America’s Best Comics Preview (March, 1999)
Story – Alan Moore
Pencils – Chris Sprouse
Inks – Al Gordon
Colors – Tad Ehrlich of WildStorm FX
Letters – Todd Klein
Editor – Scott Dunbier
Editorial Director – Jim Lee
Yesterday we discussed the Divine Right Preview… and I thought it was a pretty fun time. So I decided to (in between bouts of back spasms) rummage through the longbox maze I laughingly call my “front room” and look for some similar “ephemera”.
What I found was… well, if the title of this blog post didn’t spoil it already, the America’s Best Comics Preview that came packed with Wizard: The Comics Magazine #91 (March, 1999).
Feel like this one is actually somewhat topical… what with the relatively recent additions of Promethea and Tom Strong to the DC Universe proper.
So, join me as we meet them all again… for the first time.
We open with our main man Timmy Turbo delivering a news report about… America’s Best Comics. He introduces us to America’s Best Letterer, the mighty Todd Klein. He then takes us inside the offices, where we meet… a living carpet made up of beautiful women! It’s not what it sounds like… okay, maybe it is. They’re apparently part of Alex Ross’ contract. He is America’s Best Cover Artist, after all.
Timmy takes us into the make-up room, and we meet Future American and his partner the U.S. Angel, who will have a strip in Tomorrow Stories. Future American feels like he looks “too retro” and asks the make-up artist to remove the “Kirby squiggle” from his chin. When they see Terrible Timmy lurking nearby they give him the boot.
Next stop, Set Design… where we can see Gene Ha and Emil Castenada putting together the set for the City of Neopolis from Top 10. Mr. Ha is rather stressed, and Timmy decides this might not be the nook of the building to linger in.
We are next introduced to Timmy’s favorite superhero, Tom Strong! Tom has his own dressing room, and is chatting up his gorilla pal, King Solomon. Tom immediately recognizes Timmy as “Strongmen of America Member #2059”, which is pretty cool.
Outside in casting, editorial is looking to fill the role of Cobweb for Tomorrow Stories. Timmy’s excited to report that he doesn’t think she has underwear.
Off to the garage, where Timmy meets up with un- er, subconscious artist Rick Veitch. He is going to be working on the Greyshirt feature in Tomorrow Stories. He reveals himself to be… well, rather banged and bandaged up. He’s been hard at work world building the gas-powered Indigo City… which has led to rather a few explosions! Tentative Timmy… slinks away.
Next, Timmy actually takes us on set… where Jack B. Quick is “filming” a scene from his Tomorrow Stories strip. This is a pretty fun bit… Jack delivers his lines perfectly, but they need to “redraw” the scene because the boom mic got into the shot. Then, an irritated Jack lights a cigarette and complains that he’s losing his motivation (and patience with director, Kevin Nowlan).
Then, the Sound Stage… where they’re hard at work “dubbing” an issue of Promethea. It’s another pretty fun scene… and the look on Timmy’s face is really something else.
Finally… a visit to the office of the man himself, Alan Moore. Timmy makes his way through the creepy door (with smoke pouring out from beneath it) to find… a couple of monks?! They appear to be praying to Alan Moore… which is pretty funny. They explain to Timmy that “The Perfected One” has moved to a plane beyond that of the material world. On the nose, but still pretty funny. Especially considering Alan Moore is actually writing this.
Terrified Timmy feigns that he hears his mom calling, and beats a hasty retreat. We wrap up our visit to the America’s Best Offices with (talkative) Timmy closing out his news report.
Another really fun “time capsule” type piece.
Ya know, I’ve heard a little bit of hooting and hollering online about DC deciding to bring some of these characters into the “mainstream” fold. I guess it’s cool to feel however you want… but I’m actually pretty excited about the idea. You know me, I’m a fan of the “everything matters” approach to comics. I feel like, the more the merrier. Whether it’s pulp heroes like Doc Savage in that FirstWave line a few years back, the Watchmen characters… or the ABC crew! Hell, even over at Marvel… I can’t say I’d be too torn up if they cross Miracleman over for a spell.
I think we’ve got some cool characters here, though I’ll concede many of them are completely new to me. Back around the turn of the century, my comics buying habits were… well, out of control. I was spending upwards of a hundred bucks… a week. I actually received a Christmas gift from my local shop one year, he told me I alone paid about four-months worth of his rent.
So, I had plenty of stuff (and crap) to read every week… and just didn’t have the time nor budget to fit in the America’s Best line. I picked up a handful here and there… and I’ve got a few Tom Strong trades… but that’s about it. I probably ought to prioritize them as a target in my cheap-o bin dives!
With all of that out of the way… the issue itself? Fun! It doesn’t really do much insofar as “previewing” the kind of stories we’re in store for, but it was a decent enough introduction to the “heavy hitters” of the line… at least visually. Some of the gags were a bit on the nose, but if nothing else, shows that Alan Moore has a sense of humor about how folks in (and out of) the biz might view him.
Ya know, of late I’ve really been diving into old comics news mags… Wizard, Amazing Heroes, Heroes Illustrated… even Diamond Previews! Just about anything I can get my hands on. While my motivations were initially podcast-research related, I couldn’t help but to get lost in them. A lot of folks (myself included) give Wizard a lot of crap for the way they delivered news… the way they depicted their audience… the way they’d repeatedly attempt to steer the marketplace… ya know, all that stuff.
But, then I think about the fun things they did. I think of the pack-ins like this (and skatey-eight hundred AOL discs) and realize that so much was lost in the industry shift to digital. Today this “issue” would almost certainly just be something on the DC Comics web-site. I feel like it loses something that way. It becomes “just another preview” or “just another news item” rather than something that is sitting in somebodies longbox just waiting to be rediscovered.
I feel like it being physical gives it a measure of “value”… it’s somewhat less “disposable”. The digital shift in entertainment, and the “blink and you miss it” world we live in now really doesn’t lend to little pieces of ephemera such as this. So, hey Wizard… Thanks!
Now… would I recommend tracking this down? Yeah maybe. It’s really fun… and I have come across it many times in my bin-trawls, so I know it’s out there. This story has been reprinted in America’s Best Comics Special (64-Page Special) #1 from 2001, so you might be better served grabbing it there. All’s I know is reading this made me add the ABC’s to my “looky list”.