Hey! The time-cops finally get named in this book! They’re called WATCH — we don’t know what that stands for, but baby steps, man, baby steps — and the old guy who runs them is Jahpo Thapa.
And our heroines learn more than his name, which I won’t spoil: they learn who he is and how he matters to them.
So, just maybe, Paper Girls Vol. 5 sees this series moving on from throwing out ideas at random and is now finally starting to knit them together into something coherent that can move towards an ending. I’m not holding my breath, but the signs are getting better.
As always, this story of a complicated (and not actually explained, even now) intergenerational time war focuses on four tween girls who were delivering newspapers early in the morning of November 1, 1988 when one piece of that war erupted into their home town of Cleveland. They’ve been to prehistory and several versions of the future — including the amazing world of Y2K! — but this time they’re in an actually futuristic future some fifty or sixty years up the line.
(Bad news for me: this locks down the stupid leet-speek future talk to that era, which is even more stupid than when I could pretend in my head that it changed over a few centuries. But it’s still Wicked Rad Kewl, which is the real point.)
So Erin, Mac, K.J., and Tiffany — plus the Y2K version of Tiff they picked up in the last volume — are stranded in dystopian future Cleveland, with a population in stylish jumpsuits and headgear and the occasional flying murderous police. But they head to the library, and actually piece together a few bits of the backstory in between fighting library golems, being shot at by the aforementioned flying cops, and interrogating senile old women.
They learn that they’re considered criminals, maybe because of the kid terrorist time-travelers we’ve seen before and maybe just because everybody is completely confused about the real origins of the time anomalies and war. That doesn’t help much, since they’re still a bunch of twelve-year-olds stranded in a city with no way home, among people who talk like particularly stupid members of the gang from Dark Knight Returns.
And, in the end, there’s another big problem for the four of them, and they’re all stranded in time again. I hope it won’t take another five volumes to learn what’s the vague deal of the junior combatants in the time war, but I’m not going to hold my breath. My sense is that Paper Girls, like any good serial comic, is going to spin out its central conceit for as long as the audience is willing to keep paying for it. Since I like time-war stories, I guess I’ll just keep giving it one volume at a time, and keep up with it as long as there’s still something new and interesting in each volume.
But I’d still rather have a real ending rather than endless recomplication.
I looked at a Michael Moorcock “Eternal Champion” comic
— primarily by other hands — a couple of months ago, and noted that Moorcock made several attempts overt the years to end that series. Well, I’m back with another EC book, from 2011. And that era is, as far as I can tell, well after the point when Moorcock realized the EC would outlive him, and that he only needed to give it as much attention as he felt like at any moment.
What I mean is: he seems to have given up on closing out the series, which is all to the good. What sense does it make to have an ending for the Eternal Champion?
This series is titled for the most popular (and first) incarnation of the EC, Elric, but he’s joined by several others — Dorian Hawkmoon, Corum of the Silver Hand, and a guy from what I probably shouldn’t call Earth-Prime named Eric Beck — to make this another multi-EC story like Sailor on the Seas of Fate and several others. Writer Chris Roberson is clearly a serious Moorcock fan, so he knows these characters and does them all well.
But what I have here is just the beginning. As I understand it, Elric: The Balance Lost ran for twelve issues, and this Vol. 1just reprints the first four issues (plus the prologue from a Free Comic Book Day giveaway). So the very last pages here see those four heroes, each holding a big pointy sword, probably about to meet through some interdimensional hoo-ha of the kind the Moorcock Multiverse is so full of.
But it hasn’t happened quite yet.
So this first volume is all set-up: Elric is wandering between worlds, somewhere in the middle of his career , and Hawkmoon is suspicious that his insect-helmeted enemies are resurgent somewhere, and Corum saves his old companion Jhary-a-Conel, and Eric gets caught up in the street thuggery of the Law Party. All are told by a companion that the Balance — the comic force that keeps either Law and Chaos from completely taking over — has been endangered, and may be capital-L Lost.
We see that some worlds are overrun by Chaos, and those are full of bizarre monsters and about to collapse into nothingness. Others are overrun by Law, filled with fascists like the ones we learn are led by Eric’s evil twin Garrison Bow. And both of those things are Bad, so our four heroes will eventually need to band together to hit things with swords to make the universe better.
For now, though, they’re each out on their own, in different worlds, hitting things with swords individually, under the care and tutelage of various mentors, friends, and mysterious personages. Some of them are hitting Law-things, some of them are hitting Chaos-things, but it’s all part of the same problem, and eventually — around the end of Volume 3, I expect — they’ll manage to find one big thing they can all hit with their swords at the same time and save the balance.
Eternal Champion stories do get pretty formulaic: that’s just the way they are. It’s fantasy adventure of a particular kind, and generally quite entertaining. Roberson clearly has a deep knowledge and affection for the Moorcock Multiverse, and throws in a lot of little bits from other stories to show that this is one of the big stories that effects everything. Artist Francesco Biagini does the script justice, though I do think he has the standard problem of making Elric look too strong and powerful — Elric can barely stand up without his sword, and only survives because of it.
So Elric: The Balance Lost is a good EC story, with lots of Easter Eggs for long-time Moorcock fans — or, lat least, this first third is. Let me see if I can find the other pieces to find out how it comes out in the end….
 Elric’s timeline is a little muddled because Moorcock wrote his death first and has been filling in middle ever since. There probably is someone — maybe even Roberson — who knows how all of the Elric stories are related in time, but that person is not me.
This is not a book; this post breaks one of my silly self-imposed rules. (I’m just noting that up front. I’m not going to do anything about it.)
The fourth run of Love and Rockets returned to a magazine size and a periodical publication: there have been six issues since it was launched in 2016. So, to close out I Love (And Rockets) Mondays for the year, I thought I should look at the most recent material, to see what the Locas and Luba’s family are doing with themselves right now.
Each issue has 32 pages of comics (plus four pages of ads or other editorial matter; there’s usually a letters page), so, as of about a month ago, there are 192 pages of new Hernandez Brothers comics, roughly the size of one of the individual graphic novels.
Like New Stories, or like any serialization, this is work in progress, mostly middles of stories. The only major break from New Stories is the new logo (seen to the left; it changed slightly for issue two and later) and the altered credit line — Gilbert and Jaime finally get their first names on the cover after thirty-five years. (And it has been consistently alphabetical, or maybe age order, for all six issues to date.)
As with New Stories, they alternate covers. Like the classic magazine series, the other brother contributes a back-cover. For the new century, though, there are also variant covers — several for the first issue, and a Fantagraphics-exclusive for all of them to date. (If I were a retailer, I would not be happy at all if a publisher had a cover only available for purchase directly from them, and so I’m happy I’m not a retailer.)
The stories continue from New Stories as well: Jaime finishes up the Maggie-and-Hopey-go-to-a-punk-reunion in the sixth issue, has a little more with Tonta and her gang, and continues the baffling and now apparently standalone adventures of Princess Anima in space. Gilbert milks the lots-of-Fritz-clones story for the first couple of issues, and then drops it to focus on Fritz’s long-unknown twin daughters. (Unknown to the reader, unknown to each other, but one was, retroactively, not unknown to her mother.)
I’m finding the Jaime material of this era generally more successful — the Maggie and Hopey story is another strong one, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it comes together in a single book. Tonta and her friends are still goofballs, though, and their stories are, I guess, more slice-of-life than anything else: they don’t seem to be going anywhere. And I think the Princess Anima stuff needs to have an ending before I have any clue what it’s going to be: it feels to me like Jaime is doing a Gilbert-style id-fueled SFnal story, without long-term plots and driven by immediate momentum. There are interesting bits, and he as always draws wonderfully, but I’m not sure if there’s a there there.
Gilbert, on the other hand, is doing a lot of quirky things with his drawing, not all of which are immediately working: using heavier borders for flashbacks, for example, which he felt he needed to explain in the stories. I also noticed some deliberately stiff layouts and “camera” movements: there’s one sequence where Killer and Jimmy stand stock still for several panels while the viewpoint rotates around them one quadrant at a time, and a number of places where he lines up faces repeatedly. As in the late New Stories era, he’s also spending a lot of time in these stories having his characters face each other and talk through the same things over and over again — Killer is now a singer, let’s run through the top 10 Fritz impersonators for this issue, Baby/Rosario and Rosalba are twins and here’s how they were separated, Fritz has never done porn but there are rumors she has, and so on and on and on.
I suspect he’s been getting letters about some aspects of this — or maybe somewhat different complaints — because he has stories titled things like “Fritz Haters Will Just Have to Be Patient” and “More for the Haters.” He’s also drawing “must be 18” censor-boxes over the naked chests of his female characters a lot, sometimes in art on the walls — which I thought was a quirky, fun choice; maybe a comment on the art-world — but also sometimes in characters actually in the stories, which is more metafictional. Jaime has drawn nipples in the same issue, so it’s not an obvious issue of censorship — just another artistic choice that isn’t quite clear yet.
But Gilbert wrote his way out of the swamp of Too Many Fritzes, and the last couple of issues sees more lightness to his work, as it opens out to more of the cast and shows changes in their lives. He’s still doing the people-standing-still-and-talking-at-each-other thing, but it wouldn’t be Gilbert without some odd artistic choices.
Love and Rockets the periodical was always like that, though. The books organize and coral the material, putting all of the wild-hair ideas into separate volumes and allowing the larger stories to stand alone. But the ongoing comic, in whatever format, is full of pieces of story in any era — Tonta or Rocky, Errata Stigmata or Mila — and those don’t always turn into anything nicely book-shaped. We read Love and Rockets because both Gilbert and Jaime are great cartoonists, with a few touchpoints in common, and because even if we think what one of them is doing this year isn’t all that great (Too Many Fritzes, Adventures of the Ti-Girls), it’s always going to be at least an interesting, unique failure.
It’s been going thirty-five years so far, in various formats. I can hope for thirty-five more, can’t I? To see what ninety-something Jaime and Gilbert will be doing?
Note: this is day 365, but it’s not the end of Book-A-Day. Look for a post-mortem tomorrow listing the whole series…and about fourteen more daily Book-A-Day posts running through mid-January, since there’s stuff I read in 2018 that I haven’t gotten into that format yet.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment proudly presents the bi-coastal premieres of Reign of the Supermen, the next entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Movies, at The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills on January 10, 2019 and at the Directors Guild of America in New York on January 28, 2019. Filmmakers and members of the voice cast will attend the events for red carpet media interviews and a post-screening panel discussion.
Executive producer James Tucker, director/producer Sam
Liu, character designer Phil Bourassa, writers Jim Krieg & Tim Sheridan and
members of the all-star voice cast will attend the World Premiere festivities
in Los Angeles and East Coast Premiere in New York. Additional talent participating
at the two premieres will be announced as confirmed.
Both screenings will begin at 7:00 pm. The Paley
Center for Media in Los Angeles is located at 465 North Beverly Drive in
Beverly Hills. The Director’s Guild of America is located at 110 West 57th
Street in New York City.
A limited number of free tickets are available to the
Fans wishing to receive free tickets to the Los
Angeles event on Thursday, January 10 must RSVP via email to ReignSupermenLA@gmail.com.
Fans wishing to receive free tickets to the New York
event on Monday, January 28 must RSVP via email to ReignSupermenNY@gmail.com.
The subject of all fan email entries should include
which location (LA or NY) they wish to attend. The body of all fan RSVP emails
need ONLY include the (1) name of the entrant, (2) number of tickets requested
(limit four per entry), and (3) valid email address (again, within the body of
the email text). Fans should keep their entry simple – here’s an example of exactly
how the body of the RSVP email should appear:
Tickets to the event will be distributed on a “first
come, first served” basis, and fans will be notified via email.
Reign of the Supermen finds Earth’s citizens – and the Man of Steel’s heroic contemporaries – dealing with a world without Superman. But the aftermath of Superman’s death, and the subsequent disappearance of his body, leads to a new mystery – is Superman still alive? The question is further complicated when four new super-powered individuals – Steel, Cyborg Superman, Superboy and the Eradicator – emerge to proclaim themselves as the ultimate hero. In the end, only one will be able to proclaim himself the world’s true Superman.
Reign of the Supermen is the second half of a two-part DC Universe Movies experience that began in August 2018 with The Death of Superman – the two films telling a more faithful animated version of “The Death of Superman,” DC’s landmark 1992-93 comic phenomenon. Superman Doomsday, the inaugural film in the DC Universe Movies series, told an abridged version of that comics story, but with a runtime of 75 minutes, the film was only able to focus on a core, singular storyline. The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen restore many of the moments and characters that fans hold dear to their hearts.
The Reign of the Supermen all-star cast is led by Jerry O’Connell (Carter, Bravo’s Play by Play,Stand by Me), Rebecca Romijn (X-Men, The Librarians) and Rainn Wilson (The Office, The Meg) as the voices of Superman, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor, respectively. The potent trio is joined by the DC Universe Movies’ returning voices of the Justice League: Jason O’Mara (The Man in the High Castle, Terra Nova) as Batman, Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Rent, Daredevil) as Wonder Woman, Shemar Moore (S.W.A.T., Criminal Minds) as Cyborg, Nathan Fillion (Castle, The Rookie) as Green Lantern/Hal Jordan, Christopher Gorham (Covert Affairs, Insatiable, Ugly Betty) as The Flash, and Nyambi Nyambi (Mike & Molly, The Good Fight) as Martian Manhunter.
Newly featured cast members include Cress
Williams (Black Lightning) as Steel,
Cameron Monaghan (Gotham) as
Superboy, Patrick Fabian (Better Call
Saul) as Hank Henshaw, and Tony Todd (Candyman)
as Darkseid. In addition, the cast includes Charles Halford (Constantine) as Bibbo Bibbowski and The
Eradicator, Rocky Carroll (NCIS) as
Perry White, Toks Olagundoye (Castle)
as Cat Grant, Max Mittleman (Justice
League Action) as Jimmy Olsen, Paul Eiding (Ben 10: Omniverse) as Jonathan Kent, Jennifer Hale (Green Lantern: The Animated Series) as
Martha Kent, Trevor Devall (Suicide Squad:
Hell To Pay) as Dabney Donovan and Erica Luttrell (Salvation) as Mercy.
Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment, the feature-length animated Reign of the Supermen arrives from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital starting January 15, 2019, and on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Blu-ray Combo Pack on January 29, 2019.
I can’t tell you what’s the deal with Al Columbia. Maybe no one can.
He famously was going to take over from Bill Sienkiewicz on the Alan Moore-written Big Numbers comic nearly thirty years ago, but had a nervous breakdown (maybe), disappeared (sort of), and destroyed all of his finished art (almost certainly). His career in comics since then has been occasional, with short pieces in anthologies and other random appearances. As far as I’ve seen, this is his only book-length publication.
Pim & Francie: “The Golden Bear Days” came out just about a decade ago, collecting material about the title characters that Columbia had created over many years before that. It’s not a graphic novel.
It’s not a story of any kind. It’s a lot easier to list the things Pim & Francieisn’t than explain what it is: it doesn’t have any finished stories, any complete narratives, any obvious through-line.
There’s no explanation for the random artifacts in the book, but I like to think of it this way. Imagine there was an animation studio, back in the early days — late ’20s, early ’30s — more influenced by Grand Guignol than happy musical theatre. Imagine that their main characters were two child-sized figures, Pim and Francie. Imagine that unnamed studio generated a number of cartoons and comics stories about those characters, full of horrors and terrors. Imagine that work was suppressed, violently, and almost entirely destroyed. And imagine that someone — call him Al Columbia — assembled what was left three generations later, with haunting, tantalizing hints of the stories of Pim and Francie.
You can imagine a coffee-table book, telling the history of that studio, with scraps of memos and release dates for the material, wrapped up in a narrative explaining who the people behind Pim & Francie were and what they did. Columbia provides none of that here. All he gives us is the art: sketches, torn comics pages, random animation cells, model sheets, sketches for background art or covers, isolated vignettes, things that might be comics panels or might not. All of it is only barely in sequence, if at all. No stories are complete; no stories are explained; no stories are more than a handful of isolated moments.
Pim and Francie’s world is full of death and mayhem of all kinds: self-inflicted, since we see these “children” being horribly cruel to themselves and others; supernatural, with the child-snatching Cinnamon Jack and some kind of forest-dwelling demon-witch they call “grandma;” and just plain human, as in the knife-wielding Bloody Bloody Killer. Pim and Francie are occasionally perpetrators, often about to be victims, and regularly onlookers at something that is about to happen. The overall town is of ominousness and menace; this is a world stuffed top to bottom with horrible things, and there can be no end to them, no safe place for children…or for whatever Pim and Francie actually are. Sometimes they’re with what seem to be friendly, loving grandparents — but those are also clearly ineffectual and unable to protect the moppets from the horrors of the world.
Pim & Francie is a monument to something, but it’s hard to say what. It’s a window into an alternative world of entertainment, one more sadistic and cruel than our own, presented as torn pages, coffee-ring stained art, and random scraps. I don’t know if Columbia has an overall vision for this project: if there’s anything larger than a bunch of horrific and ominous moments. But the moments he has presented here are powerful, and the atmosphere is like no other book I know. And he’s a killer draftsman in that rubber-hose ’30s style. If all that intrigues you, you might as well check it out. There is nothing else like Pim & Francie.
Today kicks off a mini-theme section of Book-A-Day; I read four 2009-2010 books from Fantagraphics over four days early in December, because I had them all digitally. They came in during the era when I was reviewing books seriously but getting many more things than I could fit into my Realms of Fantasy monthly column. The books otherwise have nothing in common, but some readers might wonder “why is this guy suddenly reading a bunch of old Fanta books?”
That’s why. It’s not a good reason, but it’s the one I have.
I come to Michael Kupperman’s Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Vol. 1 backwards. Kupperman was first known as a maker of humorous comics — this series, in particular — and has only recently moved into more serious work like All the Answers (which I read a couple of months ago).
Vol. 1 is, as I hope anyone can tell, the first collection of his Tales Designed To Thrizzle comic — and I’m amused to see that, at last as the mid-aughts, one successful way to start a career in making funny comics was still to draw twenty-some pages of them and put them out in a little booklet, the way it had been since the undergrounds in the late ’60s. (It might still work these days, but a creator can get better, more immediate feedback and audience by posting stories online in whatever format is popular that week. )
Vol. 1 has the first four issues of Thrizzle, which were published individually from July 2005 through August 2008. (There were four more issues, which were in turn collected in 2012’s Vol. 2…which I may need to search out now.) The book presents them in order as they originally appeared, covers and all, rather than re-sorting the contents into some other scheme. Up front is a self-mocking foreword by Robert Smigel, and separating each issue are wallpaper-looking full-page designs, which fit the aesthetic of Kupperman’s work well and may have been in the original issues as well.
The first three issues are ostensibly divided into three sections by “audience” — adult, kid, and old people — with frontispieces insisting that readers outside those ages shouldn’t read that section. The fourth issue drops that for a quirky format “specially designed to help you through your entire day!” (In that case, the reader is supposed to read one page each half-hour, starting first thing in the morning.)
I was going to say here that Thrizzle has the standard lots-of-short-pieces format of most single-creator humor comics, but nothing about Thrizzle is standard. Kupperman has an absurdist sense of humor and his comedy rarely drops into the usual comics tropes (goofy superheroes, toys and fads of the cartoonists’s youth), instead looking to old magazines and vaguer cultural knowledge, plus a whole lot of random surreal ideas (sex blimps, foreplay robots, porno coloring books, criminal fingertalk).
I found it really funny a lot of the time, and distinctively different from other funny cartoonists I’m familiar with. Kupperman uses a few different art styles, including one that looks almost like clip art and a really heavily-inked look full of tiny lines — so Thrizzle has jokes like no one else’s comics and looks like no one else’s comics.
It is weird and funny and weirdly funny and funnily weird. Kupperman has a unique comic sensibility, and I want to see more of it.
 A month ago I would have just said “Tumblr,” but oops!
This is not a Love and Rockets book; I’ve run out of those. But it’s a first cousin to Love and Rockets, featuring characters who first appeared there and a group of characters who later appeared there in a slightly different arrangement.
It’s also chock-full of sex, which might be why it’s not in print these days: sex has migrated almost entirely to the electronic realms for the 21st century, since print can’t keep up and is pirated within seconds. (Other possible reasons: Hernandez or his publishers think it wouldn’t be good for his current career, normal book/comics outlets have gotten more prudish over the past couple of decades, or the stars are not quite right.)
Anyway, this is Birdland. It’s an unabashedly pornographic comic by Gilbert Hernandez, originally published as a three-issue miniseries by Fantagraphic’s spin-off smut-publishing line Eros in 1990, with a loosely-related mostly-silent one-shot in 1994. I read the 1999 printing of the trade paperback collection, which has what I think are all of the Birdland pieces together.
It’s set in a porno next-universe-over version of his Palomar/Luba world, circa 1990: Inez and Bang Bang are strippers at Polka Parade, a young Fritzi is a therapist and her sister Petra is her receptionist. The central male character is Fritzi’s husband — at this point, her only one, but that would change in the regular continuity — Mark Herrera, though his brother Simon is also important. There’s also La Valda, another stripper for the competing club Stinky’s who “steals Bang Bang’s act” (said act, in toto: looking like she does, dancing naked, band-aids over her nipples) and Stinky’s doorman Pee Wee, so there can be another man for the sex scenes.
The plot is loose and semi-random, but it’s more than just an excuse for the sex scenes: Birdland feels like Hernandez turned up the sex knob on his work to eleven, then broke it off and jammed it even further up with pliers. It’s more explicit — very explicit, with lots of spurting bodily fluids and engorged appendages being rhythmically inserted hither and yon — but it’s all embedded in one of those Beto obsessed-with-the-wrong-person plots.
Since the knobs are jammed up past eleven, everyone is obsessed with sex with the wrong people: Fritzi has frozen out Mark for unexplained reasons, but he’s having affairs with both Inez and Bang Bang while pining for his wife. Simon is obsessed with Fritzi, and sleeping with Petra as the next best thing, which is fine because she’s obsessed with Mark in turn. Fritzi’s practice consists entirely of hypnotizing her (all male) patients and having sex with them while they’re under — before long, Petra learns the truth and gets into the action, too. And then there are the aliens, who wander around the edges of the beginning of the story before abducting everyone for the literally climactic ending of the original mini-series, as everybody gets it on with everybody for a cathartic release before returning to earth to ring more changes on the same relationship problems.
Hey, it’s a sex comic: you have to expect that it’s going to be full of sex. Birdland‘s sex isn’t the zipless fucks of the usual stroke book: Hernandez’s characters are obsessives, and endlessly talk about who they love and want and can’t have even while bopping with the wrong person.
In a lot of ways, Birdland feels like unfiltered Gilbert Hernandez: all of the sex, all of the surrealism, all of the random connections, all of the quirky spirituality. Whether it really came out that way or if he carefully crafted it to look that way doesn’t matter as much — either way, this is close to peak Beto, right in the middle of his career. If you’re interested in his work, and aren’t turned off by the pervasive sex, Birdland is a book you need to pay attention to. (Assuming you can find it.)
I still feel like there’s something wrong with a forty-nine-year-old man reading the Tintin books for the first time, but it’s not like I can go back and read them any earlier now, can I?
The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 3 collects three WWII-era Tintin stories: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Shooting Star, and The Secret of ‘The Unicorn’. I say “WWII-era,” but there’s no indication at all in the stories themselves that a global war was going on. It’s the same world of adventure and derring-do as the earlier books (see volumes one
), full of smugglers and pirates and ruffians, all of whom must eventually fall to the legitimate authorities (though the villains of Shooting Star are state-backed; it’s a fictional South American state and they’re explicitly nasty capitalists).
These books came in quick succession: serialized one after the other (1940-41, 41-42, 42-43); and all were published in color book editions by the end of 1943. Herge was clearly a powerhouse — remember this was in Belgium, in the middle of the war, with all of the related shortages and controls.
But, again, none of that shows in the stories: they’re adventure tales about criminals: drug smugglers, sharp-elbowed capitalists from fictional countries, murderous hunters of lost treasures. And they are after strange and mysterious things, mostly: a strange meteor that crashed in the North Atlantic, a pirate’s treasure. (Though Golden Claws, and from Tintin’s side Unicorn, are both cases where he gets caught up in something and has no idea what nefarious plot is going on, just that something is obviously wrong.)
Golden Claws introduces Captain Haddock, who I gather becomes a major supporting character from that point forward. His character has not aged well, and it takes the previously wince-inducing scenes of Tintin or his dog Snowy “accidentally” getting drunk and sloppy in the earlier books and makes them even bigger, more violent and stereotypical when it’s a big, bearded guy doing the drinking. I hope that he develops a character other than “alcoholic who is stupidly combative when drunk” in later books.
This omnibus series makes an interesting — that word here means “inexplicable” — choice by ending with Unicorn; that book apparently leads directly into the next book, Red Rackham’s Treasure. Or maybe the publishers figured their readers would be hooked anyway by volume three, so a little cliff-hanger wouldn’t hurt anyone. In any case, this book ends very obviously with a “buy the next book” message.
The Tintin stories have been the formative adventure tales in comics form for several generations of young people by this point — more in Europe than on my side of the pond, obviously, but he’s still a treasure of world literature. And the stories do still mostly hold up, aside from the comic drunkenness. If you have young people in your orbit, they might still find this exciting: it’s got all of the good stuff.
If a story has a moral that says, basically, “stories like this one are not as important or good as other kinds of stories, which are more special,” is that enough to make you throw it across the room in disgust?
In this case, it didn’t…mostly because it was a library book, and I don’t want to damage someone else’s things. But Michael Chabon’s The Escapists has a severe case of wanting to eat its cake and have it too, even though The Escapist is a pretty unappetizing cake to hang onto.
Perhaps I should explain.
Michael Chabon wrote a novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, almost twenty years ago, a fictionalized version of the Simon/Kirby team (or maybe not — that was one piece that went into it, and influenced the title, at least). In that novel, the main characters created a Golden Age superhero called The Escapist.
For some reason, The Escapist turned into a real comic book, with various people doing new fake versions of the various fictional phases of his invented comics career. I read a collection of those stories earlier this year, Amazing Adventures.
Michael Chabon’s The Escapists, the book I have today, is from that same publishing burst (originally serialized in 2006 and republished in this edition about a year ago), but is even more metafictional: it’s the story of some people in modern-day Cleveland who get the rights to The Escapist and make up new adventures of this old, mostly-forgotten minor hero. And, of course, in the end they learn that they should make up their own stories, and not just extend old stories. (Before that, they get other cliches to fill up the book: the shy nerd who can’t tell the punky girl he loves her, the strong silent type who looks good in a supersuit, the eeeevil corporation who will stop at nothing to buy back the mostly worthless thing they sold by accident, and so on.)
On the one hand: yes. Comics desperately needs the make-your-own-stuff message, even though it will never heed it. On the other hand: did you just get me to read two hundred pages of comics about a fake legacy character and then say that stories about legacy characters are crap?
I’m sure writer Brian K. Vaughan would object that he’s not saying legacy characters are crap, exactly — he’s done a bunch of them over the years, after all — but that new ideas are better. But, OK, if that’s your message, why tell it in a story about someone else’s character? There is a huge disconnect here between medium and message, to put it mildly.
Artistically, The Escapists mixes the fictional world of its silly hero with the real-world exploits of its dull protagonists, giving work to a variety of different artists (Steve Rolston, Jason Shawn Alexander, Philip Bond, and Eduardo Barreto; none of them credited to specific pages) and allowing the story to have both kitchen-sink drama and pulse-pounding action. So, yes, more cake-eating and -having is going on there, as well.
Frankly, The Escapists is best used as an object lesson in the art of Having It Both Ways.
Some people read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl for the girl power, the body positivity, the overall positivity, the young-readers friendliness, the focus on computer science, or the kooky take on the Marvel Universe. Not me, though.
(Other people may read it because they are crushing hard on Koi Boi, obsessed with Eric Henderson’s art, or totally in love with writer Ryan North’s bottom-of-the-page notes. But those aren’t what does it for me, either.)
No, I’m all about Brain Drain. Give me an existential brain-in-a-vat-in-a-robot-body, teetering on the edge of total nihilism and trying to live in the modern world, and I’m happy.
This sixth book of Doreen Green’s adventures, titled (not all that compactly) The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 6: Who Run the World? Squirrels, has a whole bunch of Brain Drain in it, and so I like it very much. I trust the creators will take this to heart and choose in future to exclusively please this one random Internet dude who gets these books two years later from the library, instead of listening to everyone else who they are actually trying to reach and who pay money up front. 
The five issues reprinted here (#s 17-21 of the ongoing series) include, as has been the norm for the last few volumes, one big epic story (four issues) and then a smaller story (the last issue). The big story is fun and all, with a new villain who has a nefarious plot and a very sneaky way of getting around Doreen’s defenses. But it’s the same kind of thing as most SG stories: new threat seems unstoppable, but then she stops it.
No, the single issue is where it’s at, with a concentrated dose of Brain Drain action. While SG is off visiting her evil twin in the Negative Zone (see the OGN if that sentence makes no sense), Koi Boi and Chipmunk Hunk and my man Brain Drain have to stop crime in Manhattan single-handedly.  They do succeed in the end, of course, but along the way we get great moments like this:
I would be firmer, for my part: I won’t apologize for my cool dude protocols at all.
This collection is obvious pretty deep into Squirrel Girl-dom; no one should start here. But the series is still doing the stuff it does well, and even if you’re way outside of the target audience (girls 5-15, I guess, particularly those with an interest in science) it is quite swell and a lot of fun. I am still surprised Marvel allows North and Henderson to be in the MU but not of it, but I suppose I shouldn’t be looking gift horses in the mouth, should I? They could ruin this in a second any time they feel like it, and probably will, eventually.
But it’s here for now: enjoy it.
 This argument is used straight-faced by a lot of other white guys on the ‘net, so why shouldn’t it work for me, too?
 Because even though there’s a Marvel Universe, with Spider-Man and several Avengers teams and the Fantastic Four and Doctor Strange and Daredevil and several dozen other heroes in the same place, in any specific comic all of the crime is the responsibility of the title hero, to foil directly or delegate said foiling as she sees fit.