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The Biggest Comic Fan in Britain Finds a New Turf

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Jonathan Ross might be the most famous comic book fan in the world, yet not many Americans know who he is. They are about to find out as his new book, Turf, hits stores this week.

Imagine if you will, Johnny Carson, at the height of his popularity, spending minutes of The Tonight Show discussing the finer points of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, spending his off nights hanging out with the likes of John Byrne or George Perez, or paying big bucks for original Jack Kirby artwork.

I bring this up to give Americans some perspective on who Jonathan Ross is and why his being a comic book fan is such a big deal.

Ross is a British TV “presenter” (it’s what the Brits call their hosts. They also call apartments flats and trucks lorries, go figure) for the BBC and the host of the popular chat show, Friday Night With Jonathan Ross. He has had other successful shows on television and radio. He has carved out a successful thirty year career in the business and is one of the highest paid, and highly controversial, celebrities in Britain.

But over in the United States, Ross is a relative unknown. Fans of Ricky Gervais’ HBO sitcom Extras might recognize Ross from a number of episodes where he played himself. But comic book fans probably know him from a documentary he made in 2007.

In Search of Steve Ditko was a comedic documentary in which Ross travelled to the United States in an effort to track down the reclusive comic creator, Steve Ditko. Along the way, he spoke with such comic superstars such as Alan Moore, Mark Millar, and Neil Gaiman to name a few, each giving their impressions of the Dr. Strange and Spider-man’s co-creator.

This is one reason why Ross should be admired. There are rumored to be many comic book fans in Hollywood—Samuel L. Jackson, Seth Green and even Tom Cruise are supposed to be fans—but you seldom see them admitting to the fact in public. Ross owns up to unabashedly being a comic book fan.

Ross is also a fan of Star Trek and Doctor Who. He owns a large collection of original art and high-end comics. He even owned part of a London comic shop at one time. He proudly lists Neil Gaiman as a friend, and the writer has used Ross in a number of his stories.

Ross’ love of comics might be just the thing to give him a little more fame over here in the states, at least amongst the comic book community. He will be partnering with artist Tommy Lee Edwards and Image Comics this week to bring us a new miniseries named Turf.

The series is a classic crime noir with a twist. On one hand, it is your typical Prohibition-era cops versus robbers tale. Only Ross has added in something different. He’s added a lot of vampires and one or two aliens into the mix. This blends the familiar with the unique and presents an intriguing plot to build a comic book around. It is a story that only a true fan of the medium could come up with.

So, while Jonathan Ross might not be a famous face over here yet, his love of comics is the stuff of legend. This week, he gets to play in the medium he loves so much. You can’t help but feel happy for him.

Also out this week:

Mass Effect: Redemption #4:

Liara T'Soni's search for Commander Shepard's abductors comes to an end, but the story isn’t over there. Things are not what they seem. She was willing to do whatever it took to get her friend back, but is this a line that she cannot, will not cross? No matter what she does, there will be consequences.

Odds are that if you are a fan of the game, then you have already beaten Mass Effect 2 by now—twice. So you might not be interested in the close of this prequel miniseries. However, if you want to know how some of the events that shaped the game’s storylines played out, then this final issue is a must have.
 
Mac Walters & John Jackson Miller (W), Omar Francia (A), Dark Horse Comics, $3.50. Final Issue.

Red Robin #11:

Ra’s al Ghul is one tough immortal villain. He has pushed Batman to the limits more than once. Well, that Batman is not around anymore, and Ra’s has set his sights on Bats’ former protégé, Red Robin. If Ra’s was too much for Batman to handle, what chance does Tim Drake have? No much of one, to be honest.

This issue marks the end to the “Collision” storyline in the series and will set up next issue’s “everything will be answered” story. Then, presumably, the stage will be set for the return of Bruce Wayne and a shake up to the status quo once again. So, if you’re thinking of jumping on when Bruce gets back, pick up this issue to get a little head start.

Christopher Yost (W), Marcus To (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1:

There has always been a S.H.I.E.L.D. and there always will be a S.H.I.E.L.D. It will go under many incarnations and might take a rest for a while, but the organization will always be there to protect the Earth. This series will be giving us the secret history of the organization, and what is revealed might shock you.

I have to say, I am intrigued by this concept. Yes, it does sound like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with famous thinkers like Leonardo Da Vinci and Galilleo instead of Victorian-era literary heroes. But if they pull it off, it could be a whole lot of fun. We’ll have to see if it works and how far it will go.

Jonathan Hickman (W), Dustin Weaver (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

House of Mystery #24:

This week marks the end of the “Management” storyline, and it ends with a bang. Or a stab. Or a crush. See, there has been a murder. It’s a murder that doesn’t sit well with the goblin market community and that’s a bad thing because they live by an eye for an eye. It looks like one of our cast might become one of those eyes.

This series has been a pleasant surprise and a fine addition to the stable of Vertigo books. It is a rarity in that it keeps in line with the original House of Mystery’s anthological nature (each issue features a new “story” being told by a visitor to the house) while providing an ongoing continuity featuring intriguing characters. If you haven’t read this one yet, give it a try.

Matthew Sturges (W), Luca Rossi and John Bolton (A), DC/Vertigo Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Littlest Zombie #1:
 
Antarctic Press was once known exclusively for being the home of Americanized Manga. Now, it has begun stretching out into other venues, such as satire and zombie fiction (or both in the case of President Evil). It is the latter genre that brings us the latest release but with a unique, if somewhat disturbing twist.

This series focuses on a small little zombie. Over looked by the other zombies, feared by the normal humans, he is like a Casper the Friendly Ghost for the zombie apocalypse. Of course, the disturbing thing about Casper is that he is the ghost of a dead kid. Well, it looks like this guy is a zombified little kid. Kinda grim, but really, have you seen what DC has been doing lately?

Fred Parry (W/A), Antarctic Press, $3.50. One-Shot.

Codebreakers #1:

If your job is to decipher coded information for the government, your life really isn’t in that much danger. It’s not like you’re out in the field, gun drawn, chasing down the bad guys. You chase down the bad guys, but from the safety of your air conditioned office, via a computer. You’re doing good work, but nothing that will cost you your life.

This makes it strange when a member of the FBI’s elite Cryptanalyst Unit turns up missing. The rest of the team is thrown into turmoil as one of their own might have been a victim of foul play. Now they have a real-life code to break. They have to figure out why one of their own disappeared, who, if anybody, took him, and what it means to their safety.  

Carey Malloy (W), Scott Godlewski (A), BOOM! Studios, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Spider-Man: Fever #1:

Brendan McCarthy is one of the most daring and unique artists to come from the British Invasion of the 1990s. His art is filled with psychedelic images, vibrant colors, and weird and wonderful characters. He doesn’t have an exhaustingly extensive portfolio in comics, but what he has done is memorable and distinct. I first noticed him for his covers for Vertigo’s Shade, the Changing Man, a more perfect mix of title and cover artist you’d seldom see.

His style would lend itself well to drawing Doctor Strange, as it would evoke the trippy style from the character’s Steve Ditko heyday. Lucky for us, he gets the chance tomorrow. Yes, the title says “Spider-Man” and he’s in here too, but the good doctor plays a big role as well. If you are a fan of adventurous art, Steve Ditko, or these characters, check this one out.

Brendan McCarthy (W/A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.


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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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