Friday Feature: Francesco Francavilla

There’s something really, truly, incomparably wonderful about being full of leftover Thanksgiving turkey and drifting off to sleep on a couch with a comic book in your lap, while the rest of the world gets into fights over electronics at Wal-Marts around the world.

That pleasure was all mine today with a book that I picked up on a whim because, you guessed it, the cover looked really, really cool.

That book was Black Beetle: No Way Out.

I don’t want to focus too much on this, but the production quality of this particular hardback is just way ahead of the curve. The cover price is $20, but it has the feel of a $35 “special edition” book. I think Dark Horse is taking a page out of Archaia’s manual – If your product looks professional and well put together, people will pick it up. Once it’s in their hand, you’re halfway to the sale, even relatively unheard-of creators will get a second or third look when these high-quality books are on the shelf.

Anyway – moving on. Black Beetle is a pulp-mystery-superhero adventure-drama with that old radio-play style that you seem to either love or hate. I happen to fall in the “love” category, so these pulpy adventure stories in almost every iteration I encounter them.

But the true selling point of Black Beetle is the highly stylized, somewhat retro, never disappointing art of Francesco Francavilla. A couple of seconds on his website will show you better than I can the true love that Francavilla has for the pulp genre.

Francavilla is the writer as well as the artist on this title, which is always a treat, and his love for pulp mysteries shines through clearly in the writing as well.

Even beyond the Black Beetle book, Francavilla’s art is always a pleasure to encounter. He frequently creates lobby cards and movie posters for some of his favorite other works. Notably, he created a poster image for tons of episodes of “Breaking Bad.”

He contributed art to the impeccable Batman: Black Mirror, which otherwise featured art from Jock and the writing of Scott Snyder (and it’s about Dick Grayson while he was Batman, and if you’ve previously only Bruce Wayne Batman, you should really check out Dick Grayson Batman).

Do yourself a favor if you’re a fan of comics or pulp adventure stories, and check out Francesco Francavilla’s work wherever you can get it.

Except Archie.

Ok, fine, Archie too.


Friday Feature: The Amazing Screw-On Head

This week’s Friday Feature is not a tough sell.

Mignola’s Hellboy, after a scrap.

Mike Mignola is already well loved in the comics community.  His art is  easily recognizable and stylized in a way that it seems everybody loves. He’s best known for writing and drawing the Hellboy series, which gained a boost in popularity with the 2004 movie of the same name.

Hellboy has spawned a handful of popular spin-off series, including B.P.R.D., Abe Sapien, and Lobster Johnson.

In my opinion, however, Mignola’s best work is found in The Amazing Screw-on Head and Other Curious Objects. The title story is about a plucky automaton  working as a sort of secret agent for all things paranormal directly under President Abraham Lincoln. He begins the story as nothing more than a robotic head bouncing around on, you guessed it, a screw! When he gets ready to go into the field to take on the evil Emperor Zombie (!) he selects a body from a collection (with the help of his butler “Mr. Groin”) and threads himself into it.

If you’re not already interested . . . well I guess this week’s feature isn’t for you. Amazing Screw-On Head is a ridiculously pulpy, campy, sci-fi adventure story. It reads a little bit like you’re being dropped into the middle of a 1950’s radio serial. All of the characters understand why whatever is happening is so very dramatic, but you don’t – at least not at the beginning. You feel caught up by page four or five, though, and then you’re just along for the ride!

The rest of the stories in the collection are basically disjointed, although there are little things that tie them all together. My favorite of the secondary stories is called “The Magician and the Snake.” This one was co-written by Mignola and his daughter, and the youthful innocence that permeates the story is a real delight to read.

So pass up on that second classy cocktail this weekend, and zip by your local comic book shop to pick up this phenomenal collection!