Author Archives: Todd

And Then I Read: THE MIDDLE AGE BOOK ONE by Steve Conley

Images © Steve Conley.

I don’t read many online strips…okay this is the only one, but I love it dearly. Steve Conley has been making great comics for a while, including ASTOUNDING SPACE THRILLS and BLOOP. This new effort is his best yet, in my opinion. Sir Quimp of Grawlix is a hapless but courageous knight on a seemingly hopeless quest to win back his lost love. His first task on that quest is to acquire a magic sword, Maledicta, the Sword of Woe, from its resting place in the skull of a dragon. He does that on the very first page, launching him on a terrifying journey facing horrific foes of many kinds. The sword is a talking one, and what it has to say to Sir Quimp is always entertaining, from dry sarcasm and witty criticism to occasional actually helpful suggestions. Through it all, Sir Quimp remains hopeful and cheerful about his impossible quest. At times I can’t help thinking of the pair as Margaret Dumont and Groucho Marx from the Marx Brothers films, with the sword as Groucho.

Steve’s work on the strip is superb, combining clear, charming cartooning and funny writing with lovingly rendered details and excellent lettering in a way that I haven’t seen since Walt Kelly’s “Pogo.” The only problem with this collection is that it’s too short! But you can find more on Steve’s Patreon site.  You can also find this first collection on Steve’s website along with other cool stuff.

I heartily recommend it!

And Then I Read: SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #6

Image © DC Comics.

Last issue I was commenting that the birdlike alien from Meta, Loma, who inhabits the body of Megan on Earth, seemed to be giving up on trying to make that work, and wanted only to go home to Meta. This issue, the spirit of Megan herself arrives from somewhere and tries to get her body back. Suddenly, Loma finds she wants to keep it after all. While most of the people around her and at school think she’s gone crazy, Loma-Megan does have a few friends who are trying to help. Meanwhile, back on Meta, Loma’s true body has been found wearing the madness coat that has transported her spirit to Earth, and Loma’s friend on Meta is being forcefully interrogated to find out how that happened and how to get the coat to release her. Back on Earth, some kind of spirit friend is giving Loma-Megan advice on how to handle Megan’s angry spirit. Then there’s a puzzling teaser at the end that I didn’t get at all.

Despite sometimes being confused by the storyline, I did enjoy this issue. The dialogue, characters and art are entertaining enough to bring me back for more, and much of the storyline made sense and worked for me.

Mildly recommended.

And Then I Read: HAL JORDAN & THE GL CORPS #12

Image © DC Comics.

Larfleeze, the conniving Orange Lantern (one and only) has made a mistake. He let the Green and Yellow Lantern Corps members out of their Brainiac bottle. He’s powerful, but his foes have a secret weapon: they know what he’s most afraid of…losing all his wonderful stuff. Meanwhile, Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner and the last two Guardians of the Galaxy (that we know of) are hurtling across that galaxy to join the fray, and when they do, Larfleeze is in even more trouble. For the first time in some years, all of Earth’s space-going Green Lanterns are together in the same fight. As with THE FLASH, this title seems to be heading back toward familiar territory, and I like that, as it’s been a while. A fun issue in which all the players have their star turns, nicely written by Robert Venditti and illustrated by Ethan Van Sciver.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: GREEN LANTERNS 12

Image © DC Comics.

Green Lantern wanna-be Frank has been given an amazingly powerful ring of his own that accesses the powers of all the various ring colors, and can be used by anyone, none of that “chosen by the ring” required. It makes holding off Earth’s true Green Lanterns, Jessica and Simon, easy for him. In fact nearly everything is easy if it can be done with force. The problem is, Frank doesn’t know how to control the power he has, and the many emotions it’s tied to. In a way, the ring is controlling him. Becoming a true hero? Now, that’s harder. Getting people to admire and applaud him rather than fear him? Harder still. A well-told story by writer Sam Humphries and artists Eduardo Pansica and Julio Ferreira.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: DR. OX’S EXPERIMENT by Jules Verne, illustrated by William Pène du Bois

Dust jacket. All illustrations © William Pène du Bois.

Here’s a book I didn’t know existed but was delighted to find in a used bookstore recently. I’d heard of the humorous Jules Verne short story, and might even have read it once, but the real delight came from the wonderful illustrations by du Bois, a favorite author and illustrator of books for children in his own right. While many of his own books are mostly pictures, several are novels for older children, including the Newbery award-winning “The 21 Balloons,” and equally wonderful “Peter Graves” and “The Giant.” Though born in New Jersey, du Bois spent ages eight to fourteen in Paris, and perhaps came to love the work of Jules Verne there. Much of his own work follows similar themes of science fictional adventure stories.

In addition to the illustrations on every two-page spread throughout, the book’s unusual design gives it additional charm. You read the entire book sideways, with each spread forming a large page, as seen above. There’s an introduction by science writer Willy Ley outlining Verne’s life, and an afterword by Dr. Hubertus Strughold analyzing the science in the story.

Front cover of the book inside the dust jacket.

The story itself is only mildly amusing. Dr. Ox and his assistant Ygene have come to a small, bucolic Flemish town in mid 1800s northern Belgium where little has changed in hundreds of years, and the entire populace and their animals have become lethargic and extremely slow in every way. For instance, at the local opera house, the musical pace is so slow that it takes an entire day to perform one act of an opera. The most important men in local government are the Burgomaster Van Tricasse and his friend Counselor Niklausse who run things by doing as little as possible. Somehow Dr. Ox has convinced them to set up a new gasworks that he says will supply the entire area with gas-fueled lighting, and the plant and infrastructure is soon built, but actual lights seem to be taking a long time to arrive.

Endpapers.

As the story progresses, we find out the real “experiment” is to flood the town with pure oxygen to see what effect it might have on people, animals and plants. The effects on people are soon seen where the gas is being emitted: everyone becomes animated, energetic and soon excitable, irritable, argumentative and even violent. Animals are equally affected. Plants achieve such vigorous growth that giant vegetables and fruits are soon being produced. Eventually the town is so roused to action that they decide to declare war on a neighboring town and gather to march on it.

This is more of a social comedy than a real science fiction tale, and Verne’s ideas about humor are rather bland and obvious. The illustrations are generally more amusing than the text. The afterword by Strughold explains that, though based on ideas of the time, the science in the book is actually wrong in most areas, and oxygen, while dangerous if breathed in large amounts for long periods, does not have the effects described. I love some of Verne’s adventure stories, but humor was not his forte. I’m still delighted with this book because of all the terrific art and design.

Recommended.