Tag Archives: 1001 comics

Graphic Content – We3

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
94/501Title: We3
Creator(s):
Grant Morrison
Year: 2004
Country: USA

Just when you think you have the comics list sussed out, along comes We3 among the newspaper strips and the long-running superhero comics to throw a real curveball. Like, a science-fiction three issue miniseries with a super-fast action style where the protagonists are three animals that have been scientifically abused into killing machines that are released by their heart-broken carer after she was ordered to destroy them? I mean these stories are a dime a dozen.

I think I have seen one other instance of the ‘experimental animals that can speak and are accidentally released’ trope in one other series – the equally disturbing black comedy series I Am Not An Animal. Both are an uncomfortable mirror up to the world about what we as a society are willing to turn a blind eye to when it comes to vivisection. Both are bloody at times and both really do make you think about how far we would be willing to go.

The titular ‘We3’ are a dog, cat and rabbit who were former pets (the cover art showing their wanted posters, indicating they had been kidnapped from their loving owners) that have been cybernetically modified and turned into killing machines, each also being given a very basic grasp of English. The dog is especially heartbreaking with them, despite all things, still wanting to be seen as a “good boy”.

To see that a series like this came from the creator of Zenithtook me aback a bit – then I saw that in between he had worked on X-Men and that helped make more sense. In all these, there is a political streak, it is just that I needed X-Men to fill in the gap for me.

Also, to see on the Wikipedia page that this was even considered for an adaptation is… ridiculous. Given the gore and animal cruelty angle of this, We3 feels like something that would be borderline unadaptable – since things have gone quiet on that front, I am not the only person who thinks that. It should just be left as is – a weird and brilliant three issues with minimal dialogue and a lot of viscera.

Graphic Content – The K Chronicles

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
93/501Title: The K Chronicles
Creator(s):
Keith Knight
Year: 1993-now
Country: USA

Like Life in Hell, The K Chronicles is a (now) weekly comic where you are able to find broad swathes of it online – although, in this instance, you can find it on an official site rather than someone collecting scans on a Tumblr. They also both feature the creator’s own take on current events.

This is where the similarities end, although the political slant of both (at least from what I have read of both) is on the more liberal side. The strips themselves are, on average, more political – with them being written through the lens of Knight’s own experience as an African-American. Most of the ones that I ended up reading were more recent, so references to Trump’s America, Black Lives Matter were abound. Considering I recently joined a diversity group within my work department, it felt like a remarkable piece of timing that I picked these up.

This won’t be the last I hear of Keith Knight, The K Chronicles and his life have inspired a series on Hulu that will be going onto our watchlist – alongside pretty much everything else in the world, or at least that’s how it sometimes feels. It’ll be good to see Sasheer Zamata in something again… eventually.

Graphic Content – Hellboy

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
92/501Title: Hellboy
Creator(s):
Mike Mignola
Year: 1994-now
Country: USA

From Life in Hell to Hellboy – that was not done on purpose, but it does make for a nice case of a chain name. Especially when the comics are nothing like each other. Seeing that Hellboy himself is a character that appears in comics other than his namesake, I just wanted to put it here that I just stuck with the Hellboy comics and followed the number guide on the Wikipedia page.

I had no idea that Hellboy was even a comic when I saw the second of the Guillermo Del Toro Hellboy films in the cinema. Now that I have read the original source material, granted Hellboy II: The Golden Army was an original story, I understand why people were so happy with Del Toro’s adaptation. I also get why he was the perfect director to bring it to the screen – the character designs and the occult supernatural elements are right in his wheelhouse.

As a comic, Hellboy has both a long running storyline involving demons, Nazis and other supernatural nasties as well as really well-done one-shots. The story that really has stuck with me, and I think would have made for an excellent short, The Wolves of Saint August. I guess a story of a sudden massacre in a remote Eastern European town at the hands of cursed werewolf spirits really spoke to me.

It feels like a long time since I have read a western superhero comic that I actually could not wait to start the next issue of. I have yet to finish my pile completely, so there will be a gap before I make my next comic post. Also it is Christmas and, other than the Hellboy Christmas special, this isn’t really a comic to be reading over Christmas.

Graphic Content – Life In Hell

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
91/501Title: Life In Hell
Creator(s):
Matt Groening
Year: 1977-2012
Country: USA

I wonder how differently I would be viewing Life In Hell if it wasn’t for the fact that I grew up watching Golden Age The Simpsons and actually watched the first seasons of Futurama when it was on. Like I am so used to the Matt Groening style of animation that it is weird to see where he actually started out – and actually continued to write until fairly recently.

Where his television shows are spun from his original concepts – or at least he was involved in the original concept – Life in Hell is just Matt Groening himself. Having read a smattering of them from a wide range of years, thanks to a Tumblr that has been trying to archive a number of the strips, it’s oddly gratifying to realize someone whose work I have adored for years has similar political views to me. Reading Life in Hell you see how liberal his views, like two of the recurring characters are an arguing gay couple in fezzes that would appear to be doppelbangers.

One thing I have against Life In Hell is just how repetitive the art gets. Like, I understand having some recurring jokes and frames – but I saw a lot of variations on the same drawing with just different text. For some of them, like when Binky the bunny has done something bad, it’s funny – but with Akbar & Jeff it gets a bit samey. Still though, this has been fun.

Graphic Content – Berlin: City Of Stones

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
90/501Title: Berlin: City Of Stones
Creator(s):
Jason Lutes
Year: 1996-2018
Country: USA

The Berlin series of comic books are a historic look at the city of Berlin in the Great Depression. In total there have been 22 issues across three books, the first of which is featured on the 1001 list. I plan to read the follow ups (City of Smoke and City of Light) now I have finished off the first book, but wanted to write this now before my view is too coloured by later issues.

In the first issues that make up Berlin: City Of Stones we are focused mainly on 1928-29 – with Blutmai – a bloody massacre executed by the police on members of the Communist Party of Germany as they went on a peaceful march through the streets – being the end point. Whilst there are a number of through-lines, there are no real main characters – although the death of one of the ensemble at the end of City of Stones was pretty shocking as she was shot through the heart.

The boiling pot of Germany in this era of history is one that I learned about in history class and of which much has been written about. I imagine that City of Light will go even further into the rise of the National Socialist party, something that does appear in these earlier volumes but only to give us a sense of what was brewing in terms of sentiment and not yet as a major threat.

Given what happened next, it is hard to forget that in this time period Berlin was still a massive cultural centre with their cabaret, art movements and even some more liberal attitudes towards homosexuality (at least compared to previous time periods and to other cities around the world).

To see this beginning to collapse due to the economic hardships and the poison of the different political movements fighting for the country’s soul is profoundly sad. In City Of Stones we see this reflected through the large ensemble cast who take different levels of ownership of the destinies of themselves and their country. It’s an interesting series and I am interested to see how far into the rise of the Nazi party it ends up going.

Graphic Content – Torpedo 1936

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
89/501Title: Torpedo 1936
Creator(s):
Enrique Sánchez Abulí, Alex Toth and Jordi Bernet
Year: 1981-2000
Country: Spain

Usually I like to read a lot of a comic before I am done with it – being sort of a reflection of how, when I do the books list (which I swear I will get back to one day) I try to actually finish the book before writing a blog post… unless I really really hate it. With Torpedo, I stopped a fair bit earlier than normal because – this is a comic trying to create an assassin anti-hero, who likes to rape as payment for his work.

Some background first. Torpedo is a Spanish comic that is set in New York where the titular character is a very accomplished mob hitman. The individual stories involve him either executing a contract or him trying to outwit another hitman that has been sent to kill him. Some of the issues go into his psychopathic backstory where he bludgeoned a rather nasty cop to near death… so he could steal the pretty gun.

On the whole, the stories were fine but nothing that made me think I had to read every issue. Then the first story happened where he forced himself on a woman as payment “because he isn’t a charity”, the next scene showing her husband talking to his son about how good a man Torpedo was. It then didn’t take long until the second time, the writer making it clear that both women really did not want this… and so Torpedo wasn’t quite satisfied.

The artwork is good for this sort of hard-boiled style of mob comic, but other than that I can’t see a reason why I would want to continue with it. There are many other comics on this list that are worth the time over this rapey assassin.

Graphic Content – Sardine In Outer Space

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
88/501Title: Sardine In Outer Space
Creator(s):
Emmanuel Guibert and Joann Sfar
Year: 2006-2008
Country: France

This is likely to be a short write-up because, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to think about how to place this in terms of the canon. As a 31-year-old reading this for the first time (especially soon after reading Akira and Even Monkeys Can Draw Manga) it is incredibly different… and not necessarily in a good way.

In a way, I don’t think I am really the best person to talk about this as it really is more aimed to be shared with a 5-year-old child. Pretty much everything in these stories would appeal to a small child, from the humour to the art style to the childish resolutions to all the plots. For example, you have Sardine (a girl who travels through space with a crew of space pirates) start an ice cream fight when it appears their sundaes have been poisoned by their arch-enemies.

Again, a cool sort of rebellious spirit that a small child might enjoy. However, it didn’t quite connect with me and so I’m just happy to have been able to cross it off quickly so I’m able to move onto whatever comic is next.

Graphic Content – Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
87/501Title: Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga
Creator(s):
Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma
Year: 1990-91
Country: Japan

I am writing this in the hope that, in the week prior to this being published, I have been able to do something akin to what I normally do during the run up to the Oscars – even the only things I end up seeing are because they were created by Netflix or Amazon. Anyway, that’s over five months away and I just finished reading this rather interesting manga.

From the title, I was pretty much expecting the manga equivalent of Understanding Comics – completely missing the entry in the 1001 book that listed this as a comedy. In a way I wasn’t completely off the mark when i thought this would be instructional. After all, this goes through many different genres and sub-genres of manga, with the intent of the authors explaining the way to make a success out of them.

Of course, it’s all written heavily tongue-in-cheek with a lot of nudity gags – because that’s what they say sells. It’s pretty over the top with recurring jokes that get more and more ridiculous as they go on. The problem is that, rather quickly, they run out of major genres to cover and you end up with sections on obscure things like ‘mahjong manga’. By this point the whole thing has run its course, but it made for an entertaining read whilst it lasted.

Graphic Content – Akira

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
86/501Title: Akira
Creator(s):
Katsuhiro Otomo
Year: 1982-1990
Country: Japan

Akira is one of the great animated movies. If it had not been for Covid-19, I would have been there at my local Cineworld theatre to watch the brand new 4K  version. Instead I watched it again on Blu-Ray and decided that now was finally the time to read the manga. Hell, given that the film successfully predicted Tokyo winning the right to host the 2020 Olympics and that 2020 would be pretty bad, I wanted to see what else there was.

As with most anime adaptations, especially for the big screen, there is a lot more in the manga. What’s especially interesting about the manga versus the anime is that the beginning and ending are broadly the same, it’s just that it’s missing pretty much the entire second half before we get to the cool body horror and existential big bang parts.

It’s especially interesting that in 1982 you saw the first publishing of Akira in Japan and then, in the West, the release of Blade Runner. Like something was in the collective air that allowed the co-evolution of the cyberpunk genre – of which Akira is so incredibly influential. Like, without Akira it’s highly unlikely we would have gotten things like Ghost in the Shell or even The Matrix.

The imagination on display here is incredible and even if the ending doesn’t quite stick the landing of 38 volumes of build up. Some threads are left dangling, yada yada yada, but boy it is one hell of a ride. Reading this really makes me yearn for an Akira anime series where they do the complete manga like they did with MonsterMaybe written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo so it can bring his creation to full life. I say this as someone who absolutely adores the 1988 film – a greedy person who wants more.

Who can say no to a full cyberpunk series dealing with psionic powers, cyberpunk themes, motorbikes and eventual body horror? Seriously though, screw the Hollywood live action version and let’s have it done properly!

Graphic Content – Uncle Scrooge: The Second-Richest Duck

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
85/501Title: Uncle Scrooge: The Second-Richest Duck
Creator(s):
Carl Barks
Year: 1956
Country: USA

Aside from general things online, this is the first thing that I have read since the first few weeks of the March 2020 lockdown. A mixture of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and ongoing depression meant I haven’t really been one for reading recently. Especially not then writing about what I read.

Okay so Uncle Scrooge: The Second-Richest Duck isn’t exactly War and Peace but it’s baby steps towards starting my reading again. Also, who can say no to a comic featuring the great Donald Duck? Sure, he’s a supporting character to the avarice of his uncle, but it’s just nice to see him with his lovely nephews.

I’m not entirely sure why this particular Scrooge comic is on there, but I guess this is an exemplar of his series. This is the beginning of Scrooge’s rivalry with Flintheart Glomgold, which becomes a big part of future comics – also the story is perfectly written over the 20 pages. This story of ‘who is the richer duck’ is balanced so well that even as an adult you can find so much joy in it. Although I am with Donald, I’d rather buy myself a milkshake than rummage through the garbage to save on buying a newspaper.