Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Nostalgic Love Letter to Comics

I have very fond memories of reading the "Sunday Funnies" when I was a kid. Dad would bring the Sunday Pittsburgh Press in from the front porch and immediately strip the comics section and hand it to me. (Back then, the colorful Comics section worked as an eye-grabbing cover for the newspaper. Back then, the Sunday paper was a gigantic one-pound slab of newsprint, too -- but that's a sad rant for another day.)

I would collapse on the living room floor and spread the comics out in front of me. The front page of the section contained Peanuts above the fold, featuring "Good Ol' Charlie Brown," and Prince Valiant starred below the fold. In hindsight, I'm ashamed to say I usually skipped the Prince. I got the jokes of Peanuts immediately, but the lavish detail and strange, balloon-free below-the-art captions of Prince Valiant left me cold. I wish I could go back and look at all those old weekly strips of action and adventure that I missed.

DC Comics is helping me fix that mistake. They've started a 12-week experiment entitled Wednesday Comics, and it's just about the most fun I've had reading comics in a long time. The weekly issue comes packaged in the dimensions of a typical comic book, but it unfolds four times to the size of a newspaper -- 16 huge pages. Printed on newsprint, yet! Each page is a separate adventure featuring a different DC star, continued from week to week, and depending on your taste, you're bound to find something to like.

My favorites were Kamandi, with gorgeous art very reminiscent of the Prince Valiant days; a very solid Superman; a splashy, fun Metamorpho; and a Strange Adventures featuring Adam Strange that brought back the old style and appeal of Flash Gordon in a big way. There were a few minor nitpicks -- the Wonder Woman strip was way too busy and a tad hard to follow, not to mention a bit Disneyfied in its approach; and the Green Lantern strip didn't even bring on the hero until the final panel. But the rest of it was great.

It's a tough sell at $3.99 a week, but this is one comic that I think will lose something in the "graphic novel" trade paperback size. Who cares if it doesn't appreciate in value, and is likely to fade on the newsprint? That's the nostalgic point!