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Tag Archive: The Black Beetle


Review by C.J. Bunce

Much like Hergé and his Tintin and Christin and Mézières’ Valerian and Laureline, another story read by millions of Europeans in the 20th century but overlooked by the masses in America is finally making its way overseas.  This time its the villain Fantômas who is coming to America, the star of a series of some 43 novels and 15 films, a popular crime novel readers in Europe have flocked to read about beginning in 1911 with Marcel Allain and Pierre Souverstre‘s team-written novel Fantômas, followed by a succession of comics and other adaptations.  Writer Olivier Bocquet and artist Julie Rocheleau pulled ideas from the original novel series for their award-winning 2013 work, The Wrath of Fantômas, which is being released in an English translation for the first time tomorrow.

First previewed by Titan Comics at the Diamond Retailer Lunch at San Diego Comic-Con last year, The Wrath of Fantômas is steeped in literary history.  The masked, black-gloved Fantômas has been said to have inspired the 1930s comic strip character The Phantom (1936), who in turn inspired Batman (1939), but Fantômas isn’t the first superhero character.  That designation traditionally goes to the title hero of Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, created a few years earlier in 1905, who inspired, in turn, Zorro in 1919.  But it won’t take long for readers to pick up the same disdain for corrupted governments and leaders throughout the 19th and 20th centuries from the vantages of Fantômas, Sir Percy Blakeney, and others, that continued to spread across the world, reflected well into the 20th century with anti-heroes like the Guy Fawkes-masked V in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta.

Fantômas is pursued by the fiercely zealous and savvy Inspector Juve, a character that critic and author Kim Newman has cited as the inspiration for Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther series.  Juve is as determined as Javert, and Victor Hugo’s chief antagonist from 1862’s Les Misérables was no doubt an inspiration for Juve–he’s Javert seen as noble and loyal, but also just, heroic, and good.  His nemesis Fantômas is merciless toward his targets and in his methods, killing for vengeance, and seemingly for no reason, and no woman or child or man is out-of-bounds for his fury.

Here is a preview:

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If you are a fan of Italian comic book artist Francesco Francavilla, you probably make sure you’ve kept up with his work on series like DC’s Detective Comics, his creator-owned noir series The Black Beetle, Dynamite’s Zorro, Marvel’s Black Panther, Archie Horror’s Afterlife With Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and loads of other series and comic book covers.  In July you’ll even be able to purchase his variant edition of the forthcoming comic Archie Meets Batman ’66.  Francavilla burst onto the comics scene a decade ago, and quickly his trademark style–a mix of classic pulp, noir, and retro color combinations and designs–helped earn him the Eisner Award in 2012.  But if you’re a completist, get ready to for a brief course change this week.

Here’s something to think about: Not all comic book artists stick exclusively to the comic book medium.  Today Francavilla’s artwork is taking on the non-fiction route, as the artist is the featured creator of visuals in today’s issue of The New York Time Magazine.  It’s a clever pairing as the magazine’s annual money issue is taking on the mystique of the classic Crime Does Not Pay comic book series of comicdom’s Golden Era, instead of featuring images of the criminals themselves in its pages.  Titled “Crime Pays,” today’s issue has plenty of Francavilla’s unique imagery for his fans to soak up.  And–what a concept–get caught up on the news at the same time.  Here is the new cover image compared to a classic 1940s cover design:

   

For Francavilla’s comic book fans, he says there’s nothing to worry about.  Via Twitter Saturday he responded to one fan, “I’m not leaving comics at all – working on the new @TheBlackBeetle mini right now as matter of fact 🙂 #IheartComics”.

The New York Times Magazine created this video look behind the scenes at Francavilla’s contribution to this issue of the magazine.

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Hawkeye issue 11

The 2014 Eisner Award nominations were released today.  Not a lot of surprises again this year.  The nominations tend toward more serious subjects in the year’s comic book offerings as opposed to action-packed superhero titles, sci-fi, fantasy, humor, or popular works.  But there are exceptions, and some can be found this year.  And should you think the books reviewed and lauded here at borg.com might be out of touch with the Eisner nomination committee, actually some of our favorite books from 2013 can be found throughout this year’s nominees.

The ringer of course is Marvel Comics’ Hawkeye series.  Not only do we like it, everyone seems to agree this is the best book around, two years running.  And it’s up for multiple awards again this year.

But no Afterlife With Archie?  Where are all the Dynamite Comics nominees?  Where is recognition for the jaw-dropping visuals on Dark Horse Comics’ landmark series, The Star Wars?  Why not more from IDW and Dark Horse?  How about some variety?

So… congratulations to all the nominees, and extra snaps to some of our favorites (the full nomination list is after the break):

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)
Hawkeye #11: “Pizza Is My Business,” by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel).  This made the borg.com Best of 2013 for Best Single Issue.  I even bought extra copies of this one.  It’s that good.

Best Continuing Series
Hawkeye, by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel)

I read books this year from other nominations in this category: Saga, East of West, and Nowhere Men (we weren’t fans, but reviewed Issue #1 here), and the others just didn’t make our review list.

Black Beetle poster

Best Limited Series
The Black Beetle: No Way Out, by Francesco Francavilla (Dark Horse).

We reviewed this series here at borg.com this year and decided it should have made our Best of 2013 list had we reviewed it earlier.

I also read nominee Mike Richardson’s 47 Ronin–a good read, which I may review here later this year.  I had a review copy of The Wake from DC Comics, but didn’t find the story or art as gripping as others.

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)
Itty Bitty Hellboy, by Art Baltazar and Franco (Dark Horse).  Reviewed here, I’m glad this wasn’t passed up for consideration.

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BlackBat001-Cov-Campbell

You wouldn’t be off base thinking of Batman when you see the superhero The Black Bat, as their history and origin is linked in controversy.  Both The Black Bat and Bob Kane’s Batman derived the look of their characters from common pulp fiction renderings.  Both characters emerged at about the same time and the publishers Thrilling Publications and DC Comics sparred over rights until a DC editor who had worked with The Black Bat’s publisher mediated the dispute where both publishers could continue using the characters.

Which brings us to 2013 and Dynamite Entertainment.  Dynamite has the rights to publish The Black Bat along with the great pantheon of classic 1930s and 1940s characters we have discussed before, including the featured characters in their ongoing series Masks: The Shadow, The Green Hornet, Kato, Miss Fury, Black Terror, Zorro, and The Spider.  But don’t confuse the Black Bat with a similar modern noir retro-creation, Francesco Francavilla’s The Black Beetle from Dark Horse Comics, which we previewed here at borg.com earlier.  But both The Black Bat and The Black Beetle are different enough and similar enough that if you like one you probably will like the other.

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