Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chronic Review: Back Issue # 47!

Back Issue # 47
TwoMorrows Publishing
Editor:     Michael Eury
$7.95 print/$2.95 digital

As I get older and become more of an artifact than viable modern human, I become more interested in history.  Back Issue is comics history in magazine form, and I think I'm in love.

I don't know how you feel about it, but I think we've been sold a false bill of goods about the information available to us.  The myth is that in the Age of the Interweb, we are inundated with a nearly comprehensive amount of instant information.  So you can go to CBR or Newsarama or Bleeding Cool or Comics Alliance and be up to the second on everything that's happening in the comics world.

And yet, no.  If you look even casually, you'll discover that what "information" is out there really doesn't say anything at all.  It certainly has photos of Adrianne Palicki in the Wonder Woman costume and a bunch of people bitching about it.  It absolutely has a streaming avalanche of creative team shifts and empty shilling for the Big 2 project du jour.  That we have in spades.

But we don't know much about the people creating these comics, or how these projects actually go down.  Who just about got their ass kicked at the last Marvel retreat?  We don't know.  What was it like to work under Dan Didio, and how did DC decide on Bob Harras?  Don't know.  Yeah, every once in awhile you might get a slip of the tweet that provides a little interior access.  Erik Larsen will spin you a story if you ask him, maybe.

Mostly, though, the things I really want to know about, the life things, the real things...those are buried.  And probably for good reason.  If you want to continue to work in a very cloistered, niche clubhouse, you might need to mind your manners.  I get that, but it means that the "information overload" is really just a lot of white noise.

This is why Back Issue is so engaging to me, because it is nothing but the inside stories.  Not just the salacious TMZ stuff, although some of the reveals might open some noses.  Life is funny, and twisty, and interesting if you keep your eyes and ears open.

When I sat down to read Back Issue # 47 I learned all kinds of "useless" information about Dick Giordano's tenure at Charlton, and why a diplomatic faux pas while obtaining the Phantom license from King Features may have had more than a little to do with his moving to DC.  I learned about how and why Chaykin's Dominic Fortune ended up in the back of Hulk magazine, in color no less when the main feature was in black-and-white.  I was absolutely fascinated by Dave Stevens recounting his experience with some eccentric ladies who created a kind of comic book shop long before the direct market was a twinkle in Phil Seuling's eyes.  They actually started a little comic club in Portland that included a ton of future comics professionals including Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson. Stevens was also in on San Diego Comic Con when it was a baby born at a junior college rec center, and had Neal Adams request to review his portfolio.  Can you imagine that?

I don't know that I need to know any of that stuff.  But I'm glad for it any way, and find those life nuggets infinitely more entertaining that any "first shot of Captain America's jeep from the movie set" nonsense.  You can keep all of that.  I like hearing about how Phantom creator Lee Falk used to visit the DC offices and complain to Peter David about Phantom's gun usage, when Falk is the one who gave the character a pair .45 pistols!

It may not be up-to-the-second-send-your-blood-pressure-soaring interweb news.  Most of the magazine is devoted to Silver or Bronze age material, but I wouldn't let that scare you away even if you weren't collecting back then.  I just found out the The Phantom is about 300% cooler than I ever imagined, and discovered Don Newton.  The point isn't being ahead of the curve, but bringing out the marrow of history.  Hype is dead before it's read, but stories last forever.  I'll take Back Issue every time.

Incidentally- if you're feeling a little queasy about the $7.95 price tag, they also offer a $2.95 digital version, which seems more than reasonable to me.  I'm a dinosaur sticking with the print magazine.  Yay, dinosaurs!

- Ryan


Stephen said...

Very interesting.

I have been a huge Dave Stevens fan for years (going as far back as his 3-D comics for Pacific back in the early 80's). I seem to remember some neat old photos of him at San Diego in his hardcover biography, brush with passion.

That stuff about Giordano sounds like a cool read, too. Don Newton's run on Batman and Detective in the early to mid eighties was part of what brought me back to Batman at the time. Is it blasphemy to say that I liked what he was doing on those books more than what Gene Colan was doing on them at the same time?

Stephen said...

I should add, I think you sold me on Back issue #47!

Chronic Insomnia said...

I think it's more blasphemous that I didn't even know Newton existed until today. I bought a nice copy of Phantom # 74 because I adore the idea of a 1776 Phantom, and that cover is GORGEOUS. The seller claims it's from Newton's collection actually. For $23, it can be from Damon Lindelof's collection for all I care. The next Back Issue spotlights Jim Starlin, a personal favorite of mine, and that should be extra awesome.