In Ithaca NY, there’s a “famous” twice-a-year used book sale. The Friends of Thompkins Library convince local book lovers to donate about a zillion books and then sell them to other book lovers for peanuts. This generates revenues for the library because there’s an incredible volume of books, magazines, comics and calendars that change hands. A guy like me, who loves old mysteries, men’s adventure paperbacks and comic-related books can always stumble across treasures at this sale for just a buck or two.
They are always treasures to be found in “them thar hills”.
The Great Book
This year, I snagged one of the quintessential comics- related books: The Great Comic Book Heroes by Jules Feiffer. Before trade paperbacks, Marvel Essentials, Masterworks, DC Archives or omnibus editions were ever a thing – this book was it. And by “it” I mean that essentially this book was the only one that collected old comic stories in a hardcover format. That’s not technically true, but it sure seemed like that.
As a young kid, once in a while my mom would take us to one of the first indoor malls in the area. It was called Fairmount Fair but to an expert shopper like my mom, it was Shangri-La and Nirvana rolled-into one. This shopping mecca was such an important place back then that my brother and I had to get “dressed up” to go. No jeans and sneakers to for this mall trip; we had to wear Sunday “church clothes”. Nice pants and nice shoes. And yes, I know how nutty that sounds today.
On these trips, I’d beg my mom to let me wander around the mall’s bookstore. You see, they had a copy of Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes. Back then, it had some exorbitant price tag, like 14.95. One simply didn’t squander a huge amount of money like that on a silly book about comics. On every trip to Fairmont Fair Mall, I’d spend as much time as possible in the bookstore and read a little more of this wonderful book. I knew right where it was on the shelf, and thankfully, no one else in the area was eager to buy it either.
When I spotted this epic tome on sale in at the Ithaca used book sale, I felt like the tip of my mining shovel struck gold. The dust jacket was long gone, but what do you want for a buck?
Missed It By That Much
One book that I didn’t get, and I’m sorry I didn’t, was that more recent Petrograd. It’s a historical thriller set in Russia by Philip Gelatt and Tyler Crook. ONI Press published it in 2011. Coincidentally, I had just borrowed it from my local library (they have an awesome Graphic Novel section). I really enjoyed it and I do believe my bookshelf would have be enriched by a copy of Petrograd on it. What was I thinking? Why didn’t I buy it? I’m still regretful.
Don’t make the same mistake I did. You might want to look for Petrograd at your local comic shop or library.
Burne Hogarth is one of those comic artists who literally “who wrote the book on it”. He wrote several books in fact, including Dynamic Figure Drawing, Drawing Dynamic Hands and, my favorite, Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery. His chapter on rendering compression wrinkles is worth the price of admission.
Not only did this artist draw and write books, but he also taught. He started a school for illustration. It would soon change names and is now known as the School of Visual Arts (SVA).
Despite these incredible accomplishments, I still like his Tarzan illustrations best. He was the artist for the Tarzan newspaper strip for years. He was recruited after the original artist, Hal Foster, left to start Prince Valiant.
I didn’t grow up with Hogarth’s Tarzan Sunday funnies, but I did grow up with his “graphic novel”, Tarzan of the Apes. Based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs origin story, this hardcover, published by Watson Guptill, felt like it was so far beyond an ordinary comic. There are no word balloons (ala Prince Valiant) and the Hogarth’s art within is masterfully lush and detailed.
There’s an inscription that reads “To Jim Whiting – With Warm Personal Regards, Burne Hogarth Aug 1989“. In fact, there’s also a stamp on the book that reads “Jim Whiting, Watkins Glen/New York 14891”. It turns out Whiting was a prolific illustrator in his own right. Watkins Glen is near Ithaca, although I have no idea how his personal copy ended up on the Ithaca Book Sale.
And it gets better. There’s also a pamphlet that looks like it was from a dedication ceremony for Hogarth in 1997. (He died in 1996.) I assume that Whiting attended the ceremony, and then tucked away the pamphlet for a future fan to find. Bingo! This Tarzan of the Apes is a treasure. Let me shout-out a “thank you’ to that big drafting studio in the sky and to Jim Whiting.