Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.
After a longer hiatus than was initially intended, I’m happy to sayComics College is back and ready to give you the sequential-art schooling you so desperately need. This month we’ll be looking at the output of one of the most important — if not THE most important — figure in the early history of comics, Winsor McCay.
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 (big “if” this week!), I’d take a break from the struggles of adult life and find sanctuary in the pages of high mythology thanks to Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder #4 (Marvel, $3.99). Aaron and Ribic have really build up an excellent foil for Thor in the God-Killer, and also snuck in the idea of Young Thor and Old Thor – something I’d love to see expounded upon in their own series or one-shot (hint-hint). Second up would be the startling potent promise of Star Wars #1 (Dark Horse, $2.99). I never thought I’d see Brian Wood do a Star Wars comic, but I’m so glad he is – and seemingly doing it on his own terms. Thinking of him writing Princess Leia, and the potential there specifically has been rolling around in my brain for weeks. Third, I’d get two promising artist-centric series (at least for me) in B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth — Abyss Time #1 (Dark Horse, $3.50) and TMNT: Secret of the Foot Clan #1 (IDW, $3.99). James Harren and Mateus Santolouco, respectively, are two artists I’ve been keen on for the past year and both of these books look like potential breakouts to a bigger stage. On the TMNT side, I’ve always thought Shredder and the Foot Clan to be one of the most overlooked great villains in comics, so I’m glad to see some focus on that and some potential answers.
If I had $30, I’d continue my super(comic)market sweep with Womanthology: Space #4 (IDW, $3.99). This series has two things I love: new, young creators and a space theme. I’ve been on a space opera/sci-fi kick for a while now thanks to Saga and re-reading some Heinlein, so this anthology series comes to me most fortuitously. Next up would be Legend of Luther Strode #2 (Image, $3.50). Luther Strode is a real down-and-out kind of hero, like some sort of action-based Charlie Brown. Tradd Moore’s artwork really makes this sing, too. Finally, I’d get two Marvel books with Secret Avengers #36 (Marvel, $3.99) and Wolverine and the X-Men #23 (Marvel, $3.99). I’m gritting my teeth on the latter – not because it’s bad, but because it isn’t as good for me as the previous arcs. For Secret Avengers, I feel Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera’s run on this has been sadly overlooked in the wave of Marvel NOW books, but this mega-arc about the Descendents and now Black-Ant has been great. I’d love to see Black-Ant as a permanent part of the Marvel U.
If I could splurge, I’d throw practicality out the door and shell out big bucks for the Black Incal deluxe hardcover (Humanoids, $79.95). There’s few times I’d spend nearly 80 bucks on a comic, but this classic story by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius is one of those once-in-a-blue-moon kind of things. This has been reprinted numerous times (I have an older one), but I’m re-buying the story here for the deluxe treatment this volume has with its large size.
Call it serendipity: I was poking around looking at something else, and somehow I stumbled on the Coconino Classics website, a stunning treasure trove of early comics. The site includes beautifully designed sub-sites for a number of artists, including Krazy Kat creator George Herriman and Little Nemo creator Winsor McKay, that feature biographies, bibliographies, and generous samples of their work. Artists from the pre-history of comics, such as Hokusai, George Cruickshank and Rodolphe Töpffer, and more recent creators such as Rube Goldberg and George McManus get more modest pages that still include digitized versions of their work and the occasional article by comics scholar Thierry Smolderen.
It’s all part of a larger site, Coconino World, that features contemporary as well as classic comics. It’s a French-language site, but much of the text is translated into English, and of course the comics are in their original languages.
Here’s a holiday treat at a price Ebenezer Scrooge would appreciate: Little Nemo in Christmasland, a free sampler of Winsor McKay’s comics from Sunday Press, which publishes those big, beautiful Little Nemo books.
It’s too bad the iPad didn’t exist in 1906, because it would be interesting to see what McKay could do with the smaller format and bright colors. As it is, the comics show up nicely on the screen but are a bit too small to be fully legible. (This isn’t helped by McKay’s wobbly, crowded lettering.) That means the reader’s experience is broken into two pieces—first you look at the page as a whole, and appreciate McKay’s lovely drawings and masterful compositions, and then you blow it up to read the lettering and follow the story. Admittedly, the second stage is optional, as the stories are fairly slight. The bottom line is that the iPad is really too small to show off these comics at their best, but it is a decent alternative if you can’t afford (or store) the full-size books.
One warning note: These comics appeared in the early 1900s, and they reflect the popular culture of the times. Which is to say, there are crudely caricatured black characters in several of the strips.
If you like the Christmas sampler, check out the 38-page Little Nemo in Slumberland app for $3.99.
With the school year ending and summer arriving faster than you know it, now’s the time to update your summer reading list — and there’s no better place to find some good stuff to read than right here in our weekly What Are You Reading? column. This week our guests are Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, the creative team behind The Sixth Gun, published by Oni Press. You’ll be seeing a lot of Cullen and Brian over the next few weeks here at Robot 6, so here’s the perfect opportunity to find out what comics they’re into.
I was hesitant to even use the phrase “editorial cartoons,” because these things are a world away from your average “heh heh, look how big they drew Obama’s ears” piece in the paper. Little Nemo in Slumberland artist Winsor McKay destroys your eyeballs with this massive gallery from Golden Age Comic Book Stories. Many are available in the Fantagraphics collection Daydreams & Nightmares, by the way, so if you want to pore over them on paper, you know where to look.
(Via Abhay Khosla)