Friday, July 10, 2009

Reprint This! Update on Humbug

This week, I finally finished Fantagraphics' quite amazing reconstruction of Humbug, the short-lived (1957-58) humor magazine that several members of the Original Gang of Idiots tried to finance themselves in the wake of Trump's cancellation. Reprints of this material, which ranges from everything from comics to one-act screenplays, has been hard to come by for decades, and fans of the creators, who include Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Jack Davis, Arnold Roth, Al Jaffee and others, have been looking forward to a collection like this for simply ages.

Fantagraphics' team of designers spent months reconstructing the original eleven issues of Humbug. Very little of the original artwork was available, meaning that in many cases they had to start with scans of the magazines themselves. These were less than ideal: in order to keep costs low, Humbug was printed on the cheapest, most awful paper available. But all this work was worth it, because the finished product is jawdropping. The package includes a pair of lengthy articles about the restoration, along with a mammoth interview with Jaffee and Roth. Collected as a pair of hardcover books in a slipcase, this is going to really require anybody hoping to knock this off the mountain of "best reprints of the year" to bring one heck of a product to the table.

As for the contents, yes, some of it's dated. I mean, these are fifty year-old satires, and many of its targets have faded into obscurity. A letters page stink after Humbug turned both barrels on Arkansas governor Orval Faubus had me scratching my head until I looked him up. Well, good for Humbug! Otherwise, provided you can recall the days of Sputnik-panic, Humbug's comedy remains pretty timely. Action movies rely on exactly the same cliches that they did a half-century ago, and Consumer Reports is still as anal-retentive as it was back then. You may not bust a lung laughing every tenth page, but it's pretty good for cover-to-cover chuckles, and all of the artwork is terrific.

Read more of what I've written about the publisher at A Journal of Zarjaz Things.

Read other reviews of this book:

Mark Evanier at News from ME
Christopher Hermitage at Blog to Comm
Rick Klaw at San Antonio Current
Rod Lott at Bookgasm
Chris Mautner at Comic Book Resources

In other news from the last month, well, there's not a lot about. Seems like most publishers will be waiting until the San Diego Comic-Con to make announcements this summer, but here's another thing or two that I've spotted. Actually, one thing that will be formally announced at San Diego is Viz's new "Shonen Sunday" imprint, the home of their forthcoming quarterly collections of Rumiko Takahashi's Rin-Ne and several other titles.

Marvel has solicited a mammoth new hardback volume of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' celebrated Criminal. This 400-page book will reprint the first three paperback trades in one collection, and retails for $50. I haven't found the time to try it myself, but Criminal comes strongly recommended by several friends, and I do like Phillips' artwork a lot. This hardback will cost only $8 more than the three books bought individually. Hmmm. I should borrow the first of those trades and see about making the investment!

Speaking of DC, while the first of the publisher's "Skinny Showcases," highlighting Bat Lash, was released this week, it looks like they've changed plans for the mini-line a little. Word has it that the planned volume for the Creeper has been cancelled in favor of a hardback edition, scheduled for later in the year, which will reprint all of Steve Ditko's work on the character, in color.

A couple of days ago, IDW released advance word that they'll be tackling a mammoth archiving of Archie material from the 1940s and 50s, spotlighting early work by Bob Montana, Stan Goldberg and Dan DeCarlo. I was kind of curious why the Archie publishers don't just do this themselves, but they're kind of built around one sort of reprint, and not the archival stuff that IDW has been perfecting for the last couple of years. Go ahead and sign me up for the DeCarlo books, IDW. No word, incidentally, on whether spinoff material like Josie and the Pussycats is part of the deal.

Last month, Titan made my day by announcing that Johnny Red is getting the first of what we hope will be a series of hardcover collections. This month, they've solicited the sixth in their series of Charley's War volumes, featuring another thirty or so never-before-reprinted episodes by Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun. It should arrive in September. Also, they surprised me by jumping on the "long-running American comic strip" bandwagon and announcing a Wizard of Id series, also for September. That was one of those strips we used to get in Atlanta years ago and was later dropped, so I concede some nostalgic curiosity. Oh, that little king. He's so tyrannical!

Lastly this time, Rebellion have quietly pushed back the ninth Nikolai Dante collection, "Amerika," from September to November, so that they can include the forthcoming "Lulu's War" storyline from the prog. The story will start in September's prog 1650 and run for about six weeks, and then be reprinted along with the last four Dante stories.

That's all for this month! See you in August!

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