I’ve always had a fondness for Michael Moorcock’s Elric character. He’s an anomaly in the sword and sorcery genre: a melancholic , physically frail drug addict who, in order to survive, has to rely on sorcery and on souls fed to him by his vampiric, insatiable and ultimately treacherous sword. Rather than victory, he brings death and disaster to those around him, including the people he loves. In short, he’s the anti-Conan. Elric’s run in comics hasn’t been as successful as Conan’s, but then that’s cerebral limey writers for you.
It’s difficult to believe that Gary Panter’s now in his sixties. He still carries the image of a brattish punk rocker, producing art that tapped into the Californian New Wave in much the same way as Jamie Reid’s came to summarise a whole generation of earlier, British music.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep isn’t Philip K Dick’s best novel, but, thanks to Blade Runner, it’s by far his most famous. This adaption retains all the novel’s text, and is clearly a labour of love. Sadly, it’s also not very good for precisely those reasons.
DC’s Flashpoint series seems to be latest attempt to simplify the DC universe and make it accessible to a wider readership. It happens every few years: some big, earth-shattering crisis that levels years of cross-continuity and increasingly self-referential storylines. Maybe it even works, for a little while, but it’s a doomed mission. Plotlines and characters accumulate again, history becomes baggage, and the comics become incomprehensible to a casual readership.
Fear Itself is the latest Marvel “event”. Cue some world-threatening force that causes heroes to band together and save the day via numerous crossovers and miniseries. Yawn yawn yawn. Maybe Marvel’s saving all its creative efforts for its movie spinoffs, because there’s little sign of any such inspiration in its comics line at the moment.
These two short books by Jon McNaught are an unexpected pleasure. From a distance they resemble stocking filler books, the sort you flip through and then consign to your local charity shop. In actuality, they contain unusual, rather striking comics which have a quality I haven’t really seen in the medium before.
Paying For It is both autobiography and polemic. It’s autobiographical because it’s a blow by blow (no pun intended) recounting of a period in Chester Brown’s life when, after breaking up with his girlfriend, he starts to visit prostitutes. It’s also a polemic, defending his right to behave in this way, and an argument that prostitution should be decriminalised.
For such an iconic character, there are few truly memorable comics featuring Superman. There’s a balancing act that few creators manage to pull off successfully, and the result is a comic that’s staid, or twee, or camp, or disastrously modified to fit current trends. In this issue, they’ve opted to create a comic that reads like a throwback from the 1970s.
Stephane Blanquet has been an active figure in the French comics field since the early 90s. He’s a prominent figure in a movement that’s been given various names: “baby art”, “art brut”, “visionary art”. In a comics context it’s one of those movements that difficult to define, but easy to recognise when it’s seen. It draws on illustrations in Victorian children’s books, underground comics, 1950s pre-code horror comics and the actual style of drawings made by children, and blends the lot into something typically rather grotesque and disturbing.