Wednesday's New Things: Primary Sources

1. As a graduate student, I get excited about thinking about comics. There's a lot out there, obviously, but, as a discipline, comics studies doesn't seem quite as worked over as some of my other interests; it just doesn't seem quite so hard to make some room. So interviewing Ramzi Fawaz, feeding the French Comics Theory fever, and prepping a master thesis on a certain major American comic strip, are all things that really get me going. Usually, though, if you want to do historical work or interdiscplinary work rather than straight up literary analysis, you have to make a claim for cultural relevance, which was one of the things that always left me dissatisfied with my early work on comics-- how much does Ed Brubaker's Captain America matter to a culture that, by and large, doesn't read comics? Does it really matter what Ed Brubaker thinks about America? Of course, Cap is easy, because people do sort of seem to care, or enough to yell and scream sometimes. But what about Iron Man or, to get esoteric about it, Iron Fist? Of course, this too easy a kind of thinking... but it keeps me up some nights. Sometimes, though-- and this is how I lull myself to sleep-- comics primary sources just appear. One of these, March, co-written by Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis was put out by Top Shelf last year and continues to gain steam. Today, Top Shelf is publishing another-- this time, a reprint of a 1957 comic called Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, about the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Apparently, the book, published by the The Fellowship of Reconciliation, was at least partially responsible for getting many young people, Lewis included, involved in the civil rights movement. I expect it has some interesting things to say, and it will be even more interesting to see the ways in which its influence shows up in March; although co-writer (and Lewis aide) Andrew Aydin used the comic as the subject of a very interesting sounding master's thesis (adapted for online publication at the link), there may yet be more work to be done. 

2. One of the things I love about the new Marvel comics is how fun many of them are. Obviously, some are still self serious drivel, some are even worthwhile and self-serious, but the best ones are the ones where the writer and artist both seem to be having a good time. It's why I like Soule and Pulido's She-Hulk, for example, and why I'm excited about Dan Slott and Mike Allred's new Silver Surfer run. Although I haven't been a faithful Slott reader for a few years, I was a devotee of Mighty Avengers, which was the polar opposite of Brian Bendis's work with that family of characters, and I found his early Spider-Man issues to be a wonderfully amusing update on Peter Parker, true to the spirit of the 60s iteration of the character. That Mike Allred is doing the art is more than icing on the cake; his cartoony style should crack a smile among even those with a most skeptical suspension of disbelief. The openness and sense of wonder that Allred brings to everything that he does is incredible, in particular because he's capable of maintaining it as he works on satire as well as on awe. That combination will serve him well on Silver Surfer. Also, are you reading Amazing X-Men? No? Talk about fun. Perfect, stupid fun, with just a little hint of something going on underneath. Incidentally, have you seen Ed McGuinness draw a bamf? Is there a reason Marvel hasn't made a plush yet? 

3. You already know how I feel about characters dressed in stars and stripes; it's probably not in the budget this week, but I'll get around to giving this new Iron Patriot a try sooner or later.  Writer Ales Kot is an up and comer (and we're just two weeks removed from the release of his new volume of Secret Avengers) riding a hot streak and with an excellent sense of style. Artist Garry Brown is unknown to me, and I'm a little skeptical from the preview, but certainly not enough to lose interest.

4. There's a new Satellite Sam out this week, too. I'm going to take a look at the first trade edition of this series; if it looks alright, I'm going to switch to the collections on this book. I thought about doing an experiment with switching to trade in all the Image books I'm reading (they are a multitude), but I decided to take it on a case by case basis instead. Pretty Deadly, for example, is both simple enough (so far) that keeping the story straight over the last few months hasn't proven very difficult, and exciting enough where I want to read it every month, whereas Satellite Sam has proven a mite more difficult to follow-- I think both because of the black and white as well as because it's hard to tell Howard Chaykin's faces apart sometimes. Other series, Saga and East of West, for example, are so far along that reinvesting in trades is prohibitive, although East of West would probably actually benefit from reading in that format. This policy should save me a small amount of money over the long run, although truthfully it's as much about aesthetics as anything else. I expect that, when I come across them on sale, Saga and Pretty Deadly collections will be added to my shelf, particularly when nice hardcover editions are released in 18 months. Speaking of Ales Kot and trade waiting, one of these slow weeks (which has been about every third) I'm going to give Zero a try. Those $9.99 trades are hard to pass up sometimes.

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