The countdown to adventure continues! But we're not looking for Ray Palmerwe all know he's hidin' out inside Starfire's uniform. (Well, wouldn't you?) Instead, we're continuing the countdown of my favorite Fun Fifty of 2007. If it's fun, it's in here, baby! Yesterday, as you may remember, we covered numbers 50 through 41, so today, in a shock surprising twist, we move to numbers 40 through 31. On with the countdown!
#40: THE COMPLETELY MAD DON MARTIN Sure, it's not goin' for the price of a usual issue of MAD magazine (cheap!), but save your dimes up for this elegant slipcased set: every single page of MAD magazine work from MAD's Maddest Artist. Plus, at 25 pounds, you can whack rats with it! This is a book that you'll be proud to own and display, but don't let it just sit on your bookshelftug it out and read some Don Martin a day, every day. It doesn't contain Don's brilliant original paperback book work (clearly fodder for another volume!), but in between these four covers you'll find everything he wrote for MAD: every single AAHT AAHHT BLOOOOT, CHUGA CHUGA CHUGA CHUGA, PLOOSH FLAPF, SPITZ SPOPPLE SPATZ, and GLIP SHPIKKLE GLUP GAPLORK SHLIPP SPLOP GLIT PLOBBLE SHLORP GLOOP BLOP SKLOP SHLURP PLiPPLE SLOTCH SHLOOP.
#39: JACK KIRBY'S FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS Speaking of sets of big books, here's four big books collecting the biggest stories about the biggest heroes by the biggest creator in the business. That's a whole lotta big for your buck, buster! Kirby's masterpiece is presented for the first time in chronological order so you can see how the pieces originally fit together. The paper is closer to newsprint than glossy, but it holds and presents the vibrant colors and solid blacks brilliantly. Three volumes were released in 2007 with a fourth to follow later this year. How much do I recommend these books? Well, to paraphrase the King: Bully says "Don't Ask! Just Buy It!"
#38: THE TRIAL OF COLONEL SWEETO If your local alternative paper doesn't carry Nicholas Gurewitch's brilliant and batty Perry Bible Fellowship comic strip, then you oughta be checking him out online. But even if you faithfully read his comics on the web, run, don't walk, to your local bookstore and grab yourself a candy-colored copy of The Trial of Colonel Sweeto, the first book collection (we can but hope there will be many many more) of the strip. Gurewitch is not only a wonderful humorist and a fantastic artist, he's also an amazing designer: his style and even typography changes from strip to strip to fit the story and the humor to create some of the most hilarious and beautiful comics being done today, from classics like "Penguin Enemy," "Kitty Heaven," "Hey Goat," "Guntron Alliance Force" and several pages of never-seen strips. They're not only beautiful, they're laugh-out-loud.
#37: THE BLACK DIAMOND DETECTIVE AGENCY Eddie Campbell: Cool guy. Great Artist. Fantastic hair. And, maker of one of the Funnest Comics of 2007: The Black Diamond Detective Agency, an adaptation of a (not-yet-filmed) screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell (Blood Diamond). It's a perfect story for Campbell: a turn-of-the-century Pinkerton-type firm hunts down the mystery criminal behind a deadly railway bombing. But is the leading suspect really the culprit? Campbell's unique and expressive artwork is perfect for the moody mystery tale, and if it's not as brilliant as From Hell, it evokes the same level of time and place with distinct details and an incisive and entertaining look at American Victorian-era police procedures.
#36: FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS All hail Bahlactus, grand cosmic funk master of the galaxy! The creator of the ultimate Galactus homage site (also featuring solid and informative looks at black heroes in comics, like the Falcon and the Milestone heroes) cemented his authority over the blogosphere in 2007 with the introduction of the infectious Friday Night Fights meme, the ultimate comics bloggers' fighting league. On Friday night when the bell rings, comics bloggers all around the world post panels or stories featuring fight scenes, and Bahlactus gathers them into a raucous round-up post, giving announcer's commentary to the power and might of the four-color knock-outs. One of the beautiful things I've enjoyed most about FNF is its simplicity: you can post a panel with a thrown punch, or if you're feelin' more ambitious, you can discuss a entire fight scene or story in depthit's all copacetic with the Big B. FNF is still going strong in 2008; although I don't participate every week, I'm always looking for great fight comics and thrust my hooves into my boxing gloves and punch onto the web. Bahlactus has even begun offering prizes for the knock-out of the week, but in many ways, the fighting is its own reward.
#35: LAIKA The sublimely-drawn, touchingly-scripted tale of the first astronautthe rescued mongrel mutt launched into outer space by the Russians aboard Sputnik 2 in 1957. Nick Abadzis's expressive art reminded me of Herge, but he avoids the hyper-intelligence of Tintin's Snowy by avoiding anthropomorphizing Laika. Laika's story is paralleled with those of her human trainer and the engineer in charge of the Sputnik project. Even if you know your space history and the eventual fate of Laika you'll shed an unexpected tear at this touchingly-wri8tten and beautifully-drawn dogography.
#34: READING COMICS I've met Douglas Wolk and he's a heckuva nice guy. But even if I didn't know him, I still woulda enjoyed his book of comics history and criticism Reading Comics. Genial, spirited, sometimes argumentative and opinionated but never uninteresting, Douglas strolls through the work and influence of classic creators old and new and addresses the divide that a lot of fans find difficult to straddle: superheroes and art comics. I especially enjoyed the second part of the book, each chapter of which focuses on a specific creator and their work, ranging from Eisner to Starlin's Warlock to Alan Moore and Steve Ditko. You're never going to agree 100% with the opinions expressed in a book of criticism like Reading Comicseven genial little me got riled up a bit reading the second chapterbut Wolk doesn't settle for just telling you about the comics not tells you what to think, he helps teach you how to think about them.
#33: SIMPSONS COMICS In a year highlighted by a big-screen premiere and a dandy videogame, The Simpsons franchise continued to be done proud by the good folks at Bongo Comics not only in their flagship Simpsons title but various spin-offs: Bart Simpson, Simpsons Super-Spectacular and various seasonal specials. Like the TV series itself, it's business as usual but always a delight and fun read in the Simpsons comics: Homer trundles around Springfield on a Rascal scooter, tall tales are told, and 24 is deftly parodied (a couple months before the TV show itself!). Pound for pound, month after month, Simpsons Comics continue to provide solid bellylaughs and the most consistent fun of any licensed comic line.
#32: POPEYE THE SAILOR: 1933-1938, VOL. 1 Toss away those crappy public-domain cartoon DVDs from the dollar store: here's the ultimate collection of the gorgeous high-adventures Popeye shorts from the 1930s. Produced by the famous Fleischer Cartoon Studios, these are "the good stuff"the Popeye cartoons that open up with the titles on the ship's doors, from the heyday of cinematic cartoons. There's plenty of documentary extras and hours of commentaries here, as well as silent cartoons and the gorgeous longer "two-reelers" that featured amazing 3-D-style background animation that set the Fleischers apart from their competitors60 crispy and sharply restored cartoons in all. Best of all, check that subtitle: this is only Volume 1 and there's more to come.
#31: MOOMIN: THE COMPLETE TOVE JANSSON COMIC STRIP, BOOK TWO The Moomintroll children's novels by Tove Jansson are cheerful, quirky and moody, and her Moomin comic strip, collected in a second stunning collection from Drawn & Quarterly, follows in the same Moomin-footsteps. Here are tales of discovering prehistoric Moomins, Moominvalley in mid-winter, long-staying guests, and a most miserable maid, all in Jansson's own fluid and crisp black-and-white artwork. D+Q has done this series proud with its oversized and sharply-designed series look. If you grew up (like me) alongside Moomin and the Snork Maiden and Snufkin and Sniff, rediscover your childhood friends in comics form. If you've never met a Moomin, well, this is the perfect medium to make their fuzzy, chubby acquaintances.
Whew! That'sa lotsa fun. How, oh, how, can we top that tomorrow? Maybe we can't! That's just the risk you'll have to take, Bully-backers! Tune in tomorrow: same bull time, same bull channel, for countdown numbers 30 through 21!