Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Trade Marks: The Underwater Welder

I have been trying to get my head around writing a review of The Underwater Welder for a couple of weeks now. My reviews tend to be quite short, so how could one puny review present such a problem? Well, it has to do with sorting through the emotions I felt while reading Jeff Lemire's deceptively simple work. Why do I choose to use the word 'deceptively'? As always, Lemire's choice of a small cast of characters and everyday setting belies the complex themes at work here. The Underwater Welder touches on loss, grief, maturation and responsibility, all in this tale of a man-child still emotionally and spiritually tethered to the memory of his long deceased father. A small handful of words or a glint in a character's squiggly eyes is all that Lemire needs to break your heart or fill you with hope. Perhaps I'm the perfect customer for this stuff as I've lived in Nova Scotia and spent half my life on Toronto streetcars, but I truly think that there's a universal appeal to his work. There is a through line from the Essex County Trilogy all the way to this book, and it has to do with Lemire's profound understanding of humanity and the myriad of emotions that can make up a single day. This book is haunting on quite a few levels (I haven't even touched on the spirtual/supernatural aspects) and is a fine candidate for repeat visits down the road. Trade Mark: A+

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Charlton Notebook: The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves #43

Although I'm a big fan of Charlton's horror output during the 70s, I'll freely admit that most issues are hit or miss. This one follows that trend, as it has one great story, one good story and one pretty weak story.. The main attraction here is the Nicola Cuti/Joe Station mini-masterpiece "The Things in the Subway". The stylish and stylized Staton artwork is perfectly suited to this Twilight Zonesque tale, featuring a rather grim ending. Ditko fans will likely be intrigued by 'Don't Lose Your Heart' as it features some neat historical art by Ditko, as he travels through the ages. There's one particularly effective panel showing the Battle of Waterloo that jumps right off the page. It's good, not great. The lead story is the weakest. It features a great concept of a weird old man with a rather interesting doll collection. The Joe Gill script is quite poor and it is not help at all by the Murray Postell artwork, which is very stiff and awkward. Worth tracking down, for the Cuti/Staton tale alone.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hidden Gems: Walt Disney Showcase #34

There are a number of hidden gems in this Gold Key reprint series, and I'll touch on a few more down the road but I thought that I should begin with this amazing issue. It looks as though the folks at Western Publishing wanted to kick off America's bicentennial year in style, and how better than with the tale of Paul Revere. What makes this one so special is that the story features 32 pages of gorgeous Alex Toth artwork. This story was originally published in 1957 as part of Four Color #822 and, while there are a few extra bits and pieces by Toth that didn't make the cut for the reprint, the main story is here to see in all of its glory. This is my favourite era in terms of Toth's artwork, as it lines up with his run on Zorro. There are several similarities here, including lots of shadowy action - one of Toth's true strengths. Walt Disney Showcases aren't all that easy to find these days, but when you do find them, they are still pretty affordable. Happy hunting!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Reprint This! Spy-Hunters

In the 50s, 60s and 70s it seemed as though spy based movies, TV shows and books were everywhere. There were also a number of comic book titles focused on espionage and international intrigue. For some reason, this genre has been poorly served by the reprint market. I'd like to rectify that by lobbying for a volume of ACG's Spy-Hunters. This would make for a wonderful trade paperback, as it ran for 24 issues (when you include the 2-issue predecessor Spy and Counterspy) and features artwork by Golden Age stalwarts such as Ogden Whitney, Charles Sultan and the great Leonard Starr. How can you possibly pass up on reading stories with titles like 'The Spy Who Bluffed a Price' and 'Carribean Counterstroke'? While I would love to see these covers and stories recreated in colour, I would be more than happy to settle for an inexpensive black and white 'Essentials' type volume.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Highlighting House Ads: 1979 JLA/JSA Crossover

I really think that DC ran some of its best ads during the 1977-82 stretch, back when they were pimping Dollar Comics, 8 Page Bonuses etc... This particular ad might win the award for most characters feature in a one-page ad, especially once you include the ones features on the two covers. For those of you in the know, the death at issue hear may not have been all that shocking as it involved a fairly minor character (although, I've got a soft spot in my heart for him), but it was still a death and that was a rarity in the Bronze Age. To be perfectly honest, there's way too much going on here, and the use of stats from other sources creates a certain artistic inconsistency. This ad does make me wonder, however, when the JLA/JSA crossover was mentioned for first time. Also, who wrote the Superman dialogue? He sounds a only a 'thou' or two short of Thor.