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The Watchtower - A thread for all comics


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I don't advise merging your Amazon account with your Comixology account. There's a bug where it sets your date of birth as the date you created your amazon account. In my case 2002. Which stops you buying age restricted comics. They don't seem to know how to fix it yet either.

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So I guess that brings me to the classic end of the year question- what was everyone's top picks for the year?

Rumble:

Being a massive fan of B.P.R.D. I had high hopes for this with both John Arcudi and James Harren working together on their own book. The fight scenes, monsters and gore delivered from the off but the story threatened to be another "average Joe with girl troubles finds himself thrust into magical situation and emerges the hero". Thankfully a few issues in and it became clear there's much more to chew on and the human cast aren't overshadowed by the supernatural.

Island:

It's nice to have a new comics anthology, especially one with loads of weird experimental sci-fi stories in.

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I don't read many monthlies - my picks of the year there would probably be Twilight Children, which I've already enthused about, and Morrison / Burnham's Nameless, which is confident, nihilistic sci-fi with a twist of cosmic horror. I particularly enjoy Morrisons's work when he throws you right in and let you work it out for yourself, and this is a great example of that approach.

Oh, and Multiversity, of course - Pax Americana in particular was another classic Morrison / Quitely collaboration. Some excellent panel layouts, as you might expect, and the book is fascinating as an exploration of Watchmen through the structure and techniques of Watchmen itself. There isn't much like it in comics that I'm aware of - it's more than a pastiche or homage, and I'm not entirely sure what you'd actually call it. It's a study delivered not through words but through actions, I guess - kind of a show, don't tell approach to criticism, perhaps. Anyway, that was good.

It's been another good year for reprints, with Fantagraphics' EC Comics volumes continuing to deliver excellent black & white reproductions of some top-drawer comics craftsmanship. They're especially interesting compared to Dark Horse's releases, where the strips have been digitally recoloured - sometimes badly, sometimes not so badly - but all with that unmistakable digital colour quality that's far removed from the original comics. As with the Russ Cochran bound volumes, seeing the artwork in black and white can be very enlightening, and despite the unusual approach of bundling the strips by creator, I think these are my favourite EC reprints, possibly tied with the authentically pulpy single-issue East Coast releases of the 70s.

My other must-buy reprint series - that delivered a volume in 2015 - is also from Fantagraphics - their Carl Barks Donald Duck library. These are magnificent, timeless comics that really are for all ages - genuinely funny, beautifully drawn and a pleasure to read, re-read and collect. Like early Mad, their pop culture reach is vast - these are the comics some of your favourite writers and directors grew up with.

But at the risk of sounding like a compete fossil, my #1 pick of the year has to be another reissue - the first volume of Eddie Campbell's collected Bacchus, which is another book I've squawked on about already. I think all of the comics above demonstrate the power of the medium in one way or another, but Bacchus is one of those rare examples that does and has it all. I can't think of a better comics-related use of my money in the last year, and it's up there with the best of the decade to date.

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Humble Bundle have a new comics bundle up from Boom! comics. It's a bit eclectic. It's worth it just for Lumberjanes but the only other two I've read are one issue of Hacktivist (awful) and Irredeemable which was kind of ok until it got to the point where it turned out that the reason millions of people died in a mass slaughter was because one of the female characters had slept with a man who wasn't her husband. I gave up in despair at that point.

https://www.humblebundle.com/books?utm_source=Humble+Bundle+Newsletter&utm_campaign=47d42426c1-Humble_Book_Bundle_10_Years_Of_Boom&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_990b1b6399-47d42426c1-96403705&mc_cid=47d42426c1&mc_eid=19fa4875b3

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I think one of the best things about comics at the moment is the variety of creators at the moment. Pick up any selection of the best comics around at the moment and you are guaranteed to have at least half of those titles written or drawn by a woman. And whilst there aren't many people of colour, there are some very high profile creators doing amazing stuff.

So when I see lazy stuff like that I tend to switch off immediately. It sticks out like a sore thumb in the current market and belongs in another era. Even comics that have no female creators are routinely making great comics with brilliant female characters (The Fuse, the original run of Rat Queens, Sex Criminals) so there really isn't any excuse.

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The variety really adds some depth to the books. I asked for Squirrel Girl for Christmas from my Dad, who is also quite into his comics, but said "doesn't seem like your sort of thing?"

Well that's because "my sort of thing" was all that there was for a time. People thumping other people. Bit of drama. Usual guff. I've read that though. Now I want to read the story of someone is more likely to win the day by making friends rather than hitting people.

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The variety really adds some depth to the books. I asked for Squirrel Girl for Christmas from my Dad, who is also quite into his comics, but said "doesn't seem like your sort of thing?"

Well that's because "my sort of thing" was all that there was for a time. People thumping other people. Bit of drama. Usual guff. I've read that though. Now I want to read the story of someone is more likely to win the day by making friends rather than hitting people.

Yup, a lot of comics, in particular superhero comics, seem very much stuck in the past. A lot of comics seem less like they're aimed at kids/teenagers and more aimed at people in their 30's/40's who are still reading it and just want it to stay the same. 2000AD seems quite bad for this on the occasions I dip into it.

The antagonist reveal in the new issue of Ms Marvel is quite possibly my favourite ever. Annoying jerk hipsters are gentrifying New Jersey and pushing out the local community, only Kamala can stop the Hope Yards Development and Relocation Association's nefarious schemes!

Ms Marvel being an honourable, glorious exception. Even though it's occasionally clunky in the way its attempting to fit its characters and stories into the world of a monthly Marvel Universe superhero comic, it's heart and head are so clearly in the right place it's just delightful. Always the first thing I read on the weeks that it's released.

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I had a comic shop poke yesterday to get Phonogram and Wicked and the Divine and ended up coming out of the shop with two issues of Warren Ellis writing James Bond too, which I didn't know about. Having read, it's fair to say that it's probably going to be good. It's very much book-ish, but a bit more modern and it's wholly its own story. There's one little bit that makes me think it might end up being very good indeed, but we'll see. An interesting one at least.

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Providence -

I really like it. I think the atmosphere is superbly Lovecraft, in that it is a creepy and distinctive take on New England life in the early 20th century, and spotting the references is just as much fun as it was in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I did groan a bit at the rape scene in the last issue but I don't think it particularly horrified me - I had it in my mind that the girl was possessed by a demon or something during the act, or maybe she's actually demonic herself. Did I get that wrong? I might have been not reading the story that closely and missed something.

In general I like the idea of what Moore seems to be trying to do which is make up his own version of the Cthulhu mythos and string it together into something that resembles a narrative structure. Lovecraft's lack of regard for anything resembling classic narrative structures or storytelling conventions is part of what makes him great. But Moore is fantastic at narrative structures and I don't see why HP's dreary new England landscapes and eldritch star gods and fish-like yokels can't be squeezed into one of Alan's narratives and become something different but still entertaining.

I even started Neonomicon again, despite having read it when it came out it obviously made no impression on me whatsoever because I don't remember any of it. But it seems this (as well as the Courtyard which I've also read and don't remember) are set in the same HPMorecraftmythosverse.

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I don't read many monthlies - my picks of the year there would probably be Twilight Children, which I've already enthused about, and Morrison / Burnham's Nameless, which is confident, nihilistic sci-fi with a twist of cosmic horror. I particularly enjoy Morrisons's work when he throws you right in and let you work it out for yourself, and this is a great example of that approach.

I loved the first few issues but as it went on I just found it harder to follow what was going on. Horror was being sacrificed for confusion. Got the last issue yesterday and read through the entire series in one go- still think the first issue is one of the best things Morrison has done for years, but I just can't seem to get a grip on what the ending meant.

Like it’s all taking place in his head but it’s not. She shoots him before the alien intelligence can take over and grow again. And the meteor crashes into the moon and… so all that meteor mission space rescue stuff was real? But it can’t have been because Paul Darius was already dead and his face removed before… so is it alternate realities? Which I don’t understand as when she walks away at the end the moon has been buggered in the sky.

Like I get that it ends in the Moon card of the Tarot and as far as I remember that's all about man coming out of the primordial swamp into a higher consciousness, but one where mystery and confusion still play a large part. I think. And that has to mean something big but... I really not sure.

I mean, I might be looking for a rational plot explanation in something that's meant to be symbolic and representative of Kabbalah Tree of Life or whatever and I'm way out of my depth. Times likes this I miss Doom Patrol. :(

That said I enjoyed it mostly. It's jam packed with ideas, maybe too many for six issues to contain, but Burnham's art was fantastic throughout and Fairbairn's colours are equally outstanding.

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Haven't got my hands on the last one yet, so I'm not going anywhere near that spoiler block, but I did reread 1-5 in one sitting recently and felt like I had a handle on what was going on. I did occasionally have trouble with the individual issues remembering what was happening, a bit like having to watch Inception in half-hour chunks over the course of a year. So perhaps it's written more as a whole than a serial, which I guess is a tricky aspect of comics in general - you shouldn't have to bend your concept to an episodic format, but that's how most of it is delivered.

Of course it's entirely possible my poor aged mind is just not up to the task these days. Maybe I'm out of practice at following multlple monthly narratives. I used to be able to handle Cerebus, in my youth.

I struck it lucky at Xmas and got three Morrison deluxe editions - the final Invisibles, The Filth and Multiversity. I think Multiversity is another case of it being beneficial to have the whole thing on hand for a read-through, though it's a shame the deluxe edition doesn't come with the fold-out map or the "director's cut" of Pax Americana. The extras are pretty good, though, lots of design work including Morrison's own contributions. The Filth was also interesting because it features a fair amount of the original art before DC had all the magic black spunk covered up, for example.

I also received Jules Feiffer's Kill My Mother, which I'm looking forward to checking out as soon as I get a peaceful chance - the art is recognisably Feiffer, but it's also unlike his classic strips, which flow beautifully but still tend to be collections of individual images. A lot of pages in KMM seem to be designed as full, whole pages with occasionally complex layouts - and colour makes a big difference, too. Well, it's Feiffer, it's bound to be wonderful.

And! The Hip-Hop Family Tree box set, which I also have to find time for. Flicking through it, I did find it quite tiring to look at in places - I think it's the uneasy combination of the simulated pulp appearance and good quality paper. But, you know, it was Christmas, I was fatigued. Now I'm back at work and refreshed, I can give it a proper chance.

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Here's something interesting I discovered today during actual paid work:

http://libgen.io/comics/index.php

Library Genesis is a 'guerilla open access' site, so essentially an illicit source of scientific papers where academics can anonymously share their outputs free of paywalls and publisher embargoes.

But! For reasons we may never fully understand, which somewhat transcend the noble notion that scientific research outputs should be free for all to access, it also has this dedicated comics section, which is an amazing source of CBRs. Just search for whatever you're interested in and you're pretty much guaranteed results.

The New Adventures of Hitler is on there - you won't be seeing a deluxe reissue of that any time soon. So I guess there's the guerilla angle covered, along with copyright-expired stuff like Little Nemo and Krazy Kat and 593(!) results for 'tijuana bible'. And then no small amount of stuff that shouldn't be on there at all, but in this respect it's no different to the ostensibly more legitimate archive.org, where to this day you can grab a torrent of everything Alan Moore has done.

Anyway, you know, stay away from results that are clearly morally indefensible, you don't need me to tell you that. But absolutely do wallow in many amazing and otherwise unavailable treasures.

I guess you might want to see the results of a search for Jack Kirby or Moebius or Cerebus or 2000AD or Munoz or Love and Rockets or Corto Maltese or Weirdo or Harvey Kurtzman or Gasoline Alley or Terry and the Pirates or Eightball or Wally Wood or - yes! - Whizzer and Chips if you were, say, researching the phenomenon of individually-driven copyright infringement in the digital age. I think the site would be a great help with a project like that. You could consider whether a comic locked in copyright but not kept in print exhibits a form of censorship and then draw parallels with the Polish underground press in the 1970s. Good times.

post-16104-0-15875000-1452518539.jpg

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I just posted this to make a spiteful point in the Tropes thread, but it's worth adding here too. For decades now I've owned a tatty copy of Tower of Shadows #2, a Marvel horror comic that started in the late 60s. I came across it in a bundle of unwanted, loose-covered, rusty-spined detritus in the 80s and had to have it based purely on the cover, but it turned out the cover story was bona fide dynamite. It's written and drawn by Neal Adams, the main characters are glorious barefoot flower power hippies, and the concept behind the story is genuinely interesting, to the extent that I expect someone will announce it was just ripped off from Richard Matheson or something.

Anyway, great idea, great art and a great ending, and someone has kindly scanned the whole thing. It's only seven pages, so get it down you:

http://thewarriorscomicbookden.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/tower-of-shadows-2-neal-adams-art.html

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