Podcast - Episode 115: Best of the Rest

publishers banner.jpg

We thought we'd give some of the OTHER comic book publishers some love this week. We don't hide the fact that this is primarily a superhero podcast, and that our first love is superhero-based comic books, but there are so many great comic book publishers and Dave is on the front lines of seeing what they are putting out each week, so we thought we'd check in. Most of them publish superhero books too!

Here's that delightful article about the drama that went down on the Jeremy Renner app. I'll miss that crazy app.

Thanks for listening!

John Buys Comics: More Terse Than Usual Edition

Bit of a sparse week for me, comics-wise, so I have but three observations, one per book. Not that I only bought three books, that is. I just have three observations and they're spread out over three books. Yeah.

Young Justice No. 1 - Though I haven't yet seen the cartoon that this is spun off of, I was quite fond of the original Young Justice book and so trying this out seemed like a good idea. I am going to blame the fact that I found it completely incomprehensible on my lack of prior research - everything seems to make sense, after all, but it felt like I was missing some essential bits of information for not having the show under my belt. Actually, come to think of it that might be a good thing: comics based on other properties are often lacklustre precisely because they're constantly summarizing and paraphrasing what has come before. So I guess I'll just suck it up and watch a cartoon like a man. And shut my fat mouth.

Green Lantern No. 62 - Halfway through, Hal Jordan has a weird prophetic dream that indicates that one of Earth's Green Lanterns is going to die, or at least go away (be "lost" in the words if not the tense of the Guardian who indicates it). Anybody want to start a pool on who that'll be? Because I have a shiny golden dollar coin that I will bet on John Stewart.

And finally:

Dungeons & Dragons No. 4 - I'm trying to decide which of these is more likely to be the case, that all floating, talking skulls are hilarious or that I have only ever encountered hilariously-written floating, talking skulls. In either case, this book continues to capture the joy of a good game of Dungeons & Dragons in a way that both delights and, uh, delights again. 



John Buys Comics, Unnamed Edition

I was absolutely positive that I would write an epically spectacular John Buys Comics last night. I'd read everything (for once), it was a good week full of good comics, I had these little cheesy shortbready things to snack upon... conditions were perfect. Then, disaster: my package from Topatoco arrived and I was powerless to resist the allure of Problem Sleuth and theMachine of Death. Curse my ways!

But who can blame me for loving Problem Sleuth (and by extension MSPaint Adventures)? I certainly can't! Why, brilliantly foolish comics and olde schoole adventure/puzzle games are two of my very favourite things and Andrew Hussie blends the two into something delightful. The closest thing to a criticism that I could think to level at the thing is "it's very long." and when you get right down to it, that's more like a bonus feature.

As for the comics that came out this week as opposed to several months ago, it was reminiscent of my Best of 2010 - Action Comics, Generation Lost, The Sixth Gun, Skullkickers - and they were all just as great as usual. Plus, in a callback to the Best of 2009, the trade paperback of the excellent Cursed Pirate Girl came out this week, and let me tell you again: this is one of the most original comics to come out in years, on a couple of levels.


The story of a cursed girl who gets swordfighting lessons in her dreams and follows a talking parrot on a fantastical voyage beneath the sea to find her missing pirate father (gasp) is good enough, but Jeremy Bastian's art hearkens back to the sort of intricate line drawing that started cartooning off in the first place, way back in the political cartoons in the 1800s. Except you can actually read the writing in all of the bubbles and rather than being about, say, an obscure bit of Victorian social satire, it's all little girls fighting monster octopi and murderous buccaneers.

Also new this week: Off Road by Sean Murphy!

Okay, not quite new. evidently this first came out in 2005 or so and I missed it completely. This is a shame, as I should have known about Sean Murphy years ago - between this and Joe the Barbarian he has very quickly found a place in my heart. The plot? Three guys (Trent, Brad, Greg) go offroading in Greg's new Jeep, get stuck in a swamp and have a hell of a time getting back out. It is, yes, the classic Dudes Get Into a Sticky Situation and Learn a Lot About Themselves and Each Other story, but it's a very satisfying example of the breed. It's always a joy to find out that someone whose art you dig can also sling a tale, and Murphy has definitely made the list.

A Fresh New Year: Time For the Best of 2010

Well hell. This has been sitting here as a draft for two days. Pretend that didn't happen.

Yes, everything is shiny and new in 2011 and my hose is abuzz with the sounds of my girlfriend tossing things out to make room for all the junk sweet loot that we were presented with over the last week or so. Time to look back on 2010 and lay down some opinions on just what the very best graphical literature to come out over the course of the year was.

I made up a list that was about a million items long and managed to whittle it down to the ten comics, graphic novels, trade paperbacks or whatever that brought me the largest amount of joy this year - no other judging criteria were used. Also, they will be presented in alphabetical order because I am far too lazy to go through the agony of numbering them in either ascending or descending order.

Axe Cop


Hey, it's this again! Yes, it may have just came out a couple of weeks ago but this trade definitely deserves its place on the list of greatest joy-givers. The team of 6 year-old Malachai Nicholle and his 30 year-old brother Ethan produce some of the most legitimately hilarious comics I have ever encountered. You can tell that every idea that Malachai puts forth is chosen for its complete awesomeness and delivered with supreme enthusiasm, while Ethan displays not only impressive technical ability (translation: his drawings are totally sweet) but is an important secondary storyteller as he chooses when to interpret what his brother says literally and when to embellish or downplay in order to create a smoothly-flowing narrative.

Plus, you know, it has a scene where everyone in London soils themselves simultaneously, which is pretty funny.

Crogan's March


Huh. Oni's website claims that this came out last December. Well, no matter, because I didn't see it until February and it's great and I love it.

Crogan's March is the second in the Crogan Adventures by Chris Schweizer, the first being Crogan's Vengeance which came out in 2008 and the next being Crogan's Loyalty, which can't come out soon enough. The series takes place as a series of stories that a father tells his two sons about their ancestors - in this case a member of the French Foreign Legion - in order to teach them lessons about life.

The tale of Legionnaire Peter Crogan and his days in the desert is filled with characters who exemplify a series of world views: loyalty, cowardice, colonialism as stewardship, colonialism as bullying. This makes every character in the book compelling and delightful, while also lending weight to both the humour,  horror and pathos of the tale. I can't recommend this one enough.


This should be no surprise, as I've been going on and on about this series all year. One more time: this is a comic by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bá, about the life of a man named Brás. Each issue takes place at a point in his life between childhood and old age and tells a self-contained story, and each issue ends with Brás' death. The art is as amazing as usual for Bá and Moon, and the portrait of Brás that you develop over the course of the series - complete with multiple potential paths, a web of relationships and enough ambiguity to satisfy but not enrage - is entirely worth the read.

Grandeville: Mon Amour


Another late entry, but Bryan Talbot has scored a decisive hit on my psyche with this series. In case you missed it, here's the skinny: in the late 1800s, the books follow DI LeBrock as he unravels world-shaking plots in an England that has just emerged from the domination of a monarchical French empire. There are fascinating tidbits of alternate history to unravel, bizarre spins on real-world politics, nods to the Euro comics of my youth and genuinely exciting action sequences - a winning combination for ensnaring Johnathans. Plus, everyone is an anthropomorphic animal of some kind, if you like that kind of thing.

I, Zombie

This one is simple: I like weird stories about the supernatural, I like girl detectives and I like Mike Allred, so I like I, Zombie. That might be where things ended but Chris Robeson has really been delighting me with his writing, starting with the aforementioned girl detective stuff and introducing a fairly delightful cast of characters to act as allies and foils to zombie Gwen and her pals as they attempt to solve the problems that she acquires along with the gooky sustenance that she derives from her monthly meal of human brains. Plus: one of the better explanations for the supernatural that I've ever encountered.

Joe the Barbarian

There is some conflict raging in my mind of the inclusion of this one. On the one hand, I've been living in suspense while waiting for the final issue for so long that I'm inclined to be spiteful, but on the other... there's a reason for the suspense, and it's that the comic is just so damned. good.

This is, of course, another one that I've been going on and on about this year, but in case you're new or have been tuning me out: the titular barbarian is a youngster named Joe with a semi-troubled life that includes an absent father, money woes and school bullying. He's also, as of the first issue of the series, going into diabetic shock on a massive scale. In one sense, that's all that this book is about: a kid going downstairs to get a can of pop so that he doesn't die. BUT. Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy have taken that mundane-if-important trip and dramatized it as an epic journey through a disaster-stricken fantasy land, a quest to find and defeat Lord Death. The action changes perspectives between the real and fantasy world frequently and introduces a fair amount of doubt as to whether the other world is real or just some sort of diabetes hallucination. Morrison and Murphy have done something wonderful here; now I just need it to end and I'll be just as happy as a clam.

Orc Stain


I think that the first issue of Orc Stain came out in January last year. It was early 2010, anyway. The important thing is this: I knew that it would be on my Best of 2010 list as soon as I read that initial comic. James Stokoe has created a world that is filled with detail and crazy creatures - some of them functioning as everyday objects like safes or beverage containers - and societies and then filled it with his take on the classic fantasy orc: wild, drunken, violent, nameless savages that ravage the countryside in search of loot and ladies, but now with their own society and with a sympathetic edge that most low-HD humanoids lack. The first six issues have been concerned with getting protagonist One Eye, a thoughtful and talented orc of few words, in way over his head as a potential pawn of the power-seeking Orctzar as he attempts to unite the chaotic orcish tribes and conquer the entire world.

Parker: the Outfit

Richard Stark's Parker novels are basically amazing: the titular Parker is a near-emotionless and entirely ruthless career thief who spend each book meticulously planning and executing a robbery, as well as (usually) dealing with some bullplop that he never asked for. There are very few people who I would have considered able to adapt the feel of those books to a comic page, but any list that I might have made up would have definitely been topped by Darwyn Cooke, so it's a pretty good deal for me that he started adapting them a couple of years ago. Not only has he nail the mid-Sixties style of the first few books perfectly but his strong character design skills ensure that the books' cast of interesting characters make the transition to the illustrated page without becoming the usual smear of bland sameness.

The Sixth Gun

And alphabetically last: The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt. An innocent girl is dragged into a conflict between an amoral wanderer and an undead Revolutionary War general as they attempt to gain control over a set of six enchanted pistols older than the human race. The Wild West is given a supernatural history that is unique and thematically appropriate, the art looks amazing and seven issues in I'm still trying to puzzle things out. In a good way, not a bad writing way - I know that someday I'll reread these earlier issues and have astonishing retroactive insights and be well pleased. Plus: cowboys!

And that's the lot. Tune in tomorrow (and yesterday, dang it) for supplemental lists of runners-up.

Johnathan... out.

John Buys Comics, the Thrilling Return

Back to the comic-buying grind again, oh what fresh stale hell is this. I kid, of course - if I got paid for this it would be the best job ever.

First, some Last Week's News, cold off the presses. Did you know that The Outfit came out last week? You probably knew that. But just in case you were, like me, out of touch for a time I will repeat myself: The Outfit came out last week! And on the off chance that you have no idea what I'm talking about: way back in the Sixties novelist Donald Westlake came up with a character named Parker and started writing novels about him under the pen name Richard Stark. Parker is basically a sonovabitch, a freelance thief who pulls two or three big jobs a year and spend the rest of the time living the high life in hotels and resorts around the world. Parker is basically an ultracompetent sociopath and is one of the most enjoyable characters in literature. The books typically feature Parker and a rotating series of other thieves pulling off one or more big scores, usually while Parker is simultaneously trying to solve some small complication in his life, like being blackmailed or having the mob put a price on his head. It's all pretty wonderful.


And now Darwyn Cooke is adapting the series into comic books, first with last year's The Hunter (also adapted into the Mel Gibson movie Payback, trivia fans) and now with The Outfit. And let me tell you, the right guy is on the job. Bothe Cooke and Westlake-as-Stark operate in a glorious Fifties-shading-into-Sixties aesthetic so very well, and as a result the books both look and read like they were written just for my nostalgia-riddled soul. And of course the violence (of which there is much) is marvellously choreographed. Really, the only bad thing about the whole thing is having to wait for the next instalment. Where's my instant gratification, dang it?

Even farther back, a whole two weeks ago, Fantagraphics Books came out with the amazing Four Color Fear, a book that would have made my month all by itself. More on this one in a later post - tis the season, after all. 


Batmans - Unless I missed an something in the confusion, the Scheduling Fairy has gotten drunk on her way to DC yet again. I mean, it's very possible that I did miss something, but shouldn't Bruce Wayne be returned to the DC Universe proper some time after the Return of Bruce Wayne series actually finishes? I guess it is awfully close, but having the penultimate issue of that particular series in the same pile of comics as the opening salvo of the Bruce Wayne: the Road Home event felt a little weird.

I can't get too worked up about the whole thing though, since The Road Home is following my very favourite event format and taking place in its own one-shots and minis instead of horning in on the associated ongoings that I enjoy so well unmolested. Way to diffuse my nerd-rage, DC.

Oh, the comics themselves? Not bad. The one-shots that I picked up were entertaining enough to justify their existence, which is always nice. I'd say pick 'em up if you're reading the associated series but don't feel left out if you don't. Meanwhile, The Return of Bruce Wayne didn't deliver awesome in quite the concentration that I'd gotten used to but that's to be expected with a next-to-last issue. Next issue: total awesomeness.

Wait, does Knight and Squire fit here? Sure it does. Here is the easy calculation to determine whether you should buy this issue: take the delight that you felt when you read the preview for this a couple of weeks ago - and both zero delight and negative delight count - and multiply it by five, because the whole issue is just exactly as wonderful. Then, simply follow your heart. Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton are doing a terrific job of expanding the British corner of the DCU its own distinct place, one that has more than just a handful of characters with accents. Instead, they are developing both a rich retroactive history and a distinctive cultural flavour for the British superfolk scene. Plus, you know, Knight and Squire, two of the most criminally underutilized characters in comics, get their day in the sun. Hooray!

And in further Batman news, Masks and Monsters, the latest Hellboy collection came out this week and it's great. It contains the Hellboy/Starman/Batman crossover which among other things features Mike Mignola drawing super-heroes, which is one of thie things that brings me the most joy in this life. If I were ever to get acquisitive enough to collect anything obsessively it would definitely be Mignola-style super-hero drawings. So delightfully barrel-chested!

I think that I'll leave it at that, or perhaps at bat. Old things and bat things. Let's call it a theme week.

John Buys Comics, huzzah.

Lots of indie books fulla monster-fighting this week, which is just how I like it.

First up, Mystery Society hit the magic number and so it's time for the long-absent THIRD ISSUE RECAP to make its triumphant return. Here's the poop: young wealthies Nick Hammond and his wife Anastasia Collins have started the Mystery Society in order to investigate/bring to light the occult, aliens, government conspiracies and so forth. All of the usual stuff. The story starts [[in media res with Nick in prison, then flashes back to the formation of the Society, which involved a) advertising for members and b) breaking into Area 51 to liberate a pair of pshychic twins who had been cryogenically frozen since the 50s. The break-in has had repurcussions (specifically, trumped-up murder charges) and now the whole society is on the run from government forces.

There is nothing inherently and explosively original about this setup, but I am very much enjoying the execution. Rather than defaulting to the standard "paranormal investigation" cliches (bigfoot, the Greys, yadda yadda), Niles and Staples are making up interesting new weird things for the heroes to encounter - in this issue, for instance a remote-controlled alien blob monster that occupies a brutish humanoid battlesuit. Heck, the two members of the Society that joined up via the advertisement are themselves pretty neat: the first is Secret Skull, a twentysomething girl who died and then kept on moving around and now wears a skull headpiece and a costume reminiscent of a 1940s movie villain. The other is a Victorian robot with the brain of Jules Verne. Together, they are my favourite new motorcycle-riding comic-book duo.

Next up, King! from Blacklist Studios, the folks behind John-favourite R13. Here is King! in a nutshell: take Bruce Campbell's rendition of Elvis from Bubba Ho-Tep and make him a young man, then drop him into the Evil Dead series. As someone who enjoys a good comic about monster-punching, I have to shine the full light of my approval on Thomas Hall and Daniel Bradford for this one.

Oh, hey! There's a zombie Elvis in Zatanna! How many other cultural icons can claim to have simultaniously occupied both sides of the undead/monster-puncher duality? Not too damn many.

I didn't weigh in on Morning Glories last month and now here it is at number two. This is one of those comics that I am happy to have impulse-bought: it's the tale of a group of problem and/or gifted high school students who are offered admission into a prestigious new private school, which is very exciting, I know. But then they figure out that they all have the same birthday, and then their parents start claiming not to know who they are, and then things start getting sinister. Writer Nick Spencer has done a terrific job of hinting at a lot of deep dark secrets and now he just has to dole them out at a measured pace and I'll keep on getting this. Well, as long as it doesn't turn out to be one of those books that is totally dumb once you knwo what's actually going on. I'm going to be optimistic.


Grant Morrison, you have fooled me once again. Joe the Barbarian almost seemed like it was going to end this issue and now I am in a heightened state of suspense which, coupled with my sadness over the fact that this most excellent of series is almost over, will surely wear me down to an emotionless nubover the next month. I will refer my loved ones to you, sir, when they accuse me of neglectful, robotic behaviour.

It kind of looks like I was wrong about Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors being a police procedural in space, but I suppose that I can deal with the crushed dreams. At least it's a good time, even if it is full of the sort of fluid-spewing grievous bodily harm that the various GL books have become known for in recent years. I can definitely have a good time with a comic about Guy Gardner, Arisa and Kilowog meeting and greeting with a selection of colourful Lanterns while en route]] to a confrontation with a snake-barfing evil mastermind. And I think that it might not engender a massive crossover, even!