Hawkman #1(© DC Comics) / Quicken Forbidden (© Cryptic Press) / Girl Genius (© Studio Foglio)
Daniel's Comic Book Column
# 5, March 2002
(This month Daniel made a valiant attempt to broaden our horizons by looking at some "Alternative" comic titles. What I'd really like to find is some comics that have Science Fiction or Fantasy tie-ins. If you read (or even better publish) comics that you think fit under that criteria, feel free to email Daniel your suggestions at: firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks -- Ern)
At the 39th Boskone (February 2002, in Framingham, Mass), Editor
Ern correctly chided me for talking primarily about comics from DC (part of Times-Warner,
not a division of Beatrice), and also suggested I do a column about Spider-Man, given the upcoming movie of Everybody's Favorite
Hawkman #1(DC UNIVERSE | FC, 32 pg. $2.50)
First, though, This month's Recommended Title, which is from DC: Hawkman, Written by James Robinson and Geoff Johns; art by Rags Morales and Michael Bair. You loved these guys on Starman, JSA, Hourman and other titles, you'll like this one.
Beyond DC/Marvel: The Alternatives
OK, back to the main topic.
"Alternative" a.k.a. "independent" comic books often means simply "comics from some publisher other than DC or Marvel" (or, arguably, "Archie Comics). These run the gamut from spin-offs from DC and Marvel through self-published titles. (Some formerly alternative titles/publishers have been acquired by DC or Marvel.)
"Alternative comics" also includes the space once called "underground comix" -- Zap, Mr. Natural, the Fab. Furry Freak Bros., the Overland Vegetable Stagecoach, Tales of the Leather Nun, and so on, many of which were inarguably "adult" in language, image and action.
However, there lots more to alternative/independent comics than just the undergrounds. There's Dave Sims' CEREBUS (which I confess I haven't read more than a few of), chugging along faithfully for 20+ years. There's Love & Rockets, Howard Chaykin's AMERICAN FLAGG! (arguably an underground), at least two kick-ass Oz-based series (plus Eric Shanower's intensely delightful original Oz "graphic novels"). And who can forget Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
Some have even made it to screen, often with arguably better luck than Marvel's had until last year's X-Men non-travesty. E.g., MYSTERY MEN and, on TV, The Tick. (We're talking just live-action here, not counting cartoon/animation.)
I owe my introduction to independent comics largely to Usenet, specifically to the rec.comics group. (This was before the renaming/re-org -- I lose track whether it was the "Great Renaming" -- to the rec.arts.comics, and subsequently sub-grouped to rec.arts.comics.* groups.)
Specifically, Alan Moore's MiracleMan, Originally published as "MarvelMan" over in England. Collected in four hard-to-find trade paperbacks (heh), MiracleMan explored the premise of the consequences of superheroes to the world at large. Great stuff, I reread them regularly.
There are probably hundreds of alternative/independent comic titles out there. At the Beyond Men in Tights: Comics without Superheroes panel I was at on at the 2001 World Science Fiction Convention, and, IIRC (If I Recall Correctly), some similar panel at Boskone or ReaderCon or Arisia within the past year and a half, several participants brought along six to twelve inch stacks of alternative titles, all or nearly all without costumed superheroes, from publishers other than DC or Marvel.
Some of these are excellent, with writing and color art that rivals the output of the Big Two publishers. Some are in black and white. And some, of course, aren't so hot.
Since I (clearly) haven't been following the alternative/independent scene thoroughly, I thought I'd turn to some of my comic-reading friends for their recommendations.
Carol Cooper, a New York based cultural critic who has reviewed comics, pop-music, movies, and books at various times for various publications, including *The Village Voice*, *Honey,* *Elle,* and *Rolling Stone*, suggests:
And Carol's second recommendation:
Next, I turned to Tom Galloway, who, in his own words, "has been reading comics for 92.68% of his life, been on what became the Internet for 52% of his life, and managed to combine the two by being voted Favorite Poster in the rec.arts.comics newsgroups' Squiddy Awards four years running. He also owns a drawing of himself done by Phil Foglio on a plate with the caption 'Tom Galloway went to Lunacon '85 and all he got was this lousy Foglio plate.'"
Tom knows more comic, SF and other trivia than I ever hope to, as he's regularly demonstrated at Mark Olsen's Trivia Bowl evening sessions at several Boskones. Here's Tom's recommendations:
And Brenda W. Clough, author of stories and books including How Like A God (you can read her novella "May Be Some Time", which is currently on the Final Nebula Ballot, online at www.analogsf.com), who adds to our store of knowledge:
(Dern here again) Technically, Promethea, Tom Strong and Top Ten don't fall under the rules here, since ABC (American's Best Comics) is owned by or otherwise part of DC, but a) they're all great -- I've been following most issues of all three titles, b) they're in no way part of the "DC Universe," and c) they're all great comics.
Thanks to my guest opinionators. With any luck, your local comic shop will have some or all of these, and while you're there, grab the latest Cerebus, and see if they've got any MiracleMan issues or collections in stock.
Next month: It's web time!
Daniel P. Dern is a free-lance technology writer. He was previously Executive Editor of Byte.com. He can be reached at: email@example.com /(www.dern.com)
© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu