Going Through My Graphic Novels: Cull or Keep? (SPOILERS)

I've got rather alot of graphic novels, most of which sit on my bookshelves or in boxes in my closets from one year to the next, never being looked at. So, I've decided to go through them all, re-reading each one and deciding whether to keep it or to cull it. Culls will be donated to the local public library.


As I re-read each one, I'm going to try to present my impression of each one, and then announce the verdict: Cull or Keep?


There will be spoilers here, so beware. I most likely won't read one every day, but I 'm going to try to keep up a steady pace.


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First up:  Seaguy, by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart.


This is an interesting little book. As is usual for me when I read one of Mister Morrison's works, I'm not entirely sure that I know what is going on. The best that I can make out is that it's Morrison's take on 1984, with touches of Soylent Green, and Det sjunde inseglet thrown in.


Our hero is Seaguy, an earnest young man who wears diving gear, who lives in the seaside town of New Venice and dreams of being a hero in a world from which all the heroes have disappeared after a climactic battle with the Anti-Dad some years before (An obvious reference to Crisis On Infinite Earths, or perhaps just overblown super-hero battles in general). Seaguy spends his days with his sidekick Chubby, a talking tuna, watching reruns of Mickey Eye, a bizarre cartoon, and playing mortal chess with the Gondolier, essentially Death (or at least, Charon) in a sailor outfit. We also encounter She-Beard, a warrior woman in search of a "hero" to devote herself to, Seadog, a salty old sailor, and Doc Hero, a retired old hero who spends his days riding the Tilt-A-Whirl.


Seagy and Chubby get caught up in an adventure when they discover that Xoo, a new foodstuff, is sentient, and that Mickey Eye is behind it all. I give Morrison props - Chubby is the archetypal wacky sidekick, but his death in the polar chocolate sea (don't ask) is very affecting, Seaguy's anguish at his friend's death seems quite real, and the scene where the Gondolier  is quite sad.


Circumstances (and some jackal-men) draw Seaguy to the Moon, where he encounters the senile mummy Aten-Hut (Ten-hut?) and finds that Mickey Eye is actually his world's Big Brother, controlling the world through the military-entertainment complex. Gee, why did  our Grant name the character "Mickey"? ;)   We learn that Seadog is this story's Mister Charrington, and Seaguy, apparently brainwashed, returns to New Venice with a new sidekick, Lucky El Loro, a parrot, and resumes playing chess with the Gondolier - the one difference? This time Seaguy plays black instead of white.


The art is quite good on this, basically realistc, with just the tiniest hint of cartoonishness thrown in. It suits the story well.


Cull or Keep?:  Keep.  This is a fun, if somewhat confuisng story, with fun characters and ideas, with lots of Morrisonian weirdness added in.

The trade just collects the first three-issue miniseries, right? Was there any extra material? I reread this pretty recently also (but I had the individual issues). I thought it was more fun than the usual Morrison, too. It also made more sense after reading the second miniseries (Slaves of Mickey Eye)--but Vertigo never collected that one. There was always supposed to be a third miniseries, but I haven't seen any mention of that for awhile.

I'm guessing it must be just that first part. I hadn't realized there was more. No extras in the one I have.

Next up is The Star Wars, by J.W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew, which collects issues one through eight of the Dark Horse series.


For those unfamiliar with it, this is an adaptation of George Lucas' rough draft script for what became Star Wars. As such, it presents the reader with a number of familiar or near-familiar names and concepts in new guises, For example, "Luke Skywalker" is now an older Jedi general (drawn to look alot like Lucas himself) and "Annikin Starkiller" is the young would-be Jedi, and so on.


It's an interesting idea, sort of an "Elseworlds" for the Star Wars universe - I found the idea of the Jedi and Sith as being more like rival ninja clans to be an interesting one. I thought the art was quite good, also.


Cull or Keep?:  Cull. I'm glad I read it. As a look at what might have been, it was worthwhile, but I'm not so much of a Warshead that I'm likely to want to re-read it again - it's not that interesting of a story in-and-of itself.  So, off to the library with it!

Next is The Death of Captain Marvel, by Jim Starlin.


When I bought this book, it was the first time I had ever even heard the phrase "graphic novel". It's funny, because it's a different size than what would beceome the standard "graphic novel" size, so it was always a bugger to store it with the others.


For those who are unfamiliar with it, it chronicles the story of Captain Mar-Vell as he discovers that he has terminal cancer, the attempts to cure him, his eventual descent into sickness and death, and even his posthumous battle with Thanos before he allows Death to lead him to whatever awaits.


Now, I have to say - I never was a big fan of Mar-Vell as a character. I didn't hate him or anything, just wasn't a big fan. So, it is  one of the triumphs of this book that I find it very moving as it shows Mar dealing with the disease, and the different reactions of his friends to the news, particularly his girlfriend Elysius and his old sidekick, Rick Jones. 


It touches only briefly on the issue of why the many super-geniuses of the Marvel Universe have never come up with a cure for cancer, or why they don't seem to have started trying until one of their own is dying.


Overall, I enjoyed the book a great deal, and thought it was quite well-written. It helps that this hearkens back to the period before the establishment of the "revolving door of death", so that Mar-Vell's death had more impact. Plus, this is  good representation of what I think of as "My" Marvel Universe, gone these many years.


Cull or Keep?: This one is definitely a "keep".

An almost perfect piece.
The Baron said:

Next is The Death of Captain Marvel, by Jim Starlin.



This next is really a "graphic novel", as such, but it was in the pile, so here we go. It is...

JLA: Zatanna's Search, including:


1)"The Girl Who Split in Two!" from Hawkman #4 (October-November 1964), by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson. In which Hawkman and Hawkgirl meet Zatanna and help her pull herself together.


2)"Batman's Bewitched Nightmare" from Detective Comics #336 (February 1965), by Gardner Fox and Bob Kane & Joe Giella. In which Batman battles a withc working for the Outsider, and Zatanna doesn't appear at all.


3)"World of the Magic Atom!" from The Atom #19 (June-July 1965), by Gardner Fox and Gil Kane & Sid Greene. In which the Atom and Zatanna battle a druid in the microverse.


4)"The Other Side of the World!" from Green Lantern #42 (January 1966), by Gardner Fox and Gil Kane & Sid Greene. In which GL and Zee battle the Warlock of Ys.


5)"The Tantalizing of the Tripod Thieves" from Detective Comics #355 (September 1966), by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino. In which Ralph and Zee stop some thieves.


6)"Z - as in Zatanna - and Zero Hour!" from Justice League of America #51 (February 1967), by Mike Sekowsky & Sid Greene. In which Zatanna tells some JLAers how she used magical duplicates of them to rescue her father.


7)"The Secret Spell!" from DC Blue Ribbon Digest #5 (November-December 1980), by Gerry Conway and Romeo Tanghal & Vince Colletta.


Some thoughts:

i)Cripes, did Gardner Fox write everything in those days?


ii)Initially, Zatanna isn't given much of an origin, she's just presented as being Zatara's daughter, which I suppose is all the origin she needs.  They do seem to follow the common comic book scenario, where if a character hasn't been in a comic lately, that must  means they've been "missing" within the comic book universe.


iii)The Batman story has nothing to do with Zatanna at all. It's like someone at DC decided there should be a Batman connection to it, and said, "Say, there's a witch in this story, let's tie it in."  The explanation they give in the JLA story seems particularly contrived, especially since in the Batman story, he and Robin keep repeatedly saying there's no such thing as magic and witches, which is itself odd considering that it was well-established in those days that Superman was vulnerable to magic.


iv)The Atom is shown to be fairly resourceful in this, I haven't read any of his Silver Age solo stories before.


v)The GL chapter has a certain amount of questionable science concerning the origin of the universe, but not more than these stories usually had.


vi)I don't suppose Ralph and Sue have turned up in the "New 52" yet, have they?


vii)Bats' solution in the JLA chapter seems - to me, at least - to sort of come right out of left field.


viii)The origin story is OK. They at least tried to give him a better origin than "My dad was a Mandrake rip-off."


Overall: Well, I have to say, I don't always find myself too fond of alot of Silver Age stories, but there weren't bad. The art was pretty good in all of them - you can't go too wrong with Gil Kane or Carmine Infantino, typically. It was an interesting notion, spreading Zatanna's story over two years and several different books like that. Did they do alot of that in those days?  If it didn't do much to revive Zatara, it did create Zatanna, who, if she never was a head-liner, has been a solid mid-carder for about fifty years now.


Cull or Keep?: Keep, although probably more as a historically significant storyline, than as something I would probably re-read over and over.

It was an interesting notion, spreading Zatanna's story over two years and several different books like that. Did they do alot of that in those days?

I was there when the Zatanna comics first came out. As far as I know this was the only time something like this was done in the Schwartz shop. I have the trade also but haven't gotten around to rereading the stories.

Always wondered why Zatanna "skipped" over the Flash who knows a thing or two about interdimensional travel!

Zatara was gone for fourteen years by then. With no "team" ties, he was an odd choice to have a legacy. But in the 60s, he looked outdated already. Though it might have been interesting to see him join the JLA at the time.

Maybe I would have went to Superman or Wonder Woman for help before Hawkman and the Elongated Man but that's just me!

Is it just me, or is Zatanna the first official "second generation" super-hero? I'm pretty sure that she pre-dated Bill Higgins taking up his father Joe's role as the Shield at Archie/Red Circle/Mighty Comics, and I can't think of anyone else in between them.

Perhaps because getting help from Superman or Flash might have ended the storyline too soon?

Interesting Zatara is an Earth-1 character. That would mean that, except for Dr. Occult, Earth-1 and Earth-2 actually debuted the same month in the same comic book.

Always wondered about The Death of Captain Marvel. Not only do they not try to cure cancer until one of their own gets it, but they still don't have a cure, suggesting they stopped when he died. I know Starlin said it came from the nerve gas tank Nitro tried to steal, but he may have already had it. Avengers#89, the beginning of the Kree/Skrull War, started with the Avengers tracking Mar-Vell down, beating him up, and taking him to a doctor for emergency surgery. Something about him being in the Negative Zone for too long and absorbing too mucy negative energy. How would surgery cure someone exposed to energy? Unless they removed something that was or might have become cancerous.

Philip Portelli said:

Maybe I would have went to Superman or Wonder Woman for help before Hawkman and the Elongated Man but that's just me!

Yeah, but they weren't in Schwartz's editorial control. I don't remember ever hearing why she didn't show up in Flash. Maybe because Flash had a lot more characters in his book than the others. Or maybe John Broome, who was still writing Flash full-time, didn't want to be involved in this early cross-over. It also seemed to me that they wrapped it all up in a big hurry.

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