Category: Reviews

With Further Ado #225: The Rayguns and Rocketships of Rian Hughes

With Further Ado #225: The Rayguns and Rocketships of Rian Hughes

You can almost smell the stale greasy fumes in the air and the hear the metallic thrumming of the engines as you flip through the pages. This is space travel – 1950s style.

This space travel has more in common with a submarine than a Tesla or SpaceX. These spaceships are more like typewriters and lawnmowers than your iPhone.

The clunky space suits are cumbersome and ugly, except when worn by women. Then the unitarian suits somehow transform into slinky, formfitting fashion statements, hugging every curve of the women’s 50s hourglass shapes.

The brave astronauts of this day never dreamed of apps or coding, all they needed was a space-wrench, whatever that was, and a blowtorch to build or fix their spaceships in between intergalactic oil changes.

This is the vision of a sci future…from the unique vantage point of seventy-plus years ago and from the “other side of the pond”.

Ace designer Rian Hughes has done it again! His latest book, Rayguns & Rocketships, published by Korero Press is a space-age treat. In fact, the back cover of this book displays a logo/badge on the back signifying it to be a five-star Retro Scientific Thriller –complete with a “thumbs up”. This logo, presumably designed by Hughes, couldn’t be more spot-on. Continue reading “With Further Ado #225: The Rayguns and Rocketships of Rian Hughes”

With Further Ado #224: Lost DC Logos!!

With Further Ado #224: Lost DC Logos!!

My favorite logo designer is a brilliant gent named Rian Hughes. I’ve been a fan for years, and I’ve even been a client. (He designed our Agendae logo.) His book on logos is brilliant. He’s created many big company logos and comic logos. I keep his book on my office bookshelf and always trot it out when I need some creative inspiration. Longtime readers will even remember I featured his book in my very first With Further Ado column.

And I just received Hughes’ newest book Rayguns & Rocketships, published by Korero, which I will be reviewing in a future column.

But this past weekend, we went to another vintage book sale and rescued some more treasures. (I’m developing a nice Big Little Book collection, in fact.) One treasure was an oversized coffee table book, Milton Glaser: Art is Work, celebrating legendary designer Milton Glaser. Continue reading “With Further Ado #224: Lost DC Logos!!”

With Further Ado #221: Book Review – Tarzan, The New Adventures

With Further Ado #221: Book Review – Tarzan, The New Adventures

Tarzan is one of those characters that has been illustrated by all the top artists in comics:  Foster, Hogarth, Manning,  Frazetta, Vallejo, Adams, Kubert, Buscema and so many more.  And that’s not even counting the more recent modern titans like Wheatley, Yeates and Jusko.

It would seem almost inconceivable that any fan could get excited by any more Tarzan artists. But that’s exactly what happened to me with Tom Grindberg’s work on Tarzan: The New Adventures

This hardcover volume collects the weekly strips that the Edgar Rice Burroughs group had been publishing on their site. They had developed weekly online comics that felt like they were torn out of the Sunday newspapers, but designed to capture some of the excitement of digital comics from decade ago. ERB created strips for so many of their properties – from popular characters like Tarzan (I think he had two strips actually) to lesser-known characters like the Mucker, in an impressive series by Ron Marz and Lee Moder.

Full disclosure: ERB is a past client and I like the company quite a bit. I touched upon these webseries a few years ago in a column here.

Here’s the official description from ERB of this collection: Continue reading “With Further Ado #221: Book Review – Tarzan, The New Adventures”

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 #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.