THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (11/9/11 – The trick that keeps on treating.)

Haw haw haw - Jack T. Chick is back in the news! Providence, it seems, did not allow such crucial breaking updates to make much headway on your typical comics news sites -- possibly due to few of the variant reports I've found so much as mentioning the cartoonist's name, or maybe because it's only 'news' by the extravagantly liberal standards native to upcoming comic book release tip sheet columns with other stuff on top -- but fortunately I am physically and emotionally abnormal, and thus well suited to spot the presence of J.T.C. wherever he might rear his purportedly jolly face.

This time, potentially as part of Chick Publications' seasonal exhortations to pass out those famous free comic book tracts as Halloween treats (I'm on their mailing list), an Ohio pastor found himself publically apologizing for the content of Mean Momma, a recent '11 release from the 87-year old artist, still very productive and still perfectly capable of whipping up semi-explicit images of smashing automobiles and thundering tornadoes and adolescent suicide, thereby ironically fulfilling the sacred Halloween commandment of scaring the shit out of kids.

I'm glad Chick's still out there; This Was Your Life! is one of my favorite comics, a flawlessly-paced work of call-and-response between Biblical citation and cartoon images vacillating between perfectly undistinguished industrial gag work and weird, haunting, nails-to-the-brain moments of tactile power - there's always been something unsettling about the shading in Chick's art, something ominous and worked-over, lived in, and it makes total sense that it's generally post-mortal environs drawn in such a way. This guy can practically feel where everyone winds up, and while the level of metaphysical verisimilitude has dialed itself down in recent years, a certain signature power remains.

Of course, being raised Catholic gave an extra kick to Chick tracts, so enamored they can be at exposing the Truth behind the Whore of Babylon - an enthusiasm still undimmed, given this very week's arrival of The Crusaders #20: Jesuits, the latest in Chick Publication's line of proper color comic books depicting the adventures of idealized action hero versions of (most likely) Chick and series artist Fred Carter, who also drew a number of the more famous b&w tracts and painted all of the art for Chick's 2003 slideshow movie The Light of the World. Plenty of people out there admire Carter, a self-taught artist whose meaty, luxuriously molded figures recall Drew Friedman and Richard Corben, the latter particularly in some of his airbrushy work:

Carter is 73 now, and using digital elements in his interiors (maybe with studio help; it's difficult to tell how many hands are on Chick Publications' unattributed pages), his figure work having become stiffer and maybe more tangibly photo-referenced, which is to say it betrays the reference a bit more than before. Still, it's recognizable his, just as the subject matter of Jesuits looks to be very, very Jack T. Chick.

The Crusaders initially ran for seventeen issues from 1974-88, and was subsequently revived in 2007; new issues have been arriving at a rate of roughly one every two years. They probably aren't available anywhere near you (save for the Chick Publications website), but know that they typically feature half or one-third of a lurid adventure drama ("RECOMMENDED READING FOR ADULTS AND TEENS" announces each cover), with the rest of the space taken up with text-heavy explication of whatever topic is at hand; if you read Rick Veitch's recent The Big Lie, it (probably unconsciously) adopts the same format, familiar to informational and educational comics of many years' standing.

Alert die-hards will note the shout-out in the image above to Alberto Rivera, the expansive INSIDE CATHOLICISM narrative of whom formed the content of issues #12-17 of the series. Could Chick be approaching a very 2011 type of independent comics summing-up? Or is it a helpful opportunity to remix classic conspiracy content into a new comic without the need for a tremendous amount of fresh scripting? Regardless, production continues apace in this most long-lived of 'alternative' comics publishers, still defying the norm by popping into wide public view without warning.


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.



Princess Knight Vol. 1 (of 2): No better choice this week than the great Osamu Tezuka's landmark shojo manga, not actually the first of its kind but nonetheless an enormous, influential success from its original 1953-56 serialization through several revisions; this new 352-page Vertical edition (a prior translation from Kodansha International dates back to '01) is based on a 1977 Japanese collected version. Rest assured it remains a high-energy romp, as a princess with the hearts of a girl and a boy storms through many a gender-disguised escapade, all of it transmitted though maybe the most direct evocation of the vintage Disney Princess style Tezuka ever managed, talking animals and tall magic hats and all. There's also this one panel where this junior witch looks exactly like Sailor Moon, to the point where I wonder if a single Tezuka throwaway panel somehow carved out a later generation's lucrative touchstone as well:

Eh, she's got a point. I mean, on the very next page Tezuka has her attempting to wake a sleeping beauty by staging an impromptu game of fifteen-projectile dodgeball against her unconscious opponent, eventually resulting in the fair maiden's wig catching fire. That's called self-sufficiency; $13.95.


The Simon and Kirby Library - Crime: Elsewhere in reprints, Titan brings the newest in their Simon/Kirby line with 320 pages of color crime comics, no doubt perfect for keeping you off the street. Note that Marvel also has a b&w Kirby collection this week with the first volume of Essential Sgt. Fury (which, in going up to issue #23, is probably more of a Dick Ayers collection by volume); $49.95.



Charley's War Vol. 8: Hitler's Youth: This is also from Titan, though it's a war comic of a very different kind, a studied WWI trench warfare serial from the British Battle Picture Weekly, here encompassing the titular soldier's encounter with a young Adolph Hitler. Pat Mills writes and Joe Colquhoun draws; $19.95.

Return to Perdition: Kind of a double-throwback, as Vertigo presents a new installment of writer Max Allan Collins' Road to Perdition organized crime shoot-'em-down series (surely the only Tom Hanks movie vehicle with a Lone Wolf and Cub connection, unless Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close departs further from the source material than expected), here drawn by longtime collaborator Terry Beatty of Ms. Tree and other projects. The publisher also has reprints of two prior volumes this week; $19.99.

The Zombies That Ate the World Vol. 1 (of 2): Bring Me Back My Head: I know, the subject matter's done to death, but actually this Jerry Frissen/Guy Davis zombie comedy was one of the earlier adopters of the zombie trend in comics, with its initial U.S. publication in issue #8 of Humanoids' Metal Hurlant revival arriving the month before issue #1 of The Walking Dead. It's a series of oddball vignettes, following a crew of often genuinely loathsome characters through a world that's incorporated the living dead into its consumer culture as efficiently as anything else. Truly odd sense of humor to this one, and Humanoids' 6.625" x 10.25" hardcover compilation of the first two collected French albums is the first time it's been collected in English in bookshelf format (following the incomplete Hurlant presentation and a 2009 eight-issue comic book run in conjunction with Devil's Due). Samples; $24.95.

Dominion: Another Humanoids release for the week, although this one appears to be a French-market outing for North American talents (and one only just released in France earlier this year, in its 144-page entirety), with screenwriter Thomas Fenton and artists Jamal Igle & Steven Cummings seeing Biblical crime comic action go down in New Orleans. Samples; $19.95.

Lily Renée: Escape Artist: Big ticket YA book publishing choice #1 - a 96-page Lerner release of a project written by underground veteran Trina Robbins, a biography of Golden Age comics artist Lily Renée Wilheim, who fled Austria as a teenager at the onset of WWII. Art by Anne Timmons & Mo Oh; $7.95.

Mangaman: Big ticket YA book publishing choice #2 - a 144-page hardcover Houghton Mifflin cross-cultural project, drawn by Colleen Doran and written by novelist Barry Lyga. A high school girl encounters a manga character through a rip in reality, and generic expectations are identified. I imagine Doran will have some fun with this. Preview video; $19.99.

Twin Spica Vol. 10: Speaking of manga, this is probably your best non-Tezuka bet for the week, another Vertical volume of Kou Yaginuma's space-minded student drama, now rapidly approaching its finale with I think vol. 12; $10.95.

Spy Vs Spy By Prohias Omnibus: Hey, it's 400 pages of everything Spy-related by Antonio Prohias, which will be nice if you don't have it yet; $49.99.

Fantastic Four by John Byrne Omnibus Vol. 1: Hey, it's 1,096 pages of some of the more popular-in-its-day superhero stuff of the early '80s, tracking Byrne's contributions to the Lee/Kirby creation from #215-262 (discounting the Doug Moench/Bill Sienkiewicz mini-run that occurred after Byrne's first few issues as a writer/artist), with related issues of Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Two-in-One, Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Thing and Alpha Flight included; $125.00.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 6: Unless I'm totally wrong, this should wrap up Vertigo's hardcover reprint endeavor concerning the Alan Moore-written material for the series that essentially established the future imprint's identity, and probably did a lot to codify the means of revamping potentially obsolete franchise properties in a superhero shared universe; $24.99.

ReBoot: Forever: A Beach Creative Studios sequel to a 2007 art book concerning the 1994-2001 computer animated television show, notable for containing art and storyboards (and sporting a cover) by designer Brendan McCarthy, who is always worth a look; $23.99.

R. Crumb: The Complete Record Cover Collection: Also not a comic, but maybe still of interest to many of you - a 96-page, 10.3" x 10.3" W.W. Norton hardcover compilation of Crumb's album cover art, stretching from the late '60s to the present; $27.95.

The Silver Age of Comics: Finally, your book-on-comics for the week - a BearManor Media release of a William Schoell survey of the period in the title, with focus on the artists and the times; $26.95.


CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: It's been out for a while on the comics show circuit, but now Diamond-serviced retailers will have The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec Vol. 2: The Mad Scientist and Mummies on Parade, a new pair of albums from Jacques Tardi's ongoing adventure series, sporting maybe the most bracingly downbeat ending imaginable in this particular installment; $24.99. PictureBox, meanwhile, has De Profundis, a new book by artist and toy designer James Jarvis; $19.95.