Tag Archives: Matt Wagner

“These are a few of my favorite things.”

I am now the proud owner of … a goodly portion of all the “Grendel” comics Matt Wagner ever wrote.  What you see in the top row are “Grendel Omnibus” Volumes 1, 2 and 3.  (I believe I actually shared my review of Volume 1 on this site a while ago.)  These would comprise a nearly inclusive history of Hunter Rose, Christine Spar, Brian Li Sung, Orion Assante and Eppy Thatcher.  All that remains for me to collect is the fourth Omnibus trade-paperback, chronicling the possibly immortal Grendel Prime and his imperiled charge, Jupiter Assante.

The Omnibus editions do not include crossovers with heroes such as Batman and The Shadow, as those characters are obviously owned by other companies.  Nor do they include the diverse dystopian future tales depicted by various artists in the 1990’s “Grendel Tales.”  But I am in heaven with what you see below — or maybe hell, considering these books’ central motif.

To top it all off, that hefty tome beneath the comics is W. H. Auden’s “Collected Poems,” edited by Edward Mendelson, with the poet’s work between 1927 and his death in 1973.  It’s 927 pages.  It weighs 30 pounds, probably.  And it is indexed by both the poem’s titles and their first lines.  That is what you call a lifetime investment.

The comics will be excellent summer reading; as will Auden.  But I’ll focus more on the Briton when fall arrives.  Like his countryman, Doyle, he might be best enjoyed outdoors on a gray and increasingly brisk Autumn day.

I need to buy books more often.

 

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“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”

Today is the Ides of March.

I suppose that Marc Antony’s speech from “Julius Caesar,” below, is the Western World’s definitive treatise on sarcasm?

I haven’t read it in its entirety since 10th grade English at Longwood High School.  In doing so now, I’m surprised at how many pop cultural references to it spring to mind:

  1.  The entire speech is beautifully riffed by the eponymous blade-wielding arch-villain in Matt Wagner’s incredible “Grendel: Devil by the Deed” (1993) as follows: “Friends, Romans, city folk — listen to me or I’ll lop off off your ears.  Let’s bury your Caesar and then let’s appraise him.”
  2. I’m guessing that Charles Bronson’s “The Evil That Men Do” (1984) is a reference to the third line?
  3. In at least one episode of “The X Files” in the 1990’s, the Well-Manicured Man angrily refers to the traitorous Syndicate as “these honorable men.”
  4. In one of his later novels (2002’s “The Bear and the Dragon,” maybe?) Tom Clancy describes a pregnant Chinese factory worker as being “made of sterner stuff.”  (I can’t remember which book, but for some strange reason I can remember that line.  Weird.)

 

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

 

— from William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”

 

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A review of “Grendel Omnibus Volume 1: Hunter Rose”

Matt Wagner created a world for “Grendel” that is brutal, violent, tragic and sad. It’s also home to some of the best comic book stories ever created. “Grendel Omnibus Volume 1: Hunter Rose” is as close to perfect a collection as you can get, in my humble opinion. It deserves a 10 out of 10.

Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the creation of Hunter Rose, this is a comprehensive collection of all the iconic arch-criminal’s tales, presented as chronologically as possible. (After the death of this character, the various “Grendel” comic books focused on other characters who subsequently adopted the name and identity … it’s a little hard to explain.)

It begins with “Grendel: Devil by the Deed,” which is a great summary of biopic of the title character, and then moves on to more than 40 other stories, all penned by Wagner and illustrated by various other artists. It ends with the fantastic “Grendel: Behold the Devil,” illustrated by Wagner.

These comics are as difficult to describe as they are amazingly good. On the surface, this is a noir crime-story collection, about a masked mastermind who overruns the East Coast mobs. He’s pursued by the “Argent the Wolf,” the closest this series comes to presenting a hero.
But the “Grendel” identity (both here and in Wagner’s later incarnations) is really more of an abstract force, like aggression or amorality. When you look at both Hunter Rose and his successors, you do realize that Wagner seems to be tackling nothing less than the nature of evil. (This becomes more evident in Wagner’s later “Grendel” personas.) If you enjoy these comics (as I obviously have), that’s fine. But if you empathize with the main character (I’m not even sure he’s a protagonist), you ought to worry.

He isn’t an antihero, or even a sympathetic villain like Dr. Doom or Venom. He’s evil. He murders countless people, both innocent and guilty – all merely to provide his supergenius mind with “challenge,” to achieve “focus,” and to gain “dominance and subjugation” over every human being he encounters.

Nor are we often presented with many other “good” major characters. Argent, the ostensible hero, brutally slaughters even low-level criminals, with the tacit approval of a desperate and morally shaky New York City Police Department. Both Grendel and other characters opine that he isn’t much better than the villain.

Does Wagner succeed in creating a three-dimensional character? That’s hard to say. He really seems more archetypal when compared with a more complex, fully realized characters in comics (as Bruce Wayne often is, in the hands of the right writer). Wagner does explain his transformation and motivations, but to me they seem incomplete. Still, Hunter Rose damned compelling and fascinating to follow. Wagner has a beautiful command of the English language, and I do think that Hunter Rose is the most eloquently voiced comic book character I’ve ever read.

Wagner’s (varying) style is also a little hard to describe. When I first started reading his stuff way back in the 1990’s, I tried to explain to other comic fans that his stories were “experimental.” These books were rarely similar to what you would read from DC or Marvel, or even Dark Horse. They’re written, structured and drawn in a variety of ways – often, for example, using lots if text that makes the books “prose-heavy.” You sort of have to read the books to “get it.” If you’re a serious comic book fan, it’s worth checking out Wagner’s work just to see the different kind of things he can do with the medium.

The art is unique and beautiful. I know very little about art in general, but I do think there’s an art deco influence, and Wagner’s illustrations actually kind of remind me of Walt Disney’s classic work.

All in all, this is a fantastic collection. I strongly recommend it.

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“Four Devils, One Hell”

I recently passed this along to a friend — “Grendel Tales: Four Devils, One Hell” is easily one of the best comic stories I’ve ever read.  I want to call it a limited series, but “Grendel Tales” was an ongoing 1990’s anthology series with individual stories that took place in the expansive “Grendel” universe established by the genius Matt Wagner.

The story is by James Robinson, the art is by Teddy Kristiansen.  [Edit: the covers below actually were painted by Wagner himself.]

It’s a mixture of crime noir, drug-addled fantasy, apocalyptic fiction, a conspiracy mystery, good old vampire horror and a kick-ass New Orleans party story.  It deserves a 10 out of 10.

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Meet C.J. Somersby and support “Conquest.”

Dagda Publishing’s newest release looks damned interesting — check out the crowdfunding campaign for C.J. Somersby’s “Conquest.”

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/conquest-by-c-j-somersby-marketing-campaign–2#/story

It sounds like a hell of a fun fantasy novel.  (Seriously, read the synopsis.)  And grassroots marketing campaigns like this one are so important to independent authors.

I love Matt Davis’ cover design as well.  It actually reminds me a lot of the work of one of my own favorite artists, Matt Wagner.  (I actually thought it was a Wagner piece when I first saw the image via my Facebook’s newsfeed.)

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One of the highest nerd compliments one can receive …

… is when a friend texts you from an Arizona ComiCon to ask for advice about which books to buy.  (Thanks, Len!)

Of COURSE I recommended the first “Grendel Omnibus” collection, ingeniously drawn and scripted by the amazing Matt Wagner.

I’d recommend viewing a few copies from a friend or the library before making a major purchase, though.  It’s not quite for everybody — as you can see from the panels below, the Grendel books always were just a WEE bit violent …

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