Suspended Animation

Michael Vance   Mark Allen   Michael Vance Books
The longest-running comics review column in America perhaps the World!

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     Is it a humor comic strip or a multiple-paneled editorial cartoon?

     Nope. It's two, two, two comic strips in one!

     The "it" described is the popular and controversial strip, Doonesbury, by Gary Trudeau.

     Trudeau was born 1948, and while still an undergraduate, began drawing Bull Tale, a comic strip that appeared in the Yale [University] Daily News. Impressed by Trudeau’s work, both John McMeel and Jim Andrews recruited and renamed the strip for their fledgling Universal Press Syndicate. That organization propelled Doonesbury into syndication on October 26. 1970. By 1975, Trudeau had won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning.

     Not satisfied with stirring the pot in Doonesbury, Trudeau shocked his readers in 1983 by suspending the strip for 20 months. Most editors thought this the death-knell for Trudeau and his cast of politicians, aging hippies and obnoxious preppies. But return it did in October of 1984.

     Stirring the pot is the trademark of Doonesbury. The strip has tackled subjects seldom mentioned in earlier comic strips, and continues to do so today. Trudeau offers dollops of his unique and liberal point of view in a style more open and blunt than Walt Kelly's Pogo. It also dealt with political and social issues. In its turn, Doonesbury has spawned its own imitators in several strips that offer conservative political commentary.

     Doonesbury focuses on characte- rization rather than plot. Drawn in a clean, minimalistic style with little crosshatching or feathering, it shuns a heightened sense of reality in its art, effectively drawing reader's attention to the real meat of Doonesbury, Trudeau’s philosophy.

     Trudeau's anthologies include: Flashbacks, I'd Go With The Helmet Ray, In Search of Cigarette Holder Man, Planet Doonesbury, The Port- able Doonesbury. Welcome to Club Scud!, The Bundled Doonesbury and Virtual Doonesbury 1.0. Ah were published by Andrews McMeel.

     Some older comics 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.

Revivals and Births

     Those who collect first issues of comic books have several new titles to consider.

     Since the 1980s, DC Comics has owned the characters created by defunct Charlton Comics. DC's first two versions of those characters appeared in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Many wound up in their own series and enjoyed varying degrees of success; e.g., Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, the Question, etc.

     A new Six-issue series, The L.A.W., brings the Charlton heroes together as a team including some DC has rarely used, such as Judomaster. (L.A.W.=Living Assault Weapons). The first two issues are good. The first has some good humor in comparing Judomaster to Marvel's Captain America. Give this an A or A-.

     Another six-issue series from DC revives the title The Brave and the Bold for a series of Flash and Green Lantern teamup stories. These are the Barry Alien and Hal Jordan versions of the characters rather than Wally West and Kyle Rayner.

     The first story seems to be set sometime after the events of the twelve-issue JLA: Year One series. Fans of the classic Flash-Green Lantern crossovers of the 1960s will be pleasantly surprised although the art is not as good as that of Carmine Infantino and Gil Kane.

     Marvel Comics is also busy with new titles. Wild Thing is based on young Rina Logan, the future daughter of Elektra and the ever- popular Wolverine. Rina has popped up in several of Marvel's titles and has become popular quickly. Whether a character with such violent and amoral parents can fit into an American high school remains to be seen.

     Galactus the Devourer is a six- issue series based on yet another attack on Earth by Galactus. There are some novel elements in the first two issues, particularly Alicia Masters as a super heroine, but we've been down this road too often.

     The third new title from Marvel is Deathlok. This is at least the third version of this character. The art is interesting.

     Give all three Marvels Bs.

Review by Dr. Jon Suter


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