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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm

(A Suspended Animation "classic" from 1998.)


Grimm, indeed.

Those whining about violence in Disney's homogenized, pasteurized and animated versions of folk tales will shudder at the original German stories gathered by Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm. First published in 1812, they reek of intended cannibalism, stabbing, hangings, strangulation and poisoning. And that's just in "Little Snow White"!

These will be silly shudders, of course.

This collection of Grimm tales adapts "Little Snow White", "The Shoemaker & The Elves" and "The Three Sluggards".

The first is universally known; the second story of elves stitching shoes for a poor cobbler and his wife is almost as recognizable. The third story of three sons vying for their father's crown by bragging about their laziness is a rare tidbit, and only one page of Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.

These adaptations remain true to the originals; each is a morality play for adults and children.

The personalities of the Grimm Brothers' characters were and are wonderfully full and brief, and did much to stereotype our current images of princes, princesses, kings and witches. And, wisely, most of their violence is distanced in the telling.

Packaged like a children's book, this collection uses the visual techniques of comic books, including panels and dialog balloons. Its art is richly detailed, stylized and entertaining. It's a shame many adults will shun it, as they will, thinking that reading about violence will turn angels into demons.

Put the silly shudders aside. Men are susceptible to temptation, not programmed like computers. Simply reading bad things doesn't make us bad, or reading good things make us angels.

Recommended.

Review by Michael Vance

Fairy Tales of The Brothers Grimm/48 pgs., $15.95, NBM/ adapted by Doug Wheeler; art by David Wenzel/available in comics and book shops and by mail.

Megaton Man vs. Forbidden Frankenstein #1

(A Suspended Animation "classic" from 1998.)


"So, this is X-Ray Boy," thinks the Pentagon's secret agent, "and he's wearing the X-Ray Specs I've been sent to retrieve for the Pentagon! But, how to get him to surrender them willingly?!"

No answer comes from Cowboy Gorilla, Yarn Man or Gower Goose! That great slab of lumpy oatmeal, Megaton Man, is too busy pushing their microbus to care! None suspect the intrusion of Forbidden Frankenstein!

Okay, Don Simpson suspects, but he wrote and drew Megaton Man vs Forbidden Frankenstein, a subtle, nutty, satire of Stan Lee's 1960's Marvel superheroes. In truth, pilgrim, Iris are the overused boldtype, exclamations points and footnotes that are trademarks (TM) of '60s Marvel comics*!

This comic is a marvel of exaggerated exaggeration offered with the dead-pan expression of silent film comedian, Buster Keaton. It's also wonderfully written epic melodrama using Lee's bloated and self-conscious dialog (so bad and so sincere that it was good).

And, beyond all else, it is drawn with the same love that transforms a homely woman into a goddess in the eyes of her lover. If Simpson didn't love epic superhero art with all of its blemishes and shortcuts, his visual satire would simply be bitter and nasty criticism.

Moreover, Simpson's talent as a writer and artist even transcends its subject. If a true artist brings a unique viewpoint to his work, Simpson must have three eyes.

Simpson is unique.

Although this wacky and brilliant satire of Marvel superheroes requires an extensive understanding of Stan Lee's work in the '60s, it's highly recommended!!

Megaton Man vs. Forbidden Frankenstein #1/$2.95, 32 pgs. from Fiasco Comics/writer and artist, Don Simpson/available in comics shops and by mail.

(*See Bizarre Heroes #7-- Dandy Don.)

Comics Legend Al Williamson

(A Suspended Animation "classic" from 1998.)


He began his career as a teenager imitating the artistic style of Alex Raymond's comic strip masterpiece, Flash Gordon. He established his name working with legendary artists like Frank Frazetta and Roy Krenkel on the famous EC science fiction and horror titles of the 1950s. Al continues as one of the most respected artists in the history of comic books and strips.

But Al Williamson accepts praise with a twinkle in his eye, revealing a modesty that young artists would be wise to emulate.

All art is abstracted; even a camera lens distorts reality. Williamson prefers a realistic approach to art founded on accurate lighting, perspective, human and animal anatomy and pose spiced with the wild creative energy of fantasy. When working within his first love, sf and fantasy, his worlds are populated with tiny dinosaurs, huge mushrooms, ancient alien cities and spacecraft.

His comic strip work on Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Rip Kirby, Big Ben Bolt, Dan Flagg, Secret Agent Corrigan and Star Wars is legendary. Some of these titles have been collected into volumes.

His extensive career includes (but does not exhaust) work for ACG (Adventures Into The Unknown, Forbidden Worlds), Atlas/Timely/Marvel (Adventures into Mystery, Annie Oakley, Astonishing, Star Wars), Charlton (Cheyenne Kid, Wild Rill Hickock & Jingles), DC (Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone), Gilberton, Harvey and many more.

Williamson's most famous work was published in selected (and expensive) issues of Crime SuspenStories, Incredible Science Fiction, The Vault of Horror; Tales from the Crypt and other EC comics. These have been reprinted several times in more affordable versions.

The Art of Al Williamson by James Van Hise is an exceptional collection of this master cartoonist's work through 1983. Among the most affordable and accessible of his works are two issues of Flash Gordon (Marvel Select, 1995).

Williamson's work is highly recommended.

Some other titles are expensive and difficult to locate. Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals are best sources. Prices vary; shop around.

Michael Vance