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Book Review: Bravo For Adventure by Alex Toth

Bravo for Alex Toth!
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Legendary artist and noted curmudgeon Alex Toth never made a secret of his continued frustrations with editorial interference, bad scripts, and the continued trend toward gritty anti-heroes in mainstream comics. So when given the opportunity to create his own comic series, he took a look back in time to the halcyon days when dashing film heroes like Errol Flynn and comic adventurers such as Terry and the Pirates buckled swash and took part in all manner of high adventure and derring-do. The end result was Bravo for Adventure, a throwback adventure that many consider to be Toth's seminal work -

Book Review: The Ultimate Woody Allen Film Companion by Jason Bailey

It's a book to be savored, yet it's so good one may rush through to discover all it offers.
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The first thing I thought when I got a hold of this book was that if there was any filmmaker who would quickly make a book like this incomplete because of how fast he works it would be Woody Allen. Author Jason Bailey obviously had the same thought because the Prologue offers a link to a website "for a discussion of Magic in the Moonlight and other future Woody Allen projects...for updates and new essays." Seeing as we had similar concerns, I figured I was in good hands as a reader and I was right. Each film (from What's Up,

Book Review: The Amazing Spider-Man: The Ultimate Newspaper Comics Collection Vol. 1: Black and White and Read All Over

Collection provides ideal format for cohesively enjoying the long-form stories.
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Let’s face it: daily newspaper comic strips have never been a great way to follow serialized stories. When a story is doled out in just a few panels a day, it’s difficult to follow and even more difficult to appreciate as a whole. Thankfully, IDW Publishing is here to save the day with their latest archival comic strip project covering the first two years of Spider-Man’s daily adventures. This comic strip wasn’t just handed off to junior hacks; it was written by the character’s creator and architect of much of the Marvel universe, Stan “The Man” Lee. Likewise, the art

Book Review: Secret Agent X-9: 1934-1936 by Dashiell Hammett & Alex Raymond

Sometimes a "Dream Team" is better left to the imagination.
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Everyone loves a dream team. Who can forget Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage joining forces to form the Mega-Powers or Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison coming together as the musical Voltron known as The Traveling Wilburys? Much like the magical combination of chocolate and peanut butter, a dream team represents a union of the good, the great, and the totally sweet, and not only lays to rest the question of “What If?” that lurks inside the hearts and minds of all fans, but also threatens to tear the very fabric of the

Book Review: Star Trek: New Visions Volume 2 by John Byrne

These new voyages fit right alongside the old ones.
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In Star Trek: New Visions, John Byrne tells of the lost missions of the starship Enterprise under the command of Captain James T. Kirk. Through the use of images from the Original Series combined with new material such as characters and dialogue, Byrne creates adventures that have an air of authenticity because we see the familiar faces of the actors. Volume 2 collects issues #3-5 and contains an all-new story with something for those who read Gold Key's Star Trek comics. "Cry Vengeance" tells the origins of the Doomsday Machine from the episode of the same name. "Robot" is a

Book Review: The Complete Dick Tracy, Volume 18: 1957-1959 by Chester Gould

Gould's writing entertains because of the unpredictable twists the stories take along the way to their expected conclusions.
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As the Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing continue to collect The Complete Dick Tracy by Chester Gould, Volume 18 presents the dailies and Sunday strips from December 15, 1957 through to July 11, 1959. The opening few panels are a little heavy handed and preachy as Tracy's adopted son Junior explains he and some friends want to go into law enforcement and gives a slightly nauseating speech about how much better things would be "if parents stayed at home more with their kids and helped teach them good manners - taught 'em to pray, and tanned their little

Book Review: Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips, Volume Four: 1974-1979

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.
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With the Library of America Comics releasing the fourth and final volume in the Eisner Award-winning series, they have published the complete collection of Russ Manning's Tarzan newspaper strips. As Henry G. Franke III, editor of The Burroughs Bibliophiles, explains in his informative introduction of the strip and its author, Manning was only creating Sunday strips at this point in the run, having given up the dailies in order to add Tarzan graphic novels to his workload. However, interest in the strip and the character had waned by the end of the decade. In February 1979, Tarzan "was appearing in

Book Review: Madeline Kahn: Being the Music, A Life by William V. Madison

The unique comedic chameleon gets a bio that contextualizes her career but comes up short on the person behind the performer.
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There are a handful of uniquely talented performers for whom, once or twice or maybe three times in a career, the stars align into a magical combination of the absolutely right role in the absolutely right play, film or TV show. Everyone will have their own favorites: mine include Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker; Zero Mostel in The Producers; Angela Lansbury’s Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd; and maybe a dozen or so more. Madeline Kahn had the fortunate misfortune to hit this kind of bulls-eye an amazing four times within a span of just three years in the early 1970s,

Book Review: Bravest Warriors: Things to Doodle and Do!

Expand your mind and let your creativity run wild with games, puzzles, and inter-dimensional activities.
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I wasn’t really familiar with Emmy Award-winning creator Pendleton Ward’s Bravest Warriors when I requested a copy of Bravest Warriors: Things to Doodle and Do! (published by Viz Media’s Perfect Square imprint) for review. Sure, I knew Ward was the guy behind Adventure Time and I had a vague notion that Bravest Warriors was something sci-fi related; but neither I nor my children knew anything about the premise or the characters. What we did know, however, is that doodle books are awesome and Adventure Time is awesome so by extension, this doodle book was likely pretty awesome. And indeed, what

Book Review: Usagi Yojimbo: Senso by Stan Sakai

It contains the expected exquisiteness one associates with Sakai's work.
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After a two-year break from his long-running Usagi Yojimbo, time spent working on the Eisner-nominated limited series Ronin 47, Stan Sakai returned to it with the six-issue miniseries Usagi Yojimbo: Senso. Originally published from August 2014 through January 2015, Dark Horse has now collected them in one book. Sakai introduces the collection with a comic strip where he explains to his main character, the rabbit ronin Usagi, and the reader that Senso's premise deals with the questions "what if the Martians had sent scout ships 200 years before the events chronicled by [H.G.] Wells, and what if they had landed
Paul Shaffer is best known for being the bandleader on David Letterman’s late-night talk show, both at NBC and CBS, from February 1, 1982 to May 20, 2015. He demonstrates his great sense of humor through his bantering with Letterman and the songs chosen to play on guests. He also exudes a love of show business, past and present, and appearances by celebrities he has met are sprinkled all throughout the book. With the assistance of David Ritz, both Shaffer’s traits are on display and make for a very entertaining read. As Shaffer reveals his life to readers, his anecdotes

Book Review: Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records by Kevin Prested

A thorough look at the rise and fall of one of the 1990s great indie labels.
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You hear a lot of praise about punk rock in the 1970s, but the ‘90s had a burgeoning punk scene, too. Bubbling just under the big alt-rock banner, punk bands proliferated mainly on the West Coast - Portland, Seattle, LA, San Francisco - and you usually didn’t see or hear of them unless you were into the scene or read Maximum Rock and Roll or other underground zines. San Francisco’s Lookout Records was at the forefront of that scene, releasing EPs, albums, and vinyl singles from ska punk band Operation Ivy, Mr. T Experience, the Donnas, Avengers, Rancid, Bratmobile, Screeching

Book Review: Crate Digger: An Obsession with Punk Records by Bob Suren

Crate Digger tells the story of the Florida punk scene over the past 30 years through the favorite records of the author.
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In Crate Digger: An Obsession with Punk Rock Records, Bob Suren attaches the story of his life to 50 of his favorite records. Punk records, to be precise. For music geeks like myself, it is an interesting idea. I imagine that everyone has that certain song or album that defines a period in their life. The only problem with this method would be in choosing the records. Perhaps a bigger question is who would read such a book, unless they knew you. Suren lays out his credentials as a player in the Florida punk scene, and it sounds like he

Book Review: Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I by Shinobu Hashimoto

The screenwriter for some of Kurosawa's best films discusses their collaboration and more.
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Shinobu Hashimoto wrote the screenplays to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Ikiru and The Seven Samurai. If you are keeping score, that’s three of the greatest films in the history of films. He wrote several more films with Kurosawa including Throne of Blood and The Hidden Fortress plus dozens more for other directors. Originally published in 2006, Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I is finally being made available in English by Vertical Inc. Having not heard of the book (or to be honest, the writer though I’m a great lover of Kurosawa) until about a week ago, I can’t say it was

Book Review: In the Company of Legends by Joan Kramer and David Heeley

Classic-film fans are very fortunate they took the time to create this book.
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For 25 years, the award-winning filmmaking team of Joan Kramer and David Heeley lived a classic-film fan's dream many times over, as they met, produced documentaries about, and in some cases became friends with stars of the silver screen. In this mutual memoir, they reveal the wonderful stories about what it took to tell the wonderful stories about their famous subjects. Joan and David began working together in 1978 on Skyline, a local arts program produced by New York PBS affiliate, WNET. As the series was coming to an end after three seasons, they attempted to move on with a

Book Review: Chappie: The Art of the Movie by Peter E. Aperlo

Gritty, realistic sci-fi doesn't exactly translate to stunning pre-production design.
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A few weeks ago, Chappie, writer/director Neill Blomkamp’s latest film, arrived in theaters to mixed reviews. A few days ago, Chappie: The Art of the Movie arrived on my doorstep in a similar fashion. Taking inspiration from the creator’s short film "Tetra Vaal," Chappie contains all the typical elements of a Blomkamp film: gritty science fiction grounded in a hard reality, ultra-violent action, and a sharp satirical wit. Oh yeah, and Sharlto Copley too. Anyway, on to the book. Big hardcover coffee-table art books are pretty much a no-brainer, especially when they deal with robots, and if you’re reading this

Book Review: Quentin Tarantino FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Original Reservoir Dog by Dale Sherman

Covering Tarantino's body of work and his rai·son d'ê·tre for each film.
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Author Dale Sherman’s newest FAQ book, he previously wrote Armageddon Films FAQ and KISS FAQ, was published this month, and it’s a work dense with trivia, factoids, and much more. But does it answer the big question? (At least my big question?) What is Tarantino’s fascination with an out-of-sequence narrative? We will get to that. Sherman’s writing comes off as a bit awkward at times, but mostly it’s fine, although quite familiar, as the book was intended to be a series of blog posts. But the overall voice throughout the work has the feel of someone who is jazzed to

Book Review: The Art of the Films: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes by Sharon Gosling and Adam Newell

An enjoyable for read for those fascinated by how modern movies are made.
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This book takes readers behind the scenes of the first two films of the revived Apes franchise, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and reveals what Dawn director Matt Reeves describes in the Foreward is the "astonishing work" of the crewmembers. Led by Rise's production designer Claude Pare and director of photography Andrew Lesnie and Dawn's production designer James Chinlund and director of photography Michael Seresin, the combined imaginations and talents on each film created realistic locations and believable characters on screen. The latter accomplishment also owes a debt to the

Book Review: American Titan: Searching For John Wayne by Marc Eliot

Feels more like a history book than a biography.
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John Wayne is one of the most legendary actors to come out of Hollywood, but most of us don’t know much about him other than what we’ve seen on the big screen and with his passing in 1979, over 30 years ago, his films have been regulated to DVD views and classic television stations. Even with his enormous catalog of nearly 150 films, a number of them have been lost over the years because film was considered disposable and there was no reason to save it. But in this latest biography, author Marc Eliot gives us a look not only

Book Review: Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas by Alonso Duralde

A guide to Christmas movies, from best to worst and everything in between, including Brazil.
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Christmas time is a time for many things, and one of the things that I most enjoy are the movies. We all know such classics as It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947), but in Have Yourself A Movie Little Christmas author Alonso Duralde stretches the definition of “Christmas movies” to include all sorts of non-traditional flicks. To find homes for the 122 movies discussed in this book, Duralde has grouped them in nine chapters, with such headings as “Putting the Heist Back in Christmas: Crime and Action Extravaganzas,” “There’ll Be Scary Ghost Stories: Holiday Horror,”

Book Review: Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Strips 1944-1945 by William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peters

IDW and the Library of American Comics give us a wonderful collection from the Golden Age.
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Superheroes had only been in existence for a handful of years when Wonder Woman burst on the scene in 1940 with the one-two punch of All Star Comics #8 and Sensation Comics #1. She wasn’t the first female superhero, but she was definitely the most notable and it was only a matter of time before the Amazon Princess followed her male counterparts Superman and Batman from the four-color world of comic books to the hallowed halls of the daily newspaper strip. Thanks to the backing of the powerful Hearst publishing empire, the Wonder Woman strip reached a much larger audience

Book Review: Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ by Tom DeMichael

The choice of films makes the usefulness of this book…well, not very useful.
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The author purports to make a relatively comprehensive guidebook to sci-fi films since the '70s- with the caveat, of course, that he gets to choose which sci-fi movies are significant, and which to include. That’s his prerogative, of course, but it makes the book a bit unhelpful. This book (which isn’t really an FAQ - it’s not in a question an answer format) - is divided into several sections: an introduction, which includes biographies of important science fiction writers, and then a number of chapters about movies of various types (space travel, time travel, virtual reality, etc.) Though some sections

Book Review: Popeye: Classic Newspaper Comics, Volume Two 1989-1998: A Surprisingly Modern and Adult Take On The Classic Character

If you think Popeye is some silly kids comic from a bygone era, think again.
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Popeye is not something I’ve ever cared about. No wait, scratch that, I loved the Robert Altman movie starring Robin Williams as the Sailor Man. But all the other incarnations were nothing I was ever really interested in. I do remember watching the cartoon at my grandmother's as a kid. I don't remember seeing it at home which means it must have been on a cable channel we didn’t get and that I only watched it because it was boring at Grandma's. We used to pretend to be Popeye every now and again but there is really only so many

Book Review: Hope: Entertainer of the Century by Richard Zoglin

Yes, there is Hope for the holidays.
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In 1993 the legendary entertainer Bob Hope and his wife Delores welcomed TV viewers, and some celebrities of the time, into their home to share some memories of the many Bob Hope Christmas specials in a show entitled Bob Hope's Bag Full of Christmas Memories. The show would later be edited down to an hour and released on DVD as Hope for the Holidays. The editing was somewhat merciful in that Hope, at ninety years of age, had little participation in the special due to his limited eyesight and hearing. In 1995, a musical release Hopes for the Holidays featured

Book Review: Superman: The Golden Age Sundays 1946-1949

Sometimes goofy, occasionally deadly, and always exciting, it's Superman as you may not have seen him before.
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It wasn’t long after his 1938 debut in Action Comics #1 that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s most famous creation began appearing in his own daily newspaper strip, followed shortly thereafter by a separate Sunday strip. Back in those days, funny books were a stepping stone to the big money and prestige found in the funny papers. Curiously, a large number of these Sunday strips have never been reprinted, a wrong that The Library of American Comics valiantly continues to set right with the second volume of their Superman Sundays series. Collecting over 170 sequential Sunday pages from August 11,

Book Review: The Complete Dick Tracy, Volume 17: 1956-1957 by Chester Gould

Gould delivers entertaining, action-heavy crime dramas once again.
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The Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing are publishing The Complete Dick Tracy by Chester Gould. Volume 17 is their latest release and it collects the dailies and Sunday strips from May 14, 1956 through to December 14, 1957. Dick Tracy would reach its 25th year on October 4, 1956, and Gould showed no signs of losing the strips' high standards. The book opens with Joe Period and Flattop Jr. in hiding from crimes readers witnessed in Volume 16, but rather than running away, they head back to town because Joe seeks revenge against "Nothing" Yonson, who tried to

Book Review: DC Comics Super-Villains: The Complete Visual History by Daniel Wallace

They are bad no matter how they are drawn.
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With its origins in National Allied Publications, which was founded in 1934, DC Comics has had a long and varied publishing history over 80 years and has been one of the top two comic publishers for decades (Which company has held the top spot at any given moment has been argued by fans for just as long). Its success has not only come from the superheroes in its stable, such as Superman and Batman, but also its super-villains, such as Lex Luthor and the Joker. Author Daniel Wallace claims the bad guys are “one of the driving forces behind the

Book Review: Star Trek: Gold Key Archives, Volume 2

This is not your daddy's Star Trek.
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On its way to becoming a multimedia franchise, Star Trek first entered the world of comics by way of Gold Key, who sporadically published 61 issues between July 1967 and March 1979 before the license was obtained by Marvel. Earlier this year, IDW reprinted Gold Key's first six issues in a hardcover collection and now the second volume of Star Trek: Gold Key Archives, which collects issues #7-12, is available. Fully re-mastered with new colors, the first two stories are written by Dick Wood (Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom), the rest are by Len Wein (co-creator of DC Comics'

Book Review: Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show: Documentary Turned Book

This book relies too much on quotes from famous names and not enough on imparting facts.
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It’s been said that we’re living in the Golden Age of Television - a fact that’s easy to believe. While Hollywood seems to be cranking out an endless number of sequels and remakes, television has truly mastered the art of storytelling - making some cutting edge stories of science fiction, fantasy, history, and human drama. Behind each of these marvels of storytelling stands one person: the Showrunner. Or so we’re told, at least. In an age when television has reached perhaps its greatest potential, the Showrunner is that powerful, mysterious person in charge of every aspect of telling a story.

Book Review: Puck: What Fools These Mortals Be!: Political Cartooning at its Finest

A collection of historic, important, and just a little bit esoteric political cartoons from a bygone era
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Political cartoons have been around since the early 1700s though they didn’t really come into their own until the later part of the 18th Century with the advent of the French Revolution. It took Punch, a weekly British magazine to firmly establish the medium as something that could have a real impact on the culture and political landscape. Now at the beginning of the 21st with newspapers, editorials, and the comics pages disappearing all together it's difficult to understand what great influence the political cartoonist wielded. But wield it, they did. In 1884, at the height of its power, Puck

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