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Every Day Is Like Sunday

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Comic books got their start as repackaged comic strips. Now, the latest weekly from DC, Wednesday Comics, pays homage to these origins.

Comic books trace their origins back to the 17th Century.

Now, I’m sure there are a lot of armchair comic historians out there that would take umbrage with that statement. They would be quick to argue that comic books were a 20th Century creation, dating back only to the early 1930s. And many of you would be right.

But I believe that the history of comic books must be intertwined with the history of the comic strip. And the 17th Century is when many historians believe the first series of illustrations to tell a story, essentially the first comic strip, appeared.

Comic strips became unbelievably popular in the late 19th-early 20th Century. They sold papers. They made cartoonists rich and famous. And they also made the comic book.

There was such a demand for newspaper comics that some came up with the bright idea of taking old Sunday comic strips, folding them over, and selling them to hungry comic strip fans to make a profit. These pamphlets were the first comic books and they evolved from those humble beginnings to what we know today.

Sunday held a special place in the heart for any comic strip fans. Sunday was the one day of the week that newspapers ran a color section. That meant the comic strips would be in full color. But, just as comic books evolved, so did comic strips. Back in the heyday of their popularity, comic strips, especially on Sunday, would take up a full page of the comics section. However, over the years, newspapers began to shrink the strips so today you can have as many as five different strips on any given Sunday comics page.

I am a huge comic strip fan, and for all my life I have experienced the “five-a-page” Sunday installment. The glory of the full page strip was in the annals of history for me. However, DC Comics is giving me the chance to experience what my parents and grandparents experienced with a new weekly called Wednesday Comics.

The new series hits stores tomorrow and is in a revolutionary format. It will be 14” by 20”, and will have to be folded twice to fit on comic shop shelves (which might give collectors who want their books to be in pristine mint condition a heart-attack). Each page will feature a strip starring one of DC’s legendary characters, done by some of comics’ biggest creators. In other words, it’s DC’s nod to the grand history of the full-page comic strip.

This series almost screams “special.” If the unique format and tribute to comic strips of yesteryear weren’t enough, the creative teams make this series one for the ages. Neil Gaiman returns to comics, working on the Metamorpho strip. His artist? Michael Allred, whose quirky style is the 100% perfect match for the quirky hero.

Is that not enough for you? What do you think of Joe Kubert returning to Sgt. Rock, this time being written by Kubert’s son Adam? How about the 100 Bullets team of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso returning to Batman for a strip in this series? Or Adam Strange written and drawn by Paul Pope? Or Kyle Baker bringing his unique point of view to Hawkman?

And that just barely scratches the surface. The series is bursting with top name talent on some of the biggest guns DC has to offer. If a cynic like me is excited by this, you should be absolutely manic.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the first issue. I am going to try to resist spreading it out on the floor and lying on my stomach to read it, like I did the Sunday comics in my youth.

Also out this week:

North 40 #1:

Aaron Williams is best known for his humor writing, with credits such as Full Frontal Nerdity, PS238, Nodwick, and the excellent Truth, Justin and the American Way. However, this week he travels down a darker road as he, and artist Fiona Staples, examine the macabre reality lurking right off the exit of the interstate.

The story revolves around Conover County, a rural community in the American Midwest. Conover County suffered from a massive invasion from an army of demonic monsters. The community survived, just barely, and are now trying to adjust to life after the horrific event. But while the demons might be vanquished, evil still remains. And when they say nothing will ever be the same again, they mean it.

Aaron Williams (W), Fiona Staples (A), DC/Wildstorm Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly #1:

If you had to pick a franchise that lends itself to comic books, you probably wouldn’t pick the “Man with No Name” trilogy. After all, the series of “Spaghetti Westerns” are well over 40 years old and are, well, Westerns. These two facts don’t really lend themselves to successful comic adaptations.

But Dynamite seems to be making good with their spinoff comics, as they are now bringing us a sequel to last year’s The Man with No Name: The Good, The Bad, and The Uglier. While the title leads us to believe this will be an adaptation of the last film in the trilogy, it actually will be continuing after the first miniseries’ and will be a sequel to the film franchise.

Chuck Dixon (W), Esteve Polls (A), Dynamite Entertainment, $3.50. Ongoing Series.

B.P.R.D. 1947 #1:

How do you keep a comic book property fresh? Well, just look at what Mike Mignola has done with Hellboy and copy it exactly. He has created an entire universe around his most famous creation, filled with loads of interesting characters. What’s more, he has created a rich and intriguing history to flesh out the character, his allies and his world.
.

This week, Mignola’s exploration of his universe’s history continues as he brings us a sequel to his B.P.R.D. 1946 miniseries. This time, he’s brought in Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon to join him and Joshua Dysart on the series. Bringing upcoming new artists is another way to keep a property fresh, don’t you know.

Mike Mignola & Joshua Dysart (W), Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Uncanny X-Men First Class #1:

Marvel’s use of the words “First Class” for its entry-level, all-ages friendly comic line was cute when it applied to the first generation of the X-Men. After all, the nomenclature fit, because Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel, and Beast were the first class of mutants taught at Xavier’s school. However, once “First Class” was applied to a new Wolverine series, a character who probably never even went to school, it lost a little of its appeal.

Now, we are treated to the Uncanny X-Men: First Class dealing with the mostly adult cast of the new X-Men that took over the series in the 1970s. They are an interesting bunch of characters that kids would love, so picking them to be in the book is a good choice. I just wish they would come up with something else to call the series than “First Class.”

Yes, I know getting this upset over the name of a series means I am a major dork. I’m trying to get better. 

Scott Gray (W), Roger Cruz (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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