Sunday, September 25, 2016

Review- STAR TREK: THE JOHN BYRNE COLLECTION



STAR TREK: THE JOHN BYRNE COLLECTION (IDW, First Printing, 2013; Hardcover)

Collects Star Trek: Alien Spotlight- Romulans, Star Trek: Romulans- The Hollow Crown #1, 2, Star Trek: Romulans- Schism #1-3, Star Trek: Assignment Earth #1-5, Star Trek: Crew #1-5, and Star Trek: Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor #1-4 (cover dates February, 2008- July, 2010)

Writer and Artist: John Byrne
Colorists: Leonard O'Grady, Tom Smith, Lovern Kindzierski, and Mario Boon



I owned, read, and subsequently sold two of the John Byrne Star Trek trades, Romulans: Schism and Crew. Since I didn't care enough about them to keep them it made perfect sense to buy this deluxe hardcover collecting those as well as the rest of Byrne's Star Trek output for IDW in one handy package.



Byrne was part of the original generation of Star Trek fandom, watching it as a teenager who grew up studying at the altar of comic books and science fiction of the 1960s. His love and knowledge of this era's art is genuine. Byrne was from the generation of creators who knew that this stuff was important and tried to make it clear to the rest of the world that it was just as important as the fans always believed. The fans that Byrne influenced went on to become creators who did just that, making nerd persecution a thing of the past. Nerds are now free to be themselves in public.



I don't know what's what here, as I am a casual Trek fan. Time travel has always been a pet theme for Byrne, and he uses Gary Seven from a single episode of the original series to pepper throughout the various series, giving them a common thread. Star Trek: Assignment Earth is a lot of fun, with Byrne exploring what could have happened if Roddenberry's spin-off series had been greenlit.



My favorite issues in this book were Star Trek: Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor, a fantastic set of tales which take place after the original series somewhere near the first movie. I am not a Trek expert but could follow the stories here easily enough.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is one heavy book.
Paper stock: Thick glossy coated stock.
Binding: While this book has sewn binding, the book block is super heavy and I worry about its durability over the long haul. It almost feels like it is pulling out of the casing.
Hardback cover notes: The hardback has a pretty fancy embossing, with the Starfleet A being stamped into the cover. The cover has a thick waxlike lamination that will provide years of enjoyment. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review- PRINCE VALIANT VOL. 4: 1943-1944



PRINCE VALIANT VOL. 4: 1943-1944 (Fantagraphics, First Printing, 2011; Hardcover)

Collects Prince Valiant Sunday strips 308-412, originally published on January 3, 1943- December 31, 1944

Writer and Artist: Hal Foster



It takes me forever to get through one of these books. I sit and stare at the artwork so long that I spend months and months reading each volume.



Prince Valiant is set to return home to Thule and has several minor adventures along the way. Nothing makes Val happy, as his heart yearns for the hand of Queen Aleta of the Misty Isles. So he does what any young man would do: he goes out and finds her. This is where the book ends, with Val kidnapping her on the eve of when she is going to pick a suitor to marry. Val and Aleta are on the run, being pursued by Aleta's subjects.



This stuff is required reading for lovers of art. There aren't many artists who are Hal Foster's peer, and his writing remains sharp and witty many decades later. I know that many comic book fans are leery of dipping their toes into the waters of the newspaper strips, but if you have ever been curious about how serious comics started then pick this book up. The writing and artwork are head and shoulders above anything published at the time and hold up even today.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.75 out of 5.



The OCD zone- While presented smaller than the original publications, these books are large enough that you get the feel of the artwork and can read the text with ease. They are also easier to handle than many strip books which are unwieldy due to the dimensions of newspapers 70-odd years ago.
Linework and Color restoration: The strips are scanned from pristine syndicate proofs. Color restoration is faithful to the original strips.
Paper stock: Matte coated stock with the slightest sheen to it.
Binding: Sewn binding.
Hardback cover notes: No dustjacket. Image part of the paper of the casewrap. Portion around the spine has a faux leather casewrap.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Review- CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON: NOMAD



CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON: NOMAD (Marvel, First Printing, 2006; Softcover)

Collects Captain America #177-186 (cover dates September, 1974- June, 1975)

Writers: Steve Englehart with John Warner
Artists: Sal Buscema, Frank Robbins, and Herb Trimpe with Inking by Vince Colletta, Joe Giella, Frank Giacoia, and Mike Esposito



Steve Rogers has quit being Captain America, leaving The Falcon flying solo. Things start out with a ridiculous, it could only happen in the '70s storyline where C-Lister Lucifer returns to our dimension. He ends up spotting a store and, missing our Earthly food, breaks into it and eats a snack cake that bears more than a passing resemblance to a Twinkie. I swear that everyone that worked at Marvel in the '70s was high, because a chemical in the snack cake causes Lucifer to slip back into his own dimension. He quickly possesses another body, but sensing that he is burning out the frail human form, decides to split his power across two humans. Again, everyone was high back then, because these are some overly labored stories. I have a soft spot for Englehart's writing in spite of his flying by the seat of his pants because he is so stoned and has no idea where he is going style of writing.

Issue 179 shows Hawkeye return a favor to Steve Rogers. By posing as a villain called The Golden Archer, Hawkeye convinces Steve to become a superhero once again. This issue has a DC Silver Age feel to it. #180 finds Steve reinventing himself as The Nomad, a man without a country. Tapping into the zeitgeist is what Englehart did best. Everyone was disillusioned with America in 1974, with the Viet Nam War and the Watergate scandal. Steve Rogers decides that he can no longer be the symbol of a country and Government that he no longer trusts. Nomad's first battle is with the Serpent Squad, who by the end of that issue team up with Warlord Krang to use the lost Serpent Crown of Lemuria to enslave the entire world. One thing is for sure, villains in the Bronze Age of comics went in large or they stayed home. No two bit heists in the '70s.

#182 and 183 are marred for me by Frank Robbins' overly cartoony artwork. I loved his stuff as a kid, as he did many of my 1980s quarter box finds favorites (Adventure Into Fear with Morbius The Living Vampire, Man From Atlantis, etc.). I find that his work leaves me cold as an adult. I know that I am in the minority, but I dislike his art.

This is all revealed to be the grand scheme of none other than The Red Skull. It is fitting that Steve Rogers faces The Red Skull as his first battle after becoming Captain America, as he was the villain that Cap fought in his first issue back in 1941. As a nod to that issue, the Skull once again plays Chopin's Funeral March before murdering his victims with an overly elaborate and dramatic method.

I was severely disappointed with the ending of this book, as the Red Skull convinces Cap that The Falcon was really his sleeper agent all this time. While we know that this wasn't the case, it was the plot that Steve Englehart envisioned and it stuck for a time before someone else thankfully ret-conned it away later.

Frank Robbins' cartoony artwork is occasionally effective.


The writing was very good and the art was a mixed bag, but all in all I had a good time reading these comics. The Bronze Age are seldom considered a high point in the history of the artform, but I enjoy these comics for their sheer lack of self-importance. The people who made these comics didn't even care enough to take themselves or the material too seriously, which is something that is healthy for everyone to do once in a while.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone-
Linework and Color restoration: Some issues look better than others, but overall this is a serviceable restoration job with the original color palette maintained for the most part.
Paper stock: Matte coated stock of sufficient thickness and weight. This is the same stock found in the softcover Marvel Masterworks and Epic line books. This paper is my favorite paper used in any collected editions published by any company.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Review- STAR WARS VOL. 2: SHOWDOWN ON THE SMUGGLER'S MOON



STAR WARS VOL. 2: SHOWDOWN ON THE SMUGGLER'S MOON (Marvel, First Printing, 2016; Softcover)

Collects Star Wars #7-12 (cover dates September, 2015- January, 2016)

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Simone Bianchi (#7) and Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger (#8-12)
Colorist: Justin Ponsor

Checking out books from the library has taught me something. I no longer feel like I need to own so many comic books, as most of them are worth one read only.

Loads of S P O I L E R S from here on out.

#7 is a filler issue about a passage in the journal that Obi-Wan Kenobi left for Luke to find. It has mediocre artwork by Simone Bianchi and I would have been pissed if I paid $4 to read it when it came out. Things pick up right where left off last time with #8, with Luke Skywalker on a quest to locate information about the Jedi. His journey takes him to Nar Shadaa, the Smuggler's Moon. It's like Mos Eisley on steroids. Luke hopes to find someone to take him to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, only to be captured and turned over to Grakkus The Hutt.

Grakkus is a collector of Jedi artifacts, and wants to add Luke to his collection. He has Luke use the Force to open his collection of Jedi Holocrons. Every secret of the Jedi Order is contained in them, but only those strong in the Force can open them. Luke learns that the Jedi Temple is the Imperial Palace now, and that Grakkus owns every relic that was left in the temple.

Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa are taken prisoner by Sana Starros, a woman claiming to be Han's wife. Sana has plans to turn Princess Leia over the Empire and collect the bounty on her head. It turns out that Han and her planned a scam by using their “wedding” as a cover, only for Han to steal her half and make a run for it, so Sana wants vindication. Things go predictably, with her ending up helping Han and Leia escape the very Imperials that she summoned while answering R2-D2's distress call from Nar Shadaa.

Chewbacca and C3-P0 also answer the call to Nar Shadaa, resulting in the whole band getting back together to free Luke from Grakkus' arena, where he wants to show the last Jedi getting killed. Before that, Dengar discovers Chewbacca arriving, and wants to capture him to lure Han Solo so that he can collect Jabba's bounty on him. Chewbacca and Dengar battle as Solo swoops in and saves the day. Things look bad for Luke as he battles a beast in the arena, but Grakkus' Gamemaster, who sparred with Luke and showed him some tricks with Grakkus' collection of Lightsabers, double crosses Grakkus. It turns out that the Gamemaster was really an Imperial agent named Sergeant Kreel who was sent to watch Grakkus, and Luke falling into his lap forced him to blow his cover.

Kreel reports his finding to Darth Vader, who is aware that Luke Skywalker is his son and is strong with the Force. This ties into the events in Vader's own title, where he is trying to find Luke before the Emperor does.

I enjoyed this story quite a bit, although I remain unimpressed by Stuart Immonen's artwork. It's not bad, but there is something about it that underwhelms me. I can't quite put my finger on it. In any case, a solid read that makes me want to see what happens next...for free, if and when my local library gets in Vol. 3.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I find library copies to be fascinating studies of durability in the workmanship and materials of these collected editions.
Paper stock: Coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Review- STAR WARS: DARTH VADER VOL. 2: SHADOWS AND SECRETS



STAR WARS: DARTH VADER VOL. 2: SHADOWS AND SECRETS (Marvel, First Printing, 2016; Softcover)

Collects Darth Vader #7-12 (cover dates September, 2015- January, 2016)

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvadar Larroca
Colorist: Edgar Delgado

This is a very well done series. Everything is slick and top notch, from the writing to the artwork to the coloring. Aphra has come into her own as a fully formed character. In the first arc she felt stiff and wooden, little more than a plot device. Here she develops a personality and a purpose.

There are a ton of cool things going on here. Lots of bounty hunter action, with plenty of Bossks and IG-88s to spice things up. Triple-Zero (or 000), the sadistic protocol droid, continues to amuse me.

The Emperor obviously suspects Vader's betrayal, and assigns Inspector Thanoth to assist Lord Vader in finding the stolen Son Tuul Pride treasures. Vader engineered the heist to fund his search for Skywalker. It becomes a game of cat and mouse, with Thanoth implying Vader's guilt while trying to convey a sense of cooperation in working with him to root out the enemies of the Empire.



There is still no resolution to the first arc, as we have a sprawling 12 issues and counting storyline. I am okay with that, as this series works. I checked this book out at my local library but it is worth paying for.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I find library copies to be fascinating studies of durability in the workmanship and materials of these collected editions.
Paper stock: Coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Review- CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON: SECRET EMPIRE



CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON: SECRET EMPIRE (Marvel, First Printing, 2005; Softcover)

Collects Captain America #169-176 (cover dates January- August, 1974)

Writers: Steve Englehart and Mike Friedrich
Artists: Sal Buscema with Inking by Vince Colletta and Frank McLaughlin



The recent announcement of a forthcoming new printing of this book in early 2017 embarrassed me into reading this, which has sat unread in my backlog for years. Captain America is a character who was launched as a political concept tied into the zeitgeist, so it makes perfect sense for the character to become disillusioned with America during a time when America became disillusioned with itself. The Viet Nam War and Watergate weighed heavily on the minds of the populace, and the white hat/ black hat nature of our country from three decades earlier had faded. We were no longer in the right, and our then-brave new world left Captain America feeling lost at sea.

Things start out with Cap catching a commercial on the television discrediting him, paid for by the Committee To Regain America's Principles. In reality they are the Secret Empire. The Secret Empire baits Cap into action, setting him up in fights with Silver Age C-lister the Tumbler, going so far as to film Cap “murdering” him. The Committee, who speaks out against costumed vigilantes, bring in their own “hero” to fight on the side of the law, Moonstone. This would be the original, male Moonstone, whom I had no idea existed until I read this. Cap gets arrested by Moonstone while his partner, The Falcon, journeys to Wakanda to visit the Black Panther to see about boosting his power. The Falcon did not yet have his trademark wings. Those debuted in #170.



The Secret Empire again frames Cap, this time by breaking him out of prison and arranging for Moonstone to again fight and apprehend him. The Falcon returns just in time to join in on this battle, but both heroes get defeated and captured. They end up escaping and, using one of the most insane set of clues ever, use Moonstone's drawl and country music references to stereotype him as a Nashville resident. I'm not a very politically correct guy, but isn't this kind of racist to assume that just because someone has a drawl and references country music that they would be from Nashville? I dunno, this century confuses me. Maybe it is a micro-aggression or a macro-aggression. Who knows.



While in Nashville Cap and the Falcon run into the then-villain Banshee, who was being tailed by The X-Men. Professor X, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl were also hot on the tail of the Secret Empire. In some convoluted, it-makes-sense-because-everyone-was-high-in-1974 kind of way, the Secret Empire were capturing mutants to use their brain energy to power some bizarre machine. This being the Cold War, there is of course some giant robot for our heroes to fight.



The heroes win the battle but lose the war. Captain America is so disheartened with how easily the public turned against him, wishing to believe the worst about him, that he decides to quit being Captain America. This sets the stage for the next book in this line, Nomad, which I have also now read and will be reviewing for you soon.

I have always enjoyed Englehart's writing, and Sal Buscema turns in his usual solid work. The Bronze Age of comics is often maligned by modern fans for it's overly wordy nature. I enjoy this full-bodied flavor of storytelling to the wimpy, watered down light taste of modern comics. Your mileage may vary.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone-
Linework and Color restoration: Some issues look better than others, but overall this is a serviceable restoration job with the original color palette maintained for the most part.
Paper stock: Glossy coated stock. While not optimal for material with flat coloring, it isn't too bad when read in natural light. Marvel used paper like this until 2006.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Review- STAR WARS: CHEWBACCA



STAR WARS: CHEWBACCA (Marvel, First Printing, 2016; Softcover)

Collects Chewbacca #1-5 (cover dates December, 2015- February, 2016)

Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Phil Noto
Colorist: VC's Joe Caramagna

My son and I checked this out of the library but he lost interest after the second issue. We also checked out the new Princess Leia series and he had a similar reaction to it. Princess Leia was unreadable, but I managed to solider on and finish this one.

Like the rest of these Marvel Star Wars comic books, this takes place immediately after Star Wars (or Episode IV: A New Hope for you 1981-on new jack types). Chewbacca is flying a ship and crash lands on a planet where he encounters Zarro, a feisty young girl whose father has been enslaved in a mine by a crook named Jaum who is trying to make a deal with the Empire. Long story short, Chewbacca helps Zarro free her father and the rest of their villagers while simultaneously thwarting the Empire.



Reading a series where the star speaks in unintelligible grunts and growls is interesting to say the least. It requires the rest of the characters featured in the story to carry the dialogue. Things move along at a slow pace, and the action is never explosive. This is a quieter tale, and I can see why my 9 year old son became bored with it. It's not without its charms, however, as the artwork and coloring are both top notch. You could certainly do worse than this book. I'm glad that I read it for free, as it is something that is not worth owning in my opinion.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 2.75 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I find library copies to be fascinating studies of durability in the workmanship and materials of these collected editions.
Paper stock: Coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Review- SILVER STREAK ARCHIVES FEATURING THE ORIGINAL DAREDEVIL VOL. 1



SILVER STREAK ARCHIVES FEATURING THE ORIGINAL DAREDEVIL VOL. 1 (Dark Horse, First Printing, 2012; Hardcover)

Collects Silver Streak #6-9 (cover dates September, 1940- April, 1941)

Writers: Jack Cole, Kane Miller, Don Rico, Carl Hubbell, Otto Binder, Bob Turner, D.B. Icove, Dick Briefer, Walter Galli, and Bob Wood

Artists: Jack Binder, Dick Briefer, Jack Cole, Maurice Gutwirth, Hal Sharp, John Hampton, Mac Raboy, Harry Anderson, Carl Hubbell, Dick Dawson, Carl Formes, Walter Galli, Fred Guardineer, D.B. Icove, Richard Norman, Kane Warren, and Bob Wood



The Golden Age of collected editions has made spoiled brats of us all. I remember a time when just the idea of obscure, expensive old comic books beautifully restored and slapped between two hardbacks was enough to send me into a tizzy. Fast forward a dozen years and there are hundreds of collections of this material available for purchase. The novelty of reading said old comics has entirely worn off for me. They now have to impress me either through story or historical significance.

Silver Streak Archives Featuring The Original Daredevil Vol. 1 falls flat on the story side, but the historical significance picks up the slack. Lots of legendary creators were cutting their teeth here. Kids who read this stuff at the time can say that they knew them when. The original Daredevil was one of the best-selling superheroes of his day, which seems curious considering that he is merely a footnote today. Like many forty-somethings, I had never even heard of him until Dynamite's Project Superpowers resurrected a slew of public domain Golden Age superheroes, bringing them into the present.



Like most Golden Age comics, this is an anthology series, with a series of features in each issue that run the gamut. Also like many Golden Age comics, this is not politically correct. One must understand the societal mores of the time and look at it in a purely academic sense, or risk being offended. I keep stuff like this well out of the reach of my son, as I don't want to have conversations about racial stereotypes from 75-odd years ago. And like many Golden Age comics, it is amazing to see how folks seemed to be chomping at the bit for us to get into what would become World War II.

Silver Streak is the headliner, although he would soon be eclipsed by Daredevil. Daredevil's first appearance in issue 6 shows his costume as half yellow, half blue. This is changed to half red, half blue by the following issue. The Claw, his arch-nemesis, seems to have limitless power. It is almost Fletcher Hanks bad in terms of believability.



Jack Cole's Dickie Dean, The Boy Inventor!!! is highly entertaining. The Pirate Prince is an excellent series about “that swashbuckling, daring Robin Hood of the sea”. The Pirate Prince robs pirates and frees the slaves aboard their ships, which is something when you consider the rampant racism and lingering resentment towards blacks in an era when people who remembered slaves were still alive. There is a sense of decency and humanity as to how blacks are portrayed here, which again flies in the face of many of these old comics. It seems downright progressive, and makes me wonder if a reboot of this series would work today.

The rest of the strips are of the garden variety. You have your western knock offs, your Tarzan knock-offs, your Buck Rogers knock-offs, random G-man types, airplane/dogfight stuff, humor strips, etc. None of them are remarkable but most are readable.

Old comics are often unintentionally funny. 


This was an okay read that didn't bowl me over. Like I said, there was a time when any old comics would rock my socks off. That ship has sailed though, as I have read enough of them for me to not be impressed by something solely because of it's age. I have Volume 2 in this line and hope to read it someday.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This book is light, weighing scarcely more than a pack of cigarettes. I do not smoke, but my mother did. She used to send me to the store on my bike to buy her cigarettes, back in the olden days when kids could go to the corner store and pick up their parent's smokes and everyone thought that it was a-okay.
Linework and Color restoration: Perfectly serviceable restoration, done by scanning original comics and then recoloring them with computers and correcting line bleed, off-register printing, etc. I appreciate the fact that Dark Horse put the time, effort, and money into doing this when so many other publishers just scan 'em and slap 'em into hardcovers.
Paper stock: I love the paper that Dark Horse started using in their Archives back around 2010. It looks like old pulp comic book paper but is super thick, high quality stuff. It is matte uncoated stock and has zero sheen under any light source. Plus it has that delectable Chinese sweatshop printing press aroma. I stop reading every so often just to huff it. Oh yeah, that's the stuff...
Binding: Smyth sewn binding. While the book block has room to flex in the casing you need to use two hands to read this, as it does not lay flat.



Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: The dustjacket has a nice shiny lamination. The hardback has that faux leather casewrap with die foil stamping for the lettering on the cover and the spine. 


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Review- LEGENDARY STAR-LORD VOL. 1: FACE IT, I RULE



LEGENDARY STAR-LORD VOL. 1: FACE IT, I RULE (Marvel, First Printing, 2015; Softcover)

Collects Legendary Star-Lord #1-5 (cover dates September, 2014- January, 2015)

Writer: Sam Humphries
Artists: Paco Medina and Juan Vlasco with Freddie Williams II (#4 only)
Colorist: David Curiel

This was a book that my son checked out of the library and wanted to read with me. I am largely unfamiliar with the character, knowing him as a C-lister from the 1970s and the movie. Over the past decade he was rebooted, with that version going on to appear in the Guardians Of The Galaxy movie. This Marvel movie phenomenon is really something, as I could never imagine Star-Lord becoming a minor household name.

The characterization is right in line with what you see in film, so if that is the only version of the character that you know you will feel right at home. This is slick and polished. Think of it like a mainstream, big budget Hollywood movie. This isn't really my cup of tea but my 9 year old son loved it, so that is all that I care about. I did dig the battle with Thanos, and so did he.

There is some inappropriate language here that I had to edit out as I read it to my son. I don't get why Marvel has to do this sort of thing with mainstream superhero comics. I don't believe in censoring artists or their art, but when Marvel/Disney markets toys and cartoons to children on Disney XD then I feel that they have a certain responsibility to make the comics appropriate for them. I have been in online arguments with other fans who tell me that I should get over it and stop shielding my children from the real world. My argument for that is well then should I then expose my son to drugs or pornography, since those are also a part of the “real world”? Is it wrong for a parent to want their kid to be a kid and be able to read mainstream superhero comic books without having to censor the odd curse word? Maybe I am just a dinosaur, I dunno.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 2.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I find library copies to be fascinating studies of durability in the workmanship and materials of these collected editions.
Paper stock: Coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review- ART OUT OF TIME: UNKNOWN COMICS VISIONARIES, 1900-1969



ART OUT OF TIME: UNKNOWN COMICS VISIONARIES, 1900-1969 (Abrams ComicArts, Third Printing, 2010; Hardcover)

This book is an excellent overview of the forgotten and the esoteric comic strip and comic book artists of the early 20th century. The material is broken down into five categories, Exercises In Exploration, Slapstick, Acts Of Drawing, Words In Pictures, and Form And Style. I will list each artist covered as well as the material that is reprinted in this book.

First up we have Harry Grant Dart's The Explorigator strip, a beautifully drawn surreal series obviously inspired by Winsor McCay's Little Nemo In Slumberland. The strips for 6/14/1908, 6/21/1908, 7/26/1908, and an undated 1908 page are all shrunk down too small to comfortably read.

Next is Howard Nostrand's classic What's Happening At...8:30 P.M. from Witches Tales #25 from 1954. This tale has since been reprinted multiple times by multiple publishers.

Herbert Crowley's The Wiggle-Much is completely ruined due to the strip being shrunk down to fit into this standard sized book. It seems fascinating, but is unfortunately too small to read. The strips reprinted here are 4/3/1910, 4/17/1910, 5/1/1910, 5/8/1910, 5/15/1910, 5/22/1910, 6/5/1910, and 6/12/1910.

Odgen Whitney's Herbie is brilliant. It is bizarre and doesn't make much sense, but that is what makes it so great. His emotionally abusive father certainly doesn't help him any. Old comic books are fascinating snapshots of bygone eras. Societal mores are on full display, albeit often in caricature. A story from 1964's Herbie #3 is reprinted here.



Not everything here is a winner, though. Take Rymond Crawford Ewer's Slim Jim. It would suck even if it were presented in full size. The 4/30/1911, 5/27/1911, 6/17/1911, 6/24/1911, 7/8/1911, 12/16/1911, 11/29/1914, 4/11/1915, and10/31/1915 are reprinted here. This strip will likely never be reprinted again anywhere. Indeed, one has to wonder if any company could even piece together a full run of the series to reprint even if they wanted to.

Another one that has been reprinted many times since this book is Bob Powell's godlike Colorama from 1953's Black Cat Mystery #45. Psychedelic before the term even existed.

I'm not much of an anthropomorphic animal kind of guy, but I can appreciate anything that is well done. Walter Quermann's Hickory Hollow Folks is highly derivative but enjoyable nonetheless. The strips collected here are from 7/3/1938, 7/31/1938, 8/21/1938, 9/11/1938, and 10/23/1938.



As we move to the Slapstick section of the book my enthusiasm waned. I am not a fan of slapstick comics. Milt Gross' Nize Baby is tolerable. The strips from 4/3/1927, 5/28/1927, 8/6/1927 are reprinted here. A 15 page Pete The Pooch story from 1947's Milt Gross Funnies #2 rounds out his section of the book.

Stan Mc Govern's Silly Milly is wretched. The less said about it the better. Daily strips collected here are from 7/3-5, 10-13/1944, 9/5/1944, 12/11, 19-22/1944, 3/26-30/1945, 4/2-6/1945, 5/21/1945, and 6/11-15, 1945.

Dick Briefer's Frankenstein is shown here years before all of the other collections sans the Idea Men Productions book which introduced me to the character. PS Publishing, Yoe Books/IDW, and Dark Horse have all taken a stab at reprinting his run. The story reprinted here, 1946's Frankenstein #4, is great.

Jack Mendelsohn's Jacky's Diary is such an obvious influence on stuff like Diary Of A Wimpy Kid. My son loves those books. Stories from 1960's Jacky's Diary #1 are reprinted here.

In the third section of the book, Acts Of Drawing, we get Charles M. Payne's S'Matter, Pop, which was titled Say, Pop! in the first strip shown here. An undated strip from 1918, 7/21/1918, 2/20/1921, 4/1/1921, 5/?/1921, and an undated 1924 strip round it out.

Fletcher Hanks in batshit insane. His nonsensical writing, coupled with his bizarre artwork make for an awfully memorable (or is it memorably awful?) reading experience. I had both Fantagraphics books which reprinted his stuff but dumped them years ago. Rereading 1940's Fantastic Comics #10 reminded me that I did the right thing, as his work is like a train wreck.

Sunday Press Books recently issued a hardcover of Garrett Price's White Boy, and after reading a sampling here I want it. I likely won't even get around to buying it, but my OCD homeskillet Ferjo Byroy has it and would loan it to me if I asked. It's great stuff that is worth reading. The Sunday storyline from 6/3/1934 through 9/30/1934 is reprinted here.

A.E. Hayward's godawful Somebody's Strong harshed my buzz from the previous strip. The 7/23/1922, 8/20/1922, 3/28/1926, 5/12/1929, and 4/3/1932 strips are a waste of your time.

Jefferson Machamer's Gags And Gals is unreadable. I like old stuff, but sometimes things just don't translate. It's a historical curiosity and nothing more. Reprinted here are the strips from 4/11/1937, 7/11/1937, 8/1/1937, 8/29/1937, and 11/28/1937.

Underground Comix were never my thing. I understand the historical significance of them, but this one kinda sucks and certainly isn't one of the important ones. Rory Hayes' stories from 1969's Bogeyman Comics #1 and 2 are forgettable.

Harry Hershfeld's Dauntless Durham Of The U.S.A. is brilliant. Great art and a great ongoing story, it is marred by the shrunken size of it in this book. It is so difficult to read that I gave up after a while. It's a shame. Maybe IDW/Library Of American Comics can reprint it in one of their strange small landscape format books. There is lots of great slang of the era here. None of the strips' dates here are known, save that the 62 dailies reprinted here are all from 1913. There was a hardcover from 1977, and it makes me envious of the “old guys”, those collectors from the first and second generations of our hobby. They already knew how cool this stuff was 40 years ago, and here I am just discovering it.



Cecil Johnson's Elmo, from 1948's Elmo #1 is unremarkable. There was a time where I would buy anything that was old, so long as it was slapped between two hardbacks with nice paper and sewn binding. The novelty of reading old comics has worn thin after hundreds of these over the past dozen or so years.

I am not a fan of slapstick comics, but I can appreciate anything so long as it is well done. Boody Rogers' Sparky Watts, from issue 8 of the same title from 1948, is great fun. I especially enjoyed it when Sparky was shrunk down to the size of a flea on the monkey. Dimwitted Slap Happy decided to help the monkey get rid of it's fleas by spraying it in the face with D.D.T. Crazy. As goofy as the two stories from Sparky Watts #8 are, I would be all over a collected edition of it.



Harry J. Tuthill's The Bungle Family is so marred by the shrunken size that I gave up trying to read it. What a shame. The 1/1/1933, 8/6/1933, 8/13/1933, 11/26/1933, 12/3/1933, 12/17/1933, 2/4/1934, 3/04/1934, 3/11/1934, 3/18/1934, 4/15/1934, 4/22/1934, 7/29/1934 and 12/26/1937 full page strips are ruined here.

C.W. Kahles' Hairbreadth Harry is genius. I suffered through the smaller size, reading it through the zoom on phone's camera. There is something wrong with a book when you have to use an electronic device to read it. This is very clever strip with gorgeous artwork that needs to be rescued and reprinted. The 2/9/1924, 2/23/1924, 3/8/1924, 4/5/1924, 4/12/1934, 4/19/1924, 4/26/1924, 5/3/1924, 5/10/1924, 5/17/1924, 1/20/1929, 2/3/1929, 3/24/1929, and 3/31/1929 strips are reprinted here. They are not enough. I want more.



Naughty Pete by Charles Forbell is unreadable in this book. It's a second rate Little Nemo In Slumberland anyhow. Strips collected in this book are from 8/17/1913, 8/24/1913, 10/5/1913, 10/12/1913, 10/19/1913, 10/26/1913, 11/2/1913, 11/16/1913, 11/23/1913, 11/30/1913, and 12/7/1913.

T.E. Power's Joys And Glooms is a slice of irony. Hipsters like old stuff and irony, and since this is really old and really ironic they would really like it. The 10/14/1911, 10/16/1911, 10/30/1911, 11/8/1911, 11/13/1911, 12/2/1911, 12/12/1911, and 12/21/1911 certainly pleased men with lumberjack beards the first time around that they were popular.

Gustave Verbeek is all but forgotten with even the strips fans. His artwork has a surreal, childish look to it. The Upside-Downs Of Little Lady Lovekins And Old Man Muffaroo is represented here by the 5/1/1904, 5/8/1904 , 5/22/1904, 6/5/1904, 6/12/1904, an undated 1904 strip, two undated 1905 strips, 7/31/1910, and 6/13/1913.

I couldn't even stomach Gene Deitch's Terr'ble Thompson, as cutesy stuff doesn't float my boat. I did not read the 2/5/1955, 10/20-11/6, 11/10-13/1955, or the 3/04/1956 strips.

Comic books were aimed squarely at children when they came out. While there was certainly a sizeable adult audience for many titles, things like Jingle Jangle Tales #2 from 1943 were for the kiddies. George Carlson's artwork is whimsical and kid friendly for the day.

Norman E. Jennett's Monkey Shines Of Marseleen is godlike. It has a definite Winsor McKay influence, but it so well done who cares! I would love to see it reprinted in its entirety. The 2/28/1909, 3/14/1909, 3/28/1909, 4/4/1909, 4/18/1909, 5/2/1909, 9/26/1909, and 11/21/1909 are all marred by the reduced size.

There is a lot of great vintage material in this book which is not available elsewhere. Unfortunately it is ruined, as the strips are shrunk down in size to such a degree that it causes eye strain. I have 20/20 vision and I had trouble reading it. I ended up using my phone's camera to zoom in, but after a while I became aggravated and gave up on some of the strips. It's a shame that this is the only place to get printed examples of some of these lost classics. I checked this out of the library and I am glad that I didn't pay for the substandard presentation. Saturday or Sunday comic sections were huge, and to see them reduced to this size is painful and heartbreaking.

Still, this is the only game in town to get a lot of this material, so as long as you understand what you are getting you should be okay.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3 out of 5.

The OCD zone-
Linework and Color restoration: Raw scans (or photographs) with minimal tinkering. Line bleed, off register printing, so-called Ben Day dots, and cracked, flaking paper are all present.
Paper stock: Thick coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding, lies perfectly flat.
Dustjacket and Hardback Cardstock cover notes: This is a library copy, so the dustjacket is fastened to the hardback and has a Brodart sleeve on it. Therefore, I am unable to comment on them since I cannot inspect them fairly.