Cross-Hatchings for June 2010
Bits and pieces. This and that. You know.
Convention Shopping Dep’t.: It wasn’t worth a column all by itself but we did have fun a few weeks ago visiting the Shoreline Comix ‘N’ Collectibles show.
It was strictly a dealer’s room event, there was no artist’s alley or guest creators or anything like that. But it was a fun way to kill some time on a Saturday doing a little shopping.
We picked up some stuff from occasional CSBG commenter Alvin, who runs Secret Fortress up in Fremont.
Since I’d been on a Black Panther kick lately, I was pleased to find a complete set of the prestige mini-series Panther’s Prey, Don McGregor’s last hurrah on the character.
My feeling about Don McGregor’s writing is that you really had to be there, back in the Bronze Age, to genuinely enjoy it; his style hasn’t aged well and you kind of need that extra push of nostalgic indulgence to get past some of its excesses.
Even his Black Panther stories, generally regarded as his high point at Marvel, suffer from that problem. I recalled Don McGregor’s Panther run as being fun, but also often talky and overwrought. That’s still true, but honestly these books were better than I originally thought. They had quite a bit more pulpy action going on in them than I remembered, and the art from Dwayne Turner is very good, though the coloring is horribly garish. (Marvel was still trying to figure out how 4-color process worked for comics back then.)
What’s most interesting about them, as is often true for a McGregor book, are the extras — his impassioned text pieces on the behind-the-scenes struggle to get the book done and out there. It was sort of funny to read of the trials and tribulations McGregor went through to secure permission from Marvel editorial for T’Challa to marry the nightclub singer Monica Lynne, and indeed the whole Panther’s Prey miniseries is built around that idea — but in the end McGregor decided not to do it, and I think — can’t swear to it –this was pretty much the swan song for the character of Ms. Lynne. One wonders what would have happened subsequently if McGregor had actually gone ahead and married them off — I can’t imagine that fifteen years later Marvel would be so high on the Panther-Storm marriage idea that they’d have divorced T’Challa from Monica first, or, God help me, done some sort of Mephisto-driven retcon, just to clear the decks for it.
I also found some other stuff. Mostly quarter-box things, pleasant surprises that popped up while we were stocking up on cheap giveaway books for my cartooning students.
The big finds were one of the old 100-page World’s Finest books (the lead story was reprinted in the Saga of the Super Sons collection, but I love those old 100-pagers and I usually can’t pass one up if I can find it cheap.) And a Korak I didn’t have, as well as an issue of Sword Of Sorcery, DC’s short-lived series adapting Fritz’s Leiber’s Lankhmar stories.
Julie did all right too — she picked up a set of Mr. Stuffins from Alvin.
What can I say? Chicks dig the bear.
We also loaded up on a zillion copies of Viz Comics’ Aqua Knight that we found in the cheap boxes.
Back when U.S. comics publishers were still trying to figure out how to sell manga to an American audience, there were a lot of these attempts to reformat the stuff into an American-style comic book.
It didn’t really work very well — manga material is laid out and paced for a digest, and this format doesn’t serve the stuff at all, but my kids like them, so we scoop these kind of books up whenever we see them in a quarter box. Which is often. I liked what I saw of Aqua Knight, though, and I might have to look and see if it ever got a real digest-style publication over here. (Note: this account of the Shoreline show has been sitting in the “Cross-Hatchings” folder for a while, but I can tell you that when I did eventually pass out the books in class last week they were a huge hit. So it was a big thumbs-up on Aqua Knight from the 7th grade demographic, for what it’s worth.)
Far and away the thing we enjoyed the most at the show was one particular toy we saw, from the table next to Alvin’s.
An ‘action figure’ of Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock’s The Birds.
Now, I know that these things are marketed to collectors and not actual kids, but nevertheless Julie and I couldn’t stop giggling over the sheer silliness of the thing, especially the premise that it could serve as an actual toy. Forget for a moment that The Birds came out in 1963 and is mostly unknown to anyone under the age of fifty. Just as a toy, this is pretty lame. If you are a toy manufacturer doing Tippi Hedren in The Birds, I think you should put a little more into it than just a Stewardess Barbie with a plastic crow sewn to her hip. (Especially for the exorbitant asking price.) At least a facial expression of terror, maybe even a little sound chip with a scream and that Bernard Herrmann scraping-violin VREET VREET VREET we associate with Hitchcock horror –although, he added pedantically, Herrman wasn’t really that involved with scoring The Birds, the famous violin riff is actually from Psycho. — sorry, nerd moment. Moving on…
Anyway, if you’re doing a figure from The Birds, really you should do one of those bad-ass crows, or maybe the seagull from the phone booth scene. With glowing red eyes. Then you’d have something. If any toy moguls should happen to be reading this. You’re welcome.
From the Mailroom Dep’t: One of the minor pleasures of doing this column thing is that readers send you stuff, and sometimes it’s stuff worth sharing.
Adam Garcia sent a couple of preliminary promo illustrations from the Green Lama novel he’s doing for Airship 27.
You may recall that of the three stories in the Green Lama anthology mentioned here a couple of months ago, I thought Adam’s was far and away the best, so I’m looking forward to seeing the novel.
This time artist Mike Fyles is apparently doing the interior illustrations as well as the cover, and I think it’s going to be a nice-looking package judging from these samples. I’ll let you know more when it’s out.
And artist Scott Phillips continues to do his commissioned re-creations of Fred Pfeiffer’s Doc Savage covers, and he kindly shared a couple of those with me. Here’s The King Maker.
And finally, Mateusz Marek writes all the way from Poland to ask us to review the webcomic he’s doing in collaboration with his pal Lukasz Jarzabek.
I haven’t really got the time or the space to go through all fifty episodes and do a real review, and anyway I think what they really are hoping to do is get the word out.
It’s a fumetti, which is to say a comic created with still photos. That’s the hell of a lot of work to do any kind of strip at all, let alone fifty of them, which in itself is worthy of respect just for the craft and care it takes to pull off something like that in the first place. I have a soft spot for anybody with the DIY hustle and work ethic to stick with something for that many episodes, and certainly I can manage a minute to put up a link and let you judge for yourselves. So here you go. Give ‘em a look and see what you think.
“Not strictly comics, but….” Dep’t.: I mentioned a while back that in looking into the Hammer novelizations by John Burke, I happened across some information about another series he did that looked enticing.
Burke was a go-to guy for paperback movie and TV novelizations all through the 60s and 70s, but he also did a lot of original novels on his own and has a pretty fair rep in Britain as a horror writer to this day. Of those books, his Dr. Caspian novels caught my eye just because there seemed like a bit of a Dr. Strange vibe there.
Probably just the cover art, but the jacket copy sounded cool, too. And I’m a Dr. Strange guy, he’s been a favorite of mine since the Englehart-Colan days. So I made a mental note to track the books down and see if they could be had for cheap.
Sure enough, I found the three Dr. Caspian novels from an online dealer for a buck each, and in hardcover, too, so I thought what the hell. I’ve been meaning to get around to them for a while now, and they finally made it to the top of the pile a few weeks ago.
Turns out it’s the best three dollars I’ve spent in a while. These are great books. The Devil’s Footsteps introduces us to Dr. Alexander Caspian, a former stage magician who now works as an occult investigator and debunker of sham psychics. He meets young Welsh beauty Bronwyn Powys, who as it happens is genuinely psychic, and together they must work to defeat a demon that has possessed all the residents of a small British farming village.
In the second installment, The Black Charade, Dr. Caspian and Bronwyn are now married and share a telepathic bond, which is soon put to the test as they try to stop the cult of Ilona. Two deaths– by water and earth– have already occurred; deaths by air and fire will follow unless the Caspians can dispel the bad vibes that hover around a sweet young woman who has fallen under the spell of the cultists.
In the third and final installment, Ladygrove, the Caspians once again find all their occult expertise and psychic gifts tested to the utmost as they try to prevent a family curse from falling upon a young duchess and her unborn child, and in so doing uncover a hideous secret from centuries past.
Burke got better at these as he went along — they’re all good, but I think Ladygrove, the third installment, is the best of them. Think Dr. Strange and Clea, but doing Dr. Thirteen’s supernatural-detective job in Victorian London. The mysteries of the plot are very engaging and keep you guessing, and Caspian and Bronwyn are entertaining protagonists. Burke uses the repressed hypocrisy of the Victorian social setting to full advantage, as well. I don’t want to spoil them because too much of the books’ charm is tied up in the twists and turns of the plot, but I will give them the highest recommendation. If you like Dr. Strange or the Phantom Stranger then you’ll love these… and even if you don’t care for those comics you might very well enjoy these books anyway. Most dealers seem to have the hardcovers listed somewhere between a penny and two dollars plus shipping, so it’s not like you’ll be risking a whole lot.
And that clears the In Box for this time, I think. We are off to collect our godson Phenix for another night at the movies… I think we’ve found something right up his alley, but we’ll see.
See you next week.