Thursday, December 15, 2005



Pete Von Sholly’s Morbid
By Pete Von Sholly (shocking)
Starring the Von Sholly Players
Published by Dark Horse

I should love this.

This is a collection of various short comics homaging and parodying terrible science fiction and monster films from the 50s and 60s, H. P. Lovecraft and The Matrix. This is stuff I love. This is what I fall back on and geek out about when I’m sad or depressed or stuck in another country after having my passport stolen.

It’s also (in addition to comics) what I talk about all the time with anybody who’ll listen. Stupid science fiction and horror stuff make me really happy.

But Morbid doesn’t do anything for me. I think a large part is the way it’s, um, arted. Von Sholly says he’s been an artist for decades, storyboarding films and drawing underground comics in the 60s and 70s. However, he could be the most amazing artist I’ve ever seen and I wouldn’t know, because the amount of actual drawn artwork in this comic amounts to (I think) less than two pages. These are I think the best two pages in the entire book. Check out this picture (sorry for the shitty image quality), these comics look awesome!

The rest of the art is a combination of computer generated effects and photographs of people acting out the scenes.

Von Sholly says in his introduction that he wanted to make the movies he wanted to and by using comics and computer effects he could have the biggest budgets imaginable. I’m not going to knock the computer effects he’s using in this comic, some of them look pretty good and I sure as hell couldn’t do better. My problem is with the photos. They don’t blend well with the computer graphics. I don’t know if this is down to talent or technological abilities, but everything has this horrible fakeness to it. If everything was computer generated it would look odd (humans almost always look odd when computer generated) but at least everything would match.

The writing on short stories is of a variable quality. Some of them are pretty fun (the H. P. Lovecraft one), while others have some really good parts (using a body as a lure for other humans), but most of them are just okay and a couple are really bad. Von Sholly adds a lot of, to my mind, juvenile humour to the old b-movie plots and he hasn’t improved upon the sexism inherent in those old movies. Yeah, he’s mocking it directly but it’s still there. I much prefer to see pastiches of old stupid sci-fi acknowledge that people in the past were stupid and put females in leading (or at least intelligent) roles. I think you can keep the feel of everything and not treat women as sex objects.

In the end I’m glad I only paid $3 for this from a bargain bin.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Adam Strange: Planet Heist

(bleh, not that well written after a month of not writing because of sickness and travelling and stuff)

Adam Strange: Planet Heist (DC)
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Pascal Ferry
Colourist: Dave McCaig

Andy Diggle is a writer I like. He used to be editor of British comic 2000AD (which, if you’ve read past columns you know I like) and managed to crack the American market with fellow Brit Jock on their Vertigo series The Losers*. The Losers is about a group of ex-CIA agents trying to take out the corruption in the company (it’s a lot like the A-Team in some ways, though sadly no Mr. T). So the question is: can he write crazy space adventures?

Adam Strange is one of DC’s old science fiction characters, and he’s really the only one that’s had any modern appearances, popping up in various other characters’ titles over the years. Recently he’s been put into a more major role appearing in The Rann-Thangar war, one of the lead ins to DC’s mega-event Infinite Crisis. Planet Heist was the lead in to the lead in, though for the most part it can be read without caring about Infinite Crisis.

Understanding every detail without a major in DC intergalactic space characters will be quite a bit harder.

Adam Strange is “the man of two worlds,” transported from Earth to the planet Rann by Zeta beams. On Earth he’s just another guy, but on Rann he’s a hero. He saves the Rannian people time after time, falls in love and decides that the next time he journey’s to Rann he’ll stay. But the last Zeta beam doesn’t come and after learning that Rann was destroyed in a supernova Strange spirals downwards into despair and drunkenness.

Then the alien bounty hunters show up. Strange manages to pull himself out of his stupor when they mention something about the supernova being “faked-up” (them trying to kill him might have helped him regain his composure too…). This leads to some nice aerial battles (with jet packs!) and a tour of DC universe space.

If you know what Thanagar or L.E.G.I.O.N. are, or who the Darkstars or the Omega Men are you’ll probably get more enjoyment in seeing this characters. Me? I was just kind of lost. I’ve read the first few issues of L.E.G.I.O.N. so I at least knew what that was. But Thanagar? It’s something to do with Hawkgirl. The Darkstars? I know there was a comic called that, but I have no idea what it was about. Whereas when the Omega Men first appeared I was positive they were created by Diggle until all but a couple of them were shoved into the background after been introduced.

Thankfully knowledge of these concepts isn’t essential to the enjoyment of story. Diggle’s written a fun action comic with jet packs, public executions, space battles, ridiculous technology and jet packs (I really like jet packs, they’ve got that pulp science fiction feel to them I guess). The story seems to tear across half the galaxy and every issue manages to end on a cliff hanger. There’s also some nice humour throughout script.

The art on Planet Heist is by Pascal Ferry (or Pascual or Pasqual or… his name apparently get misspelt a lot). Well actually I should be more accurate and say the art is by Ferry and Dave McCaig, because the colouring on this book is pretty much essential to the art. The style of illustration used heavily depends on computer colouring. There’s a lot of science fictioney bits that are done with computers (I’m not sure who did them), while a number of pieces of technology seem to be created entirely by the colouring process.

But what about Ferry’s actual pencils (no inking on this comic, though there’s some nice zipatone effects)? Well they vary. Some images look beautiful, while others just look ugly, it’s sort of weird. However a major problem I have with Ferry’s art is that it doesn’t seem to flow that well. Taken individual there are many really nice pieces here, but for whatever reason they lack a certain…motion perhaps. They seem to be lacking something. Perhaps the colouring is partially to blame.

I also don’t like the way Ferry has chosen to drawn some things. There are a number of guns and pieces of armour that seem too rounded. I know it’s space and everything, but the big gun Adam Strange is holding on the cover doesn’t look like real. It looks like a toy. Some of the armour and costumes worn by characters look like they’re made out of foam rubber and belong in a bad, old science fiction movie. And as much as I love those, I don’t want their costumes in my serious, modern science fiction comic. Still for the most part I do enjoy Ferry’s art and design.

Overall this is a good comic. It’s not great. The art (pencils and colours) is great in some places, but great art does alone make a great comic. Especially when it’s not great all the time. I think if you’re a fan of Adam Strange, or the DC space stuff, this is worth picking up. Otherwise

*The Losers is finishing up in a couple of months, at issue 32. How many finite series only go 32 issues? Finite series in the twenty-thirty issue range are something I’d like to see explored more.

In other news…


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