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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

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Other Nexus Graphica Columns
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Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham
Nemesis
Magicman
Fletcher Hanks
Shang-Chi, The Master of Kung Fu
Micronauts
Captain Marvel
Was Monster Society Of Evil Canned For Racism?
Jonah Hex
Batman: Under the Red Hood
Winter Brothers Vs Jonah Hex
Spaced
Denizens of Deep City
Commies From Mars
Lou Fine
Dynamo Joe
Whisper
Sixth Gun
Driver For the Dead
Octopus Pie
Blacksad
Recent Books of Interest
The Sixth Gun Issue # 1 Written by Cullen Bunn, Art by Brian Hurtt (Oni)
The Sixth Gun The second series collaboration from the creators of the excellent supernatural noir thriller The Damned offers a creepy, magic-infused Western complete with terrifying beasts -- living and undead -- gunfights, and the occult. Investigator Drake Sinclair traffics with the dead as he searches for the powerful sixth gun. Unfortunately, others seek the same mysterious device. Bunn's pitch perfect script, combined with the unique artistic talents of Hurtt, deliver what promises to be the finest horrific western since the best of the Lansdale-Truman stories.

Driver For the Dead #1 Written by John Heffernan, Pencils and Inks by Leonardo Manco (Radical)
Driver For the Dead Not your typical hearse driver, Alabaster Graves challenges vampires, witches and other nasties. Snakes On A Plane screenwriter Hefferman borrows heavily from Constantine, both the comics and movie, and a variety occult mythologies for his first comics script. While the story moves at a nice clip and the stereotypical characters are interesting enough, artist Manco steals the show, elevating the tale beyond its fairly typical foundation. While always producing superior work, Drive For the Dead represents the finest work to date of Manco's career.

Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars in Brooklyn by Meredith Gran (Villard)
Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars in Brooklyn The first collection of Meredith Gran's charming web-comic relates the adventures of two twenty-somethings in Brooklyn: Eve, a pessimistic Asian nerd who works at an organic grocery, and her roommate Hanna, a buoyant stoner who bakes her own line of pastries. Between the requisite relationship troubles, parental interactions, and sight gags, Gran often steers off into the delightfully surreal especially in "grocery misconduct," where Eve assumes control of the store, and "skate or don't" in which Gran elevates the absurdity to Scott Pigrim-like levels. Gran's simple cartoony art perfectly compliments her complex explorations into the 21st century young adult life.

Blacksad Written by Díaz Canales, Art by Juanjo Guarnido (Dark Horse)
Blacksad Perhaps the most acclaimed French comic of the new century, Canales and Guarnido cleverly combine the seemingly disparate elements of anthropomorphic animal and 1950s crime fiction into their wholly original creation, Blacksad. Private eye cat John Blacksad uncovers the often filthy depths of mysteries involving child abductions, nuclear secrets, racist hate groups, and of course murder. Guarnido evokes the period through his evocative and elegant art while Canales' script successfully evokes the era's moods and attitudes through a contemporary lens. One of the best books of the year, Blacksad more than deserves its abundant praise.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Shang-Chi, The Master of Kung Fu
The Micronauts
Captain Marvel Adventures
Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such

Given the fact that Barnes & Noble and Borders stores offer extensive graphic novel selections and the existence of countless collections including seemingly limited interest oddities such as Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham, American Comic Group's forgettable 1960s super heroes Nemesis and Magicman, and Fantagraphics' two volumes of the wonderfully subversive works of Fletcher Hanks, one might think everything of note ever published has been compiled into graphic novel format. Remarkably, many influential and popular works remain uncollected.

None of Marvel's sensational 1970s Shang-Chi, The Master of Kung Fu -- perhaps the finest martial arts comic ever produced -- appears in book form, mostly due to rights issues with the Sax Rohmer estate. Under the auspices of the comic book license to the original pulp stories, the series related the adventures of Shang-Chi, the son of the villainous Fu Manchu, and featured several characters from Rohmer's tales (most notably the "yellow peril" villain himself and Sir Denis Nayland Smith). The series achieved its artistic pinnacle in the mid-1970s during a 29-issue collaboration of writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy.

Another Marvel creation mired in rights limbo, the Micronauts, based on the 1970s toys, enjoyed three different series incarnations from 1979 to 1986 -- Micronauts (59 issues which included the acclaimed Michael Golden-illustrated adventures plus two annuals), The X-Men and the Micronauts (four issue limited series), and Micronauts: New Voyages (20 issues). The characters remain very popular (Image and Devil's Due produced series in the 2000s), yet none of the Marvel stories appear in book form.

Though DC offers five hardcover archival collections of the original Fawcett Captain Marvel and family (Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel, Jr., etc.) stories, the most famous Marvel adventure remains uncollected in a currently available edition. "The Monster Society of Evil" story arc ran for two years in Captain Marvel Adventures #22-46 (19431945). Each issue showcased a confrontation between a member of Mr. Mind's evil society. In the manner of the serials, each story ends in a cliffhanger. One of the earliest epic long comic book storylines, "The Monster Society of Evil" presaged the lengthy tales of the forthcoming decades. American Nostalgia Library issued the entire run in an oversized, slipcase limited hardcover in 1989. In 2008, DC announced an affordable hardcover edition of the long out-of-print story. Amid rumors that the company feared being labeled as racists, the book recently ceased appearing on DC's forthcoming schedule.

Created in 1972 by writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga (All Star Western #10), the hideously scarred, hardnosed Western bounty hunter Jonah Hex currently enjoys an unprecedented success with a popular DC series, a feature film, and an animated short film, slated to appear alongside the direct-to-DVD animated film Batman: Under the Red Hood. Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex offers all the well-crafted, dark Albano tales with art by DeZuniga, Doug Wildey, and José Luís Garcia-López. By this fall, nine books collecting the first 54 issues of the current series, written by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti and contributions by an impressive array of illustrators including Luke Ross, DeZuniga, Phil Noto, Paul Gulacy, Jordi Bernet, Val Semeik, Russ Heath, Giuseppe Camuncoli, John Higgins, Darwyn Cooke, and J.H. Williams III, will exist.

Of all the major Jonah Hex storylines, only the critically acclaimed three mini-series, created by the dynamic duo of writer Joe R. Lansdale and Timothy Truman -- during this period, they also produced a controversial Lone Ranger & Tonto mini-series that attracted the ire of Rush Limbaugh -- need to be collected. The pair's first attempt, Jonah Hex: Two Gun-Mojo (1993), introduced supernatural elements to the Hex mythos, as the former Confederate soldier encountered zombies. The popular series garnered a prestigious Bram Stoker Award and a single volume compilation, now long out of print. The second series, Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such (1995), proved just as popular as Hex challenged a Cthulhoid monster and oddities such as the half-human/half-worm Autumn Brothers. The latter a progenitor to a lawsuit by musicians Johnny and Edgar Winter against Lansdale, Truman, and DC Comics for defamation of character that reached the California Supreme Court. Displayed with very light complexions and long white hair, the Autumn Brothers bear a similar appearance to the albino Winter Brothers. Ultimately, after seven years of litigation, the CA Supreme Court ruled that the depiction, clearly a parody, fell under 1st Amendment protections of free speech. All this hullabaloo didn't prevent the publication of a third well-received Lansdale-Truman collaboration, Jonah Hex: Shadows West (1999). Neither Worms nor Shadows have ever been collected.

Countless other quality titles remain uncollected. Largely forgotten but exceptional 1980s black & white series such as Tom Stazer's Spaced, Doug Potter's Denizens of Deep City, and the bizarre anthology Commies From Mars; complete runs of Golden Age great Lou Fine's The Ray, Black Condor, and Doll Man; as well as Doug Rice's giant robot Dynamo Joe, Steven Grant's groundbreaking female ninja series Whisper, and Rich Rice's profound Bob the Alien all deserve to be rediscovered.


Copyright © 2010 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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