Comics Of Note 4150

Newspaper cartoonists like Garry Trudeau and Bill Watterson have long campaigned against the shrinkage of the funny papers, but after generations of exposure to increasingly tiny, rote four-panel minimalist strips, it's easy to forget what they were fighting for. Which is why Little Nemo In Slumberland: So Many Splendid Sundays! (Sunday Press) is a bit of a shock: it presents Winsor McCay's fabulous phantasmagoria in its original glorious full-page size, and serves as a reminder of what newspaper comics used to be back at their turn-of-the-century inception. At $120, the massive 16-by-21-inch book is an investment, and completists may prefer the smaller 2000 full-series collection Little Nemo 1905-1914 (Taschen) to this 110-strip best-of. But given the detail that went into McCay's stories about a young boy's dark, fevered episodic dreams, it's terrific to see these comics as they were meant to be seen, for once...

The illustrations and text of Graham Roumieu's Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir (Plume) are both reminiscent of outsider art; in telling his own scattered, unhappy story of celebrity and downfall, Bigfoot sounds kind of like the Incredible Hulk ("Bigfoot must admit I pretty special. Special precious, not small bus special."), and the washed-out watercolor imagery makes him look like something midway between Paul Chadwick's Concrete and a giant turd. But his observations on his life as a star, a prison inmate, a forest-dwelling wild creature, a steroid freak, a conceptual artist "who appeal is absence," and much more are fitfully, eerily hilarious. If only all celebrity bios were this colorful...

Grant Morrison has a habit of coming up with great ideas and then failing to play them out, which makes the prospect of an ongoing Morrison-penned Superman series a little hard to get worked up about. But the first issue of All-Star Superman (DC), written by Morrison and illustrated by Frank Quitely, is pretty promising, with Morrison folding his hundred-ideas-a-page effusion into the weird, ingenious plotting style of the Silver Age. Lord knows whether the book will still be readable by issue three, but at the moment, it's the most enjoyable incarnation of Superman in almost 30 years...

There isn't much of Bob Fingerman's usual cutting wit or multi-layered observation of urban life in "Otis Goes Hollywood," the overlong, overwrought satire that makes up the bulk of Dark Horse's new Fingerman collection You Deserved It, but the string of scatological gags in the back of the book are fairly funny, and the sick, unrelenting, yet oddly hopeful opening story "Missing Pieces" is enough to assure that the talented Fingerman still bears watching...

One-eyed lone gunman Jonah Hex first appeared in All-Star Western in 1972, and though his stories initially traded off Sergio Leone spaghetti-Western archetypes, they quickly moved into darker places more befitting the comic's change in title to Weird Western Tales. The first volume of Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex documents the shift while highlighting the best-kept secret about DC Comics' non-superhero Silver Age titles: They had the best art. The Jonah Hex series began in the hands of Tony Dezuñiga, who defined its loose lines, deep shadows, and open spaces, which combined to make the Old West look simultaneously violent and stylishly modern...

The 10th issue of Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve (Drawn & Quarterly) contains the second installment of a three-part graphic novel that used to be called "White On Rice," but is now temporarily untitled. The first part mostly set the scene, introducing an Asian-American theater manager and the girlfriend who can't abide his secret sexual attraction to white girls. The second part is plottier, moving characters around the board to set the stage for the twists to come in the climax, but the new chapter's brief sketch of the quick flare-up and flame-out of an interracial relationship holds real morbid curiosity, especially as rendered in Tomine's unforgiving naturalistic style...

Fantagraphics' new serialized graphic-novel "Ignatz series" brings a stable of exciting international art-comics stalwarts together under one banner. The first wave includes a pair of Italians: Igort, whose Asian-influenced Baobab is a little hard to parse in its first issue (though it promises to make more sense as the continent-spanning story unfolds), and Gipi, whose memory play The Innocents doesn't come to much, but looks good getting there. But the best of the first lot is Insomnia, by UK cartoonist Matt Broersma, who sets out on a complicated but highly readable narrative about coincidence and fate, featuring a con man on the run and a roomful of skeleton storytellers...

When it comes to political commentary, there's a fine line between barbed and just plain shrill, and cartoonist Stephanie McMillan doesn't always fall on the right side of that line. But the multitude of strips collected in the 160-page Stephanie McMillan: Minimum Security (NBM) are smart and informed as well as outraged and uncompromising. The latest in the Attitude political-cartoonist series edited by Ted Rall—himself smart and informed, though more often than not just plain shrill these days—runs the gamut from snarky single-panel comics (in which McMillan's angry avatars exchange views with smug businessmen, pious religious figures, and a creepy Uncle Sam) to dense, wry, educational comics of the type more likely to directly and incisively confront political, societal, and economic inequities than the average newspaper these days.

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