On Things I’ve Been Reading

Let’s talk comics and other assorted readings…

Poe #1
BOOM! Studios
Written by J. Barton Mitchell
Art by Dean Kotz

A few days ago at work a PDF landed in my e-mail inbox. It was from BOOM! Studios, an up-and-coming comics publisher, of a book they have coming out in July — Poe. A complete preview of the first issue about the secret history of Edgar Allan Poe.

Here’s the premise. Edgar Allan Poe is remembered today as a writer — journalist, critic, poet, short story writer — and his words shaped horror and mystery fiction. What is not known is that Poe’s stories masked a darker truth, that the tales of horror, insanity, and mystery that continue to be taught today were based on fact! Confined to a sanitorium after the death of his wife, Poe’s brother, an inspector with the Baltimore Police Department, discovers that Poe has an uncanny ability to see hidden clues, even visions of things that happened in the past that he should have had no knowledge of. And what should be a simple investigation into a serial killer reveals a supernatural element that threatens nineteenth-century America.

It’s the right time for a comic based on Poe. This year is the bicentennial of his birth. I remember when I discovered Poe’s work in the seventh grade, a big illustrated edition with dark and moody drawings. “The Fall of the House of Usher.” “The Black Cat.” “The Tell-Tale Heart.” And as an amateur Holmesian, I had to read “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” to discover the origins of Doyle’s Holmes in Poe’s Dupin.

So, Poe.

The write-up of the book in the May Previews catalog compares Poe to Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. Having read the first issue, that’s not quite right. This is a nineteenth-century Millennium, with Poe as Lance Henriksen’s Frank Black, with a dash of Sherlock Holmes thrown in for good measure.

I loved the issue, and I’m looking forward to holding the finished issue in my hands in about two months. Dean Kotz’s artwork was appropriately dark and moody, and the feeling of nineteenth-century Baltimore was satisfactorily evoked. (I admit to some cognitive dissonance; there’s a clock tower in the story, and I kept thinking to myself, “Is that supposed to be the Bromo Tower?” I know it’s not, but if you know downtown Baltimore, it’s an easy thing to think.) And J. Barton Mitchell’s script was dense and literate. It would be so easy to pepper the script with quotations from Poe’s poetry and stories — and yes, there is some element of that — but even more than that, the story feels significant and weighty. Groundwork is being laid, mysteries are being revealed, and there’s a sufficient amount of development to really hook the reader. A reader isn’t going to blast through Poe in five minutes; this is a solid twenty-minute read. Little details abound in every panel. Why does that raven keep following Poe around? for instance.

Suffice it to say, I’m intrigued and hooked by Poe. I was looking forward to this book anyway, but now I’m hoping that this book finds an audience. It’s a little Sherlock Holmes, a little Hellboy, and a little Millennium. The book looks fantastic, the story is gripping. Talk to your comic shop and tell them to order it to make sure that when July rolls around you pick up Poe.

Mojo #187 June 2009

I don’t like reading Rolling Stone. At least, not for its music coverage, which I find beyond useless. The political coverage, however, is pretty nice.

No, if I want to know what’s going on in music, I turn to Mojo or Q, two of the music magazines out of the UK. The cool thing about Mojo is that it comes with a CD sampler every month, usually built around a theme. This month a group of artists cover John Lennon. That month a group of artists cover Leonard Cohen. Or maybe a particular genre of music — psychedelia, British folk, mod rivals to The Who — will be profiled.

This latest issue features Nick Drake on the cover, and the big article is on Island Records. The cover CD is thirteen tracks of British folk from Island Records, spanning the mid-60s to the mid-70s with artists like Jethro Tull, The Incredible String Band, and Fairport Convention.

The article on Nick Drake, how he developed as a musician in his early days, how he made his first album, was fascinating. Drake is probably best known for a Volkswagen Jetta commercial from about a decade about that used “Pink Moon” as its music. He’s also the subject of Dream Academy’s “Life in a Northern Town,” a song which will always remind me of my childhood because I associate it with a particular snowfall. I have four of Drake’s albums (the three released during his lifetime and Time of No Reply, a collection of outtakes and demos), and I’ve been a fan of his work for well over a decade. I remember finding his work on CD and saying, “Thank god! Finally!” The article was fascinating; I knew very little about Drake’s life, actually, except that he was seriously depressed and died in complete obscurity. The article opens with an anecdote about Drake wandering through John Lennon’s palatial estate at Tittenhurst Park, and then it explores his development as a musician. If you have any interest in Nick Drake’s work, the issue is worth picking up.

The CD, by the way, is another reason for its survey of the British folk scene of the 1960s. I had never heard any of The Incredible String Band, for instance, though I was aware of their influence. Fans of The Decemberists and their new album, The Hazards of Love, might be curious to discover some of the British folk influences that the band drew upon for the album, and this CD sampler makes for the perfect introduction.

While I haven’t delved deeply into the issue yet, it’s definitely worth the ten dollars. For me, anyway. :)

2 thoughts on “On Things I’ve Been Reading

  1. You’ve told sold me on Poe. You had me at comparing the series to a 19th century Millennium. I loved that series back in the 90’s (well, the first two seasons; let us never discuss the un-unutterable season 3), and your comments on Poe has sold me. Thanks!

  2. I loved Millennium; like you, for the first two seasons.

    There’s a concept in my files that I haven’t quite figured out yet what to do with that I call “medieval Millennium.” I know the character and the setting and why he behaves the way he does. I don’t have the story to hang on it, yet. And to do the concept justice, it would require a freakin’ ton of research that I just don’t have the time for right now.

    Once you see Poe, you’ll understand exactly why I made the Millennium comparison. There’s one sequence that could be straight out of one of Frank Black’s “visions.”

    It’s really good stuff.

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