Monday, May 16, 2005

Project Superior - Variations on a Theme

Today's You Decide is Project Superior, an anthology put out earlier this year by AdHouse Books.

It is a straightforward concept - 280 pages of 42 comic book creators (or creative teams) doing stories about superheroes.

With the talent compiled for this book, it was bound to be filled with good stories, and that was the case.

I do, however, have a slight problem with the approach to the book by Chris Pitzer, the editor of the collection.

Pitzer went in with a very loose "anything you want to write about superheroes," which is cool.

As he says in a Newsrama interview, "I'm a big believer in letting each creator have as much free reign as possible."

That is cool.

However, he follows, "I wanted to be sure that we didn't have any stories that would be too close to each other in feel. I did get nervous about some of the proposals, but then the finished products have come through amazing."

See, that is where he and I differ, as I agree that it is not super perfect to have the stories too close to each other in feel, but I think that ended up being the case.

Martin Cendreda, Jeremy Tankard and Farel Dalrymple all basically hite the same notes with their stories, which featured the whole "loser in a superhero costume" motif. All three of the stories were well-written, but I do not know if it would not be better if each creator had instead tackled a different subject.

And I lost track of the amount of "superheroes with wacky powers" at about 1,329.

Still, that is a minor drawback that does not hold a candle to the fact that for twenty bucks you are getting over 40 comic stories by more than 40 really cool independent comic book creators (plus John Cassaday!!!).

So I would definitely recommend picking this book up.

With that being said, I will now give my "Top Ten Favorite Stories From Project Superior."

Please note that there are a LOT of cool stories in this collection, and by limiting myself here to ten, I really am not doing the book justice. For instance, the art on James Jean's "Superior" is AMAZING, but I was not a big fan of the story. And this is the kind of story that did not even make my "top ten" list! So do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Project Superior.

On to the list...

10. R. Kikuo Johnson's "Thrustman" gives us an interesting tale of a comic book creator and his creative process.

9. Mike Dawson's "Ace-Face" is a really fun story of a mod with metal arms. The three stories detail his growth into his current heroic stature (note that he had big metal arms even when he was a little kid and the arms were adults size!!!). Funny, but also containing excellent characterizations, Ace-Face is a cool series of stories.

8. Paul Rivoche's "The Last Stand of Bomb Boy Benton" is probably the most traditional of the tales in this collection, telling the story of an alien who helped save Earth in the future, and was treated by having his history rewritten. Tragic, sad tale with actual straightforward heroics (a rarity in this volume) with fine art by Rivoche.

7. Bryan Lee O'Malley's Monica Beetle is a super-cool superhero romp with a touch of the absurd (and even romance!) thrown into the mix, as a young man discovers the girl he's pining over is a superhero!

Really cool stuff by O'Malley.

6. Nick Abadzis' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is a mixture of the Luna Brother's Ultra (the celebrity super hero) and the typical postmodern superhero (finds more solace in his interaction with his super-nemesis than with his friends).

5. Seonna Hong's "Do You Know Bruce Lee?" is a whimsical and bittersweet look at how racial stereotypes affect youth.

4. I really dig Street Angel by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca, and their "Afrodisiac" is a lot of the same fun style of comedy as Street Angel.

Totally captures the campy feel of a blacksplotation comic book character.

3. Paul Pope's "The Rest of Xondex-Xomax" is a blast of gritty superhero art as only Pope really can do it, with a quick autobiographical bit at the end that is hilarious, but also very informative of Pope's (and the comic book artist in general, I gather) life.

2. If Hong's story was whimsical and bittersweet, then you would have to multiply by tenfold to match Jay Ryan and Joe Reno's "Plush Boy," which is about a hero who saves people from unwanted presents...but we learn that unwanted presents are not always unNEEDED presents, in an out of nowhere, excellent turn.

1. "No Prize" by Ronnie Del Carmen is just what is describes, a letter from a young Filipino boy in the 70s writing a No Prize request letter to Stan Lee, as the bitter problems of his life pour out almost accidentally in his discourse with his comic book king.

Del Carmen's art is nice, but it is the story that just rips at the ol' heartstrings.

Those are my favorites!

How 'bout y'all?

Anyone who has read Project Superior, which would be your three favorite stories, by your estimation?


Blogger Eliot Johnson said...

Only three? You bastard. I wrote a review/article of this book at some point at Broken Frontier, but I'm too lazy to get a link.

My three favorite:

Cradle of the Gods by Joel Priddy -- Admittedly, Priddy is a personal favorite, but I really dug this story. It's trippy stuff and it made me think a bit, plus the art is great. It's a dandy little story about the history of superheroes with a great ending. Excellent stuff stuff by Priddy, as always (be sure to check out "Pulpatoon Pilgrimmage")

No Prize by Ronnie Del Carmen - Yeah, Del Carmen pulled the old heartstrings with me on this story just like you, Brian. Moving work.

The Pollen Predicament by J. Chris Campbell - This one was just plain fun. Yeah it's a "superhero with wack powers" story but I think it's the best one...creative and funny. It's fun and Campbell's unique art style is absolutely gorgeous. Check out "Zig Zag" which just hit the stands for more of his work.

I have to have five:

Captain Insomniac by Graham Annable - I adore Annable's work and this is no exception. It's fun. Annable comes up with some truly unique ideas and this is one of them. It's nothing profound, but it's a great little story.

Blink by Jamie Tanner - "Quiet Bird Man" can you not love it?

I also really enjoyed "Afrodisiac," "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and countless othters. The art on "The Solutionist" and "Superior" was drop-dead gorgeous. That's not even mentioned three of my favorite creators: Brian Lee O'Malley, Daniel Krall, and Joshua Cotter.

I do not exagerrate to say this is the best anthology I have ever read.

5/16/2005 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I thought three would make people work really hard, Eliot...hehe.

Blink was just shy of my top ten. It was very cool.

And the one by Cotter would have been great, I think, but it seemed too short.

Is Cotter coming out with another Skyscrapers of the Midwest?

5/16/2005 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger Eliot Johnson said...

Yup. Issue #2 is due in July, I believe. Chris Pitzer is talking it up a good bit...saying it's even better than the first issue.

5/16/2005 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Any Project Superior fans, make sure to play "The (Project) Superior Trading Spaces Game!"

Check it out - here

6/27/2005 02:18:00 AM  
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