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DORIS DANGER/DR. DEBUNKO
Written and Drawn by Chris Wisnia
Published by Salt Peter Press

DORIS DANGER is a loving tribute to a style of comics long forgotten. In the 50s, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were cranking out an amazing number of “giant monster” comics; whether it was a monster from space arriving to subjugate the Earth or one located in a far jungle, the large beasts rampaged across the world, battling the military and being chased by a scientist and/or a spunky heroine who looked to save the day. The best part was usually the insanely goofy name given each creature; “Fin Fang Foom” is the only one to have survived into the modern era, and you still snicker at hearing than one.
 
Wisnia’s work captures the stilted dialogue, stupid names, and the conspiracies that were almost always at work behind the scenes perfectly. The three books I have in hand (DORIS DANGER SEEKS WHERE GIANT MONSTERS CREEP AND STOMP, DORIS DANGER IN OUTER SPACE, and DORIS DANGER GREATEST ALL-OUT ARMY BATTLES) offer up a multitude of tales and creatures, my favorite by far being “Krakapoo”; because after all, how many monsters have you seen menacing the Taj Mahal?

While Wisnia hits each note perfectly, and his art apes Kirby’s monster work perfectly, the one discordant note comes from the undeniable fact that there is only one joke here, and it’s being repeated over and over. It’s a good joke, mind you, but you can’t get full of it quickly. I recommend DORIS DANGER, but only in small doses. That will keep it fresh, fun and entertaining.
 
DR. DEBUNKO represents Wisnia’s other current work. Debunko gets called to the scene when victims claim the impossible the supernatural, and the police cannot prove otherwise, and uses his logical skills to debunk the testimony and given facts. Whether it is a woman who claims to have been impregnated by Satan or a town that believes that the dead are rising from their graves, Debunko solves the case… sometimes in ways so subtle that the participants don’t realize they’ve been manipulated. Again, this is a clever conceit, but revolves around one single “gag”, so it goes down easier in small doses. DEBUNKO represents what I believe to be Wisnia’s “real” art style, as well, and he does show himself to be a clever cartoonist with an eye for detail and background.

Taken in small pieces, these are entertaining books. The regular DORIS issues are sixteen pages, a perfect way to introduce yourself to the concept. This clever material is worth a look.

Marc Mason

PARADIGM SHIFT VOL.2
Written and Drawn by Dirk Tiede
Published by Dirk Tiede Cartoons & Illustrations

One of the genuine gems and surprises of Comic-Con International 2004 was discovering Dirk Tiede and volume one of his supernatural police thriller PARADIGM SHIFT. Tiede was part of the first real wave of web cartoonists who took their electronically published work and put it together in trade format for the bookstore market, and even better, it turned out he had good reason to; the book was tightly drawn, suspenseful, and energetic, a worthy entry to comics no matter where it was published. And now, with two more years of online installments under his belt, Tiede has another hundred pages of his story completed and collected between two covers.

SHIFT follows Chicago detectives Kate McAllister and Mike Stuart as they work two different cases that aren’t their own; in one, they’re assisting a pair of detectives in following a series of crimes revolving around a Chinatown crimelord, and in the other they’re working a series of horrific mutilations that don’t appear to the work of a human… or any other known animal for that matter. But if Kate’s dreams are any indication, she may be know a lot more about those deaths than she realizes.

Tiede’s Ameri-manga art style melds the two styles well, eschewing some of manga’s famed shortcuts in favor of a more realistic approach to some of the characters and panelwork. But what works best about PARADIGM SHIFT is that the creator has taken his time to truly lay out a story of depth and length that feels very much like a graphic novel. Each plotline gets equal play, and yet we aren’t shorted character moments for Kate and Mike, either.

A thorough listing of author’s notes detailing research, location work, and more appends the story, along with a pinup gallery, adding extra value to what is already an excellent and entertaining piece of work. I highly recommend seeking out a copy of both volumes for your reading pleasure.

Marc Mason

THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS VOL.1
Written by Will Jacobs and Gerard Jones and Drawn by Tim Hamilton
Published by Checker BPG

Way back during my first year at MoviePoopShoot, I wrote a column discussing great material from the past that needed to be printed for a new generation of readers. THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS was at the top of my list, as not only did it fit that criteria, but it also happened to be one of my all-time favorite comics, period.

What’s it all about? Lester Girls is a man who wants nothing more than a quiet job as an accountant, a mousy wife who eschews glamour, and to be able to read Steinbeck without interruption. But thanks to a family curse, he has been born an action hero; his life is non-stop sex with starlets, battles against ninjas, and ridiculous wealth. And poor Lester hates and resents every minute of it, which no one else in his life seems to be able to understand.

Satirizing James Bond, Batman, and any number of other sources, TROUBLE remains a brilliant slice of comics history. Jacobs and Jones had only one way of pulling off the silliness of Lester’s predicament, and that was to play it completely straight, investing fully in their premise. Because Lester is an action hero, he simply must be born with the ability to calculate trajectories so that the ejector seat in his car will send him towards a nearby flagpole. Any nod or wink at that moment, and the book dies, but because it’s executed with deadpan panache, it fits and you buy it.

There are other brilliant touches to savor. Lester gets shot out of a cannon and soars across the city in a classic Wayne Boring SUPERMAN pose. He wears wool slacks with no underwear (how tough a guy do you have to be to pull that off?). And the minute he lands in a South American jungle amidst an unknown tribe, he is, of course, hailed as a white “sun god”. Laugh after laugh comes from this book, and I am beyond ecstatic that Lester’s adventures are now available to an audience who missed them the first time around. My only sadness is that there seems to be a plan to print only the first fourteen issues of TROUBLE, and there is much, much more to the GIRLS saga. I hope that sales will change that.

Marc Mason

EPILEPTIC
Written and Drawn by David B.
Published by Pantheon Books

David B., born Pierre-Francois Beauchard, was born into a seemingly normal and idyllic family in France. Blessed with parents that loved each other and an older brother and younger sister, you might expect that he had it all. But as his brother Jean-Christophe approached his teen years, it all went off the rails; a bizarre seizure delivered the news that the boy was epileptic, and a years-long quest to cure the older boy would get underway that would shape the family’s destiny forever.

EPILEPTIC was widely praised when it hit North American shelves in a translated hardcover edition in 2005, garnering numerous spots on year-end top ten lists and more. Now, David B.’s work has been released in an excellent trade edition that loses none of the power of the work or prestige of presentation. Fronted by a bizarre and haunting cover, EPILEPTIC catches your eye and jumps off the shelf, piquing your curiosity about what will be found within.

What makes the book such a fascinating read is how David doesn’t skimp on any details. When the family decides to try and live a macrobiotic lifestyle, because they have read that such a diet may ease Jean-Christophe’s troubles, they go at it full-throttle. They spend summers in various macrobiotic communes. But rather than gloss over the minutiae of those communes, the author instead delves into the internal politics that govern those sorts of establishments. He also doesn’t spare himself, boldly laying open his own feelings of anger and pain, and never backing away from the moments where he was so frustrated that he did things to deliberately cause his brother’s seizures.

At times, when reading a memoir, you can become distracted by a warts-and-all approach to the material, as some authors don’t know how to balance revelation with wallowing. But David B. never seems to make a misstep in this manner, using his scenes to construct the world around him and render a full picture of humanity on the page. EPILEPTIC is a modern classic of pain, anguish, and destruction, and yet oddly, hope. It’s a must own for the mature and intellectual reader.

Marc Mason

ARE WE FEELING SAFER YET?: A (th)ink ANTHOLOGY
Written and Drawn by Keith Knight
Published by Keith Knight Press

(th)ink is a single panel strip by Knight that is syndicated across the country and across the web. Using the single-panel format, the strip is known for its humorous, thought provoking looks at the social and political issues dividing the nation today. Taking no prisoners, Knight tries to make sure that his readers cannot ignore current events.

This collection brings together 122 gags released over the past couple of years, and the targets are myriad; as a liberal African-American, Knight opens both barrels on the Bush administration, and with solid results. But he doesn’t spare anyone else; one brutal panel depicts the pile of nude Iraqis from Abu Grhaib on the left and compares it to a pile of nude Black women in a rap video seen on BET on the right and ponders why only one is considered inhumane. It’s smart, provocative work, and it tells you right away that you’re dealing with a writer who’s thinking his way through things.

Knight also takes on topics like mad cow disease, the Billboard charts, fast food, and the homeless, alongside his pointed notes on race and racism in America. Like any good satirist, he understands that the key to making his material work is to make his audience feel edgy about laughing, but never so uncomfortable that they can’t. In one memorable bit, a white woman being interviewed talks about THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST and how moved she was by seeing Christ’s suffering, but when asked about the suffering caused by slavery and Jim Crow, the woman whines about it being brought up and asks that it stop being brought up since it was so long ago. It’s a staggering look at American ignorance and hypocrisy, but you cannot deny the fundamental truth of Knight’s point. That’s what makes him so damned good at what he does, and that’s why you should buy this book.

Marc Mason


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