Comics Daze

I’m totally taking the day off today, and that means: Comics all day and all night.

13:51: Natacha Collected Edition: Vol 2 by Walthéry, Tillieux, Mittëi and others (Cobolt)

I thinking that it’d had been a long time since I ordered anything from Denmark, so here I am now, with 30kgs of new/old comics that I have to read.

I’m cheating a bit with this one, because I started reading it last night…

This collected edition does something kinda unusual: It drops in the Natacha covers that were running in Spirou at the time, which breaks up the story in a kinda annoying way… This is the problem with these editions made for the nostalgia market: They’re more about being complete than providing an optimal reading experience.

Not that it matters that much: Frenchey comics were serialised at a page of two pages per week at the time, and each page is treated as a separate unit by most of the people making these comics.

Some would put the cliffhanger on the second page, though, which gives the stories a particular rhythm that these interstitial pages break up.

Anyway, Natacha is not the most renowned of these comics for boys: She was created in the late 60s when the editors at Spirou wanted to introduce at least one series with a modern, woman heroine. It’s really good, though! Walthéry’s (a Peyo protegé) artwork is lively and charming, and the stories are propulsive fun. OK, there’s a lot of panels focusing on Natacha’s boobs and ass, but in a… tasteful? way.

14:44: Procedural by Walker Tate

Oh, wow! This is so much fun to read, and also… fills me with such dread. It’s amazing: The nightmarish (but trivial) situations these characters are in is just beyond.

Fantastic.

14:55: Comix about different problems my friends and I have with our bodies #2 by Goda Trakumaite

I absolutely adore the obsessive patterning. It’s so… Aline Kominsky. These stories are all about health issues, and they are seriously unnerving.

And that’s absolutely horrifying. The Dalkon Shield sounds like a typical story where women’s health is concerned…

15:18: Fiesta magasinet nr. 1 (Fiesta)

This is a newish Danish anthology… it’s all humour? But very varied artistic approaches. Mårdøn Smet (?) does this amazing Tony Millionaire-ish artwork… but the storytelling was kinda er challenging.

Johan Krarup does Batman and Robin…

Line Høj Høstrup gets rid of her cell phone.

It’s a pretty solid issue; I should get the other ones.

15:39: Grus by Anna Degnbol (Fahrenheit)

How odd — this book has the aesthetics of a risograph print — look at the beautiful texture in the blue — but it’s obviously not. So did they do this as a riso print, and then scan that? Or is the riso texture digitally created?

This is what I was thinking about while reading this…

Because, while pretty accomplished, it reads like a pitch for an American indie movie. It’s cinematographic in all the worst ways (with some exceptions), and mimics a three act movie structure perfectly.

It’s a pretty annoying thing to be reading.

16:18: Father by Gabriel M Howell

Most peculiar and reflexively misogynistic, I think? But… somewhat compelling.

And it’s printed in this odd way, with uncut pages printed on one side only. I kept looking inside to see if there was anything hidden, but nope.

16:26: Sidste år i Frankfurt by Jouko Ruokosenmäki (Zoom)

This is an autobio book by a Finnish comics editor, who’s worked for Semic/Egmont (the biggest Nordic publisher) for decades, apparently? We skip back and forth in time, but the concept is that this is his last year at the Frankfurt book show, and he’s thinking about his career in comics.

So it’s very inside baseball. The thing is… this should be a fascinating book to me: I’ve always wondered how this stuff works, and here we have an veteran giving us direct insight! But… it’s mostly just obscure?

For instance, here the author meets… someone? “Here he is. A giant.” And the author assumes that we know who that is, but I have no idea what comics creators look like. I just read the stuff.

So this is less personal than private. So I wondered what Danish insiders thought about it, and they loved it? Well, that makes sense.

The storytelling is nice otherwise, though.

17:00: Tif et Tondu de Blutch et Robber: Mais où est Kiki? (Zoom)

For the last decade or so, a bunch of more alternative comics people have been invited to make “special” albums with beloved children’s comics characters. Or, in this case, Tif et Tondu.

The attraction is pretty obvious: More adult reimaginings of characters that people have a nostalgic connection with. I’m just wondering whether this is a sound long-term strategy, because some of these albums have the potential to sour people’s affections…

Blutch et Robber here manage to give Tif et Tondu more character than they ever had in the original series, so that’s good. The story itself is such a mess, though, with killer robots, invisibility robes and insane lesbian villains that it’s all… tiresome? Yeah. Tiresome.

But it does look great.

17:56: Halleluja by Gotlib (Bogfabrikken)

This is an oldie: Published in Fluide Glacial in the mid-80s, and this Danish edition is from the mid-90s. It’s a lot less raunchy than Gotlib’s earlier work, and… I don’t think there’s much here that couldn’t be published today, if anything? (You can’t say that about some of Gotlib’s 70s stuff, which was a bit… much… But hilarious.)

This is also very funny, and taking on an Alice in Wonderland/Barbarella mish-mash probably sounded irresistable, but putting lunacy on top of lunacy sometimes makes for headache-induce reading.

You gotta love Gotlib’s artwork, though.

18:36: Siberian Haiku by Jurga Ville & Lina Itagaki (Selfmadehero)

This gets up to a bumpy start… first there’s an introduction (which states the premise), and then there’s a framing story (that restates the premise) and then we start the story… told from the point of view of an imaginative child. I’m assuming croissants don’t really grow on trees in Lithuania, and that Martin the Goose didn’t really stash a book under his wing.

This is as far as I got: I found this book to be excruciating. It tries so hard to fit into the Cutesy Despite Horrible Circumstances genre… and it does! It totally achieves its goals.

*shiver*

19:28: Goblin Girl by Moa Romanova (Fantagraphics)

I opened this and I was all “uh oh, this looks like such a lot of comics these days”…

But it’s kinda brilliant! Very fresh, very open, kinda moving.

I should probably have bought it in Swedish, though, but I didn’t realise that it was a Swedish book when I got this…

19:59: Les vieux forneaux 4: La Magicienne by Lupano & Caucet (Zoom)

I think the title of this series translates to something like “The Old Codgers”? Or something? I don’t know from French.

Anyway, this is my favourite current French-ish series. I know it looks like a somewhat standards Franco/Belgian series, and it is that, too, but it’s got the melancholy atmosphere of a good French indie movie. It’s just super charming, and you never know what’s going to happen (and usually nothing really big happens, anyway).

There’s also these fun storytelling bits they use sparingly. Here’s that woman imagining a scene, and then the scene as it really happened.

It’s very densely told, and there’s so many characters that I found myself flipping back to confirm who was talking about whom here and there. You’d think that would be a huge negative… but it’s not. It’s just got such a ruminative oddball, slightly slippery storytelling style … It’s hypnotic.

And I laughed out loud several times.

20:52: War Time and Play Time by Lac Leplae

This is a fascinating book.

It’s autobio from Leplae’s childhood, and I was taking all the stories at face value… but some of them are very… dreamlike… I mean, this was during the German occupation of Belgium, and the Americans did bomb Belgium, but it’s…

I mean, that doesn’t make the book any less fascinating.

21:56: Food arrives.

As is traditional on these dazy dazes, I’m ordering some food in instead of making anything myself, because THERE”S NO TIME; JUST COMICS ALL DAY.

Hey… that’s too much salmon. I shouldn’t have gotten a menu.

22:05: Le vol del corbeau tome 2 by Gibrat (Carlsen)

This is the second and final part of something I read part one of more than a year ago, so I just vaguely remember what it’s about…

It’s a quite simple wartime storyline: A thief meets a communist resistance fighter and romance ensues. Most of this album is spent hiding from the Nazis.

It’s fine. The main attraction here is the romantic/realist artwork, of course. It’s very pretty — I like these interiors and exteriors a lot. Gibrat’s main problem is that all of his male characters look very similar.

Very pleasant.

22:58: Non Eight edited by Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics)

Non has been very consistent lately (except in its release schedule)… Is this issue gonna be great, too?

Yes! (Sami Alwani.)

This may be the best issue yet! (E. S. Glenn.)

There’s not a single bad piece in here. (Veronika Muchictsch.)

I could snap pics of all the stories in here, because it’s all good. (Maggie Umber.)

It’s a great mix of stories; all different, but still a cohesive reading experience.

*clap* *clap*

23:53: 750cc Down Lincoln Highway by Bernard Chambaz & Barroux (NBM)

This is something as unusual as a straight-up travelogue. OK, the protagonist got dumped, but the book isn’t overtly about that much; instead it’s just driving across the US (on a motorcycle).

It’s a lovely melancholic read… until you remember that the lovely artwork isn’t by the guy who wrote this, which means that (probably?) the guy who wrote this had his camera out the entire trip to document it, which destroys the melancholy of it all.

So forget that thought! This isn’t autobio, after all.

It’s really good. And how can NBM publish this so cheaply?

00:28: Green Manor 1 by Bodart & Vehlmann (Zoom)

This album is a collection of short stories about murder.

The stories are… fun?… I guess? The artwork is classic — very varied figures and heads and faces, although Bodart reuses the same faces in different stories, making me wonder whether there’s some connection between them, but there isn’t.

What kills the enjoyment here for me is the colouring. It’s relentless: Everything is a yucky melange of beige, brown and brownish green. (And sometimes brownish purples.) It’s very evocative of a period; we all know that they didn’t have any other colours in Victorian England, right? RIGHT?

*sigh*

Anyway, reading more of two of these shorts in a row is probably not to be recommended: You’ll have to spray glitter in your eyes to recover.

(NOTE: NOT ACTUAL MEDICAL ADVICE.)

01:02: Sleep.

And I think it’s time for me to go to bed now.

But that was a pretty good batch of comics, eh? The standouts were Procedural, Goblin Girl and Non 8, I guess, but only one real clunker, I think?

Nighty nighty.

V1987: Transit

Transit (1987) #1-5
by Ted McKeever

As a teenager, McKeever’s artwork fascinated me. All my doodles turned into McKeever faces, replete with way too many teeth.

Lou Stathis, the editor, writes an introduction to the series. I think he’s going for punk smart aleck, but he lands at hard-sell card salesman with delusions of grandeur.

And… Gary Panter is Throbbing Gristle? Frank Miller is Roxy Music? What? That just doesn’t scan. So let’s read the first three pages of this comic instead.

This is not the McKeever I remember! This super-deformed awkwardly cartoony stuff looks more like prime Black & White Boom garbage. Was this series originally meant for Aircel or something?!

I wonder whether these opening pages were done several years before the rest, because…

… the artwork evolves in leaps and bounds on every page, and McKeever is no longer doing Marc Hansen, but is now doing Frank Miller by Keith Giffen without access to his Muñoz swipe pages.

You can tell that this is a fantasy comic, because that cop (possibly) killed someone, and then he gets chided by his boss. That just never happens.

I know! Peak resistance!

And then… he’s doing Dave Sim?

Stathis helpfully tells us that Transit is going to be all valuable one day! Let’s see…

It’s true! I think that beats inflation?

That’s a good joke (the artist isn’t finished drawing him; he just has the nose), but the newsprint that Vortex was using in 1987 was so bad that it kinda ruined the joke: It looks like a finished drawing because of the bleed-through from the previous page.

Or perhaps McKeever planned it that way!

Anyway, McKeever’s artwork just gets better and better… he’s not at his style that won him fame and acclaim with Metropol yet, but it’s plenty fun. And the storyline is puttering away nicely, too: There’s political intrigue, and several intersecting plot lines, and interesting characters…

Oh! There’s that guy from Metropol AD that I was reading just the other month. I guess I knew that he was a returning character, but I didn’t remember that he was from Transit. In the McKeeververse, it all ties together… even if McKeever probably didn’t plan it out in advance.

Nope. The teeth aren’t all there yet, but we’re getting there…

Heh. He should do more in this style. (This is from a dream sequence.)

In Stathis’ third and final introduction, he says that McKeever is doing a separate book over at Mad Dog, and that it’s… “more engaging” than Transit.

Well!

I’m wondering whether McKeever was having doubts about this book at this time. He starts putting in a lot of verbiage to explain everything… moving things along instead of letting things happen naturally…

Now the teeth are starting to pop! So to speak.

Hey, nice pic from the subway. That cop looks so… reassuring…

McKeever starts using the Xerox machine more, and more creatively. That zoom-out is pretty cool, with the lines becoming more fine-grained (because the panel to the right is the original drawing).

OK, we can all have toothy mishaps while trying to develop a style.

And then McKeever basically gave up: He kills off at least one central character, seems to forget most of the others, and just sets fire to all of New York. This is the final issue published, so it’s basically a variation of the “oh, god, I’m tired of this, let’s blow up the earth”.

But I may be wrong, because he did add an ending to this when Image reprinted the series in a collected issue a while back. And I have that collection here somewhere… but where?! I just can’t find it.

I’m especially curious as to whether he redrew those first pages that were in the totally different style…

An interview in The Comics Journal #163, page 63:

JEREMY PINKHAM: I’ll start didactically. How did you get
the opportunity to create Transit?
TED McKEEVER: I’ d been working on ideas and coming up
with different things while I was working at The Miami
Herald doing editorial art and working at the TV stations
doing courtroom sketches. There was a lot of political stuff
going on, a lot of news coverage based on corruption and
elections and so forth, and that was basically where my
focus was. At that point I saw there were stories to be told
that really delved into that kind of situation and didn ‘ t have
the necessity for, say, a superhero or someone who could
fly. There were interesting stories just based on reality. I
said, “Let me sit down and see if there’s something here.”
I was always fascinated with subways and trains, and
industrial stuff— and that’ s from childhood — and those
two things came together. I sat down and started to play
with ideas and write out some premises and different
situations. I would go to work in the morning, come home
around five o’ clock, and work on the book from about six
until about one or two in the morning. It took me three
months to do the first issue.

[…]

PINKHAM: I’ll step backfor asecondand ask whyyou didn ‘t
finish Transit.
MCKEEVER: Two reasons On that—and they just so happen
to coincide with each other. The book at the time was bi-
monthly; six issues basically took care of a year. So after
doing book two, I got a call from Mad Dog saying, “We
like Transit.” And I said, ‘Well, I’m already doing it for
Vortex,” They said, “Do you have any other ideas ?” I said,
“Well, I have this Eddy Current idea.” They said, “Well,
we have a slot in this book called Splat! , and we would like
you to do a short, five-page story. ” Those were the first five
pages of Eddy Current, book one, and that was it. It ended
with those five pages; it was just this little, odd short story.
When they got it in, they turned around and said, “We like
this. Does it go any further?” I said, “Yeah! It goes a lot
further — but you guys just wanted five pages.’ ‘ They said,
“Well, we’d like it if you could do more.”
So back then, as I still do now, I said yes. “Sure! I got
plenty oftime! Icould do two books at once.” Sol sat down
and did book two, three, and four of Transit immediately
and figured, “Okay, that takes care of six months. Now I’ll
do Eddy. ” Eddy started to take off and Transit was doing
fine, but Vortex then released two, three, and four within
almost a two-and-a-half-month period because, finan-
cially, they figured, “We could use the money. The books
are done. Let’ s put them out!” Which basically did nothing
for me, because there was no way I could do the two books.
I said, “I have five on the board right now; I’m going to
finish five, and then that’s it. I can’t do anymore.”
I had to decide between Eddy and Transit, and since
Transit was open-ended and Eddy was finished, as far as
story goes, I opted to go with Eddy. Also, Eddy, at that
point, started to pick up coverage and was starting to get
recognized. So I went with Eddy, more in the sense that it
seemed to be a little bit higher-profile. I figured, “Well,
this isn’t an open-ended thing, so I can end it.” My
intentions were to end Eddy and go back to doing Transit.
When I ended Eddy, then people started saying, “What
other ideas do you have?” And Comico said, “What do you
have in mind?” And I said, “Well, geez, I’d like todo this
book called Plastic Forks.” And they said, “Okay, fine!
You can do it in color!” So I said, “Goodbye, Transit!”
[laughter]

Here’s some cool ads for Transit:

A preview in Amazing Heroes #133, page 185:

In #4, if you recall, Spud was indoctrin-
ated into Reverend Grisn’s Church of the
Slack. “He dresses nice, his hair is cut—-
he’s kind of scary,” says Ted McKeever.
His involvement in the next issue is
minor, as he travels with thee rest of
Grisn’s “mognies” and makes speech-
es. Grisn and Boss Traun take center
stage in a major discussion that reveals
more of their motivations. It all leads into
#6, which contains Grisn’s last speech
before the mayoral election. Meanwhile
Joe Bone, the ex-con hit man, has been
dispatched to assassinate the candidate
by one of Traun’s minor rivals. The bulk
of the issue takes place on the elevated
train platform Bone has chosen for his
vigil. Somebody dies.
In #7 Spud is brought into the seedier
side of the city by Bone and depro-
grarnmed. They link up with Rex, the
pimp who had hired Bone. All goes well,
considering, but Traun is an ever-present
danger. He will remain a threat farther
down the line. “I don’t uant it to be a
book where the villain poses a threat that
is dispersed later on. It usually goes,
‘Well, whoops! He almost made it.’
Again, Transit is a book where the
villain is going to win at some point.”
The issue with Traun triumphant is most
likely to fall between #9 and #12, and
will almost definitely be a full-color
issue., Watch this space for further
developments.

OK, so McKeever did have further issues planned.

Here’s a review of the collected edition:

Transit is not a tightly plotted book: it starts from Spud and the nasty mayoral election, and wanders around its grimy city from there, bringing in more oddball characters and bouncing between energetic scenes that don’t always completely track to each other. It always makes it way back to Spud and the evil guys eventually, more or less, but each loop seems to have less and less to do with the initial setup. And then, of course, we hit the “lost finale,”a series of quick scenes of the characters, to close out all of their stories and provide something like an ending. I don’t think it’s the ending McKeever was aiming for back in 1988, but Transit feels like a book that was plotted as it went along, so I may be making an unwarranted assumption to say he was aiming for any particular ending.

This blog post is part of the Into the Vortex series.

V1987: Paradax!

Paradax! (1987) #1-2
by Peter Milligan, Brendan McCarthy and others

These are the people that did Johnny Nemo and Strange Days are Eclipse, right? And one of the characters in the latter series was Paradax…

So let’s read the first four pages:

Wow! That’s a lot. An explosion of colour and silliness, and also (of course) so much politics. (It turns out that Ronald Reagan was a bit stupid? Who knew!)

This is a lot of fun: It’s about a super-hero called (yes) Paradax who’s saving New York… after getting paid. It’s told in a way that you’d think it’d fall apart at any time, but it’s instead a fast-moving fun little story.

Yes, little: The first issue is three eight-page stories, and now I’m wondering whether they’ve been reprinted from somewhere (some British magazine)?

The second story doesn’t have Paradax at all, but instead have these dapper gentlemen… and, wow, when we got to the second panel there, I was like “yes!” Being out to sea in your bed: That feels like something I have to have dreamt at some point, right?

It’s a very silly story.

I love it! Gotta be polite while shooting people.

The third story has smaller lettering and these extra borders at the top and bottom, so I’m guessing this one was reprinted from a magazine-sized er magazine?

So that was a pretty good first issue: The first two stories were solid, and lots of fun, and the third was… weird…

Then the second issue turns out to be a reprint of three Paradax stories from Strange Days, which is a disappointment.

Because I re-read these the other year.

They’re more traditional than the stuff in #1, but still pretty wild.

Maximalism doesn’t begin to describe it.

From an interview in Amazing Heroes #119, page 52:

Although Paradax! is both the
•main character and main selling
point of the comic, both Milligan
and McCarthy hope that the suppor-
ting strips will. prove equally or
more popular, as McCarthy told me
“We love Paradax:, of course. but
there’s so much more we want to do.
We’d like to produce a Milligan and
McCarthy comic featuring widely
and wildly different characters and
stories. The point is, Milligan and
McCarthy create these things. We’re
bigger than our creations. This is the
first comic that is pure Milligan and
McCarthy, even though Tony Riot
did the pencils on Paradax! The
situation we’d like to get to is where
people want to see us perform,
where they buy a piece of Milligan
and McCarthy, and not necessarily
a particular character.”
And his partner Milligan backed
him up. “It’s a case of seeing what
happens, of seeing how people react
to•the other stories in Paradax! If
everything goes well, I suppose
there’s a good chance we’ll continue
working with Bill Marks. I know
Bill is supposed to have a reputation
in this industry, but so tnany people
do! All you can do is go by how peo-
ple treat you, and so far Bill has
been great. Very keen and positive,
there have been no problems, he
doesn’t interfere with us editorially,
which is very important, so every-
thing’s fine. We’ve never had any
doubts about Vortex’s ability to put
out as really quality product, of
course. You just need to look at
some of the other things they’ve pro-
duced.”

A news item in Amazing Heroes #102, page 15:

Vortex is picking up the rights to
the new-wave super-hero title
Paradax, which will be released as
a two-issue, full-color”Scratch Mix
Micro Series.” The issues will in-
clude some “re-mixed re-colored
jazzed-up versions” of some of the
earlier Paradax material, which saw
print in Eclipse•s Strange Days
book.

So it was originally planned as a two-issue series? Hm, perhaps Marks changed his mind?

McCarthy wrote:

I invented Paradax! in the early 80s, and asked the question, ‘what would it be like if an ordinary guy down the road became a superhero?’, which over 30 years ago, was a fairly novel approach: He would drink, smoke pot, fuck girls, watch himself being interviewed on TV, be an annoying self-infatuated asshole obsessed with stardom, have a manager, and take the money and run.

These stories were probably included in the collected edition.

People like it:

These are quirky, psychedelic, multi-layered comics that will both befuddle and entertain upon repeated readings.

This blog post is part of the Into the Vortex series.

V1987: Ken Steacy’s Summer Rerun

Ken Steacy’s Summer Rerun (1987)
by Ken Steacy

So what’s this then?

That looks very familiar… From the Vortex anthology, I guess?

Yes.

Oh, it’s all from the Vortex anthology? Which I read the other week.

Well, that’s a disappointment.

The introduction at the back explains that, indeed, it’s from the Vortex anthology. But that Mister X wrestling thing (an homage to Jaime Hernandez, I’m guessing; well done) I haven’t seen before. But that’s that about fooling people into thinking it’s the first issue of the Vortex anthology?

Oh, the back cover is a reproduction of it. Clvr.

Well, there’s not much to say about this one… I really like Steacy’s artwork, but…

This blog post is part of the Into the Vortex series.