Breaking News: Christmas comes late this year. Get ready to change your plans as Humanoids has moved the holiday to mid-January with the release of their Tipping Point anthology. An assemblage of work by the most loaded artistic roster of any single anthology possibly ever (no, really), Tipping Point features Eddie Campbell, Frederik Peeters, Naoki Urasawa, Atsushi Kaneko (finally in English! I can shut up about that now!), Paul Pope, Taiyo Matsumoto, John Cassaday, Keiichi Koike, Bob Fingerman, Emmanuel Lepage, Boulet, Katsuya Terada, Bastien Vives and a cover by Enki Bilal. Top that. The only brief to creators was to create a story where there is “a clear-cut split…a mutation, a personal revolt or a large scale revolution…”
Although the antho has already been quite justly criticised for being a total sausage-fest, the top-shelf quality of the work of these international sausage-havers is utterly indisputable. That line up is insane, with six of the artists previously mentioned at some point in this column (with more to come) and four of them having put out some of my absolute favourite books of this year alone. With Humanoids releasing the project simultaneously in English, French and Japanese, Tipping Point feels very much like a real celebration of the medium as a global whole. Whether you choose to call it comics, bandes dessinee or manga, this project will have you covered. The “slightly oversized” format is a bit of head-scratcher for a project that seems tailor made for full blown Humanoids enormousness, so if anyone has the scratch to buy me one of the 100 mammoth limited editions, I’ll be your best pal.
COMIC OF THE WEEK : COPPERHEAD
By Jay Faerber & Scott Godlewski
Published By Image Comics
As potential Gateway Comics go, there’s probably nothing speedier, sleeker or easily metabolised as writer Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski’s Copperhead. It’s a comic packed with character development but yet somehow moves so quickly that such fleshed out, 3D beings shouldn’t be able populate it and continue to grow as they do. Narrative captions are verboten, dialogue is short and punchy, scenes are edited of any potential bloat and its sense of fun and adventure is constantly dialled up to maximum. It’s pretty much like what would happen if the late, great Elmore Leonard wrote a space western. I would hand it to a reader new to comics in a heartbeat.
Clara Bronson is the new Sherriff of Copperhead, a seedy mining town on the arid planet of Jasper. Some sort of interplanetary war has put humans in charge of Jasper, leading to much post-colonial resentment from the large marsupial-like natives, one of whom, Budroxifinicus (or “Boo”), is now Sherriff Bronson’s deputy. Immediately thrust into the chaos of Copperhead, Clara faces a family of feuding cyclopean hillbilly aliens, must navigate the overtures of industrialist Benjamin Hickory, enlist the services of an alcoholic doctor, survive all manner of criminals and monstrosities in the desert, put aside her mistrust of artificial humans created as soldiers during the war and be a dependable mother to her young son Zeke. All the while, her angry, imprisoned ex plots both escape and revenge.
Populating his cast with SF versions of all manner of Western genre archetypes, Faerber eliminates cliché through his use of not only humour but surprising plot twists, giving even the characters with the least amount of potential (one would think) a much fuller role than initially expected. Story develops outwards through character interaction and action sequences and Clara, eager to stamp her authority on Copperhead, constantly pushes everything forward – interpersonal relationships and confrontation alike. Tactical but spontaneous, brave, capable and highly trained, she’s the complete opposite of The Marquis of Anaon (discussed last week), whose constant fear and lack of ability to handle the unknown and the deadly will likely see him dead one day.
In many ways, however, Copperhead is the Godlewski show. Faerber, stripping things back as much as possible, shows great selflessness in allowing his artist to create such cinematically clean and open pages, showcasing his dynamic and modern character design, his flashy action sequences, his flowing, always clear layouts. As at home in a bar as he is in a desert-set machine gun fight with alien critters, Godlewski’s versatility is impressive, his multitude of unique characters all able to express a very wide and clear range of emotions.
At the back of Volume One is Faerber’s plot for the second issue. Running just two pages, this sequence/page breakdown is a beautiful reminder to those of us who overwrite (*raises hand*). Clear and concise, containing every story beat it needs for Godlewski to begin work, the energy of this book’s creation begins with nothing more than a two page document. In many ways, it’s the perfect summation for Copperhead’s straight-ahead, no nonsense, unfiltered good-time comics vibe. You’ll burn through your first reading of it, but far from being disposable, Copperhead offers a virtual clinic on creating high octane comics energy without sacrificing the personality and substance of your characters.
WEBCOMIC OF THE WEEK : HOW I TOLD MY GRANDMA I’M TRANSGENDER
By Dylan Edwards
Well, this is great. Dylan Edwards tells his Grandmother he’s trans, lists positive and negative role models/examples of transgendered characters onscreen and off and reinforces the power of art – in all its forms – to help solve issues of identity in this biographical and educational webcomic. “Find what speaks to you” is its ultimate message and perhaps create it too, for you never know just who your creation might help.
COUNTDOWN TO MOZ METAL: HEAVY METAL SEPTEMBER 1978
Looking through my notes on this the September ’78 issue of Heavy Metal, I’m wondering if I had a bad day when I scrawled them all down. For a magazine containing Moebius, Druillet, Corben, Claveloux, Voss and more you think I’d be pretty satisfied with the results. Apparently not. I suspect the sameness of the periodical set in, which is really unfair when you think about it, it’s like complaining that you’ve been served your absolute favourite food for meal after meal after meal. It’s not your favourite food’s fault you maybe want a toasted sandwich instead…
This issue opens with an editorial that practically begs its readers to cease sending in unsolicited submissions (how very 2015 of them) in a typically brilliant way, citing the poor condition of the long-suffering submissions editor whose mind is “reeling under the impact of yet another tale of interspecies sex aboard an orbiting time machine.” Terrific.
There’s a lot of content in this issue, mainly short strips, many of them not so hot. However, Lone Sloane goes full frontal nude in this chapter of “Gail” making me wonder if last issue’s call for decency was just some bored editor trolling. “Airtight Garage” meanders along beautifully and sumptuously. Zha and Claveloux’s “Off-Season” continues, as does “New Tales of the Arabian Nights” by Corben and Strnad but literally nothing happens in this chapter of the latter. Legendary letterer John Workman provides a three panel curiosity, “Smadakcaj Tree,” of note only because it’s clear Workman has kept some serious artistic chops up his sleeve. Orion very nearly suckles poison from a traitorous lover’s breast in the latest chapter of his titular (see what I did there?) adventure that’s so full of lovely, curvaceous, bathing nudes that I felt a little uncomfortable reading it in the lunchroom lest I be deemed a total perv. Heilman awakens, more glam rock than ever, in yet another dimension, beats up some cultish hippies and saves a mysterious Queen from sacrifice in a most swashbuckling manner. Stephen Bissette stops by with his one pager, “Urban Renewal,” which is about flying insects fighting each other…I think. It’s actually kind of tough to make out what’s going on which is a bummer.
Brocal Remohi’s “The Horror of G’zalth” is a pretty amateurish strip by a clearly accomplished artist reminiscent of Jean-Claude Gal and Ernie Chan who’s fond of cutting oddly between scenes and filling his hero’s thought balloons with things like, “A woman…why are they chasing her?” as a mysterious woman on horseback is clearly shown being chased by a veritable army of mysterious foes. Lovely to look at, this thing is narratively and structurally pretty bad. A quick check of Remohi, who I must admit I know nothing about, reveals a venerated Spanish artist who did a lot of work for the Spanish version of Creepy amongst other things, so he clearly has the last laugh here.
“Croatoan” is Tom Sutton, Alfredo Alcala and Stephen Oliff’s adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s controversial 1975 story about a man who descends into the sewers to retrieve the most recent of many late-term abortions he “fathered” then flushed down the toilet. Discovering a hidden world of bulbous-headed mutant babies riding similarly flushed alligators (now fully-grown), our awful protagonist will soon learnt that there are some sins that will not be forgotten nor forgiven. It’s a striking adaptation of Ellison’s controversial, oddball story, told much like Moench and Nino’s work on Theodore Sturgeon’s “More Than Human” adaptation, with big blocks of text functioning as captions around the panels. Moench and Nino make this work far more successfully than Sutton and friends, but “Croatoan” is a worthy experiment and any time more Sutton and Alcala art can be viewed is a good time.
The more I think about this issue, there’s actually quite a lot to like. Perhaps it’s not the meal itself, rather the poor choice of substantial garnishing that made it initially just not to my taste.
COMICS VIDEO OF THE WEEK : CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR – TRAILER WORLD PREMIERE
An absolute no-brainer for inclusion this week is the trailer for the third (and final?) Captain America movie, the cinematic version of the Civil War storyline.
Three words: Black Panther, yay.
See you next week. Love your comics.
Cameron Ashley spends a lot of time writing comics and other things you’ll likely never read. He’s the chief editor and co-publisher of Crime Factory (www.thecrimefactory.com). You can reach him @cjamesashley on Twitter.