Buzz Buzz Comics Magazine - 1996

I think it was probably pure ignorance on my part that it took so long for these three oversized, 9 1/2x13" books by Paul Pope to be included here. It's not because I was unaware of Pope's work--just the opposite.

Ever since I came across a copy of book of his called Escapo and was blown away by his artwork, I've been a fan of his--I haven't always grokked what the stories were about (or even what was happening at any given point), but the sheer beauty and grace of his artwork kept me interested throughout his various projects.

I knew Pope had done work in a lot of different formats, and even though these books were listed on David Pass' Treasury Comics Index, I somehow didn't think they fit the (admittedly arbitrary) criteria I set for the site (i.e., no books smaller than 10x13", the most "standard" treasury/tabloid-comic size). Then I found a copy of this one on ebay, and the measurements were listed as above, and I realized I'd been wrong all along!

I quickly found copies of all three of these Pope-riffic oversized books, and I'm so glad I get to add them to the site. In addition to his artistic talent, Pope knows the art of presentation, of showmanship. He wanted these particular works to be exciting, or as Pope puts it--"The oversized format is a vehicle, like choosing to paint with a specific color palette. The Giant THB I saw in my vision was sexy, so it had to be big, huge even, because it somehow makes sense that sexy comics would be large, larger than normal comics and thus larger than life."

Couldn't have said it better myself!

Buzz Buzz Comics Magazine, as its omnibus title would suggest, is less a Pope-a-thon than a selection of material by different creators with Pope as the driving editorial voice. On the inside covers are a number of sort-of trading cards featuring Pope characters (rollover the image to see the cards from the inside front cover), and in the opening pages are a series of articles including a tribute to the recently-passed Hugo Pratt.

The first story is by Moebius called "Les Souveniers" and features a guy carrying a arms, legless, scantily-clad woman in some bombed-out post-apocalyptic landscape. Its all in French, leaving me in the dust. Sure is pretty to look at, though.

Next is Pope's "Smoke Navigator", the title for a series of stories, the first one called "Clove Cigarettes", about a particularly entracing woman and her hold on the narrarator(we've all been there, right?). Next is "Downtown", about a guy visiting his mysterious Uncle Walt and a trio of teenage girls tell a sad story about him.

The next feature is an interesting three-way interview about The State of Comics between Pope, Jeff Smith, and Steve Bissette. It's lively and informed, and they have their own interesting perspective on working in comics.

"Super Gag Comics" is a jam piece between Pope and Jay Stephens, were each of their characters face off in a boxing ring. Crazy hilarity ensues. The final piece, "Pistachio" features Pope dabbling in some numerology, complete with a cameo by the Count from Sesame Street. It's that kind of book.

Giant THB Parade - 1996

This book consists of three longish features, the first being "Canyon Kids" which is not by Pope but by writer/artist Jay Stephens. I have to say the story eluded me entirely, but it was nice to look at.

The first Pope story is "Escapo" the story of a lovesick escape artist. Pope's stories seem to exist in some of hodge-podge of eras--the circus seems like something out of the Dust Bowl, but yet the clothing and props the circus uses are vaguely futuristic. Escapo's sad infatuation with a trapeze artist has a heartbreakingly bittersweet ending.

The second story is much more silly and fanciful--"THB vs RHM" which is I guess what a Hulk vs. Thing comic would look like if written and drawn by Pope. Three girls sit around debating which of their--well, I'll tell you, I'm not exactly sure what these things are, or what the girls' relationship is to them--of their creatures (named THB and RHM) can defeat the other. It leads to a battle of wills as well as muscle, with an ending out of an Archie comic...and Archie comic, of course, written and drawn by Paul Pope.

Pope's work, as usual, is fluid as hell and dynamic, and his great use of black and white work so well at this big and, yes, sexy--size. In another universe, Pope is the Julius Schwartz of a whole line of comics aimed at teenagers and young adults, bringing his smart and hip sensibility to a new generation of comics fans.

And, of course, he'd publish treasury editions, too.

Rollover the image to see this book's back cover!

THB Circus - 1998

At treasury size and 132 pages, this book has the heft of your average piece of sheet rock. It's definitely a progression of Pope's ambitons, in terms of storytelling and presentation. It opens with a six-page(!) dissertation on his working habits and life as an artist("you must learn to love this. it's your lot, your wife, your price.").

Following that is a whole series of stories, some previously reprinted from other works of Pope, like "The Hidden Face" which is a a story set in this THB world. Featuring these creepy authoritarian bug-like bad guys, the story manages to be funny in displaying their sheer stupidity (people of authority, being hopelessly incompetent? naaaah).

There's another one, called "Happy Birthday", all about a girl's fervent goal to deliver a birthday cake for her friend's party, even though this is a story by Paul Pope and all sorts of chaos is popping. There's a great sequence where the girl, named HR, runs afoul of a wild elephant (see?). The first appearance of the elepahnt is done in a full-page shot, and at the treasury-size it really adds some oomph to the reveal.

There's also some one-page strips, some pin-ups (one a front and back of the same person), and even a glossary of terms at use in the THB world. Like I said, this book is all-Pope, from beginning to end. The approach is maybe just a wee bit self-conciously "cool", but Pope is undoubtedly got his muse, and he's found a way to follow it via comics.

Rollover the image to see this book's back cover!

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