I didn't get a chance to get to a comic shop until Saturday this week, and as a result I missed the Dr. Thirteen trade, Architecture and Morality. I went to five different stores - no luck! Drat! I wish I had a Muttley I could blame this on. I guess I'll have to wait for the re-orders.
One of the reasons I didn't get to the shop was attending a reading by Douglas Wolk, the author of Reading Comics, who was appearing at a bookstore here in Seattle. The actual reading part of the evening wasn't so much fun, since I had already read the sections of the book from which he selected excerpts. On the other hand, his Q&A time was quite engaging. There were only a dozen or so people in attendance, but they were all interested and informed. Wolk's approach differs from that of Scott McCloud's in that he appears to be less interested in pure formalism and more about the social constructs around comics; his analysis is clearly that of a critic rather than a scholar, but it is still comprehensive and well-considered.
It was also a fun event for the folks I met there, one of whom was Leonard Rifas. Mr. Rifas was known to me by reputation; he teaches at a local community college and developed one of the first classes in comics (scroll down to HUM 270) in the region. We had never met, so it was good to make contact. I found out that Mr. Rifas was also the editor and publisher (at Educomics) of I Saw It, Barefoot Gen, and Gen of Hiroshima, which comprise Keiji Nkazawa's memoir of the atomic bombing of Japan. These books appeared about the same time as Maus but are overlooked. Gen of Hiroshima was one of the first graphic novels I bought for the library way back when, and Leonard was nice enough to give me a copy of I Saw It. Good stuff, the book and the evening both.
Tom Spurgeon started it as an audience response post, but Steve Flanagan turned it into a meme, so I'm chiming in with my "five good superheroes created since 1950 and not published by DC, Marvel or Image" in no particular order.
1. Captain Confederacy (Shetterly/SteelDragon) Pick any version you want, or even one of the other international heroes that inhabit Will Shetterly's alternate reality: they are all strong concepts and interesting characters. I raved about them some time ago.
2. NoMan (Wood/Tower) Again, just about any of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. agents cold qualify, but the inherent loneliness and alienation of the character, buried deep in the sci-fi-spy trappings that surrounded him, is still fascinating. Wally Wood was doing better even work that he thought he was, I think.
3. Mr. A (Ditko/Witzend) As a pure, unrefined actualization of a creator's vision, it would be hard to top Steve Ditko's Objectivist Avenger. Although far from Ditko's best work artistically or narratively, the small ouvre is both challenging and compelling.
4. S'amm S'mmith, the Martian Manhandler (Friedrich/Charlton) A member of the Bestest League of America appearing in the Blooperman spoof strip, I have to give this guy props just for the best parody name ever and for being an antidote to the current Angry Broccoli Man characterization of the original. (Anybody have a scan of this strip?)
5. Jack Staff (Grist/Dancing Elephant) I think this is my only repeat from anyone else's list (Steve's was one) but that's okay: he only represents everything that should be good about superheroes and superhero comics today. But I've gone on about that before, twice.