Saturday, June 23, 2007

Comics: The more the merrier.

Wanted to hip any Screamers or Screamettes who dig their scares in sequential panel format that there are two recent horror comic anthologies worth checking out: Completely Doomed from IDW and Viper Comics' Sasquatch.

Completely Doomed gathers original comic stories from the first four issues of IDW's regular horror anthology Doomed. If you haven't picked it up yet, Doomed is classic horror-antho comics done right. The stories are all adaptations of classic pulp short stories from Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, David J. Schow, and F. Paul Wilson. Thirteen different artists, including the legendary Ted McKeever, contribute a wealth of styles to Doomed's lovely black and white pages. In its original format, you also get interviews with the original authors, reviews of movies and books, prose fiction, and a wonderful EC style host: Ms. Doomed, an eye-patch wearing hottie who divides her time between vamping it up for goth-cake pin-ups and insulting the readers. The original issues of the series are published in a luxurious 8½ by 11 trim size that gives them the feel of an up-market magazine. Painted covers by Jeremy Geddes and Ashley Wood also contribute to the sense that you're getting quality product. And the insides don't disappoint. The stories, including one Eisner nominated short piece, almost always hit. They do tend towards the "twist" ending, though this seems more like a nod to pulp classicism than a tired cliché. The fact that they always revisit the same four authors could have undermined the series; instead, it helps give the series a unified feel that, given the variety of art styles used, could have felt too dispersed. The art, like the stories, is almost always top notch. It runs the gambit from hyper-stylized cartooning to naturalistic illustration. The more extreme styles can sometimes get too abstract for their own good, but the stories are tight and short enough that no style is given the time to overstay its welcome.

The collection, Completely Doomed, gathers together only the comic stories. Gone are the reviews, the prose, and Ms. Doomed is relegated to a tiny handful of semi-random appearances. Though it is a shame that we lose the charmingly abrasive Ms. Doomed, you can't argue with the decision to cut the rest of the stuff. The reviews and interviews are welcome breaks in the original magazines, but none of them are worth collecting for what might be a second read. The collection understands that it is the comic horror stories that we've paid our money to read. The reproductions are crisp and faithful to the originals. My only objection is that the collection shrinks the pages down to a less magazine-like 6 and some change by 10 inch format. The art doesn't seem to suffer any for the change in trim size, by the over-large pages were something that made the series fun. The collection also includes a cover gallery all the alternate covers for all four issues.

I've you've been following the series, there's nothing new in Completely Doomed. The more book-like format will hold up to repeated readings better than the original magazines, but it is debatable whether or not that's worth the 20 buck asking price. For those who will be approaching the series new, this is the perfect intro to an excellent collection of horror comics.

Viper Comics' Sasquatch is an original anthology "presented" (I'm not sure what that entails for a comic book) by Josh Howard, the man behind Viper's most popular horror title: Dead @ 17. I must admit that I've always steered clear of Viper Comics' titles. They seem to have a sort of pseudo-manga house style of art that I, unfairly, equate with a sort of vapid kids' play sort of work. This anthology, along with the non-horror themed sci-fi Western mash-up Daisy Kutter: The Last Train, forced me to re-evaluate my dismissive attitude. Sasquatch contains nearly 300 pages of comic fun. Dozens of artists tackle Bigfoot, the Yeti, Sasquatch, or whatever else you want to call him. The stories cover the spectrum, from straight-up horror to surreal humor to kid-friendly adventure. The art is as wildly varied as the writing. Some stories do fall flat, like presenter Howard's short of a Bigfoot soldier dispatched to kill Osama bin Laden, which is neither cathartic or satiric and verges on the embarrassing. These duds, however, are the exception. For every miss, there are four solid hits and, with that ratio, the over all collection is a quick, fun read.

I have only one complaint about Viper's book: the $25 buck asking price is a bit steep for a comic that I don't think has much re-read value. I had a good time working through Sasquatch, but nothing in it rises to the level of classic and I can't see many folks shelling out 25 Washingtons for such ephemeral pleasures. Then again, maybe I'm just a cheap bastard.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I get my own tag now. Might have to shell out my own $25 for that book, just to read some other stories..

spacejack said...

Cool! "Doomed" really sounds like something I want to check out. I like that cover style. I've been on the lookout for TPBs because I'm finding it a pain to keep up with currently-running series. (Though Vertigo's new "Scalped" comic is too good not to.)

Anonymous said...

I am very freaking behind in everything, especially commenting.
First off, much belated congratulations NOW THAT IT'S OFFICIAL on your new state of conjugalation with nee Word Nerd.
Second, sorry I haven't left a comment in like forever. Either because of circumstances or schedule, or some other lame lameness.
But, the DOOMED anthology was a topic I actually had some experience with, so that's why I'm way back here tossing in my 2 cents worth.

The first thing that crossed my mind seeing the book on the newstands was that it was an homage to the Warren publications of old, particularly the 60s and 70s although they continued on into the 90s I believe. For those unfamiliar, Warren published CREEPY, EERIE and VAMPIRELLA.
The contents page format reminds me of those magazines as well. Plus the magazine size (instead of a regular comic book size). So, it was blatant nostalgia that made me buy this title.
IDW's top gun artist-wise has to be Ashley Wood, I believe, (I think he's the company's art director as well)(uh, say, I'm assuming Ashley's a he?)(hmmm, maybe not) and his artwork is always welcome to look at. Although, I'll be honest, if I had to choose between variant covers, I'd go with Jeremy Geddes, whom I was previously unfamiliar with.
His ultra-realistic depictions of strange doings just look great. It reminds me a little of Gottfried Helnwein's work for some reason.
Whatever. It looks way cool.
The price of the individual books were pretty pricey, too, yet I still bought two copies to get the variant covers if I saw them, because I'm a ridiculous art whore!
I think the editorial choice of adapting established horror authors' work is a smart strategy, but I'll be honest, I've been up and down towards the art.
It hasn't been as atmospheric as I'd like, although I like Wood's efforts.
EXCEPT, sometimes he gets a little too suggestive with his brush strokes and I'm unsure of what he's actually depicted sometimes... which is an occasional but serious criticism in terms of his storytelling, I think.
This doesn't happen frequently, but it happens with some regularity, a moment where you are brought out of a story wondering, "did that kid just mutilate the family cat?"

On a side note, there's a Robert Bloch story they did with an artist whose work was kind of cartoony, I thought. And the panels were kind of big but not really filled in with a lot of detail. Part of me liked it, part of me was unsatisfied.
Later, I discover a 4-issue color comic written by Brian Wood and drawn by Kristian called SUPERMARKET. I loved the artwork in this thing, gorgeous colors, everything looks great. I later discover he's the same guy who did the Bloch story, full name Kristian Donaldson. With this SUPERMARKET thing in mind, I re-looked at the DOOMED story, and I still am lukewarm towards it, maybe only slightly liking it more.
But aside from the Warren homage (and maybe a Skywald homage as well, but I didn't really read those, so I'm going with the Warren ref) and my being a sucker for anthology books, I think DOOMED is a real mixed bag.

But I'll still be a sucker and buy both variant issues!
What can I say, I'm... aw, do I have to actually say it...?