The Return of 1963: Tales Of The Uncanny

Posted by on April 17th, 2010 at 5:11 AM

Rob takes a look at the preview edition of TALES OF THE UNCANNY, edited by Steve Bissette and Tim Stout.

Imagine my surprise at the MoCCA art festival when one of the Center for Cartoon Studies tables had a new comic from Steve Bissette–and it was some kind of continuation of the never-completed 1963 project. 1963 was one of Alan Moore’s first retro comics, a loving and frequently irreverent pastiche of Marvel comics, circa 1963. Steve Bissette and Rick Veitch were the artists and co-creators for this series that never actually reached its conclusion.  There were some years spent trying to find a way to satisfy all parties, but that never came to fruition.  The characters were split up between creators, and Bissette inherited N-Man, Hypernaut and the Fury.

Unbeknownst to all but a few, Bissette, who had declared himself retired from comics before becoming a member of the faculty at CCS, quietly started working on new stories featuring these characters.  The preview edition available at MoCCA had features that were very much out of Moore’s playbook (by way of Michael Chabon) in that they posited the existence of a comic book company called Naut Comics.  This comic had excerpts from various “historical articles” about Naut, including spins through the company’s good-girl art period, their Serious 70s period, and their grim 80s comics.

There are even features about an imaginary Naut fanzine, a raunchy National Lampoon-style joke about N-Man (a Hulk-like character who is a sort of mutated lobster-man), and even a Fred Hembeck cartoon.  A regular CCS assignment has its students create a Golden Age-style comic in full color, based on a particular theme (western, romance, super-hero, etc).  There’s a sense in which this project is as much a textbook exercise as it is a bit of fun, because it’s clear that Bissette is indulging his love of the medium as much as he is taking his characters out for a spin.

Indeed, the preview was light on actual comics and heavy on conceptual humor.  The eventual 200 page book (published by Bissette’s own Spider Baby Grafix and Nat Gertler’s About Comics) will apparently be heavy with contributions from CCS students past and present, making it sort of the ultimate CCS anthology assignment.  The 1963 characters were my favorite of Moore’s pastiche characters, in large part because of the uncanny style mimicry of Bissette and Veitch. Bissette certainly has a lot of enthusiasm and a clear commitment to the project, and reviving long-dormant characters will at least draw a bit of attention. There’s a lot of potential for interesting storytelling at play here, especially given that CCS students that aren’t necessarily the sort who normally dip into doing superhero comics.  I’ll be curious to see how this project comes together, and if it can become more than just a fun, self-indulgent exercise.

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One Response to “The Return of 1963: Tales Of The Uncanny

  1. […] Review on The Comics Journal 04/19/2010 timstout Leave a comment Go to comments Rob Clough reviewed the preview edition of TALES OF THE UNCANNY on The Comics […]