23 April 2009

"Decade" by Various Writers and Artists

Decade - Celebrating Ten Years of Dark Horse Short Stories
Various Writers and Artists
Date of Publication: 15 April 1997
Cover Price: $12.95
112 pages

Dark Horse Comics emerged in the 1980s and did something remarkable--it became an independent publisher capable of competing with DC and Marvel.  What attracted so many comic creators to Dark Horse was its policy vis a vis creative control.  Unlike the other publishers, which retained ownership of any character or story element that appeared in any of its properties, Dark Horse left the works in the hands of their creators.  The company launched an ongoing anthology, Dark Horse Presents, as its means of getting stories out there.  A fan might pick up an issue to read what Mike Mignolia's "Hellboy" was all about and discover in the process Paul Chadwick's "Concrete" or Frank Miller's "Sin City."  Along the way, Dark Horse picked up several lucrative movie licenses: Aliens, Predator and Star Wars among them.

Decade collects a four-issue limited series of short stories produced to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the company.  Included are sixteen tales (a few might best be characterized as vignettes rather than short stories).  Creating short stories for an anthology is not easy to begin with, but when they're based on long-running storylines I suspect it becomes even harder.  How much information can the writer assume a reader will already know and how much will need to be worked into the handful of pages alloted to this story?  At what point does it become alienating for first time readers, and when is it so diluted that longtime readers will be bored?

Some work better than others.  The Predator story surprised me, because I had never seen any of the movies and yet I was easily able to follow what was going on; the Mask story surprised me, because it was far darker and more violent than the Jim Carrey movie.  Frank Miller's Sin City yarn, "Daddy's Little Girl," is a great introduction to that sordid world that requires absolutely no prior knowledge.  Matt Wagner's Grendel story, "The Devil's Week," is similarly self-contained.  The end begs the question who and what Grendel is, but that's what makes this so brilliant.  Were it the only Grendel story Wagner ever created, it would be the source of great debate and wonder; since there are others, though, it is an open invitation to new readers to find those tales and explore his work.

I might just do that.

The stories are:
Concrete: "World Beneath the Skin" - story and art by Paul Chadwick, lettering by Bill Spicer, coloring by Chris Chalenor
Black Cross - story and art by Chris Warner
Trekker: "Mercy Killing" - story and art by Ron Randall, lettering by Steve Dutro, coloring by Cary Porter
Godzilla: "The Origin of a Species" - story by Randy Stradley, pencils by Scott Kolins, inks by Dan Panosian, lettering by Clem Robins, coloring by Art Knight
Aliens: "Lucky" - story by Mark Verheiden, art by Mark A. Nelson, lettering by Willie Schubert, coloring by Chris Chalenor
Nexus: "All and Sundra" - story by Mark Baron, art and lettering by Steve Rude, coloring by Perry McNamee
The Mask: "Night of the Return of the Living Ipkiss...Kinda" - story by John Arcudi, art by Doug Mahnke, lettering by Clem Robins, coloring by Chris Chalenor
Martha Washington: "Attack of the Flesh-Eating Monsters" - story by Frank Miller, art by Dave Gibbons
Predator: "1718" - story by Henry Gilroy, art by Igor Kordey, lettering by Steve Dutro
Grendel: "The Devil's Week" - story and art by Matt Wagner
Sin City: "Daddy's Little Girl" - story, art and lettering by Frank Miller
Exon Depot - story and art by Masamune Shirow
Ghost: "Sweet Things" - story by Erik Luke, pencils by Scott Benefiel, inks by Jasen Rodriguez, lettering by Steve Haynie, coloring by Chris Chalenor

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