Loonatics and Peculiar Layouts
by Mike Baron


Warner Brothers' decision to revamp their classic cartoon characters as sinister manga smacks of self-induced desperation. Self-induced, because there was no need. The public is eager for new material featuring the Bugs, Daffy, Yosemite Sam, and Porky Pig they've come to know and love. Their personalities are as real as any major movie star. It's as if Robin Williams sought to recast himself as Hannibal Lecter. Remember Insomnia and One Hour Photo? In the words of the immortal Sam Goldwyn, the public stayed away in droves.

I haven't seen Loony Tunes: Back In Action, which cost eighty mil and bombed. I can tell you why it bombed, though. The writing. I can't imagine more appealing personas than Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Yosemite Sam. It's like writing for Chris Rock, Robin Williams, or Lily Tomlin. All you do is write to their characters. Of course living stars know what's funny and what isn't. Warner Brothers needs to find a new Chuck Jones, a comic genius who can come up with fresh material for familiar faces.

I met Chuck once at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. He was sketching bulls. Charming fellow.

Buzz Bunny. Ugh.

Peculiar Layouts

Marvel is slitting its own throat with many of their regular books. You open it up. The first thing you see is a dense and off-putting synopsis page with tiny mugshots. The first page is the comic's window on the world. If they're not going to give us a splash page, they should at least start the story there. You turn the page. Page two is where the story actually begins. Page three is an ad. So of the first three pages, only one is actual story. DC figured out long ago that they were selling stories, not video games, and consigned their ad pages deep in the book. A DC comic always begins with eight to twelve pages of uninterrupted story. IDW, Dark Horse, and Image have figured it out too. I wish Marvel would.

Grimjack: Killer Instinct
Writer: John Ostrander
Artist: Tim Truman
Publisher: IDW Publishing, Price: $3.99 U.S.

Why Grimjack has not been in continuous publication is a mystery. One of the most original series of the eighties had a long run on First before disappearing into limbo. Now Grimjack is back with its original creators, revitalized and working at the top of their form. Grimjack, or John Gaunt, is a sometimes detective sometimes cop in the trans-dimensional city of Cynosure, where you're as likely to encounter vampires as teleportation machines. It's space opera noir, a grim and gritty quest that can explode at any time into bizarre dimensions. Grimjack has always had a Roger Zelazny flavor, and in fact Zelazny wrote an introduction to the Demon Knight graphic novel in the eighties. Ostrander is a master story-teller who never takes a false step. His dialogue rings true and he keeps the action at a boil.

© 2005 IDW Publishing

Truman is dazzling. He inks himself here, and every panel is a textbook study of how to tell a story. No matter how intense the action, there's no confusion where the bad guys and the good guys are, and what they're doing to each other. With Ostrander's fertile imagination, they do plenty. Grimjack and sexy sidekick Fangs flee a couple of Wraiths, semi-corporeal embodiments of rage. How they rid themselves of the Wraiths is just one of several delights waiting in this issue. The coloring is superb. And Grimjack gets laid. Visit the grimjack.com board.

Mike Baron worked for the Boston Phoenix, Boston After Dark, and the Real Paper. He broke into comics with Nexus, his groundbreaking science fiction title co-created with illustrator Steve Rude. Baron has written Marvel's Punisher, DC's Batman, Deadman, and Flash. Nexus has garnered honors too numerous to mention, including Eisners for both creators. Baron has written Star Wars for Dark Horse, Turok, Dinosaur Hunter and Archer & Armstrong for Valiant, and has three issues of Legends of the Dark Knight in the works.

A prolific creator, Baron is at least partly responsible for The Badger, Ginger Fox, Spyke, Feud, and many other comic book titles. He is currently writing Detonator and Night Club (May) for Image, and is a regular contributor to International Studio, Argosy, Nostomania.com and Popular Polar Bear.

Baron lives in Colorado with his wife and dogs. He collects rocks.

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