Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reprint This! 25. Coda

Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

I decided to do this series of articles based on an earlier, three-part feature, but chose to keep it limited to 24 titles for the sake of personal convenience and to make sure I had an end in sight as I did my daily writing. But there are plenty of other great comics that deserve to see the light of day as well. Here are five others which would be great to see again... which I'd certainly buy if only my local comic shop could order them from somebody!



HERBIE by Richard E. Hughes and Ogden Whitney

I don't know nearly enough about this series, which is incredibly odd and readable, save that you do not wish to mess with the ultra-powerful Mr. Popnecker, else he'll bop somebody with that there lollipop. Herbie first appeared in American Comic Group's Forbidden Worlds in 1958, and made periodic appearances before getting his own title in 1964. ACG went out of business in 1967. Back issues are incredibly scarce and start at around $20 for good condition copies. There's no telling who might have the rights to Herbie, suggesting that any compilation would probably be a long time in coming. However, an episode was reprinted in 2005's Art Out of Time and there were a couple of mid '90s black and white reprints with new art from celebrity fans like Bob Burden and John Byrne, so I reckon somebody must know. (edited to add: LJ's spook_town informs us that the rights to ACG's library may currently belong to Roger Broughton. So, D&Q, Fanta, y'all go invite him around for drinks, okay?)



JAMES BOND by Takao Saito

Yeah, that's the same scan everybody's got. That's why we need a reprint. In 1964, Gildrose licensed four James Bond novels to Shokakugan, and Takao Saito, who'd later create Golgo 13, adapted them in monthly installments for Boy's Life. The stories were: Live and Let Die (9 parts, 1964-65), Thunderball (7 parts, 1965-66), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (9 parts, 1966) and The Man With the Golden Gun (8 parts, 1966-67). Single-volume editions were later issued and are highly prized by collectors.



JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS by Dan DeCarlo

All of it. Not a "best of." By DeCarlo. With his name on it. And while I'm at it, I'd like a pony.



THIRD WORLD WAR by Pat Mills, Carlos Ezquerra, Sean Phillips, John Hicklenton, Steve Pugh and others

Okay, so there are probably more representative images from 3WW that I could have used, but none of them would raise the eyebrows of my gamer geek girlfriend. It ran in the pages of Crisis from 1988-90. I maintain some small hope that Rebellion will announce a two-volume collection before we get too old and gray. This is certainly the most likely of these five, and I only moved it to the coda because Ezquerra got a couple of spotlight articles already.



PROPER V FOR VENDETTA WITHOUT THAT #$@&*! COLORING by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

Thinking that the first two-thirds of V for Vendetta is supposed to look like anything other than the above is like thinking that Humphrey Bogart is supposed to be wearing an ochre yellow jacket in Casablanca. And I'm missing five issues of Warrior, where it first appeared, so my set's not complete. Unfortunately, DC has the rights to V, and DC and Alan Moore don't get along anymore, so we'll probably see a complete Dan DeCarlo Josie before we ever see this restored to its proper, beautiful black and white.


* * *

That's that for Reprint This! as a regular feature, but I'll still use the tag from time to time when something occurs to me and I want to see an old favorite on bookshelves again, or when some publisher does the right thing and announces something good is coming up. As was mentioned some weeks ago, Vertical's bringing Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack to us in a new English edition and Thunderbirds was already out in a UK-only collection nobody'd heard of, so that's two down and 27 total to go. If one of your favorites is somewhere on this list, link to it, talk about it and let publishers know. Every bit of buzz helps!

(Originally posted January 24, 2008, 09:03 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Reprint This! 24. The World's Greatest Superheroes



Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Despite such an enormous variety of books available these days, and genuine efforts to present the material in reasonably-priced, archival volumes, there are still countless fabulous series from the US, Britain and Japan which are overdue for new editions. I've selected a couple of dozen titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

At last we come to the final installment-of-this-length of this series, and not before time. This entry is a subject near and dear to my nostalgic heart. I've shied away from most superhero titles in this feature. I guess it's part of my growing disinterest in capes-and-fisticuffs fiction, but also because Marvel and DC seem like they're on a track to reprint all their superhero stuff before long anyway. However, there's one title they might overlook. When I was a kid, THE WORLD'S GREATEST SUPERHEROES was, for a couple of years, among the most important parts of my day, but it doesn't look like it's set for a reprint anytime soon. This newspaper strip, written initially by Martin Pasko and illustrated by George Tuska and the often-maligned Vince Colletta, was a serialized adventure pitting DC's superhero crew against a number of nefarious villains.



The World's Greatest Superheroes, which began in 1978, could be compared to a daily strip version of DC's long-running Justice League of America comic, in which some of Earth's mightiest defenders, operating from an orbital satellite, match wits against evil supervillains. The first serial featured Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Aquaman against the immortal Vandal Savage. The second sidelined Aquaman, and Batman and Robin joined the others in a battle with Dr. Destiny, master of dreams. The third and fourth serials also featured Black Lightning.

In mid-1979, the series was retitled The World's Greatest Superheroes Present Superman, and the Man of Steel got the strip, now written by Paul Levitz, all to himself for a few more years. I lost track of it when my dad stopped going into his office every day and bringing a copy of The Atlanta Constitution home. Nor would my folks change their subscription from the afternoon Journal to the morning paper, despite all the good comics like Peanuts running in the morning. In 1983, the strip went to Sundays-only, and it was cancelled in 1985.

When I was a kid, I was incredibly aggravated that the strip became a Superman-only serial, because I enjoyed the other characters, especially Wonder Woman and the Flash. At the time, I figured that they reworked it due to the Christopher Reeve Superman film, which was released at Christmas, 1978. Since I tracked down some scans of the series online, and got hold of some 1980 episodes from the UGA library, I'm still certain that's the case, but I'm also struck by how unusual a drama serial with multiple characters feels. Pasko must have found it a great challenge to hop back and forth between the heroes in their individual situations with only three panels a day. In the first serial, Wonder Woman gets caught in a trap at the Empire State Building, and then the action shifts to the Flash in the Arctic, and then to Superman in Egypt. Two months later, Wonder Woman is still tied up in New York City!

In 1980 or so, DC released a digest-sized collection of the first serial, with the panels rearranged to fit two or three per page. Evidently it didn't sell well enough to follow up, so these stories haven't been seen in more than 25 years except by afficionados. Serial newspaper strips are incredibly fun to read in collected editions, though. Titan's been proving that with their addictive James Bond 007 and Modesty Blaise books, with Jeff Hawke newly joining their lineup. Marvel US is thought to be planning a collection of their Stan Lee-scripted Spider-Man strip later this year - there's an edition already out in England via Panini. Marvel always seems to execute the good ideas before DC can get theirs ready, so even if DC got started now, it would be months before we could see any such collected edition. However, these are incredibly fun stories which are sure to spark fond memories from readers, and the growing market for trade collections and reprints would surely have room for these strips. Presented right, as, say, a three-volume collection, you'd have a winner... or it might even work as a Showcase Presents. So how about it, DC?



Many thanks to Jared Bond for providing these nice scans from the series. Most appreciated!

Next week, Reprint This! wraps up with five other features I'd like to see again, but didn't feel like subjecting everybody to longer essays about for one reason or another.

(Originally posted January 18, 2008, 06:10 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Reprint This! 23. Armitage



Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Despite such an enormous variety of books available these days, and genuine efforts to present the material in reasonably-priced, archival volumes, there are still countless fabulous series from the US, Britain and Japan which are overdue for new editions. I've selected a couple of dozen titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

Over in the Judge Dredd Megazine, the very sporadically-published ARMITAGE returned in December for a new series after his customary three or four years off. Created by Dave Stone and featuring artwork from some of Britain's best comics artists, this flawed-but-engaging series stars a gray-haired plainclothes detective in the future world of Brit-Cit, whose investigations invariably end up rubbing people in high places the wrong way.



Armitage is an aging, unarmed, grouchy detective who investigates gruesome murders among the rich and powerful in Brit-Cit. His investigations have often shown him crossing paths with the city-state's judicial masters. Armitage isn't one of them. There's a long history of secret handshakes and privilege in the world of British police, and a number of higher-ups who would rather Armitage leave things alone. So it's not entirely unlike Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse, really, with bizarre technology and secret cities. Dave Stone's grasp of future tech and ugly crimes has also been seen in his Doctor Who novels, and the excellent spinoff books featuring Bernice Summerfield, particularly the brilliant detective fiction pastiche Ship of Fools, which features some of the most gruesome, impossible murders a mystery novelist could ever concoct.

The series started out as a semi-regular for a few years, illustrated first by Sean Phillips (Criminal) and then by Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead, Savage) before losing its semi-regular status and only appearing very sporadically. A two-part adventure planned to run in 1995, with art by Kevin Cullen, never actually appeared. The artwork vanished shortly before it was due to be printed; there has been no confirmation that the pages were ever actually found. Other artists who have tackled short Armitage adventures include Steve Yeowell, Charlie Gillespie and John Ridgway.

Armitage returned in December for a new serial illustrated by the great John Cooper, who seems perfectly suited to illustrate a grouchy loner like our aging copper. Cooper's comic work stretches back to One-Eyed Jack in the pages of Valiant in the 1970s, although he may be best known for his work on Battle Picture Weekly's Johnny Red, a strip he illustrated for about six years. I haven't actually seen the first episode yet, although the new Megazine should be in American comic shops this week, and I can't wait for mine!

Anyway, the thirty-odd episodes of Armitage would make a really nice collected edition once the current Cooper-illustrated story is finished and can be compiled with them. The first serial could stand to be re-lettered -- Phillips was doing some odd things with his page sizes on this and the first Devlin Waugh story and these scans are kind of enormous so that you readers won't have to squint to read the word balloons on your computer screen. But with a little remastering, we'd get some great artwork by popular artists back in print and enjoy Stone's grisly future crimes without having to dig through eighteen years of magazines. So how about it, Rebellion? (And couldya shackle Stone to a desk somewhere and get some more pages out of him, so we won't have to wait until 2030 for volume two??)



(Originally posted January 11, 2008, 04:35 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)

(Update 9/09: Magazine-sized reprints of Armitage are now available.)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Reprint This! 22. Urusei Yatsura



Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Despite such an enormous variety of books available these days, and genuine efforts to present the material in reasonably-priced, archival volumes, there are still countless fabulous series from the US, Britain and Japan which are overdue for new editions. I've selected a couple of dozen titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

Three more entries to go in this series, and I've gotta say, I'm winding down, and really running out of new ways to say "This is really great, somebody should reprint it," and I want to have this feature finished before the end of the month. So Rumiko Takahashi's fans will, I hope, forgive me if I don't do URUSEI YATSURA, her first continuing comic series, justice. You'd think this would be a no-brainer for Viz, who have repackaged almost all of her other series for US distribution, but the poor sales of an earlier effort still have an impact on this property.



Briefly, because I'm winding down here, Urusei Yatsura is a sprawling, silly gag strip in which aliens from the planet Uru stop by Earth. A dimwitted teen named Ataru Moroboshi, who hopelessly chases girls with tongue a-droolin', inadvertently proposes to their princess, a cute girl named Lum. She wears a tiger-striped bikini, has an incredibly short temper, has fallen passionately in love with Ataru, and works out her issues of jealousy by electrocuting Ataru often enough for him to go off the idea. The aliens decide to stay in Tokyo indefinitely, or at least until Lum and Ataru agree on a wedding date. Since Ataru has no intention of ever doing such a thing and giving up his flirting, this might be a while. Wacky hijinks follow, especially as many of Lum's friends and family show up to find out what's happening on Earth, and like it enough to set a spell and cause havoc.

Urusei Yatsura first appeared in the pages of Japan's Shonen Sunday in 1978. If I understand correctly, it had a number of short tryout runs of six or eight weeks for its first two years before it finally joined the regular lineup in 1980. It ran weekly until its conclusion in 1987, spawning a TV series, several video games, feature films and direct-to-video releases. As with most Japanese series, the weekly output is enormous, and the series was repackaged in a number of formats, most commonly a series of 34 digests, each about 180 pages. Urusei Yatsura is still phenomenally popular in Japan, and Lum a heavily-licensed icon who appears on pachinko machines and ads for electric companies, and the series has stayed in print through a variety of differently-formatted editions. The original run of 34 books begun a hugely-promoted re-release last year with new introductions and artwork contributions by other Japanese artists; about two-thirds of these new volumes are back in print.

Urusei Yatsura would appear to be a good introduction to Takahashi's work since it is very broad and very silly, without much continuity or ongoing plotlines. But this might actually work against it, as her more popular series in the US have been the longer, serialized stories. Back when Viz was producing traditionally American-sized comic reprints, they released a few Lum miniseries in that format, and some of these were collected in their older, odd-sized $14.95 line of graphic novels. But while they eventually repackaged Maison Ikkoku in the more familiar, less expensive digests, and restarted Ranma 1/2 and InuYasha in those lines, Urusei Yatsura was left behind due to low sales, with the bulk of the series untranslated. But really, Viz, it's been years and it's time to do the series right and promote it to a new audience. Besides, it's looking like y'all will be running out of Dr. Slump and Golgo 13 books to take my money in a few months' time, so you'll need something new on the shelves I want to buy. So how about it, guys?



Background on the series' publication was pilfered from the good folk over at the wonderful Takahashi fan site Rumic World. Visit them for more information! And while this is entry's about the comic series, have a pinup from one of the animated adaptations fer yer Livejournalling pleasure. Be back Friday for another entry as I wrap up this feature.



(Originally posted January 04, 2008, 02:50 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)