Category: Reviews

REVIEW: Popeye the Sailor: The 1960s TV Cartoons

REVIEW: Popeye the Sailor: The 1960s TV Cartoons

Popeye the Sailor: The 1960s TV Cartoons

By Fred M. Grandinetti

230 pages/$30 hardcover $20 softcover/Bear Manor Media

Like author Fred M. Grandinetti, I was a child of the 60s and was exposed to all the Popeye cartoons, and it took time for me to understand that some were excellent, some were good, and some were outright bad. It slowly became clear to me that the best was the theatrical shorts made in the 1930s by the Fleischer Studio. What was less clear was who made the others of varying quality.

Thankfully, Grandinetti provides us with a handy guide, breaking down which animation house did what, all in an attempt to corner the syndicated cartoon market when there were hours upon hours of time to fill.

Elzie Segar’s Thimble Theater featured the Oyl family, with new characters coming and going as needed for each serialized adventure. On January 17, 1929, readers met Popeye, who caught their imagination, and he never left. (That same month, they were also introduced to Tarzan and Buck Rogers, quite an exciting time to read the newspapers.)

Grandinetti has written many other works on animation with a focus on Popeye so he’s the acknowledged expert. The problem with being the expert on something is that so much is in your head that sometimes you presume everyone knows this too. There’s an awful lot of context missing from the narrative.

We open with a brief background on the strip, although the current creator, R.K. Milholland, is not listed. Then we get into his screen adaptation (here, David Fleischer is not credited at all. From here, we get the handoff from Fleischer to Paramount’s Famous Studios, and then Associated Artists Productions acquired the library of 234 shorts dating back to 1933.

As children’s television programming arrived in 1949 (Crusader Rabbit), more followed with limited animation used for cost purposes. The made-for-television shorts could never compete with the hand-drawn work for features. However, by the late 1950s, cartoons vanished from movie screens and could only be found on the small black and white screens at home.

AAP’s package of cartoons was a ratings hit for countless stations and a financial bonanza for them. King Features, which owned the character, decided to get in on the act and formed King Features Syndicate Special Service, which went on to make the comic strip characters and turn them into animated fare with very mixed results.

Hired to oversee the Popeye cartoons was Al Brodax, best known today for his work on Yellow Submarine (which featured a Popeye cameo). To get 220 new cartoons made, he divided the work over six animation houses worldwide, hence the uneven quality and clear lack of quality control.

The book has an odd order, so we get info on these studios before we do the characters. Additionally, Grandietti and the book’s editor don’t like using paragraphs, so there are long blocks of type that really needed to be broken up.

Thankfully, when he does get to the characters, he clears up, once and for all, the confusion between Bluto and Brutus, so thanks for that.

Jack Mercer, Mae Questal, and Jackson Beck. The voices of Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto.

We also get nice thumbnails of the key voice performers, including Jack Mercer (whom Grandinetti wrote a bio about) who was an animator that got discovered. He also wen ton to write some of the cartoons.

Grandinetti includes sections on spinoffs inspired by the cartoon, including related merchandise.

By page 77, he seems to run out of things to say about the character and the animated history. The remainder of the book is very detailed episode guides divided by the production house. Some contain additional credits; some contain one or two lines of opinion on the quality. As a result, you really have to be a fan of the character or an animation aficionado to appreciate this book.

The designer oddly clustered all the images at the end of text sections rather than intersperse them for a better overlook loo; It would have been nice to see examples from each studio as we’re reading their history or about their output.

Ultimately, this is an uneven valentine to the lesser known and appreciated animated saga of everyone’s favorite Sailor Man.

Impossible People by Julia Wertz

Impossible People by Julia Wertz

It’s reductive and not quite true to say that this book is what Julia Wertz wanted Drinking at the Movies to be – but it’s a good enough place to start.

Drinking  was her first full-length graphic novel after two collections of Fart Party stories; at the time, I thought it was more of a collage that it didn’t quite turn into a single narrative, but was definitely bigger and more ambitious that her previous work. It was also – I shudder to realize – published in 2010, almost fifteen years ago.

Impossible People , Wertz’s big new 2023 book, is her first memoir since Museum of Mistakes  in 2018, which mostly collected older work. (In between was Tenements, Towers, and Trash , a book of New York cityscapes and related material.) It’s odd to realize that: I think of Wertz as such an immediate, confessional cartoonist, her work so direct and plain-spoken. But those stories were mostly about that late-Aughts period; she hadn’t made any books about her thirties yet.

That’s what Impossible People does. It picks up Wertz’s life from where we saw it, in those Fart Party and Museum of Mistakes strips, starting in 2009. (I was surprised to see her at the Pizza Island collective, and realize how long ago that was.) It doesn’t quite get up to the present day; this is the story of the back half of Wertz’s life in New York City, and so ends somewhere in the mid-Teens.

And, as the subtitle “A Completely Average Recovery Story” signposts, Impossible People is centrally about her alcoholism in a way she couldn’t quite wrestle down in Drinking. Again, not to be reductive, but that’s probably because she was still drinking when she made Drinking at the Movies. You can’t tell the story of your recovery until you start to recover.

Impossible People is a big book, full of spaces and people and thoughts and years of Wertz’s life. As with a lot of her work, it’s a lot more carefully constructed and smarter than her cartoony avatar tricks you into thinking. She has a great style for confessional memoir: this is real and raw, says that cartoon Wertz; see how simply I’m drawn, how directly I speak – you can trust I’m giving you the unfiltered truth.

No one makes a three-hundred page book of comics immediately, of course. But that tone, that stance gets inside the reader’s defenses quickly. It’s a relaxing style, one that looks looser and quicker than it actually is. (Pay attention to how detailed her backgrounds are, especially when she runs through all of the finds from her urban exploring – everything is placed just so, both in her actual life and in the comics panel.)

In the end, Impossible People is the story of Wertz’s relationships. At first, she had one overwhelming one: alcohol. I won’t tell the story of how she stopped drinking – that’s what Impossible People is for – but she did manage to stop, and then had to replace that with people. From that point, Impossible is mostly about her friendships – particularly fellow cartoonist Sarah Glidden and fellow recoveree Jennifer Phippen – but also her family, some attempts at dating, the wider circle of cartoonists, and just life in general.

It’s not a happy, uplifting book: that’s unlikely for a book about recovery to begin with, and Wertz isn’t going to turn sunny that quickly. (Or maybe ever: I hope to see the books grumpy old Julia Wertz does in her sixties; those will be a lot of fun.) But it’s a smart, thoughtful book – deeper than it appears, more sophisticated than the art would have you think, more insightful than you’d expect from someone known for something called The Fart Party.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

The P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations, Vol. 2

The P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations, Vol. 2

I love idiosyncrasy. Even if I’m not as into Idea X as a creator is, the fact that creator is so into it is appealing – I like to see the things creators are passionate about, the things they have to do, even if it doesn’t make commercial sense.

P. Craig Russell adapts operas into comics. He’s been doing it since nearly the beginning of his career, and I see from his bibliography list on Wikipedia that he has a few adaptations of songs from this past decade, though they’re still unpublished.

And what I have today is the second book collecting that work, the grandly titled The P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adapations, Vol. 2 . (It followed a full-volume version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute and was followed by a third miscellaneous book; with those songs from the past few years, there may be enough material for a Vol. 4 at this point.) It’s a 2003 book, collecting four adaptations spanning the late ’70s to the late ’90s, and Russell worked with different collaborators on each of them, some more involved than others. I’ll take them each separately: Parsifal, Songs by Mahler, Ariane & Bluebeard, and I Pagliacci.

Parsifal is the oldest piece here, originally published as a single-issue comic by Star*Reach in 1978. Patrick C. Mason adapted the Wagner opera and wrote the script; Russell drew it. It only adapts the second act of the opera, but that’s enough drama and then some: Mason also adds in a lot of narration in that ’70s comics style, some of which may transmute lyrics or stage directions. It’s a very wordy piece as well as being super-dramatic, with an amnesiac young knight being tempted by an immortal witch while searching for a holy relic (the spear that wounded Jesus during the crucifixion), and all those words do constrain Russell’s visual inventiveness here – it’s a weird ’70s comic, but still a sequence of pages of people explaining their emotions to each other at great length, and so not a million miles away from a contemporary Chris Claremont joint.

Songs by Mahler is the shortest section, with two songs, three pages each, from 1984. The first is credited as translated by Mason; the second has no credits other than Russell. These are more imagistic, less narrative, and much more successful as comics, even if they’re not stories.

Ariane & Bluebeard is from 1988, and doesn’t credit anyone other than Russell; so I guess he translated Paul Dukas’s French opera and scripted this forty-page version. This showcases Russell’s design sense, his use of color, and his eye for high drama – there are great, striking pages here, including a few wordless ones, showing he’d gotten to a point of confidence in his art to reproduce the feeling of the music of an opera without needing to explain. This is even more dramatic than Parsifal, largely because Russell is in better control of the material, and opera is super-dramatic – at least, the ones Russell is most drawn to adapt; I don’t think he’ll do Einstein on the Beach anytime soon – to begin with. The opera is the old Bluebeard folktale: young woman is married to an older man with a secret, who has been married several times before (and the fate of those brides is the secret), and she learns the secret, amid a lot of loud singing.

Last up is the black-and-white The Clowns (I Pagliacci), from 1997. This one was translated by Marc Andreyko from Leoncavallo’s opera, laid out by Russell, penciled and lettered by Galen Showman, and inked by Russell. The art is striking, the adaption is swift and assured, and the story is presented well – a traveling troupe arrives in a town, and art imitates life as both the character of the leading lady and the woman herself have an affair, which ends in death at the hands of the title clown. This is less visually inventive than Ariane, but tighter and clearly focused – I’d say it’s the best piece in the book, but that may be partly individual taste. (I like Russell’s vibrant colors and big layouts, but find them a bit too much some of the time, and Ariane is full of that stuff.)

Again, if you want comics adaptations of operas, Russell is not only your go-to, but pretty much your only choice. Luckily, he’s good at it and chooses works that adapt well.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Blue Is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

Blue Is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

I shouldn’t be the one to tell you about this book: I’m the wrong gender, the wrong orientation, the wrong nationality, the wrong generation. So don’t trust me.

Blue Is the Warmest Color  is a graphic novel by Julie Maroh – that’s what the edition I read says; I see indications that the author goes by Jul Maroh now and is transgender and nonbinary, which adds another wrinkle to the story. But this presents itself as fiction, even if, like anyone’s first big story in public, we suspect there are autobiographical elements in the mix. (It clearly can’t be entirely autobiographical, for reasons that should be obvious.)

Maroh is French; so is her cast. I found the story to be in a older mode than I expected: a frame story, coming out amid self-loathing, the clear tragedy of older gay/lesbian stories. It wasn’t nearly as 21st century as I was hoping from a book published in 2010 and translated in 2013 (and turned into a movie in French the same year). It’s not my world, not my community, but I thought we were past the sad dead LGBTQ people.

The main character is Clementine, but we start with her partner, Emma, after Clem’s death. Emma is retrieving Clem’s diaries from her partner’s parents. It’s not really clear how old everyone is, but we immediately dive out of the frame story into the main narrative, and the frame is just used for occasional (and I’d say, unnecessary) commentary. The frame is distancing at best: a more confident creator, later in their career, probably would not have made that choice.

The bulk of Blue is Clem’s story, starting on her fifteenth birthday in the mid-90s. She gets her first boyfriend, Thomas, is focused on school, has dreams of her future – the whole standard deal. She also sees a lesbian couple on the street, and has a strong, unexpected reaction to one of the women, with bright blue hair.

That’s Emma. We already know Clem ends up with Emma; there’s no mystery or surprise there; the frame story has eliminated that possibility. So I won’t run through the plot details, of how Clem denies she could possibly be lesbian, how wrong and unnatural and strange that is, how all of her friends (except one gay man) abandon her eventually. I said this was in the old mode: all that is familiar.

On the other hand, Clem does meet Emma more seriously, and they become first friends and then lovers. Emma is nearly a decade older and already in a relationship, with the forbidding Sabine, both of which would be warning signs in a more modern, conventional romance. But I think Maroh doesn’t mean any of it that way: this is a world where lesbians still live mostly quietly, out of sight, and young lesbians need to be introduced to that world and find a way in; they can’t just declare themselves and be accepted by the wider world.

(I may be naïve in thinking the other is true, now or at any time, in my country or this one. Again: don’t trust me.)

Blue covers two or three years in depth, and then jumps forward a decade to see Clem settled as a schoolteacher approaching thirty, to set up for the inevitable tragic end. There’s no intrinsic reason for this to be a tragedy; that’s unrelated to any of the main plot.

I would have preferred a happier romance; I was expecting one from the cover and the publication date. I’d like to think we’ve had enough tragedies about loves that can’t speak their names, and that most of us are happy to name those loves out loud, even if they’re not the ways we love. Again, I may be naïve.

But this is the story Maroh wanted to tell. It’s a personal, specific story, and I believe the world and the people. Maroh keeps it mostly monochrome, in soft greys and off-blacks, with blue as the one pop of color, making Emma almost luminous, especially in the early days. Like a beacon, like a signpost to a better world for Clem, if only she’s able to follow that sign and join that world – as she does, for a time.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

An Enchantment by Christian Durieux

An Enchantment by Christian Durieux

There is a long-running – it may have ended; I don’t know – series of graphic novels about the Louvre museum, officially licensed by that museum. Each one is separate, a different idea from a different creator or team. It started in 2005 with Nicolas De Crecy’s Glacial Period , and I’ve seen a few more, mostly years ago: The Museum Vaults, On the Odd Hours , The Sky Over the Louvre , (There’s what may be a comprehensive list of the series on Goodreads ; I note that half or more of them have never been translated into English.)

I have a weakness for bizarre publishing projects and quirky brand extensions, so I’m going to try to find all of the books in this series that have been published in English. I’ll go in order if I can, so the next one up was An Enchantment  from 2011, by creator Christian Durieux.

It takes place during some kind of celebration at the museum. We see uniformed staff bustle about, setting gala tables, and an old man in a suit quietly grab two bottles of wine and sneak away. We learn, before too long, that the celebration is for him: he’s some sort of political leader, who has just retired.

We don’t know his name. He does cast some scorn in the direction of a certain leader of Italy who I’m sure is meant to be Berlusconi, so my guess is that this is Jacques Chirac, or a transmuted fictional figure with some aspects in common with Chirac.

That doesn’t really matter: like the other books in this series, An Enchantment is symbolic and allusive and backwards-looking, a meditation and a dialogue rather than a book driven by plot.

And the dialogue this unnamed man has is, of course, with an equally unnamed gorgeous young woman who he meets as he sneaks away from his own fete to explore the museum. They appreciate art, talk about their own lives to some degree, and engage in the typical French philosophizing about life.

Along the way, Durieux has the opportunity to drop in about two dozen major works that are in the actual Louvre, and the handy backmatter tells us in exactly which galleries they can be found, so we could retrace this journey if ever we find ourselves in Paris.

Durieux makes nice pictures and constructs strong pages, though I find his philosophizing somewhat less compelling. (I’ve seen a lot of philosophizing in my day, and this isn’t terribly distinctive or unique – it’s yet more gather ye rosebuds while ye may.) Within the context of the series, this is fairly straightforward and normal, though: quite French, as is to be expected.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Groo: Friends and Foes, Vol. 3 by Sergio Aragones with Mark Evanier

Groo: Friends and Foes, Vol. 3 by Sergio Aragones with Mark Evanier

The modern era of comics is built for short attention spans, all miniseries and limited runs and hot new creators, emphasizing new “jump-on issues” and trying to ignore that vastly more people are jumping off, every chance they get.

Some of that is effect, some of it is cause; it’s been a spiral since the ’90s crash fatally injured the viability of the long-running series. Frankly, long series always tended to dip and (if they were lucky) rise over time – it’s just the “rise,” unpredictable as it used it be, got eliminated from those calculations forever sometime in the early Aughts. [1]

So a comic that’s published anything like regularly doesn’t look regular. There’s this twelve-issue series and that thrilling relaunch and the other one-shot tying into something else. And each one of those “new” things has to be new enough for the fabled “new reader” to start there, which means we get a lot of repotted origin stories and returns of fan-favorite characters and “here’s my favorite Batman story from childhood, done totally awesome!”

This is tedious for anyone who isn’t an utter neophile, but it’s the world we live in. In the case of Groo, it’s why the big series for 2015-16 was Groo: Friends and Foes, a twelve-issue extravaganza in which each issue saw one of the idiot adventurer’s most popular secondary characters returned to do the same things that character (and Groo) does every single time.

Now, Groo was always formulaic: it’s a comedy, and comedies are all about the bit. Groo‘s bit is that the title character is deeply stupid, though well-meaning, and that everything he touches goes wrong and gets broken. It’s usually heavily narrated by The Minstrel – that guy with the jester cap on the right of this cover – in verse that is usually almost as funny as it aims to be. And it’s been running for about forty years now, so there are a lot of recurring characters and running jokes (cheese dip, mendicant, and so on).

That all sounds unfriendly to new readers, but it’s still a light comedy: running jokes are still jokes, and you don’t realize they’re running until it runs into you for the second time. Groo was always built so anyone could drop in anywhere and get basically the same experience; it still is.

So there’s only a thin through-line for this miniseries: it’s basically ten mostly standalone issues, with a recurring character in common, and then a two-part finale. Volume 3 , the book I just got to, has the finale. (See my posts on the first two books for equally random musings about Groo, comics, and comedy.)

This time out, the special guests are: Pal & Drumm, a swordsman nearly as dumb as Groo (though beefier) and his handler/friend; Taranto, the scheming leader of a bandit band; The Minstrel, who I’ve already mentioned; and the recurring new character for this series, whose story gets wrapped up and whose name I won’t mention here to give some very slight suspense for anyone who might read these books. As I said, the first two issues are just like the eight that preceded them, but the last two see the subplot turn into main plot, all of the guest stars for the whole series return for several grand melees and finales.

Like all Groo stories, it’s more good-natured and sentimental than you would expect from a series of stories about a deeply stupid murder-hobo. I’m not a huge Groo fan, so I may seem lukewarm here – and, frankly, I am lukewarm – but this is just fine for what it is, and as dependably Groo-esque as it could possibly be. So those of you who like Groo will be very happy.

[1] Apropos of nothing: in a recent piece I wrote for work and was adapting for UK use, I learned the standard term on that side of the pond (at least according to my organization) for the first decade of this century is “noughties.” I had to believe this out of organizational pride; I can’t require that you do the same.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Are We Lost Yet? by Will Henry

Are We Lost Yet? by Will Henry

I’ve had this same problem my entire book-reviewing “career” – what to say about another book in a series, when it’s the same kind of thing as the ones before. Even if you really like the new one, you’ve already said the things you could say.

So, let me start out by saying that Are We Lost Yet?  is the fourth collection of Will Henry’s “Wallace the Brave” daily strip. The comic itself appears in newspapers and on GoComics every day; the three prior collections are Wallace the Brave , Snug Harbor Stories , and Wicked Epic Adventures  (links are to my posts). This one was published last year, so it includes comics that I’ve seen since I started reading the strip online, which is nicely circular.

(In fact, there’s one of my favorite panels in here, which I clipped and saved to use as a reaction image online – though I never get as much use out of the things in that folder as I think I will. I’ll shove that into this post, a little further down, so you can see if your tastes in humor and reactions are anything similar to mine.)

Those three posts are all pretty substantial; I like this strip and have enjoyed trying to explain the things I like about it. I’ve probably devoted less time to Henry’s cartooning in these posts than I should: he’s a supple cartoonist who fills his panels with details but always in a quick-looking, energetic style. He’s really clearly on the side that cartoons should be cartoony: eyes goggle, bodies fly in reaction to events, sound effects proliferate with a variety of perfectly onomatopoetic lettering.

I don’t want to repeat myself, but this is a great strip, one of the best of its kind and one of the most fun and energetic strips currently running. The only contemporary thing as creative and amusing as Wallace the Brave I can think of is the Peter Gallagher Heathcliff, which is otherwise utterly different.

I know Wallace is the central character, the hero, and we’re supposed to relate to him. But he’s just too much of a cockeyed optimist for me to take seriously, too much of that wide-armed American huckster, always with a new story to tell that he utterly believes in the moment. No, for me the best and most important character is Spud, dragged into situations he’s not good at handling over and over again by his best friend, but always himself and never about to change to be more like that annoying/wonderful friend.

This is a fine modern comic strip, in a mode a lot of people have liked in a lot of styles over a lot of years, so I have to think a lot of you will like Wallace the Brave if you see it. So go see it.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Pop Gun War, Vol. 1: Gift by Farel Dalrymple

Pop Gun War, Vol. 1: Gift by Farel Dalrymple

Maybe I thought going back to the beginning would give me some clarity: I’ve read Farel Dalrymple’s work before [1], enjoying and engaging with it without actually getting it, so I dropped back to the beginning of his career.

I still enjoyed and engaged with Pop Gun War, Vol. 1: Gift , which collects the first five issues of his first solo comic – the edition I read is from 2016, but basically the same material was collected in 2003. And I have to say I still don’t get it, though this is closer to stories I recognize.

Pop Gun War is urban fantasy, mostly: set in an unnamed City – there’s a map before the story pages – where strange and mysterious things happen to a large cast with loose and tenuous connections. It’s all street-level; they’re ordinary people – well, ordinary enough, for this city, but I’ll get to that – rather than mayors and tycoons or even store owners and mid-career professionals.

I should also say there are no pop guns, and no obvious war: the title is a metaphor. As usual for Dalrymple, I can’t quite explain that metaphor.

The central character is Sterling: that’s him on the cover. He witnesses an unnamed angel fall from the sky and then pay a workman to cut off his wings. Sterling grabs those wings out of the trash and runs away with them, later attaching them to his own back. This is urban fantasy: the wings work. (Or perhaps, as we learn later, those wings aren’t what really works.)

The rest of the events circle him; he’s a viewpoint and a center. But there’s no linear plot, and the events don’t necessarily align with each other, either. What we have, instead, is a cluster of characters doing things, some of them opposed to each other:

  • Addison, a bearded guy – maybe a bum? – who maybe finds meaning in his life by engaging with others, especially Sinclair
  • Emily, Sinclair’s musician older sister, who might be supposed to take care of him but is often absent for extended periods, touring with her band The Emilies
  • Koole, a creepy smiling villain (?)
  • The Rich Kid, who is clearly not one of the good people, either, and sometimes seem to be in league with Koole
  • Percy, a giant, flying goldfish in glasses who nevertheless does not talk
  • Sunshine, a small man in a large top hat who grows over the course of the book – no, literally, he’s as tall as a five-story building when he marches off into the sea with his good friend Percy. He’s also probably “magic” in some deep way the story doesn’t want to explain. It’s unclear if he’s a source or a symptom.
  • Mr. Grimshaw, a government (?) functionary who may be scheming to kidnap children and/or steal some vital essence from them and/or something vaguely in that story-space

There are also a group of unnamed, random neighborhood kids, who are both antagonists – trying to destroy Sinclair’s wings, part of Koole and The Rich Kid’s attempts to create chaos – and plot tokens, as they are dragged away from the normal city streets in Mr. Grimshaw’s diabolical plans.

Again: all of these things do not connect with each other. My sense is that each of the five issues here is a story of its own, with the same essential cast, but it’s more like a commedia dell’arte ensemble than a mini-series: everyone has their roles and functions, but they’re doing a different iteration each time.

I still don’t really get it, on the level that I’d like to. I love Dalrymple’s inky drawings, and the way the story pops out into full-page color – mostly soft and muted, maybe watercolor? – here and there. His dialogue is quirky but believable, and this is an interesting, distinctive urban fantasy world even if I couldn’t tell you how it works or what’s important. That’s how Dalrymple works, or at least how his stuff always strikes me: if you’re interested in books that are interesting but stay tantalizingly out of focus to your conscious mind, try his stuff.

[1] See my post on It Will All Hurt , where I laid out my “I don’t get Dalrymple” theory, and also Proxima Centauri  and The Wrenchies .

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.



An astronaut awakes from a horrific crash after his spaceship is knocked off course. He thinks he’s on an alien world until it becomes clear he’s on Earth. It worked in 1968’s Planet of the Apes and is far less successful when the hero goes back in time in the recent 65. As in 65 million years ago. You know, the age of dinosaurs.

The movie, out now on disc from Sony Home Entertainment, came and went in March, earning a mere 35% at Rotten Tomatoes. I suspect the low score has much to do with the heightened expectations given the writing and directing team of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the screenwriters behind A Quiet Place, which was dripping with tension and plot inventiveness.

Here’s it’s more of a cookie-cutter survival story as Mills (Adam Driver) goes on a two-year space flight to earnt he money to treat his ill daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman), who is also aboard. Once they crash, the surviving complement is scattered and in time Mills finds young Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) and his fatherly instincts kick into gear even if they speak different languages.

They struggle through the lush, jungle foliage in an attempt to reach the Zoic, an escape shuttle. Standing in their way are all the usual problems one finds in the prehistoric era. Various dinosaur species, rock slides, and the like.

If there’s any pleasure to be taken from this formular film is the deepening rapport between Mills and Koa. Driver’s protagonist is deeply flawed, given to lying and less heroic actions. But his care for Koa wins out and he ahs a fine acting partner in Greenblatt. Still, Jurassic Park did humans versus dinosaurs better and this offers nothing new.

The film, available in a variety of formats, has a perfectly fine if unspectacular 1080 p Blu-ray transfer. Its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is a touch superior, but together, they make for fine home viewing. The combo pack comes with Blu-ray and Digital HD Code.

The Special Features are as by-the-0numbers as the film itself., We have five Deleted Scenes (8:03); Set in Stone: Filmmakers (14:21); Future of Yesterday: Creating the World of 65 (4:56);  Primordial Planet (2:30); and Final Showdown: Concepts to Screen (10:14).

Only the End of the World Again by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell & Troy Nixey

Only the End of the World Again by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell & Troy Nixey

First must come the consumer warning. I read this digitally, which means flipping through the pages would have been more cumbersome than with a physical book, and I took the “152 pages” as an indication of the length of the story.

Reader, I was misled.

Only the End of the World Again  is a 48-page story, bulked out by an sketchbook section exactly twice its size that shows the thumbnail layouts and un-lettered final inks for each page side-by-side, presumably for fans of art to take a magnifying glass to them and make various low appreciative noises in the back of their throats for the next several hours. I did not do so; that’s not how I read books.

If you do want to spend several hours with those earlier versions of the same story, though, this may well be a positive for you. It takes all kinds to make a world, after all.

“Only the End of the World Again” was originally a short story by Neil Gaiman. It first appeared in the 1994 Shadows Over Innsmouth anthology edited by Stephen Jones, and a few years later was collected in Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors. This graphic novel, part of a big series mostly adapting his best-known stories from the ’90s, was scripted and laid out by P. Craig Russell, drawn by Troy Nixey, colored by Matthew Hollingsworth, and lettered by Sean Konot.

As is usual with this series – see also my posts on Chivalry , Snow, Glass, Apples , Troll Bridge , and How to Talk to Girls at Parties  – this is a very faithful adaptation. Russell makes Only a very heavily narrated comic, and gets what seems to be 85+% of Gaiman’s original words onto these pages. (To my mind, that defeats the purpose of adaptation, but fans want things to be exactly like the original, only in a new form they can pay money for, so I see why.)

The story was deliberately a pastiche, not quite an in-joke but including a nudge or two to the ribs of fandom, in which an adjustor named Lawrence Talbot found himself in the mist-shrouded Massachusetts town of Innsmouth and, more by fate than by plan, foiled the end of the world. As the title implies, the story hints pretty heavily that this is Talbot’s life: he wanders into a random town each month, supernatural stuff happens, and an apocalypse is averted.

(It may also have been somewhat inspired by Roger Zelazny’s 1993 novel A Night in the Lonesome October , which has a related premise. The timeline is plausible – Night was published in August of ’93, with galleys circulating a few months before that, and Shadows came out in October of ’94.)

This version has a lot of Gaiman’s atmospheric prose, as I said – in prose, this was a story of voice, and the comics version does its best to keep that voice and layer in more atmosphere with Nixey’s Lovecraftianly lumpy people. (Nixey is a great artist for stories about Innsmouth, and maybe Lovecraftian topics in general; he can make people fleshy in unpleasant ways that hint at inhuman shapes.)

As usual with this series, I’m somewhat uneasy about seeing so much effort and care going into making sure as much of Gaiman’s prose is still present in the comic version as possible – it seems a sin against the idea of adaptation, somehow. As if the adaptors aren’t allowed to actually transform the story, to actually fit it into its new form in any way that would make it deviate from the original.

But I am clearly a minority opinion in that.

This is a fun Lovecraftian story, with sneaky Gaiman prose well manipulated by Russell and illustrated with relish (some kind of cold, blue-greenish relish, smelling a bit more of the sea than anyone you know actually enjoys) by Nixey. But don’t be surprised to pick up this book and find the story is done a third of the way through.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.