MARVEL STRANGE TALES III: A PROPOSAL
Yes, it's cute to see "indie" artists take a shot at Marvel's characters every once in a while. Marvel has done it twice now, but I think they should go in a different direction for "Strange Tales 3." Rather than get indie comic creators, I think they should hire children's story book artists to handle the art chores.
Yes, this book should be done in illustrated storybook style. In fact, it should be printed directly onto board books. Skip the pamphlets and the standard comic size formatting. Go straight for the children's book market with this. They're sturdier, will last on shelves longer, will hold up to the punishment a kid might throw at it, and the relatively high price per page count fits in wonderfully with the comics industry's business model right now. (Really: a 16 page board book might run $7 and there's only one illustration per page or two, often.)
Even better: Let it be one long, continuous story, in which each book is a self-contained complete tale. Don't take six issues to tell one story. Think about a book series, like "Harry Potter," where each book is a big story unto itself, but there's an on-going saga at work if you read all of them. Don't think about the latest and greatest mega-crossover where, six issues later, you still think you missed half the story.
Here's a quick sampling of artists who have books on my daughter's bookshelves who would do idiosyncratic and potentially cool Marvel stories:
Sandra Boynton: By far, my favorite children's author, even though she's tended to go off on a lot of tangents lately with writing songs that happen to be story books. "But Not the Hippopotamus" is the best of the best, and that's saying a lot for an author whose oeuvre includes "Moo Baa La La La" and "Barnyard Dance!"
Just picture a Spider-Man story from her with The Rhino and Doctor Octopus and Howard the Duck. I throw Howard in there because I like Boynton's ducks, what can I say? And I'd pay good money (OK, maybe $7) just to see her version of Wolverine. He'd be awfully cute.
Kady MacDonald Denton: This book, "A Visitor for Bear," is larger than my scanner, so please pardon the top and bottom edges getting cut off. I discovered it last year and bought it strictly for the art. Even now, it's a little wordy for my daughter, but I can paraphrase as we breeze through the pages. Denton has a great painted style combined with strong cartooning that makes her style a Must Have for "Strange Tales 3."
"A Visitor for Bear" is a funny story about a bear who wants to be left alone, but who finally discovers that having a friend maybe isn't such a bad idea, after all. It's the story of The Hulk, really, who just wants everyone to leave him alone, but who befriends a tenacious little guy (Mouse Rick Jones?) for a cup of tea. I know what story I want to see her draw now...
Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond: Bond is the artist here, but the style of this series of "Mouse" books requires both creators to properly pull it off. Let the two craft a circular story for the Marvel character of their choice. It could be fun.
Plus, these books are wildly commercially successful, so including these two creators would be a nice marketing coup.
Tim Raglin: Just take a look at the images. Detailed, beautiful, jam-packed. I'm in awe of his art in this book, "The Birthday ABC," which is a series of 25 animal drawings (couldn't find an "X" animal). Each one goes to great lengths to show the creature in a specific time period and location.
I just recently discovered this book (originally published in 1995, it looks like), and am thrilled to see that he's done a lot more than just this one. I have a lot of this art style to look forward to. I just hope my daughter likes it. I need to start with "The Curse of Catunkhamun." That cover is awesome.
And if that doesn't sell you on his stuff, check out his football illustration, "Bears vs. Beavers."
Caroline Jayne Church: There are a billion different "I Love You" style books on the market today. I think we have three or four of them sitting on the shelf in the room next to where I'm writing this. "I Love You Through and Through" is one of my favorites. It's written for the very young, with few words per page and large images, but the use of texture on the pages is what impresses me. Church's style is "ultra-cartoony." But when you look close enough, you'll see that her pages have flecks of color spread across them. I'm not sure what the technique is at all, but it works to make relatively simple (and terribly cute) drawings into something with an extra level to them.
Alyssa Satin Capucilli: She's the artist on a "Biscuit" book or two that we have here at Pipeline World Headquarters. From what I understand, a series of artists have handled the series, and they're all based on the style of the original illustrator, Pat Schories. I'll stick with Capucilli's overly cute and furry animals for this project, since it's what I know. I think she'd draw a great "Pet Avengers" story, don't you? It could be everything that many of the nay-sayers assumed a book like "Pet Avengers" would be: Cute, cuddly, soft, warm and sentimental to a fault. Bring it on.
Bruce Degen: "Jamberry" has to be the oldest piece of work to be scanned in for this column, first published in the early 1980s. If Bruce Degen is still around, though, he'd be a natural for this story. He can drawn tons of crazy action exploding across a scene. He's not afraid to draw lots of detail, such a rainstorm of blueberries or berry piles that bury a bear. (Say that five times fast!)
That's just the start. I'm sure I haven't worked my way to even more popular story book artists, but give me a couple of years and I'll update this column. In all likeliness, Marvel won't have done this idea by then, so we can come back to it.
ODDS AND ENDS
- Fare thee well, Mid-Ohio Comic Con. Not that I ever made it out to one - largely because, in my con-going days, I wasn't traveling on Thanksgiving weekend for one - but the stench of Wizard World has now been applied to it, and the slow death can now begin.
- The good news came down that The Walking Dead" TV series is green-lighted for a second season, with 13 episodes. Isn't it great that we can, by name, congratulate the comic book creators on this one? Isn't it wonderful that we're not analyzing this in terms of what it'll do for the copyright-holder's stock price after the closing bell today, but rather in how it might impact the lives of real people, mostly Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Tony Moore?
- You know, it's been a week or two since the last "Created By Stan Lee" project was announced. Shouldn't he be creating something for some online digital comic publisher by now?
- I was really hoping Marvel or DC would make some insane Monday announcement. It would be the kind of thing that would provoke me into typing another thousand words before putting this column to bed. Alas, this week, it's not meant to be. Well, sure, DC is doing some sort of Batman stage show that sounds as cringe-worthy as anything else I've heard floated lately. And Marvel is not just back-pedaling from their previous "announcement" that they were dropping prices on some comics, but it actually sounds now like they're making things up as they go along. But I think by the time this sees virtual print, we'll all have tired of those topics and moved on.
- As if you couldn't tell from this column already, I had a slow comics week. Has that ever happened to you? You look back at the last week and realize you didn't do anything particularly comics-centric. This is definitely one of those weeks for me. The funny thing is how self-correcting it is. This week, I've read two trade paperbacks and have two more eagerly lined up behind those to read. I'm reading both the most recent "Walking Dead" trades in an effort to catch up to the series, while at the same time reading the first hardcover collection again to remember the finer details of the series so I can compare and contrast with the television show I hope to watch someday soon. That's just the tip of the iceberg. I can't wait to see what pops up next on my To Be Read pile...