A busy week filled with headliners starts in the only place it can: with best wishes to an ailing legend. Let’s get to it in Comics Disassembled, or my look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics.
1. Get Well Soon, Jeff Smith!
Jeff Smith is, in my opinion, one of the greatest comic creators ever, and more personally, one of the most important storytellers in my own journey as a fan. Without Smith and his Bone series I first discovered as a child, I’m certain I wouldn’t be the comic fan I am today, if I was a comic fan at all. It helped me understand that there was more to that world than superheroes, and that greatness can come in all shapes and sizes — even Fone Bone like ones. It shaped my own taste in stories, inside and outside of comics, and none of that would have been possible without Smith’s rare gifts as a cartoonist.
That’s why this week’s column starts in the only place it possibly could: with best wishes to Smith for a speedy recovery after his recent cardiac arrest. According to Kathleen Glosan, the Production Manager of Cartoon Books, this happened on Sunday and will result in there being “a long road to recovery.” For that reason, the extensive book tour Smith has been on will understandably be canceled. There’s nothing else that could or should be done, because health comes first, especially when something major like this comes up. Evidently the hope is that he’ll be back out on the road next year, but all I will say is this: I just hope he’s happy and healthy even sooner. Much love to one of the greats in this challenging time. I know there was a major outpouring of support in response, but I couldn’t start anywhere else. The comic world is a better place with Jeff Smith in it, and I hope that’s true for a good, long time.
2. King and Gross Go Animal Farm
Hoooooo boy is this one full of conflict.
On one hand, any series from writer Tom King, artist Peter Gross, colorist Tamra Bonvillain, and letterer Clayton Cowles is a high alert release. When a team like that gathers for a project, it becomes a siren that repeats “EISNER! EISNER! EISNER!” over and over until you give them a box full of awards. That it’s this team doing a modern retelling of George Orwell’s Animal Farm set in a pound – with the book being called Animal Pound, even – and one that reflects our modern political situation makes it all the more potent and interesting.
With King talking about how this is the most ambitious thing he’s ever done and Gross calling it the best pitch he’s ever read, you know this is going to have deafening hype by its launch in December. And it will likely be earned, because that is an absolutely elite creative collective for this BOOM! title. Also: Bonus points because it’s a four-issue limited series. This ensures that the team has a clear vision and a mission to accomplish rather than trying to drag it out. That – and the fact that King always seems to thrive in a limited series environment – helps ensure Animal Pound will reach its ceiling.
So, where’s the conflict?
The conflict is I know that very bad things will happen to these animals and it will make me feel bad. That’s true because of its Orwellian roots but also because — and I say this with love, Tom! — peril is always around the corner for King’s casts. That’s not to say bad things shouldn’t happen to characters, or anything like that. It’s a necessary possibility of storytelling, one that gives many tales the tension they need to reach their potential. More than that, characters should not be protected just to preserve my joy. But let me tell you this: it’s possible I’ll be reading this one through windows formed in-between my fingers. You know I’ll be reading, though. If I can handle (and greatly enjoy) Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner’s Stray Dogs, I can take this. This is going to be a gem. Beware, though! Bad tidings likely await the denizens of this pound!