Mar 15, 2022

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day XXXX: You're Not Surprised, Are You?

Time to face facts, and acknowledge that, for the time being, the 40 Years project is asleep. It's resting and waiting, like Cthulhu in R'lyeh, for the stars to align and the time to be right.

I love comics, and I'll always love comics, but right now my creative energies are aimed in a different direction. I've recorded and released 4 albums in the last 4 months and I've been building a large-scale, three-dimensional board game table for the 2nd edition of Arkham Horror that I'll be writing a bit about on my collecting blog once I've revived it.

I'm still reading and still jumping into the stranger parts of the comics hobby. But perhaps, after all this time, I've run out of interesting things to say about them. I'll be back, I'm sure. I'm still committed to the idea of reading my entire collection, and I may just do it without blogging for a while. Perhaps there'll be a once a month digest of the project, rather than a day by day journal. When I started the project, I was well into my doctoral work, and I thought the daily writing about comics was a good idea to help work out some of the things I was thinking about. I'll admit that once grad school crumbled, it became a bit more effort to write on a daily basis. And that was almost 5 years ago.

The world has changed significantly since I started this blog in 2008. My first proper entry in the Giant Box was an obituary of Steve "Howard the Duck, Man-Thing" Gerber. I wonder if it says anything that the first entry here was about something I consider to be one of the great tragedies of recent comics history? But since that time, we've all become embroiled in a tragedy larger than any of us could really conceive. Not just COVID, but also the divisions that have become starkly apparent since the election of Donald Trump and since the health measure protests around the world.

I honestly don't know if I could carry on a civil conversation with someone who was anti-vax or anti-mask. That refusal, to me at least, signals a fundamental selfishness that I think is anathemic to our continued positive evolution as a species. The way that Socialism and socialism have been vilified in our culture by those for whom money and power are be-all and end-all has radically fractured our societal ability to see community as an organism that requires care and sacrifice, just the same way that the individual body that makes up community does. It's things like this that, honestly, make me think that, sadly, either I or my offspring, will likely witness the collapse of our civilization and our species.

Fuck, I'm a cheery one, ain't I?

So before I go for a little while, some recommendations:

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond Is Unbreakable - although I haven't watched the anime of Part 6 yet, Part 4 of this unabashedly insane and awesome series has so far been my favorite. It's got a creepy Twin Peaks-vibe to it that somehow meshes perfectly with the fashion and hyperbole that characterizes Jojo. I picked up a hardcover of the first volume of this storyline because I loved it so much. Jumping in at this point may be a bit confusing for a newcomer, but there's plenty of recap sites out there, I'm sure.

The Adventures of Tintin - a couple of years ago, one of my sisters-in-law got me a beautiful slip-cased edition of the complete adventures of Tintin. They're in a smaller format than the usual European albums, but still manage to reproduce the bandes beautifully. And I thought it was time for me to explore this seminal and revered strip.

Echolands, Ice Cream Man - these are the only two ongoing, contemporary titles I'm reading at the moment. ICM is apparently being adapted to TV, and I'm kind of non-committal about that. The comic is one of the coolest comics I've read, and uses the medium in wonderful ways. Echolands is J.H. Williams III doing a superhero-fantasy-scifi comic. Williams' use of different art styles to evoke what I see as different levels of mythic resonance for each character is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen in comics. Have a look at his revelatory work on Detective Comics, where he helped to establish Batwoman. Or on Promethea. Or anywhere.

Right. I'm off. I'll be popping things up here every now and again when inspiration strikes, but like a good Calgarian when the snows have been falling since September, the 40YoCP is now in hibernation.


Mar 7, 2022

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Weekend Edition

For information on stopping the spread of COVID-19, and on the importance of being vaccinated, have a look at the World Health Organization site.

In an effort to not make me hate writing completely, I think my weekend comics will be blogged this way. Just a short note and some thoughts I had on each one.

Day 2419 - Generation Gone #1 by Ales Kot and Andre Lima Araujo. A cool concept, which I've come to expect from Mx. Kot. They are a writer that wears their Grant Morrison influence on their sleeve. Like me with Marillion or Ween. 3 hackers steal some code that causes structural changes in their bodies and gives them superpowers. And they're angry young people.

Day 2420 - Porn Star Fantasies #7 by Xenia Blue, Crystal Gold, Paradise, and Chuck Bordell. This series reprints the fictional stories that are back-ups in the "True Stories of Adult Film Stars" series. I don't know how much of the "True Stories" series is actually true. I like to think that most of it is, if embellished for creative reasons somewhat. The biographical pieces, almost to a fault, tell the stories of women who really like sex, but are told that it's not okay for young women to like sex. And then they discover the porn industry and their own power. I'm sure there's some shady as fuck stuff that is left out, but the takeaway is that, if true, each of these women entered this industry not because they were abused or broken, but because they were people who loved sex in a world that told them that women shouldn't.

Though maybe I'm being a bit too optimistic in that reading.


Mar 3, 2022

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 2418: Archie Giant Series Magazine #175, September 1970

For information on stopping the spread of COVID-19, and on the importance of being vaccinated, have a look at the World Health Organization site.

I'm in a minority, I think, when I profess my love for the Archie Giant Series Magazine series. Granted, it stopped being quite so giant by the end of its run, and common understanding is that it was a bit of a dumping ground for stories not deemed quite good enough for the main titles.

But it also gives, at least in this early anthology iteration of the title, a nice, median-range overview of what Archie, as a company and as a character, was attempting during a time of pretty intense civil unrest. This era of Archie tends to skirt the really troubling issues, but every now and again we'll get a glimpse of one of the writers or artists offering a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) critique of current events. If I'm to be honest, it's very often a critique with a bit of a sneer, but, as with Marvel in the 60s, you've got a bunch of guys who are rapidly approaching middle age trying to write as if they're the heppest, coolest cats on the block, Daddio. As someone well past that approach, I recognize that I do not, and cannot, speak like the young people of today. And this is a good thing 😏

What we can never fault any Archie comic for is the quality of its art, however. Archie Comics are the creme de la creme when it comes to cultivating a house style. That's not to say that there aren't differences between the various extremely-talented artists who've graced Archie's pages, but when you're establishing a brand with a highly visual component, visual recognition is key. You need to be able to identify Archie Andrews in any media, by any artist, and immediately associate him with the brand.

That's given me an idea for a rare non-40 Years post. I'll try not to forget.


Mar 2, 2022

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 2417: Vixen Wars #3, 1993

For information on stopping the spread of COVID-19, and on the importance of being vaccinated, have a look at the World Health Organization site.


I know, I know. But after yesterday's superlative read, I wanted to bounce right over to the other side of the spectrum and read something truly, truly bad. As I noted in my previous review of this series, Vixen Wars is truly, truly bad.

Now, I'm trying to be a more positive person, so let's find some good things about the story. First, and foremost, the narrative features a society that has switched completely to non-lethal weaponry. In this issue, the action of which was pretty nonsensical, it's only the men who wield lethal bullets in their guns.

So that's one thing.

The cover is pretty nice, too. The most notable thing about Vixen Wars is its early feature of the work of Georges Jeanty. I honestly don't know how Mr. Jeanty feels about this early work, but the quality of some (only some) of the draftsmanship on the book points to the more notable, and mature, works that have come from a very talented artist.

I can't quite peg the political stance of the book. While women are in charge, they still all dress like they're on Playboy TV. The women champion non-lethal conflict, while the men are still cast as uncaring killers. Are non-lethal weapons good, or is the comic arguing that only final solution offering weapons can properly assert power?

Honestly, I don't think I care. I've got two more issues of the series, so I think they'll be on the upcoming docket. With comics that are bad, I sometimes just want to read them to get them out of the way. Trouble is I'd have to dedicate a ridiculous amount of time to the bad comics I have from the 90s, and it might just kill my love for the hobby. Variation it is then.


Mar 1, 2022

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 2416: M.O.M.: Mother of Madness, July 2021

For information on stopping the spread of COVID-19, and on the importance of being vaccinated, have a look at the World Health Organization site.

 Late by a day. A less than auspicious beginning to Year 8, I agree.


M.O.M.: Mother of Madness is one of the coolest, smartest, beautifulest (?) comics I've read in fucking ages. The brainchild of Emilia "Khaleesi" Clarke, ably assisted by Marguerite Bennett and Leila Leiz.

Given that this book deals very explicitly with the male gaze, I feel slightly bad mentioning off the top how gorgeous this book is. Like, seriously a beautiful comic. I'm a fan of J.H. Williams III, and the way that he fuses different styles of art in his panels and layouts. Ms. Leiz has a similar approach, though very much her own style. From Connor-esque cuteness to Ashley Wood levels of scratchiness, the books visual aesthetic matches perfectly the narrative that it complements.

This is a story about a woman who, through absolutely no fault of her own, gains superpowers that are triggered (word used purposefully) by the aspects of her self for which she has been criticized. When fearful, she gains super hearing. When sad and crying, she gains super healing. There's a lot of fourth wall breaking in the story, and this is a comic that is utterly, utterly self aware. "You sat through 22 Marvel movies. You can give me 5 pages" says our focal character as she is giving us some pretty heavy back story. Through this self-awareness, we can see the vital and driven message that the creators are directing us toward. It's not subtle. The pages are peppered, uncomfortably, with off-hand remarks from male-identifying people in the story. Horrible remarks. Despicable things to say, and to do. I felt that one of the most depressing things about this comic is that it's set about 25 years in the future, and toxic masculinity seems to be alive and well.

But M.O.M. isn't going to stand for it.

Oh, and for more woman-y goodness, as far as I can tell the entire book, from editorial on down, was done by female-identifying people. It shows. I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but when you've got a comic like this, or Womanthology, it shows. There's a different, wonderful quality to the creation.

I'm late to this game, as the series came out last year. There's two more issues, I'm going to get them this week. Honestly, if you enjoyed Bitch Planet, this comic is the next one to read.


Feb 28, 2022

Well...What Now?

The end of February finally rears its head, as did, a few days ago, the end of year 7 of the 40 Years project.

Year 7 was difficult. As was year 6. On top of the tumult created by a cartoon character running the most dangerous country in the world and a global pandemic that a bunch of idiots seemed to think was a hoax, I've been doing some intense therapy and life alteration, trying to pull myself out of a hole of worthlessness, hopelessness, and disappointment. I'm still disappointed in the human race. We could be doing so much better.

Year 8 of the project will start tomorrow, March 1. Resetting the anniversary to this date makes it much easier for me to keep track, and I really want Year 8 to be a good one. I'm writing more and I'm thinking more. I've let my interest in comics recede somewhat over the last couple of years, but I'm trying to renew my interest and poke about in some of the less highlighted aspects of the hobby.

To that end, here are the only two comics I am currently following:

Ice Cream Man - easily one of the most creative and strange comics I've ever read. Imagine Twin Peaks meets Sandman meets Twilight Zone, and you have the beginning of an idea of what this comic is like. Disturbing and amusing, sometimes at exactly the same time. Worth a read.

Echolands - honestly, if J.H. Williams III is attached as an artist to a project, it's basically a slam dunk for me. I think, of all artists working in the field, he has the best understanding of how art can reflect story in comics. His work embodies the idea of the medium being the message. Echolands is a cool-ass fantasy/sci-fi story that deserves your attention.

See you tomorrow?

Feb 10, 2022

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 2412: Herbie #5, November 1964

For information on stopping the spread of COVID-19, and on the importance of being vaccinated, have a look at the World Health Organization site.


Publisher: American Comics Group

Writer: Shane O'Shea

Artist: Ogden Whitney

This absolutely qualifies as one of the strangest comics I've ever read. The premise is that the main character, Herbie, who is not an Asian stereotype despite how much he looks like one, is a quiet, rotund young man who is basically omnipotent. He has thoroughly undefined powers that he seems to get from his lollipops, and although he is often called upon to save the world, he has no real passion about it.

I think that there's a good argument to be made that Herbie is God. But I will need more issues of this insane series to really figure it out. Apparently in the next issue he dons some actual long underwear and tries his hand at superheroics. It is a very, very odd comic.