When you hear the name “Flash Gordon,” what comes to mind? If you’re like me, you know it’s an old comic, and you think of George Lucas, who has stated that Flash Gordon was a major influence on Star Wars. But, mostly, for better or for worse, you think of that amazing film from 1980 starring Playgirl centerfold Sam J. Jones as a the title character and Max Von Sydow (not a Playgirl centerfold) as his nemesis Ming, you think of the explosive pop score composed and performed by Queen, and you think of Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan of the Hawkmen uttering the iconic line “Gordon’s ALIVE?”
If you read comics, you have undoubtedly heard the names Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Maybe you know that Jack Kirby worked closely with Stan Lee to develop most of the better known Marvel Characters, including Iron Man, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and The Hulk to name a few. You might even have heard at some point (though you can’t remember where or find any confirmation online) that Kirby actually drew many of the panels for the early Marvel books before Stan Lee went through and filled in dialogue. If so, then you are like me, and while you understand that Jack Kirby was a prolific and influential creator during the Golden Age of comics, you aren’t really sure why, or how Joe Simon enters into it. The short answer is that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were a creative team who made comics across many genres, for every major comic company at the time, over a span of three decades, and they have left an enduring legacy that has touched nearly every working comic professional since. The long answer is Titan Books’ The Simon & Kirby Library, consisting of several vivid hardback comic anthologies collecting their genre work such as Superhero comics and Crime comics, with introductions by comic luminaries such as Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) and Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Coraline), and throwing in a few rare, unpublished, and incomplete works for good measure. The result is nothing less than an education on early genre comics by masters of the medium.
I’m not a noir expert, but I’ve seen the classics: Chinatown, The Maltese Falcon, Touch of Evil, Out of the Past. You get the idea. I love this genre, I love the thrills, I love the characters, the twists, the violence, and treachery. It’s a genre where nothing means what you think it means, and everyone has a secret, a dark past, and ulterior motives. It’s a genre with a deep and ongoing history, and Archaia’s new hardcover graphic novel, Mumbai Confidential, from writer Saurav Mohapatra and artist Vivek Shinde is an inky, burning fuse of a story that deserves a place alongside the classics.
The eagerly anticipated Penguins vs Possums #3 was released last weekend at WonderCon 2013, and it is awesome! I feel like the PvP team is getting better with each issue. Sebastian Kadlecik, who co-wrote and did all pencilling and most of the inking for this issue, handles the various fight scenes with a joy and intensity that is completely engaging. From the very first splash page, you know you are in for a treat! John Bring who co-wrote, did some of the inking and drew the hilariously thrilling cover, has absolutely worked magic with his vivid gray tones. And then, there is Lindsay Calhoon, the book’s editor and the last piece of this Voltron writing team, who, together, have created another chapter in this epic action saga.
When I first picked up the Johnny Red collection Angels Over Stalingrad, I was completely excited. As a late-blooming American comic fan, I wasn’t familiar with the title and had never heard of either the writer or artist, Tom Tully and Joe Colquhoun, respectively, but that didn’t matter. All I saw was the bright and beautiful, oversized hardcover depicting Johnny Red’s weathered face adorned with flight cap and goggles, his trademark WWII-era Hawker Hurricane propeller plane buzzing a war-ravaged city, and the magic words that will get me to buy almost any comic book . . . “Introduction by Garth Ennis.”
You don’t just read Everybody Loves Tank Girl by Alan C. Martin and Jim Mahfood, you enter into it, like some passionate, beer-drenched, shotgun wedding. And, you can be sure that hearts will be broken, curses will rain down like a plague, lovers will be shot, and people will fight and f--k and die, and through it all, Tank Girl and her man (er, kangaroo) Booga will be there to lend a helping hand grenade.
I haven’t seen (read?) a whole lot of motion comics, but the ones I have encountered struck me as some sort of awkward hybrid between animation and sequential art. Like some clumsy genetic experiment, motion comics attempted to merge two fully-evolved art forms into a wobbly-legged new one. And, while elevating a comic with music and motion was an exciting prospect, the results always turned out to be much less than what I imagined. We ultimately need a motion comic that isn’t simply the worst of both worlds, but one that fully utilizes the strengths inherent in each medium to better tell a story. The Damned Meanderers by Tom McGrane, while not perfect, does come closer than anything I’ve seen so far.
To read Justin Robinson’s Mr Blank is like following some self-deprecating, white rabbit into a sprawling, L.A. noir wonderland on a 100-m.p.h., nerd culture-fueled rollick. Hot on the heels of Robinson’s thrilling zombie noir, Undead on Arrival, which was released just four months before, Mr Blank will keep you guessing until the very end.
Wicked and wild, Tank Girl - Carioca by co-creators Alan Martin and Mick McMahon (Judge Dredd) holds nothing sacred as it dissects religion, rebellion, the media, and pop culture. A glorious, new, pre-distressed hardcover from Titan Books, Carioca follows Tank Girl, her kangaroo boyfriend Booga, and her loyal band of misfits as they struggle against institutionalized biases in an attempt to right the wrongs of the world.
This ain’t no March of the Penguins! Like some passionate, forbidden collaboration between Walt Disney and Quentin Tarantino, Penguins vs. Possums is an angry stampede of fur and feathers like nothing you’ve ever seen before. By Sebastian Kadlecik, John Bring, and Lindsay Calhoon, Penguins vs. Possums initially catches your eye with the ridiculously fun concept, hooks you with tongue-in-cheek humor, and then reels you in so completely with its powerful story and character work. It is undoubtedly one of my favorite comics being made today.