Archive for Comic Book Comics

Sighs Matters


Empowered Special

So several years back, Adam Warren got some art commissions to create some superhero bondage fetish artwork. He ended up taking the character he’d created for the commission and turning her into a — ahem — more fully fleshed-out character. The result was “Empowered,” a sexy superhero comedy about a dishy blonde with severe self-esteem issues and a supersuit that gets torn way, way too easily. She’s a member of a superteam called the Superhomeys, but almost none of them like her at all. Her real friends are her boyfriend Thugboy, a former minion-for-hire, her best friend Ninjette, a beer-swilling ninja, and the Caged Demonwolf, a pompous cosmic monstrosity imprisoned inside some power-draining alien bondage gear and living on the coffee table in Emp’s home. There have been five volumes of this story so far, and you should go pick ’em up, ’cause they’re awesome.

Enough backstory? In this one-shot comic, Emp’s up against a villain with the spectacularly clumsy name of Irresistimmovable who wears an extremely powerful battlesuit. He’s already taken out the rest of the Superhomeys and is chasing Emp through a secret superhero cemetery. Meanwhile, Thugboy, Ninjette, and the Caged Demonwolf catalogue Emp’s vast variety of sighs as she goes through the daily trials of her life. Can Emp use a message from beyond the grave to defeat her undefeatable enemy?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wildly, awesomely kinetic eye candy. Beautifully illustrated, fantastically well-written. Part in-depth character study, part superhero action, part comic deconstruction, and large parts of screaming hilarity, thanks almost entirely to the Caged Demonwolf (“The nigh-omniscient netherlord’s staggering sapience overwhelmingly outstrips your own merely mortal musings! Now, hearken hence, half-witten hominids!”). Probably not for kids — there’s sex and skin galore (but no actual nudity), and two of the characters mentioned are named S***house Rat and Mindf**k (both censored almost exactly like that in the comic, which is kinda cool). But the rest of y’all should feel free to go track this one down.


Madame Xanadu #17

Betty Reynolds, former 1950s perfect housewife, is going through a slow, inexplicable, terrifying transformation, and Madame Xanadu is trying to find out what’s the matter. She spies on some clean-cut ’50s suburbanites who moonlight as Satanists and crosses paths with an eerie detective named John Jones. Betty’s transformation ramps up significantly, from bug-puking to fire-breathing to claws, fangs, and culminating in something far worse.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder Hadley are doing really wonderful things with this comic. At turns gross, unsettling, awe-inspiring, and breathtaking — I love the way this story is developing.


Comic Book Comics #4

The history of comic books as told through comics — Fred van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, the creators of “Action Philosophers,” take us through the high and low points of “Crime Does Not Pay” (and the real-life crime perpetrated by one of its creators), the creation of the Fantastic Four, the “Marvel Method” of comic creation, the rise of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Objectivism, the Texas Mafia (betcha didn’t know independent comics got their start in Austin, didja?), R. Crumb and the creation of “Zap Comix,” European comics, Herge’s run-ins with the Nazis, and the creation of comics for adults in the forms of “Metal Hurlant,” “Heavy Metal,” and “Epic Illustrated.”

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of stuff you didn’t know about, lots of great cartooning, and lots of excellent writing. I’m enjoying the individual issues of this series, but I gotta admit, I’m looking forward to the eventual collected edition. It’s outstanding comic history.

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We’re All Going to Hell!


Comic Book Comics #3

The epic history of comics, as told by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, continues, as we hit the darkest period the comics industry has gone through. We get an abbreviated biography of Dr. Fredric Wertham and his crusade against comics in the 1950s. We get an overview of Wertham’s book “Seduction of the Innocent,” a quick look at the anti-comics Senate hearings, the inside dope on the disastrous testimony of EC Comics’ William Gaines before the Senate committee, and the creation of the Comics Code Authority, as well as one of the few triumphs of that era — the creation of MAD Magazine. Other topics in this issue include: the Pop Art phenomenon, which owed a lot to Roy Lichtenstein’s ability to copy from comic books; the campy 1960s “Batman” TV show; Robert Crumb’s early days; the first fanzines; the birth of the Silver Age; and Jack Kirby’s not-exactly-joyful reunion with Stan Lee.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent cartooning and clever wit do a lot to lighten up the most completely rotten chunk of comics’ history. I’m also digging the reminders of how early it was that pop culture was being impacted by comic books.


Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #3

Hellboy pays a visit to a woman who was once kidnapped by the Fae and replaced by a changeling. They have a meeting with Mab, former queen of the Fae, who warns them that war is coming and terrible times are on the way for Hellboy. And the world’s witches get dire punishments from a mysterious and powerful woman who plans to lead an army against the world. We also get more of the origin story of Koshchei the Deathless, mythological figure of Russian folklore. After he was killed by his treacherous wife, he was resurrected by his dragon patron. Koshchei then hides his soul (inside an egg, then inside a duck, a rabbit, a goat, and on an island beyond the edge of the world) and sets out to get revenge on his betrayers.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nicely creepy stuff, with some good long-range suspense starting to build. What’s up with Hellboy? Is he going to become the Beast of the Apocalypse after all?

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Weird War Tales


Comic Book Comics #2

The comic book about this history of comic books continues. The creation of Captain America and his crushing workload cause Jack Kirby to spontaneously manifest the Kirby Style; Stanley Leiber becomes Stan Lee and makes Kirby want to kill him; most comics creators spend the war creating artwork and comics for the military; Walt Disney begins his slide into “Citizen Kane” style megalomania; Bert Christman dies in the war; romance comics become the big post-war craze; William Moulton Marston’s kinky sex life helps create Wonder Woman; Bill Gaines takes over EC Comics, recreates it as an edgy crime-and-horror shop, and sets himself up for a confrontation with Fredric Wertham and the U.S. Congress.

Verdict: Way, way thumbs up. The guys who revolutionized nonfiction comics with “Action Philosophers” are doing a bang-up job with this new effort. I hadn’t heard half of these stories before, and even the ones I already knew (William Marston was a very kinky boy, the kind you don’t take home to mother) got an extra boost by adding some more historical context.

And the cartooning is really great fun. There’s a ton of humor in every drawing, from the futuristic Archie gang to the hilarious twists and turns of romance comics to the many madcap adventures of Bill Gaines. Also lots of fun is the letter column in the back (No, seriously, even more good historical tidbits, some funny stuff, and some extra comics) and the section on the “World’s Greatest Comic Book Collection” with market values for some of the groundbreaking comics featured in the issue.

If you haven’t gotten it yet, go give it a try. Get better acquainted with yer hobby, why don’tcha?

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The Return of Kate Spencer


Manhunter #31

It’s yet another triumphant return for the most frequently almost-cancelled comic in DC’s stables. For new readers, we get a good recap of the character’s origin and previous adventures (prosecutor Kate Spencer, tired of seeing metahuman crooks beat the system, takes up crimefighting as a hobby, using a bunch of cast-off equipment from other super-people). Once the story kicks off, Kate beats the bone spurs out of the Atomic Skull, then gets set on the trail of the Juarez mass murders (for an excellent overview of this real-life mystery, read Maxo’s muy excellente summary here). Anyway, Kate ends up stranded on the border and meets up with a certain superhero from that neck of the woods.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’d never read much of “Manhunter” before, but it looks to be plenty good. The artwork takes a little getting used to, but it has a realistic quality I like. I’ll be picking this one up more often.


Comic Book Comics #1

From the creators of the brilliant “Action Philosophers,” it’s a comic book about comic books! This one has actually been out for a while, but Lubbock didn’t get it until this past week. Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey are putting together a history of comics in this one, starting out with a few quick pages on how comic strips and comic books got their start in America, and then narrowing the focus down to a few star players, including Winsor McCay (creator of “Little Nemo in Slumberland” and film animation pioneer), Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Walt Disney, Will Eisner, and Joe Simon.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Much like “Action Philosophers,” this is far more entertaining than it has any right to be.

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