Thursday, January 28, 2010

Peanuts Lanterns

Red = Lucy

Orange = Snoopy

Yellow = Sally

Green = Charlie Brown

Blue = Linus

Indigo = Woodstock

Violet = Violet

Black Lantern Avatar = Shermy

Black Lantern Guardian = Miss Othmar

Lucy was a natural fit for red, as she is the character who is shown to be angry most of the time. I don't really think of Snoopy as being very greedy, but the gags about all of the treasures stored up in his dog house made him the character most associated with physical objects other than Linus, who I felt was a better fit as a Blue Lantern. I've always thought of Linus as a more optimistic version of Charlie Brown, maybe who Charlie Brown would have been had he had a source of security and constant companionship as Linus had with his blanket. There's hope in that idea, I think. Also, as the character who most often quotes scripture, Linus was a nice fit with the messianic overtones of the Blue Lantern Corp. A lot of the Sally gags seem based on her anxieties. I think Peppermint Patty is a better fit for Green, actually, but I had to get Charlie Brown in there somewhere. The trait I most associate with Woodstock is friendship, so he seemed like a good pick for the Indigo Lantern....also, his speech is portrayed as illegible dashes, similar to the alien speech of the Indigo Lanterns. The Violet thing was too obvious not to use. I like the idea of the Black Lantern Corp. consisting of the forgotten Peanuts characters from the early days of the strip who didn't quite work out, and one of the unseen adults as the mastermind behind the scenes.

The fun started here, I saw it first here.

Good Grief.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Two From PictureBox

I just received two nifty publications from the wonderful publisher PictureBox, C.F.'s (Chris Forgues) City-Hunter Magazine #1, and a new Jimbo mini-comic from Gary Panter. Both of these I believe debuted at the first annual Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival earlier this year, but you can still order them directly from PictureBox, which is how I got my hands on them.

The Jimbo comic is eight pages long, with the first page of the story serving as the cover and the last page of the story as the back cover. The first two pages (the front and inside cover), and the last two pages (the back and inside cover)are a bright green, while the inside pages are bright orange. Each copy of this limited edition comic comes signed by Panter and stamped with a date and number. It's an intimate little package that Panter fans will want to have. The story concerns Panter's long running Jimbo character squatting inside a billboard, below which another character is harassed by a couple of robots who seem to be in some position of authority. Given that the story is so short (albeit densely packed with drawings and symbols), I don't want to give away the entire plot by describing exactly what happens. Suffice to say there is a lot of great Pantery stuff to look at here (Monsters, Robots, a terrific Frank King-esque full page look at Jimbo's digs inside the billboard divided into twelve panels). It's a story about Jimbo trying to find some peace in a loud and busy world populated by bullies and monsters.

C.F.'s City-Hunter Magazine #1 is something completely different, and difficult to describe. PictureBox's site describes it as a 'zine, which I suppose is a more accurate description than "comic," as it contains drawings and text pieces as well as a comics feature, "Main Dice," wherein on oddly dressed little dude explores a nameless city in a series of landscape panels. The whole package had for me the feel of an artist's sketchbook, with all of the drawings, comics, and text circling around the vague idea of community in one way or another, with a great deal of energy and humor. I didn't really know what was supposed to be going on a lot of the time, or where C.F. was coming from, but I'd love to read another issue. C.F. is one of the most original and entertaining cartoonists working right now, and there's a great deal of pleasure to be had in a magazine in which such an artist draws exactly what he wants to draw, exactly as he wants to draw it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Troublemakers

I'm afraid your Friendly Neighborhood Articulate Nerd is going to have some trouble living up to the "articulate" half of that moniker when discussing the work of Gilbert Hernandez. Gilbert's work, and that of his brother, Jaime, is so appealing to me that it is difficult for me to analyze just what makes it "work" so well. I almost always enjoy reading comics by Gilbert Hernandez, and the new, original graphic novel, The Troublemakers, was no exception.

This is the second in the "Fritz B-Movie Collection" of graphic novels, a series of books which are supposed to be adaptations of films in which Hernandez's Love and Rockets character Fritz has starred in over the course of her career as an actress. The first in the series was the excellent Chance in Hell. You don't really need to understand all of that to enjoy the individual books, though. They are completely unconnected to the continuity of the Love and Rockets stories, and from each other.

The Troublemakers is a crime story about three con-artists who at various times in the narrative are working with or against one another, in an ever shifting series of alliances and betrayals. Fritz "plays" Nala, one of the con-artists, alongside Vincene (who reminded me somewhat of Jaime's character, Hopey Glass), and a young man named Wes. The specifics of the plot are difficult to track, as you are never quite sure who is telling the truth or what the real motivations of the characters are. But that's kind of the point of the book, I think. It's a lot of fun trying to keep up with all of the twists and revelations Gilbert provides over the course of this short graphic novel. It's not meant to be anything more than good, pulpy fun and that is exactly how it comes across. I enjoyed it a great deal.

Now that there are two of them published, I can say I really like this publishing project of Gilbert's. It feels to me like Hernandez is playing the role of a late-night movie host (of the type we don't see much of these days, sadly), uncovering obscure films starring this cult actress. It's a lot of fun and provides a perfect vehicle for Hernandez to explore his pop culture influences. I hope there are lots more. It's also great to read an entire book of new comics from Gilbert that haven't been previously serialized. A terrific new vehicle of expression for a master cartoonist who continues to evolve.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Happiness is a Good Desk Calendar

Charles Schulz is sometimes criticized for the extent to which he allowed his famous Peanuts characters to be merchandised. I suppose the thought is that all of the toys, t-shirts, mugs, animated specials, Met Life commercials, et cetera, somehow tarnish the purity of Schulz's vision. The polar opposite example would be Bill Watterson, and his refusal to allow any ancillary Calvin and Hobbes products or animated specials to be produced.

I don't subscribe to this line of thought. While I applaud and support Watterson's decision, I have no problem with Schulz's. In fact, I think the Peanuts characters adapt quite easily to other media while still retaining the essence of what makes the characters and comic strip so great. Case in point: The annual series of Peanuts desk calendars, the latest of which is sitting just to my left as a write this.

The daily comic strip is a natural fit for these daily calendars. I'm not sure how long they have been in production, but this year's takes the same approach as last year's calendar, presenting the cartoons from a single year of the strip in chronological order. Last year it was the strips from 1973, a point at which most of the cast was in place, firmly established in the roles they are famous for. This year's calendar jumps back in time to 1960, an earlier point in the strip's history where the drawing style is subtly different than what many would identify as the "classic" Peanuts look; Schulz's line is tighter, Charlie Brown appears more squat with a thicker neck. Not all of the characters had yet been introduced (Peppermint Patty, Marcie, and Woodstock are all several years away at this point). Shermy is still around.

Curiously, characters who do not appear in the 1960 run are used as spot illustrations underneath each daily strip. Perhaps the makers of the calendar didn't want to upset any die-hard Peppermint Patty fans by having her absent. All of the strips are colored, with a simple, primary-color focused palette, and on the back of each page there are games (crossword puzzles, mazes, trivia), a neat little extra that was not present in last year's calendar.

All in all, it's a nifty little package, something that puts a smile on my face every morning. 1960 is a pretty good year for the strip, too. Sometime this summer, one of the funniest single Peanuts strips (and I believe Schulz's personal favorite) should appear, having to do with Charlie Brown and Linus remarking on the shapes taken by clouds. I won't spoil the gag here.

There are two other Peanuts calendars released annually: a "mini" desk calendar and a wall calendar. Those are probably great,too.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


The following is a list of ten comics I'm looking forward to reading in the year ahead. I chose to list only those publications with an official release date. Keep in mind, too, that these dates may be subject to change.

1. New Books by Los. Bros. Hernandez: Gilbert's latest original graphic novel, The Troublemakers, is available now, and will be followed in April by The High, Soft Lisp, collecting stories featuring Fritz, one of my favorite of Gilbert's creations, from the second volume of Love and Rockets. Do note that a dozen new pages have been added specifically for this collection. As for Jaime, Penny Century: A Love and Rockets Book(also due in April) collects the wonderful wrestling comic book Whoa, Nellie!, as well as the Penny Century series, in the same handsome, square bound format as the recent re-releases of the first volume of Love and Rockets.

2.New Books in the John Stanley Library Series: New editions to this terrific series include the teen comedy Thirteen Going on Eighteen in January, and Melvin Monster: Volume 2 in March.

3. Black Blizzard: This historically significant work from Gekiga pioneer Yoshihiro Tatsumi is the kind of thing I would love to see more of. A crime story originally published in the late 1950s in Japan, a landmark work that created a whole new genre in Japanese comics. Read this in combination with A Drifting Life, Tatsumi's compelling autobiography that details his career in manga and gekiga, including the creation of this work. April.

4. Wilson: Obviously, this brand new graphic novel from Daniel Clowes is one of the major releases of the year. It's May release is also just the excuse I've been looking for to re-read Clowes' impressive back catalogue, as he is a cartoonist I don't think I've given the attention as a reader that he deserves.

5. Artichoke Tales: Another May release from Megan Kelso. I've been dying to read these stories since I read a review of the mini-comics in which they were originally serialized in The Comics Journal ages ago. Kelso's fantastic 2006 story collection, The Squirrel Mother, promised an Artichoke Tales book in 2007, but I hadn't heard a word about it since then. I was therefore delighted to see it finally show up in Fantagraphics' spring catalogue.


7. Walt and Skeezix Book 4: 1927-1928: Another one I was beginning to think may never happen. I think there were some legal difficulties with the syndicate, but I'm very happy to see this new volume collecting the marvelous comic strip by Frank King on track for a June release.

8. Ax Volume 1: A Collection of Alternative Manga: I think this was originally supposed to be out in 2009, but now has a July release date. Just what it says in the subtitle, a welcome addition to America's expanding view of the diversity of material Japanese comics have to offer.

9. Nancy is Happy: Complete Dailies 1942-1945: Probably THE major new effort in the Golden Age of Comic Strip Reprints (I think we can start capitalizing that now, no?), Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy is beloved by many, and in July the rest of us will get a chance to see what all the fuss is about. Oh, and don't forget Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden's How to Read Nancy, an expansion of their well-regarded essay of the same name into book form, also out in July.

10. Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil: I think this one has been delayed a couple of times, too, but it looks like September is when we can expect to see this collection of the classic Captain Marvel storyline from writer Otto Binder and artist C.C. Beck. Long considered one of the greatest superhero comics of all time, DC has been frustratingly stingy with reprints of the series' peak material. I'm hoping this book is only the first step in correcting that.