Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Great Graphic Novels Of Western Civilization

So, after the Silver Age came...the 80's and 90's, and the age of The Graphic Novel.

And, there's a kajillion of the little suckers out there, but...if there were a "The Library Of Congress Recommends..", for comics, I'd have to say, it would probably look a lot like this....

Crisis On Infinite Earths

All right,'s like this....

Somewhere, in, oh, about the mid-70' make sense of why the DC characters didn't age past their mid-thirties ever since the 1930's...a concept was introduced where, the 30's/40's/50's (Golden Age) versions of BatmanSupes, etc, and the Silver Age versions actually represented alternate universes.
And, a way was found to bridge these dimensions. Several, in fact.
From that moment on, Silver Age Earth was called "Earth 1", and Golden Age "Earth 2".

On Earth 2, the classic versions had continued to age, got married, had children, some died, or retired, and were replaced with their kids, and the interacting of the two timelines made for some interesting stories for awhile.

It even became a handy device for explaining DC storylines that couldn't be reconciled between either Earth.
Captain Carrot? Earth C.
Super Turtle? Cordon him off on his own Earth.
Anything that didn't fit, give it an Earth, and then...thanks to the multi-verse, it suddenly did fit.
Then, you really could eat your cake, and have it too.
Make another Earth, grab the extra cake.

But...after awhile, as these things tend to, it got a bit, by the 80's, an epic storyline was forged, whereupon, some cosmic villain was causing the Infinite-Earths to be destroyed across dimensions like fire eating through the pages of a book.
So, all the heroes in all the timelines had to team up to find a way to stop it, and the end result, was the fusion of the remaining Earths into one unified timeline that stopped the destruction process, and effectively erased all the extra dimensions, and rebooted everything.

Since then, all stories before and after this epoch were retroactively called "Pre-Crisis", and "Post-Crisis".

In "Post-Crisis", DC , heroes unique to "The Golden Age", like Jay Garrick FlashAlan Scott Green Lantern, etc, were bumped back into the 30's/40's, while SupermanBatmanWonder Woman, etc, became native to the 80's.
And, by the 80's, the 30's guys were old-fucks.

"Pre-Crisis", Supes had a wacky Nerds-rainbow of Kryptonites to play with, and an army of Super-pets, "Post-Crisis", Supes had none of that.

Thus...for awhile, this "Pre-Crisis/Post-Crisis", bit of business became a wall of separation that kept the old-fangled "silliness", out of comics. DC, anyway...

And, the barest skeleton of this whole idea was recently rehashed for the animated film  "Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths".
Even the title is somewhat similar.
Clearly they were hinting towards this.
Remember all this for later, this will be important.

Batman: Year One

So, Post-Crisis, it was opened up for the flagship characters to have a fresh coat of paint, and this effort by Frank Miller has stuck around as the definitive origin of Batman for a helluva while.

Even in the face of "Batman Begins", it's still pretty sweet.

If you're not the reading type, it's even recently had the animated adaptation treatment.
Check that out.

Although...if you're not a big reader, why are you even fucking reading this?

Batman: The Killing Joke

One of the few times Alan Moore ever played with the Batman character, and the one every comic fan remembers.

If not the worst thing Joker ever did, gotta be in his top ten.

So, he shoots Barbara Gordon, (A.K.A. Batgirl) paralyzing her, strips her nude, takes racy photos, and uses them as a component in the attempted psychological breaking of Commissioner Gordon.

Batman, of course, intercedes.

All the while, the story flashes back to a gritty updating of the Joker's origin.
So, this ends up being to Joker, what "Year One", is to Batman, as well as being a damned edgy Batman adventure.'s short...only 64 pages, but you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Mark Hamill has recently tweeted he'd come out of retirement as Joker one last time if they ever did a movie of this.

Batman: A Death In The Family

Okay, this ain't the greatest thing ever, but it's an upheaval in Batman history that's had lasting repercussions.

For awhile...

This is where the second Robin, Jason Todd, died.
This book gives you enough flashbacks to Jason's origins, where, this book is really all you need to know of his existence.

This also went down in history, because readers got to decide (via a hotline poll) whether he'd live or die in a cliffhanger, was death, by 70-something votes.
So, the fans hated the little prick, is what I'm saying.

Course, this recently got ruined by "Batman: Under The Red Hood".

No one stays fucking dead anymore...where's the "Crisis", to fix that mess, huh?

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

This actually came out before "Year One", but...I wanted to be all chronological-like to try to make a little more sense out of all of this.

This is, like, the "Moby Dick", of comic books.

Story is simple, a 50 year old Batman comes out of retirement to tackle an even darker, and decayed Gotham.

Along the way, he fights Superman.
The Batman/Superman friendship was never the same after this in the mainline titles, even though it was one possible future, and a dystopia to boot.

Frank says in "Superheroes Unmasked", he proudly takes credit for breaking that friendship up.

Anyhoo, this one is next up for an animated adaptation.
I can hardly fucking wait.

Edit- It's here!

Superman: The Man Of Steel

John Byrne put his stamp on Superman for a good sized run, and trade-paperbacks are still out there for the having.

Volume 1 comprises the rebooted origin, and, it's spiffy.
The best of The Donnerverse, and Golden Age, mooshed together, and streamlined, and painted with flashy racing stripes.

The comics stuck to this version of the mythos for a long damned time.
Now...I have no fucking's a fucking mess...

Anyway, the new flick coming out swipes this title.
Whether it's going to resemble the Byrne-verse, is anyone's guess.

The Death Of Superman

A big grey alien guy beats the shit out of Superman until he sorta-dies.

This was a big 90's cultural event.
Lollapalooza, and this.
Fuckin' 90's...

In the following video, Max Landis, son of John Landis, and scribe of  "Chronicle", discusses in more detail this moment in history, and its dicey repercussions.

...and, you can easily see how this connects back to the whole Jason Todd deal... Oh, right, and there was an animated movie of this too....

Kingdom Come

So, this is kind of Superman's "Dark Knight Returns".'s told from the point of view of this old guy, a preacher, who's lost his faith, and keeps having premonitions of superheroes making war on each other until it destroys the world, and no matter what he does, the future in the visions keeps barreling closer. 

In the mainline story that this preacher guy is in the sidelines of, older-Superman gets the old posse together to get the younger generation of supers to fall in line, and behave themselves, as they've become a bunch of incompetent destructive shmucks at best, and borderline villains at worst.

This, of course, escalates bit by bit into the big war. 
Anyway, none of that's really important. 

What is, is that this was immediately followed by a shabby sequel called "The Kingdom", where "Hyper-Time", is introduced, and...guess what? 

It's essentially Infinite-Earths all over again with a shiny new name, and just like that, it's like The Crisis never happened. 

But, on top of that "Elseworlds", are "real", now, so, pick a story, it "counts", now, in the new-multi-verse.

You betcha!

"Kingdom Come", itself? 
No problemmo. 

Oh, has every character ever, and lots and lots of obscure easter eggs that only a long time hardcore fan would pick up on. 

Hyla complained once this made it kind of insular to rookies...and...maybe he's right... I think you can kinda follow the basic story all right, and the trivia stuff is just spice... 

So, yeah, after this, all "Crisis", was good for, was to have every character crammed into one book, and trying to save the whole universe. 

Which, is still gripping, I guess, but..y'know, damn... 
Well, at least Flash and Supergirl stayed dead. 
What, no? 


The "War and Peace", of graphic novels. 

Basic plot, in an alternate 1980's, superheroes won Vietnam, Nixon is re-elected to a third and fourth term, and the world is ticking towards nuclear doomsday. 
And, someone killed The Comedian... 

Like I said in my review of the movie, best thing made by human beings.

Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis

The (IMO, necessary) prequel to the Alan Moore Swamp Thing.

Saga of the Swamp Thing

The Alan Moore Swamp Thing. Talked about that here in my Gorham trip. 
(Scroll until you see comic covers, it kicks in about there)


Okay...this is one that needs some backstory... 
Captain Marvel (AKA Shazam) was reprinted over in Britain, and a had a decent following, until DC sued Fawcett, and shut the character down (see "I love the 40's"). 

Now, undeterred, the clever Brits just made their own guy, MarvelMan, and said it was Captain Marvel, and kept it all going.
Then, they imported MarvelMan's adventures back over here, but..because it would piss off Marvel comics, they changed the name again to Miracleman.

So, the 80's come around, and Alan Moore steps in, and Swamp-Thing-izes Miracleman. 
Y'know, sex, blood, guts, disturbingly real Totleben art, all that good stuff. 

Then, because of the rights issues with the character, these treasures become a nightmare to find. But...they're out there! Get hunting!
It's great stuff.

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen 

Another Alan Moore masterwork. 

Basic premise, literary characters from the turn of the 1900's become a retro-superhero team. 
Course, in the latest volumes, he's had Alan Quatermain, and Mina Harker become immortal, and progress up to present times. 

What he's really doing with these suckers though, is crossing over...every fictional character and universe from a book...ever.

So, hey, he's doing  a lot of leg work for me in the crossover department...thanks, man. 

In the final volume that occurs in 2009, (coming this July, but the cover previewed just days ago for inclusion in this graphic), he plans on tossing in references to "24", "West Wing", "Entourage", and "Lost". 

Oh, did I mention there was a shitty movie of this? 
I did? 

Well, it doesn't count, so if you haven't seen it, don't. 
No, not even Connery helps.

Course, Moore had James Bond pop up in "Black Dossier", and perhaps his treatment in that (I'll spoil it in comments if you want) is a response to Connery's involvement with 
Like "hey, mess up my thing, I'll mess up yours". 
You'd think geniuses would be above that sort of thing, but...guess not... 
 And hey, speaking of shitty movie adaptations of Alan Moore...

V For Vendetta, and From Hell

This review re-posted with permission from an e-mail by Hyla. (First, I commented on only vaguely even remembering the movies)

Yeah, on the 'V for Vendetta' and 'From Hell', just go on and throw them vague movie impressions right out the window. 
No comparison. 
That's like . . . I dunno, comparing Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island' with Disney's fucking 'Treasure Planet'. 
The bones are there, but horribly misarranged, and the meat and guts have all been scraped away and chucked down the shitter in favor of fluorescent marshmallow fluff and flickering fucking LED lights . . . Raar. (red fist-shaking smiley-man) 
Anyway. But, yeah, definitely include both. Even Alan Moore will point out that 'V' was full of the flaws an inexperienced, arrogant, and idealistic young writer is bound to fall prey to . . . but, for an early effort, it's amazing. 
I still love the damn thing. And 'From Hell' . . . man, the research that guy did to write it . . . put it this way: the collected book is a 7 1/2 " x 10", 1 and 3/8ths inch thick slab, and the last quarter inch--66 pages--of it is an appendix of page by page chapter by chapter annotations and bibliography credits and references by Moore, including a 24 page comic book essay about the mad, wild goose chase of Ripper lore and controversy throughout the previous century. I actually found it all as enthralling to read as the comic itself, believe it or not.

That's a good enough description in itself, so, I asked him, and here it is. 
Oh, and the crappy movies, here, and here....

The Sandman

Again, from Hyla...cuz I never read 'em...and I thought (correctly) he'd know more than I...

I don't entirely remember what the first Sandman story I actually read was, but I do know the first Sandman story I owned: a hardcover copy of 'A Season Of Mists' that I got through a mail order book club (this is before Amazon--yes, there was indeed such a time) because it looked cool. 
It was.
It was also the fourth collected book and story arc in the series. 
Didn't know who anyone was, what anyone was, or why anything that was going on was going on.
Didn't matter. Pulled me right in. Love at first sight.
And the fact that it had a throwaway bit with a drunken Thor telling a bare breasted, cat headed Bast that his 'hammer' got bigger if you rubbed it didn't hurt.
'The Sandman' is a big, long saga of a story, sewn together from a patchwork of smaller stories. It's about the living personification of dreams, who gets imprisoned by an Aleister Crowley wannabe for 70 years, gets out, gets even, then gets a conscience and determines that he's going to right all the wrongs he's done to others over the course of eternity, no matter the risk . . . or the cost. Also, he's kind of a dick. But his big sister's a real sweetie pie. You know . . . aside from that she's Death . . . You can't love stories and storytelling and not love Neil Gaiman's 'The Sandman'. Its scope is epic and intimate, its themes cosmic and human. One of its standalone issue chapters, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', won the 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction. A comic book. It was unheard of. It was outrageous. It was that good. Go read it already.


Again-again from Hyla, from a discussion thread here, and with permission...

You MUST read the Hellboys. MUST! I mean, if you'd only ever seen the movies first, you've done yourself a grave (heh-heh) disservice. They're pretty much the most gorgeous thing in comics ever, at least as far as someone of my content/art-style tastes is concerned. GEET THEM! 
(I, Diacanu, hem and haw over quantity and price)
Yeah, he pops them out pretty slowly, but he's been doing them since 1994 . . . And these days he mostly has other artists do the heavy lifting, because he's writing HB and the BPRD spinoff title. Worth it, though. But watch it, you pick up Seed Of Destruction, you won't be able to stop . . . (even if it does have John Byrne's sweaty fingerprints all over it--the series really takes off and gets its own voice after Mignola started doing all his own writing on the second volume)

The aforementioned movies are herehere, and here....

Ambush Bug

Okay, maybe it's not great literature, but...if Hyla gets a fan pick (Hellboy), then, this is mine. 

If "Kingdom Come", can alienate the casual fan, boy, does this ever get "inside". 
But, it's funny as a bastid if you can get all the jokes, and I do. 

Oh, man, it mercilessly slaughters the comics industry. 
Ambush Bug was doing this when Max Landis was in diapers. 

Fuck, he destroys absolutely everything that was wrong with the 90's style of comics with one fucking splash page!
That's all it took to take it all down. 
Fuck, that it's one page is even part of the joke! 
That's how brilliant this thing is. 

All right, the story, such as it is, the character is a wacky guy who finds an alien costume, ala "Greatest American Hero", and his one (in-story) power, is teleportation, but, he also knows he's in a comic book, which gives him an array of other powers, including being death-resistant. 
Course, all of this sort of makes him MST3K meets Q of the DC universe. 

Although, some shots are taken at Marvel's expense too. 
Wonderful stuff.
Up in my top 5 of comics, period. 
Might even be my number 1, I dunno...

Aliens vs. Predator

The book that put Dark Horse on the map, and made it the third contender, busting up the ages-long Marvel/DC duopoly. 

And yes, it inspired the movies. 

And, led to the various other "Alien/Predators vs___", books.

Sin City

So, we're full circle back to Frank Miller, and, where Dark Horse really irreversibly became a brand. 

And, the movie of this, dead on. ...alas, after this, Frank started falling off his rocker, see my "300", review here. 

Okay, so, that's DC/Dark Horse, now, we get into the indies...

American Splendor/ Our Cancer Year

See here.


About a talking foul-mouthed sword-wielding aardvark. 

Started in 1978, just wrapped up in 2008.
300 issues, 6000 pages, in 16 graphic novels. 

Officially "the longest sustained narrative in human history" 
No bullshit.
That's a fact, look it the fuck up.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The most successful indie comic ever. 
The merchandising empire kind of obscured that, and makes you forget, but yeah, Eastman did it himself.

And hey, look, lower left corner, Cerebus! 

Told all my Turtles stories already here.

The Maxx

Ahhh...fiiiinally, they put out graphic novels of these babies. 
Only took twenty fucking years... 

Those first 6 issues, every page, a masterpiece. 
What a ride.... And Alan Moore wrote some of the latter ones. 

So...these trades are put out by Wildstorm, but DC just folded dunno what status that puts these in...but I'd race to get 'em if I were you, just in case. 

RUN, you bastids! 
I gotta fire a starter pistol!? 

And...collect all those, that'll fill a shelf, and life will finally mean something. 
You're welcome. 

And, thanks for the assist, Hyla. 
*Doffs top hat* 

And, this brings the whole thing full circle back to the age of the movies.... 
Aaaand, completes the goal I laid out here...

Well, those Halloween reviews were a total fucking blast, and I need new projects to keep myself sane, so I figured "why stop there?", so, all I needed was a new genre topic.
And it needed to be broad, so I could run it for a good goddamned long time.
Well, why not superheroes?
As a genre (or, sub-genre), it's one of the top three geek flavors, horror being one, and spaceships being the third. 

Well, it did give me something to occupy myself for a good goddamned long time, got me through most of this shitty winter, and superheroes was a damned good topic to pick. 

It overlapped with everything. Horror, documentary, comedy, parody, satire, children's films, sci-fi, fantasy, porno, musical...

You name it, the supers have flown there. 
And, I tried to keep pace. 
How'd I do? 
Hope you dug it.

Up next: NOTHING! :-)

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