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Book Review: Justice League: The Art of the Film by Abbie Bernstein

As nice as this book looks, it still looks like the Justice League movie.
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Let’s get this out of the way right here at the beginning: I haven’t seen Justice League. Nor do I particularly want to see Justice League. Despite being a lifelong fan of comic books and superheroes, I’m not quite sold on Warner Brothers' vision for the DC characters (with the exception of Wonder Woman, which was absolutely stunning), and it’s nearly impossible to avoid, or remain unaffected by the flurry of bad press the film has gotten from the often unfair online media prior to its release. But none of those reasons speak to why I remain uninterested in the

Book Review: Silly Symphonies Volume 3: The Complete Disney Classics 1939-1942

Contains only one Silly Symphonies adaptation, but plenty of other Disney magic.
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The Silly Symphonies comic strip started as a venue for adaptations of Disney’s long-running series of animated shorts, but by the time of the Sunday color strips presented in this collection, the title was far less indicative of its contents. While the artistic merits remained high, the strips only adapted one animated short, The Ugly Duckling, while devoting the rest of the space to Pluto one-offs, a lengthy adaptation of Pinocchio, and ongoing original adventures of Little Hiawatha. As such, the brand name doesn’t really match the strips, but the contents are still decidedly Disney and completely entertaining. The collection

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

The artwork is the real stand out.
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While Disney had previously run newspaper comic strips before it, their Treasury of Classic Tales was a Sunday strip that featured 129 stories, running from July 13, 1952 until February 15, 1987. The Library of American Comics is republishing them and the 13 stories in Volume Two, which are collected in a book for the first time, include adaptations of films, both animated and live-action, and original stories. Animation historian Michael Barrier provides Introductions for the book and for each strip. Written by Frank A. Reilly and drawn by Jesse March, except where noted, they are: The Legends of Davy

Book Review: Tangled: The Series: Adventure is Calling

It will please the younger set of Disney fans more than your average comic book geek.
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In my family, Tangled is one of the better movies to come out of Disney’s classic animation studios in a long while. Released in 2010, it was the studio's 50th animated feature film and as such it nicely combines a bit of the old with the more modern. Like the vast majority of animated films coming out of the House of Mouse, Tangled takes an old fairy tale (in this case Rapunzel from the Brothers Grimm) adds in a few contemporary flourishes (and more than a few songs), gives it a happy ending, and calls it all good. It features

Book Review: Star Trek: New Visions Volume 5 by John Byrne

Byrne understands the essence of what Star Trek is and why the Original Series was so successful.
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As stated in my previous reviews of this book series, "John Byrne and IDW Publishing are presenting the lost missions of the Original Series Enterprise crew in the form of photonovels. That format uses photographs instead of drawings like the Star Trek Fotonovels of the late '70s. Byrne manipulates images of characters and backgrounds from the [TV show] combined with new material such as dialogue [in word balloons], narration, and photos of actors playing new characters and bodies of old ones." Volume 5 collects issues #12-14 and the story "More of the Serpent Than the Dove," which was previously only

Book Review: For Better or For Worse: The Complete Library, Volume One (1979-1982)

Funny, heartwarming, and familiar, but above all, real.
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Since Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse launched in 1979, it has been syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide and has received many accolades, including the Gemini Award from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television and the Order of Canada, the highest honor a Canadian civilian can get, not to mention Johnston’s Pulitzer Prize nomination and her Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society. In addition to being the first woman to receive the award, she was also the Society’s first female president. And while it may not be nearly as prestigious or famous of an accolade, For

Book Review: Star Trek: The Classic UK Comics, Volume Three (1972-1979)

A fun space adventure comic that looks like Star Trek but doesn't exactly stay true to its roots.
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I have no doubt that when he created Star Trek: The Original Series Gene Roddenberry was hoping for a smash success. But there is no way he could have known it would have spawned the enormous multimedia empire that continues to this day, some 51 years later. While The Original Series didn’t even manage to finish its “five-year mission,” it did spawn an animated series, five other live-action TV series, six films starring the original cast, four films from The Next Generation, and three films in the rebooted series plus books, comics, magazines, games, and a cultural phenomena. The Original

Book Review: The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard, edited by David A. Goodman

It's as if Jean-Luc Picard wrote it himself.
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Following the success of The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, David A. Goodman explores the background of another well-known and well-respected captain in the Star Trek franchise with The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard. The funny thing about it is, from page one until the end, there is a sinking suspicion that Picard is, in fact, a real person, and he wrote the book himself. Or it could have been Patrick Stewart who went under the radar and penned the book while Goodman provided the editing. Alas, neither are true, but Goodman does capture the voice of Picard pretty well, thus

Book Review: Little Orphan Annie, Vol. 14 (1948-1950): Sunshine and Shadow by Harold Gray

A fun read for the whole family.
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When I last checked in with Little Orphan Annie (in Volume 10), she was busy fighting the war (World War II that is for those of you who don’t keep up with timelines of little red-haired girls in comic strips). With the war over, Annie spends the bulk of Volume 14 pursuing various business ventures, sparring with little mafia hoodlums, befriending a gypsy, taking on book burners, and having lots of other adventures. Created in 1924 by Harold Gray, Little Orphan Annie ran as a daily newspaper strip until its cancellation in 2010. At its height, it was one of

Book Review: Unchained Melody: The Films of Meiko Kaji by Tom Mes

A loving, informative reading on the films of a Japanese icon.
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You first notice the long, straight black hair. Then you see her body: thin, straight, erect. You look past the blade in her hand and gaze into those eyes. Those haunting, cold, beautiful, deadly eyes. This is Meiko Kaji, she’s a fanboy fantasy. A cult Japanese film star beloved by genre fans everywhere and muse to Quentin Tarantino. She starred in nearly 100 films in her long career but she’s best known for her role as the assassin in Lady Snowblood, the murderious Sasori from the Female Convict 701: Scorpion series and a rebel in the Stray Cat Rock films.

Book Review: The Complete Dick Tracy, Volume 22: 1964-1965 by Chester Gould

While not the best volume to be introduced to Gould's Dick Tracy, it is entertaining and contains a lot of what made the strip a success.
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As the Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing continue to collect The Complete Dick Tracy by Chester Gould, Volume 22 presents the dailies and Sunday strips from August 13, 1964 through to December 26, 1965. The book has an introductory essay by consulting editor Max Allan Collins, "Moon Struck," about the strips collected, which present "the most controversial era" in the strip's history as the lunar-related adventures of Dick Tracy continue. It concludes with contributing editor Jeff Kersten's "The Mystery of the Age (or The Gospel According to Chet)" about matters relating to Gould and the strip during this

Book Review: Ghost in the Shell by Andrew Osmond

An in-depth look into the Ghost in the Shell franchise.
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Ghost in the Shell began life as a manga series that lasted from 1989 to 1997. In 1995, Marmoru Oshii directed the cult film of the same name based on the manga. From there came a video game, a sequel to the movie, a TV series, a movie (and more games) based on the TV series, another different TV series, then games and a move based on that series, and recently an American live action film. And now we have a new book that tries to understand this massive franchise by anime expert Andrew Osmond. It mostly covers the 1995

Book Review: Unchained Melody: The Films of Meiko Kaji by Tom Mes

Arrow Books presents a critical overview of Lady Snowblood's entire career.
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To much of the post-Millennium western cinematic audience, Meiko Kaji was introduced with her voice. Both the theme songs from Lady Snowblood and Female Convict Scorpion were featured in Kill Bill. More than that, Kill Bill's story, structure and visual style (at least in the section in Japan) were all heavily influenced by Lady Snowblood. Ironically enough, though Meiko Kaji did have a successful singing career in the '70s, her most influential contributions have been visual: the way she looked, the way she dressed, embodied a fierce determination and independence that made her stand apart from other Japanese film actresses
It’s rare these days to get your expectations exceeded. Even rarer is to come upon a treasure that elicits both joy and sorrow. This happened to Zachary Auburn and will happen to everyone who ventures into the world of Joshua Chapman and his Field Guide to the Aliens of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In the field guide, which hit shelves on September 12, we learn how Zachary Auburn discovered the works of young Chapman and his incredible efforts to share said works with the world. As a fan of Star Trek, I was mildly interested when hearing of A

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

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