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Jim Novak Archives - Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources

Year of the Artist, Day 350: Frank Miller, Part 3 – Elektra Lives Again

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Frank Miller, and the issue is Elektra Lives Again, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated March 1990. Enjoy!
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Year of the Artist, Day 345: Barry Windsor-Smith, Part 3 – Marvel Fanfare #15

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Barry Windsor-Smith, and the story is “That Night …” from Marvel Fanfare #15, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated July 1984. Enjoy!
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Year of the Artist, Day 340: Howard Chaykin, Part 3 – Star Wars #8 and Cody Starbuck

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Howard Chaykin, and the issues are Star Wars #8 and Cody Starbuck, the first of which was published by Marvel and is cover dated February 1977 and the second of which was published by Star*Reach Productions and is cover dated July 1978. Enjoy!
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Year of the Artist, Day 339: Howard Chaykin, Part 2 – Marvel Premiere #32

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Howard Chaykin, and the issue is Marvel Premiere #32, which was published by Marvel (I know, right?) and is cover dated October 1976. Enjoy!
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1987 And All That: The Punisher #1-4

A column in which Matt Derman (Comics Matter) reads & reviews comics from 1987, because that’s the year he was born. Click here for an archive of all the previous posts in the series.

Punisher1The Punisher #1-4 (Marvel) by Mike Baron, Klaus Janson, James Novak (#1), Ken Bruzenak (#2-4), Carl Potts

I’ve never been crazy about the Punisher. It’s not his morality (or lack thereof) I object to, though admittedly I do prefer it if my superheroes try to avoid using fatal tactics. Although…I guess he’s not a superhero in the strictest sense because he has no powers, but he wears a costume and has a codename and hangs out with lots of other Marvel super-folks, so I think the label still applies. At any rate, what has historically turned me off about the Punisher is that he’s seemed too simple to me, too one-note. Even the Hulk, a literal embodiment of instinctual rage, turns back into Bruce Banner sometimes, and thus has multiple facets to his personality. Frank Castle is always the Punisher and vice versa, his violent hatred for crime never subsiding or even being hidden under the mask of a secret identity. He’s so narrowly and determinedly focused on his personal war, it has never felt to me like he allows for much room for any storytelling beyond locating the next battle, the next villain to slay. I’m sure every creative team finds (or tries to find) their own angle, a way to freshen or expand Castle’s character and world so that he isn’t just the pissed off guy with huge guns all the time. Nonetheless, that’s the way he’s come across whenever I’ve encountered him in the past, and it has consistently failed to capture my interest.

Mike Baron and Klaus Janson’s The Punisher, which marks the first time the character ever had his own ongoing series, somehow manages to play up the single-mindedness I thought I disliked in Castle, yet still be a comicbook I enjoy. A lot of that is Janson, who does all the art from pencils to colors, producing strong work with several breakout panels over the course of these first four issues. Credit where it’s due, though, Baron writes Punisher as a man who’s not necessarily pleased with the life he’s chosen for himself, but commits to it 100% anyway, and that’s an approach I can get into. In his rare moments of self-reflection, Castle points out the same problems I just did above, namely that his life has no room for anything other than fight after fight after fight. He doesn’t exactly struggle with that, but he is at least aware of it, and somehow that tiny bit of acknowledgement, combined with Janson’s visuals, sold me on a hero I’d always avoided before. Continue Reading »

1987 And All That: Strange Tales #1-7

A column in which Matt Derman (Comics Matter) reads & reviews comics from 1987, because that’s the year he was born.

StrangeTales_1Strange Tales #1-7 (Marvel) by Bill Mantlo (#1-6), Peter Gillis, Bret Blevins (#1-6), Chris Warner (#1-4), Larry Alexander (#5, 7), Terry Shoemaker (#6-7), Al Williamson (#3), Bob Wiacek (#6), Gerry Talaoc (#7), Randy Emberlin, Christie Scheele (#1, 3), Glynis Oliver (#2, 4-6), Paul Becton (#7), Bob Sharen, Ken Bruzenak, Jim Novak (#1-3), Janice Chiang (#4-5, 7), Ken Lopez (#6), Carl Potts

With a book like Strange Tales, where every issue is divided between two different narratives (or any number of narratives, but in this case it’s just the two), you always want some sort of connection to tie the stories together, something to bring unity to the title. Obviously the stories should work individually as well, but it’s nicer when there’s a bond between them, an identity to the series as a whole that fits with each section’s own goals and attitudes. Strange Tales is split evenly every issue between Cloak and Dagger and Dr. Strange, the two titles which it replaced. Because they’re both continuations of previously existing comics, it would be understandable if there wasn’t a ton of cohesion between their respective outlooks or aims. Whether through editorial design, creator collaboration, or sheer dumb luck, though, the two halves of Strange Tales find common ground almost immediately, and continue to examine the same core concept, though still in their own ways, right up through issue #7 where their narratives actually collide and briefly become the same. Both Cloak and Strange wrestle with remaining heroic while sometimes needing to act unheroically, and this struggle quickly becomes the center of Strange Tales. But the two men deal with their shared problem differently and end up in different places because of it, so their stories stand apart even as they come together, thematically and literally. Continue Reading »

Year of the Artist, Day 233: Jim Lee, Part 2 – The Punisher War Journal #2

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Jim Lee, and the issue is The Punisher War Journal #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated December 1988. Enjoy!
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1987 And All That: Fallen Angels #1-8

FallenAngels1Fallen Angels #1-8 (Marvel) by Jo Duffy, Kerry Gammill (#1-2, 4, 7), Marie Severin (#3), Joe Staton (#5-6, 8), Tom Palmer (#1-3, 7), Val Mayerik (#4-6), Tony DeZuniga (#8), Petra Scotese, Jim Novak (#1-2), Bill Oakley (#3, 5-8), L.P. Gregory (#4), and Ann Nocenti

As a story about a group of misfit superpowered kids, it’s appropriate that Fallen Angels would be something of a misfit superhero series, too. It’s not at all a bad comic, but it doesn’t look, feel, or move like your typical cape-and-cowl adventure. Its cast is cobbled together from characters old and new, popular (at the time, at least) and obscure, and the characters are constantly butting heads with one another. This internal conflict leaves little room for external enemies, so there aren’t really any villains for the stars to face until the last couple issues. There also aren’t a lot of codenames or costumes used; even Sunspot, the protagonist and narrator, is referred to by his real name, Roberto “Bobby” da Costa, more often than not. It’s a non-traditional team with mixed morals and motives, not fighting for good or evil but merely sticking together for the sake of survival and some semblance of friendship/family. Fallen Angels is a coming-of-age story for the entire titular team, and it is more interested in studying human behavior than the high-powered violence of the average superhero tale. In this story, being a teenager comes first, and having powers comes second, an interesting and unusual prioritization that makes for an entertaining if not astonishing read. Continue Reading »

Year of the Artist, Day 219: Bill Sienkiewicz, Part 3 – Elektra: Assassin #1 and 8

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Bill Sienkiewicz, and the issues are Elektra: Assassin #1 and 8, which were published by Marvel and are cover dated August 1986 and March 1987. Enjoy!
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Year of the Artist, Day 41: Kevin Nowlan, Part 1 – Doctor Strange #57

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Kevin Nowlan, and the issue is Doctor Strange #57, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated February 1983. This scan is from Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph & Torment (which includes other Strange and Doom stories), which was published in 2013. Enjoy!
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Trade paperbacks, older editions, and miscellaneous for January 2014

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“What’s so amazing / That keeps us stargazing / And what do we think we might see”
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Trade paperbacks, older editions, and miscellaneous for August 2013

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“Someone got hurt, someone got high, some of them left the rest behind”
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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 57: Elektra Lives Again

Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to a single artist. This week: Frank Miller! Today’s page is from Elektra Lives Again, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated 1990 (this version is from 1996, however). Enjoy!
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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 46: Iron Man #124

Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to a single artist. This week: John Romita Jr.! (Romita was one of two artists who got two votes from the readers, so he won. The next artist will be featured next week.) Today’s page is from Iron Man #124, which was published by Marvel (it’s JRJR, of course it is!) and is cover dated July 1979. Enjoy!
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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 37: Stray Toasters #3

Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to a single artist. First up: Bill Sienkiewicz! Today’s page is from Stray Toasters #3, which was published by Marvel (under their Epic line) and is cover dated 1988. Enjoy!
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