Author: Ed Catto

With Further Ado #101: Books for the Beach, Summer Reading

With Further Ado #101: Books for the Beach, Summer Reading

Although I’ve reverted back to being a “Lake Guy” rather than an “Ocean Guy”, after 25+ years sunning myself at the Jersey Shore, I still just love burying my nose in a book on the beach. What could be better?  Here’s a few of my recent favorites:

 

The Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta
By J. David Spurlock
Vanguard Press
Trade HC ISBN13: 9781934331811  $39.95 • 120 pgs
DX LE ISBN13: 9781934331828  $69.95 • 138 pgs plus slipcase

There’s something about paintings and summertime that seem to go together. Is it true that we have more time during the summer and can enjoy art more leisurely?  I always tell myself that. But then again, I always tell myself that an occasional dessert won’t ruin my diet.

Vanguard’s new Frazetta book presents his “greatest hits”, and a few rare ones, in a spectacular format.  They are big and bold, and writer J. David Spurlock provides a virtual cornucopia full of backstories and the behind-the-scenes tales.  It’s a great way for long-time fans to celebrate a favorite or for new fans to get to know a unique American artist.

Continue reading “With Further Ado #101: Books for the Beach, Summer Reading”

With Further Ado #100: 100th Smash Column

With Further Ado #100: 100th Smash Column

Do you think wedding anniversaries are big deal? Anniversaries for comics series are a big deal too!  Fans of a certain age were trained to expect a mandatory celebration when a series reached a certain numerical milestone, and usually the celebration was self-congratulatory, and promotional. And the fans would be soaked for a higher cover price too.

As a kid, I remember when my neighborhood pal George Riley proudly proclaimed he had a copy of the Batman #200 Smash Issue.  I was perplexed.  How could George, whose forte was always war comics, have this important Batman comic? And one that I didn’t have?  And just what was a Smash Issue anyways?

<Note: I still don’t know what a Smash Issue is.> Continue reading “With Further Ado #100: 100th Smash Column”

With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home

With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home

We all know that phrase: Go Big or Go Home!  It’s a clarion call to seize the day and to live large. It’s not always the best advice, but sometimes it’s just what’s needed.  So during this crazy lockdown time, let me call your attention to a few treasures that literally decided to “go big!” while we all stay home.

 

Joker/Harley Quinn Criminal Sanity
Written by Kami Garcia
Art by Mico Suayan and Mike Mayhew
Black Label, an imprint of DC Comics

While I’m generally not a big Harley Quinn fan, I’ve been a big Mike Mayhew fan ever since his days on Topps’ Zorro and Lady Rawhide with the incomparable Don McGregor.  Mayhew has gotten even better over the years, and today he entertains readers with his off-the-charts artistic talent in the new Joker/Harley Quinn series.

This story is a multi-part series told in thirty-two page increments in DC’s oversized Black Label format. To me, it has the feel of a European comic. Much of story is told in B & W , and that makes it so very, very  evocative of an old Warren or Marvel Magazine.

The “other artist” Mico Suayan, is just fantastic. I’ve enjoyed his work on Valliant’s Bloodshot. Suayan unfurls his artistic wings with majesty and grace in this larger-than-usual formal. Continue reading “With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home”

With Further Ado #94: Those Good Old Days… That We’re All Hating

With Further Ado #94: Those Good Old Days… That We’re All Hating

How much longer will this lockdown last?  The “snow day”-ness of it is getting old. I’m definitely ZOOMed out (even though I think these remote meetings are here to stay).  I can see the fatigue bubble up with debates about when to open up local economies for business. And I’ve also learned about the “epistemic dissidents” – those contrarians who choose to ignore established facts, and instead rely on fringe ideas and crackpot conspiracies.  If that sounds hard, it’s meant to be.  I am losing patience with these knuckleheads.

Recently, I pulled up to one local comic shop, Ithaca’s Comics For Collectors for some curbside comics.  Although the store is officially closed, I was invited in to browse a bit. I kind of felt like rock star who gets to shop privately when no one else is in the store.  Kudos to the owner who set it up so the experience was super- safe – social distancing, sanitizer, gloves and masks.  (Masks make sense for comic shops too, of course.)  I snagged the comics from my pull list, a few recent favorites, and even rescued some treasures from the bargain box.

It was a treat to get the VIP treatment from that store…but we’re all so tired of the pause. I don’t think I’ll ever fondly remember that private shopping trip.

There are other ways to support local stores. I’ve reached out to a few other retailers and purchased comics online or gift cards. I have been so impressed that in every case, these shops have sent me extra stuff with each order.  These acts of kindness, when the “other guy” is suffering, will not be soon forgotten.

Getting to Know the Publishers

During quarantine, I feel like I’m getting to know comics publishers better too. Continue reading “With Further Ado #94: Those Good Old Days… That We’re All Hating”

With Further Ado #93: Why the Industry Needs Paul Kupperberg’s How-To Book

With Further Ado #93: Why the Industry Needs Paul Kupperberg’s How-To Book

There’s this photo that’s posted on a museum website that makes the rounds on the internet from time to time. It shows a modest drafting table and a dingy chair in an unglamorous office.  It’s nothing fancy.  And at first glance, one might be inclined to think that the artist it belonged to would never create anything imaginative or enduring.  The space is so uninspiring. But it belonged to Jack Kirby. It’s almost hard to reconcile that so many brilliant ideas sprang from the imagination of one man, despite his meager studio.

But then you realize that all the fancy tools and studios don’t matter. It’s all about the personal creativity and the discipline of an individual.

That’s one of the reasons I am so enamored with this new book: Paul Kupperberg’s Illustrated Guide to Writing Comics. This one isn’t about the fancy tools needed to create. This is not a how-to about getting a fancy new software program, or even formatting scripts in one particular way. This new book gets to the heart of things and provides solid, useful guidance in memorable ways.

Paul Kupperberg is a long-time comics author, having written so many of my favorites.  I was excited to see him sharing his insights. After reading this book, I asked him about his fresh approach. Continue reading “With Further Ado #93: Why the Industry Needs Paul Kupperberg’s How-To Book”

With Further Ado #092: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 2)

With Further Ado #092: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 2)

Let’s start with a beer. Shall we?

In the old days, Miller Lite TV Commercials presented the world as one big party for adult men. The long-running, phenomenally successful marketing campaign featured retired sports stars laughing, drinking and teasing one another. It was kind of a secret fraternity that wasn’t so secret. Anyone could join, and all you needed was Lite beer. It was fun, playful and good natured.

Among all the sports stars, two decidedly non-sports celebrities stood out – comedian Rodney Dangerfield, enjoying a bombastic second act to his career, and mystery writer Mickey Spillane.

Mystery writer Mickey Spillane? Really? We think of celebrity fiction writers, and it’s hard to conjure up their image.  F. Scott Fitzgerald? James Patterson? What do they look like? I guess most of us know what Stephen King or J.K. Rowling look like. Maybe we all would recognize Hemingway or Truman Capote.  But America was drinking beer and kidding around with one particular writer. Mickey Spillane was in our living rooms –  during every commercial break – when we were watching sitcoms and ball games, for years and years. Continue reading “With Further Ado #092: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 2)”

With Further Ado #091: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 1)

With Further Ado #091: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 1)

I like a lot of detective heroes found in books, movies and TV shows. Part of the fun of an adventure with any of Philip Marlowe, Jim Rockford, Pete Fernandez, Spenser, or Myron Bolitar is that I think it would be fun to hang out with that guy.  Even the heroes who are a bit prickly, like Sherlock Holmes or Stumptown’s Dex Parios, would still be a riot to run around with for an adventure or two. They are all so likeable.

But I never used to like Mike Hammer, the toughest of the tough guy detectives.  I knew he was a big deal and his novels, written by Mickey Spillane, were successful. I would learn later that, at one point, Spillane was the world’s best-selling author, having written seven of the top ten best-selling novels. It turns out that it happened was when he had only written seven novels.

Yes, this guy Spillane was seven for seven. Incredible, right?

I think that, initially, the character Hammer was just too brutal for me. He gave the bad guys what they deserved, however gruesome.  He always “colored outside the lines” of both the legal system and good taste. Unlike that classical 1930s and 1940s detective who would walk down those mean streets like a modern day knight of the round table, adhering to a personal code of honor, Spillane’s Mike Hammer took it way over the edge.

But my perception changed when I started reading the “new” Mike Hammer novels.  After an incredible writing career, and second act in a long-lived Miller Lite advertising campaign, Mickey Spillane left behind a treasure trove of partially-finished stories, and story ideas, that he only trusted one man to finish – Max Allan Collins.

Max Allan Collins has emerged as one of the top mystery writers in his own right. He’s incredibly prolific, and it’s astounding that he never seems let his level quality slip; not in any of his novels (Nate Heller, Quarry), comics (Ms. Tree, Batman), adaptations (CSI, Criminal Minds) and comic strips (Dick Tracy, Batman.) You might also know he was the guy wrote the brilliant graphic novel, The Road To Perdition, which also became a movie starring Tom Hanks. Continue reading “With Further Ado #091: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 1)”

With Further Ado #090: Cayrels Ring

With Further Ado #090: Cayrels Ring

I’ve collaborated with Pete Carlsson a few times over the years, and every time he brings a high level of professionalism and “creative oomph” the party. So when he told me he was working on new project, Cayrels Ring for Wave Blue World, my reaction was “Spill it! I need to know all about what you are doing, Pete.”

Cayrels Ring started as a comic book by Shannon Lentz , that has now grown up to become a beautiful hardcover graphic novel.   This is a science fiction tale with a big, sprawling cast told in 17 chapters, each illustrated by a different artist. The multi-level epic develops and reveals the nuanced and enormous stories of the characters, described as “everyday people”,  by the author.   Surprisingly, Lentz , and his many artistic compatriots, are able to make the reader wonder about and, in some cases, care for the characters in a just a few pages.

Cayrels Ring refers to, on one hand, a group of planets – each with their own rich backstory and history. On the other hand, it seems to refer to the wide cast of characters. That makes this GN, and each of the three comics as they were originally published, an expansive shared universe. “The shared universe idea shined out for me,” said Lentz. He has especially fond memories of that cohesive universe of Valiant comics when they first burst onto the scene.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #090: Cayrels Ring”

With Further Ado #077: Descendent by Stephanie Phillips and Bornyakov

With Further Ado #077: Descendent by Stephanie Phillips and Bornyakov

Aftershock is on a roll. They are publishing so many top-notch series.  While there’s no uniform house style or shared universe, they have definitely carved out their own niche. Aftershock titles tend to be a little more adult, a little more edgy. There’s a thriller aspect to many of the series, often mixed in with a sense of dread and of foreboding.

I just read a Ray Bradbury short story, The Playground, this weekend. It had been years since I read Bradbury, and I kind of forgot how much I enjoyed his work.  It’s a bit of a stretch, but one could argue that many of the Aftershock series have Bradbury baked into their DNA.

Descendent by Stephanie Phillips is another winner, but I might argue it owes more to Brad Meltzer than to Bradbury.  Comics fans might remember him from his DC work on Identity Crisis a few years ago, but the rest of the world knows him as a thriller author.  My favorite books of his entwine a mix of political intrigue and unsolved mysteries.

(There’s a bit of Harlan Coben in this comic too -and that’s high praise indeed from me. I think Coben is just fantastic.)

Descendent tells of a sinister conspiracy, dating back to the Lindbergh kidnapping, and then reveals a tale that is even creepier and more complicated.  The gradual peeling of the onion follows the characters  as they get in deeper and deeper. And as the reader, we’re always either just one step ahead or one step behind.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #077: Descendent by Stephanie Phillips and Bornyakov”

With Further Ado #076: Comics in Vogue – Literally

With Further Ado #076: Comics in Vogue – Literally

It’s so nice to see some comics popping up in unusual places.

The Italian edition of the fashion magazine, Vogue, features the work of a comic artist on its latest cover instead of the traditional photograph of a model or celebrity.  This January they have several variant covers, and one features a wonderful Milo Manara illustration. (Don’t worry, it’s G-rated.)

Milo Manara may be better known overseas than domestically, but he’s still a giant in the comics industry. Many of his works are a bit risqué for most Americans, but there’s no denying that he’s a fantastic illustrator and excels at drawing beautiful women.  This cover is another stunner.  Kudos to Vogue for also giving credit to his model, Olivia Vinton.

One could argue that Vogue borrowed this idea from Marvel, as they featured several Manara covers a few years ago. Infamously, his Spider-Woman cover was deemed too provocative by some folks.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #076: Comics in Vogue – Literally”