And Then I Read: SPENCER & LOCKE

Image © David Pepose. Written by Pepose, art by Jorge Santiago Jr., colors by Jasen Smith, letters by Colin Bell.

This trade paperback collects four issues of the comic. Locke is a brash young detective, Spencer is his anthropomorphic black panther sidekick, but nothing is quite what it seems. Spencer is also a stuffed toy panther, similar to Hobbes in “Calvin and Hobbes,” which Locke has apparently had since childhood. Like Calvin, only Locke can see the “living” Spencer, who is reminiscent of Blacksad. Locke is investigating the murder of Sophie Jenkins, a school teacher and childhood friend of his, and he soon finds out that Sophie had a daughter, Hero. A prime suspect is another childhood friend who bullied Locke, and he takes pleasure in returning the favor, but things get much more complicated than that, and before long Locke and Spencer are involved with drug lords, exchanging gunfire with thugs in high-speed car chases, and taking all kinds of risks.

But wait, is Locke a reliable narrator? How much of what he’s telling us is real, and how much is as hallucinatory as his partner? The unusual places the story takes us make it hard to know, and periodically the film noir style switches to “Calvin and Hobbes” pastiche, with story elements played for laughs…sometimes. That’s actually what makes this book most interesting, that and the characters and their relationships, which are complex.

I enjoyed reading this, but can’t help feeling there’s too much from other sources. Mildly recommended.

And Then I Read: FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (2018)

Image © Marvel. Written by Dan Slott, art on main story by Sara Pichelli, on backup by Simone Bianchi, colors by Marte Gracia, letters by Joe Caramagna, one-pager by Skottie Young. Cover variant above by Mike Weiringo.

I haven’t read an issue of FF since John Byrne was doing it, but this one worked for me. Reed and Sue Richards and their two children are lost in the multiverse, and presumed dead. Many on Earth, including Johnny Storm think they will be back, though Ben Grimm takes a more pessimistic approach. As the story opens we see Johnny and his roommate Wyatt Wingfoot are at a Mets game having fun while Ben and his girlfriend Alicia Masters are shopping and considering adopting some kittens. An FF flare goes up over the city, getting hopes up that they’ve returned, but Johnny and Ben soon find out differently. Former FF substitute members are interviewed on TV, and Ben tells the tale of a lost FF adventure. There are many fine character moments in the book, and I can see myself enjoying more in this series. There’s also a very positive surprise ending which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

The book also opens with a four-page remembrance of Steve Ditko that I’m guessing ran in all the books at some point. Nicely done.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: HIGH HEAVEN #1

Image © Ahoy Comics. Main story written by Tom Peyer, art by Greg Scott, colors by Andy Troy, letters by Rob Steen. Backup written by Tom Peyer, art by Chris Giarrusso. Additional material by Shannon Wheeler, Grant Morrison and Rick Geary.

Disclaimer: I am designing cover logos for this company, so I wish them well. Otherwise, I’m just reading along with the rest of you.

David Weathers presents himself as a man who is dissatisfied with his life in almost every way. The cute co-worker he’s out to lunch with brings his latest embarrassment and humiliation, but he does have one thing to boast about. His life ends spectacularly. Soon after, David finds himself entering Heaven, but as should come as no surprise, that too is full of disappointments. Can Heaven really be as mundane, sterile, dirty and sometimes threatening as life on Earth? There are some perks: a halo card allowing access to a free room with a TV, and all the junk food you might want, but there are definitely some downsides. And lots of feathers.

The backup, “Hashtag: Danger” is lighter, cartoonier, and a mix of kids cartoons and teen sarcasm. Both are funny and entertaining, though not so much in a laugh-out-loud way, more wry amusement. The backup text feature by Grant Morrison with illustrations by Rick Geary guides us through a World’s Fair like no other. Is this why we don’t have them any more?

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE CAPTIVE by Scott O’Dell

Cover illustration by Marie Lemoine.

This is the first book of a trilogy about the conquest of Central America by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, after the voyages of Columbus. I’ve put off reading it for a long time because I expected it to be a sad and painful story. The first section is just that: Julian Escobar, a young Jesuit seminarian is enlisted by a Spanish nobleman, Don Luis, with a charter of ownership for one of the Caribbean islands. He tells Julian he wants him to bring the word of God to the natives living there. When they arrive, Julian soon finds out he is nothing but a way for Don Luis and his shipmates to charm and calm the natives while they collect all the gold they can find, and take many of the natives prisoners to be sold as slaves.

Is it the wrath of God that next takes the ship into a hurricane that wrecks it? Julian ends up on the shore of what is now probably Mexico, and for a while he is a hermit like Robinson Crusoe. Things change again when he is found and helped by a native girl, and eventually meets another Spaniard, Don Guillermo, who is working for the Mayans. Guillermo sees in the handsome, golden-haired Julian the echo of the old Mayan legend of Kukulcán, a man from their past they worship as a god. Julian would soon be ritually slain by the Mayans, but if as Guillermo suggests, he pretends to be Kukulcán, he might instead gain great power. Julian doesn’t want power, but neither does he want to die.

A well-written and thoughtful historical novel, as all O’Dell’s books are. I will look for the rest of the trilogy, even though I know it can’t end well.

Recommended.

 

Pulled From My Files #94: CON BADGES AND BUTTONS

I’m not a hoarder, really I’m not, but I do save things that I like. Looking for something else, this morning I came upon a small cache of convention badges and buttons. The ones above are all comics related. At upper right are badges from the first two comics conventions I attended, organized by Phil Seuling and taking place in mid-town Manhattan in 1975 and 1976. The ’75 con was at the Hotel Commodore, July 3-7. I just went in for one day, Saturday July 5th. The Barry Smith button is not dated, but I got it at one of those. The Berni Wrightson Howard the Duck badge came from the ’76 con, as did the Frank Thorne Red Sonja badge. Both are © Marvel Comics Group. I don’t know when I got the Bat-symbol one, it could be from later. The Spirit Jam badge is from 1981, and not from a con, it was sent to me by Dennis Kitchen for lettering several pages of the many-hands homage story that first appeared in THE SPIRIT #30 dated July 1981. It was later collected in a separate book in 1998.

In the same place were these science fiction convention badges and button. I think my first such con was the one at upper left, MidAmeriCon in Kansas City, Missouri, Sept. 2-6 1976, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention. A Kansas City friend got my badge for me, hence the incorrect town and state. It was the one time I got to see my favorite science fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein in person, a great thrill. Disclave 1977 was in Washington DC on Memorial Day Weekend. I had fun there, but did not actually have a hotel room, I had to sleep on someone else’s floor. IguanaCon, the 36th World Science Fiction Convention, was held Aug. 30 to Sept. 4 in Phoenix, AZ in 1978. I got cute on the badge. Noreascon Two, the 38th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Boston Aug. 29-Sept. 1 1980. I had lots of fun at all of these cons, and met many of the science fiction and fantasy writers and artists I admired, but after 1980 I was too busy with my DC Comics staff job and freelance work to attend others. “The White Dragon” by Anne McCaffrey, subject of the button, came out in June 1978, so I must have picked that up at Iguanacon. Last is the original art badge by William Rotsler I bought from him at one of these cons for $2. He would sell them in the dealer’s room to cover his con expenses. They were meant to be con badges you would write your name in, but I never did that. Rotsler was a well-liked fan artist and writer.

Now that I have these out of the box they were in, I may offer them on eBay in the coming weeks. More file stuff when I have time.