When you look at your collection, do you feel a comic book shaped void? Go ahead, you can admit it. We’re all missing something considered essential by fans. Occasionally, I’ll offer some sage-like (read; asshole) advice on what every respectable collection should include. Don’t have it in your collection yet? Your Namor bust should hang its head in shame. The old. The new. The obscure. The iconic. It will all be represented. The only thing I can promise is that I’ll at least leave Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns off. I mean, let’s face brass tax here, folks. If you don’t own those two yet, I’ll need to collect your service weapon and badge as you exit the building.
Locas: The Maggie & Hopey Stories, Fantagraphic Books
By Jaime Hernandez
Available in HC or individually throughout Love & Rockets Volume 1 #’s 1-50
Love & Rockets is one of the best independent comic books ever produced. The sometimes madcap antics contained within either volume of the series, the first run from 1982-1995 or the latest incarnation published from 2001 to the present. You could effectively stack up the works of Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez against any of the big name creators today and have a very proud representation of the breadth and scope of the possibilities of the comic book medium. My favorite stories from Love & Rockets have always been the Maggie and Hopey stories. Of the two character, the beleaguered, often frustrated, Maggie is my favorite. Jaime did something very brave with Maggie as a character; he evolved here. In a medium where character evolution (note, this is different than development), Jaime turned Maggie from bombshell babe to a realistic heavyset girl. Time and gravity tame all things. These stories are always funny, seldom boring, and consistently engaging. And what can be said about Hopey? Well, if you don’t find something to at least smile widely at in each story, then you should be ashamed of yourself.
The Ultimates, Volumes 1 & 2, Marvel
By Mark Millar & Brian Hitch
Available in HC, TPB, or individually in Ultimates #’s 1-13 and Ultimates 2 #’s 1-13
Most of the comic book news that has been released lately has been, for me at least, pretty lackluster. The only thing that really set my fanboy heart on fire is the Announcement that Millar would return to his Ultimates roots in writing Ultimate Avengers. The first two volumes of The Ultimates were absolutely plagued by lateness issues. However, having all now completed and having read the totally monotonous Ultimates 3, one can really appreciate the original stories. I believe this is a modern day classic. Gone are the positive beams of optimism Stan Lee & Co. gave us in the 1960s. The heroes presented in the first two volumes of The Ultimates are heroes for a jaded, post-industrial world readers that understand that the definition of heroics is constantly in flux and often different depending on culture and political leanings. Our supermen are only as super as far as their powers can take them, but they are flawed human beings at their core. The Ultimates stands as a modern morality play on the post-9/11 world. As Stephen King likes to point in his Dark Towers books, the world truly has moved on. In a world where The Ultimates exist as true mirror to mirror reflection of our own cynicisms, how can cheerleader heroes like Superman be relevant? I believe the answer is that they aren’t. Millar and Hitch brought a brutal modern realism to the superhero genre much like what Miller, Moore, Chaykin, and others did in the 1980s. There’s no turning back.
Savage Sword of Conan Volume 1, Dark Horse/Marvel
By John Buscema, Gene Colan, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gray Morrow, John Romita, Barry Windsor-Smith, et al.
Available in TPB or in Savage Tales #’s 1-5 and Savage Sword of Conan #’s 1-10
Conan has always been one of those sword and sorcery staples fans have pointed to as being a truly iconic character. As sexist, racist, and xenophobic as some of Robert E. Howard’s stories could be at times, Conan is still one of the principles of the genre. The standard by which any Conan comic should be measured is The Savage Sword of Conan. The regular Marvel series was great, but Conan was never better than in glorious black and white from the Savage Sword title. More akin to the magnificent modern day Conan titles produced by Dark Horse, Savage Sword felt like Robert E. Howard’s vision for Conan than the many pastiches of the day. It was violent, adventuresome, stark, and demanded the full attention of the reader’s imagination. No better celebration Robert e. Howard’s work exists than the stories in this volume. Seeking out the single issues might prove to be an expensive venture in the short run, but just think how magnificent would they look there among your collection.
Promethea Volume #’s 1-5, ABC/DC
By Alan Moore & J.H. Williams III
Available in HC, TPB, and individually in Promethea #’s 1-32
Alan Moore is obviously a prolific writer who has written so many classics that it is almost impossible to think that anyone would be lacking in the “Alan Moore Department” of their collection. However, many fans have passed on Promethea. Why? I’m not quite sure. Maybe there aren’t enough fisticuffs to keep the fight-of-the-month crowd interested. The reading is dense and rich as Moore explores the multifaceted ideas of magic, life, and reality. In a day and age where an average comic takes about 5-10 seconds to read, Promethea gave you plenty to read and think about for at least an hour. While in college, I remember I would pick up the issue of Promethea on a Friday, read it, and return to the book store the following day to have a discussion about the issue. Those were some of the most intellectually stimulating moments of my life. And it was about a comic book. Will wonders never cease? Moore’s poetic writing is complimented by William’s exquisite drawing and homage covers. One has to wonder how Moore always seems to get the perfect complimentary artist for his stories. Maybe it’s magic. Tracking these issues down in any format, collected or individually, will be well worth the effort.
Super F*ckers #’s 1-4
By James Kochalka
Available in Super F*ckers #’s 271 (1), 273 (2), 277 (3), & 279 (4)
I said in a recent article here that Kochalka is the funniest man creating comic books today. Period. I stand by that statement. Case in point? Super F*uckers. Why? If Millar paints a realistically bleak picture of the socio-political elements of our society, Super F*ckers is a glimpse into how real young adults would handle the responsibility and melodrama of being in a team. The result? Petty, asinine disputes that will make you laugh. The team’s leader is gone, so therefore the team devolves into pretty much mental mush. Add superpowers to the typical young adult dynamic, and you have a charged recipe for hilarity. Even the numbering of the title is off to give readers a sense of “you’ve missed some things” that adds to the humor. The comedy comes fast, engaging, and acceptably immature to great effect. This is what the New Mutants would probably be like. I just wish more issues would come out. Perhaps then a trade would be issue. Until then, the issues are still available and fans can get them for s mere $3 at Top Shelf for a limited time.
That’s it this week. Be sure you check back next week where I will once again I hope to prod and poke you with all of my idiotic opinion on collecting.