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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 20

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at the first issue of Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy’s Joe the Barbarian…

Enjoy!

I’ve written a lot about Sean Murphy in the past, as I feel he is an extremely talented artist. In fact, when I did A Month of Art Stars, with other professional comic artists picking a different comic artist to spotlight, the great Skottie Young picked Sean (and Skottie was not the only one to pick Sean). Here is the spotlight I did on Sean at that point. I also did a spotlight on Sean back in June of 2005 on the old blog.

So suffice it to say, I’m a big Sean Murphy fan.

And wow, for a Sean Murphy fan, Joe the Barbarian is an absolutely stunning piece of work!

Grant Morrison creates an intriguing character in Joe, a young teen who suddenly sees his fantasy world brought to life. As you might recall from growing up, when you were a kid, your house was basically your “dream world.” It was literally home to all your various make believe adventures you would do with your various dolls (you can call them action figures if you’d like, but come on, they’re dolls). In Joe the Barbarian #1, Joe and his widowed mother are in danger of LOSING their home, and it is in this state of distress that Joe begins to see his fantasy world, as his house becomes the ACTUAL dream world of his imagination!

So with the house being so important to the story, Morrison allowed Murphy a great deal of leeway in designing it (Murphy discusses this in the text box in the issue), and the unveiling of the house is dealt with over a number of absolutely beautiful pages by Murphy.

Here is the sequence where we “meet” Joe’s house…

Note in the last page where Joe specifically points out how important the house is, followed by a sequence on the next page, right before we see his dream world manifest, where he repeats “This is MY house. My house.”

When Joe’s dreams manifest, they do in the form of basically bringing his action figures to life, so pretty much every popular “action figure” shows up in a cute sequence of “hey, who is that non-DC character that we’re not allowed to use the real name for,” like “Ultimus Alpha” instead of “Optimus Prime.”

In any event, this is a charming opening chapter to what promises to be an engaging eight-chapter adventure (I think the issue holds well on its own, but it’ll work even better once collected as the introductory chapter to the longer story). Joe is an endearing character from what we’ve seen of him so far, and Murphy’s art is, as you can see above, simply stellar.

And as commenter thok mentions, it is an interesting look at the idea of a kid “accessing” a dream world, like Alice or Dorothy, as here it appears that Joe is hallucinating the whole experience due to the stress in his life mixed with his diabetes. It’s a clever approach by Morrison.

When you toss in the fact that DC priced it for just a BUCK, then it’s even more of a cool comic!

51 Comments

Interesting choice today, Brian!

;-)

I must admit that I’m going to be picking this up, purely because 85p for a first issue sure beats £2.99 as an excuse to try something out!

I only hope that it’s not going to be too depressing…

Beautiful pages!

I’ll be there when the TPB comes out – but then that goes for anything by Grant Morrison.

Haha, Comics Should Be Good is always fun, but the contrast between this entry and Mark’s rant make it ESPECIALLY delightful. Is it all a big work? I have no idea, but I am excited to read Joe the Barbarian later.

Great issue, and it promises to be an even greater story.. It’s kind of dark-moody aproach to the life and vision of childhood is something very much appreciated! Gonna get every single issue! :D

Despite being somebody who is not fond of Morrison’s recent DC work, I liked the idea and implementation of this (and the idea of deconstructing the Alice in Wonderland/Narnia/Phantom Tollbooth magical world type story by making it clear early on that everything is just a hallucination and this isn’t a good thing.)

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 21, 2010 at 6:44 am

I would LOVE to live in a house like that, but the cost upkeep and mortgage and utilities would keep me from getting books like these.

We wouldn’t want THAT to happen, would we? ;-)

Great comic…so far. The funny thing is, the only reason I am not excited about the next issue is that they are likely getting away from the ‘real’ felling and if it becomes generic fantasy it will spoil the mood.

In other words, the best stuff is the stuff that Mark Andrew ranted about at length.

I dunno, Rusty, I think there’s a goodly chance that they play up the whole “is it a hallucination?” aspect all throughout, so I think we’ll be seeing reality frequently.

I’m with Cro-Cro.

Loved it. Read it twice last night. Only on the second reading (I admit) did I catch that Joe is apparently diabetic (which explains his mom emphasizing the candy she gives him). Near the end of the comic, he knocks his insulin pen off the little shelf by his upper bunk — his hallucinations look like they’ll all be the result of a potentially very dire medical crisis. Also, Joe left the front door to his house wide open, so those bullies might just be walking in later, lending even more “real-world” danger to poor Joe’s situation, even as he tackles whatever hurdles he faces in his fantasyland.

if dc decided to only spend a buck on printing the story not to mention its grants idea of how a young person may be able to like alice or Dorthy accesses their own world. i would say the book is a worthy choice to check out

I dunno, Rusty, I think there’s a goodly chance that they play up the whole “is it a hallucination?” aspect all throughout, so I think we’ll be seeing reality frequently.

I suspect that there won’t even be a question about it; it obviously is a hallucination, and any hint that it might be real is a sign of Joe’s worsening condition.

Or at least that’s how I see it playing out; Morrison could be going for a different route.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

January 21, 2010 at 8:18 am

I suspect that there won’t even be a question about it; it obviously is a hallucination, and any hint that it might be real is a sign of Joe’s worsening condition.

And then Kay Challis disappeared, leaving behind only the Mystery Coin….

I suspect that there won’t even be a question about it; it obviously is a hallucination, and any hint that it might be real is a sign of Joe’s worsening condition.

Well, in that case, then it will feature even MORE reality for Rusty! :)

Morrison said the whole story is about Joe getting from the top of his house to the bottom, so thats why its very important that he allowed Murphy to go crazy on the various details. Things like the open door, the “drop” of the backpack, etc will all be important.

Good , interesting issue.

I’ve been super excited about this comic ever since I saw pages of it on Sean’s DA page, but I’m still willing to wait for the trade.

Word with that sequence would’ve been nice, but I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know.

What words could possibly have improved that? I don’t need Joe talking to himself nonstop. Let the quiet of the moment take center stage for once.

First Page First Panel:
“I’m home. This is my house at which I live.”

Second Page First Panel:
“This is my living room. That is the blue argyle couch I sit on while watching the tv I am passing right now.”
Second Page Second Panel:
“This is the kitchen where I eat the food stuff.”
Second Page Third Panel:
“Ooooooo Spoooooooky basement!”
Second Page Fourth Panel:
“I left the door open even though it is raining, but I do not care, I’m too lazy to close it right now.”

etc etc.
TOTALLY reads better that way.

But Joe, that would pretty much just be All-Star Batman & Robin.

Honestly, Brian, why don’t you just change the name of the blog to “Morriwhores on Parade”?

Said with love. :)

The art really IS fantastic.

Actually, Joe, it doesn’t. That kind of redundant narration would be absolutely terrible. You figured that all out without the narration, so why would you need it to spell it out for you?

I think Joe was being facetious.

@Apodaca: Maybe the SarcMark isn’t such a bad idea.

Nice, Brian. I still don’t know whether MarkAndrew was serious.

I’ve put this on my pull list, and I’m looking forward to picking it up based on your post (and MarkAndrew’s, and the replies to both). But it does seem like it would be nicer in a trade.

Totally missed the point there, Apodaca. I was being facetious, as joshschr said.

Now that I get the diabetic thing (I caught that he was diabetic but didn’t get why it was important that he dumped that stuff on the floor… now that I know it is an insulin pen…), I reread the issue and LOVE it. I am REALLY looking forward to the rest of the series and am no longer concerned that it will devolve into a fantasyland comic.

@ Matt & Joe H

As I said, I haven’t read the sequence in context. But If you’re going to have 5 pages of story without words it should tell more story I think. This could have been done nicely with a silent double-page cross section of the house and SGM would have still done an awesome job art wise.

“Morriwhores on Parade”

Naw, whores implies there’s no love, just sex for some consideration (cash, crack, whatev) — what we (and I mean WE) have is morri-LOVE, baby

@fanboy d: Personally, I’d rather take the trip through the house with Joe.

Morrisluts, then.

I vote for Whore-isons.

I thought Whore-isons was already the accepted term, here. I like Morrisluts, though.

If you guys appreciate that kind of introspective comics, I’ll recommend Jiro Taniguchi’s The Walking Man (Fanfare/Ponent Mon). An amazing work! That’s what made Taniguchi’s fame in Europe.

Mark Andrew probably wouldn’t like it, though.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

Ah, yeah. Now that I read it again, it’s obvious you were joking.

That’s what I get for checking CSBG over breakfast.

This whole sequence makes me wonder why they just didn’t come out with the whole thing in a trade without breaking it up in to monthly installments. I do find it difficult to justify having a whole quarter of your pages focused on a kid going up to the top floor. Why not just hold out and put out the complete work in one book?

Matter-Pooper Lad

January 21, 2010 at 3:22 pm

When Marvel started doing Conan the Barbarian (1970??) I created my own character, a high school nerd named Fred who finds a magic sword and gets turned into… Fred the Barbarian. I think Grant Morrison went back in time and dug through my trash and stole my idea.

Grant, while you’re digging in my trash, see if you can find my Amazing Spider-Man #1 that Mom threw away while I was at school.

Boo! Hiss! Horrible choice!

Ahahahahahahah. Go Team Cronin.

Honestly, Brian, why don’t you just change the name of the blog to “Morriwhores on Parade”?

That’s Whorrisons, son. Get it right.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

January 21, 2010 at 3:36 pm

@MarkAndrew: What’s the sound of a haunted leaky air mattress?

Well, at least I know now to completely disregard MarkAndrew’s recommendations in the future.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I was a little shocked that in one interview I read, Murphey told Morrison they had to update the toys from tin soldiers and such, as kids don’t have those these days… and yet he has an atari from the 80′s in his room.
IS it set in the past?
I’d assumed the rest of the house looked 70′s retro to highlight they were poor or something (even though Murphey has said he did it for fun).

I had absolutely no interest in reading this comic, but the two wildly disparate reviews have convinced me to check it out, just to see which one of you I agree with. Or neither.

I suspect that there won’t even be a question about it; it obviously is a hallucination, and any hint that it might be real is a sign of Joe’s worsening condition.

I dunno, the power of imagination has always been a major theme in Morrison’s work, so I don’t think he’s going to treat the fantasy as just a hallucination. Even if it’s not literally “real”, I suspect that what happens in the fantasy world will have very real implications and consequences (beyond the fact that Joe might die of diabetic shock).

Am I the only one who thought it was weird that Joe lives in a room that can only be entered via a rope ladder? Especially considering that he’s a diabetic, and might be prone to bouts of weakness? Even if Joe himself wanted the rope ladder, you’d think his mother would want a safer access for him?

Am I the only one who thought it was weird that Joe lives in a room that can only be entered via a rope ladder? Especially considering that he’s a diabetic, and might be prone to bouts of weakness? Even if Joe himself wanted the rope ladder, you’d think his mother would want a safer access for him?

I think it’s definitely inappropriate, but I think that is most likely a pointed reference to the dysfunctional family dynamic going on at Joe’s house (dysfunctional is probably too strong of a term, though).

Won’t this blog series still be going on by the time Joe the Barbarian wraps up? I think it would have been better to save the Joe the Barbarian entry until then so you could talk about the whole series and if you had to do a single issue review of Joe the Barbarian now, make it a separate one-off post. Just because I’m digging this series and hate to see an entry wasted on a single comic issue. I like it when you cover longer time periods.

That being said, great review

Daniel O' Dreams

January 23, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I think he chose now as a response to MarkAndrews’ uhm… review.

This looks fantastic. I’ll probably wait for the trade (yes I’m one of THOSE people) but I’ve always liked this sort of thing and the art rocks.
Joe’s room by the way looks awesome, just the kind of room I fantasized about as a kid.
This could very well be set in the recent past; Those toys look pretty early 90′s to me, but I think I can explain the 2600. He also seems to have an original Nintendo and something big and bulky (an intellivision?) next to it. He may be a collector of video Game systems. I know a couple of those. Admittedly they’re in their 30′s now, but they were in high school in the 90′s. It also may a sign that he’s not able to afford any newer systems.

Daniel – I get WHY he chose now to do a Joe the Barbarian #1 review. I’m just saying I’d rather if he HAD to respond to MarkAndrew’s review now, I’d rather he just did it in a self-contained post like “Another Joe the Barbarian #1 Review” rather than using a slot from the series “A Year of Cool Comics.” I think it would be better to have Joe the Barbarian’s slot in “A Year of Cool Comics” be dedicated to the full miniseries once it’s completed rather than just the first issue.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 24, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I think it’s definitely inappropriate, but I think that is most likely a pointed reference to the dysfunctional family dynamic going on at Joe’s house (dysfunctional is probably too strong of a term, though).

I know it’s risky on this blog to be using the interviews to discuss the work, but Sean Murphey said he had free reign on the look of the house, and Joe’s room, except for the rope ladder which Morrison specifically added.

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