Suspended Animation
Suspended Animation
by Michael Vance & Jon Suter

Check-out Michael Vance Comic books for sale


September 25, 1998

Reviews in this issue:

Strange Wink
Egon
Unlimited Access
New Year's Evil
Pulp Art: Original Cover Paintings for the Great American Pulp Magazines


980925c.jpg (18826 bytes)Strange Wink

    He is not only one of the finest artists in the history of comic books and strips, John Bolton is also eclectic.

    That doesn't mean you'll get a buzz when you plug him in, although, come to think of it, that is true.

    John Bolton is eclectic because he "borrows freely from various sources" if you are the Oxford American Dictionary. It also means "he is equally at ease in a number of different artistic styles" if you are this reviewer.

    Strange Wink does nothing to disprove either definition. It is the newest collection of odds and ends from several different periods in his career as a writer and artist .

    The first issue opens with "The Erl King", an adaptation of a brief folk tale by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Each single page illustration looks like poster art.

    "A Lot On His Plate" is as brief as a wink, and drawn in a reality-based style that elevates an otherwise unremarkable horror story due to one creative graphic.

    "Oscar Hellian", drawn in a high contrast style reminiscent of Film Noir, is the weakest of the brief winks as a tough-as-nails detective faces a supernatural monster with barely a leg to stand on.

980925b.GIF (12393 bytes)     "Goblin Market" is alone worth the price of the issue.

    Also a germanic folk tale, its muted ink washes and incredible anatomy is outstanding.

    You'll want more.

    The only complaint about this collection is that when Bolton works 'on the edge' of his art, that means deviant sexuality. Unlike other artists, and to his credit, Bolton only hints at this with a kiss in "Goblin Market". The power of its art almost overcomes the objection.

    Strange Wink is highly recommended for adults.

    Strange Wink $2.96, 24 pgs., Dark Horse Comics/sold at comics shops and by mail.

    Reviewed by Michael Vance.


980925a.jpg (18431 bytes) Egon

    MINIVIEW:  [Dark Horse Comics]. It's interesting how, when many artists want to 'stretch the creative envelope', they do so by stuffing it with filthy language, violence, perverse sex, vague storytelling and nihilism.

    Nice art.

    Reviewed by Michael Vance.


Unlimited Access

The latest comic books in DC-Marvel crossovers is "Unlimited Access."

The first three issues are as confusing at first reading as anything I've ever seen, but the fourth pulls everything together. Rereading the issues gives a better view of the intricate plot than reading them a month apart.

The first impression is that Karl Kesel wanted to use every character from every era of the two universes, even the Western heroes. (Since Jonah Hex and Two Gun Kid are time travelers, this is a reasonable development.)

The primary villain is DC's Darkseid. In a previous crossover, he merged with Marvel's Thanes character, but this time he remains unamaigamated. He does cause some of his minions to merge with Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Darkseid's awareness of the two universes could make him recurring villain in later crossovers.

In the fourth issue, we see the amalgamation of heroes. Some are ingenious. The current version of Superman merges with Thor to become Thor-El, the Kryptonion Thunder God.

My favorite is the blending of Captain America with Captain Marvel Jr. Rather than "Shazam", Captain America Jr. uses the magic words "Uncle Sam" to gain the powers of various presidents: the wisdom of Lincoln, the strategy of Eisenhower and the trickery of Nixon.

Other good pairings include: Robin and Angel to produce Redwing; Impulse and Iceman become Quickfreeze; Black Canary and Marvel Girl become Jean Black.

Weaker pairings: Giantman and Green Lantern become Green Goliath; Wasp and Wonder Girl become Wonder Wasp.

There is not enough story space to allow more than a hint of what these amalgamations could do. I was relieved to hear that there would be no companion titles featuring these characters since last year's spin-offs did not find a wide audience.

At the same time, I have to hope we have not seen the end of this year's better hybrids.

Give Kesel a full A for this. Also, give the major artists, Pat Oliffe and Al Williamson, high marks for their efforts.

Reviewed by Dr. Jon Suter.


New Year's Evil

DC Comics celebrated the arrival of 1998 with a series entitled "New Year's Evil". Some may be worth collecting.

One problem is that "evil" is not always present, particularly in Mr. Mxyzptlk. The art is so cartoonish that it distracts from Alan Grant's script.

There are some amusing parts, but the menace cannot be taken seriously. There are hints of an ongoing series for the imp, but the current premise is too thin.

Another entry is Darkseid. Sal Buscema's interpretation of this character is unlike any I've seen.

The title is somewhat misleading in that Darkseid never appears. Since the script is by John Byrne, continuity with artist "Jack Kirby's Fourth World" is assured.

The most important issue of "New Year's Evil" is probably Prometheus. This new villain has appeared in two issues of JLA; they are much clearer if you read Prometheus.

Grant Morrison's script and Arnie Jorgensen's art are effective.

The origin of Prometheus is parallel to Batman's. A young boy who accompanies his parents on their murderous crime spree witnesses their deaths in a shootout with police.

As with Batman, there is a strong Asian influence. This villain could prove a popular sparring partner.

Gog will be of interest to readers of the "Elsewhere" series, Kingdom Come. Mark Waid's script implies that we have not seen the end to this story.

Dark Nemesis will appeal to Teen Titans followers, but some of the art seems rushed. Chris Cross's work is generally good, but faces, particularly the Atom's, often seem unfinished or distorted.

Body Doubles puzzles me. The art is a blend of cartoonish and realistic elements. My first impression was that the female assassins are a blend of the titles Katy Keene and Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. This will appeal to those interested in "good girl art."

Distorted art works very well in Scarecrow. Duncan Fegredo's pencils and Peter Milligan's script probe the darkest corners of this villain's mind.

Again, there are hints of continuations of the story.

Reviewed by Dr. Jon Suter.


Pulp Art: Original Cover Paintings for the Great American Pulp Magazines

Anyone with even a slight interest in pulp magazines will want a copy of Robert Lesser's Pulp Art: Original Cover Paintings for the Great American Pulp Magazines (Grammercy Books, 1997). For $20, it is a remarkable bargain.

Some anthologies of pulp stories have included reproductions, not always in color, of pulp covers. The best of these is Tony Goodstone's Pulps: Fifty Years of American Pop Culture (Chelsea House, 1970), but it comes nowhere close to Lesser's work.

The quality of reproduction is remarkable; most of the illustrations are at least as large as the original covers.

Noteworthy is the use of the original paintings without the distracting title logos and list of contributors and stories. In some cases, a small inset shows the cover as it appeared on newsstands. The difference is striking.

Even though typescript detracted from artwork, it was necessary, the best and quickest means to lure a buyer. The quantity of cover text varied, but most seem to have understood the need to keep the art uncluttered even as artists knew to provide some "free" space.

Clutter tended to increase over the years.

Comic book readers will recall sometimes vitriolic letters from readers outraged by any increase in the use of word balloons or blocs of text on Marvel or DC comics covers. The editors usually argued that word balloons helped explain the covers and stories and increased sales.

Lesser compiled a good and representative collection of covers and arranged them thematically. In most cases, he avoided using some famous covers which have been reprinted too often. His selections prove convincingly that most covers were not salacious.

There are short and interesting essays by writers and artists familiar to comic collectors: Forrest Ackerman, Jim Steranko, etc.

Neophytes and veterans can profit from this book. I knew little previously about Rafael de Soto and his work for Spider and Detective Tales.

This and Goodstone's book, along with Peter Haining's Terror (A & W Visual Library, 1976) are the cornerstones of any pulp collection.

Reviewed by Dr. Jon Suter.


    Questions? Comments? A comic you wish reviewed? Write: 1427 S. Delaware Ave., Tulsa, OK, 74104. Or email c/o starland@starland.com.

ComicReviewsIndex.gif (1547 bytes)


2005 Starland PO Box 24955 Denver CO 80224-0955
Ph 303.777.6800 Fax 303.200.9009 Email
starland@starland.com