Posts Tagged ‘Midnight Nation

11
Aug
10

Classic EBI #60: All the Beautiful Comic Books

This week in Everything But Imaginary, it’s back to school time. You know how I’m dealing. But how are some of our favorite students in comic book land holding up?

Everything But Imaginary #362: Back to School

And in the Classic EBI, we’re going back to April of 200

EVERYTHING BUT IMAGINARY 4/28/04

All the beautiful comic books

Think fast: What’s the most beautiful piece of music you’ve ever heard? I’ll bet you came up with something, didn’t you? How about the most beautiful painting? Sculpture? What about a movie, name a beautiful movie. I’ll bet most of us can come up with serenely beautiful examples of every art form we appreciate.

So why no talk about beautiful comic books?

They happen, after all. They happen, in fact, more frequently than many of us recognize. They don’t get recognized as much, though, because comic books have a reputation of being about action and combat. Even non-superhero comic books often have a focus on adventure, and while adventure can make for a wonderful, thrilling tale, it rarely makes for a very beautiful tale. Now I don’t mean beautiful in a visual sense, in a “Greg Land Sojourn cover” sense, I mean beautiful in a way that makes you stop, and smile, and maybe even let a tear squeeze out.

Last week, I read one of the most beautiful comic books I’ve ever read, and it prompted me to sit down and write this column. I’ll talk about that later, but before I get there, I want to remind you guys about a few other beautiful comic books that are out there. (And I will be spoiling these, so be prepared for it.)

Astro City #1/2, “The Nearness of You,” has to go down as one of the most singularly beautiful comic books I’ve ever read. This tale, crafted by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson, concerns a man named Michael Tenicek whose dreams are haunted by the memory of a lost love that he never knew. After several attempts to find out who this woman is, a woman he knows he has never met but can’t forget, he is visited by the mystical Hanged Man, who weaves him a tale of a villain who nearly destroyed the universe by tampering with the timestream. The heroes of that world, in a story that would have been a 12-issue crossover epic under any other writer, defeated the villain and restored the timestream, but the restoration was imperfect. The woman Michael remembers is his wife, and because of the time-travel escapades, her grandparents never met, and she never existed. The Hanged Man cannot restore her to life, but he can take Michael’s memory of her away, if he wants. Michael refuses, though, and as the Hanged Man leaves to make the same offer to others who lost something in the timestorm, he asks him what other people choose. Do they wish to forget?

The Hanged Man turns, a slight curl of a smile on the burlap bag over his head. “No one forgets, Michael Tenncek,” he says. “No one.”

Yeah, I cried when I read this story. Astro City #1/2 was reprinted in the Confessions trade paperback. Find it. Read it. Love it.

Next up is our requisite classic comic and our requisite Disney comic, “Only a Poor Old Man” by Carl Barks, originally presented waaaaay back in Uncle Scrooge #1, but as is the case with Disney comics, it has been reprinted frequently. This classic story by Scrooge’s creator seems fairly common enough. The notorious Beagle Boys are trying to steal Scrooge’s three cubic acres of money, so the richest duck in the world recruits his nephews to help him protect it by taking the cash out of his bin and dumping it into a remote lake. With his money submerged, though, Scrooge is denied the one great pleasure he allows himself, to dive in the cash, burrow through it like a gopher, and throw it into the air and let it hit him on the head. Against his better judgment, he dredges up enough cash to make an island in the lake where he can play in his fortune. The sight of the money island alerts the Beagle Boys to Scrooge’s plan, though, and the rest of the comic is a series of adventures with the beagles trying to steal the cash and the ducks trying to save it.

In and of itself, it’s a fairly run of the mill Scrooge story (of course with Carl Barks, even run of the mill stories were exponentially better than most of his imitators). When you get down to it, though, down into the meat of the story, you realize that the comic isn’t really about Scrooge or about the money or about greed or anything else people would like to ascribe to the character to tear him down. It’s a story about finding that one thing you love, the one thing that means something to you, and being ready to fight for it. Scrooge’s true love was his daily swim, and he was willing to risk everything for it. There’s something unbelievably sweet and innocent about that. Something that that stays with you.

Moving on, J. Michael Stracyznski and Gary Frank told one of the best horror stories ever to make it into comics with their Midnight Nation series, but in the final issue, they told one of the most beautiful as well. The story, for those of you who haven’t read the comic (and if you didn’t, you are wrong), concerns LAPD Detective David Gray, a man whose soul is somehow stolen and he falls into a strange world that exists between the cracks of his own. With the help of his guide, a woman named Laurel, he must walk from Los Angeles to New York and reclaim his soul within one year or be transformed into one of The Men, savage creatures in the employ of a dark enemy. In the last issue, David discovers he has been misled from the beginning. He can never go back to a regular life. His soul is his for the taking, but he will become one of The Men in the process. He will be in his enemy’s power, but he will be alive. Or he can give his soul to Laurel who has none of her own, and take her place in the horrible, bleak world between the cracks.

David does not hesitate. He gives her his soul and she is freed, and we know that in their year on the road together he came to love her more, even, than himself. In an epilogue sequence some years later we see David trying to get by in this new world, ignored by the “real” world, interacting only with those in-between. Then he sees her — a young girl with Laurel’s face. He says her name and for a second — just for a second — she acknowledges him.

And he knows it was worth it.

Finally, we come to the comic book that grabbed my attention and sparked this little conversation, a comic that, not coincidentally, is my…

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: April 21, 2004

Actually, all four issues of this miniseries were beautiful, but the final issue of Kurt Busiek (he’s good at these beautiful comics, isn’t he?) and Stuart Immonen’s Superman: Secret Identity, is the most beautiful of all. The story is of a young man in a world like our own, where Superman is a fictional character known all over the world. Born to parents in Kansas named “Kent,” they have the unfortunate sense of humor to name him “Clark.” This new Clark Kent hates the Superman jokes… until the night he wakes up with all his powers as well. This final issue wraps up Clark’s life story and explains where his powers came from, but that’s not the important thing. It’s a story of a husband, a father, a man who sees his life’s work mean something, who sees his family become something, who sees a world made better by his presence. No supervillains, little action. This is a quiet tale, a powerful tale, a happy tale.

A beautiful tale.

There have been good Superman stories. There have even been great Superman stories. But this is the most beautiful Superman story ever told.

And that’s something we don’t get enough of.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

16
Aug
09

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 132: Spotlight on J. Michael Straczynksi

Creator spotlight week brings us to the works of J. Michael Straczynski! The guys discuss the early TV work on cartoons like Masters of the Universe and The Real Ghostbusters, his career-making turn on Babylon 5, and his journey through comics beginning with Rising Stars and Midnight Nation, through Spider-Man and Thor, and his current place reimagining the Red Circle. In the picks this week, Blake choose Justice Society of America #29, Chase brings us Dark Wolverine #76 (plus a retro pick!), and Mike goes with Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1. This week’s graphic novel pick: Hulk Visionaries: Peter David Volume 6. Contact us with comments, suggestions, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com!

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 132: Spotlight on J. Michael Straczynski
Inside This Episode:

PLUS! Christmas in August? Disney’s got a new version of A Christmas Carol coming out in a few months, and a nationwide tour is bringing the movie to America via the rail. This week, Blake and his sister Heather checked out the train’s New Orleans stop. Take a listen as they share their thoughts on the tour, whether it’s worth your time, and what they think of the upcoming movie.

Week in Geek #29: A Christmas Carol Train Tour




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