Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Here’s the good news. Comics companies are finally getting around to putting together reprint collections of material we’ve been agitating for them to do for years.
Look at the list. DC finally got around to doing Gerber and Colan’s Phantom Zone mini-series, and Marvel eventually got off the dime with Essential Black Panther. And at long last DC is giving us more Jonah Hex– not just the long-overdue next volume of Showcase Presents Jonah Hex, but a collection of all the Vertigo Hex mini-series from Joe Lansdale, Tim Truman, and Sam Glanzman under the umbrella title Shadows West.
And it’s not just Marvel and DC, either. Titan Books is giving us beautiful new hardcovers of Jack Katz’s The First Kingdom, and their collections of British war comics are a continued delight… I’ve mentioned Major Eazy and Johnny Red here before, and Garth Ennis presents BATTLE CLASSICS is on deck for next year. Dynamite Comics, in addition to doing some really great brand-new comics with the Shadow, have also been very good about bringing the older ones back into print– the paperback version of the Howard Chaykin mini-series is already out, and the Helfer-Sienkiewicz ongoing that spun out of it is getting a collection early next year.
Fantagraphics is re-issuing Wally Wood’s Cannon, and Top Shelf is going to be reprinting The Bojeffries Saga from Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse. Speaking of Alan Moore, they’ve even finally got Marvelman sorted out and those comics are coming back into print at long last.
As I’ve said more than once, this is the real Golden Age. Never before have so many great comics, from so many different genres and eras, been so readily available. So, really, comics publishers from all over the spectrum should be applauded for what they are doing and I certainly am grateful for it. I wanted to be sure and get that right up front. This is the comics landscape we used to dream of when I was a kid; the permanence of having these as books– bound comics that you could have on your shelves in a home library!– was something we used to think would never happen.
Nevertheless, there’s a lot of good stuff out there getting missed. We’re obviously not getting it in time for this Christmas, but we can start pestering publishers for these books to be out for next year’s holiday season. Because apparently this nagging from the blogosphere is working…at least, that’s how I choose to look at it.
So here’s the wish list for stuff that hasn’t been done yet. As long as we’re on a roll.
It’s getting to the point where it’s just damn silly for Marvel not to cough up whatever Fu Manchu licensing fee the Rohmer estate wants so they can get the classic Shang-Chi back in print.
I mean, he’s current again, they’re using the character in Avengers comics for God’s sake. It can’t be that damn hard when other publishers are reprinting the original Fu Manchu books and also using the character in pastiche crossover novels.
Just pay up already… for God’s sake, it’s not like friggin’ Disney can’t afford it, and think of the possibilities for movies and TV. Whenever I’ve brought it up in this space there’s a chorus of folks chiming in down in the comments saying “yeah, they should reprint that.” Hell, Marvel’s legal team apparently threaded the Marvelman labyrinth– dealing with the Sax Rohmer people should be nothing comapred to that.
But there’s other Marvel martial-arts strips from that era that are equally deserving, and there’s no rights issues there. Where’s the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu collection?
Iron Fist, the White Tiger, the Sons of the Tiger, the Daughters of the Dragon… those are all great stories. Plus there were the odd one-off things like Swordquest and the Bruce Lee biography.
At the very least they could give us an Essential volume… ideally one like they did for Tales of the Zombie with all the prose stuff as well. Deadly Hands published a lot of cool interviews and things along with the comics. Some of it’s hopelessly dated but some of it would be of interest to modern readers, I’m sure.
Speaking of odd one-offs, since we got two volumes of Essential Marvel Horror that put together a bunch of interesting short-lived horror and fantasy strips, how about doing the same thing with all the interesting short-lived science-fiction stuff in some sort of Essential Marvel Science Fiction? We have a revived Guardians of the Galaxy comic and that’s coming in the movies as well, after all; just the Star-Lord stories alone would seem like a no-brainer.
But there were lots of other cool SF comics appearing alongside Star-Lord, sometimes even right there in the same book. So let Star-Lord headline and fill out the rest of the book with the cool stuff from Marvel Preview and Bizarre Adventures. There were all sorts of great science-fiction and fantasy originals that appeared there– I’m thinking particularly of Paradox and Sword in the Star from Bill Mantlo, but there were others.
Great-looking strips and very ahead of their time.
The Marvel black-and-white books are the ones I think about the most, but there were many other comics from other publishers that also deserve to be preserved in some sort of collected edition. I know Dynamite is doing Kings Watch right now, and Hermes Press has been reprinting the Gold Key and Charlton comics… but where’s the love for the DC Comics version of the Phantom? There was that great little four-issue mini-series from Peter David and Joe Orlando…
And that led to an ongoing from Mark Verheiden and Luke McDonnell that lasted a year or so.
These are some of the best Phantom comic books anyone’s ever done, and the character is still popular all over the world. If Dark Horse can reprint the Marvel Conan books and IDW can reprint Star Trek comics from all over the place, someone should be able to get this Phantom thing sorted out and get the DC books collected.
I know that rights issues can screw up a lot of these things. But so often I look at what we are seeing come back in a nice paperback edition and there are just obvious holes in the catalogue. I’m delighted that John Ostrander’s finally getting his Spectre and Martian Manhunter series collected, and we’ve seen volume one of the Suicide Squad… but you know, the Manhunter book he did back in the 1980s with Kim Yale was a fun book, too.
It’s kind of an overlooked gem… it only ran a couple of years but I remember I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Speaking of overlooked gems… I’ve often reminisced about the delights of the try-out books from both DC and Marvel back in the day. You had Marvel Premiere, Marvel Spotlight, Showcase, First Issue Special…. I would love it if both DC and Marvel did collections of those weird little one-shots. They were never less than entertaining, and often they were terrific. From Marvel you had Monark Starstalker, Seeker 3000, Woodgod, and Caleb Hammer, among others…
And from DC you had all sorts of entertaining oddities like Dolphin, Code Name Assassin, Jonny Double and so on.
Now, granted, they weren’t ALL keepers. But there were enough good ones that Marvel and DC could each put together some sort of Best Of paperback collecting those tryouts. Keep it low-cost and I bet people would buy it. Bear in mind that we live in a world where someone thought a two-volume hardcover collection of Secret Society of Super-Villains was a good bet; a book featuring try-out stories like these would have to be at least that feasible. I’m thinking about on the same level as the Joker trade that came out not too long ago. Hell, if we finally got that one, the sky’s the limit.
I have lots more… there’s the DC pulp books like The Shadow Strikes and Justice Inc., there’s Marvel’s Planet of the Apes originals, there’s Secret Six and Wild Dog and the Atlas books and on and on. And you probably have a list of your own. Feel free to add yours in the comments. After all, if publishers finally caved on stuff they kept saying couldn’t be done like Jonah Hex and Marvelman, anything’s possible, right?
See you next week.
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