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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:
The Annotated Sandman Volume One
Bad Cat Comics
Buffalo Speedway Volume 3: The Last Slice
Mail-Order Mysteries
Unterzakhn
After taking a month sabbatical from reviewing books for this column, I found myself with an abundance of material. In fact so many titles to cover, that they squeezed out my typical Nexus Graphica rantings. I'll be back in 30 with a more traditional piece.

 

 

 

The Annotated Sandman Volume One by Neil Gaiman Art by Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg, Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Mike Zulli, Colleen Doran and others Annotations by Leslie S. Klinger (DC/Vertigo)
The Annotated Sandman Volume One

When Sandman, written by the then-unknown Gaiman with images by Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg, launched in January 1989, very few comics required annotations. Gaiman, much like his mentor Alan Moore, littered the series with obscure reference and marginalia. The DC title proved to be one of the most popular and endearing of the 90s, running 75 issues and spawning several spin-off series. Eventually Sandman garnered three deserved Eisners and is the only comic book to win a World Fantasy Award. DC collected the entire series in ten volumes, which have enjoyed numerous reprints including re-colored and hardcover editions. They were also produced in five over-sized hardcover books as part of DC's Absolute Edition line. And now, almost exactly 23 years after its initial appearance, comes the first of five over-sized annotated editions. The lauded Klinger supplies fascinating annotations alongside the original story art, reproduced in black & white, for the first 20 issues. He employs not only text reference but befitting the subject material uses images when appropriate. When referring to the first appearance of the gates of Hell (Sandman #4, page 4, panel 3), Klinger reproduces Auguste Rodin's sculpture The Gates of Hell, and later in Sandman #11 (page 13, panel 5) the annotations mention that Gilbert physically is based on G.K. Chesterton, a photo of the author is shown. Sadly, the handsome, informative volume lacks a much needed index.

Bad Cat Comics #1 Story and art by Tim Doyle Grey tones by Paul Maybury (Nakatomi)
Bad Cat Comics #1

This handsome 16 page black & white comic showcases the extraordinary graphic talents of artist Tim Doyle, proprietor/chief designer for the acclaimed Nakatomi studios and artist of the excellent The Intergalactic Nemesis. Bad Cat Comics #1 introduces the Camino Cats, a band of smoking, gun-toting felines, who seek to rescue the Shark Prince from the evil clutches of the demented artist Damien. "Shark plus water does NOT equal art! Shark plus formaldehyde DOES equal art!" Riding a forklift, the tabbies arrive just in time to save the shark. And that takes us to page 2. Doyle's non-stop actioneer packs more story and clever ideas into 16 pages than most multi-issue tales, never mind one full size comic. Wild and clever concepts abound including an encounter with a land-displaced giant squid, a wild chase with a colony of cats collaborating to drive a car, and the fact that all cats speak Cattese (which Doyle thoughtfully translates throughout).

Buffalo Speedway Volume 3: The Last Slice by Yehudi Mercado (SuperMercardo)
Buffalo Speedway Volume 3: The Last Slice

Mercado concludes his humorous chronicle into one day of the Turbo Pizza delivery drivers. On June 17th, 1994, the Rockets battle the Knicks in the NBA Finals, America hosts the World Cup, and O.J. Simpson leads the LAPD on a slow speed chase, combining to spawn a near perfect storm of pizza delivery as all 3 million people in Houston stay home to watch the events unfold on TV. Amidst all the chaos, oddity, and laughs that included pizza delivery driver groupies, a serial killer, and sex obsessed housewives, Mercado supplies a surprisingly realistic portrait of the relationships between the drivers. (I know. In the 80s, I spent a Houston summer as a pizza delivery driver. My experience sans the sex, groupies, violence, explosions, and jail mirrors Mercado's account.) The excellent cartoony art combined with effective storytelling and a comprehensive understanding of 90s pop culture further propel the enjoyable Buffalo Speedway. While compared to Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Clerks, and Do the Right Thing, Mercado's unique creation bears only a superficial resemblance to the group, offering a superior product in terms of quality and content. Given the bizarre events recounted in the previous chapters, Mercado successfully weaves these disparate elements into a cohesive and satisfying conclusion.

Mail-Order Mysteries by Kirk Demarais (Insight)
Mail-Order Mysteries

Cheesy ads promoting all sorts of questionable items have appeared throughout the history of comic books. In the lavish Mail-Order Mysteries, Demarais supplies a chronicle of the more popular and infamous products. Far more than just a mere listing, each item includes the original ad, a picture of the actual item, and exploratory text broken into three or four parts: WE IMAGINED, THEY SENT, BEHIND THE MYSTERY and CUSTOMER SATISFACTION. Demarais starts with an exploration of the classic X-Ray Spex. The ad promised "Amazing X-Ray Vision Instantly!" For $1, it claimed you could "See through fingers -- through skin -- see yolk of egg -- see lead in pencil." Demarais reveals every boy's belief about the product in the WE IMAGINED. "Glasses that enable you to see real skeletons and nudity." In the THEY SENT segment he quickly debunked it, informing that the Spex were really "eyewear stuffed with bird feathers!" The feathers created the illusion of seeing skeleton or the curve of a woman's body. In BEHIND THE MYSTERY, Demarais tells us that creator Harold von Braunhut also created Sea-Monkeys. He closes the passages with "CUSTOMER SATISFACTION: Not X-actly what we X-pected, but they're X-alted as the quintessential mail-order novelty." In 150 pages, Demarais covers legendary novelties and questionable products such as the 100 pc. Toy Soldier Set, Grit newspapers, World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets, and the Polaris Nuclear Sub. He often shares little known but interesting facts about the products, their companies and creators. The only downside to this book is the lack of an index. Demarais divides the book into eight subject sections making it difficult to locate something you read previously. Thanks to Austin Books for the loaner.

Unterzakhn by Leela Corman (Schocken)
Unterzakhn

Corman's absorbing book follows the lives of twin sisters Esther and Fanya, the children of Russian Jews, on the teeming streets of New York's Lower East Side. Beginning in 1909 when the six-year-old girls work alongside their seamstress mother, the tale follows each of their divergent lives. The young Fanya attracts the attention of the "lady-doctor" Bronia, who performs illegal abortions. Bronia teaches her how to read and mentors Fanya in the medical arts. Corman's evocative portrayal of health care for women in those pre-Roe V. Wade days effectively showcases why abortion must remain legal. Esther finds paying work for a woman who runs a burlesque theater and a whorehouse. While there, she learns about and eventually relies on her sexuality to find her place in society. Unterzakhn (Yiddish for "Underthings") follows the twins throughout their lives, chronicling their loves, successes, failures, and losses, while exploring the roles -- sexual, intellectual, familial -- of women. Corman produces an exceptional portrayal, deserving of much laudatory praise and acclaim, of immigrant and Jewish life on par with the works of Will Eisner and Art Spiegelman.


Copyright © 2012 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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