Archive for March, 2017

Transmissions from the Deep: 001/Holy Reagan’s Raiders

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , on 16/03/2017 by Kevin Entrekin

Read: Bill Watterson (A Cartoonist Advice) by Gavin Aung Than.

It is absurd, as I sit here with a fresh cup of cheap coffee and heavy eye lids, to think how many times I’ve regurgitated the paragraphs you are about to read over the history of this website (and maybe more broadly my life). Paragraphs filled with “site updates” and intent of jumping into some unknown abyss of new, to only be ambitions that fade as quick as they came.

How many times have I started one of these articles and stopped after this sentence, for one of my new creations to sit sediment in a draft box before I eventually assisting in their suicide?

This won’t be that.

I’m not going to go over how sorry I am for not posting more frequently or go into depth about this new idea. I am sorry, for you (if you once visited here frequently) and me. I’m working on it.

The thing is, without sounding grandiose or pompous, I believe I am on the verge of where I want to move forward in life. Probably not in a Alan Watts way, but still on the right path. Maybe I’ve realized the folly in thinking that I could gamble away time, thinking that it would somehow guarantee success in chasing “the dreams”. X amount of years at a job will somehow satisfy the American capitalist gods and I’ll be privileged to attempt a dream as an old man. I’m already getting old.

The other humbling realization is that the success of chasing my ambitions is not based on time or money, but pressure and gumption. Maybe with a dash of talent. So it then becomes clear that waiting to fulfill those goals is foolish. Meditating on money and misguided attempts to manage time is distracting from things of real importance. Such as, spending time with friends. And working towards being an independent entity, in life and work. Being generally happy.

In brief, Transmissions from the Deep will (hopefully) become an ongoing series here. It’s a look at the oddities I’ve found while searching through the dusty gems of Comic & Collectibles’ 50c bins. I’ve gone through my long box of long-forgotten issues and picked these three to write about.

***

The Optic Nerve series is a collection of short “slice-of-life” comics. This isn’t my first time reading a book in this series. I was introduced to Adrian Tomine’s work on a whim when I picked up issue 14 because of it’s unusual cover, and enjoyed it very much. So it was nice to come across a handful of the early books in a long box one day.

Issue three starts out with its strongest story, “Dylan & Donovan”. The narrative of the story is told through the inner monologue of Dylan. It details her weekend at a comic con with her troubled twin sister, Donovan, and earnest divorcee dad. It such a personal, teen-angst filled story that you can feel in your soul. You sympathize with most of Dylan’s feelings because you unquestionably had those same feelings and frustrations (or still do). And you feel a little daft when you turn up your nose to some of her whiny complaints, because it is a reminder of when you were the same way.

The other stories in this issue are also enjoyable, but maybe with less impact. “Supermarket” follows a blind man’s shopping excursion and his attempt to befriend a worker there. It’s a story that takes an odd turn in the end, and leave a bitter taste in your mouth. It warrants a second read to pick up subtle details that were possibly missed.

“Hostage Situation” is a three-page account of adolescent punks harassing commuters on a bus. It’s a situation everyone can relate to, and as I’m thinking about it, Maybe from both sides. We’ve all been in an inescapable situation that makes you grind your teeth and an overwhelming burning in your brain. But maybe some can sympathize with the teens. Hollow voices yelling into the abyss, hoping someone hears them. Interesting. I should reread it from that perspective.

The final story is a simpler story called “Unfaded”. It’s simply of a man reminiscing about a time he discovered a secret about his recently deceased grandfather. It’s a story that gives a sensation of familiar. I think it’s feels that way because when someone passes, eventually you’ll think back on that most intimate moment you had with that person.

What interesting, now that some time has passed since reading this book, is how much more interesting the stories are now. Initially, I thought of “Dylan & Donovan” as a stand-out, and everything else as sub-par. But now I feel the need to reread it. I feel like I missed some of the subtle details that Tomine is so good at including in his stories.

Long ago, in the distant time of pubic awakening known as middle school, I found a book at the school library called The Cross & The Switchblade.  I only remembered this fact while frantically thumbing through the latest batch of bargain books at Comics & Collectibles.

I don’t remember much about the novel version. It takes place in New York City and it reminded me of West Side story (minus the love plot and music). But it’s all a true story about David Wilkerson’s crusade to convert youth gangs to Christ. Apparently there was a movie too.

This comic doesn’t offer much in the way of substance. The story is crafted out of a certain section of the novel, but this is where things get odd: It still feels like a lot of details were edited to fit the confines of a single issue, yet at the same time feels like plot elements had to be stretched to meet the required pages of a single issue.

The art itself is strange as well. The scenery of 70’s NYC is meant to evoke the grittiness of life on the streets, yet it comes off as a Disney version of that. Especially when it comes to the characters. Where pastor Wilkerson looks likes a pristine Richie Cunningham clone, A Latina and black child in separate gangs look like a disproportionate and bloated version of the Fat Albert gang.

Is this a cash-grab? I don’t think so. Well, maybe. It comes off as a preview to buy the novel. Or it could just be an evangelical tool. The problem is that it feels rushed and uninspired. This is a stand-alone issue that, if given the time, could have been a polished mini-series for the publisher.

Ever wonder what a comic book produced by Cannon Films would look like? Solson Comics’ Samurai Santa is pretty close. The cover is simple, with bold red-letters proclaiming SAMURAI SANTA. A singular image of a red/green samurai in santa garb against a black background. And the bold proclamation to have a merry Christmas… OR ELSE! All these things were indicators to me that this will be a ridiculous B-tale extravaganza. But like many titles in Cannon’s history, the cover was more exciting than the product.

In fact there isn’t anything remarkable about Samurai Santa, other than the fact it is the first comic Jim Lee worked on (which is something that I doubt he ever willingly brings up). Well, there is one other thing of interest in this rag: the adverts. Among these are other b-grade quality books, like Amazing Wahzoo and Codename: Ninja. And my personal favorite, Reagan’s Raiders (which I have scanned and included for you to admire).

The story is a fatty, ham-fisted sucker punch about the lost meaning of X-Mas. A department store Santa gets too sauced before his shift and can’t do his dehumanizing job. Running low on options, Generic boss man decides to ask Sam to take up the role, aka “that new guy running the Jap robot counter…”. Sam happily agrees to allow child after child to demand a Cabbage Patch Kids and a “Rambo M-15” from the jolly fellow.

After his shift, while walking home in his Santa garb, Sam witnesses a purse snatching and decides to intervene with the same intensity of a Steven Seagal action scene. Sam becomes a newspaper celebrity for his actions and his greedy employer exploits this.

For a book that is 32-pages long, There is maybe 4-pages total of anything remotely resembling action. Two of those pages are at the climax of the book, where a terrorist Santa appears and the Scooby-Doo twist is evil St. Nick is the boss of the store.

The cover gives the allure of a B-grade blood bath! Where’s the gore? Where’s the gratuitous death? Where’s the rewarding explosion? Nowhere. Nothing happens and the main character disappears into nothing after a lame fight.

***

To wrap this up, I guess I was a little disappointed with this first round of transmissions. Optic Nerve was the stand out. If you’ve never looked into Tomine’s work, you really should.

And admittedly, I didn’t expect much of The Cross & The Switchblade. It’s a messy adaptation that was hectic and unorganized. The passion behind the product was lacking.

But what the actual hell Samurai Ninja? I think the biggest letdown is not meeting the expectation of a 80’s action extravaganza. The simple cover conveyed that. But what you get is a moral story that makes you feel like you’re being scalded by a salty geriatric for simply being young.

I don’t know what the next Transmission will cover. I’ve put together a few “themes” that I think will be interesting, Including an indie trade set, A obscure supers set, 90’s Mix set… A lot of sorting to go through. Also want to start a series where I catch up on the current series I’ve been reading (because I am far behind on everything).

Anyways, thanks for reading, crew. Is that something I want to call you, the reader? Crew? Hmm, Let me know and I’ll work on it.

 

 

 

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