win her reputation back. Every superhero
who has anything to do with a current
version of the Justice League (including
yet another version of Shazam that misses
the mark) becomes involved in the confused scuffle. All the expected tropes are
there—Superman’s goodness, Batman’s
hauntedness, Wonder Woman’s nobility—masquerading as depth. A surprise
ending—the best part of the book—
eventually ties things up, but leaves on a cliff-hanger to drive sales to the follow-up
miniseries. Readers who like cameo-driv-en epics will best appreciate this. (Mar.)
Henry Speaks for Himself
John Liney. Fantagraphics, $24.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-160699733-8
Henry is known now, if he is known at
all, as a bubble-headed boy who never
speaks—in his best-known version, he’s
even drawn without a mouth design. The
original Henry was created by Carl Anderson; however, the cartoonist who
brought Henry through his most popular
period in the late 1940s was John Liney,
an unsung comics genius. This book collects the best of Liney’s Henry tales from
1946 to 1961. In these comics, the famously silent Henry speaks aloud—
raging at his nemeses, pulling tricks, and
even rhyming his way through an entire
feature. The comics are beautifully reproduced, while still retaining the cheap,
disposable feel of a 1950s children’s strip.
The stories are well selected, with many
highlights—such as one where various
characters relate their weird and hilarious
dreams, and another selection in which
Henry returns to the Stone Age on the eve
of a history test and learns more than he
ever would have in school. The drawing
style is lively and active, with a whole
town full of rubbery-looking characters
popping up at unexpected moments to
contribute to the madcap capers and gags.
Mostly this book is a charming and nostalgic adventure, a fond look at a lost cartooning talent. (Mar.)
You’ve done comics before, but why do
this project as a graphic novel?
What I love about comics is that
they’re a great way to tell a visual story
without having to worry about the economics of Hollywood.
How did this graphic novel come together?
Random House asked if I
had another project I wanted to do, and I said I’d love
to turn this script I have
into a graphic novel. Initially this was a movie script
that I started in the late ’90s
at the time TNT had done
The Tuskegee Airmen, the
original Tuskegee airmen
film with Cuba Gooding
and Malcolm-Jamal Warner. So I wrote a script, took a couple
years, did the research, and brought it
in. TNT said no. Everybody else said
no. I was about to shove it in a drawer.
I had one last meeting that changed
everything for me—with Lavar Burton.
He said, don’t give up on this. He said
there’s a lot of Harlem Hellfighter
scripts making the rounds in Hollywood now, but yours comes closest to
the truth. That was the best compliment I could have ever gotten.
It’s hard to believe this story hasn’t already been made into a movie.
When men and women go off to war,
one of the things that keeps them sane
is knowing that they’ve got their whole
country behind them. So to have to risk
their lives in the trenches, not only
knowing that the country doesn’t have
their backs but that it is actively trying
to sabotage them... When you add all
the pieces up, it’s scary mosaic. It’s why
I wanted to write this. Look at their
combat record: 191 days in combat,
longer than any other American unit;
first American unit to reach the Rhine;
never lost a trench; never
lost a man to capture;
whole unit wins the Croix
de guerre. If this had been a
white unit, there would
have been a movie made
about them in the 1940s.
What about the ending?
The story of the 369th is
both a great tragedy and a
I struggled with the ending. I realized I wanted to say that this
was just the beginning of the fight
[against racism] as opposed to the end.
As a character in the book says, “I’d
like to say we changed the world, but
the truth is we came home to the Red
summer of 1919, the worst racial violence this country has ever seen.” The
369th moved the ball forward, but
they took one step in a very long road. I
know that’s not an ending that Americans like. They did have that one triumphant moment [the parade they got
on returning]. I wanted to focus on the
parade because that was something
they were denied and they got their parade. For that moment, everybody
came out and that was great.
PW Talks with Max Brooks
Fighting Racism at Home and
Brooks’s graphic novel The Harlem Hellfighters (Reviews, Jan. 13; pub
month, Apr.) documents the suffering and courage of African-Ameri-
can troops in the Army’s legendary 369th Infantry Regiment of Har-
lem, N.Y.—from the vicious, degrading treatment they received in
training to the horrors they faced in the trenches of WWI.