Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Comics News Roundup: Al Williamson RIP

Re-looking at The Last Phantom

I'd pretty much dismissed Dynamite's take on The Phantom after seeing the above "costume" and hearing how the new series is essentially a reboot. I like the current Phantom enough that I don't really want to see him rebooted. But then I read this interview with writer Scott Beatty in which he said that he wants to explore a question that's always sort of itched the back of my mind for years: "Is [being the next Phantom] choice or predestined? And can one simply walk away?"

I'm not totally caught up with Moonstone's series, so maybe they've touched on it, but I've never read a Phantom story in which the hero struggled with whether or not he wanted to accept the role. I still hate the new look, but I am interested in seeing Beatty explore this aspect of the character.

Jesse James vs. not-exactly-Machine Gun Kelly

If you've followed this blog for a while, you know that I co-wrote a story in which Jesse James and Machine Gun Kelly meet during the early days of the gangster's career. The fate of that story is still being determined, but my interest in the subject matter means that I automatically love this post by Snell about a different kind of meeting between Jesse and some gangsters.

After the break: the return of Vampirella, the mystery of Captain Marvel, and the passing of Al Williamson.

Vampirella Archives

More Dynamite news. They're collecting the early Vampirella stories as Vampirella Archives, but they're also going to publish something called The Vampirella Masters Series which collects Vampirella stories by comics legends. The first volume contains work by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar; future issues will feature Warren Ellis and James Robinson.

There've been a lot of legendary creators who've worked with Vampirella. Folks like Archie Goodwin, Kurt Busiek, Doug Moench, Bernie Wrightson, Barry Windsor Smith, Mike Ploog, Richard Corben, Wally Wood, Neal Adams, and Frank Frazetta. And more recently, respected writers like Brian Wood and Mike Carey have taken their shot too. I don't know if these guys' stories are more suited for Archives or Masters, but it doesn't really matter to me as long they're collected somehow.

Captain Marvel and the Great Initiation Mystery

Colin at Too Busy Thinking About My Comics makes a very good case that "the story of Captain Marvel was in one sense quite over within 31 panels of his first story, and within four panels of his first appearance." That single quote doesn't do justice to his argument, so you should click through and read the whole thing. It does a nice job of explaining why Captain Marvel's never really fit in with the larger DCU and has to keep getting re-booted.

Al Williamson

The biggest real news for me this past week was the death of Al Williamson. Tom Spurgeon has the real obituary.

My first exposure to Williamson's work was the few Star Wars strips of his and Archie Goodwin's that I was able to read in my grandmother's newspaper when we'd go to visit her. Or maybe it was Marvel's Empire Strikes Back adaptation that - along with the novelization - completely spoiled that movie for me before I saw it.

I didn't know Williamson's name though for years after that until Dark Horse reprinted those newspaper strips. I remembered how amazing his worlds were. He'd ground the story with photo-referenced characters that were still somehow dynamic and exciting, but add in all of these fantastic monsters, buildings, and of course giant mushrooms. For the period of time between Star Wars and Return of the Jedi, Al Williamson was the expanded Star Wars universe, even though I didn't know who he was.

This past year I also discovered his Flash Gordon work and I became an even bigger fan. Thank you, Al Williamson, for all the fantastic images.


Jay said...

Yeah the news about Al Williamson was pretty sad, but considering how long he lived and the legacy he left behind, he really was a master of the artform.

BTW, which pub is that last image from? Is it still available in print?

Michael May said...

Yep! It's from Al Williamson's Flash Gordon. HIGHLY recommended.


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