I’ve spilled a lot of digital ink this season talking about how much I love Kelley Jones’ work, especially on Batman (in posts here and here), but there’s another artist whose work is synonymous with horror in my mind: Mike Mignola. The genius behind Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. has done all sorts of work in the comics world and this post will give some love to a few of his other works that are lots of spooky fun! Here are some interesting comics you might want to check out if you don’t want to dive too deeply into those sprawling epics.
SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL VOLUME 6 (DC)
Written by John Byrne, Ron Frenz, Jim Starlin & Dan Jurgens
Drawn by Art Adams, Ron Frenz, Dan Jurgens & John Byrne
Collects Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures Of Superman Annual #1, Superman Annual #1, Action Comics #594-595, Booster Gold #23 & Superman #12.
I’ve only blogged about the fourth Man of Steel volume before, but this is a series of collections that I adore, even if I’m not in love with all the of stories therein. I find myself looking back to the 80s and 90s moreso than looking forward to books coming out in the future from Marvel and DC. Part of that is because I’m out of the loop and only really hearing about things after they’re either well liked or panned. Not having all the comic book access I used to is a bummer, partially because I love reading comics, but more prominently because I don’t have the opportunity (or don’t give myself the opportunity) to make up my own opinions unless I find myself lucky enough to get a trade.
Anyway, I appreciate what creators were doing at DC back then. After Crisis everyone was just trying to figure out what was going on and making some really interesting comics that fit in all different corners–some of which we hadn’t seen before–in the DCU. This collection of Superman comics–mostly annuals–does some of that itself. The underutilized but ridiculously amazing Art Adams draws one of the annuals which features Superman, Batman, Robin AND vampires. I had read the issue before, but it was fun reading it again. Then, there’s one of those stories where a monster runs amok, but he’s not really a bad guy. It might have been new then, but I’ve read it enough to know all the beats. Jim Starlin–who I just interviewed actually for CBR–does some really interesting stuff in an annual that thankfully wasn’t paint by numbers and really had be guessing, trying to figure out what was going on. The Booster Gold crossover was fun, followed by the origin of Lori Lemaris which I already knew, so it was kinda boring and finally a Silver Banshee story (possibly her first–at least post-Crisis–appearance?) that does the ol’ “Superman/Martian Manhunter” switcheroo.
In the end, I think the level of enjoyment you get out of these issues will depend heavily on what comics you have already read, how much you already know about Superman and how much you like Superman. I’ve read a ton of comics and know a lot about Superman, but I also love the character and have a great interest in this era because it’s what directly influenced the comics I wound up reading in the early 90s. I’m definitely having holes filled in my mental map of Superman’s history and hope that the Man Of Steel trade series continues on. Has anyone heard anything about that? I don’t think anything past this sixth volume has been announced, right?
SUPERMAN ERADICATION (THE ORIGIN OF THE ERADICATOR) (DC)
Written by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway & Roger Stern
Drawn by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, George Perez & Kerry Gammill
Collects Action Comics #651-652, Adventures Of Superman #460, 464, 465 & Superman #41, 42
I have a series of 90s era Superman trades I’ve had sitting around for a while. I’ve been holding off on reading them because I was hoping the Man Of Steel volumes would catch up. I still want that to happen because, frankly, some of these books are kind of a mess. The trade paperback market was pretty infantile at the time, which might explain why this book that supposedly tells the origin of The Eradicator (who would play a big role in The Return Of Superman storyline, hence the trade) doesn’t really achieve that goal. From what I can tell, it would be a difficult task because there was a significant amount of time between Superman being given the Eradicator (that thing that looks like his spaceship floating about his hand in the trade) and the story you read in the pages.
Another problem is that this story doesn’t actually feature the character we came to know as Eradicator, but instead a tale of Superman/Clark Kent becoming very distant and more Kryptonian (ie cold and scientific). The problem is that, if you’ve probably seen this story before if you’ve been reading Superman comics before. I’d rather read all the comics that lead up to this, the ones that showed Clark becoming Editor in Chief of Newstime magazine or the troubles that Jimmy Olsen finds himself in or the Draaga story. Instead, we get peeks at those threads but the “Hey Clark and Superman are acting wonky, aren’t they?” takes center stage.
A few fun bits do include the building of the Fortress of Solitude, a fight with Lobo and Maxima explaining her intentions for Superman (she wants to make him her man and take him back to her planet Almerac). These are elements that I am familiar and was happy to learn more about. As it happened those same elements played into some of the other older Superman trades I happened to read and will write about shortly. I was kind of disappointed in the collection as a whole because it wasn’t very interesting or original, but it did offer more pieces to the puzzle that is “my” Superman (basically from the Man Of Steel miniseries til the end of Infinite Crisis). Hopefully, the Man of Steel collection series will continue on so I can have a better idea of everything that was going on around this time.
One of my favorite aspects of Captain America, and something that isn’t really mentioned in Ed Brubaker’s ongoing series which I love, is the fact that Steve Rogers is an artist who, at one time, actually drew the Captain America comic book that existed in the Marvel Universe. While reading through an old version of Captain America: War & Remembrance (which I was pretty bored by, actually) I was reminded of all this thanks to a page from #248 I believe which co-written by Roger Stern and John Byrne and drawn by Byrne. You can read Steve’s frustration with the world of freelance as written by either man, really and still seems fairly accurate today. Sometimes it’s fun, but man, can it be rough and tedious too. Here’s another image in case you’re having trouble reading the above one. As if readers didn’t already want to be Captain America with his steadfast integrity, physical prowess and dyed in the wool heroic nature, the dude could also draw comics! I’m sure there’s a meta message in there, but I don’t feel like unpacking it. I do wonder if Cap ever gets the ol’ sketchbook out and doodles around. Maybe he’s working on a pitch for Image to bolster that S.H.I.E.L.D. paycheck.
Hey Gang, seeing as how I’ve got a lot of time on my hands now, I’ve been tearing through some movies and trades. I haven’t done posts yet, but you can be on the lookout for more of those down the road. These trades are actually from last week and the week before. As usual, I’ll run down the pile top to bottom.
CAPTAIN AMERICA BATTLES BARON BLOOD (Marvel Illustrated Books) Written & drawn by Roger Stern and John Byrne
This little number was quite the oddity. I thought it was going to be one of those novels-based-on-comics things. I read a ton of the ones that came out in the 90s back then. I guess I should have noticed the “Illustrated” portion of the title. So, what you’ve got here is a strange book that collects (according to this site) collects Captain America 250, 253 and 254 which covers those issues where Captain America fights Baron Blood and meets the new Union Jack (as well as the newer Baron Blood) along with the issue where Cap says “no” to running for president. The interesting thing, which you can see in the below pic, is that they cut these comics into panels (black and white ones) and pieced them together on pages the size of the average Pocket Book. Weird right? The stories were good, though kind of slow and I would much rather read them in color. Roger Stern is the man, by the way, he’s definitely one of the most unsung writers in the history of comics.
DC UNIVERSE SPECIAL: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 (DC) Written by Len Wein, Gerry Conway & Jack Miller, drawn by Dick Dillin & Joe Certa
Though technically not a trade, there were two reasons I included this issue in this post. One, it collects Justice League of America #111 (“Balance of Power!”), 166-168 (“The League That Defeated Itself”) and Detective Comics #274 (“The Human Flame”). These are all stories that hold some relevance to Final Crisis and Infinite Crisis, though they’re not really hyping the IC connection. You get Human Flame and Libra’s first appearances, which make sense, and then the story in which the bad guys get inside the heroes’ heads and find out all about them, this leads to Zatana doing mind wipes and on and on. So, these are pretty integral issues that a lot of later stories hinge on. That being said, I found them to be boring and mostly skimmed through them. The second reason is that these reprints should have been reprinted again in the Final Crisis Companion, which I will get to shortly. That just makes sense, though, right? Might as well make that companion as much of a companion as possible and the first appearances of the two biggest new characters in the story should have their stories told. But, hey, it’s a rad cover, isn’t it? That Ryan Sook dude knows how to DRAW!
MOME VOL. 14 SPRING 2009 (Fantagraphics) Written and drawn by a ton of talented folks
One of the many perks of working at Wizard for a dyed in the wool superhero fan like myself was getting exposed to some of the more alternative sides of comics. Between going through the library and borrowing books from friends who are way more knowledgeable about these things than I am, I feel like I’ve just barely started to uncover the tip of the indie iceberg. So, as you might imagine, I’ve heard a lot about Mome, the indie comics anthology that Fanta puts out (those guys are amazing), but I’ve never read one until Vol. 14 and I definitely liked it. I will be completely honest, I don’t think I understood a lot of these stories, but I kind of like that. It’s like watching an experimental film, but with cool art. By far my favorite strip was called Kool-Aid Comic by Jon Vermilyea. I like the simplicity of it, the subject and the art. It all comes together in a fun little comic, of which you can peep a page or two of below. Fun stuff and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for future Momes.
SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE VOL. 7: THE MIST & THE PHANTOM OF THE FAIR (Vertigo) Written by Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, drawn by Guy Davis
I’ve talked about my love of SMT before, but since then I’ve read the volumes I was missing and have come to like this series even more. For those of you not willing to click the link, SMT follows the Golden Age Sandman as he romps through pre-WWII NYC, fighting bad guys, evading the cops, being a genius, sometimes interacting with other Golden Age heroes (or soon-to-be ones) and sharing his life–both in and out of the gas mask–with his girlfriend Dian Belmont. What I love most about this book, aside from the NYC setting and my love of Golden Age DC characters, is the relationship between Dian and Wesley (Sandman’s real name). I think they’re my favorite couple in all of comics, mostly because they did away with the “keeping the secret identity from the girlfriend” thing. You also get to watch Dian evolve from a spoiled socialite to someone really trying to help the world. But, aside from all that, this volume gives us glimpses of a young, pre-Starman Ted Night and “The Phantom Of The Fair” which is the story that I remember reading about as being one helluva one back in the day from Wizard (they were right). I think you’d be okay if you jumped in here to read this much beloved story, but I highly recommend going back to the beginning. Here’s hoping that Vertigo continues their plans to collect this whole series.
FINAL CRISIS COMPANION (DC) Written by Grant Morrison, Len Wein, Peter Tomasi, Greg Rucka & Eric Trautmann, drawn by JG Jones, Tony Shasteen, Doug Mahnke, Ryan Sook & Marco Rudy
So, this is kind of a weird book. The actual Final Crisis collection is amazing. It’s got everything written by Grant Morrison in one place, while this one has the rest of the stuff that isn’t a regular series tie-in and the FC Director’s Cut which is the first issue without color or word balloons followed by the script. Then you’ve got Final Crisis Secret Files, Requiem and Resist. All these issues are cool on there own, but I do wish this volume was a big more robust. In addition to the reprints I mentioned above, I’d also like to see some of the JLoA and Teen Titan tie-ins included, just to have everything in one place. Ah well, it’ll still get a place on my bookshelf.
NIGHTWING: THE GREAT LEAP (DC) Written by Peter Tomasi, drawn by Don Kramer, Rags Morales, Doug Mahnke, Shawn Moll &
I dug Tomasi’s previous Nightwing volume, so I’m not surprised that I dug this second volume. The only problem with it is that it got awkwardly swept up in the Batman: RIP story. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved Morrison’s Batman run, but the tie-ins lost me for the most part, including Nightwing. So, I hadn’t actually read most of these issues when they came out, but I did like the whole story, most of which involves Nightwing’s weird relationship with Two-Face, which is being carried over into todays Batman stories written by Winick. Interesting for sure.
TRINITY 1 (DC) Written by Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza, drawn by Mark Bagley, Scott McDaniel, Tom Derenick & MIke Norton
Trinity got a lot of flack, but I think it’s because it wasn’t what people were thinking it should be. 52 was an amazing look at some smaller characters, giving them new life and making them important again in the DCU, Countdown tried way too hard to be the backbone of the DCU and Trinity turned into this crazy, out-there story featuring all kinds of heroes the casual fan has never heard of. This is just the first series, collecting #1-17 and I will warn you, it’s definitely for big time DC fans and not the feint of heart.
SECRET INVASION: INCREDIBLE HERCULES (Marvel) Written by Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente, drawn by Rafa Sandoval
Incredible Herc was one of those books that everyone loves but I missed out on in single issues. By the time I read the first trade, the issues were already into the third or fourth arc, but this, the second (collecting 116-120) collects the Secret Invasion issues. I wasn’t a big fan of SI, especially the ending, but I really liked how Pak and Van Lente flipped the script and looked at the Skrull invasion from a different angle. This time we see it from a religious viewpoint, with Herc and some other gods from regular and Marvel mythologies trying their best to kill the god of the skrulls. It’s a cool story, one filled with plenty of sci-fi goodness, but also some fun nods to mythology of all kinds that make this a really fun and well rounded book.
COUNTDOWN ARENA Written by Keith Champagne, drawn by Scott McDaniel
I’ve loved McDaniel’s art since his Nightwing days. There’s a short arc where NW fights Scarecrow early on that is just amazing and I highly recommend it. So, when I heard the news that DC was going to be putting out a book called Arena, drawn by McDaniel that would pit various versions of heroes against each other to see who would win, I was sold. Turns out this story didn’t have a lot of bearing on the actual Countdown story (as I noted here to some extent), but it remains one of the better looks at the multiverse that’s just been sitting around. I know that there’s been word that they’re waiting for Morrison to get in there and really dig deep on the multiverse at some point, but I’m getting tired of waiting. What’s the point of having it if you’re not going to do anything with it? Also, one quick thing that bothered me about many of the Earths they revealed was that they just took Elseworld books and extrapolated that into an entire universe. There’s an entire universe out there based on the idea that Batman was a vampire. And, hey, I like that original story as much as the next guy, but that doens’t mean it should necesarily get it’s own universe. Does that mean those Elseworlds annuals they put out each have their own universe? The one where Steel was around in the Civil War, Batman was actually Two Face or Superman was straight out the jungle book? It’s just a bummer because it feels like they just copied the original multiverse and added this other ones with haste, which wouldn’t have been a huge deal if they hadn’t limited themselves to just 52. Ah well. This book is definitely only for die-hards. Or maybe just me.
THE NEW TEEN TITANS ARCHIVES VOL. 1 Written by Marv Wolfman, drawn by George Perez
This might be comic book heresy, but I couldn’t even get through this book, which collects DC COmics Presents #26 and New Teen titans 1-8. I think what ruined the book for me is the fact that every Teen Titans writer since has mined this territory so, SO much. The only aspect of this story that was surprising for me was the mystical way in which the team first came together. Beyond that? I’ve seen the Deathstroke stuff and the Trigon stuff before. Several times. Geoff Johns did it and it seems like it’s been done a thousand times since then. And that’s coming from someone who loves Geoff’s Titans. Like, a lot. It’s an amazing book. I just think it’s about time for the Titans to move beyond their 80s roots and maybe make some new villains and get some new characters into the mix. Maybe I’ll put this one back in my “to read” pile and give it another shot somewhere down the line, but I’m not sure yet. For me, it’s just too “been there done that” for me. But man, Perez sure knows how to draw and I stand by my claim that he’s one of the few artists who’s actually gotten better with age. I’ll read any new stuff that guy puts out.