Ex Libris Trade Post: The Highwaymen

highwaymen I’ve been reading comics for about 22 years now and, for the most part, that time has been spent reading and absorbing new material, either newly released or new-to-me. When I was actively collecting single issues, it never even occurred to me to go back, dig out a bunch of my carefully organized collection and give them another read. It wasn’t until college that the idea popped in my head and I gave series’ like JSA and 100 Bullets another look.

Around that same time, I got more fully into the idea of collecting trade paperbacks. Since then, the trade has taken over as my main delivery system for comics and I feel like I’ve built a pretty solid library of objectively good comics mixed with some personal favorites. But like my comic collection, I’ve been mainly adding to the trade library without using it as a source of material. Well, apparently I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately what with my recent return to the first volume of The Runaways and a few other ongoing reading projects, so the newly minted Ex Libris titles seemed appropriate.

One of the less well known trades in my collection is a WildStorm/DC joint called The Highwaymen co-written by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman with art by Lee Garbett that collects the five issue miniseries of the same name that bowed in 2007. I was reminded of this series I discovered back in my Wizard days as it was coming out when I listened to Kevin Smith and Bernardin’s Batman Forever commentary on a pair of Fat Man on Batman episodes. I dug it at the time and added it to my library when I scored a copy of the trade from somebody’s comps later on down the line. I remembered it as a cool, taut thrill ride set a few decades in the future with some funny moments and a bit of sci-fi.

And I was dead on. The book kicks off with a shadowy government group accidentally setting off a long dormant protocol that alerts a man named McQueen to a threat he’s tasked with stopping along with his former partner Able Monroe. The duo used to be known as The Highwaymen, a pair of black ops guys who became famous. They’ve got to find a young woman named Grace and keep her alive because she’s actually one of the last survivors of government experiments shut down by Bill Clinton when he was president.

I had as good a time reading this book the second time as I remember having when it debuted seven years ago. Garbett does a killer job conveying the huge Bernardin and Freeman-penned action scenes in the book which cover everything from basic gun fights and driving sequences to cyborgs and cars driving out of planes. He also does a lot with facial expressions that convey the quieter moments of the book. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t usually like car stuff in comics but Garbett does a great job making them seem as visceral as they do on the big screen.

At the end of the day, I enjoyed this comic book in the same way that I love a great, fun action movie from the 80s or 90s. There’s an over-the-top nature to it, but it still always feels grounded, even when it literally leaves the surface, which is no easy balance to achieve. This one not only gets a thumb’s up, but will be going right back on the shelf.

Supergroup Showcase: The Highwaymen

THE HIGHWAYMEN
THE PLAYERS: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson on guitar and vocals.
THE STORY: The four baddest outlaws in country music got together to sing some of the best damn story songs in the history of music. They recorded three albums before Jennings passed away in 2002. Nuff said.

I remember the very first time I heard about The Highwaymen. I was an intern at Wizard, rooming with Brian Warmoth at Nyack College over the summer and he played a few songs from one of their records on his laptop. At the time I might have picked up one of those Walmart Johnn Cash Super Hits CDs or that might have come later, but I did have a general disdain towards country–you know the stuff they play on the radio or even VH1 sometimes. I didn’t realize there was so much better country out there. Anyway, he explained the supergroup to me, that it included Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. The idea of it was very intriguing. Later, during my senior year of college, I went to Walmart once again (there’s not a lot to do in Delaware, Ohio) and picked up a Super Hits Highwaymen CD. Damn, it’s good stuff. Since then, I’ve gone on to listen to lots more Cash and was blown away when I got Nelson’s Stardust earlier this year. The most I’ve listened to Jennings is on Highwaymen records and the only extra Kirstofferson stuff I’ve heard was on my SNL DVDs when he hosted way back in 1976 (he was better known to me for his turn in the Blade movies).

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to come across the Highwaymen’s first record which was just called Highwayman. At the time, the band didn’t really have a name, they just went by their last names. It wasn’t much of a leap from Highwayman to Highwaymen and there you have it. Many of the tracks on the first record are on the Super Hits version I have, so they were familiar to me by the time I listened to it, but there were a few newbies like the Cash/Nelson sung “Committed To Parkview” a haunting track about two men in a mental institution. On their own, these guys were masters of the story-song, but together they’re like a Voltron of the form.  Much like the Traveling Wilburys these four men came together to play some amazing music which retained their individual skills but also sounded awesome together. I’ve only listened to the Super Hits and the first record, but I’ve got my eye out for the other two and will look around to see if there’s any performance DVDs on Netflix. My one complaint about the recordings is that they’re kind of over-produced. You could have just put these guys in a room with their guitars, amps and a few mics and just put it on wax like Rick Rubin did with Cash towards the end of his life and also Neil Diamond on 12 Songs. Maybe a more lo-fi remaster is in order.

New Hampshire Haul

Last weekend the missus and I traveled to New Hampshire so she could go to a family bridal shower with her mom. It was nice to go someplace different, especially a much cooler place. Anyway, we hit up a deep discount place called Building 19 and also the Londonderry Flea Market…twice and I got all kinds of rad stuff. Continue reading New Hampshire Haul