FF1972: The Guardsmen of Infinity Portfolio

The Guardsmen of Infinity Portfolio by Carter Scholz and Jim Wilson.

This is the second publication from what one might call Fantagraphics’ prehistory. Publisher Groth was a teenager at the time, and I’m going to guess that everybody else involved was, too.

You have to love the self confidence displayed in that introduction up there. Better than Star Trek! At its best!

Good lord! *choke*

Scholz would go on to become a writer for The Comics Journal, and I wasn’t aware that he was an artist at all.

Which, er, uhm, I’m still not. I mean, you shouldn’t rag on comics produced by teenagers like fifty years ago, and by “you” I mean “I”. But c’mon.

I’m guessing that this is the introduction to the project that they determined to be not good enough so they abandoned it? It’s just a handful of pages that don’t lead anywhere.

The rest of this 16 page magazine sized (printed on thick unglossy paper) object is filled with character er studies like the ones above. Which explains the “portfolio” in the title.

It’s nicely printed, though.

Yeah, sure. Why not.

Hey! A Fantagraphics logo! Rad.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1976: Always Comes Twilight

Always Comes Twilight edited by Dave Dapkewicz.

Concluding our look at Fantagraphics’ prehistory, here’s Always Comes Twilight, a 48 page magazine sized… thing… printed on nice thick paper.

The editor explains what this thing is: It’s a fanzine, and that he’s grown out of comics fandom and will never read a comic again. Which is fair, I guess, but it’s a somewhat strange thing to start off a comics fanzine with.

The bulk of the book is taken up by lightly illustrated short sci-fi stories. I’m guessing everybody involved are teenagers, and I have to admit that I stopped reading every story after a paragraph or two.

Hey, they’re probably better stories than what I wrote when I was a teenager, so who am I to judge.

There’s one long comic in here, and it’s drawn by Karl Kesel, who would later become kinda a big deal.

His talents are not obvious here.

The illustrations aren’t that bad, really. Here’s Steve Leialoha.

Race Hardun. *snicker*

It should be!

I quite like Jan Strnad’s writing, so I had some hopes for this story, but…

Oh, well.

OK, that’s it: The first three things Gary Groth published under the “Fantagraphics” name. At least I think they are.

While Fantagraphics would come to be perhaps the most important publisher of American comics ever, there’s not really much in these three publications that’d make you guess what’s to come, except perhaps display Groth’s tenacity and ability to make publications happen. And an attention to quality printing.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1971: A Selection of Fictional Narratives

A Selection of Fictional Narratives by Dennis Fujitake.

A couple of years ago I read all the floppies that Fantagraphics had published. It was a pretty random thing to do, but it turned out to be a fun little project.

I used comics.org to get a list of the comics to read, and at the time, the first three things Fantagraphics had published wasn’t in that database.

But now they are, and I’ve bought those three things, and now I’m going to read them.

The first of these magazine sized comics is by Dennis Fujitake . I really love the style he developed later, which is totally unique. He can draw any kind of outlandish cartoonish alien and make it look totally natural.

Here he’s doing a totally derivative early-70s underground fantasy style with more than a touch of Jeff Jones about it. In this slender 16 page package (very nicely printed and on shiny paper) he does two stories, and they’re both, well, pretty lame. Gary Groth was born in 1954, so after getting my slide rule out, I’ve determined that he must have been, like, 17 when he published this. That explains the taste level, but I’m wondering where he got the money to do so.

The first story is just hard to make out what’s going on: Fujitake would later become a brilliant storyteller with pages that are a joy to read, but he’s not there yet.

The second story reads marginally better. Both stories have the required O. Henry endings, but the second story has a more amusing one.

The back cover has an er stark design? Yeah, let’s go with that. Stark design.

Hm… come to think about it — this publication is kinda prescient. One thing Fantagraphics has done really well over the years is to recognise creators that show promise and stick by them for many years while they progress. And Fujitake is one of these, I guess: They published a lot of spot illos by him in The Comics Journal, and by the time they published Dalgoda, he’d really blossomed.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

Comics Cavalcade Day 7

These holidays keep getting in the way of me making some progress in my to-be-read shelf of comics. (I mean window sill.) That’s the point of this blog series: To finally get to Comics Queue Zero. So, as usual, just comics, no reviews, because nobody has time for that.

How I Tried to Be a Good Person by Ulli Lust (Fantagraphics)

Lust’s previous book was utterly thrilling, so here’s a sequel of sorts. Once again, we’re back in the 80s, but Lust is a few years older than when we saw her last.

As in the previous book, her performative honesty is brutal. On the other hand, that could totally be a little sequence from any underground comix of the 70s and wouldn’t be a big deal there. How prudish we’ve gotten.

And speaking of prudish: This is a very horny book. These sequences are great!

And… I’d say about the first half of the book is fantastic? But then things become repetitive. I don’t doubt Lust felt she had to be hones and tell the story thoroughly, but it’s the kind of thing where you’re sitting there grinding your teeth and muttering “leave that asshole already” but there’s still 150 pages to go before that’s going to happen.

Paper Girls #29 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang (Image)

Everybody loves Saga, and so did I. So I picked up Paper Girls, and I’m still reading it… even though it’s kinda boring. And everybody shouts all the time! It’s intensely boring.

I guess what’s good about Saga is Fiona Staples.

Blubber #5 by Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics)

The previous issues of Blubber have all been batshit crazy. Now it’s more straight-up associative logic.

I mean, things are still batshit crazy, but it’s more connected to Hernandez’ more mainstream work now, I think?

Uppgång & fall by Liv Strömquist (Galago)

This is a collection of essays on various subjects; mainly politics. Strömquist’s artwork is very basic, but it gets the work done, and she’s funny and insightful.

I mean, that’s a perfect Ayn Rand (in the book’s best-illustrated piece). The summary of the “plot” in Atlas Shrugged is hilarious.

But it’s mostly text (arranged in panels) together with illustrations.

The piece about current left-wing inefficiencies is thrilling reading, with lots of quotes from Wendy Brown and Nietzsche, of all people.

Highly recommended.

Silver Surfer Black #1-2 by Danny Cates and Tradd Moore (Marvel)

I read somewhere that this was supposed to be groovy and stuff, so I got it… and that’s pretty groovy?

But then it turns out that this all spins out of some other comic book that I have no interest in. And the two issues here are basically one long fight scene.

I mean, the artwork’s rad, but it’s a bore.

Young Lions by Blaise Larmee (self-published)

This is Larmee’s first book, and it’s quite different from his later ones. Instead of being all meta and tricky, it’s a somewhat straightforward narrative, drawn in the beautiful pencilled style.

But it wouldn’t be Larmee without at least some formal exploration, you know.

The story’s kinda vague, but has an unnerving quiet to it.

Understanding by Becca Tobin (Retrofit/Big Planet)

Big Planet have been on a roll the past few years, publishing a number of handsome volumes of good comics. This is still handsome, but it feels pretty slight.

It’s a collection of shorter pieces that don’t seem to have much to rapport internally: Each piece works quite well, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a cumulative effect.

Tobin has a charming art style, and seems to fight against it at every possible opportunity. Except in this image.

How It Happened by Jason T. Miles (2d cloud)

Oh, I found another group of 2d cloud minis I hadn’t read yet. This one nails that unnerving-random-piece feel.

Concupiscence by Vincent Stall (2d cloud)

Is this riso? Anyway, it’s a very effective use of eight pages.

Untitled by Julie Doucet (2d cloud)

A little riso eight-pager by super-mega-star Julie Doucet. It’s fun.

Cavities and Crevices by Anna Bongrovanni (2d cloud)

This little mini is mostly illustrated text, and is appropriately unnerving.

Great Heights by MariNaomi (2d cloud)

2d cloud, man. All these minis are great! It’s difficult to do something substantial in eight small pages, but these all perfect for the format.

Untitled by Ellen Redshaw (2d cloud)

And this one isn’t even a mini, but just a page with printing on both sides. That’s minimal, dude.

The Arborist’s Companion by Mayme Donsker (2d cloud)

This one is basically just a bunch of rasterised pictures. Still feels weirdly effective, although I’m not at all sure why.

Harvest by Nicholas Breutzman (2d cloud)

Well, OK, this is basically just a… story. Nice artwork, but it’s something of a non sequitur.

“I Don’t Hate Your Guts” by Noah van Sciver (2d cloud)

This is a bigger mini, and it’s 30 days in the life of van Sciver. I’ve always liked van Sciver’s seeming ease at drawing this sort of stuff: The artwork just looks so… natural.

And, as usual, it’s pretty funny, and van Sciver doesn’t shy away from depicting himself as a bit of a dick. But a funny dick.

Unusually for a diary comic, something momentous happens here in here, and the mix of the quotidian and extraordinary feels like witnessing something special.

Summer Carnival by Jake Terrell (2d cloud)

This one is a bit difficult to read… just due to the colour/printing choices made here. But it’s very summery: You feel like you have to squint into the sunshine.

Startled Maggie by Meghan Hogan (2d cloud)

This was published in 2012 and has to be one of the first things 2d cloud published? It’s cute.

Distant Worlds 2 by Leo & Icar (Cinebook)

Cinebook has published dozens (I think) of science fiction comics written by Leo, and I’m having some difficulty keeping the plot lines of the various series apart. But this is a series I may not have read before? Did I miss the first album in the series?

As usual, Cinebook prints these albums in slightly reduced size and with somewhat muddy colours. It’s a bigger problem here than usual, because Icar’s artwork is quite detailed and he doesn’t really use colours much to keep things visually separate. Combined with the too-small lettering, it makes for a slightly unpleasant reading experience.

I do like this, though. It’s not very smart or anything, but it satisfies my sci-fi craving.

Twin Mirrors by V. Hachmang (Landfill Editions)

Huh. There’s two separate sheets included here… flyers?

I guess. There’s on stiff cardboard and very stylish.

Anyway, this is a very disappointing book. It has the super-stylish Landfill look, but the two stories included here a basically O. Henry kitsch. I groaned out loud at the conclusion to the first story. The second is even worse.

But the artwork is very nice, indeed. The sort of hyper-detailed look you get when you have a bunch of assistants working for you, I’m guessing? I know nothing about the artist in question here.

I liked the stitched binding, but I wonder what on Earth Landfill is doing publishing this. Contract work?

Tempo 24 (Egmont)

So this is a new issue of the quarterly-ish series that publishes translated classic (and “classic”) Frenchey (that’s a word) action series.

There’s usually two or three albums worth of stuff per issue, and this time we open with a Bernard Prince thing from 1974. It’s the Platonic Ideal of a boys’ comic: It’s about Bernard Prince (the young guy with the white hair up there), his adopted son Hassan, his shipmate Jordan (the older red-headed curmudgeon/comic relief)… and a bear cub… on a yacht… sailing around in the tropics… getting into one adventure after another.

It’s got everything.

Most importantly, perhaps, is that it has Hermann drawing it. His much-imitated scratchy-but-razor-sharp line is just perfect for these scruffy adventure stories, equally good at action and people standing around talking.

The stories? Well… it’s the standard stuff. But they’re not horrible!

The next album included here is a Bob Moranes thing from 1970, drawn by William Vance. The artwork’s nice, but the story is pure piffle. It’s confused and boring and a chore to get through.

The most interesting thing here is really the colouring. Vance (or whoever did it) sometimes does the colours in a naturalistic way, but he usually uses it to emphasise emotion, action or to just guide the eye across the page. It works well and it’s fun to look at.

We helpfully get a ten-page history of Bob Moranes with some covers from the book series and some older pages.

And to round out the mix, we get a short Lucky Luke story from the 70s.

So this time around, about half of Tempo was readable, which is about the normal ratio.

Maneaters #10 by Chelsea Cain and Elsie McCall and a bunch of other people (Image)

The most frustrating thing with Maneaters is how short each issue feels. I’m going to go ahead and guess that when it’s collected, it’s going to read extremely well.

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #1 by Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber (DC)

What what. Oh, right. Matt Fraction. I quite liked Sex Criminals and that Hawkeye thing he wrote, so I thought I’d give this a chance.

And it’s fun! There aren’t any real surprises here: It’s a very Matt Fraction take on Jimmy Olsen, but that’s fine. He’s made for this sort of tomfoolery.

I mean, c’mon. That’s just so perfectly cheesy.

And Lieber’s artwork is perfect for this knowing take.

I’ll keep buying, but I hope Fraction doesn’t introduce a Serious Plot. My guess is that he’ll do so, and it’ll suck, but that there’ll still be some fun to be had.

Yule Log by Christopher Adams (2d cloud)

Geez. Even more 2d cloud. This one is a slim magazine sized thing, mostly in black and white but with some colour pages. There’s a cute story in here, but I think these pages (which are only tangentially related to the story) are kinda spiffy.

Ghosted in LA by Sina Grace and Siobhan Keenan and people (Boom Box)

So what’s this then? Hm… Sina Grace? Oh, right, he wrote Iceman, which I though was… uhm… not completely successful? But I bought this anyway, apparently.

I mean, obviously.

The artwork’s kinda standard Young Adult 2019, but it’s not unattractive. The story didn’t go the way I thought at all, which was a nice surprise. It’s kinda fun.

Uncle Scrooge: King of the Golden River by Giovan Battista Carpi and a bunch of people (Fantagraphics)

So this book reprints a couple of long Italian Disney stories from the 60s. Italian Duck stories do not have the best reputation in the world, but the artwork here is pretty good, if not without some readability problems.

The bigger issue is the relentless cruel behaviour of Donald and Scrooge: That’s not a fun scene. And it doesn’t let up: The two adults are greedy bastards, way beyond what Barks would have done with the characters, and it’s grating.

You have to give the story some props for inventiveness, though.

The Mickey Mouse story is very Italian Disney: It’s Mickey and Goofy, but they’re western heroes now.

And now it’s like totally late and it’s time to sleep.

I think I have a day or two to go in this blog series… perhaps I can finish up on… Wednesday?

Comics Cavalcade Day 6

Eep. I got caught up in an avalanche of Emacs bug fixing, so instead of working my way through the unread comics here, I’ve been slacking off. And buying more comics! Aargh! This blog series will never end!

Previous rules apply: Just reading comics, no reviewing, because nobody has time for that.

Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai (IDW)

What?! IDW!? Sakai has been at Dark Horse for several decades, so I wonder what brought this on. His output at Dark Horse has been rather … intermittent lately (and doing stuff like illustrating company boss’ writing, if I remember correctly?), so perhaps this is a good change.

Oh, variant covers…

And it’s in colour! Wow. Looks very nice indeed.

The story is a bit unusual for an Usagi Yojimbo story. I mean, it’s not like there hasn’t been a lot of supernatural stuff before, but this is 100% supernatural. And it’s pretty entertaining.

Oh… more variant covers… Well, it’s nice to see IDW pushing Usagi hard. And they’re reprinting the entire series in colour, apparently.

Mats Kamp by Mats Jonsson (Galago)

Eep. Don’t tell me this is about the joy of parenthood…

Well, it’s Mats Jonsson (of Hey Princess fame), and he’s quite amusing as usual. However… this seems so familiar. Have I read this before?

*roots through the bookshelves*

Yes! I’ve bought this twice. Oh, well. Next.

13: The Astonishing Lives of the Neuromantics by Yves Navant (Northwest)

And, yes, I moved out to the balcony. It’s a nice, warm day today.

The art style here is pretty fun. It’s like a 70s underground thing, but given a sleazy British 80s shiny makeover. Like S. Clay Wilson working for 2000 AD?

Unfortunately, the story’s rather hard to engage with. Concepts are dropped in on a whim and there’s little follow through on any of it… except the main er plot that you’d wish there’d be less of.

Or is that more like Ranxerox?

Well Come by Erik Nebel (Yeti Press)

What a nice-looking little book. It’s full of pages like this: Colourful (but keeping to a palette) with a playful attitude towards comics mechanics.

It’s pretty amusing. It’s got a great sense of rhythm.

Ink Brick no. 4 edited by Alexander Rothman

I bought all the issues of Ink Brink a few months ago, and I’ve been reading them in random order. Some of the issues is a bit on the “here’s a poem that I’ve drawn some comics around” side, but this is a very strong issue.

Lots of different approaches.

And beautiful and fun ways to read.

Stunning.

Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks (Fantagraphics)

As I’m sure (ahem) you’ll recall from a previous Comics Cavalcade, I got the final issue of Pickle recently. That made me wonder whether Horrocks had done anything that I’d missed… and, yes, I had. I mean, I remember ordering this books years ago, but I must never have gotten it.

I loved Pickle, so my expectations were high.

And it’s… fun. It’s sorta-autobiographical; about Horrocks having problem doing new comics and his writing job on Batgirl from DC.

There’s so many callbacks to his obsessions in Pickle (finding lost comics, being in the comics). I so wanted this book to really work…

… but I don’t think it really does. It’s a goofy, fun adventure (with some chilling bits in the Japanese comics near the end with an Evil Nerd), but it feels a bit… atrophied? Hicksville felt real; Sam Zabel is professional.

Love and Rockets #7 by Jaime and Beto Hernandez (Fantagraphics)

*gasp* *choke* I had forgotten that I got this the other day. It’d otherwise have been the first thing to read today, because because because.

After some pretty momentous issues, Jaime takes a breather and does a fun story with Tonta. Man, his lines are just so gorgeous.

Well, that’s odd. Beto does “And Another Punk Rock Reunion”, which is basically what his brother had been doing the past few issues. Beto’s approach is er different.

As with some of his more recent stories, I get the unsettling feeling that Beto’s gaslighting his readers. He, again, presents a lot of glimpses of Fritz’ history, and I can’t quite get them to match up with what I thought I remembered about her story. I’m guessing he’s got a better overview than I have, though, but…

The Hector/Killer bits were more straightforward, but felt a bit unearned.

Aposimz by Thutomu Nihei (Vertical)

This is a pretty standard alien/robot/sci-fi/action thing. The plot is exactly what you’d expect, and the dialogue is Extruded Japanese Comics Dialogue.

But it got its charms. The artwork’s kinda nice in a vague way and it moves rapidly.

The vagueness of the artwork makes it a bit hard to read sometimes. Here I was wondering why he was talking to himself until, after looking long and hard, I saw that Lady Tatiana (the preying mantis robot thing) was sitting on his left shoulder.

But, you know.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Tempest #6 by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill.

This series has presented a number of British comics professionals (that I haven’t worked up the stamina to check whether are real or made up) and their sad destinies. Since this famously is Alan Moore’s final comic book ever, these do feel poignant.

And so everything comes to and end in the plot as well.

There’s apparently been a large number of think pieces written on the occasion of this comic being published, but I haven’t read any of them.

I thought this series was quite amusing, but I have not felt any impetus towards teasing out the references and what they all mean… because I have zero trust in Moore having things to tease out that I’ll find interesting.

I mean, it’s sophomoric fun when the worst person in the world, James Bond, finally is killed off in this summary fashion. “All the frat boys go boo ya!” Great! It’s scenes like this that people like Warren Ellis has made an entire career out of copying from Moore. But it’s just the details, like putting the names of Bond movies in the lower right corner there, presumably because Moore has zero faith in us Getting It. Which is why I think there’s nothing here to get other than what the surface tells us there is.

Hey! Swifts! They fly fast, man. You’d almost think their names had something to do with that.

Anyway, I thought Tempest was a fun read, and it had a surprisingly satisfying end. And one of these days I’m going to read Abhay Khosla’s article about it.

Kramers Ergot #10 edited by Sammy Harkham (Fantagraphics)

OK, I moved back in again because it’s getting too dark outside.

When there’s a new Kramers Ergot, it’s always an event, and this time around it’s extra controversial because the editor dissed Best American Comics readers or something. But I understand the impulse; Kramers Ergot 10 is full on comics, all the time, and Best American Comics has a tendency to be less so.

I love the size and feel of this issue. It’s big: When reading it, it fills your view, but it’s not so big or heavy that it’s uncomfortable. And it’s long (170 pages), so you don’t get the feeling that shorter anthologies sometimes give you: That you’re dreading that it’s over before it’s even begun. So I’m thumbing up the format with all my thumbs.

Many of the pieces are about reading or making comics, too, which may or may not be annoying. But look at that Jason Murphy page. Wow.

Huh. Blutch redraws a sequence from Blueberry? But changes Angel Face’s gender? That’s… odd?

Anyway, the pieces in here is a somewhat odd mix, but it mostly works. Some of the pieces look made for the format, at these are the most successful ones. Others seem to be scraps lying around… but this could have made for pleasant sequencing. Since the book is so long, it’s easy not to get annoyed with pieces that don’t feel as vital as the rest.

However, Harkham’s predilection for running strips by 90s alternative cartoonists is really jarring. In an anthology, you can accept pieces that don’t work, but pieces that are boring and uninteresting brings the experience down.

There’s many, many good works in here, but the standout piece in the book is the closing story from Conner Willumsen. He uses the large format perfectly, and it’s a riveting read. Perhaps mostly because it’s as confusing visually as it is plot wise. Masterful.

Clue: Candlestick #3 by Dash Shaw (IDW)

As someone who knows nothing about the game Clue, this series has been slightly confusing for me, but it’s basically just a murder mystery and we are supposed to try to figure out who the murderer is.

Reader, I failed.

But it’s still a pretty fun read. Dash Shaw is pretty interesting.

Wow. An alternate cover by Kevin Huizenga.

OK, I think it’s time for me to go to bed now, but perhaps there’ll be time for comics tomorrow. Gotta get them all read!

Comics Cavalcade Day 5

OK, got a really late start today, so this’ll be a short one. But just comics; no reviews, as usual, because busy busy.

Heat by Jean Wei (Peow)

This sounds like a high concept comic (a fire demon comes to live on a farm), but it’s really sweet.

It’s got a quiet ruminative feel.

Unfortunately the ending was kinda meh.

The Mask by Benconvervato (?)

It’s a fun little mini.

Moon by Rozi Hathaway

This is (I think?) structured as a fairy tale, but it’s so difficult to tell on a page-to-page basis just what’s happening that I’m… not sure?

Uncanny X-Men #19-20 by too many people to even try to mention (Marvel)

Man, this is relentlessly ugly and dull. I was an X-Men fan in my childhood and I drop in on them still now and then… and most of the time, it’s just so boring now. The stakes are Always The Highest Possible, which means nothing really matters.

Perhaps you should give this book some props for just being more WTF than usual…

… but it’s mind-numbingly tiresome. I do seem to remember that Rosenberg guy writing some stuff that was mildly entertaining at one point, but this…

Gulag Casual by Austin English (2d cloud)

Yes, hairstyles.

I kinda like this. It’s mildly befuddling, but the mix of mundane er dialogue and the wild, wild artwork is nice.

But I didn’t connect with this book much. I was all “uhm… where’s he going with this…” Which he probably explained in the afterword, but I skipped it. Hah!

Detrimental Information by John and Luke Holden (2d cloud)

Uhm… this has a rambling quality that’s not unappealing…

… but the jokes are a bit on the underdeveloped side?

Is the thing here that it’s supposed to be created by a couple of children? I guess it does have that feeling (i.e., somebody writing as if they were children), but, it’s…. Well.

Walt and Skeezix by Frank King (Drawn & Quarterly)

I don’t know what volume this is in the series… but as most people (ahem), I was flabbergasted by the first volume when it was published. Imagine! A comic strip from that age that’s not a chore to read! Not only that, but it’s like good and stuff!

But as the years have passed, I don’t think King kept things puttering along on the same high level… I was almost *gasp* bored by the previous volume.

But this! It’s much better! It seems like King has gotten a second wind now that Skeezix is a bit older and can have real adventures on his own. This volume is very enjoyable.

And, of course, the artwork’s just so appealing.

But one note: It seems like everybody says that this is a “real time” strip, and it’s not. I mean, everybody grows older about the rate you’d expect, but most of these plot elements (that take weeks to be published) would be absurd if they took that long in the world depicted.

How’s that for incisive criticism?

But now it’s the middle of the night and I can’t read more comics because sleep.

Boo.