Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bargain Bin Review: AV in 3D!


This week I'm reviewing something a bit more fun, courtesy of the ten cent pile at one of my local junk stores. From that now far-away world of 1980s black-and-white comic book publishing, I present AV in 3D #1.

There was a resurgence of interest in analogue 3-D in the mid-80s, with many small press comic book titles jumping on the bandwagon. Ray Zone became the go-to guy for overseeing the separation process needed for the blue-and-red goggles to work effectively. Unfortunately, aged pulpy comic book paper doesn't hold the true tones over the years. Outside of viewing the pages under direct summer sunlight, the best way of experiencing the 3-D here is to scan the artwork and adjust the color in the computer. This isn't a knock against the original work put into the comics, but a friendly word of warning to my fellow scroungers of old paper.

It's also a little sad to see the proud list of distributors listed inside the front cover. This vibrant, competitive world of specialty distribution would soon come to an end with a serious of terrible business decisions leading to a lock on the industry by Diamond Comics.

Anyway, on to the comics. These are all four-page short pieces meant to introduce the reader to the titles published by Aardvark-Vanahein in 1984. These are all creator-owned, and per Dave Sim's philosophy, non-edited. And, of course, all 3-D separations are by Ray Zone.

First up is a Ms. Tree four-pager by Max Collins and Terry Beatty.  Collins is now best-known for writing Road to Perdition, and has had a long career of writing hard-boiled crime stories. This is lighter fare, opening with a half-panel shot of the titular character trying on a bathing suit. Terry Beatty isn't the only artist using the 3-D effect for cheesecake purposes, but this is the only story that seems to feel a little guilty about it. The story itself is a fairly standard catch-a-crook tale involving a movie theater hosting a 3-D film festival. Not great, but not terrible.

Next up is a Flaming Carrot short by Bob Burden. Burden's rough art style and wonderful imagination are one of the delights of the 80s. Here, for no particular reason, giant moons invade the Carrot's Dogpatch-ish world and kidnap Sponge Boy. This is the essence of super-hero comics, boiled down to a series of events that hover on the edge of surrealism. The 3-D just makes it all weirder.

After that we get a normalman snippet from Jim Valentino. Here, we're getting into the realm of cartoon-y parody where people are hyper-muscular or hyper-curvy. Not really a story, this is more of an introduction to the concept of a comic-book nerd living in a world where everyone else is a super-hero. And another opportunity to provide the reader with 3-D cheesecake, which was probably more impressive in the pre-internet and anti-sex 80s.

Bill Messner-Leobs uses his few pages to give us a beautiful Journey interlude. He uses the 3-D process to enhance the feeling of being in a forest, with leaves falling outside the panels and birds flying overhead. The story involves a pair of tribal brothers who are looking for the source of some purloined maize and run into a crazed European settler looking for revenge. A nice change of pace from the usual in-yer-face action required by the format.

We also get a Neil the Horse story from Arn Saba. This is a retro-cartoony piece in which various comic-book characters are on the run from the funny animal police. They jump in and out of each other's books, breaking the fourth wall over and over again, 3-D style. A clever and cute use of the short amount of space provided.

The last story is an interesting failure from Dave Sim (and I'm assuming the ever-talented Gerhard, who isn't credited). It appears to be a few pages from a larger dream sequence in the regular Cerebus title. The aardvark flies around and through windows for a few pages. It doesn't really work as a stand-alone piece and doesn't give us any intro information. There's a big egotistical assumption here that everyone already reads Cerebus, which is a bad decision to make in a publisher's sampler. But, Sim's the boss and there are no editors, so in the end all one can say is caveat emptor.

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