I stopped in my local comic shop this weekend (the same expedition I discovered Transit Man on) and stumbled across something kind of cool: FANTASTIC FOUR: THE LOST ADVENTURE by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby (with a little help from their Frenz). I vaguely remember hearing about this coming out but I couldn't swear by it, which is weird, because this should be a Big Deal. As the story goes, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby of course produced 102 consecutive issues of FANTASTIC FOUR and something like six annuals. There was a 103rd story they'd begun in 1970, but never finished for reasons I don't completely understand, although I imagine it had to do with Kirby quitting Marvel for DC around the same time. A few months later, however, I guess Marvel wanted to piss in DC's Wheaties, so they ressurected the story in FF #108. The problem was, it was a completely bastardized, cut-and-paste job fashioned by Lee and John Buscema as a flashback to fit into then-continuity.
In this new one-shot, Lee and Joe Sinnott have reunited to complete the issue in a more faithful fashion, with journeyman Ron Frenz filling in the visual blanks. The issue also includes complete reproductions of Kirby's unlinked penciled pages, as well as notes and analysis by Kirby-expert John Morrow, and a complete reprint of the FF #108 version to compare and contrast.
I really liked this. The new version of the story (or, more importantly, Kirby's) is definitely better than the hacked out version in #108. Also, being able to compare and contrast Kirby's original roughs with the Lee/Buscema FF #108 version and this new version was kind of a fascinating peek into the Marvel Method, which has a certain Choose Your Own Adventure quality to it that clearly didn't serve the story well in #108's case.
There are things that bugged me about the new version, though. Stan Lee's work over the last 30 years reminds me a lot of Paul McCartney at his worst: there's this kind of palpable desperation to follow trends and be "hip" that undercuts his very real talent when he should just do what he does (that whole "Stan Lee Imagines DC" thing was the "Ebony & Ivory" of comics crossovers). Lee insists on dropping references in the new dialogue to things like Doonesbury and DSL lines, creating a weirdly anachronistic and thoroughly unnecessary effect considering that the packaging makes it abundantly clear you're reading what purports to be a faithful interpretation of Kirby's existing roughs from 1970. Now, if Lee had the Thing complaining about Feiffer's strip in the Voice having too many words, that would have been cool.
Also, the cover design sucks (that's not the final cover above, although it would have been better), and the modern lettering is often poorly placed, generic and jarring. Where's Artie Simek when you need him? Plus, all of the old lettering from FF #108 was scanned as a halftone along with Kirby's art, while all of the brand-new lettering is printed as line art, which is kind of cool insofar as you can totally judge the old vs. new, but kind of bad as far as establishing any verisimilitude.
That said, Kirby's original story is restored fairly well, as the copious background material proves, and it's a pretty fun Kirby yarn overall. I'll be damned if Sinnott isn't still Kirby's best inker. I would have preferred that Marvel hired someone other than Lee and Frenz to finish off the dialogue and missing pencils: Mark Evanier and Steve Rude would have been good, although Lee/Frenz acquitted themselves better than I would have imagined (and it's hard to argue giving Lee a shot at it). If you like Kirby, it's a really a must-have; it's kind of like the "Free As a Bird" and "Real Love" tracks that came with the Beatles Anthology. I guess that means Kirby is Lennon, Lee is Paul/George/Ringo, and Ron Frenz is the Jeff Lynne of the bunch. I'm not doing a very good job of recommending this comic, but I did like it.
"The real war," said Walt Whitman, "will never get in the books." During World War II, the closest most Americans ever came to the "real war" was through the cartoons of Bill Mauldin, the most beloved enlisted man in the U.S. Army.
Here, for the first time, Fantagraphics Books brings together Mauldin's complete works from 1940 through the end of the war. This collection of over 600 cartoons, most never before reprinted, is more than the record of a great artist: it is an essential chronicle of America's citizen-soldiers from peace through war to victory.
Bill Mauldin knew war because he was in it. He had created his characters, Willie and Joe, at age 18, before Pearl Harbor, while training with the 45th Infantry Division and cartooning part-time for the camp newspaper. His brilliant send-ups of officers were pure infantry, and the men loved it.
After wading ashore with his division on the first of its four beach invasions in July 1943, Mauldin and his men changed — and Mauldin's cartoons changed accordingly. Months of miserable weather, bad food, and tedium interrupted by the terror of intense bombing and artillery fire took its toll. By the year's end, virtually every man in Mauldin's original rifle company was killed, wounded, or captured.
The wrinkles in Willie and Joe's uniforms deepened, the bristle on their faces grew, and the eyes — "too old for those young bodies," as Mauldin put it — betrayed a weariness that would remain the entire war. With their heavy brush lines, detailed battlescapes, and pidgin of army slang and slum dialect, Mauldin's cartoons and captions recreated on paper the fully realized world of the American combat soldier. Their dark, often insubordinate humor sparked controversy among army brass and incensed General George S. Patton, Jr.
This is the first of several volumes publishing the best of Bill Mauldin's single panel strips from 1940 to 1991 (when he stopped drawing). His Willie & Joe cartoons are presented in a deluxe, beautifully designed two-volume slipcased edition of over 600 pages. The series is edited by Todd DePastino, whose Mauldin scholarship is on full display in a biography of the artist released in February 2008 from W.W. Norton. Willie & Joe contains an introduction and running commentary by DePastino, providing context for the drawings, pertinent biographical details of Mauldin's life, and occasional background on specific cartoons (such as the ones that made Patton howl).
Marvel suits are zombies, the dark shadow of the good parts they used to be. The place is crawling with security and I just play dumb. They pull my site but I'm long gone, disappearing in the internet fog but still sitting there in the office obligingly reading what Tom covets. (Like I don't know you're showing everyone different pages.)
Find Marvel_b0y if you can, which you can't. I'm squatting where there's an audience besides the Skrulls and their wannabe minions. Props to DB for slipping his way into this blog (thanks for the easy pickings, Blogger). The tight tshirt crowd at Fantagraphics won't mind the traffic and besides that Gilbert Hernandez knows how to draw a real superheroine.
More pics later just for you fans of the spoiler and not just the stuff everyone is pretending to show. Since when does Wizard have the real deal?
Don't forget! We have TWO awesome west coast events with Drew Friedman this weekend. First up is a book signing and exhibition opening at our gallery in Seattle on Thursday night. Then Drew heads down to L.A. for an event on Saturday at Skylight Books.
THURSDAY NIGHT IN SEATTLE:
DREW FRIEDMAN: THE FUN NEVER STOPS! March 27 – May 6, 2008. Opening Reception and Book signing Thursday, March 27, 5:00 – 8:00 PM Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery 1201 S. Vale St. (at Airport Way S.) Seattle, WA 206.658.0110
SATURDAY NIGHT IN LOS ANGELES:
WHO: Drew Friedman & SPECIAL GUESTS! WHAT: Discussion, Q&A and book signing WHERE: Skylight Books 1818 N. Vermont Ave. • Los Angeles, CA 90027 • 323.660.1175 tel. WHEN: Saturday, March 29, 5PM
At Skylight, Drew will be joined by several very special surprise guests, as well as discussion moderator Ben Schwartz and comedian Andy Kindler (whose father, Larry Kindler, was good friends with comic book legends Harry Chester and Harvey Kurtzman).
And don't forget to pick up our exclusive silkscreen (pictured above) produced for the Seattle event, available ONLY at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery while supplies last. Signed by Drew and limited to 100 copies!
"Drew Friedman isn't just a brilliant artist. He takes you to a place. He takes you back in time. He makes you smell the stale cigarettes and cold brisket and you say thank you for the pleasure." - Sarah Silverman
An exhibit of Ho Che Anderson's original artwork from King, running through the end of this week at Sala de Exposiciones CAM de Alicante in Alicante, Spain, re-opens in Valencia, Spain on April 7 at Aula CAM de Valencia La Llotgeta. More information here (en Español).
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