Ok, big week here at TRY SOMETHING NEW. It seems a ton of you have been reading my column and taking my advice. Obama released the sales charts for comics last week and it turns out REPTILE MUSEUM by Cody Pickrodt was the best selling comic in the country, selling a whopping 1,288,000 copies in one week. That’s a lot of folding and stapling. Thanks loyal readers. I hope you all enjoyed reading the book as much as I did. I am sure Cody would thank you too if he wasn’t busy orbiting the earth in a newly purchased Soviet space shuttle. Hopefully there is stuff in this weeks column that you can be equally as excited about.
Of course every silver lining comes with a sad old cloud inside it. I am putting this issue of the Weekly Planet together myself for the first time. Turns out it’s not so hard. This is shaved ape territory. That’s not the sad part though. No living person has seen dear sweet Tech Wizard/Milk Carton Model Tyler in over a week. This is hard to talk about but Tyler was getting into weird stuff recently. Stuff you wouldn’t want your parents to see, stuff you would deny to your friends. Comics with no narrative, comics that were just made up of shapes, comics that took place inside large animals, comics about comics even. MoCCA stuff. Real sicko $#!%. Sadly no one at Forbidden Planet heard his cry for help enough to just hand him a copy of Hawkman and slap him in the face once. We have all seen it before. Kid moves to the big city from… I don’t, Canada? Texas? Where the hell was Tyler from? And the big city shows him things he has never imagined. Blexbolex things. Deforge things. Marra things. The first time he saw Pillow Fight it was like watching a puppy come to understand string theory. Soon he is shaving his head, hanging out in offices with british dudes, and … Sorry again. I don’t really know what Tyler does other than edit this steaming pile of journalism. Either way, if you see Tyler out there tell him someone at Forbidden Planet loves him. Tell him to come home before this world ruins him. He had so much to give. I can already feel this is too little too late. Oh well.
Image came out swinging pretty hard in 2012, firmly staking their claim as the innovative mainstream publisher. Books like Saga, Manhattan Projects, Fatale, Mind The Gap, Prophet, and King City were among the best books to come out last year. Well Image is feeling the pressure to top all that clearly. Books like End Times, Nowhere Men, Sex, and Great Pacific are all causing a lot of buzz and are well worth your time. But no book has generated the buzz or the praise of FIVE GHOSTS #1. The Five Ghosts team (Team 5G is what no one is calling them) is signing/signed at Forbidden Planet this Wednesday, (and what a fine looking and charming group of young men) depending on when you read this. A great classic pulp adventure with big ideas and breathtaking art, FIVE GHOSTS feels just like what you imagined all comics should be like when you were 10. An Indiana Jones type meets the great literary characters of the past 200 years in a supernatural thriller as drawn by a cross between Milo Manara and Wally Wood. That was probably too nice, but still, really fun book. Make sure to grab a copy so you can see what everyone else is already talking about.
While we are on the subject of Image and the signing on Wednesday, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that MAXIMUM MINIMUM WAGE comes out this week and Bob Fingerman will/was also signing on Wednesday. If you aren’t familiar with Minimum Wage then you should probably stop reading this and just buy the book right now, which is a fully remastered collection of the old stuff with new bonus material. Bob Fingerman is a true classic cartoonist in every sense of the word. He has had work in everything from Cracked to Screw, High Times to Heavy Metal. He has done children’s comics (the excellent Recess Pieces), and porno comics (the also excellent Skinheads In Love), and turtle comics (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). But for many of his fans and admirers his pseudo autobiographical comic Minimum Wage is his true crowning achievement. Underemployed twenty-something characters try to find their places, get by, and fill their days in this book that in many ways feels like the sibling to books like Love & Rockets and American Splendor. Slice of life storytelling that is character driven and vital, while never losing sight of what makes indie comics fun.
Another of my favorite books of the last year finally lands in collected format this week, Brian Wood‘s brilliant environmentalist post apocalyptic drama, THE MASSIVE. Part insane naval action thriller, part end of the world disaster story, all framed around a disappeared freighter. Wood does his usual great job of making simple ideas seem thrilling and fresh, and then populating them with great characters. In many ways The Massive is the spiritual successor if not actual sequel to his amazing NYC modern civil war series DMZ. With a story that jumps smartly and easily from one mind blowing locale to another, The Massive doesn’t read like anything else on shelves. I don’t know if Wood is great at research or the best bull$#!% artist in comics but it doesn’t matter. His work feels authentic and topical, while never getting bogged down in stupid stuff like “science” and “facts.” While never quite overt, it is nice to see a major comic address climate change and environmentalism in a serious and smart way. This and Joe Harris’ Great Pacific are working hard to bring important issues back to mainstream comics and that is a very good thing. Mr. Wood’s whole career is filled with work from some of the most exciting artists working. From his old books with amazing talents like Becky Cloonan, Ryan Kelly, and Toby Cypress, to more recent fair where he has introduced the masses to artistic geniuses like Riccardo Burchielli, Fiona Staples, Shawn Martinbrough, and Nathan Fox, Wood may have the best taste of any writer in comics. He hasn’t slowed down at all in recent years, doing books with folks like James Harren and Ming Doyle, and now Garry Brown on The Massive. Garry Brown’s art makes The Massive a book that should be in every single smart person’s read list. I have known Garry’s work for a while and been counting the days until he became a superstar. I have a feeling that this time is now. There aren’t a lot of people in comics who can make 2 page spreads of the ocean seem beautiful, scary, or even worth looking at, but Garry does it effortlessly issue after issue. In short, a smart, exciting, and refreshing book that is also beautiful. Stop spending money on the stupid stuff you spend money on and give this book a chance.
Thanks for reading and good night. And sleep well sweet Tyler. Wherever you find yourself tonight.
I am in Seattle for Emerald City Comic Con as I write this. ECCC is the beginning of the 9 months the comics industry affectionately refers to as “Con Season.” 9 month seasons. Not so bright. Comics Industry- ok at making comics, less ok at everything else. Anyway, I flew in on the Forbidden Planet jet on Thursday night. Not the nicest private jet I have ever been on but that’s alright. I was just happy the doors closed all the way and the heat worked.
So after 4 days of intensive comics immersion in the form of announcements, chatting, gossip, snooping, and spying, what have I found out for you all? Comics people really like donuts and beer. I tried to find out other stuff but that’s all anyone really talks about. There was some cool stuff though. I saw a guy cosplay as Leeloo Multipass and that made me question my sexuality and vomit in my mouth at the same time. I saw a a bar fight where one man choked another man for 2 minutes and then both walked away like nothing happened. James Robinson called me Patrick for no discernible reason. I found out if you put Adventure Time on stuff you can probably take Scrooge McDuck style money baths. Someone who clearly doesn’t have parents or friends thought it was a good idea to cosplay as Geordi LaForge in blackface. I guess maybe some of the comic writers and artists are doing new books or redoing old books or something. I wasn’t paying attention to that. I am pretty sure there are comics planned through at least June of this year. After that, who knows?
But let’s talk about this week. Since I’ve been around a ton of comics all weekend and I’ve decided I really like ’em I am going to TRY SOMETHING NEW. In an attempt to trick you into buying more stuff and save me the effort of thinking up more jokes, we are going to do this rapid fire style. I am going to call out some books than usual that are good, write a sentence or two, and you are going to buy them. Simple and elegant. GO!
REPTILE MUSEUM #1 & #2. Only issue #2 of Reptile Museum just came out, but consulting my trusty comput-o-tron tells me that it is statistically impossible that you read issue #1 so I will review both right now. Published by Ray Ray Books which, for all I know, is either a dude in his parents basement or a division of Newscorp, Reptile Museum is what we call an indie, mini, or self-published comic. This is annoying because technically everything but Marvel and DC are “indie” so that word is meaningless. Sometimes minis are huge so that word is meaningless. And like I said before, I have no idea if Cody Pickrodt published this or Rupert Murdoch, so self-published is a difficult label to use. Either way, Reptile Museum is great. A clever post apocalyptic story that answers questions and creates them at an equal rate. Two issues in and I have no real grasp of the world at all and I love that. A unique dystopian tale, Reptile Museum spends much more time on it’s characters than it does explaining it’s world. We follow as a character reenters the folds of a mysterious organization and shows himself to be a true badass. That’s really it. But it’s great. This is a huge story scaled down and made small and personal. Mysterious and exciting, this book is well worth your support. Buy it now because you may not easily get another chance.
ALL-STAR WESTERN vol.2- WAR OF LORDS AND OWLS. DC’s most consistently great book is All-Star Western. Jonah Hex is a brilliant character, Palmiotti & Gray handle him in a way that makes it almost impossible not to love and loathe him. Someone at editorial decided to make a book that takes place in the 1880’s cross over with Batman and it isn’t horrible and stupid, it’s actually quite fun. The art is great. It’s one of 3 westerns on store shelves. Go buy it.
SLEEPER Omnibus. Ed Brubaker does superhero crime noir comics. A deep cover superhero begins to lose his identity. Do you like stuff like The Departed, Infernal Affairs, or Donnie Brasco? Well this is better. $75 gets you 2 volumes of Sleeper, the Point Blank prequel, and a ton of bonus stuff. There isn’t much more that I can say other than fans of crime, superhero, great writing, or beautiful art must own these books.
Grant Morrison writes 50% crazy nonsense that is almost impenetrable. Then he writes 50% next level brilliance that is untouchable, fun and smart. Sean Murphy is one of the best artists in comics today. They teemed up on JOE THE BARBARIAN to tell the story of a little boy getting lost in his own fantastical mind. It is the best thing either of them has done in many years. These are the best guys in the business doing their best work. Buy the paperback version out this week and lock yourself in a room so you can read though it a few times.
I don’t care about the Rocketeer. Jennifer Connelly isn’t in the comics so 12 year old me doesn’t make adult me buy them. But then Mark Waid goes and does his thing of taking old things, getting rid of the excess, and making them fun again. Then Chris Samnee comes in and does his thing of making comics that are so pretty they make everything else seem like ugly, busy, squiggles. Both men make ROCKETEER: CARGO OF DOOM a must own book for fans of pulp stuff or inventive ways to make action heroes feel fresh and familiar at the same time.
I just want to run the copy for LOST VEGAS #1 because either they have my sense of humor exactly and the notes to the editor are brilliantly funny OR someone really didn’t do their job. Either way Jim McCann and Janet Lee made RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN which is probably the most brilliant kids book in recent memory. Lost Vegas isn’t a kids book but it looks like it might be as brilliant. So, without further ado, the weird solicitation text for LOST VEGAS #1- The EISNER AWARD-WINNING team of JIM McCANN?& JANET LEE reunite to create a universe filled with intrigue as one gambler-turned-slave has 24 hours to go all in and pull off the greatest heist the universe has seen. (in this next section, can it be like a brochure, like a different font? If not, italics is cool) WELCOME TO LOST VEGAS! Aboard this luxurious casino-filled traveling space-station you will find the highest stakes games from every corner of every planet, unheard-of winnings, and the greatest attractions anywhere!* (Can the below section be a smaller font size?)*the fine print- those who bet it all and lose must work it off as indentured servants to the casino. Escape is not possible. No one is exempt from these rules.
Joe Casey is a great writer. He can do almost anything with style, heart, and humor. None of that matters because his new Image series is called SEX. He wins. SEX #1 is on shelves now. Buying any other comic instead of SEX makes you look stupid.
Cullen Bunn may be getting famous for his work over at Marvel but if there were any justice in the world he would already have been famous for his brilliant western series SIXTH GUN. He returns with a new series called HELHEIM launching this week. Vikings, the undead, gods, and monsters come together in what may be the most fun book of the year. I was lucky enough to see Joëlle Jones art for HELHEIM #1 this weekend and it is quite clear that Ms. Jones has just launched herself into the top tier of comic artists working today. With an art style that falls somewhere between Luther Strode‘s Tradd Moore and B.P.R.D.’s Tyler Crook but feels completely fresh at the same time, this book is painfully beautiful, which is what you want when you are dealing with swordsfights and beheadings.
I seem to do it every week so here I go to do it again. ARCHER & ARMSTRONG Vol 1 MICHAELANGELO CODE is out now. The Valiant relaunch books are great. Archer & Armstrong is buddy cop stuff done pitch perfect. A “struggling with his faith” teenager and a perpetual screw-up immortal are forced to work together to save the world from a problem that is both somewhat their doing. This isn’t life changing stuff, but it is the kind of comic you might fall in love with. This is super hero stuff that feels fresh. This trade is $9.99. If you read superhero books and someone as smart as me tells you that some of the best new ones are only $9.99 for volume #1 you really should buy it. Valiant are leaving cash on the table in order to offer books like this at “TRY ME!” prices. They believe in their books that much, and that should be enough for you.