R.I.P.: Stan Lee

A person I have had diverse and contradictory feelings about since I was seven years old. (And didn’t even know who he was — though somebody had be putting out these wacky monster comics.)

But my philosophy is that once someone passes from this world, they are free to live on in your imagination however you like. So other folks can be all “Ah, wow!” about those movie drop-ins. I will always dwell on my mid-60s fantasy of the folks who turned comics as exciting as rock and roll — seemed even to be a printed extension of the music. Overseeing it all — a way-cool head honcho, not the be-all and end-all he was much later.

For that guy, “IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME!” now and forever.

The Conan of the Future

This afternoon devoured Riad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987. May have more to say but I must get in that Riad and his buddies obsession with the 1982 Conan the Barbarian movie was an utter surprise hoot (Sattouf does a marvelous job of capturing the kids’ imitation of the Schwarzenegger scowl).

The Edgar Rice Burroughs reissued paperbacks had been thrilling me since Junior High School and the same Frazetta cover art drew me to Robert E. Howard’s Conan books when they first appeared. And it was a serious graduation — Howard was more modern, more violent, more weird, more fevered than ERB.

I outgrew Howard and his hero (who I started calling “Onan the Barbarian”) before the reissue series finished up. I needed fiction characters with interiors. I knew little about Howard’s life except that he was from Texas and most of his Conan material had appeared in the sacred Weird Tales. Everything came flooding back when I saw the captivating and wonderfully realized 1996 film The Whole Wide World (Vincent D’Onofrio performance of a lifetime). I immediately tracked down the Novalyne Price book One Who Walked Alone (more apt title, but I see why they didn’t use it). Both the film and the memoir are hugely recommended for their presentation of the value fantasy had for certain isolated souls trapped in the vast Western horizons. The Price book makes a more explicit case for Howard’s fatal fixation on his mother.

Oy! “Trolls de Troy”

Just when you think Oggy and the Cockroaches is the biggest French-cartoon import you’ll ever run across, the Brookline Booksmith Used Book Basement comes through again and yields up the first volume of Trolls de Troy, which I understand is enormously popular in France and some other non-English-speaking countries. I loved the crazy action and the vibrant artwork so much, I didn’t mind my merest spattering of French. Closer viewing at home revealed the comic featured fabulous monsters and, wow, horror-movie violence (just for starters, the Trolls kill and eat humans with impunity and regularity), not to mention a human “child” of a lead character who wants to become a Troll but who really seems to be there so we can have a Hot Babe around (who happens to be a cannibal).

I can’t follow the plot — the only English versions of Trolls de Troy is the animated cartoons, very simplified and toned waaay down — so I may only need an example of this series. But yowsah, if yer a serious comic-book person, you got to have a look at this one.

Comments on “Poochytown”

(Contains, you know, spoilers.)

Jim Woodring has said he’s trying to wrap up the extended narrative of Frank’s adventures in the Unifactor. Which is fine — I think series of stories come to natural ends. Continue to be amazed he keeps coming up with key, unresolved questions about his characters. This time around, it’s a definitive exploration of what’s wrong with Manhog. We’ve seen the animal-human do good before, even become civilized and refined. So take it to the next level — what if he became friends with Frank? Situation begins with Frank making it plain to the, uh, I call it Nightmare that he doesn’t want Manhog destroyed, just kept at a good distance. As Frank and Manhog begin hanging out, Wooding does a fascinating job of showing how Manhog is not evil, but quite bestial (eats baby birds) and plagued with Really Bad Karma (weird, negative things keep happening to him, and those around him, all the time). He’s cursed. You feel sorry for him. But the smart move is to keep him way, way over there.