Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Best And Worst Of 2011:- Thor The Mighty Avenger, Nikolai Dante, Jor-El, & Dirty Frank; (Part 1)

         
I won't pretend to be able to offer up any kind of exhaustive review of the mainstream fantastical comicbook in 2011. There's a great deal that was published this year which I won't come across until it's been collected, and a great deal more than I simply couldn't, and still can't, afford. Perhaps if I hadn't invested so much of what little there is of my disposable income in the New 52, I'd've been able to make myself far more familiar with the products of publishers beyond Marvel, DC and, on the homefront, Rebellion. It's a lesson which I've taken to heart. In not wanting to damn autumn's grand relaunch of the DCU before the line had even been published, I pushed both foreboding and cynicism to one side. It was an expensive mistake grounded in the most ridiculous notion of fair play, but, strangely, it's not one that I especially regret. Several of those books from the House Of DiDio appear below in the list of the thirteen high points of the year which, despite everything else, helped keep alive my conviction than the fantastical comic book is still as potent a vehicle for storytelling as it ever was. Small mercies, perhaps, when compared to this year's tsunami of mediocrity which left Sturgeon's Law seeming like a wildly optimistic descriptor. But then, even the smallest quantities of mercy can make a difficult time worth the persevering with, and a year of inept, dull and too-often ethically challenged comics is hardly a significant trial in the first place.

            
But it has been, if I may say so, a damn shame. In any rational scheme of things, the super-person comicbook doesn't matter very much at all, unless your livelihood depends solely upon it prospering. But, despite the whiff of entitlement which any such statement evokes, it matters to me, as I assume, to a lesser or greater extent, it must surely matter for you, dear reader, as well.

I've tried to make what follows a relatively brief summary of a year's worth of blogging. There's 8 sections to come, each of which in turn deals with a series of problems which seem to be commonly afflicting most of today's comics. At the end of each section, I've mentioned one or more of my favourite comics from the past twelve months, each a notable and much-appreciated exception to whatever rule it is that I'm trying to establish. Most of the comics which I mention favourably could have been used to contradict any of the general criticisms I've made, and I've shared them around more with a desire to break up the moaning than to suggest that each of them is characterised by just a single and specific virtue.

             
What I haven't done, however, is single out any of the year's many stinkers for extra, and mostly unpleasant, attention, though you'd be more than welcome to discuss anything of the year in comics yourself, good or ill, in the comments below. But it seems that I'm just not comfortable labeling individual comics and their creators as being the worst of the year, although any occasional visitors to the blog over the past twelve months will surely have a suspicion of where the axe would've fallen had I felt more comfortable in doing so.
 
So, with a terrible sense that I've undoubtedly forgotten some very fine work indeed, here's the first two of my eight boos, and the first four of my thirteen huzzahs, for 2011.

             
1. Problem The First:- The Death Of Narrative Comics

A mass of full-page money shots. The predominance of the wide-angle horizontal panel. The absence of guttering. Pages consisting of little more than two or three frames. A spartan approach to narrative techniques, a wilfully self-lobotomised attitude towards the wonderful examples established by eighty and more years of comic book tradition. The sense of a page reduced to a post-modern collage, stories collapsed into successive slaps of shock and spectacle. Muscles, costumes, energy bolts, super-punches, and very little else. 2011 has, quite unbelievably, seen the further rise of adolescently Luddite storytelling. It's reached the point at which those creators who focus on the connective tissue of their work, as much as they do its most crowd-pleasing grand moments, stand out from the pack like a team of white-coated health professionals in a crack house.

            
Neither (1) Robbie Morrison and Simon Fraser's Nikolai Dante: Bad Blood nor (2) Roger Langride and Chris Samnee's Thor The Mighty Avenger could be accused of any such industry-killing ineptness and decadence. Both teams of creators focused with exceptional skill and discipline on producing work which was as beautifully paced and transparent as it was touching and exciting. Without a stroke of self-indulgence, ignorance or idleness apparent on any single page of either story, each serves quite literally as a masterclass in how to achieve merit without pretension. Sadly, Thor The Mighty Avenger was cancelled because of low sales in the spring of this year, and Dante will soon be concluded after the property's many years of publication. The industry can ill-afford, for whatever reason, to loose such excellence.

           
2. Problem The Second:- A Fundamental Lack Of Heart

Clenched fists, clenched jaws, clenched buttocks. The super-person comic remains almost entirely characterised by, if not always machismo, then the most narrow range of melodramatically adolescent emotions. It's a wearisome business, a vision of adult life as the equivalent of a secondary school playground as seen from the perspective of an emasculated,uncertain teenager, longing for the power to deter his persecutors, impress his acquaintances, and attract whatever significant other it is that he'd like to generate friction burns with. The reason why the mass of the mainstream's product is still considered to be largely for rather maladjusted children of all ages is because that's the level of emotional literacy that's needed to engage with the bulk of it. There's little of intimacy and subtlety that's present in the pages of most super-people books, while the range of body language often appears to extend little beyond the most wooden and generic of poses.

                 
Given that it inspired me to choke up over the death of a dog who I'd never read about before, I'm tempted to cheat on the dates here and push the cause of Mignola, Dworkin and Thompson's delightful, and not a little snuffle-summoning, Hellboy/Beasts Of Burden from 2010. But rules are rules, regardless of the year in which I actually learned to love that comic, or I could have also included Terry & The Pirates and Johnny Red here too. Instead, I'm more than simply happy to argue the already well-established case for (3) Low Life: The Deal, by Rob Williams and D'Israeli, and (4) Life Support, from Action Comics # 900, by Damon Lindelof and Ryan Sook. Williams and D'israeli's work is a wonderful example of how exquisite characterisation in both script and art can transform an already brilliantly constructed adventure into something that's significantly more entertaining and moving than any widescreen popcorn shoot-em-up ever could be. Without ever stinting on a sequence of action-filled set-pieces, both creators succeeded in making Judge Frank as vulnerable as he was ultimately to prove formidable. As far as this blogger is concerned, Dirty Frank was the comicbook character of the year; perpetually baffled and yet often strangely sanguine, implacably loyal and inevitably put-upon, and as wise and amusing as he's clearly and disturbingly disordered.

             
By contrast, Lindeldorf and Sook's short story eschews the conventions of the actioner entirely, taking the last few days of Krypton's existence and presenting Jor-El's struggles to save his son from a previously-unconsidered perspective. What can good people do when the end of the world truly is scheduled for the day after tomorrow, Life Support asks, and, just as the very different Low Life: The Deal does, it conjures a spirit of hope if not exactly optimism out of the worst of circumstances. No team of writer and artist  in 2011's mainstream created more from less pages than Lindeldof and Sook did, and they achieved that without ever needing to put their tiny cast through any cheap excesses of angst or window-smashing hissy fits. Just two fathers and their two children, and the absence of any prospect of escape except for that which might just be created for tiny little Kal-El.
            
TooBusyThinking Offers Its Sincere Thanks To The Following Creators For Their Having Made 2011 A Better Place To Live In;

in no order of preference, since all involved are entirely splendid;

(1) Robbie Morrison & Simon Fraser for Nikolai Dante: Bad Blood (2000ad # 1732-1736)
(2) Roger Langride & Chris Samnee for Thor The Mighty Avenger
(3) Rob Williams and D'Israeli for Low Life: The Deal (2000ad #1750-1761)
(4) Damon Lindelof and Ryan Sook for Life Support, (Action Comics # 900)


Numbers 5 to 13 are, of course, still to come ...

            
The next part - of three - of the TooBusyThinking "Best & Worst Of 2011" will appear soon;

.

34 comments:

  1. For the past while, I've mostly been reading older works ranging from just a few years ago to the 1920s and 30s with Popeye, Mickey Mouse, and a few other newspaper reprints.
    So, yeah, I don't feel super comfortable making a best of list myself. But here's a small list of stuff that I've enjoyed from this year:

    Orc Stain: kinda cheating as this came out in December of last year, but just ten days away from January, so whatever. It does a really good job of eschewing normal fantasy conventions to build a unique world with the oddest currency system imaginable. Plus, the art is gorgeous: amazingly detailed backgrounds and colored in bold primary and secondary colors and not much else.

    Daytripper's collection came out in Feb, so I'm including this as well. There are few comics as beautiful as this in both the art and story. It's about how life can just as easily begin a new chapter as it can suddenly come to an end and vise versa. I haven't read many stories where a man dies several times outside of capes comics, but Daytripper pulls it off.

    The worst of this year? I don't have much to say that hasn't been said here and elsewhere. Finch's Batman comics? John and Lee's JL? Fraction and Immonen's Fear Itself? Each pretty bad for their own, if somewhat similar, reasons.

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  2. Hello Joe:- “For the past while, I've mostly been reading older works ranging from just a few years ago to the 1920s and 30s with Popeye, Mickey Mouse, and a few other newspaper reprints.”

    Me too. This past month have seen me having the opportunity to read through from the beginning Prince Valiant, Terry & The Pirates, Johnny Hazard and – bless ‘em – Peanuts. I’ve not regretted a minute, a second, spent doing so.

    ”So, yeah, I don't feel super comfortable making a best of list myself.”

    There are a great many folks who read what seems to be every comic that’s currently being published. And bless them, I’m always interested in what they have to say. But even in somebody reads just three books a month, their opinion HAS to be interesting. It’s not the books themselves that are so important, I realise, reading your comment, but the insight that a person’s fondness for them generates.

    ”Orc Stain: kinda cheating as this came out in December of last year, but just ten days away from January, so whatever. It does a really good job of eschewing normal fantasy conventions to build a unique world with the oddest currency system imaginable. Plus, the art is gorgeous: amazingly detailed backgrounds and colored in bold primary and secondary colors and not much else.”

    Consider it added to my various wish lists so that I can track an affordable copy. It’s so much a comic that I wouldn’t normally consider that, with your recommendation, I think I have to read. There’s a great deal that Image are doing at the moment that I feel that I ought to be reading. Sadly, they’re the books which the library rarely acquires, but that’s no excuse for me not making a few speculative purchases.

    ”Daytripper's collection came out in Feb, so I'm including this as well. There are few comics as beautiful as this in both the art and story. It's about how life can just as easily begin a new chapter as it can suddenly come to an end and vise versa. I haven't read many stories where a man dies several times outside of capes comics, but Daytripper pulls it off.”

    I’ve just been off reading a little about the book. It does sound intriguing. Another one added to the wish list.

    ”The worst of this year? I don't have much to say that hasn't been said here and elsewhere. Finch's Batman comics? John and Lee's JL? Fraction and Immonen's Fear Itself? Each pretty bad for their own, if somewhat similar, reasons.”

    There’s a great many super-people books out there, but remarkably few that I’d want to sing the praises of. Those I would feel happy to encourage folks to check out I’ll mention here, but there’s less than a dozen stories/books this year that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed/admired. It’s a shame …

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  3. It's always fun to recommend things you enjoy, but once someone takes you up on that all of a sudden there's a little anxiety in hoping the other person enjoys it. haha I have no doubt in the talent and craft involved for the two books, but there's no accounting for taste. So I guess I'll have to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

    "It’s not the books themselves that are so important, I realise, reading your comment, but the insight that a person’s fondness for them generates."
    I know what you mean. A few times when reading reviews for books I've read and didn't like that sung praises for the book, and articulates themselves well and in an entertaining way, I'd catch myself thinking, "Did I miss something?" Sometimes they even bring up valid points that make the book not quite as bad as I originally believed. Usually doesn't change my own opinion though.

    "There’s a great many super-people books out there, but remarkably few that I’d want to sing the praises of. Those I would feel happy to encourage folks to check out I’ll mention here, but there’s less than a dozen stories/books this year that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed/admired. It’s a shame …"
    I feel the same way. I remember a time when I used to buy several dozen capes-comics. Now I mainly just occasionally skim through the floppies to see if I want to wait for the trades and there's only half a dozen I know I'll wait for. There are a few maybes. Most of the "new" stuff I'm getting is stuff that would be considered old in Europe and Japan that's finally getting translated here.

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  4. Thor was absolutely brilliant. I missed the singles, but picked up the TPBs and enjoyed them so much. It's rare that I am unable to single the art or the writing out as deserving of more praise, and I really hope the powers that be give the two creators another shot at something together.
    I'd also recommend the new Daredevil, Mark Waid is always a good solid writer, and the art by Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera is lovely.

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  5. Hello Joe:- “It's always fun to recommend things you enjoy, but once someone takes you up on that all of a sudden there's a little anxiety in hoping the other person enjoys it.”

    Oh, absolutely. I think that everytime I recommend a comic, or – shall we say – unrecommend it. I have an ambition to somehow become a blogger who can really lay into a book – if it seems to deserve it – and still interest folks in the reading of it. That would be a good thing … one day, over the rainbow, and so on

    “haha I have no doubt in the talent and craft involved for the two books, but there's no accounting for taste. So I guess I'll have to cross my fingers and hope for the best.”

    No problem. I’ve never read a comic that I didn’t learn something from. What could I loose from following the recommendations of a commentor who’s already establish his spleen-did good taste :)

    "I know what you mean. A few times when reading reviews for books I've read and didn't like that sung praises for the book, and articulates themselves well and in an entertaining way, I'd catch myself thinking, "Did I miss something?" Sometimes they even bring up valid points that make the book not quite as bad as I originally believed. Usually doesn't change my own opinion though.”

    But it’s always interesting to understand someone else’s position more, isn’t it? I’d love to read a really smart and warm-hearted defense of, for example, Fear Itself. I’d like to understand how that book worked for so many thousands of people, as it obviously did.

    "I feel the same way. I remember a time when I used to buy several dozen capes-comics. Now I mainly just occasionally skim through the floppies to see if I want to wait for the trades and there's only half a dozen I know I'll wait for. There are a few maybes. Most of the "new" stuff I'm getting is stuff that would be considered old in Europe and Japan that's finally getting translated here.”

    It’s a sad business. I can recall a few periods in the sub-genre history when things were as bleak; the period after the DC Implosion, the mid-90s, and so on. But it’s all the more inexplicable today, when there’s so many decades of excellence to draw from.

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  6. Hello Axolotl:- “Thor was absolutely brilliant. I missed the singles, but picked up the TPBs and enjoyed them so much. It's rare that I am unable to single the art or the writing out as deserving of more praise, and I really hope the powers that be give the two creators another shot at something together.”

    I wholeheartedly agree. And I wish Marvel would at least put the issues and the Free Comic Book story in a single collection without the old space-filling reprints and the squint-in-order-to-read format. It’s the sort of book which surely deserves that at least. If I was a publisher, I’d want to have that book constantly available, thought what I want and what’s commercially viable MAY just live on different planets ….

    ”I'd also recommend the new Daredevil, Mark Waid is always a good solid writer, and the art by Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera is lovely.”

    I couldn’t possibly say what the choices still to come in my “Best Of 2011” list might be. Oh, I couldn’t possibly ...

    But I wouldn’t trust anyone who didn’t … er … strongly consider the Waid/Martin/Rivera Daredevil. I’m just saying, is all ……

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  7. The untimely demise of Landridge and Samnee's Thor book, still brings tears to my eyes. It seems as though so many of the books that I really like...Such as Thor, The Mighty Hercules, Nextwave, and Blue Beetle always seem to have low sales. I must be a jinx.

    I haven't read a Nikolai Dante book in quite some time, but it looks as though I will be trying to find this.

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  8. Good picks there Colin and I like your format - as it avoids a simple list, addresses some of the problems with comics today but ends on a positive note highlighting those that have made it work. And, By Jove, it works.

    I'm glad you flagged up Dante because, while my love for Dirty Frank is reaffirmed each time*, it is still a young and wild love, while I fear I am perhaps guilty of taking Nikolai Dante for granted as it has been so consistently good for so long (next year will see it enter its 15th year, a remarkable achievement only bettered by some of the Japanese and Continental comics - could you imagine a recentish title from the Big Two that has benefited from one creative vision for a decade and a half, expanding the character, adding depth and breadth that only really has a parallel with John Wagner's work on Dredd), that I'd only really notice if the quality dropped blow excellent. It has inspired me to finish off my collection of Dante trades and sit down for a solid re-read.

    On your points I am, depressingly, hardened to the lack of heart in most mainstream comics but have found the sheer abundance of page-wide panels (3 or 4 to a page) especially jarring when coming from the density of 2000AD. Rammed home by CLiNT which offers numerous examples from various works by Millar (especially when Superior and Nemesis were running side-by-side). This isn't to do with widescreen comics per se (although I did incur a slight wrath of Warren Ellis for mentioning it) or even decompression (as understood in Western comics, although this seems to be a misunderstanding of how it is used in Japanese comics) and writing for the trade, which all can work in their own way. It is just that if the main weapon in your storytelling arsenal is the page-wide panel then you have lost an awful lot of the story-telling power that comics bring. Go widescreen by all means for the big, flashy moments but then bring in more panels for quieter, stiller moments. Widescreen-all-the-time is, like I've said before, like typing in all caps - the effect quickly wears off and people assume your are an idiot or a dangerous lunatic. You suddenly find you have no real way of controlling the pace and structure of your story. I suspect it might have some impact on your second point, as it must be difficult to get those emotional moments in when you are in effect shouting all the time (it works for Brian Blessed but few can aspire to his heights) and have hosed away a large percentage of your pages on empty spectacle. It is perhaps why things like the death of Bucky seemed so leaden and clunky, as they feel almost shoehorned in after all the flash bang. Although there are more forces at work there than just the page layout, of course.

    Anyway, good stuff and I look forward to other parts as I've got your back on this so far. ;)

    * Also I got my Dirty Frank story in the latest issue of Zarjaz - "Dirty Frank's Holy Wrong" is a bit of silliness that manages to avoid the obvious political angle (luckily as you've gone to town on it here - a shorty story can't compare) and I am unsure if anyone has cottoned onto what the actual subtext is about, but you don't need to, in order to enjoy it as a romp.

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  9. When Dirty Frank first appeared in 2004, he was a tertiary character in Aimee Nixon's story and had a simple gag of talking to himself while being drawn like Alan Moore. Who the heck thought he'd go from that to the headline character for the strip and one of 2000 AD's most complex, multi-faceted heroes (and one of its few 'classic comics' heroes with a strong, Good/Bad morality)?

    - Charles RB

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  10. Daytripper was great, gorgeously drawn and heartfelt. Well worth reading, and one of my favorite recent comics.

    Thor the Mighty Avenger was the only comic on the first part of your list that I've read. It's a shame it didn't catch on. Did you happen to catch the Captain America & Thor free comic book day issue? It was a nice companion story to TtMA.

    -Mike Loughlin

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  11. Hello Sally:- “The untimely demise of Landridge and Samnee's Thor book, still brings tears to my eyes.”

    And mine too. The Captain Britain issue remains one of my favourite super-people stories ever. And, of course, that’s because it’s not about super-people at all, but rather, about people who just happen to be, er, … a little super.

    “It seems as though so many of the books that I really like...Such as Thor, The Mighty Hercules, Nextwave, and Blue Beetle always seem to have low sales. I must be a jinx.”

    I feel the same. I suppose most folks will, given how many books fall by the wayside. I remain devastated about the end of Secret Six for example. But then, I’m still a touch upset about the end of Chase and Chronus, which for some reason came to mind. And I’m sure a thousand other books’ll come to mind if I let them.

    “I haven't read a Nikolai Dante book in quite some time, but it looks as though I will be trying to find this.”

    If it’s of any value, I never really warmed to the series – although I always respected the craftsmanship of all involved – until the past few years. The further I get into the stories collected in this year’s Nikolai Dante: Hero of the Revolution, the more I realised what a fine, touching and utterly unpretentious comic it is. And by ‘unpretentious’, I don’t mean it as code – as the lit-crit snobs often do – for a book that’s nothing but yeoman entertainment. Not a bit of it. It’s a smart comic, but it doesn’t feel the need to show off about it. Bless it. And at least one of the stories in that collection had me snuffling, I do admit …

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  12. Hello Emperor:- “Good picks there Colin … “

    Thank you. I find myself heartened to notice that several strips from 2000ad appear on m’list. And there’s still one to go …

    “and I like your format - as it avoids a simple list, addresses some of the problems with comics today but ends on a positive note highlighting those that have made it work. And, By Jove, it works.”

    And I do appreciate that, Mr E. That was indeed what I was trying to do, on all counts – no simple list, an acceptance of problems, a tip of the hat to the comics I admired, for whatever that’s worth – and it’s generous of you to mention it.

    “I'm glad you flagged up Dante because, while my love for Dirty Frank is reaffirmed each time*, it is still a young and wild love, while I fear I am perhaps guilty of taking Nikolai Dante for granted as it has been so consistently good for so long (next year will see it enter its 15th year, a remarkable achievement only bettered by some of the Japanese and Continental comics - could you imagine a recentish title from the Big Two that has benefited from one creative vision for a decade and a half, expanding the character, adding depth and breadth that only really has a parallel with John Wagner's work on Dredd), that I'd only really notice if the quality dropped blow excellent. It has inspired me to finish off my collection of Dante trades and sit down for a solid re-read.”

    Dante has been an education for me for a whole series of reasons. It’s shown me once again never to assume that a strip isn’t for you. It’s true that I by far prefer the more recent stories, but by that I don’t mean that what came before was in any way inferior. In truth, it’s encouraged me to go back and enjoy seeing how the craftsmanship developed, as well as how it was always admirable.

    “On your points I am, depressingly, hardened to the lack of heart in most mainstream comics but have found the sheer abundance of page-wide panels (3 or 4 to a page) especially jarring when coming from the density of 2000AD. Rammed home by CLiNT which offers numerous examples from various works by Millar (especially when Superior and Nemesis were running side-by-side). This isn't to do with widescreen comics per se (although I did incur a slight wrath of Warren Ellis for mentioning it) or even decompression (as understood in Western comics, although this seems to be a misunderstanding of how it is used in Japanese comics) and writing for the trade, which all can work in their own way. It is just that if the main weapon in your storytelling arsenal is the page-wide panel then you have lost an awful lot of the story-telling power that comics bring. Go widescreen by all means for the big, flashy moments but then bring in more panels for quieter, stiller moments. Widescreen-all-the-time is, like I've said before, like typing in all caps - the effect quickly wears off and people assume your are an idiot or a dangerous lunatic.”

    I can only agree with what you’ve said. It’s a form of reductionism which misses the point of comics, or at least, the point of just about every comic I’ve ever enjoyed. (One of the thing I note about Mr Ellis’s work, of which I’ve read far more this year than ever before, is that he tailors the amount of information he’s transmitting very carefully to the form he chooses to use. By which I mean, whether I like the story at hand or not, there’s not the sense that it’s been reduced to THE REALLY SPECTACULAR MOMENTS with all the connective tissue removed. Quite the opposite.

    As for “widescreen”: from the full-page splashes in Amazing Spider-Man Annual onwards, as far as I can see, comics have tended to incorporate widescreen aspects. Yes, the whole business of how stories are told have changed as the years have passed, but as you say, it’s not the “widescreen” aspect that’s the problem. It’s how it’s used.

    cont;

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  13. Cont;

    “You suddenly find you have no real way of controlling the pace and structure of your story. I suspect it might have some impact on your second point, as it must be difficult to get those emotional moments in when you are in effect shouting all the time (it works for Brian Blessed but few can aspire to his heights) and have hosed away a large percentage of your pages on empty spectacle. It is perhaps why things like the death of Bucky seemed so leaden and clunky, as they feel almost shoehorned in after all the flash bang. Although there are more forces at work there than just the page layout, of course.”

    Good call on the death of Bucky. Clearly nobody involved actually cared about that in emotional terms beyond the progression of cliché. A shame. And a worrying example, because there were a large number of very able folks involved with Fear Itself.

    Secondly, Brian Blessed is indeed a wonder of the age. And any age. Watching him with a hand in ice-water trying not to swear while a chuckling Stephen Fry looked on on the box earlier this year was a thing of joy. Hardly radical chic, but wonderful all the same.

    “Anyway, good stuff and I look forward to other parts as I've got your back on this so far. ;)”

    Top man. It’s always a joy to exchange words with you.

    “Also I got my Dirty Frank story in the latest issue of Zarjaz - "Dirty Frank's Holy Wrong" is a bit of silliness that manages to avoid the obvious political angle (luckily as you've gone to town on it here - a shorty story can't compare) and I am unsure if anyone has cottoned onto what the actual subtext is about, but you don't need to, in order to enjoy it as a romp.”

    Well, I’m off to order then. Thanks for the steer!

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  14. Hello Charles:-“When Dirty Frank first appeared in 2004, he was a tertiary character in Aimee Nixon's story and had a simple gag of talking to himself while being drawn like Alan Moore. Who the heck thought he'd go from that to the headline character for the strip and one of 2000 AD's most complex, multi-faceted heroes (and one of its few 'classic comics' heroes with a strong, Good/Bad morality)?”

    It’s a lesson which comics need to remember, isn’t it? A great many headlining characters come from nowhere. There was a spate of mid-Seventies super-people who were only ever intended to be supporting players – Wolverine, the Punisher – who’ve ended up being anything but shadows in the background. The rise of the concept of the safe-sell franchise and the awareness of the commercial value of new characters, amongst what I’m sure are a great many other factors, seems to have put paid to that. A shame.

    You encouraged me to persevere with Low Life a long time ago. It wasn’t anything other than a brief problem of finding my feet with the strip at the time, but I will happily say this: you were right, Charles.

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  15. Hello Mike:- “Daytripper was great, gorgeously drawn and heartfelt. Well worth reading, and one of my favorite recent comics.”

    I hear naught but really good things from folks whose opinions I greatly respect! My resistance has been absolutely broken. It shall be purchased for reading on Christmas Afternoon while digesting! (Spoken – I wish – in the tones of Brian Blessed.)

    “Thor the Mighty Avenger was the only comic on the first part of your list that I've read. It's a shame it didn't catch on. Did you happen to catch the Captain America & Thor free comic book day issue? It was a nice companion story to TtMA.”

    I’ve found it really hard to get hold of for anything other than silly prices. Everything I try to find a copy on E-Bay, it’s expensive and rare. I don’t know whether that’s my bad luck or a sign that all those tens of thousands of free books went to appreciative homes.

    I’d like to think the latter point :)

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  16. "like a team of white-coated health professionals in a crack house."

    Awesome. You need to write a comic, sir. With the Thor comic cancelled, maybe there's an open spot for you now!

    Speaking of which, I did read a trade of The Mighty Thor or whatever, and it was pretty good- it didn't quite tip into amazing for me, not quite sure why. Maybe its competence just made it seem so easy that I didn't realize how well it was actually written. Something to think about in our ongoing question of why CCC seems to value flashbangstoryboardsplashshots over craft- maybe creators just feel it's just not as immediately impressive. (ridiculous of course- how could someone prefer something perfectly crafted like Mad Love over Finch's Dark Knight? Still, I'd imagine some people do)

    And no Holy Terror in your best of 2011? Watch out for Mr Miller's next rant, against "know-it-all Scottish bloggers who don't appreciate brilliance when they see it! Don't they know there's a war on?!"

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  17. Thanks Colin. It's appreciated.

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  18. Hello Historyman:- You are, as always, a splendidly generous chap. My thanks to you you.

    "Maybe its competence just made it seem so easy that I didn't realize how well it was actually written. Something to think about in our ongoing question of why CCC seems to value flashbangstoryboardsplashshots over craft- maybe creators just feel it's just not as immediately impressive."

    That's an interesting thought. I do hope not, but it's not a situation that's unfamiliar to me. Anyone who ever spent time in bands will be aware of how hard it is to get even mediocre musicians - and I was an entirely inept one, to say the least - to just keep playing what suits the song, rather than what charges up their ego, satisfies their attention-span or whatever. The same is true with any kind of performance I've ever been tangentially involved with, except, if I might stretch the definition of 'performance', to graphic design. I spent a year or so working on the periphery of that profession, a dogsbody/delivery-boy, and there everything was determined not by the artists, but by the impossible indulgences of the clients, who nearly always behaved as egotistical musicians might, demanding whatever vague and contradictory thing it was which caught their attention on any particular afternoon. Perhaps that's a great deal of why I so admire creators who place the story first. Serving the art rather than any of the twaddle which can be associated with it - beyond the absolute need to earn a living of course - is a tough thing to do. There are so many distractions, and there's so many rewards which can be earned without ever turning in an honest and modest job at all.

    "ridiculous of course- how could someone prefer something perfectly crafted like Mad Love over Finch's Dark Knight? Still, I'd imagine some people do"

    I'd imagine the latter is currently by far the more popular within the Rump. And that's cool as a general principle, although, on a personal point of view, it deeply worries me. Bat-perv was not a highlight of the year for me …

    "And no Holy Terror in your best of 2011? Watch out for Mr Miller's next rant, against "know-it-all Scottish bloggers who don't appreciate brilliance when they see it! Don't they know there's a war on?!"

    Holy Terror should undoubtedly be in any list of the most important comics of the years. It's the Der Giftpilz of 2011. But, of course, this is m'list of what I thought were the best titles. I'm currently amazed at the traffic this site gets, but I very, very, very much doubt FM is among the visitors!

    Still, thank you for describing me as a "Scottish" blogger. As a bloke whose Scots accent - wiped out by living in England since childhood - only returns and to a slight degree after time spent back home, even my countrymen wouldn't recognise me as such. I obviously love the English very much, but there's something about Scotland and its people .... I mean, how can you not revere a nation which adores the Broons?

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  19. Hello Simon:- You're very welcome, sir, to say the least.

    And thank you again for having made the year in comics a far more enjoyable one. This year's Dante, as well as re-reading Lily Mackenzie, really did help in a year marked far more by hype than substance. I look forward to whatever 2012 will bring from you and your collaborators.

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  20. Hi Colin,

    Probably not the spot to put this, but I just wanted to say thanks. Thanks for writing, thanks for thinking, thanks for arguing about what you feel passionate about, and for explaining what you don't. I don't agree with you all the time, but the vast majority of your entries have me nodding like a bobble-headed toy dog. As a fellow blogger, I am in awe of both your output and unceasing quality. You are, I suspect, like some Morrisonian Hindu god with a thousand eyes to critique and a thousand hands to type.

    cheers,
    Hugh

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  21. As Mr Fraser said, thanks Colin. Glad you enjoyed The Deal. Cheers, Rob.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hello Hugh:- As a blogger who struggles to get his ideas down onto paper in any form whatsoever, and as one who never writes that a sentence that isn’t a fight, I’m nothing but grateful for your kind and generous words. Thank you, from one blogger to another.

    “I don't agree with you all the time … “

    I’ve been thinking about this for a great deal of m’recent dog-walking time. I’ve always enjoyed the work of folks who I’ve often considerably disagreed with. In fact, some of my favourite writers – and indeed bloggers – are folks with whom I can barely agree with a word. By which I mean, I can’t think of anything more welcome than a blogger such as yourself popping over despite the prospect of disagreeing. Thank you.

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  23. Hello Rob:- Ah, well, as I said to Mr Fraser, you're very welcome.

    It's daft, but before I wrote the piece, and planned out the next two, I'd been thinking of it as a poor year where my taste in comics is concerned, with a few notable exceptions. Having made the list, the focus has flipped, and now it seems to have been a year characterised by some fine comics, with the rest of it receeding into the background by comparison. Like a great playlist compiled from a mostly disappointing year, it's possible to create a far more optimistic view of things by focusing upon the positive.

    By which I mean, thanks for The Deal!

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  24. Hi Colin,

    Thanks again for the considered and informative reviews. Low Life is good now isn't it? I must admit it took a while to 'grow on me' since I usually dislike two "Dredd Universe" stroies in 2000AD at the same time - I feel like I'm being cheated out of some other interesting story becuse the "Dredd universe" story could be in the Megazine anyway.

    2000AD as a whole as been pretty good this year, with no story I disliked at all, although I think Sinister Dexter should be either a/put out to pasture or b/ left to run a long epic for the whole year...it is a classic example of a strip where the current 'seasons' approach to 2000ad scheduling really does it a disservice and I'm beginning to think Indigo Prime may be another (since this John Smith worldbuilding and I love that kind of slowburn stuff - the wait between strotlines is going to be excruiating).
    Shakara was brilliant - this was another strip that took me a while to warm to as well, but I think I got sucked in by the creative team's sheer bonkers exuberance,kinda reminded me of 2000ADs 80s peak - of course the wonderful art helped. Kingdom too, despite the disparate subject, had a similar vibe with the 50s atomic/pulp SF feel really coming together niecly I thought; whilst it seems there could be a sequel, it seems unecessary maybe in 10 years time when Dan Abnett has some absolutely brillant brainwave..
    Ampney Crucis - another one that could take or leave, has also finally grabbed me, Edginton's story has finally hit that point where you're wondering just WTF is going on :-) - I should have learned already that Edginton rarely makes a mistep from his work on Stickleback.
    Necrophim,(and apologies to Tony Lee if seem to damning with faint praise) would have a perfectly fine and entertaining Image Comics realise or even a Vertigo mini-series, but it didn't seem to quite fit in 2000AD - hmmm, it seems a reread is in order.
    Flesh was fun, totally reminds me of the 10 year boy I was when I first encountered 2000AD - I hope many 10 year boys today get sucked into comics by it. IMHO though, it definitely needs to be left to go on in a long run until it ends.
    The new story of the year was Absalom - and what a cracker this is. Your classic modern (I know that seems contradictory, but) British cop story, mixed in with your classic 'upper classes being pr***ks' and seething with that particular nasty disturbing and subversive undertone that only comes from UK comics. This one I want to see every week simply because I'm selfish...
    Zombo - three series in and I still simply still don't get it. Not my cup of tea at all.

    The Judge Dredd Megazine, like 2000AD has been very consistent in recent years, no duff stroy this year I thought, and I loved both Lily McKenzie and Numbercruncher to pieces - I'm very pleased that Rebellion seem to have realised that leaving creators the rights to their own work means that they create something with passion and heart that lifts the entire Megazine above the ordinary. Insurrection - this is lovely too, and as with Rennie's Absalom, seems absolutely contemporary - 2000AD/Megazine playing to their strengths I think (Savage is another good example - Pat Mills being totally on form with this).

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  25. Part 2:

    The Judge Dredd Megazine, like 2000AD has been very consistent in recent years, no duff stroy this year I thought, and I loved both Lily McKenzie and Numbercruncher to pieces - I'm very pleased that Rebellion seem to have realised that leaving creators the rights to their own work means that they create something with passion and heart that lifts the entire Megazine above the ordinary. Insurrection - this is lovely too, and as with Rennie's Absalom, seems absolutely contemporary - 2000AD/Megazine playing to their strengths I think (Savage is another good example - Pat Mills being totally on form with this).

    This has already been pretty long (I can already hear the cries of get your own blog from some random drive-by commenter), so other highlights of 2011 for me, in no particular order: Prince Valiant, King Aroo, Misty, Pogo, Twin Spica, Mushishi,Valerian,Charley's War, Johnny Red, Wulf the Briton, Footrot Flats,Love and Rockets New Stories 4, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (KCDS would be a perfect fit for the Meg or 2000AD I reckon).

    As a sort of addendum to the various commenters and yourself regarding criticism and giving a new angle on works you may not 'get' or care for, Lew Stringer has a very very good review of Clint #12 which almost makes me want to read the issues I missed - but not sufficiently enough to pay for them... :-P)

    regards,
    kiwijohn

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  26. Hello Kiwijohn: “Thanks again for the considered and informative reviews.”

    Thank you for saying so. It’s much appreciated.

    “Low Life is good now isn't it? I must admit it took a while to 'grow on me' since I usually dislike two "Dredd Universe" stroies in 2000AD at the same time - I feel like I'm being cheated out of some other interesting story becuse the "Dredd universe" story could be in the Megazine anyway.”

    I do know what you mean. Unless the Dredd-verse stories are distinct AND very good indeed, they do run the risk of seeming to dilute the original while crowding out different strips. But when they’re as great as Low-Life, then I’m with you. Huzzah1

    !2000AD as a whole as been pretty good this year, with no story I disliked at all, although I think Sinister Dexter should be either a/put out to pasture or b/ left to run a long epic for the whole year...it is a classic example of a strip where the current 'seasons' approach to 2000ad scheduling really does it a disservice and I'm beginning to think Indigo Prime may be another (since this John Smith worldbuilding and I love that kind of slowburn stuff - the wait between storylines is going to be excruciating).”

    I had terrible troubles with the first six or seven months of the comic, as I wrote about and eventually resented. It became my problem, in that what I wanted from the comic wasn’t turning up, and there is a point to shut up and leave the room. I took too long to do that. I regret it. Seriously, I do. And yet, I kept the sub up with both weekly and monthly and there has been good stuff this year. Two I’ve mentioned in the above, and there’s one to go, which is a better % than any other company I can think of.

    Shakara was brilliant …. Kingdom too, despite the disparate subject, had a similar vibe with the 50s atomic/pulp SF feel really coming together niecly I thought; whilst it seems there could be a sequel, it seems unecessary maybe in 10 years time when Dan Abnett has some absolutely brillant brainwave.”

    It’s really good to hear you say that, because I had big problems with both. Yet anything which chips away at an exclusively dismissive opinion and encourages a return for a re-evaluation is a blessing.

    “Ampney Crucis - another one that could take or leave, has also finally grabbed me, Edginton's story has finally hit that point where you're wondering just WTF is going on :-) - I should have learned already that Edginton rarely makes a mistep from his work on Stickleback.”

    Stickleback with D’Israeli I’m a big fan of. And I enjoyed Leviathan too, which I’ve the HB of. I do agree that AC has certainly warmed up, but I still struggle with it. However, as with all this year’s strips, I intend to spend Boxing Day reading through the year’s material. And if I’ve been drastically wrong even in terms of my own opinion, I shall be shouting Mea Culpe with the Boxing Day bells. (Is there any such thing?)

    “Necrophim,(and apologies to Tony Lee if seem to damning with faint praise) would have a perfectly fine and entertaining Image Comics realise or even a Vertigo mini-series, but it didn't seem to quite fit in 2000AD - hmmm, it seems a reread is in order.
    Flesh was fun, totally reminds me of the 10 year boy I was when I first encountered 2000AD - I hope many 10 year boys today get sucked into comics by it. IMHO though, it definitely needs to be left to go on in a long run until it ends.”

    Necrophim I guess I made myself pretty plain about. I thought it was a stinker and I guess I still do. But again, I'm keen to have "I thought" rather than "It was" there. Flesh was … well, it was Flesh, wasn’t it? It did what it said on the tin, and I was never a fan way back in the seventies. Horses for courses, I’m not knocking its place in the mag. Absalom I need to go back to and read again. It hit during the period of my protracted disillusionment – what an idiot – and I’ve done it fair. I shall.

    Cont:

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  27. Cont:

    “Zombo - three series in and I still simply still don't get it. Not my cup of tea at all.”

    It isn’t mine either, but I doubt Al Ewing could write anything and my not enjoy a great deal of it. And there were some laugh out loud and scare the pets moments. It was a year in which Ewing’s farcical take on politicians became even more realistic …

    “The Judge Dredd Megazine, like 2000AD has been very consistent in recent years, no duff story this year I thought, and I loved both Lily McKenzie and Numbercruncher to pieces - I'm very pleased that Rebellion seem to have realised that leaving creators the rights to their own work means that they create something with passion and heart that lifts the entire Megazine above the ordinary.”

    Numbercrucher is another strip that I need to read in its entirety. And I intend to. Lily became a gem. I’m tremendously fond of it. I’d love to have a collected edition with all the trimmings. It deserves to be collected and purchased by large numbers of fans.

    “This has already been pretty long (I can already hear the cries of get your own blog from some random drive-by commenter),”

    Not on this blog, KiwiJohn. You’re very welcome, as always.

    “so other highlights of 2011 for me, in no particular order: Prince Valiant, King Aroo, Misty, Pogo, Twin Spica, Mushishi,Valerian,Charley's War, Johnny Red, Wulf the Briton, Footrot Flats,Love and Rockets New Stories 4, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (KCDS would be a perfect fit for the Meg or 2000AD I reckon).”

    Lots there for me to look up, but I’ve shared your interest in Prince Valiant, Valerian, Johnny Red and Love & Rockets.

    “As a sort of addendum to the various commenters and yourself regarding criticism and giving a new angle on works you may not 'get' or care for, Lew Stringer has a very very good review of Clint #12 which almost makes me want to read the issues I missed - but not sufficiently enough to pay for them... :-P)”

    I always read Lew Stringer’s blog, I really do. I thought his P.O.V. on Clint was an interesting one, I really did. I don’t share a lot of his opinions there, but he’s absolutely right about a great deal of what he says, and one of those is the fact that Clint has survived and we need all the mags we can to get comics out there.

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  28. Interesting note on Thor: The Mighty Avenger- when that book was coming out it was reviewed by one of my compatriots on our little comics site. They raved about it so much that I certainly had to go check it out. I read an issue, and I liked it fine, but I didn't care to add it to my pull list.

    When it came time to explain my lack of devotion, beyond the fact that I already had plenty of books coming my way, starring characters I generally enjoy a lot more (for example, Batman Inc. still existed then! Oh what a time) I did put forward this question: why is the character of Jane Foster here named Jane Foster? She bares no similarity to either the classic nurse Foster or the movie Foster (cross promotion, I assume, being a big part of why the series was green lit in the first place), and in fact could easily have been named something else. I suggested that fans of Thor could be incenced by this Faux Foster against the comic (maybe I was right?).

    WELL! My fellows didn't care for that observation at all; I was accused of being rather rumpish (to translate their words for this audience) and generally I was, I thought, rather ill served. And with me standing there not even all that big a fan of Thor! (unless we're talking the collected Simonson stuff, though I'm unsure whether I'd read all that at that point)

    After all that, I think I can be forgiven for not having gone to check out the full Thor: The Mighty Avenger book.

    (naturally, my apologies for how thoroughly I cast myself as the blameless victim. I acknowledge my bias.)

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  29. Hello Isaac:- It’s been a day in which I stumbled across the Shatner/Fisher/Star Wars/Star Trek hissy-fit on the net, and without paying attention to the detail of it, wondered why so much of the media was referencing it. I’m as guilty of it as it as the next fan, and yet, when it’s not me, it seems like the behavior of a strange tribe. It certainly seems a harsh fate to be challenged for such a question on Jane Foster. There should be a conference, a committee, a bill of rights and responsibilities.

    I suppose the fact is that Jane Foster is a name associated with the franchise, and that means that it just makes sense to use that rather than a fresh name. And I think I rather enjoyed the way that Thor The Mighty Avenger recreated the property as if it were what seemed in my mind’s eye a particularly expensive and charming TV movie. (It was certainly a far, far, far better reinvention than the movie was. I know I’m in the minority there, but I was bored solid by the movie.)

    All of us here at TooBusyThinking – which means me - are willing to take your side as a blameless victim of Thorophobic prejudice. After all, you’re a friend of the blog :)

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  30. "Dante has been an education for me for a whole series of reasons. It’s shown me once again never to assume that a strip isn’t for you. It’s true that I by far prefer the more recent stories, but by that I don’t mean that what came before was in any way inferior. In truth, it’s encouraged me to go back and enjoy seeing how the craftsmanship developed, as well as how it was always admirable."

    Oh yes, the more recent stories are superior to the earlier ones, but all the elements are there from the start - the key seems to be Tharg giving them enough time and space to refine everything and really dig down to the core of the story.

    Of course, it also has an important historical position as well as it was a sign of a new team taking over with Tomlinson and Bishop (with the return of influence from Steve MacManus) sweeping away the old system and bringing over talent they'd been nurturing in the Judge Dredd Megazine during the prog's lean years in the early 90s. This was joined by Sinister Dexter as the planks that the new 2000AD would be built on. Of course, I suspect SD should have been left alone after it appeared the main characters had been killed off (although this last big storyline is proving interesting and is going somewhere, when the series felt like it was treading water for a while), so there is clearly some kind of magic at work too that has not only helped with ND's longevity but helped it get better and better over the years, where many others have fallen by the wayside.

    "It’s a lesson which comics need to remember, isn’t it? A great many headlining characters come from nowhere. There was a spate of mid-Seventies super-people who were only ever intended to be supporting players – Wolverine, the Punisher – who’ve ended up being anything but shadows in the background. The rise of the concept of the safe-sell franchise and the awareness of the commercial value of new characters, amongst what I’m sure are a great many other factors, seems to have put paid to that. A shame."

    (to be continued)

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  31. (cont.)

    Watching the more marginal titles getting dropped by Marvel I have wondered where they'll find the next Deadpool or Wolverine. Also an awful lot of recent innovation has come from the fringes (Watchmen, DKR, A-SS, etc.) and we just aren't seeing such series being greenlit without a major name behind them and even the sales are less than stellar (like Nextwave). I suppose DC are doing the right thing in this reboot by throwing a lot of concepts against the wall and seeing what sticks, it is likely this will produce a breakout character and has already given some well-known but B or C listers the kind of sales we'd only have dreamt of before (Animal Man and Swamp Thing, for example). Did it need a reboot to achieve this? Impossible to say but it is working there.

    "it is a classic example of a strip where the current 'seasons' approach to 2000ad scheduling really does it a disservice and I'm beginning to think Indigo Prime may be another (since this John Smith worldbuilding and I love that kind of slowburn stuff - the wait between strotlines is going to be excruiating)."

    I wouldn't worry about that, I've had a few good chats with John about IP and he has a very definite short-medium term plan - as we've seen already the series will run in smaller, more frequent chunks. The main problem is that he can be a little... slow but Tharg is cracking the whip and I'm in the think tank (OK I might be the entire think tank ;) ) helping get over some of the theoretical problems to keep things on track as much as possible. He also has a longer term plan too but we'll all have to wait for that. So basically, don't worry about this, kick back and let it wash over you.

    "Absalom I need to go back to and read again. It hit during the period of my protracted disillusionment – what an idiot – and I’ve done it fair. I shall."

    This has been the standout new series, where Tharg's 3rillers failed to set my pants on fire, although I'd still like to get the end of Cabs too (but that might be me being greedy). Double T is set to be a mega-star of the future so I hope Tharg makes good use of him before he gets stolen by one of the Big Two.

    "we need all the mags we can to get comics out there. "

    Have you tried Strip yet?

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  32. Hello Emperor:- “Oh yes, the more recent stories are superior to the earlier ones, but all the elements are there from the start - the key seems to be Tharg giving them enough time and space to refine everything and really dig down to the core of the story.”

    That’s a good point about creators needing time to grow, if I can sound so new-agey about it all. There are, sadly, creators who don’t seem to be able to prosper even given time, but the whole process can’t ever be a science, can it?

    “Of course, it also has an important historical position as well as it was a sign of a new team taking over with Tomlinson and Bishop (with the return of influence from Steve MacManus) sweeping away the old system and bringing over talent they'd been nurturing in the Judge Dredd Megazine during the prog's lean years in the early 90s. This was joined by Sinister Dexter as the planks that the new 2000AD would be built on. Of course, I suspect SD should have been left alone after it appeared the main characters had been killed off (although this last big storyline is proving interesting and is going somewhere, when the series felt like it was treading water for a while), so there is clearly some kind of magic at work too that has not only helped with ND's longevity but helped it get better and better over the years, where many others have fallen by the wayside.”

    Both properties have extremely strong hooks. Their own distinct genre identities, their own worlds and reason to bes and so on. In that, they’re clearly head and shoulders above, for example, even the best of the pack of 2000ad’s fey occult detectives.

    " Watching the more marginal titles getting dropped by Marvel I have wondered where they'll find the next Deadpool or Wolverine. Also an awful lot of recent innovation has come from the fringes (Watchmen, DKR, A-SS, etc.) and we just aren't seeing such series being greenlit without a major name behind them and even the sales are less than stellar (like Nextwave).”

    It’s a very worrying trend. The casts collapse, the inventiveness declines, the same creators get the big assignments. I realise that it’s to a large degree a sign of an industry coping with real economic problems, I do. But that death of variety is an absolute killer where a great many consumers are concerned. I struggle to find Marvel books to check out, and I don’t want it to be so.

    “I suppose DC are doing the right thing in this reboot by throwing a lot of concepts against the wall and seeing what sticks, it is likely this will produce a breakout character and has already given some well-known but B or C listers the kind of sales we'd only have dreamt of before (Animal Man and Swamp Thing, for example). Did it need a reboot to achieve this? Impossible to say but it is working there.”

    Another good point, and one I’ve not given DC enough credit for. That’s not a sign of a sharp=thinking blogger, I fear. Yes, DC have kept a great many B and C list characters alive and in the forefront of titles, and it’s to their credit.

    But, no, I don’t think it needed a reboot to achieve this. Still, having just read Paul Cornell expressing his enthusiasm for that very thing, I have to admit that I’m getting the awful feeling that I’ve just missed the point. Ah, well. I’ll try to keep my mind open. If I’ve really missed the point, and it’s surely entirely possible, then the Eureka moment will be on its way ….

    "So basically, don't worry about (JS) , kick back and let it wash over you.”

    I’m enjoying the strip, even if I sometimes get the impression that I’m on the sliproad rather than the motorway yet. I’m glad that JS’s work is appearing again, I’m glad to be reading it. Result/result.

    And Absalom I really will go back to and check out properly. I’ve not been dismissive, I assure you. It’s all been a matter of time and that can put right.

    "Have you tried Strip yet?”

    No. I take it it’s recommended. I shall go chase on E-Bay. Thanks :)

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  33. "That’s a good point about creators needing time to grow, if I can sound so new-agey about it all."

    Not just the creators but the stories and characters themselves, which goes to a later point - minor characters often need time to grow and adapt before they are ready for the Big Leagues but the sales mean they get cut off at the knees before they can reach their full potential. However, as you say they have great foundations, but it is to Tharg's credit that he gave them room to grow.

    "In that, they’re clearly head and shoulders above, for example, even the best of the pack of 2000ad’s fey occult detectives."

    Ah well... I'd put Devlin Waugh ahead of Sinister Dexter, possibly even Dante, expect it hasn't got the breadth and depth of that series.

    "The casts collapse, the inventiveness declines, the same creators get the big assignments."

    Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. ;)

    "I struggle to find Marvel books to check out, and I don’t want it to be so."

    I'm down to very few (Thunderbolts really, and I'm giving Uncanny X-Force a spin), other than that I'm relying on you for recommendations ;) Mainly I'm going elsewhere.

    "I’m enjoying the strip, even if I sometimes get the impression that I’m on the sliproad rather than the motorway yet."

    Oh we are all in that boat, it is part of the Smithian information overload and we are getting dropped in at the deep end with a bit of a reboot to the series, so a lot of information has yet to be revealed. As I say, you just have to go with the flow and all the pieces will be dropped into place eventually (presumably ;) ).

    "I’m glad that JS’s work is appearing again, I’m glad to be reading it. Result/result."

    Yeah there is Strange & Darke in the Meg starting now and there is more Waugh in the pipeline. As well as few other things simmering on the backburner. I'm pretty excited, as it is Smith's work that kept me hanging in during the grim early 90s (I did a bit of a re-read of this period and everything matches my memories).

    "No. I take it it’s recommended. I shall go chase on E-Bay. Thanks :)"

    I suspect you'll have trouble on eBay (especially as "strip" returns a lot of results), but it wasn't available when I last checked. Forbidden Planet stock them (issue #2 has just made it onto the shelves I believe and they have it on their website) or you can get it via direct subscription.

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  34. Hello Emperor:- Firstly, Devlin Waugh is one of my favourite comics characters ever. And by that, I don't mean "one of hundreds", but one of a dozen or so. I just adore him, and I hope I didn't give any other impression.

    "Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. ;)"

    Human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together ... !!!!

    "I'm down to very few (Thunderbolts really, and I'm giving Uncanny X-Force a spin), other than that I'm relying on you for recommendations ;) Mainly I'm going elsewhere."

    And that's just daft, isn't it? A waste of a niche of an audience who'd pay up to be entertained with anything that's smart and heartfelt.

    "As I say, you just have to go with the flow and all the pieces will be dropped into place eventually"

    It's on my list of strips to sit down and read all-in-one before the fire this Christmas. I've found more and more to appreciate in 2000ad in recent months, and the big thick Christmas issue is actually intimidating in the promise of its strips. The tradional Al Ewing X-Mas Dredd! Nikolai Dante! The return of Strontium Dog!

    Human sacrifice! Cats and dogs living together!

    "I'm pretty excited, as it is Smith's work that kept me hanging in during the grim early 90s (I did a bit of a re-read of this period and everything matches my memories)."

    I've been reading some of his 90s work this week which has been said to have influenced Mark Millar. And I did enjoy it, I really did. Time travelling trains heading backwards into disaster after disaster ... great stuff. Huzzah for Mr Smith! There will be writing done on the topic in the new year, which, given your expertise, you really ought to conspire to miss!

    "I suspect you'll have trouble on eBay (especially as "strip" returns a lot of results), but it wasn't available when I last checked"

    You're right. Thank you for the steer. It was a porno disaster looking for 'Strip' on E-Bay.

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