Comics notes 1/21

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest bookplate by Kevin O’Neill
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen—Century: 2009 bookplate by Kevin O’Neill

Just wanted to write some comics news, because I love comics and I don’t read as much of it as I wish I did these days now that Tom Spurgeon is dead. I miss Tom, whom I only knew online but who often said nice things about my writing.

• Just found this from back in September: Mark Buckingham told Spanish YouTube show Dialogos de Comic that Miracleman: The Silver Age will begin shipping this year. So I’m very much looking forward to that—I love Buckingham’s art, and I love Neil Gaiman’s work, and the pair’s previous story is some of my favorite superhero comics writing ever. I am in need of things to look forward to, I don’t know about any of you. I couldn’t get the interview to embed with the time marker intact so I’ve linked it here; it’s quite good, if a bit meandering. Mega-thanks to David Macho for his great show, definitely subscribe to his YouTube channel. Relevant excerpt, cleaned up a bit from the transcript:

I've got beyond the the tricky bit, which was me trying to go back to what we'd been doing when it all kind of came crashing to a halt originally with Eclipse. We'd started [The Silver Age], and we had a couple of issues out and a third one that was sort of in a drawer waiting to happen, but never quite completed. Eclipse was starting to get into trouble, and the book was only coming out occasionally—I mean we were lucky if we got more than one out a year, and that was also partly because we tended to sort of wait to get paid before we started the next one. Which is a terrible thing to have to confess, but back then every penny counted, and I was doing other work in between issues of Miracleman. And my style would change. I'd be working with different people, I'd pick up different influences, or I'd try working in a different way. So the problem is, those three issues of The Silver Age all looked quite different from each other, and that was never the intention. The Golden Age was all about short stories in different styles. The Silver Age was supposed to be one continuous narrative that needed to be really solid and on point. So I'd ask politely if I could kind of go over those early issues again and and try and sort of find a way to make it more consistent, which basically ended up involving me trying to redraw them all from scratch. And because we had a few occasions where everything ground to a halt, every time I came back to it, I didn't like it! So the reality is that I have multiple versions of of issues one, two, and three in different styles and different formats, and it took a long time for me to sort of finally settle and feel like, "Okay, this is how it's going to be, and this is how everybody's going to look, and this is it now." So that's done, and so those early issues have all been redrawn and we're now into the thick of new new plots, new scripts, and new art. It's all it's all chugging along and it will be coming out I'm sure in the new year, but I just couldn't tell you when and obviously, the way things are at the moment, everything that happened with the pandemic has not done any of us any favors and schedules on most books are not quite where they were meant to be. We'll see what happens, but I am working on it. I'm really happy and very proud of what Neil and I are doing on the new stuff, so I think it's going to be great and it will come soon.

Dialogos de Comic 98: MARK BUCKINGHAM, streamed Sept. 30, 2020, archived here.

• Gary Panter’s monograph (I guess) Crashpad comes out in February. I love it so much, guys. I got an early copy of it and it is just the most gorgeous thing. It also has a little pocket inside the front cover for a facsimile of the book at normal comic saddle-stitched comic trim size, the same size as the Jimbo comics. It’s just gorgeous, and very different narratively from anything he’s ever done. New York Review Comics is reissuing the first Jimbo book, Jimbo’s Adventures in Paradise, and the reissue is great. Lots of new stuff in the back as is usual for the NYRC editions, great paper quality, slightly stuffy book design.

• Fantagraphics is publishing The Grand Odalisque, a new graphic novel by Bastien Vivès, Florent Ruppert, and Jerome Mulot. I did not especially want to like it; it’s a book about sexy art thieves by three French dudes. But it’s really good—the Tarantino-y thing they’re doing really works and the draftsmanship is off-the-charts great. If it had shipped in a few saddle-stitched volumes I think it would read like a hit from Image rather than a haute bande desinée.

• NYRC is publishing a big coffee-table-book collection of Shary Flenniken’s Trots and Bonnie comic from the classic era of National Lampoon, due out in April. It’s not a book I would have picked up without a free copy and nothing better to do but I’m so glad that I did. Flenniken has a very weird sense of humor (which is usually good although sometimes I find it too grim for even my awful taste) but she’s working in a mode that wouldn’t really get rediscovered until Chris Ware came along in the 1990’s and started trying to do Frank King-style Sunday pages in the oversized issues of Acme Novelty Library. It’s really remarkable; there’s so much invisible work that goes into the layouts, backgrounds, and character designs. Two weeks ago I had barely heard of this strip and now the collection has pride of place on my shelf.

• A couple other offerings from NYRC that I’m a little late to: Mitchum, by Blutch, which was so unbelievably fucking good I immediately bought his graphic novel, Peplum (also NYRC), and The Green Hand and Other Stories by Nicole Claveloux, a book of dream-logic short pieces that remind me a lot of the good stuff from Heavy Metal. I believe they were mostly published in Metal Hurlant but I don’t think any of them crossed the pond. It’s really worth noting what amazing work NYRC has done relettering some of these books; Claveloux published in French so of course her big Will Eisner-style titles have to either be left alone or redrawn exactly to her style but in a different language; Dustin Harbin has done the latter and he’s done it so, so well.

• Rick Veitch is doing this incredible thing where he just… does what he wants and puts it on Amazon and tells Diamond, the monopoly distributor to comic-book stores, that he’s not interested in their bullshit. Some stores actually order the print-on-demand copies and sell them, which is among the noblest actions every undertaken by mankind. Anyway I got a couple of these, they are a really solid reminder of what a reliably brilliant cartoonist Veitch is. Like it’s kind of appalling. He has the absolutely perfect little gem of a novella, completely wordless, called The Spotted Stone, that won a richly deserved Eisner a couple of years ago, and several new comics published since. They’re very reminiscent of his work in sadly defunct dirty-SF magazines like Epic Illustrated, Eclipse, and so on. I love those mags, so seeing new stories that could easily be published in them in whatever form is a real treat.

• I finally got around to finishing Locke & Key, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s blockbuster horror-fantasy comic about magic keys from the demon dimensions. I really like Hill personally and I think his first couple novels are very good; Locke & Key is… fine. It’s very inventive and then it has to literalize everything for the finale and I found the underlying worldbuilding to be pretty flimsy, though I did like the characters. I adored the art. Hill curated a pop-up imprint at DC called Hill House and it produced a very good Creepy-style book called Daphne Byrne drawn by Kelley Jones from excellent scripts by Laura Marks.

• For some reason it’s Sandman-apalooza these days. DC is finally issuing editions that are neither 12 lbs. each nor misprinted and missing several key stories. The new books are in their Deluxe Edition format, which has been my favorite way to read comics for a long time now. Dave McKean didn’t do the covers, surprisingly—the first one has a gorgeous wrap-around cover by Mike Kaluta, horribly defaced by an ad for the Audible adaptation of the series. Somebody commissioned Kaluta to do Sandman pieces a few years ago and Neil Gaiman tweeted them out and then very quickly deleted the tweets, which was a shame because the pieces were some of Kaluta’s best work, so I’m glad to see these pieces, even though he didn’t actually draw any of the series itself. The Audible show is very good; it’s narrated by Gaiman who sounds like he’s probably reading some of his own panel descriptions occasionally, but he’s quite adroitly reordered the events so that they make sense as a radio play. I’m only an episode-ish in but it’s a very comforting story to me, having read it so many times. I’m also looking forward to the Netflix series, about which Gaiman has been teasing casting announcements on Twitter. There’s a crossover with Locke & Key that Hill is writing coming up; I suspect it will be good. I believe it’s the first time there’s been an inter-company crossover with the character.

• A few series, like The Sandman, are bound up in my personal development in a way that is probably familiar to hobbyists of all stripes. Miracleman is another and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a third; I’ve been trying to acquire the little prints and bookplates that Kevin O’Neill did to promote the series when it left DC a few years ago and they’re lovely. I haven’t seen them posted anywhere and they’re long sold-out so I hope nobody minds that I’ve scanned mine and put them at the top of the page.

May make this a daily thing; we’ll see how people like it. Any donations would be much appreciated.

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Author: samthielman

Sam Thielman is a reporter and critic based in Brooklyn, New York. His blog is samthielman.com, his twitter handle is @samthielman, and if you can't find him you should check The Strand.

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