Saturday, October 18, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Mafalda by Quino

Previously I wrote about how sometimes you can clearly remember when you first bought or read a particular comic and how that can trigger all sorts of memories beyond the actual reading experience; memories from the "real" world, not the fictional one reads. Argentinian cartoonist Quino's much celebrated creation, Mafalda, is another of those comic book characters that I can place in that category.

I first met her on my Portuguese Grammar manual, when I was around ten years old. Man, how I loved that book! It was a school book, yes, but it was filled with samples of great comics used to teaching grammar! Judging by how Portuguese school has been going to hell for the last decade or so - and I should know it, being a teacher - I don't think they do that anymore. You see, I'm from a generation where kids still read books and comics were seen as a good teaching tool to get kids to read... but I digress.  Back to Mafalda, for awhile that book was my only source of her incredibly funny and lovingly drawn comic strips. The jokes were great, the characters were super cute but, as usual, it was Quino's superlative drawing line and cartooning ability that held my attention. There was a sort of pleasant humming that came across his ink lines that felt so spontaneous and yet perfect. Then, one day, I fell ill with a sore throat and high fever and had to remain in bed for a few days. Guess what? Mom and dad offer me a wonderful anthology with hundreds of Mafalda's comic strips - I went to heaven that evening!

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - QRN sur Bretzelburg

It's interesting how the memory of some books entering one's life remains clear even decades after the fact, while the memory of others goes straight into oblivion. I can still clearly remember how QRN sur Bretzelburg entered my life. One day when I was around seven years old, my mom took me out to have lunch and go to the movies along with a fellow coworker of hers, a young woman who, while having a husband, my mom had told me, couldn't have any children of her own. At that age I couldn't still quite grasp the whole workings of that (latebloomer that I have always been, perhaps I was still under the impression that babies were brought by storks to married couples), but my empathy was already well-developed enough to find this whole situation sad. The woman gave me this Spirou album as a gift and I immediately found her quite charming. The story had many layers that would take many readings and many years for me to digest and understand, but even then I could still find it fun and captivating - it was that well crafted that it could be enthralling on different levels according to the reader's context. The characters were awesome; Marsupilami becoming an instant favorite! The even better part though, were Franquin's drawings, which were unlike anything that I'd ever seen before, with a verve, energy and attention to detail uniquely their own. Little did I know then that this was one of the most celebrated and highly imitated european cartoonists ever. It would be quite a few years before I had the luck of coming across another comic by this author, but when I did, boy, I immediately grabbed it!
It's been many years since that fateful day when I first crossed paths with the work of Franquin. My mom left that job about a year later to remain at home and take care of me. She ended up losing contact with that coworker. Like so many, many other people who have touched my life (friends, foes, strangers), I have no idea where her path took her. I guess that's part of life: no neat answers, lots of unsolved questions and lose ends too. Still, her simple gesture of offering a comic book, still ressonates within me. Whenever I pick up QRN sur Bretzelburg or any of Franquin's bande dessinées, I still wonder about whatever happened to her, how she's doing and hope that she ended up having a child of her own, either biological or adopted, someone with whom to share such fun comics. 

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Saturday, October 04, 2014


   My relationship with Lucky Luke is similar to what I have with Astérix, although I'd say that the later is closer to my heart than the former simply because I've read more Astérix books than Lucky Luke. Both are pretty much synonymous with comic books on Europe, yet they've also managed to transcend the medium to the point where they've become popular culture icons, which makes it hard to have some degree of objectivity analising them. Again, just as with Astérix, my contact with Lucky Luke came via my uncle and cousins who had most if not all of the character's albums. As a kid, the only Lucky Luke comics I was lucky enough to get were "Western Circus" and "La Caravane", both of which, coincidentally enough, I'd rank as different from what the popular perception usually equates with Lucky Luke books - no Daltons, no Rantanplan...
While this is french-belgium bande-dessinée, I can't help but think that if there's anything worthy of being called "comics", it's these books. Morris and Goscinny's mastery of the medium exudes with caricature and humor of the finest kind. Another of the lasting impressions I was left with from these two particular books were the unforgetable secondary characters. To this day I can't help but smile whenever I remember Nelson the one-eyed vegetarian lion, the drunk Ringmaster (a caricature of W.C. Fields) or Ugly Barrow the constantly cursing wagon driver. Fun stuff!

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Les Schtroumpfs, Johan et Pirlouit, Benoît Brisefer by Peyo

     Speaking of blue skinned creatures... back when I was a little kid, the Schtroumpfs were everywhere. There was an animated tv series, toys, all sorts of merchandising and, naturally, the comics. I remember how that stuff really triggered my imagination. I mean, for a small child, at least in those more innocent times, there could really be some lost race of little creatures somewhere out there, right? Oh, I also remember seeing the ads for a movie, "La flûte à six Schtroumpfs". Sadly, mom and dad never took me to see that movie... But what seemed like the two main heroes of the film, at least from the poster and movie stills shown outside the theatres (named Johan and Pirlouit, I would later learn) stuck on my mind. They seemed like fun. Fast forward a few years and I borrow a couple of books from a friend of a friend. Both by Peyo. The cartoonist behind the Schtroumpfs. Guess who I finally get to know? That's right, Johan and Pirlouit. Boy, were my instincts right? This was even more fun that those Schtroumpfs books I had, which were already pretty good. This was more like adventure! And plus, the other book had a character I had never even seen or heard about: Benoît Brisefer, a superpowered kid who loses his powers whenever he catches a cold. More innocent times like I said... but they sure don't mak'em like they used to. 

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Saturday, September 20, 2014


Anyone reading this sequence of posts must be thinking I was a marvel zombie. Well, while I did read far too many marvel comics for my own good (they were cheap and easy to come by), my comic book reading diet as a kid was composed of other stuff as well, like Disney comics, Harvey comics (Richie Rich and Friends), Brazilian Turma da Mónica and, naturally, european comics too. Out of these later, one that sticks out as a personal favorite was the first volume of Roger Leloup's Yoko Tsuno "Le Trio de l'étrange". Again, as in other cases, my love for science-fiction probably had a hand on my love for this comic. Also, this is one of those cases where I remember enjoying Leloup's artwork so much that I copied quite a few pages of this book. Everything was so cool and nicely drawn - the characters, the spaceships, the alien civilization... speaking of which and looking back, I wonder if the skin color of the aliens who show up in this comic played a role (subconsciously) on how I handled that aspect of the Annunaki on my own The Mighty Enlil...?  

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Star-lord by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin

A long time ago, there were fun comics, the kind that you read on a breeze and later forget about them and there were good comics, the kind that you'd keep coming back to and read again and again and again until the comic would start wearing out and falling apart. This, the debut of the creative team of Claremont/Byrne/Austin, belongs to this later type of comic. I still remember how it felt unlike anything else I had been reading from marvel. I still remember how I wanted and waited for further stories with these same characters and creators... and how that never came to pass. Still, the team would go on to make their mark on another set of characters and forever change the landscape of superhero comics.

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Saturday, September 06, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Captain America #247-255

Imho, Roger Stern/John Byrne/Joe Rubinstein's run on this title is still the BEST Captain America EVER, full period.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014


Alien cyborg fights shapeshifting witches from outer space! Only the 1980s could produce a comic with such a premise and somehow make it work. Silly as it may sound today, ROM had the coolest concept ever for a kid on that particular time of the late 20th century. Again, just as with Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema's run on the Hulk, I'll stick with initial issues mostly for the full-art chores by Buscema (as legendary an inker as Joe Sinnott may be, his work on the following issues, as well as that of subsequent inkers, brought an emaciation to Sal Buscema's artwork that diluted its power and iconicity, imho).

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Saturday, August 23, 2014


Mais uma crítica ao meu THE MIGHTY ENLIL pode ser lida aqui. Muito obrigado ao Pedro Moura pelo tempo e pela atenção dispendidos na leitura do meu livro e na escrita deste texto.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - The Incredible Hulk #241-272

This is it! One of my fondest runs of superhero comics from my childhood! Just plain, simple old-school marvel. Unassuming, unpretentious, technically competent, mainstream adventure comics (a rarity nowadays, imho).

Sal Buscema's artwork was what I immediately equaled with marvel/superhero comics in my mind and it grabbed me like no one else's. The story formula was pretty simple yet effective for its intended audience (kids): each issue (or at most every two issues) the Hulk confronted a brand new or different threat/character(s). There were so many of them I first came across on these pages : Doc Samson, 3-D Man, Woodgod and the Changellings, the U-Foes, Sabra, the Arabian Knight, the Soviet Supersoldiers, the Presence, Red Guardian, Dr. Phobos, Glazier, Landslide, Night Flier, Corruptor, the Texas Rangers, the High Evolutionary, Glorian, the Shapper of Worlds, Bereet, Empress Daydra, the Hulk-hunters, Rocket Raccon, Wendigo. Colorful, unusual, sharply designed discardable characters that populated the mindscape of my (and I would assume several other readers as well) imagination.

While Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema  proceeded with their creative run on the title until issue 309, after issue 272,  Sal Buscema stopped inking his own drawings and my interest dropped. Even though there were some entertaining tales afterwards, the art without Buscema's inks just wasn't the same and somehow the Banner-controlled Hulk stories didn't grab me the same way (and the less said about the later Nightmare/Crossroads/Gerry Talaoc-inked issues, the better, imho).

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Saturday, August 09, 2014

362ª Tertúlia BD de Lisboa

Estive na passada terça-feira, na 362ª Tertúlia BD de Lisboa. Podem ver aqui dois improvisos que fiz na toalha de mesa.

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Saturday, August 02, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Iron Fist by Chris Claremont and John Byrne

I still had no clue that writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne would rock my world and the world of comics with their seminal take on The Uncanny X-Men when I started following their work on Iron Fist. The stories had drama and action aplenty and the artwork was very clean and appealing. The drawn characters moved! They flowed through the pages looking alive with a fluid and organic nature. John Byrne's people were never stiff and they actually had their mouths open when they talked. There was also this attention to place - the backgrounds seemed like real places and houses. These comics (and others that followed) made me a fan of his artwork for life.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Master of Kung Fu by Doug Moench, Mike Zeck and Gene Day

Although he died a couple of years before I was born, Bruce Lee was still going strong when I was a kid and the impact he had brought to pop culture was active. Yes, the kung-fu craziness was well on its way-out but it still lingered on in things like this unusual comic book series. Most particularly, I recall Mike Zeck's artwork. Not only had he a great level of draftsmanship, he also drew amazing action sequences (i.e. fight scenes) and, most important to me, the intense facial expressions he gave to the characters. Again, as with other comics from that era that I've mentioned here, this one had that paranoic/manic feeling that seduced me so much. Also, it had that whole evil villainous father versus noble heroic son thing that kids love so much before George Lucas attached it to his world-famous movie franchise. 

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Adam Warlock by Jim Starlin

Warlock. Adam Warlock. Jack Kirby created Him. Gil Kane transfigured him. Jim Starlin elevated him.

I wasn't familiar with neither Kirby nor Kane's versions of the character when I first came across the Jim Starlin comics, but that might have been for the better because this could just as well be an entirely new character. I clearly remember being totally mystified by Starlin's vigorous artwork and trippy stories when I first came across it. These comics had all the same qualities I had come to identify with Marvel (that strangeness, manic, hallucinogenic, almost paranoid quality that was absent from DC comics superfriends) elevated to a much higher level. To a then-seven/eight-year old kid, this was beyond superheroes. All the basic elements of the genre (the fantasy, the angst, the melodrama, the epic scale) were pumped up to another level. And then... Starlin killed Adam Warlock. The perfect ending ... if only it had been let well enough alone.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Captain America #235-237

Everybody who dies in superhero comics eventually comes back to life... even Bucky. After all, Marvel and DC have got to keep those characters in print if they are to retain their rights. Nevertheless, when I was a kid, I didn't know better. Back then comics were still terra incognita to me and it would take me years to realize that the main driving force behind these worlds wasn't the imagination of the writers and artists behind them, but the profit generated from sensationalist cheap tricks done in order to increase revenues and please the board of shareholders. ANYWAY, back when I didn't know better, the death of Sharon Carter hit me in the gut - this was Cap's beautiful girlfriend and he had failed to save her! For an eight year old kid, this was heavy stuff... and I'm posting the cover of the original brazilian edition where I read it because I still find it awesome - it was THAT cover that convinced me to buy the magazine :-)

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Saturday, July 05, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Silver Surfer by John Buscema

I won't even bother to talk about the stories because I found  most of them kind of boring when I first read them and even more so now. In fact, it is a testament to how powerful and graceful John Buscema's artwork on these comics is that they still remain among my favorites despite the repetitious plots and lame villains. If you only look at these comics, they're pretty neat! I particularly like the issues with inks by Sal Buscema, imho his brother's best inker after John himself. Between these, his Avengers (inked by Tom Palmer) and some of his Thors and Conans, you can't go wrong with learning how to draw comics the marvel way (or at least what marvel used to be, not the current version).

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Mighty Enlil reviewed

Eis duas críticas ao meu livro The Mighty Enlil, uma no blogzine da Chili Com Carne e outra no blog A Garagem.

Obrigado ao Marcos Farrajota e ao André Azevedo, os responsáveis destes blogs, pelas leituras atentas e pelas palavras!

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - "The Sword and the Sorceress" in The Avengers #84

 Yet another one filled with memorable moments. John Buscema and Tom Palmer create some incredibily moody artwork and unforgettable sequences starting with the splash of the Black Knight riding Aragorn, his winged stallion. Again, Arkon returns, this time around teaming-up with gorgeous but evil Enchantress. The incredible blending of genres and the visual glamour on this one still leave me breathless.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Mighty Enlil in Beja 2014

No passado dia 1 de Junho, deu-se o lançamento oficial do meu livro The Mighty Enlil no Festival Internacional de Beja. Fica aqui um par de fotos da ocasião. O meu bem-haja a todos os que contribuíram para a presente edição do meu trabalho, às Edições El Pep, à organização do festival e a todos os que estiveram presentes.

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Saturday, June 07, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - The Avengers #75-76

Another John Buscema beauty, this time with the great Tom Palmer on inks and a fine Roy Thomas tale too. So many memorable sequences and characters on this one - Jarvis panick as he tries to deal with the breaking and entrance of Quicksilver in the Avengers Mansion, the farewell to Janet and Hank Pym as they leave for their honeymoon, the beautiful Scarlet Witch kidnapped by the magnificent Arkon , the doomed world of Polemachus and the final showdown between the Avengers and Arkon atop the Empire State Building! No wonder, I ended up having a lifelong love affair with comics, being exposed to these incredible fantasies as a child.

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - "Godhood's End!" in The Avengers #97

 I loved this comic to death when I came across it and I still do now. This was the first Avengers comic I ever read and I honestly didn't have a clue as to what was going on - it was the end of a saga known as the Kree/Skrull war - but that didn't matter because the artwork and the imagination depicted were so overwhelming that their overload totally compensanted for my disorientation... in fact, I suspect it might have contributed even more to its overall effect on me. This comic was like an explosion, literally and figuratively! There were so many superheros running around and fighting evil aliens - this was like comic book heaven for a kid looking for some fun entertainment. And the ending, for one still discovering the marvel universe and wasn't consciously aware about the superhero genre many clichés,  it was like a punch in the guts.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lançamento do albúm de BD THE MIGHTY ENLIL

Publicada originalmente como um webcomic, a minha BD THE MIGHTY ENLIL é agora editada no formato de livro pelas edições El Pep.

O lançamento oficial do livro decorre no Festival Internacional de BD de Beja, é já no dia 1 de Junho, domingo, às 16h15 na Casa da Cultura de Beja e vai contar com a minha presença.

Também haverá uma sessão de autógrafos no mesmo local, no dia 31 de Maio, sábado, entre as 18h30 e as 19h30.

Conto com a vossa presença!

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - "Tales of Asgard" from The Mighty Thor # 97-145

Since I've been on a sort of Jack Kirby's Thor high lately here on the blog, I might as well save the best for last : the Tales of Asgard back-up. I loved how these regular five page short-stories expanded the world of Thor and tied up the current incarnation of the norse god of thunder to its original mythic roots with inventive abandon and creativity. My all-time favorite of the bunch? Why, the "The meaning of..Ragnarok"/"Aftermath!" two-part conclusion to the epic quest through the Sea of Fear. Grandeur unleashed!

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - "The Scourge of the Super Skrull" from The Mighty Thor #142

This one gets a place on this pantheon merely on the virtue of the splash page and the following couple of pages. Thor on a race against a biker!? This is what made marvel so famous way back when: the surreal contrast between the mundane and the majestic... and Jack Kirby, of course :-)  

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - "The Wrath of Replicus" from The Mighty Thor #141

Unforgettable! Everything falls so perfectly in place on the mere sixteen pages within which this comic takes place... Slugger Sykes... Mrs. Garden... Dr. Donald Blake. Don't let yourself be deceived by the violent splash page - this is one of the best examples of a morality tale played out within the superhero genre confines without subverting its conventions.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Dick Ayers R.I.P.

Dick Ayers, one of the main comic book inkers from the dawn of marvel comics died this past May, 4th just a few days after his 90th birthday. I particularly like how his inks over Jack Kirby's pencils emphasize the rough, primitive quality of the artwork. Sky Masters of the Space Force, the Atlas-era Monster stories, the Fantastic Four and, most especially, The Incredible Hulk will always remain among my personal favorites of his work.
Rest in Peace!

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Saturday, May 03, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - "Spider-Man tackles the Torch!" from The Amazing Spider-Man #8

Remember when superhero comics were FUN? I do and this here comic is one of the finest examples I can think of. I wasn't entirely sure what to make of it when I first read it many years ago, but like fine wine it only got better with time. Highly recommended reading for all the ultra-serious people that seem to dominate the current superhero (and not only) comics scene!

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - The Mighty Thor #193-194

More than story, what attracted me to comics were the actual drawings and, later on, the visual storytelling. Looking back, no one gave a better balance between power and grace to drawn characters than  John Buscema. Sure, his craftsmanship was among the finest comic book professionals, but what conquered me was the beautiful people he drew. These were drop dead gorgeous figures - the way superheroes were supposed to be! There are quite a few gems on this couple of issues that still inspire me even after all these years...

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - The Incredible Hulk #1-5

I was lucky enough to read all the first five issues of The Incredible Hulk as a kid and I still love every single page of them. Reading these feels like I'm watching missing episodes of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. While not as revered by fandom as other works by the same creative team, there's a primitive quality about these tales, both in art and story, that has never been matched in the Hulk's subsequent stories - it's almost like there are two Hulk characters, the one by Jack Kirby on these issues and the one that has had a lengthy run done by several hired hands afterwards. There's an eeriness, an ominous mood about these tales that even today I find extremely captivating and that I've never seen on any other subsequent Hulk comic.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - "To become an Immortal!" from The Mighty Thor #136

The fact that many of my favorite comics from back when I was a kid were reprints from earlier times probably says something not only about my tastes but also about the enduring quality of those same comics. This one hits the motherload! We get Jack Kirby's art and storytelling at the height of his creative power and vision, Vince Colleta's scratchy ink lines, Stan Lee's verbose diarrhea, old cheap four color printing on pulp paper and a tale chronicling the final moments of the forbidden romance between a beautiful mortal girl and the norse god of thunder. What else could a seven year old kid possibly want?

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - "The Origin of Doctor Strange" from Strange Tales #115

Why does Hollywood keep on redoing the origin of popular characters whose genesis everybody already knows? Why do origin tales inspire so much fascination among people? Could its source be the mysteries surrounding our own collective origins? Is there such a thing as a perfect origin story for a character? Whatever the answers to those questions might be, I know that one of my personal favorite origin stories of a comic book character is this short comic originally published in the 1960s. It entered my life many years later through a reprint when I was around seven. There was something so perfect about how everything came together on this one, from Steve Ditko's simple yet expressive drawings to the character journey of the arrogant doctor turned humble pupil. In fact, it's so perfect, I find no personal need for any further Doctor Strange stories.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Fantastic Four #44-51

Widely regarded by many as the highest pinnacle of Jack Kirby's output at marvel comics in the 1960s, I read this sequence of comics through reprints scattered here and there that I managed to hunt through more than a decade, starting when I was around six years old. If you put aside all the continuity baggage and heritage these comics would develop later on and try to read them as purely as possible, it's like experiencing a dream: there's a rapid succession of developing events and unexpected characters that seem to come out of nowhere and you're never quite sure what to make of it or where it will all lead. Still, the story never stops making sense, even if in a nonsensical way, just like in dreams. The stakes just keep on being raised to ever more incredibly heights, starting with the introduction of an hidden race of superpowered creatures until the point where the protagonists are up against God on a conflict of biblical proportions, yet the human dimension is never lost. The characters still have to deal with everyday matters like getting a dish-washer fixed, falling in love, shaving, going to college or being depressed... Like I said, it looks and feels like a dream, blending the common with the incredible and blurring the edges between the real and the unreal. Trust me, looking back as an adult here's what I can tell you: superhero comics don't get better than this!  

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - "What if Conan the barbarian walked the Earth today?" from What if #13

Conan the barbarian was BIG when I was a kid. There was the Schwarzenegger movie, naturally, but also tons of comics. The Barbarian seemed ubiquitous and the artwork on those comics, oh my! John Buscema could do no wrong in my book. Still, the stories seemed kind of repetitious to me... then one day, I hit upon this brazilian reprint including the story from What if? #13 - What if Conan the barbarian walked the earth today? - and all of a sudden I'm captivated by this tale unlike any other featuring this character before or after. Maybe it was my love of time travel stories, maybe it was the juxtaposition of the rude brute with the modern world, maybe it was the lovely female character of Danette, perhaps it could have been the fact that this story was different enough from the trappings of the sword and sorcery genre to break the clichés I was already used to or at least disguise them enough to captivate me... whatever it was, I loved this comic then and still do now.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014


Familiarity breeds contempt. Astérix tends to prove this. At least, in my case, it does. Sometimes, some works or authors can be so ubiquituous and relliable in the quality or timeliness of their delivery, that one tends to take them for granted. In the case of Astérix, I think it's always been around me, in some form or another, to the point where sometimes I have a hard time thinking of it as a comic like any other. One of the earliest books I had featured Astérix - it wasn't one of the characters proper BD album, but an adaptation to little pre-school children in a small format. There were Asterix animated movies and toys, too. Looking back, it is the closest thing to the evil Disney empire europeans have that I can think of. So, it's easy to take it for granted just like any other massmedia discardable product... and it only got worse with time...

Still, I must concede that these were some of my favorite comics as a kid. I should add that I didn't have the Astérix books as a kid BUT my uncle and cousins did have ALL the albums! So, whenever I visited them I had the good fortune of getting to read or at the very least see these wonderful books. I'd say that along with the work of Carl Barks, these were the first comics that gave me the impression of a unique fully realized coherent world - something incredibly hard to pull off in fiction. And the apparent facility with which Goscinny and Uderzo seemed to pull it off, only enhances its effect.

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Saturday, March 08, 2014


When I was a kid I would spend long afternoons at my grandparents house, especially during the summer holidays. Their next door neighbours had two sons, one slighlty older than me, already a teenager, and another around my age. Naturally, we would spend time together playing with action figures and zx spectrum 48k computer games, watching vhs movies and reading comics, doing the stuff kids do on long summer afternoons... or, at least, used to do.

The older kid was a sort of science geek with a huge collection of science-fiction pocket book novels that introduced me to writers like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Philip K.Dick. He also had some old comics, including four or five giant-sized books collecting the early years of Hal Foster's Prince Valiant. Now, this was probably the most famous comic book character of my father's generation, which meant I was at least familiar with his name, but I had never actually seen any pages so I was extremely curious as to what the brouhaha surrounding it was all about. Once I laid my eyes on those books I immediately understood where all the fame of Prince Valiant came from - it was the most beautiful comic I had ever seen! Pardon me, it IS the most beautiful comic I have ever seen!

Even Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon with all its romance and vigourous drawing cannot top Hal Foster's Prince Valiant in terms of care and attention to detail, composition and just plain naturalism.

And the story... has there ever been an epic such as this in adventure comics? The cast, the settings, the grand adventure and the small quiet moments... unparalleled!

I was so enamored of this old comic that I begged the older kid to borrow them so I could read it properly and maybe swipe some of those fabulous drawings, "who knows, I might learn to draw this good if I copy it" ... but the little jerk wouldn't lent them. He didn't even really care about those particular books, it was all just a brutal display of egotism. And so I was left yearning for Prince Valiant, which, despite its success with previous generations, was completely out-of-print, at least as far as national editions were concerned at the time... No wonder I STILL think of this strip as the most beautifully drawn comic ever :-)

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Saturday, March 01, 2014

My FAVORITE COMICS - Valérian & Laureline

  For a kid raised on a unhealthy diet of Star Wars, 1980's science-fictions movies with incredible synth soundtracks and pre-CGI special effects, plus all sorts of  tv shows riding on George Lucas coattails like Battlestar GalacticaBuck Rogers in the 25th Century or V, the BD albums of Valérian & Laureline were the REAL DEAL. Its debut album, La Cité des Eaux Mouvantes was one of the first comics I clearly remember reading over and over and over again... I think I was half convinced the world was indeed going to "end" in 1986. After that, all the subsequent albums just kept getting better and better and better until the dyptic "Metro Châtelet, Direction Cassiopée"/"Brooklyn Station, Terminus Cosmos", imho the series unforgettable zenith. And I still have a crush on Laureline, definitely one of my all-time favorite comic book heroines.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Captain America #169-176 "The Secret Empire Saga"

  When I was a kid, american comics reached me via brazilian translated editions. Usually these compiled two or three of the original editions in a single comic with somewhere between forty to eighty pages. Such was the format under which I got acquainted with Captain America and what later came to be known as "The Secret Empire Saga". Again, as when I first discovered Spider-Man comics, I was perplexed. Here was a story where apparently the hero kills a man and becomes wanted by the authorities! This was too much for my small child mind. I still remember that I couldn't quite understand what was going on but it certainly was disturbing enough to pick my curiosity and make me to want to learn more. And what can I say of Sal Buscema's electrifying art? Its energy, exaggeration and dynamism were the perfect complement for the paranoid feeling of these comics. To this day, his depiction of Steve Rogers - handsome, noble, strong - still is the default archetype male superhero.image I seen in my mind's eye.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014


Flash! Ah-Haaaaaa! He'll save everyone of us!

In 1980/81, Queen's song seemed to be omni-present and this kid couldn't get enough of it and of that year's hero - Flash Gordon! I had seen the movie, had a Flash Gordon rubber figure, was following the gorgeous comic adaptation which was being serialized weekly here and was stuck on tv for "The New Adventures of Flash Gordon" with those delicious Filmation trademark sound-effects.

But what I really tresured most of all was this big sized book collecting an Alex Raymond story with Flash Gordon's adventures in the Undersea Kingdom of Mongo in black and white - It was breathtaking! Forget the film, the soundtrack, the action figures, the animation or the followers, Raymond's art was beyond all that and beyond my wildest child fantasies. It had the verve of the romantic ideal taken to its ultimate level - the streamlined shapes of a dynamic future that never came to pass mixed with the primitive textures of a past that never was! It was pulpish and yet stylish! It was the best of both worlds in one... and it still is.

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Saturday, February 08, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - The duck comics of Carl Barks

The work of the genius that was Carl Barks was a huge part of my comic book reading as a child and its effect still ressonates within me to this day. He was the first cartoonist whose artstyle I instantly recognized. His stories were so much better than most of the Disney stuff that I usually only bought the issues with his work. The world he created was so complete, his characters so lifelike and his stories so much fun to read that I can't pick up a favorite. In the early years between the time I could only grasp the meaning of books through pictures and the period where I was finally able to read properly, Disney comics ruled my world - they were cheap and accessible, available at any newsagent, therefore dominating most of my reading diet during those days.

There were tons of comics back then. You went to any newsagent and they could have a whole wall devoted to comics... and most of those were brazilian editions featuring Disney characters - Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy... and Uncle Scrooge.

Back then, I was simply interested in having fun, so the stories came first. The best, in Disney comics, almost invariably came on Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories. Slowly, I started to recognize a pattern, a way in which these particular stories I found so appealing were superior to all others - it was the way Uncle Scrooge, Donald and his nephews were drawn, as if they were alive; and the world in which they lived, as if Duckburg really existed somewhere; and the adventures they had, with references to stuff I might hear about on tv ... Whenever I was allowed to get a new comic, I'd first look inside and check which one brought stories by the "good" duck artist - that'd be the one I get!

Then, onde day, Editora Abril, the publisher responsible for the local translated editions, released a thick, 200 page edition dedicated to Carl Barks and I was finally able to put a name and a face along with the comics. These weren't the work of Walt Disney. These weren't the work of some committee. These were the work of one man: Carl Barks. Thank you, Mr. Barks!

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Saturday, February 01, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera #3

Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera #3 This one has everything but the kitchen sink! I've had a lifelong fascination with time travel stories and I suspect this one might be at the origin of that particular taste. This comic represented a great deal to me as a kid - I can still remember getting into a fight with a cousin over this issue! I loved the huge colorful cast mixing characters like the Blue Falcon side-by-side with Yakky Doodle. Also, one of its sequences, drawn (I suspect) by the underrated Dan Spiegel, takes place on an actual comic book convention!

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Marvel Treasury Edition The Astonishing Spider-Man #18

This one was my gateway into the Marvel universe way back in the late 1970s and I must say I was scared. I still couldn't read but I was smart enough to follow the story though the drawings and they generated strong emotions in me. Nowadays I'd probably list this as horror fiction and like the best horror it made me feel simultaneously repulsed and attracted to this strange world. I already knew Spider-man from the animation tv series with the catchy intro song (Spider-man, Spider-man, does whatever a spider can ...) and all the related merchandise but seeing him on print felt different: I found him scary! The guest-heroes on this book (the original X-Men, the Werewolf, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist) seemed like monsters and the villains... well, if the heroes were scary, then the villains were the stuff of nightmares. To this day I can still remember the unmasking of The Orb, villain on the Ghost Rider adventure, and the strange fate of Drom, the Backwards Man, villain on the Iron Fist segment. There are so many images from this comic that I still find haunting like the covers by Bob Budiansky and Ernie Chan or the initial splash page of the X-Men crossover, pencilled by Gil Kane and featuring Peter Parker having a nightmare with Morbius the Living Vampire. Imagination unbound!

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Famous First Edition Action Comics DC Treasury Edition #C-26H

Famous First Edition Action Comics DC Treasury Edition #C-26H The father of them all. Also the very first comic I was offered by my parents. No words can express its impact. The crude, primitive drawings evoking a sense of rush and urgency by Shuster and the remaining artists, the mythical origin story of Superman, the huge format of this edition... Everything comes together perfectly on this one.

The comic is one of those old treasury sized editions typical of the '70s, more or less double the size of a regular comic book, which means that on my tiny four or five year old hands it must have felt huge, like a heavyweight - the size, the scope and on top of that, the content - an anthology of old comic strips including Superman's debut!Jerry Siegel's imagination and Joe Shuster's art looked amazing to me -- they still do as a matter of fact! There's an honesty, a charm in their work, an almost warts and all approach, that I find quite uncommon nowadays in mainstream american comics, ugly as some of them can be. As Jules Feiffer put it in his book The Great Comic Book Heroes, "Shuster represented the best of old-style comic-book drawing. His work was direct, unprettied - crude and vigorous; as easy to read as a diagram. No creamy lines, no glossy illustrative effects, no touch of that bloodless prefabrication that passes for professionalism these days. Slickness, thank God, was beyond his means. He could not draw well, but he drew single-mindedly - no one could ghost that style. It was the man. (...) But, oh, those early drawings! Superman running up the sides of dams, leaping over anything that stood in his way (No one drew skyscrappers like Shuster. Impressionistic shafts. Superman poised over them, his leaping leg tucked under his ass, his landing leg taunty pointed earthward), cleaning and jerking two-ton get-away cars and pounding them into the sides of cliffs - and all this done lightly, unportentiously, still with that early (...) exhuberance."

Now, this Superman who shows up for the first time ever in the first tale of Action Comics #1 is significantly different from the one most people are used to all over the world nowadays. Sure, you have all the basic ingredients there - the clark kent/superman dual identity, the lois lane romantic interest, the alien origin, the superhuman abilities, the mild mannered reporter - but this isn't your friendly neighborhood Superman. He's more like a social-reformist bully, whose motto could very well be "might makes right". His costume is darker and his features rougher; he's concerned with real world threats and injustices like murderers, corrupt politicians, belligerent armies, spousal abusers and exploitive employers, not imaginary problems like alien invaders, giant robots or bald scientists (as he'd soon be); astounding as they appear, his abilities are far more within the grasp of the believable, not yet the physics defying powers he'd come to be known for - he's a superMAN, not the childish SUPERman with his superboys, supercousins, superpets and superfriends.

Time and the marketing machine would tame him down and power him up for a wider, more commercial appeal, ending up with what we have today. Yet, to me, this guy, as he originally appeared, would always remain the real deal. Ironically enough, Chris Ware's superman character in Jimmy Corrigan is far closer to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's creation than what passes for him in DC's own regular publications these days! Forget modern comics, forget the new film; you want to meet the real Superman, pick up this instead. 

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