This week finds me with a very weird problem on my hands. As you know if you follow me at this space, every week I give some capsule reviews of what I’ve been reading the previous week. However, for whatever reason, the last seven days have found me reading no comics except the batch of Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four books we just covered for the latest Baxter Building (which will be colliding with your ears in the next day or two). And that’s pretty much it? Seriously, I read a small chunk of stuff just the other day that hopefully will become a larger thing but…I really don’t have anything to say about it now.
This leaves me with nothing to really talk about? And the insane thing about that is I’ve got great comics coming out my ears, just tons of stuff I’ve been stockpiling (that’s what we hoarders call it: “stockpiling”) I literally don’t know what to read next.
Which brings me to, really, this crazy plan: I’ll describe the stuff I have sitting around and you tell me what I should read next. Totally great, right? (Unless nobody suggests anything, thus rendering me contractually illiterate.)
So here’s what’s hanging around.
Star-Lord: Guardian of the Galaxy
The Sitch: I checked this out of the public library and, no joke, it’s been due back for over a month. After I renewed it twice. And still have yet to read it. I’m totally an awful person, and I actually feel a certain mixture of relief and dread about confessing this here. On the one hand, I can completely come clean, which hopefully will get me off my ass and either read and return the book, or just return it.
The Stuff: Clearly, this is a Marvel collection designed to cash in on the rampant success of the film, and it collects all the early Star-Lord stories from his first apperance in Marvel Preview #4 up to a three issue miniseries from the early ’90s. that makes this book awesome, either in an ironic way or the just plain awesome way. It’s ironic-awesome because someone who does make it a point to get this because they’re a big fan of the movie and want to know more about that smart-ass Star-Lord guy will undoubtedly be delighted to encounter this humorless, quasi-prickish space opera hero who looks like a duck when he wears his helmet. I read Legendary Star-Lord #3 on Marvel Unlimited the other day and whatever else you can say about it, that dude sounds and looks like the Chris Pratt Star-Lord (so much so, it felt like I was reading a comic book where they’d licensed the property rather than a comic book property owned by the publisher. Kinda weird).
But for people like me, this collection is genuinely awesome because it has the Earl Norem cover from Marvel Super-Special #10 which I had as a kid, as well as material by dudes like Steve Englehart, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Gene Colan, Tom Sutton, and the art team of Bill Sienkiewicz and Bob McLeod (whaaa?) that I have never read.
That was enough to get me to check it out. But has it been enough to get me to read it? Nnnnnnnope.
Pluses: I get to return this to library and not feel like it totally wasted everyone’s time.
Minuses: What if I start liking that duck helmet?
The Sitch: Humanoids recently published this ginormous hardcover collecting the complete first “season” of the science fiction epic by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Juan Gimenez. They don’t specify what issues or other collections said season might comprise, but it’s 536 pages so clearly that’s more like Oregon autumn than like Oregon summer.
The Stuff: I read at least a chunk of this material in the early Aughts when Humanoids was publishing this stuff monthly (before DC licensed it and blew everything to hell) and I dug it: it’s kind of like an European version of New Gods, mythological space opera, but since it’s done by Jodorowsky, it’s less of a grand Manichean opera and (as I remember it) a Freud-infused fantasia, where each Metabaron achieves a level of individuality and mastery only by overcoming the status quo set in place by their heroic parent and in turn sets in place a new status quo for their kin to overthrow in turn. The great thing about Jodorowsky is how he approaches such potentially complex material with a directness that borders on the hyper-absurd. It’s great stuff but a little of it goes a long way (or at least was great in monthly chunks) and here I worry that here there is so much of it that it’ll go a comparatively short way. And truth be told, Jodo’s film work is now super-available, so it might be more entertaining and enlightening just to pop in the DVD of The Holy Mountain again.
Pluses: I get to read the adventures of a dude more-than-aptly-named “Steelhead.”
Minuses: What if by mastering this material, I end up inspiring revolution at the hands of an internet comic critic considered to be my own metaphorical offspring?
The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song
The Sitch: My friend John loaned this to me, no joke, two or three years ago? We are both fans of Mr. David Lasky, whose early issues of his self-published Boom Boom blew our minds, and John quite liked this graphic novel by Lasky and Frank M. Young portraying the life and times of the first superstar group of country music. John and I see each other at least once a week for lunch and I don’t even know if he even remembers I have this, and I’m terrified to bring it up because I don’t want to admit I still haven’t gotten around to reading it.
The Stuff: Well, as mentioned above, it’s a biography of the Carter Family, which doesn’t mean much to me other than, whenever I think about this book, I always think about Reese Witherspoon playing June Carter in Walk The Line and how that movie was, really, pretty god-damned overrated. In fact, between The Wolverine, Walk The Line, 3:10 to Yuma, Identity, and Girl, Interrupted, I’m unsure if there’s a director as committed to the stultifying as James Mangold. I never saw Knight & Day but learning now that he was the director, I no longer regret it.
Pluses: I can return this book to John! Who either will go “oh, that’s where it was!” or “Oh no, I don’t need this back. It was a gift,” thus rendering my intermittent anxiety about having this all the more absurd.
Minuses: What if I get really into early country music, and start walking around wearing vests and bowties and an R. Crumb hat and waiting for someone to mention Mumford & Sons or Taylor Swift so I can start lecturing them about the “real” country music? I’m trying to draw my douche line at my stupid beard.
Dream Fossil: The Complete Stories of Satoshi Kon
The Sitch: As podcast listeners may remember, I quite dug Kon’s Opus which was a recommended read by Whatnaut Eric Rupe. And maybe no more than a month after that discussion here comes this lovely looking book published by Vertical (who has an excellent rack record when it comes to publishing lovely looking books) collecting all of Kon’s short work from the mid- to late-80s. It’s 414 or so pages, and much, much more portable than The Metabarons.
The Stuff: Dunno. Haven’t done anything with it since I bought it, other than move it from location to location on the credenza where I keep my recent comic stuff. But one thing that is pretty interesting to note on a flip-through is how, since these are short stories, dense the pages look: the full page shot of something resonant looks really absent here. Instead, Kon returns again and again to a tight eight panel spread: three panels on the top tier, two panels on the center tier, and three panels on the tier, with a frequent seven panel variation where a single panel (sometimes a reaction shot) takes up the center tier. I can’t remember if this is something I read or something Mark Waid actually told me in person, but I remember he advised keeping an odd number of panels on the page, usually five or seven, because it gave the artist a lot of freedom to lay out the page in ways that kept things feeling fresh. But Kon really does a lot with eight panels, and it allows him to play around with the density of action, usually with the two panel tier being an opportunity for a breath or even a reversal before the action picks up again. Looks pretty fresh to me!
Pluses: Due to his untimely death, Kon has a comparatively small body of work. I could become well-read on his work!
Minuses: These days, I feel like I’m in to slice-of-life manga like Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru or Yotsuba&! or Sun-Ken Rock.
Barbarella and The Wrath Of The Minute-Eater
The Sitch: I was amped when this smaller edition came out from Humanoids earlier this year. I haven’t been able to get into those super-sized artist editions that everyone with any taste has been digging so much, namely because I have no place to store them: we could pretty much partition off our living room with two of them. So yeah, this much-smaller-but-still-a-hardcover edition is definitely more my size, although all it’s been doing for several months is looking kind of lonely on my shelf until it was joined by The Metabarons.
The Stuff: I feel like most of us are familiar with the movie which, albeit pretty damn tongue-in-cheek, appears to be a mostly faithful adaptation of this strip by Jean-Claude Forest. So I don’t know if you really need me to repeat the whole “she’s a space adventurer who spends a lot of time naked in the kind of fantasy settings Edgar Rice Burroughs used to create except even less scientifically sound” premise (although I should point out that from the few pages I read, the Barbarella of the comics is much more of a deliberate sensualist than the quasi-naive thing Jane Fonda’s Barbarella had going on). A big deal was made about the translation being by Kelly Sue DeConnick and I thought it was pretty great that was being used as a selling point for the book.
In fact, I would’ve loved an essay by DeConnick here about the challenge of adapting the work for a modern audience. Instead, there’s a short historical essay impeccably written by Paul Gravett and an even shorter “introduction” by Nicolas Winding Refn that reads like it was dictated into his iPhone while in the drive-through of an In & Out before receiving a more pressing phone call.
Related Fun Fact That Has Nothing To Do With Duran Duran: If I might namedrop even more outrageously than I did above, I ended up having drinks with Brian K. Vaughan and Ian Brill once (at least) a few years ago (and also Brian Hibbs and Garth Ennis, but those two are thick as thieves and pretty much stranded BKV with Brill and me) and Mr. Vaughan mentioned one of his possible gigs at the time was a screenplay for Barbarella, the option for which someone in Hollywood had clearly paid too much for, and this was at a time when Scarlett Johansson was apparently a name being bandied about. Imagine that, won’t you? Barbarella, starring Scarlet Johannson in a screenplay written by Brian K. Vaughan. I wonder what the Metacritic scores were in the universe next door where that one got made.
(And for bonus points, compare/contrast Forest’s extremely science-light/fantasy rich setting with Saga, the work that Vaughan did go on to create a few years later. Until typing this anecdote out just now, it never occurred to me to consider the possible influence of the former on the latter and yet it seems non-insubstantial, right?
Pluses: Saga-influence aside, Barbarella seems like a pretty light read.
Minuses: What if I really like it? It’s not like Barbarella books are growing on trees.
The Professor and Mary Ann
Humiliatingly enough, I had at least six more options, five of which were digital (of which I always like the convenience, plus it’s so damn easy to screenshot), but I totally much ran out of space/time to write them up:
- Solanin by Inio Asano, which apparently is back in print or at least CE was able to get from its distributors again;
- The four volumes of Shirow Masamune’s Appleseed (as well as Appleseed: Hypernotes) which I bought on the Dark Horse digital app the last time they did a big sale;
- The remaing twenty-plus issues I need to read of Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX run which I bought from Comixology;
- The first forty issues of Hitman, also by Garth Ennis and also on Comixology;
- The two volumes of Ludwig by Osamu Tezuka which I have digital copies of thanks to backing the Kickstarter;
- Or, on the Marvel Unlimited app, The Marv Wolfman/Gene Colan run on Tomb of Dracula, of which I’ve read embarassingly little.
So. What do you think? Of the above, what should I read? And for bonus points, what are you the most incredulous about me having left unread until now?