Category: Reviews

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 #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”

With Further Ado #178: Staring Down Extinction

With Further Ado #178: Staring Down Extinction

It’s been another one of those years, hasn’t it? I thought that 2021 was going to be wonderful, easy, and a get-back-to-normal year.  Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. Sometimes it was hopeful, but sometimes (I’m looking at you, Omicron) it seems like end of our species.

And maybe that’s why I find the new book from Czech publisher Albatros, The Atlas of Endangered Animals, so fascinating.  It’s written by Radek Malý and lavishly illustrated by Pavel DvorskýJiří Grbavčič.  And when I write “lavishly”, I mean LAV-ISH-LY. These illustrations are beyond fantastic.   Of course, there’s no YouTube for most of these animals, so illustrations is all have. But Grbavčič’s illustrations never make you feel like you are settling.

Here’s the official description from the publisher:

In this book, award-winning poet Radek Malý tells the stories of forty-one extinct species and studies the causes of their sad demise. The large-format Atlas of Extinct Animals is supplemented with beautifully expressive full-page illustrations by gifted artist Jiří Grbavčič and detailed pictures by renowned scientific illustrator Pavel Dvorský. The gorgeous, detailed depictions and descriptions of species and their fates can only serve as a reminder and as a warning of how much life has already disappeared from the Earth. The atlas also shows that the disappearances continue. Page by page it nears the present day and ultimately introduces creatures that still existed a few years ago, like the Zanzibar leopard (until 1996) and the Chinese river dolphin (until 2007). In the end, we are left with a bitter question: Which creature will next be added to this atlas? This book was selected by White Ravens 2020 for the annual catalog of book recommendations in the field of international children’s and youth literature.

What a great way to stimulate one’s imagination.

And as a new grandparent (I can’t quite believe it either), I take the spoiling part of my new role seriously. My granddaughters already have many super-hero books and toys.  But maybe a horizon-expanding book like this deserves a place on their bookshelves someday?

This book is scheduled to be released the end of February.

 

Atlas of Endangered Species

Written by Radek Malý
Illustrated by Pavel DvorskýJiří Grbavčič
age 9-12

Book parameters:
Size 9 × 13 in | 88 pages | hardcover | 9788000061269 | $ 24.99

P.S. And believe it or not, there’s even a sequel.

 

With Further Ado #175: Ed’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

With Further Ado #175: Ed’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

Have you been good this year? I hope not. I strongly suggest you get into mischief all year and then clean up your act during the 2nd week of December. That’s been my operating procedure for years and it always seems to fool Santa. Unless he’s reading this column. Ooops!

Well, regardless, it’s time for my annual gift guide, which many readers automatically subtitle as “stuff I want to buy for myself.” That works too. Let’s not be judgey, shall we?


Kiddie Cocktails

Did you ever buy a gift for a child, and then decide to keep it for yourself because it’s so wonderful? Don’t beat yourself up about it. It happens to all of us. And it will probably happen again with this clever new book from Korero Press.

Kiddie Cocktails has a wonderful retro vibe – it seems like it jumped off the screen of a 1960s Drive-In (during the intermission) and became this incredible book. It’s as if it all starts with Shirley Temples and then just blossoms from there. There are brilliant recipes for all kinds of child focused cocktails, including The Blue Lagoon, The Golden Cadillac, The Dreamsicle and The Elephant Charger. And so many more.

This might just be the book we all need if we all do Dry January again, in fact.

Kiddie Cocktails
by Stuart Sandler Author, Derek Yaniger Illustrator
Korero Press
112 pages
ISBN-10‏: ‎191274015X

 


Is Superman Circumcised?

I wrote about this engaging book earlier this year, and what most impressed me was author Roy Schwarz’s focused and fan-friendly recounting of Superman’s history. And it wasn’t the straightforward deep dive that entertainment folks often do – this was nuanced and thoughtful. For example, here Superman’s comics history didn’t begin in Action and end in Superman comics. Schwartz thoughtfully explores the character’s appearances in other DC titles like Justice League and World’s Finest.

And it’s just been announced the winner of the prestigious Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of 2021. You can read all about it here.

Is Superman Circumcised?: The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero
by Roy Schwarz
McFarland
374 pages
ISBN-10: 1476662908


Pac-Man Birth of Icon

I was never that much of a Pac-Man enthusiast. In fact, I remember being impatient with my college pal, Dave Bloom, as he would always try to sneak in a “quick game” of Pac-Man before we’d go to Dunbar’s, our old “favorite bar”.

Likewise, I was perplexed when the new Comic Book Museum announced a Pac-Man exhibit early on. “Who cares?”, I thought. “It’s not really comics.”

After reading Terpstra and Lapetino’s new Pac-Man coffee table book I get it. This is an amazing recounting of the story behind the game. It’s a fascinating history of the video game business back in the day, as well as the entrepreneurial spirit of the developers to do create something new and different.

Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon
By Arjan Terpstra & Tim Lapetino
Titan Books
340 pages
ISBN-10: 1789099390


No Time To Die: The Making of the Film

The newest 007 thriller took so long to get into theaters. I remember showcasing this James Bond/Heineken Ad in class two years ago!  Some longtime fans, like my brother Colin and Professor Laurence Maslon, loved this movie. Others…not so much.

Either way- Mark Salisbury’s new book is sure to delight all fans. The pictures are gorgeous, and the insights are.. insightful. It’s always amazing just how much goes into a movie, a piece of entertainment that most of the world just focuses on for a couple of hours.  This impressive book helps us understand so many of the twists and turns that happened behind the camera.

This one is a perfect gift for anyone with room on their coffee table. Or maybe your own coffee table. But show a little class and don’t put your martinis on the book.  Use a coaster, will ya?

No Time To Die: the Making of the Film
By Mark Salisbury
Titan Books
192 pages
ISBN-10: 1789093597


Build the RMS Titanic

Let’s face it- some folks reading this column have too many action figures littering their homes and offices. And to be perfectly honest (after all, Santa is watching this time of year) I am guilty of that too.

Eaglemoss, the innovative company that you may know for their HeroCollector collections of things like Star Trek ships and DC Heroes, is rolling out something new.

It’s an authentic replica of the RMS Titanic.  It’s designed as an accurate 1:250 scale, and this is a build-up.  Each month, fans receive part of this massive model, and they build it bit by bit. Eaglemoss also sends a new Titanic magazine with every shipment too.

I love these Eaglemoss magazines, especially for Star Trek and Batman. They are always well-written and stuffed with engaging information.

The site explains how it all works here. I tend to like this kind of gift, as it “keeps on giving” all through the year.

Eaglemoss

LENGTH: 42.36 inches
HEIGHT (to top of funnels): 11.41 inches
WIDTH: 5.43 inches
MATERIALS: Wood, MDF, die-cast metal, brass and plastic

 

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 #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