by Michael Vance & Dr. Jon Suter
February 10, 1999
Reviews in this issue:
New Marvel Comics
Comics Legend - Cliff Sterrett
Tales from the Crypt: the Official Archives
The Foot Soldiers
Marvel Comics has published several recent interesting comics. Quality is uneven, but they prove that Marvel is trying to reestablish direction.
Nighthawk, a three issue series, suffers from weak art. Jim Krueger's script in the first issue has some interest, but it's difficult to give this more than C-. At least it's not as bad as another title, Sunfire and Big Hero Six.
Hawkeye suffers from weak art, but DeFalco's script makes good use of the archer and his efforts to train new Avengers. B.
Give an A to a crossover series, "Live Kree or Die", in Iron Man no. 7, Captain America no. 8, Quicksilver no. 10 and Avengers no. 7. The writers, Busiek, Waid and Ostrander, keep the episodes tightly woven, but the art in Iron Man and Avengers is significantly better.
Marvel recently reprinted the late Mark Gruenwald's 1985 Squadron Supreme mini-series as a paperback with his ashes mixed with the ink. The Squadron is featured in the current Avengers annual; that story line continues in another paperback, New World Order. Len Kaminski wraps up several plot threads left dangling since 1985 and lays the groundwork for future stories.
The parallels between the Squadron and DC's Justice League team are obvious. A new character, Mysterium, resembles DC's Phantom Stranger while a Skrull, scarcely mentioned in earlier stories, emerges as Marvel's version of the Martian Manhunter superhero. A.
Collectors will certainly want the first issues of the Marvel 2 titles. The covers of J2, Spider-girl and A-Next merge into one another as do the stories.
Supposedly set fifteen years ahead of current continuity, the main characters are either the children of current characters or older versions of Jubilee, Peter Parker, Speedball, etc.
Cassie Long, daughter of the current Antman, is a logical choice for Stinger, but the idea of a junior Juggernaut (J2--a villain) is surprising. He resembles the young Peter Parker (SpiderMan).
Whether these characters will last as long as DC's similar Infinity Inc. remains to be seen.
-- Dr. Jon Suter
If family situations dominate American comic strips, cartoonist Cliff Sterrett certainly created a unique and dominate family.
Sterrett was born in 1883, and attended the Chase Arts School in New York. He became a newspaper staff artist in 1904, but yearned to become a cartoonist.
In 1912, Sterrett created four different comic strips, eventually choosing Polly as his life's work. It began as Positive Polly, focused on the daughter of his comics family, and became Polly and her Pals as its cast broadened.
Sterrett created a whimsically "big-foot" or abstract style of art unmatched in comics, especially on his Sunday pages. He is remembered with fondness for occasionally satirizing modern art with distorted perspectives and odd, surreal landscapes and settings.
Subtlety was not always its forte, but it is notable that Polly's parents were diminutive compared to their daughter and son, a subtle, visual comment on their relationships.
Sterrett was also adept at dialog and characterization, and had a keen insight into human nature and the dynamics of family life.
Sterrett discontinued Polly in 1958, and died December 28, 1964, a true master of his art.
Although very popular in newspapers, Sterrett's work was not heavily reprinted in comic books. Polly & Her Pals appeared in the first and last issue of Comic Monthly (Embee Dist. Co.), the first monthly newsstand magazine. Comic Monthly bore little resemblance to today's standard comic book format, and was released in January of 1922, predating the first comic book by many years.
The Complete Color Polly and Her Pals #s 1 & 2 was published by Fantagraphics Books. A collection was also released by Remco/Kitchen Sink.
A sampling of Polly was featured in The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics.
The work of Cliff Sterrett is highly recommended.
Some older titles are expensive and difficult to locate. Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals are best sources. Prices vary; shop around for the best values.
-- Michael Vance
Readers who grew up in the early 1950's can recapture their childhoods by acquiring Digby Diehl's Tales from the Crypt: the Official Archives (St. Martin's Press, 1996).
Those who grew up later will also want a copy, but they will never be able to share the earlier generation's memory of joy at seeing new E.C. horror titles on racks and wallowing in the gruesomeness perpetrated by E.C. writers and artists.
The rise, fall and eventual triumph of E.C. has been chronicled in many places. American popular culture has been indelibly marked by editors and writers William Gaines and Al Feldstein, artists Jack Davis and Graham Ingels, and numerous others.
Readers unfamiliar with the Gaines saga catch up quickly with this volume's valuable historical and biographical information. The price is ghastly ($45), however, paper quality and illustrations make it worthwhile.
Other E.C. reprint materials are available, but this book brings the story up to date with extensive coverage of the popular television series.
Hollywood's special effects can equal or surpass anything Gaines's team put on paper, but this reader still retains fondness for letting the imagination add a few hideous details to the final moments of a story.
If there was one dominant theme in these horror titles, it was that evil will bring retribution. Virtue may not be rewarded, but justice will be visited upon the predatory, the abusive, and the corrupt.
Dante's Inferno was mild in comparison to E.C.'s version of justice. One wonders what punishments Gaines and his team would mete out for transgressors who stalk our world today.
This book is not for small children, particularly because of the photographs from the television series.
Even those who own the Russ Cochran reprints of E.C. titles will want to consider adding this to their collections.
-- Dr. Jon Suter
| MINNIEW: The Foot Soldiers [Dark Horse]. Quirky and
theatrical, well written and drawn, this twist on the overworked superhero theme is
entertaining, irritating (for it's overuse of puns) and recommended.
-- Michael Vance
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