Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
It’s always exciting to discover a dollar bin of old comics, and Moonstone has just set one on the flea market table and opened it up. The publisher has put 27 titles (more, if you count variant covers) from their back stock on sale for 99-cents each. There’s some cool stuff in there, from Captain Action and Lady Action to the Moonstone Monsters line of anthologies featuring issues about ghosts, sea creatures, witches and more. Perfect for browsing and trying out some old stuff that’s new to you.
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 we don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Batwoman is still awesome!” every month. And we’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
One cool change this month and for the foreseeable future: I’m joined by Graeme McMillan who’ll also be pointing out his favorites.
Finally, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist – I admit, I tend to run hot and cold on Clowes’ output, but I’m a sucker for coffee-table career retrospectives, so the idea of taking 224 pages to look back at his career to date (with, of course, the traditional little-seen artwork and commentary) seems like a must-look at the very least. [Graeme]
Rachel Rising, Volume 1: The Shadow of Death – Terry Moore’s latest series gets its first collection and I love the premise of a woman’s waking up in a shallow grave with no memory of how she got there and needing to figure out who tried to kill to her. [Michael]
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, “Jeff Lemire’s Frankenstein 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.
The Grave Doug Freshley – A lot of publishers are doing Weird Western comics lately and that’s just fine with me.
Spera, Volume 1 – I like the sound of this fairy tale in which a couple of princesses combine efforts to save their kingdoms. It’s not that I’m anti-prince, but that’s a cool, new way to do that story.
Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island – Warren Ellis doing Steampunk sounds thrilling, but really all they had to say was “pirates.” I bet this is still really good though, even if you’re pickier than I am.
Roger Langridge’s Snarked #1 – After a well-loved zero-issue, Langridge’s version of Wonderland gets its real, official start.
Sometimes the right project hits at just the right time to take advantage of the 15-second media frenzies that pop up … take, for instance, Eric M. Esquivel and Ander Sarabia’s Blackest Terror, “a new, racially charged reinterpretation of the 1940’s superhero ‘The Black Terror.'”
You guys know who the Black Terror is, right? He’s a public domain character from the 1940s who has popped up often in comics over the last 20 years or so, in places like Dynamite’s Project Superpowers, Image’s Next Issue Project and more. You can find more information on him at the Public Domain Super Heroes wiki.
This latest version is one of five self-contained one-shots coming from Moonstone Books by Esquivel and Sarabia, as they reinterpret Golden Age characters like Black Terror, Moon Girl and Super American. Here’s the description of the book:
The Blackest Terror is a pioneer in what sociologists have dubbed “the super hero subculture,” a collection of racial and social minorities who feel underserved by the mainstream legal system and have decided to take matters into their own costumed hands. How will the world react to these benevolent outlaws? Will they become celebrated symbols of humankind’s capacity for good or hated catalysts of a bloody revolution?”
There’s something very attractive about the classic pulp heroes. As cool as superpowers can be, there’s a reason that Batman’s the most popular superhero on the planet and a huge part of that is that he’s a (relatively) normal guy. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.
What I find interesting is this entire pulp heritage that he’s heir to. We don’t have time to dig into why Batman’s more popular than Doc Savage, the Shadow, and the Spider, but it would be fascinating to pull that apart and look at it sometime. For now, let’s concentrate on the similarities. There’s this huge catalog of characters that share some extremely close similarities with the Dark Knight (many of whom predate him in creation) and yet we don’t hear much about them anymore.
Moonstone’s trying to change that with their Return of the Originals event and that makes me happy. I’m also happy about DC’s whole First Wave thing (or was until that previous post) that I’m finally going to get to read when the first collection comes out in a couple of months, but Moonstone’s effort is even wider spread. They’re reintroducing a ton of characters to comics that I’ve heard about most of my life, but until now have never read a single adventure of. One of the most intriguing is The Spider.
Welcome to another installment of “Food or Comics?” Every week we set certain hypothetical spending limits on ourselves and go through the agony of trying to determine what comes home and what stays on the shelves. So join us as we run down what comics we’d buy if we only had $15 and $30 to spend, as well as what we’d get if we had some “mad money” to splurge with.
Check out Diamond’s full release list if you’d like to play along in our comments section.
If I had $15:
As usual, I’d spend it on single issues. Starting with Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #1 ($3.50), then picking up a couple of Moonstone books: Zeroids #2 ($3.99) and Return of the Originals: From the Vault – The Pulp Files ($1.99). I enjoyed the first issue of the genre-mashing Zeroids and have been looking forward to the next part of the story; From the Vault is sort of Moonstone’s version of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe or DC’s Who’s Who. I don’t know nearly as much about the classic pulp characters as I’d like, so I’m looking forward to the education. Next I’d check out IDW’s Dungeons & Dragons #1 ($3.99) to see if they’ve figured out how to do a good D&D comic. That brings me to $13.47.
When I attended C2E2 earlier this year, I attended Moonstone’s panel and was especially excited about the announcement of their Zeroids comics. I never had those toys as a kid and knew nothing about them, but all writer Aaron Shaps had to say was “clunky robots” and I was interested. Then he explained how they’d be fighting space invaders and how the series would include all the ‘50s sci-fi movie tropes he could squeeze into it. I was hooked.
Now that the first issue is almost here (it should hit stores in a couple of weeks), Aaron and I got together to talk a bit more about the series, the toy line it’s based on, and all the other inspirations that have gone into it.
Michael May (MM): Let’s start off by talking about the Zeroids toy line. What can you tell me about that?
Aaron Shaps (AS): The Zeroids were a line of robot toys produced by Ideal in the late ‘60s. Originally there were only three: Zintar, Zerak, and Zobor. Later on they added Zogg, the Zeroids’ leader, and Zemo, the “lost Zeroid”. The line was extremely popular for the better part of a decade, and then in the late ‘70s the line was re-imagined as “STAR Team”, to help cash in on the sci-fi craze that kicked into high gear in the wake of Star Wars.
There were a few new characters as part of the STAR Team line: Major Kent, a human astronaut; Zem 21, a humanoid robot; generic “alien” Zeroids that looked conspicuously like R2-D2; and a villain, the Knight of Darkness, leader of the evil Shadow Raiders of the Black Nebula, who bore more than a slight resemblance to Darth Vader.
Zombies, space invaders, sorority girls, buddy movies, and other influences after the break.
Because Moonstone Books publishes a lot of Pulp adventure comics (and prose anthologies), I originally wanted to try to fold this recap of their C2E2 panel into last week’s article on the Pulp Fiction one. That article ran long though, so it works best to just give Moonstone their own week. And they need it too because they’ve got a lot going on.
Their panel was moderated by Ed Catto from Captain Action Enterprises and consisted of Co-Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Joe Gentile, writers Aaron Shaps, Mike Bullock, Len Kody, and Jeff Lemke, Co-Publisher/Art Director Dave Ulanski, artist J Anthony Kosar, and Co-Editor Lori Gentile.
The company made lots of announcements for new books and series. Buckaroo Bonzai will become an ongoing series by Tom DeFalco in the Fall. Steven Grant will be writing a new Captain Action series. There’s also going to be a new Kolchak ongoing called Night Stalker Files.
One of the most intriguing announcements though was for a mini-series illustrated by Kosar called The Spider: The Iron Man War. It sounds almost illegal until you realize that it’s an adaptation of one of Norvell W Page’s original Spider stories called “Satan’s Murder Machines” that appears to have been a direct inspiration for the creation of Iron Man (and was also apparently used by Siegel and Shuster for a Superman newspaper strip).
Other superhero inspirations, classic characters, female heroes, and clunky robots after the break.
Since it’s exactly what we talk about here at Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs (now back on Wednesdays), I figured it would be appropriate to hold off talking about C2E2’s Pulp Fiction panel until now. I thought I’d also be able to squeeze Moonstone’s panel into this post as well, but that would make it way too long, so I’ll save it for next week. The Pulp panel was moderated by Ed Catto, Licensing Agent for Captain Action Enterprises. The members of the panel were Jim Beard (Marvel.com), BC Bell (Dan Fowler: G-Man), illustrator Tom Gianni, Joe Gentile (Moonstone Books), Mike Bullock (The Phantom), and Wayne Reinagel (Pulp Heroes), with Brian Azzarello (DC’s First Wave) joining later.
Catto opened the discussion by asking why Pulp is still popular and – more specifically – why it’s currently making a strong comeback. Gianni’s response was simply that Pulp stories are fun, but Bullock added that many readers today are yearning for a simpler time when problems were more easily solved. That’s a fascinating response to me as someone who believes that healthy fantasies can be a strong deterrent to inappropriate behavior, rather than provoking it. I love the implication in Bullock’s answer that society – while working hard at becoming more peaceful – still fantasizes about solving problems with violence, possibly as a way of channeling aggression into appropriate outlets. That makes a lot of sense to me.
Catto next asked about genres, particularly which the panelists thought were the truest embodiment of Pulp. Bell noted that Gangster stories were the biggest in Pulp’s heyday, with Westerns also being very popular. Gentile offered Heroic fiction as the definitive Pulp genre and Beard added that – Doc Savage notwithstanding – street level Pulp is best. The conversation then turned to personal favorites with Air and Jungle Pulp getting mentions.
Old vs New, creating Modern Pulp, and the endurance of the genre after the break.
As expected, I didn’t spend a lot of time in the Exhibit Hall today. I decided to skip one extra-long panel in the morning rather than give up the entire day and I’m glad I did if only for the opportunity to visit with Jeremy Bastian, pick up the third issue of Cursed Pirate Girl, and meet characters from the book — including CPG herself.
Publishing | The penultimate issue of DC Comics’ Blackest Night miniseries led a weak February in the direct market, which saw comic-book sales slip 3 percent from the same month a year ago. Sales of graphic novels, on the other hand, actually rose 1 percent — the category’s first increase since March 2009 — which the retail news and analysis website ICv2.com notes is “somewhat remarkable given that over 12,000 copies of Watchmen were sold in February 2009, over 10 times the number sold in February of 2010.”
Blackest Night #7 sold more than 130,000 copies, followed at No. 2 by Marvel’s Siege #2, with about 108,400. They were the only titles to break 100,000 in February. ICv2 notes that sales of Blackest Night increased some 30 percent from the previous issue’s first month while those of Siege were virtually unchanged. That seems like an impressive performance for both titles.