Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Free Comic Book Day 2005

I had vague intentions of compiling a list of preferred choices of books based on Dorian's and others' suggestions, but, well, I forgot. Thankfully, my choices ended up all matching with his "Get it" ratings.

My initial plan was to go to Midtown Comics because I have an account there and wanted to pick up a few items anyway. But there was a lengthy queue outside on 40th Street when I got there and the fellow I asked about how fast the line was moving was one of those horribly embarrassed types who insisted he wasn't really there for himself, but was waiting for friends already inside. (Which is why he was standing on line to get in....) So I circled around down to Jim Hanley's Universe, which is never quite the pleasant experience it should be because every time I'm there, I have to exchange money with a clerk who refuses to make eye contact with me. The staff at JHU is universally helpful and generally friendly and I have had wonderful transactions with them at other locales. But when I'm at the store, I always seem to wind up with this cashier, who can never be bothered to stop her conversation with her co-worker long enough to pay full attention to me, dropping change or credit card receipt/pen in my general direction without pausing for breath. It's... offputting. (I was at the cashier's station in the first place because I was a good little shrew and did buy something extra on Free Comic Book Day.)

JHU had a station in the back very similar to a carnival booth where you could look, but not touch, the books on display. You got to choose four by pointing them out to the clerk, who wrapped them up for you in plastic and stapled it shut. The Shrew chose...

Superior Showcase: Joel Priddy's Onion Jack story warmed the cockles of my cranky little heart. First, because it was good-humored, clever mockery of everything that is superhero comics without the least trace of bitterness. Second, because it was funny as heck even if you didn't get the jokes about the superhero comics. Third, because the art was so... minimalist. As someone who spent the three years of required art classes in high school spatter-painting and otherwise unintentionally satirizing modern art, this pleased me inordinately. The second story, featuring J Chris Campbell's hero Apple Dumpler, was moderately amusing but was weakened by coming right after the brilliant Onion Jack. The third story, by Zack Soto, I bounced completely off of -- it was sort of Charmed meets Wizard of Oz meets D&D and it didn't appeal... or seem to make much sense.

Owly: Charming kid-friendly story, all pictures and no words and much more effective handling that conceit than most of Marvel's 'Nuff Said issues. Surprisingly intelligent and touching considering the it's about a flightless owl and his worm buddy building a birdbath. I'd have no problem (and decent pride) in handing over an Owly book to friends of mine who have produced ankle-biters; it's something parents can share with their kiddies without going brain-dead from the pap. Sort of how Disney stuff used to be before they got agendas.

Bone Sharps, Cowboys and Thunder Lizards: As someone with a science-type background, I've been meaning to give Jim Ottaviani's stuff a try for a long while; Two-Fisted Science has been on my Amazon wishlist forever. Here I got a chance and I have to say that I'm intrigued, but not completely sold. There are a lot of elements that appeal -- the period detail, the eccentric-not-quirky characters, and that what little science there was (not much) was commensurate with the time and not influenced by our CSI-affected world. The whole package didn't blow me over, but I did like it quite a bit. I strongly suspect that it's the sort of book that I'll look at a few times in the store and then end up buying. (The full book comes out in the fall.)

Adventures of Paul: Autobiographical comics tend not to appeal to me overmuch with the self-absorbed nature of the genre, but this is certainly the high end of the spectrum. Michel Rabagliati is not telling stories of a tortured youth full of angst, but instead he presents vignettes of moments that formed him with a subtler, gentler hand -- parental love, mischief, and loss are portrayed without any sort of self-consciousness or the omniscient narratorial voiceover that explains precisely why this scene is important. The result is that the story is accessible and becomes much broader than one boy growing up in 1970's Montreal.


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