A sage conveyance of angst indeed from American master George Herriman, on the 1916 occasion of the very last installment for Krazy Kat progenitor The Dingbat Family, though I do suspect the sentiment is most applicable to your recent holiday resolution(s), gentle reader/omnivorous consumer. I’d also thought for a second that I’d uncovered the earliest usage of some derivation of ‘fuck’ in an American sequential comic — only another feather in Herriman’s cap — but close examination of the “foolish” in line one of the top balloon aptly suggests that Garge simply enjoyed letting his Ls run into his Is. That’s unfortunate, as “ARE YOU FUCKIN’ ME IN THE ASS” (or some variant thereupon) is a popular regional phrasing from where I’ve just finished Christmasing, and I was really looking forward to investigating Herriman’s potential contact with the northeastern anthracite corridors.
Oh well, guess I’ll just recommend some comic books. You didn’t resolve not to spend money, right?
PLEASE NOTE: What follows is not a series of capsule reviews but an annotated selection of items listed by Diamond Comic Distributors for release to comic book retailers in North America on the particular Wednesday, or, in the event of a holiday or occurrence necessitating the close of UPS in a manner that would impact deliveries, Thursday, identified in the column title above. Not every listed item will necessarily arrive at every comic book retailer, in that some items may be delayed and ordered quantities will vary. I have in all likelihood not read any of the comics listed below, in that they are not yet released as of the writing of this column, nor will I necessarily read or purchase every item identified; THIS WEEK IN COMICS! reflects only what I find to be potentially interesting.
Woodwork: Wallace Wood 1927-1981: I’m told this column will be reaching you after the new comics for the week are already on the racks, so let’s start with a bit of time-travel – in 2010, the Casal Solleric in Palma de Malloraca hosted an exhibition of 200+ pages of original art by the late, great Wood. Immediately thereafter, readers of the obscure, soon-to-be-defunct comic book website Comics Comics began to wonder aloud when or how the exhibition catalog would be made available. Now, finally, IDW releases an official North American edition of that weighty tome — 352 pages at 9.5″ x 11.5″ — compiling art samples and full stories from across the artist’s career. Keep it cool and safe in the shade of your Wally Wood’s EC Stories Artist’s Editon, from the same publisher; $59.99.
[a cubic fuckton of Eurocomics from Cinebook]: Obviously this is not the real title of an item available for sale right now – I mean, is a fuckton a long ton or a short ton? (You can finish the joke yourself.) However, it remains a handy way of designating of the mass availability of:
Lucky Luke Vols. 17-20 (Apache Canyon, The Escort, On the Daltons’ Trail & The Oklahoma Land Rush) ($11.95 each)
Blake and Mortimer Vols. 6-7 (S.O.S. Meteors & The Affair of the Necklace) ($15.95 each)
XIII Vols. 1-7 ($11.95 each)
The Chimpanzee Complex Vols. 1-2 ($13.95 each)
Orbital Vols. 1-2 ($11.95 each)
SPOOKS Vol. 1 ($13.95)
to comic book retailers serviced by Diamond. I’m pretty sure some of those 7″ x 10″ XIII books have been available before – they’re one Belgium album per 48-page volume of covert action from Jean Van Hamme & William Vance. The translations are actually a lot farther along in the UK, with the much-anticipated vol. 17, The Irish Verson, drawn by special guest artist Jean Giraud(!!), due later this month. The similarly 48-page Lucky Luke books are 8 1/2″ x 11 1/2″ and jump all around the series’ release chronology, although all of the content here is ’60s and ’70s work by creator Maurice “Morris” De Bevere and longterm scriptwriter René Goscinny. The Blake and Mortimer releases are 72 pages each (at the same size as Lucky Luke), collecting stories written and drawn by creator Edgar P. Jacobs from the ’50s and ’60s.
The rest are newer series. SPOOKS (7″ x 10″, 56 pages; samples) is a localization of WEST, a supernatural Old West gunfighter series begun in 2005 by writers Xavier Dorison (whom you may remember from the old Humanoids series Sanctum) & Fabien Nury (of I Am Legion, with John Cassaday) and artist Christian Rossi, who drew a long series of Jim Cutlass comics for Moebius in the ’90s, although I quite liked the one volume of his Les errances de Julius Antoine (with writer Serge le Tendre) which Acme Press translated back in ’89. It’s up to vol. 6 in French. The Chimpanzee Complex (8 1/2″ x 11 1/2″, 56 pages each; samples here) is a 2007-08 Mars mission suspense series from writer Richard Marazano and artist Jean-Michel Ponzio, both of the recent Archaia release Genetiks (though Marazano also wrote the millennial Humanoids series Dusk, for all you elephants in the room). There’s a concluding third volume that Cinebook has released, although it’s not out via Diamond yet. Finally, Orbital (8 1/2″ x 11 1/2″, 48 pages each; samples here), begun in 2006, is a more adventuresome sci-fi/space opera/diplomacy pop thingy from writer Sylvain Runberg and artist Serge Pellé (whom Lambiek tells me worked on the animated version of Lewis Trondheim’s Kaput and Zösky). It’s up to vol. 5 in France, while Cinebook is up to vol. 4 in the UK – maybe more will arrive soon in your local comics store, which doubtlessly has ordered each and every one of these fine selections.
Nipper Vol. 3: 1967-1968: Big stack of reprints to tackle, so I’ll start with the physically smallest – the latest in Drawn and Quarterly’s 8″ x 5.25″ landscape-format softcovers for Doug Wright’s mischievous lil’ creation; $16.95.
The Complete Flash Gordon Library Vol. 2: Tyrant of Mongo: Next, Titan blows things up to 10″ x 11″ for another 208 pages of vintage Alex Raymond; $39.95.
The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy Vol. 14: 1951-53: I tend to forget this thing’s even still running – good for IDW; $39.99.
The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. 1: 1972-1974: And then comes Black Squirrel Books at the Kent State University Press, presenting 486 pages(!) of work by star alum Tom Batiuk in a 6.5″ x 8.5″ hardcover. Wow your friends by declaring your allegiance to the early, funny ones, provided your Funky Winkerbean-conversant chums are not aware that this thing hit bookstores maybe… 10 months ago? Foreword by the Journal‘s R.C. Harvey; $45.00.
Lisa’s Story: The Other Shoe: Here’s the thing, though – I don’t read Funky Winkerbean very much, but I’m pretty fucking delighted that space exists in as ossified, über-mainstream a comics forum as the newspaper funnies page for an established talent to throw the rigid expectations of the scene aside and chase what can only be a personal notion of artistic fulfillment. This is a 252-page collection (also from the Kent State University Press) — which I suppose Diamond is either just releasing or re-releasing — compiling the entirety of the bedrock storylines for the modern Funky, concerning a character’s struggles with breast cancer; $27.95 ($18.95 in softcover).
Prophet #32: I’ve heard a number of people asking “well, I do like that Prophet comic, sure, but when is Simon Roy gonna draw some more?” The new year is a lucky one for you, good friend, because this appears to be a special Simon Roy solo issue of the series, script and art. Hopefully you didn’t just peak in January. Preview; $3.99.
Punisher: Nightmare #1 (of 5): So, over the holiday, I downloaded this iPad app from Madefire, a publisher of free original motion comics and heavily illustrated short stories. There’s a bunch of series going — if you recall Dave Gibbons’ short story Treatment from issue #3 of the new Dark Horse Presents, this is where it’s continuing, sans Gibbons’ art — but one of their self-contained selections was Severing the Curse, a little five-minute pan ‘n zoom demo by Steve Niles & Mark Texeira. This got me wondering what else Texeira was up to, and lo & behold, here’s a ’90s-style Miscellaneous Punisher Miniseries that’s been in the works since 2009, and apparently will release weekly. The writer is Scott Gimple, of the writing room for The Walking Dead on tv, and the premise has the title character meeting a distressed individual with a matching set of personal traumas; $3.99.
Fury MAX #8: The Punisher is also in this, a well-regarded series of (probably) thirteen issues that the Journal‘s Matt Seneca recently suggested may be shaping up to be writer Garth Ennis’ Watchmen. Art, as always, by the fine Goran Parlov; $3.99.
Joe Kubert Presents #3 (of 6): Wait, am I just listing attractively-drawn continuing series I happen to follow? I also like James Stokoe’s Godzilla: The Half-Century War (#4 of 5 this week) and Sean Murphy’s Punk Rock Jesus (final issue!); $4.99.
Hellboy in Hell #2: Guess so. I *really* liked the first issue of this, on the very fundamental level of panel-to-panel transitions and character movement and colors interacting. Just an extremely pleasurable comic to experience – Mike Mignola is the poet laureate of dudes falling down flights of stairs. Preview; $2.99.
21st Century Boys Vol. 1  (of 2 ): The reason for all the vacillation here is that writer/artist Naoki Urasawa — now rapidly nearing the end of works scheduled for translation to English — put this megahit suspense series on a short hiatus in 2006 before ‘relaunching’ it for an extended two-volume conclusion in 2007. This is the first half of that conclusion, with Viz retaining the official title change. Urasawa’s current series, Billy Bat, is up to vol. 10 in Japan, although it’s a Kodansha series, which means they’ll presumably try and release it in English themselves at some point, barring a license to Dark Horse or some other outside entity; $12.99.
Message to Adolf Vol. 2 (of 2): Meanwhile, Vertical offers the 608-page hardcover finale to its new edition of this weighty ’80s Osamu Tezuka project, suspense of a different vintage. Terrific cover too. Note that the publisher also has a softcover edition of Tezuka’s ’70s-born The Book of Human Insects out this week; $26.95.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: A very early contender for manga release of 2013 arrives in the form of The Heart of Thomas, a 524-page all-in-one hardcover compilation of a mid-’70s landmark in Japanese comics-for-girls, Moto Hagio’s epic of gnawing desire among sparkling schoolboys; $39.99. Even older (and somewhat differently-themed) comics can be enjoyed in Weird Horrors & Daring Adventures: The Joe Kubert Archives Vol. 1, a 240-page, Bill Schelly-edited ‘best of’ collection for pre-Code genre pieces by the late Kubert; $39.99. One of the old Ignatz miniseries finds itself collected via Richard Sala’s Delphine, presented at 7.25″ x 10″; $24.99. A softcover edition drops for Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting Vol. 1; $24.99. And then you can just throw finished comics aside entirely in favor of Problematic: Sketchbook Drawings 2004-2012, a 5.25″ x 8″, 364-page collection of Moleskine pieces, “much of it… too baffling to be harnessed for any practical use,” by the awesome Jim Woodring; $28.99.
And finally, just because I cannot leave even one rug in the house uneven:
LAST WEEK’S PICKS – A RETROSPECTIVE!
Eerie Presents El Cid: Forgive me the indulgence, but this is exactly the sort of book that will assuredly vanish into obscurity if… well, probably no matter what I do, but just for the record, back in 1973, Marvel formally launched Savage Tales, a somewhat more adult-oriented b&w magazine variant on its popular Conan the Barbarian comic from writer Roy Thomas; in truth, Marvel had been angling for some means of challenging the Warren magazines and their genre competitors at their own game for years, with two prior attempts (including a pilot issue of Savage Tales in ’71) amounting to little. This time the title took off, with The Savage Sword of Conan quickly following in a wave of new b&w magazines that flooded the market, eventually decimating every player on the scene save for Warren itself.
But by the mid-’70s, Warren itself was interested in branching out; under editor/inveterate re-writer Bill DuBay, ostensible horror anthologies Creepy and Eerie began to feature horror-inflected fantasy and sci-fi stories – sometimes prolonged serials, or even entire special issues. As Consulting (reprint) Editor Dan Braun notes in his foreword to this 96-page Dark Horse hardcover, El Cid — published in 1975 and 1976, mainly in a single dedicated special issue of Eerie (#66) — was among Warren’s responses to the popularity of the Conan magazines and other fantasy comics of the time. Interestingly, unlike some of the Warren serials, El Cid boasted a dedicated artist: the supremely gaudy Gonzolo Mayo, whose decorative, ultra-’70s edge-of-comprehension style lends a rare flamboyance to scripts plotted out by seemingly everyone in the Warren offices (if always dialogued by publisher mainstay Budd Lewis). Truly an obscure moment in (counter-)mainstream comics, but an eye-catching one, nicely presented. Samples; $15.99.
Hip Flask #4 (of 5): Ouroborous: Last but not least, maintaining the unexpected artists-with-significant-ties-to-Mexico theme of of our departed Day After Christmas, 2012, keep your eyes peeled for this 48-page, Image-published corollary to writer Richard Starkings’ Elephantmen series, although *technically* Elephantmen is the corollary to Hip Flask, which began in 2002 as a bizarrely emphatic bit of world-building surrounding a hippopotamus mascot character for Starkings’ Comicraft/Active Images lettering and commercial font service. The star of the show, however, was and remains José Ladrönn, and a new issue appears basically whenever the Final Incal artist can complete enough of his pages, which have taken on a somewhat more stripped-down style, with added emphasis on character movement and washy colors. Search this out, as the tentative December 2013 release date for the final issue must prudently be considered a gesture of optimism. Preview; $4.99.