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.
It's a beautiful day in Seattle today so this morning I went for a long walk in my neighborhood of Ballard, running a few errands and taking in the sun. I was on the main drag of Market St. when I spotted someone curious across the street, and luckily I had my camera on me:
I had to cross the street to get a better look; could Ballard really have it's own superhero?
What could it all mean?!? What powers does he have? He obviously can't fly; if he could, he'd been surfing the net from a rooftop somehwere rather than while waiting for a bus.
I didn't have the nerve to approach him and ask for his story; I mean, he could be a supervillain for all I know. What could the "T" stand for? "T-Mobile Man"? I don't think that's their logo. "Thirtysomething Man"? He looks more like he's in his 40s to me. "Takin' a Bus Man"? "Transit Man"? If anyone has any information it would be appreciated.
A pencil rough from a panel of Charles Burns' Black Hole, including a mysterious clue from Charles ("Who's this guy?"):
This illustration is the cover art to Joe Coleman's Man of Sorrows book from Gates of Heck. This is a great book, BTW, which basically is an explication of one of Coleman's most famous paintings, with die cut details from the painting tipped into each page with extensive commentary on each by Coleman.
A spot illustration by Archer Prewitt. I have no idea what this was for, but it's pretty:
Super cool Chris Ware poster art for a Sea & Cake show (featuring the aforementioned Archer Prewitt):
A lovely little Jim Woodring "Pupshaw" painting. This one's going in my soon-to-arrive baby girl's room:
The news of Dave Stevens' passing today was as sad as it was unexpected. It's difficult to appreciate today how special The Rocketeer was when it came out. I'm not going to pretend that it was a totally brilliant comic book or anything, but when it first came out during my formative years in the '80s, it really was something else. Its retro chic style was, paradoxically, ahead of its time, and there's little arguing that Stevens was one of the very best craftsmen of the post-Frazetta school of illustrators (see above). I haven't re-read any of The Rocketeer in close to 20 years, but I think I will have to dig them out tonight and rectify that.
Here's the fourth in a continuing series I like to call "Cool shit from my walls that will fit on my (very small) scanner."
This first one didn't scan so well, probably because I'm too lazy to take any of these pieces out of their frames before throwing them on the glass. But also because the detail in this Jim Blanchard portrait of motivational speaker Tony Robbins is enough to cause my scanner to melt. I don't seem to have an "inifinity DPI" setting. Jim gave my wife Rhea and I this as a wedding present; Tony keeps us on a righteous path.
This Mat Brinkman drawing is from an issue of Jordan Crane's NON. It didn't scan so hot, either, I should have beefed up the contrast to make it more readable. Oh, well. But it makes me laugh every time I look at it:
This is a portrait of yours truly by the great Steve Brodner, and it's the only piece of art on my walls that my dad has ever expressed liking. I love that.
I can't remember what the right term for this pinwheel animation thing is, but Al Columbia made it back around 1994:
Speaking of Al, this is the original art he made for a single cover by our old band the Action Suits recorded back in 1996. Al didn't play on the single, he'd moved out of Seattle by then, but he stayed in the family:
This has little to do with comics, but I was crestfallen to read on Pitchfork this morning that Dave "Day" Havlicek, the amazing electric banjo wizard for The Monks, passed away yesterday. The Monks were one of the most badass bands who ever lived; if you don't believe it, check this shit out (or any other clip on YouTube). A group of misfit GIs stationed in Germany during the mid-60s found each other, shaved their heads, and became the first proto-psychobilly/punk rock punk rock band, and they wrote killer songs. Anyway, Dave had long since settled just outside Seattle and I had the pleasure to meet him. In the mid-1990s my then-roommates Jeremy Eaton, John Ramberg, Andy Schmidt and I were rabid Monks fans, and one night we met Dave and his wife at a Young Fresh Fellows show at the Crocodile Cafe. They'd been invited by Scott McCaughey of the Fellows, and we were introduced though him because John and Scott were pals. The four of us were beside ourselves and couldn't believe we were getting face time with a legend like this. But the Monks hadn't had their big renaissance yet (they had domestic CDs reissued in the late-1990s and reunited for a few gigs over the last ten years), and we were amongst a very few folks talking to the Havliceks. In fact, Dave couldn't even believe that there was anyone in their early 20s who knew about the Monks. We told him we not only knew about the Monks, we routinely danced to the Monks. We all talked at the bar for what seemed like a couple of hours, and the Havliceks couldn't have been more gracious to us, and at the end of the night we all exchanged info and promised to get together again. My roomies and I talked about having them over for a BBQ and jam session, which Dave expressed interest in. But we never did it; I think we doubted that he could really have an interest in us stupid kids. This is sure to be one of my great regrets -- I could have jammed with a Monk! Anyway, a decade has passed, and a few months back, I was in the Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery one afternoon when Dave and his wife walked in; they were in the neighborhood for a motorcycle show and knew the guys from Georgetown Records (our retail neighbors). We talked for about 20 minutes - amazingly, they remembered me -- and exchanged info again, but that was the last I talked to Dave. R.I.P., Mr. Havlicek, you were a major inspiration to me, and a real sweetheart.
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