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Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at all the comics and other stuff we’ve been reading lately. Our special guests today are Brendan Tobin and Pedro Delgado, who run the March MODOK Madness site. And with this being March, the madness is in full swing, so head over there to check out a lot of fun art featuring everyone’s favorite big-headed villain.
To see what Brendan, Pedro and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Creators | Gene Luen Yang, creator of American Born Chinese, has revealed his latest project Boxers and Saints, a set of two graphic novels about the Boxer Rebellion in China; one story is about a peasant who joins the Boxers, while the other is about a woman who converts to Catholicism. First Second will publish them as a slipcased set. There’s a 10-page preview as well as an interview at the link. [Wired]
Comics | Jim Rugg notices that his print copy of Hellboy in Hell doesn’t look as good as his friend’s digital copy, and where most of us would have just shrugged and moved on, he takes the time to think about why that is and how careful publishers can ensure that print comics look their best. [Jim Rugg]
More than three decades after his death, Golden Age cartoonist Fletcher Hanks has developed a bit of a cult following, bolstered significantly by Fantagraphics Books’ archive collections I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! and You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation! The former features on its cover the delightfully named Stardust the Super Wizard, an alien who comes to Earth determined to fight crime using a vast array of powers — among them, near-invulnerability, flight, super-strength, “retarding rays” and the ability to alter his size and shape — that tended to change as the story required.
Stardust, who lapsed into the public domain, has made appearances in Image Comics’ Next Issue Project, Savage Dragon and, in reimagined form, a couple of webcomics. But the Super Wizard isn’t quite finished yet: Jarez Zichek has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund “a hand-painted metal figurine of one of the most bizarre and unique super heroes of the Golden Age of Comics!”
It was assumed that the two Fantagraphics collections — I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets and You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation — contained all existing stories by Fletcher Hanks, the obscure and eccentric Golden Age artist whose work has been rediscovered thanks to the efforts of editor Paul Karasik and others. Now, Seattle-based comics writer Frank Young has found two previously lost tales by Hanks from two issues of Great Comics, circa 1941. And no less an authority than Karasik has come forward (in the comments section) to confirm that yes, they are indeed by Hanks:
Not that anyone cares but me…BUT….I spent a looong time looking at these pages again today and have come to the conclusion that they are, in fact by Hanks.
The second story is taken directly from the final Big Red McLane tale with the captions rewritten and the faces re-rendered (possibly by another hand).
But the first story really had me stumped, so many of the compositions are un-Hanksian but ultimately tiny details such as hair-rendering, crowd-rendering , and big details like, yes, anatomy have made me change my mind.
I knew that sooner or later it would happen: the undiscovered Fletcher Hanks has been discovered.
You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation
by Fletcher Hanks; edited and with an introduction by Paul Karasik
Fantagraphics Books, 232 pages, $24.99.
Perhaps it’s kismet, but Paul Karasik’s first collection of Fletcher Hanks stories, 2007’s I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets!, seems to have landed at exactly the perfect moment, taking advantage of a publishing trend where just about every classic comic strip and book (and then some) was being reprinted with lavish, loving treatment. Why not shine a spotlight on an odd, relative obscurity like Hanks? Who knows what imaginative power he might unleash on a modern audience?
It turns out quite a bit. Thanks to that book (and other works, like Dan Nadel’s Art Out of Time) Hanks quickly became something of a household name among comic book fans, to the point where his name has arguably eclipsed some of his previously lauded contemporaries. As Jog pointed out recently, you know a character has entered the public consciousness to at least some degree when Alan Moore is referencing it.
Now we have the companion volume, You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation, which, I believe, gathers all the remaining material that the alcoholic, abusive Hanks did during his brief tenure as a comic book creator in the late 1930s and early 40s.
This second book definitely has a “here’s the rest” feeling that confirms the nagging notion that Planets was more of a “greatest hits” collection than a promise of genius in every story on every page. It’s not something that most Hanks devotees will mind that much — there’s still plenty of weird and wonderful tales to delight and disturb — but those hoping for a sequence equivalent to the evil De Structo’s head being thrown into space and then absorbed by the body of the Headless Headhunter might feel a twinge of disappointment.
Editor Greg Sadowski‘s new Fantagraphics book, Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941, is a spectacular snapshot of a historical period long before comic book company events, crossovers and alternate covers or universes. As detailed by the publisher: “The enduring cultural phenomenon of comic book heroes was invented in the late 1930s by a talented and hungry group of artists and writers barely out of their teens, flying by the seat of their pants to create something new, exciting, and above all profitable. The iconography and mythology they created flourishes to this day in comic books, video, movies, fine art, advertising, and practically all other media. Supermen! collects the best and the brightest of this first generation, including Jack Cole, Will Eisner, Bill Everett, Lou Fine, Fletcher Hanks, Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and Basil Wolverton.” The book sports a foreword by Jonathan Lethem. My thanks to Sadowski for his willingness to discuss his editorial approach on this project and after learning some of what did not make the first volume, I look forward to seeing a second volume down the road as time and other logistics permit. Fantagraphics also offers folks the chance to download an “11-page PDF excerpt (7.4 MB) featuring an entire story by Will Eisner and Lou Fine starring The Flame!”
Tim O’Shea: How did the foreword by Jonathan Lethem come about?
Greg Sadowski: Someone at Fantagraphics approached him, and Jonathan really came thorough – his foreword starts things off beautifully.