decades, Ellis gives us a streamlined Knight- the multiple identities (the Shadow influence in this crazy-quilt character's portfolio) are still there, so is the large fortune built in his years as a mercenary, and Ellis uses all the Egyptian mythology stuff to great effect as well- especially in issue #3, the highlight of the run so far. In that story, MK uses his connection to those deities in order to investigate and confront a host of Punk ghosts, and it's as sparely written as a zen koan- yet he's able to suggest, rather than explicitly state, a multitude of things about his take on the character. Although you never lose the feeling that Ellis is just experimenting with format, you have to admire his craft...and when it comes to this sort of thing, sometimes that can transform something mediocre into something worth following. For his part, Declan Shalvey, always in my book the next best artist on Thunderbolts not all that long ago, has really stepped up his game when presenting all of these metaphysical shenanigans; his capeless depiction of the Knight in his white business suit is a winner and he excels in bringing out a lot of the subtleties in the script. This team's only here for 6 issues, kids, so tradewait...but you will want to pick it up. A

Trees, on the other hand, kinda scans like District 9 mashed up with the venerable 50's drive-in SF flick The Monolith Monsters. Huge cylindrical shafts spring up, devastating cities and killing people and throwing mankind into yet another dystopian future, and the focus (after one issue, it's hard to say beyond that) seems to be on a clutch of individual characters and their situations in the face of the crisis. It's nicely drawn with a lot of rendering by Jason Howard, whose style reminds me of Guy Davis crossed with Sonny Liew. It's too early to judge, but so far nothing about the premise or art really grabs me...however, I'm committed to buying at least the next two issues, so we will see. C+

Wonder Woman
W: Brian Azzarello; A: Cliff Chiang, and a whole bunch of others (DC)

If you had told me, 15 years ago, that I would only be buying one DC proper comics series on a regular basis, and it would be Wonder Woman, no less, I would have run away from you, fearing that you were a dangerous lunatic. However, here and now, that far fetched projection has become reality. Chiang's art reeled me in, of course, but as a childhood Greek mythology buff I came to enjoy and appreciate Azzarello's Machiavellian (I'm reminded a lot of Zelazny's Amber family, and that's bait I can never resist) and somewhat revisionist take on all the various gods and goddesses of legend, even working in a New God or two, for reasons unknown or as yet unrevealed. Of course, as this has gone on and is so often the case with modern comics creators, Chiang has found other (presumably more profitable) projects to occupy his time and efforts, and now is found mostly on covers, though he has done the occasional issue here and there. Kudos to the editorial staff for finding replacements which compliment his art style; it at least helps to have a visual continuity. None of them have Chiang's panache, of course, but that's the way it goes.  For his part, Azzarello has done a nice job of presenting us with straightforward, easy to follow scripts- none of the convoluted obfuscation that often made 100 Bullets and many of his subsequent projects a chore to parse sometimes. Wondy is often the second or third most interesting character in her own comic, though, and that's problematic; even more so, as with Fables, after the first big climactic battle with this title's Big Bad the First Born, everything else has seemed rather tacked on and anticlimactic, as the Big Bad came back almost immediately to plague Wondy and company after his so called defeat. So pacing and plot has been a little off too. Still, the character interaction is interesting and also as with Fables, I'm in for that proverbial penny so I'll stick with this title till Azzarello leaves, which will be soon. Sadly, the announced successors, already off on the wrong foot via some ill-considered pronouncements in an introductory interview, don't sound all that promising, so I guess that will be the end for my DC proper purchases for the time being. Anyway, this has been an interesting take on a character that no one really seems to be able to do well for a sustained period, the first really radical revisionist look since the O'Neil/Sekowsky days, and I can recommend it. I wish it had been a little more this or that, and I sure wish Chiang had been willing to stick around, but overall I think, pending the actual conclusion, it's been a success and I'm sure DC will sweep it under the rug ASAP in favor of a more DCU-compliant model. B+

Well! That will do for now. Thanks for reading. Perhaps I'll do more soon.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Now We Are 11.



11 years ago, I started a joke...I mean I started a blog, the one you see before you. Time has marched on, and so have I, pretty much...but the blog remains here, like an abandoned home that was once the pride of the neighborhood but is now neglected and forlorn, with peeling paint, overgrown weeds, and hanging shutters. Still, if you do desire, most of what I wrote on it, back in the day, is still here, so I hope from time to time someone will visit and enjoy whatever disjointed thoughts I was thinking hard enough to allow them to escape through my fingers and get out on the InterWeb via this very outlet.

If you really miss me, I can still be found on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

See ya next year, perhaps! And, as always, may every song you sing become your favorite tune.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.


10 years ago today, I wrote my first blog post here at what I named The Johnny Bacardi Show. It has been a year since I've posted anything here, I know, and that makes me sad. I used to look forward to coming up with stuff to write about, and enjoyed the links and feedback I got upon occasion. Unfortunately, at some point a couple of years ago it began to feel like more of a grind and an obligation than anything else, and some of the writing that came somewhat easily early on became harder and harder, so this blog has become like a house that has been vacated, but nobody has bothered to move all the stuff out.

Still, I had some good times, have met a lot of interesting people, even got paid for one shining moment to write something...so I can't complain too much.

Don't see the hiatus ending anytime soon, I'm sorry to say...right now, at this stage of the game, not much about my life is conducive to writing, for fun or otherwise. High-stress job  (I know that's all relative), apathy about so many things I was enthusiastic about just five or so years ago, family obligations, blah blah blah...there are many culprits. Perhaps things may change for me someday, who knows, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. I no longer have any illusions that my writing will lead to anything that will improve my life in any way...well, any more than it actually has by now. In a lot of ways, it's become sort of an exercise in futility for me, repeated over and over, and these days I rarely have the energy to fight it.

Anyway, just because I'm not writing here doesn't mean I'm not findable here on the Intarwebs. I have been known to get on Tweeting jags on Twitter about all sorts of things, even comics sometimes, so by all means follow me if you're on there. I also post stuff, mostly images, on Tumblr from time to time, and that one is the closest thing I have to what this site used to be. The LiveJournal is still alive, kinda dormant like this one unless I get in the mood (and have the time) to sketch something, and I put it up there. As of right now, I still review comics about once a month at Popdose...I'm kinda overdue right now in getting the latest one done. After putting it off for about eight years, I am finally, slowly but surely, rebuilding and redoing my Thriller site, this time in blog format. Please check in from time to time, I do want to get it done but it's difficult to get the time, energy, and desire to do it. I'm on Facebook too, because, well, why not.

And so, here we are. Ten years. That's quite a long time, and sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if I had had the energy and wherewithal of, say, a Mike Sterling, who has put something up almost every day since he started, or Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag, who has done the same. Who knows. A lot of the blogs that started out when I did are similarly no longer active, a victim of their owners either succumbing to ennui or moving on to higher-profile (and hopefully paying, in some cases) gigs. Does that mean blogging is dead? I doubt it, but in the wake of Twitter and Tumblr and so on, it certainly doesn't seem to be as widespread as it once was, and maybe that's for the best; there were a lot of, shall we say, undistinguished blog sites that sprang up so many years ago. I think perhaps the cream has risen to the top and a lot of the chaff has fallen by the wayside, if you'll forgive my mixed metaphors.

OK, enough rumination. If you have made it this far, I thank you most sincerely, and I appreciate it more than you'll ever know. Happy birthday, Johnny Bacardi, you old bastard. See ya in the funny papers. Or webcomics on your Kindle. Or whatever. As if you could even afford a Kindle.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Number nine...number nine...



As of today, this blog has been in existence for nine years. Hard to believe. Like Sandy Denny once sang, "Who Knows Where the Time Goes".

I'm really sorry that I don't update it like I used to, but that's the way it is for me these days. I can't bring myself to delete it, so here it will stay, patiently awaiting me to write a little on it, for old times' sake, if nothing else.

Thanks to everyone who's ever read me here, or commented or both. Lots of love to you all.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Jack Kirby.

About time I posted something here, eh? Well, it's for a good occasion, I think. Yesterday would have been the 94th birthday of the Once and Future King of Comics, Jack Kirby. I posted some things yesterday on Twitter and my Tumblr, and I thought it would be appropriate to read some of what I consider Kirby's best comics, his run on Fantastic Four. I found some scans (what- give Marvel some money? For KIRBY comics? What money are they giving his family?) and decided to spend some time yesterday afternoon rereading some of his early-mid 60's efforts, just when he and Stan Lee were coming into their own on the title, and including one of my all-time favorite comics, FF #35.

While it's pretty easy to pick holes in a lot of these stories, one thing is undeniable- the dynamism and imagination Kirby brought to the pages...from the gnarliest alien being to prosaic street scenes, he drew them with flair and commitment. Sometimes he wasn't served very well by the inkers they paired him with; Dick Ayers was good, and I rather like Chic Stone, who doesn't ignore Kirby's detailed backgrounds. George Bell neé Roussos, not so much- his crude line and blocky shapes didn't do Jack's pencils any favors.

I thought it might be fun, and take up a lot of space because I know my infrequent visitors are probably tired of looking at that Gene Colan remembrance, to post a page, chosen at random, some which brought back memories, from each of the comics I read yesterday afternoon. I'm inspired, of course, by Tom Spurgeon's wonderful tribute post, as well as the amazing stuff Bully puts up on a consistent basis.

Roussos inks many of the following pages; Ayers does the first few, and Stone ends the run. I hope you can dig these, and I hope they help get across some of what makes Kirby's art so special.



You may notice that I picked out several pages with Giant-Man in them. This is not coincidental; 5-year-old me insisted. Thanks for checking out my FF gallery, and of course, Hail to the King.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Farewell to the Gentleman: Gene Colan, 1926-2011


I know, it seems like the only time I post here anymore is when someone notable dies...but I couldn't not mark the passing of the great Gene Colan, whose art I've loved for decades, especially when I was growing up in the 60's and 70's.

I won't try to eulogize him or write an obituary, because in the past couple of weeks there have been many, many wonderful posts doing just that, and far more eloquently than I could. That said, because of what Colan's art meant to me as a young comics reader and aspiring comic artist in those years, I wanted to write something...and I think what I'll do is post a few pages from some of my favorite Colan-drawn comics over the years, literally the first ones that came to mind when I read about his passing. They won't be the usual suspects, I don't think...at least after the first few.

The first place I saw Colan's art was most likely on one of his Iron Man stories in Tales of Suspense, under his "Adam Austin" pseudonym, followed soon after by one of his Daredevil efforts. The looseness of his style was the first thing which caught my eye, especially in those days when perhaps only Neal Adams, then just starting out over at DC himself, was doing realism with a flourish- Colan's figure drawing and layout style was far looser, yet it was still grounded in the everyday world. Sometimes, especially in his 70's work, his figures always seemed to me to be dissipating into mist, as if the ink line was the only thing holding it together. I found it exciting and fascinating, but I could never ever draw like that, and believe you me I tried. I also noticed his stellar inkwash work in a few issues of Creepy and Eerie for Archie Goodwin; go here to read a favorite of mine from this period. The page above comes from Daredevil Annual #1, cover-dated September 1967; this one was Stan's attempt to follow the template he came up with for 1964's Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, in which six of Spidey's most popular foes teamed up to battle him. Stan took Electro from the Sinister Six, and obviously 'Leckie neglected to realize that 1) Spidey's rogues gallery was far more deadly than DD's, and 2) it didn't work against Spider-Man, so why the heck did he think it would work here? Regardless, this was a fast-paced and fun tale which gave us DD fighting against each bad guy separately, as well as all together at the end, and a big part of the reason why was Colan's dynamic, kinetic art. I love how all hell breaks loose in that middle horizontal panel, as the "Emissaries of Evil" gang up on DD. This annual also sported a fun backfeature, which gave us a fly-on-the-wall look at a story conference with Lee and Colan...with a generous amount of whimsy to boot. One of the reasons why the whole Bullpen myth was so persuasive and enjoyable back then. You can read that story here.


The above pics, top to bottom, are from Doctor Strange #'s 182 and 178.

Arguably, though, it was Colan's moving on to Doctor Strange, paired with Tom Palmer, who was generally agreed to be his best inker, which seemed to turn him loose and give him free rein to play around with page layout and further refine his storytelling style...which he later used to great effect on Tomb of Dracula, as well as his successful return to the character in the 70's. Colan's style, which was rooted in the newspaper strip/advertising realism tradition (but still was always quite loose, especially compared to the Caniffs, Crandalls and the like), took flight as he gave us page after page of vertiginous layouts and non-stop action; even when the Doctor and Clea had some quiet downtime things seemed to be bubbling under the surface. Below is a great example, and a page I love very much, from Doctor Strange #180; I first saw it on someone's blog right after his death was announced, but alas I failed to bookmark it and forget now where I saw it, otherwise I'd just link to it there. Apologies to the first poster.


By 1970, it seemed like Colan had drawn every Marvel character's comic at least once, except Spider-Man; I remember loving his stints on Captain America, Sub-Mariner and the Avengers as well. Trying to stay as busy as he could, and to keep the money flowing, he began to do a variety of short stints on various titles in Marvel's fractured, hectic 70's period, and all the while doing Tomb of Dracula. ToD was a high point not only for him, but also in comics in general, as was Howard the Duck, a series I was mostly indifferent to as a teen (though I liked Steve Gerber's other work in general); when rereading ToD now, Wolfman's prose often seems overheated (as did Thomas' on those Doctor Stranges), but there's no denying Colan's artistry. He was truly well suited for horror stories, which also was made manifest on a short stint doing Brother Voodoo in Strange Tales, and the story below, from which I've pulled a couple of pages:


Marvel Spotlight was one of Marvel's showcase titles at the time; and featured the Son of Satan character which was created by Gary Friedrich and first drawn by Herb Trimpe. By the time he got his own feature in Spotlight, Steve Gerber wrote and Jim Mooney drew the first few issues, but for whatever reason the artist moved on after #17 and Colan stepped in for #'s 18 and 19 to bridge the gap between him and Sal Buscema, who drew the series until it was granted its own title a few months later. Anyway, Gerber's obviously Exorcist-inspired story could not have found a better realizer than Colan; it was completely rooted in the mix of the mundane and the fantastic that was Colan's stock in trade. He made this two-parter sing (despite some rather unsympathetic inking by Frank Chiaramonte), alternating polite dinner parties and dining room conversations and literal hell-raising action as Daimon Hellstrom struggles to exorcise a demon that can leap from host to host. Gerber tied it up with a clever solution, and went on to write some very imaginative stories before he was done with the character. If not for this two-parter, though, chances are I might not ever have seen the potential for excellence in the Son of Satan; I was not particularly interested in him before I plucked these off the spinner rack, attracted by Colan's art. Daimon soon became a favorite of mine, mostly thanks to Gerber, though Colan's rendition was my gateway. As a matter of fact, the first issue of Howard the Duck that I bought was the one in which Daimon made a cameo appearance, partly because I was tickled to see Colan draw him again.

Gene never limited himself to just horror or superheroes, though; in 1974, he took another fill-in assignment on a series that I was already a rabid fan of: Don McGregor's War of the Worlds (featuring Killraven). Regular artist Herb Trimpe had moved on by issue 25; Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson had done that one. Colan came along next, and provided his usual sharply observed job on one of McGregor's more whimsical scripts:



On his travels across the country to the "Place of Yellow Stones", Killraven and his men, with the Martians' killer Skar in pursuit, happened upon Battle Creek, Michigan, and encountered the leader of the group of its surviving residents, led by Pstun-Rage the Vigilant, who all guarded a treasure at the cost of their lives, if necessary. The revelation at the end is one of the most bizarre endings that I can recall in a comic book from the Big Two that wasn't written by Weisinger or Bridwell. Inked by Dan Adkins, Colan navigated all the action-adventure, as well as the drama and humor, of McGregor's wordy script (that bottom page, in particular, was notorious, showcasing a narrative style that irritated many, but I love it) with aplomb, despite never having drawn any of the characters before. McGregor and Colan collaborated a few times after that in subsequent years, forming a sympathetic team on such fare as the neo-noir Nathaniel Dusk (which I think I should revisit someday) for DC, and Ragamuffins for Eclipse. This story above was the first thing I thought of when remembering Colan and his career's effect on my life; even though the series went on to hit some very high highs with Craig Russell, it will always be a fondly recalled story in one of my favorite comics series.

And that pretty much does it for show and tell with me and Mr. Colan; after Dracula folded and Jim Shooter ran him out of the House that Stan and Jack and Steve Built, I did go on to buy some of his 80's work at DC like the occasional Batman or the aforementioned Dusk (never was too interested in Night Force or his take on Wonder Woman), but with diminishing returns; the fizz had seemed to go out of the pop for me. I still liked seeing his work here and there, especially on his return to Daredevil in the 90's and the outstanding commissions he did via his website. The decision not to saddle him with an inker on his infrequent appearances (which dated back to Dusk and Ragamuffins, if I recall correctly), brought on by his increased reluctance to subject his vision to the tender mercies of other, perhaps lesser talents, wasn't to his advantage, either, at least when it came to printed comics...his very good penciled commissions were something else again. When his health issues came to light, I did the dutiful blogger thing by linking to the drive to get him some financial relief for health care; I also recall a cover gallery on his birthday a couple of years ago. See the tags at right to be taken to those blog posts.

His passing was not a surprise, even as much as it was for me when Jeffrey Jones met his maker several weeks ago. That doesn't make it any harder to process, though, at least in my solipsistic view. Each year, more and more comics legends form my formative years die, and as I said before, every time it happens a little bit of my childhood dies as well. He was truly one of the all-time greatest, and his influence and legacy is vast. Even though he wasn't such a big part of it for the last decade or so, he will be missed merely by not being around.

I will be forever grateful and proud that I was able to experience it first-hand the way I did. I'm sure his work will remain an inspiration to up-and-comers for decades to come.

There have been dozens of outstanding blog posts and obits commemorating Colan's passing; I encourage you to visit the usual suspects (Heidi, Tom, CSBG, Robot 6, Blog@), to find them. I was especially moved, though, by Blake Bell's reposting of interviews with Colan's late wife Adrienne on living with him throughout his career. Here's the posts tagged "Gene Colan", all three parts are there.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

What? No Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs?


Some people are just so clever and creative. It's sickening.

All seriousness aside, please click through and check out this awesome series of drawings of the late great Vincent Price, who would have turned 100 a few days ago, each on a post-it note and each featuring his likeness in most of his films and television appearances, by Zach Bellisimo. I like how Zach draws Price in each of his disguises in Theatre of Blood, to name one example, as well as including Vincent's animation voice work.

And yeah, I know- while there were two Dr. Goldfoot films, he pretty much looked the same in both of them. I was kinda hard up for a post title, OK?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

RIP Jeffrey Catherine Jones.





It was with a little surprise and a heavy heart that I read, first on Twitter then elsewhere as it was confirmed, that Jeffrey Catherine Jones passed away from, as Heidi MacDonald reported it, "complications from emphysema and bronchitis" at age 67 yesterday. Pardon me if I reminisce, OK?

The first place I saw Jones' work was probably in the 4th issue of The Monster Times; early on in that storied publication's history they were soliciting art and one-page stories from the likes of Berni Wrightson, Gray Morrow, Frank Brunner, and Jones. They would run them in the center spreads of the tabloid-style publication:


I suppose this would have been 1975-ish that I read it, though this story was dated 1971 and appeared in 1972. I didn't get my first issue of TMT until 1974, and I would have received this as part of a big package of Timeses that I spent about a summer's worth of allowance on. My memory being a bit fuzzy on some things, I don't recall when I saw my first issues of National Lampoon, in which Jones' excellent one-page strip Idyl ran. That most certainly would have been the second time I became aware of his work, I'm sure, unless I happened up on a friend's copy of NatLamp or perhaps stood at the magazine rack at the convenience store and read them as I was wont to do for a while (I was always nervous about asking my folks for money to buy a copy, or even to buy one with my own money and bring it home) before I started my TMT habit.



By the time I had reached 18, I had become aware of the amazing art book The Studio, which was also the name of both the location and the collective that Jones, Mike Kaluta, Berni Wrightson, and Barry Windsor-Smith had formed when they shared studio space in the 70's. Four artists whose work I admired above almost all others, together! I especially loved Kaluta and Wrightson, who had blown me away with their art on a number of projects, especially The Shadow and Swamp Thing, respectively, about five years earlier. Of course, Windsor-Smith's Conan was a favorite, as well as his later, ornate Pre-Raphaelite-influenced works, and then there was that Jones fella, who I remembered from Idyl and a bunch of paperback book covers. Believe me, I lived in that book for a long time, and copied and studied each page, back when I thought I could be an artist.

I was utterly fascinated with Jones' signature; that single letter "J", curved with the line across the top, and fitting stylishly within a loose square, looked as cool as anything I'd ever seen before. Yeah, bet your ass I copied it; after all, we did share a name. Eventually, I at least dropped the loose square, though to this day I really emphasize the J when I sign my infrequent doodles.

One of Jones' contributions was perhaps my favorite piece from any of the artists, the beguiling "In a Sheltered Corner":

I wish I had a dollar for every time I sat down with a piece of paper and attempted to draw that face, with those lips.

I mean, geez, look at these guys:

Jones is second from left. They looked just like rock stars- rock stars that could generate art masterpieces. That was exactly what I wanted to be at age 18. Exactly.

Anyway, after that, I kinda lost track of Jones and his work. While he appeared in Heavy Metal in the 80's (with a new Idyl-ish feature called I'm Age) I'd see it here and there with less frequency as the decades went by; I just assumed (as one, well, me anyway in those pre-Internet times when the goings and comings of the art/writing heroes was more difficult to keep up with) that he had found regular illustration and painting gigs in places that I didn't see. Of course, I read about his gender issues and his eventual 1998 hormone replacement therapy sessions; several years later (now I had the Internet, y'see) I read about her awful financial issues. Eventually, these seemed to get worked out, and I was proud to cite Jones among my Facebook friends; she posted an always-welcome stream of artworks both old and new. Eventually health issues became too much for her, and now she's gone.

I suppose that's just part of the price one pays for living on; one will see his or her heroes and people he or she admires pass away before them, even people who one still imagines, in their heart of hearts, to be still young and still strong and vital. Even though recent pics told another story, in my mind's eye I saw Jones and her work in the same way that I did at age 16, in 1976, and it saddens me no end to see people who I looked up to like that get old and die. Pushes me, slowly, another foot towards the grave myself.

All that's over now for Jones, and I'll be eternally grateful for the magnificent art. May she rest in peace, and I hope she's found a measure of happiness wherever she is.



Credit where credit is due dept: I got most of the scans I posted here from these fine websites. Please visit them as often as you can, they're good people.

ETA: Not long after I posted this, Tom Spurgeon posted his outstanding obit. Go check it out.