Podcast - Episode 24: Best of 2015


I thought before Dave goes into full Star Wars shutdown mode, it would be good to compile and present our Best of 2015 lists. So here they are!

I was going to write them out here, but nah. You gotta listen to the episode. Maybe I'll post them next week.

What I WILL post is my prediction for the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 soundtrack line-up. We'll see when the movie comes out how many I got right. I correctly predicted that Hank Henshaw was Martian Manhunter on Supergirl, so I am on FIRE here!

Rachelle's Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Soundtrack Predictions:

1. Shake Your Groove Thing - Peaches & Herb
2. We Are Family - Sister Sledge
3. Jungle Boogie - Kool & the Gang
4. I Think I Love You - The Partridge Family
5. Build Me Up Buttercup - The Foundations
6. Sister Christian - Night Ranger
7. Starman - David Bowie
8. School's Out - Alice Cooper
9. Low Rider - War
10. Free Ride - Edgar Winter Group
11. Stayin' Alive - Bee Gees
12. Tide is High - Blondie
13. Tempted - Squeeze

Bonus tracks suggested by Dave:

1. Jim Dandy - Black Oak Arkansas
2. Higher Ground - Stevie Wonder
3. Rapper's Delight - Sugarhill Gang

I think we'll have at least a 60% success rate with this list.

I mentioned some very exciting interviews on the subject of one Steve Rogers and one James Buchanan Barnes in Entertainment Weekly. You can find the full line-up of articles here.

If you want a taste of what that Charlie Brown Christmas concert was like that I went to, you can see some videos of Jerry Granelli performing the songs with the trio he put together on the CBC website here. It's pretty spectacular. I would especially recommend 'Skating.'

Owen Craig was kind enough to invite me back onto his comic book podcast, Panel Culture, this past week. So if you can't get enough of my sultry voice you can check that episode out here.

Oh Yes, It's the End of the Best of 2010

I will be brief.

Here are the new series that wowed me in the dearly departed 2010.

Age of Reptiles - Is it wrong that I weigh the amazing panoramic vistas and incredibly rendered herds of multiple dinosaur species and the wordless drama of predator v. prey as highly as the puerile giggles I get whenever I spot a dinosaur taking a whizz?

Beasts of Burden - Okay, so the only new thing to come out this year was the Hellboy crossover. I don't care - I love this comic. Plus, the trade that came out a few months ago is a joy to behold.

Bulletproof Coffin - An amazingly weird series with beautiful, vibrantly-coloured art. If the last issue had come out before today it might have made the big list (closure is important, dammit).

Culture Corner - Basil Wolverton doesn't get anywhere near the recognition that he deserves nowadays, so it was wonderful to see this collection of his typically bizarre advice comics.

Gorilla Man - I am a connoisseur of great big smart-mouth heros who end up punching their way out of trouble a lot and let me tell you, Ken Hale is one of the best.

Justice League: Generation Lost - Possibly the best super-hero comic to come out this year. Definitely the best thing to come out of Brightest Day.

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour - So obvious I almost forgot to include it.

Skullkickers - I get the feeling that if one more issue had come out before the year ended it'd have been in the top ten. Another comic that pushes a lot of my Dungeon Master buttons - Shorty and Baldy have that special combination of ingenuity and complete insanity that marks all of my players' characters.

Strange Science Fantasy - Pretty sure this is going to be on Dave's list, and it deserves to be. Personally, I was sold the instant that the Shogunaut showed up.

Strange Tales II - All the joy of Strange Tales, with a far more consistent level of quality! Whee!

Stumptown - Take the classic noir detective and his drunken, big-mouth, getting-roughed-up all the time ways and now make him a lady and put him in the present day. That is this comic and it is a treat.

Superf*ckers - Kochalka's off-colour spin on the teen super-team, collected at last!

Super Pro KO - Any comic that captures the late 80s/early 90s insanity that was professional wrestling gets my vote.

Tick New Series - It's been almost exactly a year and Benito Cereno has been knocking this comic out of the park consistently. I can't imagine that the Tick is a character that just anyone can write - you need to hit just the right notes to make him work. Applause!

Turf - Gangsters, vampires, aliens and plucky girl reporters. It was either going to be awful or amazing. Hooray!

Underground - A comic that was mostly about people trying to kill other people deep under the earth, which makes me uncomfortable like little else can. Quiet down, nascent claustrophobia.

Xenozoic - Another collected edition rather than new material, but one that was overdue. 

And that, as they say, is that. Brevity, thy name is Johnathan.

Good night!

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.

Supplemental Best of 2010: Lots of Text!

As I said, I had an enormous list of potential "Best of" candidates that were ruthlessly whittled down to the top ten that has by now been enshrined in the hearts of nerdlingers everywhere. But why should all of my hard work go to waste, huh? Thus: the runners-up post.

First up, a list of books that I unfairly disqualified due to the fact that they have continued to be good rather than attaining greatness this year. Sustained quality should be praised but is kind of wearying to write about. Still, many of these brought me just as much delight as anything else this year.

Action Comics - The Superman books have been all over the place this year, but through it all, Action has been a safe haven. And now it features Lex Luthor and Jimmy Olsen, the two greatest Metropolitans of all!

Atomic Robo - Brian Clevinger has already attained a place in my "Top Comics of All Time" with this series, and every time he brings something like Dr. Dinosaur or the electric ghost of Thomas Edison into the mix he just nudges himself a bit higher up the charts.

BATMANS - Probably would have made the big list, only I felt kind of squirrelly typing in "Detective Comics, every other issue of Batman, the Return of Bruce Wayne, Batgirl, Batwoman, Batman Inc, Batman and Robin, Red Robin, Knight and Squire, that one 80-Page Giant and about half of Joker's Asylum II" as one comic. But seriously, this has been a great year for Batman.

Casanova - I completely missed the boat on this comic the first time around, so these reprints are a godsend to me.

Chew - I would love Chew if it were just a list of amazing new food-related superpowers in a spiral-bound notebook. The fact that it is an amazing comic is just gravy.

Doom Patrol - I love all incarnations of the Doom Patrol, even John Byrne's (but not as much as the others), so having Keith Giffen writing a fun, funny series that does a pretty danged amazing job of synthesizing their ultra-damaged continuity into something that works is like getting a birthday present every month.

Hellboy - Unless Mike Mignola goes crazy some day, and it is a very specific kind of crazy that causes him to make boring comics, this will always be on my list. Not only were the regular series filled with amazing revelations to delight the senses but there were two whole one-shot issues - a rare and amazing occurrence!

King City - More amusement per page than any other comic out there, plus lotsa great cat characters. If you like that kind of thing.

Power Girl - Of course no Power Girl comic will ever equal the Amanda Conner era and there have been a few rough patches, but I am still enjoying this, and as that was way more than I expected I shall tip my hat accordingly.

REBELS - It is an inarguable fact that the more Brainiacs you have in a comic, the better it is. Well, this book currently averages 3-5 per issue. It's a no-brainer!

Secret Six - Super-villains! Gail Simone writes super-villains like nobody's business - watching Bane become a likeable and interesting character was like watching an intricate magic trick. I saw it, I don't quite know how it was done and I am filled with delight.

Sweet Tooth - Jeff Lemire just keeps on filling me with that delicious despair. Odds of there being a happy ending: LOW.

Unwritten - Continues to shine. I just tried to think of an especially incredible issue to highlight here and ended up thinking of every issue in the series, sequentially. 

Usagi Yojimbo - Stan Sakai just hits this comic out of the park every issue. I kick myself that I didn't buy it for so long.

I have a bunch more, actually, but I'll leave them until tomorrow, lest you tire of me. 

The Best of 2009: The Best of the Rest

Pluto/20th Century Boys, by Naoki Urasawa (Viz)

The former is a heartbreaking retelling of a classic Astro Boy storyline, infused with Iraq war parallels and serial killer-thriller creepiness, the latter is a seriocomic end-of-the-world epic about a group of childhood friends who reunite as adults to save the earth from an evil cult that has its origins in their old gang. I'm generally not much of a manga fan, but I can recommend at least one of these series to pretty much anybody looking for a great read. An excellent story has no nationality, as these two brilliant titles demonstrate. Urasawa is equally skilled at writing memorable characters and dramatic situations as he is at drawing kinetic action sequences and genuine emotional reactions. - DH 

(I've been boring all the LBWers with this for a month, but I must get it out of my system: My greatest recommendation for Pluto is the fact that I haven't read most of it yet. This is because I foolishly told my friends about it and they've been serially borrowing it, volume by volume. I'll tell you what I think about the story maybe three months after it's done. - JM)

The Muppet Show by Roger Langridge (Boom! Studios)

Boom! Studios launched their new Boom! Kids line earlier this year, which features comics based on the Disney-owned properties Pixar and the Muppets. Time will tell if this arrangement lasts now that Disney is the new owner of Marvel. Hopefully nothing will happen that affects the Muppet Show comics that Roger Langridge has been writing and drawing because these comics are perfect. They are technically aimed at kids, but truly the target audience is the generation that grew up watching The Muppet Show. It is one of the most astonishing things I have ever encountered: Langridge managed to take The Muppet Show, a show that relied heavily on music, explosions, shouting and wacky puppet body language, and flawlessly translated it to the stagnant pages of a monthly comic book. It's mind-blowing. Each issue follows the structure of an episode of The Muppet Show, with skits, musical numbers, and a main backstage story. The comics also incorporate even the most minor characters from the show. A trade paperback was released that collects the first four issues, and if you are a fan of The Muppet Show it will be the best $10 you ever spend. - RG

Let's Be Friends Again by Curt Franklin and Chris Haley (Webcomic) I have already written all about how much I love this comic. What I haven't mentioned, however, is that it is now collected in a handy portable book! And the book has a quote from me on the back which is almost identical to the one from Chris Sims! But mine is longer. Read the comic! Buy the book! - RG

ComicsAlliance by Laura Hudson (Website)

ComicsAlliance is the comic news website/blog that I have been waiting for. Born from the ashes of the sadly short-lived Comic Foundry magazine, CA is a perfect source of comic book industry information, reviews, and comedy. Laura Hudson is, I am convinced, one of the coolest ladies in the world, and she has recruited some fantastic writers to help her out. Finally, a comic book website for the rest of us. - RG

Star Trek by J.J. Abrams

It was a relatively slow year for geek movies, compared to 2008. Really there were only two that generated any amount of hype: Watchmen and Star Trek. The former was a loyal adaptation of a book that had no business being a movie. But I didn't hate it. Star Trek was a bold re-imagining of a sacred text that no man dare mess with. And it ruled. Star Trek was easily the funnest time I had at the movies this year. Twice. Genius casting (including the sexy, sexy Chris Pine), stylish sets and costumes, and a really fun script made for a great beginning to what will hopefully be many more J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies. - RG

RASL by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books)

Jeff Smith's noir, sci-fi comic made it to my top ten list last year, and although the story hasn't progressed much since then it's still one the absolute best series on the shelf. The title character, RASL, is a dimension-hopping art thief who steals rare, famous works of art in one dimension and sells them in another. We all know that interdimensional travel has consequences, and RASL suffers from seriously messed up jet lag that leaves him physically ravaged every time he crosses into another dimension. Even worse, RASL is being followed through worlds by a spooky lizard-faced hit man who gets violent with RASL and his sexy lady-friends. Not to mention that, in one dimension, he runs into the woman he loved, whose name is tattooed on his arm, only she's a different person and doesn't recognise him. What I love most about this book is that it's real science-y science fiction—RASL's dimensional travel is explained with theoretical physics, not dreams dreamed by a wizard. We see flashbacks of RASL (who was Robert then), as a scientist working on a weapons defense project and eventually discovering how he can bend reality to cross into other dimensions. The noir overtones really perfect this book for me, as I love hard-living, loner characters - RASL is way more Parker than he is Fone Bone. Smith's signature art style is there—but the black and white is brilliantly spooky and barren. I can't wait for this series to finish and be put out in a fancy hard cover so I can read and reread and reread and reread it. - TJ

Dark Horse One-Shot Wonders by Lots of People (Dark Horse, duh!)

I love one-shots. Stand-alone comics are awesome for showcasing cool secondary characters who you want to see more of. They're good for putting a new (or classic) creative team on a series. And most importantly, they're a great comics gateway drug—a way to ease hesitant friends and family down the slippery slope of a mild interest in comics, to full on comics addiction. While my interest in the Dark Horse One-Shot Wonders was focused primarily on the Whedony stuff, I want to salute the whole thing in general. The Dr. Horrible issue was dope. I picked the outstanding variant cover by Kristian Donaldson (who drew Supermarket, and all the best issues of DMZ), and devoured the great interior art and the story that's as clever, funny and engaging as the original sing-a-long blog. The dialogue was maybe more proof that other people are better at writing Whedon than Whedon himself these days, but that's another blog post all together. Just a super fun issue and a great companion to the DVD. The Willow one-shot was somewhat meandering (another journey through the mind/psychedelic trip out issue that we've seen a couple times in Buffy Season 8), but I like Karl Moline, and I like Willow, and she's totally doing a sea-monster lady on the cover, so that's cool. Sugar Shock is a Whedon-penned comic about a girl band in space, which is pretty much an ideal description of a comic, if you're me. While I know that some people felt they were dropped into the middle of a story without understanding the universe, I felt okay just going along with it, since the universe was wildly entertaining. The characters were all awesome in distinct ways, and I'd read love to read a stack of issues about their adventures. I heard the Goon one was awesome too. Word up, one-shots. -TJ

Solomon Kane: The Castle of the Devil By Scott Allie and Mario Guevara (Dark Horse)

You may have encountered one of my pro-Solomon Kane rhapsodizations if you’ve ever spent any time on this site, but just in case: Solomon Kane, one of Robert E. Howard’s lesser-known creations (somewhere between Kull and Bran Mak Morn, I reckon), is also my favourite. Check it: Kane is a Puritan who travels the world righting wrongs and seeking adventure, as per standard Howard hero behavior, but the difference is that Solomon Kane, in true Puritan form, is an unshakeable pillar of morality. He will DO RIGHT, no matter the consequence to himself, because it is RIGHT.

The Castle of the Devil is based off of a Kane story fragment that I still haven’t been able to track down, concerning the Puritan and a traveling companion named John Silent getting wrapped up in supernatural craziness deep in the heart of the Black Forest. There’s swordplay and monsters and people falling from great heights – all of the requisite elements to delight my senses.

In addition to the excellent writing and art put into this project by Allie and Guevara, roughly a ton of very talented people ended up being involved in this project at one point or another: Dave Stewart did his usual fantastic colouring job, Mike Mignola created an absolutely beautiful cover for the trade, Guy Davis did some of the monster and building design (and guy Davis knows how to design a monster, I tell you) and on and on. I love this project so much – if only there were going to be another OH WAIT THERE IS. – JM

Beasts of Burden By Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson (Dark Horse)

The collection of dogs (and one cat) that star in Beasts of Burden made their debut in the Dark Horse Book of… collections a few years back, and what started as an interesting variation on the ghost, monster or whatever theme of each of the collections has become a full-fledged series, with ongoing plots and everything. And it’s one of the best horror-style comics to come out in for-ever.

The titular Beasts, who live in the sort-of titular town of Burden Hill, have been deputized by the Society of Wise Dogs to act in the defense of their community, which is being besieged by dark forces on a semi-regular basis due to Mysterious Reasons As Yet Unrevealed. Whatever the reason, however, the sextet has faced down such foes as a giant toad-demon, a rat king and the vengeful spirits of the restless animal dead, in a series that, though it is about, you know, fuzzy pet-types, is way creepier than basically any other comic that I’ve read in a long time. – JM

Cursed Pirate Girl By Jeremy Bastian (Olympus)

Cursed Pirate Girl is concerned with the life and times of, well, a cursed pirate girl. Starting out in Jamaica, she eventually makes her way to the fictitious-but-still-accessible Omerta Seas in search of her long-lost pirate father.

Now, the plot and characterizations in this comic are enough on their own to sell me on it, being as they are fairly universally super-interesting and –creative, what really blows my mind when I read it is the art, which resembles nothing so much as a late 1800s political cartoon. Wait, don’t go, it’s amazing. Picture intricate linework and people with bodily distortions that vary along with their level of social responsibility or degree of moral turpitude, so that a shady back-alley black-marketeer with dreams of upward mobility is rendered as mostly head, and grotesque head at that. This is a magnificent comic. – JM

Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory (Image)

Look, you know about Chew, as it’s one of the year’s big success stories: police officer with the unusual and gross power to read the past of an organic substance by eating it ends up using his power in the service of the FDA, which in his fictional world is all-powerful due to a Bird Flu-inspired ban on chicken. It’s inventive and inspired and a great cop series, plus it has terrific art.

But you’ve heard all of this before. Chew isn’t here so that we can spread the word or say something new and witty, it’s here because we’d be idiots if it wasn’t. – JM

MSPaintAdventures by Andrew Hussie (Webcomic) 

A new era in MSPaintAdventuring started this past April, and it’s marvelous. For those not in the know, MSPaintAdventures is a semianimated webcomic that takes the form of an old-school point-and-click/text-based hybrid game like Maniac Mansion or the Monkey Island series. As with the prior series, Problem Sleuth, the current one, entitled Homestuck, started out simply and gained complexity as the story progressed. At a basic level, it’s about a bot named John Egbert who is playing a new videogame called Sburb with his friend Rose. More expansively, it appears that John and his pals are embroiled in an epic struggle between forces of, well, light and dark, if not good and evil.

In addition to the fact that Hussie keeps things lively by taking reader suggestions for upcoming actions, and that the comic includes both catchy original music and fairly frequent and entertaining Flash animations, this is perhaps the most frequently-updated creative work on the Internet. Let me check… yep, it updated while I was writing this. When does he sleep? - JM

Atomic Robo: The Shadow From Beyond Time By Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener (Red 5)

Atomic Robo is possibly the perfect action comic. It’s funny, suspenseful, filled with explosions… I have never been less than delighted while reading it. Heck, if nothing Atomic Robo had come out this year but the Free Comic Book Day adventure – in which Robo has a firefight with one Dr Dinosaur whilst arguing that Dr Dinosaur couldn’t possibly exist – then I would be mentioning it here. As it happens, however…

The Shadow From Beyond Time involves Robo’s encounters with an extradimensional entity that exists outside of our concept of time and thus attacks him while existing backwards, from the present day to the 1910s. Robo first encounters it when the fantastic duo of Charles Fort and HP Lovecraft - who had fought the creature’s first iteration at Tunguska with Robo’s creator Nikola Tesla – show up seeking help against its second appearance. And then the creature possesses Lovecraft's head.

It just gets better from there on, with appearances by Carl Sagan and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne, and is a perfect continuation of one of my favourite series ever. - JM

Jersey Gods By Glen Brunswick and Dan McDaid (Image)

Jersey Gods is a book about young love, as Zoe and Barock find each other (they meet in a mall!) and navigate the perils and pitfalls of dating, buying a house and meeting each others parents.

Jersey Gods is also a Kirby-esque cosmic adventure book, featuring the inhabitants of the divided planet Neberon contending with the ramifications of a disastrous war, thousands of years in the past (that most of them were around for, though). Barock, Rushmore and Helius contend against Centrus, Deltus and Minog (among others, of course) in a struggle for the very planet itself!

It’s a fun romance comic and an excellent space-god adventure story, made all the better by the fact that the mixing of these two genres is really not something that I would ever have though would be successful. Way to prove me wrong, guys! - JM

Irredeemable by Mark Waid and Peter Krause (BOOM! Studios)

Yes, the plot of Irredeemable is essentially “what if Superman turned evil”, but you know, that’s a plot that’s ripe with possibility, and one that DC Comics would likely have a substantially different take on the whole thing, especially the whole part where he kills millions of people. Well, maybe not in an Elseworld, if there were still Elseworlds.

So yes: Superman-analogue The Plutonian goes ape-nuts and starts wrecking the world, and nobody has a sweet clue what to do. The heroes are helpless and the villains are terrified. The Metropolis-analogue lies in ruins. And nine issues in, we only have about half the story on why the hell the Plutonian flipped out in the first place. It’s like reading a funhouse mirror version of one of my favourite things! - JM

Hector Plasm: Totentanz By Benito Cereno and Nate Bellgarde (Image)

Every time I try to elaborate on just why Hector Plasm is so great, I’m left flat-footed. I just say something like “It’s so gooooooooooooooooooooood!” and run away. But here we go:

Hector Plasm can talk to ghosts. He gets wrapped up in their (un)lives and helps them to move on, or forces them to if necessary. He’s tormented and prematurely old-looking and has a cool sword. This is the foundation for a fine adventure or paranormal mystery (or paranormal adventure mystery) comic that I would be telling you about regardless, but since it’s a Benito and Nate production, well…

Among the Halloween-themed pieces in this big fat comic are a retelling of Hector’s origin in a spot-on homage to Edward Gorey, a selection of holiday drink recipes and a mind-poppingly wonderful story entitled “Hector contre la Danse Macabre” which I cannot do justice to with my fumbling wordplay. It’s inspired by/kind of set to the song “Danse Macabre” as well as the companion poem, “Danse Macabre”. It’s one of my favourite things of all time, and curiously it involves NO PUNCHING OF MONSTERS AT ALL. Eerie. - JM


The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History by John Ortved

This warts-and-all look at the ongoing history of TV's longest-running (and arguably greatest) sitcom is a bit of a hatchet job. Matt Groening is portrayed as a guy who lucked into an empire, reaping tons of accolades and untold riches while contributing very little to the creative process; James L. Brooks is painted as a greedy, controlling miser on a par with Charles Montgomery Burns (a Season Two episode where Burns asked his employees for a life-saving blood transfusion, making it sound like they should be honoured and grateful for the privilege, was reportedly based on a similar request Brooks made to the show's staff); while Sam Simon is touted as the unsung genius who fine-tuned the series' look and sensibilities, only to leave the show in disgust over monetary disputes (none of the three agreed to be interviewed by for this book). However, as revealing as all this trash talk might be, this oral history (composed mostly of contributions from the show's legendary writing staff) is worth reading for the fascinating glimpses it provides into the fabled Simpsons writing room, particularly in the early seasons. The interviews with, and anecdotes about, Conan O'Brien are insightful and hilarious, while the detailed descriptions of how some of the show's funniest exchanges and gags developed are a delight. -DH

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino's latest all-or-nothing genre homage may not have anything to do with comic books, but its outrageous re-writing of the final days of World War II reminded me of how Marvel and DC took their own liberties with the conflict. The two comic companies, as well as Hollywood's most notorious cinema nerd, made their peace early on with the idea that their vision of history is unabashedly fictional entertainment, not documentary, so why not tell it your own way? Marvel had the Human Torch roasting Hitler in his bunker, DC had the dictator using the mythical Spear of Destiny to keep the All-Star Squadron out of Europe, and Tarantino...well, if you haven't seen Basterds yet, I won't spoil it for you, but I will urge you to check out the DVD or Blu-Ray, available now. A canny fusion of spaghetti westerns, espionage thrillers, and Jewish revenge fantasy, one of Basterds' greatest achievements might be its ability to captivate a mass audience even though it's largely subtitled (much of the dialogue is spoken in French and German, with a little Italian thrown in for good measure). Who else but Tarantino can get cineplex audiences to sit through that much reading? Oh, and by the way--everything you've heard about Christoph Waltz's turn as the giddy, menacing Colonel Hans Landa is true. -DH

Honourable Mentions:

Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett (Harry N. Abrams First Editions) This mock textbook tells the history of Boilerplate, a robot soldier designed in 1893, who has fought in battles and played a key role in historic events for over a century. Imagine if Forrest Gump was a robot. Now stop imagining Forrest Gump, because its a terrible, stupid movie and Boilerplate is really, amazingly cool and exceptionally well executed.-TJ

Werewolves on the Moon vs Vampires by Dave Land and the Fillbach Brothers (Dark Horse) – Yes it’s a silly concept, but it was a very fun comic book, and I have to give it many props for actually being funny when it could have been terrible. Here’s hoping for that Werewolves on the Moon vs Mayan Moon Mummies sequel. - JM

Creepy by Various (Dark Horse) – Did you enjoy Creepy and the other black and white horror anthologies back in the day? Good news! This is pretty much a perfect resurrection! - JM

Underground by Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber (Image) – Technically this is a comic about people trying to kill each other in a cave, but really, it’s about people in a cave trying not to get killed. There’s a distinction there, I swear, and it makes this a wonderful read. - JM

Venture Bros (Cartoon) – Season 4 part one just finished and oh my god was it good. This is possibly the best cartoon ever. Plus: this season features Captain Sunshine, the first superhero-style character to make any sort of appearance. - JM

The Hellboy Universe (Dark Horse) – I won’t go on and on, as Mike Mignola’s family of comics has been excellent forever and will likely remain so. This year did continue their excellent track record of releases, with some months having a comic from one or another of the associated series come out every week. This years saw the fantastic B.P.R.D.: 1947, as the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense continues to come into its own in a post-WWII world, Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder, a look at an adventure of one of the most long-runningly enigmatic characters in the franchise, an Abe Sapien Quick Shot set in the Eighties and most importantly Hellboy: the Wild Hunt, which delivered a twist to the entire Hellboy story that I am still loathe to discuss. Seriously, if you enjoy Hellboy and don’t yet know what I’m talking about you owe it to yourself to read this series right now. So cool. - JM

Zorro by Matt Wagner and Francesco Francavilla (Dynamite)  Francavilla made a triumphant return to his art duties on Matt Wagner's excellent Zorro series this year. I don't know what else I can say about this series to make people read it. I have loved it since the beginning. It's awesome and the art is beautiful. - RG

Umbrella Academy: Dallas By Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (Dark Horse) – So only half of it came out in 2009, so what. This stuff is fantastic. - JM  

The Best of 2009: Original Graphic Novels and Collections

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzuchelli (Pantheon Books) Yeah, it's made every single "Best Of Comics" list this year, and a few "Best Of Fiction" lists besides, but so what? It totally deserves it. Legendary Batman and Daredevil artist David Mazzuchelli disappeared for a decade, only to emerge with this hefty tome about a heartbroken professor of architecture who loses everything and decides to reconstruct himself from nothing, while examining the wreckage of his life to find out where it all went wrong. At a glance, the symbolic colour schemes and unconventional page layouts seem challenging and maybe even a bit pretentious, but Polyp's approach is shockingly digestible. Funny, truthful, poignant, and very easy on the eyes, Asterios Polyp is an instant classic. -DH

Masterpiece Comics, by R. Sikoryak (Fantagraphics Books) Every English Literature Professor's worst nightmare, R. Sikoryak's Masterpiece Comics retells several classic tales in the form of classic comics. Originally appearing in the Drawn & Quarterly anthology, Sikoryak gives us Bible stories re-enacted by newspaper strip characters (Blondie and Dagwood act out the story of Adam and Eve), a take on Crime and Punishment that stars a Dick Sprang-era Batman as Raskolnikov, and reimagines Wuthering Heights as a lurid Tales From The Crypt offering. Sikoryak plays it so straight that you can easily forget it's supposed to be a joke--a hallmark of classic subversion. -DH

The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures by Dave Stevens (IDW Publishing) Dave Stevens' lost pulp adventure classic, out of print for years, returns in two handsome hardcover editions--an affordable, regular-sized hardcover that collects the two previous Rocketeer graphic novels, and a deluxe, oversized, slipcased volume that is overflowing with all the bonus material a fan could ever want. Ace colourist Laura Martin provides vibrant new hues that ably support Stevens' lush linework without overpowering it. Story notes at the back of the Deluxe Edition hint at a planned third Rocketeer volume that would have seen Cliff Secord swept up in the Martian hysteria of Orson Welles' 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast; sadly, Stevens succumbed to Leukemia in 2006, which makes this gorgeous collection the final, definitive word on his jet-packed hero. -DH

Blazing Combat by Archie Goodwin and Various Artists (Fantagraphics Books) It's always interesting to read literature that was banned at the time of its original publication. It's even more satisfying when the material happens to be an outstanding representation of a medium's potential. Blazing Combat collects the entire short-lived 1960s anti-war comic of the same name. The black-and-white comics were originally published by Warren Publishing in 1965-66, before American popular sentiment had turned against the war efforts in Vietnam. Sadly, very few of the four published issues reached the public; they were quickly pulled from newsstands and rejected by wholesalers. The issues, each containing several short war stories ranging from the War of Independence to the Vietnam War, were written almost entirely by Archie Goodwin and were illustrated by master cartoonists such as Alex Toth, Joe Orlando, Gene Colan, and Wally Wood. Much like the controversial EC Comics of the 1950s, each story in Blazing Combat uses shock endings and raw character emotion to evoke a reaction from the readers. Through this technique the creators were able to slip political and social opinions on unpopular topics such as racism, sexism, government oppression, or, in the case of Blazing Combat, the futility of war, into the comics. Each panel of Blazing Combat is a stunning work of art, and they are beautifully preserved on heavy paper in this hardcover book. Just as relevant now as when they were first published, these stories should still draw an emotional reaction from anyone who reads them. - RG

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 by David Petersen (Archaia) The wait for this book, the second volume of Mouse Guard, was agonizing. David Petersen's epic fantasy starring a small band of brave Guardmice is remarkably captivating and full of emotion. It's also full of gorgeous art, and Archaia does a great job with these hardcover editions. Reading the first volume two years ago made me feel a lot better about my mouse-infested apartment that winter. I pictured them scurrying around with little swords and little capes and I couldn't hate them. Eventually I did have to poison them, though, because seriously. Those things multiply like crazy. - RG

Johnny Hiro by Fred Chao (AdHouse Books) Not only was this one of the most exciting things to be collected into a trade this year, for me anyway, it ended up being one of the best looking trades of the year. Fred Chao's comic about a struggling young busboy in New York City is hilarious and charming. I particularly love Johnny's girlfriend, Mayumi, who is one of the most adorable love interests in the history of fiction. Also, this comic is peppered with hip hop references, and I like that in anything. And...I met Fred Chao at HeroesCon this year and he was super nice and drew me this awesome sketch. - RG

Parker: The Hunter by Darwyn Cooke (IDW Publishing) I had the pleasure of being part of a small crowd at a local writers festival this year to hear Darwyn Cooke read the first chapter of Richard Stark's novel, The Hunter. As he read the chapter, he ran a slide show of the pages in his comic adaptation of the novel so we could see exactly how it was adapted. It was really neat, and it made me appreciate even further how excellent Cooke's adaptation is. It's definitely a case of a perfect project paired with the perfect creator, with a lot of love thrown in. The two-tone pages are beautiful and moody and full of that Darwyn Cooke charm we all know and love. I can't wait for the next one! - RG

Tales From the Beanworld by Larry Marder (Dark Horse) Larry Marder stepped away from Tales From the Beanworld for more than a decade, but then he came back. Now all of  the original run of the Beanworld comics have been collected in fantastic-looking hardcovers from Dark Horse and the first of a series of books that will continue the saga has been released. You may have heard this story from me before, but let me reiterate: I first encountered the Beanworld when I bought Eclipse Comics first Marder collection in a used bookstore sometime in the late Nineties. I fell in love with the setting and characters and started looking around for more, but that was it. I never found the other trades, nor any of the single issues, not even a morally suspect electronic document from the World Wide Computernet. The amount of joy that these trades and the subsequent original material has generated in my life is difficult to calculate but is not insubstantial. Personal anecdotes aside, the Beanworld is a setting all its own, with rules and laws that emerge as the story does. Marder has certainly planned a lot of this out ahead of time, judging by how effectively events slot together as the plot advances, and as a result this is a marvelous example of long-form comic storytelling. It is, as has been observed, weird as hell, but for sheer entertainment value it is very hard to beat. - JM

The Imposter's Daughter by Laurie Sandell (Little, Brown and Company) While I think that these days, literature and movies put too much stock in the phrase "based on a true story," The Imposter's Daughter is an absolutely mind-blowing true story. Journalist and cartoonist, Laurie Sandell, grew up idolizing her amazing dad. And he wasn't just the type of amazing dad who makes good meatballs or coaches your hockey team; he was off-the-hook amazing. Her dad was a decorated war hero. He had several degrees from many prestigious universities. He had owned a boa constrictor. The pope was his BFF. When, in her early twenties, Sandell starts to research her pop for an article she was writing about him, it becomes evident that these stories just don't add up. With the help of a private investigator, she discovers that her dad didn't just drop a fib here and there—he was a pathological liar and a con-man. On top that, he was hundreds of thousands dollars in debt, and had wracked up much of that debt under Sandell and her sister's names. When she confronts her dad, her discoveries tear her family apart, send her on a self-destructive spree of confusion and guilt. This story is incredible, and while heavy and brutally honest, Sandell injects a dose of humour as well. The art is clean and simple. You might find it too simple if you're the type who drools over Alex Ross, but really, a stern-looking Wonder Woman wouldn't really fit the bill here. If you're recovering from post-holiday family drama, this book might put things in perspective. Sure your Aunt implied that you've gained a few pounds, but at least she was telling the truth. -TJ

This American Drive by Mike Holmes (Invisible Publishing) While not a comic per se, Mike Holmes' book expertly blends prose, illustrations and comic strips into a cross-genre bonanza of fun. Follow Canadian Mike, and his Texan girlfriend, Jodi, as they road trip it from Nova Scotia to the deep American south. Like me, Mike has warm feelings towards our southern neighbours, so expect more good-natured ribbing than biting social commentary. Actually, expect a lot of ribs, and burgers and biscuits and gravy, because Mike describes the many drool-worthy meals he and Jodi have as they eat their way down the eastern seaboard and into Texas. Mike's story-telling ability is surpassed only by his brilliant art. Plus, he's a cool dude—a real triple threat in the comics industry.  I recommend This American Drive for anyone who likes travel stories, mild culture shock, fatty food, smiling, eating, laughing, living or comics. -TJ (Check out some images here!)

3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man by Matt Kindt (Dark Horse) God damn, this book looks great! Absolutely gorgeous interiors and brilliant book design, with a peep-hole hard cover! Great washed-out, moody colours, and beautiful letters! Somebody stop me before I make out with this book! On the heels of 2008's thrilling, noir-ish Superspy, Matt Kindt delivers another moving and imaginative graphic novel. The giant man, Craig Pressgang, is depicted through the eyes of three important women in his life, as he grows from an over-sized boy to a 3-story-high giant, from someone who's a little strange to a god or a monster. As Craig grows, the story slips from something you'd see in Ripley's Believe It Or Not, into a surreal, and at times terrifying story, as Craig grows too big for his house, his family, and the world. I loved last year's Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell, and 3 Story is in a similar vein: an deeply emotional story told with supernatural-eqsue overtones. Kindt reaches new heights with this book and 3 Story towers above the volumes on the shelf (you heard me). -TJ

Pixu: The Mark of Evil by Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon (Dark Horse) This original graphic novel from Dark Horse largely flew under the radar despite the rock-star creative team of Cloonan/Vasilis and Ba/Moon, all of whom are in a full awesome form. Pixu is a horror story, and boy did it scared the crap out of me. Although, I got freaked out just watching the trailer for Paranormal Activity, so this might read like Archie's wedding to tougher folks. Come to think of it, Archie's wedding was horrifying in its own way. All that Robert Frost. Anyway, Pixu follows the interweaving stories of five tenants in an apartment building, which is kinda depressing to begin with, but turns into a terrifying shit-storm of horror after an evil mark appears on the building. The story has some well-executed suspense, with over-the-top disturbing pay-offs. The creative team (which is almost a full hockey line) employ some cool story-telling techniques when the separate story threads start to bump up against one another. I also enjoyed the spiffy little hard-cover format. I'm hoping that 2010 brings more Becky Cloonan—preferably something I can read before bed and not have to sleep with the light on. -TJ

A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld (Pantheon) Josh Neufeld, of American Splendor fame, gave us one the most moving graphic novels of the year. A.D. is a comic book documentary that's part social history and part personal narrative, based on true accounts of a handful of people who suffered through hurricane Katrina. We're privy to the range of motivations and circumstances that led to why some folks evacuated early, others tried to leave but couldn't, and some weathered the whole storm in their homes. Hurricane Katrina was a catastrophic disaster that affected so many people in so many ways, and Neufeld shows us a diversity of loss. One story follows a young couple who evacuate their apartment and expect to return in a few days. They watch the news in horror to see that their entire block is under water, and everything they own is destroyed. The man was a comic book collector, whose entire collection is gone. While this loss could seem insignificant, Neufeld expertly portrays what it feels like for someone to lose their whole history, their whole sense of who they are. Most of us have seen photos of the Katrina aftermath, so you can imagine that this book is filled with astounding and heart-breaking images, from the squalor of the Superdome to thousands of destroyed homes. The A.D. website has supplementary material, including video and audio interviews with the people featured in the book. So Neufeld's book serves as an excellent teaching tool, as well as an amazing story. -TJ

Achewood Volume 2: Worst Song, Played on Ugliest Guitar by Chris Onstad (Dark Horse) Achewood is pretty much my favourite webcomic. It's full of Slavic robots and anthropomorphic cats and less anthropomorphic squirrels and set in a secret underground world of human-like animals, but really it could be about any collection of people that you know - everyone is individually interesting and messed-up and mired in the everyday, even as strange and fantastic things happen around them, and everyone's story is heavily intertwined with everyone else's.

I am very much in favour of collections of wonderful Internet phenomena in the first place (just in case, for example, Google explodes), plus, you know, money for Onstad. this collection really goes above and beyond, featuring not only all of the original comics and alt-text jokes but commentary on virtually every strip, bonus text pieces that set up the premise for the comic (basically, that a lot of anthropomorphic animals live in the author's house, for a variety of reasons) and incredibly stylish Art Deco stripes on the cover.

Volume 2 starts at the very beginning of the strip (Volume 1 was an experimental printing of the "Great Outdoor Fight" storyline) and though the strip only starts to take on its current form after the introduction of dirty-talking trio Ray, Pat and Roast Beef, having the early, more unfocused strips in there just plain makes me happy. If you have a Luddite who you love, give them this book so that they aren't missing out on one of the things that makes the Internet great. - JM

Tales Designed to Thrizzle: Volume 1 by Michael Kupperman

Thank God Fantagraphics decided to collect  Kupperman's hilarious comic into a hardcover book because I had a hell of a time trying to explain the damn thing to people who missed the issues. It's just something that you have to sit down and read, and when you do you'll laugh your ass off. I also love that the book presents the comics in full colour, though the two-tone printing in the original issues was also great. Having this book out there has made gift giving easy. I also highly recommend following Kupperman on Twitter. - RG

Grandville by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse) - I came this close to not even picking this book up, but then I saw that the subtitle was "A Detective-Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard Scientific-Romance Thriller" and my path became clear. What reasonable man could resist thaat combination of words, I ask you? And once I got it home, every part of that sentence paid off.

Here's the skinny: Grandville is set on an alternate Earth where a) Napoleon managed to conquer all of Europe, and possibly much of the rest of the world and b) everyone is anthropomorphic animals. The sub-titular DI LeBrock follows the trail of a murderer from recently-independent and fairly insignificant Socialist Republic of Britain to the French capital, finding romance, action and ultra-violence along the way to solving his case.

Why is this comic great? Well, for a start it's beautiful. Talbot's art is incredibly detailed without ever being cluttered or difficult to interpret. Grandville/Paris basically looks magnificent from all angles, cityscape to opium den. The fight scenes, of which there are many, are glorious and easily-interpreted - no scratching your head for five minutes trying to figure out exactly who has just punched who, even when seven or eight characters are all scrapping at once.

Secondly, this is a proper mystery story. LeBrock and his assistant Roderick track down clues, question witnesses, and solve a case. With the requisite number of shoot-outs, hard-bitten dames and chase scenes, of course. I read it all in one go, and then my girlfriend read it, and then i read it again. It's fantastic, and that's aside from the fact that it's also filled with references to European comics like Rupert and Tintin and the like, which I devoured when I was a kid. I really can't talk this one up enough. - JM

Rex Libris: Book of Monsters by James Turner - (Note: this one will be briefer than I'd intended, as I am incredibly disorganized and left my copy at home) The second volume collecting the adventures of Rex Libris, member of the Ordo Bibliotecha, and defender of reality, as he, well, fights monsters, first inside the pages of an index of creatures that has gone mysteriously awry and later in a heated battle to prevent Cthulhu from rising and devouring all of out brains.

Turner's vector graphics-rendered hero always looks fantastic, of course, whether fighting Nazi zombies or fighting regular Nazis or just walking through his oft-troubled library. This is a wonderful-looking book, and in a way that you'll find nowhere else. Also: lots of terrific monsters.

Oh, and there's a segment at the back that details some of the multitude of alien creatures that inhabit our solar system in the Rex Libris universe, and it's astonishingly entertaining. If James Turner's next book was just this sort of thing for two or three hundred pages then he would have at least one guaranteed sale, because I eat that sort of thing up, giant space molluscs and all. - JM

Honourable Mentions

Scott Pilgrim vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs the Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni Press) A darker and moodier installment of an always great series. I was stoked to see the updated fashion sported by the SP kids. If you've never read this stuff, get on it now, because this time next year, even your mom will know who Scott Pilgrim is. -TJ

Beast by Marian Churchland (Image Comics) I talked up this re-imaging Beauty and the Beast when it came out and I feel it's worth another mention. Lovely art, and story-telling that leaves space, rather than laying it all out for you. Keep this stuff coming, Image! -TJ

Essex County Trilogy by Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf) I really can't say enough how much I love this comic. It's one of my favourite things I have ever read. And now it is collected into one beautiful book, available in either hardcover or paperback. - RG

Solomon Kane by Various (Dark Horse) I'll be talking about the series Castle of the Devil in the next post, but I'd just like to mention the two trades that Dark Horse put out this year collecting Solomon Kane's Marvel solo series and his appearances in the black and white Conan magazines back in the day. Also, the Castle of the Devil trade looks magnificent. - JM

Far Arden by Kevin Cannon Colleccts the series of 24-hour comics that chronicle the search for a mythical land among the piracy, betrayal and bears of the Canadian Arctic. Great fun, with some of the best sound-effects in human history. - JM