Nov 16, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project Friday Magazine 29: Eerie #109, February 1980

Since I've been doing some investigation of pre-Code horror, I thought I'd have a look at some of the horror magazine I picked up back when I got my Heavy Metal collection. At the time I thought that the HMs and the undergrounds in that purchase were the real treasures, and treasures they certainly are. But my unfamiliarity with the Warren magazines led me to overlook them, and that's a mistake.

When thinking about the tradition of EC horror comics, it is a tradition on two fronts. The first, of course, is the stories. They are, for the most part, amazing - artists and writers at the top of their games. The second front is the role it played in the crackdowns on comics in the 50s - EC becomes a metonym for the lost potential of the genre after the creation of the Comics Code. When I read Bruce Jones' series Twisted Tales a while ago, I saw him as one carrying on the tradition of these experimental tales of fear. But I neglected to note at that time that the Warren magazines of the 60s and 70s were also bearers of that torch. Mr. Jones, of course, contributes to these magazines before taking his tales to Pacific. Though they lose something in the black and white format (I've never been one of those fans who prefers B&W over colour. They both have their pros and cons.), the style is there, as is the desire to shock and amuse.

This was one of the first Eeries I've ever read, and it was okay. None of the stories wowed me. But the quality was certainly high enough that I can see why these mags are so revered. One thing that they add to the tradition, and perhaps this is inherited by Bruce Jones' later series, is women in varying states of undress. The EC comics got away with a lot in terms of their portrayals of women, but at least the ladies were clothed. The Warren magazines seem to want to equate horror and nudity, which is a strange connection to make (Eros and Thanatos, perhaps?). The question, I suppose, is does the tradition benefit from this addition?


Nov 15, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1359: Shazam! #6, October 1973

First time I've read some proper, old-school Captain Marvel. It was very weird.

And my copy has no cover, so I've never seen that creepy AF cover up there.

More on this tomorrow.

Nov 14, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1358: Marvel Super Action #33, July 1981

The Clint Barton/Goliath era of the Avengers is one with which I have little familiarity. What I have read from the 70s is mostly the horror stuff, and strange titles like Man-Thing and Howard the Duck. I've not spent much time with the superheroes in this era. Today's story was pretty good, though I was definitely coming in a little late in the tale. The make-up of the team was a bit off-putting, in that the Wasp was the sole female representation in the book. And the dialogue was a little stilted for my tastes. The designs of the Zodiac villains is pretty great, and utterly ridiculous, considering how sinister they're played off.

Also, although he appears to be in the battle with the Avengers, Captain Marvel never actually materializes in the story.

I know that reprint series like this one were simply a way for the company to cash in on previously published material, but I am glad for them. They offer a nice cheap alternative to the more expensive original publications.

All in all, not a bad read. Better than yesterday's Batman/Mr. Miracle debacle, though some of Hawke...I mean, Goliath's dialogue was almost as cringe-worthy. Clint really only comes into his own once he heads up the West Coast division.

More to come...

Nov 13, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1357: The Brave and the Bold #138, November 1977

This is another one of those situations in which the first time I saw this cover was literally seconds ago when I downloaded it from the GCD. My copy of today's comic is one of the ones in the collection that lacks a cover. A long-time reader will know that, for me, condition is not really a problem. If I can read the story, I'm happy with the comic.

Well, in theory. In practice, as with any comic, sometimes the stories do not make me happy. This one didn't. As I was reading it, I felt like the whole thing was taking place on Earth-H. All of the dialogue sounded like every single one of those Hostess ads, to the point that I now wonder if Bob Haney actually wrote them. The villain of the piece is a rival escape artist who manages to get the best of FUCKING BATMAN AND MR. MIRACLE!!!

The setting, the inside of an exploding volcano, is neat, but obviously super-stretching the bounds of reality. Everyone in the comic, and the comic itself, would have been burnt and crispy well before getting into the inevitable tunnels that seem to permeate all volcanoes in media.

I'd felt this morning that it had been a while since I'd read a good old superhero tale. I'll try again tomorrow. Second time's a charm?

More to come...

Nov 12, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1356: Edgar Allan Poe's Snifter of Terror #1, 2018

I hadn't realized, but I really have been tracing a bit of a lineage over the last few days.

One thing I haven't mentioned about the Moon Girl replicas is that they start with #5 because the very first EC horror story appears in it. So Moon Girl is the progenitor of the magazines that we see in the Vault of Horror reprint series. As I noted when I talked about that comic, Bruce Jones' Twisted Tales keeps the EC horror tradition alive through the waning years of the Comics Code that had ended those comics in the 50s. And now today's comic, a horror/comedy compilation, hosted by a cranky and verbose Poe, continues the tradition. It's gross, it's shocking, and, much like its earlier ancestors, it has a healthy sense of humour about itself.

I've told everyone I can to read the comics that Ahoy is putting out right now. I really am amazed at how strong every title is, and for those with multiple issues, have continued to be. There would have to be some serious, serious ball-dropping for me to lose interest in any of these titles, for which my brain is grateful, my wallet less-so.

"Dark Chocolate" - the comic opens with an adaptation of Poe's story "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," and then the balance of the book is given mostly to this haunting tale of a noble, a sorrowful vampire, known across the land for not giving dinner parties, but breakfasts. His name? Count Cocoa. After reading this, you'll never eat that cereal the same way again. It really is a lovely story, seemingly amusing thanks to its liberal borrowing of mascots, but growing ever more suspenseful as the sunlight creeps across the breakfast table, and the Count's narration becomes more and more harrowing.

Seriously, just go read one of their comics. I can't imagine a fan of the medium, or just a fan of good stories, not enjoying them.

More to come...

Nov 11, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1355: Moon Girl #3, Spring 1948 (Flashback Replica #9)

Yeah, I got hooked. But at the price these comics command, I'm going to have to stretch things out.

We get a nice mix of tales today, and even a visit back to Moon Girl's home country, Sarkomand. It isn't, as I'd first thought, a female-only society, a la Themyscira, but is a matriarchal society. Moon Girl, or Princess Luna's mother, the Queen, is caught up in a coup, and the Prince and Princess return home to lend a hand.

Satana shows up again, firing missiles at various targets all over the US for reasons. The final story is a classic twist story: we see a splash page of Moon Girl as criminal (shocking!), and follow the exploits of a villainous double until the real hero shows up and all is explained. I think that one thing that gets overlooked here is that, without prosthetics or make-up, there was literally someone who looked exactly like Moon Girl, just with blonde hair. How weird would that be? Then again, this is a superhero world. Stuff like that just happens.

From what I can tell, Canton Street Press published seven issues of Moon Girl. These two are all my local comic store had, so it looks like cons or the Internet next. But not until I've saved up my pennies.

More to come...

Nov 10, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1354: Vault of Horror #2, October 1990

(I'm a bit behind. I read the comics, but I'm just getting them blogged now.)

Now that I have a bit of perspective, I can see where the kinds of stories Bruce Jones told in yesterday's comic come from. While I stand by my assertion that Mr. Jones is a master of the short story form, I also see now that he is upholding a venerable, and important, tradition in comics. Something I think is interesting about this is that his stories, like those in today's comic, do not suffer under the auspices of the Comics Code. And are therefore better.

I know that sounds like a sweeping statement, and some of the greatest comics I've read were produced under that governing body. But I also know that a number of the comics I've read in my life were significantly changed from the way that their creators originally envisioned them. In a well-told story, the parts aren't simply interchangeable. You can't swap out one climax for another. The parts work together as a gestalt. The trouble of censorship is that it ignores the holistic nature of storytelling and encourages a pattern instead. It may be a wide pattern, but it's a pattern nonetheless, which by its very nature occludes that which is not part of the pattern.

Anyway, the reason that these horror comics are so good is that they are allowed to think beyond the pattern. In fact, they were creating the medium from which, in this case, the pattern was born. I think I've already said that I recently read The League of Regrettable Superheroes, and one thing that Mr. Morris mentions in the introduction is that this early period of comics was one of unprecedented experimentation. Though they weren't always good, the ideas were very often strange and novel. The Comics Code discourages this kind of experimentation and encourages instead that writers pull from a large, but still limited, subset of medium's capability. It's publications like Jones' Twisted Tales, from an indie publisher, that keeps this experimental attitude alive until the mainstream catches up in the late 90s to early 2000s.

I've been struck over the last decade or so by the amazing variety of really, really good comics that are out there. It's impossible to read them all, and across the board, all genres, all (most?) publishers, are telling some fantastic stories. I think in part the dissolution of the Comics Code in recent times has allowed writers to tell stories they want to tell in much greater range, and in mainstream vehicles. Rather than the subset, they have access to the Source. I mean, if the Code were still around, there's no way we'd have the Bat Penis.

And that is all you will ever see me say about that most stupid of recent comics phenomena.

More to come...