One Fan's Opinion: Issue #2

Fri, August 19th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Erik Larsen, Columnist

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You know what I love about comics?

You can do absolutely anything you want.

You can do comedy, horror, cartoons, war stories, romance, superheroes and

any and everything.

And what frustrates me-- is that so few people do anything they want.

I've been reading comics for a few decades now (and no-- I'm not that old-- I

was the first guy to regularly work on "Amazing Spider-Man" who was born after

that character was introduced) my Dad bought comics when he was a kid so I

grew up in a household, which was well stocked with comics. I started

drawing my own comics (on 8 1/2 X 11 paper, folded in half) and creating

my own characters when I was, like, eight or something. I bought and read

comics and still do. Sure, I get Image comics for free but as far as the

others go, I make my weekly trek to the funnybook store just like

everybody else to purchase them.

I don't have a pull box.

I like to pick the books up off the stands and grab whatever catches my eye.

Anything with an Adam Hughes cover? It will be mine. (And if I had my way,

DC would put out a big fat "Covers of Adam Hughes" book so I could do some

serious power drooling in the comfort of my own home).

But I digress…

The point is (and I thought I had one when I started writing this nitwit

column) is that I buy whatever appeals to me and that over the years

comics have gone through a lot of changes, some good, some bad and that

there are things that I really miss.

Like captions.

Thought balloons.

And pirates attacking dudes.

Which brings me to a couple of new books, which I really can't get enough

of (and neither of which are published by Image comics as it turns

out)…"Scott Pilgrim" and "Street Angel."

On the surface, these books aren't much alike.

"Scott Pilgrim" comes out in a little manga-sized volume and it features a

23-year old hero who was dating a girl in high school and gets into

bitching fights. He hangs out and chases chicks and plays in a band and

has a tiny apartment and a gay roommate. It's written and drawn by Bryan

Lee O'Malley.

"Street Angel" is about a girl, orphaned by the world and raised by the

streets. Jesse Sanchez is a dangerous martial artist and the world's

greatest homeless skateboarder. It's a black and white, pink covered comic

book in the standard comic book format. It's written and drawn by Jim Rugg

with Brian Maruca co-writing the book. There's a trade out, collecting the

first few issues but I have the single comics.

Both books have a lot of crazy shit going on. Both don't follow a standard

comic book formula. Both feature "regular people," but both have

bigger-than-life action and much of the trappings of superhero comics (as

does "Sin City"-- although fewer pirates show up in "Sin City").

What I like about these books is that they're very imaginative and

entirely unpredictable. I can't be sure that's going to happen on the next

page.

And that's a good thing.

There are few comics being published these days where somebody can crash a

rocket ship in the midst of it all or run into pirates. Fewer still where

defeating a girl's evil ex-boyfriend will net you a cool prize, which

appears out of nowhere.

A big part of what I love about these books is the complete freedom being

exercised by these series' creators.

Anything goes.

And if that means ninjas-then they shall appear. If that means homages to

'70s blaxploitation comics-they shall appear and visitors from the past,

the future and other planets? Okay, sure.

These are not comics, which take themselves too seriously. On the other

hand, they're not humor books in the classic sense of the word either.

They're just entertaining as all hell and you know? That's not altogether

a bad thing.

One of my favorite humor books? "Dark Knight Returns."

I know, I know-- it's a book that got everybody "turning to the dark side"

and ushered in a new age of grim and gritty comics but a lot of the lines

in that book are downright hilarious. Frank Miller cracks me up. He nailed

Letterman. DK2 had some priceless bits as well. DC published these.

I dig Ashley Wood's stuff. I just think it looks damned cool. I buy

everything he touches. "Automatic Kafka" was one of the most underrated

books in years.

We didn't publish that comic either.

But if Wildstorm doesn't collect it-- I'd sure love to. It's a gorgeous book.

Home Run Pies? Still delicious.

Just making sure you're paying attention.

"Fantastic Four Omnibus" is totally fucking awesome. It collects "Fantastic Four" #1-30 plus the first FF annual. And one of the coolest things about

it is that they included all of the letters pages from the original

comics. The comics themselves are a terrific read (but don't expect these

to be Watchmen or even later issues of the book-they're pretty ridiculous

and downright idiotic at times but still, a ton of fun) but the letters

pages really do complete the package. It's a treat to read what fans of

the time thought of the books. As much as I like the web and message

boards-- there's something really special about letters pages, which are

part of the comics themselves. Message boards get refreshed and wiped (on

occasion) and older posts are difficult to track down (if they exist at

all). A printed letters page is a permanent part of a comic. And there are

few things more exciting than seeing your letter in print.

Nice job, guys!

So…when's the second volume winging our way?

Oh, and one yarn not included in this volume (and it's perfectly

understandable why, although the completist in me would love to have seen

it included) is the FF's origin which was reprinted for its first time in

their first annual. Why would I want to see the FF's origin (which was

from their first issue and reprinted here) included in a book, which

reprinted that same story? Because it was redrawn! The Human Torch was

redrawn and updated to look like he did in issues #3 and up! I suspect Sol

Brodsky did the honors of updating his appearance but it might have been

Dick Ayers as well. I was reminded of it because a letter printed in this

Omnibus bellyached about it.

Which brings us to the burning question:

Should Superman have one yellow boot?

Stories are being collected and re-colored (for the most part because the

old film is long gone) and often those re-coloring the comics try to

recreate the original pages using painstaking care. Should obvious

mistakes like mis-colored boots and other details be fixed in these

volumes or should colorists try to give readers the same exact reading

experience that the original readers had? Should you get what the original

colorists had intended to do but the engravers screwed up on or an exact

replica of what came out before?

There are many changes that have been made over the years. If you even get

the chance to see a printed copy of "Amazing Fantasy" #15 you'll note that

the spider on Spider-Man's back is blue not red. The Hulk's skin color in

the first issue of the Incredible Hulk was gray and in most reprints (up

until it was decided he really WAS gray, years later) he was re-colored as

green. When Galactus first showed up in the Fantastic Four, his costume

was green and red and in the following issue his costume was purple but

his legs were bare! Should that be fixed? Should it not?

We ran into this a bit when re-coloring "American Flagg." There were a

number of new pages added, years ago, when the book was collected in its

first trade. Those new pages will be included in the book when we collect

it (and yes, it's late-it was a bigger headache than you can imagine). In

the volume where the new pages were added, all three issues were

re-colored. So-should we use that color-or the original color from the

comics? And keep in mind that if we used the color from the comics-the NEW

pages from the first volume would look pretty different because they had

never been colored with the original Flagg palette! Should typos be fixed?

It's hard to say. There are some who'd like to see the stories as

originally published, warts and all. There are others who'd say, that you

finally have a chance to get it right and make the book everything Howard

Chaykin want it to be in the first place! What's next? Duplicate the

crappy printing and add texture to the page to make it look like

newsprint?

I dunno.

We've opted to make it look as good as possible and far too much time has

been spend fixing punctuation mistakes and other typos. It'll be a

different experience but since these stories were never collected all

together in one place it would have been anyway.

And we're not including the letters pages.

My only printed fan mail was in "Incredible Hulk" #225. I had letters

printed in "Firebreather" and "Gdland" as well, but I was a pro by that point

so I'm not sure it really counts.

Many companies make an attempt to publish comics for kids. Most don't pull

it off. My kids could not care less about most of the comics, which are,

allegedly, aimed at them. Big winners around my house include DC's "Plastic

Man" by Kyle Baker (and the "Plastic Man Archives" by Jack Cole) and Bongo's

"The Simpson's," which is, quite possibly, the most faithful translation of

a cartoon to comic book ever.

Other favorites include "Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth," "Tin Tin," "Captain

Marvel Adventures" and nearly everything Lee & Kirby did together.

This week's purchases include "Rocketo" from Speakeasy Comics and "Metal Gear

Solid" from IDW. Both damned cool to look at-- but I haven't read them yet.

That third "Essential Daredevil" made the cut as well.

Those Essential books Marvel is putting out? Worth every penny. There's

something really cool about seeing these comics in the raw (and I don't

mean with my clothes off but you do what you want in the privacy of your

own home) sans color. For any aspiring artist, you can do worse than

picking up a few of these books and studying them.

Same deal with the Jack Kirby Collector. Man, I love that thing.

"Gdland #2" by Joe Casey and Tom Sciolli is out and it's another terrific

issue. It's published by Image Comics but I'm not just saying it's good

because we did it.

"Invincible" #25 is on its way and it's really, really good. This is one

packed funnybook. Robert Kirkman delivers another solid superhero yarn and

there are a host of creators pitching in to tell the tales of the

book's many supporting characters. The Immortal went way up on my list of

favorites. Damn.

Ever buy a comic book just for its cover?

I have.

I've taken to ripping them off and storing them in one big heap of

bitchin' funnybook covers. It's a lot easier to justify when you get 'em

out of the quarter bin, of course but I've paid full price for many a

comic, which I've rendered completely valueless.

Those four to eight page-advertising inserts plugged into the middle of

comics? I tear those suckers right out and discard them. I know, I

know-- but does anybody really care about those stupid things? And it's not

as though I'm buying books to resell them.

Those slabbed books?

Ouch.

There's no way I'm going to buy one of those things-- ever. I buy comics to

read not to look at the front and back covers and wonder what's inside.

I'm not going to pay three times the price for a comic I can't thumb

through. When I see those slabbed book at a con I won't even give them a

second glance. As far as I'm concerned-they've ruined those books.

Besides-- you never know-- some asshole might have ripped out a four to eight

page advertising insert that was plugged into the middle of those comics,

rendering them worthless.

That's all for now.

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