Sunday, January 5, 2014

Everything old is new again or ten things I'm excited about in 2014!

1.  Barbarella.  Humanoids, Inc. will publish a brand-new English language version of Jean-Claude Forest's sexy 1960s space adventure featuring the coolest 1960s space adventurer with updated and modernized whatchamallits by Kelly Sue DeConnick.  Dialogue?  Worldview?  I don't care.  Her adventures have been out of print in English for some time now, which is kind of ridiculous when you consider her pop culture significance.  There wouldn't be a Vampirella without Barbarella, and possibly not even a Red Sonja series.  As a character, Barbarella kicks much ass.  Despite her reputation as a sex kitten, in today's terms, she has what you would call "agency."  Therefore, she's a sextacularly retro space ace for today's on the go post-modern libertine!  Or something like that.

2.  Teen Titans.  With the publication of the long-awaited volume two in the Teen Titans DC archives hardcover series, it's just a matter of time before individual issues pop up on Comixology.  And this means more Wonder Girl with art by Nick Cardy.

3.  Pepper.  Last week I bought an Archie Comics digital exclusive containing 100 pages of gorgeous Dan DeCarlo-drawn pre-"ears for hats" She's Josie comics, which led me to discover the star's witty erstwhile best pal Pepper.  Pepper didn't make the transition to rock stardom with Josie and Melody, and that's a real shame because she's super cool with her cynical attitude and wild cat-framed glasses.  Those would have been so appropriate for the band.  Don't get me wrong-- Valerie is great.  But why couldn't the Pussycats perform as a quartet?  You know, Pepper on bass?  She could have been their Kim Deal, for crying out loud!  Anyway, 2014 is the year I bore you to tears celebrating Pepper.

4. X-Men.  Marvel has been dropping John Byrne-drawn issues on Comixology like they're on fire (that cliché worries me-- is this a good quality or a bad quality for something to have?), which means we're about one or two away from having a complete run available stretching from the initial Dave Cockrum issues (glorious) all the way to the celebrated "Days of Future Past" storyline that's being adapted into the latest film in the X-Men movie franchise (as my wife says, "I don't give a shit about that," but you might, so there!).  They'll probably get to the second Dave Cockrum run, which suffers from lackluster scripting but looms large in the early days of my initial fandom because those were the ones I bought in convenience stores and newsstands as Marvel published them.  I subscribed during the Paul Smith days, which saw Chris Claremont return to form.  Those should be on Comixology this year, too.

5. Fantastic Four #51.  Marvel and Comixology have every issue of Jack Kirby's legendary company-building stint on Fantastic Four through #50, which is the overall narrative's natural climax.  But it's in its anti-climax Kirby and Stan Lee produced the humanistic "This Man, This Monster," which is as close to superhero comic perfection as you are ever likely to find.  Kirby and Lee turned out a few solid stories and even some classics after this, but this is Marvel's 1960s apogee.

6. Samurai Executioner Omnibus.  Dark Horse is putting out a single book containing 798 pages of ultra-violent samurai slashing action from masters Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima.  A guy named Frank Miller would mine their stuff for his own reputation in the 1980s, but this is the 1972-76 original from a couple of legitimate geniuses.  Their Lone Wolf and Cub is essential, but Samurai Executioner is pretty darn close to necessary, with plenty of cinematic, evocative storytelling at its finest.  Oh, and it's only $19.99 for something that provides a meatier reading experience (as in the meat that Yamada Asaemon carves from his foes) than its equivalent in monetary (if not aesthetic)value-- about 5 flimsy 32-page issues of any given new monthly from Marvel or DC that will take you about 5 minutes to read and forget.  Okay, I admit I'm being unfair.  But even the best current series from either of the Big Two cannot hope to measure up to this work and you're paying less per page for it.  This should be the Event Comic of the Year.  Trust me-- you will never forget Yamada Asaemon.

7.  Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus Volume 4.  Speaking of... here it is.  As I wrote above, these are essential.  Everything I gushed about with Samurai Executioner goes double for these.  This one is 696 pages for $19.99 and it's simply one of the greatest comics ever published.  I will be purchasing all of these in 2014.

8. The EC Archives:  Vault of Horror Volume 3.  Dark Horse does it again!  This is a very pricey book, but it's the continuation of Dark Horse's deluxe reprints of EC classics.  The Archives series started at Gemstone (I own several of them as well), but hit a rough patch.  Dark Horse re-launched the series in October 2013 with Tales from the Crypt Volume 4.  Fantagraphics is putting out books spotlighting individual artists (and those are beautiful), but here's your chance to see their work in context, with colors recreated from Marie Severin's originals.  Volume 1 of their Weird Fantasy reprints follows in April.  I'm more of a horror and Weird Science freak when it comes to EC, but any of these archives would be a welcome addition to my library.  And yours.

9. Warren horror.  Yeah, I know I'm going to sound like a Dark Horse shill, but they consistently put out products I love!  They're not only giving us EC and influential manga, but they're also continuing their long-running Creepy and Eerie Archives series this year.  I received Creepy Archives 10 for Christmas, and I'm certain 2014 will see me adding to my collection.

10. New discoveries of amazingly cool old stuff.  Like Pepper up there.  A couple of weeks ago, I had no inkling she even existed.  My knowledge of comics doesn't extend much farther than the ones I read when they were new and the artists and writers I grew up admiring, so I'm discovering wonders almost daily.  Certainly there are Jack Kirby stories out there and more I haven't read that I'm looking forward to uncovering and sharing with you, the reader of this blog!

Note:  Oh yeah, there are some new comics coming out this year that I'm also looking forward to.  Fantagraphics has Love and Rockets books coming out and their reprinting of Takako Shimura's heartbreaking Wandering Son.  Plus a whole lot more from Dark Horse, Image and even Marvel and DC I'll be checking out.  And there's a slight chance for some more Nana-related artwork from Ai Yazawa.  She revisited "Junko's Place" last year and apparently produced a Christmas card for Cookie magazine.  And even if we don't see new Nana, my big wish for Ms. Yazawa in 2014 (and in the future) is recovery, health and happiness.

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