UPCOMING COMICS FOR GRUMPY OLD FANS: FEBRUARY

Originally posted on the Jonah Weiland Independents Message Board, on Feb. 5, 1998

On November 4th (on the late & lamented Comics News board), I posted the first installment of a column titled "Upcoming comics for grumpy old fans." I never did get around to doing another installment until now. I decided to post it here since the majority of titles I'll be recommending are independents, at least for the months of February and April, 1998.

In this column, I will point out comics scheduled for release in the new issue of Previews which may be of interest to long-time comics fans, or those who prefer the so-called "old school" style. I also will most likely mention new comics being produced by classic, longtime creators. Had I been better informed about the current work of such longtime favorites of mine, I probably would have bought more new comics during the 1990s, instead of dropping out of the comics-buying habit. So, don't quit, fellow old-time fans! There's still some good new comics to be bought!

I've broken this column up into two sections -- comics which are scheduled to be released this month (this post); and comics scheduled for release in April (which I'll post later this week). The April releases can still be ordered from your local comics shop through Previews if you hurry!! (The deadline listed on the order form is February 14, but I know at my local shop the deadline is about a week after that.) I'll list what comics are scheduled for release in March on this board around March 1st, so I don't get too far ahead.

A list of the contents of the current Previews issue (caution, it's long!) can be found here. Check with your local shop to see if they can order comics for you in advance; if they can't, try another shop!

While you wait for the new comics to arrive at the shop, you can check the New Comics Releases page. The New Releases List on that page shows what comics will be released in shops the current week. Andrew Troth's Late Comics Report, also on that webpage, shows what comics are currently being delayed. Obviously, independent titles are among those most likely to be delayed or cancelled. Sometimes titles which are cancelled before publication are re-solicited in subsequent issues of Previews.

Coming Out this Month (February):

In my first column, I started out with Tomb Tales, so I might as well begin there, since it seems like a perfect example of a new independent comic likely to appeal to grumpy long-time fans bored by current comics. The fifth issue of this quarterly B&W comic will be released this month. It is an anthology series in the tradition of the 1950s EC horror comics, with four stories per issue. One thing I find especially appealing is that the art is in that style as well, not a trendy new style. The cover of #5 is even inked by Al Williamson. The publisher is Cryptic Entertainment, and each issue costs $3.00. A new title worth picking up regularly if you are a fan of the old style anthology horror/mystery/ghost comics which the mainstream used to produce, a long time ago!

Another retro indy comic worth checking out is Jet Comics; it is retro superhero to Tomb Tales' retro horror. Jet Comics is published by Amaze Ink (Slave Labor Graphics) and each B&W bimonthly issue costs $2.95. The comic concerns a young high-school student who is granted super-powers by a dying alien. Okay, we've all seen that done before, and the first issue (which deals with the hero's origin) for that reason was a little less than thrilling. In a way, it kind of reminds me of comics like Nova and Firestorm. Anyway, the second issue I found more entertaining because the villain Dr. Vibes confounds the reader's expectations. Instead of being the huge fearsome foe suggested by the cover, it turns out that he's a poor geek who has been bullied and rejected by other people. In #2, our hero decides upon his superhero name, Spectrum. And I liked the bit about him having to sneak out of a test in class to go into action. When the cop says to Spectrum, "This isn't a game. You have some serious questions to answer," Spectrum flies off saying "Oh man! Do I ever!" (referring to the fact that he's missing a test). Nice writing there. If you have to choose between buying #1 or #2, I'd say buy #2 (which, conveniently enough, was released yesterday).

Small-press creator Rick Newby had a letter printed in Jet Comics #2, and Rick has two comics scheduled for release this month: Tales of Wonder #5 and Monster Mayhem #1. I ordered Monster Mayhem in advance because it looks like it is a comic in the style of the old pre-Marvel Kirby monster comics. MM #1 contains three stories, with such titles as "The Bog-Brute Stalks the Swamp!" and "Rampage of the Cement-Boy!" Both Newby series are published by Pet Shop Comics, are 32 pages, B&W, and cost $2.95.

Another apparently retro comic due out this month is Captain Neutron #1, published by Maverick Pulp Comix. The description says the comic "captures the idealism of the Silver Age," but I don't think I ordered this comic. Shanda Fantasy has a few animal-comics scheduled this month, including a Giant Shanda Animal #1 (the cover resembling a 1960s DC Giant) and Valiant Varmints (which is described as "patterned after the classic Justice Society and Justice League comics"), but the Mature Readers label and the $4.95 price tag turned me away. Any one have an opinion on those comics?

For those who want to read the best old stuff in an affordable format, I highly recommend Gemstone's current EC reprints, all of which are full-color comics for only $2.50 each. One of the most exciting things is that Gemstone is now reprinting several of the less-popular EC titles, which hadn't been reprinted widely before. This month, be sure to try the second issue of Piracy, which was a pirate anthology series in the EC manner. I loved the first issue, and I'm looking forward to getting the whole run. Hopefully they'll reprint other lesser-known EC series when that run is done. Also scheduled for this month is Two-Fisted Tales #23 and Vault of Horror #23.

EC artist Al Williamson is currently involved in Dark Horse's latest Tarzan story arc, "Tarzan vs. the Moon Men," of which the penultimate installment was released yesterday. The arc, published by Dark Horse, is written by Tim Truman, penciled by Tom Yeates, inked by Williamson, and has covers by John Totleben. (The next Tarzan arc begins in April and will be drawn by Mike Grell. The first issue of that can be ordered right now from your local shop, so you'll be sure not to miss it.)

Last year, the Small Press Expo published an excellent sampler comic showcasing work from a wide variety of small-press creators. This publication, Small Press Expo '97, was offered again in the December '97 Previews (listing comics to arrive in February '98). Even though I already had a copy of it, I ordered another copy because I enjoyed so much. Now I can have an extra copy to loan out (or give away) to people curious about independents. If you happen to see that comic on the shelves this month, I highly recommend it. Heck, it is 128 pages long but only costs $2.95! So, you can't go wrong there.

Another sampler book, titled Blip (for The Book of Little Independent Publishers) is scheduled to be released this month. It is 72 pages for $1.25, and "contains thirteen four-page excerpts featuring work by some of the best talent in the independent market" (to quote Previews). When I saw that Joe Zabel would have material in the comic, I knew I'd want to get it. Steve Bissette and Dave Sim also contribute, among many others. The comic is published by Bardic Press.

I usually don't buy comics that cost over 3 bucks. But Joe Sacco's The Bosnia Stories #1 (which is 48 pages for $3.95) looks worth it. I had enjoyed several of the stories in Sacco's Yahoo (particularly issues #1 & 4) and his contributions to Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy in the late 1980s (a mag he edited), and his collaborations with Harvey Pekar in Dark Horse's occasional American Splendor one-shots, so I'm looking forward to The Bosnia Stories! The series is a nonfictional account of the war in Bosnia through various eyewitnesses that Sacco interviewed. I hope that this series will be as good as Yahoo #4, which was another Sacco biographical story of war's impact on ordinary people, and which was one of the most powerful comics I've read.

For a total change of subject matter... keep an eye out for Felix the Cat B&W #2. This new humor comic starring the famous cartoon character is published by Felix Comics and costs $1.95.

And for still another change of pace... Check out Frank Frazetta Fantasy Illustrated #1 (published by the same name as the title). This is an 80-page, full-color quarterly anthology title that costs $5.95, with art by the likes of Richard Corben, Joe Jusko, and William Stout. This sounds sure to be one nice-looking fantasy mag!

Speaking of good artists (and at last I've made a smooth segue between comics), a full-color, 96-page magazine published by Coppervale is scheduled for release this month. It is the second issue of International Studio, which will have "a spectacular gatefold" cover by Bernie Wrightson, Barry Windsor-Smith, Mike Kaluta, and Jeff Jones. There will also be a story inside by Jon J. Muth (who, by the way, begins drawing Silver Surfer for Marvel in April).

Speaking of Wrightson, a magazine called Comic Book Profiles will have Wrightson as the focus of its second issue this month. In the interview, Wrightson will explain why he went from being called Berni to Bernie (I always wondered about that), among other topics. Fred Hembeck also contributes to the issue. Looks good. Costs $2.50.

Speaking of magazines, Indy Magazine #19 is also due out this month. I've not read Indy Magazine yet, but I ordered this issue. It focuses on the independent comics scene.

The Kents is not an independent comic, but a western mini-series published by DC which may be of interest to those old-time fans who wish other genres were presented more often in comics, as they once were. Well, here's your chance to support a non-superhero comic. The 8th issue came out yesterday, and is the first to feature Tom Mandrake as the artist. I wasn't sure if I would like Mandrake's interpretation or not but skimming through it so far, I felt it looked alright. Also released this month will be DC's Chronos #2 which guest-stars The Kents!

And if you want to support another western series this month, check out Desperadoes #5. This full-color series is $2.95 and published by Image.

If I may stop to mention another DC title of possible interest to old-time fans, I must mention current issues of Wonder Woman. The current issue, #131, prominently guest-stars the Golden-Age Justice Society, as will #132, which will be released this month. The December issue, #130, guest-stars the Golden-Age Flash, and that's the story which began the arc, so you'll want to start from there. Not only that, but there is a back-up serial in these issues as well. Written & drawn by John Byrne (but who will be leaving after #136).

Some of you may recall that back in November, I recommended Reaping the Whirlwind (Aardwolf Publishing), an 100-page graphic novel by Dave Cockrum, with an introduction by Chris Claremont. B&W, and costing $9.95. It was supposed to be released last month but has been delayed, and may appear this month instead.

Speaking of delayed titles, some of the ACG (also known as Avalon Communications) and Pyramid Comics I listed in my November post have still not been released. But they definitely appear to be the kinds of comics that old-time fans like myself will enjoy and want to buy. I mentioned Pyramid before in a post below. So far it appears that their Space Giants and Triple-Threat comics have not been cancelled and hopefully will finally appear in the shops this month. This means that subsequent issues of those titles which were scheduled for February (like Triple Threat Magazine #2, for example, which is listed as containing a Ditko reprint and a Kirby reprint among other material) are likely to be pushed back accordingly. Pyramid's four "Hyper-X-Classic Comics" reprints, originally scheduled for January, are also delayed.

Pyramid's True Romance, which I'd mentioned in my November post, was "cancelled" before publication, but the first issue was resolicited in Previews' December issue and so may be released in February. It will be a full-color 32-page comic for only $1.00 and contain reprints of 1950s Kirby and Frazetta romance stories in addition to new material.

ACG has a bunch of titles listed as being delayed also and hopefully these will eventually be published, too. Comics which ACG has scheduled for February are...

Adventures of Hercules #1 (reprinting Sam Glanzman's 1960s Charlton comic), House of Yang #1 (1970s Charlton reprint), UFO #1 (reprinting Charlton science-fiction by Ditko, Aparo, & Boyette), and most interestingly to me, Barbarians #1, reprinting sword and sorcery stories by Jeff Jones, Mike Kaluta, and Wayne Howard.

Another company that reprints old comics is A List Comics. Their titles include Planet Comics, Jungle Comics, and Wings Comics, among others. I had never ordered their comics because I feared it might be the same material as stories I have in Blackthorne reprints of those titles, or feared that the reprinting would be poor and muddy with lots of gray, as I have seen in some small-press reprint comics. But when I saw a recent copy of A List's Jungle Comics at a shop, I knew I had to buy it, and began ordering their reprints when I saw them in Previews. The reprinting in the Jungle Comics issue was fine, and it looks like A List is one of the few companies out there reprinting Golden-Age comics in an affordable format ($2.95 per issue). I may post more of what I thought about that Jungle Comics issue on the Golden-Age board one of these fine days, by the way.

The A List comics scheduled for February are Pulp Fiction #4 which reprints Golden-Age comics and pulp material, and Flamingo #1 which reprints a 1952-53 comic strip.

Fantagraphics publishes a lot of worthwhile and artistic comics. One especially noteworthy comic scheduled for release this month from that company is Luba #1 by Gilbert Hernandez. This new series shows the character Beto created in his Palomar stories living in the U.S. Personally, I've greatly enjoyed some of Gilbert's work but been bored by others. His "Love & Rockets" serial circa L&R #32 was entertaining, and his early chapters of "Poison River" were powerful and moving and thought-provoking, but then subsequent chapters failed to interest me. But it's great that Gilbert has a new series out this month!

Top Shelf Volume 1 #6 is scheduled for this month. It's an 80-page indy anthology which I ordered simply because James Kolchalka has a Moon-Boy story in it. Price is $6.95.

Uncut Comics #0 comes out this month by publisher Uncut. I have no idea what this is, but it said it had nine different stories (how did they fit that in 36 pages, I wonder) for only 99 cents, so I ordered it.

Well, that's it for me on the comics I'm looking forward to this month. How about you?

Rob Imes