Apr 20, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1150: Detective Comics #630, June 1991

https://www.comics.org/issue/49736/

Will blog this tomorrow. Some cool parallels between Batman and Stiletto.

Apr 19, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1149: Detective Comics #629, May 1991

https://www.comics.org/issue/49624/

I'm in the process of rediscovering a couple of things. The first is Batman, about whom I've been somewhat disparaging over the last decade or so. I have similar feelings about Batman as those I have about Wolverine - there's just too much. Back when I had my comic store, I think there were about 10 monthly Bat-titles being published. At some point you hit a saturation point, I think. We have, as consumers, to be able to take in and assimilate information into our lives, but a constant stream of new information doesn't allow this process to occur. Even with stories, we need this. We need to be able to mull a story over in our heads before having it supplanted by a new one. I have found this to be exceedingly hard with Batman. I've only ever collected the title while Grant Morrison was running it, at a point when there weren't actually that many Bat-titles, and even then it was occasionally difficult to keep up.

The other rediscovery is of writer Peter Milligan. I was first exposed to his work in his short and wonderful follow-up to Morrison's Animal Man, and then I discovered the sheer brilliance that is his revamp of Shade, The Changing Man. I've never been disappointed by Milligan's work, though it hasn't captured me the same way many other writers have. I'm working to remedy that, and I thought I'd start with his Detective Comics run. As part of the "British Invasion" of the late 80s, he brings a very different narrative aesthetic to the Dark Knight. As with Gaiman, Moore, Morrison, Ennis, Ellis, Jenkins, all those guys, I'm fascinated by the reworking of the intrinsically-American myth by a literary mythic tradition that is vastly older. Today's story, "The Hungry Grass!" could easily have been a Hellboy story, interweaving Irish folk tales into the gritty urban fabric of Gotham City. He does five more issues in this run, and then bounces around the Bat-titles for a bit. I'm going to do my best to find his early stuff, and then start exploring later works and, perhaps, some of his early British output. Always exciting to start researching a new writer.

More to come...

Apr 18, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1148: Star Trek #6, July 1984

https://www.comics.org/issue/38856/

One last little bit of Star Trek, but I think we'll be back soon.

Though today's cover makes it look like the duplicated Kirk will be the main thrust of the issue, it's little more than an inconvenient circumstance that occurs late in the comic. Where other stories might make the shape-shifting assassin the primary focus of the story, it's really the reasons for the assassination attempt that are the salient aspect. The politics of the story is the important part. Further, the familial relationship between the assassin and target reveals a far less utopian society that the television series (well, TOS and TNG, at least) show us. There are those within the Federation who disagree with that body's policies and actions. It seems to me that the utopian aspect perhaps tends to the more basic needs, the lower tiers of Maslow's hierarchy, whereas the higher levels, dealing with morality and governance, are still very much areas of debate. As they are in our own time. In the way, the Star Trek comic is doing what TV Trek, and any good science fiction, does very well: turns a mirror upon us and asks what we see.

More to come...

The 40 Years of Comics Project - The Bi-Weekly Graphic Novel Number 64 - Lumberjanes v.1: Beware the Kitten Holy, 2015

https://www.comics.org/issue/1550136/

I've probably gone on about one of my favourite cartoons, Gravity Falls. And if I haven't, I will this Summer when the new graphic novel comes out.

Lumberjanes draws on a similar aesthetic, or perhaps genre, young people exploring enchanted woods, as Gravity Falls, and really of so many of the fairy tales we're told as kids. The difference between these five ladies (hardcore ladies, that is) and lots of those fairy tale kids is that these guys take no crap. They're open to weird and strange possibilities, but they never let those possibilities push them around. They're pretty badass.

I came across this trade by accident in a thrift shop and I'd heard so much good about it that I thought it worth the investment. It is that and more. A lovely, dynamic art style - the amount of information the ladies convey in facial expression is wonderful. Not every comics artist can do a wide range of expressions, but Ms. Allen manages to say so much with just a few extra lines. And the stories are right out of an adventure novel, Indiana Jones-esque, and, occasionally, a bit of Stephen King novel thrown in. There's definitely some darkness in this series, but I think it's really only there to contrast to the light that the five main characters radiate. They're flawed. They're young. And they're having a very weird Summer.

I will be having at look at the next volume, at the very least. I'm curious to see if the series develops a larger story, which will necessitate the passage of time, and thus of camp coming to an end, or will it remain an eternal Summer of investigation of the hardcore ladies of Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqui Thistle Crumpet's camp.

To be continued...

Apr 17, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1147: Star Trek #5, June 1984

https://www.comics.org/issue/38746/

One of the things that Jim Kirk is known for, within and without the fictional universe, is breaking (or bending, as he would say) the Prime Directive. This tenet of non-interference drives the exploratory wing of Starfleet, but what Kirk's experiences nicely demonstrate for us is that no rule can be absolute. There's always going to be a time when disregarding, or creatively interpreting, a rule is necessary.

Kirk excels at this. Not so much the man up there on the cover who, at no time, does anything remotely like what he's doing there.

I don't remember how much of the series deals with these kind of surreptitious incursions onto less-developed worlds, but it will be interesting to see how the colonial aspect of Starfleet is parsed through these encounters.

A further aspect of this is that in today's issue, Ensign Bearclaw is said to have had a "traditional Indian upbringing," a term that just seems highly inappropriate to the ostensibly utopian universe of the Federation. There's no real acknowledgment of how Bearclaw might react, given his traditional upbringing, to the work of Starfleet and the Federation. And I think the real problem here is not so much the depiction of Bearclaw as a tracker - that's something that is rather believable of someone of his background. But there's a lack of any other representation, the Indigenous person who isn't a tracker. I was talking to my students about representation and the danger of stereotyping today. Hopefully Mike Barr will be able to steer away from stereotyping.

It's very "thinky," this Star Trek comic.

More to come...

The National Social Welfare Assembly presents: "Binky shows 'How to Spend a Summer Week!'" - September 1963


Apr 16, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1146: Star Trek #4, May 1984

https://www.comics.org/issue/38640/

Our story concludes, with the Excalbians facing off against the Organians. There's something interesting being said in this comic about the nature of Good and Evil. The Excalbians simply do not see their role as Evil, and Kirk plays on this in his solution to the problem of the story. It's true that the bad guys never think they're the bad guys. Well, hardly ever.

Reading these comics is like half-remembering a dream. I've read them before, numerous times, but it really has been so long that when I read a story, some details come back, but not all of them.

A couple more issues of this series, a taste of where Barr, Sutton, and company are going to take us, then we'll boldly go somewhere else in the collection.

More to come...