Batman Archives Volume 2
I have been picking up Archives here and there (along with Marvel Masterworks) when I can find them for under $20 on eBay. The retail price (especially with the ridiculous currency exchange) is just too much for me to bear. These are fun to read – but the quality of writing and artwork varies a great deal. Obviously, the quality is related to the Robinson:Kane ratio. These stories are mostly interesting from a historical perspective, as I enjoy watching the Canon of the Bat evolve. It’s incredible how long it took for characters like Alfred and Gordon to get fleshed out. They were very one-dimensional back then. Of course, comic book stories had such a straight ahead narrative, that there really wasn’t much room for character development. Another thing that strikes me as interesting is how often the cover is totally disconnected to the contents. We often think of this as a feature of modern comics, but back in the early 40s you might see a cover with Batman fighting a couple of generic thugs not knowing that the Joker or Penguin could be found inside. That’s some weak marketing.
I am only halfway through this volume, but the highlight so far is the introduction of the Penguin – who is a pretty ruthless villain, taking over a Gotham gang by Richard IIIing his way to the top. I also found it interesting the Return of the Penguin occurred in the very next issue. That implies that the two stories were written around the same time and DC was happy to bring back the Penguin without worrying about the sales of the initial appearance. ‘Supervillains’ were a rare thing back then, as most DC heroes were still taking on bank robbers and dognappers – so I have always wondered how the editors decided which characters were successful and how to bring them back.
Well, I finally got around to watching this and while I enjoyed it a great deal – I was somewhat underwhelmed. The Pixar art is very cool, but some of the effects have too much of a ‘Hey Look at Me!’ vibe (a la Lucas) and ultimately distract from the flow of the movie. The real upside was that the movie still kept some heart (something the Shreks of the world lack). In my opinion, that’s part of the legacy of Iron Giant – a movie that still surpasses all of the other animated stuff being released these days. This movie was very good, but not exceptional – I don’t know how much of it will linger in my mind. I do, however, look forward to following Brad Bird’s future projects as he is obviously one of Hollywood’s better young filmmakers.
I picked up Matt Blackett’s collection Wide Collar Crimes a few years ago, and flipped through it again the other night. He is a 30ish Torontonian who draws a 3-panel comic strip for one of the city’s free weekly papers. I don’t know how to described it – it’s not really funny, but in it own way, it is funny. He basically documents the strange and not so strange things that happen everyday to anyone living in a large city. It’s an enjoyable strip if you accept it at face value. The reader needs to get into the rhythm of things and stop asking ‘where’s the punchline?’ I spoke with the creator a couple of years back at a convention here in Toronto, and he seemed keen on connecting with people – but I haven’t see him at a convention since then. Anyway – anyone interested in checking out something a little different from a local Toronto artist should go to: http://www.mattbcomic.com/archives.html