Mars Will Send No More enters its eighth year this month, and this blog’s focus has always been on comic books, art, and music. So, let’s have some music. And let’s have it loud.
One of my favorite Avengers stories features the time-traveling psychopath known as Kang The Conqueror. He sports a ridiculous outfit that only John Buscema and Tom Palmer could make cool.
What kind of evil plan can a person hatch in striped purple thigh-high boots? Stripping to pay his way through college? But don’t judge Kang by his fashion sense, because he rocks hard in this minor masterpiece.
I was 13 when this issue appeared on the comic book rack at the Walgreens on Manchester Road in Ballwin, Missouri. The opening sequence blew my mind, and I still get a thrill reading it years later. The complete three-issue story is one of the few mid-80s superhero yarns that still holds up for me as an adult reader, and though I no longer have the complete Stern/Buscema run, I’ve read it a bunch of times. These days, I just reserve a little space for my absolutely favorite Avengers stories, including this one.
It begins the day Colossus joins the Avengers, and opens with Storm descending from the sky like the weather goddess she is. Goddess and, as we discover, an Avenger.
I love the mood and tone of Stern’s captions on that page and generally for the entire run. Despite some typical comic-book clunkers such as expositional thought balloons, his prose always made me feel like I was reading a book for adults, not children. But back to our story.
The President of the USA escorts Colossus onto the scene to induct him into the Avengers and become an American citizen.
What’s that? You don’t remember Storm and Colossus being Avengers in the 1980s? Pay attention!
Iron Man flies onto the scene to give a gift to the POTUS on this momentous occasion. And gosh, isn’t Tony Stark such a great guy?
Just tug a little harder, sir! But suddenly…
Wait, what? The whole team just got nuked into oblivion? Is the series cancelled? What do you do after THAT?!
If you’re a super-villain, you gloat.
The nuke was just a warm-up. Now, it really starts to hit the fan. It turns out that Kang’s time-traveling adventures are creating all kinds of alternate timelines, and each has its own Kang. A mysterious council has summoned our nuke-loving Kang to their secret chamber in a limbo outside of time. When Kang questions the council’s authority to tell him what a massive screw-up he is for getting his entire planet destroyed, they reveal themselves to be a trio of alternate Kangs!
They kill him then adjourn and vanish. But one Kang comes back to snoop around the building, and who does he run into? One of the other Kangs! John Buscema gives the Jack Kirby treatment to the wonders inside the secret chambers inside the secret chamber, and Kang gives Kang a tour of his time-monitoring operations.
In fewer than ten pages, Stern gave the Avengers new members, nuked an entire planet, discovered alternate realities, hatched a nefarious plot of betrayal and murder spanning centuries and multiple universes, and plumbed the depths of grief, greed, and evil in the human soul. And the real Avengers, the stars of the series, haven’t even appeared yet!
The heroes show up soon enough, and the adventure is a solid one with plenty of twists and turns and mysteries to solve. Despite his goofy outfit, Kang is a strong villain with a plan he seems entirely capable of pulling off, and he steals the show in a way usually reserved for Dr. Doom. Fitting, I suppose, since Kang originally came from the future using Doom’s time-machine and, after becoming an Egyptian Pharaoh in the past, patterned himself after Doom. As far as alternate timeline stories go, I’d rather re-read this classic than re-watch Avengers Endgame any day.
A big “thank you” to this blog’s readers for making it possible to get these issues as part of my ongoing big box of free comics series.
This week’s pick from the indie comics short box is Utopiates, a four-issue black-and-white series focusing on characters who take a drug that temporarily alters their personality and emotions, but with violent and disastrous results.
The first issue opens with a full page of Gen-X angst that sets up what, at first, appears to be a simple tale about a young man who takes a drug to escape the dull hopelessness of his life.
By the end of the first issue, it becomes clear this tale is not so simple. We learn that the drug is somehow giving people specific personality traits because it is composed of genetic material copied from specific people. I don’t buy that bit of pseudo-science at all, but playing along with this central idea of injecting genetics like drugs does make for some interesting developments. For example, the young man in the first issue starts killing people his drug dealer assigns to him, but when he injects some Jack Ruby DNA, he kills the wrong person. This doesn’t end well for him.
The second and third issue tell the story of a different young man who served in a war as part of a private military contractor’s invasion force. We learn that he and all the contractors were constantly hopped up on one of these genetic drugs to reduce their fear and increase ferocity.
This two-part story shows how the soldier does not adapt well to normal society after his contract is complete and he can no longer get his drugs. The robotic psych counselor the company forces him to see is useless, so the young man starts looking for a source of the drug. His path leads him to discover whose DNA he and his troops were injecting.
The fourth issue tells the story of another former soldier, a woman who becomes an assassin for hire much like the character in the first issue. It suggests that the mysterious drug dealer in all these stories is giving out these gene-drugs and manipulating people as an art form. I found that motivation a bit lackluster, but I suspect that if the series had continued, then writer Josh Finney would have given us more depth and detail about what makes the dealer tick.
I love the artwork in this series, with Finney collaborating with artist Kat Rocha to produce moody, dramatic pages that look amazing without color. I don’t know why the series ended, but it feels like it could be a treatment for an ongoing TV series with action, adventure, mystery, futurism, and a bit of social commentary. Finally, it’s possible that Finney took the name of the series from a 1964 book detailing research into why people take LSD. You can read a review and summary of that book in the University of Chicago archives.
The four issues of Utopiates make a fairly quick but thought-provoking read, and you can have them for about $2 a piece.
Collector’s Guide: Utopiates #1-4; Bloodfire Studio, 2006.
This week’s pick from the indie short box of comics is the complete four-volume collection Queen & Country: The Definitive Edition. It’s also an entry in the big box of free comics series, because I wouldn’t have this collection if not for this blog’s readers. This espionage thriller featuring a British female spy comes from the mind of crime novelist Greg Rucka and an art team that changes with every major arc, giving each episode a unique look and feel.
The four volumes total nearly 1500 pages, which includes the entire single-issue series and three supplementary Declassified series, plus a slew of extras such as interviews, scripts, and sketchbooks. I loved it, with a few reservations, and it was maybe the third time I read the series.
Years ago, I sold a complete collection, and you can see photos of the interior art and full-color covers in my old post about the collection. I had discovered a few scattered issues in a used bookstore and gradually pieced together the set before selling it. With the Definitive Edition, it was great to read it all again in chronological order.
Still, you will find a few a gaps in chronology. Queen & Country is also a series of prose novels, and the comic-book adaptations sometimes skip a novel. “These events take place after the events in [novel]” comes up at least once. But, you get enough context from each story to follow along anyway, and a helpful flashback or two fills in the important gaps.
With the Definitive Edition, you won’t get the full-color covers, though the black-and-white versions are high quality. The page size is slightly smaller than a typical comic book, which occasionally makes the lettering a little hard to read. It was not as bad as the Tintin collection, which practically required a magnifying glass. I only struggled in a couple of stories, such as the first one where Tara’s thoughts appear in a cursive script that didn’t fare well from being shrunk.
The black-and-white art of the original series still looks incredible at this size, though some of the edges of panels disappear in the gutter — unless you want to test the limits of how far you can force the book’s spine open. A wider blank space in the gutter would have been a good thing. But, each of the four volumes is a sturdy paperback with a solid binding and high-quality paper.
Overall, it’s an awesome way to enjoy the complete series, and way easier and more cost-effective than trying to hunt down all the single issues one-by-one.
The art and writing are top-notch, with a compelling lead character who does some bad-ass spy stuff but has way more interesting internal and emotional conflicts than, say, James Bond. Tara Chace has depth, and she changes over the course of the series, and her world is turned upside down more than once. She has a strong supporting cast, and several merit standalone stories as leads in their own right.
Toward the end of the series, reading it one weekend as I did, I noticed there were an awful lot of scenes of people talking in offices, and pages of people having discussions that made a point but didn’t really advance the adventure. These were interesting for a while in the beginning, but by the end I was way more more invested in what Tara was doing than what some guys in offices were droning on about, and I skipped a few scenes.
You’ll probably feel the same way about the leading lady, and your mind might be blown at the cliffhanger ending of the series, and you might even want to pick up some of the novels afterward!
Collector’s Guide: Queen & Country: The Definitive Edition, #1-4; Oni Press, 2007.
This is the second time a book published by DC Comics has broken the rules and earned a place in my indie short box. This time, it’s Metalzoic by the legendary team of Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill, and there’s not much about it you can call “mainstream”. Metalzoic takes place in a future where the Earth is ruled by intelligent, mechanical beasts patterned after modern and prehistoric animals — and boy, do they love to fight!
Yes, you just witnessed a brutal showdown between a gorilla with a saw blade on his head, and a lion with a chainsaw for a tongue and metal skis for feet. Do I really need to say anything about the story’s plot, or is that cool enough for you? Two of my favorite pages show a shark attacking a caravan of wooly mammoths during a trek across the ice.
It’s like some sort of psychotic nature special! I can almost hear David Attenborough narrating it for a BBC documentary.
O’Neill always delivers wonderfully twisted artwork, but he pulls out all the stops to illustrate Metalzoic‘s endless mecha-menagerie.
The story is interesting, especially since the main character — the saw-blade gorilla — is a brutal, amoral hell-raiser whose brawn and ferocity might be the only thing standing between the Earth and total destruction.
And just look at him go!
When all this takes place and how it came to be are slowly revealed throughout the story. We don’t get a clear timeline until about 50 pages in. It might have been helpful to see a historic summary earlier in the story, so here it is.
If you’re like me, and you wish Godzilla movies would cut out most of the human-related nonsense and just show more monster fights, then this 64-page epic adventure is the book for you!
This week’s pick from the short box of indie comics takes us once again into the world of crime fiction. A History of Violence from John “Judge Dredd” Wagner and Vince Locke really puts the “novel” in “graphic novel”, telling a deeply detailed story in its nearly 300 pages. I read it years ago but didn’t see the film until this summer. The book was more satisfying, especially the ending, which is a visceral punch to the gut in print but completely re-written and watered down for the film.
So, let’s start at the beginning, because A History of Violence opens with murderous intent.
Pretty soon, the murderers stop for a bite to eat in typical, small-town America, where everything is quaint, peaceful, and family-friendly. But when they try to start trouble at the local diner, the dude at the counter decides homie don’t play that shit, and he totally destroys them.
Diner dude wastes these guys and becomes a local celebrity. There, the story gets bogged down with scenes of his resultant interactions with the yuk-yuks from Anywhere, USA as they fawn over him at little-league games and other scenes I could skip. But this shift in the hero’s calm, daily life gets kicked up a notch when the leader of a criminal organization recognizes diner dude in a newspaper article, and decides to visit.
This scene begins a gradual reveal of diner dude’s past, and how he came to be involved with the underworld in his youth and eventually assumed a new identity so he could live a pastoral life in Generic, USA. The middle third of the book tells that story as a flashback, and it’s almost as much fun as the part in the Godfather novel where we flashback to Vito Corleone’s rise to power in his youth.
The first time I read A History of Violence, I couldn’t put it down. But upon re-reading, I could have done without so many extended, dialogue-heavy scenes of regular folks standing or sitting around while having an interpersonal drama. It often feels like this could be a real barnburner of a tale if we could just cut some of the “normal folks chatting in a mild state of distress” scenes, and get into the absolutely fucked-up criminal world that really drives the plot and drama. And by “absolutely fucked up”, I mean pages like this:
Earlier, I implied I didn’t like the movie, but mostly what I hated were the changes to the ending. In fact, the film did a better job portraying the shoot-out on diner dude’s lawn where his son was involved, and the film had a somewhat tighter pace. Also, Ed Harris as the eyeless criminal guy totally rocks.
I’m a bit ambivalent about the art in this story. The panel layouts and the visual storytelling of both quiet conversations and brutal conflict are top-notch, but I can’t escape the feeling that that I am looking at a sketch of the story instead of the final version. The art is very scratchy, and while it has a visceral power, after a couple hundred pages I started wishing another inker would come along and tighten it up. On the other hand, this is a gritty and compelling story once you get into it, and a gritty visual style suits it well.
Fans of crime fiction should read A History of Violence at least once because, despite its flaws, it is a dramatic and emotional journey that not even the film could match, and it isn’t a story you will soon forget. The original edition is long out of print, but the 2005 reprint will run you about $20.
Collector’s Guide: A History of Violence; 2005 reprint edition, Paradox Press.
This week’s pick from the short box of indie comics comes from Ricardo Delgado, whose Age of Reptiles is among my all-time favorite comic books. Hieroglyph delivers Delagado’s signature style of primarily visual storytelling with vast landscapes and non-verbal drama, only in a science-fiction setting on a faraway planet.
This four-issue series published by Dark Horse is full of visual splendor, as a lone explorer seeks to understand a distant planet and the unusual beings who inhabit it — and, along the way, make some really awful decisions and narrowly escape with his life several times.
Part of the fun of this series — and something which was commented on many times in the letters pages — is that we don’t really know what the deal is with the alien beings and all their activities, their strange and massive temples, and their relationships to each other. We experience the planet and its inhabitants the same way the explorer does: with incomplete information, leaving us to try to work out the meaning for ourselves.
The fourth issue of Hierolgyph is the problematic one, because it undermines exactly what made the first three issues so much fun. Eventually, a recurring alien character appears at the explorer’s ship and — lo and behold — it has sorted how to speak English, and it launches into exposition to explain everything we’ve seen so far. I don’t know if this was an editorial decision or an authorial one, but I would have been much happier with just about any other ending that did not involve aliens expositing in English.
Despite fumbling the ball in the fourth quarter, Hieroglyph is an intriguing read for most of its run, and Delgado’s ability to portray the feelings and reactions of both human and non-human characters through purely visual means is without peer. You can have it for only $3 or $4 per issue.
Collector’s Guide: Hieroglyph #1-4; 1999, Dark Horse.
Like last week’s pick from the short box of indie comics, this week features another crime story with a bad-ass female lead. Down is a four-issue series by Warren Ellis with art from Tony Harris and Cully Hamner, and its portrayal of a police officer infiltrating a violent criminal organization reminds me in some ways of one of my favorite films: The Departed by Martin Scorsese. Down isn’t quite as complex, as the fast pace and tight focus relentlessly blaze through the story up until the bitter end. But like The Departed, this story doesn’t end where you think it will.
Down puts our leading lady into the middle of a conflict between crooked cops and even more crooked gangsters, and every step of the journey takes her into increasingly questionable decisions about just whose side she is on. In her quest to get close to the criminal leader, she is forced to consider just how far she is willing to go to maintain her cover.
Down has a high body count and graphic violence, but I feel the real intensity takes place around just how much her experiences deform and re-define the protagonist’s conception of who she is and what role she wants to play in life. At some point, she realizes she has crossed a line she can never step back over and return to normalcy, and her only option is to choose a new path of her own design.
It’s one of my favorite of Ellis’ short works, and all the better because it doesn’t end with a big explosion, a convention he tended to over-use when he seemed to be cranking out a new series every week. It’s a fun read if you like crime fiction and bad-ass women, and you can get it for about $2 an issue.
Collector’s Guide: Down #1-4; 2005, Image.
Today’s pick from the short box of indie comics is Felon, a four-issue series from the mind of Greg Rucka, who is known for both his crime stories and his preference for writing female lead characters. I have a few other Rucka gems to share with you later, but they all feature a detective as the main character, and this one follows the adventures of a remorseless criminal.
She’s a bad-ass without being an over-the-top action hero, and even though we are sympathetic to her because her crew screwed her over, she isn’t exactly role-model material. She’s concerned about one thing, and one thing only, and this focus on her goal is apparent from page one. She is released from prison and only has three words to say:
She sticks to this simple, direct goal through three issues of violence, and the plot is pretty straight-forward, even when a new heist enters the picture. But the drive, the unrelenting focus she maintains, and her subordination of any empathy or morality to the intensity of her avarice made a huge impression on me. Felon influenced my own stories about an unrepentant female criminal who constantly smokes cigarettes and blasts anyone who gets in her way, so I owe Rucka and company a debt of gratitude.
But it’s the fourth issue that really blows my mind. The third issue brings an end to the heist story, and you wonder what’s next, but then Rucka turns the world upside down. The fourth issue introduces a female detective who is on the trail of our leading lady, completely switches to her point of view, and shows how her focus on the case destroys her personal life. Also, the first three issues are full color, but the fourth is black and white. The titular felon only appears in flashbacks related by other characters, such as a scene that recalls one of her robberies and demonstrates just how cold she can be.
Felon is a quick read but a fun one if you love crime fiction and bad-ass women, and you can get it for about $2 an issue.
Collector’s Guide: Felon #1-4; 2001, Top Cow.
Today’s pick from the short box of indie comics features an issue that doesn’t even exist yet! But it will soon, because the Kickstarter for Lords of the Cosmos #3 is now underway, and it is the tenth Kickstarter from Jason Lenox, whose work first appeared on this blog about six years ago.
Let’s have a sneak preview of artwork from a series Jason describes as a “sci-fi and fantasy comic for fans of He-Man, Thundercats, Heavy Metal, and Flash Gordon!”
The 1980s nostalgia is strong with Lords of the Cosmos. Jason says, “Take all your retro action figure and geek-out fantasies, throw them in a blender with some cheap tequila, put that bad boy on high, and drink whatever mangled, gnarled mess comes out!”
If that sounds like the comic-book cocktail you crave, visit the Lords of the Cosmos Kickstarter to reserve your copy and more fun bonuses!
This week’s pick from the indie box isn’t even indie, having been published by DC Comics, but it has an indie feel and showcases the talents of two future superstars. Scene of the Crime is an early collaboration between Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark, who would later do an amazing run together on Daredevil at Marvel.
Scene of the Crime follows the adventures of a private investigator as he unravels an increasingly sinister and fucked-up story, and I wanted to love it. It would probably make a solid movie. But after the second issue, I was flipping through pages to see the big reveal. The narration in the captions starts in first gear on page one and never really accelerates, and the art is sometimes too clean when it could use more grit and grime.
Scene of the Crime faces a structural problem in that we as readers get hints that the investigator has some past tragedy, but we don’t get told what it is until the final pages. This makes it feel more like a postscript than something crucial to understanding the character’s motivations, and by the time we get there, the main story is basically over. So, did it really matter? It feels like it didn’t.
Despite its flaws, Scene of the Crime is a glimpse into the early days of a writer and artist team who eventually crafted tightly-wound, tense crime stories. The four-issue series shows the team has the ability to tell a complex tale of crime and mystery, and I see it as a stepping stone to later masterpieces such as the Brubaker/Lark run on Daredevil and Brubaker’s collaboration with Sean Phillips on Criminal, one of my all-time favorite works of fiction.
Collector’s Guide: Scene of the Crime; DC Comics, 1999
The big box of comics series is a tribute to the fun things I wouldn’t have in my life without the readers of this blog who help me earn store credit at MyComicShop.com or Amazon.com every time they use my handy “Collector’s Guides” links to make a purchase.
It’s a symbiotic relationship — much like when an alien symbiote bonds to your nervous system and drinks your adrenaline for survival.
Actually, it’s nothing like that, but you could read that story in the Spectacular Spider-man TPB #1 by Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos.
This month, thanks to readers’ generosity, I put together a run of inexpensive reprints of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2–5, courtesy of IDW’s “Color Classics” versions of early TMNT. A few months ago, readers helped me reunite with the ridiculous majesty of TMNT #6, and I couldn’t go on without reading the preceding issues at least one more time!
Was it fun? Oh, hell yes. But maybe not as great as I remember from my black and white collections or the original colorized graphic novels from First. IDW’s coloring is part of that, since they put dark colors over the original Zip-a-Tone midtones, and obscuring the mid-range tends to flatten the artwork and make it less dynamic. Also, one of the pages in one issue seems to be a misprint that duplicates a page from earlier in the story.
But in terms of being an affordable way to read the Turtles’ earliest adventures, these reprints did the job admirably. Because #6 is one of my all-time favorite comics, I enjoyed reliving the outrageous plot that led up to it, and seeing how the storytelling evolved and improved in the early days. As a bonus, I got a few issues from the second volume of Color Classics, including a solo Michelangelo adventure in a kind of Lone Wolf & Cub fantasy of feudal Japan mixed with mystic lizard demons from hell. That issue includes one of my favorite Turtles pages:
Also from the second volume, a color version of an issue of the Return to New York story that’s a favorite of mine.
Along with the batch of ninja nostalgia, I picked up some bargain-priced Fine copies of Paul Chadwick’s The World Below. It’s no secret I love Chadwick’s Concrete series. World Below and its sequel, the four-issue Deeper and Stranger, don’t have the same depth of storytelling and lush rendering as Concrete, but they are a fun romp through Chadwick’s science-fiction imagination.
I like the sequel better than the first series. The sequel uses black and white art with no color, which is almost always how I prefer to see Chadwick’s art. And, the first series suffered from too many flashbacks trying to make me care about characters I never properly met, since the story started right in the middle of the action. Each time a character faced a crisis I wasn’t invested in, the character flashed back to a similar situation in their early life to beat me over the head with how huge an emotional deal it all was. That didn’t work for me.
Also, I could have lived without seeing the characters say, “eff this” and “eff you, you effing effer” instead of using the actual profanity. Those pages in World Below #3 were physically painful to read, and even old-school characters like F@%$ would have been preferable.
It seems to me that if your dialogue depends on using the word “fuck”, then you should probably just say “fuck”.
The narrative problems (mostly) smooth out in the sequel, which has my favorite issue of the series and an unexpected ending that blew my mind. Deeper and Stranger fulfills the promise of the first World Below and the tagline on those covers: the deeper you go, the stranger it gets!
Finally, this month’s box of comics included a favorite from my Avengers collection that I sold off a few years ago. Recently, someone commented on my old post about the Stern/Buscema/Palmer run on Avengers in the 1980s. It reminded me that while I basically memorized those issues after reading them so many times, Avengers #266 featuring the Silver Surfer really needed to come back to my modest “Avengers favorites” collection.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: the issue is a post-script to one of the most god-awful, tragic dumpster fires Marvel produced in the 1980s: Secret Wars II. Don’t even get me started.
But this issue focuses on two powerful beings—one a respected hero, and one a reviled villain—who need to work together to heal a cataclysmic wound in the Earth before the planet falls apart and kills everyone. All in 32 ad-free pages, in which the fate of the world might depend on one total nerd’s desire to watch sitcom re-runs with his girlfriend instead of letting the disaster take its fatal course. It’s so insane!
This issue has many examples of Stern’s dialogue that endeared me to his Avengers. Namor and Hercules bust each other’s balls like only gods can do, but below their arguing I sense a mutual respect born of the knowledge that they are both beings of power, and maybe they need each other to call each other out sometimes to help keep their rages in check.
She-Hulk isn’t turned off at all by Hercules’ temper tantrums; she flatters him and straight-up asks him to dinner, which is almost as awesome as that time she hooked up with Juggernaut. Jennifer’s a being of great power, too, and she seems perfectly comfortable and relaxed about it.
Hercules’ thoughts on nobility and heroism after the villain supposedly “loses his powers” while saving the Earth — also a lovely piece of internal dialogue.
But my favorite part is the final scene where the villain reveals he never lost his powers at all, and that the hero was complicit in this deception.
The Silver Surfer’s comment on courage and vulnerability really sums up what I love about this Avengers run. Sure, it’s all fun and games in spandex with lots of punching and the fate of the universe at stake, and there’s no shortage of expositional thought balloons. But every now and then, Stern’s humanistic and thoughtful depictions of his characters meld with John Buscema’s and Tom Palmer’s artwork to create high points of visual literature.
You know what? I might need to reclaim a few more of my favorite story arcs from this run — especially the Kang saga and the assault on Avengers Mansion.
That’s it for September’s big box of free comics, and I am excited to tell you about the October box that is on its way!
These two tracks are from a pair of live performances in 2002 in Depot Town, a small commercial/arts area in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I’d love to release them on an album, but I don’t want to mess with obtaining commercial rights to sell my versions of the original songs. So, here they are, free of charge.
The first is a cover of I Had a Chance by Morphine. I kept the lyric but re-tooled the music. Click to listen or download the MP3.
The second is a medley of two songs: Cactus by the Pixies, and The Letter by Joe Cocker. I took some liberties with the key and the chords. Click to listen or download the MP3.
Though I’ve never been a talented singer, I had a lot of fun in 2002 as a ‘solo act’ with my old Epiphone acoustic guitar, playing and singing in galleries, record stores, and other low-key venues. I still have her, though she’s worn from years of use and abuse, and the top is cracked from banging on it like a drum during an overly enthusiastic performance of Had My Chance. A couple years ago, I took her apart, painted her black, and reassembled her, and now she sounds about as good as she ever did.
The two concerts took place at Dreamland Theater and a record store across the street, whose name I can’t recall. They were recorded by Craig Baker, who passed away a year or two later. He was a regular on the same open mic circuit I frequented, and we had many great conversations about life, art, and music. I’m grateful that he volunteered for the job, because I’d have no record of these shows if not for his generosity.
Today’s pick from the box of indie and small-press comics is Tales of the Cherokee. Let’s have a look at Gene Gonzales’ illustrated version of the Cherokee creation myth in “How the World Was Made.” Dig that splash page featuring the worlds above and below!
Below is another tale, a Cherokee love story Gene calls “The Origin of Strawberries.”
– From Tales of the Cherokee #1, Mandalay Books 2001.
This week’s pick from the short-box of indie and small-press comics deals once again with Unnatural Selection, much like the Elephantmen issues we looked at by Casey & Ladronn. But this pick comes from CrossGen comics and deals with evolutionary developments in the course of a war between humans and reptilians.
From the reptiles’ perspective, they’re the good guys. One of them discovers that by eating the humans, the reptiles get smarter and more adaptable like humans. This change allows them to kick our butts in intergalactic warfare. But the politics and religion of the Saurians make things more complex, as does interpersonal rivalry that can only be solved through sword fights and ass kicking!
Hell, yes! It’s like Mark Waid wrote this one just for me, and the artwork is so much fun though this whole story, from the creative panel layouts to the glorious colors.
Saurians: Unnatural Selection is a two-issue limited series telling the tale of the reptile that first made the discovery that eating people is the smart thing to do for an evil space dinosaur, and even if you never followed CrossGen’s main titles, this is a damn good story!
– From Saurians Unnatural Selection #2; CrossGen Comics, 2002.
Drive is a song by The Cars, and I recorded this instrumental version in the living room at my old place, on a sunny afternoon with heavy traffic outside. The car noise seemed to fit the theme.
Listen or Download the MP3: https://app.box.com/s/gv0bl75qgvooosetgaolgnosxh5gjs9q
About ten years ago, this track appeared on a limited edition CD of maybe 100 copies, an album recorded with friends and sold at a CD release party. I haven’t made it available anywhere since.
This is Sold-Out lampoons the comic book industry of the 1980s, and no one walks away without a few lumps. It’s too bad the creators never did a sequel satirizing the 1990s speculator craze. Long-time comic book fans will enjoy picking out the altered comic book titles on the racks and the ridiculous hyperbole about the medium we know and love.
My favorite moment might be when a rodent and a turtle use random words from the dictionary to come up with the title of the latest black-and-white indie sensation: The Catastrophic Obsequious Belgian Hibernation Retrieval. Someone must create that book!
This Is Sold Out has an outrageous second issue that concludes the story as the “Color Police” get together to eradicate all competition for the black-and-white madness. Absolute lunacy!
-From Sold Out; 1986, FantaCo.
Last we checked, FantaCo was defunct and this title is out of print.
Inside the indie comics box today, it’s Teknophage: a walking, talking, totally evil dinosaur who rules a world much like ours, only infinitely more terrible. Teknophage feeds on souls, which he extracts from helpless humans in the horrifying vats of his mobile city. He cruises his planet spreading misery every where he goes. Many have tried to overthrow him, only to have their souls ripped from their tortured bodies and consumed.
Rick Veitch created this evil bastard reptile for Tekno Comix, a Neil Gaiman venture. With artist Bryan Talbot, Veitch blends horror, science fiction, and a cynically hilarious social satire to make Teknophage a story you will never forget – assuming you survive!
Here is a preview of the pages where Teknophage recounts his earliest days as just another evil telepathic dinosaur, and how he discovered the multi-dimensional technology that made him master of the planet.
– From Teknophage #4-5; Tekno Comix, 1995.
Today we open the indie short-box to find the first and only issue of a series that never happened: Salvador!
The ultimate intent of the lavish, wordless art remains a mystery to me. I felt like I followed the central character’s journey, even though the world was unfamiliar to me, and I could draw some conclusions about what it was all about. But did this episode set up a longer storyline, or is this issue a self-contained story? What did the creators think was coming next?
The blurb in the back of the book, which you can see in the scans below, says Salvador was to be a five-issue series, and the main character was a “savior for DNA discards” in a world of genetic engineering gone awry. He can fly, but he was born brittle, so he is easily broken. I don’t know if that will help you make more sense of this unfinished work, but have a look at these gorgeous pages anyway.
Salvador #1; Boom Studios, 2007.
The short-box of indie and small-press comics this week crawls right out of the gutter to bring you the underground skateboard glory of Thrasher!
Thrasher Comics came from High Speed, the publishers of Thrasher Magazine, who also produced the art magazine Juxtapoz. You don’t need to be a skater to dig the artwork in Thrasher Comics, however. Here is a sample: L. E. Coleman’s “Skate Greats of History,” featuring Elvis Presley skating on a guitar, and Julius Caesar skating the Colossuem.
Though it’s unsigned, Thrasher contributor Ken Jones informed us the cover was created by Kevin Ancell. The style brings to mind the work of Rick Griffin. Griffin did freelance work for Thrasher Magazine and even designed several Vans shoes, a brand loved by skaters everywhere.
– From Thrasher #2; 1988, High Speed.