Comics News from Yesteryear

Salutations, all, and welcome to a special edition of New Comics Day.

Rather than slaving away drunkenly at a computer trying to come up with new material, I spent several hours drunkenly culling through the archives of comics journalism to bring you an expansive historical retrospective. These are the big stories of yesteryear.


Kirby Confounds Fans With New Storytelling Style (1971)

The comics community was buzzing today over the release of the latest Jack Kirby-illustrated issue of The Fantastic Four. Kirby has caused quite a stir by drawing larger panels on some pages which has led some to accuse Kirby of padding the stories.

Kirby told Definitely Not Even Remotely Communist Comics News that he is merely compensating for diminished stories from writer Stan Lee, while still others are hailing these new “expanded” stories as the future of comics.

When reached for comment, Kirby told Definitely Not Even Remotely Communist Comics News, “I was just trying something different. Stan wrote the same amount of story as always.”

Kirby then produced a soggy coaster from O’Leary’s Pub, on the bottom of which was written, “Thing punches alien [indecipherable] Sue argues with Reed.”

“I don’t see what the big deal is. There’s maybe 100 or 200 fewer words of dialogue in the issue, if that. And besides, the action is bigger and more exciting. It gives the story about the intergalactic battle between the Yogosuth aliens and Galactus, complete with intervention from the four following an argument between Sue and Reed, a more realistic feel.”

Lee, who was contacted by phone, had this to say. “Earth’s mightiest heroes moving in super-slow motion? Bigger, better fight scenes? You heard it here first, folks! It’s Manic Manna Miraculously Materializing Over the Mighty Marvel Manhattan Manor, Momentarily Meandering To Your Metacarpals!”

No one could be reached to translate by press time.

Some comics fans are skeptical, even suggesting that Kirby has taken the first step to dragging out plotlines and depriving the audience of their 22 cents worth of story. One fan noted, “It starts like this, and pretty soon you have four or five issues just to tell one story and all of comics start feeling like one long soap opera where something is perpetually about to happen but nothing actually does.”

Joe Simon, Proud American (1942)

In a recent interview, comic book creator Joe Simon references an all-new character he recently created, Captain America.

“I felt like I needed to make a tribute to the country,” said Simon. “I love this place. Everyone is free to create and think, and both your freedom and creation are protected. You don’t have to worry about anyone suppressing or stealing your ideas. None of the tomfoolery you would expect from Red China or some such place. Nope, in America, if you can be the first guy to come up with something, you’ll make your mint. That’s the kind of country this is, fair and free. That’s what Captain America is about.”

DC Comics, Time-Warner Releases Hit Movie, Stops (1989)

DC Comics, owned by parent company Time-Warner, saw massive success last weekend with the release of Batman, a box-office smash hit that also garnered some small amount of critical acclaim. The film, directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton, helped spark an interest in Batman comics and brought in huge revenue for Time-Warner.

“Yeah, that about does it,” said Time-Warner executive Jonathan Mason.

The Batman film, which co-stars legendary actor Jack Nicholson as The Joker, shows no signs of losing any of its box office appeal. The movie is expected to reap huge profits throughout the remainder of the summer, all the while generating massive licensing revenue.

“We did a nice job, huh?” notes Mason. “I’d say we can call it a day now.”

“Look, we took a pre-existing property with a long history whose comic book draws in a fairly small amount of money every year and managed to turn that into big bucks and a nationwide success that helped propagate a vast corporate synergy that makes big money on every end of the business,” said Gina Ryan, another Time-Warner exec. “That’s pretty nifty, huh? I’d say we can take at least a decade and a half off.”

“The plan is to sit back and relax for awhile,” Mason explains. “You know, put our collective feet up, have a martini, just enjoy our success for fifteen or twenty years.”

Lee Inexplicably Fires Self, Kirby From FF, Rehires Team Hours Later (1968)

In a bizarre business move, Stan Lee fired himself and Jack Kirby as the writer / artist team behind the Fantastic Four. Lee never had time to announce the new creative team, but rumor is the book was slated to take a new direction when Reed purchased an old school bus and drove his family from state to state where they would make groovy music together under the name “The Fabtabulous Four.”

After shocked and appalled reactions from several co-workers regarding the new direction of The Fantastic Four, Lee came to his senses and rehired himself and Kirby immediately.

Punisher Movie Hotly Anticipated (?!?!?!)

Fans are feeling the excitement as the release of the Punisher movie draws near. The Punisher, Marvel Comics’ fan-favorite vigilante character, seems perfectly suited for a big screen action epic. The story of a man who becomes a mass murderer of criminals after the slaying of his family has more of a realistic touch than most superhero comics and, due to the lack of special effects, seems a shoe-in for financial and box office success.

“I’m so stoked for this,” one fan noted. “How can they screw this up?”

A young, blonde actor whose star is on the rise has been tapped for the project.

“This is bound to be good, right?” another fan commented who pointed out that rumors have recently surfaced for a planned Captain America film. “Captain America? How awesome is that gonna be?”

Now onto some thoroughly modern reviews…

Caper #1

Judd Winick taps the unorthodox (ha!) source material of the Jewish mafia in his latest maxi-series Caper, the story of two brothers rising to prominence in the underworld of turn of the century San Francisco.

When Izzy and Jacob are just boys, their father stumbles home one evening bleeding from multiple stab wounds in the stomach. As he lies dying in a pool of blood he commands them to take to the streets and avenge his death. The two children dutifully go outside with a plank of wood and a table leg and beat the murderer to a bloody pulp.

Years later, Izzy and Jacob work as muscle for Mr. Cohen, an ominous crime boss ruling San Francisco from the shadows. Izzy and Jacob begin to suspect Cohen when Myron, an associate, comes looking for a gun to complete a secret mission.

Caper is an exceptional book that inevitably calls to mind classic historical crime tales like The Godfather. But Winick’s book is no rehashing of the Michael Corleone story and, despite its familiar genre trappings, feels unique. His characters aren’t terribly well established yet, but they show promise. He spends most of his opening chapter establishing the setting and starting the plot in motion, blending just the right amount of dialogue and action.

Pop Gun War‘s Farel Dalrymple provides gorgeous interiors. His work is unique without being overstylized, a nice change of pace from the hordes of Eduardo Risso clones drawing crime stories. He draws great action and distinctive characters, although, unlike the aforementioned Risso or even superhero artists like Mark Bagley, he lacks a solid range of facial expressions during dialogue-heavy scenes. He’s like the anti-Steve Dillion in that regard; his people are unique but their expressions are too often flat.

Mostly it’s a beautiful book, though, an intriguing story set against a historical backdrop rarely (if ever) covered in comics.

Stupid Comics #2

Damn, do I ever love Jim Mahfood’s art. He doesn’t waste a line on any of his characters, keeping them simple and iconic, then drops them into a world so packed with minute detail that they are nearly overwhelmed by their surroundings. He has a solid sense of comic timing and knows just how to visually emphasize the punchline of a joke without killing it. Aside from Evan Dorkin, I can’t think of another artist who is consistently funnier.

Artist, that is. As a writer Mahfood leaves me more than a little cold. I think I would prefer Stupid Comics entirely without letters, just as a series of visual gags. Most of the stories would be clear enough without the clutter of too many packed captions, much less without Mahfood’s often grating Eminem wannabe voiceovers.

Mahfood talks about politics the way I talk about Proust — with nothing but absolute superficiality. Of course, I don’t talk about Proust because I don’t know too damn much about him (lives in bed, writes long sentences, eats some little cookies and suddenly remembers lots of shit). Not knowing too damn much doesn’t seem to stop Mahfood from espousing some stunningly oversimplified ideas about politics and the way of the world. My favorite Mahfoodification of history has to be the fourth page of his short story “The Sweetest Things” in which he informs us that “Over the course of history the human animal has turned this world into a horrible, violent, scary, wonderful, amazing place to exist.” Ah… right. Not that it wasn’t before or anything, huh? Not only does this not tell me anything, but it doesn’t tell me anything right before a grown man confesses to skateboarding and right after he uses the phrase “the bomb shit” unironically.

When Mahfood is on his game he comes up with clever gags like “The Cool Person’s Baby-Making Movement” or even simple jokey strips like “People Say The Most Fucked Up Shit.” Most of his humor is observational, and these bits actually feel as though he has observed something. But just when I start to get really enthusiastic about his comics he goes on a rant about how out of fashion ’80s style trucker hats are, as though anyone who ever wears any article of clothing for an ironic purpose isn’t a complete cocksucker in the first place. (If you’re reading this, by the way, and you look down and see that you are in fact wearing an ironic T-shirt or hat embossed with Ronald Regan’s visage or depicting some cast-off ’70s cartoon that everyone hated, please do me the favor of hanging yourself by the cord of your mouse. Society and I thank you.)

Mahfood isn’t just hit or miss, he’s hilarious or fucking annoying. “Someday I’ll Be A Real Artist” is a nice, sincere strip with a great sight gag featuring a tiny Mahfood in a “real” art gallery full of towering patrons along with a later riff on the old Peanuts talking while leaning on the wall bit Schultz used so often. This is a nifty strip, and yet several pages before it Mahfood tries to be clever by writing an autobiographical strip about how he can’t come up with an idea for an autobiographical strip, a riff on perhaps the most beaten-to-death gag from Creative Writing 101 in existence.

Stupid Comics is every bit as inconsistent as a mediocre anthology, only, stupefyingly enough, the same creator is behind both the brilliant strips and the infuriating duds. The good stuff is worth the price of admission so long as you can keep from banging your head against the wall out of sheer agitation at the weak material.

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