Thursday, November 16, 2017

Review- PRE-CODE CLASSICS: THIS MAGAZINE IS HAUNTED VOL. 1



PRE-CODE CLASSICS: THIS MAGAZINE IS HAUNTED VOL. 1 (PS Artbooks, First Printing, May, 2016; Hardcover)

Collects This Magazine Is Haunted #1-7 (cover dates October, 1951- October, 1952)

Writers: Al Schutzer, John Martin, Daniel Sheldon, Earl Hammer, Jr., Eando Binder, Richard Kraus, and other unidentified writers

Artists: Sheldon Moldoff, George Evans, Bernard Baily, Bob Powell, Edd Ashe, Myron Fass, Ed Waldman, Leonard Frank, “Jokerface” (unidentified), and other unidentified artists



I adore 1950s Pre-Code Horror comic books. While EC remain the gold standard for the era, this title, published by Fawcett, gave EC a run for their money. While the writing is better than average for the genre and the time it falls just a pinch short of EC level quality.



The topics of these stories run the gamut of what was typically included in these types of series at the time. There are no real surprises here. It's not the predictable twist ending that offers the payoff here, it is the execution and the craft of these stories that kept me turning the pages so quickly.



The artwork, on the other hand, is where this title truly shines. Take a gander at the list of talent above. There are many Golden Age notables that worked on this series. And while some of these stories have been cherry-picked by other publishers in various compilation type books, it is great to have the complete issues reprinted.

Artwork by the godlike George Evans.

#5's The Slithering Horror Of Skontong Swamp! features artwork by future EC legend George Evans. Evans employs a cinematic camera angle style to his panel composition, with the results being nothing short of incredible. Issue 6's Showcase For Horror! is another brilliant story, reading like an episode of The Twilight Zone. There weren't any bad stories in the bunch, these two were just the standouts for me.



This was an absolute blast to read in the weeks leading up to Halloween. I'll have to read the rest of this series sooner than later. Maybe next Hallowe'en I'll read Volume 2.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- PS Artbooks reprint public domain material in a high quality hardcover format. While there are several companies that reprint public domain material via Amazon's CreateSpace print on demand imprint, none of them are as nicely made as these books.
Linework and Color restoration: Like any PS Artbook, the quality varies issue by issue. Some, like issue 3, are perfectly acceptable raw scans. Others, like issue #6, are blurry, muddy messes sourced from lower resolution scans.
The raw scan presentation has the benefit of the feeling of reading the original comic book. The drawback, which is a huge one subjectively speaking, is that all of the shortcomings of the primitive four color printings presses are apparent. Line bleed, off register printing, and other anomalies are all present. It's a warts and all approach.
This material will likely never be given a full blown Marvel Masterworks level restoration, so this is your only chance to get it in color in hardcover.
Paper stock: This book was released in the era when PS took the EC Annual format and put it into a hardcover. Glossy paper covers with interior paper that replicates the feeling of pulp paper, albeit much thicker. The paper is not as thick as the matte paper that Dark Horse was using in their Archives. It's a matte off white stock that I like a lot.
Binding: Sewn binding.
Hardback cover notes: Matte casewrap with spot varnish. No dustjacket. Images printed directly onto the casewrap. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review- BUSTER BROWN'S ANTICS



BUSTER BROWN'S ANTICS (Frederick A. Stokes Co.(*?), 1906(*?); Softcover)

*My copy has copyright dates on the strips of 1906 and 1907 American Journal Examiner, Great Britain. It's possible that my copy is from the UK. If so, it was released in the UK in 1908, not 1906, which is probable seeing as how the US version is copyright 1906. Contents differ wildly between countries. The French version of this book with the same cover and title has wholly different contents.

The spine of this book.


The following strips are present in my copy of this book:

Buster And The Goat- Tige To The Woods (1906)
Buster's Goat Yields To Kindness (1906)
Buster Fools His Mama/ Up In A Balloon, Boys. (1906)
Poor Buster Gets The Blame (1906)
Buster's Education/ The New Tutor (1906)
Buster Gets The Worst Of It (1907)
Why is a Goat Nearly? (1906)
What Would You Do With A Boy Like This? (1906)
Was It Not Buster's Boat? Not Yet- But- Soon (undated)
Buster's Pet Goat/ But The Goat Was Cleaned (undated)
Getting An Education (1906)
Buster's Dilemma/ And It Was Halloween Too (1906, my copy is missing the second page)

(NOTE) I can't find an exact table of contents for this book anywhere online. My copy is missing the title page, which seems to be in every other copy I've seen online. Most sources show this book as having 31 pages. My copy has a total of 23 pages, meaning that it is likely missing the title page, one story page, and three two-page stories. This was a “quarter box” equivalent beater reader copy when compared to the nicer copies found online. If you are willing to spend upwards of 400 bucks you can get some cleaner copies. I got this for a small fraction of that cost. Oh well, you get what you pay for, right?

Writer and Artist: R. F. Outcault

This is the fourth collection of Buster Brown newspaper strips that was published from what I have gathered. There is a real lack of resources on the publishing history of the character online. The usual sources have some information but it is skeletal at best. I have yet to find a definitive source on the publication history with dates for each strip. Indeed, one may not even exist.



Outcault is an absolute genius. His earlier creation, The Yellow Kid, was a real salt of the Earth concept. Buster Brown is an affluent upper class child, the Little Lord Fauntleroy prudent Victorian child that was all but fantasy to a large portion of the reading audience.

Buster seems to lead a carefree life free of all want, left to pursue fun and mischief with playmates while causing headaches for his prim and proper mother. His talking dog, Tige, seems to be the moral compass and smartest character in the strip.



This stuff bleeds charm. It's a fun read as a read, and when you factor in the obscurity, scarcity, and cultural and historical significance to the artform it's invaluable. There is one strip here which would offend today's more politically correct fanbase. I wish that Sunday Press Books, Classic Comics Press, Fantagraphics, or Library Of American Comics would rescue this strip from the dustbins of history and reprint it in hardcover. This likely hasn't happened because the strips are either scarce and/or there aren't enough fans of Outcault left in this mortal coil to buy them.



I am admittedly not an expert on the Platinum Age of Comics but am eager to learn. There are several Facebook groups on the subject and scattered resources but have yet to find some definitive source detailing the print history of the strip and assorted books. I would be grateful to anyone who can show me where to go to learn more.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Old newspapers were fricking HUGE. The Sunday pages are cut in half here, with the top half's worth of panels going across one page and the second half going across the next. Each page is single sided, likely due to the limits of printing technology of the day.

Buster Fools His Mama/ Up In A Balloon, Boys. page two is misbound behind the story which followed it. These books were bound by hand back then, so it is doubtful that the entire run was effected by my copy's defect.
Linework and Color restoration: I couldn't even begin to guess how this compares to the original newspaper strips. From what I've been able to piece together this strip wasn't even printed in color in every market. What I can tell you is that the print quality for this time is downright stunning. Four color printing with minimal line bleed or off-register printing.
Paper stock: Glossy paper of the day, far less glossy than what we would call glossy today but the paper has a slickness to it as well as bright, vibrant colors. Being 110+ years old it is brittle and there are flakes everywhere every time I flip through it.
Binding: Cloth bound. Handling a 110+ year old book felt like handling the dead sea scrolls.

This book once belonged to some children, who wrote their names on the back cover. It's wild to think that the children who wrote this are long dead and gone and likely have greatgrandchildren roaming around now.


Cardstock cover notes: The cover is pretty thick, but time and endless handling have rendered it fragile, with folds, creases, and flaking everywhere. 



Friday, November 3, 2017

Review- WOLVERINE- OLD MAN LOGAN VOL. 3: LAST RONIN



WOLVERINE- OLD MAN LOGAN VOL. 3: LAST RONIN (Marvel, Second Printing, 2017; Softcover)

Collects Old Man Logan #9-13 (cover dates September, 2016- January, 2017)

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo



The back and forth timeslip ('Then' and 'Now') method of storytelling is often a crutch for a thin plot. It is typically employed when the events would be unremarkable if presented in a linear fashion. Lemire manages to hold it together well enough though.

This arc delves into the ninja aspect of the character. Wolverine became insufferable when he started pontificating about honor and discipline and all that jazz. Logan was always too much of an undisciplined brawler for me to buy him being a ninja. Of course ninjas are cool. Who doesn't like watching them fight and throwing stars and stuff? Lemire mercifully sidesteps any honor ninja talk. 1980S Wolverine, only decades older, is holding fast.



I chuckled when Wolverine appeared in his Patch persona. I remember back when his first ongoing series was launched back in 1988, and how excited 15 year old me was at the time. Only when you flipped open the first issue you didn't have Wolverine, you had Patch, the underworld informant, and instead of Wolverine fighting supervillains you had James Bond crap going on. I bolted from that series fast as a kid, although I did read and enjoy the first 10 issues when they were reprinted in the Wolverine Omnibus a while back. I just didn't get what they were going for as a kid.

All of this leads us to the Silent Order and the Silent Monk, the very thing that brought Old Man Logan to Japan in the first place. Logan is still trying to prevent his future from happening even if it is crystal clear that this is not his timeline.



Everything is still moving along at a good pace and I am still enjoying myself. Lemire is sticking to his plan, and Andrea Sorrentino's art, while using obvious Photoshop tricks, is pleasing to the eye and clearly laid out. This gorier adult take on the character makes me smile.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I am surprised that this book received a second printing, as Marvel typically allows material to go out of print so that it can be repurposed in Omnibus hardcovers and, once those go out of print, fat Complete Collection trades.
Paper stock: Fair weight coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback. This book is on the thin side and feels like a fat periodical.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Review- John Carpenter's Tales Of Science Fiction: Vault #1-3



John Carpenter's Tales Of Science Fiction: Vault #1-3 (Storm King, cover dates July- September, 2017)

Writer: James Ninness (series created by John Carpenter and Sandy King)

Artist: Andres Esparza

Colorist: Sergio Martinez

John Carpenter's latest comic book creation is an ongoing science fiction series, albeit with a Horror bent a la The Thing. While it is easy to pass this series off as an Alien meets The Thing riff, one would be missing the point and the punchline of this series if they did that. While the aforementioned movies are certainly reference points here they are not what this series is all about.



I try not to spoil books when I review them or give blow by blow book report style reviews. I'll try to touch on a few points and let you decide if it's something you might like. The crew of the Gaia are your standard rag tag bunch seen in these types of movies, with the dynamics of distrust and politics that you would find in any group of people. The Gaia encounters an unknown ship and decides to board it. We've all seen this before and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that something is wrong from the word go.

With the recent discovery of a new black hole so close to our solar system, this series was better timed than even the creators could have hoped for. Black holes are a huge mystery that we are only scratching the surface of understanding. It's here that we have the springboard for the Vault series. I'm not giving away anything else other than we are not alone and it's only a matter of time before unforeseen circumstances lead to unintended consequences for mankind.



I've read these three issues as they came out and again once the series was completed, and it works better as a whole story than as individual parts. Some comics series are like that. While I primarily read collected editions I do buy all Storm King stuff in singles first. At three issues I can't imagine this being collected as a stand alone book. It will likely be compiled with one of the other Tales Of Science Fiction series down the road. The next one is Vortex and issue 1 is out now.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Review- STUDS TERKEL'S WORKING



STUDS TERKEL'S WORKING (The New Press, First Printing, 2009; Softcover)

Original Graphic Novel

Writers: Studs Terkel, adapted by Harvey Pekar with additional adaptations by Sharon Rudhal, Peter Kuper, Sabrina Jones, Lance Tooks, Danny Fingeroth, and Gary Dumm

Artists: Sharon Rudhal, Anne Timmons, Dylan A.T. Miner, Peter Kuper, Sabrina Jones, Joan Reilly, Peter Gullerud, Ryan Insana, Lance Tooks, Bob Hall, Terry LaBan, Pablo G. Callejo, Emily Nemens, Nick Thorkelson, and Gary Dumm

Studs Terkel's Working is a fascinating look at what people do for a living. Or more accurately, what we used to do for a living. The original novel was published in 1972, and the field of labor has changed dramatically in the past 45 years. That said, many of these jobs still exist, although the attitudes against people who are employed in these fields is much different than it was at the time that the original book was published.



For example, people once looked up to teachers and factory workers. Now they are frowned upon because of unions. In the decades since the original work was published, labor has become anti-people and more pro-company. Technology and our society as a whole has dehumanized us all, to the point where we are all cogs in machines pressed to produce. Every worker is more efficient than ever and yet is valued less than before by companies.

This book is based on interviews that were done with people in various professions. Mailman, teacher, farm worker, and even prostitutes. It is that tale, Hooker, that is the most riveting in the book. While nearly all of the tales mention the downfalls and changes within the profession, it is this one which is the most disturbing.



Pekar adapted 12 of the 28 short stories that comprise this graphic novel, so it is not a true Pejkar book, but most of the stories are well done. I got a kick out of seeing 1980s Marvel veterans Danny Fingeroth and Bob Hall team up for a few stories here. Most of the people who worked on this book are unknown quantities to me.

Harvey Pekar is the everyman, and he is hands down the man for the job of putting the polish on these tales. Pekar is the type of guy who no longer exists. A guy who just wants to get by, with no delusions of grandeur about becoming a CEO or someone important. He gets what is really important about life, and that is regular people who do regular work.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Library books are fascinating science experiments in the workmanship of the materials used to make these books.
Paper stock: Matte uncoated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Cardstock has a matte coating and a 1/3 length fold over on the inside of the front and back covers, giving an added heft and durability to the cover.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review- ALL-STAR BATMAN VOL. 1: MY OWN WORST ENEMY



ALL-STAR BATMAN VOL. 1: MY OWN WORST ENEMY (DC, First Printing, 2017; Hardcover)

Collects All Star Batman #1-5 (cover dates October, 2016- February, 2017)

Writer: Scott Snyder

Artists: John Romita Jr. and Danny Miki (My Own Worst Enemy main story) and Declan Shalvey (The Cursed Wheel back-up story)

Colorists: Dean White (My Own Worst Enemy main story) and Jordie Bellaire (The Cursed Wheel back-up story)

My son checked this out from the library and wanted to read it with me. I liked Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing run and am a huge fan of John Romita, Jr., plus I get to read comics with my son. It's a can't lose scenario!

Two-Face has Batman on the run against the clock, with the KGBeast (now known as The Beast) hot on their tail. JRJr really shines in the bonecrushing fist fight sequences. I still can't get over John Romita Jr. defecting to DC after decades with Marvel. I wonder if it was money or if it was simply boredom. He has handled every single Marvel property at one time or another and might have just felt that it was time to move on.



My only dislike about the My Own Worst Enemy story is the ret-con aspect of the flashback. I'm not sure if that facet really added anything to the overall story, even with the end result of it coming full circle. It likely flew in the face of some continuity established somewhere since 1939 and it did the story a disservice by tying it to the “then” instead of the “now”.

The Cursed Wheel was awesome, a story about a demented serial killer that Batman's new partner Duke manages to stop because he was able to piece together the clues faster than Batman. It is a dark story done at a PG-13 level. It was incredible.

This whole book was fantastic. I will freely admit that I have a double standard when it comes to DC. Their continuity doesn't have to make any sense to me since they have rebooted and ret-conned things so many times that I am not even sure if they have a definitive continuity. With that in mind I am free to read and enjoy anything that they release as it's own thing, with no thought or concern as to where it fits into the puzzle that makes up the big picture. Marvel's continuity was once as tight as a drum and I have never forgiven them for running it off of the rails.



My 10 year old son's take: I think that it was great. It was brilliant. The art was well drawn, the storyline was good. I liked that it all revolved around Two-Face. I disliked the little bit of swearing. (Note: The swearing was mostly in @#$%$% form.) It was the best Batman comic I've ever read. It was really well done.

This is so good that I am considering buying it. It's not like I will ever have to time to read it again, but it's so good that I would like to think that I'll be able to someday.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Library books are fascinating science experiments in the workmanship of the materials used to make these books. I'll be lucky to find enough time to read all of my books once, so I am not sure why I would consider buying more.
Paper stock: Good weight coated glossy stock.
Binding: Perfect binding.
Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: The dustjacket is in a Brodart sleeve and taped to the hardback. Difficult to evaluate on these library books. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Review- ALL STAR COMICS ARCHIVES VOL. 5



ALL STAR COMICS ARCHIVES VOL. 5 (DC, First Printing, 1999; Hardcover)

Collects All Star Comics #19-23 (cover dates Winter, 1943- Winter, 1944)

Writers: Gardner Fox and Sheldon Mayer (co-plotter) with Jack Kirby (some Sandman rewrites)

Artists: Joe Gallagher, Stan Aschmeier, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Bernard Baily, Joe Gallagher, Sheldon Moldoff, Joe Kubert, Cliff Young, Steve Brodie, and Frank Harry



The novelty of reading scarce and expensive old comics has long since worn off for me after nearly fifteen years into the golden age of collected editions. We fans have been spoiled rotten by the embarrassment of riches shoveled at us in all directions in any number of formats. Since the novelty is gone, we are left with two avenues with which to judge these works. One is reading these comics in a purely academic sense, weighing their historical significance against other comics of the day. The other is how does it read through modern eyes in 2017. Modern meaning my middle-aged eyes, for what it's worth, but eyes that have still never read these comic books before.

With that in mind we jump in to this sixth volume in the line (there was a Vol. 0). The award winning formula of the day is still intact. The team starts each issue with a meeting and are suddenly presented with a challenge or mystery of some sort which requires the team to split up in order to tackle the problem more efficiently. This formula is used in every issue. While this might seem tedious or monotonous to a modern day fan, bear in mind that these comics were read primarily by children and that many people didn't buy every single issue of every title back then.



At this point The Justice Society Of America is Hawkman, Johnny Thunder (and his Thunderbolt), The Spectre, Sandman (the second, crappier version), Star Man, The Atom, Doctor Fate, Dr. Mid-Nite, and their secretary, Wonder Woman. Yes, that's right, the second most powerful member of the team is left behind to take notes. Societal mores being what they were, I guess that this appealed to the kids of the 1940s.



#20 finds the team fighting their first true super villain, The Monster. While they have fought costumed foes before, this is the first one with augmented abilities. The story in #21 would have done nothing but create multiple divergent timelines rather than solve the problem that the team faced. I wonder how the DC continuity experts have worked that one out. The Psycho-Pirate proved to be a worthwhile nemesis in issue 23.



This was a moderately entertaining read. The stories have no plot twists and the endings are telegraphed a mile away, but these were aimed at children over 70 years ago. It's easy to criticize the lack of sophistication in the writing or artwork here in 2017. This stuff is still important and worthy of your attention. If it weren't for The Justice Society Of America we would never have gotten The Justice League of America for Stan Lee to rip off with The Avengers.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- The following are omitted from this book:
On Silver Wings, a half page text story from #19.
Fuller Phun And Archibald Club one page gag strip from #20.
Fat And Slat one page gag strip from #21 and 22.
Who's Who In Whoville one page gag strip from #23.
Pervia Problem, one page text story from #23.
Why were these omitted? DC's collected editions department has little method to their madness.
Linework and Color restoration: Off-white matte coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding. It's a little tight but loosens as you read it.




Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Thick laminated dustjacket. Casewrap has faux leather grain with foil stamping. 


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Review- GREEN LANTERN: SECTOR 2814 VOL. 2



GREEN LANTERN: SECTOR 2814 VOL. 2 (DC, First Printing, 2013; Softcover)

Collects Green Lantern #182, 183, 185-193 (main stories only) (cover dates November, 1984- October, 1985)

Writer: Len Wein (#182, 183, 185, 186), Paul Kupperberg (#187), and Steve Englehart (#188-193)

Artists: Dave Gibbons (Penciler, #182, 183, 185, 186), Bill Willingham (Penciler, #187), and Joe Staton (#188-193) with Inking by Mark Farmer, Mike DeCarlo, Rich Rankin, and Bruce Patterson



1984 and 1985 are “my” golden age of comics. I turned 11 and 12 in those years and many of my fondest comic memories come from that time. I was a Marvelite back then and I wouldn't have been caught dead reading anything from the Distinguished Competition. Everyone, and by everyone I mean my two comic reading friends and I, knew that DC sucked. More fool me. This is every bit as good as anything that Marvel was producing during this time period.



Indeed, Marvel alumni Len Wein and Steve Englehart capably handle this long running story of Hal Jordan quitting the Green Lantern Corps and him wrestling with his new life as a civilian while the new Green Lantern, John Stewart, learns the ropes. Stewart is from Detroit, which is awesome because no Marvel superhero was from Detroit back in 1984-85. I would have loved that as a kid.

Dave Gibbons' brilliant art is replicated as closely as possible by his replacement art team, Joe Staton and Bruce Patterson. Only my brand loyalty of the day kept me away from this comic. In all honesty I could barely afford the comics that I read at that time, so it's probably for the best that I was unwilling to read anything else.



My only gripe is the awful resolution to the Predator nemesis. Seriously? This is hackneyed, stoned '70s-style plot twisting at it's worst. I expected better from Englehart. He picks up and carries on well enough afterward, so I am looking forward to finally reading the third and final volume in this line of trades.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- #184 was omitted because it was a reprint of Issue 59. The back-up stories are collected in a separate line of trades. DC's collected editions department has never made much sense to me.
Linework and Color restoration: The linework is excellent. At first glance it appears that some lines are dropped but a closer inspection against the original comic books reveals that what often appears to be thicker lines is really a gnashing of the plates and that there were thinner lines.
While the original color palette is faithfully maintained across the three issues that I did comparisons with it is the gradient shades used to soften the blends that stick out to my eye. Is it that big of a deal? The color blend is correct, only the method DC used at this time is not authentic to the era. The gradients give an airbrushed appearance to the edge of the blend, whereas when these are recolored “by hand” on a computer you get more authentic looking blends. Your OCD mileage may vary, I just list this (and in all honesty do this blog) to inform fellow fans on the good, the bad, and the ugly of collected editions.
Paper stock: Bright white glossy stock. Not optimal for material with flat coloring but I prefer it to the cheap paper which DC used to pass off on books of vintage material. They have since phased this paper out.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.