I’ve been having a great time watching connected films and a variety of horror books this season, but it’s very possible that re-visiting the Batman run by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones has been one of my favorite experiences so far. As I mentioned in the first part, these post-KnightFall books were bedrock-forming for my knowledge of not just the Dark Knight, but also the imagery of horror as put through Jones’ incredibly capable lens. As good as the Batman developments are in these issues as he regains his life after the Bane and Azrael incidents, it’s equally exciting to see these two creators work their magic on a variety of villains and co-stars.
Every Halloween (or Scare Season, if you will), I find myself taking on some kind of film-based project, but also trying to read through as many horror-themed books and comics as I can. Last year, I focused solely on Vertigo titles, but this year I’m mostly pulling books off my shelf or out of my To Read box. Of course, I’m always looking around to see if there are any books I just NEED to add to my library, though. While scoping out Amazon, I came across two volumes of Batman By Doug Moench and Kelley Jones. I was immediately interested and began comparing prices when I realized, “Hey, I have these issues in the garage!” As you can see from the above pic, that proved to be true and I saved myself some scratch and also had a far more immediate dive into some very important comics from my childhood!
A while back when DC announced their new line of comics based on classic Warner Bros.-owned comics, I was intrigued. You’ve got Scooby Apocalypse, Wacky Race Land, The Flinstones and, the one I was most excited about, Future Quest! Frankly, I was completely sold by the art above which features characters from Jonny Quest, The Herculoids, Space Ghost, Frankenstein Jr., The Impossibles, Birdman, Mightor and more. Even thought they all debuted and were cancelled decades before I was born, these shows meant a lot to me because of reruns hitting when I was a kid. I’m such a devoted fan that I didn’t allow myself to watch Space Ghost Coast To Coast or Harvey Birdman for a while because I didn’t know if they were being disrespectful or not! So, how did the first half of Future Quest hit me? Hit the jump and find out! Continue reading Cartoon Crossover Trade Post: Future Quest Volume 1 & Lobo/Road Runner
Welcome to October folks! I’m just barely making it in under the wire here, but my goal is to have a Halloween Scene (or at least one) up every day of October so here we go. Today’s installment is on a trade I picked up called Batman: Haunted Gotham. Originally printed as four 48 page issues, this Doug Moench-written and Kelley Jones-drawn mini-series takes a look at an alternate reality in which Gotham is literally haunted. It’s kind of like Bette Noire from Fallen Angel.
Anyway, in this version of the Batman story, Bruce looses his parents, who happen to be part of a group trying to keep the dark forces at bay, as an adult after they’ve trained him his whole life to take up the mantle of the bat as Gotham’s protector. What I really like about this story–essentially an Elseworlds, but I’m not sure if it was every officially labeled as such–is that not every relationship from regular Batman continuity is the same regardless of the universe. Yes Batman is aided by Alfred and Gordon and there’s a Catwoman-type character, but there’s enough differences and new characters that things don’t feel rote.
Another thing that helps keep these stories interesting is Jones’ awesome art. I’ve talked about liking him before when I wrote about Batman comics last October, and my opinions haven’t changed. No one draws a spooky Batman like Jones and Moench’s story offers him plenty of other horror themes to try his hand at: werewolf assassins, demons, ghosts, talking skeletons, an even more Gothic Gotham, and Jones just runs with it.
I will say that this is one of the few trades I’ve read and realized that it would have probably read better in single issues (or at least in fewer settings). The first two issues show as Bruce becoming Batman and facing off against a Frankenstein-like Joker (another interesting alteration of the mythos), then the second issue goes off on a tangent about a snake god and then with the last issue we’re back to the story elements from the first two issues. It’s a bit strange that a four issues series would have time to take a tangent like that, but I guess it’s better to expand the world than stretch the story for no creative reason.
All in all I dug this book. It’s not scary by any means, but it’s a fun read if you take your time.
A year or two ago the folks at Wizard decided to do a story of the 25 scariest moments in comics. I kind of had a problem with this because I’ve never really been scared by a comic, I’m not sure if it has to do with the format or what, but it’s never happened. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t read some generally creepy stories in comic book form. Recently I’ve read some pretty cool Batman-related stories that had a good horror elements. For the ongoing series’ I’m probably still an issue or two behind, so take that into account, but here we go.
BATMAN: GOTHAM AFTER MIDNIGHT
This is a 12-issue series written by Steve Niles and drawn by Kelley Jones. I’m not a big fan of Niles, so Jones was the big draw for me here. His art on Batman around Knightfall was the first time I realized that artists had different styles. No one draws a more over-the-top, creepy Batman then him in my book. And that’s basically what this book is, crazy and over the top. #3 was the last one I read in which the creepy zombie-looking villain convinces Clayface that, if he actually consumes people, he can grow to giant size. It’s a pretty cool concept that I haven’t seen done before but really makes sense. There are all kinds of over-the-top moments in the first three issues (Jones’ Batcave looks like a smelting factory, Batman’s building a giant robot suit just in case). Some people find it ridiculous, but to me that’s part of the fun.
A little while ago DC put out these one-shots under the Joker’s Asylum banner showcasing Batman’s biggest villains, probably to tie into the movie because they came out so far ahead of Halloween. I read all of them, but I particularly liked the Scarecrow and Penguin issues.
Scarecrow was written by Joe Harris and drawn by super awesome fantastic artist Juan Doe. With Joker taking on the Crypt Keeper role in all these books, we get presented with a slasher-like tale of a young, nerdy girl getting invited to the popular girl’s sleepover with nefarious intent. It turns out that the girl’s shrink is actually the Scarecrow, who convinces the nerdy girl to go to the party. While she’s there, Scarecrow hunts down the teenagers and poisons them with his fear toxin. It’s probably the best slasher-movie-in-comic-form story I’ve ever read and it’s all done concisely in one issue. And boy oh boy is Juan Doe’s art fantastic. It’s a kind of angular cartoony style that still captures the eeriness of the scene. He also does some really cool little things like taking the old Joker face from his early appearances and using them as decorations on the Joker’s pajamas in the opening scene. Harris also sets up a possible future villain in the form of Lindsay, the nerdy girl. And one last thing, bonus points to Harris for referencing Mean Girls and Heathers (Heather’s the mean girl and Lindsay is the nerdy girl, after Lohan I assume). Well done all around.
The other Joker’s Asylum story I really dug is the Jason Aaron written and Jason Pearson drawn Penguin one-shot. It’s more of an EC revenge tale than a horror story, but it offers probably the best representation of the Penguin I’ve ever seen. If you think that he’s too ridiculous of a character to be a good villain in the next Batman movie, just read this issue and you’ll see what I mean. Instead of being an active threat to people we find that Penguin is much more behind-the-scenes in how his revenge plays out. There’s also a fun nod to one of the most over-done elements in Batman comics that I loved. Penguin’s day dreaming about his new lady friend while Batman’s beating up on his bodyguards. When he’s done Batman says “Just remember that I’ll be watching” to which Penguin responds “Yes, yes…see you next week.” As anyone who’s been reading Batman comics for a while, Penguin currently owns the Ice Berg Lounge where he’s considered a legitimate business man, but Batman still routinely comes there, knocks his guys around and tell Penguin he’s watching him. It’s gotten old fast for us Batman fans and this was, to me at least, a way of poking a little fun at that.
SIMON DARK VOL. 1 TPB
Like I said above, I’m not a big Steve Niles fan, but lately he’s been writing some pretty good comics, so maybe my tune is changing. What I first thought was a retelling of the Frankenstein tale has kind of morphed into something much more involving dark magic and other craziness all set in the backdrop of Gotham City. But don’t expect Batman to pop up every issue, in fact, I don’t think he shows up in this trade at all. I’ve read most of the issues after this one and still dig the story, even if it does drag out a little. A big, big part ambiance of the story definitely comes from artist Scott Hampton. Looking at it actually makes me feel cold. That’s really the best way I can describe it. Crisp. I think Simon may be my favorite new, non-legacy character from last year, especially as he finds more and more out about his weird past.
BATMAN FACES TPB
Really the only reason I even picked this book up is because of Matt Wagner. I’m a big big fan of Mage and really hopes he does the third and final miniseries. So, while waiting for that I decided to give this Batman/Two-Face story a while and I really enjoyed it. Basically Two-Face is trying to take over an island that Bruce Wayne wants to buy and start a new country with a bunch of European sideshow freaks. I laughed as soon as I saw them because I had JUST watched Freaks. It’s another one of those great coincidences like when you’re flipping through channels, stop on a History Channel or Discovery show about something you’ve never really heard of and then it comes up in conversation the next day. I love when that happens. The story itself isn’t all that surprising, but Wagner does some great thing with his art (like a Family Circus-style dotted line splash or the page consisting of a track). The big draw is Wagner’s art, especially his interpretation of classics like Batman and Two-Face and the freak characters. It’s more about the smaller moments, like how the freaks react at the very end of the story than the big plot stuff, but all in all it’s a really enjoyable story.