Orange Krush's Book Club
Enjoy this Krush-approved selection of reading for your off-line hours! These are some ultra-fine and forever-fresh comics you probably have missed, even here on the World Wide Web! These are not the popular corporate superhero treadmill titles or those Seattle scrub grunge comics your snobby SubPop friends are reading. These are just really good, radical sci-fi and psyche genre fictions that will give you what you want. Fortunately for you these titles are pretty unloved stuff by the plebes and public-at-large so you should be able to score second-hand copies of these in the comic shop cheap boxes, or at some dirty thrift stores. Or for you e-commerce folks, you can find them all for just a buck or two an issue online. Totally worth checking 'em out, Phreaks!
by John Ostrander and artists Timothy Truman, Tom Sutton, Tom Mandrake, Steve Pugh, Flint Henry.
Listen up fellow hackers, Tech Noir alert! The first, and still the best, of the legendary 1980s "grim and gritty" books. GRIMJACK is a sword-for-hire assassin mercenary in the multi-dimentional city of Cynosure, a place where all dimensions meet. In Cynosure crossing town might mean crossing five or six different realities and taking the wrong turn might get you forever lost in another reality when the back alley shifts out of phase. It's a city teeming with lowlifes of more flavors than you can probably stomach, from gods to aliens to mutants to magicians to demons, and everyone is looking to screw the next for a cheap buck or a quick thrill. Operating out of Munden's, a dive bar in the worst part of town, GRIMJACK is the damaged old veteran of a life of violence who is willing to take the dirty jobs no one else will. Futurist and multiversalist noir at its '80s grimiest best, mi amigos!
GRIMJACK originally appeared as a backup series in First Comics' STARSLAYER issue #10 but quickly got his own series in 1984, which ran for 81 issues (plus an additional mini-series and an original graphic novel). Co-creator and series artist Timothy Truman's first 18 issues of the series are the most celebrated issues but there are some great runs further on in the series drawn by the excellent Tom Mandrake and a particularly exceptional run by Flint Henry from issue #55 to #81. Grab 'em all, you'll be glad you did. Series writer John Ostrander would later re-launch the SUICIDE SQUAD comic with author Kim Yale and Luke McDonnell to massive acclaim. But GRIMJACK is still his best. In more recent years Ostrander and Truman have reunited for a few more excellent GRIMJACK mini-series, published by IDW. And it was only a matter of time before the IP-hungry Hollywoods got their hands on it, recently the Russo Brothers (of AVENGERS ENDGAME fame) announced they are developing GRIMJACK as a series for Amazon. So be sure to grab yourself copies or this excellent series before the prices go up.
Don't sleep on the goods, Orange Krush recommends you spend some offline hours checking out GRIMJACK and getting lost in the pan-dimensional city of Cynosure. It's all that and a bag of chips!
MAI, THE PSYCHIC GIRL
by Kazuya Kudō and artist Ryoichi Ikegami.
The Krush knows you like the Manga and the Japanimations, I mean, everything from Japan is phat with a capital P, am I right?! MAI, THE PSYCHIC GIRL (舞) is among the very first Manga series published by in North America by Viz in 1989 (along with AREA 88 and LEGEND OF KAMUI). This beautiful and melancholy series stars 14-year-old Mai Kuju, a girl with a special psychic gift. At first her newfound telekenetic powers are a source of amusement for the young girl but she is soon discovered by a shadowy organization known as the Wisdom Alliance, who want to use her and her unique powers as weapons in a clandestine war on the governments of the world. Psychic Cyberpunk, my friends!
When Mai resists their first abduction the Alliance sends four other powerful psychic (and slightly psychotic) children to capture her. This all-out war of psychic kids (and the horrible adults behind them) juxtapozes the violent and kinetic action throughout with utterly peaceful and whimsical moments. Beautifully drawn by artist Ryoichi Ikegami, who is known for gorgeous art on popular 80s Manga series SANCTUARY and CRYING FREEMAN. Writer Kazuya Kudo went on to do the PINEAPPLE ARMY series. MAI, THE PSYCIC GIRL is definitely a worthy read for fans of the movie SCANNERS, FIRESTARTER or the classic Chris Claremont / Bill Sienkiewicz run on NEW MUTANTS.
It will probably be easiest to find these in the kinda bogus three volume PERFECT COLLECTION series that came out in 1996. But the earlier four volume VIZ reprints from 1989 and also the Titan Comics books from the UK are way nicer collections! Go start hunting these old comics down, my fellow manga enthusiasts, net evangelists, and hacktivists!
by Peter Milligan with Brendan McCarthy and Brett Ewins.
Simply put, the coolest comic ever made, home skillets!
So what's the dealio on STRANGE DAYS? SD is an anthology of beautiful, bizarre, and bodacious comics by the true stars of the British comics scene, Peter Milligan (X-STATIX) and Brendan McCarthy (MAD MAX: FURY ROAD) and Brett Ewins (BAD COMPANY). The comic features three main series plus a number of crazy-cool 1-page strips like TALES FROM THE 4TH DIMENSION, KRAZY FOAM, 3 WISE MEN, TALES FROM UTOPIA, and EINSTEIN'S BLUE BABY. The most brilliantly over-stuffed 36 pages comic issues ever. STRANGE DAYS is a true treasure trove of riches, psychedelic trips, bizarre and wonderful, high 80s fashion comics. Your BATMAN comics might be aiight, but these three issues will give you more comic thrills than 100 issues of those comics ever could.
PARADAX! - The super-powered adventures of the peroxide poseur, PARADAX, comics original narcissistic media superbrat. Fun-loving loser and taxi cab driver with more looks than brains, Al Cooper finds a book that grants him superheroic powers in the form of a bright yellow skintight suit. And he proceeds to make the most of it by phasing into his neighbor's bedrooms, climbing on the back of the TV media machine to super stardom, and drinking beer and screwing around with his coolest-girlfriend-in-comics Kooper Keen. What's a more important deed of derring-do for a young superhero, battling an array of stylish and super-powered buffoons like Dr. Sex, Jack Empty, and Shudder and Twitch or going on TV and talking about it? Vapors from this post-modern, stylish, and cynical strip would go on to be relied on heavily in books like co-author Peter Milligan's own X-STATIX series, and also popular titles like KICK-ASS, THE BOYS, THE AUTHORITY, and also a whole lot of different comics by Grant Morrison, particularly ZENITH, MARVEL BOY, and DOOM PATROL.
With great power comes... a great opportunity for fame, riches, sex and stardom... !
JOHNNY NEMO - New London in 2921 AD is an over-crowded high-tech dystopian wasteland of chemical-born mutants, future-drug junkies, fascist urban hunters, religious cults who worship Bing Crosby's left testicle, and every form of scumbag you can imagine in between. And that's just the way hard-boiled existentialist punk private eye Johnny Nemo likes it. Freakin’ awesome funnybook stuff here!
Raymond Chandler would probably roll in his grave at JOHNNY NEMO. Or he'd climb right out of that grave to share a strong smoke and a stiff drink with series creators Milligan and Ewins. Yo, now that's a night out at the lounge the Krush would want to be spinning some fresh Acid Jazz or Electro Swing at!
FREAKWAVE - Prime surrealist apocalyptic surf comics! In the not-so-distant future world of FREAKWAVE the very land itself has become so toxic from mankind's misdeeds and the apocalyptic "long night of doom" that the only hope of survival left is for those who can manage to scratch out a meager life sailing the seas scavenging for trash. Surf-nomad The Drifter is the stern-eyed protag of the piece but this strip delves so far beyond a mere Mad Max riff, as McCarthy applied an anti-narrative approach inspired by the newly exploding '80s art of VHS music video editing combined with art experimentalist Brion Gysin's "cut-up" and Max Ernst collage art techniques, to craft a world of the cyborgic Captain Roaring, who has had his face rebuilt using saxophonic surgery, floating church temples built in the husks of World War II submarines, psychedelic pirates in gigantic floating Zardoz-inspired Mad Hatter heads, makeshift boat cities built around oil rigs formed into JFK sculptures, and psychic seaweed chewing Shamen. All lushly drawn and painted in drop-a-tab ecstasy-laced waves of colors.
McCarthy referred to FREAKWAVE as "surreal collage held together by the beat." The man is straight stylin'!
Years later the whole "Mad Max on the water" pitch of this strip was swiped dirty for Kevin Costner's famously harsh cinematic bomb, WATERWORLD. Puh-Lease, don't give me that crap! No stress, years later Brendan McCarthy's righteous screenplay for the mega-blockbuster MAX MAX: FURY ROAD would prove to one and all that no one does it better than McCarthy does.
So that's the 411 on STRANGE DAYS! If you groove this three issue mini-series you should also track down the first three parts of FREAKWAVE published in VANGUARD ILLUSTRATED #1-3 (Pacific Comics, 3 issues), more peroxide private dick Nemo in JOHNNY NEMO MAGAZINE (Eclipse Comics, 3 issues), PARADAX! (Vortex Comics, 2 issues), SKREEMER (DC Comics, 6 issues), and you'll also really like ROGAN GOSH (Vertigo Comics, one shot) too. Also a lot of the STRANGE DAYS strips have been reprinted in THE BEST OF MILLIGAN & MCCARTHY hardcover (Dark Horse Comics), along with other good shiznit!
SHADE THE CHANGING MAN
Vol 1 by Steve Ditko with dialog by Michael Fleisher.
Vol 2 by Peter Milligan and artists Chris Bachalo, Jamie Hewlett, Sean Phillips, Philip Bond, Colleen Doran.
Vol 3 by Cecil Castellucci and artist Marley Zarcone.
Dope stuff, my dudes and dudettes! Get ready for a slammin' trippy brainfuck of a ride! This multi-decade series of series mutates and transmogrifies through three different idiosyncratic incarnations. All of them are off the chain! And a high Orange Krush recco if you like highbrow / lowbrow oddball comics like the Krush does! These series are best read in the order in which they were published.
Vol 1 (DC Comics 1977, 8 issues) - You'll know comic legend Steve Ditko as writer/artist and creator of some of the best comic characters ever made, including SPIDER-MAN, DOCTOR STRANGE, and THE QUESTION. Ditko, a reclusive genius, weirdo and social outcast, brought both an unsettling atmosphere and intense outsider otherness to his work. And Ditko's neo-psychedelic art and concepts also brought comics out of the "kiddie stuff" ghetto to the 60s countercultural Acid Generation, from Ken Keasy (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST) to one of the first major psychedelic rock concerts, led by Jefferson Airplane, which was advertized as "A Tribute Concert for Dr. Strange," in San Francisco 1965. As the mid-1970s arrived, so did Ditko's next utterly unique new series, SHADE THE CHANGING MAN.
Rac Shade, a secret agent of an Earth-adjacent dimension called Meta, has been framed for treason and sentenced to death. Escaping to Earth by crossing through the dimensional barrier between our worlds, the Zero-Zone also known as the "Area of Madness," after stealing back the weirdtech M-Vest (the Miraco-Vest) from Meta-ian terrorists. Shade tries to clear his name while being pursued across dimensions by both criminals and the law. When confronted, the M-Vest alters Shade's appearance based on his opponent's fears, and also generates a physical embodiment of the emotional state of its wearer. Cool, weird stuff. Definitely not your typical superhero fare! Even the series logo, created by superstar designer Gaspar Saladino, is weird and unsettling.
Ditko used SHADE as a vehicle for his dark philosophical musings about the failings of society, government authority, love lost, corruption in all its many insidious forms, and crumbling idealism. All while his corprorate editors attempted to reign him in, in the hopes of getting a re-hashed version of DOCTOR STRANGE out of him. It's a strained, at times awkward, but always fascinating beast of a title. And as you can imagine, this offbeat series didn't last long. But left behind an indelible impression on anyone who read it.
Vol 2 (DC/Vertigo Comics 1990, 70 issues) - Peter Milligan, one of the post-modern weirdness-virtuosos behind STRANGE DAYS, returns with this early 90's resurrection and regeneration of Ditko's unsung classic. Add in character designs by Milligan's co-collaborator on STRANGE DAYS Brendan McCarthy, and also main series artist a pre-fame Chris Bachalo, and a full 70 issues of unfettered delirium with the lid off... and it's a match made in high-weirdness heaven.
Shade's arrival on Earth via the M-Vest, through the Zero-Zone's Area of Madness, traps Rac in the body of serial killer. And that crossing has allowed the Zero Zone's growing tide of madness to bleed out and across the world, infecting Earth with reality-altering insanity. This series' co-lead character Kathy George, who was on-site to witness the execution of Shade's new body for the murder of her parents, gets wrapped up in a transmutational reality-warping relationship with Shade instead. Kathy is one of the best characters in all of comics. Complex, heroic, flawed, strong, damaged, inquisitive, selfish, altruistic, strange. And also barely holding on to her sanity as all of reality crumbles.
The flashy stuff in this series is all this madness manifesting in the real world, ever-shifting alter egos, adventures with sentient garbage heaps, other-dimensional aliens, temporal regressions, abducted celestials, unruly bikers, mind-altering hotels, and James Joyce and Ernest Hemmingway. But what the book really is about is these characters' transforming identities - for Shade, extra complicated by multiple and ever-shifting bodies, and for Kathy as she relearns who she is and rebuilds herself after tragic losses and amid these new ever-altering realities. The constantly mutating and evolving relationships between these rich characters is what truly elevates SHADE THE CHANGING MAN above pretty much any other comic made in the 1990s.
Vol 3 SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL (DC/Young Animal 2018, 12 issues + 1 Special + 6 issues) - Shade returned 22 years later with a new series, SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL. Written by multi-award winning author / director / musician / awesome comic dork Cecil Castellucci, who is a best selling author of young adult novels. Cecil Castellucci brings a great high school high-teen-drama flavor to the series while maintaining the full-on psychedelic and dream-like surrealism of the previous series. With effortlessly charming and psychotronic pop art by the immensely talented Marley Zarcone and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick, the series delves into depression, schizophrenia, identity and self discovery, idolitry, xenophobia, and societal alienation. And... reality-altering madness from the Zero-Zone leaking out into the world, of course.
Meta-ian alien teen Loma steals the M-Vest from a museum on her homeworld to replicate the adventures of her Meta-ian poet and adventurer idol, Rac Shade. Transporting her consciousness through the Zero-Zone and into the comatose body of a literally brain-dead 16-year-old Earthling named Megan Boyer, the worst bully in the entire school who is left for dead by her teammates on the high school swim team after a drug overdose. As if the interpersonal complications of awakening in the pubescent body of a teenager everyone despises aren't tortuous enough, the Meta police are in pursuit, an inter-dimentional war is brewing, and there's that pesky existence-transforming Madness that keeps spilling out everywhere too.
The first 12 issues are collected in SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL VOLUME 1 and SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL VOLUME 2. The Special is collected in YOUNG ANIMAL MILK WARS. And the final 6 issues are collected in SHADE THE CHANGING WOMAN.
Stay Tuned For More of Orange Krush's Book Club!
If the Krush ever gets around to writing more, that is! Until then, Keep It Real, homies!