Four Color Apocalypse 2021 Year In Review : Top Ten Vintage Collections

Moving right along with our 2021 round-up, we arrive at the TOP TEN VINTAGE COLLECTIONS list. The rules for this category are as simple as they are arbitrary on my part : basically, any book which collects and/or presents comics material originally published prior to the year 2000 fits my definition of “vintage.” One of these years I should probably bump that up by a decade or so, but this is not that year. This category also includes translated works such as manga, Eurocomics, and the like, provided they’re chronologically appropriate. And with that out of the way, here’s what we’ve got :

10. Scoop Scuttle And His Pals : The Crackpot Comics Of Basil Wolverton, Edited By Greg Sadowski (Fantagraphics) – A legitimately uproarious collection or little-seen early Wolverton humor strips meticulously restored and overseen by the comics historian who knows his work best, these are admittedly not as outrageously OTT as what would come later, but stand well enough on their own to mark this book as more than simply a compendium of early-days curiosities. If there’s not enough fun stuff in your current reading pile, picking this up will surely rectify that situation immediately.

9. Alberto Breccia’s Dracula, Translated By Jamie Richards (Fantagraphics) – Lavish wordless strips from the Argentinian master that place history’s most infamous vampire in conflict with the dual soul-crushing forces of military dictatorship and US commercial imperialism, this was both gutsy stuff for its time and, as it turns out, a prescient warning about the future. Even Breccia’s funniest work packs a conceptual wallop.

8. Red Flowers By Yoshiharu Tsuge, Translated By Ryan Holmberg (Drawn+Quarterly) – After dabbling in genre for his earliest stores, Tsuge left its safe confines to create these emotionally immersive tales informed by his own travels, and the results are still several levels above the merely “impressive” to this day. I’d say something about witnessing the flowering of an artist’s talents, but surely that would be too painfully obvious for its own good, wouldn’t it? Except I sort of just did. Whoops.

7. My Life & Times : Spain Vol. 3 By Spain Rodriguez, Edited By Patrick Rosenkranz (Fantagraphics) The most recent volume of Rosenkranz’ exhaustive Spain retrospective is also the best, focusing as it does primarily on the underground master’s autobiographical comics. Gorgeously restored and thoughtfully presented, this is the “deluxe treatment” this work has long been deserving of.

6. The Biologic Show By Al Columbia (Hollow Press) – Apparently the cartoonist himself is none too pleased with this collection for reasons I’m not privy to, but damn if I wasn’t impressed. One of the most disquieting series ever produced as well as one of the finest auteur works of the 1990s, having this material back in print is something for which all of us not named Al Columbia should be incredibly thankful.

5. BugHouse Book One By Steve Lafler (Cat Head Comics) – Bridging the 1990s/early 2000s divide but with very much a 1950s Beatnik “vibe” to it, Lafler’s under-appreciated gem of a series is richly deserving of finding a broader audience. Jazz, drugs, femmes fatales — there’s no telling which is more dangerous in this unassumingly, and unquestionably, visionary comic.

4. It’s Life As I See It : Black Cartoonists In Chicago 1940-1980, Edited By Dan Nadel (New York Review Comics) – Released in conjunction with a retrospective exhibition of the same name, Nadel’s superb collection features everything from political cartooning to newspaper strips to undergrounds to downright mainstream-leaning fare and presents a comprehensive and engrossing view of the rich cartooning history that’s been an integral part of the Black experience in Chicago. There are names both familiar and less so on offer in these pages, as well as plenty of work that’s seldom been made available outside the city itself, making this the definition of an “essential” read.

3. Jimbo : Adventures In Paradise By Gary Panter (New York Review Comics) – Unquestionably the most influential book on this list, there’s no underestimating the impact of Panter’s masterwork on generations of cartoonists who followed in its (and his) wake. Some unfortunate production errors on the part of the publisher (including cropped-off artwork) prevent this from being ranked higher than it deserves to be, but its nevertheless a fairly decent presentation of one of the best comics every made by anyone.

2. Enigma : The Definitive Edition By Peter Milligan And Duncan Fegredo (Dark Horse/Berger Books) – The finest mainstream comic of the 1990s finally gets its due with an impressive presentation that may leave a bit to be desired in terms of color reproduction and page size, but still represents a more comprehensive package than fans of this cult classic (myself included) probably had any right to hope for. More than the “British Invasion” mind-fuck to end all “British Invasion” mind-fucks (although it sure is that), Milligan and Fegredo’s magnum opus is a labyrinthine, clever, and hilarious meditation on identity, reality creation, and the nature of meaning itself in a postmodern world.
1. Trots And Bonnie By Shary Flenniken, Edited By Norman Hathaway (New York Review Comics) – If “long overdue” is a running theme here, no collection fits that description better than this deluxe oversized presentation of Flenniken’s groundbreaking National Lampoon classic. “Irreverent” is the most polite way to put it when it comes to these strips — “beyond good and evil” might be more like it. Obliterating all boundaries of taste (good and otherwise), Flenniken created a comic whose power to shock and disturb is only exceeded by its ability to make you laugh your ass off and empathize with its characters. Like nothing else, before or since.

We’ve got two lists left to go, for TOP TEN CONTEMPORAY COLLECTIONS and TOP TEN ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVELS, and my plan is to get them both done in the next day or two. Until then, it’s my duty to remind you that ALL of these are “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to

Four Color Apocalypse 2019 Year In Review : Top Ten Collected Editions (Vintage)

Another day, another year-end “top ten” list. This time out is the year’s best vintage collected editions, in this case “vintage” meaning that the books in question collect works originally published prior to the year 2000. One of these years I suppose I should push that “cut-off date” up a bit, but for now, we’ll play it as it lays. And so, without further ado —

10. Alay-Oop By William Gropper (New York Review Comics) – Arguably the first graphic novel ever published, Gropper’s 1930 wordless morality play/love triangle drama is a tour de force of fluid visual storytelling, and the fact that it’s now available for contemporary audiences to re-discover is nothing short of a miracle.

9. That Miyoko Asagaya Feeling By Shinichi Abe (Black Hook Press) – A trailblazer in the field of autobio Manga, Abe’s early-1970s GARO strips are a moving testament to the power of inspiration and obsession, an exploration of the fine line between the two, and a fascinating historical record of a Tokyo Bohemian subculture that by and large no longer exists.

8. Ink & Anguish : A Jay Lynch Anthology By Jay Lynch With Ed Piskor And Patrick Rosenkranz (Fantagraphics) – An exhaustive collection of the late, great underground legend’s works that’s as poignant as it is funny, sure — but also eerily prescient in many respects. They don’t make ’em like this anymore, and that’s a damn shame.

7. Return To Romance : The Strange Loves Stories Of Ogden Whitney Edited By Dan Nadel And Frank Santoro (New York Review Comics) – Love is a battlefield, sure, but in Whitney’s 1950s romance comics that battlefield is psychological, with women constantly battling their dueling inclinations toward freedom and domesticity, with the former leading to heartbreak, the latter to happiness. Exploding every one of the genre’s sexist tropes by taking them to their logical extremes, this is visionary stuff cleverly disguised as status quo reinforcement.

6. Tale Of The Beast By Tadao Tsuge (Black Hook Press) – The first English-language edition of Tsuge’s 1987 hard-boiled Manga noir is a visceral revelation that eschews typical “whodunnit?” structuring by showing us the guilty culprit from the outset — yet it never fails to surprise at every turn. A visual and narrative marvel that oozes darkness and menace from every panel.

5. In The Wilderness By Casanova Frankenstein (Fantagraphics Underground) – Before creating his stand-in (okay, sometime stand-in) character of Tad Martin, Frankenstein was churning out these late-1980s/early-1990s autobio strips that are imbued with such direct immediacy that the act of committing them to paper feels and reads more like an exorcism than anything else. DIY comics before the term was known, these stories breathe a kind of fire that time and distance can’t diminish.

4. Absolute Swamp Thing By Alan Moore Volume One By Alan Moore, Stephen R. Bissette, John Totleben, Rick Veitch, Shawn McManus, And Dan Day (DC/Vertigo) – This long-awaited deluxe presentation of one of the transformative works in the history of the medium is every bit as gorgeous as anyone could hope for, but I really wish DC (and some other publishers, to be fair) would get over this whole urge to re-color everything. Granted, if you’re gonna go the computer coloring route, Steve Oliff is the best there is, was, or will ever be — but rich and textured as his work here is, it still buries a lot of the detail in the inks that showed through in Tatjana Wood’s original hand-done colors, and there was absolutely no compelling reason to cast aside her terrific work, which frankly would really shine in this slick, oversized format. That being said — this is still a “must-own” book, and re-visiting this material never fails to yield new surprises and deepen one’s appreciation for its revolutionary approach to mainstream horror comics.

3. Walt And Skeezix : 1933 – 1934 By Frank King (Drawn+Quarterly) – Every volume in this wonderfully-restored chronological reprinting of Gasoline Alley has been sublime, but for my money this eighth installment in the series represents the period when King was absolutely firing on all cylinders. I think a lot of people probably owed their very survival during the Great Depression to this charmingly transcendent comic.

2. Doll By Guy Colwell (Fantagraphics Underground) – One of the overlooked gems in the history of the medium and arguably one of the last true undergrounds, Colwell’s late-1980s series remains perhaps the most smart and sensitive “sex comic” ever produced on this side of the Atlantic, his story not only accurately predicting the arrival of the “Real Doll” (Google it if you must), but addressing issues ranging from toxic masculinity to misogyny to female objectification and dehumanization at a time when many of his peers were still trading in all that crap for cheap laughs. Having this collected between two covers, with its gorgeous art reproduced at a generous size, is cause for genuine celebration.

1. DC Universe : The Bronze Age Omnibus By Jack Kirby (DC) – I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of the “omnibus” format, generally finding it to be unwieldy in the extreme, but come on — who are we kidding? When you’ve got all of Kirby’s The DemonThe Losers, and OMAC collected together in one book, plus all kinds of one-offs and collaborations ranging from Dingbats Of Danger Street to Super Powers ? This one’s gonna win the top spot even if the damn thing weighs as much as a small child.

Next up we’ll do the year’s top ten contemporary collections, but until then please do your humble list-maker a favor and consider supporting my ongoing work by subscribing to my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Check it out by directing your kind attention to





Weekly Reading Round-Up : 05/12/2019 – 05/18/2019, Recent Underground Collections

As fate would have it, four lengthy collections of old-school underground comics that I’d been slowly but surely working my way through all made it from my “to be read” stack to my “finished” stack (okay, my bookcase) this week, and so, while each of these probably deserves a full-length review of its own, I can’t pass up on the opportunity afforded by fate/coincidence to make a Weekly Reading Round-Up column out of ’em. Note that these are all published by Fantagraphics Books, two under the auspices of their standard imprint, hereafter referred to as FB, and two coming our way courtesy of their “micro-press” Fantagraphics Underground label, hereafter referred to as FU.

Ink & Anguish : A Jay Lynch Anthology (FB) is an exhaustive collection of the late, pioneering cartoonist’s work that showcases the more “cartoony” side of underground cartooning, although there’s still plenty on offer here that’s well out of touch with modern sensibilities when it comes to sexism and misogyny. Lynch was far from the worst offender among his ilk in that regard, though, and mostly this is pretty sharp, satirical, and reasonably thought-provoking stuff with a fairly generous dose of metaphysics and spirituality thrown in for, as it turns out, quite good measure. All of Lynch’s popular Nard n’ Pat strips from over the years are presented herein, as well as a number of stories from Bijou Funnies and, more recently, Mineshaft, as well as mind-bogglingly cool art that Lynch produced for Bazooka JoeWacky Packages, and Garbage Pail Kids. Some solid collaborations with the likes of Ed Piskor, Art Spiegelman, and Robert Crumb, along with superb and highly-accessible text pieces assembled by underground scholar extraordinaire Patrick Rosenkranz, round out what can only be considered a very impressive package that provides great value for its $34.99 asking price.

Warrior Women : Spain Vol. 2 (FB) continues the Rosenkranz-edited ongoing — and sure to be massive — retrospective series dedicated to the late Spain Rodriguez and, perhaps as an intentional counter-point to the near-rampant misogyny on display in the first volume, the focus this time is on his so-called “strong female protagonists,” from Nasty Elaine to the Leather Nun to Mara Mistress of the Void to Granny McGurk to Rita Velveeta to Sangrella to, of course, the legendary Big Bitch. Not all of these women are the well-rounded figures of female emancipation the collection bills them as, and slapping the title “Spain Loved The Ladies (And They Loved Him)” on the actually-quite-nuanced-and-even-touching text essay that accompanies the strips certainly wasn’t the smartest move — I’d even go so far as to call it “tone-deaf” — but on the whole this is, of course, a breathtakingly well-illustrated volume that showcases its subject at the very height of his considerable creative powers. Yeah, it still betrays some regrettable attitudes that were rampant throughout the underground, but in many ways the majority of these strips really were well ahead of their time. Spain’s body of work is a complex and contradictory one, but one that is compelling as hell and very well worth exploring (or re-exploring) — and you get more than your money’s worth for your $34.99 with this one, as well.

Dave Sheridan : Life With Dealer McDope, The Leather Nun, And The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers (FU) is a handsome over-sized hardcover edited  by Mark Burstein that presents not only a generous selection of the gone-too-soon cartoonist’s solo work (mostly featuring the characters referenced in the book’s title), but a number of his collaborations with Fred Schrier and Gilbert Shelton, as well. Sheridan’s illustration work for beer companies, album covers, and sex products is also well-represented, and the biographical text segments are just plain out of this world. Sheridan was one of the best pure artists the underground ever produced, and this book is both long overdue, and a fitting tribute to his life and career. At $35 it’s an absolute steal — something you can’t usually say for the small-print-run FU titles — so if you pass on this, you’re just plain crazy.

Doll (FU) by the great Guy Colwell may have originally seen print in the late-’80s and early-’90s, but Colwell himself was an underground veteran, and it first came out by way of Rip Off Press, so — this is an underground collection, in my book, as well. And it’s an essential one at that, telling a long-form story focused on the basest and sorriest instincts of man (okay, of men, specifically) that are triggered when an artist constructs a realistic animatronic sex doll for a deformed “40 Year-Old Virgin” who serves as a precursor to the pathetic “incel” demographic of today every bit as much as the titular doll accidentally predicts the infamous “Real Doll” that, I believe, is still very much a popular item among the sexually deprived. Colwell’s linework is gorgeous, his writing incisive, and frankly the narrative itself is far more subtle than one would expect given the ease with which it could have become a heavy-handed morality play in less-talented hands. An interview with Colwell conducted by feminist cartoonist Katie Skelly appends the volume and puts a nice finishing touch on what is well and truly a timeless and prescient work. Possibly the best $30 you’ll spend on comics this year.

And that, friends, is another week’s reading in the rear-view mirror — although it took me a lot longer than a week to read ’em, and I fully expect that none of these books are really anything I could truly say I’m “done” with, as they are sure to be re-visited frequently in the years to come. Nothing left to do then but remind you all that I’d sure appreciate your support on my Patreon site, where for as little as a dollar a month you can get thrice-weekly updates from yours truly on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. There’s a bunch of content up on there already, so you’re sure to get plenty in return for your pledge, and your patronage also ensures a steady supply of free stuff both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. Please take a moment to have a look and consider joining up by directing your attention to


Four Color Apocalypse 2018 Year In Review : Top Ten Vintage Collections

Another day, another year end “Top 10” list! This time around we look at my favorite collected editions of vintage material published in the past year, “vintage” in this case being work originally produced prior to the year 2000. Eurocomics and Manga are both eligible here, as well, as long as they first saw print prior to all our computers failing, the electrical grid going dark, the food supply collapsing, and civilization falling apart on December 31st, 1999. Remember those crazy times?

10. Brat Pack By Rick Veitch (IDW) – Arguably the last great work of super-hero revisionism prior to Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer, Veitch’s bleak and unforgiving look at the teen sidekicks of Slumburg is as shocking, ugly, and mean-spirited as ever — not to mention gorgeously illustrated. IDW pulled out all the stops with this one, loading it up with “behind-the-scenes” bonus material that all crusty aficionados of this rank, but spot-on, unpleasantness will surely find illuminating and engrossing. I still feel like I need to take a shower after reading this book to get the stain off — and yes, I mean that as a compliment.

9. Death Stand And Other Stories (The EC Artists’ Library Vol. 22) By Jack Davis And Harvey Kurtzman (Fantagraphics) – The harrowing reality of combat stress has arguably never been rendered in comics with more authenticity than in these classic EC strips illustrated by Davis and (largely) written by Kurtzman. Even people who think they probably don’t like war comics owe it to themselves to give this collection a shot and see what they’ve been missing out on all these years.

8. New Gods By Jack Kirby (DC) – This one probably deserves to be ranked higher purely on its merits, as many of the very best of Kirby’s Fourth World stories are in here, but considering that all of it was included in last year’s Fourth World Omnibus, this really just represents an essential purchase for absolute completists, or anyone who took a pass on the omnibus for budgetary or storage space (hey, it really is a beast!) reasons. Some of the finest comics ever made by anyone are found on these pages, though, so it earns a spot on the list even though it comes hot on the heels of a larger, more comprehensive collection.

7. Jim Osborne : The Black Prince Of The Underground Edited By Patrick Rosenkranz (Fantagraphics Underground) – Far and away the most disturbing book on this list, Osborne was probably the most grotesque and unsavory of the “first wave” of underground cartoonists — as well as one of the most talented, producing work so rich in detail and meticulous in its execution that it still literally boggles the mind. Editor Rosenkranz deserves tremendous credit for collecting all of this less-than-prolific artist’s work between two covers, and Dennis Dread’s detailed biographical sketch of Osborne’s troubled life is a terrific piece of comics scholarship. Not for all tastes and sensibilities to be sure — but if your “wiring” is as off-kilter as mine, this is an essential purchase.

6. Corto Maltese : The Golden House Of Samarkand By Hugo Pratt (IDW/Euro Comics) – One of Pratt’s finest and most ambitious Corto stories finally gets the deluxe treatment that has been lavished on the character’s previous adventures. If you’re a fan, that’s cause for celebration, and if you’re not — well, now’s the perfect time to become one! European genre comics simply don’t get any better than this.

5. best of witzend Edited By Bill Pearson And J. Michael Catron (Fantagraphics) – Anyone who couldn’t fork over the cash for the complete witzend slipcase collection a few years back will be overjoyed to find this well-curated collection of the finest strips to appear in Wally Wood’s legendary “pro-‘zine,” as editors Pearson and Catron present groundbreaking cartooning from artists that truly “run the gamut,” including Bernie Wrightson, Reed Crandall, Gray Morrow, Howard Chaykin, Walter Simonson, Jim Steranko, P. Craig Russell, Art Spiegelman, Steve Ditko, Vaughn Bode — and, of course, Wood himself. A superb selection that will leave your head spinning and that, crucially, “ports over” the exhaustive historical essay work presented in the earlier, larger publication.

4. Master Race And Other Stories (The EC Artists’ Library Vol. 21) By Bernard Krigstein (Fantagraphics) – The premier visual innovator in comics history, Krigstein’s astonishing work finally gets a truly deluxe presentation in this painstakingly-restored collection. The scope and grandeur of Krigstein’s imagination still positively boggles the mind, and its fruits have never looked better than they do in this sumptuous volume.

3. Love That Bunch By Aline Kominsky-Crumb (Drawn+Quarterly) – Okay, yeah, some of the material in this comprehensive retrospective came along after the year 2000, but the vast majority predates it, and it would be absolutely criminal not to find a list to include this on. I’ve always preferred Aline’s work to that of her more-famous husband, and these largely-autobiographical strips will probably go some way toward winning over even the most understandably reactionary fans who reflexively eschew anything with the “Crumb” name attached to it. I’m not here to judge how and why she can survive a marriage to one of the most talented-but-unsavory people in comics, only to state that her own work stands on its own merits and communicates a positive, empowering message in endearingly neurotic and self-deprecating fashion. I do, indeed, love that — meh, too obvious, right? Just buy the book, you’ll never regret it.

2. Kamandi Omnibus By Jack Kirby (DC) – Finally! The amazing adventures of the last boy on earth get the “omnibus treatment,” and the result — while hefty both physically and financially — is nothing less than magic. One of Kirby’s absolute best comics ever, this is also one of the most imaginative, rip-roaring, and just plain fun works in the entire history of the medium. Nothing short of comic book perfection.

1. Dirty Plotte : The Complete Julie Doucet By Julie Doucet (Drawn+Quarterly) – Pioneering feminist auteur Doucet finally gets her due with this beautiful, two-volume hardcover slipcase collection that features all of her work from her legendary Dirty Plotte series, as well as a good chunk of material that was published before and since, a wide-ranging interview with the artist, and essays of appreciation from top cartooning talents. This was one of the formative works of the 1990s that helped blaze a trail for any number of women cartoonists, and is every bit as powerful, authentic, idiosyncratic, and funny now as it ever was. Doucet is, simply put, one of the most outstanding talents to ever draw breath. Here’s all the evidence would could possibly need to buttress that assertion.

And that’s four lists down, with two yet to come! Next up : the top 10 “special mentions” of the year, an eclectic category of “comics-adjacent” work that includes no actual comics per se, but narrative works (illustrated or otherwise) either by cartoonists, or about comics. It’ll make much more sense when I post it (probably tomorrow), I promise!


2017 Year In Review : Top 10 Collected Editions (Vintage)

We’re getting there, I promise! Next up in our 2017 year in review we come to the top 10 vintage collections of the year, a list which comprises reprint collections released over the past 12 months of material originally published prior to the year 2000. Not much preamble apart from that necessary other than the standard reminder that these selections won’t be accompanied by anything like “reviews,” just quick summations of why you, dear reader, should buy them :

10. Belgian Lace From Hell : The Mythology Of S. Clay Wilson Vol. 3, edited by Patrick Rosenkranz (Fantagraphics) – The final volume of Fantagraphics’ exhaustive half-biography, half-comics retrospective of the career of underground trailblazer S. Clay Wilson presents a terrific selection of strips that don’t just transgress, but utterly annihilate, any and all notions of good taste with recklessly gleeful abandon — but a handful of very noticeable production glitches (missing text paragraphs, etc.) hold this back from being ranked as highly as, frankly, it probably deserves to be.

9. Doom Patrol : The Silver Age Omnibus by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani (DC) – Who can argue with having the entire, and justly legendary, Drake/Premiani DP run collected between two covers? Not me, that’s for sure — and as a longtime fan, seeing the original “team of outcasts” finally getting their due in a deluxe volume such as this is cause for pure joy.

8. Soft City : The Lost Graphic Novel by Hariton Pushwagner (New York Review Comics) – Visionary Norwegian cartoonist Pushwagner’s dystopian sci-fi magnum opus, a labor of love undertaken from 1969 to 1975, was thought lost to the ages until its rediscovery in Oslo in 2002, and here finally receives the exhaustive and meticulous presentation so long overdue it. A visually and thematically insular world of its own, ready and waiting for you to get lost in.

7. The Complete Skizz by Alan Moore and Jim Baikie (2000 A.D.) – A largely-overlooked early entry in the Alan Moore canon that’s aged incredibly well, this decidedly Thatcherite take on E.T. is funny, fascinating, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and sharp as hell — and is here collected alongside its very worthy sequel that sees artist Jim Baikie (successfully, I might add) assume writing duties, as well.

6. Challengers Of The Unknown by Jack Kirby (DC) – 100 years after the birth of the undisputed King of Comics, fans were presented with an embarrassment of reprint riches in 2017 — and this list will, to no one’s surprise, reflect that fact. For too long the Challengers have largely been viewed as a historical curiosity above all else, given that they were an obvious Fantastic Four prototype, but now that their original run has finally been collected in a reasonably-priced trade paperback, a new generation of fans has the chance to appreciate the fact that these are well and truly outstanding adventure stories overflowing with heart and imagination. And where else are you going to get to see Jack Kirby inked by Wally Wood? The art in this book is flat-out gorgeous.

5. The Collected Neil The Horse by Katherine T. Collins (Conundrum Press) – The best thing to emerge from the 1980s black-and-white boom, having every issue of this smart, sprawling, richly-illustrated, witty musical comedy together in one volume feels like a little bit of a miracle, especially given the numerous starts and stops creator Collins’ career has taken over the years. Loaded with indispensable behind-the-scenes material, including a harrowing-but-ultimately-triumphant account of the author’s own life after she transitioned from her earlier identity as Arn Saba (resulting in a de facto blacklisting in the comics industry for decades), this book is more than everything the small-but-loyal legion of Neil fans could have ever asked for.

4. Street Fighting Men : Spain Vol. 1, edited by Patrick Rosenkranz (Fantagraphics) – Collecting all the “Trashman” strips ever produced is reason enough to buy this book, but this opening salvo in the long-awaited Spain Rodriguez career retrospective offers a whole lot more than that — the police-corruption strip “Manning” is absolutely superb, and underground historian Patrick Rosenkranz’ text material is detailed and exhaustive. If future volumes are produced with as much care and consideration as this one, we’re in for something really special with this series.

3. The Demon by Jack Kirby (DC) – A personal favorite of yours truly, the saga of Jason Blood and his demonic alter-ego, Etrigan, is one of Kirby’s most powerful and imaginative, and is here presented in its entirety. The King didn’t delve into the realms of the mystical and supernatural all that often, but when he did — the results were spectacular.

2. The Green Hand And Other Stories by Nicole Claveloux (New York Review Comics) – This outstanding volume presents the pinnacle 1970s works of one of France’s most singular cartooning talents (most from the pages of Metal Hurlant) to English-speaking audiences for the first time, and if you’re looking for a visually unforgettable book for someone on your holiday gift list, then this is the way to go.  Claveloux delineates worlds of unspeakable beauty and oddity, and whether her stories are in vibrant, hallucinatory color (as is the case with the title strip here) or black and white, they leave an indelible impression on your eyeballs and your mind. Talking shrubs, duplicitous genies, and morose birds are just some of the wonders to be found in the surreal, enchanted realms Claveloux guides us through in these exquisitely vivid pages.

1. The Fourth World Omnibus by Jack Kirby (DC) – Full disclosure : this book just came out and I don’t even have it yet — but I don’t need to in order to give its contents a full-throated endorsement. The Fourth World saga is arguably the greatest the comics medium has ever produced, and having all 1500-plus pages of it in your hands for under a hundred bucks (depending on where you get it)? Come on, you’re not gonna do any better than that.

Okay, one more list down — and only one more to go! Next up we’ll look at the top 10 original graphic novels of 2017  — and then, I think, a (short, I promise) holiday break is in order!


Weekly Reading Round-Up : 11/26/2017 – 12/02/2017

More often than not, a fifth Wednesday in any given month means a “slow week” for comic book readers. Not so this time around, though, so let’s take a look and see what the LCS and the US Mail had in store for yours truly —

Spain Volume 1 : Street Fighting Men is the first in a multi-volume retrospective from Fantagraphics of the career of legendary, trailblazing underground master (and Zap Comix co-founder) Spain Rodriguez. His famous allegorical “stand-in” character Trashman takes center stage (and rightly so) in this book, and you already know all these strips (presented here in their entirety) are beyond fucking awesome, but also worthy of note here is the inclusion of “Manning,” a superb 1969 story about police corruption that originally ran in The East Village Other, as is the richly-detailed text history of the artist’s life and times authored by underground scholar par excellence Patrick Rosenkranz. $29.99 cover price, but you know you can find it for less than that easily enough. Buy this or die.

“Thems” is an intriguing and typically idiosyncratic one-shot written, drawn, and self-published (in magazine-sized format, no less) by Denver-based cartoonist Alex Graham (she of Cosmic BE-ING renown) featuring three of her extra-terrestrial (or should that be extra-dimensional?) characters who have a long history together going back multiple lifetimes and are re-united here on Earth. How best to consummate this rekindled eternal bond? How about a menage-a-trois? Drawn in somewhat-thicker-than-is-her-norm black ink and printed on yellow paper, to call this a “sex comic the likes of which you’ve never seen before” is to give it short shrift. I can’t claim to entirely understand everything Graham is depicting here, but I do know that I like it — and I think you will, too. Seven bucks very well spent, available from Porcellino’s outfit at

Batman Annual #2 might be something you’d be surprised to see me drop five bucks on given my frequently-stated antipathy toward Tom King’s run on this series in general (there have been a couple notable highs, but far too many lows), but here he’s re-teamed with artist Lee Weeks (for the most part, at any rate — Michael Lark does the final seven pages), and their collaboration on Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1 was terrific, so what the hell, am I right?

This one’s an Earth-2 story focused on an early meeting meeting between Batman and Catwoman, then it jumps to the future and shows their life as an  elderly married couple, complete with tear-jerker ending. On first reading I was damn impressed with this yarn, I admit, but on second (hey, it only takes 10 minutes or so) its calculated and contrived cynicism is easy to spot. The “flashback” segment that forms the bulk of the book basically only exists to add emotional “punch” to the epilogue and isn’t much on its own (apart from a gorgeous two-page center spread by Weeks), and conversely said epilogue only serves to remind us of what we’re never gonna get from the Bruce-Selina relationship in the “main” Bat-book, because who are we kidding? Editorial simply can’t or won’t allow it to  develop into the warm, loving, long-term marriage we see here. If I pick this thing up again six months or a year from now, who knows? I may like it all over again. But right now it basically looks like a one-trick-pony “Elseworlds” kinda thing — albeit a gorgeously-illustrated one. Extra props to colorists Elizabeth Breitweiser (on Weeks) and June Chung (on Lark) who give the book a lavish, moody look.

I’m thinking that the genesis of Batman : Creature Of The Night (the first issue of which just hit shelves in the old “Dark Knight Format,” priced at $5.99) went as follows:

“Yeah, Kurt Busiek here.”

“Hey, Kurt, it’s Dan DiDio (or Jim Lee, take your pick — doesn’t really matter either way). Remember that Superman : Secret Identity thing you did maybe 10,12 years ago? That “real world” story about that kid whose life was kinda like Superman’s? People liked that, so I was thinking — you wanna do it again? This time with Batman?”

“Uhhhhmmmm — what’s it pay?”

“$(redacted). And we’re gonna get John Paul Leon to draw it, so you know it’ll look great.”

“Sure, what the fuck — I’m in.”

And thus is a self-described “spiritual companion” born. And yeah, it does look good — great, even. But the whole thing has the stench of “been there, done that” about it — you know, like pretty much everything else coming out of DC these days.

This, of course, is the point at which I’d normally launch into a “what’s it gonna take until we get something new and genuinely innovative”-style diatribe, but I dunno. I think the “Big Two” have been so successful at narrowing down their audience to nothing but the crustiest, most developmentally-stunted nostalgia addicts that a creative dead end like this will probably get great reviews, win Eisners, and sell reasonably well (by today’s standards, at any rate). The “target audience” for this thing is clearly 40-60-year-olds who want to feel good about the fact that they still read superhero comics and occasionally even need to be flat-out congratulated for it. “No, you haven’t wasted thousands of dollars and years of your life — here’s a reminder of why you love this stuff that hits every emotional and story ‘beat’ you could ever ask for. That’ll be six bucks — you’re welcome. Oh, and you’re cool with us, no matter what anyone else might think.” Needless to say, I won’t be back for the second issue. in fact, I feel pretty damn stupid for buying this one.

And on that snide and derisive note, I think I’ll call it a wrap before I piss off every single reader out there. Next week we’ve got — shit, I don’t even know. Haven’t checked the advance solicits yet. But I’m sure there’ll be at least a few things worth talking about, so hopefully I’ll see you back here then.