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Trade swap week, with Alex bringout Batman Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On a Serious Earth by Grant Morrison & Dave McKean. The guys are split on their feelings about the comic; with a lively debate on the comics merits, story choices and craft. Listen for the deconstruction for one Batman’s most controversial stories comics.
Three decades ago a young writer and artist met in the offices of a telephone sales company. They were both novice talents in search of a way to break into the comic book medium. In this case, they were following up on reports that members of said phone firm were considering funding an “exciting” new anthology spotlighting fresh creators. As is often the case with such ventures, the anthology never panned out, but it did provide the opportunity for the writer and artist to have a chat. They decided they would like to work together, and, after a near miss or two, produced a graphic novel. First published 30 years ago, Violent Cases is the first collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, whose partnership has evolved over the following decades into one of the most distinctive in the medium’s history. Few others creators have been as closely associated with the other as they have. That history began with a tale of childhood, gangsters and that ever elusive thing called memory.
The weather might suggest otherwise, but December has arrived and with it the inevitable year’s end lists. Luckily, at Nothing But Comics, we’re quite fond of year’s end lists. Our first group Top Ten will arrive tomorrow, but first I offer up my annual look back at some of the most memorable character from 2016.
All entries are listed alphabetically. For simplicity sake, characters without code names are listed by first name.
To observe that “war is hell” is so commonplace now, it has pretty much passed into the realm of tired cliché. It does not help that its sentiment is often cited equally by doves and hawks, the latter extolling the visceral virtue of combat. Violence is a difficult subject to represent, as even the most seemingly clear-cut anti-violence message can be twisted into something laudatory (as Stanley Kubrick was repulsed to discover with A Clockwork Orange). Indeed, there is a line of thought which states that all war films, regardless of intentions, are ultimately pro-war, as it is impossible to put combat on screen without glamorizing it. (This reviewer would extend such analysis to many supposedly “moralistic” gangster movies). For his new graphic novel Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash, Dave McKean successfully avoids many of these pitfalls. He accomplishes this by almost entirely skipping the battlefield sequences, concentrating instead of the more intimate emotional toll of warfare for the fallen and survivor alike. The result is a moving mediation on the true cost of war.
“I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild . . .”
-David Bowie , “Changes”
In 1982 a young British writer by the name of Alan Moore was tasked with revitalizing the dormant Marvelman property (now known as Miracleman). Over the course of the next several years, Moore would revamp Miracleman for contemporary times, explore the drive for survival and elevate the hero to the status of divinity. Coinciding with his iconic DC work of Swamp Thing, Watchmen and The Killing Joke, Miracleman remains one of Moore’s signature achievements. Moore departed the series on a breathtaking high note, in which Miracleman has become, for all intents and purpose, a god lording over humanity. And unlike Dr. Manhattan’s Enlightenment clockmaker deity, Miracleman had no qualms about employing a heavy hand to guide civilization. Truly, a new age had dawned.
If the Miracleman saga had ended there, it would have been deeply satisfying. Yet, publisher Eclipse preferred to continue the title. Once again, the series was given to an up-and-coming British scribe: Neil Gaiman. Teaming with artist Mark Buckingham, Gaiman began a six issue arc entitled The Golden Age. Despite the daunting task of following in the footsteps of Alan Moore at the height of his powers, Gaiman and Buckingham more than justify the continuation of the series. The Golden Age is a rich, deeply human take on the world. Most importantly it honors what Moore built, while still allowing Gaiman’s own voice to shine.