Category: Books

Brainiac On Banjo: Burning Down The House!

Brainiac On Banjo: Burning Down The House!

Every year many bleeding hearts tiptoe through their keyboards decrying the spread of book banning in state and local schools and libraries. And by “every year,” I mean “well, actually, every couple of days.”

As we’ve seen this month, a huge part of the Virginia gubernatorial race focused on the horrific nightmares evoked from the work of author Toni Morrison. She was the winner of the American Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Nobel Prize in Literature, the National Humanities Medal, the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and over 100 other A list awards. Lord knows, that’s not the type of person whose work you’d want in your library, is it?

Nazis doing what Nazis do.

These lists often come out of Texas because their school library habits influence purchasing patterns all over this bigoted nation… and that’s because, when it comes to electing government officials, Texas is to fascism what Florida is to prostitution.

Therefore, every year I find myself dancing across my own keyboard bitching about censorship. Technically, that word only applies to works banned by a government, so it certainly applies here. But in a democracy – yeah, I know; stop laughing! – the government acts in the name of the people, so I subscribe to the overreaching definition of that term. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Burning Down The House!”

With Further Ado #170 : Is Superman Jewish?

With Further Ado #170 : Is Superman Jewish?

In recent weeks, there was the hubbub about Superman’s sexuality that outraged, “Outraged”, I say,  much of the conservative media. Of course, the storyline they were focused on is how in recent comics, it has been revealed that Superman’s son is bisexual.

Editor’s note: See this article.

Somehow, trying to figure out if Superman is circumcised seems almost … pedestrian by comparison. But don’t let that fool you. Roy Schwartz’s new book, Superman is Circumcised?, published by McFarland, is an impressive work that is meant for hard-core, real-deal fans as well as the general public.

I’m reminded of the time when…

How the world has changed. Back when I was a kid, our family went to one of my dad’s college homecomings at Cornell.  Usually, the stop at the bookstore was an opportunity to buy Cornell swag, but I was perplexed and enthralled by one book on sale there. It was The Gospel According to Superman by John T. Galloway, Jr.  I had no idea who John T. Galloway, Jr was, but I could tell right away that the cover was illustrated by a “real” Superman artist – the legendary Murphy Anderson. Continue reading “With Further Ado #170 : Is Superman Jewish?”

New Number Ones: Comics Coming in November 2021

New Number Ones: Comics Coming in November 2021

Happy Halloween!

This month we give our readers a list of the exciting new comic book series debuting in November. We have compiled an alphabetical list with cover art and the official solicitation text from the publishers. Check below for our PCS NOTES to find out what we just have to tell you about the new comics in question.

This month we spotlight books from the usual suspects: AfterShock Comics, Boom! Studios, DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Vault Comics, Image Comics, Marvel Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, AWA/Upshot Studios, Ahoy Comics, Archie Comics, and Source Point Press.

This is a month full of holidays, and the new series releases are front loaded in the first couple of weeks. Publishers expect that travel schedules around Thanksgiving cause normal purchase disruption. I can only assume that has something to do with the dearth of new books in the last two weeks.

There are a few new number ones from Marvel that represent shuffling of creative teams and we think that there might be some good things to come out of these changes.

We will bring you reviews of these debut issues as they come out, and don’t forget to use the comments section to let us know what you think of this list.

You will find the books listed below in the order of when they are released.

Week of 11/3/21
Week of 11/10/21
Week of 11/17/21
Week of 11/24/21


Week of November 3


After Dark #1
AfterShock Comics
Written by Various
Art by Various
Cover Art by Tony Harris

Tales from the Crypt meets The Twilight Zone-four tales of horror, lost souls and things that go bump in the night.

A prestige format “One-Shock” featuring top creative talent just in time for the most horrific month of the calendar year, AFTER DARK is a collection of tales you’ll want to read with the lights on! A disparate tale from a possible future; a chance encounter with a mythical Black-Eyed Kid, a children’s fable gone awry; and a gut-wrenching last meal at the local diner.

These horrific, bone-chilling tales are conceived and written by Cullen Bunn, Jim Starlin, Joe Pruett, Frank Tieri, and drawn by Cliff Richards, Nikkol Kelenic, Szymon Kudranski, and Joe Eisma.

Release Date: November 3, 2021

PCS NOTES: This book is a one-shot but is full of some truly spooky stories.


Chilling Adventures in Sorcery #1
Archie Comics
Written by Various
Art by Various
Cover Art by Julius Ohta

THE FUTURE OF ARCHIE COMICS STARTS HERE IN AN ALL-NEW ANTHOLOGY-STYLE ONE-SHOT! Madam Satan is our tour guide into this horrific world exploring the underbelly of Riverdale and its surrounding areas! Madam Satan is trying to escape Hell. She goes through the circles of Hell in reverse. Along the way she meets lost/tortured souls who tell their stories-like that of Archie Andrews, who accepted a seemingly normal job as the nighttime security shift at Riverdale’s local pizzeria and children’s mascot entertainment venue. Only to learn that the venue harbors a deep, dark, robotic, monstrous secret! And then there’s Jughead Jones, a teen who never met a food he didn’t like. Until now. What is that eerie noise coming from the kitchen…? All that plus more bonus frightful content sure to delight all Archie horror fans!

Release Date: November 3, 2021

PCS NOTES: We have this other one-shot anthology on this list because we can’t wait to see what is inside.


Dark Knights of Steel #1
DC Comics
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Yasmine Putri
Cover Art by Putri

An entire medieval world will be forever changed when a spaceship crash-lands from a doomed planet. Monarchs will die, kingdoms will rise, and what seemed the end of the world for many…was only the beginning! An epic high-fantasy story set in a DC Universe where nothing is what it seems…

From worldwide bestselling writer Tom Taylor and acclaimed artist Yasmine Putri comes a generational tale of good and evil within a brand-new DCU!

Release Date: November 2, 2021

PCS NOTES: This creative team inspires confidence in this story’s execution. Looking forward to it.


Fox and Hare #1
Vault Comics
Written by Jonathan Tsuei
Art by Stacey Lee
Cover Art by Lee

When black market coder Aurora Yi uncovers top secret data that has tapped into the past lives of the citizens of Mazu Bay, her world is turned upside down. The mega corporation Synastry Designs wants its data back and is hot on her trail. Aurora has no choice but to turn to the Fox and the Hare, the most feared mercenaries in the city, for protection.

Release Date: November 3, 2021

PCS NOTES: This book has the makings of a great chase story. It looks fun.


The Heathens #1
AfterShock Comics
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Heath Amodio
Cover Art by Sami Kivela

When evil men and women escape from the depths of the eternal abyss, the Pirate Queen Lady Shih is sent to retrieve them. But when one of history’s most notorious killers breaks free, even she needs help. Enter the Heathens: Shih, Lucky Luciano, Bumpy Johnson, Sofia the Golden Hand, and Billy the Kid. From Hell they came to mete out a justice as dark as their own tormented souls.

Release Date: November 3, 2021

PCS NOTES: Hell Yeah! This is an intriguing concept from the superactive mind of Cullen Bunn.


Human Target #1
DC Comics
Written by Tom King
Art by Greg Smallwood
Cover Art by Smallwood

Christopher Chance has made a living out of being a human target—a man hired to disguise himself as his client to invite would-be assassins to attempt his murder. He’s had a remarkable career until his latest case protecting Lex Luthor when things go sideways. An assassination attempt Chance didn’t see coming leaves him vulnerable and left trying to solve his own murder…as he has 12 days to discover just who in the DCU hated Luthor enough to want him dead. Human Target is a hard-boiled, gritty story in the vein of classic detective noirs told by bestselling and critically acclaimed creators Tom King and Greg Smallwood!

Release Date: November 2, 2021

PCS NOTES: I am very excited for this book as Tom King and Greg Smallwood explore this character and often ignored areas of the DC Universe. Continue reading “New Number Ones: Comics Coming in November 2021”

With Further Ado #166: Hidden Entrepreneurs In Publishing

With Further Ado #166: Hidden Entrepreneurs In Publishing

Beyond the creativity on the page, comic conventions are the place to find creativity in business. The best conventions have almost become pop culture incubators, inspiring people to make something happen.

With that in mind, I wanted to give you a preview of a panel I’ll be moderating at New York Comic Con this year. It’s called Beaten to a Pulp: Publishing Entrepreneurs in Today’s Crime Fiction.

Today’s authors have become Hidden Entrepreneurs, actively finding, developing and managing new ways to reach and connect with audiences. The industry realizes that the days of fiction writers just turning in a completed manuscript and sitting back while the publisher markets the book are long gone. In this panel, J. C. Vaughn (Second Wednesday, McCandless & Co.) and Charles Ardai (entrepreneurial publisher of Hard Case Crime) will be revealing, and debating, the best ways to build audiences in their chosen niche.

I contend these panelists are “Hidden Entrepreneurs”, i.e., non-traditional entrepreneurs. I’m fascinated by this topic. In fact, this is the focus of one of my courses at Ithaca College’s School of Business, where I am an instructor on entrepreneurism and start-ups.

(And hey, good news : Entrepreneurism & Innovation is now a minor at Ithaca College.)

The Beaten to a Pulp panel is part of Reed Expo’s New York Comic Con this October 7 -10th. More details are available at www.newyorkcomiccon.com.

Here’s the official write-up:

11:15 – 12:15 Friday October 8, 2021

Beaten to a Pulp: Publishing Entrepreneurs in Today’s Crime Fiction

The days of fiction writers just turning in a completed manuscript and sitting back while the publisher markets the book are look are long gone. Today’s authors have become Hidden Entrepreneurs, actively finding, developing and managing new ways to reach and connect with audiences. Authors Alex Segura (Miami Midnight, Poe Dameron: Free Fall), J. C. Vaughn (Second Wednesday, McCandless & Co.) and Charles Ardai (Hard Case Crime) will be revealing, and debating, the best ways to build audiences in their chosen niche – crime fiction. Moderated by Ithaca College’s Ed Catto.

Hope to see you there!

 


*NOTE: Unfortunately, Alex Segura had to cancel his appearance at NYCC. His presence will be missed.

With Further Ado #165: They’ve Got It Covered

With Further Ado #165: They’ve Got It Covered

I wanted to make a joke about when it is appropriate to judge a book by it’s cover, but then I realized IDW’s solicitation copy for the brilliant new book The Art of Pulp Fiction; An Illustrated History of Vintage Paperback already used that gag.

This brilliant volume, by Ed Hulse, seems like it’s another one in the recent Pulp art series of books, but instead focuses on the stepchild of the pulps – paperbacks.  There’s 240 pages crammed with brilliant covers, and preliminary sketches for covers that instead of satiating fans lust for paperback art, just leaves the reader panting for more.

Here’s a part of the official description:

The mid-20th century saw paperbacks eclipse cheap pulp magazines and expensive clothbound books as the most popular delivery vehicle for escapist fiction. To catch the eyes of potential buyers they were adorned with covers that were invariably vibrant, frequently garish, and occasionally lurid. Today the early paperbacks–like the earlier pulps, inexpensively produced and considered disposable by casual readers–are treasured collector’s items.

Award-winning editor Ed Hulse (The Art of the Pulps and The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction) comprehensively covers the pulp fiction paperback’s heyday. Hulse writes the individual chapter introductions and the captions, while a team of genre specialists and art aficionados contribute the special features included in each chapter, which focus on particularly important authors, artists, publishers, and sub-genres.

Illustrated with more than 500 memorable covers and original cover paintings. Hulse’s extensive captions, meanwhile, offer a running commentary on this significant genre, and also contain many obscure but entertaining factoids. Images used in The Art of Pulp Fiction have been sourced from the largest American paperback collections in private hands, and have been curated with rarity in mind, as well as graphic appeal. Consequently, many covers are reproduced here for the first time since the books were first issued.

These brilliant covers, neatly divided by genre and timeframe, serve as much as an invitation to the stories, as they do as stand-alone testaments to the time long gone by.

They are more than just invitations to adventure, but kind of like windows into the very best that cheap fiction has to offer.

There’s a chapter for everyone too. I really enjoyed the chapter on the pulp hero revival. Hulse recruited Will Murray for this section, and in addition to showcasing paperback covers of Doc Savage and Shadow, rare stuff, like cover to Operator #5, The Phantom Detective and the preliminary images for that old Spider reboot are included. What a treat!

Is it wrong to collect paperbacks and not read them? I struggle with this ethical issue. I don’t need another thing to collect, but every once in a while I will snag a paperback with an engaging cover.

The book celebrates that guilty pleasure – without the guilt.


More information is available here.

 

Available now.


The Art of Pulp Fiction; An Illustrated History of Vintage Paperback
Diamond Code : APR210623
ISBN: 978-1-68405-799-3
By Ed Hulse
Introduction by Richard A. Lupoff
Various essays included by Will Murray, etc.
IDW Publishing
240 pp Full Color

 

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #073: Time for My Annual Existential Crisis

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #073: Time for My Annual Existential Crisis

This past week, I was beckoned to the throne of my day job, seated firmly near Knoxville, Tennessee. As I volunteered to make the trek by land instead of air — due in part to carrying some precious cargo (art for our building) — I had the benefit of a 9 hour journey to and fro with which to collect my thoughts.

On the way down, I was asked to give a listen to “The Oz Principle”. For those uninitiated, it’s a decades-old business book about the importance of accountability. To say that I was able to listen to it and not careen my Dodge Grand Caravan into the bluegrass hills of Kentucky whilst hearing the 1,983,957th passage about how we must stay above the line in order never drop below the line, always keeping in mind that we must always see it, own it, know it, and lastly do it… well, it’s a g-d-miracle. Business books are always a mélange of vague musings written by boring white people trying their best to suppress their inner racist / conservative id that clearly wants to just shout “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST PULL YOURSELF UP BY YER BOOTSTRAPS, WILLY?!”. Maybe I’m the biased one. But I digress. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #073: Time for My Annual Existential Crisis”

With Further Ado #141: Discussing “Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books”

With Further Ado #141: Discussing “Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books”

At Ithaca College, I teach a business course called Hidden Entrepreneurs. In this class, we explore and dissect entrepreneurial lessons from the lives and activities of non-traditional entrepreneurs.  These are the folks who are NOT on Shark Tank. These people are the often unrecognized entrepreneurs who nonetheless “make it happen.” Their stories are amazing, and there is so much to be learned from studying them.

Author Ken Quattro has done me one better in his brilliant new book, Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books. This new book details the lives and careers of black comic book creators.  Some are astonishing, some are heartbreaking, and they are non-traditional artists.  Their stories, for the most part, have been forgotten in the mists of time. So, it’s all the more important that historian Quattro, a real life comic book detective, has hunted down all the information and connected all the dots.

Quattro has done this all in a fun, engaging book. The stories of these artists’ trials and tribulations are almost all more interesting than the short comic stories included in this volume.   It shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us, though. His The Comics Detective site is brilliant and always informative. Continue reading “With Further Ado #141: Discussing “Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books””

With Further Ado #139: Uncle Lev Made Comics

With Further Ado #139: Uncle Lev Made Comics

Much has been written about comics legend Stan Lee lately.  Casual fans and hard-core comic aficionados have been debating which authors are ‘getting it right’. Was Stan a brilliant creator that fans of current cinema (and streaming platforms) recognize as the guy who started it all?  Or was Stan a rotten, self-promoting glory-hound that elevated his own story to the detriment of his partner and co-workers?

After enjoying John Morrow’s Stuf Said, Danny Fingeroth’s A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee and Abraham Reisman’s True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee I think I have a pretty good understanding of it all. Maybe you do too.

Now that we’ve got that one solved, I must admit I didn’t know much about comics publisher Lev Gleason. In some ways – he may have seemed like a proto-Stan Lee.  Gleason was, among other things, the publisher of Lev Gleason Publications, producing comics like Daredevil, Silver Streak, Boy Comics (this one starred Crimebuster and is one of my dad’s favorites) and the wildly successful Crime Does Not Pay.

And like Stan Lee, Lev Gleason made it clear was the big cheese behind these efforts. He even plastered his  name (and the company name) on his comic covers.

I have learned that Lev Gleason’s personal story is a fascinating one. He was an entrepreneur and a crusader. He was flamboyant and generous. He learned how to pivot and how to do it quite often.

But unlike Stan, Lev’s extended family didn’t really celebrate or even understand his connection to comics.  And that’s why it’s all the more incredible that Lev’s great nephew, Brett Dakin just wrote AMERICAN DAREDEVIL: Comics, Communism, and the Battles of Lev Gleason.

Dakin, who isn’t really a comics fan, aggressively researched Gleason’s life. The pursuit of truth took him everywhere -from newspaper articles to old comics to FBI files!

I enjoyed Dakin’s book so much that I invited him to speak to one of my Ithaca College classes. As Gleason was both a tireless entrepreneur and a pillar of the Golden Age of comics, he fit right in to the topics I teach.

The students seemed to get a lot out of meeting him (via ZOOM) too.

But I don’t have to explain that you. Check out what some of my Ithaca College students had to say:

“Hearing about Brett Dakin’s experience of writing his book and learning more about his great-uncle was very interesting!” said Alexis Davis. “He is a prime example of how with dedication and passion, you can accomplish a lot even if it isn’t within a profession you are familiar with.”

“”Something that Brett said that stuck with me was ‘there is learning through doing and experiencing’ and I think that’s something so important to remember,” noted Jade Rynar.

“Learning more about Brett’s investigation into his great uncle’s life, through searching archival publications and reconnecting the pieces of his personal life, really made me realize the importance of historians in the documentation of our pop culture,” said Quinten Hernandez, who is in his senior year.

“Brett gave an inside look into the comic book world with an outside perspective”, wryly observed Tess Kneebone , who is also a senior.

This is great book for folks who love the Golden Age of Comics and for those who enjoy entrepreneur’s stories. And who knows ? Maybe American Daredevil- the Lev Gleason story will make it to Netflix one day- just like all those Marvel characters. Wouldn’t that be something?

 

 

With Further Ado #138: Volume Four of Sex and Horror

With Further Ado #138: Volume Four of Sex and Horror

You’d think for St. Patrick’s Day I’d find a way to sing the praises of my Irish heritage with some pop culture twist. Well, I hope you all enjoy the holiday today and find some way to enjoy green beer and corned beef.

But today I am celebrating the other, more dominant side of my ethnic heritage. I’m mostly Italian. So instead let me laud the praises of Korero Press’ fourth volume in their Sex and Horror series.

As a bit of background, many Italian comics aren’t anything like domestic (U.S.) comics. During the U.S. Silver and early Bronze Ages (in the 60s and 70s), Italy’s fumetti sexy comics were all the rage. They typically showcased lurid and suggestive covers and then black and white interior stories.

To me, they all seemed one step over from those scary Hammer Films of the day. That mix of scary stuff with attractive women that serves to titillate and repulse the viewer all at once.  The brilliant part is that they used magnificently skillful artists.

The British Publisher Korero Press kicked of this  series with a volume devoted to Emanuele Taglietti. Like the smell of red sauce wafting from your favorite Italian Restaurant – Korero has been beckoning me to come back for more.

This volume is a little different. Instead of focusing on just one artist, in this one we’re exposed to (emphasis on exposed) so many skillful artists:

  • Alessandro Biffignandi and his covers for Messalina, la dea dell’amore (Messalina, the Goddess of Love) follows the ancient adventures of a Roman Empress.
  • Il Vampiro Presenta ran for 123 issues, and features covers by Fernando Carcupino and Karel Thole.
  • Fradiavolo (Brother Devil) , subtitled Storie di Briganti (Tales of the Brigands) showcases the art of Eros Kara Pintor.

These illustrations are fantastic in the classic sense of the word, but they aren’t for the squeamish. In the old days, I’d advise you to hide this book if your mother came for a visit.

But still – it’s deliciously repugnant fun and yet another chapter of Geek Culture to dive into and learn about.

With Further Ado #135: Comics (M)Ad Men

With Further Ado #135: Comics (M)Ad Men

I don’t think this week’s review will be at center of a firestorm like last week’s review of Abraham’s Riesman’s The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee.  As you may have read, the “controversial” biography  is another deep dive Stan Lee biography.  And in this arena with so many passionate fans, everyone has an opinion. It certainly has generated heated discussions.

On the other hand, Fantagraphic’s Comics Ad Men by Steven Brower is also the type of book that I’m eager to read, but somehow had escaped my notice.  It came out in 2019, but I just learned about it and I snagged a copy last month.

Stan Drake Art

Many comic professionals don’t do just one thing.  In the up-and-down world of creatives, it’s generally important to be able to work on different types of assignments, sometimes in different industries. When one thing gets slow, there’s a need to work on another.

Neal Adams Ad Work

Steve Brower has assembled a top-notch showcase of comics artists that produced traditional (and some non-traditional) advertising.  There’s wonderful examples of from artists like Neal Adams, C.C. Beck, Stan Drake, Creig Flessel, Noel Sickles, Basil Wolverton, and so many more.

Brower also provides some background to help readers understand those halcyon Mad Men days of advertising firms.  There are fascinating stories about DDB, Young & Rubican, McCann Erickson, Leo Burnett and Johnston & Cushing. This informative look into the past is peppered by industry luminaries like Joe Kubert and one of his students-turned-pro, Thom (Love and Capes) Zahler.

Frank Robbins Art

In that classic age of ad agencies, Westport, Connecticut was a bedroom community for Madison Avenue . But I also learned here that there was an artist’s drop off spot in that town. Illustrators could drop off their work late at night. It would get to the agencies by 10 am., and then they’d get their next assignments later day.  Who needed email, Dropbox or Slack?