Thursday, October 27, 2005


The Ginchiest

DC Comics has been doing some interesting things with their lineup the last few months (while, thankfully, Marvel Comics just keeps freeing up room in my budget by producing a larger percentage of uninteresting nonsense every month), not least of which the reintroduction of the "Multiverse," at least as a concept, in the pages of Infinite Crisis (what dyed-in-the-wool, old school DC superhero fan doesn't experience a sudden thrill at the appearance of the Superman of Earth-2, the Superboy of Earth-Prime, and Alexander Luthor of Earth-3, all in the same panel?!) and elsewhere in the line (the Power Girl arc of JSA Classified, also be I.C. scripter Geoff Johns, is an interesting sidebar to the whole farrago). Having nearly lost me all together with last year's gloomy, glum, and grumpy Identity Crisis, DC seems to have groked the fact that there needs to be, at least, the hope of redemption in their fictional universe, if anyone is expected to keep reading. And beyond that, a little bit of fun wouldn't hurt, either.

Enter Mike Allred. His Madman was one of the best things to come out of independent comics in the nineties, and his Atomics is sorely missed around our household. But aside from the wacky two-part team-up between Superman and Madman in the late nineties, he hasn't really gotten a chance to play around with the intellectual property sandbox that is the DC Universe. There were rumors for years about his "Batman-a-go-go" project, but while a few images leaked out, the book itself never saw the light of day.

And now, there is Solo #7. The idea behind the Solo title is to turn a particular artist loose on the DC Universe, letting them do stories featuring DC characters (In continuity? Out of continuity? Who cares?) in their won idiosyncratic styles. Undoubtedly the best in the series yet, barring the splendid Darwyn Cooke entry (whose own New Frontier is the best miniseries DC has produced in years). Colored by Allred's wife Laura, with some of the chapters co-written by his brother Lee, Allred's Solo is a love song to the DC Comics of the sixties and early seventies. "The Doom Patrol Vs. The Teen Titans" was letter perfect, down to the pixilated colors, and even featured Batmite and Zook in starring roles (with a surprise guest appearance by damn-near the whole Legion of Super-Heroes in the last panel). I thought "Batman-a-go-go" (a reworked version of the original project, perhaps?) went way too far in proving its point about grim-and-gritty superheroics, but I can almost forgive it, just to see Alfred the Butler looking like Alan Napier again (and I suspect that the reason that the issue was released with Wonder Girl doing the Batusi, instead of Batman as in the original solicitation, was that Allred's Batman came off looking a bit too much like Adam West, and they might have run into some likeness issues). The Hourman story was just fun, and the last chapter was a nice little paean to summer afternoons spent with a big stack of old comics, complete with the Mad Mod!

So if you've any affection for silver age DC comics, pick up Solo #7. And if you've never read one of Allred's own books, they're well worth seeking out, too. Though the front page of his website seems to be give over entirely to his current straight-faced adaptation of the Book of Mormon (!), thanks to the wonders of Google you can still see a complete cover gallery of all his super-groovy comics. They're the ginchiest!

Update 10/28/05: Heidi MacDonald confirms that licensing rights were indeed the reason the Batusi cover was nixed (and hints at some editorial friction, as well).

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