The Most Interesting Comics of the Week
Every Wednesday, I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, Kickstarter, and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.
Superman: Golden Age Sundays, 1946-1949
by Jerry Siegel, Alvin Schwartz and Wayne Boring
IDW Publishing/Library of American Comics
Never-before reprinted newspaper strips of Superman at his silliest and d#@$iest.
Merely six months after his debut in Action Comics #1 in 1938, Superman made his way into newspaper strips. While originally written and drawn by his creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the post-WWII years saw new writers and artists take over, including the man who would become the definitive late-Golden Age Superman artist for both the comic books and the strips: Wayne Boring. His square-jawed, straight-laced rendition of Superman was heroic and iconic and often wonderfully at odds with the looney stories he was drawing.
This new hardcover collection contains strips, all of which are drawn by Boring, that first appeared from 1946 to 1949 and have never before been reprinted. There are some VERY silly stories in here: Superman gets turned into a baby, meets Cleopatra, becomes the object of amorous affection for a dinosaur called a “Paleomatzoball," and puts on an apron to clean Lois’ apartment. Ten years ago, a popular meme was started on an online message board that would come to be referred to as “Superman is a Dick” and would show scenes from Golden and Silver Age Superman comics with the Man of Steel acting like a jerk (for instance: burning a gift from Jimmy Olsen or laughing in Lois Lane’s face as she begged to be saved). This collection is filled with moments of Superman being churlish, immature, and scheming – tormenting a salesman who is just trying to sell him life insurance and even spanking a precocious kid. Even in the story where he gets turned into a baby, he’s the most ill-tempered toddler you’ve ever seen.
You might notice that this book is put out by IDW Publishing rather than DC Comics. In addition to their own slate of original and adapted properties, the publisher—in accordance with the Library of American Comics—has put together a number of coffee table-style hardcover collections of some of the greatest newspaper comics of the 20th century. They’ve recently announced an upcoming collection of Marvel’s Spider-man newspaper strips from the 1970s. These are archival collections of material that is typically not readily available in any other format.
By Jamie Coe
A tale of late nights and harsh crits in a British art school.
Nearly 25 years ago, indie-comics legend Dan Clowes created a four-page comic called Art School Confidential that became the definitive portrayal of the art school experience for generations and inspired a full-length and somewhat forgettable film of the same name in 2006. It was a comic that was photocopied and passed around every art school in the pre-internet era.
In Jamie Coe’s first graphic novel, Art Schooled, he gives us a modern view of the art school scene that taps into Clowes’ satire of the hypocrisy, elitism, and the debatable vacuousness of studying art in the first place. He even includes a sequence that runs through art school stereotypes updated for 2014—here’s a gamer-anime cosplay student, a hip-hop stoner student, and a hipster student whose obsessions with yesterday’s pop culture is focused on the 1980s rather than the ‘50s-obsessed hipsters Clowes often wrote about. Coe himself has just recently graduated from the University of Arts London and presumably has mined his own experiences in this book which doubles as the in-story final thesis of Coe’s protagonist Daniel, an observational cartoonist who feels out of place amidst the trite, shallow conceptual art being created around him. The heart of the book is the tension Daniel feels about his chosen course of education as well as the romantic tension between himself and a fellow student.
As a work of art itself, Art Schooled is gorgeous and allows Coe to show off everything he likely picked up during his time in school: color theory, page design, typography and, of course, cartooning. Every page is carefully thought out, with a superb use of different color palettes and title designs for each vignette that makes up the book. This is a really accomplished first book from an up and coming star. You can see for yourself on Nobrow’s website.
By Gabriel Hardman
Monkeybrain Comics/Image Comics
Man finds dog. Man loses dog. Man won’t quit until he gets dog back.
Gabriel Hardman’s Kinski is a comic that doesn't quite fit into a tradtional genre slot. It most closely resembles crime fiction, if you consider the dog-napping that takes place in the story to be a crime, but it’s really more of a psychological, Hitchcockian drama about obsession—like Vertigo, except with a man and a dog. It's the kind of subtle, off-beat story you might get on cable TV these days, but that you don’t get enough in comics without having a superhero or some other fantasy element thrown in.
Joe—the man in this man-loves-dog story—is a traveling businessman who finds a lost dog outside his hotel and instantly becomes attached. When the dog, who he names Kinski (after Klaus Kinski, one of many reference to the films of Werner Herzog), gets picked up by Animal Control and claimed by his rightful owner, Joe goes to great lengths to get him back, even when everyone around him tells him to just let it go.
Kinski is written and illustrated by Gabriel Hardman, a storyboard and concept artist for films like Inception and Dark Knight Rises, as well as for comics like The Incredible Hulk and Planet of the Apes. His ink-brushed drawings in this comic are loose and expressive—more immediate than the detailed realism of a lot of his past work—while his measured storytelling, evenly paced within consistent six-panel pages, makes it feel like a small-budget independent film.
As a digital-only comic through Monkeybrain Comics, the 6th and final issue of Kinski hits Comixology’s online storefront today at the same time that Image Comics is releasing a collected print edition of the whole story. You can read a preview here on Image’s website.
Zenith Phase One
By Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell
Grant Morrison’s first superhero epic, back in print after 20 years.
Back in 1987, not long after comics like The Dark Knight Returns had revitalized superheroes and made them “grim and gritty” for what would be the foreseeable future, a young writer named Grant Morrison decided to go in another direction. With artist Steve Yeowell (as well as designs and an overall stylistic inspiration from artist Brendan McCarthy), Morrison created a new superhero named Zenith, whose story would be serialized on a weekly basis in Britain’s premier sci-fi comics anthology 2000 AD Magazine. Zenith was a second-generation British superhero, driven to use his powers not by a sense of justice but by his own self-interest and desire for fame. When evil beings from another dimension called The Many Angled Ones possess the body of a Nazi superman, Zenith reluctantly puts aside his career as a pop star and joins the surviving members of the previous generation of superheroes to save the world.
Morrison structured the overall plot of Zenith in four “phases,” which were serialized in 2000 AD through the early 1990s and initially collected in trade paperbacks around the same time, but have been out of print ever since. In fact, "Phase Four" was never collected. Morrison’s work on Zenith would lead to him getting a job writing Animal Man for DC Comics where he would eventually become one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed superhero comic writers of the modern era.
For the first time in 20 years, Rebellion is reprinting this early Morrison work in limited edition hardcovers beginning with "Phase One," which is out now. They will reprint all four phases—including the never-before reprinted "Phase Four." For Morrison fans, this is a special treat to read this early and nearly-forgotten work. This first Phase reads a little like Morrison-lite; less layered than the ultra-dense epics he has become known for but with a lot of flashes of future-Morrison peeking through.