Project 365: One Comic Every Day, Week 2

The premise is simple: read one comic every day for the entire year. It seems like a simple task but there is no way that I read 365 comics last year, even if you count the individual issues in collections. So, this year, I have committed myself to this reading challenge, in the hope that I can broaden my reading habits and fully engage with my favorite hobby again.

The first week was a mixed bag of old and new comics. Some re-reads and some brand new, never before reads. A format that most weeks will take, I expect. As demonstrated below..

planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes Visionaries Credit: Boom Studios!

Comic Number 8: Planet of the Apes Visionaries

A Sunday afternoon feels like the perfect time for Planet of the Apes, especially as I grew up watching reruns of the movies and the television series on Sundays. This special hardback publication by BOOM! Studios is an adaptation of Rod Serling’s original scripts for the 1968 movie. The narrative is familiar but with a few differences that make reading this a wonderful experience. Throughout you feel as though you know where it’s going but the expected twists are subverted just enough to still make them work as twists in the story. Dana Gould and Chad Lewis interpret the scripts brilliantly, adapting concepts designed for the cinema into superb comic pages. The vision that Serling had for his adaptation of the original novel was deemed too expensive for Hollywood at the time, but Gould and Lewis don’t have such budgetary constraints so their imagination and visual design holds no bounds.

And the final pages are heartbreaking.

This is an excellent book and a must own for Planet of the Apes fans. And with Marvel bringing out a new Apes series later in the year, I doubt this will be the last Apes comic in this every growing list.

Two-Fisted Tales (re-prints) from EC Comics

Comic Number 9: Two-Fisted Tales #17 (originally published as number #34 in 1953)

“I felt that people should know the truth about war and everything else. As a matter of fact, I finally came to the conclusion that it’s the truth that one should be interested in, that if you aim your thinking toward telling the truth, then you’d be doing something worthwhile.” – Harvey Kurtzman

Reading this (reprinted) issue of Two-Fisted Tales, I can see where Harvey Kurtzman is coming from. The four tales in this comic have an air of honesty about them even with their EC twist endings and compulsion for violence. There is a western drawn by Jack Davis, a medieval comedy from Wally Wood, a tale of macho posturing and dueling by John Severin, and it’s all finished off with a true life World War 2 story drawn by George Evans.

All of the art is wonderful, as is to be expected with the amazing talent that EC kept on their books. The narratives themselves range from excellent to merely entertaining and they are all linked by the concept of honor and how it is interpreted by different people. I thoroughly enjoyed this comic but I also read the next issue that I’ve got (reprinted number 21) and found the stories tiresome and problematic. The narratives are plagued with racism and male posturing. There are some problematic stories in some of ECs other titles, but the Two-Fisted Tales seem to contain more than most. It is disappointing, especially as most of the artwork is excellent.

Predator #6 Credit: Marvel Comics

Comic Number 10: Predator #6

I fancied an easy read and have always had a soft spot for the Predator franchise. I haven’t read any of the new Marvel Predator comics so I was a little out of the loop, narrative wise. However, there’s not a lot you need to know, especially at the end of an action story like this. Ed Brisson has written a fun script. Cheesy, but in a way that fits the comic. The artwork by Kev Walker is exciting and modernist in style, favoring pacing and atmosphere over realism. Which is a perfect fit for Brisson’s script. Expressive coloring by Frank D’Armata and on-point lettering (thanks to the wonderful Clayton Cowles) complete this surprisingly fun read.

Panic #1 published by EC Comics

Comic Number 11: Panic #1

Everyone has heard of MAD, it’s still around after all. But less people have probably heard of Panic, EC’s humor follow up. That will be due to its short 12-issue run that ended in 1955.

Reading the first issue, one of the things that stands out is the brutality of the humor. It’s difficult to call it dark humor, but it does have a cruelty to it. Each of the stories is written by Al Feldstein and there is a one gag per story feel to the first few. There’s no question that the artwork carries each of these narratives. That is doubly true for the controversial The Night Before Christmas story drawn by Bill Elder, which is by far the most entertaining comic in the book. It is a cornucopia of sight gags and in-jokes. It reeks of EC in style and substance and deserves to be remembered, more so than any of the other stories.

The Night Before Christmas makes this comic the stuff of legend and led to the arrest of Shirley Norris, the receptionist at EC. Now, there’s not many comics that can say that.

Superman #80 Credit: DC Comics

Comic Number 12: Superman #80 (1993)

I know what you’re thinking; I read the penultimate issue of the Death of Superman last week, so where’s the finale? Where’s the main event? Unfortunately, I’ve already read it and gone much further. I’m storming my way through the Reign of the Supermen at the moment and just reached this issue, which is a pivotal point of the story.

I love this run of Superman comics despite some of the dodgy dialogue and inconsistent artwork. There is a feeling of commitment by the creators to telling the best, most exciting story they can. In Superman #80 Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding get to reveal the villain of the piece and they do so in one of the most destructive ways possible. The Cyborg Superman relays false information directly to the President of America as he assists in the destruction of Coast City. It is horrific, violent, and excellently executed.

I do have two small issues with the cover, however. Firstly, the rendering of the Last Son of Krypton is dreadful. He looks like an old man who has misplaced his false teeth. And secondly, it gives the game away. It tells you too much about the story inside and reveals the villain before you’ve read the comic. There is the opposite problem with monthly comics at the moment where the covers give the reader no indication of what the comic is about and often feature incidents or characters that don’t even feature on the pages inside. Superman #80, however, is a front page spoiler.

Blame! volume 1 published by Tokyopop

Comic Number 13: Blame Book 1

This week I read an article about adaptations of Dorian Gray in The Wildean (No 46, 2016). In it Darcy Sullivan writes ‘Generally speaking, comic books don’t deal in atmosphere.’ Although he has a lot of interesting things to say about Dorian Gray, on this one point, he is very much mistaken. Visual and emotional atmospheres are at the heart of good comics, as is perfectly illustrated by today’s read Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei.

Beginning in 1997, Blame! ran monthly until 2003. Tokyopop began printing translated volumes in 2000 and this first volume is nothing but atmosphere. The characters and narrative grows across the entire run of the series but in these first few chapters the environment is the star. Everything you need to know about the comic comes from the contrasting spaces and the imposing and beautifully rendered architecture. The atmosphere changes from overbearing, disturbing, nurturing, and narrative as you move from page to page. Not only is the artwork visually striking but it creates its own audio track in your head. You can’t help but hear the creaking metal and the echoes of voices in the dark.

Blame! is nothing but atmosphere and Tsutomu Nihei’s brilliance proves that comics don’t need anything else to be captivating.

Above Snakes
Alternative cover for issue 1 of Above Snakes Credit: Image Comics

Comic Number 14: Above Snakes (issues 1-5)

If I had made a list of the Best Comics of 2022, Above Snakes would easily have made it on there. This superb western, with a mild supernatural bent, by Sean Lewis, Hayden Sherman, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou is outstanding in every aspect. Re-reading it in one sitting just highlights how wonderfully everything from the twisting narrative to the intricate, yet free flowing, artwork is. It’s so difficult to pick a favorite part of this comic because everything is so well designed and executed. Otsmane-Elhaou’s amazing lettering leads you through the panels effortlessly and each page is a joy to read.

If you missed out on the single issues of Above Snakes, the collected edition is due out next week from Image. It is worth every cent they’ll be charging for it.

Week 2 done and another 7 comics read (well, technically there’s 10 comics and 2 books, not including all of the Superman comics that came between where I was last week to where I am this week).

Join me next week for another selection of comics and in the meantime, why not comment below to let me know what you’re reading.

Darryll Robson
Darryll Robson
Comic book reader, reviewer and critic. A student of Comics Studies and still patiently waiting for the day they announce 'Doctor Who on The Planet of the Apes'.