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Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T. (One Man War On Terror) is a tongue-in-cheek action comic about a highly skilled government operator who takes on a group of … oh, what does it really matter who the bad guys are? Bottom line, they’re bad guys, and O.M.W.O.T. is more than happy to chop, kick, shoot and otherwise eradicate them from existence. As Fantagraphics puts it:
It seems like the stuff of legend: Wally Wood – the Wally Wood, of EC and MAD fame, fed up with being creatively and financially stifled by the oppressive corporate comics business model, discovers the then-nascent world of fanzines, and inspiration strikes. “Maybe I could create one of these fanzines for me and my friends,” Wood thinks. “We could publish any sort of work we wanted, with no editorial restrictions or code to worry about! Best of all, we’d own it!”
Bear in mind, this was 1966, a good two years or so before the first issue of Zap Comix set the still-budding world of underground comics on fire. The mere notion of comics as any sort of medium for self-expression at the time must have been something that drew wide-eyed stares. But while Wood was certainly no hippie, there’s little doubt he saw this as an opportunity to produce work that he and his friends really cared about.
And what a list of friends. Throughout its run, Witzend collected an impressive roster that included creators like Jim Steranko, Gray Morrow, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Reed Crandall, Art Spiegelman (some of his first published work), Don Martin (yes, that Don Martin), Alex Toth, P. Craig Russell, Mike Zeck and Joe Staton.
We’re a little more than halfway through the year, which makes it the perfect time to pause and separate the truly exemplary comics from the merely mediocre.
Below are six of my favorite comics of the year thus far. Many of them will likely make their way into my final “best of 2014″ list come December, but I reserve the right to completely change my mind between now and then.
In any case, let me know what comics you’ve enjoyed reading thus far (or how crazy I am for forgetting Graphic Novel X) in the comments section.
A weiner dog with butterfly-esque wings that’s a master mechanic. A space-faring Amazonian warrior who’s handy with a blade. A pig-faced, hard-living bounty hunter. Mad scientists with really odd-shaped glasses. These are just some of the characters and elements that make up Twelve Gems, Lane Milburn’s ever-so-slightly tongue-in-cheek sci-fi opera.
Drawing on classic adventure role-playing games, fantasy films and manga, Gems finds the first three aforementioned characters banding together at the request of a mysterious Dr. Z to find the titular gems for purposes unkown (at least initially). Along the way they come across all manner of strange creatures, hostile planets, old foes and metaphysical craziness. Milburn lets his imagination run rampant throughout the book, resulting in a fast-paced, crazed graphic novel full of scenes that could easily be blown up onto a black velvet poster. Plus it’s a lot of fun to boot.
I recently chatted with Milburn about the new book, its inception and his work with the Closed Caption Comics group.
Death, taxes and new comics. Those are just a few things we can expect in the New Year (not YOUR death necessarily, just death in general). Anyway, lots of comics will be published this year. Here are six I’m really looking forward to and that I think you should be excited about as well. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments.
1. Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Random House). A bit of an obvious choice perhaps. Still, whether you loved Scott Pilgrim or hated it to tiny, tiny pieces, there’s little doubt that O’Malley’s big follow-up to his uber-successful and much ballyhooed series is going to draw a lot of attention from all corners of comics fandom. There’s a lot of people curious about this book, about which little is known other than it takes place in a restaurant. Count me among them.
2. Arsene Schrauwen by Olivier Schrauwen (Fantagraphics). Is Olivier Schrauwen one of the most amazing, inventive and original cartoonists to come along in decades? Well, duh. If you’ve read The Man Who Grew His Beard, My Boy or perhaps the initial chapter of this (I’m assuming) invented tale of the author’s grandfather, you know how creative and fearless he can be. This might well be the book I’m most looking forward to this year.
In order to find a home for Mickey Mouse on the comics page, cartoonist Floyd Gottfredson and his cadre of artists had to change things around a bit. The freewheeling, anarchic, carefree, gag-filled attitude of the cartoons was slowly replaced with fast-paced adventures stories, and while Mickey’s basic nature didn’t change much from the cartoons to the newspaper page, he did become tougher, pluckier and wilier. Gottfredson never abandoned the slapstick antics of the cartoons, but instead integrated it into the daily strip. Never the focal point, instead it was one of many elements used to keep readers engaged.
It’s time once again to take a look at those comics that were unfairly ignored. With more graphic novels and comic books coming out in stores than ever before, it’s perhaps inevitable that some titles slip through the cracks, not due to a lack of quality, but simply because they got lost in the Wednesday shuffle. The books listed here aren’t necessarily my personal favorite books of 2012. Rather, they’re good — even great — books that, for whatever reason, didn’t get the sort of praise — either online or in print — that they deserved.
Legal | Rico Venditti and six other alleged members of a stolen-goods ring pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal murder and racketeering charges following a revised grand jury indictment in the July 2010 home invasion of an elderly comics collector. The victim, 78-year-old Homer Marciniak of Medina, New York, died of a heart attack a few hours after being tied up and assaulted during the robbery, which prosecutors claim was set up by Venditti and two others. [The Associated Press]
Conventions | Bruce Lidl looks at the potential “Comic-Con tax” that could hit attendees as a result of the expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. [The Beat]
Awards | Two titles from First Second won the graphic novel categories in the 2011 Cybils Awards, literary honors given by bloggers who write about children’s and young-adult books: Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl received the graphic novel prize in the Elementary & Middle School category, while Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost won in the Young Adult division. [Cybils]
Digital | With the Vita on the way, Sony is shutting down its PSP comics service, and users will lose their comics come September. [Gameranx]
Graphic novels | Craig Thompson’s Blankets made Oprah’s list of the eight greatest love stories of all time, taking its place alongside Brokeback Mountain and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. [Oprah.com]