Challengers of the Unknown
Every week, hard as it may be to believe, I try honestly to offer something I think might interest the larger group of DC Domics superhero readers. However, this week I am invoking a personal privilege. For one thing, with Halloween on a Wednesday (when I usually end up writing these essays), the holiday will more than likely take priority.
The main reason, though, is that today is my birthday, and as you might have guessed from the headline, this year is my 43rd birthday. Therefore, this week I have pulled together an especially memorable DC story and/or issue from each of those years, 1969 through 2012. (Note: They may not always line up with the actual year, but just for simplicity’s sake, all dates are cover dates.) These aren’t necessarily the best or most noteworthy stories of their particular years, but they’ve stuck with me. Besides, while I’ve read a lot of comics from a lot of sources, for whatever reason DC has been the constant. Maybe when I’m 50 I’ll have something more comprehensive.
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Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, Casanova: Avaritia #4 would be the first thing I’d pick up. I’ve been enjoying Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba’s return to their dimension-hopping super-spy immensely and am looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up.
If I had $30, I’d make the difficult choice between two top-notch offerings from Fantagraphics this week. One: New York Mon Amour, a collection of Manhattan-themed stories by the one and only Jacques Tardi, including the Kalfkaesque “Cockroach Killer.” The other would be the third volume in the ongoing Mickey Mouse collection, High Noon at Inferno Gulch. I’m an unabashed Floyd Gottfredson fan, so the Mickey book would probably win out. But I’d be sure to save my coins for next week so I can get the Tardi book then.
Assuming I don’t blow all my splurge dough on the Tardi book, there’s a number of solid options here: Out of the Shadows, a collection of Mort Meskin’s early non-DC work; Bill the Boy Wonder, a new prose biography of Batman co-creator Bill Finger; and a Challengers of the Unknown Omnibus featuring Jack Kirby’s run. If I were in a charitable mood, however, I’d likely snap up Team Cul de Sac, the anthology/art book/tribute to Richard Thompson’s delightful comic strip featuring contributions from folks like Lynn Johnston, Mort Walker, Gary Trudeau and even Bill Watterson! Proceeds from the book go to help fight Parkinson’s disease, which Thompson unfortunately suffers from. It’s hard for me to think of a more worthy – or potentially enjoyable – book to spend your money on this week.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Joey Weiser, creator of Cavemen in Space, The Ride Home and Tales of Unusual Circumstance, and a contributor to SpongeBob Comics.
To see what Joey and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “ Wonder Woman is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Judge Bao and the Jade Phoenix - A detective story set in ancient China. Plus: cool name.
Dicks #1 – Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s humor makes my top hat explode and my monocle fly off my face, but I remember this being pretty popular back in the day and I imagine that it’s new presentation in color and leading into a new storyline could make it popular again.
Ralph Wiggum Comics #1 – This, on the other hand, is exactly my kind of funny. Kind of like 30 Days of Night, I’m astonished no one’s thought of it before. Too bad it’s just a one-shot, but hearing that Sergio Aragones is one of the contributors makes me want to poke myself with my Viking helmet to see if I’m dreaming.
At first I wasn’t especially excited about too much in DC’s February solicitations. However, the more I looked around, the more optimistic I became. Six months into the New 52, some connections are starting to gel, and their interactions (well, as far as what you can glean from the ad copy) seem more organic. As always, there were a few pleasant surprises in the collected editions, and some details from which to spin hopeful speculation.
But enough with the purple prose — let’s hit the books!
TO UNLIMITED AND BEYOND
The gee-whizziest news of the February solicitations has to be the digital-first format of Batman Beyond Unlimited. I have not been the quickest to adapt to digitally-conveyed comics, mostly because my personal technology level hasn’t caught up. However, I do read a number of webcomics, as well as newspaper strips online, and if the price were right, I’d gladly sample BBU’s features on my computer before picking up the print version. Having Dustin Nguyen and (yay!) Norm Breyfogle involved doesn’t hurt either.
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Catching up on various episodes of “Batman: The Brave And The Bold,” I was pleasantly surprised that one teaser (YouTube — careful!) focused on the Challengers of the Unknown.
Not having read their Silver Age adventures, I wouldn’t consider myself a Challengers expert, but I do like the basic idea. They’re straight-up adventurers brought together largely by a shared experience of cheating death, and because they live “on borrowed time,” they have decided to spend that time saving the world. First appearing in 1957′s Showcase #6 (just two issues after the Silver Age Flash’s debut in #4), and springing at least in part from Jack Kirby’s fertile imagination, the Challs are often tied to a pre-superhero Silver Age either explicitly (as in Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier and the recent Legacies miniseries) or as spiritual representatives of that time (as in Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett’s Superboy or Mark Waid, George Pérez, and Jerry Ordway’s run on The Brave and the Bold). Attempts to “update” the team, whether by aging the originals or creating new Challengers, haven’t gotten much traction, despite the best efforts of folks like Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, Steven Grant, Len Kaminski, John Paul Leon, and Howard Chaykin.
I first took notice of Shawn Martinbrough‘s work during his and Greg Rucka’s run on DC’s Detective Comics back in the early 2000s. While his storytelling skills were great then, they’ve only improved over the years and can currently be appreciated in Marvel’s Luke Cage Noir miniseries, set in 1930s Harlem (Issue 2 was released on September 2; Issue 3 will be out on October 7). Actually, I’ve wanted to interview Martinbrough since 2007 when he wrote How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling, so we discussed that book before moving on to his current Marvel work, as well as his upcoming Studio Museum exhibit on Luke Cage.
Tim O’Shea: How did your How to Draw Noir Comics book come into being?
Shawn Martinbrough: My friend and colleague Joseph Illidge mentioned that I should pitch an art instruction book based on my art style. I approached Jackie Ching, an editor at Watson Guptill who was also a friend and colleague about the concept. She was very interested and suggested I create a proposal. I turned around a proposal for “How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling” within two weeks and shortly after it was approved by the higher ups.