Category: Books

With Further Ado #216: See You at San Diego – A Review

With Further Ado #216: See You at San Diego – A Review

This weekend a Central New York comics show promoter, Teddy Hanes restarted his long-running Syracuse Comic Con series. It had been about two years since the last one. Hosting comic artists like Joe Jusko and Luke McDonnell as professional guests made it great fun for all, but I think that the fans and dealers were even more excited to just see each other and search for treasures in long boxes. There were so many smiles and so much laughter; it was lovely to get this convention “back on its feet” and for folks to gather amongst their tribe again.

The smiles, laughter and comradery of geek culture and conventions comes through loud and clear in Mathew Klickstein’s new book: See You At San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture. It was just published by Fantagraphics, and it’s a treasure too. This oral history is about the size of a phone book (anyone remember what those were?), and it’s packed full of stories and photos telling the birth, and perhaps adolescence, of the San Diego Comic-Con. (Now also called Comic-Con International).

Mat Klickstein spins his tale using the oral history format. This allows the folks who were there from the beginning to share their memories of it all. It’s great fun, and although the format is new to me (I did just interview author Ed Gross about his excellent Star Trek oral history here), I just love it. It’s kind of like reading, instead of watching, a documentary. Continue reading “With Further Ado #216: See You at San Diego – A Review”

With Further Ado #215: A Tale of Three Treasures

With Further Ado #215: A Tale of Three Treasures

This past weekend we spent some time on the south end of Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes region of Western New York. We were just north of the town of Hammondsport, which is almost famous for the nation’s fourth oldest winery and as the hometown of Glenn R. Curtiss, the guy who actually flew before the Wright Brothers. As the story goes, the Wright Brothers got the patent first, and all the fame too.  (More info available at the Curtiss Museum.)

When were there, we spent most of our time listening to live music and visiting a few entrepreneurial start-ups. If you were to guess they were mostly wineries and craft breweries, you wouldn’t be wrong.

We visited some antiques shops too. (Don’t you dare call them junk shops.)  And I found some wonderful comic books, and comic-adjacent treasures.

There’s a certain charm to the last issue of a comic, especially when the creators realize the party is almost over. Charlton’s The Partridge Family #21 (Nov 1973) is a perfect example.

The Partridge Family was an early 1970s TV series about a single mom and the musical act that she and her kids created.  From my pre-teenage point of view back then, it was kind of like a slightly hipper version of the Brady Bunch. And like that show, it was on every Friday night.  As a kid, I was a bit interested in Laurie Partridge, played by Susan Dey. As an adult, it’s the mother who’s the most interesting of the bunch.  How did I ever get so old?

Anyways, I picked up a nice copy of The Partridge Family #21, the final issue of the series, for just $6 bucks. I was initially drawn to it because the cover artist, Don Sherwood, captured the actors’ likenesses pretty well.

But the surprising part is that just about the whole comic is a series of full-page portraits. Don Sherwood, bless his heart, draws portraits and a few girls in bikinis for the beach scene, and the Partridge Family’s version of their Batmoblie, an old school bus repainted to transport their musical equipment.  I don’t think there was ever a comic, even the most bombastic 70s Kirby issue, that had so many splash pages!

There is such an emphasis on drawing faces that stories leave out things like “the rationale” and “the end”. One story is clearly missing pages. But in the end, who cared? I gather this was meant to be a fan magazine so that young fans could cut out the pictures. Continue reading “With Further Ado #215: A Tale of Three Treasures”

With Further Ado # 214: Kill Me If You Can – Spillane & Collins Celebrate Mike Hammer’s 75th Anniversary

With Further Ado # 214: Kill Me If You Can – Spillane & Collins Celebrate Mike Hammer’s 75th Anniversary

Every once in a while, I check in to see what Mike Hammer is up to. It’s always so freeing to live vicariously through him. The fictional detective, celebrating his 75th anniversary in print, never worries about being politically correct or resolving differences in a genteel manner.

No, Mike Hammer is all about the opposite of all that. He’s about violent solutions and getting even and snarky jokes. It’s what originally made him a publishing sensation. In fact, author Mickey Spillane has sold over 225 million books internationally. It has made him so popular that he’s spawned so many literary descendants, like James Bond, for instance.

Max Allan Collins (one of my favorite mystery writers) is one of those guys who met his hero…and not only got along with him, but was asked to carry the torch. Collins has told the story many times how he met the larger-than-life author Spillane, and eventually developed a friendship and professional respect. Today, Collins collaborates with the deceased author by building upon the unfished stories and notes left by Spillane to create new books. Continue reading “With Further Ado # 214: Kill Me If You Can – Spillane & Collins Celebrate Mike Hammer’s 75th Anniversary”

With Further Ado #213: Leave Your Ego at the Door: Drawing From Photos

With Further Ado #213: Leave Your Ego at the Door: Drawing From Photos

Drawing from live models is a fantastic experience. There’s something about the sense of community and living in the moment.

When I was working in New York, I’d love to go the Society of Illustrators for their live model drawing sessions. The bar would be open, and then have a jazz quartet would be playing. Now that was the way to sketch models, let me tell you. It looks like they still do it, in fact!

And let’s face it, when models are in dramatic poses, even the best ones tend to droop and relax a bit after a while. There are real downsides to drawing from real life.

Today, so many artists find themselves working from photos of models instead of live models. And that’s where this wonderful new book from Korero Press comes in. Drawing from Photos is a masterpiece from fantasy illustrator Patrick J. Jones. If you’re not familiar with this amazing artist’s work, that’s a shame. But for regular readers of this column, I can assure you he’s “one of us”. In the forward, Jones talks about his influences of folks like John Buscema and Alex Raymond. He talks about his favorite cover artists – folks like Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, and James Bama. Continue reading “With Further Ado #213: Leave Your Ego at the Door: Drawing From Photos”

With Further Ado #205: Summertime Highlights

With Further Ado #205: Summertime Highlights

Hey, I know you’re rushing off to the beach, or trying to get out of work a little early today. So, this week is just a highlight reel of some cool things:

I also just received the 2022 Steve Rude Sketchbook. WOW!  It was part of his most recent Kickstarter. I miss the days of seeing Steve and his wife at San Diego Comic-Con and buying a sketchbook during the annual pilgrimage. But you know what, getting anything from Steve Rude in the mail is always cause for rejoicing! He’s got all sorts of things on his website and his next Kickstarter starts on July 14th .

Shelly Bond (did you know she’s a proud Ithaca College graduate?) has a fabulous new book out called Filth and Grammar: The Comic Book Editor’s Secret Handbook.

It’s kind of a how-to-edit comics, but I think it’s a “new must” for every creator looking to break in. The Kickstarter was looking to raise $20,000 and it overdelivered with over $85,000. Pretty impressive, right?  You can still purchase this one on her site here.

I rescued a few paperbacks from my friends at Wonderland Comics in Rochester. It’s a great little comic shop that always seems to have some lost treasures out for sale.  This loot was just great:

I found four Flash Gordon paperbacks. These tell the prose version from Alex Raymond’s wonderful strip. You might think that Flash Gordon without the art is kind of pointless, but ever since I read the Avon paperback version of The Lion Men of Mongo (when I was a sixth grader), I’ve been hooked. Most of the adaptations were written by Ron Goulart and with wonderful George Wilson covers. Continue reading “With Further Ado #205: Summertime Highlights”

With Further Ado #193: Book Review – The Set-Up

With Further Ado #193: Book Review – The Set-Up

If you like boxing and old film noirs, you might know the movie The Set-Up. Directed by Robert Wise, it’s an impactful film about struggle, grittiness and aging all wrapped up in the knowledge you are just “one punch away from being the champion.”

This book isn’t exactly like that.

As it turns out, the story’s original writer hated the film version. Author Joseph Moncure March was a New Yorker born into wealth. He worked hard to understand, and write about, the “real” world and the common man. He is best known for his earlier work, The Wild Party. This story, first published in 1928, is told as a long poem. It is about a black fighter’s battles in and out of the ring.

The author described it as “the story of a Negro fighter who has already been defeated by race prejudice, but doesn’t know how to stop fighting.”

Korero Press, the UK publishing house that is always stretching to try creative new projects, has just published a new version of The Set-Up. It’s a cross between a graphic novel and a heavily illustrated epic poem. It has the feel of a lost treasure one would find on a back shelf of some forgotten bookstore. And yet, somehow it seems crisp and new.

The art is a big part of the experience. Erik Kriek is a powerful modern-day illustrator. He’s based in Amsterdam, and maybe that’s why I’m not familiar with his work.  He has illustrated graphic novels (including In the Pines and Creek County) as well as children’s books. Continue reading “With Further Ado #193: Book Review – The Set-Up”

With Further Ado #192: A Fantastic Mystery

With Further Ado #192: A Fantastic Mystery

Two different pals recently recommended two different books to me. I ended up really enjoying both recommendations and strangely, reading them both at the same time made the experience all the better.

Professor Laurence Maslon recommended Fantastic Four No. 1 Panel by Panel to me, and I’m glad he did.  The Professor is not only a Broadway expert (check out his recent NYTimes story here) but a comic expert too. You may have enjoyed his Superheroes! A Never-Ending Battle Documentary, which ran on PBS a few years ago.

This is an engaging coffee table book, celebrating the first issue The Fantastic Four and the birth, in many ways, of Marvel Comics.

As you could infer from the title, this book showcases each individual panel of the 1961 comic. But Chip Kidd, one of my favorites, and Geoff Spear, add in a little zing to it all.  No panel is pristine. Each one is a little off kilter. Some in the cropping, some in the colors, some in other ways. Kind of just like the original comic was first presented, and read, all those years ago.

Several smart comic folks, including Mark Evanier, provide additional thoughts and focus on this important comic. It’s an enjoyable package. Continue reading “With Further Ado #192: A Fantastic Mystery”

With Further Ado #190: Grinning With Gilbert

With Further Ado #190: Grinning With Gilbert

Don’t we all need a little more cheer in our lives?  I sure do, and that’s why I love Art Baltazar’s work.  Gillbert #4: The Island of Orange Turtles is the talented writer-artist’s latest Papercutz book. As usual, it’s impossible to read without grinning from ear to ear.

I’m happy that comics has bestselling authors like Dav Pilkey writing Dog Man and Cat Kid and Jeff Kinney churning out his Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  Their dominance of the bestseller lists is impressive and encouraging.  Publisher’s Weekly’s John Maher provided a solid overview here earlier in the year.

But for whatever reason, those authors don’t really connect with me. But I am an older comic fan; they don’t need to. Or shouldn’t, really.  I tend to gravitate to the work of writer-artists like Art Baltazar, Franco Aureliana and Frank Cammuso because of (a) their very public passion for comics and (2) kids dig their books. I love reading their books and gifting their books to young readers.

As a kid, the “Creature from the Black Lagoon”, or the Gill-Man, was one of those iconic images that we embraced whenever we wanted to scare the bejeezus out of ourselves. He might have been a half-step behind Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Werewolf, but he was still up there.

So, if Pilkey can adapt classics like Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights or Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls to YA bestsellers, it makes all the sense in the world that Baltazar can adapt old Universal monsters like The Creature from the Black Lagoon into an upbeat smile-fest of a story.

And that’s what this is. How fun is it to follow Gillbert and his friends on their adventures?  Baltazar (as a creator and as a person) always embraces the urgency and importance of every childhood adventure. And it’s all wrapped up with colorful, outrageous artwork, solid storytelling, and crazy names.

Go, go Gillbert!

 

Gillbert #4: The Island of the Orange Turtles
By Art Baltazar
Published by Papercutz
88 pages
ISBN-10: ‎ 1545807183
Reading Age: 7 to 12
Grade Level: 4 to 6

Available from Amazon on 4/19/22.

With Further Ado #186: Green Hornet Buzz

With Further Ado #186: Green Hornet Buzz

For comics fans, it’s always a balancing act between wallowing in nostalgia and finding something fresh or different.  Amazingly, author Jim Beard pulls this trick off with the new book The Green Hornet: How Sweet the Sting, published by Moonstone. It’s a clever adventure that, on one hand, is 100% true to the source material, and the other, reinvents the franchise as a crime novel.

This thriller has the feel of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip’s Criminal series, but mixed in with a liberal dose of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City.  It’s grittier than I expected. But like a rollercoaster, it’s fun, exhilarating, and frightening – all at the same time.

Kato and his boss Britt Reid, who is secretly the Green Hornet, come across as just a smidge more badass than I expected. And then I was surprised to find the protagonist isn’t the Green Hornet, but an ex-Special Forces soldier who gets dragged into a life of crime.

Beard also brings one of the unsung heroes of The Green Hornet to center stage. Lenore Case, often called Casey, is given a realistic depth and warmth that she seldom exhibits in Hornet stories. Now that I think about it, the last time Lenore Case was this interesting was in Mark Waid’s clever Green Hornet series, published by Dynamite about ten years ago. (Tempus Fugit!)

In The Green Hornet TV show, she was played by Wende Wagner. Billy Wilder, while filming Some Like it Hot, discovered her when he saw her swimming.  She started as an underwater stunt double in TV shows like Sea Hunt, but soon moved on to movies including Rosemary’s Baby and Rio Conchos.

Like a magician who doesn’t show you all his tricks, Beard’s Casey is struggling on many levels, and readers, who are all in on the Green Hornet’s secret identity, are left to piece together exactly what’s going on.

Beard cleverly deals with several aspects of the Green Hornet mythology that don’t make sense, like Kato’s lack of a super-hero codename. As an author, he not only ponders the questions but also provides credible solutions.

Beard’s respect of and love for the source material is palpable. This story is built around several episodes of the TV show. For hard core fans that’s great, but for casual fans it doesn’t detract in the least.

Jim Beard has also been busy in the William Dozier-verse. His latest book, with Rich Handley, is OOOFF! BOFF! SPLATT! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season Three. It’s the third in a trilogy, as authors take deep dives into each episode of the old Batman TV program. Rumors are swirling that there may be another entry to this series, although it’s not clear how he’d pull that off. *

Moonstone’s been experimenting with slimmer books and shorter stories. It’s such a pleasant change from the long books I usually read. I motored through this one in just three days. And like visiting a high-end restaurant with small, delicious portions – I felt totally satisfied.

I’m a member of the Men’s Adventure Paperback group, and we all agree that strong cover art is an important part of the total experience. Joel Naprstek provides an engaging painting.  One thing I’m not clear on is why Moonstone didn’t the use that classic Green Hornet logo for the cover, but did use it on the inside pages.  Maybe a trademark or licensor issue? But that is a minor quibble at best.

This story exceeds the original series – but it’s almost impossible to not imagine Al Hirt’s trumpet playing the classic theme song as you read it.

The Green Hornet: How Sweet the Sting
by Jim Beard Author, Joel Naprstek Cover Artist
Moonstone
130 pages
ISBN-13‏: ‎9781944017262

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Full disclosure: I’m a contributing author to this series.

 

With Further Ado #183: Rocket Time! 5 and a Half Questions With Rian Hughes

With Further Ado #183: Rocket Time! 5 and a Half Questions With Rian Hughes

It looks like Korero Press has another fantastic book coming out soon: Rayguns and Rocketships is by ace designer Rian Hughes. It’s a celebration of old Sci-Fi book covers from the ’40s and ’50s!   Here’s the official teaser copy:

Rayguns and rockets! Spacesuited heroes caught in the tentacles of evil insectoid aliens! Who could resist such wonders? Science-fiction paperbacks exploded over the 1940s and ’50s literary landscape with the force of an alien gamma bomb.

Titles such as Rodent Mutation, The Human Bat vs The Robot Gangster, Dawn of the Mutants and Mushroom Men from Mars appeared from fly-by-night publishers making the most of the end of post-war paper rationing. They were brash and seductive – for around a shilling the future was yours. The stories were often conceived around a pre-commissioned cover and a title suggested by the publisher, and the writers were paid by the word, and sometimes not paid at all. Titles were knocked out at a key-pounding pace, sometimes over a weekend, by authors now lost to literary history (plus a few professionals who could spot an opportunity) who were forced to write under pseudonyms like Ray Cosmic, Steve Future, Vector Magroon or Vargo Statten.

Despite the tight deadlines and poor pay, the books’ cover artists still managed to produce works of multi-hued, brain-bending brilliance, and collected here is an overview of their output during an unparalleled period of brash optimism and experimentation in publishing.

Rayguns and Rocketships just launched on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter. A signed limited edition, a deluxe hardcover in a slipcase and a regular trade edition discounted from the retail price will all be available to backers. Fans and pop culture lovers can back this on Kickstarter now!

Rian Hughes is an award-winning graphic designer. I like to use his book on logos in my business classes, in fact. I found some time to catch up with him with my 5 ½ questions:

QUESTION 1: I’m so excited you’ve created this book. Why hasn’t this been done before and what’s the story behind it?

RIAN  HUGHES: It began as a cataloguing project. Without really trying, I’ve accumulated something of a collection of vintage SF paperbacks since I found Rodent Mutation at a jumble sale way back when I was on my art foundation. After a few decades of picking these things up, you find you have quite a few shelves worth. I scanned them in and did a prototype book via Blurb (print on demand service) a few years back, mainly for my own amusement. Yak at Korero Press, whom I’d previously collaborated on ‘Logo-a-Gogo’ with saw it, and here we are. Continue reading “With Further Ado #183: Rocket Time! 5 and a Half Questions With Rian Hughes”