New Year's Day 2010 arrived swiftly and, as with every new year, it brought new challenges and new opportunities. The world moves too fast for me to assign one day of the year to taking stock of my life, my plans, my responsibilities, but there remains a tradition to consider.
I made my New Year's resolutions, some involving my personal life and some my professional life. Relax. I'm sparing you this year, save for one exception that bears directly on my CBG column and this website. I'll keep it short.
Writing 1000 Comic Books You Must Read - available at better bookstores and comics shops everywhere - reenforced my belief that in this, the true Golden Age of Comics, there is more spiffy stuff for comic readers than at any other time in the entire history of American comics. Classic material from the past along with outstanding new works. Comics from all over the globe. And a wave of comics scholarship providing new insights to and greater knowledge of the art form and entertainment we love.
I'm going to do my best to write about as many of these books, comics, and publications as humanly possible. I can't guarantee a review for every item I receive - I get about 300 items per month - but I'm happy to talk with creators and publishers about which of their works stands the best chance of getting some coverage here or in my online columns.
That's the New Year's resolution I'll share with you.
David Small's Stitches [W.W. Norton & Company; $24.95] is an unnerving memoir. In flowing black-and-white-and-grey panels and pages, Small tells how his father's zealous belief in the healing power of radiation gave him cancer; how both his father and mother seemed clueless or, worse, unconcerned as to the seriousness of his illness; and how Small struggled to survive both his disease and growing up in his dysfunctional, secretive family.
This is an irresistible graphic autobiography. It weighs in at over 300 pages and I couldn't turn the pages faster enough. I would have read it straight through if Small didn't sucker-punch me with regularity throughout the book. There are moments and scenes that just plain stunned me, none more shocking than when the family comes into a nice bit of money and Small's parents still postpone the cartoonist's medical needs. I had to walk away from the book at that point, returning to it hours later.
Stitches is everything I want from a graphic novel. It is a powerful and personal story, told clearly and brilliantly. It sticks to your soul as only the very best comics can. It earns the full five out of five Tonys.
In late October, Cartoon Network's "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" aired "Mayhem of the Music Meister" starring the amazing Neil Patrick Harris as the melodious miscreant. This musical episode was so much fun I immediately went to my too-many boxes of unread comics for the first nine issues of DC's Batman: The Brave and the Bold [$2.50 each]. Those comics might not have reached the high notes of Harris and the rest of the cartoon cast, but they were most entertaining.
Writers Matt Wayne, J. Torres, and Landry Walker went all over the DCU for the heroes and villains of their suitable-for-all-ages adventures. Hardly an era wasn't utilized with appearances by Kid Eternity, Catman, the Mad Mod, the Queen of Fables, and members of China's Great Ten. Even with such diverse casts, characters were quickly and smoothly introduced to readers while the stories flowed equally well. There were twists and turns, to be sure, but there was a greater clarity of storytelling than can be found in most of the "adult" super-hero comics published by DC. I didn't have to go to Wikipedia once to figure out who was who.
The scripts mixed action and humor with clever concepts. The artists, which included Andy Surano, Phil Moy, and Carlo Barberi, brought considerable excitement to the telling of the tales. The first eight issues even had puzzles pages and "Secret Bat-Files" of the heroes and villains. I hope we haven't seen the last of those bonus features; they definitely added value to the comics.
The above, albeit very slightly rewritten, originally appeared in the "Tony's Tips" column from Comics Buyer's Guide #1662 [February 2010]. As I recover from a New Year's flurry of various ailments, it seemed prudent to go reprint for a couple days. With a little luck, all-new TOTs might resume on Wednesday and certainly no later than Thursday.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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