The nature of the American comic strip changed radically over the last 50 years. At mid-century, kids waited with bated breath for the daily comic page so they could read their favorite strips. Rather than the comic animals and domestic comedies of today’s Sunday funnies, they thrilled to the ongoing adventures of Superman or Terry and the Pirates. Today, only Dick Tracy has survived the transformation of sequential art in American newspapers.
DC fully captured the spirit of mid-century strips in their 2009 Wednesday Comics series, now published in beautiful oversized (very oversized) format. If you missed the weekly iterations of this series, this new collection will introduce you to some of the best comic art done in the last year.
Wednesday’s Comics allows us to see some of the top artists and writers in the field working at the height of their powers. It’s not uncommon today for major artists to juggle several monthly books while working on long-term projects. This certainly has an effect on the quality of comics produced. Wednesday Comics allowed some of the greatest creative talents in the field to pack all their creative energies into five or six panels. Moreover, artists had their choice of figures from DC’s rich comic history to choose from, writing and drawing the character they had always wanted to attempt.
The results are astonishingly good. Renowned fantasist Neil Gaiman, best known for the Sandman series and a clutch of classic imaginative novels, revives the ‘60s character Metamorpho. Making full use of the campiness of the series, Gaiman’s Metamorpho includes faux ads for the “Metamorpho Fans of America” and even a fake Metamorpho TV show. The series also contained two amazing full page spreads in which Mike Allred ‘s art and Gaiman’s writing transforms the periodic table of elements into a puzzle, high comedy, serial combat and a kind of tone poem in celebration of ‘60s comics camp.
Fans of graphic artist Paul Pope will be delighted with his run on “Strange Adventures” in which he takes on Adam Strange, a ‘50s character famously rebooted by Alan Moore and other DC artists. As with much of Pope’s work, gorgeous art meets poignant themes in a fantastic and visually kinetic world. You will fight the urge to rip out a page or two and frame it.
These are only two examples of the outstanding work that appears in this volume. It’s very difficult to pick out the best contributions to a collection that includes Adam and Joe Kubert telling a gritty World War II tale of Sgt. Rock and Easy Company and Kyle Baker’s extraordinary interpretation of Hawkman. There is also one of the best Batman tells I’ve ever read written by Brian Azzerello and penciled by Eduordo Risso, the team behind 100 Bulletts.
DC has released this collection in a beautiful format, an oversized 18 x 11 edition. This looks great and has the dimensions of newspaper print Although its size means this is not really a book to curl up with in bed (I tried it) it is an object of art well worthy of display.
These artists; efforts to revivify the comic strip form will be a revelation for many comic fans. Although devoted fanboys and fangirls still pick up the monthly edition for their favorite book, increasingly the graphic novel form has become the way most readers encounter comics. Wednesday Comics is a reminder of the power of sequential story-telling. Even gathered in one place in this collected edition, Wednesday’s Comics recaptures that moment in time when every day was a cliffhanger.