Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reprint This! 2009 Year in Review

This has been a fantastic year for getting great old properties back in print. Between IDW's line of hardcover reprints of classic newspaper comics, at least twenty essential collections of 2000 AD strips, Drawn & Quarterly bringing us the fascinating world of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's experiments in gekiga, Fantagraphics releasing everything I want yet cannot afford in big, beautiful editions and DC bringing back the hotdamned essential Bat Lash to their Showcase line, I have bought way more reprints of old comics than new ones, and I am probably not alone. But, as Graham Chapman once warned us, "this is no time for complacency!" While looking over the last three years of Reprint This! features, I myself noticed no fewer than two dozen things which were not on top of other things, or, I mean, not yet reprinted. So here's a look back at everything that Reprint This! has featured, and whether exciting announcements have been made or we're still, tragically, left crossing our fingers.

The Amazing World of DC Comics,
Ambassador Magma,
Angel and the Ape and
The Angry Planet: No news or rumors from any publishers on these features.

Armitage: Three of Armitage's earliest stories were reprinted by Rebellion in supplements bagged with Judge Dredd Megazine in 2009.

Axa: No news or rumors from any publishers on this feature.

Axel Pressbutton and
Barbarella: No news or rumors from any publishers on these features.

Black Jack: The ninth volume in a planned series of 17 is due for release in February 2010.

Black Orchid,
Cat's Eye and
Cobra: No news or rumors from any publishers on these features.

Steve Ditko: Killjoy / Odd Man: Fantagraphics has started a series reprinting 1950s Ditko work from various publishers, but there have been no announcements regarding his 1970s work for Charlton and DC.

Doctor Who Adventures: An editor for this magazine stated on the Doctor Who Forum in November that they have no plans to collect these comics.

Doonesbury: There have been no rumors about a proper, archival collection of the series, but the latest book, Tee Time in Berzerkistan, reprints a few hundred recent strips and was released in November.

Flex Mentallo and
Grimly Feendish: No news or rumors from any publishers on these features.

Herbie: Has been collected in its entirety in three hardcovers from Dark Horse.

Rian Hughes' 2000 AD work,
The Inferior Five and
Takao Saito's James Bond: No news or rumors from any publishers on these features.

Johnny Red: Volume one of this series is due in the spring from Titan.

Josie & the Pussycats: No news or rumors from Archie Comics on this feature.

Judge Dredd in the Daily Star and
Jungle Emperor: No news or rumors from any publishers on these features.

Major Eazy: Volume one of this series is expected in the summer of 2010 from Titan.

Marvelman: Marvel has obtained the rights to the 1950s series; no announcement has been made about the 1980s version written by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman.

Missionary Man,
Nero Wolfe and
The New Adventures of Hitler: No news or rumors from any publishers on these features.

Oh Wicked Wanda!,
One Big Happy,
Ponytail and
Pussycat: No news or rumors from any publishers on these features.

Rat Pack: Volume one of this series is expected in the summer of 2010 from Titan.

Robot Archie,
Sapphire & Steel and
Scream!: No news or rumors from any publishers on these features.

Shade the Changing Man: No news or rumors from DC Comics on this feature.

The Stainless Steel Rat: It's strongly rumored that Rebellion is planning a complete reprint in the summer of 2010.

Steed & Mrs. Peel: No news or rumors from any publishers on this feature.

Sugar and Spike: An episode was reprinted in Abrams' recent Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics, but DC has not announced anything more for this feature.

Super-Hip and
Third World War: No news or rumors from any publishers on these features.

Thunderbirds: Ongoing reprints of all the Gerry Anderson properties are continuing in a series of large paperbacks entitled Century 21. The third and fourth volumes are due out in 2010.

Tippy Teen and
UFO Robo Gurendaiza: No news or rumors from any publishers on these features.

Urusei Yatsura and
a restored, black-and-white V for Vendetta: No news or rumors from any publishers on these features.

Gahan Wilson: The complete reprinting of Wilson's Playboy cartoons is due very soon and, I hope, will be reviewed here next month.

The World's Greatest Superheroes: No news or rumors from DC Comics on this feature.

Zenith: No word from the publisher on this feature. Rights issues exist.

We also had a few disappointments from properties that we had hoped to see in 2009 but did not emerge. The worst offender was certainly Fantagraphics' Pogo. The publisher announced in February 2007 that they had the rights and that Jeff Smith would be designing their books. They've since announced their catalog for the first half of next year and Pogo's still nowhere to be seen.

Other publishers, however, have been pretty far behind expectations in getting the work we'd hoped to see to us. Drawn and Quarterly has pushed back the first collection of Thirteen Going on Eighteen into next year. Top Shelf's Marshal Law omnibus is almost a year late. Titan postponed the 1954-55 first volume of Roy of the Rovers indefinitely, choosing to focus on 1980s material, and still hasn't made a formal announcement about Misty.

Still, 2009 must be remembered, overall, as a terrific year for reprints. There was a lot of surprising, fun stuff on shelves this year, including Bat Lash, Bloom County, Humbug, Rip Kirby, Ro-Busters, Sam's Strip and Swallowing the Earth, and 2010 looks to be really great as well. With that in mind, here are ten books, all either formally announced or heavily rumored, that Reprint This! is looking forward to seeing in the next twelve months:

Al's Baby by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, from Rebellion
Ayako by Osamu Tezuka, from Vertical
The Bojeffries Saga by Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse, from Top Shelf
Captain Marvel and the Monster Society of Evil by CC Beck and Otto Binder, from DC
Dial H for Hero by Dave Wood and Jim Mooney, from DC
James Bond: Nightbird by Jim Lawrence and Yaroslav Horak, from Titan
King Aroo by Jack Kent, from Titan
Penny Century by Jaime Hernandez, from Fantagraphics
Secret Agent X-9 by Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond, from IDW
The Stainless Steel Rat by Kelvin Gosnell and Carlos Ezquerra, from Rebellion

I've got a couple of dollars under my mattress for each of these, so you publishers get to work now!

Happy Holidays, everybody!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Reprint This! Update on The Stainless Steel Rat

Exciting news from the good droids over at Rebellion. Amazon fishing in the UK has brought to light a listing for The Stainless Steel Rat, Kelvin Gosnell and Carlos Ezquerra's adaptation of the Harry Harrison novels. The series - 12-episode retellings of three of the books - originally appeared in the pages of 2000 AD in the early '80s.

The Amazon listings have been very accurate for 2000 AD collections over the years, and while a formal announcement has yet to be made, this sounds pretty solid. The collection should appear in July of next year.

Other 2000 AD collections in the Amazon pipeline include a second big Robo-Hunter omnibus, along with complete collections of Al's Baby and Harlem Heroes. Thumbs up to "Dash Decent" from the 2000 AD message board for the find!

The Stainless Steel Rat entry.

Reprint This! will return on the 15th for a year-in-review recap.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reprint This! Barbarella

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 several titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

One missing gem is BARBARELLA by Jean-Claude Forest. You're probably aware of the 1968 film adaptation of this sexy sci-fi comic, but the original comics have hardly ever been seen in English.

A few years back, before I started this feature, I was up in Hiawasee with my buddy, LiveJournal's sprocketship, doing a little junkin' to get over a bad breakup, and we ran across the Crazy Grandma-priced book store to beat 'em all. Sitting on a top shelf, above the $10 recirculated library hardbacks and the $50 records from the '70s kid's show Zoom was a collected edition of one of the four Barbarella adventures, priced to sit there forever at $100. I think that might have been the only copy I've ever seen, anywhere.

Barbarella is, I think, unique among film adaptations of comics in that hardly anybody in this country has ever read the original story. Everybody knows that the movie was based on some French comic book, but nobody's seen it. In America, there were two different collections of her first adventure floating around in the late sixties, one of which had a cover photo of Jane Fonda from the film, and the third adventure was serialized almost a decade later and there might have been a mail-order-type collection of it, but this is an odd example of a comic that everybody has heard of and that nobody has seen.

There were four Barbarella adventures, the first of which was loosely adapted into Roger Vadim's film version. That one apparently appeared in the French anthology V in 1962. After the movie had revived interest in the character, Forest created three more stories in 1974, 1976-77 and 1982, the last one with art by Daniel Billon. Story three, a 48-page adventure called, alternately, "The False Moon" or "The Moon Child," was translated into English and appeared in eight-page installments across six 1978 issues of Heavy Metal.

Interestingly, Barbarella's first American appearance was also as a serial. Her original story was translated in 1965 and appeared across three issues of the controversial old beat & counterculture magazine The Evergreen Review, paving the way for the magazine to commission the infamous and delightful Phoebe Zeit-Geist a couple of years later.

So is it any good? Well, I'm not completely sure. I've certainly read a few nice things about it. There are scans of some of the chapters from the original story floating around, and Pete Doree of The Bronze Age of Blogs was kind enough to post the opening installment of the third story back in the summer, from which I cropped the first three images here. Digging through old boxes full of back issues of Heavy Metal netted me a subsequent chunk of that yarn, and I'm just not sure. For something so notorious as a sex story, it's surprisingly tame. Visually, Barbarella doesn't appear to be even as racy as Oh, Wicked Wanda!, yet it's very easy on the eyes. It's drawn in a full palette of soft colors in a world full of gentle curves and a dreamlike sense of place. The skies are packed full of weird planets and exploding nebulae, and you don't get any of the harsh, ugly, industrial mechanization that I associate with most of the French comics artists of the sixties and seventies that were working in SF environments. It all looks more like a quiet little daydream than a randy funnybook.

If I understand correctly, the four Barbarella stories only come to about 200 pages in total. That's certainly doable for a single edition compiling the whole run. What I've seen certainly makes it look like a worthwhile enterprise, and if they ever get that proposed new film off the ground, it would make a wonderful tie-in. I certainly hope somebody tackles this project soon.