Report what comic books you have read today--and tell us a little something about it while you're here!

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Looking forward to Rogues when it's collected, Rob.

 

EC ARCHIVES: CONFESSIONS ILLUSTRATED HC

I enjoyed this much more than I expected. Romance comics, which this resembled, were gawdawful in the '50s and early '60s, and I expected much the same patriarchal, Puritan claptrap here.

And yes, most of these stories do have a Moral Lesson. And I think if I had been a reader in the '50s and the magazine had continued, I would have eventually tired of the main figures all learning a Moral Lesson, especially since repeated exposure would lead me to guess the endings.

But here, though: Boy! Getting to that Moral Lesson is a lot of fun! Because, like crime comics, Confessions dwells quite a bit on the transgression before the one- or two-panel punishment at the end. From the covers, I had no idea Gaines & Co. would go so far in the transgression department!

There is illicit sex in almost every story. Not depicted, of course, but described by the protagonist (nearly always a woman), in flowery but unmistakable language. There's deliberate infidelity. Gang rumbles. A back-alley abortion.

All depicted by EC artists at the height of their powers! Especially Jack Kamen, who does the bulk of the stories. I will never forget Kamen's women -- scheming, crying, drinking, shouting, all in their dowdy '50s housewife dresses but inarguably gorgeous. 1950s me would have been tempted by them, too, even with the inevitable Moral Lesson waiting down the road.

Sadly, this is the last "new" EC Comics I will ever read. All that's left in the reprint department are the pre-New Trend books, and that's not quite the same thing. As a result, I nursed this one along, reading one story per night instead of barreling right through it. I still turned the last page with a heavy heart.

 

PS ARTBOOKS PRESENTS: FIGHT COMICS FEATURING SENORITA RIO VOLUME ONE

I was eager to get to this one, given that it features the earliest work by Nick Cardy (neé Nicholas Viscardi) I'd ever seen.

And I wasn't disappointed. In “Senorita Rio,” Cardy was still a long way from his artistic heights on Aquaman, Anthro, Brave and Bold and Bat Lash. But his talent is already evident, and there’s a generous amount of SFW “fan service,” reminiscent of Matt Baker (who was a contemporary).

But Cardy only does the first 11 stories. After that, a clutch of journeymen fill in until “Rio” finds its next long-term artist, Lily Reneé. She illustrates the last story in this collection, and most or all of the stories in the second edition. The forewords tout Reneé as an important Golden Age artist, albeit one I’ve never heard of before. I’ll find out in Volume Two.

I haven’t mentioned the stories in “Senorita Rio,” and that’s for good reason. We never get an origin for Senorita Rio, but we’re told she’s former actress Rita Farrar (yes, like former actress Rita Farr in Doom Patrol) who joins the U.S. intelligence community (her actual agency isn’t consistent) after her fiancé is killed at Pearl Harbor. (According to Jess Nevins, Rio will get a different origin toward the end of her run, but it doesn’t seem to stick.) She operates in Latin America – no explanation for that – and it’s all Hollywood cliches about Spanish-speaking peoples south of the border, and nothing distinguishes, say, Mexico from Argentina. And, it being the Golden Age, the stories are fairly repetitive.

But we’re here for the art, and I wasn’t disappointed.

 

THE PHANTOM: THE COMPLETE DC COMICS VOLUME TWO

This book collects DC’s 1989 Phantom series, #3-8. The third volume will finish the series, issues #9-13

I remember not being blown away by these comics, but didn’t remember why until this re-read. And it’s because in its modern, realistic approach, every issue of this run of The Phantom hammered me over the head with the unintended idea that Africa’s problems are far too large for a guy in a purple leotard to handle.

(Historically, a lot of The Phantom seems to be set in an amorphous jungle area that is sometimes India. But this series seems pretty hard set in Africa.)

In Lee Falk’s day, jungle tribes wore loincloths and headdresses and carried spears. The Phantom kept the peace largely with myth and superstition. It was a fun fantasy, removed from reality even at the time, but OK for the unsophisticated tastes of its time.

But today’s Africa has modern cities, modern clothes and modern problems. The Phantom doesn’t have to cow tribes carrying spears into calling off their war. Now it’s armies – sometimes child armies – armed with AK-47s committing genocide against neighboring tribes. A guy on a horse isn’t going to fix that.

And then there’s resource extraction, slavery, habitat destruction, poaching and deforestation, committed by multinational corporations. You can’t stop that with a pair of .45s.

Now, as I said, these ideas are unintended. In the series, The Phantom is pretty effective at solving the problems the writer sets out for him. But in depicting a modern Africa, the book keeps accidentally reminding me that those problems are just the local head of the Hydra and The Phantom’s efforts are a drop in the ocean.

Also, in the ‘80s I wasn’t a big fan of Luke McDonnell’s art. I am now, though, as I appreciate his attention to chiaroscuro more now than I did then.

 

I’ve also cleared a few books from my Wall of Shame:

 

TŌNOHARU VOLS. 1-3

I received one or two volumes for review back in the day, which my wife read and asked me to get the remainder. So now I have the set.

It was published in 2016, and I finally got around to reading it myself. It’s a decent example of indie comics.

The story, such as it is, is a largely autobiographical tale of an American who takes one of the teaching jobs in Japan that advertise “no experience necessary.”

Haven’t you wondered about those? Wouldn’t you have to speak Japanese, at the least? Well, here’s your answer.

Our protagonist, Dan, goes to Japan to help teach English, without any teaching experience or any knowledge of Japanese. He’s posted in a fairly rural area, where people who speak fluent English are rare and other foreigners are even rarer. The job is just as dumb as you'd expect, and he is just as unimportant as you'd expect. He doesn't work very many hours and has a lot of free time on his hands. He's miserable.

The book begins at the end of his first year, where he has to decide if he’s going to stay or not. The trilogy ends with his decision. In between, we see his experiences in the year he’s spent in the small town of the title.

Dan himself is really boring. His hobbies are watching TV and sleeping. His conversation, even in English, isn’t terribly engaging. This may be modesty on the part of the author, or an effort to shift the focus of the story, or some other deliberate storytelling technique. But Dan is the center of the story, appearing in nearly every panel. So occasionally the books teeter on the cusp of being one of the much-hated (by me) autobiographical graphic novels by boring people so in vogue these days.

What saves the narrative is the colorful crew that circle around Dan. These characters, mostly foreigners like himself, include the unattainable blonde Dan pines for, the Japanese girl that pursues him, the “ladies man” dedicated to scoring, the mysterious but artistic Darby brothers, the eccentric Bohaims and more. Dan isn’t just boring, he’s also incurious, so as these characters float in and out of his life, Dan fails to ask any questions – leaving the reader desperate to know more about them.

The art is cartoon style, albeit in some landscapes and cityscapes it is extraordinarily rendered and detailed. I rather enjoyed that, despite my usual antipathy to cartoon styles.

 

SHORTCOMINGS HC

Here’s another book I was sent for review, only for it to find its way into the Wall of Shame, and only recently unearthed. It’s a good thing, because I didn’t care for it.

This book is lauded for its Asian American cast and focus, and slice-of-life verisimilitude. However, the problems I have with it have nothing to do with the Asian American experience — unless all Asian Americans are as unlikable as this book’s lead character, Ben Tanaka.

God, what a dick.

At one point, his ex-girlfriend says “You know what’s pathetic, Ben? Trying to hold on to something because you’re pathologically afraid of change. … I think you also have a problem with depression and anger-management … weird self-hatred issues … and just this relentless negativity.”

And those are his good qualities! He also suffers from selective memory, narcissism, a fixation on white girls, aggression, self-pity, paranoia and jealousy.

So tell me again why I’m reading a graphic novel about this guy?  

I’m all for stories about Asian Americans. But I'd prefer one with a star I don’t want to strangle.

Captain,

If you get the chance pick up 


It’s aimed at a younger audience but her life is fascinating.  She is still with us today at age 101.

Wow! That looks fantastic!

DOCTOR WHO: ORIGINS #1: Actually, #3 shipped today, but it reminded me that I had not yet bought #1-2. This series features the "Fugitive" Doctor, in whom I have a particular interest. There's little reason to believe anything presented in a Doctor Who comic book will be canon, but I'm going to assume it is at least intended to be... at least until something broadcast on the small screen contradicts it. My primary interest is: Where does this Doctor fall in sequence? Before Hartnell? Between Troughton and Pertwee? Somewhere else? There's not even anything to suggest this series will even answer my question... except for that one word in the title, "Origins." So when does this story take place in the timeline? No clue. there's nothing regarding an "origin" of any kind in the first issue. The Doctor is an operative of The Division and is considered to be "practically a legend" by her new junior partner, a recent graduate of the Academy assigned to her by the High Council. Bait and switch.

NEW FANTASTIC FOUR #3: I also bought Maestro: World War M #5 today. (It shipped a couple of weeks ago but my LCS was shorted.) Along with the new Captain Marvel: Genis-Vell, that's three current series by Peter David. What is this, the '80s? Not only that, but coming next year is a Joe Fixit series also written by PAD. 

NEW CHAMPION OF SHAZAM #1: This being a light week, I almost bought this one but didn't for a very silly reason. 

DARK CRISIS #3: Many people (not me) like to say "The 'Golden Age' is 12" (or some other arbitrary number). I was 21 when when Crisis on Infinite Earths came out, and not much of a DC fan at the time, but COIE drew me in and interested me in other DC titles. I really can't see Dark Crisis doing that for anyone today. My question is not, "How many 12-year-olds are reading comics," but, "How many 21-year-olds?" 

I think it's not actually possible for a series like Dark Crisis to have the impact that the original Crisis on Infinite Earths did.  When CoIE first came out, it was, to the best of my recollection, unprecedented. Today's readers have seen far too many EVENTS THAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING FOREVER for even one that was much better written than this one to have the same kind of impact that that one did.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

DARK CRISIS #3: Many people (not me) like to say "The 'Golden Age' is 12" (or some other arbitrary number). I was 21 when when Crisis on Infinite Earths came out, and not much of a DC fan at the time, but COIE drew me in and interested me in other DC titles. I really can't see Dark Crisis doing that for anyone today. My question is not, "How many 12-year-olds are reading comics," but, "How many 21-year-olds?" 

Edge of Spider-Verse #1was OK.  My favorite bit was the Spider-Rex story.  They need to get together with DC and have him team up with Supersaur from the Jurassic League.I know that this is leading up to another Spider-Verse EVENT.  I only hope that ther heels in this aren't the damned Inheritors again, they've really worn out their welcome with me.  The only way I'd want to see them again is if they confronted the heroes, looking all meancing, only to have the real heel(s) show up and Sephiroth them out of existence so the real battle could begin.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

NEW FANTASTIC FOUR #3: I also bought Maestro: World War M #5 today. (It shipped a couple of weeks ago but my LCS was shorted.) Along with the new Captain Marvel: Genis-Vell, that's three current series by Peter David. What is this, the '80s? Not only that, but coming next year is a Joe Fixit series also written by PAD.

I'm not buying any of these, but I wanted to comment on Peter David. A few years back (pre-COVID) I was following his blog and he was experiencing a serious illness. His wife started posting updates. Then I lost track when Gayle had three years of touch-and-go illnesses. I just looked and he hasn't posted in a long time (after he got better). I glad he's in good health again. He must be, considering how many comics he's writing. 

PAPER GIRLS: Inspired by the television show, I read the entire comic book series yesterday (30 issues). If you're unfamiliar with the comic and are wondering whether or not you would like it, here's what I recommend you do: watch the TV show first, as a kind of sampler. If you like the televised version at all, then you should move on to the comic book, which is different enough that it won't spoil the comic (which is better than the TV series, IMO). 

I have ordered the three deluxe Paper Girls books. I think that's the whole series.

I have also, somehow, caught up on Adventures into the Unknown and Forbidden Worlds (they're both up to Vol. 19). I don't have much to say about these books that I haven't already. Except maybe that now I can recognize John Rosenberger's artwork, and I didn't even know his name before these reprints.

I did not enjoy GOLDEN AGE FIGHT COMICS VOLUME ONE.

As you'd expect, there is a lot of fighting in this comic book, only three issues of which are included in the first volume. What that translates to mostly is a lot of punching.

Especially boxing! Apparently boxing was a big deal in the early 1940s. In addition to boxing strips "Kayo Kirby" and "Slaphappy Sam," and one-page boxer bios, the jungle strip, "Oran of the Jungle," features a retired boxer who does a lot of punching.

George Tuska draws two of the strips, the seagoing sailor of fortune "Shark" Brodie (as George Askut) and aviator "Chip Collins, Sky Fighter." Weird to modern audiences, who are familiar with World War II aviation, the planes in this 1940 series are bi-planes. Chip and his Skull Squadron do fly the planes, but mostly there's punching.

Also weird are some of the nicknames. There's China-based, trouble-finding U.S. Marine "Strut" Warren, and deep-sea diver "Kinks" Mason. Those words must have had different meanings in 1940, because there's nothing strutty or kinky about them. They just do a lot of punching, like everybody else in this series.

Last oddity: Big Red McLane. Nothing odd about the nickname, as he is a really big guy with red hair. What's weird is that he's a lumberjack, but apparently freelance. He just wanders around the north woods, and when he finds trouble, he wades in and punches everybody. Then he gets hired for an issue, where he punches out all the bad guys. Then he's off into the woods, looking for more trouble. Um, what does he eat? "Big Red McLane" is by Fletcher Hanks ("Fantomah"), so it could be weirder, and I kinda wish it was. But it's only odd.

PRE-CODE CLASSICS: TERRIFIC is much better.

The name's a little misleading, as the book contains Horrific #9-12, and one issue of Terrific, #14. The already existing Horrific Volume One contains Horrific #4-8, so this is really Horrific Volume Two more than Terrific Volume One. Why they misnamed it is a mystery.

That's not all that's unexplained. PS Artbooks didn't reprint the first three issues of Horrific, and I don't know why. Comic Media skipped issue #14 in the name change, and I don't know why. And when the next issue of Terrific came out -- the last, as it turned out -- it was at a different company, starring Wonder Boy, and Farrell skipped issue #15 in the numbering. Again, I don't know why.

But I did enjoy this one much more than Fight Comics. It's typical pre-Code hoo-ha, where the solution to every problem is murder. Marital trouble? Murder! Owe some money to loan sharks? Murder! Don't have the right change for the toll booth? Murder!

And it doesn't always solve the problem, what with murdered people sometimes returning from the grave to murder their murderer. What goes around, comes around, as the saying goes.

And there was obviously some pitching in here and there. George Tuska definitely contributed to the first story in issue #9, credited to Pete Morisi, and I saw some distinct Mort Sekowsky panels in work attributed to Rudy Palais.

But there's no mistaking those Don Heck covers! According to comics legend, the publisher thought great big heads sold comics, so Heck drew great big heads. Sometimes it was random ugly people, but on at least three of the covers Heck drew great big heads of the narrator's assistants.

Oh, I need to mention the narrator. He is a teller of tales, who is called ... The Teller! Yes! Terrifying! Please revive any ladies who have swooned in the audience. The Teller, whom I assume has a day job at a bank, is assisted by four henchmonsters: Garry Ghoul, Walter Werewolf, Victor Vampire and Freddy Demon! Again, please attend to anyone overcome by this shockingly macabre set of names! (Although why Freddy doesn't get an alliterative name like the rest is ... a mystery!)

Anyway, had fun with this one's absolute lack of coherence, boundaries and good taste.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

PAPER GIRLS: Inspired by the television show, I read the entire comic book series yesterday (30 issues). If you're unfamiliar with the comic and are wondering whether or not you would like it, here's what I recommend you do: watch the TV show first, as a kind of sampler. If you like the televised version at all, then you should move on to the comic book, which is different enough that it won't spoil the comic (which is better than the TV series, IMO). 

I didn't enjoy the comic book series enough, for various reasons, to even finish it, so I didn't even bother with TV show. But I'm glad you and so many others do enjoy it.

I haven't read any comics yet today, but I'm like 4 issues behind on some series. Its been years since I've done that.

Captain Comics said:

Especially boxing! Apparently boxing was a big deal in the early 1940s. In addition to boxing strips "Kayo Kirby" and "Slaphappy Sam," and one-page boxer bios, the jungle strip, "Oran of the Jungle," features a retired boxer who does a lot of punching.

Without researching the dates, I would guess a lot of comics creators were hoping to be the next Joe Palooka.

That's a good insight, Richard. "Palooka" had been around for 10 years when Fight Comics #1 came out, and gave rise to Al Capp's "Li'l Abner" amid much rancor and publicity in 1934. All that publicity, plus the sums of money being discussed, would likely have been fresh in the minds of young cartoonists in the Eisner-Iger shop.

According to the Grand Comics Database, Will Eisner actually contributed a number of stories and created a number of strips for Fight Comics. As much as I love "The Spirit," I couldn't really distinguish Eisner's stories from the the other crap in the book. Especially boxing stories, which were always the same: Up-and-coming boxer has to deal with dirty tricks from unsavory boxing types (drugs in his water, threats to take a dive, etc.) on his way to the big fight. Spoiler: Good-guy boxer always wins the big fight, and vows to keep the game clean. Yawn.

One other oddity in all these boxing stories: When the mob types threaten the boxer, they never seem to take into account that the boxer may react by punching them all. This happens several times, and the boxer knocks out everybody in the room. Those are all eye-rolling moments, as of course the boxer is going to try to punch them -- he's a boxer! What else is he gonna do? Read 'em poetry? These sorts of scenes on TV and in the movies are always more plausible because the mobsters wisely keep guns on the boxer throughout the conversation.

And I expect that, with this post, I have officially given more thought to the content of Fight Comics than anyone writing the stories did. I can see why PS Artbooks shifted from publishing the entirety of Fight Comics (Vol. 2 is the last in the series so far) and switched to collecting Seniorita Rio, which is probably one of the better-quality strips in it. Certainly nothing in the first three issues deserves to be preserved for the ages.

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