Archive for May, 2009

The Collected Doug Wright, Canada’s Master Cartoonist — 1949-1962

May 25, 2009 | Trades

It seems like well over 50 per cent of the life of any parent of young kids is spent either apologizing for their antics or cleaning up the resulting debris. Oh, and yelling (in spite of your best intentions and everything modern parenting gurus everywhere preach). Pouring over the timeless, wordless comic strip gags in The Collected Doug Wright, Canada’s Master Cartoonist — 1949-1962 (Drawn & Quarterly $39.95, 242 pages) certainly hammers these truths home and highlights a few more. Wright’s classic comic strip, Nipper, which began appearing weekly in 1949 in the Montreal Standard Magazine and later evolved into the much-beloved Doug Wright’s Family in the Star Weekly/Canadian Magazine, depicts the ongoing mischievous adventures of a young boy determined to explore every aspect of chaos in his house, yard, neighbourhood, etc. at the price of his parents’ wits. It also does a masterful job of highlighting the glee with which kids humble, hurt and humiliate their parents with great regularity. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Nipper’s initial success is the fact that Wright’s knack for capturing the precociousness of kids came before he had any of his own (the first of his three sons was born in 1953, adding even more realism and depth to the strip in subsequent years). This first volume of a two-book set, assembled by award-winning Canadian illustrator and designer Seth, featuring an insightful and comprehensive biography by journalist Brad MacKay and an introduction by Lynn Johnston, creator of For Better of For Worse, is a breathtaking tribute to Wright’s sizable artistic skills. Included are some of Wright’s earliest drawings from his childhood in England to those from his first job — doing illustrations on staff newsletters for Electrolux — and work from the position that brought the artist to Canada as staff illustrator for Sun Life Insurance in Montreal in 1938. Several of Wright’s cartoons for the RCAF service magazine, completed under the pseudonym “Ozzie,” and examples of his take on the rural-themed Juniper Junction, which he took over in 1948 from the late Jimmy Frise and continued for another two decades, show the artist’s diversity. But it is Nipper, the character that captured the zeitgeist of the late-40s baby boom, that gets most of the attention in this book. From tipping an ashtray into his sleeping dad’s mouth to roaring around the house dragging the cat in a shopping bag to countless adventures that leave him covered head to toe in mud, the endearing little hellion almost always gets the last laugh in a wonderful collection of strips that truly stand the test of time. (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

Funny Misshapen Body

May 25, 2009 | Graphic novels

Jeffrey Brown’s willingness to lay himself bare in his autobiographical graphic novels has endeared him greatly to his many readers over the past decade. From emotional depictions of how he lost his virginity (Clumsy) to his first love (Unlikely) to becoming a dad (Little Things), Brown has captured the often mundane moments that make up many of our lives and made them compelling through deep introspection and a delightful self-deprecating wit. In Funny Misshapen Body (Touchstone, $21, 320 pages), Brown uses his crude-but-effective art style to deliver the same mish-mash of storytelling as Little Things, reflecting on a wide range of subjects from getting into and attending art school to working in a wooden shoe factory, his early fumblings with alcohol and drugs and having the epiphany that comics don’t have to contain super-heroes. Perhaps the most interesting chapter surrounds Brown’s diagnosis and battle with Crohn’s disease, a no-holds-barred account of hospital visits, hurried trips to the toilet and, eventually, intestinal surgery. (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

DMZ Vol. 6: Blood in the Game

May 25, 2009 | Trades

Matty Roth thought war was hell — until he covered his first election. Since the first day the young journalist was dropped into the DMZ — otherwise known as New York City — in the midst of the second American civil war, he has witnessed the horrors of war and the bloody sacrifices of far too many. However, it’s not until the two warring factions finally attempt to form a provisional government in the city that Roth sees the real extremes people will go to to win. DMZ Vol. 6: Blood in the Game (Vertigo, $14.99, 144 pages) follows Roth’s first foray into the seedy world of politics as he covers a charismatic independent candidate’s bid for office — a campaign that Roth finds himself quickly sucked into as one of the most well-known faces of the city to the outside world. Complicating matters is the appearance of the last person Roth ever thought he’d see set foot in the DMZ: His mother. Writer Brian Wood and artist Riccardo Burchelli use this constantly engaging and chillingly plausible series to reflect the chaotic political circumstances in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and the constant pitfalls that befall intruders to such complex situations.

Apes and Babes, The Art of Frank Cho Book 1

May 18, 2009 | Comics

Apes and Babes, The Art of Frank Cho Book 1 Frank Cho Image Comics $29.99 US (Hardcover) **** (out of five) Apes and babes and super-heroes, oh my! Frank Cho’s transition from successful comic strip artist to full-fledged comic book superstar is cemented with one quick flip through Apes and Babes, The Art of Frank Cho Book 1. Cho’s sense of dynamic action, talent as a painter and appreciation for the human form — especially the female one — is all on display in page after page featuring many popular characters from Marvel Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics and more. Also featured is a modest section of pencils and finished art from Cho’s much-loved (and missed) strip series, Liberty Meadows. About the only thing missing from this lavish hardcover is any commentary from the artist. It would be interesting to read about some of Cho's methods, motivations and mediums. Of course with art this beautiful, it can often speak for itself.

Bomb Queen Vol. 5: Bombastic

May 11, 2009 | Trades

Bomb Queen Vol. 5: Bombastic Jimmie Robinson Image Comics $16.99 US (Paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) The citizens of New Port City love Bomb Queen because she rules with just one rule: Don’t piss her off. The city, left by the U.S. government to the not-so-tender mercies of the vicious super-villain, attracts the worst of the worst people - those who want to truly revel in lawlessness and chaos. So when NPC starts running into hard times — overpopulation, food and supply shortages — it really shouldn’t come as a big surprise that folks are ready to take to the streets, pitchforks and torches in hand. The chaos on the home front forces BQ to find out why things have gone so far off the rails, leading her to the placid neighbouring town of Littleville — a place, guarded by a hero called the White Knight, that is protecting a dark secret, one that ties back to the Queen’s origin and threatens to leave Littleville as little more than a smoking crater. Clever creator Jimmie Robinson continues pushing the boundaries of capes-and-tights comics with yet another Bomb Queen book filled with gratuitous nudity, spectacular vulgarity and, perhaps, a new low (or high if you like) — concentration camp jokes.

Wolverine: Inside the World of the Living Weapon

May 11, 2009 | Trades

Wolverine: Inside the World of the Living Weapon Matthew K. Manning Dorling Kindersley $27.99/$24.99 US (Hardcover) **** (out of five) Are you ready for more Wolverine facts than you can pop a claw at? Just in time for the blockbuster film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine to dominate theatres, comes Wolverine: Inside the World of the Living Weapon, the definitive resource on the most famous Canadian in comics. This book contains 200 pages packed with facts and trivia surrounding the comic-book version of the mighty Marvel mutant (nothing on the film or cartoon versions here) on subjects ranging from his (extremely complex) origin, his powers (including those snikty-snikt claws of his), his costumes, teams, partners, enemies, love interests and scores of key issues. Jammed with images by some of the top comic artists of the last 35 years, this book is a treasure for any true fan of the ol' Canucklehead.

Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come Part Three

May 11, 2009 | Trades

Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come Part Three Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, Dale Eaglesham, Fernando Pasarin DC Comics $27.99/$24.99 US (Hardcover) **** (out of five) He’s made the hideously deformed beautiful, given sight to the blind and reunited the lost with their loved ones (sort of). And that’s just what Gog has done for the Justice Society. The question that seems to be driving a wedge down the middle of this world-class super-squad is: Is Gog the benevolent supreme being he’s claimed to be since they awoke him from his millennia-long slumber in an African cave or is he a giant walking monkey’s paw whose wishes all eventually turn sour. When one group of members, led by the hotheaded Hawkman, breaks away from the pack to follow Gog’s path of “peace”, the rest of the Society, including veteran heroes like the Golden Age Green Lantern and Flash, are left scrambling to find the truth. But will they find it too late? Meanwhile, the alternate-universe Superman (from the Earth depicted in Alex Ross and Mark Waid’s classic Kingdom Come) tries desperately to help prevent the armageddon that took out his planet from taking out ours. The epic tale of Thy Kingdom Come took three whole hardcover volumes to tell, but gifted writer Geoff Johns, artists Alex Ross, Fernando Pasarin and Canadian Dale Eaglesham and others pulled it all together in impressive fashion to deliver one of the most thought-provoking and enjoyable JSA stories ever told.

Star Wars: Vector Vol. 1

May 4, 2009 | Trades

Star Wars: Vector Vol. 1 John Jackson Miller, Mick Harrison, Scott Hepburn, Douglas Wheatley, Dave Ross Dark Horse Books $17.95 US (Paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) If the big stars of the DC and Marvel universes can each get together to fight off some galaxy-threatening baddie every six months, then it certainly seems like a good idea to get the protagonists of all four current ongoing Star Wars books together for a similar tussle. Enter Vector, a millennia-spanning epic that ties together adventures from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (starring Zayne Carrick), Star Wars: Dark Times (featuring Darth Vader), Star Wars: Rebellion (Luke Skywalker) and Star Wars: Legacy (Luke’s descendant Cade Skywalker). The first volume — which is also technically KOTR Vol. 5 and Dark Times Vol. 3 — begins with Carrick, the rogue padawan still on the run from the Jedi after being framed for a murder he didn’t commit, and his sidekick, Gryph, getting mixed up in a conflict during the Mandalorian Wars ( that crosses their paths with a young Jedi named Celeste Morne who is on a quest for ancient talisman. This ancient object is the tie that binds this crossover together as the second part of Vol. 1 sees Vader, in the months following the events of Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, learn of the talisman and begin to search it out for himself — even as it begins to hunger for him. Vector is a great idea executed very well — with a special shoutout to fellow Canadians Doug Wheatley, Dave Ross and colourist Dave McCaig for their impressive contributions.

Shadowpact: The Burning Age

May 4, 2009 | Trades

Shadowpact: The Burning Age Matt Sturges, Phil Winslade, Kieron Dwyer, Tom Derenick DC Comics $21.99/$17.99 US (Paperback) *** (out of five) Shadowpact was created in the midst of epic turmoil. It seems only fitting that it ends in the same situation. Having burst onto the scene in 2005 as part of the six-part Day of Vengeance miniseries (which saw the Spectre virtually eradicate magic from the DC Universe), Shadowpact brought some of the DCU's top magic-oriented characters together to form a new team that would focus its energies on mystical threats. With a nice mix of quirky characters - including Blue Devil, Nightshade, Nightmaster, Ragman, Enchantress and (long-time personal fave) Detective Chimp - the group quickly caught the attention of readers and that popularity spurred an ongoing series, the last six issues of which are containing in this fourth and final collected edition. The Burning Age sees a founding member bid farewell, another regain his long-lost humanity and a massive showdown with the god-like Sun King that requires centuries worth of mystical heroes to survive as everything, in spite of four years of predictions of disaster, ends with a nice big bow on top.