Tag Archives: cerebus

Listmania part 2: Favorite individual issues

Daredevil #181 “Last Hand” April 1982: Frank Miller was just hitting his stride and the character of Elektra was becoming hugely popular.  I remember picking this one up at the local newsstand and thinking it was just going to be cover hype.  I was already a jaded fan at that point.  By the time I was done reading this I had a new interest in comics.

Justice League of America #0 “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” September 2006: This was more like favorite single page.  Each of the short scenes in this story are interesting, but the single page that references Batman’s reaction after Superman was killed by Doomsday redefined the character for me and put a lump in my throat.  You don’t often think of Batman as human and this changed that for me.

The stunning wraparound cover to Mage #14

Mage #14 “…Or Not to be” August 1986:  This was the issue after the series lost the character that was the emotional center of the book and set out the direction for the lead Kevin Matchstick.  Drawing the parallels to King Arthur seemed odd on the first page, but by the last page I could not imagine a time when I couldn’t see them.

Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children #21 “Dances with Cows” February 1991:  There was never a point I didn’t love this forgotten series from Piranha Press (a DC precursor to Vertigo), but this issue was funny and sad and odd all at once.  I really wish they would collect this anthology series in bookshelf volumes.  There is a large amount of creator owned and fringe material that is all but lost to readers now unless they search out the original back-issues.  This series was uneven at times, but so different from what was out there then, and still very readable now, that it could not help but find a new audience today.

Miracleman #22 “Carnival” August 1991:  It is very hard to pick a single issue from this amazing series, and picking a Gaiman issue over a Moore one might be considered a bad choice, but this issue had an emotional core that would resonate with anyone, even people who had not read the preceding 21 issues.  It touched on much of what had come before without ever relying on it and made this a stand-alone issue that really packed an emotional punch.  Now all we need is for these to be reprinted.

Avengers Annual #10 “By Friends — Betrayed!” 1981:  An uninspired Al Milgrom cover (nothing against Al, the cover just didn’t work for the book) covered up the first appearance of Rouge, and began a run of X-Men stories that would see the book rise in sales to be Marvel’s biggest book for many years to come.  The fact that it was in an Avengers book, and that the X-Men are only in a few pages of it messed with my head a bit, but this really is more of an X-book than an Avengers one.  Art by the amazing Michael Golden with inks by Armando Gil gave this book a look that no other book at the time had.  This is collected (finally) in Marvel Masterworks X-Men vol 7 and the Claremont omnibus.  It had been reprinted before, but never in an edition where it really worked, and certainly not as nicely as it is here.

Lord Julius and a “like-a-look”. Cerebus #137

Cerebus #137 (& 138–sort of) “Epilogue” August 1990:  This was a single story that Sim used an issue and a half for, but the first part is the best.  It has never been collected in the phone books since it was a fun filler issue that really does not fit in either the book before it (Jaka’s Story) or the one that followed it (Melmoth), but gives a silly look at Lord Julius and his “like-a-looks”, explaining a lot about the character in a funny way.  It is available ONLY as the original issue(s) or in Cerebus #0 which collected the other in-between issues that are not included in any of the phone books.

Toad Men!?!?

Sensational She-Hulk #2 “Attack of the Terrible Toad Men” June 1989:  The first issue seemed like a fluke or a one-off, but when they did this one I was left in awe of how funny this book really was.  Byrne left the book after issue 8 over a flap with editorial and the book never quite recovered, until his return in issue #31 that is!  Then he left at issue 50 and the decline started all over.  Dan Slott did some fun stuff with Shulkie later, but this series is still the best there has been.

Alpha Flight #12 “… And One Shall Surely Die” July 1984:  I freely admit I was one of the zombies that jumped on this Byrne book when it arrived, and I loved it for the first years’ worth of stories.  Byrne himself has said he never really saw the point of having an AF book, but it didn’t show for most of his time on the book.  This issue was a surprise in every way.  Yes, they advertised that a major character was going to die for weeks in advance, but how often had we heard that before only to see some turd third stringer die?  Yes, death in comics has since become a revolving door plot hammer.  Never in a million years did I think Byrne would GUT the heart out of the team and kill someone as important as that!  Naive of me?  Maybe, but I had not become so jaded at that point and just didn’t see it coming.  This book gave me chills, and still does when I read it.

Uncanny X-Men #186 “Lifedeath” October 1984:  The single most beautifully drawn mainstream issue of the 1980s.  Barry Windsor Smith as inked by Terry Austin was too much for many at the time. It was a challenging story that made me expect more (too much) from my comics after that.

Superman #712 (had to sneak this one in) “Lost Boy: A Tale of Krypto the Superdog” August 2011:  I was never a huge fan of big blue and have only occasionally read his adventures.  What I AM is a dog person.  This was an inventory story used to fill time while the Grounded arc needed to get caught up.  This issue was better than ANY of those.  I defy any dog person out there to not be an emotional wreck after reading this book.

This was a REALLY hard list. To just come up with ten (OK, eleven) was really tough, and if asked in a month I would think that there would be changes.

Feel free to start throwing chair and arguing, but I would really rather see some other people’s lists.

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A little listmania! part 1: favorite stories

Blogger wwayne got me thinking about my favorites;  Favorite story arcs and favorite single issues.  Putting the definitions as simply as possible ( since us geeks love to argue about the definitions ) we get….

Story arc:  a  story occurring within an ongoing series.  OK, that is not going to work for me, dammit!  Since I am a trade waiter and have been for 2 decades, some of this will have to be at least a little in the self-contained series vein.  But I will try to justify and explain as I go.

Single issue:  Just like it says on the tin, a single issue of an ongoing series.

So, in no particular order except the order if find them on the shelf….

Concrete:  Strange Armor.  (1997)  This is where the definition gave me trouble as Concrete creator Paul Chadwick didn’t really DO an ongoing Concrete series, just connected limited series, the definition became an issue.  Also in the age of trades and collections the actual issues of a particular arc are harder to recall.  This one I did read as the single issues when they came out in late 97 and early 98.  A 5-issue limited in the continuing story of Ron Lithgow, this was the story that finally gave the full and definitive origin of the character, and fleshed out the back story greatly.  The “series” of concrete stories that Chadwick has done are an amazing character study with its roots in the sci-fi and super hero stories he grew up with and have more heart than any other book(s) I have read since.  All but the most recent DHP series have been collected as trades and are still powerful today.

Cerebus #139 to 150 (Melmoth). (1990) The was the story that followed Jaka’s Story and is one of the shorter Cerebus arcs.  A beautifully written and drawn book, it explores the final days of Oscar Wilde as seen in this fictionalized universe.  Taken directly from contemporary accounts of friends of the dying writer, this is a powerful and sad story.  It is available in “phone book” number 6 of the Cerebus run.

Action Comics  #866 to 870. (2008) Geoff Johns and Gary Frank update and redefine the Brainiac character.  One of the most successful updates DC has ever done.  Gary frank’s art is at its very best here.  Available as the Superman Brainiac trade.

Justice League of America#1 to 7  (2006)  Brad Meltzer is a polarizing figure in comics thanks in large part to the love it or hate it Identity Crisis series.  (loved it)  This arc started up the new volume of JL with artist Ed Benes, and is a story that actually made me interested in JL.  What got me into the story in the first place was my affection for Red Tornado, and this story focuses on him and his existence heavily and is a great team book to boot.  Available as The Tornado’s Path trade collection.

Planetary #7 to 12 (2000)  After setting up the world of Elijah Snow and his team in the first arc, Warren Ellis and John Cassaday outdid themselves on this arc (available as Planetary:  The Fourth Man collection).  The jumped into the homages of the comics with both feet here.  They did versions of Transmepolitan, Hellblazer, Doc Savage and touched on the origins of the big three at DC and still managed to keep the main story moving forward without the meanderings that affected some of the later issues.

My Jill Thompson sketch in my Absolute edition

Sandman #41 to 49 (1992)  This was the arc that really made the series sing for me.  After the A Game of You arc cooled me on the series (It took me years to learn to appreciate it) this series just sang with life.  Gaiman was really flying here and this is the run that made me love Jill Thompson’s art.  This is available in the Brief Lives collection or in Absolute Sandman vol 3.

Fantastic Four #242 to 244 (1982)  I still go back and read these every few months.  In fact the whole #240 to 250 part of John Byrne’s run is just crazy fun to read!  This was the first Galactus story I read that I actually liked.  Available in several reprint volumes from FF Visionaries vol 2 to the big-ass omnibus collection of the Byrne run.

Uncanny X-Men #165 to 168 (1982)  Paul Smith’s first issues on this title were the wrap up to Chris Claremont’s Brood story.  ( I include 168 here as the epilogue to that story–because I CAN!) To this day, his art in these issues is amazing to look at.  Collected in too many versions to count.

Mage #1 to 15 (1984)  Technically this was a limited series, but to my mind, when you know that you are just going to do a series of limited series, it is just a series with breaks.  In the case of Mage the break between the first and second series was a little more than just a break.  The same is true with the ongoing wait for the third series.  This story by Matt Wagner was lightning in a bottle.

Avengers #198 to 200 (1980)  This was David Michelinie and George Perez’s last regular issues on the title(in a run anyway) and they rent out with a great story that was a follow-up to the Claremont/Golden story in Avengers Annual #10.  This run is not yet collected.  Hopefully the Marvel Masterworks will continue long enough to get to these.

Well, I stuck to 10.  I omitted runs where there was a single good issue that MADE that run, and I avoided genuine limited series.  Maybe that will be another list.  Next up…

Favorite single issues…

 

 

 

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Digital High Society review

Cerebus High Society (digital audio/video)

Aardvark-Vanaheim

2012

60+ pages each .99 cents

This was a long time coming.  The build up for the digital versions of Cerebus has been a hot topic for some time now, and I have finally absorbed enough to decide.  This is, for those not in the know, issues 26 through 50 of Dave Sim’s massive 300 issue series that ran for 26 years ending in 2004.  While there was more than a little attention on the creator of the book in the later years, the series itself continued to become a forum to watch a master of the medium at work, and that is the important thing here.  When the controversy over Sim himself finally fades into the background, the work will remain.

The series digital presentation starts with the second book, and the first complete graphic novel High Society.  The first 25 issues having been a somewhat looser more episodic style largely parodying the comics that were Sim’s main influence early on.  With this collection of digital stories the series launched into a clever, witty and very detailed look at both the comics industry and at the political process of elections.  Sim was quoted many years ago in The Masters of Comic Book Art documentary describing Cerebus in this book as a cross between Richard Nixon and Chauncey Gardner.  I’m not sure how accurate that is in hindsight, but the story is a rich and relevant today as it was decades ago.

The digital presentation is everything a fan of the story would hope.  The regular digital comic is fine; with sharp clean scans of the black and white art.  There are a few panels where the lettering in white on a black background is a little hard to read, but from a visual standpoint, that is my ONLY gripe.  The real discussion point here is the audio portion and extras.  This entire collection, of which there are currently 3 issues available for download here, is recorded with Sim doing all the characters voices and narration himself, with music and sound effects.  While not 100% successful, the presentation works well.  I can’t say Sim is a great performer, but he makes it work.  These are his creations and this mostly works well.  You know that this is how it sounds in his head.  These characters are now as close to what Dave envisioned as possible, and that is a neat feeling.  There is an odd novelty to the whole thing that may wear off, but this is cool.  The music is far from perfect as it sometimes is a bit much, but it quickly becomes a more seamless and enjoyable part of the book.  The guided viewing experience is dynamic and extremely effective.  You move with the characters at times and the feeling of being taken through the story rather than reading like normal can be a bit trippy, but very fun.

The extras are exhaustive and amazing.  It is clear that the DVD extras concept is what they are going for here and there is most everything you could have ever hoped to see, turning a 20 page comic into a 60+ page digital DL for .99 cents.  Every page, letter, note, sketchbook or notebook page even business correspondence is included.  Some of it is just an odd curiosity, but most of it is really interesting, and out of print since the original issues or never seen at all.  Having completely forgotten the experience of reading the individual issues years ago (I now have all the phone books and sold my originals ages ago) this was all an unexpected treat.

For the new reader to Cerebus, this is the perfect intro and offers up everything you would need to enter the story.  As a long time reader the new digital presentation is something even more special.  There is so much more here in the per issue package than in any other modern comic DL , that I would be hard pressed to believe that the big boys will even try to step up, putting this in a class by itself.

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A Moment of Cerebus Question

The site A Moment of Cerebus is asking for questions for the celebration in a few weeks of High Society being released digitally.  The have asked that questions be posted on other sites and they will then be answered during the celebration.  Here is my question as submitted…

As I understand it, your religious conversion has created some difficulties in your professional life with the people around you not understanding, and your desire to be somewhat more isolated.  My question is a two-fer:  First, how has your relationship with Gerhard changed?  (I understand he is no longer a partner in A/V and Cerebus, but I imagine that was more of a business decision, correct?) Second, has your new outlook and the reactions to it in the industry actually improved any of your relationships with other creators or friends?  Are they now assessing you differently and perhaps more objectively as a person?

If there is anyone else that would like a question asked, I’m sure we can submit more.  Let me know here…

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Artsy Fartsy stuff

I found myself a bit bored.  Nothing I really feel like reviewing as there is not much new out of interest.  Coming soon-ish, I will have reviews of older books I have either recently found or re read.  But for the moment, something pretty.

I was looking through some older, more obscure books and found some great art I thought might be fun to post.

Before Fables and Jack of Fables was a great series by Bill Willingham called The Elementals.  Published by Comico this was a cutting edge book for its day.  Humor, adventure and drama in one of the most unusual books on the stands. This is a “swimsuit issue” drawing of the character Morningstar published in Amazing Heroes.

Morningstar

Then there is Gilbert Hernandez.  If you don’t know him, shame on you.  Feel guilty?  Good.  Now go buy Love and Rockets.  This is Errata Stigmata, on of the cast from that book.  This is another swimsuit shot.

Errata Stigmata by Gilbert Hernandez

In the 80’s there was a real renaissance of established artist taking advantage of the higher quality printing available.  Frank Miller did Ronin and Mike Grell had Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.  Before that though, he had a creator owned property called Jon Sable, Freelance published by First Comics.  This is Myke Blackmon from that series.  Bonus points to anyone that remembers the short-lived TV series based on that title!

Myke Blackmon by Mike Grell

This next bit is one of the original sketches in my small collection.  In fact, it was one of the first I collected.  I was at a signing in Madison Wi. and had the opportunity to meet Dave Sim of Cerebus fame, and James Owen, creator of Starchild.  As with most books from the great black and white era of comics, this was a book plagued by delays and printing problems.  It limped along for a few years and very few issues, but while it lasted, Owen managed to put a lot of fine storytelling and art as well as a good deal of clever parody.

And wrapping up for now, a couple of images from a book I think no one but I read.  If you are reading this, then the title of the book will seem familiar.  When I was picking a name for this blog, I wanted a reference that was obscure enough to not be all that obvious and still have multiple meanings, not just a comic book one.

Published by Neotek Iconography in the early 90’s, this was the brainchild of C. Brent Ferguson.  It combined the early cyberpunk stylings and attitude with a heaping helping of critique on modern religion, pop culture penetration and fear of the growing technology all waiting to burst free in the decade that saw the birth of the internet as a populist device.  It was only intended as a three-issue series and was ultimately very successful in meeting its goals.  Sometimes a bit amateur, as many books were then, this book is well worth searching out.  It shows what we were afraid of (albeit metaphorically) and where the comic medium was soon to venture, both good and bad.

Terminal Drift #1

Self congratulatory add from the back of the first issue.

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Not really a review of The Fish Police

I really was going to do a review of The Fish Police TPB just released by IDW.  Really.  And I Will Talk briefly about it, but as I was going through the new volume, it dawned on me what an amazing year 1986 was for comics.  By 1986 I really mean an area of about 18 months between late 85 and early 87, but deal with it.

The greatest of the 1980s was beginning to fade at Marvel.  While still very good comics, X-Men having just hit #200 (and only really having the 1 main team book and a few so-so spin offs) had started to go off the rails for a little while.  Soon to recover for the home stretch of Claremont’s last few years, the book was getting a little bogged down in its own continuity.  Mostly from the editorial mandates of the new cool idea that was the crossover event.

Uncanny X-Men #213-Alan Davis and Paul Neary art

Uncanny X-Men #198-Barry Windsor-Smith art

Uncanny X-Men #210-John Romita Jr. and Dan Green art

 

The 3 covers here are huge issues in the myth.  They set up all the great ideas that Claremont had before they were ruined by other writers.  Storm’s character development just kept getting more and more interesting.  The beginnings of the Mutant Massacre storyline.  The start of the meat behind the Wolverine/Sabertooth rivalry, not to mention the first sustained appearance of eventual fan-favorite Psylocke.

Then there is John Byrne’s Fantastic Four.  Not quite what it had been, and coming to and end, but well worth the outrageous cover price of 75 cents!

And the run of Walt Simonson on Thor.

 

Thor #337- Walt Simonson art

 

This is arguably the best cover of 1986 and maybe the entire decade.

At DC The New Teen Titans were on a roll and the Crisis was about to reshape the DCU for the next decade.

But The Fish Police was one of the new crop of “independent” books.  Mostly creator owned and published by smaller upstart companies.  The black & while explosion was done and the implosion was about to begin.  Cerebus, by Dave Sim was about to hit issue #100, and Scott McLeod was about to DESTROY!!! New York City in one of the silliest, most enjoyable master classes on how to do a comic ever!

DESTROY!! 1986- Scott McLeod art

 

The Hairballs TPB. Reprinting the first 4 issues

Cerebus #83 Sept 1986-Dave Sim & Gerhard art

 

 

Among the very best was Mage, by Matt Wagner.  Published by Comico and running 15 amazing issue (with a second series to follow over a decade later and another one on the way before I die, I hope), Mage introduced us to Kevin Matchstick, Mirth and Edsel.  An allegorical tale of heroism in the modern world of the 1980s.  It also introduced us to the early work of the fabulous Sam Kieth inking the last 2/3s of the series.

Also available to readers of the great anthology series Epic Illustrated was The Sacred and the Profane by Dean Motter and Ken Stacy.  Collected in early 87, this was a powerful story set in a future where the Catholic Church sets off to colonize space in the name of God.  Also by Motter in 86 was Mister X, another favorite on a lot of top 10 lists.

And then there is a little indie book that no one ever heard of called Watchmen.

Mage #5 wraparound cover-art by Matt Wagner

I know this cover is from 85, but it is just too gorgeous not to put here.

Then there is Miracleman.  Originally called Marvelman, then Miracleman and now Marvelman again.  Probably the one book more messed about by lawyers than any other of the modern era.  Originally a knock-off of Captain Marvel (SHAZAM to you young uns), then revived by Alan Moore as a post modern and kinda moody hero, later done as a re shaper of the world by Neil Gaiman.  This is a book that is in limbo of the legal kind and has been since Eclipse comics went away.  Currently owned by Marvel, they have yet to do anything worthwhile with the character  (like reprinting the Moore and Gaiman run) and I begin to doubt we will ever see this book come back.  Some of the most beautiful art in this series was by John Totleben, who worked with Moore on Swamp Thing also out in 86!

 

Miracleman #15 art by John Totleben

 

J.M. DeMatties and Jon J Muth gave us Moonshadow.  This one was something of a Damascus moment for me as I had never seen anything quite like it before.  The story was as much fun fairytale as dark nightmare.  The counterpoint created by the watercolor art made this at the same time very unsettling and remarkably endearing.

 

Moonshadow #12 Jon J Muth art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then it all came to a head with Dark Knight Returns.  To reinvent Batman would be tried several times before and since, but nobody has ever managed to capture the pop culture zeitgeist like Frank Miller did with this 4 issue series.

There are just piles of other books, all equally deserving of attention…GrimjackAmerican Flagg! , Nexus and Badger from First comics.  The original run of Love and Rockets and Alan Moore’s Halo Jones.

Just too much fun!

 

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