The World’s Great Comics
By: A1 (Edited by Dave Elliott)
Genre: comic/ sci-fi
Description: A collection of progressive and adventurous comics by some of the most interesting minds out there.
When you lead a title with World’s Greatest and Comics, in addition to having my attention, you automatically put yourself out there as an anthology that will be doubted by legions of rabid comic book fans. But then again, with names like Alan Moore, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Jim Steranko, James Robinson, Dave Gibbons and Bill Sienkiewicz; who am I to argue?
If I am reading an anthology, I always expect the weirdest most off the beaten path kind of samples to come up, and again, in this case I was not disappointed.
Starting off with a pre-New Gods highly detailed highly technical Simon and Kirby strip Island in the Sky, your are immediately reminded as you continue through this anthology that you should expect the unexpected. This a brief but eerie story of an space explorer who has died, and mysteriously gets resurrected upon entering a portal on the surface of Jupiter. Immediately following a brief bio of Simon and Kirby; there are lattes. Yup, I completely did not expect pictures of latte art interjected through out the other comics in the book.
Afterwards, there is a much longer Victorian-era murder mystery mindfuck (yes that is an officially recognized genre), by Sandy Plunkett; “Tales of Old Fennario.” This story reminded me of one other thing about reading an anthology; you really should not expect to like all of it. Don’t get me wrong, this is a compelling read, but it didn’t completely absorb all of my attention.
The next piece, Odyssey, was done by the editor, Dave Elliott himself. It is a quick and gripping read about the implications of belief and justice as it pertains to each individual. This was a lot more interesting than I initially expected.
One of my favorties from the book is a more comedic look at some of the horrible exploitation that was done of comic artists by the hands of Roy Lichtenstein, in a series called Image Duplicator. This was a very interesting installation put on by Rian Hughers at the Orbital Comics Gallery - while there was a Tate Exhibition on Lichtenstein at the same time. The idea of Image Duplicator is that current artists should re-re-contextualize the work of the artists that were previously contextualized by Lichenstein. This installation and the proceeds made from the prints went to the Hero Intiative… a very worthy charity that I recommend you familiarize yourself with if you haven’t already. My favorite, simple but sweet ones was by Rian Hughes called “Lichtenstein’s Law”:
There is then a parody by Bambo Georgiou of World’s Finest called Weird’s Finest, about Zuberman and Batguy, talking about how their identities and moods have been shaped over time solely by the readers interpretations, rather then their own adventures or personalities. This was a pretty enjoyable one as well.
It seems like immediately after this fun foray of serious art criticism; the content in the book gets darker and darker. My next three favorite after Image Duplicator were Emily, Almost by Bill Sienkiewicz, which is rich Gothic, nightmare fuel drawn by the master himself… Anytime I see a Sienkiewicz even half page, my jaw drops to the ground.
The next highlight is the incredibly ahead of his time Jim Steranko with FROGS!, which was the most cinematic comic of its time. There is a two page spread of 4×6 panels that can be read in any way and still communicate the same narrative and mood. Top to bottom, left to right, and right to left: if you ever doubted him at all, read FROGS! and understand why Steranko is a master of the field. At the time this was initially published in 1971, this was way ahead of the game… now the transitions (and some narrative elements) of comics and film are utilized in both fields.
Finally, one of my favorites is Alan Moore’s Mr. Monster. The artist, Michael Gilbert suites this story perfectly, and is almost in the style of R. Crumb (Crumbian? Crumb-esque?). Anytime I see Alan Moore on the page, I immeadiately put on my tinfoil hat, because I truly believe as master such as himself packs every image of the frame with purpose… of course, in Mr. Monster he does not disappoint.
Almost in the same vein of Promethea’s “Weeping Gorilla,” there are jokes packed into every single panel. In the spirit of Mise en scene in film, everything in the frame of any panel of Alan Moore’s work is there for a reason; so be sure to keep your eyes open. This is a very funny and dark venture into the excess of our modern culture, and how our waste creates garbage poltergeists (aren’t those the worst? (this is Alan Moore after all, you have to expect something batshit insane.))
A1 put together a multi-faceted, diverse collection of some of the most compelling artists and writers through out comic past, present, and as they posit; future…. and it will not leave you disappointed.