Wednesday, November 07, 2007

History in the Making

Well, it's official. If you check out this month's edition of Diamond Comic Distributor's Previews catalogue, you'll find the solicitation for the 100th issue of Steve Rude and Mike Baron's Nexus on page 310. This is the very issue which contains, to quote the solicitation copy, "a brand new 12-page feature, 'The History of Nexus by Bill Baker." And, yep, that's me. According the full page ad on the preceding page, this article presents, "How it All Began! Early, Previously Unseen Nexus Art! The Crew From All 3 Nexus Publishers Tell All!" And what's really cool about all that hyperbole is the simple fact that it's completely true.

It's both exciting and, well, a touch weird for me to be part of an event like this, if truth be told. Not that I'm ungrateful for this opportunity to contribute, even in a small way, to the living legend that is Nexus. I just never saw this coming, nor did I ever expected anything like it to happen. I suppose this slightly discombobulated feeling could also be attributed to the fact that, as I've explained in the Comic Book Novice radio interview earlier this year, and believe I touched upon during the Supernot podcast a couple months back, I have only recently come to the conclusion that I needed to begin the process of "Branding myself" and my work as a full time professional journalist, writer and author of books. Still, after spending ten years as a generally invisible presence--something akin to an invisible prompter prodding established and rising star creators to share their impressions, thoughts and processes with the readers of the various websites and magazines I've worked for in the past--it's a bit of an odd feeling to see "my name in lights" as it were.

Anyway, regarding Nexus # 100, please order early and often. This is a series that deserves to be read far and wide by a large readership, whether or not I have something to do with it. The stories of both Baron and Rude are always worth checking out, be they working together or separately.

And, finally, for those of you who want to check out that interview I did for Supernot []. It's episode # 27, which was posted on 9-20-07, and you can download it via

And that's it for the moment. Which means that's it time for yet another mammoth installment of...

What's Bill been reading for the past month+? [for the period of 9-13 to 10-14-07]

Little Lulu: The Explorers [volume 15]
by John Stanley and Irving Tripp
Dark Horse Books

The more I read of this truly classic all ages material, the more I understand of the reasons why this series continues to regarded with such high regard by so many creators. The work of John Stanley and Irving Tripp is seamless, sturdy and wholly accessible, with very little signs of the wear and tear of time which cripples so many other strips and comics of even more recent vintage. And while many of the tales contained in this edition echo those from earlier volumes, there's still an incredible freshness to them. This is a series which is well worth reading for the lessons it offers in constructing stories that work effortlessly, and worth rereading for sheer joy of it. Highly recommended, as are all the previous volumes in this reprint series, to all and sundry. Oh, and these would make great holiday gifts, providing not only hours of reading enjoyment, but also fine coloring book material.

The Homecoming
by Ray Bradbury, with illustrations by Dave McKean
Collins Design

This beautifully designed small hardcover presents Ray Bradbury's classic short tale of a normal boy's struggles to fit into his fantastic and oddly gifted family with a series of simply brilliant illustrations by Dave McKean. Quite simply, this is a magical, moving and utterly brilliant presentation and well worth tracking down if only to experience anew, with the sepia-soaked and occasionally bloodshot fresh eyes provided by McKean's art. Another perfect gift for the guy, gal or ghoul who has [or think they have] everything by these two luminaries.

Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere
by Mike Carey and Glenn Fabry

This adaptation of Gaiman's breakout urban fantasy prose novel is well crafted, and worth reading in its own right. Carey has obviously approached this project with the right balance of appreciation for the source material and a comic writer's craft, making what might otherwise have become an overly verbose retelling into a story which is familiar, yet offers surprises of its own. And I mean that in the best way possible. And to say that it's a real joy to see Fabry doing extended interiors, applying his often overlooked or even forgotten sublime skills to telling a story sequentially is a huge understatement. All in all, a truly enjoyable and well done comic book version of the Gaiman novel, worth checking out for its entertainment as well as the lessons concerning the art of adapting something from one medium to another that it can teach those interested in such work.

Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus volume 2
Jack Kirby with Vinnie Colletta and Mike Royer
DC Comics

This collection contains the stories where Kirby really kicked his "Fourth World" concepts into high gear, and contain some of the single most striking concepts and images from his later, if not entire, career. Containing various issues of Jimmy Olsen, Forever People, Mister Miracle and New Gods, this volume, along with those that preceded and follow it, are absolutely essential reading for those who wish to fully understand not just why comics have the shape and form they do today, but also what unexplored possibilities the medium still offers to its practitioners. For fans of the King and great comics, it rarely gets better than this. For those of us who want to see the medium truly blossom, this is one of the books which sets the standards by which all other work is to be judged. Either way, if you're not reading this and the other collections of this seminal work, you're simply missing out. Period.

Two-Fisted Tales volume 2
by Harvey Kurtzman with Wally Wood, John Severin, Jack Davis, Will Elder and Dave Berg
Gemstone Publishing

I'd never had a chance to read these tales before now, stories which I've heard referred to as being "Legendary" and "Classics of the medium" over the course of literally decades. And I'm more than pleased to state that they more than live up to all that hype. But I'd like to add that these aren't just classics of the comics medium; in point of fact, these are modern classics of war literature, told with a rare grace and compassion that is too often lacking in the literary, much less actual, world.

Whatever your political orientation, your feelings about the "necessity" of war or peace, or even if you just don't care about all that "nonsense," these are tales which will capture your imagination, as well as your heart and soul. While all of the EC reprints in this series have proven to be worthy additions to anyone's shelf, this volume and its predecessor are particularly important and noteworthy, and are absolutely essential to the comic scholar and creator's library. Ignore these, and you risk hobbling your understanding of the medium and your full grasp of the craft of making comics.

The Intruders
by Michael Marshall
William Morrow

A mother and her son are brutally murdered in their home, and the basement laboratory of the missing father is destroyed. A young girl, spending time with her mother at their family's cottage on the ocean disappears without a trace. And the wife of Jack Whalen, an ex-cop turned writer, goes missing...and then inexplicably turns up, safe and without any solid explanation, back at home. Three seemingly unconnected events which suddenly begin to merge together to form a pattern once Whalen begins to suspect that there's something...wrong about his wife's behavior. And who, exactly, is the well dressed man in black whose appearances ties them all together? The more Whalen learns about the facts which connect these strange occurrences, the more fantastic the truth seems. All these diverse threads come together in a double climax which could mean the end of not just his marriage, but of his life itself.

To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of thrillers of any stripe. However, I found The Intruders to be riveting reading, both well written and well worth the time invested. Anyone who likes a good mystery, with solid logic and procedurals, and just a touch of supernatural based in some solid reasoning, will enjoy this finely crafted book.

Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie's Song Book 1 of 3
by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and

The creators behind the Spiderwick Chronicles return to the strange yet strangely-familiar world they created a few years back, and which is the basis for a forthcoming film and a wide variety of movie tie-in products. This time out, they're focusing on a different territory and cast of characters, with an unlikely pair of step brother and step sister discovering the odd assortment of creatures surrounding their newly-minted mixed family's Florida home.

Yeah, the two brothers who costarred in the previous Spiderwick books do make an appearance, as do both the author and illustrator, in this new volume, but the real treat here is in seeing how and what previously-unseen magical inhabitants are revealed to the new main characters. Their interactions, and the budding familial care and worry they exhibit for each other, are often as interesting as the various creatures and oddball humans they encounter along the way.

And, while this new aspect of the Spiderwick world might not be quite as fresh as the first series, DiTerlizzi and Black's efforts are, if anything, more accomplished here--quite a feat, considering how well they acquitted themselves art- and story-wise, respectively, the first time. Not for everyone, and perhaps not even for all readers of the inaugural Spiderwick Chronicles, this is still a great deal of fun and solid entertainment for all fans of modern tales featuring fairies and other fantastic creatures.

And that's more than enough for now. I'll be back soon, with more reviews and maybe even some thoughtful ideas on comics. Until then, take care, have some fun, and go read something good and fun!

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11:54 AM  
Blogger Marko Ajdaric - Neorama dos Quadrinhos said...

I'd like to get in touch with Bill Baker.

I am Marko Ajdaric, editor at Neorama dos Quadrinhos, The widest 9th art newsletter in the world (

9:18 AM  

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