Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode #45: Proof, Dan Dare, and Marvel Adventures

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

One of the great pleasures of doing a comic-book review column is finding a new comic that nobody's heard of and telling the world, "Hey!!! World, I've found a really great new comic!!! It rocks!!!"

And that's what I'm doing right now...

The comic-book in question is called Proof and it's being published monthly by Image. I displayed some of the interior art a few months back, before it came out, because I thought it looked neat. Well, now we're on issue #2 and here's some more...

[If you'd like to see more, or to see these at a larger size so you can actually read them, all you need to do is to click on this handy little link...]

The set up is that the United States and Canadian governments have formed a secret organization, The Lodge, which exists to track down and contain the most unusual of endangered animal species: cryptids. A cryptid is a creature that has been witnessed and for which some evidence, such as blurry photographs or footprints, may exist, but the creature itself has never been captured or officially documented.

[That last part was taken directly from their Previously page.]

That woman you keep seeing is FBI Agent Ginger Brown, who has sort of been pulled into this whole operation against her will. Like most of the world, she didn't know anything about The Lodge, but now she's been reassigned to them and her new partner is Bigfoot, although his actual name is John "Proof" Prufrock.

One thing that's neat about this series is how down to earth it all is. Yes, there are weird creatures like Bigfoot running around, but there are also conversations about someone's sweater being ugly, or the tour that Wayne takes Ginger on in issue #2 through the Garden, where they keep all sorts of endangered species, including the Cottingley Fairies, the Pallas Cat, and the Dodo Bird.

The premise of Proof is nothing special, but it's all in the delivery. Funny, occasionally frightening, and full of wonder and awe in a way slightly reminiscent of the early issues of Planetary, or, at the risk of being hopelessly obscure in my references, not unlike Milestone's Xombi series from many, many years ago. Artist Riley Rossmo's work, meanwhile, feels like a happy blend of John Paul Leon, Ted McKeever, Michael Gaydos, and I'm not quite sure what else. It's damn good, though. His people actually look like people, as opposed to the homogenous body types we're used to seeing in comics, and his facial work is incredibly expressive.

Here's a brief excerpt from a recent interview with Proof writer Alexander Grecian:

"I'd call it 'fun horror,'" Grecian told CBR News. "We've got a Chupacabra hollowing people out and living in their skins, we've got fairies eating people, we've got car crashes and helicopter crashes and spooky little monsters. But the whole series is character-driven, which means Riley has to draw some talking-head sequences so I can indulge my predilection for funny dialogue. Fortunately, he's terrific at drawing both action and talky stuff. It's probably closer in tone to 'Buffy' or 'X-Files' than something like 'Walking Dead' or a superhero book.

"The most important thing for us, in setting the tone for the book, is keeping it in the 'real' world," continued Grecian. "So, no vampires or werewolves or zombies, no Lovecraftian octopus creatures (although there will be a kraken). Everything Proof and Ginger face will be a cryptid. In other words, the 'monsters' that agents of The Lodge have to track, are things that people actually claim to have seen. There are people who fervently believe that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster do exist and that's the world 'Proof' lives in."

"In the first story arc (the 'Goatsucker' arc runs through the first five issues), Proof and Ginger meet El Chupacabra, The Cottingley Fairies and The Dover Demon, all of which are cryptids, but we're going to be showing some different sides of them," said Grecian. "We've also got some folklore-type critters popping up in those five issues, including the original Golem and some jackalopes. The fairies in particular have their own kind of closed-system biology that will probably give some people the willies when they see how their whole mating process work," said Grecian.

"After that, we're off to Africa to meet Mokele-M'Bembe, the last living dinosaur. Then we've got Springheel Jack waiting in the wings, harpies, mermen, an oni…"

And so on.

Proof is a ton of fun and comes highly, highly, recommended.

Also new and lovely is Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine's Dan Dare series, published by Virgin Comics. I don't know anything about Dan Dare, although I gather that the character has been around for a long, long while, and I've never purchased anything by Virgin Comics before, but I do know that Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine pretty much kick butt together, and so I decided to give it a try.

Not a lot happens in the first issue of Dan Dare; it's primarily set-up. Daniel MacGregor Dare was, at one time, the premier pilot of Earth's international space fleet. That was a long time ago, though, and now he's semi-contentedly retired.

We learn a little bit about the world he's saved numerous times and it's--surprise!--not all that different from our own. Sure, there's the outer space sci-fi elements, but there are also the moral and political compromises that have left most of Dan Dare's old crew feeling disillusioned. Some work for the system, some are trying to change it, but the world has basically gone on without them.

All that changes, however, with a new space threat that forces the Prime Minister to seek out Dan Dare's help once again.

Beautiful art, well written, and a sense of a truly wonderful adventure about to begin... Dan Dare is the cat's pajamas!

Finally, I also wanted to point out a series of interview over at that are featuring the writers and editor of the Marvel Adventures series. There's an interview with Paul Benjamin, who's just started a four issue arc in which the Hulk meets the Defenders. I just finished reading the first issue of that storyline, in which the Hulk teams up with Dr. Strange, and it was pretty damn funny... if you've ever wanted to see a monkey side-kick possessed by the Dread Dormammu, this is the comic for you...

Then there's an interview with Paul Tobin who will be writing the next few issues of Marvel Adventures: The Fantastic Four. Previously he wrote Banana Sunday, which was a pretty fun indie book, and he's married to Colleen Coover, which makes him at least somewhat cool in my book.

Here's what he says about a couple of his upcoming issues:

"The (Mr.) Fantastic Fix-it Shoppe”: Ahh, Reed. Ever absent-minded. Helping raise money for a block renovation, good ol' Reed runs an "I'll fix anything!" table, and in between putting booster rockets on mopeds and laser cannons in wristwatches he sort of, you know, accidentally fixes the Mad Thinker's android. Oops. Now it's the Mad Thinker and his Awesome Android versus the Fantastic Four and some toasters. Yeah, I said toasters.

"Alternative Film School”. The FF help out a college film professor by volunteering their time for his top students. Want the FF to star in your disco film? No problem. Want the FF to headline your Jane Austen influenced romantic comedy? Sure. That can be done. Want to use your anti-matter powered film projector to transform some fans into the evil "Anti-FF" and also change a group of cos-players into evil (though quite amateur) versions of some of Marveldom's mightiest heroes and villains, all in a bid to destroy the FF and take over the world? Uhh, now we got a problem.

Then there's Fred Van Lente, who's work I've already enjoyed tremendously in the M.O.D.O.K.'s 11 limited series, which is probably the funniest thing I've read since that Great Lakes Avengers limited series by Dan Slott. His upcoming arc on Marvel Adventures: Iron Man sounds awesome but my favorite part of the interview was his discussion of Spider-Man's villains...

NRAMA: Over on MA Spider-Man, you’re doing a four-issue run (#33-36) that focuses on some of Spidey's fiercest foes, but looks at them in new and different ways. Let’s start with Venom, shall we? Venom as Spidey's sidekick? How did this idea come about in the first place?

FVL: I have to make a confession here, Ben. I love Spider-Man. Love him. Peter Parker is one of the greatest characters in comics history. But he totally demolishes the old writing canard that a hero can only be as good as villain. I am no fan of Spider-Man’s villains. They all have stupid animal names and all they want to do is rob banks and kill Spider-Man. Yawn. The only good Spider-Man villain was the Kingpin, and Daredevil stole him. So the challenge for me, when given an assignment like this, focusing on his big-hitter villains (Norman Green Goblin, Harry Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus and Venom) is to come up with ideas that use them in strange and interesting ways that don’t make me want to gnaw my wrists off while I’m at my laptop.

And I hate Venom most of all. God, how I despise Venom. I’m convinced he’s only popular because he’s wearing Spider-Man’s awesome black costume. The sidekick idea came about by thinking, well, Venom is a symbiote, and what’s more symbiotic than following the guy around like he’s his shadow? In MASM #35, Venom volunteers to become Spider-Man’s partner in heroism, that he wants to bury the hatched with the web-slinger, but you know that sneaky Venom, he could have something more up his sleeve…

Then there's an interview with Marc Sumerak, who has incurred my wrath by taking over the writing chores on Marvel Adventures: The Avengers. I know, I know, it's probably not his fault... I'm sure it was more a case of Jeff Parker leaving the title and them needing someone to take it over, rather than Sumerak being responsible for Parker leaving, but dag-nab it all... I loved Jeff Parker's Marvel Adventures: The Avengers.

Anyway, I grabbed a bunch of Marvel Adventures titles from the comic-store yesterday (don't worry... I paid for them!) because these interviews got me so psyched for the upcoming storylines, which is what interviews like these are supposed to accomplish but almost never do.

Some were better than others, but I really enjoyed the Hulk meeting Dr. Strange and also Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man #32, in which he battles Hydro-Man. Written by Peter David and with art by Pop Mhan, this is exactly the kind of Spider-Man comic that I want to be reading... as opposed to the ridiculous crap-fest that is currently going on in his regular monthly titles.
[Aside from Ultimate Spider-Man, which rocks!]

Anyway, that's all the comic-book goodness for this week... As always, I apologize for writing so infrequently... I think maybe we'll all enjoy life a little bit more if we start thinking of Hoopla! as a monthly review column that comes out more frequently than scheduled instead of a weekly column that is almost always late.

I know I feel better already, just from that one, simple paradigm shift.

Anyway, until next wee... er, month, here's hoping that all your four-color comic-book dreams are coming true...

- Paul

1 comment:

Bruce Kent said...

Thanks for turning me onto Proof. It's now been added to my monthly pull list. A+