Strange Tales 1 – Marvels funny and fun alt-comix series
Strange Tales issue 1
by (deep breath) Nick Bertozzi, Paul Pope, John Leavitt, Molly Crabapple, Junko Mizuno, Dash Shaw, James Kochalka, Johnny Ryan, Michael Kupperman, Peter Bagge, Nicholas Gurewitch and Jason.
(Paul Pope and Jose Villarubia’s cover to Strange Tales 1.)
There’s something strange going on in comics at the moment, with three major books from three different publishers all utilising the best in the alt-comics crowd. First we had DC’s Wednesday Comics, a harking back to the tabloid sized comics of yesteryear filled with full page artwork by the likes of Kubert, Pope, Allred et al. And Matt Groening has just published an issue of Treehouse Of Horror thaat lets the Kramers Ergot crowd loose on the Simpsons.
And then there’s Strange Tales, where a host of creators get their mitts on Marvel’s finest. Now the first thing I thought when I got hold of issue 1 was that it’s almost perfectly indicative of that moment in the 60s when Marvel exploded onto the scene with Stan, Steve and Jack blowing the cobwebs of DC’s stuffy icons away with fresh, interesting and frankly slightly strange superheroes – a geeky teen with spider powers? How bizarre. And that’s just how Strange Tales feels – because for all of it’s worthy nostalgia, the abiding memory of the 12 issues of DC’s Wednesday Comics is one of wonderful format with slightly dull content. Once the surface gloss wore off, we were left with a series of stories that didn’t really live up to the presentation.
(Lockjaw may be the most powerful of all the Inhumans, but to be honest all he wants is someone to open the tin of damn dog food. From Paul Pope’s Inhumans strip in Strange Tales #1 © Marvel Characters Inc.)
Whereas Strange Tales is faster, shorter and much more fun. It’s only three issues for a start so it will barely have time to grow stale on us. Similarly, it’s full of short strips – the longest here being the 8 page Paul Pope Inhumans tale where Lockjaw tries to get a jar of dog food open. All of the writers and artists here are concentrating on making their strips as silly and funny as possible, gently taking potshots at the characters whilst showing us they actually have a lot of love for them.
(Dash Shaw’s Ditko-esque psychedelic Dr Strange strip from Strange Tales #1 © Marvel Characters Inc.)
Standout moments in this first issue are many; Dash Shaw’s psychedelic Dr Strange strip comes off brilliantly and turns up the Ditko to 11, James Kochalka’s Hulk Squad is a riot of poster paint colour and gleeful kiddie fights, Jason gives us Spider-Man vs Doc Ock silliness with poor wimpy Peter trying to get into a bar fight just to keep up with Flash Thompson (and all done in Jason’s usual talking dog style). Nicholas Gurewitch (of The Perry Bible Fellowship) gives us two very funny pages of silliness that will leave a huge smile over your face.
(James kochalka’s technicolour Hulk strip and Jason’s signature style on display as Peter Parker does his best to get into a bar fight. From Strange Tales #1 © Marvel Characters Inc.)
Peter Bagge’s long delayed Incorrigible Hulk is just as manic, repressed and strange as you might expect. The good news is that Bagge’s strip is appearing in full, across all three issues.
There isn’t a strip here that’s less than enjoyable. Even those that don’t quite reach the heights of those I’ve mentioned are certainly worth the couple of minutes it will take you to read them. Overall Strange Tales succeeds where Wednesday Comics failed. The concept is just as great but the content actually gets somewhere near fulfilling the incredible amount of expectation so many people have had for the comic. It’s 48 pages of really strange fun.
(Peter Bagge’s long delayed Incorrigible Hulk strip finally gets published in Strange Tales #1 © Marvel Characters Inc.)
Strange Tales #1 sold out very quickly, but a second print is available with a very nice b&w Pope cover. The two issues to come have more and more great artists including Stan Sakai, Tony Millionaire, Becky Cloonan, Paul Hornschemeier, Jay Stephens, Matt Kindt and many more. Issue 1 is out now, issue 2 was out October 8th and issue 3 is out in November.