12.12.2007

Top 10 of 2007 - Misc.

Paul Pope (Original Art): I own a small collection of original art; there’s the Scott Morse watercolors, some Carla Speed McNeil Queen & Country pages, a rare Travis Charest Wildcats page, the miscellaneous Brian Wood pieces, and The Red Star vellums and limited edition prints, but the crème de la crème of my original art collection is now really this piece, which was the culmination of a truly awesome San Diego Comic-Con experience. Paul Pope seemed to dominate my time at SDCC this year, I saw him on a panel, met him, got the new issue of THB signed at the AdHouse booth, bought a Harvest Moon print at the CBLDF auction, later bumped into him and his original art rep, and ended up buying a ridiculously expensive piece of original art directly from him that is a page from Teenage Sidekick, the DC Solo story that won an Eisner Award last year. It’s a beautiful half page shot of Robin (Dick Grayson) being dragged along by some goons as he writhes away and escapes. It’s got Paul’s hand written notes back and forth to the editor at the bottom, his signature, and his Pulp Hope studio stamp. This picture (which doesn’t do it justice due to my amateur photography skills creating a slightly blurry effect and capturing some lens glare) is after I had it framed up. It all ended with being in the very front row at the Eisner Awards and watching him win multiple times for Batman: Year 100.

Queen & Country (Oni Press): Stopped! This was a true heartbreak indeed. Q&C had long been billed as my favorite comic. After slowing production down drastically, the Red Panda arc seemed to belch out a mere issue every few months, then finally in the throes and pangs of death, issue four came with the dreadful notice of the immediate hiatus. Sure, it’s better to go out when you’re on top. Sure, Oni announced the beautiful Definitive Editions collecting the first 12 issues for a mere $19.95 (though I’d have preferred to pay more for a hardcover Absolute Edition sorta’ dealie, if you’re going to reprint, why go with a smaller format softcover? If you’re not reading Q&C by now, I’m not sure the relatively lower price point will do it, cater to the existing fans you know would plunk down $40 for a big mamba jamba, new readers can be an ancillary benefit and still find the reasonably priced softcovers that already exist). All that said, Rucka just left mid-swing with some major plot points dangling. I read the novels and thought they were great, but I don’t want to follow these characters into novels. I want the comics. I read comics. I want what started as a comic to continue creative output as a comic. My greatest fear is that Rucka’s self-imposed hiatus – promising to someday return, will ultimately become officially cancelled – never to return. It will be a sad day when/if this property, the uber-cool premise, and these beloved characters cease publication. Let’s hope that the Whiteout movie will generate sufficient interest in Rucka’s espionage work to warrant a returned commitment to Q&C!

Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality (DC): Published independent of The Spectre! Chalk up a win in the “prayers answered” column. How an unexpected, impressive, and brilliant mini-series can be paired with one of the worst pieces of drivel in recent memory is beyond me. But a sincere thank you to the DC-Powers-That-Be for splitting up the Tales of the Unexpected cacophony into its two diametrically opposed constituent components. I love that this TPB sits proudly on my bookshelf and that I was able to discreetly dispose of those horrible Spectre stories… *shudder*… from my collection.

Midnight Sun (Slave Labor Graphics): The best SLG title in, well… forever as far as I’m concerned... cancelled mid-mini-series! Ben Towle, I love your work on this book! I even went out and tried to find everything else I could with your name on it (there was that piece in the Awesome Anthology and Farewell Georgia), but I need more! It didn’t feel right somehow to list this in the Top 10 Mini-Series category because I wanted to commiserate with you here. It’s certainly a sad state of affairs when such a well researched, beautifully rendered, intelligent, unique, adventurous, well packaged mini-series about a failed Italian dirigible expedition to the Arctic Circle can’t even see the light of day once started. Thankfully, all hope is not lost; a collected edition of the entire series was solicited for December. Let’s hope that’s still on the horizon, as this book essentially wins the “no-prize” for book I am most looking forward to reading in its entirety. In the interim, there’s a great interview with Towle over at Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6509198.html?nid=2789 I yearn to read the end and proudly evangelize this to all my friends. Truly a great piece of comic book craftsmanship!

Dark Horse (Sense of Ennui): What’s up, Cheval Noir? Hellboy? I’m just done. I found a letter in an old issue of Tripwire Magazine that sums up my waning interest about perfectly: “I’m bored of Hellboy. Every cover kind of looks the same, full figure three quarters on. He always falls through floors, and many hands grab at him out of the dark, jabbering on about the apocalypse. This ran out of steam very early on.” I also grew extremely weary of publishing delays related to collected editions. Exhibit A: The Escapists. Why, oh, why did a fan favorite work that was generally lauded by critics take sooooo damn long to collect? I mean, you have all the content, just slap a new cover on it, get some extra sketches and essays together and put it into a hardcover! I shouldn’t have to beg to spend my money. I love this book, but it had better be worth the wait to avoid a bittersweet denouement. Exhibit B: Conan Volume 5. These were coming out pretty regularly and then abruptly stalled as the single issues marched on. What gives? Again, solid critical buzz, fan favorite, big property, let’s go! Perhaps I’m just being greedy with titles I truly love, and maybe unlike Burger King I can’t “have it my way,” but these pesky annoyances mar what would otherwise be perfect books and risk instigating faltering allegiance to a publisher.

Pull Quotes! (Various): Oni Press, Archaia Studios Press, we love you! To date, three issues of Wasteland, the first Wasteland TPB, one issue of The Killer, and the first Hardcover Edition of The Killer have featured pull quotes from 13 Minutes (not counting the house ads and many printed reviews in letter columns, but thanks to David “Kabuki” Mack for one of those!). The branding gurus I used to work with would characterize this in corporate speak as some sort of niche marketing penetration into the small press publishing vertical based on the adaptive, viral nature of the interwebs, but hell, I just thought it was cool that writers, artists, and production folks were paying attention to my opinions and felt that something I said captured the spirit of a book so well that they felt compelled to adorn their wares with my words in an effort to entice the masses! This was a goal I set for myself in 2007 and accomplished with flying colors. Next year, I’m going after the lofty goal of the elusive writing of a foreword to a collected edition. Possible? We’ll see...

THB: Collected Edition (AdHouse): I was there at SDCC when Paul Pope inadvertently announced this while discussing Batman: Year 100 on a DC panel sitting right beside Editor Bob Shreck. Much to Shreck’s chagrin, Paul indicated that all of the published THB stories (early ones near impossible to find) would be collected by AdHouse. While this is truly amazing news for fans of Pope’s early work, Shreck shot Pope a surprised, even hurt, look that clearly indicated this was the first he’d heard of it, as if to say “WTF? DC doesn’t even get a shot at it? Not even a conversation? And you tell me here? Now? Like this?! Damn, that’s cold bro…”

Planetary (DC/Wildstorm): There’s no arguing the creative brilliance of this book, which really made Warren Ellis a (comic book) household name and rocketed John Cassaday to his inevitable stardom. Planetary is like a love letter to the industry, with embedded commentary and a beautiful tapestry of genre homages, a fully realized vision that’s become a masterpiece. Ahem. But, uhh… is it over? I’m not exactly sure. Are more issues coming out? Maybe? No? Where’s the 4th trade then, the second Absolute Edition, and one all encompassing OMNIBUS? Christmas woulda’ been a good time, what exactly are you waiting for? This has got to be the most dichotomous of dichotomies, being the best book that’s taken the longest to publish. Surely, this is the winner of the Onion Award for most ridiculous publishing schedule. How many issues even came out last year? Two or something? Seriously guys, wrap this the fuck up already. It’s becoming disrespectful to fans who’ve been loyal to the work, and more than patient, for this long. It’s just embarrassing. I’m embarrassed for you. I don’t mean to sound like I carry some rabid sense of entitlement, but come on. It’s beyond a joke. I’m even tired of complaining about it. 24 issues in like 6 years or something? In spite of itself, this is *still* one of my favorites, but chop-chop, let’s get it together boys. Pretty please, with a fucking cherry on top, christalmighty finish the fucking project already, and put it to bed in a definitive format. I’m waiting.

Desolation Jones (DC/Wildstorm): Is it my imagination or do a lot of Warren Ellis projects get started with all sorts of bluster and fury and then just get hung up (Down, Tokyo Storm Warning, Planetary, Ocean, DV8, Ministry of Space, Global Frequency… shall I continue?) at some point down the line, either experiencing extremely long delays between issues or not delivering the end to a mini-series within a reasonable amount of time? I’ll caveat by saying that I actually think Desolation Jones had the tools necessary to be one of the best Ellis works. I mean, you’ve got JH Williams executing a truly off-beat premise which takes the best bits of Ellis (slightly sideways protagonist ala Spider Jerusalem, insane classic sci-fi elements ala, umm, most of his work, and the hidden espionage/spy/spook stuff ala, umm, a lot of his work, then you land Danijel Zezelj (the Croatian artist of our time) for the second arc, which ramps up as if it’s going to be yet another something special all full of flashbacks and atypical introspection and longing… then it just flat out stops with issue 8, right in the middle of an arc, with no information whatsoever on what’s going on. Is it cancelled? It hasn’t been solicited anywhere that I’ve seen. What’s going on? Hellooooo… Ground Control to Major Ellis…

The “I So Didn’t Get It” Category (Various): There were quite a few books that I could have placed in this category (paging Welcome to Tranquility…) that I seemed to be in the silent minority on, but I thought I’d just call out two of the strongest examples where I seemed to be scratching my head saying “wha?” as others were genuinely excited and impressed. Number one, Shazam: Monster Society of Evil. This seemed like a match made in heaven. I dig Billy Batson/Captain Marvel as a character. I think Jeff Smith is an amazing cartoonist. And there was even one panel in the first issue that I thought was masterful and really resonated with me. Billy kneeling humbly before the Wizard and whispering “Are you God?” Good times. But, past that powerful little moment, I was so bored. I just didn’t get it. I didn’t get what everyone saw in this book. People were throwing around Windsor McCay’s name, DC rushed to get this into a big ol’ collected edition with some trick features, but I felt not even the slightest pang of interest. Am I wrong here? Should I plunk down the money to try the collected edition? I’m open to influence if someone wants to dazzle me with three solid reasons why I should try again. Number two, Army @ Love. This book has been racking up the critical praise inside and outside the industry. I loathed the first issue. I thought the humor fell entirely flat, satire was either too overt or missed the mark entirely, did not connect the inexplicable dots between sex and violence as it should have, used things it mistakenly thought would have kitschy shock value simply for the sake of themselves, and flaunted superfluous sexuality which lacked anything even remotely sensual, let alone mildly titillating. I did enjoy Kyle Baker’s Special Forces, which I feel is the book that Army @ Love has been aspiring to be all along, having failed miserably in the process.

2 Comments:

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous JLE said...

:-O Amazing piece of original art!!! Paul Pope rules!

 
At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, Paul Pope is amazing. Our 8 year old daughter was CRAZY about Jeff Smith's SHAZAM. I think that was his target audience.

 

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