Markley’s Fevered Brain: Even Though I Do Not Celebrate Christmas, I Still Have Suggestions For Gifts
by Wayne Markley
With Christmas quickly racing towards us, I thought it would be good time to do my annual recommendations for holiday reading. I am going to focus on a few new releases as special gifts and maybe one or two blasts from the past as well. Of course, there are hundreds of reviews and suggestions in my prior blogs over the last few years, all of which can be found here. All of these are my personal picks and do not reflect the views of the Westfield Company or their employees. Also, I would highly recommend you check www.westfieldcomics.com for availabilty.
The first book I would like to recommend came out this past week and is Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics Vol. 1 from IDW. This is a very nice collection of the first two years of the Star Trek newspaper strip that ran from 1977-1981. I would be one of the first people to complain about there being too much Star Trek material out there, but these strips are a very nice addition to any Star Trek fan’s collection as they have rarely been seen. To the best of my knowledge, they have only been reprinted once in a small newspaper format booklet from about 25 years ago. This hardcover book is far nicer than the pamphlet from many years ago and in what I consider a major plus, it reprints the Sunday strips in full color. To be honest, the reproduction in these strips does leave something to be desired, but since these strips are so hard to find it is a real treat to be able to see this strip collected at last. I should point out that these strips feature the cast from the original Star Trek series from 1966-1969. Yes, Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest, and the dialogue really seem to capture those characters. There is a second volume scheduled for the spring with the rest of the strips putting the complete strip in print for the first time in over 30 years.
Next is another newspaper strip collection, this time from Fantagraphics. It is the second volume of the Complete Pogo. When the first volume of this strip came out about a year ago, I raved and raved about it and admitted I was not the biggest Pogo fan prior to reading the first volume. Having read the second volume, I am now even a bigger fan than I was after reading volume one. Walt Kelly’s art is a joy to look at and his dialogue and word play is just stunning. Pogo is a strip that you get more and more out of the more you read it. It is filled with political and social references and some of the references I miss, but thankfully, there is a glossary in the back of the book notating all the political and social events that Kelly was commenting on in the strips. It is an amazing collection as it is a work of beauty as well as a piece of history. As with the Star Trek collection above, the Sundays are reproduced in full color. While I have some issues with the quality of the reproduction of the Star trek strips, the reproduction of these Pogo strips is top of the line and rivals the fantastic reproduction in Fantagraphics’ Prince Valiant collections. (A very different strip but equally as good and as beautiful).
Thirdly, we have for the first time the complete Spacehawk collection by Basic Wolverton. Spacehawk has been reprinted many times over the years in a variety of formats, but this is the first time every story has been in a single volume. This is once again from Fantagraphics and is in full color. While Basil Wolverton is best known for his bizarre caricatures in Mad and Plop, he did do a superhero/science fiction comic at one time called Spacehawk. This oversized softcover comes in at over 250 page sand includes the covers. Spacehawk appeared in the pages of Target Comics from 1940 to 1942. Within these pages, Spacehawk battles everything from aliens to Nazis to the Japanese. While Spacehawk is a science fiction story by its premise, the actual stories took place on earth and against the villains of the time for the most part. This book is worth getting for a number of reasons, first off is its historical value. Spacehawk was a unique character, at least for the time it first came out, and holds an important place in comic book history. Secondly, for the amazing art by Basil Wolverton. In the history of comics, there are very few, if any, that had such a unique style as Wolverton which, while as far away as you can get from classic illustrators like Raymond or Foster, it is every bit as good in its own unique way.
I have long raved about Archie Comics. I am particularly a big fan of the Archie stories from the 1950s to the early-70s. To see some of the best of this classic period, I would strongly recommended any of the volumes of The Best of Dan DeCarlo, Samm Schwartz, Harry Lucey, or Stan Goldberg. All of these are full color hardbacks devoted to each of these classic Archie artists and there are multiple volumes for each artist and all of these are published by IDW. These are a joy to read. But these are not what I am recommending this holiday season, but instead I am suggesting the Art of Betty and Veronica by Craig Yoe and Victor Gorelick. This too is a full color hardcover but it is published by Archie Comics. It collects a wide variety of stories, original art, pin-ups, and history about these two best friends. While the “Best of” books are devoted to one artist, this collection shares with you samples from all the great Archie artists from over the years. The book is broken down into chapters and each chapter is devoted to a different decade. With each chapter there is an introduction explaining the changes that Betty and Veronica have gone through that decade and pointing out all sorts of interesting little known facts. This book is a great primer for someone who was once an Archie fan and has drifted away, or for a new fan looking for a way to sample the wonderful 70 year history of this ever entertaining romantic triangle.
Finally, speaking of Craig Yoe, I would like to recommend a book that came out a few years ago from the wonderful Mr. Yoe called The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories. This is a beautiful full color hardcover collecting Christmas stores from a wide of variety of comics from the 1930s-1960s. Within these pages are stories by such greats as Walt Kelly and John Stanley and many more. There are 21 stories here starring everyone for the elves to good Old St. Nick himself. There is even an old classic or two such as A Christmas Carol. This book is so good I would actually recommend it for any occasion, from a birthday, anniversary, or even a Happy New Comic Book Day present. This might be the best book for the holiday season as the stories and production are all top notch and it is such a joy to read.
I have barely scratched the surface of all the great material out there this holiday season. There are so many great books to choose from, I have only picked a few for holiday shopping. I welcome and look forward to your suggestions of what books you would recommend, or any other comments you might have, at MFBWAY@AOL.COM.