The story of a man's journey back in time to relive high school, Too Cool is more than just a Back to the Future story. Issues of gender, morality, an...moreThe story of a man's journey back in time to relive high school, Too Cool is more than just a Back to the Future story. Issues of gender, morality, and family are expertly woven in, and nothing can prepare you for the poignant ending.(less)
One of the few autobio graphic novels that justifies being labeled a "memoir." Dawson uses the British rock group Queen as a vehicle for discussing di...moreOne of the few autobio graphic novels that justifies being labeled a "memoir." Dawson uses the British rock group Queen as a vehicle for discussing different periods of his unique personal history of growing up in England and moving to the States as a boy. He tells an episodic story in a way that still has the flow of a continuous narrative. Dawson's portrayal of his family dynamics expertly sketches in a sense of everybody's personality -- and the warmth they all feel for each other -- without ever once getting sentimental. The section "Guitar Solo," on the way memory works, is an absolute tour-de-force; it's a textbook example of the singular narrative power of comics.(less)
As a kid, I loved Superman Jr. and Batman Jr. ("sons" of Superman and Batman, duh!), the titular heroes of the stories. Written by Bob Haney (with the...moreAs a kid, I loved Superman Jr. and Batman Jr. ("sons" of Superman and Batman, duh!), the titular heroes of the stories. Written by Bob Haney (with the best stories drawn by Dick Dillin), the Super Sons sporadically appeared in World's Finest comics (starting in 1973 and running sporadically until '76). They were obviously a misguided attempt to bring "relevance" (a big 70s term) to the Superman/Batman universe -- without getting as hard-core or political as the now-classic Denny O'Neil/Neal Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics.
Even though the Super Sons exist completely outside normal continuity, DC refused to declare that their adventures were "imaginary stories"; a distinction I've always found hilarious -- as opposed to the "real" adventures of the superhero in question?! In fact, Haney/Dillin always make a point of obscuring the sons' mothers' identities, which leads to a number of stories where the kids get in arguments with their parents, with the moms' faces always turned from the viewer or engulfed in shadow!
The stories in this book usually involve the junior heroes riding around out West, Easy Rider-style, on a souped-up chopper or dune buggy, defying their parents' wishes that they just settle down to "normal" lives. They tend to follow a similar pattern: the boys get in a "generation-gap" argument with their dad and storm off together. They fall into some misadventure, jump to a number of conclusions, make some dumb mistakes, and are eventually bailed out of trouble by their stronger, wiser dads. (In fact, they make a big point that Superman Jr.'s powers are only half those of his dad's, seeing as how he has a mortal mother.) It's pretty clear what the editorial tone of these stories are: give kids room to rebel -- a little -- but make sure they understand who's boss in the end.
In my favorite story of the collection, "The Shocking Switch of the Super-Sons," Bruce Jr. and Clark Jr. swap dads for a time, and then all four visit an encounter camp to "discover" themselves! The dialogue throughout all the stories is a hilarious pastiche of hipster/black dialect: Clark Jr. and Bruce Jr. never go more than a panel without proclaiming something "crazy" or "far out," or calling each other "baby," not to mention any nearby females "chicks" or "dolls." It's classic stuff.
The collection sort of comes out of left-field; I wonder what compels DC to release it now? I can't imagine that there's a huge audience for the book, outside of those with an ironic sense of nostalgia like myself. The book is nicely produced, with a beautiful Nick Cardy cover (was he was one of the all-time great cover artists, or what?!), and the addition of a couple of oddball Super Sons stories from the 80s & 90s (including one written by Bob Haney shortly before his death), as well as a cover gallery. But the one thing the book really needs is a foreword or introduction. The stories are just too weird to escape comment!(less)
This 500-page black-and-white reprint tome includes three issues of Showcase and 17 issues of The Atom's own title. All the stories are by Gardner Fox...moreThis 500-page black-and-white reprint tome includes three issues of Showcase and 17 issues of The Atom's own title. All the stories are by Gardner Fox, with art by Gil Kane and inks by Murphy Anderson and Sid Greene.
Although it was a bit of a slog, there was something satisfying in really immersing myslf in DC's Silver Age. I was never actually emotionally engaged with any of the tales, but they were fun in a goofy, kidlike way. One thing that really impressed me was the pure craftsmanship of the form back then. There was definitely a different standard for artwork back in the early-to-mid-60s, and you could see that professional pride in Fox, Kane, and Anderson's work. And Fox was a true polymath: in the course of a couple years (1963–1965) of The Atom, he tackled the 1956 Hungarian revolution, the space race, 18th-century English history, miniature card painting, Norse mythology, and numismatics, just to name a few. You could enjoy these stories and actually learn something about the real world in the process. How quaint.
Another striking thing about the stories is how much of the plots were devoted to the Atom's alter-ego Ray Palmer. Palmer is such a geek — he really enjoys his job as a scientist and is always shown at his lab, working on some obscure experiment or another when trouble hits. He's a total "square," enjoying reading, art, classical music, and long drives in the countryside. Very much the "man in the gray flannel suit," very emblematic of DC during that period. (Don't forget this is the same era that Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko were debuting such oddball, almost countercultural heroes as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, and the X-Men for Marvel.)
Ray's then-girlfriend-later-wife Jean Loring is also a featured character, though not via the melodramatic romance angle we're familiar with from Superman and Lois Lane. Instead, many of the stories revolve around the Atom helping "lady lawyer" Jean defend falsely accused clients from criminal charges. Jean's goal during is to make her mark as a lawyer before she acquiesces to Ray's repeated (milksop) marriage proposals! Sort of a mixed message for feminists, that. (This early look at their romance and relationship gains added interest given what later happened to Ray and Jean in the 2004 Brad Meltzer-written classic Identity Crisis.)
Before reading these comics, I didn't know much about Fox other than that he was a Silver Age scribe who re-imagined moribund characters like the Flash, Hawkman, and, yes, the Atom. Researching him a little on Wikipedia, I learned that Fox was an amazingly prolific writer, churning out over 4,000 stories — as well as over 100 novels! — during his long career. That must be some kind of record.
As for Gil Kane, I was first exposed to his work when he drew Action in the mid-80s. He was famous then as a master of human anatomy, with a very distinctive look and inking style. But looking at this early 60s stuff, he was more of an all-around cartoonist, doing everything well but nothing particularly flashy. With Anderson inking him, his work here is protoypically "Silver Age."
Which brings me to Murphy Anderson's exquisite inks. I've always loved his inking over Curt Swan's pencils on Superman and Action. (That "Swanderson" period from the the early 1970s is my all-time favorite Superman era.) Anderson is truly an inker's inker. There's just something "real" about the way he renders, his brushwork giving texture, weight, and solidity to everything from spaceships and ray guns, to everyday objects like clothing, cars, the natural world, and office buildings. And he can ink hair like a mo-fo! A number of the later stories in the collection are inked by a guy named Sid Greene. Not to be too harsh, but Green's inks prove how much Anderson contributed to the look of these Atom stories — the Green pages are not nearly as attractive.(less)
Supposedly taken from Seth's sketchbooks, the book is a lively, jaunty, hilarious read. As Seth notes, inspired by recent work from Dan Clowes, Chris...moreSupposedly taken from Seth's sketchbooks, the book is a lively, jaunty, hilarious read. As Seth notes, inspired by recent work from Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, and David Heatley, the book uses short fragmented episodes, featuring many characters, to tell one over-arching story. The story, ostensibly about a master comic book collector, is a loving portrait of the comics industry, one that encompasses creator, readers — and comic book stores! At the same time, it is a mystery, an adventure story, and a screwball comedy. (And there's even one character who looks strangely like Seth.) In a manner similar to Michael Chabon's brilliant Kavalier and Clay, Seth creates out of whole cloth a history of comics similar to our own. Fitting his own tastes, most of the comics are of the non-superhero variety, reflecting a much more ecletcic mix of genres.
And despite its less-polished style, the artwork is classic Seth, with that beautiful clean line, use of simple shapes, loving attention to architectural detail, and his characteristic ink wash shading.
Paul Karasik and David Mazzuchelli's adaptation of Auster's novella is 138 pages of pure gold. Working from a nine-panel grid, City of Glass tells the...morePaul Karasik and David Mazzuchelli's adaptation of Auster's novella is 138 pages of pure gold. Working from a nine-panel grid, City of Glass tells the haunting, lonely tale of writer Daniel Quinn. Mistaken for a private detective, Quinn finds himself assigned to protect a man from his own father. In the course of the story, Quinn assumes more names and personae, eventually losing his own identity. The comic progressively reflects this deterioration: the panels tumble and shift, Mazzuchelli's brushstroke becomes wild, expressionist, filled with horror. City of Glass is a tour-de-force, in many ways a more eloquent primer on the form than Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics.(less)
Fate is the only way to describe it. When I took off for Asia -- a one-way flight from New York to Hong Kong -- the only comic I brought with me was C...moreFate is the only way to describe it. When I took off for Asia -- a one-way flight from New York to Hong Kong -- the only comic I brought with me was Comics Trips. I didn't know it at the time, but nothing could have been more fitting. It was a revelation, the most influential piece of travel writing I ve ever read. Documenting Kuper's adventures in Africa and Asia, Comics Trips is part comic, part sketchbook, part photo album -- and entirely engaging. Highlights of the book include an account of a hilarious/nightmarish train ride through Tanzania in "Gorillas," and "Bangkok," a light-hearted look at the live-sex trade. Comics Trips is punctuated by beautiful watercolor sketches, ticket stubs and collages, and humorous photo essays like "Toilets of the World." This is the kind of comic you save from a fire.(less)
I've been a Tintin reader -- and Hergé fan -- since I can remember; for many years, The Adventures of Tintin were the only comics I read. Hergé's arti...moreI've been a Tintin reader -- and Hergé fan -- since I can remember; for many years, The Adventures of Tintin were the only comics I read. Hergé's artistic innovations are well-documented: beautiful "clear line" artwork and blueprint-perfect backgrounds; complex, carefully plotted stories; hilarious characters and deft comedic timing. What always excited me about the Tintin books was their globe-spanning reach, to locales as remote as the north Atlantic, the Middle East, South America, and, of course, the Moon. But my favorite volume in the series is undoubtedly Tintin in Tibet. In this story, Tintin, his faithful dog Snowy and loyal companion Captain Haddock search the remote mountains of Tibet for Tintin's good friend Chang. One of the few Tintin adventures that really provides insight into the main character's emotions, this story mixes incredible visuals and riveting suspense with a rare tug at the heartstrings. Truly an all-time comics classic.(less)