Headlines   2003Review Index   June 12, 2003
Suspended Animation

Michael Vance - Mark Allen
Michael Vance Books

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The Yellow Jar

            A simple fisherman from a small Japanese village finds a large yellow jar, during his daily fishing excursion.  Shocked to discover a beautiful woman named O Haru San in the jar, he learns that she was placed there by her father, to float upon the sea in search of a suitable husband.  Coveting the jar, the fisherman claims he found only her, and then seeks to prove to her his worthiness as a husband.  She has only one condition he must meet before they marry: he must promise to always be truthful to her.  With that, things get interesting.

            Not your typical comic book scenario, to be sure.  That is, however, part of the charm of The Yellow Jar: Two Tales From Japanese Tradition, a comic work long on title, as well as beauty and individuality. 

            As both writer and artist of the book, Patrick Atangan has undertaken a unique task; to translate ancient Japanese stories to comic form, beginning with this, volume one.  Here's hoping there will be many more.

            Atangan's artwork is unlike anything else you will see in comics today, thus, the individuality I spoke of above.  This is best stated in the book's introduction, by comic artist P. Craig Russell, that Atangan's work shows influences of "Japanese woodblock prints and European Art Nouveau."  For those of us who have not submerged ourselves in art history quite to the extent of those who have made art their profession, that means this book looks very unusual, and very beautiful.  Due to this style, it could be hoped that Atangan will continue to break new ground in comics, as his talent grows with his experience.

            The Yellow Jar is one of those works that open up brand new vistas of possibility for the medium of comics.  It has the potential to change the expectations of readers, young and old, about what comics can be, and for that, it is highly recommended for everyone.

            The Yellow Jar, published by NBM Publishing Inc., 48-page hardcover, $12.95.

            Review by Mark Allen     

 
Fandom's Finest Comics

            Amateur comic book magazines in the '60s and '70s called 'fanzines" were a kind of vaudeville for aspiring cartoonists. Some of these artists, writers and editors became professionals, and much of their early, raw talent and love for the art form has been recaptured in twenty stories republished as Fandom's Finest Comics (FFC).

            Some may find it odd that this enthusiasm for comic books and strips is both the strength and weakness of this wonderful collection.

            Then as now, the superhero genre dominates the contents of FFC, al-though a sprinkling of the Science Fiction, Sword and Sorcery, Horror and Fantasy genres add spice to the mix.

            "Hey, what about that 'strength and weakness' comment earlier, bud?!"

            First, my name isn't bud, chum.

            Secondly, without a real love for comic books and strips, these stories would simply have never been created, fandom would have never been formed, and fanzines printed. That is an obvious strength.

            But this love of comics didn't lead to innovation at first. It lead to imitation, and everything in FFC is derivative of the comics titles from the major publishers of the day, especially DC Comics. There is also a strong flavor of the style of the '40s and '50s in this work. So don't expect originality, and that is a weakness. 

            Comics notables with early stories in Fandom's Finest Comics include D. Bruce Berry, Robert Crumb, Marv Wolfman, Roy Thomas, Mark Wheatley, John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, Ronn Foss, Larry Ivie, Wendy Pini, Jim Shooter, Jeff Jones, and Jim Starlin. But the most mature art and story in this anthology is from Landon Chesney, Harry Habblitz, Bill Spicer, George Metzger, Jerry Ordway, and Grass Green. 

            Admittedly publishing a handful of diamonds in the rough, FFC is never the less highly recommended.

            Fandom's Finest Comics/$17.95 & 256 pgs from Hamster Press/complied by Bill Schelly/sold in comics shops and at www.billschelly.com.

            Review by Michael Vance

 

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