This time on Heroes and Villains, we’ll be looking at a variety of comics out this week and last, from a variety of genres and companies. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on Sky Masters of the Space Force: The Complete Sunday Strips in Color – 1959-1960, Merry Men #4, Volcanosaurus #1, Fence #1, Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #1, Misfit City #7, The Space Heists of Vyvy and Qwerty #1, and more… be warned, there may be spoilers…
Now available for pre-order from Amigo Comics is a much-talked-about classic from a bygone era, Sky Masters of the Space Force. From 1958 through 1961, this newspaper adventure strip cashing in on the early space years delighted readers. A collaboration of writers Dave and Dick Wood, writer/artist Jack Kirby, artist/inker Wally Wood (no relation to the previous Woods), and inker Dick Ayers, this strip about early astronauts has been called one of the best serial stories of the era and a highwater mark in Jack Kirby’s career, however, it might also have been a low point as well. Jack may well have lost his job at DC Comics (where he had worked with some of his collaborators on projects like Challengers of the Unknown and Green Arrow) because of this strip.
Did Kirby owe a percentage of the strip to his editors at DC? Maybe. Worse yet, did ideas from Challengers story meetings end up in the strip? I hope not. These are things lost to the ages, and better not thought of about folks we now think of as legends. They can only mar what is perhaps one of the greatest and possibly most unsung comic strips of its time. This volume from Amigo which collects the full color Sunday strips together is recommended, as is any of this strip. Definitely check out Sky Masters of the Space Force.
What if Robin Hood and his Merry Men were a bit merrier than we all thought? It’s a bad pun, but it’s a great comic. Robert Rodi’s Merry Men takes the ages old tale of rebellion and fighting for what’s right and gives it a bit of a twist. The intriguing idea that the Merry Men were gay and preferred the company of their brothers more than that of women is only conceptual and soon it is the characters and the story which proper this comic. I liked it quite a bit, and think it’s worth a look, check it out.
Anyone familiar with my work here at Biff Bam Pop! knows what a fan of giant monsters I am, so any such comic in that comic grabs my attention, and thus is the case of Volcanosaurus from American Mythology. One name that jumped out at me from the credits however is that of Mike Wolfer, who besides being an editor-in-chief on this comic, and having long runs on some truly amazing horror comics, also as his earliest comics work created a wonderful giant monster comic called Daikazu, which if you ever get a chance to read it, please do, awesome stuff. It may be almost a full circle to have him be in charge of this new giant monster comic. And as a bonus, a sneak preview of Eternal Thirst of Dracula, written by Wolfer, closes out this issue, great stuff!
As for Volcanosaurus, this full color giant monster movie come to life via the comic pages is a cinematic journey through the genre both of the old days and the present day. All of the elements that make a good kaiju eiga are here, in vivid color, and told with style. Quirky characters, heroic scientists, and prehistoric monsters who only come out when the park becomes volcanic – I loved this. There are homages to Jaws and Jurassic Park, but this baby, especially when it starts raining dinosaurs, is all new and original – and we haven’t even seen the head monster yet. Can’t wait for the next issue! Recommended!
Taking its cues from sports manga, a genre that may boggle the mind even exists, this series from Boom! Studios is a refreshing surprise. More soap opera or afterschool special than the more traditional comics I prefer, Fence grabbed me and won’t let go. There are no superheroes, no science fiction or horror, but there is drama and suspense, and characters I want to know better. When was the last time you hit a word you didn’t know in a comic and had to look it up? I did it several times here. Not only was I entertained, I was learning about fencing, something that had never interested me before. I’m all in on this book, recommended.
A new entry in Titan Comics’ Hard Case Crime line, Minky Woodcock follows the titular character as she uncovers a magical mystery involving the one and only Harry Houdini. Written and illustrated by acclaimed artist, author, director, and playwright Cynthia von Buhler, Minky is a period piece that has its basis in truth and is visualized with artsy film noir verve. Drawn from various pieces of evidence from the era, this is the story of Houdini’s mysterious death, was he murdered? Check out the evidence on the comic’s website right here. And check out this comic too, beautiful, artistic, and mesmerizing, it’s great stuff. I really dug this book.
I walked into this one blind, having no idea what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised. Usually I dread this kind of endeavor because most comics seem to fight vehemently against the idea that every comic is someone’s first, and there should always be some sort of intro to catch readers up. I always expect the worst when reading a new comic in progress for that reason. I shouldn’t have worried with Misfit City as it is one of that wonderful minority of comics that while it has no such intro, it does ease the readers into its world, and then pulls them in with great characters and concepts.
This issue’s story, a Halloween leftover, strikes me as a twist on the old Scooby-Doo cartoons (the good ones), my own high school days, with The Goonies, and a touch of Stranger Things thrown in for good measure. And this is only for less than one percent of the folks out there, but it’s a good thing, it reminded of Gene London back in the early seventies exploring Quigley Mansion. I dug this, and it’s one of those comics I will be seeking out previous issues and getting future ones, recommended.
VyVy & Qwerty
In the most recent episode of the Nerdfect Strangers podcast we interviewed Niall Presnall, the creator/writer of The Space Heists of Vyvy & Qwerty. He currently has a Kickstarter going to put out the second issue, and here we have the first, currently available on ComiXology. This science fiction comedy adventure tale of two thieves for hire who wander the universe until they find the one thing they can’t steal – a purpose. Right off the bat I was sold, it’s a comic with a strong but flexible concept, and a great mission statement that doubles as a brilliant tagline.
The comic itself is fun, and funny, and a lot richer than such a comic should be. Presnall and the crew have done quite a bit of worldbuilding here, and made two characters that I liked right away. As cool as the adventure, the snappy dialogue, and the buddy relationship between our leads all are, there’s a story and mystery here that also digs in. I am almost mad that I have to wait for a successful Kickstarter to find out what happens next. Recommended, Vyvy & Qwerty is a fun comic in a world where most comics are violent, gritty, and depressing, whereas this was a breath of fresh air, check it out.
There are a few other comics out this week worth taking a peek at, including past favorites of this column like the second issue of Maestros and the conclusion of Dead of Winter. There’s the 400th(?) issue of Wonder Woman, which makes me wonder if DC will also be instituting the cumulative numbering system as Marvel has done recently. There’s also the WWE Survivor Series 2017 Special, and I don’t what that is, but based on how good the regular WWE comic is, I might take a look at it. What are you reading this week?