1990: World’s Worst Comics Awards

World’s Worst Comics Awards (1990) #1-2 by James Schumeister and Rich Larson

A comic book about bad comics sounds like an excellent idea — there’s certainly enough of them to go around. The authors explain that they’re not going to rag on independents published on a low budget… and the first issue is mostly gently poking fun at DC/Marvel super-hero comics.

Almost everything is redrawn for this book, so it’s hard to say how ridiculous these characters were.

OK, that’s pretty silly, but…

Yikes! They don’t limit themselves to gentle ribbing — that’s a pretty horrifying rape story.

The first issue’s pretty good? They vary their approaches a bit, so here we get how they’d imagine a contemporary Hostess Twinkies ad would look like. Seems accurate!

And they said they wouldn’t target writers/artists, but they don’t really keep that promise.

They run out of ideas, though, and are reduced to recapping silly old comics to not very humorous effect.

The second issue was polybagged, allegedly to keep the sheer suspense of who they deemed the worst comic up. But I’m wondering whether it really was to stop people having a gander at how they phoned this issue in.

As opposed to the first issue, they print a lot of excerpts from old comics.

Then there’s pages and pages of straight-up recapping, and that shit is tedious as hell.

Finally, we get the top ten worst comics, and most of them are from obscure 60s publishers. DC/Marvel is represented by a single book: Brother Power, The Geek, predictably enough, and the worst comic book ever is…

Skateman, by Neal Adams and published by an independent publisher, Pacific Comics. And as I said in that blog article about Skateman, the derision that book suffers from is extrinsic to the book itself: It’s not a good book, by any means, but it’s not particularly bad, as these things go.

So it’s a predictably boring choice for a pretty boring Worst Comics Awards book.

Oh, and people could write in to crown the year’s worst book, and Spider-Man #1 won.

T M Maple writes in Amazing Heroes #189, page 78:

Though reportedly inspired by
moviedom’s Golden Tizrkey Awards,
the spirit and format of this comic
book remind me more of any number
of award show parodies done down
through the years by MAD magazine.
And that ain’t necessarily bad.
In the first of this two-issue series,
we get the awards for Worst Male
Costume, Worst Female Costume,
Bad Ads, Worst Name, Woefully
Wretched Words (though there is ac-
tually no winner named in this cate-
gory), and Worst Team.
For any individual reader, there are
obviously problems with this ap-
proach since we all have different
tastes and perspectives on what is bad
and what isn’t. One can be amazed
that some of one’s own personal “fa-
vorites” have been inexplicably omit-
ted or that some of the selections don’t
seem all that bad, really. Still, there
is a perverse pleasure in viewing this
parade of silliness—it all seems to be
just plain, goofy fun.
Some ground rules are set for the
“Independent” comics are
awards.
excluded; they’re only going after the
big guys. Still, they do go after some
outfits who were operating in relative-
ly unfamiliar territory, such as the
1960’s excursion into super-hero com-
ics by Radio Comics. (I was a bit dis-
appointed that the winners and nomi-
nees were almost exclusively drawn
from the genre of super-hero comics.
But then, given the nature and prev-
elance of super-hero comics, I guess
it isn’t so strange!) They also limited
themselves to just the past 25 years,
but that luckily allowed them to in-
clude the fruit of the 1960s camp
craze.
Finally, there was absence of awards
like Worst Writer and Worst Artist.
However, they weren’t above bashing
individuals when they felt it warrant-
ed, such as giving Steve Ditko the
“Lifetime Achievement” designation
for “Bad Names” and presenting Roy
Thomas with the Tin Ear Award for
his dialogue.
Highlighting unworthy work in
comics is a little mean-spirited and
disturbing, but the atmosphere of
good-natured and even sympathetic
fun here, finally, is quite winning.
There’s nothing deep or significant
here, but as long as it doesn’t eventu-
ally descend into vindictive name-
calling, it’s a harmless bit of fun.

This is the one hundred and twenty-fifth post in the Entire Kitchen Sink blog series.

1990: Batman: The Dailies

Batman: The Dailies (1990) #1-3,
Batman: The Dailies, 1943-46 (1991) by Bob Kane and others

As usual with these strip reprints, I’m not actually reading them, so I have nothing to say here, really — but I may go back and read them later when I have more time. So this is a placeholder article.

It must have been something of a scoop for Kitchen Sink to get DC to agree to a co-publishing venture for this. This was, after all, in 1990, while the world was still in a Bat-craze after the Tim Burton movie.

The books seem well-researched.

I just read a couple of strips here and there, and it seems really influenced by Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy.

Lots of action.

Very Dick Tracy.

And I’ve accidentally bought this twice — once as three softcover books, and once as a hardback:


Nice slip case.

And it has the exact same innards as the three soft-cover books, I think?

Oh well.

This is the one hundred and twenty-fourth post in the Entire Kitchen Sink blog series.

1990: Buzz

Buzz (1990) #1-3 edited by Mark Landman

I wonder whether anybody’s done any research into the phenomenon of artists starting anthologies just because there’s nowhere to be published otherwise? It’s a quite common phenomenon in music circles: You have musicians that don’t get booked all that much, and then they decide to throw a festival or two to have places to play. (And then again, there are musicians that are in huge demand that do the same.)

Editor Landman (who also did all the covers) places the book explicitly in the Weirdo tradition.

Landman is famous for being a comics artists that pioneered working with computers, and that leaks out to the design of editorial pages, too. Everything looks very desktop publishing 1990. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — it’s an aesthetic I find quite appealing.

(And also note that the book is a total sausage fest.)

I’m happy to see that Landman adheres to The Richard Sala Act of 1989, where Congress voted unanimously to require that all anthologies have at least one piece from Richard Sala. And I love this period — the artwork is just so deliciously unhinged, with panels that definitely aren’t drawn using a ruler, and that perfect lettering.

It’s just so gorgeous to look at.

And this is a pretty good story, too. It has that improvised feeling, but also resolves itself nicely.

Jim Woodring!!! Just perfect.

Early work from Jeremy Eaton — I think he’s going for a dream-like logic, but it’s a bit strained.

There’s a couple of artists that are more aligned with the Raw crowd, like Drew Feldman to the left here, but I’d say that most of the artists are third wave underground artists, like Roy Tomkins to the right here. Fantagraphics would take over publishing all these people later, I think?

The longest story (almost a third of the first issue) is by Landman himself. It’s an amusing neo noir parody/homage, and the computer-assisted graphics are pretty interesting.

And you can’t do an anthology like this without Krazy Kat.

So — first issue is a really strong start. There are no duds here, and it just has great flow for an anthology — a mix of shorter and longer pieces, and different approaches without being incoherent.

A Charles Burns story, Naked Snack, is serialised over the next two issues. The artwork is insanely awesome, and the story is just… insane? But rather unpleasant. And not in the usual Charles Burns way.

It’s apparently put together from Official Marvel Comics Try-Out Book — this is Peter Parker, really, and explains how unhinged it is.

I don’t think this is something that has been included in Burns’ collections? I can see why — it’s a fun exercise, but perhaps something that Burns wouldn’t necessarily want to have seen in a wider audience? (It ends with Peter Parker killing and eating his aunt, but not in that order.)

Dr. Ahmed Fishmonger does the most arty thing here.

And it’s a nice mixture of veterans and newer talents, like Jason Huerta.

And Landman’s found a pretty good Wolverton story to reprint.

Landman’s apparently sent the book to everybody.

The third issue (which is 40 pages long) is the only one that has a “Next Issue” blurb. (Don’t you think?)

It has Landman’s most famous creation, Fetal Elvis, and the issue has more throw-away pieces than the previous issues. Perhaps Landman was kinda running out of steam, accepting more stuff?

But with lunacy like this Mack White piece, you can’t really complain.

And we also get a couple of anti-humour Mark Newgarden pages.

So: This is a quality anthology, and it’s a shame that it only lasted three issues. But it’s a miracle that we got that many issues, so I’m not complaining.

Darcy Sullivan writes in The Comics Journal #146, page 46:

Kitchen Sink’s new Buzz also features a high
caliber of artists, loosely grouped around a
“wacky entertainment” theme. Two standout
covers created with computer graphics (as is
some of the interior work) have helped distin-
guish Buzz from KS’s somewhat similar Snarf.
But Buzz remains somewhat of a piffle.
The reprints are too familiar — Krazy Kat
and Basil Wolverton’s “Supersonic Sammy” so
far — and both the first two issues seem padded
A dime’s worth of non-stop zaniness usually
goes further than a dollar’s, which explains why
the books seem thin at 36 pages. And there’s
an odd sameness about the art, due to the pre-
sence of so many “hard-line” artists, from
maestros Dan Clowes and Charles Burns to edi-
tor Mark Landman, Jim Woodring, and Jeremy
Eaton, whose droll “‘Ork issyndicated
native papers.
The artists do give Buzz a seductive surface
energy, which accounts for most of the book’s
fun. Landman is apparently having a hoot of a
time putting this together, and his joy radiates
from page to reader. But Buzz comes across as
a dessert rather than a meal. It could use more
weight, perhaps a Mark Zingarelli or Carol
Tyler — someone whose work does more than
smirk. That said, we’re talking adjustment here,
not an abandonment of the book’s tone, sug-
gested by its very title. Lack of focus kills most
anthologies — take Bob Callahan’s book, ne
New Comics, which, in to include vir-
tually everybody, dissipates any possible synergy
between artists.

Jason Sachs writes in Amazing Heroes #188, page 123:

Kitchen Sink is also well-known as
one of the finest underground publish-
ers. Although undergrounds don’t
really exist any more in the classical
sense, their tradition still lives on with
such Kitchen Sink publications as
Blab! and the new Buzz. (By the way,
does anyone have any idea why so
many of these cool anthologies have
one-syllable titles?) Buzz #1 features
stories and art by such post-modern
comics favorites as Dan Clowes, Drew
Friedman, Richard Sala, and Jim
Woodring.
As you might expect, this comic is
something of a mixed bag. Woodring’s
three pieces are absolutely bizarre and
very nearly indecipherable. For in-
stance, one story, “Pulque,” has a
group of four cute kids meeting a
strange creature made up of cactus
Yes, it’s just as odd as it sounds.
Sala’s four-pager is yet another of his
explorations into bizarre neuroses,
while Roy Tompkins tells the fairly
gross story of “Harvey the Hillbilly
Idiot,” and editor Mark landman tells
the alternately silly and strange story
of a freakish private detective.
Most of the work here is quite ac-
complished and some—Dan Clowes’s
back cover in particular—are quite
funny. However, all the new work in
Buzz pales in relation to the one page
of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat re-
printed here. Kmzy Kat is arguably the
greatest comic strip of all time. Few
artists come close to reaching Herri-
man’s consistent brilliance.
Readers looking for a good anthol-
ogy of post-modern cartoonists will
find one here. The Krazy Kat strip is
just a big bonus.

Burns is interviewed in The Comics Journal #148, page 78:

SULLIVAN: You brought up Manel; explain the Buzz story,
‘ ‘Naked Snack.
BURNS•. In the early ’80s, Marvel published something
called The Manel Comics Tryout Book, which was this
oversized book of blueline pencil drawings. You could try
out lettering, inking, pencilling, whatever. In a funny way
I was intrigued by the concept. My idea initially was to
buy maybe 20 Marvel Tryout Books and give them to all
my friends, and have them ink their versions of Spider-
Man.
I never pursued it. At that time the book was pricey
enough for me to go, “I can’t really afford to do this”;
it was 13 bucks or something. Years later, after I came
back from Italy and was wandering around New York,
some street person had one for three bucks. They prob-
ably stole them. So I bought a copy and just doodled on
it for a number of years, off and on. There was no real
intention behind it; I wasn’t thinking about ever having
it published.
When I was contacted by Mark Landman, the editor
of Buzz I knew that he worked with computers, and I knew
that I couldn’t force anyone I knew to letter this story. So
I asked him, ifl sent him a script, if he’d letter it for me.
And it worked out that way. I did a splash page and an
end page. so it’s fairly cohesive. It’s as cohesive as I get.
SULLIVAN’. And all the figures are your versions, drawn
BURNS: Some are very closely related. If you 100k at the
original Tryout Book, some are just inked versions of Peter
Parker or Aunt May or whoever. And with some I’ve done
something entirely different.
SULLIVAN: Your story is about people selling meat of sen-
tient animals on the black market. Sort ofa cannibalism
Story. What the original Story about?
BURNS: Oh, I have no idea. Just a Spider-Man story..
there’s nothing there.
SULLIVAN: I’ll go out in the alley and see if I can find
anyone selling Marvel merchandise.
BURNS: “Hey buddy… wanna buy a Manel Tryout

This is the one hundred and twenty-third post in the Entire Kitchen Sink blog series.

1990: Pteranoman

Pteranoman (1990) #1 by Don Simpson

The month after launching Bizarre Heroes, we get another Simpson series. So either he was really gung ho about all of this, or he was hedging his bets.

But perhaps Pteranoman was just bits that Simpsons was doing while procrastinating about doing Bizarre Heroes. While that series felt very worked-through, this is a lot goofier — feels very improvised.

That’s a nice “gulp!” panel.

Some of the goofy bits feel positively inspired, and while it doesn’t really add up to much of anything, it’s a good read.

Oh, yeah, he manages to squeeze in three stories here. I think the above is pretty self explanatory.

In the final story, he continues the Megaton Man epic a bit.

All in all — nice artwork, amusing stories, some interesting concepts — it’s pretty good? But I can see why there wasn’t a second issue: 1990 wasn’t a forgiving time to launch something as quirky as this.

Comics Scene Volume #2, page 43:

More importantly, Simpson
doesn’t respect superheroes. Some-
times he stops snickering long enough
to turn out a space soap like Border
Worlds or 1990’s Bizarre Heroes, a
largely mirthless. superhero comic
with a high fight-quotient and no Yarn
Men anywhere. But no sooner was
Bizarre Heroes on the racks than
Simpson countered it with the far bet-
ter Pterano-Man. Once again, that’s
Pterano-Man, a.k.a. Pete Teriano,
“liberal senator from Stalactite City. ”
With Pterano-Man—gotta love it—
Simpson softened the manic humor
that marked Megaton Man. “I decided
I wasn’t going to push the comedy,”
Simpson says. The result, inspired by
the deadpan camp of Twin Peaks and
the Batman TV show, is a delightful
pastiche of cornball comics, in which
Pterano-Man and his Cave Babes use
Pteranocopters, a Pteranoputer and
other Pteranostuff to fight a dinosaur
revived by toxic waste. Elsewhere in
the book, we meet the crimebusting
team of the Phantom Jungle Girl and
Cowboy Gorilla, who take direction
from a brain in a jar called the
Brilliant Brain.
“I’m very proud of Pterano-Man,”
Simpson says. “l think it’s one of the
best comics I’ve done. Unfortunately,
it was also one of my poorest-selling
Kitchen Sink titles. ”
Pterano-Man probably best reveals
Simpson’s approach to superheroes:
Gentler than Megaton Man, but still a
few thousand leagues from the
Punisher, Wolverine or the Dark
Knight. Forget those guys—Simpson
couldn’t even draw the Teenage
Mutant Ninja Turtles with a straight
face; his best freelance work for
Mirage has been a tale of the
“alternate turtles,”
four grumpy
stand-ins.
“The whole superhero genre is just
funny to me,” he says. “At the same
time, the underlying symbols and
mythology are fascinating. ”
By symbols and mythology, he
doesn’t mean the bat on Bruce
Wayne’s chest and the night life in
Asgard, As a satirist, Simpson looks a
little deeper into what makes super-
heroes tick. His observations won’t
please many X-fans. In fact, it’s safe
to say—with apologies to Spirit cre-
ator Will Eisner—that this is not a
theory for little boys.
“This literal interpretation of su-
perheroes dominates Marvel and
DC,” Simpson explains. “The editors
ask very literal questions: ‘What if
Batman really existed? How would
the universe be different?’ They’re not
aware how dumb that is.
“The last thing superhero stories
are about is crime,” Simpson contin-
ues. “To me, they’re a sex fantasy.”
As Simpson describes it, super-
heroes are generally ordinary
schmucks, little guys like Clark Kent
and Peter Parker, who react to ex-
citement by leaping into alleys and
tearing off their clothes. Then. they get
much bigger, and all their muscles
and veins stand out. Sound familiar?
“It seems pretty clear to me what
that’s all about,” Simpson says. “The
most blatant image is the Hulk: The
idea that he has to rip out of all his
clothes to leap into action, and the ex-
aggerated musculature, the popping
veins. After my Anton Drek work, I
know how similar drawing that su-
perhero anatomy is to drawing the
veins in a throbbing…” Well, you get
the idea.

This is the one hundred and twenty-second post in the Entire Kitchen Sink blog series.

An Entirely Ill-Advised Reading of all Comics Published by Kitchen Sink Press