Category Archives: neil gaiman
Before Harry Potter There Was Timothy Hunter And The Books Of Magic On The Wednesday Run – January 30, 2013
A bespeckled and awkward twelve year-old boy (with parental issues no less) discovers that he’s possibly the world’s most powerful practitioner of magic. Oh! And he has an owl for a pet.
Sound remotely familiar?
For all intensive purposes, it shouldn’t. You see, it’s January 1990 – seven years before the publication of the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – and the first issue of the four-issue mini series, The Books of Magic, is being published by Vertigo Comics. And its black-haired, skateboarding, main protagonist, the kid that would be eclipsed the world over by the fictional lightning-shaped scarred forehead of Harry, is named Timothy Hunter.
It’s not like this is revisionist history. No, The Books of Magic was an absolutely beautiful series – and proved to be an enormous missed opportunity for Vertigo/DC Comics and their parent company, Warner Brothers.
Despite the recent chill across much of the northeast of this continent, spring is still upon us. There’s landscaping to be done in the backyard and those colourful impatiens are now showing through. Warmer weather, I’m sure, is just around the corner.
So is the local comic book shop.
And that’s where we should all find our green thumb today – as we hit up something exotic. Something, oh, I don’t know, in the form of the beautiful and delicate orchid?
A black orchid, to be precise.
Get Winter Term Essay Writing Help From Annotated Notes And The Sandman On The Wednesday Run – January 4, 2012
The groundbreaking, award winning, much loved The Sandman series from Vertigo Comics ended quite some time ago. Over fifteen years ago, actually. But that fact hasn’t gotten in the way of Vertigo Comics (an offshoot of DC Comics) publishing ancillary, off-shoot material this past decade and a half. The Sandman was an immensely popular series when its seventy-five issues were first circulated from 1989 through to 1996, pushing the boundaries – and some might even say creating them – of what a comic book could be.
And DC quickly realized that there’s money to be made in them ‘thar new boundaries!
Since the series debuted, the company has released a plethora of trade paperback collections, hardcover collections and reprints of the series; numerous Absolute (oversized hardcover) editions – my personal favourite – and various periodicals, all starring obscure characters from the original stories in order to cash in on The Sandman zeitgeist. Truth be said, most of that stuff was pretty well put together, too.
Neil Gaiman, the man who conceived and wrote The Sandman for the entirety of its monthly run, moved on to other challenges – namely becoming a world-renowned, best selling novelist. Maybe you’ve read Stardust, American Gods or The Graveyard Book? Well, The Sandman is where it all started.
Halloween is over, alas.
That means that as of 12:00:01 AM, November 1st, stores have already stocked their shelves with upcoming “holiday” goods. Actually, I’m hearing stories from shoppers that the seasonal winter stuff was readily available right after the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday in early October. It all sounds a little too neurotic for me. The world needs to take a collective chill pill.
That said, the comic book industry is no different than what goes on at your local retail mall.
Throughout November and early December, all the big gift-giving sort of books get published – and make no mistake, this week starts it all off! There’s lots of stuff available, all at different price points. If you’re looking for a quick read, I’d suggest Uncanny X-Men #1, a new, monthly series from Marvel Comics featuring the always amazing artwork of Carlos Pacheco. It’s only a few bucks. If you want to sit down with something for a while, pick up the deluxe hardcover collection of Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy’s Joe the Barbarian mini series. It’s a bit steeper at $30 for 224 pages, but it’s well worth your money and, more importantly, your time. Stunning stuff.
Or, if you’re like me, you’ll go to the top of snowy Mount Everest:
I’ve read lots of Batman comics over the years, everything from The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns to A Death In The Family, Knightfall, All-Star Batman and Robin, The Long Halloween, and Dark Victory. I’ve read material that I haven’t enjoyed one bit, such as Hush Returns and Batman and Son. I’ve missed out on lots of stuff too, like the No Man’s Land and the recent R.I.P. storyline that culminated in the “death” of Bruce Wayne (though we all know he’s coming back next year).
Writer Grant Morrison has been the architect behind the last few years of Batman storylines and I have a love/hate relationship with Morrison. Sometimes I really enjoy his storylines (his first New X-Men arc was quite good and Arkham Asylum is a muddled classic). Other times he just drives me crazy (anything he does that involves “years in the future” I just find absolutely convoluted and confusing). I haven’t read much of his Batman material but what I have has left me pretty cold and uninterested, which is why I was so pleasantly surprised to read a contemporary Batman story that I did enjoy. Mind you, it wasn’t written by Morrison. Instead, the author of Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader ?is Neil Gaiman, who seems to do no wrong when he writes comic books.
I won’t give to many details on the story of Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?, which was originally published in two issues of Batman and Detective Comics last year and was recently compiled into a deluxe edition (along with a few other Gaiman-penned Batman tales from throughout the years). While it does tie in slightly with Batman’s death from Morrison’s stories, WHTTCC can be read as a standalone story. That’s all I’ll say on the details on the tale, though.
What I am happy to report is that for me is the story is a lot of fun and doesn’t rely on the recent past to enjoy it (which is great since I haven’t read much). If you’re a Neil Gaiman fan, either from his work in comics or his novels, his surreal touch is in full effect with WHTTCC. It’s full of weird character moments from Batman’s supporting cast, like Catwoman, who recounts her relationship with Batman over the years, and Alfred, who tells a great story about how he helped inspired Master Bruce over the years. There’s also so beautiful artwork courtesy of Andy Kubert, who pays homage to various Batman artists throughout the years.
I was totally surprised that I enjoyed Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?. I didn’t have high hopes because of what I’d read over the last few years. Gaiman’s short two issue tale was a wonderful reminder that, even with the baggage of years and expectations, Batman is still a great character who can still generate compelling storytelling.
You just need to have the right storyteller.
The Sandman is on of those comic book series that even on-comic lovers have at least heard about, even if they haven’t picked up an issue. I remember when I finally got sucked into the Neil Gaiman created world – it happened when I attended my first Hobby Star Fan Expo roughly ten years ago. It was an amazing experience; row upon row of comic books and trade paperbacks, many of them offered at reduced prices. I wound up buying the entire run of The Sandman in trade paperback format that weekend and finally discovered what so many people had been talking about for years. Over the past three Christmas’, I’ve had my collection upgraded to the Absolute Sandman collections, all of which currently sit on my shelf waiting to be cracked open (and joined by Absolute Death to any inlaws contemplating what to get me for the holidays this years, nudge nudge, wink wink).
Why the trip down memory lane? Well, as it turns out yesterday I picked up a trade paperback featuring characters that first appeared in Sandman so many years ago. The Dead Boy Detectives is a mini-series that was originally published in 2001 and features two young boys, Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine, who first appeared in The Sandman storyline “Seasons Of Mist”. Charles and Edwin are dead boarding school students who elected to not follow Death to the afterlife and instead become detectives. Their mini-series, which was collected just last year, finds the duo investigating the deaths of various homeless children while also learning about their own abilities as ghosts.
It took me a few minutes to recall the characters (its been awhile), but I quickly did and enjoyed the mini-series immensely. Of course, it helps that the story was written by Ed Brubaker, the writer of the excellent Gotham Central and The Death Of Captain America (the success of which likely got DC of their butts to republish The Dead Boy Detectives). Though taking place in contemporary London, the tone of Brubaker’s story, feels like a fairy tale but with what I can only call as a British Hardy Boys tone (though slightly gayer). We get to know Charles and Edwin and are given a quick summary of their backstory, even though the story doesn’t lack anything even if you don’t know the character’s backgrounds.
Along with a great story that moves briskly throughout four issues, the artwork if Bryan Talbot and Steve Leialoha is solid work and once again adds to the whole contemporary fairy tale vibe that I keep equating with the story. It all fits in nicely with the Sandman mythology that Neil Gaiman created all those years ago. Even though Gaiman didn’t contribute to this story, I’d guess he was quite pleased with the reappearance of The Dead Boy Detectives.
If you read and loved Sandman, you’ll probably enjoy revisiting two of the characters in their own unique story. Charles and Edwin are strong enough to carry their own mini-series, and I was actually left eager to read more of their adventures (of which there is a second graphic novel from 2005 that may be worth tracking down). Even if you haven’t read the Sandman, but dig a bit of humour with your ghost stories (a la Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Supernatural), The Dead Boy Detectives is an entertaining read and worth your time.
Do you remember those early Saturday mornings as a child when you would hurriedly thrown open the front door of the house, grab the just-delivered-newspaper and quickly rummage through the various sections just so you could pull out the comics?
I miss those days – the excitement, the cold glass of milk that accompanied my reading and the black ink on my fingertips.
Well, this summer DC Comics is bringing my childhood (and yours) back. Not on Saturdays, mind you – on Wednesdays.
Wednesday Comics, a 12-part weekly series, is the brainchild of DC Editor Mark Chiarello. He was able to convince the comic book publishing company to simply take a leap and create something entirely different in the industry – a series that would showcase a plethora of characters, both popular and obscure, all the while evoking the comics we read in newspapers as children. Assembling a top notch team of talent around him, writers and artists known for pushing the boundaries of the medium, Wednesday Comics, named after the day of the week that all new comic books arrive in stores, is one of the most talked about and eagerly anticipated series of the year – let alone the summer.
Yesterday, Wednesday, July 8, the first issue arrived in comic book shops everywhere and the series does everything it can to make you reminisce your childhood love of the genre.
The first thing you’ll notice is the tangible quality of the paper it’s printed on: newsprint! Beautiful! When the series was first announced earlier this year and teasing images of artwork began popping up on the internet, I know that I started to get a sense of this being a slick-looking project. Not so much. Although the coloring of the artwork on some of the titles does suffer on the cheaper newsprint, the images still pop off the page thanks to the inherent talent of the artists involved. Newsprint was the way to go. The conceit of the project was to bring back that old nostalgia and that’s exactly what newsprint does. I know a smile came across my face when I saw the first issue on the shelf.
The comic, folded in half while sitting on the comic book store shelf, opens up gatefold-like to reveal its true size – that of a real newspaper! Yes – everything is larger here, both words and images, just like those comics I read as a kid. It really is beautiful to behold and I’m instantly taken back in time. Each of the 15 different titles within Wednesday Comics gets its own full page spread in order to tell a story that will continue in subsequent issues.
In regards to those titles, there’s a lot to glow over.
Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso work the idea of impending doom perfectly in their Batman feature while Strange Adventures by underground auteur, Paul Pope, has a great sci-fi pulp sensibility to it. Kyle Baker’s artwork on Hawkman is incredible to behold while Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook make Kamandi feel like something from the 1930’s. It’s beautiful.
Even acclaimed comics creator and award winning novelist Neil Gaiman is in on the game, writing Metamopho the Element Man as if it’s still the late sixties: damsels are in distress, weird treasure is to be sought and the names and head shots of the various characters line the bottom of the page so that all readers know the cast.
There are some missteps as well. Even with the larger format, Wonder Woman by Ben Caldwell seems too dense to read but, strangely, this adds to the allure of the project. Even as a child, there were always characters I’d skip over, strips I’d read first or save until last.
This is no different. This is fun reading.
Initially, I didn’t think I’d be interested in a Demon and Catwoman crossover – but boy! I can’t wait until next week! And to once again see Jose Luis Garcia Lopez’s artwork (on The Metal Men) is a treat.
There’s something for everyone in Wednesday Comics, whether it’s action, mystery, science fiction or pulp weirdness. My childhood enthusiasm over newspaper-serialized comics is here again! All that’s missing is that cold glass of milk – easily within arms reach- and that ink on my fingertips.
Done and done.