Shiny Shelf

Wednesday Comics

By Mark Clapham on 05 November 2009

I’m unsure whether ‘less than the sum of it’s parts’ is the right cliche to use, but ‘Wednesday Comics’ somehow managed to have excellent elements while never quite working as a comic.

Like editor Mark Chiarello’s previous labour of love, ‘Solo’, ‘Wednesday Comics’ is a joy to look at – a large size, newsprint comic that folds down to normal US comic size. As an art showcase, it’s lovely to flick through, although it should probably win next year’s Eisner for Comic Most Likely To Get Large Tears In It.

At its best, with Gibbons and Sook’s ‘Prince Valiant’ inspired take on ‘Kamandi’, Paul Pope’s exotic ‘Adam Strange’ or (and this is my personal favourite) Kyle Baker’s deadpanly absurd ‘Hawkman’ (which starts as a very serious terrorist hijack story, then goes to lots of bonkers places while still maintaining an absolute poker face), individual stories shine out, and justify the project purely because it allowed such oddities to exist.

But while the large page format certainly shows off the art in lavish fashion, even with the best of the strips here I don’t honestly see the page-a-week format as intrinsically the best way of reading them, especially as an anthology. Reading an issue feels like watching scenes from an evening of TV programmes compiled into an hour – three minutes of ‘Lost’, then a news story, then three minutes of ‘30 Rock’, then three minutes of ‘Law and Order’… you get the idea.

There’s diversity, and then there’s incoherence, and ‘Wednesday Comics’ veers towards the latter. Larger chunks of fewer stories might have helped for a more coherent read (although that would be raising the dread spectre of ‘Action Comics Weekly’, so maybe not).

There’s also a weird split in the book between strips which make a case for themselves – none of the three strips I’ve mentioned are A-list properties, but the creators all execute them wonderfully – and the worst kind of lazy internalised DCU thinking, where fannish sentimentality if reiterated rather than backed up within the stories.

The ‘Teen Titans’ strip, for instance, is based on the idea that we care about the Titans in their own right, and will be wowed by the minutae of their own little backwater. That’s a fine card to play in the pages of an ongoing title with a dedicated audience, but for a mixed readership flicking through an anthology you really need to justify why anyone would be impressed by a no-mark C-stringer like Nightwing, not just take if for granted that he’s, like, WOW and stuff.

Honourable Failure points go to Ben Caldwell for ‘Wonder Woman’, in which he tries to pack a revised origin of the character and a whole new narrative with distinct episodes into pages so packed and stylised that they’re completely incomprehensible. I like what he’s trying to do, I admire the ambition, but sadly the end result is a migraine-inducing mass of weird camera angles (is that a leg? a shoulder?) and tiny text.

There’s a lot of good stuff in ‘Wednesday Comics’, and it’s worth picking up for the aforementioned highlights as well as another Azzarello/Risso ‘Batman’ crime story, the larky ‘Metamorpho’ and an inventive ‘Flash’, amongst others. The forthcoming collection is definitely going to be worth getting to have the best of the strips on more solid paper stock, and pulled together as stories, even with a hefty $50 price tag.

However, as a storytelling vehicle I have to conclude that the page-a-week format of ‘Wednesday Comics’ is a failure – with fifteen strips of varying quality serialised, not one of them felt like it wouldn’t be better served by more pages at a time, even if that meant less-frequent publication.

‘Wednesday Comics’ was a beautiful product and a worthwhile experiment – just not a good comic, in this form at least.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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