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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

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Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Comic Book Gorillarama
Planet of the Apes (Boom)
Guerillas
Sky Ape
Ape Entertainment
The Homeland Directive
Orbital 3. Nomads
Orbital 4. Ravages
The Jack Kirby Omnibus Volume One Featuring Green Arrow
Recent Books of Interest
The Homeland Directive Written by Robert Venditti Art by Mike Huddleston (Top Shelf)
The Homeland Directive For his first creator-owned work since the groundbreaking Surrogates, Venditti delivers a taut thriller that elevates the genre within the comics medium. After Dr. Laura Regan's research partner is murdered and she is blamed for the crime, police, the FBI, cyber-detectives, and mercenaries hunt for the CDC researcher. Why does everyone want Regan dead? What are the upper echelons of the federal government trying to hide? Who are the mismatched quartet of inter-agency spooks trying to protect Regan? The nuanced and extraordinary art of Huddleston enhances Venditti's intelligent, tension-filled script. Paranoid and addictive, The Homeland Directive provides a level of suspenseful excitement rarely encountered this side of a John Le Carre novel. Let's just hope they do a better job with the movie version than they did with The Surrogates.

Orbital 3. Nomads and Orbital 4. Ravages Written by Sylvain Rundberg art by Serge Pellé (Cinebook)
Orbital 3. Nomads
Orbital 4. Ravages
Just prior to the celebrations marking the end of the Human-Sandjarr wars, an incident occurs between Malaysian fisherman and the nomadic alien species Rapakhun. The Human Caleb and Sandjarr Mezoke, security heads for the big event, must defuse the tense situation before it shatters the newly found peace. Though this story encompasses volumes 3 and 4 of the Orbital series, no prior knowledge of the previous books is required to enjoy this exciting tale. Pellé's delicate, Euro-art shines with its simplicity. He focuses on the important details, choosing to center on the story rather than showcasing his prodigious talents. Runberg clearly and intelligently details the complex alien interactions, while never talking down to his audience. Orbital delivers the all-too-rare comics combination of humanist and alien encounter fiction wrapped in a package of beauty and quality.

The Jack Kirby Omnibus Volume One Featuring Green Arrow Introduction by Mark Evanier (DC)
The Jack Kirby Omnibus Volume One Featuring Green Arrow In 1956, Kirby returned to DC for his second tour of duty. His first ran from 1941-49 with an interlude for World War II and his third in the 1970s with the introduction of his amazing Fourth World titles. After the first appearance of the Challengers of the Unknown in Showcase #6, Kirby began accepting assignments in various DC titles such as Tales of the Unexpected, House of Secrets, House of Mysteries, My Greatest Adventure, and All-Star Western. Eventually alongside the monthly Challengers title, he drew the regular adventures of Green Arrow in Adventure Comics and World's Finest. This period ended in 1958 after an argument with DC editor Jack Schiff about an outside project. Kirby went freelance and eventually ended up at Marvel and a cultural-changing team up with Stan Lee. The Jack Kirby Omnibus Volume One collects all of his second DC tour works minus the Challengers. The DC editorial brain trust at the time prescribed to the understated Alex Toth school of illustration with no splash pages and no images exploding beyond the panel borders. DC titles were stocked with inferior Toth imitators. In an attempt to please his new bosses, Kirby's work during this epoch lack some of the sizzle and pizazz of his later works, but many of the concepts and designs are classic Kirby. Bizzaro characters, alien worlds, giant stone men, eerie talismans and other assorted strangers litter these unusual tales. With over 300 pages of rarely seen Kirby -- even lesser Kirby is better than most others -- The Jack Kirby Omnibus Volume One Featuring Green Arrow deserves a place in any fine graphic novels collection.

The Funny Book Ape

Joe Kubert's Tarzan
Amazing Mystery Funnies Volume 2, Number 7
Strange Adventures #8
Angel and the Ape
Planet of the Apes
Guerillas
My earliest comic book memory centers around an issue of Joe Kubert's Tarzan. My father, a Tarzan movie fan, probably picked it up and after looking through it gave it to his three-year-old son. While I wasn't quite reading yet, Kubert's powerful portrayal of the gorillas created a lasting impression. Shortly after, my younger sister destroyed the comic, ripping it to shreds. Apparently it scared her.

As I grew up, I discovered I was not alone in my love of the comic book ape. The first appearance of an ape in a comic book dates back to the beginnings of the medium with the initial Fantom of the Fair story in Amazing Mystery Funnies Volume 2, Number 7 (July, 1939). The mysterious Fantom defended the 1939 New York World's Fair from all sorts of menaces including a giant ape. The Fantom would appear sans simian in the next thirteen issues of the comic with his name eventually being changed to Fantoman.

It wouldn't be until May, 1951 that a gorilla would grace the comic book cover. Strange Adventures #8 ushered in a new era, the Gorilla Age of Comics. The editors at DC soon realized that comics with ape covers far out sold other comic books, sometimes twice as much. Ape covers became so prevalent that the publisher actually had to limit the number of covers that could feature gorillas.

From legendary DC editor Julius Schwartz in his autobiography Man of Two Worlds:

Strange Adventures had a particularly successful issue that featured a gorilla in a cage holding up a sign that indicated that he was really a man who had been the victim of an experiment that had gone awry, thus starting a trend in cover art featuring gorillas -- all of which, incidentally, sold better than those without gorillas on them.

Throughout the fifties and sixties, apes graced many comic book covers from countless publishers. During that period, simian characters rose to prominence. Protagonists such as Angel and the Ape, Stanley and the Monster, Solivar, Detective Chimo, and others all had their own titles or played important roles in other series. Despite their heroic success, the super-villain became the true gorilla domain. Rogues such as Gorilla Grodd, The Red Ghost, Titano, Monsieur Mallah, and others challenged many a super-hero.

Since the forties there have been countless iterations of Tarzan, Planet of the Apes, and King Kong. Charlton even offered a series of Konga comics with art by the legendary Steve Ditko. Currently, acclaimed author Daryl Gregory, abetted by artist Carlos Magno, produces an extraordinary vision of the Planet of the Apes for Boom. Dark Horse delivers reprints of classic Tarzan strips as well as new adventures of the Jungle Lord.

The popularity of the apes continues into the new century. Beyond the established licenses, Tom Strong, Marvel Apes, Guerillas, Sky Ape, and even a publishing house named Ape Entertainment all enjoy varying degrees of success. Much to the delight of many gorilla fans, the funny book ape remains a prominent fixture.


Copyright © 2011 Rick Klaw

Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews, and other things Klaw, Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century. He can often be found pontificating on Twitter and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.


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