by KC Carlson
There was so much great material listed this month when it comes to books and collections (since publishers are gearing up for the big summer conventions) that we decided to split this column into two parts. So here are the listings for newspaper strip collections and books about comics, and I’ll tell you about the best new comic book collections next week. Have fun, but be aware that this might be a tough month on your wallets!
THIS MONTH IN CLASSIC COMIC STRIP COLLECTIONS
Archie: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics 1960-1963 (IDW/LoAC): Although the first volume in this series collected the earliest strips from the 1940s, this new volume jumps ahead to the early 60s. The strip was still written and drawn by Bob Montana (his 14th year on the comic!), and the stories are about to introduce the beloved Riverdale characters to the Swingin’ Sixties! Unlike many other popular strips of the day, the Archie strip never ran in as many newspapers as, say, Blondie or Nancy, making it one of the rarest Archie collectibles. (So the original strips — or even proof sheets — are even more rare!) Some of the original newspaper strips from this era would occasionally be reprinted in the Archie Comics titles (especially Archie’s Joke Book), but at a very reduced size, and without the great reproduction quality of these LoAC collections. Recommended! 304-page B&W oversize (11” x 8.5”) hardcover.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Newspaper Dailies Volume 8: 1940-1941 (Hermes Press): Featuring three complete adventures: “ Forgotten Earth Colony”, “Thrown Back 500 Years”, and “Goddess of Stygia” by Flint Dille and Dick Calkins. Also includes a ten-page essay on the history of the strip and its impact on science and science fiction. 272-page B&W oversize (12” x 9”) hardcover.
The Complete Dick Tracy Volume 15 (IDW/LoAC): Collecting all the daily and Sunday strips from 1953-1954. Featuring some of Chester Gould’s more unfamiliar (yet no less creepy!) villains, including 3-D Magee, the crony of equally unpleasant Pony, the ex-wife of Canhead (aka Kincaid Plenty — B.O. Plenty’s brother). Plus, Open-Mind Monty (hole-in-head), Dewdrop and Sticks (The Hepbeats!), the oversized Rainbow Reiley, and Rughead (a guy who loves wigs — and killing people). Meanwhile, Tracy deals with TNT vests and killer ants. I hope they’re not in his pants! 256-page B&W oversize (11” x 8.5”) hardcover.
The Phantom: The Complete Newspaper Dailies Volume 6 1944-1946 (Hermes Press): Featuring five complete adventures: “The Maharajah’s Daughter”, “The Blue Gang”, “ Lago the Lake God”, “The Wild Girl”, and “The Mermaids of Melo Straits”, all written by Phantom creator Lee Falk and illustrated by Ray Moore and Wilson McCoy. Also includes a 16-page color section with an essay. 272-page B&W oversize (12” x 9”) hardcover.
Prince Valiant Volume 7: 1949-1950 (Fantagraphics): More fantastic adventures of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, including black magic in Wales and a trip to Scotland to battle the Picts. “The Missionaries” is an epic-length story in which Val and several of his fellow knights and crew travel to Rome on a quest for teachers who might bring Christianity to Thule. The story also features an escape through the Alps, far too many red-headed girls, and a tragic, life-changing event for the young squire Geoffrey (a.k.a. “Arf ”). The adventures wrap up with a three-week sequence narrated by Val’s son Prince Arn. All the strips were shot from crisp original printer’s proofs, and the book is fortified with the usual wealth of supplements. Introduction by the recently anointed artist of the ongoing Prince Valiant strip, Thomas Yeates. 112-page oversize (10.25” x 14”) color hardcover.
Superman: The Silver Age Newspaper Dailies Volume 1: 1958-1961 (IDW/LoAC): First in a series of collections from IDW/Library of American Comics, in conjunction with DC Comics, collecting all of the various Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman newspaper comic strips from the 1940s to the 1970s. Some of these strips have been collected before (most notably by Kitchen Sink and DC itself), but earlier attempts only produced a book or two — not the entire run. It’s IDW/LoAC’s intention to be in this for the long haul, not stopping until all the series are complete. Roger will have all the details soon in an interview with LoAC’s Dean Mullaney, overseer of this project, so I’ll let them discuss most of the details.
What I find fascinating about the project is that many of the Superman stories have co-creator Jerry Seigel re-scripting stories that originally ran in the Superman family of comic books (written by Otto Binder, Jerry Coleman, and even Siegel himself). However, frequently the newspaper versions will be illustrated by completely different Superman artists from the era! For instance, “The Menace of Metallo” was originally drawn by Al Plastino in the comic books, but you’ll see a Curt Swan-drawn version in the newspaper strips! As Dean Mullaney put it: “It’s like discovering an entire alternate universe of famous Silver Age comic book stories!” First book up is Superman: The Silver Age Newspaper Dailies Volume 1: 1958-1961. There will be separate series for Golden Age (40s) and Atomic Age (50s) stories, and those volumes will contain mostly original stories. This volume is an 288-page B&W oversize (11” x 8.5”) hardcover, including over 800 daily strips. (Sunday strips will be collected separately.) Highly recommended.
BOOKS ABOUT COMICS
Berkeleyworks: The Art of Berkeley Breathed – From Bloom County and Beyond (IDW/LoAC): An artistic career-spanning retrospective of the man behind Bloom County, Outland, and Opus — Berkeley Breathed! There’s not much information about what’s in the book other than a selection of classic strips scanned from the original art, as well as extensive material (concept painting and drawings) from the (sadly!) unproduced Opus film.
I would hope we get some more samples of Breathed’s earliest public work, The Academia Waltz, produced while he was a student at the University of Texas, as well as some of his early editorial cartoons. Plus the “lost” Opus strip that was originally on the box for the Opus telephone (that Roger submitted to IDW too late to get into one of the recent hardcovers). Oh, and a download code for the great “lost” Billy and the Boingers songs: “I’m a Boinger” and “U-Stink-But-I-(heart)-You” ! I still have my flexi-disc, but it’s deteriorating rapidly. (NOTE: These are just enthusiastic suggestions that LoAC may — or may not — be able to accomplish. But wouldn’t it be cool…?!) 304-page color oversize (9” x 13”) hardcover.
Comic Book Creator #2: Joe Kubert: A Tribute to the Creator and Mentor (TwoMorrows): TwoMorrow’s newest magazine expands to a this-issue-only trade paperback format for a great cause, a tribute to the life and career of the late, great Joe Kubert. Included are comprehensive examinations of each facet of Joe’s career: fan-favorite Golden Age artist, 3-D comics pioneer, preeminent war delineator, top artist-as-editor, incomparable Tarzan writer and artist, founder of the Kubert School, graphic novelist, P*S magazine helmsman, father to a comics creator dynasty, and inspiration to generations of aspiring artists. This book-zine is replete with interviews with the master from over the years, plus rarely-seen artwork and artifacts. Editor Jon B. Cooke (of the Eisner Award-winning Comic Book Artist magazine) has also assembled testimonials, remembrances, portraits, anecdotes, pin-ups, and mini-interviews by peers, faculty, students, fans, friends, and family, with special emphasis on a history of the Kubert School, its illustrious alumni, and Joe’s impact as instructor. Also features Kubert homage covers by Sergio Cariello and Tim Truman. If you’re not familiar with Cooke’s editing and writing, he’s insane about covering every facet of his subject’s work, so this should really be a very special publication! 160-page color softcover.
The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #43 (Gemstone): All anybody ever wants to know about the yearly Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is who’s on the cover. You can see that if you look up! (Superman is by Andy Kubert, X-Men by Mike Deodato, Jr.) As usual, there’s about a thousand pages of listings and prices for just about every American comic book ever published. This year there are also articles about Superman’s 75th Anniversary, the X-Men’s 50th, and The Walking Dead’s 10th. Also, a look at Golden Age artist Mac Raboy. So, you have your choice of covers and hard- or softcover. What’s it gonna be, fanboy?! 1,136 pages of teeny tiny type that tell you what your comic books are worth!
The Silver Age of DC Comics: 1956-1970 (TASCHEN!) The second in the series of deluxe hardcovers written by Paul Levitz, consisting of some of the most beautiful comic history books ever produced. This is a “cut-down” version of the mega-deluxe 75 Years Of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking, published by TASCHEN! in 2010 (and affectionally nicknamed “the Suitcase Book” by fans, because it comes in one). That larger book’s text has been divided into five different “eras” of DC History to be published as five separate (and more individually affordable) volumes. However, the separate books are being buttressed with a total of over 1,000 additional illustrations not in the original book, spread out over the five volumes. Also, each volume has an all-new interview, by Levitz, with a major DC figure of the era. For this Silver Age book, that new interview is with Neal Adams.
Among the things covered in the Silver Age volume are the rebirth of super-heroes in the mid-1950s, beginning with The Flash, Green Lantern, and ultimately the Justice League of America, all of which were relaunched with a heavy science fiction influence. The late sixties were also a great period of experimention, from the social politics of Green Lantern/Green Arrow (drawn by Adams) to fascinating but sales-challenged experiments like Bat Lash and Enemy Ace and bizarre reboots for Wonder Women and Metal Men. In between all that, the Batman comics were almost completely remade, just prior to the Batman TV show, and we are reminded that once upon a time DC published comics about Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis.
The text is light but highly informative. The big draw here is all of the illustations, covers, spotlight panels, unpublished work, photos of DC staffers and creators, promotional materal, toys and other spin-offs from the era, and mountains of Bat-stuff — it’s like the biggest and best DC scrapbook ever produced! Noted comics historian (and Westfield subcriber!) John Wells (American Comic Book Chronicles: 1960-64 and the forthcoming 1965-69) is part of the team assembling artwork and researching artist credits for the project, and his professionalism and quality control about the project permeates every page.
If you’re any kind of a DC Comics fan, especially of their long and fascinating history, this series is a must-have. 416-page oversize (9” x 12”) color hardcover.
The Star*Reach Companion (TwoMorrows): Star*Reach was one of the early independent comic publishers. Except fandom didn’t call them indies back then. They were called “ground-level publications”, as they were something between the big “overground” publishers of the day (Marvel and DC) and the underground comics of the late sixties, which were already starting to fade by the late 70s.
Star*Reach wasn’t around for a long time (only from 1974 to 1979), but they were incredibly influential. They became successful by primarily using creators who had previously produced material for Marvel and DC, but who were lured into doing work for Star*Reach by the appeal of working in a different genre. Instead of superheroes, Star*Reach concentrated on science fiction and fantasy stories. The publisher was also not involved with the Comics Code, allowing creators to tell more mature stories. Creators such as Howard Chaykin, Jim Starlin, and Barry Windsor-Smith were frequent contributors. Others who worked on various titles include Frank Brunner, Walter Simonson, Steve Leialoha, P. Craig Russell, Dave Sim, Dave Stevens, John Workman, Michael T. Gilbert, Mike Vosburg, and Ken Steacy.
Star*Reach, somewhat confusedly, was both the name of the publisher and the title of their primary anthology. The company published 18 issues of Star*Reach, as well as a funny-animal anthology (Quack), a second sci-fi anthology (Imagine), and Lee Marrs’ slice-of-life series Pudge, Girl Blimp.
TwoMorrows pays tribute to these influential publications in their new Star*Reach Companion, a complete history and bibliography of not only these comics, but other influential independent publications of the era like witzend, Hot Stuff, and Andromeda. It was a fascinating time for the industry. Comic creators wanted to tell stories without superheroes and without dealing with the Comics Code, and pioneering publishers rose up to meet this new challenge. The companion is written by Richard Arndt with contributions by Star*Reach publisher Mike Friedrich. 192-page B&W/partial color softcover.
Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster (St. Martin’s Press): Claiming to be the first comprehensive literary biography of Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, this book is based on ten years of research by author Brad Ricam, who uncovered “scores of new discoveries”. Among them: the first stories and pictures ever published by the two, where the first Superman story really came from , the real inspiration for Lois Lane, the template for Superman’s costume, and many more. For the general public (at whom most of this sales copy is aimed), this may be true, but most of this sounds like well-tread (and well-researched) topics that have been circulating around comicsdom for ages in various self-published books, zines, and internet sites, as well as recent books. This book may be a great summation of all that, but until I actually see a copy, my review has to be a skeptical “caveat emptor”. (At least the author lives in Cleveland, Ohio, so he may have some new, local findings.) This is a hardcover book of mostly text. Previews says it’s 320 pages, while Amazon says it’s 448 pages. (Sigh.)
KC CARLSON SAYS: If you don’t know what “caveat emptor” means, it means “Dick Cavett was the Emperor” in Latin. And if you don’t believe me, go look it up. (Is it April 1st yet?)
Don’t forget, THIS MONTH IN CLASSIC COMIC BOOK COLLECTIONS will be available on 3 Apr 13, right here at the blog.
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.