Category Archives: Review

Best Collected Editions of 2013

There’s absolutely nothing scientific about this list. Just some great collected editions that I enjoyed this past year.

Solo Deluxe Edition HC
Solo Deluxe Edition HC

1. Solo Deluxe Edition HC
Collects Solo #1-12, 568 pages, $49.99
I remember when this series came out and just how good it was. So good in fact that several comics were nominated and won Eisner Awards. And the talent involved in this project is a who’s who in the comic book industry. Finally DC collected everything into a very affordable hardcover. Not only for the casual comic fan, but also for aspiring writers and artist’s. And for the speculator in you, I foresee this seeing for big money on eBay when it sells out.
First Kingdom by Jack Katz HC
First Kingdom by Jack Katz HC

2. First Kingdom by Jack Katz HC; Volume 1 and Volume 2
Jack Katz’s epic comic book masterpiece started to get the reprint treatment this year and so far the first 2 volumes (of 6) has not been disappointing. It’s not an easy read, but it’s not suppose to be. It’s adult in it’s complexity, page structure, language and there’s the nudity – which is not hardcore and after a few pages, you get used to the toplessness. I’m so glad this is back in print and Titan seems like the perfect company to bring it to us. When it’s all said and done I hope they publish a One Volume edition.
Animal Man Omnibus
Animal Man Omnibus

3. The Animal Man Omnibus by Grant Morrison HC
Collects Animal Man #1-26 and Secret Origins #39, 712 pages, $75.00
Another book that should have come out years ago. Morrison’s run on Animal Man is nothing short of perfect. If you like the tone of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, then Animal Man is a wonderful companion.
Marvel Masterworks: Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 1 HC
Marvel Masterworks: Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 1 HC

4. Marvel Masterworks: Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 1 HC (Variant Vol. 200)
Collects Marvel Feature (1971) #11-12 and Marvel Two-In-One (1974) #1-10, $69.99
OK, the material in this book may not be the best ink-to-paper periodicals ever published, but you have to give it up to Marvel for publishing their 200th Masterwork this year. It’s an astounding feat and one that I hope doesn’t stop. I’m proud to say that I own them all, but I’m nowhere near reading them. My only wish is that I hope they will reprint Red Raven Comics #1 in its entirety someday.
Steve Ditko’s Monsters
Steve Ditko’s Monsters

5. Steve Ditko’s Monsters Volume 1 Gorgo HC, $34.99 and Volume 2 Konga
For the past few years Steve Ditko has been getting reprinted at an astounding rate. The Fantagraphics and DC hardcovers are a must own as are the two new Monster volumes by Craig Yoe! Seldom seen in years, Yoe has put together a pair of very nice hardcovers that is a must own for any Ditko fan.
In The Days Of The Mob By Jack Kirby
In The Days Of The Mob By Jack Kirby

6. In The Days Of The Mob By Jack Kirby HC
Collects In The Days Of The Mob #1 and stories from Amazing World Of DC Comics #1 and 10, 108 pages, $39.99
Like Ditko, Kirby is can be unearthed, too. This book along with the previous Spirit World hardcover has never been reprinted until now and should be a welcome addition to the shelf. Besides, trying to find the originals is a nightmare.
Star Wars Omnibus: Wild Space
Star Wars Omnibus: Wild Space

7. Star Wars Omnibus: Wild Space Volume 1 and Volume 2 TP
Collects Star Wars 3-D #1-3; Star Wars: Devilworlds #1-2; Star Wars: Death Masque; Star Wars Weekly #60, #94-99, and #104-115; Star Wars from Pizzazz #10-16; The Rebel Thief, X-Wing Marks the Spot, Imperial Spy, and The Gambler’s Quest from Star Wars Kids #1-15; Star Wars: The Mixed-Up Droid; Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire Galoob minicomic; Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire Ertl minicomic; and Star Wars: Droids from Apple Jacks. A mega-collection of previously uncollected adventures!, $24.99
Star Wars was certainly in the news this year and to make things really fun on the comics side, Dark Horse collected two volumes of Wild Space which are one-offs, mini-comics and even bizarre marketing material. Some of this stuff is so hard to find that it’s a wonder how Dark Horse even culled it. I’m sure there is room for at least one more volume. Star Wars completists should own these.
Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies
Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies

8. Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies TP
Collects Secret Origins #13 and Action Comics Weekly #613-618 and #627-634, $14.99
Going with my heart on this one. I love Nightwing so any chance for a classic collected edition is sure to go on a list. Here we have some rather hard-to-find team-up action with Speedy from Action Comics Weekly. Perhaps if Dick were to ever show up on the Arrow TV show these two stories could be adapted in a webisode or something like Roy and Felicity are doing now.
Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition
Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition

9. Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition HC
Collects Marshal Law #1-6, Marshal Law: Fear And Loathing, Marshal Law Takes Manhattan, Marshal Law: Kingdom Of The Blind, Marshal Law: The Hateful Dead, Marshal Law: Super Babylon and Marshal Law: Secret Tribunal #1-2, $49.99 US, 480 pages
Remember when this was first solicited by Top Shelf? Well, I don’t know what the exact hang up was but DC got it to print this year. Like the Solo hardcover, it’s very affordable and like First Kingdom, it’s a necessity for any true comic book aficionado. Read this and you can brag to your fiends at the LCS, “Marshal Law? Dude, I read that when it was coming out”. It’s OK, it’ll be our little secret.
DC Comics One Million Omnibus
DC Comics One Million Omnibus

10. DC Comics One Million Omnibus HC
Collects DC One Million #1-4, Action Comics #1,000,000, Adventures of Superman #1,000,000, Aquaman #1,000,000, Azrael #1,000,000, Batman #1,000,000, Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1,000,000, Catwoman #1,000,000, Chase #1,000,000, Chronos #1,000,000, The Creeper #1,000,000, Detective Comics #1,000,000, The Flash #1,000,000, Green Arrow #1,000,000, Green Lantern #1,000,000, Hitman #1,000,000, Impulse #1,000,000, JLA #1,000,000, Legion of Super-Heroes #1,000,000, Legionnaires #1,000,000, Lobo #1,000,000, Martian Manhunter #1,000,000, Nightwing #1,000,000, Power of Shazam #1,000,000, Resurrection Man #1,000,000, Robin #1,000,000, Starman #1,000,000, Superboy #1,000,000, Supergirl #1,000,000, Superman #1,000,000, Superman: The Man of Steel #1,000,000, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow #1,000,000, Wonder Woman #1,000,000, Young Justice #1,000,000, JLA in Crisis Secret Files, DC One Million 80-Page Giant #1, Booster Gold #1,000,000 and Superman/Batman #79-80, $99.99, 1,024 pages
A few years back DC did the epic even crossover right. DC 1 Million was a great story, I loved it so much, I even created a website that served as an appendix, of sorts. That site is long gone but the 1 Million universe is back in this awesome Omnibus Edition that even includes the Booster Gold and Superman/Batman comics. So toss out that old 128 page trade paperback and get the complete story. Oh, and if you see Dan Didio, tell him you want an Hourman Omnibus next. Thank you.

Sunday Review: Will Eisner’s New York: Life in The Big City

Much like the book I reviewed last week, The Contract With God Trilogy, Will Eisner gives us his version of gotham city in all its gritty glory. This time around, New York Life In The Big City is somewhat more upbeat and comedic, but can be at times violent, raw and uncensored. It’s split into four chapter (or their own graphic novels) and the sum of the parts is greater then the whole, but Eisner has a way of doing that. Looking back at his Spirit work, it’s not just a story here or a story there, but the entire run that makes Denny Colt & Co. so special. Let’s look at the book now:

New York: The Big City (1986)
Simply put these are short story vignettes. A slice of life, if you will, under a certain topic. For example what people see, or choose not to see while sitting on their brownstone steps or what a sidewalk trash can means to people regardless of caste. Day or night, sumer or winter, and even life and death – this is what city living is all about. Eisner takes the snapshot of mundane everyday living and adds meaning and reality. You’ll never look at city streets the same way ever again.

The Building (1987)
Speaking of death, Eisner introduces us to four ghosts all who haunt one particular building in one way or another. All of whom, in their previous lives, had an attachment to a tall, beaten, brick and mortar dwelling before fate got the best of them. Here we learn their stories. Sad and painful as it is toowatch, the three men and one woman are all redeemed in the end for the work they do to save another. Of the four chapters in the book this one had the biggest impact on me. I felt really sorry for these people but was glad to see that, in some way, things worked out in the end.

City People Notebook (1989)
Eisner must have loved his work on chapter one’s New York, that he decided to do a squeal. Very similar and style, but sohrter in some respects and a bit more comedy ensues. I especially liked to see what happens underneath a clock at different hours of the day – funny and frightening depending on day or night, just like a big city should be.

Invisible People (1993)
The title says it all. The lonely forgotten ones in a giant big city. Struggling to get by, to be noticed and most of all in need of help. The last chapter is a hard one to get through and not very uplifting at all, but life lessons abound. Above all be good and live a good life. Be charitable and be well to others, for we are not alone. The theme of all of Eisner’s work is that we are all interconnected. We make up the community – big or small. This story is a painful reminder.

I hope other deluxe editions of Will Eisner’s work will be published but if not, I can always get them individually. His work and so much more can be found at WillEisner.com. Please take time and rediscover his master of comics, art and graphic novels.

As far as extras go, there is a fair amount. Neil Gaiman gives us the wonderful introduction and Denis Kitchen has an Editor’s Note of this deluxe edition. As with The Contract With God Trilogy, there are seven new illustrations for this book and three unused outtakes. Will Eisner, himself, gives us intros to the first three chapters and each of the three parts to Invisible People.

New York: Life In The Big City
By Will Eisner
$29.95, 448, W.W. Norton, 2006
Collects New York, The Building, City People Notebook, and Invisible People

Sunday Review – Saga Of The Swamp Thing Book 4 HC

Thanks to DC’s Deluxe line of hardcovers, I have been able to finally read Alan Moore’s run on Saga Of The Swamp Thing. True, the trade paperbacks have been easily available for many years now and I have borrowed them on occasion from friends, but for some reason or another I just never got around to reading them until now. I guess it was because the only thing I knew about Swamp Thing were the bad movies and TV shows of the 1980′s an d that just didn’t interest me. Now so many years later I have come to understand the brilliance of this series and it must be placed high upon the pedestal with Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns and Sandman.

Moore started on issue #20 and continued on with #21-58, 60-61, 63-64, Annual #2. DC Comics are four volumes in and it looks like it’ll go six total. So far it’s a journey into mystery, ecology, religion, magic and even superheroes. Here in Book 4, Moore has hit his stride. By now he has established an updated origin for Alec Holland and introduced all the key players including Abby, John Constantine, Arcane, Matt Cable, Deadman and The Phantom Stranger. We now enter Holland’s search for his true meaning in life and his place in “the green”. In these pages is the multi-part story called American Gothic where Swamp Thing must fight the battle of good vs. bad with many of his superheroes friends including Zatanna, Dr. Occult, Etrigan, Sargon, Dr. Fate The Spectre and others. But in-between comes the seminal Parliament Of Trees story from #47 where we meet other earth elementals including the original Swamp Thing Alex Olsen from House of Secrets #92. Holland ultimately leaves with more questions then answers but he does get an understanding of what he must do – it basically boils down to fighting evil.

As far as the book, itself, goes, it’s quiet special. It has a very nice Introduction by pop culture writer Charles Sharr Murray and a Forward by Neil Gaiman, who knows something about mystery and macabre. It also collects #39, which is the tie-in issue to Crisis On Infinite Earths. Why special? Because DC has yet to collect the crossovers in any sort of manner. Perhaps DC will publish a nice set of trade paperbacks complete with all 106 Crisis issues someday. The book also collects #50, an Anniversary double sized issue and the last comic in Book 4.

With Swamp Thing coming back to DC Universe proper, there is no better time then now get caught up with a classic character and one of the greatest comic book runs of all time.

Saga Of The Swamp Thing Book Four
Written by Alan Moore
Art by Stephen Bissette, John Totlebon, Stan Woch, Rick Veitch, Alfredo Alcala, Ron Randall and Tom Mandrake
224 pages, $24.99, DC Comics
Collects Swamp Thing #43-50 (Volume 2)

Recommended reading:
Roots Of The Swamp Thing

Sunday Review: The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics HC

I have enormous respect of the comic strip as a potential story and art form, although far too few of its productions have realized their potential. If those few, however, could be gathered into some sort of complete collection, the effect on those who have scorned the comics as a whole might well be devastating…
– Edmund Wilson from a letter to Bill Blackbeard, 1966

Bill Blackbeard passed away on March 10, 2011, but me and almost everybody else in comicdom didn’t get wind of it until this past week. If you didn’t know who Blackbeard was, that’s OK, but know this: he was instrumental in the preservation comic strips. His love of the strip is evident in his work with San Francisco Academy of Comic Art, which, according to his Wikipedia entry, hosts more then 2.5 million clippings. That, in of itself, may not sound like a lot in 2011 with everything digitally reproduced for you fingertips to search on, but consider that Blackbeard collected strips when no one else did – including the publishers themselves! His foresight has not only led to the medium, critique and study of comic strips (and comic books), but he was the early forerunner into what we know as the Collected Edition.

True enough comic books started out as reprints of comic strips and others made comic books what they are today. Add to that, there have been collections of strips and comic books throughout the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s but no book has made an impact, and continues to make an impact, like Bill Blackbeard’s The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics (1977, Smithsonian Institution Press and Abrams). What Blackbeard set out to do was to showcase not only the best that comic strips had to offer but the most important and worth preserving for future generations. Originally priced at $29.95, it has had multiple printings (I own the 1985, 5th printing), is 10.5” x 14.5”, and has 336 pages with over 750 strips and panels from a multitude of titles (the ones listed below are just a sampling of what to expect) . Edited by Blackbeard with Martin Williams the book is broken down into down eight major parts:

  1. Folklore Figures in the Early Sunday Comic Strip, 1896-1916; featuring The Katzenjammer Kids, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Naughty Pete, and Mutt and Jeff
  2. Popular Images in the Early Daily Comic Strip, 1907-1927; featuring S’Matter Pop?, Mutt and Jeff, and The Family Upstairs
  3. Long-Lived Stars of the Comic Strip’s Second Two Decades, 1916-1936; featuring Polly and Her Pals, Blondie, Bringing Up Father, Krazy Kat, and The Bungle Family
  4. Anecdote and Narrative in the Daily Comic Strip, 1917-1933; featuring Barney Google, Wash Tubbs, and Moon Mullins
  5. Anecdote and Narrative in the Sunday Comic Strip, 1930-1941; featuring Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Tarzan, Popeye, and Alley Oop
  6. Extended Narrative in the Daily and Sunday Comic Strip, 1928-1943; featuring Barnaby, Secret Agent X-9, Terry and the Pirates, Dick Tracy, and Little Orphan Annie
  7. Comics Miscellany, 1928-1950; featuring Li’l Abner, Felix the Cat, Pogo, and Casey Ruggles
  8. The Return of the Funnies; featuring Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, B.C., Boomhilda, Momma and Doonesbury

There is also a very nice Foreword by John Canaday, a leading American art critic; and it contains introductions to each chapter and has annotations throughout the book by Blackbeard and Williams. In the back there is comprehensive material for the completest including A Selected, Introductory Bibliography of Books and Articles on Newspaper Comics and An Annotated Index of the Comics. It should be pointed out that Jerry Robinson’s The Comics: An Illustrated History of the Comic Strip (1974) is listed among the bibliography and you may already know that book was just updated and published with Dark Horse a few weeks ago.

With that in mind, The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics spawned a companion book edited by Martin Williams with J. Michael Barrier called A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics (1982) and you guessed it, it focuses on Comic Books and if you have picked up Dan Nadel’s Art In Time and Art out of Time, you’ll want to have this one beside them on your bookshelf. That book got an update in 2004 with The New Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Stories: From Crumb to Clowes edited by Bob Callahan. As expected it’s a bit more contemporary with a look at work by Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Art Spiegelman to name a few. I don’t own it, but perhaps I’ll pick it up someday. As far as both Smithsonian originals go, nobody should be without them. They are indispensable resources.

Finally, if you have stumbled upon the podcast and blog this week you’ll notice that I have a bit of a comic strip theme going. I interviewed Brain Walker who has updated his own two books The Comics Before 1945 and The Comics Since 1945 into one The Comics: The Complete Collection. Next week I’ll have an interview with Pete Maresca, Sunday Press Books, and will talk about his relationship with Bill Blackbeard and how he has helped him out through the years.

The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics HC
Edited by Bill Blackbeard and Martin Williams
$29.95, 336 pages, 1977, Smithsonian Institution Press and Abrams
Collects selected newspaper comics strips from 1896-1974

Also recommended:
The Lexicon of Comicana by Mort Walker

Sunday Review – The Creeper by Steve Ditko HC

In 2010 I made a commitment to discover Steve Ditko on my own. Thanks to the Marvel Masterworks, I read his run in Amazing Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. I picked up several other books including The Steve Ditko Visionaries, Stranger Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Volume 1, The Art Of Steve Ditko, The World Of Steve Ditko and I have amassed just about every one of his recent self published work with Robin Snyder. And if you follow the CCL blog and podcast on a regular basis, you know that I produced a 4-part series on his career in February 2010.

Since then I’ve kept up on my Ditko reading and discoveries whether it be in Steve Saffel’s Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Superheroes or the Creepy and Eerie Archive series. I also picked up The Creeper by Steve Ditko which is a collection of his contributions to one of his most bizarre creations. For all intents and purposes, Jack Ryder is a culmination of the more heroic Vic Sage, The Question and his more hardcore avenging crusader, Mr. A. You’ll note that all three characters look like one another and even wear the trademark fedora. The also have their own similar sense of justice and lack of compassion for the vile. Jack is by far the most extreme when it comes to behavior and look. The Creeper costume molded to him, for lack of a better term, when he was given a super-soldier like serum to save his life by Dr. Yatz. With the help of a transmitter he can change back and forth between the man, Jack Ryder and the anti-hero, The Creeper. The serum does seem to get the best of Jack at times even causing him to go insane and changing at will. He battles the typical gangsters but eventually has his own foe called Proteus. He’s a fun character and has even been seen in more recent comics like the Reign In Hell series.

As for this book, it only collects the Steve Ditko stories; Showcase #73 (1968), Beware The Creeper #1-6 (1968-69), 1st Issue Special #7 (1975), his run in World’s Finest Comics #249-255 (1978-79) and the black and white Enter Dr. Storme story which was slated for Showcase #106 but was shelved due to the DC Implosion. It was only printed in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2 (1978). As much fondness I have for Ditko, it would be nice to have a full omnibus of all the early material through the 1970’s. You can visit the DCU Guide to see The Creeper’s chronology. Beside the CCC #2 there is no real bonus material like sketches or unused artwork. There is a short, but nice, introduction by Steve Niles (30 Days Of Night) in which he talks up Watchmen by Alan Moore and even Frank Miller and basically spoils the Creeper’s origin from Showcase #73. But really, that’s OK because there is so much more to this character. He’s ever changing and evolving and this book has piqued my interest to Beware The Creeper even more.

The Creeper by Steve Ditko HC
Written by Steve Ditko, Don Segall, Dennis O’Neil and Michael Fleischer
Art by Steve Ditko and others
Cover by Steve Ditko
Introduction by Steve Niles
$39.99, 256 pages, DC Comics
Collects Showcase #73, Beware The Creeper #1-6, 1st Issue Special #7, short stories from World’s Finest Comics #249-255, and an unpublished story for Showcase #106 (The 25-page story, entitled “Enter Dr. Storme,” is written and illustrated by Ditko, and features an appeance by Ditko’s character The Odd Man. It will be printed in black and white).

Also recommended:
The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1 Starring Shade The Changing Man
Action Hero Archives Volumes 1-2