Monday, September 07, 2009

Four Color Fiend: Wednesday Comics

I had meant to mention this limited series of tabloids earlier, but I wanted to read at least half the issues so I had a better idea of what the creators were doing. If you aren't familiar with Wednesday Comics you should know that it consists of fifteen one-page stories of sixteen DCU characters. More depending on how you want to count the Teen Titans & Metal Men. As a 'tribute' to the old Sunday comicstrip supplements you would find in newspapers each character appears in a one page chapter of a twelve page story. At the recent San Diego Comic-Con Dan Didio was asked about the series and when asked about the ultimate fate of the stories, hinted that a compilation, similar to the old Treasury Edition books might be considered. It would make artistic sense, if not necessarily a financial one, that the pages be reproduced as close as possible to the size in which they appear in the actual tabloid.

Naturally, as with any anthology, some of the stories are better than others, although none of them (IMHO) are bad. It is nice to see that most of the creators involved can work in a format that doesn't allow (or force them) to drag a storyline out over six months and a hundred pages. Most comics today are 'written for the trade' and often you find both writers & artists, with editorial insistence no doubt, padding their books. Again, while it makes financial sense, it doesn't often allow for a complete tale each issue. Here the creative teams know they have a limited time and space to put forward an adventure. Unfortunately, one or two seem to still to be padding a bit or being cute in how they use the format.

The best stories and the ones I think have a feel for the old adventure strips are the ones featuring HAWKMAN and ADAM STRANGE. Perhaps, these two holdovers from DC's Silver Age, with their SF elements are perfect and lend themselves to this sort of thing. The Adam Strange tale especially, done by Paul Pope & Lovern Kindzierski, reminds me of the best Flash Gordon stories that Mac Raboy did when I was reading the Sunday pages as a kid. Exotic aliens, strange surroundings and brave heroes doing things simply because they are the right thing to do. The Hawkman story, wonderfully written & drawn by Kyle Baker, began with the Winged Wonder trying to save an aircraft being high jacked, and turned into a 'survivor' tale on an island inhabited by dinosaurs. Way Cool!

I love the SUPERGIRL story from Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner. What a fun, humorous little story. It seems that Krypto & Streaky (Supergirl's super-powered cat) are both beginning to act a bit too much like typical pets and causing havoc due to their powers. When the Girl of Steel (who seems to be in her mid-teens in appearance and actions) goes to Dr. Mid-Nite for assistance in discoving the cause, things don't work out quite as easily as both heroes had hoped. I love this and Amanda Connor does a great job on the art making the pets cute and giving them just enough emotional quality to pull off the humor, letting us know what they may be thinking at a given moment. Bravo!

I would like to think that Jack Kirby fans and even the Kirby family are happy with what Dave Gibbons & Ryan Sook are doing with his creation KAMANDI. (Btw, it is nice to see the titles giving credit to many of the original creators of these characters. Not something always done often enough.) Gibbons & Sook bring a very, realistic feel to the world & characters The King created years ago. Not trying to imitate the creator in any way, they remain true to the characterization and the story has the grand epic quality that Kirby brought to almost everything he did.

Stories featuring SUPERMAN, BATMAN, GREEN LANTERN (Hal Jordan) and the METAL MEN are all entertaining with the GL & MM stories being closest to the Silver Age feel I enjoyed at that age. Supes & the Bats are a little darker, although you expect that from the Dark Knight as he has been portrayed for the past few decades. Karl Kerschl & Brenden Fletcher are doing a nice take on THE FLASH, with poor Barry & Iris West having a very difficult time just trying to have a dinner date. Gorilla Grodd never makes things easy and The Flash finds himself bouncing around in time and alternate realities. I still don't know how the Scarlet Speedster will get out of this.

DEADMAN by Bullock Heuck & Stewart Fletcher has a cartoony art and really nothing special. Same holds true, sadly for SGT. ROCK by Adam & Joe Kubert. The senior Kubert's art is still as good as ever, but Sarge & Easy seem only to be going through the motions in a not very special story. Kubert & Robert Kannigher would have wrapped this up by now (after nine pages) and moved on back when they were cranking this stuff on a regular basis.

Jack Kirby's other creation, THE DEMON, has been teamed with CAT WOMAN for no apparent reason. Perhaps only because somebody felt that Jason Blood could not stand on his own, although so far any female character (even one created just for this story) could have done as well. Walt Simonson & Brian Stelfreeze don't do anything special and like the story featuring Rock, they seem to be padding a twelve page story just to get it to the proper length.

TEEN TITANS by Eddie Beerganza & Sean Galloway appears to be trying to appeal to fans of both the original team and the animated series. I really don't care about these characters and have no idea who a couple of them are. Should I?

Ben Caldwell, with whom I'm not familiar but will have to make an effort to do so, brings us a very, young WONDER WOMAN , in fact Diana here does not even have the various instruments for which she became known. Sort of an 'origin' story, even including Etta Candy. I am enjoying this much more than I would have expected, given how I'm not a big fan of WW and thought I'd be getting more out of some of the other characters in the series.

I loved METAMORPHO when creators Bob Haney & Ramona Fradon were first putting the Element Man through his paces. The character was tragic, but was also fun. His supporting characters (Simon Stagg, his daughter Sapphire & Java) were always a bit cartoonishm, but later attempts to make them more 'realistic' bordered on the creepy, especially in one ill-fated series where the fatherly feelings of Stagg crossed to perverted. Enough about that! I like Neil Gaiman, I have enjoyed his prose & comics work since those first issues of SANDMAN began. I have also had a chance to meet and correspond with him, always finding him a gentleman and a nice guy. I have also been a fan of Mike Allred beginning, naturally with the wild MADMAN comics, although I've found some of his stuff hit or miss the last decade. I find it unfortunate that two such creative guys can take one of my favorite characters and make me want to pass over the page. It's almost as if both men are trying to be so 'different' and 'witty' that they have forgotten that a story would have been nice. Metamorpho is pretty much as I remember him, but the threesome of Stagg, Sapphire & Java are tiresome and more cliche then they were in those first Silver Age stories. I'd like the three of them to meet some grisly fate. Also, with only twelve pages of story to utilize, why do Gaiman & Allred drag out the 'periodic table' gag for two weeks. Do we also have to end on the same final panel note of Java rejoicing in the possible destruction of the hero? Sorry, to end on a very negative note, but I wanted to mention all the creative folks involved and it had to cover the good & the bad.

Wow! This took me much longer and I went on & on. Next time I'll try to remember that as many of the folks here seem to do that brevity can be good.
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