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.
Before The Sandman made him an award-winning comic book writer and before best-selling novels like American Gods and The Graveyard Book made him a household name, Neil Gaiman wrote a 3-issue mini-series based on an obscure and strange 1970’s superhero character called Black Orchid.
Alongside long-time collaborator, the amazing artist Dave McKean, that Black Orchid series was published in 1988 under the DC Comics publishing banner. It was one of the company’s series, along with titles such as Swamp Thing and Hellblazer, which helped to usher in the Vertigo company banner, used by parent DC for more mature, complex comic book storytelling.
Gaiman reinvents the character of Black Orchid for a new time: viciously having our protagonist, Susan Linden, murdered and then reborn as a human and plant hybrid demigoddess. Yep. She gets firmly entrenched in the world of everyone’s favourite muck-encrusted monster, Swamp Thing, on her search for self-discovery, secrets and redemption. Look for Batman to make an appearance too!
Following Black Orchid, the character went on to star in her own, ongoing monthly title that lasted for 22 issues between 1993-1995. After disappearing into relative obscurity again these last seventeen years, the character will join up with Justice League Dark next month as a regular – taking a rightful place amongst DC Comics’ other supernatural characters.
The Black Orchid Deluxe Edition compiles the original Gaiman and McKean 168 page series in an oversized hardcover format for the first time, really bringing to glorious life the painted, fine art of McKean. This is one of those early comic books that paved the way for painted art to be found in a mainstream format alongside a sophisticated take on superheroes and storytelling. It’s a great way to get a feel for Gaiman’s storyteller voice before he want on to write his Sandman ideas.
Glancing over the Weather Network’s website tells me that Wednesday afternoon looks to be a mainly sunny, balmy 13 degrees Celsius. Not bad for spring in April.
And just perfect for bringing home orchids.
Every Wednesday, JP makes the after-work run to his local downtown comic book shop. Comics arrive on Wednesdays you see and JP, fearful that the latest issue will sell out, rushes out to purchase his copy. This regular, weekly column will highlight a particularly interesting release, written in short order, of course, because JP has to get his – before someone else does!