Wednesday, May 3, 2017


"Make Your Own Telegraph" is a much better selling point than "First Issue Collectors Item!"

Assembling these two series to run alongside one another in this installment of Quarter-Bin Heroes tickles me, because they really represent ends on a wide spectrum. Between an encouraging, low-fi, black-and-white kids' comic full of science experiments and facts about the natural world, and the hi-res, digitally-rendered, almost*-incomprehensible celestial space opera lies almost all the comics ever produced in history ever. Oh, and one of them teaches you how to make a telegraph!

*By which I mean, "absolutely"

The editor's notes in this book all read like Neil DeGrasse Tyson's tweets.

Star Forces (The Other Faculty)
1 issue, 1978

Star Forces appears, judging not only by its contents but also the name of its publisher, to be an educational comic from start to finish - and it's a fun one! There's a core narrative which runs through the majority of the book, detailing the trials of telepathic alien adventuress Stella Mira and her battles with the aluminum-hungry space pirate Bucca (I'm fond of his chain of family-style Italian restaurants, though). Having been shot down in space, Stella is discovered by home-science and -craft enthusiasts Kanya and Artan, children whose parents named them by picking five random tiles out of a Scrabble set.

Stella is attempting to stymie Bucca's plans to steal Earth's aluminum, because it's super-rare on other worlds. That might be, I never thought to ask how much aluminum was in other planets' crusts before now or, for that matter, how much is in ours. Eight and a half percent, it turns out, according to Wikipedia. Worlds of wonder. And if you're wondering "why don't they just raid a recycling center," pal, dig this: Bucca has a double agent working for him at a recycling center. We're through the looking glass here, people. This should blow Pizzagate out of the water.

Bucca and Mira's battle occupies the majority of the book, but they're occasionally interrupted by one-and-two-page science factoids and instructionals: How to build a home telegraph, facts about the constellation of Orion, how the Chinese discovered compasses, how tape recorders work, magic missile, bag of holding, a body-positivity bit involving a glowing fairy who wants to be Wonder Woman (?), a sort-of hard-to-understand two-pager on how magnets work (I think we've found the source of the Insane Clown Posse's confusion) a word-find and a biography on Michael Faraday, plus a how-to-draw Stella Mira page which really highlights how big and round her ass is. That's science, all right!

Whoa, hey, hello there, science!

Stargodz (Antarctic Press)
2 issues, 1998

The whole "brokeback" pose thing has gotten out of hand.
Antarctic Press is probably one of those publishers whose pedigree and longevity should disqualify any of their titles from this feature, which I generally prefer to use to highlight those creators who were willing to put their own money and reputation on the line to produce what will very likely be the forgettable drek of their professional comics debut. Believe me, I say that with love, inasmuch I know of whence I speak.

Stargodz ("Star Gods" according the indicia, by the bye), however, is such an utterly ambitious and batshit comic that its pure audacity earns it a spot in this run-down. Although it mizes it up between 3D-rendering and digital airbrushing, it's nonetheless falls into the camp of those all-digital comics of which folks used to make copious amounts of fun and deride nonstop (e.g. me and Donna Matrix),. I think all of us funsters would be a little surprised to find out how much 3D-rendered, digital illustration is used in contemporary mainstream comics in such a fashion that we don't even acknowledge it, to be fair.

"Suurgh!" ?
You can't help but acknowledge the 3D-rendered digital art in Stargodz, though; it's soaking in it. Which is not necessarily to its benefit -- the lettering in particular suffers to such a degree that I could only figure out what happened in the first issue by reading the intro to the second issue. Dropping the opacity of the word balloons and the caption boxes might have looked neat in Photoshop, but it's kind of a bear on these old eyes.

Stargodz jumps on that "spiritual warfare on an epic scale" motif which ran through so many comics of the '90s and early 00's, re-imagining the contents of Edith Hamilton's Mythology spilled out onto a pile of action figure accessories and fighting each other. "The STARGODS are space-faring conquerors ruling a distant system of feudal throne-worlds and ever-expanding colonies," explains the second issue introductory text (and, for all I know, the first issue introductory text, albeit illegibly), "Under a precrious truce, these Extraterrestrial Legends must return to Earth after eons, where human virtue and timeless HEROES hold the key to saving the universe..." And then there's a quote from Shakespeare and also Homer ... Simpson. I dunno, that's cute.

The 3D art actually serves the book better than its airbrushed art, but it's nonetheless used in an interesting way -- to distinguish the "Star/ /godz/s" sequences from the normal human sequences. It's a pretty intriguing approach, and some of the gods sport great designs (some others, not so much), and you can't fault the dynamism of the pages, so the book has some genuine thought put into it. I wish I could have read the text in it, is all ...

I think parts of the first issue were watercolor, maybe, too. But hey, this looks good.

No comments:

Popular Posts