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Various Anthologies – Superior Showcase #1


Superior Showcase #1

The phrase “entertaining superhero anthology” probably isn’t something you’ve read lately, but that’s exactly what this is: an entertaining superhero anthology. I wouldn’t have believed it either. There are three stories in this one. First up is Nick Bertozzi’s take on an average day in a superhero convenient store and how the staff deals with transients and villains. And he draws costumes that look like actual clothes! Amazing. Next up is Mike Dawson’s tale of the final adventure of Ace-Face, a guy with giant metal arms, who decides to come out of retirement one last time to deal with a local vigilante, in what is one of the better fight scenes outside of It Lives #1 by Ted May. Last up is Butterfly by John Campbell & Dean Trippi. It’s a look at the lives of the most under-appreciated of heroes: sidekicks. Throw in the evil Hipster Ghosts as the villains and I have a real hard time picking a favorite out of this bunch, always a good sign for an anthology. Adhouse books has (from the comics I’ve seen anyway) managed to keep their perfect reputation intact again. Also, if you’re afraid of the superhero comics, don’t worry. There’s only a couple of real fight scenes and only one guy flying. They do all, however, spend a lot of time focused on grown men in underwear, so take that however you’d like. $2.95

Various Alternative Comics anthologies – Triple Dare #2


Triple Dare #2

The thing about experimental comics is that, well, they're usually not all that good. Sure, they're interesting to students of the genre, and it was neat to read about the strict rules that the people involved in the first Triple Dare had to follow. Here's my problem: this is a book with two of my favorite comic people ever, James Kochalka and Tom Hart, and two other people that I'm trying to learn more about, Matt Madden and Nick Bertozzi. There's not really a bad story in here, but there's nothing all that great about it either. It would be nice to have a book with all these people in it that I could just hand to people and say "Look, here are some of the best comic people working today!" and have it be their best stories too. Maybe I ask too much. It's an interesting book. All the stories have to be on an island, and then are other stipulations, but hey, it's a surprise. Let's just say that they're inventive and possibly a little obnoxious when you know about them. If I have one piece of advice for the next issue it's that they should keep these stipulations secret and let the people figure them out for themselves. My favorite in the book was probably the Bertozzi story. Like I said, there's nothing bad in here, it's just that maybe all this daring is dragging the stories down a bit. I know, that's the whole point, it's not like my opinions have to make any sense or anything... If you're looking for a copy of this, go to the Alternative Comics website and ask nicely.

Wolfgang, Kurt (editor) – Lowjinx #4


Lowjinx #4

God bless Lowjinx. I don’t know if anybody has ever come up with the concept for this book before, but it’s about time. In case you can’t read the cover, it’s an anthology of childhood drawing from some of the best small press cartoonists around. Included here are James Kochalka, Sam Henderson, Ivan Brunetti, Nick Bertozzi, Greg Cook, Tony Consiglio, Jordan Crane, Pete Sickman-Garner, Jesse Fuchs, Megan Kelso, Alex Robinson, Kevin Scalzo, Tom Spurgeon, Eric Reynolds, Steve Weissman, and, of course, Kurt Wolfgang. Once again, with this book, it’s probably not going to appeal to many people who don’t already know the work of those cartoonists. But for those people, this is absolutely priceless. It’s $6, if you like the work of these people go to the Top Shelf website and beg them to sell you a copy. OK, I should tell you a little bit about it first, even though if that list of names didn’t sell you, I don’t know what I could possibly say to convince you. Eric Reynolds (is he even on my page yet?) had a mostly text story about the Fantastic Four that’s hilarious, Sam Henderson hasn’t changed much over the years except now he swears more, Nick Bertozzi has a great story about a dog who’s learning to roller disco, and Tony Consiglio… aw, just buy it. I don’t want to ruin anything else for you, and everything in here is fascinating when compared to their later work. Don’t believe me? Fine, look at this:

Various DC Anthologies – Bizarro Comics Volume 1

Bizarro Comics

Well, the book I’ve been holding my breath for since I heard about it in the planning stages is finally here. All the best small press people, all in one book! All Bizarro stories, all the time! Little seen talents finally getting a chance to shine on the big stage! And the end result is… mixed.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are moments in here that make it worthwhile, enough so that I can recommend getting it. You could probably wait for the softcover to come out and save $10 or so, because there’s nothing in here that couldn’t wait a few months. If you don’t know the concept, DC apparently decided to give all these “no name” people a chance. If anybody knows the complete story behind this book, let me know. I’m curious as hell to see how this got organized. And whose decision was it to put pairings on all of the stories instead of just letting one person shine? Granted, some of the pairings boggle the mind: Dylan Horrocks and Jessica Abel, James Kochalka (writing and not drawing!) and Dylan Horrocks, Jef Czekaj and Brian Ralph, Eddie Campbell and Hunt Emerson, Ivan Brunetti and Evan Dorkin, Evan Dorkin and Steven Weissman… it’s a hell of a list, don’t get me wrong. But most of these guys spend their time doing their own thing and I think it would have flowed a lot better if they had been allowed to do that here. Granted, you would have to bring in a color guy for most of these people that have never used it, but they do everything else themselves.

The story (such as it is) is this: a creature called A comes to Mxyzptlk’s world to try and take over. He challenges M to a best-of-seven of games, but M is disqualified and has to choose a champion. Remembering his past problems, he chooses Superman but can’t find an appropriate alternate universe substitute after the original one doesn’t believe him, and accidentally chooses Bizarro. Make sense? It doesn’t matter. Bizarro decides to win the contest by drawing a bunch of stories, and these stories are all the ones by the small press folks.  When it goes back to the “story”, these comics are promptly forgotten about and the challenges begin, but not before they get an insult or two off about the quality of the comics. Which, I’m sure, is just an insult in the story directed at Bizarro and not the creators, but it’s pretty easy to take it the wrong way. The main story takes up about 60 pages of a 236 page book, which wouldn’t be that bad if it didn’t mostly suck. It has a few moments, but the thought that this story was expanded upon at the expense of some of these extremely talented guys doesn’t make sense at all to me.

Flipping through this again to write this, I see that I enjoyed almost all of the shorts in this. I didn’t really like Wonder Girl vs. Wonder Tot, Help! Superman!!, Batman, and The Most Bizarre Bizarro of All! Compare that to the 23 other stories that I liked a lot, and it looks like they have a winner here. The Bat-man (by Chip Kidd and Tony Millionaire and strangely, the only black and white story in the book) is brilliant. Old school classic Batman here, and he’s ugly as hell. Hawkman (James K. and Dylan Horrocks), while not drawn by James, has the same feel that I’ve come to know and love from all his work. Kamandi (Nick Bertozzi and Tom Hart) takes the cake for me as the best story in the book, but I’m hopelessly biased because Tom Hart drew it. That’s Really Super, Superman (Ivan Brunetti and Evan Dorkin) is a close second, and First Contact (Mark Crilley and Andi Watson), about the Atom, is up there too.

I was expecting a hell of a lot from this book, and I’m not sure that I got it. What I did get, however, is a thoroughly entertaining look at a lot of DC universe told through the eyes of some of the most talented people working in comics today. If I cared at all about the characters this probably would have been a great book, or maybe if they had allowed them to work by themselves, or maybe if DC had given them a little more room (and a lot more people. The names excluded here are too numerous to mention, although I am surprised and gratified by some of the selections) to the creators. All in all, if you like even half the people in this book, get it. If you like Evan Dorkin, Sam Henderson or Dylan Horrocks, they’re all in here a few times writing and drawing but not, as I’ve made pretty clear by now, doing both things at once. The Matt Groening cover makes the book, too. And yes, I did see the Dan Clowes cover in The Comics Journal and I thought it was great, but I think this is a better cover for the tone of the book.

Bertozzi, Nick – Rubber Necker #3


Rubber Necker #3

Once again, I read the last issue too long ago to have any idea of what's going on in the main story. That's the main problem with buying the individual issues, I guess. If I wasn't living out of boxes (and so very, very lazy) I'd dig out the other two issues and put them all together. One of these days! Anyway, I wasn't as impressed with this one as I was with #2, but I was tremendously impressed with #2, so don't take that as a major step backwards or anything. There's the third part of the main story, Drop Celing, in which our hero follows a young woman to an art class and tries to deal with his crazy mother. I don't mean "crazy" as in "wacky", I mean just plain crazy. Then there's The Little Things, a wordless story about a young man and his daughter enjoying some "quiet" time together. Good lord, was that a pun? Oof! Then the last story is Overpass, a story that was originally in Expo 2000, but it's a good one to throw in here for fans of his work who might not have seen it. It's about a man who designed an overpass for its artistic value and has spent decades in seclusion before finally agreeing to an interview. A solid book at $3.50, this is still one of the very few series out there that everybody should keep up with.

Bertozzi, Nick – Rubber Necker #2


Rubber Necker #2

The thing about regular series like this is that it's usually hard to tell if they're worth the trouble right away. That's the pessimistic view, of course, as You could always just assume that a good first issue means that the whole series is going to be fantastic. You'd be wrong a lot of the time, and a lot of the other times the series just ends right away anyway and what difference does it make? It seems like I had a point with all this but it's slipped away and I'm just digging myself a deeper hole here so... I liked this book. A lot. I'm going to have to dig up this issue when I move so I can read the first part of Drop Ceiling, but this part holds up really well on its own. Parfum, the story of a man and his journey into his own sexuality, is fantastic stuff. Quite the heartwarming conclusion. It's the kind of thing that you would see on billboards for comics if I was in charge of the world, but I'm not going to scan it here and ruin it for you. "There Was Something I Wanted to Tell You But I've Forgotten What It Was" was an interesting choice for adaptation, but the length of the title prevents me from talking about it anymore. Good stuff all around. I like these new series that have all kinds of random stories instead of just being obviously designed to be a graphic novel in a year or so. Not that I have anything against graphic novels or anything, it's just nice to know that there is a reason to buy the issues.

Bertozzi, Nick – The Masochists


The Masochists

I’ve heard a lot of talk about this book, ranging from it being the best thing ever to unreadable. I’m going to take the middle ground on this one, as there are parts of it that are incredible. The book is split up into three parts. The first one deals with a boy who trades in his nerdy cards to “get the girl”, but he’s also forced to choose between his friends and this new girl. I thought this part was kind of a mess, frankly. There was a good underlying theme there somewhere but it was hard to find. The second part dealt with making music and selling out. Also a bit of a mess, but better. It made a few good points without getting preachy, which can be tough to do. The third part is the reason that people should at least borrow this book from a friend. It’s the story of an overweight girl who’s leading a miserable, nothing life. I felt sick after reading the ending, if that tells you anything. Truly disturbing. So, $14.95 is a bit much fun one story, but what a story! And, honestly, the other stories might grow on me after a few reads, I’m just giving you a first impression here. He has a very unique artistic style. Give him a few years to get the hang of the storytelling aspect of comics and he could be a major talent.

Bertozzi, Nick – Boswash



Once again, I’m torn. The concept for the packaging of this book is pretty interesting. It’s kind of like a fold-out map type of thing, numbered so you don’t get lost or anything. My copy is already ripped from my trying to zig when I should have zagged while unfolding it. Xeric helped to make this one possible, I think. The story itself didn’t do much for me. A man has a disagreement with his superiors about the boundaries in a war and gets himself “arrested”. That’s the easy, non-giving away explanation anyway. My problem with this was that there just wasn’t any background on any of the characters, so it was hard to care about the guy who was in danger of losing his life. There just wasn’t enough space here to make this good. Still, I’ve heard all kinds of good things about this guy, and he has samples up on his page of all kinds of comics. Give him a chance, just don’t get this issue. I’m planning on finding some more small stuff before I give up on this guy.