Category: Books

Brainiac On Banjo: History Never Ends, But…

Brainiac On Banjo: History Never Ends, But…

“Trina wears her wampum beads, she fills her drawing book with line. Sewing lace on widow’s weeds, and filigree on leaf and vine.” from Ladies of the Canyon,” written by Joni Mitchell in tribute to Trina Robbins in 1970.

Much has been written about the passing of Trina Robbins, and I stand behind every syllable I’ve read. I will not be joining that informative chorus, but instead I will be discussing one of her final works, Dauntless Dames: High-Heeled Heroes of the Comics, published less than eight months ago.

This remarkably oversized tome, roughly the size of a tabloid newspaper, is from Fantagraphics Books’ Sunday Press imprint. Trina had a co-conspirator on this one, strip historian, connoisseur and Sunday Press honcho Peter Maresca. It is a true gem.

As the title suggests, Dauntless Dames puts the spotlight on a wide-variety of adventure comic strips that star women. Many, such as Tarpé Mills’ Miss Fury, Dale Messick’s Brenda Starr and Jackie Ormes’ Torchy Brown (later revived as Heartbeats) were produced by women — and women cartoonists were hardly a common sight before the Vietnam War. Male cartoonists who employed women heroes include Frank Godwin’s Connie, Russell Stamm’s Invisible Scarlet O’Neil, Bob Oksner’s Miss Cairo Jones, and Jack Sparling’s Claire Voyant… not to be confused with the current drag performer of the same name. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: History Never Ends, But…”

With Further Ado #288: Tarzan, the Rebooted

With Further Ado #288: Tarzan, the Rebooted

I remember in the early 90s when “upstart” publisher Malibu Comics burst on the scene with their new Tarzan comics. To add a bit of context, their efforts followed the classic runs of Tarzan comic series published by Gold Key Comics, with wonderful Russ Manning and Doug Wildey artwork, DC, with top-of-his game Joe Kubert art, and Marvel Comics, showcasing John Buscema as he was obviously loving every minute of it.

This new Malibu comic cover had a different Tarzan (albeit throwback) logo and a shocking image of the central characters with jarring colors. The front cover was by Marc Hempel and the alternate cover – flip covers were the norm back then – was painted by Simon Bisley. The cover copy taunted readers: “You’ve never seen Tarzan like this before!”

And they were right!

Writer Mark Wheatley, penciler Neil Volkes, and interior inker Hempel showcased a different approach to Tarzan. I don’t know if we were all using the word “reboot” back then, but this clearly was a reboot.

Wheatley explained to me that the Tarzan fans, at the time, were furious with him. But over time, his innovative run has now become revered and embraced.

How difficult is it to reboot a classic character? Is it necessary? Is it ever embraced initially?

Tarzan the Untamed

I just read the seventh of book in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original Tarzan series: Tarzan, the Untamed. My wife, Kathe, and I were in a wonderful comic shop in Saratoga Springs, Cosmic Capes Comics, not long ago. The cover to this hardcover caught my eye. How could it not? The insanely talented Joe Jusko is providing new covers to all the ERB books. He’s knocking it outta the park! Each cover is clever, creative and compelling. Continue reading “With Further Ado #288: Tarzan, the Rebooted”

Brainiac On Banjo: It’s Good News Week!

Brainiac On Banjo: It’s Good News Week!

The American bookstore landscape is rebounding with a significant increase in bookstores, including the expansion of Barnes & Noble, which plans to open fifty new stores in 2024. This revival is not expected to harm well-managed independent bookstores. An old bank in Chicago’s Wicker Park is being transformed into one such Barnes & Noble, indicating a trend towards creating more intimate, theme-focused bookstores and promoting the fundamental act of reading.

With Further Ado #285: American History Comics -without the comics (kind of)

With Further Ado #285: American History Comics -without the comics (kind of)

I’m fascinated and impressed by America Redux: Visual Stories from Our Dynamic History by Ariel Aberg-Riger. This one took me by surprise – it’s a series of short stories each focusing on an event, or topic, from various points in American history.

It’s told visually, but not will illustrations, as is so familiar (and expected) to comic fans like me. Instead, each segment comes to life in clever “collage-y” and lettered pages.

The collages are clever – photographs, old maps, documents and graphic design. And lettering would certainly not be approved by someone like Todd Klein. It’s rough and uneven, but somehow it lends the homegrown feel of it all. Continue reading “With Further Ado #285: American History Comics -without the comics (kind of)”

With Further Ado #280: Banning the Book Bans

With Further Ado #280: Banning the Book Bans

I was encouraged to read in AXIOS how Illinois is fighting book bans:

No Book Bans

Illinois became to the first state to pass a law penalizing libraries that ban books last year, as conservative efforts have mounted to restrict access to text often address LGBTQ+ issues.

• Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a bill now in effect that makes public libraries ineligible for state funding if they ban materials because of “partisan or doctrinal” disapproval

Of the more thank 1,400 book ban cases last year, 74% were connected to organized efforts of advocacy groups, elected officials, or enacted legislation, per PEN America.

• The organization recommended that policymakers, school boards and district administrators consider the many reasons for including and celebrating books rather than restricting them.

Continue reading “With Further Ado #280: Banning the Book Bans”

As Is by Mike Gold #017: Make Room?? Good Luck!

As Is by Mike Gold #017: Make Room?? Good Luck!

I think I’m sophisticated ’cause I’m living my life like a good homo sapien, but all around me everybody’s multiplying and they’re walking round like flies, man. So I’m no better than the animals sitting in the cages in the zoo, man. ‘Cause compared to the flowers and the birds and the trees, I am an apeman. — “Apeman,” written by Ray Davies.

For me, the scariest event of the past year (a.k.a. “yesterday”) was seeing the above headline in the Chicago Sun-Times. Mind you, 2023 was the scariest year of my life since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, and 2024 is shaping up to make that look like a walk in the park on a nice spring day. The fact is, eight billion people on a marble built to warehouse maybe 1.5 billion at best is cause for a Pepto-Bismol transfusion.

Eight BILLION people! I apologize for shouting, but that’s The Naked City times one thousand!

We can argue our actual global occupancy limit number — I rounded it off at 1,500,000,000 breathing bodies, but if you feel any need to reality test our actual limit then you should get out more often. People can’t stop recklessly pounding out more people, often because their invisible friend ordered them to. Eventually, most all of those new people will want cars of their own and maybe even a place to live. We’re rapidly running out of the latter, and in much of Europe and North America there are damn few places to build new roads and to maintain fueling stations, be they fossil or EV. And Americans despise public transportation.

So where do we put all the new bodies? In 2015, Habitat reported 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing. In 2021, the World Economic Forum said 150 million people were homeless worldwide. That, to state the obvious, is lot of people. Continue reading “As Is by Mike Gold #017: Make Room?? Good Luck!”

With Further Ado #278: Holiday Gift Guide 2023  – Part 5

With Further Ado #278: Holiday Gift Guide 2023 – Part 5

Way back in the first installment of this year’s Holiday Gift Guide, I talked about another wonderful book from Korero Press. They are quickly becoming one of my favorite publishers as they publish books about outstanding artists that I feel “should know”, but usually don’t.

Most of their featured artists, especially in their unofficial Horror Artists series, didn’t have big careers in the U.S>, so I feel I can be excused for not knowing them. But after cracking up these books, each of these artists fall into that “favorite artist” or “outstanding artist” category.

Terror: The Horror Art of Jayme Cortez focuses on the comic art of this astounding Brazilian artist. He’s a master at dramatic painting and I just love this book for several reasons:

Less Talk, More Action – There’s a forward by Paulo Monteiro, and an engaging introduction (The Life of a Master Illustrator), but after that it’s all illustrations. There’s a depth and a variety to this prolific artist’s work in the comics. Continue reading “With Further Ado #278: Holiday Gift Guide 2023 – Part 5”

With Further Ado #277: Holiday Gift Guide 2023  – Part 4

With Further Ado #277: Holiday Gift Guide 2023 – Part 4

It’s time for our last round for the annual With Further Ado Gift Guide! Prepare to be amazed at even more treasures for you to gift to your loved ones. Or to yourself. There’s no judgement on my end.

The Wicker Man : The Official Story of the Film
By John Walsh

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Titan Books
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 192 pages
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1803365084

I love the old Hammer Films, especially the ones that starred Christopher Lee as Dracula And for people like me, there’s a lot to like about a book that focuses on a lost classic like The Wicker Man. This 1973 film has always had a mystique about it. The old Cinefantastique magazine even proclaimed it “the Citizen Kane of Horror Films”.

Distributed by British Lion Films (just before they were taken over by EMI) The Wicker Man has a fascinating history. Author John Walsh brings it all to light in this book, subtitled as “The Official Story of the Film.” Titan Books, as usual, has published another gorgeous, epic book stuffed with wonderful images and cinematic history that leaves you eager to learn more.


Vintage Crime Comics Calendar
Classic Pre-Code Crime Comic Book Art

Continue reading “With Further Ado #277: Holiday Gift Guide 2023 – Part 4”

With Further Ado #275: Holiday Gift Giving Guide 2023 – Part 3

With Further Ado #275: Holiday Gift Giving Guide 2023 – Part 3

There are so many amazing Pop Culture treasures out there. Shall we jump right in and take a look at a few more for this year’s Holiday Gift Guide?

Dig Two Graves
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Titan Books (September 19, 2023)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 208 pages
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1803364612

Whenever there’s a new book by this particular author, Mike Gold always jokes “If you only read one Max Allan Collins book this month, read this one!”

But that’s just the way I feel too. I’ve been a fan for a long time, but for me – it never gets old with this writer. The latest book, Dig Two Graves is part of the Mike Hammer series. Collins again collaborates, after a fashion, with his mentor Mickey Spillane. When Spillane died, he left instructions with his wife to reach out to Collins and figure out what do with all the half-finished manuscripts and story fragments.

I’m so glad this has come together and Titan publishes them. They are crackling good fun and I daresay I like them better than the original Spillane stories, as heretical as that may be.

In this mystery, Hammer and his long-time secretary and partner Velda Sterling leave New York and the action shifts to Arizona. It’s great fun with witty dialog, kooky characters and plenty of action. You can’t help but recall every 1950s movie you’ve ever seen to mentally conjure up the visuals for this thriller.


MCU : The Reign of Marvel Studios
by Johanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales and Gavin Edwards

Continue reading “With Further Ado #275: Holiday Gift Giving Guide 2023 – Part 3”

With Further Ado #275: 2023 Holiday Gift Giving Guide – Part 2

With Further Ado #275: 2023 Holiday Gift Giving Guide – Part 2

Ed is back with part two of this years gift giving guide. Check out these three awesome recommendations.

Scary Stuff!

Macabras The Horror Comic Art of Jayme Cortez
by Fabio Moraes with an introduction by Paul Gravett
Publisher ‏ : Korero
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 128 pages
ISBN ‏ : ‎ 781912740215

UK Publisher Korero continues to publish fantastic books that I love reading and I must find spots for on my bookshelves.

Before I cracked open Macabras, I didn’t know much about Portuguese-born artist Jayme Cortez. He spent his career in Brazil creating comics, cartoons and comics strips for newspapers and magazines, including O Terror Negro (The Black Terror). I’m glad a I know a bit now, and want to learn more.

The book is creepy in all the right ways. It showcases Cortez’s talents across different media – his painting, his illustrations, his comic work and more. Cortez was also able to employ a few different styles in each media too. To the eyes of an American like me – all the subjects seem hauntingly familiar but skewed just enough so they are fresh and new.

A nice addition to the book provided by author Moraes is the many original reference model photos that Cortez took for his paintings. They provide a rare look into the development process. And you can’t help but think, when you see a vintage photo with a woman about to be impaled by a wooden stake or some such – “What in the world was that model thinking about back then?”

For pop culture fans, I think it’s always important to expand our horizons and see what’s going on, or went on, in other parts of the world. And embracing oneself in Brazilian Horror comics, with a master like Moraes, seems like the perfect thing to do this Yuletide Season by gifting it to yourself. Continue reading “With Further Ado #275: 2023 Holiday Gift Giving Guide – Part 2”