By Andrew A. Smith
Scripps Howard News Service
DC Comics is currently No. 2 in sales – so, apparently, they try harder! This week gives us three DC graphic novels, each as different from each other as the medium allows.
First – because it’s largest – is Wednesday Comics
($49.99), which measures at 11 ¼ inches by 17 ¾ inches. If that sounds like the image area of a typical newspaper page, give yourself a gold star.
Because Wednesday Comics
was originally published as a newspaper broadsheet, looking very much like the Sunday funnies, which obviously gave rise to its punny name (Wednesday is the day new comics ship). Each Wednesday this newspaper section would arrive, with one full-page chapter in 15 different adventure serials, which ran weekly for 12 issues. Yep, it arrived once a week, just like the real Sunday funnies!
But better, because it had full-page strips. And because there was no Nancy
or Mary Worth
that no kids wanted to read. Wednesday Comics
starred some of the greatest characters in fiction, in various genres, by some of today’s best creators, in a gigantic format that allowed one to savor the art. There were superheroes, of course (Superman), fantasy (Wonder Woman), noir (Batman), science-fiction (Adam Strange), war (Sgt. Rock) and humor (Super-pets). And still more, all by terrific creators like Joe Kubert and Amanda Conner. All of this is collected in the GN, which has two one-pagers (starring Plastic Man and The Creeper) that didn’t appear in the weekly issues.
So if you ever laid on the floor reading the funnies on a Sunday morning as a kid, or fought a sibling to get to Dick Tracy
first, or have simply missed the newspaper adventure serial since it quietly faded away, then this is for you. Or, heck, even if none of that applies, you’ll still love this book, because it is gorgeous and satisfying in every way.
Well, except for how I’m going to fit it on the bookshelf.
Speaking of genres, comics – and specifically DC Comics – is one of the few media to still have faith in the Western. And currently DC is publishing the best Western comic, bar none, I’ve ever read: Jonah Hex
, by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and various artists. With terrific stories (usually completed in a single issue), it stars one of the strangest, meanest, dirty-fightingest, ugliest, coolest and downright saddest hombres to ever strap on a six-gun (but don’t tell him I said that last part, because he really is mean as a rattlesnake). Jonah Hex
is a consistently excellent read, every month.
Which is why he’s starring in, as they say, “a major motion picture coming soon (July 18) to a theater near you.” And probably why DC has published Jonah Hex: No Way Back
($19.99), a graphic novel exploring Jonah’s past and providing a step-brother we’ve never met before.
To tell you the truth, this GN didn’t do much for me, despite being written by Hex
regulars Gray & Palmiotti, and drawn by welcome veteran Tony DeZuniga, who was a mainstay on early Hex stories, decades ago. I knew some of this story already, and what I didn’t know seemed tacked on to satisfy a movie audience – one that needs exposition as much as Hex’s usual acerbic humor and ultra-violence.
Me, I’m spoiled by the monthly. But if you don’t already read the monthly, then this GN is for you. And then start reading the monthly, podnuh, or I’ll haveta ventilate yuh!
So what could be as different from those two books as possible? How about an online comic strip?
DC has a website called Zuda Comics (zuda.com), where amateurs post their strips in competition. The strip with the most reader votes gets a contract, and the strip gets printed in a collection.
Which is how we got Night Owls
($14.99), a strip set in the 1920s, where a timid occult scholar (who only operates at night), a cute but scrappy flapper (who’s the muscle) and a gargoyle (who’s the comedy relief) solve crimes involving magic.
And I can see why it won. It has a novel milieu (the Roaring ‘20s), decent artwork for beginners (better with each succeeding panel) and charming characters who, even though they go through familiar romantic complications and screwball comedy scenes, remain charming – and occasionally find themselves in genuinely original situations. So pat the writer on the back, too.
Only DC would or could publish these books. And I’m glad they did!
Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at