Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review- BRENDA STARR: THE COMPLETE PRE-CODE CLASSICS VOL. 1: GOOD GIRLS, BONDAGE, AND OTHER FINE THINGS

BRENDA STARR: THE COMPLETE PRE-CODE CLASSICS VOL. 1: GOOD GIRLS, BONDAGE, AND OTHER FINE THINGS (Hermes Press, 2013; Hardcover)
Collects Brenda Starr Comics Nos. 13 and 14 (or 1 and 2 as listed in the indicia of this book, originally published by Four Star Comics ) and Brenda Starr Nos. 3-8 (originally published by Superior Comics, cover dates September, 1947- May, 1949)
Writer: Unknown
Artists: Dale Messick, Matt Baker, and the Iger Studios artists

I'll admit it. The sensationalist title and cover image made me look twice. Brenda Starr? Who fucking cares about Brenda Starr? And yet I was intrigued to eventually pick this book up. Once I flipped through it it got bumped up to the reading pile. Sorry seven boxes of unread Marvel Masterworks, PS Artbooks, normal-sized non-Warren Magazine Dark Horse Archives and DC Archives, but this seemed intriguing enough for me to pass you all by. 
Brenda Starr began life as a newspaper comic strip like all “respectable” properties. Comic books in those days were the ghetto, where creators who couldn't make the big time went to peddle their wares. The strip was around for seven years by the time that a comic book counterpart was launched. These comics, like the strip, were done by Dale Messick. The comic book didn't seem to have the legs that the strip did (no pun intended), as there weren't very many issues published when compared to the strip, which ran until 2011. An interesting tidbit that I came across while researching this post was that June Brigman of Power Pack fame did the artwork on the strip for a number of years. Hermes Press, please compile these in hardcover and TAKE MY MONEY.
Back when America was great because employees had no rights!
Brenda Starr is a reporter in an age when females weren't taken seriously in the workplace. Indeed, the rampant sexism of the era is present throughout the comic book. It's unintentionally funny here in 2014. The overly sensitive may be offended by these non-politically correct comic books. It's funny how everyone wants to marry Brenda, since people supposedly didn't have sex before marriage in “the good old days”. The comic, like the strip, takes place in Chicago, but the street names and landmarks don't ring any bells for me. I have been to Chicago many times over the years and love it there.
One thing that I found interesting was the transition in #8 from hand lettering to the Leroy mechanical hand lettering template most commonly found in EC Comics. I recognized the clear lettering style immediately. I wish that more comic books used this font, even today. 
The non-Brenda Starr back-up stories are also included.
While the title of this book might lead you to think that this is a cheesecake comic, there isn't much in the way of innuendo or double entendres. Golden Age Wonder Woman has this beat hollow. This is still an entertaining read that bleeds charm. I enjoyed this so much that I have since picked up Hermes Press' Brenda Starr daily and Sundays strip book. I hope to read it someday. Hopefully we will see a volume 2 in this line, which should collect #9-12 from Superior Comics, #13-15 from the 1955 Charlton series, and the one-shot published by Dell in 1963.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
The OCD zone- The cover image found on the dustjacket is repeated on the casewrap of the hardback.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Introduction by Ron Goulart (3 pages)
Focus: Restoring Brenda Starr (2 pages)
Several pages of original art, water color guides for Sunday strips, and other Dale Messick art found throughout the book.
Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.5 out of 5. These are digitally cleaned up high resolution scans. This warts and all approach allows you to see all of the imperfections present in the original comics including but not limited to line bleed and off register printing. Some fans love this authenticity, others want full blown “frame up” digital reconstruction. I have rated these based on the quality of the restoration as cleaned up scans. They look pretty sharp.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Semi-glossy coated stock with a slight sheen. I tell you, I could sit and huff these sweet smelling Chinese made books all day.
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Smyth sewn binding, 7 stitches per signature. The book lays about 95% flat in one hand.
Hardback cover coating rating: 4 out of 5. The casewrapping suffered a few very light scuffs during handling and reading, which is disappointing considering how gingerly I handle my books. I'm not the Samsonite gorilla, folks.


http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/Hermes-Press/BRENDA-STARR-COMP-PRE-CODE-COMICS-HC-VOL-01/MAR131192


2 comments:

  1. You didn't mention anything about the artists. Wasn't Jack Kamen the main artist for this series? Is it as good as his EC stuff?

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    1. Kamen only did some of the covers, unfortunately. His name being attached to the solicitations was one of the reasons that I ordered this. He did the issue's cover that graces the cover of this book. Matt Baker did some of the stories later in this book. It's good stuff nonetheless!

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