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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Comics Legend Sal Buscema

The Prehistory of The Far Side - A Suspended Animation Review From 2004

God bless garage sales and the sister-in-law who buys books for me, especially comic strip anthologies of The Far Side.

I mean, c'mon, what's not to love about a single panel cartoon of insects facing a movie screen. The title of the movie is "Return of the Killer Windshield". Then there's the moose sitting with a can of beer in front of a TV. With a telephone cupped in one hoof, his wife says "It's the call of the wild".

Who can forget Tarzan's expression as he swings with his legs crossed from his tree-house to his tree-outhouse.

There are hundreds of these simple doodles in The Prehistory of The Far Side, many in color. There are other wonderful delights as well.

What's to not love about an art style that makes you think that you could draw Larson's stuff. Beautiful simplicity. Looks like its drawn on a cocktail napkin by someone not completely sober. And yet it works.

There's a delightful section about Far Side cartoons that were un-comprehensible. I knew I wasn't the only one who didn't understand them.

There is a revealing section on how Larson developed some of his off-the-wall ideas. I felt normal after reading it, and not many people think of me as normal. There is a wonderful collection of cartoons that got Larson in trouble, and a sampling of Larson's favorite Far Side panels.

In short, this anthology is not only a terrific collection of one of the best comic strips ever produced, it is a tour inside Gary Larson's mind. Scary, but good scary. Fun scary. No, no, no. Great scary.

This stuff is so good that you'll almost like your sister-in-law.

The Prehistory of The Far Side: A 10th Anniversary Exhibit by Gary Larson/published at $12.95 in 1989, 288 pgs, trade paperback from Andrews and McMeel/available at garage sales and on-line auctions.

This anthology is highly recommended, even if you have to buy it retail.

Review by Michael Vance

Pistolwhip: The Yellow Menace - A Suspended Animation Review from 2004

My mama told me that if I couldn't say a Kindt word (sorry, I couldn't resist) about someone, I should say nothing at all. But since I do have to write this column...

Pistolwhip is about an actor in the late '40s or early '50s (it is hard to tell) who becomes the superhero he pre-tends to be on the radio, a man who wants to censor comic books, and a gumshoe detective called "Pistolwhip". Throw in a couple of hot babes. They are all entangled in mystery and a super villain named "The Yellow Menace". Sounds like a fun premise, doesn't it?

Add to the plot several special sections imitating old comic books, pulp magazines, and advertising, and this graphic novel is bound to be a winner.


Matt Kindt's art is doodle.

That isn't an insult. It is an art style. But if you don't like the art on, say, Peanuts, the comic strip, you won't like the doodles on Pistolwhip: The Yellow Menace. Sure, the techniques of visual storytelling are fine, but style means personal taste, and some readers will find Kindt's work less than palatable. Why?

Pistolwhip is film noir on paper without the gritty, shadow-drenched atmosphere that is film noir.

Noir (sorry again) is the writing all that suspenseful, the plot that twisted and devious, or the ending surprising.

Sorry mom.

Pistolwhip: The Yellow Menace /134 pgs. & #14.95 from Top Shelf /written by Jason Hall, drawn by Matt Kindt/sold in comics shops and at

Review by Michael Vance

Para #1 - A Suspended Animation Review From 2004

Spoiler warning!! The following review will reveal that Para #1 is an excellent comic book. If you don't want to know that a comic book is excellent before you buy it, don't read this review.

Since her father's death, a young woman searches for the reason a disaster inside a super-collider killed him. After two decades, her father's friend allows her and a research team into the abandoned facility. What they find launches a new title from Penny-Farthing Press that promises to be one of the best published in 2004.

Your only disappointment, like mine, may be that mutants with super-powers will be discovered deep within that super-collider.

Nevertheless, if you are uninterested in intriguing plot and characterization, crisp dialog, and flawless storytelling, then this new title is not for you. And if you are uninterested in distinctive and internally consistent art, excellent coloring, and flawless visual storytelling, then ignore Para at your comic book shop.

Para is highly recommended.

Para #1/$2.95 & 32pgs. Words: Stuart Moore; Art: Pablo Villalobos. Sold at and in comics shops.

Review by Michael Vance