IDW is continuing the adventures of the young crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise introduced in director J.J. Abrams’s 2009 Star Trek film, and the first issue is just about everything I could have hoped for.
I wrote about my lifelong appreciation for Star Trek a few days ago, on the 45th anniversary of the airing of the first episode of the original series. With that anniversary in mind, now’s a great time for IDW to launch a new ongoing series, and I am pleased that the first issue reflects the same quality and attention to detail that we’ve seen in the publisher’s other Trek offerings. From Countdown, a canonical prequel to the 2009 movie, to the movie adaptation itself, and sidelights like Nero and Spock: Reflections (both of which expanded on and enhanced the events of the 2009 movie), IDW’s creators and editors show that they get what Star Trek is about, and what a comics adaptation of it requires, more than any publisher in the history of the series. IDW’s Star Trek comics are exciting where DC’s were dull. They feel grounded in the world of Trek, unlike Marvel’s quasi-superhero tone; they make sense and the characters look and feel like the same characters we’ve seen on TV and in the movies, unlike Gold Key’s bizarre, atrocious Star Trek comics.
This new Star Trek #1 features a retelling of the second pilot from the original series, “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” That was the first episode produced that featured William Shatner as Captain Kirk, and the story centered on Kirk dealing with a longtime friend and crew member, Gary Mitchell, accidentally acquiring the powers of a god in an accident at the very edge of the universe.
This new comic is and isn’t that story. It’s a perfect evocation of what I want from the new Star Trek from here on out, touching on the events of the “Prime” universe of the original Shatner/Nimoy episodes while exploring the very real consequences of the fact that history has been changed and anything can happen, now. I’m not saying every movie, comic and TV episode (if that ever happens) produced from here on out has to be based on an old story, but what I am saying is that, when appropriate, and when it can be done in a thoughtful and interesting way (as it is here), those old stories should be used as one part of the foundation of exploring the new Trek universe. Yes, new stories can and should be told, independent of all the old baggage, but the opportunity is there to have fun with a lot of the old mythology, and that’s what happens in Star Trek #1.
See, in a new universe like this, branching off from an older reality because of a change in history due to time travel, some things will be exactly the same. And here, they are. Some events proceed exactly like they did in the 1966 TV episode. But some events diverge. Doctor McCoy was not yet aboard in the original episode, the ship’s doctor was a different actor. And as a result of that literally trivial fact, the Gary Mitchell story plays out differently. One key character from the episode is not present, because McCoy’s presence changes things.
Writer Mike Johnson and creative consultant (and 2009 movie co-writer) Roberto Orci introduce this idea organically and for anyone versed in Star Trek history, the result is a delightful divergence from what we know, and an indicator that we’re all coming to this new chapter in Trek history on pretty equal footing. No matter what we think we know, there are surprises ahead, and that feels pretty good. Factor in artist Stephen Molnar’s careful balance of attractive, dynamic artwork with a fidelity to the appearance of the actors who play the characters, and I really can’t imagine anyone who likes Star Trek, new or old, not loving this comic book.
— Alan David Doane
A copy of this issue was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review.
IDW is continuing the adventures of the young crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise introduced in director J.J. Abrams’s 2009 Star Trek film, and the first issue is just about everything I could have hoped for.
I recently took part in The Hooded Utilitarian’s International Best Comics Poll (my list is here). “Best of” lists are something some critics enjoy, while others (notably Roger Ebert) more or less despise them. I’m kind of in the middle — it’s seemingly difficult to come up with a definitive list of anything relating to something as subjective as art, but the fact of the matter is that a truly responsible critic has to have a discerning taste, the ability to convey it to his or her audience, and the confidence to state his or her opinion boldly and convincingly. I find the latter is something that really aggravates a lot of people — wishy-washy minds hate it when someone expresses an opinion with the force of reason and logic; all the more reason to take joy in the occasional exercise of this type. It’s also useful as a barometer over time of one’s own evolving tastes. When I first started writing regularly about comics in the late 1990s, many of the comics on this list would not have made the cut, while quite a few comics I now hold in far less high regard probably would have had a place of honour.
In any case, as of mid-August, 2011, here’s my list of the best comics of all time.
Amazing Spider-Man, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko - Probably the most entertaining run of superhero comics that any corporation ever published, Amazing Spider-Man set the style and standard for Marvel in the 1960s, even if Kirby’s work comes more immediately to mind when pondering the subject. These were “Pop Comics” at their best, dramatic, funny, and in-your-face. The miracle that Ditko managed to stay simpatico with Lee long enough to create 38 regular issues (and a couple of Annuals to boot) is one that I am profoundly grateful for. Amazing Spider-Man is perhaps the most fun you can have reading superhero comics. (Buy Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus from Amazon.com.)
American Elf, James Kochalka - Other comics creators have dug deeper into their own psyches; Harvey Pekar, Phoebe Gloeckner and R. Crumb come to mind. But no other cartoonist in the history of the medium has documented one moment from each day of his life for as many years on end as Kochalka has, and regularly presented it to his audience. American Elf is a singular accomplishment in the comics artform, and perhaps the most entertaining and effective window into the soul of a cartoonist in the history of the medium. (Buy American Elf Volume 1: The Collected Sketchbook Diaries Of James Kochalka from Amazon.com.)
American Splendor, Harvey Pekar, et al - I make no apologies for the fact that autobiography is my favourite genre in comics. When done right, as Pekar almost always did it, no other storytelling medium can have as profound, immediate and insightful an impact on its audience as autobiographical comics. My very favourite Pekar works are his collaborations with R. Crumb, because each brought out the best in the other, so much so that their collaborations have the same feel and power of comics created by a single creative mind working at the peak of his abilities. But with or without Crumb, Pekar’s work demands attention and rewards re-reading, with its keen observation of human nature and its celebration of the smallest and largest events in life. Pekar’s death marked the end of an era in comics, and it’s unlikely that any other comics creator will ever match the heights Pekar did in the very best of his work. (Buy The Best of American Splendor from Amazon.com.)
Daredevil: Born Again, Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli - All that having been said, I’m a lifelong comics fan who was weaned on superhero comics starting in the very early 1970s. So I remain susceptible to the charms of a superhero tale well-told, and the only one told as well as this one is Batman: Year One by the very same creative team. In Born Again, Miller turned his signature character inside out and redefined what was possible in a corporate superhero comic. Mazzucchelli had already demonstrated some pretty decent superhero chops on this title prior to Miller’s return to the title, but he very quickly leveled up to deliver one of the most visually stunning superhero stories ever that was not drawn by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko or Gil Kane. (Buy Daredevil: Born Again from Amazon.com.)
Diary of a Teenage Girl, Phoebe Gloeckner - Not strictly autobiography, Gloeckner’s masterpiece nonetheless carries the weight of reality and the gravity of a troubled life seen with the perspective of years gone by. It’s a comic that defies expectation and challenges easy judgment or callous dismissal. Read it and understand a little bit better what it is to be a girl, to be a teenager, to be a human being. (Buy Diary of a Teenage Girl from Amazon.com.)
From Hell, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell - The single greatest work ever created in comics, or the best graphic novel of all time. Call it what you will, but if you haven’t read and experienced From Hell, you could be forgiven for saying, as one critic I otherwise respect recently did, that Alan Moore is “overrated.” From Hell is a challenging work, but one that is meticulously constructed, brilliantly conceived, passionately executed, and will turn your fucking brain inside out. Along with his prose novel Voice of the Fire, From Hell is Moore at his absolute best, and at his best, there’s no one else in comics that even comes close. (Buy From Hell from Amazon.com.)
Ice Haven, Daniel Clowes - Clowes’s masterpiece is kind of the flip side of From Hell. It is executed with equal passion and witty, seamless construction. But the subject matter almost defies description. The book is as much about comics as it is a story told with comics. It was a signal moment in Clowes’s development as a storyteller, with everything that followed in some way indebted to or descended from the concerns he unpacked in Ice Haven. I think I prefer the individual issue of Eightball it originally appeared in (#21) to the reformatted and rejiggered hardcover graphic novel version, but either way, Ice Haven should be read and experienced by anyone who loves comics. (Buy Ice Haven from Amazon.com.)
“Master Race,” Bernard Krigstein and Al Feldstein - Appearing in the first issue of Impact, “Master Race” is the most brilliantly executed short story in the history of comics. I’ve opined at length elsewhere about how and why Bernard Krigstein was the greatest artist ever to work in comics, but immersing yourself in “Master Race” is really the only argument needed. (Buy B. Krigstein Vol. 1 from Amazon.com.)
The New Gods, Jack Kirby, with Mike Royer, et al - Kirby is rightly touted as the genius of corporate superhero comics, without whom we’d very likely have a very different artform and industry on our hands today, or perhaps none at all. That said, many of his great works (Fantastic Four, The Fourth World stories) are either compromised or unfinished. New Gods falls into the latter category, but despite that, the series manages to convey better than any other the sheer power and, yes, maturity that Kirby could bring to his comics. Re-read New Gods and be amazed at the pictures, but be even more astonished at the subjects and themes that Kirby was exploring, sometimes so close to the surface that one need not even call it subtext. From almost the moment he started making comics, Kirby was ahead of his time, and many years after his passing, he remains so. It’s all of comics — especially the corporate superhero comics ghetto he toiled in — that needs to catch up, and grow up. Make it right, Marvel. (Buy Jack Kirby’s New Gods from Amazon.com.)
Peanuts, Charles M. Schulz - No one saw the bittersweet sadness of life the way Schulz did, and no one ever made the reader feel those same feelings with more grace or immediacy. For fifty years, Schulz bared his soul in comics, and while he more often than not did so with a clever gag or punchline at the end, ultimately what we all think of when we think of Peanuts as a whole is the way Schulz could take the little agonies of his own life and make us remember what it is to be hurt, to be slighted, to grin and bear it and keep moving despite the pain. I think that’s the ultimate message of Schulz’s life work, and the example he set for us all. He kept going, kept working, up until the absolute last moment possible, and then he left us, and left behind a monumental lifetime of work that will be enjoyed and talked about as long as there are people left to think and talk about comics. And maybe even a little while longer than that. (Buy The Complete Peanuts Vol. 1 - 1950-1952 from Amazon.com.)
— Alan David Doane
Lewis Trondheim is one of the few comics creators whose work appeals to me despite carrying large doses of whimsy. Can I be honest with you? I hate whimsy. I hate anything whimsical. But the autobiographical comics of Lewis Trondheim, these I love.
Trondheim’s autobio comics both feel very close to reality to me — I love other autobio creators like James Kochalka, Harvey Pekar and Jason Marcy — but all their work feels translated into comics in a way that Trondheim’s autobio comics do not. Trondheim seems to be living his actual life right there on the pages of the comics he creates. If that makes sense to you, then you’ll enjoy and appreciate Trondheim’s new collection from Fantagraphics, Approximate Continuum Comics.
Of a piece with Trondheim’s excellent NBM series Little Nothings, this new book features Trondheim reflecting on cartooning, life, friendship and the many squabbling sides of his own personality. Trondheim can go many dark places in his ponderings, but the darkness is always relieved by other facets of himself arguing, observing, and sometimes beating the crap out of each other. He can puff himself up all he wants, but within a few panels another side will emerge to deflate his ego and put things into better perspective.
Throughout all these goings-on, we see glimpses of Trondheim’s home life, his work and friendships with his fellow cartoonists (given equal time in the back pages to respond to what you’ve just read), and the search for a new home for his family. If you’re not familiar with Trondheim’s cartooning (and hoo-boy, you should be), he blends funny-animal body-types with breezily convincing cityscapes to create an eminently readable and visually gorgeous narrative. Trondheim is one of the easiest cartoonists to read, and one of the most satisfying to experience. Approximate Continuum Comics wanders far and wide among topics and settings, but the whole book also tells one long tale about a period in its creator’s life, and by the time you’re done with it you feel you’ve spent some very worthwhile time with a great storyteller. Because you have.
— Alan David Doane
Buy Approximate Continuum Comics from Amazon.com.
Commenting on Twitter, Fantagraphics publisher (and one of my personal heroes) Gary Groth called the controversial Obama Nation comic strip by James Hudnall and Batton Lash “witless,” among other things. I’m not sure I agree with Lawrence O’Donnell’s characterization of this particular example of the strip as racist, but I do think Obama Nation as a whole is a loathsome, unfunny comic strip obviously fueled by hatred, much like its closest ancestor, Mallard Fillmore. Again, this particular strip may not be overtly racist in its execution (although it certainly is easy to say it looks that way on a very facile level), but it’s very hard not to suspect the strip’s creators operate from a place of malice and loathing.
I’m far from Obama’s biggest fan. I am, in fact, one of his most disappointed former supporters. But maybe if Lash and Hudnall spent some creative energy on positive work that urged real solutions to the problems here in Los Estados Unidos, they would not get painted with the racist brush by opportunistic commentators on the opposite side of the ideological fence. I am somewhat impressed that most people commenting on the issue seem to realize what a sorry, pathetic piece of cartooning the strip overall represents.
Should Obama Nation be censored? No. Should it be ignored and reviled because it is ugly, nonsensical and epically unfunny? Hell, yes.
— Alan David Doane
Rob Vollmar is not just a former contributor to this site (and its progenitor, Comic Book Galaxy), he’s also been a great friend of mine for the past decade. But that’s not why I’m talking to him about his new project. I’m talking to him about Inanna’s Tears because he is the writer of Bluesman and The Castaways, two of the best graphic novels of the last 10 years. New work from Rob Vollmar is exciting news indeed, and I am in Rob’s debt for taking the time to talk to me about his new project with M.P. Mann, Inanna’s Tears.
Alan David Doane: Rob, correct me if I’m wrong, but Inanna’s Tears is your third full graphic novel to see print?
Rob Vollmar: That is correct. Castaways originally in 2002, Bluesman Complete in 2006 (i think) and now, Inanna’s Tears.
Inanna’s Tears is quite a departure, narrative-wise and visually, from the Depression-era concerns of Castaways and Bluesman. Tell me how the project came about, and what the story concerns?
I 'd say it was the intersection of several factors. For my first post-Bluesman project, I wanted to get away from the Great Depression as a setting.
The kernel of the project came from my interest in ancient history and was in line with my usual concerns about belief, faith, power and how they intersect in people’s lives. I did about three years of intensive research, even while we were still working on Bluesman, studying the rise of civilization and the tools that made it possible. I became fascinated by the particular seam of history that Inanna’s Tears represents and started looking for ways to inject it with a compelling narrative.
The story focuses on the transition of power from the matriarchal communist theocracy that forged the tools of civilization and the patriarchal militaristic autocracies that used those tools to create the idea of empire.
How did you go about humanizing such complex ideas?
Well, it wasn’t easy. Our data on how exactly this transition took place is incomplete at best and I had to compress what probably took several hundred years to complete down on to a fulcrum, if you will, of a particular moment in time.
Ultimately, successful fiction is about people and their relationships, so I did my best to personify the various interests into believable characters and then opened up the floor to see how they might interact with one another.
Tell me a little bit about your artistic collaborator, M.P. Mann and what he brought to the project.
Marvin has been working in the comics industry since the late 1980s. I believe he helped ink some of the latter issues of The Trouble with Girls at the end of the black and white boom. As I was fishing around for collaborators, I was already familiar with Marv’s work on Lone and Level Sands and found it to be in harmony with the kind of look I wanted for Inanna’s Tears. When I approached him about the project, I was more than pleasantly surprised at the kind of questions he was asking.
Questions about textiles, architecture. I could tell immediately that he had both the visual and intellectual chops to bring this remote period of history to life.
How smooth was the partnership once you got rolling?
Very smooth. Marvin has a gift for visual storytelling and blocking that you can’t embed into a script without becoming overbearing. He also works VERY fast and brought a certain energy to the creative process that was different than my experience with my earlier books. He knows how to suggest detail without laboring over it. That’s a valuable commodity to say the least.
Who do you think is the ideal reader for Inanna’s Tears?
I think it is a book that works on several levels. Folks with an interest in history, anthropology and language are going to feel like it was written for them.I think it also features a very accessible story within about people and how they love and how, on occasion, that love can destroy their ideals that most anyone could identify with.
I come from a liberal arts background and was using Greek theater as my model for Inanna’s Tears. It’s a conversation about universals set in a very specific moment in time.
It’s taken a while for the book to be collected in graphic novel form, but finally it will be available in February. Tell me about the road to publication.
Well, it was long and winding. But just as we were about to bring the GN to market, the economy fell apart with the difficulties that we have now in the Direct Market in tow. It went very quickly from a market very inviting to GNs to very hostile in a very short period of time.
To Archaia’s credit, they never said, “Sorry, fellas, but we just can’t do this anymore.” We all stayed in communication and, after a few hard fought battles to get the word out and get reflecting pre-order numbers, we’ve finally gotten to the place where print makes sense. Both Marvin and I are very grateful that we’ve had advocates for the book on the inside who care about creators and have worked hard to live up to their obligations, contractual and otherwise.
Tell me how readers can make sure they get their own copy of Inanna’s Tears.
As a former Direct Market retailer, my first piece of advice is always to try and support their locally owned and operated comics shop. Finding a responsive one can be a challenge depending on where one lives but it is worth the effort.
Barring that, the book is available for order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other reputable online retailers. I will also be partnering with Atomik Pop in Norman, Oklahoma to make signed copies available for purchase at regular price plus shipping for those who’d like that personal touch. We’ll be releasing details about that through our Facebook page, which we encourage people to join if they want to be kept in the loop on updates.
See the Flash trailer for Inanna’s Tears at Comics Worth Reading.
* Over at Comics212, Christopher Butcher wonders if DC dropped the Comics Code to save a few pennies. I miss the days when Chris did one like this three or four times a week, but I’ll take what I can get. Related: At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson looks at the recent history of the Comics Code, now apparently dead in the water.
* Wow, Cry for Justice sounds like an enormous piece of shit, just like 90 percent of everything else published by Marvel and DC these days.
* At The Panelists, Craig Fisher has a two part look at DC’s Jonah Hex, part of its ten percent of quality comics. I haven’t read every issue, but the ones I have read have been almost uniformly entertaining and pretty to look at.
* Uncomics: Christopher Butcher again, this time at his eponymous website, running down his Five Favourite McDonald’s Sandwiches. Seriously. Now, I didn’t eat at McDonald’s when we were in Canada a few years back, but my wife did and told me that everything tasted better, something my Canadian friend d. emerson eddy told me can be attributed to better food standards up north (not surprising). Agree with Mr. Butcher about most of these, especially the McRib, which it seems to me used to be good but just does not cohere as a sandwich anymore. My feeling is the sauce is wrong, and roll should be buttered and grilled, not that Mickey D’s would go to that much trouble this late in the day.
— Alan David Doane
Back in the 1980s when I was around 14 or 15, my mom bought me just about every one of the EC hardcover sets published by Russ Cochran, and they really opened my eyes to how good comics could be. The books themselves set the standard for how beautiful books could be when published by people who are committed to quality. Russ Cochran has earned my undying respect and gratitude for his critical contribution to my lifetime appreciation of comics and quality publishing that really has its foundation in his EC reprints way back when.
Right now is a crucial time in Russ’s publishing efforts. I’ll let him explain:
I’m going to have to be completely honest with you now. My business, which has been in existence since 1971…that’s FORTY YEARS…is in financial trouble, and unless something changes soon, I will be closing my doors before 2011 is over.
I’ve already had to terminate my oldest employee, Chris Rock, who was with me for 35 years. Chris worked on all the EC projects with me, he went to NYC with me to photograph the EC art for the EC portfolios, and it was very difficult for me to tell him that he was being laid off. This leaves only two other employees, Angie Meyer and Judy Goodwin, and right now my monthly sales through my website, eBay, and Amazon are not enough to cover their salaries.
I’m hoping to get permission from the Gaines Estate to continue publishing the EC ARCHIVES series, but unless this comes soon, my publishing days will be ended. With no new products to offer you, all I can do is to offer special deals on the items I do have in inventory. I would rather sell them to you, my faithful customers, at a lower price than to wholesale them to dealers and booksellers.
So here are some special offers being made only to my internet customer list:
1. THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN COLLECTING, a hardcover, limited-edition book in slipcase, which originally sold for $200, I now offer for only $45.
2. Your choice of any three EC ARCHIVES books (11 are available out of 13 which have been published) for $95, or any ten EC ARCHIVES books for $285. These are the lowest prices I have ever offered for these books.
3. The following special deals on EC ANNUALS:
TALES FROM THE CRYPT: Annuals 3, 4, 5 and 6, the last 20 issues, all for $20.
THE VAULT OF HORROR: Annuals 1 thru 6, the complete 29-issue run, all for $30.
THE HAUNT OF FEAR: Annuals 1 thru 6, the complete 28-issue run, all for $30.
ALL OF THE ABOVE, 16 ANNUALS CONTAINING THE NEW TREND EC HORROR COMICS, FOR $70.
ALL ELEVEN EC SCIENCE FICTION ANNUALS, FOR $55. This is a complete collection of EC’s s-f comics except for WEIRD SCIENCE Annual #2, which is sold out.
ALL NINE EC SUSPENSTORIES (SHOCK SS AND CRIME SS) ANNUALS FOR $45. This is a complete collection of EC’s suspense comics except for SHOCK Annual #2, which is sold out.
ALL EIGHT EC WAR COMICS (complete runs of TWO-FISTED TALES and FRONTLINE COMBAT) ANNUALS FOR $40.
ALL EIGHT “NEW DIRECTION” EC COMICS ANNUALS: MD, PSYCHOANALYSIS, PIRACY (2 VOLUMES), VALOR, EXTRA!, ACES HIGH, IMPACT FOR $40.
ALL THREE PANIC ANNUALS (Al Feldstein’s answer to Kurtzman’s MAD) for $15.
ALL FOUR EC “PRE-TREND” CRIME ANNUALS FOR $20.
AND, FINALLY, THE BEST DEAL OF ALL, VIRTUALLY A COMPLETE COLLECTION OF EC COMICS IN THE ANNUAL FORMAT, ALL OF THE ABOVE, EVERYTHING FOR $200.
And last but not least:
HOPALONG CASSIDY TRADE EDITION (list price $75) for $35.
LES PAUL—IN HIS OWN WORDS TRADE EDITION (list price $75) for $35.
These last two books are hardcover, high-quality, 368 page books which are considered to be the definitive reference and picture books on Hoppy and Les Paul. These are new copies in DJ.
So, you can get some good bargains while helping me to stay afloat by ordering any of the above specials. Thanks for your business, and thanks for the last forty years!
I urge you to visit www.russcochran.com to see images of all these and everything that’s available. E-mail Angie or Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at 417-256-1311 to place your order.
— Alan David Doane
Sean T. Collins: “[The comics industry in 2011 revolves] around the equivalent of a really killer Entertainment Weekly panel at San Diego, basically: Bendis, Johns, Morrison, Kirkman, O’Malley, and to an extent Millar.”
What’s depressing is that I would be very, very happy if three of the six people on that list never, ever wrote another comic book again. If half of Comics 2011 is unreadable shit and half is readable-to-genius, I know in my head that’s a good ratio, but in my heart it makes me want to not look at another comic book for the rest of the year.
— Alan David Doane
It is such a worn-out and much-mocked cliché of autobiographical comics for the cartoonist to declare his own self-loathing, that when Seth does so at the end of a heartbreaking and presumably true strip at the end of Palookaville #20, one has to assume he is both unaware of the frequent citing of such moments as trite and self-obsessed by critics of the genre, and more importantly, that he is absolutely serious. How could he not hate himself, when everything he has spent the last 30 years doing has been a complete and utter waste of time? He’s thrown his life away, and for what? Comic books.
In many ways, despite being a $20.00 hardcover art object, the new Palookaville feels very much like the last comic book. In a long and introspective introduction (presented in Chris Ware-like teeny-tiny type that is a slap in the face to my aging and diabetic eyes), Seth explains why he went along with publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s suggestion that Palookaville transition (Like Acme Novelty Library, like Love and Rockets, like J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman, ha ha ha just fuckin’ with ya) from floppy, saddle-stitched comic book to hardcover “periodical.” (Yearly hardly seems periodical to me, and I am so old now that entire years go by in three weeks.)
Bemoaning (accurately, at that) the death of the comic book stings particularly for me, a guy whose best-fulfilled dream in life culminated in the creation and decade-long maintenance of a website two words of the three-name URL of which were “Comic Book.” How ironic that Seth (accurately, at that) declare the comic book dead and buried in the same era in which I more or less gave up “Comic Book _______” and declared, instead, my Trouble With Comics. Although in these unemployed and increasingly desperate times, it more often seems to be “Trouble, with comics.” Selah.
Being the last comic book, I find a further layer of irony in that the same day I expend twenty dollars (that I could have spent on rent or feeding my family) on a single “issue” of Palookaville, I eye-witnessed a superhero fan buying — and I’m not making this up, I heard him say it out loud and saw the pile — 140 superhero comic books at Earthworld in Albany, New York (where I could not find the new Palookaville; I had to go to the local indy bookstore The Bookhouse — not a comic book store — to accomplish that feat of latter-day and unwise comic book investing). And to be utterly frank, the fact that there are superhero junkies willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a pile of 140 frankly shitty superhero comic books (Marvel and DC together have not produced 140 good comic books in the past ten years, effendi) is not a sign of a healthy Direct Market, but rather the futile but comforting-to-the-surviving-family-members defibrillation of a patient whose heart stopped at least five years ago and whose organs aren’t deemed worthy of donation and transplant, but rather will be quietly interred in the dumpster out back of the hospital at the 11-dollar-an-hour (plus shift deferential) orderly’s earliest convenience.
And finally one has to gaze in wide wonder at the fact that the best content in the last comic book, Palookaville #20, is not the many dozens of pages of comics it contains (all of which are good and entertaining and thought-provoking and unutterably pretty and nostalgic in that Seth manner), but rather a photo-essay and written history of Seth’s Dominion project, a huge and mind-blowing collection of hand-drawn, obsessively-crafted cardboard buildings made out of old FedEx boxes. There’s no question at all that Seth’s creative spirit and longing for the past is finding its truest expression in this ongoing and amazing and strange art installation, and it’s coming to Montreal (a city I have actually driven to from my house and not freaked out about the expense or the distance) sometime this year.
If it’s not too late — that is to say, if I have found paying work or my unemployment benefits haven’t dried up or been shot and killed by the tea-bagging thugs that took over Congress this week — if it’s not too late, I’d really and truly like to go and see those crazy, motherfuckingly AWESOME cardboard buildings Seth has been creating. I’d like to shake the man’s hand and tell him how sad it makes me that I had to see off my entire first-print hardcover collection of Seth books a few months ago to make the rent (goodbye, Vernacular Drawings; so long, George Sprott; sayonara, It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken; take care, Wimbledon Green; seeya again sometime, Clyde Fans). I’d like to thank Seth for listing all his books in the front of the last comic book, because I had them all, and I sold them to make the rent, in case I didn’t mention that.
But I bought Palookaville #20, mainly because I wanted to see the pictures of Seth’s cardboard city (which he says he fantasizes about as he drifts off to sleep each night), not because of the comics.
And because, as I have just explained, it is the last comic book.
— Alan David Doane