Comic Fodder

Books into Comics: Wild Cards

by Daniel Abraham and Eric Battle

I was excited to see a second Wild Cards series in development, purely on the idea that more people might be exposed to the long-running book series. The 18th book in the series came out this year, so new readers have a lot of catching up to do. When you’re done reading this, get off the computer and go get the books!

I was a young teenager with the freedom of a bicycle, and I used it before the days of computers to make periodic trips to the book store. One day the store owner shocked me by tearing the cover off of a book and handing it to me. I didn’t know at the time that extra books that don’t sell are returned to the publisher, but often the publisher doesn’t want to take receipt of the entire book. You can just tear off the cover and return the cover to the publisher as proof that the book didn’t sell. Some unethical stores still offer those books for sale, but I suspect that is technically illegal. My guy handed the book to me instead of tossing it in the trash. It was the third book in the Wild Cards series, Jokers Wild. Cool name!

It took me a while to read the book, because it had a cover missing! But it was a book, and there was no way I would throw it out, so one slow summer day, I picked it up and started reading. Then I went back to the book store owner, ordered the first two books in the series, and got put on a pull list for every new book that came out in the series. I even picked up a replacement copy for the third book eventually, since it started falling apart after reading it so many times. I got my best friend hooked on the series too, and he called me one day to let me know he cried when a certain character died. I teased him about being a pansy, of course.

The first books were an anthology of short stories, based on the idea that just after World War II, a virus was released world-wide, a virus that killed most people, made one person in ten a joker, horribly deformed, and gave one precious person out of a hundred special powers, making them an ace. It was Watchmen in book format, what would happen if super heroes existed in real life, with all of the violence, sex and profanity that comes along with it. The profanity bothered me sometimes, but the rest of the book was excellent, and the various writers were all very good.

In 1990, Marvel published a four-issue mini-series under their Epic Comics imprint. It was different and good, and an ex-girlfriend still has my copies, but oh well. There was a long lull in the New Cycle books, and after Black Trump came out in 1995, we had to wait until 2002 for Deuces Down, but at least we got the treat of book cover art by Jim Steranko, just for a cherry on the top for intertwining with the land of comic books.

Now we have new books coming out, and a comic series, and that’s not mentioning the games they have produced based on the series, but I never had a chance to play those. There is an awesomely-put together website at http://wildcardsbooks.com/index.html where you can get all the news you want, order books, check out all of the different writers involved with Wild Cards over the years, and even get biographical info on some of the comic characters. One hidden gem is the first Wild Cards story ever written, which you get a link to if you sign up, plus some commentary by George R. R. Martin himself on the origins of the series.

But what about the current mini-series itself? The inking is sparse and slightly bulky, and Eric Battle is slightly too “clean” an artist for the grim and gritty world of jokers and aces. The deformed and ugly are too clean-cut, when there really should be more dirt, more dripping goo and repulsive slimy stuff all over the place. The backgrounds are all to often are. I wasn’t sure if I would buy it at first. But Croyd Crenson is in it, and I’m so hopeful and grateful to have more new stories of the characters and the setting, I just had to give it a chance. The writing is decent, but the real treasure here is for everyone that takes a chance on the actual books, and has his or her interest piqued by the possibilities of a long-running sci-fi fantasy series that has been heavily influenced by comic books. Nothing else like it exists in literature that I know of, and I’m due to re-read it myself, even though I left book nine somewhere and need to get a new copy first.

If Dabel Brothers takes another shot at the Wild Cards genre, I highly recommend they use a more seasoned artist, someone of high caliber and able to draw really gruesome things. Any of the artists of old would have been up to par: Gene Colan, Bernie Wrightson, Bill Sienkiewicz, George Perez, Ben Templesmith, the list is endless. Someone who can draw a bulbous nose with what is hopefully snot, but you’re not too sure, with an extra eye or two, in the middle of a trash-strewn alleyway covered in a deluge of human refuse. That’s the world of the jokers, and you can’t get a good sense of it with the comic, but the books will blow your mind. But you know, I’m enjoying the comic a little more than I thought I would.
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Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

LOL Yes, I admit I still have his comics!! What can I say, I LOVE them!!! And I love the books even more! I tried to bid on the entire series on E-Bay once but was outbid; now that I know there's a web site I'll definetely check it out. (Ex-boyfriends don't keep you informed of such things!)

-- Posted by: Carol Ex-Girlfriend at June 25, 2008 11:35 AM