Mar 28, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 762: Tales of the Sun Runners v.2 #1, July 1986

Somewhere in my collection, I have another issue of a Sun Runners title that I'm sure I got at a Free Comic Book Day some time ago. I can't, for the life of me, find it in my database, though. I do remember, however, really quite enjoying it. I enjoyed today's comic too.

It's tough to combine the genres of fantasy and science fiction in a way that doesn't simply take all of the stereotypical tropes of both and mash them together. Sun Runners does a very interesting job, similar in many ways to how The Force is treated in Star Wars, incorporating magic into a soft sci-fi setting and story. I know we're all familiar with the all-too often used idea that magic is simply technology that we don't understand, and that works in many ways, but with magic there's oftentimes an element of belief or will that's involved, something intrinsic to the caster, not to the machinery, physical or spiritual, that's being used. Magic comes from consciousness. Though I suppose it's a technology for manipulating reality through the application of directed consciousness. Or something.

Anyway, the comic was pretty cool, though I do feel like I'm well behind. It seems the the title bounced between a number of different publishers in the 80s, so while I didn't feel completely lost while reading this issue, I didn't feel completely found, so to speak, either. But I'll read the follow-up tomorrow - there was definitely enough in this issue to pull me back in for more.

To be continued.

Mar 27, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 761: Archie #220, August 1972

As I've often said, we can rely on Archie to cleanse the palate, offer entertainment without too much investment (well, immediate investment, anyway), and, when I'm very tired in the mornings, it's a no-brainer call to read an Archie comic.

As usual today, Archie trips a lot, infuriates Mr. Lodge and Mr. Weatherbee, and somehow manages to entrance the prettiest girls in Riverdale, even though he's a bit of a klutz.

And, seriously, that's all I've got. I'm running on about 10 hours of sleep over the weekend, and simply cannot form complex thoughts. Which does not bode well for working today.

To be continued.

Mar 26, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 760: Extreme Hero, 1994

What is it about Extreme/Maximum/Awesome that keeps pulling me back in? I mean, I guess there's the occasional good creator that is somehow convinced by Liefeld to work with him until the inevitable financial disaster. And perhaps, just perhaps, there's something about the ridiculously hyper-masculine aesthetic that I find fascinating, and slightly titillating. Though when we come to the 8 or 12-pack stomachs, I think perhaps these comics artists need a bit of an anatomy lesson.

This is a sampler that was distributed with the now-defunct Hero Illustrated, one of the numerous comic industry magazines that offered "news" to fans in the 90s. And anything new from Liefeld and co. in the 90s was news. As far as I know, none of the series in this sampler made it beyond maybe issue #3. Liefeld, as is well known in the industry, is insanely bad at business. I mean, really, who fucks over Alan Moore when he's writing one of your comics? Who does that? He, for some reason, booted Joe Casey from an excellent run on Youngblood, managed I think one issue that he decided to write and draw, and then the comic folded.

Anyway, the short stories in here are exactly what you'd expect. The art is okay, though very 90s Image. The stories are blunt. It's meant to entice us into reading the regular series, but the problem is that the regular series never appear. *sigh*

I'm hoping one day that I'll stop being so annoyed with Liefeld and 90s Image. But I don't know if it'll happen.


Mar 25, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 759: Siegel and Shuster: Date Line 1930s #1, Novebmer 1984

To be remembered as the creators of Superman would surely be enough legacy for most, but in the case of Siegel and Shuster it would be a disservice to a couple of talented comics creators to not acknowledge their other works. Both spent much time during the Golden and Silver ages plying their trade, even after their mishandling by DC Comics, and well after they left their most famous creation to other creators.

What makes this comic so interesting is that we see what they were getting up to before the Man of Steel. Everything they produced afterward, purposefully or no, lives in the shadow of Superman. It's virtually impossible for any mainstream comic, and certainly any superhero, to step out from that shadow. But the work in today's comic, produced in the 4 years before they sold Superman, offers tantalizing glimpses of other features that, had fortune functioned differently, might have been the one to propel these two to stardom. Many of the strips are single-page features, designed for serialization in a projected Popular Comics periodical. For the more dramatic features, this means we get a scant introduction before the "To be continued" box at the bottom of the page. There is another issue of this series, so perhaps some of the features continue. The most interesting strips are certainly the ones revolving around weird science and weird scientists - you can see where Siegel and Shuster's passions really lie. The comedy strips are well-crafted, but perhaps the intervening 80 or so years has aged the humour to a point that I don't really get it.

A cool little peek at a very important part of comics history.

To be continued.

Mar 24, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 758: Fort - Prophet of the Unexplained #4, September 2002

And so things wrap up for Charles and Yhir. Actually, they wrap up pretty darned quickly, like within the first 5 or 6 pages. The feeling I get is that the Fort series really is more properly a graphic novel, or rather a complete work rather than a periodical publication. Or it should have been. Much of this final issue is aftermath and epilogue, though there is, in true horror movie fashion, a return of the baddie in the final pages. What we see, though, and this is significant for those who know of Fort's work, is his rededication to his work of chronicling "the Damned," the occurrences and people that simply cannot be explained by science.

This was a good series. I almost see it as a prequel to Irving and Rennie's Necronauts (did I already say that? Having deja vu). The young Mr. Lovecraft, Fort's child sidekick so to speak, begins writing after the confrontation with the alien virus, and I could see him growing up to become the same character that takes part in the Necronauts' adventure.

I think that was my first series for this year. What next?

To be continued.

The 40 Years of Comics Project Friday Magazine 6: Life With Archie #36 Double-Sized Commemorative Issue, 2010

I've been fairly effusive with my praise of Archie Comics over the last few years. They seem to have hit a creative peak that's been going on so long it may as well be a plateau. Except for the fact that they keep striving upward. I know that the new Riverdale Netflix series isn't for everyone, but it represents yet another iteration of these characters that's very different and very much the same. I've often thought that this is the magic of these characters. They have developed such archetypal behaviours, in that each has behaviours archetypal to the character, that a skilled writer can insert them into virtually any setting or genre. Though this has most recently been demonstrated by the amazing Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and, of course, the series from which today's magazine hails, I think the first time I realized it was when I read Archie meets The Punisher. Two of perhaps the most disparate characters in comics, and yet they meshed remarkably well.

So, yes, I teared up quite a bit reading this comic. It's a sad comic, and a lovely celebration of all that is Archie Andrews. I don't quite know the timing, but it also seems to me that this issue came out not too long before the company-wide reshuffling that has resulted in many of the reconceived, and by all reports amazing, line of Archie comics. Though perhaps there was more time between those than I'm thinking. The final story of this series is actually quite cleverly pulled off. The premise of the whole series is two parallel timelines, one in which Archie marries Veronica, and one in which he marries Betty. But in this final story, it's not clear which universe we're watching. There's never a clear shot of Archie's wife when he interacts with her, and no indication of his career path. It's clever because there's a lot of differences with all of the characters between the two universes, but the dialogue is vague enough that we can't draw any real conclusions. Archie jogs, and reflects on his life, wonders, ominously, what has put him in such a nostalgic mood, and is then shot later that night, protecting Kevin Keller.

It was sad. And excellent.


Mar 23, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 757: Fort - Prophet of the Unexplained #3, August 2002

Charles Fort is a study in contradictions in this issue. Though he makes his way around New York on a horse-drawn bookmobile, he also manages to go full-on action hero in this issue, actually engaging in a controlled slide down the Statue of Liberty, then chasing a giant alien virus into a sewer with a flashlight taped to a rifle. It's a wonderful reconception (I'm assuming this. Perhaps the real Fort actually was an adventurer) of a historical character. I'm going to be talking with my class about this next week, the notion of taking real people or places and fitting them into a fiction. My argument at the end of class today was that history is more often made up of events than of people. Even when we do recognize people as historically significant, it's because they are somehow attached to an event of historical significance. What the kind of fictionalization that Fort traffics in does is remind us that the people involved in those historical events, be they the fundamental figures or simply faces in the crowd, are, or were, each individuals with their own personalities, ideas, and dreams. As I teach Natalie Asplund's Redcoat West, and then teach factual accounts of the Northwest Mounted Police, I ask my students to notice what fiction is doing for us. It humanizes the historical. Biography and autobiography can also serve the same purpose, as long as we recognize that these, too, are forms of fiction. There's no such thing as an objective record of human experience, as far as I can tell.

Of course, some fictionalizations are more...real...than others. The one in Fort leaps over the cliff of the real and into complete fantasy, but it still reminds us that the real Charles Fort, the one who compiled the wonderful books that serve as his legacy, was a human being, perhaps even an adventurous one. And wouldn't it be just lovely if he actually did save New York from an alien virus from the back of a horse-drawn bookmobile?

To be continued.