I don't buy many serial comics these days. Okay, to be perfectly honest, I don't buy any. Omega the Unknown was the only ongoing mainstream comic I've "collected" more than one or two issues of over the last several years. And even that I probably would have enjoyed it more in collected form, but it was actually kind of fun to get into the habit of buying a serial comic again. Unfortunately, once that ended, nothing else caught my eye. I have a neighborhood comic shop that I stop into fairly often when I'm out walking my daughter, and more often than not I come out empty-handed, even when I have money burning a hole in my pocket. To the point where it's almost amazing to me that, as a die-hard comics fan, there's virtually nothing for me that I want to read in floppy form. Or at least buy in floppy form. Is it comics, or is it me? I truly have no idea at this point, I just know I keep leaving the store empty-handed. But it's hard to indulge in a random superhero comic for a bit of brief, escapist fun even if I wanted to, when the comic costs more than than the lunch I'm gonna eat while reading it, and the lunch will last longer (even tho' I'm a pretty fast eater).
Which brings me to last week, when I kept hearing about this Muppets comic that Roger Langridge did. I like the Muppets just fine, but have no abiding affection for them. But I do think Langridge is a phenomenally talented cartoonist, and after seeing it pop up on blog after blog last week, on Friday I was happy to have an excuse to visit my local shop.
It's a very well done comic. I can't say I flipped over it. I mean, it's a Muppets comic. But it's the goddamn best motherfucking licensed Muppets comic you could ever imagine (though I could easily imagine a totally bitchin' unlicensed version by someone like Matt Furie). It plays to the strengths of the creator and the creation. Hell, it's not just well-done, it's impeccably well done.
Which brings me to two thoughts:
(1) Why aren't there more comics like this? What does is say about modern comics that the closest thing I can find to something I want to buy is a licensed comic featuring characters I haven't watched on TV in 20 years and have no abiding nostalgia for? By a cartoonist I'd rather ultimately read doing his own stuff, if he could afford to? Why are the editorial departments of mainstream comics so stultified that in 20+ years of Star Comics, Cartoon Network Comics, Archie Comics, etc., I've rarely seen anything as unimpeachably professional as this?
(2) Why does Boom comics (whom I know almost nothing about except that they've launched this kids line of Muppets and Incredibles comics), despite clearly having the editorial awareness to put together some solid storytelling, engage in the practice of multiple cover variants?
Maybe these are two wildly disjointed questions. But I almost don't want to buy the second issue of the Muppets because I know that Boom is publishing these (and the Incredibles) in multiple, variant editions. They're free to do this, of course, and I would expect nothing less from the vast majority of fly-by-night snake-oil salesmen that have made up the bread and butter of the mainstream comic book industry for the last 20 years (not to be confused with the fly-by-night snake-oil salesmen that made up the industry for the 60 years prior to that). But I'd like to think that a company smart enough to hire a talented cartoonist like Roger Langridge and publish a very solid comic is also conscious enough to not want to engage in the kind of confidence schemes that almost ruined the industry in the 1990s and continues to paint comics in the eyes of some as more Bernie Madoff than Art Spiegelman.
I'm a day late and a dollar short to this soapbox, it's true, like your grandpa complaining about those damn "kids today". Variant covers have been a reality for over a decade and I've rarely given a shit. But they're usually associated with shitty, desperate money-grabs (Marvel owes you an apology, Mr. President). It's depressing to see them associated with exactly the kind of comics that this industry needs: solid, professional comics for kids that don't cater to the usual genres/demographics.
At any rate, it is a pretty good comic, and a great one for the young 'uns.
A preview of Miss Lasko-Gross' new graphic novel, A MESS OF EVERYTHING, is up now at ACT-I-VATE. I recently visited my parents in California and took this book with me to read. I accidentally left it there, and this weekend my mom told me how much she liked it. "Poor Melissa!," she said. Go read the preview and pre-order, already!
"Special Nice Cosmic Hyperdeath" is the name of the show, at Secret Headquarters this Friday, new and newish drawings and paintings, also, very small run minicomics of Josh Simmons' recent stories: "In a Land of Magic," "Cockbone," and "Batman."
Between being a father myself and having a preternatural predilection for nostalgia, I can relate to this short piece in the New Yorker all too well, although unlike that writer, it's no surprise to me that the great Gene Deitch is the missing link uniting it all.
CELEBTRATED CARTOONISTS JAIME HERNANDEZ AND STAN SAKAI APPEAR AT FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKSTORE & GALLERY ON APRIL 4
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery proudly presents two of the most accomplished and popular cartoonists in America on Saturday, April 4, from 6:00 to 9:00 PM. Jaime Hernandez, co-creator of the phenomenal Love and Rockets series, will appear with Stan Sakai of Usagi Yojimbo fame for an exhibition of original art and book signing event. They will be joined by special guest Paul Hornschemeier signing copies of his handsome new hardcover Mother, Come Home.
Jaime Hernandez, together with his brother Gilbert, revolutionized the comic book form with their epic series Love and Rockets. Introduced in 1982, their mythical tale of contemporary multicultural society re-energized a moribund medium and gave birth to the “alternative comics” genre. Jaime’s central characters, Maggie and Hopey, emerged as icons for a generation of disaffected youth and their stories remain relevant and compelling today. With nearly 100 comic books to his credit, and over a dozen collected anthologies published by Fantagraphics Books, Jaime Hernandez is among the most influential cartoonists of his generation. In the words of Alan Moore, "Jaime's art balances big white and black spaces to create a world of nuance in between, just as his writing balances our big human feelings and our small human trivias to generate its incredible emotional power. Quite simply, this is one of the twentieth century's most significant comics creators at the peak of his form, with every line a wedding of classicism and cool."
Much like Jaime Hernandez, Stan Sakai relies on his cultural heritage in the expansive adventure series Usagi Yojimbo. Sakai chronicles the escapades of wandering Samurai bunny Miyamoto Usagi in feudal Japan with beautifully crafted artwork and an engaging narrative style that appeals to readers of all ages. Usagi Yojimbo is at once poignant, edifying, funny, and spellbinding – a singular achievement in the comics medium. Fantagraphics Books and Portland-based Dark Horse Comics have collected his work in over 24 volumes. According to comic book sage Stan Lee: “One of the most original, innovative, well-executed comic books anywhere to be found.”
Mother, Come Home is Paul Hornschemeier’s piercing graphic-novel debut, long out of print and now available for the first time in hardcover. It secured the cartoonist’s place as one of his generation’s most skillful and ambitious practitioners, and proved a harbinger of the subject matter that the artist would go on to explore most consistently in later work: the nuclear family.
The exhibition and reception on Saturday, April 4 will serve as the official after-party for the Emerald City ComiCon. Expect an array of comics professionals and luminaries to be in attendance. Admission is free. Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located at 1201 S. Vale Street at Airport Way S. in Seattle’s colorful Georgetown arts community. Open daily, 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sunday until 5:00. Phone 206.658.0110.
Jaime Hernandez, Stan Sakai
Love and Rockets and Usagi Yojimbo Art exhibition and book signing
Saturday, April 4, 6:00 – 9:00 PM Emerald City ComiCon after-party Special guest Paul Hornschemeier
Exhibition continues through May 6, 2009.
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery 1201 S. Vale Street (at Airport Way S.) Seattle, WA 98108 206.658.0110 Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM www.fantagraphics.com/bookstore
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