The history of comics is full of characters and series that ended up being canceled and forgotten. Collectability brought some of those forgotten gems back into the collective consciousness, but many are still lost to us. After WWII, lots of superhero books were cancelled, with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman being the only ones to make it through the ’40s and ’50s. The Not Forgotten Anthology brings back some of those lost pulp heroes and gives them a fresh look for the modern day.
Not all of these stories tell modernized tales of the old adventures. The Veiled Avenger story by Matt Harvey and Sinclair Klugarsh features the hero as a patient in a nursing home suffering from dementia. The “Unfathomable Adventures of Barry Kuda” by Kevin Buckley features the hero patiently waiting in line at the underwater DMV while being harassed by a fan also in line. Some stories are origin stories. Others are heroes coming out of retirement or revealing why they haven’t been active in all this time. In a few of these tales, the hero or heroine is a person of color or LGBTQ character instead of just another white, cis hero.
The art for each story in Not Forgotten is unique. Some feature your standard pulp action sequences. Others would feel right at home as a KaBOOM! or BOOM! Box title. “Terena of the Tundra” by Ashley Robinson and Morgan Beem tells the story about a girl raised by wolves in the Canadian Wilderness. Similar to Canadian comics produced during WWII, this story is told only using black, white, and red art, and it’s completely wordless. I am always impressed when artists can tell a story without any captions or dialogue. Not all the art delivered, though. The artwork in the Veiled Avenger story didn’t follow traditional panel layouts and was difficult to follow at times. And, while the watercolor art by Klugarsh was beautiful, it wasn’t always easy to see what was happening. However, it could have been a stylistic choice so as to intentionally make it difficult for the reader to see what was reality and what was the Avengers’s dementia.
One of my favorite stories in Not Forgotten was the bonus story featuring Barry Kuda. It was told like a classic sword and sorcery tale. I could see a crossover happening between Barry Kuda and characters like John Carter of Mars or Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja. It felt like a fully developed world that made me want to read more. At the same time, however, there were some less-than-desirable parts that seemed rooted in the ’70s. The sole woman in the story was scantily clad, swooning over the hero, and in need of saving. There were no people of color other than the teal-colored mermen, and the “midgets” (as they were called) were the villains.
Overall, The Not Forgotten Anthology is a reminder of the history of comics and the origins of the industry. Comics offer a unique space to play with the same toys that someone else created, and it’s fun to see different artists and writers reboot these public domain heroes.