Tag: book review

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 #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 #127: 2020 – The Year of the Drive-In ..?

With Further Ado #127: 2020 – The Year of the Drive-In ..?

As the pandemic wreaked havoc on life and so many marketing promotions and businesses this past year, there was one retro-idea that gained traction: Drive-Ins.

I love Drive-Ins. We had two in my hometown growing up, and I have clear memories of seeing so many films there.  When I became a parent, I took my girls to the Drive-In once a summer. We all had a ball. I don’t remember the movies all that well, although Tom Cruise’s War of the Worlds and an Austin Powers movie come to mind.

Before Covid, Pop-Ups were becoming a hot marketing tool. It seems as if so many of the ideas behind Pop-Ups just migrated to all the 2020 Drive-ins.  And hey, as long as everyone was having fun and staying safe, it sounds good to me.

So it’s appropriate that the last book of 2020 I spotlight is all about a Drive-In: More Better Deals published by Mulholland Books.  It’s from a favorite author, Joe R. Lansdale,  and is another bumpy ride in a beat-up car on the back roads of noir fiction.

Many feel that Double Indemnity is the pinnacle of Film Noir. If you’re one of those folks, then this thriller, which has so many similarities, will lead you to inevitable and excruciatingly delicious, comparisons. Continue reading “With Further Ado #127: 2020 – The Year of the Drive-In ..?”

With Further Ado #069: The Forgotten All-Star

With Further Ado #069: The Forgotten All-Star

I’ve been reading stories by Gardner Fox all my life. And thoroughly enjoying them. His “upstanding citizen” version of iconic heroes may have, in some ways, fallen out favor today. But to so many fans, his work is the bedrock upon which superhero comics are built upon. Upon reflection, his version of herodom may also be what other comic innovators pivoted from.  For example, Marvel introduced flawed heroes with human shortcomings as an alternative to the Gardner Fox style of heroes. Indy heroes of the 80s introduced non-traditional protagonists as something new. Even DC comics, where Gardner Fox did so much of his writing, would, by the 80s, showcase heroes with dark histories or motivations, in stark contrast to their Golden Age and Silver Age heroes. 

I loved his stories. I loved his heroes and his twisty plots. His scientific explanations and extrapolations always made me think that much harder. And in the worlds that Gardner Fox created, friendships really meant something.

But I didn’t know much about Gardner Fox himself. I was enthralled when John Siuntres, in his excellent Word Balloon Podcast, interviewed Jennifer DeRoss  who just wrote the biography of Gardner Fox.  Forgotten All-Star: A Biography of Gardner Fox is a winner, and I had to reach out to the author.  Here’s what she had to say:

Ed Catto : I understand you had a family member who was very pro-comics when you were growing up. What’s the whole story behind that?

Jennifer DeRoss: Many people in my family read comics, but my grandmother was my biggest   literacy advocate. She is primarily a fan of the Sunday Funnies and would even clip out the strips she thought I would enjoy and mail them to me because I lived outside of any newspaper circulation areas. Garfield has always been her favorite and she still has quite the collection of Garfield related merchandise. She is also fond of Silver Age DC and when I took an interest in the superhero genre, she was more than happy to support that love.

My grandma would buy me comics right alongside her soap opera magazines every time we went grocery shopping together. She also exposed me to some of the older superhero cartoons, although she would eventually regret that a little after I began obsessively watching the Aquaman VHS every day.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #069: The Forgotten All-Star”

With Further Ado #068: Stan the Man by Dan the Man

With Further Ado #068: Stan the Man by Dan the Man

I’ve had a problem with the recent biographies I’ve read. They have left me feeling a depressed. I understand that we’re all just people, and no one is perfect.   

But, after reading Zoglin’s Bob Hope Biography, I was really bummed out by Hope’s infidelity, and the disastrous results it had on the lives of some his girlfriends.    Jay Jones’s insights into the life of Dr. Seuss in Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination, were fascinating, especially when viewing his creative output through the lens of entrepreneurism. But again, I had a sourness left in my mouth as I learned about the ending of Geisel’s first marriage. Florent Silloray’s Frank Capa: A Graphic Biography left me confused about the paths taken by a man with such a great creative talent.

So, you can understand how I was I was especially worried as I jumped into Danny Fingeroth’s A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee, fearful this biography too might be a downer.

The stakes were, in fact, high for this book. Sometimes it seems like there are two extremes for comics (or Marvel) fans. There are those that hold Stan Lee in the highest regard for his incredible creations.  On the other hand, there are those that hold him in great contempt as a privileged, boastful promoter who ended up wealthy while so many of his collaborators were not able to benefit from their creativity and hard work.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #068: Stan the Man by Dan the Man”

With Further Ado #001: Logo-A-Gogo

With Further Ado #001: Logo-A-Gogo

Did you ever wonder about a brand and why that brand grabbed you? It may have been something about the business proposition, or it might have been the way that idea was communicated in the brand’s logo.  So why don’t we kick things off with a column about logos?

My name’s Ed Catto and this is the first “With Further Ado”, my new column for Pop Culture Squad. I’m an entrepreneurial marketing guy and long-time comics fan. I’ve recently joined the faculty of Ithaca College were I teach business, with a focus on entrepreneurism, to MBAs and undergrads while I continue with my management & marketing consulting. In this column, I’ll be covering the crossroads of comics, entrepreneurial business and geek culture. I’m so happy you’re here.

Logo-a-gogo

Logos have long been an important part of the comic experience.  The iconic Superman logo has been one of the most copied, and parodied, logos ever.  But in a medium that’s about story as much as it is about art, a strong logo reinforces what a brand is while doing the necessary work of grabbing a customer’s attention and helping make the sale.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #001: Logo-A-Gogo”