Bizarro Comics

Bizarro Comics 

By various (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-56389-779-2

I’ll happily go on record and say that all of the fun and true creativity in comics comes out of the ‘alternative’ or non-mainstream writers and artists these days. To prove my point I’d list a bunch of things, and very near the top of that list would be this book.

In its seventy-five odd (some, ever so) years in publishing, DC Comics produced many of the most memorable, most engaging and most peculiar comic characters and concepts you could imagine. They also managed to create a deep and abiding affection in the hearts and minds of some of the most creative people on the planet.

Within the hilarious framing sequence of a monstrous creature attempting to conquer Mr Mxyzptlk’s 5th dimensional home, Chris Duffy and Stephen DeStefano tell a weird and wonderful tale of the outlandish failed Superman clone Bizarro. As the appointed champion of the endangered dimensional our ‘hero’ resorts to his ultimate power, producing comic strips featuring unfamiliar adventures of DC’s most recognizable heroes…

Cue a veritable who’s who of the cool and wonderful of modern comics creating a plethora of wacky, dreamy, funny, wistful and just plain un-put-downable strips that would delight any kid who read comics but then accidentally grew up.

If you’re a fan of Jessica Abel, Kyle Baker, Gregory Benton, Nick Bertozzi, Ariel Bordeaux, Ivan Brunetti, Eddie Campbell, Dave Cooper, Mark Crilley, Jef Czekaj, Brian David-Marshall, D’Israeli, Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Hunt Emerson, Bob Fingerman, Abe Foreu, Ellen Forney, Liz Glass, Matt Groening, Tom Hart, Dean Haspiel, Sam Henderson, Gilbert Hernandez, Matt Hollingsworth, Dylan Horrocks, Nathan Kane, John Kerschbaum, Chip Kidd, James Kochalka, Roger Langridge, Carol Lay, Jason Little, Lee Loughridge, Matt Madden, Tom McCraw, Pat McEown, Andy Merrill, Tony Millionaire, Will Pfeifer, Paul Pope, Brian Ralph, Alvin Schwartz, Marie Severin, Jeff Smith, Jay Stephens, Rick Taylor, Craig Thompson, Jill Thompson, Andi Watson, Steven Weissman or Bill Wray you’ll see them at heir best. If you haven’t heard of anybody on that overwhelming list then get Googling. Then get this book and get enjoying.

© 2005 DC Comics. All rights reserved.

Oh My Goddess! Volume 2

Oh My Goddess! Volume 2 

By Kosuke Fujishima (Titan Books)
ISBN 1-84576-486-9

Having almost adapted to being inextricably linked to a beautiful goddess, you’d think life would settle down for socially inadequate student Keiichi Morisato, but sadly things just keep getting more and more complicated.

The college society he pledged to – the Nekomi Institute of Technology Motor Club – are a bunch of maniacs, always spending his money and getting him into trouble, his little sister is always nosing around, the campus queen, Sayoko, inexplicably has the hots for him, and to top it all, Belldandy’s sister – an even more powerful goddess – has decided to make him her pet project.

When you’re a lazy slacker who just wants a hassle free life, you should be careful what you wish for. This second collection of Kosuke Fujishima’s classic comedy of errors is a gentle hoot that can’t fail to bring a smile to the jaded comic palate.

© 2007 Kosuke Fujishima. All Rights Reserved.

Oh My Goddess! Volume 1

Oh My Goddess! Volume 1 

By Kosuke Fujishima (Titan Books)
ISBN 1-84576-485-4

Oh My Goddess is a particularly fine example of a peculiarly Japanese genre of storytelling combining fantasy with loss of conformity and embarrassment. In this case nerdy science student Keiichi Morisato dials a wrong number one night and connects to the Goddess Technical Help Line. When the beautiful and powerful Belldandy materialises in his room, offering him one wish, he mockingly asks that she never leave him, effectively trapping her on Earth and unable to move too far from his physical proximity.

In a structured society like Japan there’s plenty of scope for comedy when a powerful female seemingly dotes on an average male, and much frivolity occurs as her inability to part from him increasingly disrupts his life. And of course there’s the whole supernatural powers running amok problem to consider as well. Think of it as a modern take on Bewitched or I Dream of Genie, especially as there’s a romance developing between them that both are incapable of admitting to.

Throw in the usual cast of friends, rivals, insane teachers and interfering entities and there’s plenty of light-hearted fun to be found in this bright and breezy manga classic.

© 2007 Kosuke Fujishima. All Rights Reserved.

Tales From the Clerks (Omnibus)

Tales From the Clerks (Omnibus)

By Kevin Smith & Various

(Titan Books)  ISBN 1-84576-406-4

Kevin Smith is a very disturbed individual, and therefore one of the most creative and funny people working in the narrative arts today. You are probably aware of such films as Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Dogma. If you weren’t appalled or disgusted by any or all of them, read on. If you did find them offensive or just not your thing, stop reading and move on, because I’m not talking to you, and you’ll only get upset all over again.

As his film career advanced, Smith began scripting some high profile comic books, and also some less iconic ones. The characters from Clerks appeared in numerous mini-series, which were eventually collected as the trade paperbacks The Clerks, Chasing Dogma and Bluntman and Chronic. This Titan Books edition gathers all that material plus the all-new Where’s the Beef, and includes the rare Walt Flanagan’s Dog from Oni-Double Feature#1 (drawn by Matt Wagner). A covers, sketches and artwork gallery, plus a host of other “Clerks-iverse” material, rounds out a package that must be nigh on everything ever published about this motley band of deviants.

If you like adult humour, social satire viewed from the bottom staring up, or just dirty, clever, frat-boy humour, this a book for you. Just be careful where you leave it.

™ & ©1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 & 2006 View Askew Productions. All Rights Reserved.

Boneyard in Color, Volume 2

Boneyard in Color 

By Richard Moore

(NBM)  ISBN 1-56163-487-5

Richard Paris is pretty average. Or at least he was until he inherited that cemetery. You know the one: out by Raven Falls — where that sexy vampire chick and those monsters and ghosts and demons all hang out. Yeah that’s the one. And now that he’s living with all those weirdos, strange stuff just keeps on happening to him. No sooner has he sent Belzebub packing back to the inferno than the Internal Revenue Service has come after him. And they won’t be content with blood, souls or eternal damnation. They want half a million dollars! How can Richard and his peculiar cast of reprobates get out of this crisis?

There’s a great tradition of combining horror and comedy, and Richard Moore has shown that there is still much fun to be had in this vein. Combining traditional cartoon drawing with a wicked sense of slapstick and screwball humour, filtered through a modern lens of cynical modernism, this is an absolute joy of a funnybook.

This edition is printed in colour for all those fools who wouldn’t buy it when it was first released in the original black and white. Still damned funny though.

© 2002 Richard Moore. All Rights Reserved.

The New Adventures of Jesus: The Second Coming

The New Adventures of Jesus: The Second Coming 

By Frank Stack

(Fantagraphics Books)  ISBN 1-56097-780-9

One of the earliest exponents of the US counter-culture, at least in terms of his contributions to Underground Comix, Frank (Foolbert Sturgeon) Stack has sadly missed out on the benefits of fame and notoriety of such contemporaries as Gilbert Shelton and Robert Crumb.

He may well be the perpetrator of the first ever underground (a split decision with the late Jack Jackson, both of whom released work in 1964 – although a collection of stack’s doodles was compiled and Xeroxed by Shelton in 1962-3 as “The Adventures of Jesus”) but I’m sure he’s not that bothered. What is important is that these throwaway scribbles by all these weirdo drop-out freaks changed the nature of comics and did a huge amount to reshape the society they came from.

Stack’s weapon of choice was Jesus Christ, whom he made the star of an occasional series of strips satirising America which appeared between 1964 and (since there’s new material in this collection) the present day.

A lot of the bite may seem dissipated by time, but that simply shows how effective and successful they were – and actually still are. Many people have pondered on what the Messiah would do if he came back today, but no-one else could deliver the gentle, telling punches of The Dog Messiah, Jesus Meets the Armed Services (released at the height of the Vietnam War), Jesus Joins the Academic Community or Jesus on Ice, and, as the brand new Jesus Meets Intellectual Property Rights shows, there’s room — and still a need for — Stack’s style of commentary.

This collection is extensive, informative (as well as a commentary from Stack, there are pieces from both Crumb and Shelton) but above all, fun to read. You might not get Saved but you will get your money’s worth in entertainment.

Text & art © 2006 Frank Stack. All Rights Reserved.
This edition © 2006 Fantagraphics Books.

Scott Pilgrim Vol 3: Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness

Scott Pilgrim Vol 3 

By Bryan Lee O’Malley

Oni Press

O’Malley’s Manga-styled tales of an adorable boy-idol slacker, shambling his way through a contemporary, if somewhat skewed, life is a gentle stroll through a world that manages to feel warmly nostalgic no matter what age you are or where you grew up. Scott Pilgrim is young, lazy and gorgeous, shares a flat with his cool, gay best mate, plays in a band and has girlfriend hassles. He lives his life from moment to moment and manages to keep a moist grip on both angst and hormones.

The third outing for the world’s most precious slacker sees his life-challenges spiral to unbelievable heights and depths. Ramona, his new girlfriend, has revealed that before they can find eternal happiness – or at least date – Scott must defeat her seven previous boyfriends – who are all Evil and Mighty! The complications keep on abounding as Evil Boyfriend #3 is Todd, who is currently seeing Scott’s ex! To make things worse, she’s in a more famous band than Scott and is determined to make him suffer.

This extraordinary blend of pop and sub-culture, replete with ninjas, bionic chicks, teen rebellion and sheer surreal cartoonery is absolutely irresistible reading for anyone who’s got a brain and a secret desire to try being young just one more time. Funny, compelling and probably addictive, and so entertaining you could probably dance to it. This is another great comic book. Go buy it now, and don’t miss the first two either.

™ & © 2006 Bryan Lee O’Malley. All Rights Reserved.

Lenore: Wedgies

Lenore: Wedgies
Lenore: Wedgies

 By Roman Dirge

Titan Books ISBN 1-84576-167-7

Lenore is a sweet little girl who has cute, if somewhat surreal, little adventures. She is also dead and has been for quite some time. This second collection (issues #5-8 of her own comic) features more bleak, eccentric, and darkly comic strips, stuffed with her strange coterie of acquaintances plus some new – if perhaps not so fresh – friends.

Impossible to fairly describe but so absolutely necessary to read – I personally recommend that “5 Reasons Not to Blow on your Kitty’s Tummy” be adopted as the eleventh Commandment – and fiercely steeped in the traditions of Charles Addams, this book should appeal to the same skewed and twisted audiences that follow “Squee!” and “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac”, “Gloom Cookie”, or even Giffen and Roman’s “i Luv Halloween”, not to mention the films of Tim Burton. This is an unwholesome treat for kids of all ages with a taste for the darker flavours of life. Ever so much better for you than giving poisoned candy to kids who bang on your door.

TM & © 2006 Roman Dirge. All Rights Reserved.