Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Here is my embarrassing secret.
As we approach Emerald City Comic-Con, and I find myself having to prep for taking three different classes from two different schools to the show as well as partnering with another teacher to bring a fourth group of students (thank God, Lindon’s a former Cartooning student I trained myself, but still) … well, trying to figure out how to make it all work is sucking up a lot of my time, and I didn’t get an actual column-type column written this week.
So instead, in that fine old Bronze Age tradition, we’re “going reprint” this week and next. You’re getting another collection of the daily book-nerd selections from the Hatcher library that I started writing in January, cherry-picked and expanded for the CBR audience.
People seemed to like the experiment okay last time, and honestly these capsule-review columns are pretty easy to throw together, so doing this helps me keep up (I suppose I could just take a couple of weeks off, but I hate to miss a week after all these years of NOT missing one.) Anyway, here you go. Enjoy.
COMIC STRIP SHOWCASE 1 Featuring the Lone Ranger by Fran Striker and Ed Kressy.
The blurb: Here he is at last… for the first time in any newspaper… THE LONE RANGER, man of mystery, masked idol of millions, modern Robin Hood, hard-riding fast-shooting hero of the western plains. Follow him in his thrilling rescues, his daring exploits, his feats of courage and grit. The Lone Ranger is here with Tonto, his Indian-chief friend, and Silver, his snow-white horse, and with all the other characters of the West who have made the entire nation LONE RANGER fans. Hi Yo SILVER!!
Why I Like It: This is a collection of reprinted Lone Ranger newspaper comics from 1939, that Julie found for me at Value Village a couple of days ago. I think this may be the only time these particular Lone Ranger strips were ever reprinted. (I’m also not completely sure “Arcadia Publications” had the rights to do it; there’s a very fan-press vibe about the thing. It looks like it was done on a shoestring, and as you can see from the cover, the typesetting and design is completely amateur night.)
But it’s a great book. This came out in 1990, and according to the back matter Arcadia apparently followed it up with a mixed-bag anthology of aviation comics and a collection of Captain Midnight strips. But I’m happy to just have this one with the Ranger. Especially since it generally goes for forty bucks and up from dealers, and Julie found mine for $1.99.
THE OZ ENCOUNTER by Marv Wolfman.
The blurb: First time ever in Hardcover! Beautifully re-designed! New from Hungry Tiger Press is a beautiful new edition of The Oz Encounter by Marv Wolfman, author of the hit novel Crisis on Infinite Earths and co-creator of The New Teen Titans. Combining Ted White’s brilliant 1970’s pulp-hero Doc Phoenix, and L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, Marv Wolfman weaves a spell-binding sci-fi tale illuminated by fantasy artist Stephen Fabian’s wonderful illustrations! In The Oz Encounter, Psychologist Dr. Raymond Phoenix enters the mind of a young girl and finds an amazing land based on the famous Oz stories. Yet it’s not quite the Oz we know, but an Oz shaped by the girl’s own life. Doc Phoenix meets Dorothy, the Shaggy Man, the Tin Woodman, and a whole bunch of Winged Monkeys as he searches the young girl’s mind for clues to her mysterious illness. What happens when a character from her mind crosses over to the real world of Doc’s Virginia headquarters? As the suspense builds, Phoenix plunges deeper and deeper into the perilous mystery of the girl’s fantasy. Two worlds collide in a startling and unexpected climax! When Doc Phoenix enters the young girl’s Oz fantasy the book switches to traditional Oz Book format! This new first hardcover edition will be a much sought-after collector’s item. Don’t miss out on this exciting sci-fi adventure from the former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics!
Why I Like It: This is kind of a re-issue, but completely redone. THE OZ ENCOUNTER originally appeared as Weird Heroes #5, and was one of my favorites. It featured Doc Phoenix, a Doc Savage-like adventurer who was actually a psychiatrist who cured people by entering their dreams. In trying to cure a comatose little girl named Patricia Wentworth, he discovers she has retreated into a dream version of Oz… but this Oz is dark and corrupt, ruled by a twisted version of the Shaggy Man. We have both this hardcover reissue from Hungry Tiger Press and the original Weird Heroes version, and both are signed to me by Mr. Wolfman. The hardcover’s the one to get– if you can afford it, it’s apparently moving in the $200-300 range these days. But it’s a lovely book. Stephen Fabian’s illustrations look even better with the upscale printing, and for this edition the Oz sequences are all done in the same typeface and layout as the original Oz books themselves– a very nice touch.
YOURS TRULY, JACK THE RIPPER by Robert Bloch, Joe and John Lansdale, and Kevin Colden.
The blurb: PSYCHO author Robert Bloch’s seminal tale of The Ripper in then-contemporary times was originally published in WEIRD TALES in ’43. Now it’s getting adapted to comics for the first time ever by acclaimed writer Joe R. Lansdale and John L. Lansdale, and featuring art and colors by Eisner-nominated cartoonist Kevin Colden (Fishtown).
Why I Like It: This is a remarkable graphic novel from IDW, a terrific adaptation of Robert Bloch’s YOURS TRULY JACK THE RIPPER. As it happens, this particular story is my favorite thing Robert Bloch ever did– well, okay, other than his Star Trek episode “Catspaw”– and this comic does it proud. The original story wasn’t really long enough to sustain a graphic novel but this is a very clever and creepy expansion. In fact, this is one of maybe four comic-book horror stories I’ve ever read that ever has managed to genuinely feel scary to me when I was reading it. That almost never happens when I’m reading a horror comic– usually it just comes off to me as kind of nasty and gross. But the Lansdales’ script, coupled with the jagged and atmospheric art from Mr. Colden, really sells it. Currently available on Amazon for pennies on the dollar, and well worth it.
BIMBOS AND ZOMBIES by Sharyn McCrumb.
The blurb: This is a Mystery Guild Omnibus combining the two SF fandom-themed mysteries, BIMBOS OF THE DEATH SUN and ZOMBIES OF THE GENE POOL. The Bimbos blurb goes like this– For one fateful weekend, the annual science fiction and fantasy convention, Rubicon, has all but taken over a usually ordinary hotel. Now the halls are alive with Trekkies, tech nerds, and fantasy gamers in their Viking finery, all of them eager to hail their hero, bestselling fantasy author Appin Dungannon: a diminutive despot whose towering ego more than compensates for his 5′ 1″ height… and whose gleeful disdain for his fawning fans is legendary. Hurling insults and furniture with equal abandon, the terrible, tiny author proceeds to alienate ersatz aliens and make-believe warriors at warp speed. But somewhere between the costume contest and the exhibition Dungeons & Dragons game, Dungannon gets done in. While die-hard fans of Dungannon’s seemingly endless sword-and-sorcery series wonder how they’ll go on and hucksters wonder how much they can get for the dead man’s autograph, a hapless cop wonders, Who would want to kill Appin Dungannon? But the real question, as the harried convention organizers know, is Who wouldn’t? It’s up to newly published SF author Jay Omega and his lady friend, the catsuited and superhot Ph.D Marion Farley, to figure it out!
And here is the Zombies blurb– In the 1950s, a group of young science fiction writers, dreaming of literary immortality and calling themselves the Lanthanides, buried a time capsule with their stories and relics from the time. Now, in the 1990s, when several of them have become famous, the surviving Lanthanides are getting together at a special convention to dig up the capsule and open it. But the convention is startled by the appearance of a writer who was supposed to have died thirty years ago. Then murder materializes to throw the agenda further into chaos. Now, Jay Omega, author of Bimbos of the Death Sun, and his significant other, Dr. Marion Farley, must separate science fact from fiction — and unearth a killer with a story of his own to tell.
Why I Like It: Because, if you have spent any time around fandom at all, you will either be falling out of your chair laughing or wincing with horrified self-recognition. These are smart, fun, well-plotted mysteries, written with a fan’s knowledge and affection for the convention scene. The books originally appeared in paperback but I like this omnibus because it’s a hardcover, and has a new introduction by the author in which she bemusedly explains how the books have gone on to achieve a kind of cult status.
And there you go. Now I’m back to work on school and convention stuff, but I’ll be back next week with another handful of fun books from the home library. See you then.
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.