Sunday, February 19, 2017


MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE AVENGERS VOL. 11 (Marvel, First Printing, 2011; Hardcover)

Collects Avengers #101-111 and Daredevil #99 (cover dates July, 1972- May, 1973)

Writers: Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart with Harlan Ellison, Chris Claremont, Stan Lee, and Steve Gerber

Artists: Pencilers- Rich Buckler, John Buscema, George Tuska, Jim Starlin, Don Heck, and Sam Kweskin; Inkers- Dan Adkins, Joe Sinnott, Jim Mooney, Dave Cockrum, Frank McLaughlin, Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia, and Syd Shores.

In this volume we find The Vision and the Scarlet Witch become the focal point for the series. Thomas builds on The Vision's discontentment with his lack of humanity in #102 while introducing a foe who soon-to-be Avengers writer Steve Englehart would use quite often: The Grim Reaper. The Grim Reaper was the brother of the late Wonder Man, whom the Vision's android brain patterns were modeled after. The Grim Reaper offers The Vision his deceased brother's body, which is in a form of stasis, in exchange for him standing aside while he destroys the team to revenge his fallen brother.

While all of that is happening, we see the return of The Sentinels, who have returned to Earth to save humanity from the “threat” of mutantkind. I dig this aspect of Silver and Bronze Age Marvel. The true shared universe aspect, where one hero's villains turn up in another magazine. There didn't have to be some lame tentpole event series with umpteen crossover titles to make it feel that way, either. The shared universe wasn't just implied, it was successfully implemented in an organic way. The suspension of disbelief was easy during this era.

Roy Thomas hands the title off to Steve Englehart with issue 105 after his Sentinels three-parter. Unlike today's comics, The Avengers were left with no time to catch their breaths before being called into action again, this time to the Savage Land. Having scooped up the Black Panther and losing Quicksilver in the previous issue, the team fights another Thomas/Adams X-Men era foe: the Savage Land Mutates: Gaza, Barbarus, Equilibrius, Amphibius, Lupo, Lorelei, and Brainchild. These comics are so action packed and fun to read. Comics without a whiff of self awareness or irony are refreshing when compared to today's hamfisted soapboxes.

#106 is a reframed Captain America inventory story that ties up a dangling plotline from a few issues earlier: The Vision and his desire for humanity. In one of those convoluted, it makes sense because everyone was stoned back then kind of way, the Grim Reaper's partner is none other than the Space Phantom. What makes it even more bizarre is that they use the inventory story as an even more confusing backdrop, inserting the Space Phantom disguised as the head of Hydra for the time being because he was biding his time in order to destroy The Avengers. None of it makes any sense to me either, but it was a blast to read nonetheless.

This “arc” is resolved in #108, which also neatly ties up the Vision and his desire to be human. He and the Scarlet Witch profess their love for one another at the end of that issue, setting the stage for a bizarre human-synthezoid relationship that will culminate in The Celestial Madonna storyline. I read the old trade paperback of that a decade or so ago, and look forward to rereading it remastered in “high def” in the Masterworks. I already own that volume, but it's the whole finding time to read everything that is the challenge. My backlog is like fine wine, aging to perfection. The older and more out of print a book is, the more enjoyable it is to read.

#109 and 110 tie up the loose ends of the Savage Land adventure from a few issues earlier, revealing Magneto to be behind it all while bringing The X-Men into the proceedings as well. Remember, The X-Men were cancelled, with their title being relegated to a reprint series. Writers like Englehart kept them alive, limping along from guest spot to guest spot until Len Wein and Dave Cockrum would give rebirth to the series in 1975. These two issues lead into Daredevil #99, acting as a way to get rid of Hawkeye and bring back the Black Widow, who has been Daredevil's love interest and co-star in that series during that time. #111 wraps up the Magneto/X-Men/Savage Land saga nicely.

The writing is great, while the art is uneven. It starts out very strong. Rich Buckler, an underrated artist if ever there were one, nails the Marvel house style of the era. I'll take this aesthetic over what passes as comic art any day of the week. Jim Starlin and Dave Cockrum aid and abet, adding their polish to various issues. Things go south with the then over-the-hill Don Heck, who phones in weak artwork with weak inking by various folks. Don Heck did some solid work, it's just that this ain't it.

Forget ham-fisted “writers” who write endless pages of talking heads Avengers sitting around a breakfast table. These Avengers save the world on a daily basis, giving the bad guys a what for in the process. I urge folks to pick up some real Avengers comics and see for yourselves.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Marvel Masterworks remain my poison of choice. Indeed, they are the reason that I reentered this accursed hobby lifestyle.
Linework and Color restoration: Marvel Masterworks are the Criterion Blu-Rays of collected editions. Top shelf restoration and a color palette faithful to the original comic books, all lovingly restored to the highest standards. Make mine Marvel Masterworks!
Paper stock: Thick coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding. Lays flat.

Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Dustjacket has a lamination as well as spot varnish. The hardback casewrap has a faux leather texture with dye foil stamping on the front cover as well as the spine. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


ACG COLLECTED WORKS: ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN VOL. 6 (PS Artbooks, First Printing, 2014; Hardcover)

Collects Adventures Into The Unknown #26-30 (cover dates December, 1951- April, 1952)

Writers: Richard Hughes and other unidentified writers.

Artists: Ken Bald, Ogden Whitney, Edvard Moritz, Dan Gordon, Milt Knopf, Leo Morey, George Wilhelms, King Ward, Al Williamson, Roy Krenkel, Charles Sultan, Al Camy,
Lin Streeter, Pete Riss, Mac Elkan, R.S. Pious, Lou Cameron, Rocke Mastroserio, Art Gates, and other unidentified artists.

This series seems to get better with each successive issue, as ACG tried to match EC in terms of quality writing and artwork. While they didn't quite succeed, they certainly get a solid B+ for their efforts. The artwork is better than the writing, which is at times silly. I say this reading this material with 2017 eyes, but when you compare it to other early 1950s Horror comics it falls pretty much in line with them. I enjoy Pre-Code Horror in moderate doses, as it can get repetitive if you do a marathon of reading it.

I can't rave enough about the work of Ogden Whitney and Edvard Moritz. Solid craftsmanship, interesting panel composition, and effective story flow from one panel to the next. A quick look at the list of artists above reveals a who's who of comic book journeymen of the day. Some, like Al Williamson, remain fan favorites to this day, while most of them are all but forgotten. That is why books like this are important. They help preserve the history of the artform in a relatively affordable format.

I'm surprised that some modern day writer doesn't use this idea for their "IP" and make a series about vampires harvesting "organically grown" humans. 

#28's Double Vision! is the most EC-esque of the bunch, coming off as one of those Jack Kamen-style riffs about love gone wrong and the twists of fate, using a man's last mile to the electric chair for framing. #30s Werewolf Valley seems like a precursor of sorts to Avatar Press' Ferals, or even the movie The Howling. That same issue's The Thing Without A Face is another favorite of mine.

This was another enjoyable batch of dated but fun Horror goodness. It's not high art but that is what makes it so much fun to read.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I enjoy huffing these Chinese made books. PS Artbooks smell the best. Whenever I crack one open I sit there and snort it...Oh yeah, that's the stuff.
Linework and Color restoration: Raw scans with minimal tinkering. They remove all color from the word balloons, leaving them as bright white as the paper stock. The original printed comics had shoddy printing, and that is presented here warts and all. Off register printing and line bleed are all present, just like they were back then. The scans are of better quality than the ones found in Volume 5 of this series, with the exception of #28, which has the same problems with the top of some of the pages.

This is barely legible; it looks better here than in person. This is scanning amateur hour. Some of these PS Artbooks have abysmal scanning. 

Paper stock: Uncoated bright white stock.
Binding: Sewn binding. Lies mostly flat.
Hardback cover notes: No dustjacket. Image printed on casewrap with matte finish and spot varnish. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017


TALES FROM THE CRYPT ANNUAL VOL. 1 (Gemstone, 1994; Softcover)

Collects The Crypt of Terror # 17-19 and Tales From The Crypt # 20, 21 (cover dates April/May, 1950- December, 1950/January, 1951)

Writers: Al Feldstein, Gardner Fox, Johnny Craig, and Ivan Klapper

Artists: Al Feldstein, Johnny Craig, Bill Fraccio, George Roussos, Wally Wood, Harvey Kurtzman, Graham Ingels, and Jack Kamen

The first few EC Annuals did not have the title printed on the spine.

While not the first Horror comic book, Tales From The Crypt was the title that put the genre on the map. Like every other comic book company, EC dabbled in lots of genres (Westerns, Crime, Science Fiction). The seeds of the genre that they would become synonymous with, Horror, were laid in the last few issues of War Against Crime! and Crime Patrol. They inserted tales under the banners The Vault Of Horror and The Crypt Of Terror on the cover while simultaneously coining their future phrase SuspenStory. Vault Of Horror was launched the same month as this title, and EC's New Trend Direction was on. Haunt Of Fear would follow one month later.

I read all of these comics years ago in Tales From The Crypt Archives Vol. 1. When you compare these issues to those later in the series, two things become apparent. The first is that the trademark EC ironic twist ending, later employed by Rod Serling in The Twilight Zone, isn't quite perfected yet. There are more “happy endings” in these early issues than there would be later on in the series. The second is that EC employed more comic book journeymen than they would within a few issues. EC later had their stable of artists who did very little work outside of EC during that time. Those artists do contribute here as well, but we see folks like George Roussos and Gardner Fox who are known to fans of DC and Marvel Comics of the 1960s.

Al Feldstein's stories are strong right out of the gate, with his rock solid linework adding a confidence to the proceedings. While not as moody as Graham Ingels or as kinetic as Johnny Craig, Feldstein is the “voice” of this series as far as I'm concerned. Jack Kamen is my favorite of the EC artists stable, with artwork of beautiful people put into horrific circumstances.

The ironic EC twist ending is executed effectively for the first time in #20s A Fatal Caper. #21's Terror Ride, on the other hand, has so happy an ending that is seems anticlimactic. Your mileage may vary. I'm not complaining, mind you. I know that the best of this series is yet to come, and I've read every issue before.

Next to my beloved Spider-Man, EC are my favorite comic books. They are certainly the gold standard for Horror comic books. Without EC we wouldn't have the works of Stephen King or John Carpenter, as these comics were a huge influence on their young minds. Believe the hype and pick up some reprints of these comics. You can thank me later.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.75 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Gemstone overprinted their single issue reprints in the '90s with an eye toward selling their own back issues. They re-purposed this overstock by trimming and gluing 5 entire issues into a cardstock cover. While this is not technically a trade paperback (it has no ISBN), it is squarebound and has the title on the spine. Close enough for Rock and Roll in my book.
Linework and Color restoration: The linework is excellent, photographed from the original art. The color palette is faithful to the original publication except for the covers, which are all recolored. All of these recolored covers look inferior to the original versions, especially #21, where the recoloring changes the hair color of the judge in the story. Ridiculous.
Paper stock: Standard pulp paper of the day. The pro is that this looks and feels like a real comic book. The con, and it is a very large one, is that this will age and yellow, just like real comic book paper. I am admittedly less and less worried about this sort of thing as time goes by, as I will likely be dead and gone before this book deteriorates too badly.
Binding: Perfect binding (which is fancy talk for glued). If it hasn't fallen apart in 23 years I am not going to lose sleep over it. The gutters are a bit too tight for my taste.
Cover notes: The cover of the first few Annuals, like this one, did not have a cardstock cover. They had a thick glossy paper cover. This is basically a very fat comic book with a really thick cover. There are only a handful of EC Annuals with the paper covers; the rest have cardstock covers.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


MARVEL MASTERWORKS: DOCTOR STRANGE VOL. 1 (Marvel, First Printing, 2010; Softcover)

Collects the Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #110, 111, 114-141 and the main story from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 (cover dates July, 1963- February, 1966)

Writers: Stan Lee and Don Rico (#129)
Artists: Steve Ditko with inking by George Roussos (#114, 122-125)

I bought this and read it years ago, but I dumped that copy when it fell out of print and was commanding several times over cover price. I'm not married to my collection and will cash in whenever I get a chance. I then found this copy shortly thereafter out in the wild. I had to read the new copy, which is in and of itself a reread. Marvel has since reissued this in hardcover (which has also fallen out of print). This material is currently available in an Omnibus hardcover.

This was very enjoyable on the re-read. The essence of Doctor Strange's second battle with the Dread Dormamuu was caught in last year's movie, Doctor Strange. I'm not going into much else here, as you can read what I thought of this material a few years ago.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Softcover Masterworks are wider than a standard trade paperback.
Linework and Color restoration: Marvel Masterworks are the Criterion Blu-Rays of collected editions. Top shelf restoration and a color palette faithful to the original comic books.
Paper stock: Matte coated stock, the paper used in these books (as well as Epics) is my favorite.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


ROY THOMAS PRESENTS PLANET COMICS VOL. 1 (PS Artbooks, First Printing Revised, 2013; Hardcover)

Collects Planet Comics #1-4 (originally published by Fiction House Comics, cover dates January- April, 1940)

Writers: Dick Briefer, Ken Jackson, Bob Jordan, Herman Bolstein, Fletcher Hanks, Don Varick, Wilson Locke, Lin Davies, Beekman Terrill, Arnot Bissel, Wm. S. Mott, Stan Ford, Fred Nelson, Ned Small and other, unidentifed writers

Artists: Lou Fine, Dick Briefer, Malcom Kildale, Ken Jackson, Alex Blum, Henry Kiefer, Alvin Charles, Will Eisner, George Tuska, Arthur Peddy, Fletcher Hanks, R. Louis Golden, Bob Powell, Alex Blum, Leonard Frank, Charles Sultan, Dan Zolnerowich, Gene Fawcette, and other, unidentified artists

I have a certain fascination with post-Depression era optimism. The future looked bright. Then, as now, technology was advancing and improving life. It's a world view that is missing from all post-Blade Runner Science Fiction. Our dystopian future has become a dystopian present, making this an even more escapist read. I keep waiting for humanity to reach it's Star Trek moment, but we seem to be going in the opposite direction.

Buck Rogers kicked off this genre a decade earlier than these comics. It was his wildly successful imitation, Flash Gordon, that is the biggest influence on the stories presented in this anthology series. Flash Gordon is one of those rare cases where the imitation was more imaginative than the originator. Alex Raymond's influence is stamped all over these comics like a boot print. Primary colors abound, in part because of the primitive four color printing press and in part because Flash Gordon made great use of reds and yellows and shied away from blends.

Like all Golden Age comics, these can be overly simplistic, silly, and unintentionally funny, but that's part of the charm for me. On a purely historical level this series is essential reading. This is the stuff that made kids like George Lucas spark their ideas. These stories also entertain in their own right, albeit in a silly way.

While most of the stories are variations of the Buck Rogers/ Flash Gordon riff, I enjoy strips like Auro, Lord Of Jupiter. It's a ripoff of Tarzan...but on Jupiter! Hilarious. What it lacks in originality it makes up for with ambition. By issue 4 it morphs into some kind of Flash Gordon ripoff with no real explanation how or why.

I am sure that someone somewhere will be triggered by this panel. 

Fletcher Hanks takes the cake for batshit crazy comic book writers and artists. Hanks' artwork is bizarre, with barrel-chested he-men with necks as long as a giraffe. His work (including this story) have been reprinted before by Fantagraphics across two softcovers and, more recently, in one big fat hardcover. His stories make no sense, turn on a dime, and often just skid off of the tracks and into a ditch. Other times, like the one reprinted in this book, they just end with no real resolution. He is, in his own way, an absolute genius.

Issue 3's Amazona, Mighty Woman seems completely out of place. It is an Earthbound strip and has nothing to do with the rest of the series in tone. It's cool but it doesn't fit in with the sci-fi theme. It's more of a superhero story than a science fiction one.

I love the Fiction House house ads in these comics. I would love to see PS Artbooks tackle more Fiction House stuff like Jungle Comics, Fight Comics, and Jumbo Comics. I am glad that PS has reprinted the entire run of Planet Comics across 14 hardcovers. On one hand they pump out too many books too fast, but on the other hand they have covered so much ground so quickly. My wallet and bookshelves curse them while my heart sings! A pox upon you, PS Artbooks!!!
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Please note that this is the revised first printing of the book. PS subscribers like myself got the first printing of this book, dated September 2012 with the same ISBN, which was sourced from microfiche and looked abysmal. They recalled the book from Diamond Book Distributors and scanned newly purchased original copies for this version.
I enjoy huffing these Chinese made books. PS Artbooks smell the best. Whenever I crack one open I sit there and snort it...Oh yeah, that's the stuff.
Linework and Color restoration: Raw scans with minimal tinkering. They remove all color from the word balloons, leaving them as bright white as the paper stock. The original printed comics had shoddy printing, and that is presented here warts and all. Off register printing and line bleed are all present, just like they were back then. The printing seems more accurate here than in comics from the 1950s, with far less line bleed and off register printing than you see in some of these PS books.
Paper stock: Uncoated bright white stock.
Binding: Sewn binding. Lies mostly flat.
Hardback cover notes: No dustjacket. Image printed on casewrap with matte finish and spot varnish. 

Friday, January 20, 2017


ZAGOR: TERROR FROM THE SEA (Epicenter, First Printing, 2015; Softcover)

Collects Zagor #386-388 (cover dates September- November, 1997)

Writer: Mauro Boselli
Artist: Stefano Andreucci
Colorist: (Originally published in black and white) Not listed

Epicenter has been bringing European fan favorites to the English-speaking world over the past few years, and we are all better off for it. Zagor has been published in Europe for over 50 years but is essentially unknown to North American audiences.

Zagor is a pretty cool concept that borrows from so many places that it comes off as an original enough work. `There is a definite H.P Lovecraft influence with Dagon and it's respective cult. Andrew Cain, a puritan on a quest to kill all evil just like his ancestor, is a wafer thin doppelganger for Solomon Kane. There are other bits and pieces lovingly borrowed from other sources, and it all works when blended together.

I'm not sure when this series takes place. There are swords and firearms as well as blowtorches, although there is no electricity or telephones. There are no automobiles, as everything is horse and buggy, so my best guess would be the 19th century. It does take place in Darkwood, USA, so we know that it is after 1776 at least.

Since the series had been published for over 35 years when these issues (or albums, as the European comics are sometimes referred to) were originally published, there is little to no introduction to these characters. You are just thrust into the story and left to try and figure out who is who along the way. While all of the characters are given motives, ironically it is Zagor who seems to be the one without any real motive or explanation as to how he got to where he is.

Andrew Cain, not Solomon Kane.

Zagor is a fast paced, action packed read that is light on dialogue and heavy on fun. My friend gave me this book, and while I recommend it as a read please refer to binding issues which I've addressed in the OCD zone below.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This book is published in the GN-TPB size, meaning that it's trim size is the same as a Dark Horse Omnibus. The size has a lot of detractors, but I am not one of them. I enjoy books this size, as they are easy to handle and the material is not shrunk down so small that you cannot read it.
Linework and Color restoration: No comment on the linework, as I have no source material to compare it to. The computer recoloring of material that was originally presented in black and white is tasteful, using effects sparingly.
There are numerous typos and grammatical errors throughout this book.
Paper stock: Glossy coated stock.

It didn't look like that when I started reading it...

Binding: Sewn binding, which doesn't mean squat on a softcover. The signatures became separated from the glue piece and, as you can see here, this book was falling apart on the first read. I imagine that this is easily fixed with acid free library glue, but it is certainly a cause for concern.
Cardstock cover notes: Matte finish, resistant to scuffs.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


ACG COLLECTED WORKS: ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN VOL. 5 (PS Artbooks, First Printing, 2013; Hardcover)

Collects Adventures Into The Unknown #21-25 (cover dates July- November, 1951)

Writers: Alan Hartwood, Charles Spain Verral and other, unidentified writers

Artists: Ken Bald, Paul Gattuso, Lin Streeter, Edvard Moritz, Charlie Sultan, Pete Riss, King Ward, Richard Brice, Art Gates, Jerry Grandenetti, Carl Kiefer, George Wilhelms, Leonard Starr, Al Camy, and Ogden Whitney

My rule of thumb when it comes to 1950s Pre-Code Horror comics is the closer that you get to the 1954 implementation of the Comics Code Authority, the better the material is. Every publisher was in direct competition with EC Comics, trying to outdo or even match what they were doing. Despite many valiant efforts no one really made it, but it's woefully ignorant to dismiss the contemporaries of EC.

Ghosts, werewolves, witches, and vampires become the focus of the series as the Horror elements are ramped up from one month to the next. This is easily the best volume in the line thus far, and I half expect Volume 6 to be even better.

#23's Shadow Of The Wolf features artwork by future newspaper strip legend Leonard Starr, who also did some work for DC around this time on Tales Of The Unexpected. ACG used the best hired guns around. The artwork as a whole really shines. The writing is decent but it's the artwork that saves the day here. I have become a big fan of Ogden Whitney due to this series.

Most of these stories tend to run into one another, as writers “borrowed” liberally from one another as well as from movies, books, and television. If something seems derivative or repetitive it is difficult to ascertain exactly where the idea originated from. Horror comics of the day were incestuous in this regard.

I read these books at a leisurely pace, as there is no sense of urgency when reading 60+ year old anthology series comic books. I get around to reading them when I get around to reading them, and it doesn't matter whether I read it in 2013 when this book was published or in late 2016 when I finally got around to it in my backlog rotation.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I enjoy huffing these Chinese made books. PS Artbooks smell the best. Whenever I crack one open I sit there and snort it...Oh yeah, that's the stuff.
Linework and Color restoration: Raw scans with minimal tinkering. They remove all color from the word balloons, leaving them as bright white as the paper stock. The original printed comics had shoddy printing, and that is presented here warts and all. Off register printing and line bleed are all present, just like they were back then.
Paper stock: Uncoated bright white stock.
Binding: Sewn binding. Lies mostly flat.
Hardback cover notes: No dustjacket. Image printed on casewrap with matte finish and spot varnish. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


BLACK-EYED KIDS VOL. 1: THE CHILDREN (Aftershock, First Printing, 2016; Softcover)

Collects Black-Eyed Kids #1-5 (cover dates April- August, 2016)

Writer: Joe Pruett
Artist: Szymon Kudranski (with cover art by Francesco Francavilla)
Colorist: Guy Major

I read the first issue via the black and white Halloween ComicFest edition a couple of months ago and was blown away by it, so much so that I grabbed this book and bumped it to the top of the reading pile.

Black Eyed Kids, or Black Eyed Children as they are referred to online, are a modern day boogeyman of sorts. For the past 20 years they have popped up all over the Internet. This comic book series takes the myth and spins into something else. Are the BEKs an ancient evil older than man? An invading alien species? Beings from another dimension which possess the bodies of children? We shall see...

Modern day comics (meaning anything made in this century) are cinematic in layout and delivery. Old comics were something in between a novel and movie, but modern comics rely on “camera angles” and “edits” for impact. For my money this style worked for this material. Horror comics benefit from less explanations, as a fear of the unknown and a lack of understanding have a tendency to add some kick to the proceedings.

The writing and artwork are top notch. While I felt that the black and white version of #1 was moodier and somewhat more effective, this was very enjoyable in color as well. Black and white is a tougher sell for a mainstream comic book audience, and a series as slick as this stands a fair chance of reaching a wider audience than the standard Horror comic crowd.

I'm in for Volume 2 whenever it arrives. I liked this so much that I read it twice before reviewing it. I never read anything twice anymore.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Nothing unusual to report here.
Paper stock: Matte coated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Matte coating with spot varnish.