Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reprint This! Update on Starman

I finished reading the second of DC's new Starman Omnibus collections, and I have to say that this is emphatically the right way to do a collected edition of a modern book. The fifty-buck hardcover reprints thirteen issues of James Robinson's superhero series, along with the first of the series' annuals and three issues from the anthology Showcase which feature the supporting players, along with considerable background details, commentary and sketches from the artists, who include Tony Harris, Guy Davis and Steve Yeowell.

If you've never had the pleasure of reading Starman, I really believe this is among the two or three best American comics of the '90s. It's the story of Jack Knight, a reluctant second-generation hero and the sixth to use the name, who defends the beautiful art deco metropolis of Opal City from bizarre crime. It's a book more about family and heritage and honor than it is fisticuffs and the usual superhero shenanigans. Robinson occasionally displays a tin ear for dialogue, but his narration is really captivating, and it's easy to get caught up in the grand sweep of Opal and her champions.

A detour to New York City to consult one of the DC Universe's original heroes, the Sandman, is so note-perfect that the publisher should use it to teach new writers how to craft an engaging crossover, and a later story which pits Jack and two unlikely allies against a demon in a poster is surprising at every turn, with a clever conclusion that will have a lasting, fascinating impact on future stories. It's definitely a title worth reading, and thumbs up to DC for creating such a nice package. They plan to publish the complete 81-issue series and all of its side stories and supplements in six of these omnibus volumes.

Read more of what I've written about James Robinson at A Journal of Zarjaz Things.

Read other reviews of this series:
Van Jensen at ComicMix
Randy Lander at Inside Joke Theatre
Greg Oleksiuk at PopMatters
Jason Sacks at Comics Bulletin
Paul W. Smith at Den of Geek

In other news, perhaps the month's biggest announcement has come from Alan Moore, confirming the rumors that Top Shelf will be issuing a complete edition of his "published-in-many-places" comedy The Bojeffries Saga. This new collection will include a new 24-page story that artist Steve Parkhouse is said to be tackling now. Moore's announcement came in the second part of the mammoth interview that Pádraig Ó Méalóid conducted for The Forbidden Planet Blog.

Fantagraphics has unveiled a little more about their forthcoming collection of Gahan Wilson Playboy cartoons. It's still on track for an October release. The three-volume slipcased hardcover is going to set you back a tidy $125, which means I'm putting $10 a paycheck in the kitty for this starting now. The book will feature introductions by Neil Gaiman and Hugh Hefner, and not only every cartoon that Wilson's contributed in his fifty-one year tenure with the mag, but his fiction and accompanying illustrations as well. The behemoth will clock in at more than 1000 pages. Can't wait, even if my accountant might want to have a word or two with me about it.

Speaking of Playboy, Dark Horse's collection of the two issues of the Hef-published Trump, mentioned here back in January, has been delayed and is due out in mid-August. This will feature classic work by Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, Wally Wood, Mel Brooks, Max Shulman and many others. Incidentally, my son finished the first half of Fantagraphics' Humbug, the magazine that followed Trump, and not only proclaims it to be awesome, but also wants it noted that he's the only modern-day tween to have read it.

In what sounds like it was a late April Fool's Day joke which went a little far, it's been strongly rumored that IDW is preparing a collection of Jack Kent's long-running newspaper strip King Aroo for later in the year. The strip ran for an impressive sixteen years before winding down in 1965, but it's incredibly obscure because only a single paperback collection was ever issued, in 1953, and because it only appeared in a handful of papers for most of its run. Some of the sample strips available online show it to be an incredibly charming and silly strip, reminiscent of Pogo with its puns and quirky characters, and while I'm curious to see more, I think IDW has something of an uphill climb selling this almost unknown character to a modern audience.

Speaking of Pogo, most recent word on the grapevine is that we'll be waiting until sometime in 2010 for the new line of Fantagraphics collections to get going.

And speaking of IDW, whether they are going to do something with King Aroo or not, they are planning a reprint of Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta's 1980s SF serial Starstruck with new coloring.

Over at DC, it looks like Peter Milligan's well-regarded '90s take on Shade the Changing Man is finally getting some long-overdue attention. A collection of the first six issues was released many moons ago, and it's finally getting a second later this year. Personally, I find Shade to have aged very badly, but I'm still looking forward to this earlier stuff from the run. But before that, DC is prepping hardcover collections from some of the other titles in their run, similar to the Starman books, including Fables and Alan Moore's Tom Strong. And they've finally solicited the Eclipso "Skinny Showcase" I've been talking about for August:

Written by Bob Haney
Art by Lee Elias, Alex Toth, Jack Sparling and Bernard Baily
Cover by Bernard Baily
One of the strangest comics villains ever stars in this volume collecting HOUSE OF SECRETS #61-80! On an expedition in the South Pacific, scientist Bruce Gordon’s dark side is unleashed after being exposed to a black diamond. Transformed into the powerful Eclipso, he embarked on an evil rampage as his good side attempted to reassert control.
Advance-solicited; on sale August 26 • 296 pg, B&W, $9.99 US

If you're enjoying Drawn & Quarterly's collections of the Moomin comic strip, and who in their right mind isn't?, then you might want to check out some reissues of the classic Moomin picture books that Tove Jansson did in the 1960s and 1970s. The publisher is starting up a new line of children's books called D+Q Enfant devoted to "lost classics and new soon-to-be classics" which will include the old Moomin series. Fine, give me another reason to want to have another kid before too long.

When I featured a blurb last month about our friends at Titan Books, I didn't have any news about Roy of the Rovers. Well, there's a new set of 1970s strips due in June - 208 pages of "scorching soccer action" from the period that introduced the hotheaded character Paco Diaz and took a hardline stance against hooliganism in the stands. Down the Tubes also points out that Titan's long-delayed Best of Battle is finally scheduled for next month as well. Fingers crossed!

That is all for this month. I would like to thank everybody for reading and all the nice e-mails, and also let everybody know that June's updates will be a little delayed. Look for the feature article on the 5th and the news update on the 15th. Happy reading!

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