Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review- FRANK BELLAMY'S HEROS THE SPARTAN

FRANK BELLAMY'S HEROS THE SPARTAN (Book Palace Books, 2013; Hardcover)
Collects Heros The Spartan comic strips, (Books 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8) originally published in Eagle on October 27, 1962- October 26, 1963, June 9- October 17, 1964, and June 6- October 17, 1965 and the Eagle Annual September 1965
Writer: Tom Tully
Artist: Frank Bellamy

Limited to 720 copies worldwide, this deluxe hardcover has made me a convert to The Church of Bellamy. Once you see the light you too will begin hunting down all of these expensive, obscure British books. I have quite a collection of them going now. Kill me.
Heros The Spartan is, obviously, a Spartan from Rome. His adventures see him encountering Jackal-Men, sea serpents, armies of giants, monsters, pagan god cults, and Druids while taking him as far as Libya. This is incredible fantasy stuff. Being British, there is way more violence than American comics would allow at that time.

You know what I really loved about this strip? The complete lack of humor and snark. No crappy one-liners, no self deprecation or any of that other crap. Those things have helped ruin comics.
 Bellamy's artwork is breathtaking. It is honestly quite distracting. I would have to pore over each double-page spread strip, read it, and then go back and gawk for a while. It took me six months to finish this book because of that.


Stuff like this makes 99% of comic books published seem like amateurish crap. This is high adventure that is also high art. This strip belongs on walls in museums. Forget chase variants and crossovers and pick up Heros The Spartan! You can thank me later.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
http://www.instocktrades.com/

The OCD zone- This strip was originally published as a two page centerfold. There is some slight gutter loss here and there, with this example being the worst.
The absolute worst case scenario in terms of gutter loss. The rest of the book is quite good in this regard.
Sometimes there is zero loss, other times very very minor, other times maybe 1/8”, and the worst being slightly more. This wouldn't annoy me as much as it did if the word balloons didn't cross the gutter in the books. Sometimes a letter of a word gets swallowed, and the worst case scenario (seen above) is two letters get lost. It is still readable but it takes a second of guesswork. It didn't detract from the quality of the story but it did annoy me. 
The only other complaint that I have is that is that Books 3, 5, and 7 were omitted because Luis Bermejo handled the art duties. Bermejo is great in his own right and I would love to see these strips as well. Book Palace made a judgment call to go with Bellamy strips only with this book. The disruption in story is only momentary, as the weekly strip was designed in such a way as to let anyone walk in at any time and get it. It is really a lost art form.

DVD-style Extras included in this book: Foreword by John Byrne. (2 pages)
Foreword by Dave Gibbons. (2 pages)
Foreword by Walt Simonson. (2 pages)
Foreword by Ken Steacy. (1 page)
Foreword by John Watkiss (1 page)
Introduction by Norman Boyd. (8 pages)
Lighting The Darkness: An Insight Into The Life And Work Of Frank Bellamy, loaded with rare unseen artwork, full page sample strips of other Bellamy work, and an interview from the 1970s by Dez Skinn and Dave Gibbons. (37 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. These were mostly scanned from original art boards, meaning that this material has never been seen by the general public in this quality and detail. Think of it as a frame by frame restoration of a classic movie, finally available on Blu-Ray disc.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Incredible thick dull matte finish uncoated stock, although it is very smooth feeling. Whatever sorcery they used to make this paper, or no matter how many virgin Amazon rainforest trees the Chinese paper mills used to make it do not matter so long as I have a book as beautiful book like this. I am of course kidding...or am I? Face facts, folks- if you collect dead tree editions of books then you can't be that concerned about the environment, can you?
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Smyth sewn binding, ten stitches per signature. The book lays completely flat from the first page to the last, which is a godsend given how massive it is! (11 X 14 inches, or 270 mm X 360 mm for my friends out there in the non-English units of measuring system world outside of the United States.)
Hardback cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. The image is printed on the casewrap; no dustjacket provided. The images are spot varnished and semi-glossy, while the solids have a dull matte finish coating which seems fairly impervious to scuffing.

3 comments:

  1. "Whatever sorcery they used to make this paper, or no matter how many virgin Amazon rainforest trees the Chinese paper mills used to make it do not matter so long as I have a book as beautiful book like this. I am of course kidding...or am I? Face facts, folks- if you collect dead tree editions of books then you can't be that concerned about the environment, can you?"

    well you say that
    http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3328

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Whatever sorcery they used to make this paper, or no matter how many virgin Amazon rainforest trees the Chinese paper mills used to make it do not matter so long as I have a book as beautiful book like this. I am of course kidding...or am I? Face facts, folks- if you collect dead tree editions of books then you can't be that concerned about the environment, can you?"

    well you say that
    http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3328

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kris, what a great review and thanks for letting me know it's now up on your fascinating site. The OCD Zone element is invaluable as this data often gets missed in reviews and Peter Richardson (designer and general chasing people guy) and Geoff West (publisher) should be awarded something for this tremendous work, that I played a very small - but extremely proud - part in. It's good you, and lots of others appreciated the amount of work put into it.
    Thanks, Norman

    ReplyDelete