False Start

Today, Ken Parille brings the finale of his large and idiosyncratic two-part essay on the best comics of 2014, old and new... sort of. Here are two selected randomly from the middle:

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (Simon and Schuster, 2014)
Horror comics can gross me out, but they seldom scare me. This anthology’s comics are genuinely scary and disturbing — and a few are gross, too. Yet, in terms of coloring, paper, and printing, the book’s aesthetic is the antithesis of gross: it glows, with glossy paper and colors ranging from hushed browns and grays to electric blues and reds.


In every story, a page’s art or colors bleeds to the book’s edge: the horror is not confined in the way it might be in a conventional comic-book, with a grid layout that’s bordered by bright white margins. On the back cover, the publisher directs readers to its teen website, but I hope this doesn’t scare any adults away from this collection. “A Best of 2014.”

Tomahawk #116 (DC, 1968)
I can’t recall seeing a mainstream Silver Age comic with this peculiar feature: twice in the story, artist Fred Ray shifts page orientation, moving from the traditional comic-book “portrait” alignment to “landscape,” a tactic that requires readers to change the book’s physical position.


In fact, I’ve seldom seen this mode of widescreen reorientation used pre-2000, let alone used as well as Ray does; all of his scenes have a disturbing, visceral quality, communicated by the characters’ thickly-inked grimacing faces.


(A recent series of Darwyn Cooke covers for DC takes this inverted approach — but it’s weirder when used inside the narrative. And the master of unusual panel dimensions and page orientation certainly must be Chris Ware.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. SPX has posted an explanation of their exhibitor lottery process. Alternative Comics and 2D Cloud have both announced their 2015 spring lineups. 2D Cloud is also expanding hiring a new publicist (Melissa Carraher) and a new marketing director (Blaise Larmee!).

Gary Groth is collecting and posting drawn responses from Fantagraphics artists to the Charlie Hebdo killings. Gary writes a little bit about his thinking, too. Jason and Arnold Roth are the first two contributors.

—Reviews & Commentary. Ng Suat Tong has compiled his annual best online comics criticism post. The Telegraph has a short profile of caricaturist Mark Boxer up in conjunction with a London exhibition of his work. Abhay Khosla writes about Batman. Jake Austen at the Chicago Tribune reviews a handful of new comics.

3 Responses to False Start

  1. Oliver_C says:

    Ken was out by one: in fact Mighty Crusaders #4 has the best superhero cover ever, not to mention the most prescient…

  2. re: the super-soldier serum, IIRC Mark Gruenwald did a storyline about this, around the height of 80s “Just Say No to Drugs”

    …thanks for retaining that frickin bit of information from my childhood, brain — good job.

  3. Carl says:

    I wouldn’t blame TCJ critics for not being in the know on Marvel superhero books of the mid 80s to early 90s, but those landscape format pages Parille mentions were pretty common before 2000, almost constituting a sort of fad among the (pre) Image generation. Byrne, McFarlane, and Liefeld all did entire “sideways” issues, and other artists like Romita Jr., Jim Lee, Greg Capullo, and Jae Lee would drop in rotated pages or spreads seemingly whenever the mood struck. If anything, I’d say it’s a gimmick that had fallen out of favor (at least in that corner of comics) by the year 2000, when the popular “widescreen” style involved wide thin panels stacked in a normal portrait orientation, with frequent double-page spreads (that don’t require turning the book).

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