By CHRIS KEMPLE
Alex Toth: Genius Animated, IDW. I think most cartoonists worth their salt would agree that it doesn’t get any better than Alex Toth; his sense of economy and simplicity in storytelling and design is practically without peer.
This volume, the third in an excellent series by IDW focuses more on Toth’s animation work, primarily at Hanna-Barbera. I’m lucky enough to also own the “Toth: By Design” book by Darrel McNeil, which covers a lot of the same material, but this newer compilation of Toth’s model sheets and presentation boards has much better reproduction quality, and is in color.
Toth’s sense of imagination and genius oozes from every page, and his bold sense of conveying character and premise in just a few sparse images makes even the weirder ideas being pitched by HB back in the day seem almost plausible … ALMOST (“Planet of the Dogs”, anyone?).
Still, this volume is gorgeous and it not only shows us loads of never-before-seen and rare pieces from Toth’s portfolio (from projects that made it to air and those that didn’t), it also gives a great insight into the man himself, a somewhat controversial and enigmatic figure in comics and animation. Inspiring stuff.
Buz Sawyer Vol. 3: Typhoons and Honeymoons, Fantagraphics. Oh, man. Roy Crane. A choice Toth would definitely agree with. I’m not sure that there’s any other cartoonist who speaks to my sensibilities like Crane does.
From his art style that blends charming stylization with striking realism, to his innovative use of Crafttint paper, to his story mixture of gutsy action, romance, adventure, and woman-spanking fun, Buz Sawyer just hits every right note in what I love about comics and period adventure. And those women … no one can draw sexy women quite like Roy. I’ve never got Crane stuff too far from my drawing table. I’m just glad Fantagraphics has finally stepped up to reprint all of these strips; over the years it seems many have started runs of Buz Sawyer, but they always stop at around the same point, so I’ve got several volumes of all the same material in a futile attempt to finally get a complete collection of them all.
Hopefully this version will see it through to the end, because Roy Crane deserves it. While some may prefer his Captain Easy work (which I also love), I think his art truly reached it’s summit with this strip. Just amazing, humbling cartooning at it’s finest.
Meteor Men: Jeff Parker and Sandy Jarrell, Oni Press. This Oni book isn’t quite out yet, but I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hands on an advance copy of it and it’s spectacular.
Jeff and Sandy are good friends of mine, and knowing what I know about their work, it really does my heart good to see them produce a book like this. It’s heartwarming, sad, thrilling, and really captures a sense of what a coming-of-age story should be.
Parker, who is one of the best comics writers working today, is at the top of his game in crafting a story that makes you think about character motivations while also delivering a touching message and being fun, immersive and accessible.
Sandy’s clean, bold and striking artwork lends even more charm to this story of a young, isolated boy who is mankind’s unlikely hero in an interstellar, global crisis. He’s definitely one to keep your eye on; he’s going to be the next big thing, you watch. The book has been released digitally on Comixology, but is set to hit stores in mid-October. It’s definitely worth checking out!
Giant-Size Kung Fu Bible Stories, Image. I’m a Bruce Timm addict, always have been. When I saw he was doing a short story in this homage to all those great giant DC and Marvel treasury editions from the 1970s, I had to get it. Seeing Timm’s dynamic work in full color in this large format really is a treat. Let’s be honest, seeing ANY Bruce Timm art in comics these days is a rarity, so anytime it shows up it should be embraced, even if it’s only 5 or 6 pages.
There’s also great work by Erik Larsen, Art Adams, Adam Warren, Andy Kuhn and others that blend fun, action, humor, and satire into a pretty entertaining anthology. I loved the original treasuries from my childhood, and this one takes me back to that fun period that many of us grew up with.
Spider Man: Marvel Team Up, Marvel. This one is another nostalgia trip for me. Featuring early collaborations from Chris Claremont and John Byrne, these Spider-Man stories feature the creative team that later on went to fame and acclaim on X-Men.
Straight up, these are fun, boilerplate superhero team-up tales that I remember loving as a young lad, so when I found them collected in this edition, I decided to take a trip down Memory Lane. I’m glad I did, because they’re every bit as fun as I remember, from a time when comics could be lighter fare and not so grim and gritty.
It’s not Claremont’s or Byrne’s best work by any stretch, but it shows them coming into their own creatively (which in itself is interesting to see), and it’s still really solid storytelling that holds up after all these years.
I could go on and list a lot more, including James Robinson and J. Bone’s The Saviors; Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s stellar Daredevil; Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner’s Flash Gordon; the latest Lobster Johnson miniseries, featuring stellar art by Tonci Zonjic; and Mark Millar and Goran Parlov’s Starlight, among others.
Too much great stuff to mention in one article!