Friday, June 10, 2011

Wading In Bluewater: biography and more (part one)

Continuing the exploration of smaller comics publishers and their works

I’ve affectionately referred to Bluewater Productions in the past as “the little company that could”.   Since it’s beginnings Bluewater has played around the edges of the standard super-hero fare offered up by the bigger companies, publishing titles in other genres including science fiction and supernatural fare.  They seem to have struck pay dirt with their series of  biographical comics and have explored and taken this little –utilized sub-genre to new heights never before achieved.  When it comes to biography comics,  Bluewater is the trailblazer.  In addition to providing a variety of educational and informative titles, they’ve found a way to make them entertaining as well.  These books should be a part of every school library, especially the trade paperback collections.  More than just a method to encourage youth to pursue reading, they also have the potential to motivate and inspire based on their stories.  Let’s explore a sampling of some recently released titles:

POLITICAL POWER: HILARY RODHAM CLINTON   Jerome Maida, writer.  Daniel Fitz, art.  Jane Leung, colorist.  Bernie Lee, letterer.  Joe Phillips, cover.

Hilary

What catches the eye immediately are the photo-realistic portraits of Hilary Clinton on the front cover of this issue.  The front page recaptures the swearing-in ceremony as she began her duties as the 67th Secretary of State of the United States of America.  The teaser caption asks: “Want to know how this woman of incredible ambition fell short of her ultimate goal only to still become one of the most powerful people in the world by mending fences with her once bitter rival - - and what she has accomplished since?  Then read on.” 

The story begins with her disappointing third place finish in the Iowa Democratic Presidential Primary in January 2008 and introduces all the members of her campaign staff.  The depictions of Hilary, Bill and the others by Daniel Fitz aren’t as accurate as the spot-on portraits by cover artist Joe Phillips - - yet they are close enough to be identifiable.  I assume some artistic license by the scripter here, as it’s hard to imagine the Clintons acting this angry at losing the first primary challenge.   As I kept reading this account of the events in Hilary Clinton’s political life from the 2004 primary and elections through her run for president in 2008 and eventual reconciliation with Obama, I got over my shock from the initial pages and began to admire the balance in this story.  Writer Maida is not anointing Clinton as a saint - - far from it.  He writes a very fair and frank accounting of her politics and policies, highlighting the strengths along with the weaknesses.  In the process, he reveals the inner machinations of the American political process, especially presidential campaigns.   There is a ton of detail and information in this book.  The art compliments the story and doesn’t need to be flashy.  There are large text boxes and large word balloons of dialogue throughout.  It’s jam-packed with all the details.  An admirable job.

FEMALE FORCE: KATHY GRIFFIN   Marc Shapiro, writer.   Gene DiCicco, penciler. Steve Wands, colorist.  Bernie Lee, letterer.  Michal Szyksznian, cover.

GRIFFIN

This is much more biographical in nature than the Political Power insight into Hilary Clinton.  It begins with a dream/fantasy sequence while Kathy Griffin waits to go on stage, and then goes immediately into straight biography beginning with her ambitious teen years.  She was the center or attention and had an ability to make others laugh.  Griffin dropped out of college and sought Hollywood stardom as an aspiring actress. That soon changed to “struggling actress” and she ended up joining a comedy troupe  (with Phil Hartman) and developing her current comedic style  - - a blend of human observation and confessional narrative.  This later became a very acerbic and mean-spirited comedic attack on various celebrities which made her famous but also got her banned from various late-night television shows and certain networks.   The upside and the downside of Griffin’s life are summarized and detailed here.   The art is good but more comic/cartoony in style and tone than the Political Power book.  Despite that, it’s a well written and obviously researched glimpse into the life of a 21st century female comedian.

STEPHEN KING  (Bluewater Comics Orbit – release date June 15, 2011)  Michael Lent and Brian McCarthy, writers.  Kent Hulbert, penciler and colorist.  Bernie Lee, letterer.   Michael Szyksznian, cover.

king

This appears to be narrated  by Stephen King (but not actually written by him) and begins with that near-fatal day when while walking down a Maine back road he was struck by a passing van, to end up bruised and beaten in a ditch by the side of the road = “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” . . . . . “Here lies the world’s most successful living, soon to be ex-living, writer in the world.” . . . . . But before I could die, I had to be born.”

Having followed the prolific literary output of Stephen King since I picked up his first paperback novel, Carrie, and then Salem’s Lot and The Stand . . and on and on . . . what I knew of his personal life and values  I obtained from various short newspaper and magazine features.  This  comic does a fine job of providing the essential details on the live experiences and occurrences  that make King the unique person that he is:  a father who abandoned the family, a hard-working single parent mother who raised two sons, the encouragement his mother provided to develop his writing skills, his later drug, alcohol and prescription medicine addiction and recovery - and the events following his accident.  It’s a nice, concise biography that puts the spotlight on the personal development side of the macabre master.

HOWARD STERN  (Bluewater Comics Orbit – release date June 08, 2011)  C W Cooke, writer.  Kent Hurlburt, penciler and colorist.  James Reed, letterer.  Michael Szykznian, cover.

HOWARDSTERNA

I was expecting a joking and/or cynical biography here since Howard Stern has such notoriety and is such a public figure very familiar to any one who listens to even  a modicum of talk radio broadcasts.  What is impressive here is that writer C W Cooke in a light-hearted easy-going fashion is able to accurately convey the impression of what a censorship buster and freedom of speech trail blazer Stern was without having to get into any explicit details, leaving that out and keeping this book suitable for all ages. I respect what Stern has accomplished even though I’m not a big fan, and can’t take extended doses of his radio show.  But once in a while I can be entertained by it in much smaller samplings.   Stern has achieved numerous success in not just radio, but non-fiction (two best sellers), movies and television shows.   It’s only right that a comics series that focuses on important contributors to contemporary society should shine the spotlight on  his corner of the stage as well.

2 comments:

  1. The cover of the Clinton comic is not original. There are accusations that the design was swiped from the original artist. Amber Love did a really good article on it and how they screwed over the original artist Laura Guzzo. http://www.amberunmasked.com/bluewater-productions-scars-another-rising-comics-star/

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  2. That's an unfortunate situation. Seems like it stems from lack of trust - - maybe on both sides. After paying for the art, it's then the right of the publisher to use, not use, or change it. I think a designer credit for the art on the contents page would have made it a lot easier for the original artist to accept. I didn't know any of this when I chose to review the book - but I choose what to write about depending on whether or not I like it, so it may not have mattered.

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