Monday, May 14, 2012

Happy happy. Joy joy.

The comic industry can seem a grim and miserable place sometimes, with companies screwing over creators and bitter feuds in this tiny community developing over decades, calcifying into some real hate.

All that bile and sadness can really gnaw away at anybody with a real enthusiasm for comics, but it’s always easy to find a few happy things in all this misery. There is always something to look forward to, or to enjoy over and over again, and it wasn’t hard at all to come up with a short list of comic things that make me happy:

* The manner of Chris Roberson’s exit from DC Comics was wonderfully noble, even if it’s tragic how rare that kind of stand really is. It’s not really that hard to say you don’t want to work for a company with dodgy ethics. There are always other options.

* Jeff Smith’s Rasl is reaching its conclusion with unexpected (and welcome) speed. I honestly thought it was going to be another big epic, but it has turned out to be a tight and fast-paced piece of scientific action.

* After all this time, it was incredibly satisfying to see Katarina Dante, pirate queen of the Pacific, finally getting her revenge on Dmitri Romanov at the climax of the entire Nikolai Dante saga. (I thought it was going to be Jena, but Captain Dante was far more apt.)

* The CENSORED Howard Cruse was the best of the Free Comic Book Day comics I read, partly because I’m always fond of seriously shameful autobiographical stories, (and it doesn’t get more shameful that shooting your load every time you put pen to paper), but mainly because I was tickled by the idea that what I thought was behind the big black bars was actually a lot filthier than what it probably actually was.

* I had a brilliant moment of realisation when I discovered that The Losers Showcase that I had just got out of the library featured dozens and dozens of pages of gorgeous John Severin art. I can never, ever get enough Severin. Even though he’s a goddamn comics legend, I still think he is incredibly underrated and worthy of more appraisals.

* Thanks to the same book, I finally made the distinction between artists Russ Heath, Ross Andru and Russ Braun, which had been bugging me for ages. It was the Ted Nugent/Todd Rundgren thing all over again.

* I also love looking at the art in the letters page of old issues of Amazing Heroes, because you always find well-known artists doing odd things well before they were famous, like Paul Chadwick drawing Kitty Pryde, or a John McCrea Spirit, or Bruce Timm doing an exceptionally Gil Kane-y Green Lantern.

* Even though Alan Moore keeps saying he is done with comics, there are likely to be loads more League of Extraordinary comics still to come, and this is a good thing.

* A recent rediscovery of an old diary reminded me how much I loved Matt Wagner’s Grendel comics back in the day, so I went back and read every single one of them in the past week, from the earliest black and white (and incomplete) Hunter Rose stories, up through Spar, Orion and Prime, to the last Grendel Tales, and back to Rose for black, white and red misadventures. It was an extremely rewarding experience.

* The promise of more Palomar stories in Love and Rockets #4 is just as exciting. I know Beto has been reinvigorated by doing all-new things in the past decade, but I genuninely do miss Heraclio, Carmen, Israel, Jesus, Chelo and all the rest.

* Seeing Tony de Zuniga’s art on a Kull story in a recent Dark Horse’s Savage Sword 80-page comic was a pleasant surprise. Outside of the rare appearance in a Jonah Hex comic, I had not seen any of the artist’s work in years, but I adored his stuff in Marvel’s black and white horror comics of the seventies, and I had assumed he had retired. But there it is, instantly recognisable, and as beautiful as it ever was. The joy is obviously tarnished by the fact that the artist passed away three days after I read that comic, but his art was as strong than ever, right to the end.

* I know this isn’t comics, but the fact that Mad Men gets better every single season gives me an enormous feeling of well being. This latest series is so fucking good, so effortlessly rich, that it is a pure joy to watch, even if it does give me terrible nightmares.

* Speaking of nightmares: Oh my Grud, the Dark Judges are coming back. They’ve basically been on ice since Necropolis, which was – blimey – 22 years ago now. Even Judge Death has been off the scene for nearly ten years, and Fear, Mortis and Fire’s return to the pages of Judge Dredd is insanely exciting.

* I love the enthusiasm and slight embarrassment in this blurb from an ad for the first Fantagraphics issue of Love and Rockets, which appeared in the October 1982 issue of Amazing Heroes: “No kidding! LOVE & ROCKETS is Madness unleashed! Super-science! (Fantasy.) High adventure! (Low-to-medium adventure.) Monsters! (Super-heroes.) Epic battles! (Petty squabbles.) Human drama! (Satire.) Naked women! (Clothed women.) Love! (But – no rockets!?!)”

* Another Parker book by Cooke soon. Good. A likely long delay until the next one because of all that Watchmen nonsense. Not so good.

* In August we’re going to the UK for a couple of weeks and I’m gonna go to the Forbidden Planet on Shaftsbury, and Gosh and Orbital, and I’m gonna find the comic shops in all the big British towns and cities, and I’ve already started looking up things on the internet, and I’ve already started apologising to the long-suffering wife for dragging her around to all these places. I’m so excited, I think I’m gonna burst.

* There are dozens – probably hundreds, maybe thousands – of new comics already out there that I still haven’t heard of, that are going to blow my socks off one day. There is so much great stuff out there, it can take years to get to it, so I better not waste any more time.

The Tearoom of Despair is now closed for the week for existential renovations Normal service resumes next Monday.


The Beast Must Die said...

Ay, Bob, if you want some recommndations for London cmics shops. I'm happy to oblige.

Make sure you check out the Music and Video Exchange in Notting Hill. Proper second hand shop stuffed to the gills with cheap comics and graphic novels, run by knowledgable alcoholic ruffians straight out of a Dickens novel.
Brilliant place.

Tam said...

Forbidden Planet WILL disappoint you, (unless you're looking for sculptures of superheroes or science fiction books) but Orbital and Gosh are great, as is that Notting Hill Place.

I wondered if you'd be able to avoid hearing about The Dark Judges before you caught up with the progs. Bad luck on that, but it's still well worth reading anyway!