Category Archives: Reviews

Review: World’s Finest #244

(Story: Bob Haney, Art: Jose Luis Garcia Lopez & Murphy Anderson. DC Comics, 1977.)

Some observations on World’s Finest #244:

In what few World’s Finest comics I’ve read — which always featured Superman and Batman team-ups — Superman usually got incapacitated by Kryptonite or something.

And the only thing I know about Bob Haney — the writer of this story — is that he’s the guy who wrote that legendary “Batman digs this day” line, and apparently all his stories were nuts. Notably in this comic, Superman and Batman are always wound-up jerks.

Vinnie Barbarino as Superman. Thanks, Neal.

Page 1: “Three killings — three human snakes who deserved to die!” Apparently the reader is assumed to be on different moral ground than Batman and Superman then.

Page 2: People in this comic speak almost exclusively IN SLANG.

 

Okay, so three criminals die mysteriously. Batman offers to buy the coroner a weird stethoscope.

Say what?!

 

The underworld thinks it was rival gangs that did the killings but Superman and Batman know otherwise and have to stop a gang war, so Batman crashes a meeting of the bosses.

They have to rationalize shooting him all at once.

 

Page 7: I like the way Superman has to always lug Batman around in these comics.

 

Watching videos of the three murders, Superman is discovered to be at the scene of all of them. So he agrees to be thrown in jail in “honor custody” when word breaks out to the media about his possible involvement in the crimes. It’s hard to believe the Silver Age DC public would turn on Superman so easily, but anyway he breaks out, replacing himself with a Superman robot, and making me wonder what the point of agreeing to the honor custody was in the first place. Note that his rational is that subbing in the robot doesn’t constitute breaking his honor code which is completely morally fucked up.

Also, in the crime boss scene, Superman was able to catch all the criminals bullets without being noticed. Surely he could have subbed in the Superman robot the same way and avoided having to destroy city property?

 

What exactly is sulking super-style…?

 

A weirdo shows up at Wayne Enterprises looking to make a major alloy purchase and Superman steals his watch. At this point, I’m thinking, “Why NOT put Superman in jail?”

 

Even Batman agrees.

They follow the guy who travels through another dimension to reach… Arizona!! Important: Superman is able to recognize on sight when something “fades into another time dimension.”

It turns out this guy is from the future, which explains his miraculous death ray. He has no qualms about killing criminals, but he had to STEAL 20th century money to use back here.

But the main thing is: in the future the environment is destroyed and everyone lives under totalitarian rule. Since mankind is so miserable, Barton aka Robespierre Two, has been sent back in time to create a full size death ray to mercifully wipe out humanity before it reaches that stage.

 

He impersonated Superman in the videos so he’d get locked up and be out of his way. And he placed the big order with Bruce Wayne to keep Batman occupied. My question is: If he’s going to kill everyone on Earth anyway, why not just KILL Batman with his invisible death ray in the first place?! 

Somehow, Superman knows that by coming back in time, Barton has changed the future. Considering the amount of time travel Superman used to do in this era without consequence, I find it hard to believe he’d think that. And how does he know Barton hasn’t made the future even worse by coming back in time?

 

And when Superman and Batman defeat Barton and he returns to the future, the old Terminator question comes up: Why not just keep sending him back over and over again?

KS

P.S. This story is readable in full here: http://diversionsofthegroovykind.blogspot.com/2010/01/grooves-faves-worlds-finest-comics-244.html

Review: X-Women

(by Chris Claremont and Milo Manara. Marvel Comics, 2010.)

Okay, I have no idea where to begin writing a clever introduction to reviewing this head-case of a comic, so let’s just dispense with the beginning, middle, and end business, and I’ll lay out the review in bullet points. These are copied from the notes I made when I first read the book, so some may seem random and nonsensical, like the comic itself.

* The comic is, of course, drawn by famed Italian sex comic artist Milo Manara. It is, to the best of my limited knowledge, the first time he has done original comic art for a mainstream American comic company, or any American comic company that I know of.

* Who the hell is the audience for this book? I think regular X-Men fans prefer their X-Women with more bombastic tits and asses rather than Manara’s waifish mannequin types.  And Manara fans would want nudity and the women actually fucking people (or things). Both camps are doomed to disappointment.

What Marvel fans really want (I think)

 

* What a hilariously ironic title.

* The plot involves some X-Women losing their powers and then become slaves of some South American dictator or something, blah, blah. I don’t even really remember it, except somehow it reminded me of Mad Max 2.

* I’ve heard people say that, even if you put aside the sex, Manara is a great sequential artist. All the evidence here points to the contrary. He seems very average to poor (i.e. distracted), and once or twice I even noticed characters bounce from place to place in a room without rhyme or reason except to make sure they are posed facing the camera with the right pout.

How did Rogue get next to Storm? And what’s Storm looking at anyway?

* For my money, Paolo Serpieri is the better artist by far. But, that said, I’ve never actually made it to the end of a Serpieri comic, because I tend to get, uh, distracted by Druuna’s ass.

Manara vs Serpieri? NO CONTEST.

* Why didn’t they just get John Severin to draw this thing?

* There is at least one reference to Diff’rent Strokes (?!?!). Oh, no, wait — is this supposed to lead us to think of “stroking it,” a complex association like that reference to the yellow leaves in James Joyce’s “Araby”?

* I haven’t read an X-Men or Chris Claremont comic in a long time, and early on I had trouble following what was going on. Despite the fact that this is Claremont writing, it’s missing his good ol’ standby: “My name is Rogue. I shoot rays out of my ears and can transmute metals into fly paper” every other page. Would have been helpful, you know, of all the times to break with old habits. Throw a brother a bone, would ya, Claremont?

* In my notes, I wrote the words “Down Syndrome” on two separate occasions, not realizing I was repeating myself. So, as you can guess, the impression was frequent and in-your-face. I mean, just look at that cover.

* Manara’s goal is to make every single panel “sexy.” Manara will invent fetishes where they don’t actually exist for every conceivable human activity. Storm feeds the pigs? SEXY. Rogue does the laundry? SEXY. X-Women fall off a cliff? SEXY. Etc.

Do you have a pig feeding fetish?

* As I was reading it, my wife looked over and said, “What is THAT?”

Me: Well, it’s an X-Men comic drawn by this famous Italian sex comic artist who doesn’t normally do this kind of thing.

Wife: Yeah, I was about to say that! Haha!

Me: It’s weird. He’s always posing them in these crazy fetish poses no matter what they’re doing.

Wife: Oh, they’re just having  a bit of fun.

… And, well, that was a point I couldn’t argue with. Despite all my above complaints about the craft or intent of the thing, Manara and Claremont are just having a good time here. In fact, I would go even further and suggest that quite cleverly Manara is actually satirizing Claremont’s writing with his art (exposing the sexualized depiction of every activity that X-Women are always made to perform), and Claremont is satirizing Manara (writing mundane situations which he knows Manara will automatically sexualize). In that respect, this comic is comparable only to the Peter Bagge drawn issue of Alan Moore’s Tom Strong which achieved the same remarkable feat.

So, I can’t recommend it, but I recommend it.

KS

Click to “enlarge” — ha! Get it?

Capsule Reviews x 3: Nov 29, 2010

SMURFS

(by Peyo. Papercutz, 2010)

This comic was released to promote the upcoming graphic novel series reprinting Peyo’s classic Smurfs comics in anticipation of the upcoming live action Smurfs movie that appears to be set in New York. But whatever the intentions, this is a pretty good comic in itself.

This issue doesn’t indicate when the story — the first appearance of Gargamel — was first drawn, but I’m assuming it was late 50s or early 60s. Either way it struck me as very accomplished for the time. Peyo has a clean, economical but attractive line and a cinematic (action-to-action) style that calls to mind Albert Uderzo’s work on Asterix in its texture and zippy kinetics. I’m also a sucker for comics with lots of panels per page, and 12 to 13 is normal for Peyo. Having only been familiar with the cartoon before, I also found that the use of the word “Smurf” as a substitute for almost any part of speech was done even more indiscriminately in the comic and to much greater comedic effect.

There’s a light bit of biography on Peyo in the back which is okay, and I found interesting the fact that the Smurfs figurines spawned the show and not the other way around — something I never knew before. So this comic is both fun and educational and for only $1 you really can’t go wrong.

THE WIZARD KING

(by Wallace Wood. Self published, 1978.)

This book reminded me a lot of Jeff Smith’s Bone in that it starts out as a very quirky and charming fantasy before settling into a Tolkienesque holding pattern.

There is a wonderful kind of absurd Fantasy logic to it at the start. The story follows Odkin, a young member of a race called the Immi, on his quest to find a magic sword that can resurrect an ancient king to save the land, yada yada. Before he embarks, Odkin sleeps with all the women of the village as we are told Immi women “were extremely willing.” Other women tend to be extremely nude much of the time, this being late period Wally Wood. A wizard gives Odkin a magic pouch which produces a bottomless supply of loaves of bread, and “Resisting the temptation to head for the nearest town and start a bakery, Odkin started out.”

The writing is heavy with narrative captions, but somehow they never feel intrusive (because it’s Fantasy?), and they are well balanced by lots of dialog as well. They also allow events to transpire very quickly so that a lot of plot is developed in this relatively short book.

The art is, of course, spectacular. Nature scenes are particularly tactile, and I loved the cute character design of Odkin with his widdle sword and black eye sockets — oddly not disturbing.

The book ends to-be-continued, and I don’t know that it ever was given Wood’s untimely death. But I wonder if maybe a premature end is a good thing given that it was starting to look pretty generic already in the second half of the first book.

THE FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS LIBRARY VOLUME 3

(by Gilbert Shelton, Dave Sheridan, Paul Mavrides. Rip Off Press, 1988)

This book is kind of “post” underground, I guess you’d call it. The stories in this collection were done in the mid-70s, well after the underground collapse, but Shelton is still at the top of his game here.

I think the Freak Brothers (and Shelton along with them) tend to get dismissed as pot-smoking hippy comics but that’s far from the truth. (Although… I did buy it off a scraggly guy at the last Camberwell Fair walking around with an armload of beat up comics for sale he could barely manage and looking pretty hard up for cash…) There is sharp, intelligent, funny satire here. In the 35-page “Grass Roots” storyline, the Brothers manage to acquire a farm out in the country and find some girls to move with them but it all starts to go horribly wrong. The microcosmic democracy they establish allows for commentary on politics, feminism, and — when gold is discovered — greed and commercialism. That’s a whole lot for such a short piece, and is every bit as good as “The Idiots Abroad” which many people would consider the best Freak Brothers storyline.

Well — short but long in this collection. The shorter stories often run only couple of pages (or are 1-page gags) and can be completely nonsensical but are just as fun as the longer pieces. In either case, Shelton’s stories show more narrative and thematic coherence than you’d get from his Underground peers. I’m not sure if that’s a result of the era or his experience here.

As for the art, depending on who is inking him (the credits are never very clear), for my money Gilbert Shelton is every bit the draftsman that Crumb is. At times the art reminded me of Roy Crane on Wash Tubbs. And Shelton dazzles you with his backgrounds, which is something you don’t usually get from Crumb.

Also, note: I believe there is some kind of new Freak Brothers omnibus that just came out, so that shows you how behind the times I am with these things.

“Review”: Suicide Squad #15

Hello, Loyal Crime Fans!

No time to write a review for you this week as I have been busy lettering the next WCT story (finally a longer one again — 14 pages).

However, I was *going* to review SUICIDE SQUAD #15. I have no idea how I ended up owning this thing, but I picked it up off my pile and figured why not try to review it. Now, I’ve never read a SUICIDE SQUAD comic in my life before, but I have heard that it’s about a team of reformed super-villains. That’s all I came into this with.

… So, I read about 5 pages of this unintelligible nonsense and then gave up. I’m baffled that anyone at a major publishing house looked at this and thought it was: a) entertaining, b) worth publishing, c) marketable, d) a comic book.

Enlargable scans attached below for those of you who wish to recreate the experience.

REVIEW: Memories (“Kanojo no Omoide”)

Otomo Katsuhiro, Kodansha 1990.

OK, well, even most of my 16 readers out there will not be reading this book since it’s in Japanese, but I have to include a review of it here because it’s goddamn awesome.

This is a collection of playful, sometimes “zany” Science Fiction short stories in the classic mold of Asimov, Ellison, Clarke, and their peers during their 60s heyday, although all the stories here date from the late 70s or early 80s. They tend to end with punch lines or twists reminiscent of Twilight Zone episodes. In fact the second story, “FLOWER” (1979), apparently about space garbage collectors, is practically a rip-off of 2001 in tone and some imagery.

In terms of art, Otomo states in his endnotes that this was the period in which he was first introduced to the work of Moebius and the French master became a dominating influence, notably with the first story here “Flower” (reproduced in full below).

But at the same time, there is lots of signature Otomo here too, particularly in a few stories about disenfranchised fringe dwellers in the future who steal old Rock records. There is also some political satire in a three-part parable about the Planet Tako (“octopus”) vs the Planet Ika (“squid”) as the anthropomorphised octopus and squid creatures go to war, develop monarchies, and eventually turn into republics. I had doubts about these stories more than any others. The messages just weren’t very original, and the art didn’t make it especially unique enough to elevate them. There is also a series of parodies of classic stories (Knights of The Round Table, The Old Man and the Sea, Aladdin’s Lamp, Noah’s Ark) which are funny and expertly drawn.

Speaking of the art, a few stories show Otomo’s early experiments with color, mixing up his palette, even just using spot coloring, plus using something called video colorring in “FAREWELL TO WEAPONS” (1981). Again, I don’t know if it all worked, but I was glad to be able to see him try some things out.

If anything, the collection spotlights Otomo’s versatility during this period beyond what we’re used to seeing in Akira, which is what he is best known for in the West. Somebody really ought to license the English language rights to this book.

KS

Below: Check out those colors! (All scans from “FAREWELL TO WEAPONS.”)

Below: As promised, “FLOWER.”

UPDATE Nov 21, 2010: I just discovered that the stories “Memories” and “Farewell to Weapons” in this collection were printed in single issues by Marvel / Epic in the 80s. Also, the entire collection WAS released in English in the UK at some stage as well. So, there you go — go get it!

KS

Review: Kampung Boy

Kampung Boy

(by Lat. First Second Books, 2006.)

Say, how much do you know about growing up Muslim in rural Malaysia in the 1950s? What’s that? Nothing? Almost nothing? Then why the hell don’t you own this already!!

Lat a.k.a. Mohammed Nor Khalid’s renowned autobiographical “graphic novel” (originally published in 1979) is probably not really a comic at all. It’s more like an illustrated book: there are no word balloons, but there are illustrations of various sizes with accompanying text. I’m not going to dismiss this, Prince Valiant, or various Kyle Baker projects for that reason, but it might be a turn off for you.

It shouldn’t be. Lat has a scratchy art style (I once heard he influenced Larry Gonick) that is reminiscent of… I don’t know… William Steig? But it is very precise and evocative in its draftsmanship.

Having spent flashes of time in rural villages in my own youth, I’m a sucker for village stories, and Lat’s coming-of-age tales feel completely honest and welcoming. Though not much happens story-wise, just seeing a different kind of life, however “mundane,” of Lat playing with other boys, swimming and fishing is riveting. The uniqueness (to me) of his school life and religious ceremonies are almost a substitute for “incident.”

Not that the book lacks incident from time to time, like when Lat trespasses at a tin mine, or the simultaneously alarming and fascinating circumcision sequence.

But there is no “background” per se. You don’t get any inkling of what’s happening in Malaysia politically etc., because Lat the kid is too busy living in his own universe — his kampung (village). He’s not the precocious urbanite that Marjane Satrapi is. But then, that’s its own universe as well. There’s room for plenty of them, and I’m grateful that the industry has evolved into something which can support these kinds of projects.

Review: True Facts

True Facts: comics’ righteous anger, a pocket guide to self-publishing your own comic books

by Larry Young. AiT/Planet Lar, 2002.

“Pocket Guide” is right. This book is a slim 120 pages, with plenty of white space on the already pocket-sized pages. Much like No Guts No Glory which I reviewed a while back, it is a reprint of an internet column. Unlike that book, which was too physically big, this one is almost too small. Most columns are only one or two pages, but each chapter gets a full page announcing its number; and there is an introduction by Matt Fraction; so it could have been even shorter. Some, but not all of the columns come with additional commentary from Young a few years after the columns were originally written.

Not that this is all bad. The first several chapters are excellent and tell you succinctly what you need to do to get your book published and out there. The first four “chapters” cover creation, printing, distribution, and promotion. It’s about as straight-forward as you can get, but that actually makes it encouraging. At this point Young apparently had planned to stop, but then kept on going with the subject of promotion in subsequent chapters: writing press releases, getting noticed, focusing promotion on retailers, etc. One thing I quite liked was that Young spends some time writing about the fact that many of us find self-promotion distasteful and how to deal with that.

But then it starts to lose focus — straying from the path and occasionally back onto it — and I’m not sure what some of the columns have to do with self-publishing at all. There is some discussion about the state of the industry, the state of internet discussion about comics, how back issues are bought by the pound at Comix Experience, etc. Some of these later columns may have been “on topic” but Young’s writing is less sharp here and it takes him much longer to get to the point — not good in a 2-3 page column. There were two columns devoted to telling Marvel they need to focus their brand identity and that they don’t have a clear view of who their customers are which I didn’t agree with. You don’t tell Penguin Books or Random House to only publish vampire books — for the sake of the industry, a juggernaut like Marvel should be diversifying if anything. (In fact, I wonder if the fact that Young published this very book through his own company doesn’t somehow violate his own rules by going “off brand.”) Anyway, look — now I’m off topic too!

Okay, so the book starts good, and ends bad. What’s the problem? Well, it forgets that it is a book and not the internet. Rather than just farting all of his columns out into a book without changing anything, Young should have used all the info he’d written in the columns and re-editted the thing into a book from scratch. Put everything in order — put all the marketing stuff together, rather than scattered everywhere — and cut out anything that is irrelevant to the book’s purpose. If you’re trying to make a point about the sentimental value of comics with that “buy-by-the-pound” anecdote then come out and say it, and use it in the intro or something. And give the chapters goddamn titles so you can actually find stuff when you need it. This would all make the book much shorter — yes — but it would also turn it into a lean, mean publishing resource

KS

Capsule Reviews: 3-D Madness!!

As a kid I used to love ye olde red-blue 3D stuff. To let you know how much, I even used to collect 3D Dukes of Hazzard comics out of Honey Combs cereal boxes, and as some of you may know, I fucking hate Dukes of Hazzard. That said, the only 3D movie I’ve ever seen was a short at Disney World pre-Captain Eo. I’ve never seen any of the new fangled ones there’s been such a spate of recently.

Anyway, a while back I happened to end up buying one or two 3D comics close together and suddenly decided: “Hey, I’m gonna start collecting these!” Makes no sense, I know, and after buying one or two more, I realized that myself. Not only is it a stupid idea to begin with, I wear reading glasses, so there’s no comfortable way of reading these things, especially considering they tend to come stapled with kid-sized 3D glasses even if they have adult content!

So, please note that all these reviews begin with the assumption that 3D is a crappy gimick distraction.

Zombie 3-D

(by various. The 3-D Zone, 1992)

First off, great cover by the legendary Robert Williams.

This is the only “underground” 3D comic that I know of. Getting Ray Zone to convert your comic into 3D must be a process beyond the financial means of most underground cartoonists, so I’d love to know what the story was behind this.

Like all good undergrounds, this comic features a mix of stories and pin-ups, and one pre-Code Golden Age reprint (“The Obi Makes Jumbee”), all mostly zombie-themed, plus S. Clay Wilson’s “Rotting Zombie Madonna“ on the inside back cover. The pinups and one 2-pager are by “XNO.” Who is this guy, I have no idea, but I think I’ve seen him credited in Weirdo as well. The longest piece is by “The Pizz” who I’ve never seen before, but is a pretty good cartoonist.

I don’t have much to say about any of the stories here, but that’s a good thing. In general, the 3D effect combined with having to wear the glasses is so distracting, it’s hard to stay focused on any story in a 3D comic. But here the underground aesthetic proves a good match for 3D since there is less concern with “narrative” and more on image-making and / or psychedelic visuals.

A very short read, but a neat book.

The Pizz in 3-D!

Mr. Monster’s Triple Threat 3-D

(by various. The 3-D Zone, 1993)

And this book takes it to an even further extreme.

Michael T. Gilbert writes in his introduction: “I decided to design a book consisting of classic splash pages, covers and pin-ups. Why? Because I love looking at 3-D comics without lots of tiny word balloons and captions!”

Indeed, there are pin-ups by lots of great artists in here, but it just doesn’t add up to anything — and I think the 3-D, while neat, actually distracts from the linework of people like Dave Stevens. (You see, story or art — 3D just can’t win!)

There is one sustained, wordless, 4-page story (another reprint) at the end that works quite well, and it made me wish Gilbert had done something else like it exclusively for this collection. Rather than just the 2-page framing sequence he’s added in.

Also note: a sure sign that this book came out in 1993 — a foil-embossed cover.

Alan Moore in 3D!

The 3-D Zone (No. 5) Presents Krazy Kat

(by George Herriman of course. The 3-D Zone, 1987)

This comic opens with a reprinting of e.e. cummings’s 1946 essay on Krazy Kat which is a nice treat.

The comic itself is a compilation of Sunday pages (except for the center spread), and I thought the 3D effect worked well for Krazy Kat. Like the undergrounds, Coconino ever-morphing dreamlike in the background is enhanced by the extra dimension, and Herriman’s dialog is still so demanding that you can’t help but still be sucked into the Krazy-Pup-Ignatz triangle no matter what the wacky 3D effects are doing.

I would say this comic is a decent supplement if you already have some Krazy in 2D, but it’s obviously not a substitute.

Krazy in 3D!

Clive Barker’s Seduth

(Story by Clive Barker & Chris Monfette, art by Gabriel Rodriguez, color by Jay Fotos. IDW, 2009)

Unlike the other comics I’ve reviewed here, this one is in color, and generally the colors look better with the glasses off. (They also have not 3Ded any of the lettering, so you actually can read all the text without the glasses.) That said, the 3D effects (still by Ray Zone, naturally) are better here than in the other books (20+ years of technology later). They seem to have gone for some more subtle effects in the layering and succeeded. This is also the only comic reviewed that actually came with adult-sized glasses.

I am a big Clive Barker fan and this is the first comic he’s written in many years. How much of the work was shared with Monfette, I don’t know, but there is lots of signature Barker here: painful bodily mutilation, sex with the grotesque, grotesque birth, mutilation to achieve transcendence, “hell” dimensions, and metaphysics compounding to the point of unintelligibility. Barker’s notes at the end (handwritten and mostly illegible) describe it as: “A Completely Nihilistic Story” so you should know for yourself whether or not this is something you want to read. Really, it’s probably too much for a 20-page comic.

As with Coconino County, the 3D is most effective when used to depict that psychotropic, hellish alien landscape. But the rest of the time, I found it annoying having to flip the glasses off every page to appreciate the colors

—————————————————————————————————-

And now I’m going to go take two aspirin and have a nap.

Review: Wayne Boring

ACTION COMICS #561 & #572

(DC Comics, 1984 & 1985. By various.)

I bought these two issues because they apparently contain the last two Silver Age Superman stories ever drawn by Wayne Boring.

Whoa! Wait a second — Wayne Boring was still drawing Superman stories in 1985?!?

Actually, I shouldn’t say “still.” Boring’s work here is advertised on the cover as a “return.” At the same time the direct market version of the UPC box says: “The New DC. There’s no stopping us now.” No, nothing except bringing Wayne Boring back to draw some Superman stories.

The very idea of 40s and 50s Superman artist Wayne Boring drawing Superman comics in 1984 is like saving your MP3s on a data cassette unit. His style is somehow inherently old fashioned — he’s like the Dave Berg of Superman artists. Something about the stiff, awkwardness of it, and the pre-70s-Mister-Universe musculature. Wayne Boring drew an iconic and — for a period — definitive Superman, sure (due in no small part, I’d bet, to having worked on the newspaper strip). His barrel-chested Man of Steel is one that seems right at home on a rusting 1963 Superman lunchbox that you find in a vintage shop. Price: $265.00. (The all-time great Superman artist is of course Curt Swan, but writing about him is a job for better writers than me.) But judging from Boring’s sequentials, he doesn’t seem like the ideal Superman artist since he apparently struggled to draw a man flying. One of his idiosyncrasies was his way of drawing Superman flying through a window. It looks like he just turned the paper on the side and drew Superman flying up.

And as discussed in a recent interview with Tom DeHaven on Comics Reporter, DeHaven said:

“[W]hen I went back to look at his stories again, I kept on thinking, “What is going on here?” Then I realized that nobody looks at each other. They’re all looking off in different directions… and I thought, “What a strange situation.” In the scenes when Superman is flying through the air, he looks like he’s jogging. [laughter] There are some very strange things when you abstract out the panels from the stories. So yeah, I was surprised by Wayne Boring. Although I still have a lot of affection for him. I thought he was a really good draftsman. As a storyteller, there was a lot to be desired.”

Jogging

Mannequins

Indeed, when Boring’s characters have conversations it looks he used mannequins as reference and didn’t quite pose them right. And he had that semi-frequent habit giving a weird Dutch tilt to many of his panels. We identify Boring with these things because it seems like he drew them the same way so many times! I mean how many times did Boring draw that same shot of Clark pulling his shirt off? Or the flying-feet-first-at-an-angle shot?

1955

1959

1959

feet first, 1954

As for his figures, I mentioned the barrel-chested Superman before, but looking at it now, his trunk just seems way too big on his garden-gnome-sized legs. And more than any other artist, Boring’s Clark and Superman were virtually indistinguishable, especially the way he drew Kal-El’s unhumanly massive chin.

By the 1960s, Boring was working on Superman only occasionally, and was finally fired in 1967, leading to his hilarious caricature of Superman uber-editor Mort Weisinger.

Click Me!

Technically speaking, Boring’s contemporary Al Plastino was a better artist. If you were sleepy you might mistake Plastino’s art for Boring’s, but closer inspection reveals that Plastino had a less bludgeoning style and more versatility. It’s possible that Plastino was aping Boring deliberately to some extent (Plastino was after all the guy tapped by the syndicate to replace Charles Schulz on Peanuts!!). But Plastino’s figures are friendlier and have a wider range of expressions.

Al Plastino

And yet it’s probably Plastino’s lack of affectation that makes him the less remembered, less merchandised artist. And for me the less appealing artist. So why do I — unironically — love Boring’s art? Well, there is the lunchbox thing — his art is nostalgic, to be sure. And then there is the soulful gaze to the lower corner which no other artist seemed to give Superman, but Boring whipped out, like, 70 times. Look, comic artists on a monthly schedule need to take shortcuts, I know — but it is the very quirkiness of his art that I find appealing.

1960

1960, same story

1960, same story again!

1959

Speaking of nostalgia, the other story in issue #561 (is two stories in one Superman issue in itself also old fashioned?) is illustrated by Kurt Schaffenberger. Schaffenberger is one of my all-time favourite comic book artists for his run on Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane (a massive influence on Weird Crime Theater), and an artist that Mulele loathes. Like Boring, Schaffenberger too may have had a somewhat repetitive style (same poses, same angles, same zoom), but it’s just too smooth and pretty to be ignored. Schaffenberger didn’t disappear from DC like Boring did — he went on to Shazam! (he’d already worked on Captain Marvel at Fawcett) and Superboy — but his work too seems out of place on Superman. His figures are just too damn cuddly. While a cuddly Captain Marvel and Superboy are fine, and a cuddly Superman occasionally showing up as a guest in Lois Lane is fine too, a cuddly Superman in a sustained narrative is as discombobulating as if it had been drawn by Junko Mizuno.

Meanwhile back in 1984, Boring is up to all his old tricks as you can see from the scans below. To be fair though, it is totally conceivable that Boring wanted to do something different, but editor Julie Schwartz was, like, “Hey, do those poses like you used to do in the old days!” Then again, maybe Schwartz hired him for the job knowing exactly what he was going to get. At any rate, Boring is inked here by Dave Hunt who slightly takes the edge off Boring’s wonky figure work, but the devil is in the layouts where Boring’s id is not to be denied.

Feet First, 1984

Costume Change, 1984

Soulful Gaze, 1985

This story makes no sense and Boring isn’t helping. Look at the scans below. 1) If you are like me and you read your comics ten minutes before bed, you might misread the title and assume from the art that Superman is splitting into his past, present, and future selves, especially looking at the grammatically fucked up panel 5. But actually there are only two of them — past and future. 2) Further confusing things, Future-Superman is able split into two, but worse: apparently his Kent identity is somehow not as “bulky” as Future-Superman. 3) Past-Superman has no knowledge of the present, while Future-Superman… who knows what the hell’s going on here.

But by 1985 in Action #572, Boring is a little less boring (ho ho hee hee), and his story in this issue is actually pretty fine. Boring is inked by Dave Hunt again here, and the story involves shape shifters on the moon who’ve all taken on the form of Clark Kent, but there is a kind of internal logic to the weirdness that makes it pretty coherent actually.

… But. Boring did actually do one further Superman story: the retelling of the origin of the Golden Age Superman in Secret Origins #1 in 1986. Boring’s old-fashionedness is a logical fit for a retelling of the first Superman story, and inked by Jerry Ordway, Boring’s art incredibly takes on a kind of depth and glamour you would never have expected.

costume change, 1986

Soulful Gaze, 1986

Jog on, Superman. Jog on.

KS