Dec 11, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1020: Wednesday Comics #2, July 15, 2009

Really quite sick right now. I thought it was allergies.

I'll say, the "New Frontier" era Green Lantern (and perhaps Flash) stories in this series are excellent. And John Arcudi's take on Superman is really pretty great. The only dark spot is the Titans story, not for its content, but because it was written by disgraced former-editor Eddie Berganza.

Afraid that's all I've got for today. To be continued.

Dec 10, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1019: Wednesday Comics #1, July 8, 2009

There's something to the tabloid size comic. One of the most beautiful books I own is McSweeney's Quarterly Concern volume 13, the comics issue. The entire dust jacket folds out into a tabloid-sized comic. The size opens up so many possibilities, both for larger reproduction to deliver more awareness of detail, or also for sheer size to be able to pack information into. Wednesday Comics takes advantage of the format in both of these ways. There are stories that are little more than a blown up 3/3 grid, but the amount of reproductive detail is just wonderful. And there are others that pack amazing amounts of art into the space. None of them have sucked me in yet, though I remember being a fan of the "Wonder Woman" story in here. As the series goes on, I feel that the artists were starting to experiment with the medium. Some of Mike Allred's "Metamorpho" pages are wonderful.

I'm curious to see if this series works with a shorter wait between comics. When I teach comics, I sometimes include a section about serialization and the effect it has on storytelling. This series was conceived as a weekly series. I wonder if there are things that will come up and perhaps not work when it's being read on a daily basis.

To be continued.

Dec 9, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1018: Ninja High School v.2 #12, June 2000 (Ninja High School Week!)

And so we reach the end of "Ninja High School Week!" This is the last issue of the second volume of the series and, as is rapidly becoming cliche this week, I understood almost nothing. There were characters who had something to do with some of the other characters I've read about this week, and talk of destiny and stuff, but I got little of it. There were, however, a couple of North American-style superheroes in the issue, and it was interesting that, regardless of not knowing the specific characters, I recognized the story they were taking part in. It's the "superhero is taken over by villain and is eventually defeated by younger hero, possibly superhero's protege" story. I find this story to be a way of showing that the younger hero is worthy of taking on the older hero's mantle. Robin must fight a mind-controlled Batman, and in beating him demonstrates he will one day be a worth successor to Batman (which, for the record, he was in the Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin series). And, generally, this involves the younger hero not only demonstrating the skills they've learned from the mentor, but also that certain something that the older hero is somehow lacking, thus demonstrating how the protege will actually surpass the older hero in their embodiment of that hero, and of heroism.

But then, because it's comics, the younger hero almost never gets that opportunity. How long was Dick Grayson Batman? A drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. He is still a character that labours in the shadow of his mentor, and perhaps that is what that character requires in order to be that character, that constant ideal to live up to. Without it, why are we drawn to this character?

Sometimes, though, it does happen and it produces something wonderful. When Wally West took over as the Flash, something really great was introduced into the DC universe, a new mythic element, in a way. For my money, West really was always a better Flash than Barry Allen, which is exactly the outcome that that rarely-realized story looks toward. The younger hero surpasses the elder. Or once surpassed, I suppose. I don't really know Wally's status in the DCU these days.

What does this have to do with Ninja High School? Nothing really. I'm not sure the outcome of the superhero story. And I'm not sure where this series continues. Usually on the GCD there's a listing of where the story continues, but there's nothing for this one. I'll have to do a bit of research. In the meantime, tomorrow I'll be starting a daily re-read of DC's really neat experiment Wednesday Comics. I've only read it once, when it first came out, so it'll be interesting to read it in a more sustained way.

To be continued.

Dec 8, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1017: Mangazine v.3 #5, November 1999 (Ninja High School Week!)

This anthology series is apparently a number of Antarctic Press comics all bound (and not very well) together, though I'm not 100% sure which issues of each series are included. It was a nice sampler of the AP output, and might have felt a bit more at home in my previous week looking at the publisher, but c'est la vie. From what I can tell, the Ninja High School issue in this collection comes from the second volume of the series that focusses on Ricky Feeple, the younger brother of the first volume's focal character. But, as with most of what I've read this week, I don't know what the heck is going on, or who many of the characters were. The same goes for the other comics reprinted in this issue, though the Warrior Nun story is sort of self-contained, and thus made a bit more sense.

And this is the thing, I think. Dunn and company created their series having been inspired by manga series, and manga series are inevitably not one-off stories, but actually one long story told over the course of a long period of time. Thus Ninja High School almost requires of its reader an investment in the whole series. It's virtually impossible to pick up a single issue and just enjoy it. There's a definite time and place for such storytelling, and I generally love it, but this haphazard way I've attempted to enter the series is just not working.

To be continued.

Dec 7, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1016: A Science Affair #1, 1994 (Ninja High School Week!)

It turns out that my scanner does not like foil covers, but here it is anyway.

This comic was weird, but not for the usual (as I'm coming to understand them) reasons that a Ninja High School comic might be weird. Yes, there's all the strangeness that is associated with the title, mixed with the strangeness that is associated with Fred Perry's Gold Digger, but the weirdest thing about it is that there's literally no credits anywhere in the issue. I have no idea who wrote, drew, edited this comic. I know that Antarctic Press published it, but that's about it. I don't come across comics that often that neglect to credit the artists involved, especially from the small press. There's no info on the GCD (actually, this variant didn't even exist there, but I've remedied that), and the only place I could find any credits was a which list Fred Perry as both writer and artist. But even lists of Perry's own works don't list this series.

Very odd.

But then, so is the comic. There's a couple of parodies of the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers in this issue that come into conflict with one another, an evil, magical Elvis impersonator called (one of the best villain names ever) Spellvis, as well as characters from Gold Digger (the main characters) and Ninja High School (secondary characters). I suppose the inclusion of the main cast of GD but not of NHS could support Perry's authorship, but I'd love something a little more concrete. That aside, the comic is fun, like most of the NHS comics I've looked at this week.

To be continued.

Dec 6, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1015: Speed Racer featuring Ninja High School #1, August 1993 (Ninja High School Week!)

This comic was just okay. I like the idea of crossing over something like Ninja High School with a property that was obviously an inspiration, but I'm not sure it totally works. And I don't know why. It could be, I suppose, that I'm just not familiar enough with the characters for it all to gel nicely for me, or it could be that there's just too many characters. Or it could be that the comic is just sort of "meh."

It is nice to see the NHS characters in colour, which I've not seen yet. That aside, there's a whole lot of set up (a race in Quagmire that Speed and his team are attending) and not that much development. Is that asking too much in the case of a crossover, though? I'm just thinking back to the recent Crisis on Earth-X Arrowverse crossover, and there really wasn't that much character development. Even the big crossovers, like the original Crisis, feature little or no characterization. Crossovers are more about story than they are about character, and so we get the 2-dimensions of the character, rather than the full three dimensions. Speed is a race car driver, Itchy is a ninja, Asrial is an alien warrior with mech armour. That's really all that's needed here.

I've no idea what the rest of the crossover was like, but I'm sure it continued much like this issue. Perhaps one day I'll find out.

To be continued.

Dec 5, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1014: Ninja High Yearbook #3, 1991 (Ninja High School Week!)

Given that this is Ben Dunn's book, I don't know that I've read too much of his actual work.

Today's comic demonstrates something that I think is somewhat unique to Ninja High School, or perhaps to Antarctic Press. This comic is full of submissions from fans of the series telling stories of their favourite characters from the main comic. And it's solicited and published by Antarctic Press. That's a level of fan-interaction I've never seen from a comics publisher before. Imagine Marvel publishing a comic full of fan-drawn and written stories starring the Avengers. Even in our ultra-connected modern day we don't see that kind of interaction, though it certainly would be very easy to do. That Mr. Dunn was open to this speaks volumes of his understanding of the relationship fans can have with a comic. We get very, very attached to characters sometimes. I can't even begin to tell you the number of Doom Patrol scripts I have locked away in my head. So to be able to tell a story about them that is published by the very people who brought you those characters, that's something special.

The stories vary, of course, in quality and tone. Some are quite dramatic, others parodic, and others romantic. Each is created by people who obviously love the characters they're dealing with, and even though the art is of less-than-professional quality sometimes, the stories achieve a level of quality simply by virtue of that love.

Fanfic comics. From adoring fans. In 1991. Neat.

To be continued.