Insanity in Black and White: Borderline by Trillo & Risso

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Four paperback volumes collect Borderline by Eduardo Risso and Carlos Trillo, the artist/writer team of Chicanos. Many fans know Risso from 100 Bullets. This science fiction serial overflows with weirdness, mental instability, assassination, and spying, rendered in Risso’s incredible high-contrast black and white style.

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Not for the little tykes, Borderline graphically depicts sex and violence in the course of twisted psychological and combat games the characters play. Trillo and Risso grind out a super-gritty, futuristic drama for publishers Dynamite Entertainment.

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Reading Borderline in collected form like a novel can be frustrating, as each snippet is more of an individual work of art than a device for advancing the plot. Yes, a kind of over-arching plot unifies the stories, and the set does have a final resolution to its story. But, the storytellers seem more concerned with immersing the reader in the madness of the drama than moving it forward. If anything, it reminds us of Spy Vs. Spy cartoons by Antonio Prohías – except deadly, horrifyingly serious.

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We recently sold our set on eBay, but collectors can usually pick up the four Borderline Trade Paperbacks for about $10-$15 a piece.

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Marvel Treasury Edition: Thor by Kirby

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Marvel Treasury Edition #10 features the mighty Thor in a four-issue saga by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby. The original issues reprinted in this gloriously oversized edition are Thor #154, #155, #156, and #157. Considering any one of these original issues will run you from $15 in a VG condition to $200 in a CGC-graded 8.0 VF condition, a $15-$30 copy of this treasury edition will leave some cash in your pocket and deliver the goods in a superior format.

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And it truly is superior. Just look at these gorgeously reproduced pages and that mind-stunning back cover! Jack Kirby’s artwork at this size never fails to crank the awesome-meter into the red.

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The story itself starts off well, with a big bad monster foolishly released by some power-mad moron. Guess what? It presages the end of the universe! Oops!

The monster – called the Mangog – begins an unstoppable march towards Thor’s home in Asgard. Its ineluctable progress drives just about all the action in this story, as hero after Asgardian hero fails to stop Mangog’s tenacious travels. It’s very dramatic, true, but essentially you get one long fight scene bathed in delicious Kirby Krackle.

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Normally we would hate spoiling the ending, but this story spoils it on its own. After all this cosmic-level struggle, the pay-off kind of sucks. Odin steps in at the end, waves his hand, and puts a stop to the whole thing in deus ex machina fashion. This cheapens the epic struggle that comes before it by suggesting that, well, we had nothing to really worry about the whole time.

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Despite this let-down of an ending, one can have some great fun with Thor and his friends along the way, valiantly struggling to overcome their implacable foe. Readers who may have looked forward to Ragnarok (end of the universe, basically) would have to wait until Thor #200, some pages of which we have in our archives.

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Whether you collect Jack Kirby art or classic Thor issues, Marvel Treasury Edition #10 probably deserves a place on your shelf. We recently sold ours on eBay, but you can usually find it in stock. It’s big, it’s bold, and the lame ending does little to detract from Kirby’s masterful visual approach leading up to it.

Readers who don’t mind black and white reprints will find this story in the Essential Thor paperback #3. Let’s have a look at some more interior pages from this titanic tome!

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Graphic Novel Collection by First

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IDW has lately been reprinting the earliest and original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics from the 1980s. Back in the 80s, prices of first prints of the original comics skyrocketed, and they still retain a fairly high collector’s value. In response to their limited availability to all but the wealthiest collectors, First Publishing produced four full-color oversized graphic novels from the original black and white stories.

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The unique and gritty visual style of Eastman and Laird’s reptilian martial artists comes through even in color. First did a wonderfully professional job on this production. They wisely included the Leonardo one-shot, since its story leads right up to the events of issue #10. And, First thoughtfully preserved the dramatic three-page fold out from issue #10. We have scans of the original black and white pages in our archives for comparison.

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But all of the splash pages look great, and the binding and paper quality of these turtle tomes remains evident decades later. From the first issue to the battle with Triceratons in space to the hilarious Cerebus crossover, all of the Turtles earliest adventures rock hard in this graphic novel format.

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Let us offer a few suggestions for those seeking some high-quality Turtles reprints. You can still find copies of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TPB by First in stock at reasonable prices ($10-$15 for a Fine copy,) though you may need to go to eBay to get a complete set all at once! IDW printed the stories in single issues in full color as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Classics, but it seems they left out the Leonardo one-shot to include issue #11 which more or less wraps up Eastman & Laird’s original plot line.

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A second volume of color classics reprints some excellent adventures from the subsequent stories, including a reprint of the glorious Return to New York storyline this spring. Those who want these stories in black and white should get the excellent seven-volume Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Collected Book produced by Mirage in the 1990s. IDW more recently gave us The Ultimate Collection in hardcover which wisely includes the one-shots from the 80s as well as the original title.

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Despite the availability of recent reprints, the old ones have managed to hold onto their collector’s value due to their limited runs and high production values. The First Publishing collection also gives you a much larger page size than, say, Mirage’s normal-zized Collected Book reprints.

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Clearly IDW has much to gain by reprinting these collectible issues, but they also do readers a great service by keeping these classics in print. We sold both the First TPB set and the Collected Book set on eBay last year, but you can bet we would like another copy of Return to New York in our hands before all this is over!

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The Atom by Simone & Byrne

DC’s 2006 series All New Atom kicked off with three issues of Gail Simone and John Byrne bringing us fast-paced stories full of science fiction themes and size-changing adventures. We confess we lost interest in this series once it started tying into Countdown to Whatever Crisis We’re Having This Year. But, these early stories delivered a lot of fun, and Byrne’s artwork looks terrific in the hands of inker Trevor Scott and colorist Alex Bleyaert. This scene from the second issue starts off with a giant ant!

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This scene in the second issue where a young man tries out his new Atom powers never gets old. The next scene, from the third issue, gives us the horrifying but strangely awesome spectacle of M’Nagalah. We met M’nagalah in the pages of Swamp Thing and Swampy’s spotlight in Challengers of the Unknown.

If any Atom comics have ever screamed “Make me into a movie,” it’s these issues of All New Atom! You can buy them as single issues, or collected in the All New Atom trade paperbacks. Let’s have a look!

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Seeing Things by Jim Woodring

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We discovered the work of Jim Woodring quite by accident, finding some bootleg scans of his work Frank on the Cross-Eyed Cyclops. Many of the sites popularly used by submitters to Cyclops got shut down a couple years ago in an uproar over internet piracy. Whether you agree or not with such legal decisions, one thing is for sure: we discovered a heck of a lot of comics that way!

Yet, capitalism lives on despite the evil atrocities committed by scurvy internet pirates. Frank has been collected in two formats, including a complete collection in paperback. Woodring kindly gave us permission to post a few excerpts in our archives. Since then, Fantagraphics has published new Frank stories: These superb and surreal cartoon masterpieces are Weathercraft, Congress of the Animals, and Fran.

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Frank fans will doubtless enjoy Seeing Things, a collection of Woodring’s drawings and paintings of objects and animals with a very Frank vibe. We enjoy seeing utterly unreal things given palpable reality on the page. We don’t always know what they are, but they clearly have a mysterious, compelling identity of their own.

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Mostly black and white, Seeing Things also presents a some full-color plates, including luxurious two-page spreads. Frogs remain a major theme, as these pictures demonstrate.

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We sold our copy to an overseas buyer on eBay, but snapped a few pics first. Of course it helps our listing succeed, but that’s not the only reason to do it. The iPhone camera makes us feel like a super-spy in some old James Bond movie. We broke into a vault of comics and whipped out our spy camera while the cocktail party of our foes raged in the ballroom below. Maybe it’s a silly fantasy, but a little bit of fantasy makes Woodring’s art sing to us. Woodring certainly indulges the appeal of cartoon fantasy in a strangely grown-up way, sometimes dark, sometimes disturbing in its tragic innocence.

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An Inhuman Retrospective

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We’ve always had a fondness for the Inhumans as characters and concepts despite the lackluster treatment they often receive in print. The Inhumans first appeared as supporting characters in the Fantastic Four when creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby still masterminded that title together. In 1970, Kirby launched Inhumans on their own adventures in Marvel’s second attempt at an Amazing Adventures title.

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Marvel ran the 1961 Amazing Adventures for just half a year, its first six issues collecting some entertainingly vintage stories by Kirby and Steve Ditko, Dick Ayres, Paul Reinman, Don Heck, and Larry Leiber. You can preview many of these golden-age sci-fi and monster stories in our archives.

Beginning with a new #1 issue – something that seems a monthly event at Marvel these days – the 1970 Amazing Adventures put both the Inhumans and the Black Widow on the cover. The Black Widow stories have some wonderful John Buscema and Gene Colan artwork you can preview at Diversions of the Groovy Kind.

The Inhumans get the full Jack Kirby treatment for three issues. He writes and draws them in pretty straight-forward superhero adventures. We have the first story in our archives. Like Kirby’s Black Panther, they seem to lack much depth, but make fast-paced action stories for young readers. 1970 also gave Inhumans fans another Jack Kirby treatment of his genetically-modified heroes: the final issue of the first Silver Surfer series.

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Even the Mandarin appears in these Amazing Adventures, in his utterly ridiculous “Asian Villain” outfit! The Inhumans made it about 16 issues in this format, with Roy Thomas and Neal Adams stepping up to create new stories after Kirby left. But like Thomas & Adams’ X-men, the Inhumans were doomed as a publication.

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Okay. Not exactly doomed. They got their own title after that! Leaving behind the anthology comic format, the Inhumans had earned their own shot as title characters. Doug Moench and George Perez launched them with Inhumans #1 in 1975. We have that first issue in our archives, too: Spawn of Alien Heat!

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That series showed a lot of potential, but its struggle to find its feet is almost palpable. You can find it reprinted in a hardcover format as Marvel Masterworks: Inhumans #2 from 2010, the first volume of which covers all those Amazing Adventures stories plus their origin story from Thor.

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Marvel billed the Inhumans as “uncanny” in this series, a word they would later apply to the X-men. The “Uncanny X-men” stuck, and few readers of bronze-age Marvel recall anyone but the X-men ever being uncanny! Gil Kane moved from cover art to interior art in this series. Although his style seems rough after Perez’s smooth work, Kane delivers some truly classic 70s work in stories like “A Trip to the Doom” in issue #7.

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In what now feels like a desperate ploy to boost sales, the Inhumans fight Hulk in their final issue. The same thing happened to Kirby’s Eternals in the mid-70s. Bad sales figures? Hulk Smash! “Let Fall the Final Fury” turns out to be the last appearance of the Inhumans in their own title for about 25 years.

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Despite some great guest appearances in John Byrne’s Fantastic Four in the 1980s, the Inhumans never really got a stellar treatment until Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee crafted a twelve-issue limited series for them in the 21st century. We have some of that artwork in our archives. The Inhumans live up to their potential in this compelling story, despite its reliance on the same old struggle with Maximus the Mad.

The four-issue Inhumans series by Carlos Pacheco earlier that summer had some stunning art by Ladronn. It attempted to free the Inhumans from the only two stories they ever seemed to get: the fight with Black Bolt’s mad brother, and their thing about needing to live on the moon. Pacheco stepped in and said, “Let’s shake this up a bit,” taking their conceptual struggles in the next logical plot direction.

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But, in the wake of the Jenkins/Lee story, Marvel decided on a “next generation” approach to the Inhumans. The book became more teen-friendly and introduced a new, younger set of Inhumans characters, some of whom we met in Jenkin’s story. This 2003 Inhumans series ran for twelve issues. It has its merits and perhaps competed at the time with Marvel’s Runaways and Exiles for a teen audience wanting teen characters. Of those three, only Runaways really kept our attention, proving to be a book about teens that older audiences could appreciate, too.

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And that, dear Martians, is why some lucky buyer overseas ended up with a stack of Inhumans comics from us! We collected those first Kirby issues, the run of their 1970s title, and the Jenkins/Lee paperback, along with some other minor Inhumans goodies from over the years. It was fun to have them all close at hand for a few years, and we did hold on to our single-issue copies of the Jenkins stories.

As we liquidate our physical comic book collection to help pay for our Master’s degree, you can support the Martian resistance by shopping in our eBay store. A special thank you goes out to our readers who have helped spread the word about our sales through Twitter!

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sketchbook saturdays

sketchbooks 7 (1)Ellie the Studio Cat advised us that it was entirely too nice a day to be drawing inside, so the two of us chilled at the little picnic table outside sketching prehistoric animals. We’re doing some very rough studies to get a feel for rendering these ancient critters with a combination of Sharpie and fine-point pens.

And yes, Ellie does look like she’s scowling in this photo, but she is just relaxing, contentedly hanging out for sunshine and sketching.

Anyway! Trilobites seemed like they would be simple, but their unique anatomy presents some conceptual challenges. Since this sketch we found some more photo references from the Burgess Shale that depict a few different types of trilobites with anatomical variations. We will master the trilobite yet!

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Rod Ruth has a pencil drawing in Album of Prehistoric Animals that makes a great reference for Diatryma feathers and anatomy. This was the easiest one of the bunch to pin down where we would want fine lines versus bold chisel-tip inking.

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Smilodon smiles on, with Rod Ruth’s cover of the same book giving a perfect snarly pose to work from.

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The skull of Dunkleosteus appears in one of our favorite books, Extinction. The interesting plate structure of this placoderm’s head easily lent itself to bold black lines.

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An Archaeocyathid from the same book was rendered in ink by one of the contributing artists, so we studied the way light and shadow define the curves.

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Here is our first rough pencil study of a panel by Bob Powell with a whacky sci-fi wasp from another planet who comes to earth in a globe of pure force. The sketch isn’t so great, but this is how we get to know our subjects.

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Our previous posting of Somewhere Between Mars and Earth got some encouraging response. We returned to it and filled in the lower right corner with more mega-doodle madness. Framed, it looks pretty darn trippy.
You can buy it on eBay if so moved. It’s packed up and ready to ship!

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Our first Sharpie study of And One of Them Was Destroyed felt good enough that we want to do a more finished version on some high-quality artist paper. While we get materials together for that endeavor, our two-page sketch can enjoy this 12×18 frame!

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Last but not least, we framed our little frog from our book of watercolor paper postcards. It will list on eBay soon, and we will be picking up another book of those blank postcards. In the next round, though, we will take care to leave a border around the edges. Frog looks great, but another one of our cards really needs to be matted to a 5×7 frame to preserve the details at the edges. Live and learn!

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