In the frame during a big year for comics

Stan Lee’s death cast a shadow over the comic-book world, but 2018 also had plenty of positive aspects, writes Don O’Mahony.

STAN LEE

Comic book fans are no doubt savouring Stan Lee’s cameo in the current animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

An inveterate self-publicist, Lee made numerous cameos in Marvel Comics-related films and his passing last month adds poignancy to one of his final movie turns.

That Marvel is the huge entertainment behemoth it is today is largely thanks to him. His name is synonymous with such instantly recognisable characters as the Fantastic Four, The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, The X-Men and Spider-Man.

But while he had a genius for memorable and deft characterisation it should also be remembered that he did so with genius artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

TALES OF CORK

Two years after Troubled Waters, his opening instalment of an ongoing series celebrating the lore and legends of the River Lee, Keith Kennedy followed up with Lost on the Water, a story set in the Gearagh.

Accompanying it is the opening chapter to the future-set Cork 2072, a story full of intriguing possibilities.

Coming seemingly from nowhere, Cork writer Gary Moloney has made the ambitious move of creating an anthology comic based on his scripts.

Among the impressive list of collaborators on Mixtape are Power Rangers artist Hendry Prasetya, colourists Chris O’Halloran (Image, Marvel) and Ellie Wright (Dynamite Entertainment).

Consequently, Moloney’s stylistically diverse scripts are matched by eye-catching artwork.

COMICS GO RESPECTABLE

Accolades matter. The decision to attach a sticker bearing a word of praise by Zadie Smith on the cover was enough to encourage interest in the second novel by the somewhat

obscure comic artist Nick Drnaso. However, once Sabrina became the first graphic novel to be longlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize copies of the book started flying off the shelves.

Considering Art Spiegelman’s extraordinary Maus became the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize way back in 1992 it feels like a landmark.

While it’s not near that level, Drnaso’s icy depiction of an emotionally callous and conspiracy-addled society feels scarily spot on.

WOMEN IN COMICS

For the first time in its 41-year history British anthology comic 2000AD had an all-female issue with their Summer Sci-Fi Special.

For those who think women cartoonists are a relatively recent thing, Nicoola Streeten and Cath Tate’s exhaustive The Inking Woman (Myriad) traced a lineage going back to the 18th century.

Two independent Scottish publishers (404 and BHP Comics) united to present We Shall Fight Until We Win, an anthology celebrating a century of pioneering political women.

Gritty and passionate, it features great pieces on such firebrands as Beatrice Webb, Jessica Mitford and Bernadette Devlin, the latter two by Lurgan artist Fionnuala Doran.

BERLIN

Jason Lutes (Drawn & Quarterly)

It was inevitable the conclusion of Jason Lutes’ epic Berlin trilogy would be on a downbeat note.

What began in the autumn years of Weimar Berlin, and seen through the eyes of the vivacious Marthe, a young woman who has arrived in the city to study art, ceded inevitably to the grim rise of Nazism.

Possibility crushed by conformity and fear.

Its cold historical truths resonate today in so many frightening ways but more than that, it is quite simply an artistic triumph.

Lutes’ line work captures intricate architectural detail, which he

balances with minimal panels and odd perspectives to convey so much drama. A masterpiece!

ANDY

Typex (Self Made Hero)

Whether you’re fan or not of Andy Warhol this book is for you.

Dividing his life into ten chapters, Dutch artist Typex gives each one its own distinct and appropriate palette, employing a variety of styles that reference other comics.

His Warhol comes across as preposterous, infuriating and occasionally Zen.

It’s a book that captures the joy, the madness and the sadness, and it prompts no small amount of thought on the workings of the art world and the value of art.

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