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odessasteps
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I finished Martin Wagner's Hepcats. Ed Piskor unfairly shat on this series when Cartoonist Kayfabe were going through Palmer's Picks in an old Wizard mag. Wagner was a friend of Dave Sim's, and part of that small wave of self-publishers that grew up around Sim and clashed with Gary Groth all the time. Hepcats started off as a story about anthropomorphic college buddies and grew into a more ambitious story when one of their girlfriends tried to commit suicide and we slowly discovered the harrowing details about her past. On the surface, it was "famous" for showing nudity and having anthropomorphic characters have sex, but there was more to it than that. Unfortunately, like most self-published titles it was beset by poor sales and production delays and only lasted 12 issues. I actually read the reprint series, which contained new material and was supposed to restart the series with issue 13, but issue 13 never happened, and Wagner left the comics industry instead. Kind of a shame as I thought Hepcats had the potential to go down as one of the seminal books of the 90s instead of a footnote. There's an argument to be made that the writing was shallow. I wouldn't go that far, but I do think Wagner was still finding his voice. He only made 12 issues. Can you imagine how well regarded Cerebus would be today if it only lasted 12 issues? I couldn't find a lot of fault with the art. Wagner used a lot of cross hatching and screentone, and never short changed the reader on background details. In fact, he probably would have been a lot faster if like Sim, he had someone else doing the backgrounds. I'm not a huge fan of the way Wagner's anthropomorphic characters look, but then again, I'm not a fan of how Sim's humans look, so I can live with that. There's not a whole lot to recommend as Wagner never finished the series, but if you're interested in the early 90s period of creator-owned comics (Bone, Cerebus, A Distant Soil, Strangers in Paradise, etc.), it's worth checking out. 

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i read the bulk of the Atlas/Seaboard Comics from the 70s. It was around 50 issues over more than a dozen titles. No series lasted more than 4 issues. It has a reputation of starting off strong and falling off hard at the end. I mostly agree with this, but "strong" is a pretty relative term. Most of the titles were satisfactory, or showed promise, but didn't have enough to really succeed. The second part, with all of the titles falling off, is pretty spot on. Atlas started off with some big named writers and artists, as they lured them in with high page rates, ownership of characters created, and original art returned. After a month or two, the page rates were ravaged and all the high profile creators left as quickly as they joined.  All-in-all, there were some decent ideas here, especially for 1970s comic books, but due to its short lifespan, nothing gets developed and ultimately doesn't leave much of an impression.

There were a couple of standout titles:

Tiger-Man. in a reversal from the rest of the line, the first issue is pretty dreadful, but issues 2 and 3 are very solid and good. Of course, having Gerry Conway as the new writer and Steve Ditko as the new artist obviously played a huge part in this. 

Wulf the Barbarian. One of the rare titles that made it to issue 4, this is pretty solid barbarian action. I've never delved into Conan, and i highly doubt this could touch the high end of that stuff, but it was a read that sucked you in and made you (at least partly) invested. 

Targitt (aka John Targitt....Man Stalker!) they dove headfirst into the action FBI agent story here. The character feels practically pulled from the screen of the 1968 film Bullitt. hell, they even doubled up the T on the end of his name to drive the point home. This wasn't some amazing storytelling or anything, but it was solid, and i think being a departure from the rest of the line helped it to stand out. 

Phoenix (aka Phoenix the Protector!) this wasn't good at all. It also made it to 4 issues, but there is zero coherent story. Dude's powers and characterization fluctuate wildly between issues (this one changed creative teams for every issue!). If you're introducing a costumed hero, you probably don't need to completely reinvent him twice, including changing his hero name, costume, and super powers. complete mess.

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I think these days, the thing most remembered are Chaykins Scorpion, which he reused as Dominic Fortune and demon Hunter, who became Devil slayer at marvel.

My favorite Atlas book was the Thrilling Adventures black and white magazine, which had a great Goodwin/Simonson story about a Samurai fighting a giant spider.

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11 minutes ago, odessasteps said:

I think these days, the thing most remembered are Chaykins Scorpion, which he reused as Dominic Fortune and demon Hunter, who became Devil slayer at marvel.

My favorite Atlas book was the Thrilling Adventures black and white magazine, which had a great Goodwin/Simonson story about a Samurai fighting a giant spider.

ha, i didn't even make the Scorpion/Dominic Fortune connection! that's a perfect example of a good book for the first 2 issues, followed by a complete character and creative change that makes it worse in every regard.

i skipped the magazines because i'm not about that b&w life, but some of them did look interesting

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Mark Millar's sequel to Nemesis has been announced as starting in January. Jorge Jimenez is on art duties. man, i loved the initial miniseries and am looking forward to this too. OTOH, i won't be surprised if this is terrible.

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  • 1 month later...
26 minutes ago, ohtani's jacket said:

I finished Chew over the weekend. It took me a while to get used to the art, but once I did, I was in for a ride. What a weird and wonderful series. It was batshit insane but strangely moving. And always entertaining. Thanks for the memories, Chew!

There's now a sequel, albeit seemingly in a hiatus. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I finished Kings in Disguise. The Great Depression is a topic that hadn't been covered in comics very often. The author, Jim Vance, was a playwright, who was adamant that this story could only be told as a comic. This was right around the time when all those articles began to appear about how comics weren't just for kids anymore, and you can feel that type of energy and enthusiasm in the book as the creators attempt to unlock the potential of comics as a storytelling medium. Kings in Disguise wasn't as influential as Maus, but it was part of the same movement that led to the rise of graphic novels, and inspired cartoonists to envision stories in different genres, which honestly speaking, is something that needed to happen if comics were going to continue to develop as an artform. I'm not sure why the series isn't as well known as other books from the era. It didn't sell particularly well, but it was critically acclaimed and drew high praise from the likes of Alan Moore, Wil Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman and Art Spiegelman. I'd never heard of it until I started this thread. Even as a kid, I was aware of the graphic novel books in my local comic store -- the Sandman books, Cerebus, Maus, Love and Rockets, etc. -- but I don't recall ever seeing Kings in Disguise. At first, I thought it might be because the art isn't quite as strong as some of those books. In fact, it's quite of striking when the early issues have covers done by some of the more popular independent artists of the day. However, the art grew on me when I read a letter from Mike Baron that pointed out the EC comics influence in the panel layout. Burr isn't as good as the EC guys, who were master cartoonists, but the EC style grid is a nice fit for the story and suits the tone of a period piece. I believe Vance and Burr published a sequel to the story decades later.

The American had a lot of potential as an ongoing series, and then it ended abruptly, mid-storyline, which was the fate of a lot of intriguing indies during the boom and bust cycle. I'm not sure if the later mini-series picks up where the ongoing series left off, but after reading a handful of cancelled Eisner nominee/winners, I have a new found respect for creators who managed to somehow complete their series. 

Comics should be fun, and I had a blast reading Charles Burns' Hard-Boiled Defective Stories, Batman Adventures: Mad Love, and the short-lived, but delightful, Tantalizing Tales. Hard-Boiled Defective Stories was an attempt to cash in on the success of Maus by publishing Burns' short stories as a graphic album and sticking them in book stores. Unfortunately, for the other creators, Maus was the only book that sold, but the mix of pro-wrestling and weird pulp fiction/film noir stories was right up my alley. Mad Love was by far the best of the Batman related Eisner nominees I read. The other books were good, but Mad Love was a joy, and surprisingly dark at times. I absolutely adore Jim Woodring's Frank stories, but I also loved the issue of Tantalizing Tales that had Gerald Jablonski's Farmer Ned strips. Those were brilliant.

Personally, I thought Bratpack was Rick Veitch's strongest work up until that point, even if it was a spiteful attack on DC and kind of nasty in that respect, but the ending was a massive letdown. He didn't stick the landing whatsoever. Fantastic art, though. 

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Xenozoic Tales is a terrific series that ends mid-story arc with issue 14. Interestingly, the issues were released so far apart that you get a clear sense of the growth and development of Mark Schultz as an artist from '86 through to '96. He's released other projects since then, which I'll be sure to check out at some stage. Every once and a while, there's a tease that he'll finish the arc from issue 14 but nothing's ever come of it. It joins the pile with other great unfinished series like Tyrant and Vagabond. After the 80s black and white boom ended, Shultz only released one or two issues per year, but even at that slow pace, the book was constantly among the Eisner nominations and Shultz was highly regarded in the industry. That reputation has faded over time, but if you're interested in what the early 90s comic book landscape looked like, Xenozoic Tales was a release, along with From Hell and several others, that people eagerly anticipated. It's not entirely original, as a lot of people were doing riffs on similar ideas, but if you like dystopian sci-fi, it's a neat series. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I made it to issue #50 of my re-read of Nexus. I don't know if I'd call Mike Baron the best plotter in terms of story development, but it was impressive for any indie title in the 80s to reach 50 issues (if you, in fact, consider First Comics an indie publisher.) Paul Smith may be the best guest penciller of all-time. He's so good that he can replace Steve Rude on pencils and the quality doesn't drop a smidge... Well, that is until Rude comes back and you remember how freaking amazing Steve Rude is. 

Elfquest had almost lost me with the long and drawn out Kings of the Broken Wheel, but the final two issues of that limited series were really good, and then the decision to go with color for Hidden Years was a revelation. The first four issues of that series contain some of Pini's most beautiful artwork, as well as some wonderful, self-contained stories. Unfortunately, this is the era where Elfquest splintered into separate titles, and Pini hands the creative duties to other people. That's a shame as I kind of like her short stories better than her drawn out epics.

I finished reading First Comics' reprinting of Lone Wolf and Cub, which ended 45 issues into a projected 110 issue run. There was no fanfare or goodbye, but it's weird, even though it was a reprint of a comic from the 70s, it felt like the end of an era as the title was synonymous with 80s independent publishing and it truly felt lie that era was over by '91. At some point, I will have to pick up the rest of the series, but it's not a series that you necessarily have to finish to appreciate. 

I absolutely loved Sock Monkey! That is my kind of comic. So charming and inventive. Almost as good as Frank. 

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