What follows is the first in what will become a series of 12 posts, capturing the official Savage Critics rating for all of the comics that I read but couldn't find the time (or space) to write about in a more "professional" capacity. [Note: this post includes comics read in 2011 as well as stuff from January, so you can expect some cursory bits here. Also: I missed you guys. I miss your face, your moist carcass, your buttermilk porpoise, your tender kiss and your sloppy tongues. Joe McCulloch is going to make a great father to what I've got growing inside me right now, and I hear great things are brewing in the Loins of Khosla. This is dedicated to Brian Hibbs, who is a great man, but would be even greater if he threw away all the sandals I feel sure he must own.]
Herbie #1 Ogden Whitney A+ Comics, 1990
This was the first in a short lived series of reprints of the old Herbie comics, most of which are known due to their inclusion in Dan Nadel's Art Out of Time as well as being referred to by Alan Moore as his favorite super-hero comic. It's about a fat kid who solves problems and sometimes wears a costume while doing so. Most of its appeal escaped me, but I greatly enjoyed Herbie's parents, who seem to find him almost as obnoxious as I eventually did. OKAY!
What Makes A Man Dress Up Like A Bat?? Miscelleanous Philly Comix Jam, 2009
A short comics anthology of Batman parodies on newsprint. The strongest entries are the ones that go weird, like one where Batman's biggest emergency is helping liven up a shitty lawn party, but those are few and far between. The majority are just low-rent imitations of Mad magazine, and for whatever reason, many of those are just really obvious gay jokes. EH! (I really think that if you're going to do a superheroes-are-gay-haw-haw comic, it should go all the way--either full on hardcore sex, like that comic Dirk Deppey linked to once where Optimus Prime forced himself upon Megatron (don't look it up, seriously) or full on tortured romance, like that scene in the Ethan Hawke Great Expectations where he's yelling at what he thinks is Gwyneth Paltrow.)
Kramers Ergot 3 Miscelleanous Avodah, 2003
Fun stuff here. Soto, Nilsen and Harkham (especially Harkham) are the big stand outs of the volume, although there's a couple of much longer pieces that probably had some measure of appeal at the time. On the negative side, it proves a pet theory true: most cute indie comics are meaningless exercises best reserved for the portfolios of people trying to get work storyboarding children's cartoons. If it isn't being done for small children, what's the point of these kinds of comics? They're never interesting to anyone, they're so basic in construction that "good drawing" is essentially shorthand for "easy drawing", and it doesn't take but a few years for the creators to invariably fuck off back to whatever their other interests are. Still VERY GOOD! overall.
Garden Yuichi Yokoyama Picturebox, 2011
This is the only one of Yokoyama's books that features characters that should get beaten to death, but considering how quickly he seems to be working these days, he'll probably add to that eventually. Mostly, this book is just not as good as Travel in every way that it can be ranked, even down to the way it's printed. It's a testament to how interesting this guy is that "nowhere near as good as something else" still translates to VERY GOOD! on the Savage Critics scale.
Omelett Menu Reprodukt, 2000
This is one of the most depressing comics about motherhood you're ever going to read. The number of abortions would quadruple overnight if it were more easily available. Makes me wish there was a rating higher than EXCELLENT!
Cabbie Marti Fantagraphics, 2011
The page in here where the cabbie brings his father's sewage covered remains home and puts them in what's left of the coffin and then puts the coffin on top of his mother's recently deceased body tells you everything you need to know. Unless you're a Prince Valiant dude, this is the best reprint of the year. Impregnable would be the best word, EXCELLENT! will have to do.
Judge Dredd Tour of Duty: Mega-City Justice John Wagner, Colin Macneil, Carlos Ezquerra, John Higgins, other british people 2000AD, 2011
A lot of this feels retready--there's a bad Judge who does bad things and makes bad calls, and PJ Maybe is around--but it's Judge Dredd, and there's something kind of gross about the idea of Judge Dredd being a thing that should be constantly reworked and innovated. Look at the way they ruined MILF porn, you know? Don't do that to Dredd. GOOD!
Darkie's Mob The Secret War of Joe Darkie John Wagner, Mike Western Titan, 2011
If you've always wanted to read Bad Company but would rather exchange the alien world setting for the hardcore no-apology racism of 1942-era Burma, then get yourself a copy of Darkie's Mob. Like all the other Titan reprints of British war comics, it's good looking, bound well, and hates you more than anything else you've ever let into your home. Bonus points for the introduction by Garth Ennis, because it's the best thing he's written since Valley Forge, Valley Forge. GOOD!
I Will Bite You and Other Stories Joseph Lambert Secret Acres, 2011
These comics are all pretty great, even though sometimes it feels like Lambert is more invested in fucking with the panel borders and general comic-y shit than he is in doing anything on the story front. At the same time, he's way more interesting than most of the people who do that sort of experimenting, and his usage of color in the cave people story in the back is fascinating. GOOD!
Real Deal #1 By the Real Deal guys, ask Seneca or Marra to explain 'em Real Deal 1989
The main problem with Real Deal is that there aren't enough sexy drawings in it. These kinds of comics--gutter violence, crazy logic rough trade comics--always work best when they have drawings of women with large breasts in them. That's just a fact of life, and if you don't like that, that's totally fine: but honestly, you weren't going to like the part in Real Deal where a prostitute gets her head smashed into the sidewalk with a garbage can either. OKAY!
Punisher War Journal #28 Mike Baron, Tex, Greg Wright Marvel, 1991
A done in one story about Frank Castle checking in on an old flame, who is now dating your standard rich fuck-up. This rich fuck-up is in the meatpacking business, and there's some leftover "let's give a shit" from the 80's about meat-eating, but mostly it's just an opportunity for Frank to kill people in a processing facility, with Texas Chainsaw type implements. Also, the rich guy is a crackhead. Great Michael Golden cover. VERY GOOD!
Cable #1 Fabian Nicieza, Art Thibert, Marie Javins Marvel, 1993
A confusing comic about Cable. There's a shiny print effect on the cover, but it only applies to the future-style bandolier that Cable is wearing. So many 90's super-hero comics have covers that look like the company went straight to print with what they were finding in high school kid's sketchbooks. "I see you like tracing Jim Lee comics, kid. Well, it's time to become a star!" AWFUL!
Grit Bath #1-3 Renee French Fantagraphics, 1993-4
These are the best comics I read in 2011, and I know that to be true, because I fucking read these comics over and over and over again. I read them like they were going to bring Patrice O'Neal back to life. There's a letter in the second issue where Jim Woodring says that the comic scared him, and I can see why. Grit Bath #2 makes Pim & Francie look like an issue of the Tiny Titans. Renee French makes everybody else look like a weak piece of shit. EXCELLENT!
Acme Novelty #5 Chris Ware Fantagraphics, 1995
This has my favorite part of Jimmy Corrigan in it, the part where he smashes his glass into his father's face and says "I brought you a basket of fruit" right before slicing his dad's back wide open. People who prefer graphic novel collections of comics like this don't seem to understand how super-fucking awesome it would have been to have read that sequence in this fashion. It's two pages from the end of the comic. That's so much better than it happening on some random page in the middle of some 400 page thing you're plowing through on the fucking couch while some garbage wallpaper music plays in the background. I feel weaker as a man when I have to bookmark a comic book, and I should. EXCELLENT!
Jimbo #1 Gary Panter Zongo, 1995
This is probably the most read Jimbo comic, I bet. How many of these did Groening print? The nicest thing about those Slings and Arrows guys is the way they just jump right at the meat of the response. Regarding this, their reviewer says "it's almost impossible to explain the quality of his work if you don't see it immediately." Like one of those posters at the mall, I guess. Garloo makes me completely out of proportion angry, it's really unfair. VERY GOOD!
Space Adventures Presents UFO #60 Jim Aparo, Denny O'Neil, Anonymous Charlton, 1967
An early Aparo comic done under a nom de plume. It doesn't look like him yet, although the classic Aparo face does look buried underneath some of the faces on display. For the brevity of the comic, the story is relatively extensive--the first part is ground level espionage shit that gives way to post orbit combat--but it's weirdly cheap, as if the artists (Aparo wasn't alone on the book) didn't have the money to draw cool space shit. I know that doesn't make sense. EH!
Batman #221 Frank Robbins, Irv Novick, Dick Giordano DC, 1970
From that great period where Bruce Wayne wore yellow ties and a gigantic hair helmet, this has to be the only Batman comic where the Tales From The Crypt denouement is the bad guy dying in a pit at the choppers of his own bloodthirsty lamb. Batman doesn't give a fuck, because the guy is a Nazi-loving German. The next story is about some firemen, Vietnam, and a fire-starting idol from Vietnam. It seems to be missing a plot, because the comic ends on the page where the setup finishes. It's actually a pretty funny story if you read it as a fireman comic where a crazy person in a Batman outfit jumps through the window and attacks a tiny statue while the firemen are trying to get their job done. Pretty much EH!
Time Twisters #5, 12, 13 Various Quality, Unknown
2000AD shorts, horrible reprint quality. Tge Peter Milligan stuff is alright. There's one story by "K. Gosnell" about a soul collecting devil who forces dead men down to Airbase Hell, and the last page of that comic should have been the first page of a much longer one. Four page comics have to be tough though. These reprints are cherry picked from all over the place, and there's still times when you see the construction seams. Comics wise they probably deserve better, but the reproduction value alone makes for an AWFUL read.
The Shadow #1-7 Denny O'Neil, Mike Kaluta, Berni Wrightson, Len Wein, Frank Robbins DC, 1974
Super good comics. Even when it's just Kaluta that keeps you moving forward--which is about half the time, although O'Neil does knock a few plotlines out of the park--these are really satisfying single issue comics, and the art is just fucking astounding to look at. The Shadow really is a great character--so creepy, an extremely weird holdover that's still just pulpy enough to make super-hero comics seem too weak to contain him--and yet there's something kind of wonderful about the little material we have to judge him by. Gorgeous. VERY GOOD!
Unknown Soldier #219 Frank Miller, Bob Haney, Dick Ayers, Romeo Tanghal, Elliot Maggin DC, 1978
The end of the Bob Haney story is classic Haney weirdness, with three panels of people laughing at the German High Command's attempt to paint a loss as a victory and the last panel being concentration camp inmates laughing while a Nazi guard holds a tommy gun on them while bullwhipping them with the other. It's completely fucking insane. The Frank Miller part is him and another guy drawing a Maggin five pager about an Achaean battle. The comic is pretty terrible. Except for the cover, which is slap-your-mother amazing. Joe Kubert in blue: that really doesn't happen enough. Miller stuff: AWFUL. Haney stuff: GOOD!
Weird War Tales #64 Frank Miller, others DC, 1978
Had to figure out where this was, it wasn't very memorable. The Miller story (again, he's not alone) is so much the sort of thing you'd find in an EC Comic that I'd be surprised to find out it was all original. Again, a great Kubert cover on an EH! comic.
Judge Anderson The PSI Files Volume 1 Grant, Wagner, Ewins, Kitson, Simpson, Ezquerra, others Rebellion, 2009
Heavily front loaded, with almost everything after the half-way mark almost unendurably bad. There's a story in here where Anderson shots a kid she's come to save point blank (she has no choice), and it's surprising how satisfying that little twist on the old song turns out to be. That story and a few others, as well as some pretty great art push this one into the OKAY! category.
Cable #96 Robert Weinberg, Michael Ryan Marvel, 2001
Recommended by David Wolkin, who is something of a connoisseur of weird Cable comics. This is probably going to be the high water mark all stand in fear of, as it features Cable agreeing to an arm wrestling match with an immortal caveman who lived through the pre-Ice Age alien invasion, Biblical times, and now runs a bar? It's also from that time period where Richard Starkings was able to convince everybody on the planet that Comicraft lettering was the best thing since smoking cocaine. EH!
Psycho Comics #1 Daniel Clowes, Rick Altergott, Pete Friedrich, Joe Kerswild Look Mom, 1981
Malicious, weird, amatuerish horror stuff from a surprising cast of creators. None of this is that remarkable, but I'd still call it OKAY!
Tarzan #74 People, for sure Dell, 1955
One of Gary Panter's favorite comics, according to one of those websites that ask about that sort of thing. It's really fucking funny, both because it means to be and because it's a weird old Tarzan comic. There's a back story called "Brothers of the Spear" which seems kind of forward thinking for a 50's comic. VERY GOOD!
Heavy Metal Presents Moebius Moebius, Fellini Heavy Metal, 1981
One of the easiest Moebius collections to find, definitely the cheapest. To some people, this is probably the equivalent of It Takes A Nation of Millions or Giant Steps in terms of just being a thing you own until you die, because it does everything the way everything is supposed to be done. EXCELLENT.
The Phantom Stranger #1 Mignola, Kupperberg, Russell DC, 1987
If I had time to scan in some panels--and I promise to make time for that the next time I do one of these--this would be one of those comics where I just throw my hands up and start ripping the whole thing like we're on Scans Daily in 06. Everything in this comic looks fucking great, from the trash in an alley to the look in Jimmy Olsen's eyes. It's impossible to read, but man: it's a beauty to drink. VERY GOOD!
Wrath of the Spectre #1-4 Aparo, Fleisher DC 1988 (reprinting old material)
I read this a while back, after Darwyn Cooke told me it was his favorite super-hero comic. I don't know if he was being serious, but I'll be goddamned if it hasn't become one of mine. Everything in here--from the unbelievable violence to the brilliant pisstake humiliation the Clark Kent stand-in goes through--is note perfect. EXCELLENT. If you don't get why guys like me live and die by the mere mention of Jim Aparo's name, buy these four comics (they're easily available) and you'll see why.
Wolverine Cable: Guts and Glory Casey, Platt Marvel, 1999
I was hoping this would have the same dumpster badass quality of Hearts of Darkness (which still has the best Ghost Rider plot of all time) but it's just a by-the-numbers adventure that feels like Casey was trying to plagiarize a Garth Ennis story from memory, on a dare. Stephen Platt seems like one of those artists who never met a super-hero story they couldn't take way too fucking seriously. The whole thing is AWFUL.
Shaolin Cowboy #3, 7 Darrow Burlyman
I could look at these all day, I can't read them for more than a page at a time. EXCELLENT and AWFUL, all in one.
Wolverine Revolver #1 Gischler, Pastoras Marvel, 2009
I actually had post-it notes stuck in this issue, I so wanted to write a long essay on it, the sort of thing that would shake the comics world to its core and cry out for More Das Pastoras Wolverine comics, and now I'm not even sure I could tell you why that is. I think I read this comic every day for a straight month, and I think I could do that again and not feel like the time was wasted. Jog likes it too? I don't know what to tell you here. I love this fucking thing. EXCELLENT!
Acme Novelty Library #8 Ware Fantagraphics 1996-7
Lovely comic, purchased cover price at a store in the South and given to me as a gift. This is a tougher chapter than the one mentioned above--Jimmy loses his tooth, there's an accident, lots of nature drawings. The stand-out sequences are all about color--the red double pager, the shades of blue when the cane is waved, the blue/red boxes that yell LATER and THEN...it's EXCELLENT, we got a few of those in a row.
The Body of Work Huizenga, 2011
The Fielder stuff and more, hand colored cover--ah, Kevin Huizenga deserves more than the short shrift he's going to get here. Smart, smart stuff. At some point, I'm going to only read Huizenga/Ware/Otomo/Kirby an entire year. I won't come out of that year any smarter, but I'll bet I'll be so happy that my buttons will burst. Body of Work: you're EXCELLENT.
Danger Country #1-2 Levon Jihanian, 2001
Sort of like Dungeon Quest or Mourning Star, but stiffer and with a set of bad guys so intense they're almost out-of-place. It's always sort of a rough start for me with these things, but I'm pretty convinced that's all me: I just can't tell if I'm supposed to take the gigantic cat-man Conan character seriously, you know? It's say this is GOOD, I'm definitely curious to see where it goes.
Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man #28 Frank Miller, Bill Mantlo Marvel, 1978
One of those super-hero comics where the layouts probably looked way more interesting than the finished drawings. There's a panel in here where Spider-Man blows some shit up in a squatting position--or something, I can't really comprehend the writing--and it's hard not to stare at it over and over again. GOOD, sure.
Judge Dredd: The Restricted Files #2 Various Rebellion, 2010
A torturous collection of some of the worst Dredd stories I've ever read, with the only bright spots being random bits of lunacy, like an airbrushed story about a rat who wears his dead rat father's top hat (it's an old Mean Machine story, don't worry about it). It's AWFUL stuff, although the Wolk doesn't share that opinion.