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Book Review: The Art and Making of Kong: Skull Island by Simon Ward

Recommended for the impressive art it showcases.
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Author Simon Ward takes viewers to and behind the scenes of Kong: Skull Island in his book that looks at the “The Art and Making” of the movie, which is now known to be the second installment in Legendary Entertainment's MonsterVerse franchise following Godzilla (2014). Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts wrote the book's Foreword, In it, he tells about pitching his idea for the movie when he “learned they wanted to revive King Kong” and reveals two key principles in the crew's approach to designing the movie in the current media-consuming landscape. They were “strive to elevate beyond expectations” and make “everything...feel

Book Review: The Complete Steve Canyon, Volume 7: 1959-1960 by Milton Caniff

Another entertaining installment of adventure comic strips and another impressive showcase for Caniff's skills.
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Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon ran from January 13, 1947 until June 4, 1988. The strip's titular hero served as an Air Force officer for most of it with the Korean War bringing him back into the service of his country, though many of his adventures see him working as a spy more than as a soldier. Volume 7 closes out the '50s with the strips from 1959 and 1960. Lt Col. Steve Canyon is the typical male fantasy character of the era. A rugged, all-American hero that always does the right thing without a doubt. All the guys want to

Book Review: The Amazing Spider-Man: The Ultimate Newspaper Comics Collection Vol. 4, 1983-1984 by Stan Lee, Fred Kida, and Floro Dery

The creative trio do their best to elevate uninspired plots contributed by Marvel's bullpen.
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With Fred Kida in control on daily art duties, Stan Lee started his writing chores in 1983 with nearly four months of strips featuring the first Spidey strip appearance of Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Not only did Namor largely take over the strip, the setting also moved from New York City to the Bermuda Triangle, putting Spidey well outside his urban comfort zone. The far-fetched tale found Peter Parker’s noted tightwad boss J. Jonah Jameson funding the trip to the Triangle for a story on disappearing ships, leading to Spidey’s lengthy encounter with Namor and their common enemy, Warlord Krang. After

Book Review: Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film by Sharon Gosling

Like the film, this book is warm and inviting, strong and bold, and pretty damn awesome.
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With a history dating back to 1941 and a variety of interpretations in comics, prose, and television, Wonder Woman is something of a big deal. And when you’re a big deal, they eventually get around to making movies about you. Although, in the case of Wonder Woman, it took a whole lot longer than it probably should’ve. The good news though is that the collective patience of a devoted fanbase paid off in the form of a pretty damn awesome movie. And when you’re a big deal and they’ve made an awesome movie about you, it’s inevitable that there will

Book Review: Aliens: Bug Hunt, Edited by Jonathan Maberry

A nice collection of napalm-spewing, acid-spraying, high-flying, skin-crawling, face-hugging critters that marines want to shoot, and The Company wants to domesticate.
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Each film in the original Alien trilogy represents a unique approach to science fiction. Alien took sci-fi and suspense and doubled down on all the terrible rubber-suit space-man movies of yore, giving something that made viewers genuinely squeamish. Aliens set the bar for "guns in space," a standard that I'm not sure another film has come within shouting distance of since, at least not with the same sense of looming dread -- Starship Troopers was laughably satirical and, let's face it, the Star Wars movies are more about toys and cartoons than dealing with weighty themes or meaningful drama. What

Book Review: Donald Duck: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics Volume 4 - 1945-1947

The past adventures of Donald Duck come alive again!
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Everything old is new again with the upcoming reboot of Duck Tales on Disney XD, which is looking to include an expanded role for “Unca Donald.” Often modern Disney-enthusiasts might only know Donald for his temper, but a few decades ago, he was one of the champions of cleverness and comedy. These aspects of his character come to life in IDW’s fourth collection of the Donald Duck daily newspaper comic strip. Over 750 strips, most with just four panels, show piles of hilarity from 1945 to 1947. The Donald Duck portrayed in the comics was largely through the work of

Book Review: Walt Disney's Treasury of Classic Tales, Volume One

A marvelous collection from the Disney vaults.
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Walt Disney was a savvy businessman. With a staff of talented writers and artists employed to create films, he was not content working within one medium and used some staff members to create comics as well. The first was a comic strip that starred Mickey Mouse and debuted on January 13, 1930. In his well-researched Introduction, Michael Barrier writes about Disney features making their way to the Sunday paper, starting with the studio's first animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In a great bit of marketing, the Snow White strips began a couple weeks before the film premiered

Book Review: Batman: A Celebration of the Classic TV Series by Bob Garcia and Joe Desris

A book no Bat-fan of the series should be without.
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Given its own yellow utility belt, Batman: A Celebration of the Classic TV Series is a marvelous compendium about the TV series which ran for three seasons from 1966-69 and is still currently airing in syndication. Adam West, the first Bruce Wayne/Batman for many, gave his blessing to the book by writing the Introduction in which he thanks fans for the life he has been granted thanks to their love of the show. Authors Bob Garcia and Joe Desris were very thorough, beginning the story by acquainting readers with the three ABC executives, understandably referred to as “wise men,” who

Book Review: Star Wars: The Complete Classic Newspaper Comics, Vol. 1

An enjoyable throwback to the early days as George Lucas' fictional universe was expanding.
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Before The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980, Star Wars fans who wanted more stories from George Lucas' “galaxy far, far away" had few options. Marvel Comics presented original adventures after its six-issue adaption of the film. Alan Dean Foster's Splinter of the Mind's Eye novel had been intended to be the basis for the movie sequel, so it seemed the most canonical; and of course, the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special on television. In 1979, the Star Wars Universe expanded into newspaper comic strips for five years. The Library of American Comics is releasing those strips in a

Book Review: Donald Duck: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics, Vol. 3 & The Complete Sunday Newspaper Comics, Vol. 2 (1943-1945)

IDW Publishing's latest Donald Duck comic strip collections drive home the U.S. domestic impact of World War II while also serving up laughs aplenty.
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There’s something decidedly comforting about reading old Disney comic strips, as they’re reliably funny, relatable, and finely crafted. These latest collections add a rare aspect: they’re also educational. The reason for that is the timeframe these strips were originally released, smack dab in the waning years of World War II. While they’re not ostensibly war books, there’s no escaping its influence throughout these pages. Although Donald didn’t go to war in the comic strip (flat feet), its impact is felt throughout this run, as he frequently deals with the domestic hardships endured by U.S. civilians. Among those travails are gas

Book Review: Red Barry: Undercover Man, Vol. 1 (1934-1935) by Will Gould

A lesser known detective comic from the 1930s gets a fine new release.
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I adored newspaper comic strips as I was growing up. My parents took in the Tulsa World, which was a morning paper, and the Claremore Progress, which ran in the afternoon. There was a lot of overlap in the two paper’s comics pages, but the Progress had a few strips that the World did not. My sister and I would fight over who got to read the World over breakfast and then again over who could get home the fastest and grab the Progress. I read almost all of the strips but my favorites were Calvin & Hobbes, The Far

Book Review: The Marvel Vault by Thomas, Sanderson, and Manning

A fascinating trip down memory lane for those curious about what went on behind the pages.
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Originally published in 2007, Roy Thomas and Peter Sanderson's The Marvel Vault was clearly in need of Matthew K. Manning's 2016 update. There's no clear delineation identified when the first edition ended and the new one begins, but somewhere around the “One More Day”/ “Brand New Day” reboot of Spider-Man is as close as I can pin down. Although the book tells “the history of Marvel Comics (or Timely, as it was in initially called), from 1939 to present,” it was a classy touch to give credit to crosstown rivals National Allied Publications' (before they became DC Comics) Action Comics

Book Review: Star Hawks, Volume One: 1977-1978 by Gil Kane and Ron Goulart

Innovative science-fiction newspaper strip suffers from poor writing, but Gil Kane's art really shines.
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In early 1977, right at the start of the cultural science-fiction boom of the late '70s, the newspaper syndicate NEA hired Ron Goulart and Gil Kane to do a daily Star Trek-like strip. They came up with Star Hawks about a couple of interplanetary peacekeepers policing the universe from the space station Hoosegow. Inventive for its use of a two-tiered format which made it twice as tall as the usual newspaper strip allowing Kane to create some really interesting artwork. Goulart is probably best known today for his histories of comic books and pulp fiction, but Kane is a legend

Book Review: Superman: The Golden Age Newspaper Dailies: 1942-1944

New Library of American Comics collection of World War II era daily newspaper Superman comic strips shows why the the superhero stayed on the home front instead of the battlefield.
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Imagine the conundrum. America recently entered World War II, a war the government pronounces a battle between the “free world” and a “slave world.” Less than four years before, the first page of the first story about the now nationally popular Superman called him the “champion of the oppressed.” He’s since displayed not only invulnerability but superpowers that could make quick work of the Axis. How can Superman morally allow the war to continue? The problem facing Superman’s creators, writers, and artists wasn’t just an internal one. TIME magazine wrote about “Superman’s Dilemma” in its April 13, 1942, issue. It

Book Review: James Bond: SPECTRE: The Complete Comic Strip Collection

Not only for your eyes.
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Having previously collected and released the James Bond newspaper comic-strip adventures that ran in British newspapers, including in Omnibus Volumes that were released from September 2009 to November 2014, Titan Books is now presenting the strips in hardback editions. SPECTRE: The Complete Comic Strip Collection covers Bond's encounters with the villainous organization (whose name stands for SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) and its leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, adapted from Ian Fleming's novels: Thunderball (running 12/11/61-02/10/62), The Spy Who Loved Me (12/18/67 - 10/03/68), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (06/29/64 - 05/17/65), and You Only Live Twice (05/18/65

Book Review: Film Noir Light and Shadow: Shedding Light on Dark Films

A wonderful resource to understanding one of cinemas greatest genres.
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Much like the Supreme Court with pornography, I find "film noir" difficult to define, but I know it when I see it. The term was coined by French film critic Niko Frank in 1946 and literally means “black cinema” but might more correctly be translated as “dark cinema”. It was used to describe the type of crime dramas that were popular during the '40s and '50s with its stark use of shadows and its bleak, dark themes. But exactly what "film noir" is can be as problematic to pin down as so many of the femme fatales that appear in

Book Review: The Complete Dick Tracy, Volume 21: 1962-1964 by Chester Gould

I wouldn't recommend it as a starting point, but it is an enjoyable continuation of the Dick Tracy series.
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As the Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing continue to collect The Complete Dick Tracy by Chester Gould, Volume 21 presents the dailies and Sunday strips from August 27, 1962 through to April 12, 1964. The book has an introductory essay by Consulting Editor Max Allan Collins' about the strips collected including the public reaction to Moon Maid and other lunar characters that appeared later, which "remains the most controversial element in the history of the Tracy strip." It concludes with Contributing Editor Jeff Kersten's "Pulling the Whiskers Off," who regales readers with what was happening at the time

Book Review: Star Trek: The Classic UK Comics, Vol. 2: Where Some Fans May Never Have Gone Before

The crew's encounters with beings different from ourselves is still as fun and fascinating today as it ever was.
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There are so many branches to the Star Trek universe: novelizations, movies, re-boot film series, animated series, magazines, television series, toys, games, etc. that even the most dedicated fan, Trekkie or Trekker, might have trouble keeping up. The original series (TOS) first aired on American television in September of 1966. It included its now immortal cast of characters - Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), his Vulcan first officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), ship's doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), communications officer Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), helmsman Lt. Sulu (George Takei) and Ensign Chekov (Walter Koenig). That key crew accompanied its

Book Review: Star Trek: New Visions Volume 4 by John Byrne

Byrne has a strong sense of who the characters are and puts them in compelling stories.
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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 dialogue, narration, and photos of actors playing new characters and bodies of old ones, Byrne creates adventures for the crew that have an air of authenticity because we see the familiar faces of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, et. al. Volume 4 collects issues #9-11 which includes a treat for fans of the Animated Series. Occurring about two years after the first

Book Review: Tarzan on Film by Scott Tracy Griffin

Highly recommended for fans of Burroughs' character as well as those with an interest in Hollywood history.
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Author Scott Tracy Griffin has followed up his Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration with Tarzan on Film, a marvelous exploration of the nearly 100 years that Edgar Rice Burroughs' legendary character has been adapted into 52 films and seven television series. The book opens with a foreword by actor Caper Van Dien, who starred as the 20th Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City (1998) and credits himself as “the only Tarzan who can say he rode on an actual African elephant in a Tarzan film.” Griffin then provides a brief overview of how the character's “fortunes have ebbed and flowed

Book Review: LOAC Essentials Vol. 8: King Features Essentials 1: Krazy Kat 1934 by George Harriman: Rare Dailies of the Kraziest of Komics

Finally, a new, readily available collection of one of the best comic strips ever.
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It is ironic that, in the era of the Internet which has disrupted so much of modern publishing, it has become easier than ever to delve into the archives of the media past. Newspapers are struggling to survive, and aspiring comic strips have a much better chance finding an audience on their own website than trying to get a comic syndicate interested in publishing them in print. Indeed, I wouldn't doubt that having a built-in audience would be a requirement for syndication, since print space is precious, and smaller than ever, with old reprinted strips competing with the new. But
When I was growing up two of the things that I was really into were comic books and Star Trek. I had stacks and stacks of comic books. With such a large investment made into reading material and being the entrepreneur that I was, I would actually charge my little cousin to read them. She still brings that up every once in a while. When I wasn't reading comic books I was watching Star Trek. Any time there were reruns of the original series or the animated series, I was there. Usually wearing my Star Trek jacket. Gold Key Comics,

Book Review: The Art of Selling Movies by John McElwee

Entertaining visual look at the history of American movie newspaper ads suffers from issues with accompanying text
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Today’s digital media dislodged or diminished a variety of other media. Some are conspicuous: VHS and VCR. Others, such as the shriveling of newspaper movie ads, less so. From its inception, newspaper advertising was a principal means of promoting movies. In addition to where and when a film was showing, these ads brought artwork, photos, and lively descriptions to the consumer. In The Art of Selling Movies, John McElwee looks at the history and evolution of this craft. As McElwee points out, his book isn't about movies but the countless, nameless ad creators and their “skill, sometimes genius of pulling

Book Review: Superman: The Atomic Age Sundays, Volume 2 (1953-1956)

An important and worthwhile historical artifact, even if it is my least favorite one so far.
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Superman: The Atomic Age Sundays, Volume 2 (1953-1956) is the fourth collection of classic Superman Sunday comic strips from IDW and the Library of American Comics and the third volume that I’ve had the opportunity to check out. I’ll do my best to avoid rehashing too much of the same ground I already covered in my reviews of The Golden Age Sundays (1946-1949) or the prior volume of The Atomic Age Sundays (1949-1953), but for those who don’t care to read my other reviews (that’s fine, I’m totally not offended), here’s the deal: these comic strips are sort of a

Book Review: Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies Vol. 2 (1935-1939)

A beautiful collection of historically important comics.
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From 1929 to 1939, the Walt Disney company created 75 original animated short films under its Silly Symphonies line. As opposed to the Micky Mouse short films Disney was producing at the same time the Symphonies were designed to be whimsical pieces devoid of continuity or the need to feature regular characters (though several characters quickly stood out and became regulars in the films). In many ways, these shorts were a means by which Disney could experiment with the animation without fear of hurting his brand. The films helped dramatically improve what could be done with animation in terms of

Book Review: Batman: The Silver Age Newspaper Comics Vol. 3, 1969-1972

Final collection of Silver Age Batman daily comic strips finds our hero in decline due to diminishing publication and artistic changes.
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Long before most of us were reading the funny pages, Batman was finishing up a six-year comic strip run fueled by the popularity of his ‘60s TV show. While the early years found the strip mirroring the show’s campiness, the final era diverged into a tone similar to Batman’s more serious comic book stories. That’s the timeframe covered by this final entry in IDW’s Batman reprint editions, a collection that traces the decline of the strip from its fine artistry and full-week publishing schedule to hackneyed art and stories published six days a week by a radically reduced roster of

Book Review: Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

Using numerous interviews, a personal climb to the crash site, and government documents, Matzen constructs the story deliberately.
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Like the rest of America, World War II transformed Hollywood. Within 10 days of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt appointed a "coordinator of government films" as a liaison between the government and the motion picture industry and to advise Hollywood in supporting the war effort. And just 40 days after Pearl Harbor, the first Hollywood star would die in pursuit of the latter. Known for her beauty and her roles in popular screwball comedies, Carole Lombard became one of the highest paid actresses during the 1930s. She appeared in more than 30 films that decade. In 1999, the American Film

Book Review: Li'l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays, Volume 8: 1949-1950 by Al Capp

I can't remember anything being as wildly absurd as Li'l Abner.
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As the Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing continue to collect Li'l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays by Al Capp, Volume 8 presents the dailies from December 23, 1948 through to January 11, 1951 and the Sunday strips, which aren't part of the dailies' continuity, from December 12, 1948 through to November 12, 1950. The book has an introductory essay, Bruce Canwell's "Hillbily Heaven" that includes a look at Capp's feud with former boss Joe Palooka creator Hammond Fisher, which spills into the strip a few times in this book. Growing up as member of Generation X,

Book Review: Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur's Cookbook by Janice Poon

An extremely interesting read and even if you never cook anything from it, it is still a worthy purchase for Fannibals.
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Hannibal was one of the most beautiful yet disturbing shows I have ever seen. One of the most beautiful aspects of the show was Hannibal's food creations made from his victims. Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur's Cookbook was created by Janice Poon, the show's food stylist. The recipes offered in the cookbook are not for the novice chef. While being gorgeous, most are pretty complicated requiring patience and perhaps some cooking lessons.The cookbook is broken into the following chapters: "At Home with Hannibal", which offers tools and techniques; "Breakfast"; "Appetizers"; "Mains - Meat"; "Mains - Fish and Vegetarian"; "Soups; Salads and

Book Review: Aliens: The Set Photography by Simon Ward

Go ahead, give it a face-hug.
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The movie Aliens turned 30 recently, and there are rumblings of another movie in the Alien universe in the works, so there's no better time to go back and see what went into making one of the most iconic films in the franchise and in sci-fi as a whole. Aliens: The Set Photography by Simon Ward from Titan Books walks through every aspect of production and filming from pre-production casting and behind-the-scenes shots to walkthroughs of every major sequence of the film, how weapons and props were built, how aliens and other creature constructs were produced and animated...it's very comprehensive

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