Saturday, March 29, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Fantastic Four #44-51

Widely regarded by many as the highest pinnacle of Jack Kirby's output at marvel comics in the 1960s, I read this sequence of comics through reprints scattered here and there that I managed to hunt through more than a decade, starting when I was around six years old. If you put aside all the continuity baggage and heritage these comics would develop later on and try to read them as purely as possible, it's like experiencing a dream: there's a rapid succession of developing events and unexpected characters that seem to come out of nowhere and you're never quite sure what to make of it or where it will all lead. Still, the story never stops making sense, even if in a nonsensical way, just like in dreams. The stakes just keep on being raised to ever more incredibly heights, starting with the introduction of an hidden race of superpowered creatures until the point where the protagonists are up against God on a conflict of biblical proportions, yet the human dimension is never lost. The characters still have to deal with everyday matters like getting a dish-washer fixed, falling in love, shaving, going to college or being depressed... Like I said, it looks and feels like a dream, blending the common with the incredible and blurring the edges between the real and the unreal. Trust me, looking back as an adult here's what I can tell you: superhero comics don't get better than this!  

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - "What if Conan the barbarian walked the Earth today?" from What if #13

Conan the barbarian was BIG when I was a kid. There was the Schwarzenegger movie, naturally, but also tons of comics. The Barbarian seemed ubiquitous and the artwork on those comics, oh my! John Buscema could do no wrong in my book. Still, the stories seemed kind of repetitious to me... then one day, I hit upon this brazilian reprint including the story from What if? #13 - What if Conan the barbarian walked the earth today? - and all of a sudden I'm captivated by this tale unlike any other featuring this character before or after. Maybe it was my love of time travel stories, maybe it was the juxtaposition of the rude brute with the modern world, maybe it was the lovely female character of Danette, perhaps it could have been the fact that this story was different enough from the trappings of the sword and sorcery genre to break the clichés I was already used to or at least disguise them enough to captivate me... whatever it was, I loved this comic then and still do now.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Astérix

Familiarity breeds contempt. Astérix tends to prove this. At least, in my case, it does. Sometimes, some works or authors can be so ubiquituous and relliable in the quality or timeliness of their delivery, that one tends to take them for granted. In the case of Astérix, I think it's always been around me, in some form or another, to the point where sometimes I have a hard time thinking of it as a comic like any other. One of the earliest books I had featured Astérix - it wasn't one of the characters proper BD album, but an adaptation to little pre-school children in a small format. There were Asterix animated movies and toys, too. Looking back, it is the closest thing to the evil Disney empire europeans have that I can think of. So, it's easy to take it for granted just like any other massmedia discardable product... and it only got worse with time...

Still, I must concede that these were some of my favorite comics as a kid. I should add that I didn't have the Astérix books as a kid BUT my uncle and cousins did have ALL the albums! So, whenever I visited them I had the good fortune of getting to read or at the very least see these wonderful books. I'd say that along with the work of Carl Barks, these were the first comics that gave me the impression of a unique fully realized coherent world - something incredibly hard to pull off in fiction. And the apparent facility with which Goscinny and Uderzo seemed to pull it off, only enhances its effect.

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Saturday, March 08, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Prince Valiant



When I was a kid I would spend long afternoons at my grandparents house, especially during the summer holidays. Their next door neighbours had two sons, one slighlty older than me, already a teenager, and another around my age. Naturally, we would spend time together playing with action figures and zx spectrum 48k computer games, watching vhs movies and reading comics, doing the stuff kids do on long summer afternoons... or, at least, used to do.

The older kid was a sort of science geek with a huge collection of science-fiction pocket book novels that introduced me to writers like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Philip K.Dick. He also had some old comics, including four or five giant-sized books collecting the early years of Hal Foster's Prince Valiant. Now, this was probably the most famous comic book character of my father's generation, which meant I was at least familiar with his name, but I had never actually seen any pages so I was extremely curious as to what the brouhaha surrounding it was all about. Once I laid my eyes on those books I immediately understood where all the fame of Prince Valiant came from - it was the most beautiful comic I had ever seen! Pardon me, it IS the most beautiful comic I have ever seen!

Even Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon with all its romance and vigourous drawing cannot top Hal Foster's Prince Valiant in terms of care and attention to detail, composition and just plain naturalism.

And the story... has there ever been an epic such as this in adventure comics? The cast, the settings, the grand adventure and the small quiet moments... unparalleled!

I was so enamored of this old comic that I begged the older kid to borrow them so I could read it properly and maybe swipe some of those fabulous drawings, "who knows, I might learn to draw this good if I copy it" ... but the little jerk wouldn't lent them. He didn't even really care about those particular books, it was all just a brutal display of egotism. And so I was left yearning for Prince Valiant, which, despite its success with previous generations, was completely out-of-print, at least as far as national editions were concerned at the time... No wonder I STILL think of this strip as the most beautifully drawn comic ever :-)

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Saturday, March 01, 2014

My FAVORITE COMICS - Valérian & Laureline

  For a kid raised on a unhealthy diet of Star Wars, 1980's science-fictions movies with incredible synth soundtracks and pre-CGI special effects, plus all sorts of  tv shows riding on George Lucas coattails like Battlestar GalacticaBuck Rogers in the 25th Century or V, the BD albums of Valérian & Laureline were the REAL DEAL. Its debut album, La Cité des Eaux Mouvantes was one of the first comics I clearly remember reading over and over and over again... I think I was half convinced the world was indeed going to "end" in 1986. After that, all the subsequent albums just kept getting better and better and better until the dyptic "Metro Châtelet, Direction Cassiopée"/"Brooklyn Station, Terminus Cosmos", imho the series unforgettable zenith. And I still have a crush on Laureline, definitely one of my all-time favorite comic book heroines.

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