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Wednesdays in full colour

Wednesdays in full colour
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First Published: Thu, Jun 16 2011. 07 59 PM IST

Strip of the week: DC recreates old glories.
Strip of the week: DC recreates old glories.
Soon after I wrote my last column about not being able to find any new comic books, I found several, including what is perhaps the best-looking comic book to ever make an appearance on these pages. Meanwhile, Lounge’s editor probably felt I needed help, so she sent me a copy of a comic adaptation of The Alchemist (alas, not the Ben Jonson play but the Paulo Coelho pop-philosophy book) with a message asking me not to hold myself back from expressing my true feelings about the book (smart lady!).
Every generation has a writer of pop philosophy disguised as fiction (or the reverse) who is universally adopted and acclaimed by the masses and uniformly reviled by snooty-people-who-don’t-know-better like this columnist. Richard Bach was this writer for my generation (full disclosure: I like the passages about flight and flying in the only book of his that I think is worth reading, if only in parts).
Strip of the week: DC recreates old glories.
Coelho is this writer for today’s generation. Anyway, a casual perusal of the pages of the comic book version of The Alchemist told me that the comic adaptation hadn’t improved the book in any way (again, full disclosure: I have only casually perused the original). So, the book will not be the subject of this edition of Cult Fiction.
What will be is a comic that is certain to achieve cult status among collectors. It’s called Wednesday Comics and I don’t think more than a few dozen copies (if that) will be sold in India; it is an expensive comic and not too many people want to spend the equivalent of a small-but-filling lunch at Bukhara on a comic book.
Sometime in the mid-2000s, DC set out to recreate comic strips as they had appeared in newspapers in the US in the 1930s and 1940s—generous strips on weekdays, and a full page on Sundays. The result was Wednesday Comics. Twelve issues came out in 2009, each featuring 18 full-page comic strips that, in turn, are one part of a 12-part story by leading lights of the comic book universe.
I picked up a hard-bound one-volume collection of the 12 issues. It is almost a foot-and-a-half long and a foot wide (which means that it could almost take up a full page in Mint or Mint Lounge (now, that’s an idea). It is printed on glossy art paper and the printing is top-notch.
Then, there are the writers and artists involved. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso play their version of noir in a edgy Batman story; Dave Gibbons camps it up in Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth; Neil Gaiman goes vintage in Metamorpho, The Element Man; and Paul Pope brings his unique style to Strange Adventures.
Some of the comics feature characters created in the Golden Age. Others feature characters created specially by the writer for Wednesday Comics. Several stories hark back, despite the evidently contemporary technology that has gone into producing the book, to the early decades of the last century in plot and device.
Given the economics of the newspaper business in the 21st century, it is unlikely we will see full-page comic strips in newspapers again. Despite its size, which made it difficult to handle, I enjoyed every bit of Wednesday Comics. That, and the success of the Absolute books (leather-bound big-format renditions of popular comic books such as Watchmen and the Sandman series), gives me hope that maybe next year, or the year after, the success of this large-format book will encourage DC to come up with Thursday Comics.
R. Sukumar is editor, Mint. Write to him at cultfiction@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Jun 16 2011. 07 59 PM IST