“Smoke ’em if you got ’em, kids.”

May 5th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

tto_frontIn 1997, Frank Miller did this book called Tales to Offend. It was an extra-sized one shot, rather than a graphic novel, and featured three stories. One of the stories was Daddy’s Little Girl, a Sin City tale about a sadistic couple and brutal violence. The other two were about Lance Blastoff, Frank Miller’s take on Buck Rogers.

It isn’t exactly a straight take on the character at all. Lance is brash, loud, and offensive. He’s Buck Rogers after making his way through a crooked mirror, eight or nine packs of smokes, and probably homelessness. The two stories are ’90s-era pop psychology and political correctness versus an unbelievable level of super tough guy machismo. Think of every role Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Clint Eastwood ever did being ground up into bits and reformed as one being, and then that one being being force fed a diet of trashy movies and old EC books.

tto_backI don’t think that it’s Miller’s best work, but it is one of the relatively few times he’s done an out and out humor book, so it’s pretty interesting to see. It’s also one of the things he’s done that I can’t seem to find reprinted or collected. Daddy’s Little Girl made it into “Booze, Broads, & Bullets,” a collection of Sin City one shots, but Lance has faded into the ether.

I hadn’t even actually read the story until last week, despite having heard about it off and on for years. I love that Miller’s space ships still look like big body Cadillacs. Also nice is how the story is told in pages of two panels a piece until the last two. The “CHOMP” on the next to last page is a total cartoon bit, and I mean that in the best possible way. Lance Blastoff would fit right in on [adult swim] nowadays, I think.


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Read Good Comics: The Amazon #1

March 31st, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Steven T. Seagle and Tim Sale’s The Amazon is an interesting tale, both from a story perspective and a historical one. It began life in 1989 at publisher Comico. This was a huge surprise to me, as I’d off-handedly assumed that Seagle got his start writing X-Men for Marvel. Regardless, The Amazon was their attempt at the comic books for adults that were arriving back in the day.

The Amazon was intended to raise some awareness about the deforestation of the Amazon rain forest via comic books. The narrator of the story is a journalist, Malcolm Hilliard, looking for a story. He finds his story in the form of an American man who has gone native with the local tribesmen and begun sabotaging the equipment. Hilliard plays the role of skeptic, refusing to believe in the superstitions of the local workers, and seeker of truth.

The original run of Amazon was colored, but this re-issue has been re-colored by Matt Hollingsworth, who does a fascinating job of making the Tim Sale of 20 years ago look similar to the Sale of 2009. The color scheme ranges from vibrant, but subdued, jungle to gloomy sunsets. Hollingsworth is one of the industry’s all-time greats, and was a great choice over Sale’s pencils.

I’m not sure how much, if any, reconstruction went on with Tim Sale’s pencils and inks for the re-issue, but the art is still sharp. The book is largely made up of detailed landscapes and talking heads, and Sale does a solid job of rendering it all. He sells the expressions on the faces of the suspicious foreman, drinking workmen, and Hilliard.

Sale also does some fairly cool storytelling and panel composition work. The majority of the book is made up of horizontal panels, maybe four to a page on average. When we finally get to see our renegade American, the composition switches to page-tall vertical panels, emulating the experience of looking between trees in the jungle. There is also a particularly good panel that has a character hidden in the jungle, visible only by figuring out that a certain shadow isn’t.

Seagle’s done a solid job on the writing. The storytelling is separated into three tiers. There’s the standard dialogue, Hilliard’s internal monologue, and his article. The three intermix and coexist, and build an interesting picture of both Hilliard’s personality and distance between his own thoughts and how he approaches journalism.

The story definitely feels like the first chapter in a longer story, and may read better in trade, but this first issue is far from poor. Seagle does a good job building up the main character, setting up the conflicts, and even sneaking in a bit of education regarding the Amazon without coming across overly preachy.

I dug the first issue, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the series shakes out. If I hadn’t been told, I never would’ve guessed it was close to twenty years old. It’s well worth a look.

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