Columnist Wayne Rée shares his discovery of comic books, from his start as a super-hero fan to his evolution into a believer of the power of the art form of comics.
For as long as I’ve been reading comics, there’s been Hellblazer.
A spin-off of the horror series Swamp Thing, this mainstay of DC Comics’ Vertigo mature readers line starred the morally ambiguous, but thoroughly charismatic and quintessentially British magician John Constantine.
I use the past tense in that last bit because DC recently announced that they’re cancelling the long-running title, and relaunching it as a comic where Constantine would operate in the same world as the likes of Batman and Superman. Not a superhero book, mind you – but a book set in a superhero universe. And this makes me feel… weird.
The sneering, swearing, smoking visage of John Constantine is as familiar to me as the likes of Spider-Man and Daredevil. He was the face of mainstream comics’ darker underbelly. Not a character you’d find on kids’ PJs, sure, but he certainly wasn’t an underground figure either.
More than just the familiarity of the book’s protagonist, however, Hellblazer was an institution – a series that some of the biggest and best creators worked on. It introduced me to artists and writers like Brian Azzarello, Giuseppe Camuncoli and the legendary Richard Corben. From its inception in the late 80s, it was the first name in mature mainstream horror comics.
And now it’s gone.
I never followed it regularly, but whenever I did go back to it, it was always like sitting down with an old friend for a pint and catching up on lost time. Hellblazer, more than almost any other mainstream book, mastered the art of welcoming new and lapsed readers. Did it help to know more about John Constantine’s history? Yeah. But it never felt like it was essential.
Now, this new, probably PG-13 book that they’re replacing it with could easily be pretty damn good in its own right. But that’s not the point. To me, it’s not about having a book with John Constantine out there, no matter what sort of world he operates in. It’s a matter of having Hellblazer specifically. Or at least something like it. Constantine, with all his charm and unnerving depth, was just the icing on the cake.
For as long as I’ve been reading comics, there’s always been a mainstream book for truly weird, disturbing and cool horror. That title used to be Hellblazer. But the universe abhors a void and the comic market doubly so. There will be another Hellblazer-type title eventually, I’m sure of it. It’s just that it’ll be a shame to see my old friend go for good.
Wayne Rée’s been writing professionally for about ten years. He’s worked in everything from advertising to publishing, and was even part of the team that created Singapore’s very first tattoo magazine. He dabbles in screenwriting and photography, travels way too much, and is currently putting together his very first short story collection.
Today we’re taking a look at the nominees for the Best Single Issue or One-Shot category.
The 2011 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards released their nominees for excellence in comic books for the previous year recently. A panel of 6 judges made up of professionals throughout the industry selected the nominees. People throughout the industry will now begin voting on the nominees. Winners will be announced at the award show put on at this summer’s huge Comic-Con International convention in San Diego. The Eisners are basically the comic book equivalent of the film industry’s Academy Awards, TV’s Emmy Awards, music’s Grammy Awards, and theater’s Tony Awards, so it deserves a closer look.
I’m breaking down the nominees in each category, providing context and background info, and giving links to Amazon and other sites so you can buy your own copy, if possible. I can’t read everything, so lots of this stuff passed by me or is on my way-too-high to-read pile, so I’m going to avoid saying what “should” win. (I’m also pretty bad at predicting award show winners, so I’m not going to bother embarrassing myself.) Please feel free to post your predictions, preferences, opinions, or questions.
Best Short Story
- The Cape, by Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella, and Zack Howard (IDW)
- Fables #100, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and others (Vertigo/DC)
- Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil, by Mark Mignola and Richard Corben (Dark Horse)
- Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom #1: “Sparrow,” by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
- Unknown Soldier #21: “A Gun in Africa,” by Joshua Dysart and Rick Veitch (Vertigo/DC)
Take a closer look with the click through: Read the rest of this entry
Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?
(It’s catch-up time.)
Here’s some brand new stuff that came out the week of September 16 that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.
Don’t have a lot of time, so not much commentary from me. Just imagine me being excited about all of these because they all look awesome.
Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.
“My teddy bear’s a secret agent!” When a scientist succeeds in creating Artificial Intelligence, he discovers to his horror that the government plans on making it a weapon. On the run, he hides the program inside a mechanical toy bear. An unsuspecting family buys the toy bear and a little boy discovers a new best friend – a cute, cuddly toy bear who’s got all the moves of James Bond! Chaos, fun, and mayhem ensue, from the creator of EUREKA Andrew Cosby and EUREKA writer Johanna Stokes! Covers by MOUSE GUARD’s David Petersen.
What would it be like to stand head and shoulders above everyone else — and to keep growing? Unable to interact with a fragile world that isn’t built to withstand your size? To live in a house that doesn’t fit you anymore — with a wife who doesn’t either?
Craig Pressgang’s life is well documented in his official CIA biography, Giant Man: Pillar of America, but the heroic picture it paints is only half the story. The continuous growth caused by Craig’s strange medical condition brings a variety of problems as he becomes more isolated and unknowable. Told in three eras by three women with unique relationships with Craig, 3 Story follows his sad life from his birth to the present.
When Senator Edward Kennedy declared, “Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam,” everyone understood. The Vietnam War has become the touchstone for U.S. military misadventures—a war lost on the home front although never truly lost on the battlefront. During the pivotal decade of 1962 to 1972, U.S. involvement rose from a few hundred advisers to a fighting force of more than one million. This same period saw the greatest schism in American society since the Civil War, a generational divide pitting mothers and fathers against sons and daughters who protested the country’s ever-growing military involvement in Vietnam. Meanwhile, well-intentioned decisions in Washington became operational orders with tragic outcomes in the rice paddies, jungles, and villages of Southeast Asia. Through beautifully rendered artwork, The Vietnam War: A Graphic History depicts the course of the war from its initial expansion in the early 1960s through the evacuation of Saigon in 1975, and what transpired at home, from the antiwar movement and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. to the Watergate break-in and the resignation of a president.
I couldn’t find any previews for this but from what I’ve heard it’s a solid objective overview of this period of American history. It’s bound to be more engaging than a text book. Schools would be wise to take a look at this one.
Presenting one incredible collection of classic tales re-imagined by legendary horror artist Richard Corben. First, it’s Edgar Allan Poe as you’ve never seen him before. Classic Poe stories and poems are transformed into weird and disturbing new comic-book fantasies, with the original Poe texts printed alongside the new tales as an added bonus. It’s a frightening new presentation of Poe-inspired murder, madness and monstrosities! Then, Corben brings you a bold new interpretation full of eerie new spins on the poems and short stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Each adaptation is beautifully rendered in black and white with gray tones as only Corben can do it — along with a printing of the original source text by H.P. Lovecraft. Explicit Content.
Creepy and macabre… just in time for Halloween. Here’s a review with some artwork.