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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Hieroglyph - From 2000

Will Vance or won't Vance (that big hotshot reviewer) recommend Hieroglyph, the new SF comic book miniseries from Dark Horse Comics? The writing is on the wall.

Hieroglyph is written and drawn by Richard Delgado. There are so few cartoonists in comics that are equally talented as writers and artists that they can be counted on one hand. A recommendation on that wall is looking shaky.

Hieroglyph is neither a superhero comic nor based on a successful movie or television series. The SF genre has rarely sold well without "tie-in" marketing. That recommendation? Looking blurry.

Ricardo Delgado is not a super-star among comics fans. His fame will not boost sales, and the writing on the wall is looking nasty.

The final mark against this title should be that it is a "mime comic". It is no secret that this reviewer detests mime comics that attempt to tell stories with little or no dialog or text. These books depend completely on art and take thirty seconds to "read"; they are an expensive pleasure. Then why is Vance reluctantly recommending Hieroglyph?

It is not for its plot: Earthman lands on alien planet and sees strange beings and things and experiences odd events that neither he nor the reader understands. Without a big climactic revelation to the admittedly intriguing questions raised by these first two issues, readers will be soooo angry.

It is reluctantly recommended for its incredibly imaginative and distinctive art. Heavily influenced by European artists, Delgado's minimalistic style is perfect for bizarre life forms that look like what squeezes out of a trash compactor after it is stuffed with shellfish and insects.

That art also benefits from a sense of vast space, immense architecture that is both futuristic and anachronistic, and perfect visual storytelling.

Will this promising Mime Comic become the exception to Vance's rule?

If so, it won't be because of the writing on Delgado's wall.

Review by Michael Vance

Hieroglyph #s 1 & 2 (of 4)/24 pgs. & $2.95 each.

Hero Sandwich: Hold the Mayo - From 2000

Hero Sandwich #2, a comedy/adventure comic, kicks off with a story featuring Nutz, an intergalactic bounty hunter, and his robotic companion, Boltz. The two are hired by the talent agent Ishba Theordans to rescue one of his clients from a group of terrorists. As it happens, Ishba hired the terrorists to kidnap his client in the first place, as part of a scheme to smear the terrorists names (I can't quite figure that one) and make himself money from the publicity.

Following is a story that introduced the Drunc & Disorderly Band. The story opens with Drunc (leader of the band) and the guys being kicked out of a bar for being, well, disorderly. They are then captured by the evil warlord Anton Lafoot, who is in desperate need of musicians ("I must have my battle music"). They escape Lafoot by tricking him into attacking the hideout of a powerful mob boss. Afterwards, the guys crash-land on a planet, are captured by cannibals with high-tech weaponry, and are rescued by Nutz in a gratuitous crossover in issue three.

The art of Hero Sandwich is quite rough, but there are some very original character designs in this comic. One that stands out is Anton Lafoot; an alien whose anatomy is simply a head on a foot! Since this is largely a comedic effort by creators Nelson Danielson, Tyrone Deise, and Boudewyn, such a character works.

What the book is short on is storyline. Sure, a lot of things happen, but hardly with any point. We get no background on any of the main characters. who, except for Drunc, all appear to be aliens. Additionally, there is little to no motivation for the characters' actions. Overall, the book is a semi-fun read, but seems to have too much form and scarcely any substance.

A reader's best bet for buying Hero Sandwich would be to go to

Review by Mark Allen

Hero Sandwich: Hold the Mayo #2,3, Published by Boudewyn Illustration, 24 pages, $2.74.

Comics Legend Jeff MacNelly - From 2000

No, no, no, no, tell me it isn't true.

Another comics legend has died.

Jeff MacNelly was editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune newspaper, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize three times, and creator of the popular comic strip Shoe. He died of lymphoma June 8 at the age of 52.

MacNelly first won the Pulitzer in 1972 at the age of 25 while at the Richmond News Leader in Virginia. He won again in 1978 and 1985.

In 1977, MacNelly drew on his newspaper experiences and created Shoe, a comic strip about an erasable newspaper editor who also happened to be a bird. P. Martin Shoemaker was the cigar-totting chief of the Treetops Tattler newspaper.

The biting but simple satire of the strip and its perfect visual timing and distinctive art made Shoe stand out on the comics pages of hundreds of newspapers. His well defined but molting cast of characters was a favorite of newspaper writers and editors who saw themselves under the feathers of Shoe.

MacNelly also illustrated humorist Dave Berry's syndicated column for newspapers.

Shoe was collected in a number of volumes. These included: From Couch Potato to Mouse Potato, Shoe Goes to Wrigley Field, The Greatest Shoe on Earth, New Shoes, On With The Shoe, One Shoe Fits All, The Other Shoe, Out to Lunch: A Brand New Shoe, Shake the Hand - Bite the Taco, A Shoe for All Seasons, The Shoe Must Go On, Too Old for Summer Camp and Too Young to Retire: A New Shoe Book, and The Very First Shoe Book.

MacNelly also illustrated several books by Dave Barry. These included: Dave Berry Talks Back, Homes and Other Black Holes, and The World According to Dave Barry.

Both the editorial and comic strip work of Jeff MacNelly is highly recommended.

Review By Michael Vance

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

Funky Winkerbean: Could Be A Book Deal Here - From 2000

Dear NBM Publishers,

I wouldn't have been surprised to see Andy or Barney walk down the big front steps of Westview High as I read your comic strip anthology of Funky Winkerbean. That isn't because it's an imitation of TV's The Andy Griffith Show, but because both share a subtle small town feeling and a philosophy of quiet order and gentle humor based on human dignity. I like that.

I also like the sudden intrusion of hurt and tragedy made even more poignant by its irony and rarity. If it is true that Mr. Moors, the English teacher at Westview, reflects the even keel of his town, it is also true that he suffers its earned and unearned bruises.

He and the cast of Funky also read like real, complicated people, both talented and mundane, foolish and wise, beautiful and faulted. I really like that.

But I didn't like everything.

On the heels of my high praise, the idea of a radio talk show (Rush Limbaugh) making someone blow up the post office (the federal building in Oklahoma City) is worse than ridiculous. Rush has never advocated anything more violent than voting. And if the media were that powerful and people that malleable we'd all be as gentle and harmless as the folks in Funky just by reading the comic strip. Human beings are more complicated than that.

In addition, Funky's justification for his friends living together because it's the '90s' is just silliness. Pretending to be married doesn't guarantee happiness any more than pretending to be Michael Jordan guarantees one can hit a basketball hoop from half-court.

Although we are worlds apart politically and philosophically, I enjoyed the 127 pages of Funky Winkerbean: Could Be A Book Deal Here, and agree that Tom Batiuk is among the best cartoonists around. It is no surprise that Tom is as wise and foolish as his characters, or that this collection is worth every penny of its $9.95, and more!

Review by Michael Vance

Comics Legend Don Martin - From 2000

"Skwako," and another great master cartoonist is gone.

Don Martin, Mad Magazine's "maddest" artist, was born in Patterson, New Jersey in 1931. He initially sold humorous cartoons to magazines including Galaxy, and art for the covers of jazz record albums. His first national success came in 1956 when Al Feldstein, editor of Mad, made Martin's work an integral part of the counter-culture of the 1960s.

For more than thirty years, Martin would create a horde of idiot misfits with multiple chins, feet hinged at the toes, and ape-like arms who stumbled through life on the hard end of the slapstick.

His work was also known for its own unique vocabulary of sound effects. It was a rare page in which “Yarg”, "Shklip”, “Flot” or some wild, oddball and generally disgusting noise did not accompany someone being flattened, buzz-sawed or somehow mangled.

Regrettably, in 1987, Martin left Mad over a dispute over the rights to his manic work. He continued his whacked humor in Cracked, an early imitation of Mad that had found its own style with time.

Despite his outlandish and influential art, Martin was personally shy and suffered from a degenerative eye disease for much of his life. He died this year at age 68.

Among Martin's thirteen paper and trade paperback collections and comic books were: Mad's Maddest Artist Don Martin Bounces Back, Don Martin's Droll Book (Dark Horse Comics), Mad's Don Martin Forges Ahead, Mad's Don Martin Drops 13 Stories, Mad's Don Martin Steps Out, The Mad Adventures of Capt. Klutz, Mad's Don Martin Carries On, and Completely Mad Don Martin (1974).

His work also included extensive contributions to Mad and Cracked, and his own Don Martin Magazine.

Martin's brilliant and unique work is highly recommended for all ages.

Review by Michael Vance

Some older comics 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.

Trouble Magnet - From 2000

Published by DC Comics, this four issue miniseries runs 22 pages at $2.50 each.

Unfortunately, there is very little SF published in comics today that is worth the paper it's printed on. That's why DC's recently released Trouble Magnet by Ryder Windham and Kilian Plunkett, is a breath of fresh air.

Whitlock is a member of a group called the Trouble Shooters, a science research team and group of adventurers. He is also a robot, and has a very serious problem; his memory bank (stored apart from him) has developed an identity of its own, along with a decidedly nasty habit of causing mayhem. The story deals with Whitlock's attempt to stop his memory bank, regain his memories, and deal with the physical and emotional damage done to those around him as a result of its running amok.

This book corners the market on imagination, and an honest attempt to do nothing more than entertain the reader. And it succeeds. There are no lags or "dry spots" in the story; the reader is not bored with too much dialogue. At the same time, there is no danger of overdosing on action, as it is all relevant and well-positioned in the storyline. The book is well-balanced, and a joy to read from start to finish.

Creative talents include Ryder Windham, writer, and artist Kilian Plunkett. As I have already praised Windham's handling of the story, I will move on to Plunkett’s artwork, which is amazing in its own right.

Plunkett is wonderfully adept at "tech” art (robots, weaponry, space- ships, etc), and also has a superior grasp of human form and expression comparable to the likes of Kevin Maguire and Arthur Adams. On fact, Adams fans should check Plunkett out; it almost seems as if one of them is influencing the other.) There is never doubt about what one of his characters is feeling; you just have to look at their faces.

From every angle, Trouble Magnet is a great investment in entertainment.

Mark Allen