Friday, October 02, 2009

Wednesday Comics – A Review of The Series

What a great concept and what a huge gamble DC made by even doing this series. The print medium is a dying beast, the Sunday one page comic strips are an anachronism that most people don’t remember or care about anymore. The art form is one that is becoming as obscure as calligraphy. Yet DC went ahead and took a gamble, but had to hedge their bets by only doing 12 issues. The fact that we only had 12 issues of this creates some different issues, but still those of us who enjoyed this series all owe DC a big thank you for doing something that would be hard pressed to see the light of day any other way.

For myself my love of the huge one page weekly installment of an illustrated story came from Prince Valiant. Hal Foster’s tale of a young Prince in the days of King Arthur was a favorite for me every week and I also enjoyed the fact that he aged. As I got older and my life changed, Valiant’s life was also changing, he was older then I and always remained that way.

The actual concept of doing this type of comic is a lot different from anything else as the construction of the actual page can vary from the comic book page due to it being more then twice the size. The pacing of the story has to be totally different as you only have one page to tell that week’s chapter and build to the next chapter. In a perfect world this project would have been an ongoing that would have strips end at different times and new strips come in to replace the old or just continue the same strip with a new story line. The creators that DC got (all very talented) were forced to try and tell a complete story and do it with only 12 pages. For the most part all succeeded very well given that I’m sure none of them had ever even tried such a story telling method. It is radically different from TV, comics, movies or prose. I loved this concept so much I picked up four copies every week. I gave one to each of my daughters (23 and 27 years old), one to my Dad (90 years old) and one for myself (amazing enough 29 years old) and then mailed my copy to Lee to read.

If you are waiting for the trade or collection for this, then DC will probably reward you with a reprint, but nothing can compare to the size of the art in this format and no reprint book will be as large as the newspaper (18” x 12”). While it is an “anthology” with 15 features the vast majority of them are great and you have a multitude of styles and stories.

Reviewing each strip in order:

Batman by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso with Robins & Mulvihill. Risso’s artwork was absolutely gorgeous on this strip. It had an additional weight and lushness to his pencils that is not evident in all of his work. Risso is a master of dark and moody artwork that gives noir a feel like no one else. Brian giving us a crime story with a femme fatale that was drop dead sexy and her criminal enterprise was the heart of the story. Risso never utilized the enormous canvas size to give us the bold big panel that others did, but instead used a grid format. I would love to see Risso do an ongoing Batman book at some time. I now need to buy the Broken City hard cover.

Kamandi : The Last Boy on Earth by Dave Gibbons & Ryan Sook. The best strip of the group. For me this strip captured exactly what the Sunday comics would do best. It gave us a solid chapter every week and it came to a good conclusion ending this story and I was ready for the next story next week. Gibbons started his story as though it was the middle of a long ongoing strip and this was just the next chapter. Ryan Sook turned in so the best artwork of his career. Ryan went with a detailed and realistic style as opposed to some of his moodier work. He utilized the canvas in many different ways, with big panels when necessary and long strip panels as well as normal grid work at times. Each week gave us a chapter and a little cliff hanger. The next week resolved the cliff hanger in one panel then moved the story forward and had the next crisis. I’m now waiting for next week’s adventure with Kamandi that will never come.

Superman by John Arcudi, Artist Lee Bermejo, Colors Barbara Ciardo. I never got into the story of this strip which tried to tell us a story of how human Superman is or at least how connected he is to our world. For some reason it did not resonate and felt a little generic or safe. The villains and the action that was packed into the strip was well done and gave Lee Bermejo a chance to shine as even if the story was not great, the art was a thing of beauty. Lee needs to be drawing the regular Superman book as his Lois is beautiful and his Superman heroic. This strip felt like the writer was uncomfortable in getting his story done in just 12 pages.

Deadman by Dave Bullock, Vinton Heuck, Jared Fletcher and Dave Stewart. This strip was a surprise to me. At first the art was a little off putting as I grew up with a Neal Adams Deadman and this was more of an indy type art style that was more akin to Darwyn Cooke then Neal Adams. Over the 12 weeks I came to appreciate the artist design skills and abilities and actually found the style to be to my liking. The story was cool and gave us a Deadman that was alive again, albeit in some part of hell. Given the 12 pages was all you had to work with they did a nice job telling a complete story, but not always succeeding in giving the rhythm of a weekly newspaper strip like Kamandi did.

Green Lantern by Kurt Busiek & Joe Quinones with Pat Brosseau. What a fun strip. Busiek captured the spirit of the weekly strip very well and the story felt like a silver age story, only with better writing and a different artist. While Joe Quinones art was wonderful, Gil Kane was a master comic artist also, so both are great, just vastly different styles. I enjoyed seeing a younger more confident Hal Jordan and one that reminded me of how GL used to be portrayed. Joe’s art has a nice fluid feel to it and he used the full canvas, but was fairly standard in his design of the page.

Metamorpho by Neil Gaiman and Mike & Laura Allred. As far as art style goes, no one drawing today is a better artist for Metamorpho then Mike Allred, he captures the Ramona Fradon Metamorpho perfectly and still keeps it totally his style. I can never encapsulate Allerd’s style, but realistic wonkiness is about the best I can do. Neil’s story was just a whole lot of fun and often made no sense, which again captured the sixties flavor of the series, which was one where anything goes and therefore was a great reflection of Bob Haney’s work at DC. Bob Haney’s stories where almost Morrisonesque in trying to make sense of out them. Haney unusual and often goofy stories are fun to read in hindsight. Not to take away from some great stuff Haney did, he was just renowned for his stranger stories. Every week I got a visual treat and a lot of smiles out of this strip. Finally the size of canvas was used to brilliant effect in many of the twelve weeks, with puzzles and element charts thrown in for good measure. It was new and nostalgic all at the same time a brilliant piece of work.

Teen Titans by Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway. The cartoon / anime style turned me off this strip and the muted color tones was also unappealing. Add into that a story that I lost interest in and I stopped reading this strip about four issues in. Also in glancing at it I don’t remember the canvas size ever being fully utilized.

Strange Adventures by Paul Pope and Lovern Kindzierski – Paul gave us a brand new Adam Strange that played with the concept like no one ever has before. Over the years I have gone from looking at Pope’s work with a “what the heck is he doing” feeling to absolutely enjoying his style. I now see more of his genius in his design and layouts. Paul made this into more of a John Carter type story in my mind and Alanna was made over into Dejah Thoris almost. I loved that Adam Strange was an old man on Earth, but the young adventurer on Rann, as I said Paul played with the concept like no one else ever has. The artwork was great and Paul played with his canvas to great effect on many weeks. I felt the story was a little light, but that was an issue with the restriction of just having 12 weeks.

Supergirl by Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts. This was the most fun you can have and still be wearing your clothes. Heck after being over 50 maybe it is even more fun then that. Okay a lot of hyperbole, but seriously what a gorgeous strip that was a light hearted, mile a minute, non-stop, out and out blast of a strip. The story of Supergirl trying to help out Streaky and Krypto was often just so funny that you could not help but laugh out loud. Amanda Conner cartoon like style, with a heavy does of realism, captures expressions and animals as well as anyone else in the business and she is just one of the best. While the page design was relatively tame, the story was such a ray of sunshine and some much damn fun I never cared. Also the ending was fantastic and makes me laugh and smile just remembering it. No, I’m not telling you what it is, because it only works after reading all 12 pages.

Metal Men by Dan Didio, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Kevin Nowlin and Trish Mulvihill. This was a solid little story, but was almost too much of a love letter to the Metal Men. Dan’s well known fondness for the group seems to have led him to write a sentimental story and more of an ode to the Metal Men. Don’t get me work, it had strong art and a nice story, but was just too reverent in a way. The art was good and I would love to see Garcia-Lopez back in comics on a regular basis, but I do not think he exploited this format enough.

Wonder Woman by Ben Caldwell. The font used to put the title Wonder Woman across the top of the page was done extremely well. The amount of panels used was a lot. Okay I’m struggling to say nice things. Basically this was unreadable in my opinion and was the biggest miss of the entire group. I’m sure Ben is a talent worth reading, just not with this project.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Company by Adam Kubert and Joe Kubert. I love Joe Kubert’s art work and I’m amazed and how strong his work is at his age (82). The actual story was a little boring and felt pretty generic. It felt like it had more a personal message in it for the Kubert family as his son Adam was the writer. The other thing that was not done was the canvass size was left under utilized. No matter what though I will always take the opportunity to look at Joe’s work, the man has had an amazing career and I think he is underrated on the all time masters list.

The Flash by Karl Kerschl, Brenden Fletcher and Dave McCaig. This strip was a visual masterpiece and used the size of the page to great effect. Almost every week some other design of the page was used. The art work itself was absolutely stunning and made me wish these guys were drawing the new Flash series coming in a few months from DC. The story itself got a little tangled up in its own complexity. I thought doing the multiple Flashes and trying to play with time travel created a story that was way too heavy for a 12 page story. Personally I got lost in the story at times, but was always wowed by the art. At least in this effort it felt like they tried to do too much and streamlining the story would have helped.

The Demon and Cat Woman – by Walter Simonson, Brian Stelfreeze with Steve Wands. I didn’t mind this series, but I was not impressed with it either. It was an okay story with some decent art, but it was a little on the blah side for me. Also the rhythm of making this a weekly strip was lost at times and I felt like it was a 12 page story that did not always pay attention to how weekly strips work the best.

Hawkman by Kyle Baker. This strip surprised the hell out of me. Baker’s work was outstanding and some of the artist effects he generated were amazing. It was also a fantastic Hawkman adventure, from saving an airliner to fighting dinosaurs. This was a great action adventure strip with artwork I would love to own. Kyle played with and utilized the size of his canvass and achieved some great flight scenes for Hawkman. Also I loved his Hawkman work and it compares well to Joe Kubert’s who’s Hawkman I could not help but think about as his art was always a couple pages before Baker’s strip.

For me Wednesday Comics was almost perfect. I loved the depth and breadth of the talent that was put together. I know many of these creators would not commit to much more then a 12 page assignment, but the mix of styles was a joy. Even with what I thought were failures, I rather see those on occasion, because I’m sure others saw different strips as unappealing, so this way everybody gets to see something they liked. I say almost perfect because I wish this had been a longer term project so that the writers could have had more room to flesh out their stories. It also would be great to see one strip end and then a new strip begin and then maybe a strip rotate back in as the creators had time to work on it. Overall I have to give Kamandi the nod as the one strip that did it all. It was a perfect Sunday comic strip, great writing, great art that utilized the canvas and was respectful of the character.

Thanks again DC for a wonderful project and a fantastic 12 weeks! I hope we see Wednesday Comics again in the future.


  1. Great review Jim - saved me the time of doing one myself! :) You did a good job balancing the Wow factor of the art, the story itself, etc.

    We're pretty much in agreement on everything, except Metal Men -- I think Garcia-Lopez did utilize the form very well. About the beginning of the last third of the series, all the stories were treading water a bit, but then they picked up right at the end. Kamandi suffered when it was dark outside as the bright colors in the daytime just worked better. I have to admit that Batman was excellent. It really grew on me, but I think it was one of the best strips (don't have time to rank them right now). I liked Hawkman, but I hated the ending where the tough Hawkman had to be saved by the JLA. Green Lantern was fun and I loved that it not only was like a silver age story -- it was SET in the Silver Age. I'd like to see more "period" stories. Metamorpho started strong for me, but then the story just went off the rails for me at the end. Teen Titans got a little better, but I'd rather see something like Jonah Hex. I did (barely) read all of the Wonder Woman stories -- it was...difficult.

    Although, I enjoyed Wednesday Comics and I would be tempted to try it again, I really don't like a weekly series. Sure, it's nice to have a reason to go to the store every week (when your list is so small), but it devours my budget and prevents me from getting other titles like Blackest Night.

    They've announced that there will be a Wednesday Comics panel at Comic-Con with some of the creators.

    Hype: Saturday in the Batcave room

    3:30-4:30 Spotlight on Wednesday Comics
    Comic books met comic strips in DC's "Wednesday Comics" and the results were spectacular! Join "Wednesday Comics" editor Mark Chiarello as he talks with some of the creators behind this popular title, including Mike Allred, Joe Kubert, Kevin Nowlan, Walter Simonson, and Brian Stelfreeze

  2. Gwen - You are not buying 29 are you?

  3. Well I'd have to believe that I was fathered by someone other than you first - and honestly we look way too much alike for me to buy that =P Except I'm sexier.

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